Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Kick-Ass Girls of YA Blog Hop

Today I'm participating in a fun blog hop hosted by Fire & Ice YA Books. The challenge? Write a blog about a kick-ass woman in young adult fiction--either one that currently exists, one we're creating, or one we'd like to see.

I'm cheating a tad kick-ass heroine is from a middle grade book. But it fits because I'd like to see something like this portrayed more often in YA. It is an issue that affects so many young girls and women: weight. 

I've chosen Celeste, the 13-year-old heroine of this book:

In Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies, Celeste has a dilemma. She's always been an overeater, relying on oversized clothing to disguise her excess weight. When her mom signs her up for a modeling challenge for overweight girls, she launches a plan: lose weight so she'll no longer qualify for the pageant.

Why is Celeste a kick-ass heroine? Because she resists delicious cookies and battles a real-world problem so many of us face every single day. 

Anyone who can fight the battle to be healthy and WIN is my total hero. If you write YA, please, please, please create heroines like Celeste!

Below is the linky list. Be sure to visit the other blogs participating today!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Mystery Monday: Update on Tara Grinstead

It's Monday, which means it's time for another...

A little more than a year ago, I detailed the mysterious disappearance of Tara Grinstead, a beauty queen and teacher who vanished from her home in 2005.

To sum up the story, Tara returned home from a barbecue late one night and was never seen again. Her car was found in the driveway and the clothes that she'd worn that day were found on her bedroom floor.

I cover quite a few unsolved mysteries here with no resolution. This is one of those cases where there has been a resolution...finally. I feel that even though we don't have all the information, there are a few things we can learn from the recent arrests in Tara's case.

In May of this year, Ryan Alexander Duke (above) and Bo Dukes were arrested for the 2005 murder. Ryan is believed to be the murderer, while Bo was arrested for unlawfully concealing Tara's death and destroying physical evidence in connection with the death. Both were former students at the high school where Tara taught.

Most of the details are still under wraps, but prosecutors have stated that Ryan killed Tara with his hands and removed her body from the premises. We also know he's charged with breaking into her house--although it's still unclear whether he broke in to rob her and she surprised him or he intended to murder her all along. Authorities have been searching a pecan grove for her remains. The pecan grove is part of Bo Dukes' uncle's farm.

The most surprising thing about these arrests? Neither of these men was ever on anyone's radar during the full decade of investigation and speculation. Since these arrests, I've realized that no matter how many theories we devise for mysterious disappearances, the answer is likely something we've never even considered.

Have you ever been surprised by the outcome of a mystery?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

What IS Invasion of Privacy?

Even if you've never listened to a podcast in your life, you may have heard of this one:

It was only six episodes of about a half an hour each, but Missing Richard Simmons made a huge impact. It was the top podcast in iTunes for much of its run and it put the fitness guru back in the news.

Spoiler alert: Richard Simmons isn't being held against his will. He isn't ill or transitioning or any of the other "theories" the podcast explored. As he said in a statement last June, he simply wants to live quietly

Missing Richard Simmons was created by Dan Taberski, a former Daily Show producer and customer at Simmons' fitness studio. Taberski, calling himself a "friend," claimed genuine concern for the celebrity as he dug into this "mystery."

Simmons and Taberski

Simmons has confirmed he's okay. Police have conducted welfare checks and confirmed he's okay. His spokesperson has repeatedly confirmed he's okay. Yet the podcast attempted to get to the heart of this "mystery" and possibly draw Simmons out of retirement. (Because people are "missing Richard Simmons"...get it?)

The question is, at what point are we just invading someone's privacy for our own entertainment? Tabloids and legitimate news sources have dug into the lives of celebrities for years, occasionally even after they've left the spotlight. With a podcast, though, it goes beyond a simple news story...or does it?

This story does have a twist, though. Earlier this week, Simmons' manager announced the celebrity has signed a merchandising deal and may emerge from hiding soon.

Does it feel like an invasion of privacy now???

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Introducing Lies We Tell by Kelly Hashway

First, I have to thank those who helped me with my blog tour last week. It was so much fun!!! And today, I get to congratulate Shirley, Sandy, and Lidy Wilkes, who each won free signed copies of Piper Morgan Makes a Splash.

And now...on to today's post!

Kelly Hashway is a prolific and talented writer whose books I always look forward to reading. This month, I get to add this one to my to-read pile...and I think you should, too! We're celebrating release week with her today, so be sure to scroll down and read all about her new book, Lies We Tell.


Madison Kramer thought her past was behind her. With a new name and a career as a best-selling author, what could go wrong?

She never expected Trevor Lockhardt to walk into her book signing, offering his services as her publicist, or that she’d end up falling for him. But what she really didn’t expect was a stalker sending her messages, both written and in the form of dead bodies.

Madison can’t escape her parents’ murder any longer. But is it their killer coming to finish what he started fifteen years ago? How long can she keep her past a secret before her lies come back to get her?

Add it on Goodreads.

Buy Links:

Amazon | iBooks B&N Kobo


Kelly Hashway fully admits to being one of the most accident-prone people on the planet, but that didn’t stop her from jumping out of an airplane at ten thousand feet one Halloween. Maybe it was growing up reading R.L. Stine’s Fear Street books that instilled a love of all things scary and a desire to live in a world filled with supernatural creatures, but she spends her days writing speculative fiction. Kelly’s also a sucker for first love, which is why she writes romance under the pen name Ashelyn Drake. When she’s not writing, Kelly works as an editor, and also as Mom, which she believes is a job title that deserves to be capitalized.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Introducing My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights by Brooks Benjamin

A guy at a children's book writing conference is about as rare as a Bigfoot or UFO sighting. But Brooks Benjamin is not only a successful middle grade author, he's also everywhere. Attend a book event in the Midsouth and you'll see him there!

Today, Brooks is celebrating the paperback release of his first novel. I've been so excited to read this one, so I figured to take the opportunity to help give his big release a push. You have to admit this is one intriguing title! Scroll down to read all about it and order your copy.


Football hero. Ninja freestyler. It's seventh grade. Anything is possible.

All Dillon wants is to be a real dancer. And if he wins a summer scholarship at Dance-Splosion, he’s on his way. The problem? His dad wants him to play football. And Dillon’s freestyle crew, the Dizzee Freekz, says that dance studios are for sellouts. His friends want Dillon to kill it at the audition—so he can turn around and tell the studio just how wrong their rules and creativity-strangling ways are.

At first, Dillon’s willing to go along with his crew’s plan, even convincing one of the snobbiest girls at school to work with him on his technique. But as Dillon’s dancing improves, he wonders: what if studios aren’t the enemy? And what if he actually has a shot at winning the scholarship?  

Dillon’s life is about to get crazy . . . on and off the dance floor in this kid-friendly humorous debut by Brooks Benjamin.

Buy Links:


In sixth grade, Brooks Benjamin formed a New Kids on the Block tribute dance crew called the New Kidz. He wasn’t that good at dancing. But now he’s got a new crew—his wife and their dog. They live in Tennessee, where he teaches reading and writing and occasionally busts out a few dance moves. He’s still not very good at it.

Author Links:

Monday, April 10, 2017

Mystery Monday: Brian Shaffer

It's Monday, which means it's time for another...

Barhopping is one of the most dangerous things a young person can do. So many of the missing persons/mysterious death cases I hear about happened while a young person was partying late at night with friends. Such is the case with today's mystery, which takes us back to 2006, when a man with a very promising future headed out on the town with friends:

Brian Shaffer was a 27-year-old second-year medical school student at Ohio State University. He and his girlfriend, Alexis, were leaving the next morning for Florida on spring break. Some have said they thought he might have been planning to propose on that trip.

At approximately 9pm on March 31, Brian met up with his friend Clint for a night out on the town. This was something they did on a regular basis. Alexis was spending the weekend with her family. When she spoke with him on the phone, everything seemed normal.

Image credit: Dateline NBC

Brian and Clint visited several bars, drinking at each, before heading to the Ugly Tuna Saloona, a seafood restaurant in Colombus, Ohio.

A camera was set up at the entrance to capture those coming up the escalator that led to the restaurant. The camera captured Brian, Clint, and Clint's friend Meredith. Brian was in front, leaning on the handrail.

Inside, Brian ran into some girls he knew and was "doing his usual thing and was talking to those two girls," Clint says. At 1:55 am, Brian appeared on the video for the last time. He was talking to some girls at the front, near two security guards. The camera catches him walking back toward the restaurant. He's never seen again.

A few minutes later, it was closing time. Clint and Meredith searched the entire restaurant for him and couldn't find him. They said the last time they'd seen him, he was heading to the stage to talk to the band.

Assuming he'd left, they went home. The next morning, his girlfriend repeatedly tried to reach him. They were supposed to be at the airport for a morning flight. He didn't show up.

Since that night, there has been no activity on his credit cards or cell phone. But the biggest mystery of all? How did he get out of the bar? There were cameras at every exit and police have scrutinized every second of tape--no sign of him leaving the bar.

There was one exit without a camera...but it required navigating through an area that was heavily under construction. Would he have gone out that way on his own? Why?

Police believe it was foul play. Even if he'd walked out on his own, the trip back to his apartment would involve walking through a rough neighborhood, drunk, alone. But true crime fans like to believe missing people like Brian simply walk away to start a new life somewhere.

What do you think happened to Brian Shaffer?

Friday, April 07, 2017

Thursday, April 06, 2017

The Piper Party Continues

We're still partying over here! I want to thank the following people who are giving some Piper Morgan love on their blogs today. Please stop by and check them out if you get a chance!

Alex Cavanaugh
Anna Simpson
Beverly Stowe McClure
Cathrina Constantine

Jacqui Murray
Libby Heily
Mason Canyon
Melissa Ann Paris
Meradeth Houston

Rhonda Gilmour
Sandra Cox
Tyrean Martinson

Be sure to check out the blogs above and leave some love! And don't forget to enter my giveaway:

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Wednesday, April 05, 2017

IWSG and Partying with Piper!!!

It's IWSG day...but it's also my book birthday week. Before launching into IWSG, I want to thank the following people who are giving some Piper Morgan love on their blogs today. Please stop by and check them out if you get a chance!

Alex Cavanaugh
Beverly Stowe McClure
Cathrina Constantine

Libby Heily
Mason Canyon
Meradeth Houston
Tyrean Martinson

And now, on to this month's IWSG post.

Each month we have a question. This month's question is:

Have you taken advantage of the annual A to Z Challenge in terms of marketing, networking, publicity for your book? What were the results?

For those who don't know, the A to Z Challenge is a fun online meme where participants post every day in April, with each day's post covering a letter of the alphabet. I participated in 2015 and 2016 and had a blast with these two themes:

I don't have to tell you that writing 26 blog posts in one month is a lot of work. But it would be worth it if the challenge brought a crapton of new readers. In 2015 it did. In 2016, notsomuch. Most people didn't get that the point of the challenge was to meet new people. They posted a lot and read absolutely nothing. So...

Your mileage may if you want to have fun, I urge you to go for it!

Are you participating in the A to Z Challenge this year?

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Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Introducing At First Blush by Beth Ellyn Summer

Today is a big day for new book is out!!! Thank you to the bloggers celebrating with me today:

C.D. Gallant-King
Libby Heily
Literary Rambles

Melissa Ann Paris
Meradeth Houston
Patricia Lynne
Tamara Narayan

I don't celebrate my book birthday alone...another bloggy friend has a new book coming out today, and it's her first book ever.

Beth Ellyn Summer is such an awesome person. She interned for Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon (how cool is that?) and now she's a young adult writer. Today is debut day for her first book ever! It's a Bloomsbury Spark book and the cover is uber-fun! Scroll down to read all about it and buy your copy.


Who would have thought that a teenager could have a successful career creating makeup tutorial videos on YouTube? For Lacey Robbins, this dream has been her reality. An up-and-coming YouTuber, she has thousands of fans and can't wait for the day when her subscriber count reaches the one million mark. And when she is offered a high school internship at On Trend Magazine, she figures that this could be the make it or break it moment.

But sometimes your dream job isn't all that it seems. Her editor is only interested in promoting junk products, and her boss in the Hair and Makeup department introduces her to the larger world of makeup artistry, making her wonder if making tutorials online is all she is meant to do. To top it all off, when the magazine's feature subject, musician Tyler Lance, turns his broodingly handsome smile her way, falling for him could mean losing her fans, forcing her to make a decision: her YouTube life or her real life?

Fans of Zoella's GIRL ONLINE will fall right into the world of this YA DEVIL WEARS PRADA and stay hooked from the first blush to the last glossy kiss.

Add it on Goodreads.

Buy Links:

Amazon | B&N Apple Kobo Google Play Bloomsbury


Beth Ellyn Summer writes contemporary young adult fiction that somehow always includes the following elements: fame, makeup, and television. She graduated from Long Island University with a degree in Print and Electronic Journalism. Interning for Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon was the highlight of her college years. When she's not writing, Beth can be found swatching eyeshadows, solving Wheel of Fortune puzzles, and playing with her adorable cat, Penny Belle. Beth lives on Long Island in a cookie cutter town that, in an ironic twist of fate, doesn't have a single decent bakery.


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Monday, April 03, 2017

Introducing Learn a Word in 100 Words by Patricia Josephine

Today is Day One of my Piper Morgan blog tour. I'm also introducing Patricia Josephine's latest book, so scroll down to read all about it! But first, thank you to the bloggers who are partying with me today:

Karen Helene Walker
Libby Heily
Literary Rambles
Meradeth Houston

Patricia Josephine (a.k.a. Patricia Lynne) has become one of my favorite authors. Her latest book is perfect for my short attention span!


A collection of flash fiction inspired by unusual words. Each tiny tale is crafted around a word that is unique or no longer in use. Read them while waiting in line or before bed. They range from sweet and lighthearted to dark and disturbing. Look out for the supernatural, but don’t turn your back on the average human. A killer might be lurking underneath. Expand your vocabulary, and get some inspiration of your own.

Buy Links:


Patricia Josephine never set out to become a writer, and in fact, she never considered it an option during high school and college. She was more of an art and band geek. Some stories are meant to be told, and now she can't stop writing. She writes Young Adult under the name Patricia Lynne.

Patricia lives with her husband in Michigan, hopes one day to have what will resemble a small petting zoo, and has a fondness for dying her hair the colors of the rainbow.


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Friday, March 31, 2017

Best Books of March

It's the last Friday of the month, which means it's time to tell you all about the great books I read this month.

First up is a book with a seriously eye-catching cover. I feel like I know the author, Trudi Trueitin person, thanks to Facebook! So when I'm reading her books, I want to cheer her on the whole way. Her latest book has a young girl fighting hard to save a family business.

My Top Secret Dares and Don'ts features Kestrel, a 12-year-old who's a big fan of lists. Currently, she's keeping a "top secret" list of things she wants to do and things she doesn't want to do. When she finds herself spending the summer before seventh grade at her grandmother's ski lodge, that list is put to the test. The good news is, that means we get to watch her take on one adventure after another. Kestrel is a strong, spunky heroine that readers will definitely root for as she tries to save the lodge after a bunch of nasty online reviews.

Next comes another M!x book with another cover that just jumps off the shelf at you. This one is by Allison Gutknecht, the successful author of the Mandy Berr series. This is her latest:

In Spring Break Mistake, a tween gets to spend spring break in New York City thanks to her mad social media photography skills. During her adventure, she makes a couple of new friends and even has a crush. Young readers love social media and this one pulls in a great lesson about friendship and venturing out of your comfort zone. A fun read with lovable characters!

I always get excited when I see a new book from Cindy Callaghan. Why? Because I know it's going to be great! This time, her cover calls out to my love for all things spooky.

Sydney Mackenzie Knocks 'Em Dead is full of surprises. You start off with a fun story about a California girl who learns she has to move away from her great live in a house overlooking a cemetery. Then she gets to her new home and things get spooky. I was sure we were headed for "ghost story" territory. But just when you're all into the seances and such, the book kicks into "Underground Railroad" territory. I love surprises and I really love Cindy's writing, so I can't recommend this one enough!

I've read a lot of middle-grade books. More than I can count. And I can say I've never seen same-sex crushes tackled in a middle grade before. But that's exactly what you have in this awe-inspiring book from MG queen goddess Barbara Dee:

Last December, Barbara Dee's daughter wrote a post on Tumblr about coming out to her mom. On the day she said the words, she learned her mother had been writing Star-Crossed the whole time. The book means so much more when you know that! Star-Crossed tackles territory that few middle-grade books ever have--same-sex crushes. And the way Barbara handles Mattie's gradually developing feelings for a female classmate makes it a must-read for adults and kids.

One interesting thing about the next book is that it's actually the SECOND book with this name written by a friend of mine. My writer friend Carole Bellacera wrote the other one--random, especially when you consider the uniqueness of the title:

I never got to experience the 60s, but I'm old enough to remember bell bottoms! In Incense and Peppermints, we get to relive those times through the eyes of Mary Monroe (named for Marilyn, of course!), a high schooler dealing with some serious peer pressure. The gritty realism of the many struggles she deals with makes this book so compelling. Plus, just when you think you might be reading a romance, the author takes a completely surprising turn. This book is more of a coming-of-age story that keeps you guessing until the end!

My Audible read this month was a research project of sorts. I wanted to watch the show on HBO and when I heard it was a book, it was my duty to read the book first. It's surreal, watching the show after reading, since I now know what the big secret ending is!

Big Little Lies kicks off with a death at an elementary school trivia night. We know from the start that someone's dead...and nobody knows who the murderer is. But we spend the next 450 pages or so getting to know Madeline, Celeste, and Jane...women with very dark secrets. The book felt slow in parts (or maybe I'm just used to reading SHORTER books!), but the last hour or two of the audiobook will make it all so worth it.

What are you reading this month?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Mystery Monday: The Original Night Stalker

It's Monday, which means it's time for another...

There are some stories that are simply too horrifying to tell in detail. The Original Night Stalker is one of those cases. No, I'm not talking about Richard Ramirez, the convicted serial killer who terrorized L.A. and San Francisco in the 1980s. I'm talking about an even scarier whose crimes are the stuff the worst horror movies are made of.

Also known as the Golden State Killer, the East Area Rapist, and the Diamond Knot Killer, this murderer's crimes took place across California between 1976 and 1986.

The Original Night Stalker began as the East Area Rapist, committing a series of about 50 rapes and burglaries in the Sacramento area between 1976 and 1979. He targeted single women living alone, breaking in late at night and tying the women up before robbing them.

He became known by the knot he always tied when binding his victims. It was a diamond knot, which some have speculated indicates he might have been a rancher or cowboy.

Eventually, his M.O. changed...he progressed to couples. This is where it gets disturbing. He would tie up the male and stack plates on him, saying if he heard the plates rattle, he'd kill the female. Most of his crimes didn't involve murder, but to date, he's been linked to at least eight murders.

Due to the change in his M.O....and the fact that he expanded his crime area, the Original Night Stalker and the East Area Rapist were thought to be two different perpetrators until 2001. That was when DNA evidence linked them.

Both before and after his crimes, he would harass his victims by phone. There is even this recording left on one woman's answering machine. Police believe this is the Original Night Stalker:

The Original Night Stalker has never been found. The police have his DNA and it doesn't match the 14 million profiles in the FBI's national database, so did he retire? Die? Maybe he sits in jail today on an unrelated crime and the police simply never took his DNA...

Or maybe he's still alive, out there, somewhere...

My next Piper Morgan book, Piper Morgan Makes a Splash, comes out April 4, 2017. Sign up if you'd like to help out by posting on your blog about it!

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