World's Oldest Fledgling

The blog of Stephanie Wardrop, Y A Author

Boy Band Bonanza in this New YA


I’ve been working on a boy band book for awhile, so when I heard about Nikki Godwin’s American Girl on Saturn, I knew I had to check it out.

Image  It’s about a girl whose father works security and has to protect a boy band by having them move into the family apartment for a summer. I’m pretty sure my daughter would be willing to share her room for One Direction, so this seems like a can’t-miss concept.

Here’s the official blurb:

The summer after graduation is supposed to be that first real taste of freedom – but not for eighteen-year-old Chloe Branson. Just as that breeze of freedom is making its way into her galaxy, her secret-service-agent dad drops a meteor-sized bomb of bad news on her and her sisters. An attempt has been made on the lives of Canadian boyband, Spaceships Around Saturn, during their USA tour, and the guys have to go into hiding ASAP. The only problem? In the midst of the crisis and media frenzy, their dad volunteered to hide the guys…in their house.

Six-year-old Emery is as ecstatic as any self-proclaimed Saturnite would be, but Chloe and her seventeen-year-old sister Aralie watch their summer plans crash and burn like a falling star. The SAS guys aren’t happy with the situation, either. Bad boy Jules picks fights with Aralie about everything from his Twitter followers to his laundry, and heart-throb Benji can’t escape Emery’s fangirlisms for more than three minutes.

But after the super-cute Milo kisses Chloe during a game of hide-and-seek, she finally understands what Emery means when she talks about SAS being “out of this world.” If this is what Saturn feels like, Chloe doesn’t want to come back to Earth.

And an excerpt so you can judge for yourself:

Mom enters the kitchen and shreds away all of my half-courage. “Chloe, sweetheart, I need to talk to you,” she says.

There’s not a single social event I can think of that I may need to cancel today. No parties. No festivals. No lunch dates. Maybe Aralie had something planned, and I have to do damage control.

“This is really hard for me to say, but Ms. Sue called me this morning,” she says.

Who in the world is Ms. Sue?

“She said you stopped by their store last night,” Mom continues. “She wasn’t trying to rat you out, but she was very concerned and wanted me to be aware of what was going on.”

Oh God. The cigarettes! I ease over a few steps and look into the dining room. Jules stares back at me, wide-eyed and stupid. Then he looks away and buries his face. Noah hits Jules’s arm, and Jules motions for them to shut up. He’s seriously going to let me take the fall for this! I turn my back to the dining room because I have to keep my composure through this, and seeing Jules Rossi right now is not helping my composure.

“Chloe, I know things have been rough these last few months,” Mom says. It’s the sympathy tone. “But smoking isn’t the answer. If you need to talk to someone, you can always come to me or Dad or even Godfrey. Or we can pay for therapy sessions.”

“Mom, I’m not smoking,” I insist. “And I don’t need therapy. I’m completely fine. Really.”

She tilts her head and studies me like she did on graduation night, while she cried because her baby was all grown up. She has those same worried eyes now that she had when she talked about setting her baby bird out to fly on her own. Please, Mom. Don’t call me a baby bird while 3/5 of SAS is listening.

“Sweetheart,” she says. “I just know you went through a lot with that break up, and seeing Deacon the other day couldn’t have made things any easier, especially when he acted like he did. I know you had big plans this summer, and I wish things could’ve gone as planned.”

“I’m okay, Mom,” I say through my teeth.

“Then why were you buying cigarettes, Chloe? Ms. Sue wouldn’t just make that up,” she says.

Her voice pleads with me, like she’s truly heartbroken and worried. She doesn’t even seem mad about it. I don’t know who this Ms. Sue woman is or where she was hiding at that service station, but damn her all the way across the universe for running her big freaking mouth.

“They were for me.” The voice is directly behind me.

But it’s not Jules. 

It releases on August 29th.

ImageNikki Godwin is a Young Adult/New Adult author. She is a city girl who can’t live without Mountain Dew, black eyeliner, Hawthorne Heights, and candles from Bath & Body Works. When not writing, she’s not-so-secretly stalking her favorite bands. She may or may not completely love One Direction.

You can catch up with her on Goodreads, Twitter, or at her website.


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The Twerking Girl and the Virtuous Vixen

Yadda yadda yadda. Everyone’s talking about Miley at the VMAs even as we’re on the brink of war in Syria, where too much horror and devastation has gone on for too long. And isn’t that a more important thing for us to talk about?

Of course it is. But hear me out. images

How we see (and discuss) young women in popular culture is important, too, and it is not a stretch to say that one group of people’s inability to see another group of people as human, with their own agency and feelings and concerns, is what too often leads to atrocities such as the current situation in Syria and elsewhere.

Like most people, I was appalled by Miley Cyrus’ performance on Sunday night. It was lewd, weird, and the vocals were not good. On the one hand, I want to move past my memories of her as Hannah Montana and champion her right as a young woman and performer owning her own sexuality. But the problem is, as so many have discussed more eloquently than I, she is co-opting another group’s – a much maligned group’s sexuality in gross parody of hip hop African-American female sexuality that only contributes to longstanding prejudices and exploitation. For a better analysis of this than I can ever make, please check out this article from  I’ve written on my other blog, Smells Like T(w)een Spirit, about Miley Cyrus’ uneasy transition from tween star to grown up, and I sympathize with her need to show that she’s not the little girl who lived in the best of both worlds over on the Disney channel. (You can see those posts here and here). But it seems she’s done that sufficiently, so now we’re just perplexed. Now it’s getting worrisome. I can only hope she works things out as well as Demi Lovato seems to have, against the same odds. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be a young woman who makes all of her mistakes so publicly, in a world in which a misstep is immediately broadcast globally (though the VMA performance was arguably more than a misstep.) I can only guess it would be the equivalent of falling on your face in the middle school cafeteria multiplied by about a billion and lasting forever because so many people caught it on film. (On the Tween Spirit blog I wrote an open letter to Demi Lovato but I don’t claim to have straightened her out at all 🙂 I think some hard work and soul-searching did that).


And Miley’s performance wasn’t the only disturbing image of a young woman trying to express/find herself in public.  On another blog, I wrote about images of young women in popular culture and argued that there are two common tropes, the victim or the vixen, and that Taylor Swift is America’s sweetheart because she manages to be both. But if Taylor keeps it up, she’s going to slide into a new category, one equally stereotypical and harmful to women: The Catty B.  As she churns out more songs about the boys who done her wrong, we have to wonder what the odds are that Taylor is always right and they are always wrong.  And on the VMAs she thanked the man who inspired her winning song “I Knew You were Trouble” and assuring us he “know[s] who he is” even if the rest of us are debating whether it’s Harry or Jake.  More cattily, as One Direction was presenting an award, she appears to have mouthed to her BFF Selena Gomez “Shut the fuck up.”*  I don’t have a major problem with profanity (though it’s problematic from the mouth of a squeaky clean teen idol) but I do have a problem with a lack of grace.  Tay Tay is in danger of becoming one of the young female stereotypes her music trades in; she’s no longer the girl “in the bleachers” but has morphed into the nasty head cheerleader. And neither stereotype is useful or empowering.

Enough, both of you. As influential women in the entertainment industry, you have the power to dispose of these images and provide new ones. I know that’s a lot to ask, but as we learned from Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. So let’s see some female superheroes instead of the tired old images we’ve outgrown.

Unknown-4 (Malala Yousafzai is a good start)

*Add to this her open mocking of Harry and his accent at the Grammys earlier this year. I have had my share of crappy boyfriends and have no problem imagining that Harry Styles fits this category (he’s young, he’s rich, and has the world at his feet, which makes for a major asshat).images-3


I Shall be Released (Eventually)

PRIDE AND PREP SCHOOL comes out in mid-October and, hopefully, I will soon have a cover to show you all. Until then, I want to thank everyone who’s read the first two installments of the Snark and Circumstance series and remind you, in case you’ve forgotten, or tell you, in case you didn’t know, that it is based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.


Now, it’s not an exact replica, because that would be boring and pointless. It is, instead, a YA take on it. So if you want to play along with Spot the Parallels, I can get you caught up before the third installment.

The Characters

Georgiana, or Georgia, is, of course, Elizabeth Bennett, the second-eldest sister who’s a little too snarky and sure of herself, especially in regard to the snotty perfidy of Michael/Mr. Darcy.  In my version they do not look anything like these people Image.  More like this Image, an image from and this Image.  Georgia’s parents are like the Bennett parents. Tori is Jane Bennett, the sweet, sensible sister, who is in love with a sweet and eligible bachelor, Trey Billingsley III in my book, Mr. Bingley In Austen’s.  I cut out one of the Bennett sisters and made twins – the flighty, trampy Lydia has become my Cassie and quiet, religious Mary is my Leigh.  And I made Leigh fall in love with the Mr.Collins figure in my book, Alistair, the son of Chinese missionaries. (He is not as annoying as Mr. Collins because no one could be). Finally, Book Two introduced you to the dashing Mr. Wickham figure, Jeremy Wrentham, with whom Georgia flirted with danger. He’s going to really mess things up in Book Three, especially for Cassie. Plus there will be a weird sort of proposal, much like Darcy’s, in the next installment, but I don’t want to give too much away.

The Plot

Both books involve a set of unlikely lovers that eventually realize they belong together. Both involve parties, dances, and other sites of potential social embarrassment, as well as daring and anonymous rescues; mine includes vegan activism, shocking selfies, and a punk rock band.


If you haven’t dusted off your copy of P&P yet, you can take this quickie refresher course from my new favorite source of literary analysis, Thug Notes on Youtube.

And if you haven’t checked out the first two installments of Snark, why wait? You can get them here or here.

And I’ll be posting teasers about Book Three over the next few weeks, along with writing advice, recipes, and other fun stuff I encounter along the way.

Happy reading!



Meet the Characters from Hush Puppy!

ImageLisa Cresswell’s Hush Puppy is out now and I want you to meet her main characters. But first, here’s an excerpt from this touching contemporary YA romance:

The weeds had deep roots. They kept breaking off in my hands as I yanked on them, cursing under my breath. Sweat dripped off my nose, making wet spots on the red soil. The beans were in flower and it seemed like every insect in town was humming around them. I was so busy trying to avoid the bees with my hoe, I didn’t notice the shaggy-haired boy walk up behind me.

“Kind of hot for yard work, ain’t it?”

I snapped up and spun around too fast, the blood rushing out of my head. I steadied myself on the hoe as stars blurred my vision. As my sight cleared, I saw Jamie’s face, a halo of glittering lights around him.

“Hey, Hush Puppy!” he said. “Those were good.”

“I’m Corrine.” Still blinking, I wiped my sweaty forehead with the back of my dirty glove.

“I’m Jamie.” For a minute, he just stood there holding a red spiral notebook in one hand. Not knowing what else to do, I tried to make conversation.

“Going to summer school?”

“What?” He seemed confused.

“You look like you just got off the bus,” I said, pointing to his notebook.

“Oh, this?” He glanced at his notebook. “I just write stuff sometimes.”

“What kind of stuff?”

“I…the kind of stuff my old man don’t like, I guess.” Jamie smiled like he thought that was funny. I threw the hoe down in the wilted weeds.

“I need a drink. Want some tea?” I offered.

“Sure,” he said, following me to the house.

I got the tea from the fridge and found two glasses while Jamie sat at the table, setting his notebook on the red and white vinyl tablecloth in front of him. The kitchen was stuffy so I cranked on the window air conditioner until it blew frosty gusts at us. Jamie watched quietly while I cracked a tray of ice cubes and tossed a few in each glass before pouring the tea. We both took a long drink.

“You’re not like most boys around here.”

“Oh yeah?”

“I can’t think of one who would actually admit to writing something that wasn’t for school.”

Jamie smirked and chugged some more tea.

“So what’s in it?” I asked.

“In what?”

“Your notebook. What do you write?”

“Um…” Jamie’s thumb fingered the corner of the pages. “Stories, essays mostly.” His eyes traveled over the plastic tablecloth between us, not daring to look up.

“Can I see?” I reached for the notebook, but Jamie quickly slid it away from me.

“Naw. You wouldn’t like it.”

“How do you know?” The questions sounded ruder than I meant and I tried to make up for it. “I like a lot of stuff.”

“It’s just that it’s not that good.” He pulled it off the table onto his lap where I couldn’t see it. I felt myself frowning.

“Fine. Be like that.”

The crunching sound of a car on gravel grabbed my attention. Memaw wasn’t due home for hours. I jumped up to check out the tiny kitchen window, but there was no one there. When I turned around, Jamie was gone, his empty glass on the table. I walked into the living room and saw him down the short hallway, standing in my room.

“What are you doing?” I asked, hoping I hadn’t left my underwear on the floor that morning. It was dark in my room because we kept the windows covered during the day to keep it cool. I walked up behind Jamie, who was gazing up at the world map on my bedroom wall. I caught our reflection in my mirror and realized just how different we were next to each other. My dark skin, the color of rich, black coffee, made his skin look that much lighter. My kinky hair, poking out of the braids that were coming undone, made his hair seem that much straighter. But Jamie didn’t notice any of that.

“Cool map,” said Jamie. “What are the pins for?” He fingered the blue push pin I had stuck in the map at Munich.

“Places I want to see one day.”

“You sure got a lot of traveling to do.”

“That’s the plan. Red is for must-see, blue is for nice to see.”

“There’s a lot of red. These your books?” Jamie asked, looking over my shelf.


Jamie paused a minute and then sighed. “I should probably go. My dad would freak if he knew I was here.” He turned to walk down the hall toward the front door. I should have been relieved to get him out of my room, but some part of me was disappointed to see him go. I followed him outside and across the yard toward the driveway. He glanced back at me once or twice, as if he thought I was going home with him.

“I gotta finish weeding,” I explained.


“Thanks for stopping by,” I said. It was something Memaw would have said.

“Yeah, thanks for the tea.” He kicked a grubby sneaker toe into the fresh garden dirt I’d just cleared of weeds. The notebook dangled from his fingertips. He stared at me like he had something more to say, but he never got the chance. Harley’s truck, held together with duct tape and wire, rattled down the road, stopped suddenly and backed up. Harley drove his truck into our driveway and hung his head out the window.

“What the hell are you doing over here?” he shouted at Jamie, who didn’t answer. Instead, Jamie looked at me and offered me the notebook he had been so reluctant to share before.

“I’ve been looking everywhere for you!” Harley kept ranting.

“I think you dropped this,” Jamie said to me, somehow ignoring Harley.

“What?” I couldn’t understand what was happening.

“Damn it, Jamie! Get in the truck!”

“Isn’t it yours?” Jamie’s eyes pleaded with me to play along. “Take it.” I finally did what he said and he joined Harley in the truck.

“When I call you, I expect you to answer, boy!” I heard Harley shouting as they drove away. I didn’t understand how or why, but suddenly the mysterious red notebook was mine.

So now you really want to meet these characters, right? It’s my pleasure to introduce them.

First, thanks for talking to me, guys. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Could you tell me a little about how you first met?

Corrine: Jamie’s dad brought him over to the diner where I was working ‘cause he had to fix the sink and he wouldn’t buy Jamie lunch. I felt kinda sorry for him, so I snuck him some hush puppies.

Jamie: They were good too! (laughs)  That’s why I call her Hush Puppy.

What did you initially think of each other? Love at first sight?Or not on your life? 🙂

Corrine: I think my exact thoughts were “Oh Lord, not another redneck!” But he grew on me.

Jamie: Hahaha! You’re so mean! I thought you were the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen.

Corrine: Oh shush. 😉

Can you tell me a little bit about where you come from?

Corrine: You’ve heard the expression “Armpit of North America”? That would be it.

Jamie: Oh, Carolville ain’t that bad.  It’s just extremely small and backwards.  But you have to admit the lake is nice.

Jamie, if you had to describe Corinne in three words, what would they be?

Oh gosh, that’s hard. I guess I’d have to say: smart, sexy, and…smart.

Corinne, same question.

You’re just as smart as me. Three words? How about: romantic, talented, and smart?

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to face, either together or apart, and how did you get through it?

If either of you could have any dream come true, no matter how fantastic, what would it be? Dream big!

Jamie: I know what Corrine would do! (laughs)

Corrine: I’d visit every single place on my map. I have this map of the world and there’s pins in every place I want to go. What’s your dream, Jamie?

Jamie: To go with you. 
Awwwww. I’m rooting for these two, and I know you will, too. Check out Hush Puppy  at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Hush Puppy is the story of Corrine Lamb, a seventeen year old, black girl, and Jamie Armstrong, a poor white boy, living in a backwater North Carolina town.  Intelligent Corrine, abandoned by her mother, and artsy Jamie, forced to play football by a redneck father, both dream of leaving their podunk town and never looking back. 

Their shared love of literature and a dream of a better life brings them together and a romance blossoms between them in a secret place of their own in the steamy North Carolina woods.  When Jamie is involved in the accidental death of a white girl, he’s terrified of his abusive father.  Corrine takes the blame to protect Jaime, with dire consequences for herself and her dreams of the future.  Her life in danger, Corrine’s left wondering if Jamie ever cared about her at all.

Short Bio

Lisa T. Cresswell is a professional archaeologist who works in Idaho and dabbles frequently in young adult literature. Originally for North Carolina, her stories are often inspired by memories of growing up there. You can see more of her work


“I’m Not a Mundane!”: Thoughts on The Mortal Instruments Movie


I had read some disappointed reviews of the film as well as some pitches from YA writers who felt other YA writers should go and support the movie just so other YA novels can be made into books. I’m not sure how I feel about that, though I think Hollywood should not dump YA novels as sources just because recent film versions like Beautiful Creatures tanked at the box office. (The trailer to Catching Fire looks amazing, by the way.) As many such articles argue, the critics don’t get the books or the movies anyway.

So here’s my review of sorts, and I am going to try to do this without any spoilers.

The Characters

While some people get very upset when a character in movie doesn’t look like what they imagined s/he should, I’m pretty open to this, as I’ve said in other posts. I thought Lily Collins was an excellent Clary and Jamie Campbell Bower was pretty Jace-y, though not as cold as the boy in the book version could be at times. (You pretty much knew he dug Clary from the moment they met). Robert Sheehan made a fine Simon and I wished more of Simon’s humor had made it into the script. On the other hand, the actors playing Isabelle, Alec, and Simon and Clary’s poet friend (whose name escapes me) seemed too old to me. I just didn’t buy that they were teenagers, and when I mentioned this to my daughter, who saw the movie with me but hasn’t yet read the book, she couldn’t believe they were supposed to be under eighteen. CCH Pounder was glorious and an example of an actor who does not fit the picture I had in my head but she makes Madame Dorothea one of the best parts of the movie; the same is true for Godfrey Gao as Magnus. (MUCH MORE MAGNUS, please, in subsequent films. Image And Chairman Meow needs to make an appearance.)

Lena Headey made a fine Jocelyn and she got to kick way more ass than poor Mrs.Fray did in the first book, and Aiden Turner worked as Luke, though I want to know why all the werewolves had Scottish accents. (In fact, you could do an analysis of the film as an exploration of English classism and colonialism; all the thugs sound like they walked off the set of Eastenders.)

Jared Harris is always marvelous and heartbreaking (I am still haunted by his last scenes on Mad Men) and his Hodge deserves to do more on screen than provide exposition about the backstory to some of the characters, like Valentine. And, speaking of Valentine, much as I love Jonathan Rhys Meyers, I liked my book-version Valentine better. He was charming and terrifying and diabolically smart, not just a psychopath with an ego problem and, for some bizarre reason, Jack Sparrow hair extensions,   Image mercifully not appearing in this photo. Still, he looked as good in those runes as I’d anticipated.

The Plot

Lots of plot points have to change, just as characters have to be simplified, to turn a 400+ page book of any complexity into a 2-hour movie.  While I don’t want to give anything away, I’ll make a few quick points (some of which I will try to do obliquely so as not to spoil either the book or the film, which you really should check out for yourself):

*If you were looking forward to seeing Idris, even as a glimpse in some glass, you’ll have to wait

*Simon skips one transformation but seems to be on the verge of making another 😉

*Some things that Clary figures out in Books 2 and 3 she realizes much more quickly

*The whole question of potential blood relations between two of the main characters (ahem) seems to have already been foreclosed in this first film installment

*The last twenty minutes to half hour of the movie is not at all like the end of the book. I think it works, however, though i would like to have had more mystery, intellectual grappling, spiritual questioning and less swordplay and beating of heads

All in all, I’d say it’s definitely worth seeing unless you absolutely cannot tolerate seeing books altered in any way for the screen (and if that’s the case, then you should probably avoid any movie based on a book).  My daughter loved it and is really angry that our local library is not open on Sundays so she can dive right into the book and the rest of the series. One could argue that if the film has that effect on enough kids then it’s done a wonderful service to all for this reason alone.  It provides its audience with a two-hour trip into a world that looks like our own*, but only on the surface, and provides wonder and magic and horror underneath what we “mundanes” can see. And who wants to be a mundane, anyway?

*though as other have noted, except for overhead establishing shots, it does not look like Manhattan or Brooklyn


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Book review: Jennifer Kloester Makes it Work in The Cinderella Moment

If you’re a fan of romance and Project Runway, then Jennifer Kloester’s new YA contemporary from Swoon Romance is for you.


The Cinderella Moment tells the story of Angel Moncouer, a teenager in Manhattan who dreams of success as a fashion designer by winning the prestigious Teen Couture award. As the title implies, the novel is part Cinderella story, as Angel lives in a gorgeous uptown home where her mother, Simone, works as the cook for the Comte de Tourney and his daughter, Lily. She’s treated well by the deTourneys, but a wicked stepmother and stepsister of sorts enter her life in the forms of the Comte’s ambitious girlfriend, Margot, and her vain and jealous daughter, Cassandra (?). But the novel also nods toward Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper when Angel has to switch places with Lily in order for both of their dreams to have a chance at fruition.

This is a fun read, engagingly written, with lines like “her experience with boys could be written on a Post-it note” describing Angel’s romantic history. But don’t worry, a romantic hero enters the picture in the form of a charming English nobleman named Nick Halliday. Kloester presents a rich and engrossing world of parties on Paris bateau-mouche, couture houses,  palatial chateaux, and polo clubs.


If your primary interest is in romance, note that the love story in Cinderella takes a bit of a backseat to the more absorbing story of Angel’s adventures in Paris and the refreshingly rich friendship between Angel and Lily. Angel isn’t waiting around for a boy to sweep her off her feet. She and Lily have their own plans to put into play, especially when an act of sabotage and forgery forces Angel to act in a way would she would never have imagined. These two characters are very real and likable. I’d love to read a “spin-off” of Lily’s story, in fact.

Check out The Cinderella Moment for the glamour and the very real, very endearing friendship between the two girls. Kloester’s created a fictive world well worth spending some time in.


Pick up a copy and learn more about Jennifer Kloester here:

Jennifer loves to escape into a good book. She began writing when she was little and grew up in a house full of books. She was living in the jungle in Papua New Guinea (truly!) when she discovered Georgette Heyer’s wonderful historical romances. She quickly became addicted and multiple re-reads later still can’t pin down her favourite. When not writing, Jennifer does karate and love to hang out with her husband (who she’s still trying to get into Regency garb) and their three nomadic children.

 Meet Jennifer on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, and on the web. You can buy the book at Amazon.
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Lizzy Charles’ Effortless Climb to the YA Top

My Swoon Romance sister Lizzy Charles’ YA romance Effortless with You has been out on the shelves and in the ether for about a week now. And already it’s making a lot of noise.

The Sub Club gave it five stars, saying

  • “Effortless With You is an adorable book, with a theme of hardship, trying to fit in, disappointment, friendship, loyalty, forgiveness, family, being true to oneself, new beginnings and first love.”

Ellen at Always YA at Heart said

  •  “It was almost like watching a caterpillar turn into a butterfly.  Overall, this is a wonderful YA contemporary romance, and if you enjoy that type of story, then Effortless with You is something I most definitely recommend checking out.” ~

And the YA Bookworm gave it 5 stars and this review

  • “Overall, I think Effortless With You may be my favourite YA Contemporary novel that I’ve read this summer. Effortless With You is a flirty yet deep romance filled with great comedy, tough struggles and an ending that is sure to warm your heart! I definitely will be recommending this one to all you Contemporary Lovers out there!”

But don’t just take our word for it. Here’s a little taste of Effortless to help you decide for yourself:

A battered white pickup truck idles like a snoring troll in our driveway. Metal ladders stick out of the truck bed and a small sign hangs loosely from chains over the side of the bed, “Purposeful Painting Inc.” The sign swings in the breeze, banging loudly against the truck. I’m pretty sure that is illegal. The business doesn’t seem legit at all.

            A young guy sits in the front of the truck, sipping from a coffee cup, wearing a painter’s hat and a pair of sunglasses. He has a strong jaw and stubble. I look at his arm, bent up toward his face on the window ledge. He is tan and muscular. A goofy smile spreads across my face. Maybe the summer won’t be a complete waste after all. I climb into the passenger seat, thankful I put on mascara.

            “Good morning, Lucinda,” the driver says in a mocking tone.

I stop breathing.

No way. He takes off his sunglasses. Two piercing green eyes stare back at me. I don’t even try to hide my groan.


He laughs. “What?”

I roll my eyes before hitting my head against the seat. To any other girl in school, this would be Heaven. To me, it’s a humiliating nightmare.

            “Awesome party the other night, huh?” he prods.

            I shrug. There’s no way I’m giving him info to use against me. I pull out my granola bar, taking a bite so it’s impossible to speak.

            Justin stares cockeyed at the granola bar and my water bottle. “Is that all you have?”

            I swallow. “Yup.” Justin raises an eyebrow. “It’s all I need. Seriously, I’ll be fine.”

            Justin shakes his head and turns off the engine.

“Um, are you listening? Let’s go. I’m fine.” It’s only been three minutes and already I want to strangle him. He never listens.

            Justin jumps out of the truck, bee-lining it for my front door.

“What are you doing?” I jump out, following.

             “Getting you lunch.”

Convinced yet? You can pick up Effortless with You on Amazon and  Barnes and Noble.
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New Release: Running from Romeo

Running From Romeo

Diane Mannino


Book Description:

Emilia King is entering her senior year at Santa Barbara University. For the past three years, she lived in the library – doing what she knows best – focusing on her studies and forgetting her past…a past that has forever changed her life. But this year marks a new beginning…
Logan Prescott is not only the hottest guy on campus, he’s heir to a billionaire hotel fortune. Emilia knows he’s trouble and should stay clear of him. But his notorious good looks and piercing blue eyes make him simply irresistible – especially when he’s quoting her favorite literary works.
Intrigued by Emilia’s innocence and resistance to his charm, Logan discovers she’s a challenge he simply can’t resist. Getting involved with him is dangerous, but running from him may be impossible.






1. Both Logan and Emilia are well versed in Shakespeare – they quote him a lot and she’s always working on a paper about it. Do you see the plot or characters of the story having any parallels with any of Shakespeare’s works?
I love this question! I definitely think it parallels Romeo and Juliet in many ways. It’s definitely love at first sight for Logan, like Romeo. There’s a mutual attraction for Emilia, like Juliet, but Emilia has quite a big wall up around her because of something that happened in her past. This secret from her past has kept her from allowing many to get close to her, so she’s definitely a bit leery of Logan for this reason and several others.
Logan’s personality is a bit off-putting at first because he’s not used to having to pursue a girl because he’s never needed to or cared about it. His strong feelings towards Emilia force him to step up to the plate and win her over despite her reluctance. Logan has to work harder than Romeo, but like him, he’s very passionate about getting who he wants.
You could easily question whether Emilia and Logan are in love or lust like many debate with Romeo and Juliet. Like Romeo and Juliet, they definitely are in “lust” with each other but over time the initial attraction they have for each other turns into love. Romeo and Juliet just never had the chance to develop their relationship since they are destined to be doomed lovers. Are Logan and Emilia destined to be doomed lovers like Romeo and Juliet? Hmm…I don’t want to give too much away about the plot.
Another parallel is that Logan and Emilia may not have the challenge of their feuding families, but they do have a similar challenge. Instead of their families, being an issue, it’s their friendships, mainly Logan’s friends, that are a definite thorn in their sides. These difficulties continue to be a never-ending problem in the sequel.
2. If Logan had to describe Emilia in three words what would they be? What three words would she have for Logan?
Logan’s words for Emilia: hot. as. hell…those would be his three words but he’d also say she’s challenging and irresistible.

Emilia’s words for Logan: drop. dead. gorgeous…but she’d also say he’s cocky, rude, and bossy.

3. Who would be your dream cast for this book if it were turned into a movie?

Lily Collins is perfect for Emilia King. She’s got the right coloring…fair skin, long dark hair…She’s obviously beautiful, but I think there’s a lovely innocence to her that really makes her my ideal choice. I also love…Rachel Bilson and Leighton Meester.
Chace Crawford is perfect for Logan Prescott. I think of Logan and I think of Chace. My two teenage daughters agree!
Here’s the link to an awesome movie trailer for “Running from Romeo”…perfect cast…perfect song 🙂

4.  I’m guessing you listen to music when you write, given that so many song lyrics are woven throughout the story. Do you have any other writing rituals or must-haves, like a cup of coffee or a cat at your feet?
I LOVE music so that’s definitely something I wanted to incorporate it in my book. I thought I’d try something different with including all the lyrics so if people weren’t familiar with the song they could read the words and understand how they either set the tone or support the plot developments.

I love listening to music when I write but sometimes I like it be quiet…depends on my mood. If I’m writing a party/bar scene I like to listen to Pink, Bruno Mars, Rhiannon, Taylor Swift…something fun. If I’m writing a romantic scene I like to listen to Snow Patrol, Sting, Imagine Dragons, Coldplay…I could go on and on. I do like having a cup of coffee or two or three or sometimes a glass of wine or two…two is the limit on the wine while writing 🙂

5. What do you want people to take away from the book in terms of a feeling or an overall idea?
I hope people see that it’s the journey of two people and their personal strength to overcome their demons. Emilia starts out taking “baby steps” because of what’s happened in her past. Logan has never been in a relationship because of his past demons. Their romance develops and both grow because of it.

The sequel goes into more depth about their past issues and they might encounter a setback every now and then, but the one constant is the message of personal strength. Despite the pain or struggles of your past, it’s how you can find the power within yourself to move forward, making you a stronger person.

About the Author:

DIANE MANNINO graduated from University of Maryland, College Park with a degree in English Literature. She is a former writer for Museum and Arts Washington and Star Magazine as well as several television shows, including, Inside Edition, American Journal, and E! News Daily. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two beautiful daughters. Running from Romeo is her first novel and she is currently working on the sequel.




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Imagine Jane Austen Twerking or Top Ten Reasons I Love the UK


My amazing publisher just gave me the news that Charm and Consequence, the second installment in the Swoon e-novella series Snark and Circumstance, is an Amazon Kindle bestseller in the UK in two categories.

So this is me right now: Image

And in honor of my most esteemed Brit readers, I present, with humble gratitude, my TOP TEN REASONS WHY I LOVE THE UK

10. The Slang

I love that this

Image is called a “loo” or a “bog.” And that subways are the “tubes” and elevators “lifts”, which I realize isn’t slang, exactly. To paraphrase Steve Martin, it’s like the Brits have another word for everything. And yet they speak English!

9.  Terriers

Whether Scottish, Irish, Wheaton, Cairn, Norwich, Norfolk, Skye, or Jack Russell (or any one I’ve missed), terriers are feisty and fun and smart. In my next life, I would like to come back as a beloved family terrier.  Image

8. Candy bars

I have relatives in Hershey, PA so I know from chocolate. But UK candy bars are way better and have great names, like Wispa, Twister, Yorkie, Aero, Star Bar, Timeout. Don’t make yourself crazy trying to choose.  Just pick one. They’re all good.


7.  A stubborn independent streak

I know we fought a revolution to gain independence from the UK (or, Great Britain, which I realize is not the same thing), but folks in the British Isles can be pretty stubbornly independent as well. They insist on driving on the wrong side of the road and maintaining all sorts of coins as currency (some quite oddly and wonderfully shaped), which I am convinced is just so shop clerks can laugh at foreigners who try to figure out how much the pointy hexagon is worth. Plus, they’ve eschewed the Euro and cling to the pound -because that L-with-a-squiggle-through-it is such a cool symbol.


6. Sheep in the streets!

Okay, not the streets of London or York or Glasgow or Edinburgh (the only major cities I can speak to as yet) but everywhere else, they have the right of way and they know it. Trust me, when you are driving on a one-lane road in the mist and you are confronted with this face


you will yield. Even if you are on foot. Because it’s his road and not yours.

5.  Accents

Any of them. Irish, Welsh, posh Brit, Scottish, East Londoner – they’re all good. I had an Irish friend in grad school and it was no use going out with her because the second she opened her mouth, no boy would listen to me or any other Yank any more. It was annoying, but I get it. As I tweeted to a similarly-minded friend the other day, if I could, I would arrange to have the delightfully-accented Tom Hiddleston call me on the phone everyday and menace me in his Loki voice until I explode.


4.  Glens, Dingles, Moors, and all that Wuthering

It rains a lot in Scotland and Northern England, but it is a beautiful misty rain that makes you feel like you’re getting a facial and having a Catherine Earnshaw moment at the same time. Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands is probably the most eerily beautiful place I have been and Thomas Hardy was quite sensible to write rhapsodically about Derbyshire.  You have some pretty country, there, you Brits, and I hope to see all of it one day.


3.  Music

Perhaps even more so than American rock music, British bands and singers have provided the soundtrack for my life since I was about twelve years old. The Beatles, the Stones, the Kinks, David Bowie, the Clash, the Jam, Elvis Costello . . . I could go on forever. It’s not an exaggeration to say these sounds colored (and at times saved) my life.


2. Literature 

Aphra Behn. Emily and Ann and Charlotte Bronte. Elizabeth Gaskell.  Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Christina Rossetti.  Virginia Woolf.  And that’s just the women – and just a few of them, from before the mid-twentieth century, even.

Image I’m a Janeite – and you?

and, finally,


Thank you to everyone, on any shore, who bought Charm and Consequence and plan to buy the rest in the Snark series. You have made a dream come true that I have had since I was a little girl, and I am truly, humbly grateful.

This is me on the moors outside Haworth, home of the Brontes, in 1996.


I love that place. Thanks again, readers!

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WIP it, WIP it Good: Works in Progress


I’m supposed to be working on the sequel to Snark and Circumstance, and I am, mostly. I’m revising and I have the first six chapters out to the most generous beta reader in Christendom. But since going to Scotland with my family, another story has been nagging at me, one that’s been poking me in the ribs, from the inside, so to speak, for years. I’d start it and it wouldn’t gel but it wouldn’t go away.

And then two weeks ago, I took a hike in the mist on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula of Scotland’s west coast, and saw this:

ImageWalked right up to it, in fact. It’s Tioram (pronounced “Cheerum”) or Dorlin Castle, or the remains of it. Around the time of the ill-fated invasion of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the owner of the castle, realizing imminent defeat, decided to burn the whole thing down rather than have it fall in the hands of his enemies. Which is a cool story, to be sure, but not what my WIP is about. Still, I knew this what my heroine’s childhood home looks like now, and four hundred twenty-five years ago, when she left it to escape a witch hunt, it was still in its glory.

I had to get home and write about it.

On Monday, I wrote about how I develop characters by “listening” to them speak to me, and that’s how most of my stories start, as told by the voices within them. But this one was different. This came from an image in a dream: a girl kissing a boy through a chain link fence. I wasn’t sure who he was at the time, but I knew she was a four-hundred-year-old witch trapped in a seventeen-year-old’s body.

KInd of weird, right? And not at all like Snark, which is probably why I’ve been a little afraid of it, of being able to pull it off. But now I’ve got a title – A Time of Shadows – and a determination to see it through.

I’ll keep you posted, as I work on the WIP, offer writing tips on Mondays, and, come September, provide plot teasers as we count down to the release of Snark #3 Pride and Prep School in October. Thanks for coming along for the ride!