Monday, June 23, 2014

Book Nerd Blog Tour: Essence by Lisa Ann O'Kane

The Review

(Summary provided by GoodReads.)
Autumn escaped a cult, but now she realizes she's fallen into another.

Growing up in San Francisco’s Centrist Movement, sixteen year-old Autumn Grace has always believed emotions—adrenaline, endorphins, even happiness—drain your Essence and lead to an early death. But her younger brother’s passing and a run-in with a group of Outsiders casts her faith into question.

Ryder Stone, the sexy, rebellious leader of the Outsiders, claims Essence drain is nothing more than a Centrist scare tactic -- and he can prove it.

Autumn follows Ryder to his Community of adrenaline junkies and free spirits in Yosemite National Park, and they introduce her to a life of adventure, romance, sex, drugs and freedom. But as she discovers dark secrets beneath the Community’s perfect exterior, she realizes the more she risks in search of the perfect rush, the further she has to fall.

I loved this book from the moment I saw the cover. There was something about the outstretched tightrope reaching into the unknown that I really connected with. And once I began to read, I couldn't put this book down.

Not only is Autumn and realistically flawed character, still reeling from the death of her little brother, but Ryder is a perfect blend of a boy trying to be the man his father wants him to be all the while wanting to be the person he is.

Without being judgmental or preachy, ESSENCE explores the psychological impact of cult life and leaves the reader crossing their fingers that Autumn can discover, for herself, the difference between right and wrong.

For anyone who has ever wanted to break loose and live life on the wild side, this book serves up a great helping of action scenes that will satisfy the literary adrenaline junkie every time.

Overall, ESSENCE is a fun read that leaves the reader both satisfied and begging for more once the book is over.

The Interview

First off, I absolutely loved Essence and especially Autumn! And I am thrilled to be able to interview you on my first Book Nerd Blog Tour! I have a few questions to go along with my tour stop, so here we go. (Awe, thanks so much, Sarah! I really appreciate it, and I’m so glad to hear you liked Autumn! I tried my best to make her flawed and believable, so it’s wonderful to hear you ‘got’ her!)

Sarah: Essence is such a unique book in terms of genre, it's such a perfect blend of a utopian, which we don't see often right now, and a cult story with a pre-dystoian flare. Where did you inspiration for this type of novel come from?

Lisa: Thank you so much! I have always been fascinated by the psychology of cults, particularly by idea that people who are raised in these cultures generally grow up very susceptible to manipulation and control. How tragic—yet logical—for someone to finally stand up for themselves and leave their cult only to accidentally fall into another cult.

I liked this idea of extremes very much. I also liked the idea that Autumn would grow to accept her new Community beliefs just as whole-heartedly as she originally accepted her Centrist beliefs. Although this flip-flop seems strange from an outsider perspective, it makes perfect sense in the context of Autumn’s upbringing. She has never been given the opportunity to think for herself, and this is the core of her struggles in Essence.

Sarah: Autumn is such a passionate character, throwing everything she has behind her convictions, including her love for Ryder. How do you think this helps and challenges her during the story?

Lisa: ‘Passionate’ is a perfect word to describe Autumn. What she lacks in street smarts, she makes up for in determination and loyalty. This is one of her greatest strengths, and it is also one of her biggest weaknesses.

Autumn is very a na├»ve person, so she typically believes everyone around her is looking out for her best interests. She doesn’t think to question other people’s motives, and this ends up being one of her greatest challenges in Essence.

Sarah: Natural disasters are an interesting way to inflict instant problems for characters, but in ESSENCE, the story begins after the country has mostly recovered from the events. What made you pick Yosemite as your setting?

Lisa: I definitely didn’t envision Essence as a post-apocalyptic novel, but I did want the country to be slightly different than it is now, so I figured an earthquake was a great way to shake up California’s social climate. (Haha, wow. That was a pretty terrible pun.)

I also remember the public outcry that ensued in the aftermath of the Northridge Earthquake in 1994. Some groups actually believed the earthquake was a manifestation of God’s anger, and they said San Francisco was targeted because it was a haven for perversity. I wondered what would happen if a group of San Franciscans actually took this message to heart, and the foundation for my story was born.

I chose Yosemite National Park as the hub for my Community counter-cult because I spent the summer of 2004 living in a tent and working for the park’s concessionaire. I have never been more inspired by a setting in my entire life, and it has been begging for a story ever since.

Sarah: How much of your background played into the creation of ESSENCE?

Lisa: Although Autumn and I are very different, we both share a fierce sense of loyalty and a strong desire to please other people. This fidelity sometimes trumps logic—and it often isn’t earned or deserved. I certainly poured this quality into her character, and her vulnerability is all me, too.

As far as the Yosemite setting, I lifted many destinations and occasions (shooting stars, swimming holes, moonbows, secret waterfalls, etc.) from the time I spent living and working in the park. However, the circumstances of the actual events were obviously far different than those portrayed in Essence.

Sarah: As a soon to be debut author, I'm always curious about what the biggest differences of a pre-pub writer’s expectation and the reality of actually being published. What surprised you the most?

Lisa: Congratulations on your debut! How exciting!

As far as my experience goes, I think I have been most surprised by how little has actually changed. I have enjoyed the validation that I haven’t just been wasting my time with my ‘little hobby’ all these years, but beyond that, it’s pretty much business as usual in these parts.

One exception is the introduction of strangers who actually care about what I have written. I’m so used to shrugging off my accomplishments that it’s strange to read a review or speak to a reader who actually ‘gets’ what I’m trying to say and is touched by it. That feeling makes all the struggles worthwhile.

Sarah: For all those writers out there who long to be where you are, can you tell us a little about your publishing journey? You know, how you met your agent, found your publisher, etc.

Lisa: Oh my gosh, my path to publication has been anything but an easy road. I am living proof that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I am also living proof that you should never, ever, give up on your dreams.

I was so affected by my publishing journey that I recently wrote a nine-part blog series called “The Path to Publication.” If you would like to check it out, here’s the link: (This link will go live on 6/9.)

Sarah: Finally, I have my Fast Five!

If you were stranded in a remote part of, let's say a National Park, what one of each of the following would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

Book: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. It’s so insane it just may keep me sane. 
Musical Instrument to learn to play: Bongo drums! I could totally see myself as a naked, hippie drummer (a la Matthew McConaughey).
Craft or Hobby supplies: Journal. Girl’s gotta write!
Comfort Item: I have this fantastic dragonfly quilt a good friend of mine made for me. I would probably wear it as clothes and sleep in it like a tent.
Food that happened to magically arrive when you want it the most: Macaroni and cheese. Every. Single. Time.

Well, that wraps up the interview portion! Lisa, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions and I wish you the best of luck with Essence and every book after this! You are a fantastic writer!

Alright, my lovelies, now it's your turn to show Lisa how amazing you think Essence is: Click either of these links to be directed to Amazon or Barnes and Noble to order ESSENCE!


Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Debut Author's Worst Nightmare

Imagine a world where everything around you shimmers with excitement. Where you have lined up speaking engagements that both exhilarate and terrify you at the same time. You have perfected the way to mention you have a book coming out in a few months with the perfect blend of humility and confidence. The theme song of your book trailer is the backdrop of your life and you just received 1000 pens two days ago, proudly advertising your work. Humming the tune to “Everything is Awesome”, you hop in your truck and head to work where you get to make a movie with a bunch of amazing teens. Life really couldn’t be much better.

And then your cell phone rings and it’s your agent. In the middle of the day. You answer it, confused, but not concerned. Not until you agent tells you to sit down. You are sitting down, but you’re also driving an F250, so, in your confused state you ask, “Well, do you think I need to pull over?” To which she simply says yes.

Your mind whirls with what could possibly have happened. Have you been downgraded to e-book only for your release? Has your release date been bumped? You turn on your hazard lights. You’re ready for whatever’s going to happen next.

Your agent’s voice rings through the cab of your truck. “Strange Chemistry is closing their doors effective immediately.”

You were not ready for that. Your response is completely rational. “You’re kidding, right? That’s not funny.” You double check to make sure it isn’t April 1st because that’s the only thing that makes this conversation even remotely plausible.

The images fade and you sit up in bed. It was a dream. Right up there with who shot J.R. and every book that’s ever started or ended with a dream. Everything is still awesome.

Except it isn’t awesome and it isn’t a dream. It’s real. You and a lot of crazy talented authors are the proud creators of orphaned books. You have woken up to the writer’s worst nightmare. Add the distinction that this is your DEBUT and what you really want to do is go back to sleep and hope the next dream involves unicorns and glitter cannons.

But avoiding the situation won’t make it go away. Neither will the wine, though that does help a little.

I want to be clear. I don’t have any ill-will toward the people I’ve worked with at Strange Chemistry. Amanda Rutter has an eye for talent and is an amazing editor. I hope another publishing house knows what a gem she is and scoops her up. Caroline Lambe has been such a pleasure to work with, answering my endless stream of questions. And my IU Alum connection, Mike Underwood has taught me a lot about the sales side of the business. I don’t regret working with them at all!

But, I would be lying if I said I was okay with this. I’m not. I’ve done the denial thing. You know, when you hope a knight in gleaming armor is going to rescue your publisher, or at least recognize that your book is actually literary genius in its purest form and make you an offer you just can’t resist. Remember, this is denial, after all. I’ve tried to do the angry thing, but I’m not sure who to be angry with. There’s no clear direction in which to aim my furry. This is, unfortunately, part of the book business. Lots of factors went into this. (Can you see that I’m currently in the rationalizing stage… trying to make sense of something that just doesn’t.)

I still have some more emotions to go through. I’m trying to avoid the depression by staying focused on what’s next.

It’s A Wonderful Death is not the same book it was when SC gave it a home. It’s better.

So what’s next? Since the rights revert back to me, my agent, Liza Fleissig, who has been amazing through all of this, will send the new and improved manuscript out on submission, with the blurbs and trailer and pre-sales information, and we will find a home. It may take a little while, but we will see the inside of a bookstore.

In the meantime, I hope you will all join me in buying Strange Chemistry titles and show my fellow pub orphans just how much you love them!

Remember, when life slams a door in your face, BE FEARLESS and kick in a window. Because there's something wonderful about nightmares: you will eventually wake up and things will be okay.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Cover Reveal for CATCH ME WHEN I FALL by Vicki Leigh

I am so excited to take part in today's cover reveal. I've known Vicki Leigh for about a year now and we have been walking this publishing path together almost the entire time! She's an amazing woman and a crazy talented writer, so without further ado, let's get to it! There's lots of awesome stuff going on, including a giveaway! But first, here’s a special message from Vicki:


And here’s what CATCH ME WHEN I FALL is all about:

Recruited at his death to be a Protector of the Night, seventeen-year-old Daniel Graham has spent two-hundred years fighting Nightmares and guarding humans from the clawed, red-eyed creatures that feed off people’s fears. Each night, he risks his eternal life, having given up his chance at an afterlife when he chose to become a Protector. That doesn’t stop a burnt-out Daniel from risking daring maneuvers during each battle. He’s become one of the best, but he wants nothing more than to stop.

Then he’s given an assignment to watch over sixteen-year-old Kayla Bartlett, a clinically depressed patient in a psychiatric ward. Nightmares love a human with a tortured past. Yet, when they take a deep interest in her, appearing in unprecedented numbers, the job becomes more dangerous than any Daniel’s ever experienced. He fights ruthlessly to keep the Nightmares from overwhelming his team and Kayla. Soon, Daniel finds himself watching over Kayla during the day, drawn to why she’s different, and what it is about her that attracts the Nightmares. And him.

A vicious attack on Kayla forces Daniel to break the first Law and reveal his identity. Driven by his growing feelings for her, he whisks her away to Rome where others like him can keep her safe. Under their roof, the Protectors discover what Kayla is and why someone who can manipulate Nightmares has her in his sights. But before they can make a move, the Protectors are betrayed and Kayla is kidnapped. Daniel will stop at nothing to save her. Even if it means giving up his immortality.

CATCH ME WHEN I FALL will be available on October 23, 2014 in both paperback and e-book formats from Curiosity Quills Press. For more information, visit the book’s Goodreads page.

Now, there can’t be a cover reveal without a giveaway, right? Lots of authors stopped by and donated some fantastic books to help Vicki celebrate. You don’t want to miss out on these! Here’s what you can win:

 • An e-copy of HEIRS OF WAR by Mara Valderran
• Two query+first chapter critiques from YA author Emily Stanford
• Two full manuscript critiques from YA author Emily Stanford
• An e-copy of WITHOUT BLOODSHED by Matthew Graybosch
• A paperback of DESTRUCTION by Sharon Bayliss
• An e-copy of KIYA: HOPE OF THE PHARAOH by Katie Teller
• One query+first chapter critique from YA author Katie Teller
• An e-copy of DARKNESS WATCHING by Emma Adams
• A copy of DESCENDANT by Nichole Giles
• Two signed copies of DIVIDE by Jessa Russo
• An e-copy set of EVER and EVADE by Jessa Russo
• A copy of UNHINGED by A.G. Howard

Enter the giveaway below for your chance to win! All prizes will be accompanied by a Dreamcatcher swag package from Vicki Leigh. Thanks for stopping by!

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Book Blast + Giveaway for ESSENCE by Lisa Ann O'Kane

I can't tell you how excited I am to be a part of Book Nerd Tours latest BOOK BLAST. Not only is ESSENCE an adrenaline laden debut, but the Lisa Ann O'Kane is my pub sis! (So, you know, simply by virtue of being a Strange Chemistry book, it's awesome!) 

And the cover...


Autumn escaped a cult, but now she realizes she's fallen into another.

Growing up in San Francisco’s Centrist Movement, sixteen year-old Autumn Grace has always believed emotions—adrenaline, endorphins, even happiness—drain your Essence and lead to an early death. But her younger brother’s passing and a run-in with a group of Outsiders casts her faith into question.

Ryder Stone, the sexy, rebellious leader of the Outsiders, claims Essence drain is nothing more than a Centrist scare tactic -- and he can prove it.

Autumn follows Ryder to his Community of adrenaline junkies and free spirits in Yosemite National Park, and they introduce her to a life of adventure, romance, sex, drugs and freedom. But as she discovers dark secrets beneath the Community’s perfect exterior, she realizes the more she risks in search of the perfect rush, the further she has to fall.

You can order ESSENCE by clicking on the links below.


About Lisa Ann O'Kane

Lisa Ann O’Kane is a young adult author and former vagabond who once camped out in Yosemite National Park for an entire summer, an experience that inspired her debut novel ESSENCE.

Her background is in zookeeping and environmental education, and she has been kicked, cornered, bitten and chased by nearly every animal she has ever loved. She currently resides in Florida, and she is now a huge fan of shooting stars, indoor plumbing and keeping both her feet planted firmly on the trail.



3 Winners will receive an E-book Copy of ESSENCE by Lisa Ann O’Kane.
1 Winner will receive Two collectible buttons and a handmade Yosemite National Park vintage map pendant.
Must be 13+ to Enter
International Giveaway
*Book Nerd Tours is not responsible for Lost or Damaged Books in your Mail Box* 

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Saying Be Fearless is One Thing: A Tribute

It is completely different to ACTUALLY be fearless. Sometimes, I forget that.

This isn't going to be a regular post. I'm not going to espouse great things about the publishing industry or ramble on about the ins and outs of a debut year.

I can't. Because right now, I'm having a hard time remembering to breathe.

Yesterday, a friend of mine, perhaps  the first I made when I moved to Indiana, died. He was 37. His kids are the same age as mine. Yesterday, he had a wife. Today, she is a widow. And that sucks. On about 85 levels.

But Chris lived life. He enjoyed it. He laughed at himself and took pride in things other might have rolled their eyes at. He loved the Colts. He loved good beer... not the cheap stuff we drank at room parties at conventions, the good stuff. He loved his children. And he loved Colleen.

When we met, way back in 1997, like many college students, he was looking for his place. We were both highly charged, politically motivated kids who bled blue for the Democrat campaigns that would let us be a part of them.

And we grew older. I wish I could say we were as close now as we were then, but I can't. Life leads us in different directions. Chris found himself in service. He started a non-profit to help those who never experienced what it was like to have a father learn to become dads. He helped the poor and homeless. He worked with college students, inspiring them with his dedication to serve others. And he was one of the first ones to say congrats when something amazing happened in my life.

We both married Catholics and we both converted, lamenting to each other how we have grown more conservative with age, though not too conservative. Since Chris was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago, we have reconnected thanks to Facebook and DMs. And I am so glad I had that. Who knew sharing our disappointment that one of our local hang outs no longer made the sandwich we loved back in the day could become a treasured memory. I'm not ashamed to admit that I started stalking Chris on FB. I wanted to see his smile, the joy on his face when his kids were around. I wanted to assure myself that this was just one more obstacle for him to kick the crap out of.

See Chris is a force of nature. I can't bring myself to say was. Not just because I don't want to admit it, accept it, whatever a shrink would say, but because that force is like the wind. It continues on even after the trees have stopped swaying. Even in what we perceive as it's absence, it is there. His legacy lives on in the lives he touched. In the adventures he had. In the love that he gave.

So my friend, who lived life knowing that there was so much more to it than going through the motions, you will be missed by so many. And I am blessed to have been a small part of your journey.

Vaya Con Dios, mi amigo. I'll see you someday... at Denny's. You'll know it's me when you see the shoulder tick that only comes when you've been up 24 hours on the 4th of July. Three parades in one day starting at midnight? Bring it!

Book Trailer Is LIVE!

Yes, I know, I haven't posted in a while. I have no defense, other than it was May. It was only May because my summer is about to go nuclear. Seriously. Stay tuned for pics and stories from the movie set.

What? Did I just say movie set?

Why yes. Yes I did... but hold on, because it's not the answer to your prayers. It's A Wonderful Death is not in line for the big screen... yet. *Crosses fingers, blows on a dandelion, searches lawn for a clover of any leaf variety.*

In my other world, where I do the library thing, we're gearing up for Summer Reading, with our major project being the production of an original screenplay.

But enough about that. There will be plenty of time to dish on this! It's time for something I have been keeping a secret for weeks!


Thank you, thank you. Oh heck, I can't wait another minute, so here you go!

That's it! Let me know what you think in the comments below!