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ARC: Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

Thank you to NetGalley and Dutton for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Lock Every Door debuts July 2nd.

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager was a binge-it-in-two-days type of read. This is the book you should have in your tote to read on the beach—an addictive and thrilling read that kept my nose glued to the page right up until the end. It’s also a rare specimen of book that advertises itself as having potential paranormal elements and manages to keep you guessing on that front far into the book. There are tons of books where the main character thinks, hmm, this place might be haunted, but it’s obvious to readers that that’s not the case. Not so here. (And I’m not giving anything away! Are there ghosts afoot in the MC’s bizarro apartment building or is everything rooted in the real world? You’ll have to read and see!)

The premise of the book is that a woman down on her luck (laid off, cheating boyfriend, finances in a downward spiral) manages to snag a gig where she gets paid to live in a ritzy, vacant NYC apartment. But, of course, everything is not as it seems, and things get spooky real quick. I was getting serious Rosemary’s Baby vibes throughout, due to the creepy New York apartment high-rise coupled with the young female MC.

I do feel obligated to mention that I picked up on two reveals far before they came. However, the full nature of the overarching plot reveal took me very much by surprise, while at the same time being very satisfying—the surprise is just that, surprising, while still managing to preserve suspension of disbelief. I highly recommend Lock Every Door, and I’m looking forward to reading more books by the author.


A small aside—if you haven’t seen the book trailer for Specter yet, check it out! Specter debuts July 7th, and the paperback and ebook are available for preorder at all major retailers and from Hidden Bower Press.

Short Tuesday #16: “Carry On” by Seanan McGuire

This week I returned once more to Nightmare Magazine, selecting for this week’s Short Tuesday a story by Seanan McGuire. I only realized when I reached the end and looked at the author bio that she wrote this story! I’ve never read anything by McGuire myself, but I’ve definitely been seeing her books making the rounds. You can read the story first here…

“Carry On” documents a policy change that airline companies have adopted requiring passengers’ bags not only to be weighed, but also the passengers themselves. Please don’t let your eyes glaze over with the words “airline” and “policy change”—”Carry On” is not a dry story at all, and as you read through it you’ll be fully in the MC’s shoes, wondering if you’ll come in under weight. It’s a story that you can feel yourself dismissing as kind of ridiculous… until you remember exactly how nightmarish and invasive flying already is, then you’ll be on board. (Har har.)

McGuire has a strong voice that I’d describe as conversational—it has a lot of forward momentum that keeps you reading on. I will say that I wasn’t absolutely riveted by the story, and I was a bit turned off by the moralizing tone at the end. Even so, I enjoy me some speculative fiction, so overall it was a fun read.


A small aside—if you haven’t seen the book trailer for Specter yet, check it out! Specter debuts July 7th, and the paperback and ebook are available for preorder at all major retailers and from Hidden Bower Press.

Who Killed Melissa White?

The school picture flipped to another photo—Melissa standing by a beach dressed in a pristine white bikini. There was a grainy silver glint at her belly button—her piercing. She was half-smiling, half-smirking at the camera, though her eyes were hard and shuttered. She was a knock-out, but a sad aura hovered around her, like some young almost-Marilyn Monroe.

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Specter debuts July 7th. Available for preorder now at all major retailers.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Kobo

Chapter Eleven of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update

Illustrations, as always, courtesy of the incredible Ally Grosvenor.

The eleventh chapter of The Gold in the Dark is out! I’m living for this week’s chapter illustration—it encapsulates perfectly the mood at the end of the chapter. Also, don’t you think that middle portrait looks a bit like a very dour Michael Jackson? Don’t tell Ally. ;D New chapters, complete with chapter illustrations, release every other Sunday at 11 AM EST.

This week in writing updates I’ve been working on writing a short story tie-in for Specter that will be free to everyone who signs up for my mailing list. I have so many thoughts about the mailing list aspect of being an indie author. Literally everybody in the biz says it’s crucial to staying in contact with your core audience, but I write YA, and I sort of think that my audience might not be big on newsletters? Is Instagram a good newsletter alternative for indie authors with a younger audience?? Probably the answer is do both. The issue is that out of all the social media stuff I do, the newsletter is decidedly the least fun. But maybe I just need to give it a fair shake and work on discovering how to make the newsletter my own.

In other news, we are just three weeks away from Specter’s release! There’s been all sorts of fun Specter stuff in the last couple weeks, from the book trailer to a post about why the book is set in Connecticut.

Also, who killed Melissa White? Like, seriously, who? Inquiring minds REALLY want to know.

So if you are at all intrigued by any of this, and especially if you are looking for a book like Stranger Things, then please consider adding Specter to your Goodreads TBR or preordering at any book retailer. Even independent bookstores should be able to preorder Specter—and you can even request your local library order a physical or ebook copy!

All right, that’s all for now. Have a great rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Eleven. ❤

Who Killed Melissa White?

Her face was inches from my own, close enough to see the smattering of navy freckles on her cheeks. My throat clenched to scream, but the air in my windpipe felt frozen, like it had solidified into a chunk of ice. Something about looking at her was making my head hurt, like patches of her face were fading in and out—not transparent, but like they weren’t even there at all.

She leaned in towards my ear as I stood paralyzed, and biting cold stung the side of my head, radiating through my skull. Her words came to me as a distant shout, distorted and waterlogged.

“Melissa White!”

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Specter debuts July 7th. Available for preorder now at all major retailers.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Kobo

ARC: Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Thank you to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Wilder Girls debuts July 9th.

This is one of those books that grips you hard from the first sentence, sinks its teeth into you, shakes you around, then has you gasping for air on the floor by the time you hit the last page. Seriously, Wilder Girls is an insane, intense ride, and I hope beyond hope that it ushers in a flood of YA weird fiction and body horror. When I picked it up, I already had a sneaking suspicion that this book was going to be my kinda thing because Jeff VanderMeer, king of the weird, is one of the blurbers. I was not disappointed; this is a book to buy on release day and devour in twenty-four hours.

The premise of the book is that a bizarre, unprecedented plague called the Tox has infested an island home to an all-girls boarding school. The Tox causes those it infects to mutate, perhaps by growing gills, claws, an extra spine, etc. The schoolgirls and the sparse crew of staff members remaining on the island have developed a system of survival, but when one girl goes missing and her friend determines to find her, everything is thrown into chaos.

Wilder Girls pulls no punches. The prose is raw and has so much forward momentum that it is a very difficult book to put down. I will say that the discovery and explanation at the end of the hows and the whys of the Tox was a bit disappointing to me. It came a bit out of left field; I was hoping for something less scientific and more just “this weird, inexplicable thing is happening and we can’t figure out why and now we just have to deal with it.” My opinion when it comes to weird fiction is that explanations take away from the mystique.

But even so, I basically adored this book and would hope for a movie version if I weren’t so sure Hollywood would fuck it up. Unless maybe we can get a return to practical effects à la John Carpenter’s The Thing… How amazing would that be? A girl can dream…

I’ll definitely be awaiting this author’s next book, whether it’s a sequel to Wilder Girls (would actually be satisfied with there not being a sequel, just to preserve some ambiguity in the story) or something else.

Keeping It Local: Setting My Book in Connecticut

When it was time to put pen to paper, the decision about where to set Specter was an easy one. It had to be Connecticut, specifically a loosely-veiled version of the Farmington Valley—this despite the fact that there’s a good amount of myself in Lanie, the sixteen-year-old main character, and I had spent my own high school days in a Chicago suburb very different from the Farmington Valley.

I’ve lived in Connecticut for about ten years now, and it’s taken me a solid chunk of that time to feel like the state is really my home. Moving to the East Coast is a tough transition for a Midwest girl who’s used to open fields—from a zombie apocalypse perspective, I used to staunchly hold the position that I want all that open Midwest space around me so that I can see the undead mob coming. Now, after years of living in the lush, forested valley, my opinion’s made a hundred and eighty degree flip—I’ve grown to love the dense press of trees all around me, the mountains framing the horizon. It’s comfy having this much greenery around, like nature’s version of a lead blanket.

And all that forest provides a perfect setting for a book with much weirdness. Here are just a few examples of the startling things I’ve encountered in the CT woods…

  • Bears at every turn. Morgan Matson needs to get her facts straight; I have no idea what the hell kind of “research” she conducted for Save the Date to claim that there are no bears in CT.
  • This sound. (It was so loud.)
  • Clothes stitched together into the shape of a human body and filled with stuffing to form a punching bag.

I don’t want to give anything away plot-wise, but suffice it to say that the CT woods—and the surprising things within the woods—features heavily in Specter. Weird attracts weird; CT and my book were simply a perfect fit. 🙂


Specter debuts July 7th and is available for preorder at all major retailers.
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Kobo | Hidden Bower Press

Short Tuesday #15: “The Night Princes” by Megan Arkenberg

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine, which I only learned about last week; it seems to have a really excellent selection of dark short fiction, so I’m stoked to add the site to my rotation! I decided on the just-published “The Night Princes” by Megan Arkenberg. You can read the story first here…

“The Night Princes” is a multilayered piece of fiction, with a woman telling a long, winding story to three children. (Are they her children? As far as I could tell, this bit remains unclear.) As the woman spins the tale, the story shifts between multiple characters—Death and her own three children—with occasional interjections from the real world. The structure and pacing gave the piece a fairytale-like quality, the tone at times almost bordering on the mythological. It’s a quiet piece that I could see reading again (not at all nightmarish, despite its publisher), and the story wraps up with an ambiguous ending that suits the whole work well. I really enjoyed this story, and could definitely see reading more from this author.


A small aside—if you haven’t seen the book trailer for Specter yet, check it out! Specter debuts July 7th (just one month away!!!!!), and is available for preorder at all major retailers.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Kobo | Hidden Bower Press

Who Killed Melissa White?

It—she—had none of the silvery translucence from the stories. In fact, she wasn’t see-through at all, her figure cast in slow-moving blue shadows, like the sun making mottled patterns on the seafloor.

There was a ghost in my room—a ghost my age, her hair a big mess of feathery curls straight out of an eighties movie, her clinging black leotard and jeans vintage to match. And she was looking right at me.

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Specter debuts July 7th. Available for preorder now at all major retailers.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Kobo

Music and My Writing Process

I was talking with my grandma the other day, and the topic swung around to my newest WIP, which I’ve affectionately dubbed “Beauty and the Beast and Aliens.”

“How did you ever think of that?” she asked me.

I took a second. “Well, I don’t know… Music helps with brainstorming ideas, I guess?”

Here’s the reality of things: as with my other books, I don’t really remember the exact seed for this story. A little bit of this and a little bit of that rattle around and around in my brain, sometimes for years at a time. Somewhere down the line they twine themselves together and poof, there’s your book idea. However, music continues to play an integral part in informing the way I want my books to go, and since I think I might use music in a slightly unusual way as a writer, I thought I’d set my “process” down on paper to hopefully be of help to somebody else.

The first way I use music is by letting the mood of several songs lull me into a meditative, imaginative state. For example, in the aliens book, I know that storytelling and travel are going to feature heavily, so I’ve been listening to a lot of songs like “Another New World” by Punch Brothers/Josh Ritter and “Northwest Passage” by Stan Rogers. But I’m not really listening to these sorts of songs while I’m writing, but rather when I’m doing other, mindless tasks like driving, walking the dog, etc. I find that this practice allows my creative brain to chew on the song in the background and every so often spit out new ideas for my WIP.

The next way I use music is a bit complicated; I listen to music that reminds me of other books that I want my book to feel like. Here’s an example: when I was in middle school, I became obsessed with the Chinese singer Faye Wong and the book Sunshine by Robin McKinley at the same time. (Both of which I still adore, by the way.) I have distinct memories of spending a Christmas vacation curled up in an armchair in my grandparents’ living room, devouring Sunshine as I listened to a Faye Wong CD over and over again. So in my mind, that book and Faye Wong, and especially the song “再见萤火虫/Goodbye, Firefly”, are forever linked. That’s step one.

Now, for a couple different reasons, I want my alien book to have a similar feel to Sunshine, even though the actual stories are pretty dissimilar. Therefore, I’ve been using “再见萤火虫/Goodbye, Firefly” and another Faye Wong song to enter a state of mind where I feel what I felt reading Sunshine that first time. Doing so has allowed me to more easily craft my WIP with the specific tone of voice I’m looking for—a bit older, a bit more stream of consciousness, a bit more something that gets me closer to the story I want to tell.

The last way I use music is a bit more typical for writers, I believe—I listen to music similar to the mood of each scene while I’m writing that scene. Most of the time this music has no words, so that’s where you see orchestral pieces and soundtracks creep into my playlists. So this is where my playlists become a bit like a book soundtrack; you can very roughly map out the changing mood of the book with the playlist.

So if you’re interested to see how all this music ends up coming together into one confusing playlist monstrosity, take a look at my Spotify book playlists—I have one for each of my published works, and a private playlist is already in-the-works for the aliens book. I really hope this is helpful for other writers out there who might need help with brainstorming or inspiration!


A small aside—if you haven’t seen the book trailer for Specter yet, check it out! Specter debuts July 7th (just one month away!!!!!), and is available for preorder at all major retailers.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Kobo | Hidden Bower Press