Tag Archives: Zachary Sergi

New Releases: September 7, 2021

Today’s post is sponsored in honor of the paperback release of His Hideous Heart: 13 of Edgar Allan Poe’s Most Unsettling Tales Reimagined, ed. by Dahlia Adler (Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound). Thirteen authors take on The Tell-Tale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, The Raven, and more, including queer spins on Ligeia, The Purloined Letter, Annabel Lee, Hop-Frog, The Pit and the Pendulum, and The Murders at the Rue Morgue, in a collection the New York Times Book Review says “brims over with fierce delight and uncanny invention.”

Picture Book

Small Knight and the Anxiety Monster by Manka Kasha

The worry kept growing day by day, until… one morning Small Knight woke up to see a huge inky black monster in their room.

When Small Knight feels pressure from their parents to be a perfect princess, an anxiety monster shows up. No one else can see the monster, so Small Knight and their best friend Tiny Bear, decide that it is up to them to save themselves. They set off on a magical quest, only to discover that the answer was inside themselves all along. Turning to face the Anxiety Monster, they learn how to keep it under control.

Buy It: Bookshop | Amazon | Indiebound

Middle Grade

Obie is Man Enough by Schuyler Bailar

Obie knew his transition would have ripple effects. He has to leave his swim coach, his pool, and his best friends. But it’s time for Obie to find where he truly belongs.

As Obie dives into a new team, though, things are strange. Obie always felt at home in the water, but now he can’t get his old coach out of his head. Even worse are the bullies that wait in the locker room and on the pool deck. Luckily, Obie has family behind him. And maybe some new friends too, including Charlie, his first crush. Obie is ready to prove he can be one of the fastest boys in the water—to his coach, his critics, and his biggest competition: himself.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

A Touch of Ruckus by Ash Van Otterloo

Tennessee Lancaster has a hidden gift.

She can pry into folks’ memories with just a touch of their belongings. It’s something she’s always kept hidden — especially from her big, chaotic family. Their lives are already chock-full of worries about Daddy’s job and Mama’s blues without Tennie rocking the boat.

But when the Lancasters move to the mountains for a fresh start, Tennie’s gift does something new. Instead of just memories, her touch releases a ghost with a terrifying message: Trouble is coming. Tennie wants to ignore it. Except her new friend Fox — scratch that, her only friend, Fox — is desperate to go ghost hunting deep in the forest. And when Tennie frees even more of the spirits, trouble is exactly what she gets… and it hits close to home. The ghosts will be heard, and now Tennie must choose between keeping secrets or naming an ugly truth that could tear her family apart.

Magic and mayhem abound in this spooky story about family legacies, first friendships, and how facing the ghosts inside can sometimes mean stirring up a little bit of ruckus.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Young Adult

Baby Teeth by Meg Grehan (2nd)

Baby Teeth CoverThe blood
Feeds the hunger
That threatens everything

It starts when Claudia offers her a yellow rose.
Immy has been in love before – many times, across many lifetimes. But never as deeply, as intensely as this.
Claudia has never been in love this before either. But then, this is her first time with a vampire.
The forbidden thirst for blood runs deep in Immy. And within her mind clamour the voices, of all the others she has been, their desires, and their wrongs.

A unique verse novel by the award-winning author of The Deepest Breath and The Space Between.

Buy it: Waterstones | Book Depository | Little Island

Major Detours by Zachary Sergi

It’s the summer before college and four best friends—Amelia, Chase, Cleo, and Logan—are on the first leg of their road trip inspired by the unique tarot deck that Amelia inherited from her grandmother. However, their trip full of visiting occult shops, bonding, and sightseeing quickly takes a major detour when they discover that their tarot deck is more valuable—and coveted—than they could’ve ever imagined. Suddenly pursued by collectors who are after the legendary “lost” work of an infamous cult-following artist, the four friends will discover the fortunes that await those who unearth the deck’s four missing cards.

As the reader, you’ll get to make actual choices to further the friends’ road trip adventure in this first-of-its-kind interactive novel. Will you help the main characters, Amelia and Chase, learn and grow? How will you navigate Amelia’s steamy budding romances and overcome the challenges facing Chase and Logan’s queer-teen relationship?  Will you uncover the mysteries of the tarot deck? The choices are yours to make!

Major Detours is more than the branching-path books from your childhood. Instead, this fresh format bridges the gap between nostalgic choose-your-own-adventure and the modern style of digital interactive fiction, with choices that always lead you forward in the story and feature four diverse, queer characters navigating relationships and self-discovery. In Major Detours, the reader can interactively engage in two queer romances (from 2 alternating POVs), between the challenges facing a teen cis-male monogomous long-term relationship and a budding discovery of pansexual and nonbinary identities.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

A Clash of Steel by CB Lee

Two intrepid girls hunt for a legendary treasure on the deadly high seas in this YA remix of the classic adventure novel Treasure Island.

1826. The sun is setting on the golden age of piracy, and the legendary Dragon Fleet, the scourge of the South China Sea, is no more. Its ruthless leader, a woman known only as the Head of the Dragon, is now only a story, like the ones Xiang has grown up with all her life. She desperately wants to prove her worth, especially to her mother, a shrewd businesswoman who never seems to have enough time for Xiang. Her father is also only a story, dead at sea before Xiang was born. Her single memento of him is a pendant she always wears, a simple but plain piece of gold jewelry.

But the pendant’s true nature is revealed when a mysterious girl named Anh steals it, only to return it to Xiang in exchange for her help in decoding the tiny map scroll hidden inside. The revelation that Xiang’s father sailed with the Dragon Fleet and tucked away this secret changes everything. Rumor has it that the legendary Head of the Dragon had one last treasure—the plunder of a thousand ports—that for decades has only been a myth, a fool’s journey.

Xiang is convinced this map could lead to the fabled treasure. Captivated with the thrill of adventure, she joins Anh and her motley crew off in pursuit of the island. But the girls soon find that the sea—and especially those who sail it—are far more dangerous than the legends led them to believe.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Act Cool by Tobly McSmith

Aspiring actor August Greene just landed a coveted spot at the prestigious School of Performing Arts in New York. There’s only one problem: His conservative parents won’t accept that he’s transgender. And to stay with his aunt in the city, August must promise them he won’t transition.

August is convinced he can play the part his parents want while acting cool and confident in the company of his talented new friends.

But who is August when the lights go down? And where will he turn when the roles start hitting a little too close to home?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

The Girls Are Never Gone by Sarah Glenn Marsh

55588056Dare Chase doesn’t believe in ghosts.

Privately, she’s a supernatural skeptic. But publicly, she’s keeping her doubts to herself—because she’s the voice of Attachments, her brand-new paranormal investigation podcast, and she needs her ghost-loving listeners to tune in.

That’s what brings her to Arrington Estate. Thirty years ago, teenager Atheleen Bell drowned in Arrington’s lake, and legend says her spirit haunts the estate. Dare’s more interested in the suspicious circumstances surrounding her death—circumstances that she believes point to a living culprit, not the supernatural. Still, she’s vowed to keep an open mind as she investigates, even if she’s pretty sure what she’ll find.

But Arrington is full of surprises. Good ones like Quinn, the cute daughter of the house’s new owner. And baffling ones like the threatening messages left scrawled in paint on Quinn’s walls, the ghastly face that appears behind Dare’s own in the mirror, and the unnatural current that nearly drowns their friend Holly in the lake. As Dare is drawn deeper into the mysteries of Arrington, she’ll have to rethink the boundaries of what is possible. Because if something is lurking in the lake…it might not be willing to let her go.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

The Night When No One Had Sex by Kalena Miller

Cover for The Night When No One Had SexIt’s the night of senior prom, and eighteen-year-old Julia has made a pact with her friends. (Yes, that kind of pact.) They have secured a secluded cabin in the woods, one night without parental supervision, and plenty of condoms. But as soon as they leave the dance, the pact begins to unravel. Alex’s grandmother is undergoing emergency surgery, and he and his date rush to the hospital. Zoe’s trying to figure out how she feels about getting off the waitlist at Yale―and how to tell her girlfriend. Madison’s chronic illness flares, holding her back once again from being a normal teenager. And Julia’s fantasy-themed role play gets her locked in a closet. Alternating between each character’s perspective and their ridiculous group chat, The Night When No One Had Sex finds a group of friends navigating the tenuous transition into adulthood and embracing the uncertainty of life after high school.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Adult/General

Among Thieves by M.J. Kuhn

In just over a year’s time, Ryia Cautella has already earned herself a reputation as the quickest, deadliest blade in the dockside city of Carrowwick—not to mention the sharpest tongue. But Ryia Cautella is not her real name.

For the past six years, a deadly secret has kept her in hiding, running from town to town, doing whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of the formidable Guildmaster—the sovereign ruler of the five kingdoms of Thamorr. No matter how far or fast she travels, his servants never fail to track her down…but even the most powerful men can be defeated.

Ryia’s path now leads directly into the heart of the Guildmaster’s stronghold, and against every instinct she has, it’s not a path she can walk alone. Forced to team up with a crew of assorted miscreants, smugglers, and thieves, Ryia must plan her next moves very carefully. If she succeeds, her freedom is won once and for all…but unfortunately for Ryia, her new allies are nearly as selfish as she is, and they all have plans of their own.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull

55748103One October morning, Laina gets the news that her brother was shot and killed by Boston cops. But what looks like a case of police brutality soon reveals something much stranger. Monsters are real. And they want everyone to know it.

As creatures from myth and legend come out of the shadows, seeking safety through visibility, their emergence sets off a chain of seemingly unrelated events. Members of a local werewolf pack are threatened into silence. A professor follows a missing friend’s trail of bread crumbs to a mysterious secret society. And a young boy with unique abilities seeks refuge in a pro-monster organization with secrets of its own. Meanwhile, more people start disappearing, suicides and hate crimes increase, and protests erupt globally, both for and against the monsters.

At the center is a mystery no one thinks to ask: Why now? What has frightened the monsters out of the dark?

The world will soon find out.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

The Final Child by Fran Dorricott

Erin and her brother Alex were the last children abducted by ‘the Father’, a serial killer who only ever took pairs of siblings. She escaped, but her brother was never seen again. Traumatised, Erin couldn’t remember anything about her ordeal, and the Father was never caught.

Eighteen years later, Erin has done her best to put the past behind her. But then she meets Harriet. Harriet’s young cousins were the Father’s first victims and, haunted by their deaths, she is writing a book about the disappearances and is desperate for an interview. At first, Erin wants nothing to do with her. But then she starts receiving sinister gifts, her house is broken into, and she can’t shake the feeling that she’s being watched. After all these years, Erin believed that the Father was gone, but now she begins to wonder if he was only waiting…

Buy it: Book Depository

The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

56898248Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.

Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.

As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

How to Wrestle a Girl: Stories by Venita Blackburn

56269289Venita Blackburn’s characters bully and suffer, spit and tease, mope and blame. They’re hyperaware of their bodies and fiercely observant, fending off the failures and advances of adults with indifferent ease. In “Biology Class,” they torment a teacher to the point of near insanity, while in “Bear Bear Harvest™,” they prepare to sell their excess fat and skin for food processing. Stark and sharp, hilarious and ominous, these pieces are scabbed, bruised, and prone to scarring.

Many of the stories, set in Southern California, follow a teenage girl in the aftermath of her beloved father’s death and capture her sister’s and mother’s encounters with men of all ages, as well as the girl’s budding attraction to her best friend, Esperanza. In and out of school, participating in wrestling and softball, attending church with her hysterically complicated family, and dominating boys in arm wrestling, she grapples with her burgeoning queerness and her emerging body, becoming wary of clarity rather than hoping for it.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Witch, Please by Ann Aguirre

Danica Waterhouse is a fully modern witch―daughter, granddaughter, cousin, and co-owner of the Fix-It Witches, a magical tech repair shop. After a messy breakup that included way too much family “feedback,” Danica made a pact with her cousin: they’ll keep their hearts protected and have fun, without involving any of the overly opinionated Waterhouse matriarchs. Danica is more than a little exhausted navigating a long-standing family feud where Gram thinks the only good mundane is a dead one and Danica’s mother weaves floral crowns for anyone who crosses her path.

Three blocks down from the Fix-It Witches, Titus Winnaker, owner of Sugar Daddy’s bakery, has family trouble of his own. After a tragic loss, all he’s got left is his sister, the bakery, and a lifetime of terrible luck in love. Sure, business is sweet, but he can’t seem to shake the romantic curse that’s left him past thirty and still a virgin. He’s decided he’s doomed to be forever alone.

Until he meets Danica Waterhouse. The sparks are instant, their attraction irresistible. For him, she’s the one. To her, he’s a firebomb thrown in the middle of a family war. Can a modern witch find love with an old-fashioned mundane who refuses to settle for anything less than forever?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Eighty Days by A.C. Esguerra

54303232“Map A Course, Arrive Safe Home. That’s The Measure Of Your Achievement.” A pilot wants nothing more than to fly. Or so he thought, until he crosses paths with a mysterious thief whose tricks draw him into unchartered territory and new adventure. In a life where the truth changes as quickly as clouds in the sky, the pilot must decide for himself what freedom really means. Award-winning cartoonist A.C. Esguerra presents an unforgettable love letter to flight, the quest for freedom and the greatest adventure of all – love.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

The All-Consuming World by Cassandra Khaw

The All-Consuming World - final cover - high-res - 2020-09-17.jpgMaya has died and been resurrected into countless cyborg bodies through the years of a long, dangerous career with the infamous Dirty Dozen, the most storied crew of criminals in the galaxy, at least before their untimely and gruesome demise.

Decades later, she and her diverse team of broken, diminished outlaws must get back together to solve the mystery of their last, disastrous mission and to rescue a missing and much-changed comrade . . . but they’re not the only ones in pursuit of the secret at the heart of the planet Dimmuborgir.

The highly evolved AI of the galaxy have their own agenda and will do whatever it takes to keep humanity from ever regaining control. As Maya and her comrades spiral closer to uncovering the AIs’ vast conspiracy, this band of violent women—half-clone and half-machine—must battle their own traumas and a universe of sapient ageships who want them dead, in order to settle their affairs once and for all.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Non-Fiction

The Breaks by Julietta Singh

In a letter to her six-year-old daughter, Julietta Singh writes toward a tender vision of the world, offering children’s radical embrace of possibility as a model for how we might live. In order to survive looming political and ecological disasters, Singh urges, we must break from the conventions we have inherited and begin to orient ourselves toward more equitable and revolutionary paths.

The Breaks celebrates queer family-making, communal living, and Brown girlhood, complicating the stark binaries that shape contemporary US discourse. With nuance and generosity, Singh reveals the connections among the crises humanity faces—climate catastrophe, extractive capitalism, and the violent legacies of racism, patriarchy, and colonialism—inviting us to move through the breaks toward a tenable future.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Exclusive Cover Reveal + Galley Giveaway: Interactive Novel (!) Major Detours by Zachary Sergi

I am so excited to have today’s guest on the site, because this is seriously a project unlike any I’ve ever seen. Major Detours by Zachary Sergi is an interactive YA novel releasing from Running Press on September 7th, 2021, and today we’re not only revealing the cover, but we’re giving away three galleys with a different beautiful cover, and, because I had to know WTF it means that it’s an interactive YA novel, I asked Zach to share a little more about the process of making this happen!

But first, the book:

It’s the summer before college and four best friends—Amelia, Chase, Cleo, and Logan—are on the first leg of their road trip inspired by the unique tarot deck that Amelia inherited from her grandmother. However, their trip full of visiting occult shops, bonding, and sightseeing quickly takes a major detour when they discover that their tarot deck is more valuable—and coveted—than they could’ve ever imagined. Suddenly pursued by collectors who are after the legendary “lost” work of an infamous cult-following artist, the four friends will discover the fortunes that await those who unearth the deck’s four missing cards.

As the reader, you’ll get to make actual choices to further the friends’ road trip adventure in this first-of-its-kind interactive novel. Will you help the main characters, Amelia and Chase, learn and grow? How will you navigate Amelia’s steamy budding romances and overcome the challenges facing Chase and Logan’s queer-teen relationship?  Will you uncover the mysteries of the tarot deck? The choices are yours to make!

Major Detours is more than the branching-path books from your childhood. Instead, this fresh format bridges the gap between nostalgic choose-your-own-adventure and the modern style of digital interactive fiction, with choices that always lead you forward in the story and feature four diverse, queer characters navigating relationships and self-discovery. In Major Detours, the reader can interactively engage in two queer romances (from 2 alternating POVs), between the challenges facing a teen cis-male monogomous long-term relationship and a budding discovery of pansexual and nonbinary identities.

And because I cannot keep this epic cover from you any longer:

**Art by Karl Mountford | Design by Marissa Raybuck**

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

And, as promised, here’s Zachary Sergi to talk about the creation and inspiration of this novel!

Publishing Choices

As with any novel, the links in the chain that led to the creation of Major Detours could take us decades back, but I’ll start us more recently: after years of writing digital interactive fiction novels for Choice of Games (Heroes Rise and Versus, which have found the most devoted and lovely readerships) and almost selling two TV pilots (one about a youth cult and another about tarot cards—sound familiar?), I decided to focus my energy on returning to my very first dream: writing and publishing a print novel.

That story spans several years (and includes writing a more straightforward YA supernatural horror novel), but this intention ultimately put me on the path to meeting my agent, Lucy Carson, and eventually my editor at Running Press Kids, Britny Brooks-Perilli. It turns out Britny had read my novels for Choice of Games and wanted to know if I was interested in adapting my unique style of interactive fiction for print.

Of course, the answer was yes. Though really, I had never set out to write interactive fiction. The first Heroes Rise came about similarly: a manager asked if I’d pitch Choice of Games as one of my first opportunities out of college (this was before iPhones had become popularized, so writing a novel that would live as an app for a brand-new publishing company was…a leap of faith, to be sure). As it turns out, like many others, I’m uniquely suited to write interactive fiction, having made up RPG games and stories my whole life (with my ever-growing action figure collection). As RuPaul often says, sometimes you have to let the dream dream you. I always dreamed of being a writer—and as the universe would have it, I’m meant to be an interactive writer.

Needless to say I was very up for the challenge of adapting the complex, coded style of modern IF for print. Britny and I then embarked on a very non-traditional process—perhaps fitting for a very non-traditional print debut. Britny (who has turned out to be my creative soulmate)  pitched me a concept: road trip with a potential genre twist. I then pitched tarot cards, a subject I had spent lots of time researching and knew had hidden depths not reflected in pop culture yet. We talked style, then I drafted a full proposal, complete with a sample chapter and a totally new interactive format—one designed to feel as reader-friendly as possible.

After many months of additional drafts and conversations, Britny’s team approved the novel. After years of work, I had arrived at this dream-come-true destination—by taking lots of unexpected detours. But now I actually had to write this novel we had proposed…

Writing Choices

Interactive fiction was born out of the interactive novels of the 80s and 90s: most think of the Choose Your Own Adventure line, but I actually grew up reading the Goosebumps: Reader Beware…You Choose The Scare line (I even tried building my own interactive slasher novel in the 3rd grade…so again, detour or destiny?) The novels written for Choice of Games, however, are all grown up: with sophisticated plots and characters, including complicated choices that are tracked by built-in coding and statistics (born out of early adventure video games). How were Britny and I going to replicate this digital/app-driven medium for print?

With lots of creativity, it turns out. The format we invented for Major Detours has three cornerstones. First: a more novelistic style. The original interactive print novels are what we call “bushy,” with lots of short story branches that end quickly and jump all over the book, then send you back to the beginning. In Major Detours, the choices always lead you forward and follow the spine of a linear plot—plus there are callbacks to choices you’ve made along the journey.

This leads us to the second cornerstone: a reading guide in the backmatter, where you can write in your choices using keywords. This unique system keeps track of your choices in a simple way, but once finished reading, you can then plug your choice-keywords into several reader personality profiles. Of course, the choices you make further the plot and branch scenes, but primarily these choices focus on shaping the interior lives of the two protagonists: defining their relationships, their struggles, and their beliefs. In doing so, you also build your own personality profile, choice by choice.

Third, the tone here is no longer middle-grade adventure; instead, we’re dealing with contemporary YA characters and their emotional, steamy, drama-filled coming-of-ages. Oh, and our teen crew is on a spooky tarot adventure, on the run from a maybe-cult of thrilling antagonists and answering deep questions about the meaning of life via the tarot. Some choice themes you will encounter: Can you predict the future or is there no such thing as destiny? Are spirits real or do we only ever haunt ourselves? How can long-term relationships survive going to college on opposite coasts? Is it better to fall for the mysterious good one or the seductive bad boy? Perhaps most importantly, these themes offer several queer romances to navigate… but saying any more about these would definitely mean spoilers for the alternate endings.

The Choices Are Yours

Interactivity, road trips, the tarot, cults, spirituality, queer joy—welcome to Major Detours, an interactive novel unlike any you’ve read before. We truly cannot wait to share it with all you readers!

How cool is that??

BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE.

The galleys for Major Detours actually have a different cover, though it’s every bit as striking, and the Running Press team is giving three of them away here!

To enter, just leave a comment below! Let us know what you think about the cover, tell us about a choice you made (or wish you’d made), tell us your favorite game, or just acknowledge that this is really damn cool. Giveaway is open to U.S. recipients age 18 and over, and winner will be selected on Thursday, April 1st. Void where prohibited, and please allow for shipping delays due  to *gestures around at the world*.