Authors Talk About It

Book Award Contest & Indie Support

Category: young adult

Enlightened – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Billie Kowalewski

In Billie Kowalewski’s Enlightened, Veronica Edwards is mourning the untimely death of her boyfriend, Seth. After a gut-wrenching visit to his grave, Veronica is overcome with a terrible migraine and collapses, dead. When she wakes, she is no longer Veronica, but a spiritual being named Harmony. Harmony has been many different people and lived many different lives, but her time on Earth is always limited. She must return to the spirit world after each of her deaths to relive it all and begin again, life by tragic life.

Enlightened has a bit of a rocky start; with a bizarre prologue that makes little sense before reading the rest of the book and the sudden death of the supposed main character only a few pages in, it’s difficult to tell where this plot intends to go at first. Also, much of the narrative is a bit too conversational, which damages the integrity of the complex plot. Despite having an interesting premise, some of the execution seems to fall a bit short.

However, Enlightened is still a most fascinating novel. Its plot is dripping in philosophical “what-ifs,” leaving the reader to ponder its story in wonder. Billie Kowalewski writes with creativity and imagination; her story is unique, thoughtful, and so very deep. Enlightened is exactly the sort of book that remains in your mind long after you’ve read it, for all the best reasons. At its very core, it leaves behind one torturously unanswerable question: what is the true meaning of life?

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Splintered Reflections – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Laura Kelly

In Laura Kelly’s Splintered Reflections, Cathy is a troubled young woman, struggling with the reality of being abandoned by her parents. She never knew her father, and her emotionally abusive mother simply disappeared one day, never to return. Now, every morning, Cathy stands in front of the bathroom mirror and asks, “Who am I?” Her guilt and loneliness have resulted in her building a wall around herself, refusing to let anyone in. Then, she starts college, and all that changes. She meets a series of new people – each different, yet essential to Cathy in their own way – who slowly help Cathy tear down her walls and discover her own identity.

Splintered Reflections’ plot is not overly complicated; at first glance, a parentless girl going to college and finding herself doesn’t seem like the grandest of adventures. However, it is far deeper than it seems. Cathy’s journey is impressive and impactful not because she is a quintessential hero, but because she is so very human. Her internal dilemmas and pursuit of a purpose in life are aspects that all readers could relate to in some way. At its very core, Splintered Reflections is an in-depth examination of humanity, told through the eyes of a young woman trying to find a place in this world.

Laura Kelly’s style of writing makes this theme all the more captivating. Her beautiful descriptions and reliance on honest introspection make Cathy and her struggles overwhelmingly believable. This character is simultaneously someone to learn from and someone whom we all see in ourselves. Splintered Reflections is a window into heavy topics like depression, anxiety, loss, and relationships, while also serving as a portrait into our own lives; this is most profound, and makes Splintered Reflections a necessary read for almost any reader.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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The Kingdom of Oceana – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Mitchell Charles

The Kingdom of Oceana by Mitchell Charles is an enchanting story that transports its readers to a mythological age of Hawaii. The story follows Price Ailani as he sets out on a quest to save his island from an evil curse. There are adventurous sea quests, magical shape shifters, family infighting and a blossoming young love.

Charles is a talented writer, and his simple yet descriptive style brings to life the world of sea creatures and magic. The mythology is well researched, and the inclusion of Hawaiian words brings a sense of realism to a story steeped in mysticism. The Kingdom of Oceana is well paced, and readers will be quickly drawn into the action and the development of Ailani, his relationship with his ill-fated brother Nahoa, as well as the over-arching plot.

The story flows like ancient story-telling, and this quality makes it special in modern literature. The shape-shifting magician and dark magic are coupled with landscapes that bring the real Hawaii to life. The success of this story stands comparable to the recent Disney hit Moana, and there is no doubt that Charles has created a spectacular hit with this story.

The one minor let down of the novel is the cover because the artwork seems clichéd for a book set in a tropical location. While the tiki head (depicted on the cover) holds significance in the story, the overall power of the book is lost with the stereotypical cover.

That being said, The Kingdom of Oceana is a timeless story that readers of all ages will enjoy. It is easy enough for young readers to read and holds enough literary power for any adult to appreciate. There is an enduring wonder to The Kingdom of Oceana and being the first in a series, there is no doubt that what comes next will be just as imaginative.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Jorie and the Magic Stones – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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A. H. Richardson

In A. H. Richardson’s Jorie and the Magic Stones, Marjorie Weaver, who prefers to be called Jorie, is a spunky almost-nine-year-old with a personality as bright as her long red hair. After going to live with her aunt in the intimidating Mortimer Manor, Jorie discovers a mysterious book about dragons under the floorboards of her room. Soon after, she finds herself magically transported to the mystical land of Cabrynthius. There, Jorie discovers that she is the prophesied “Child with the Hair of Fire,” who must locate the three Stones of Maalog and return them to the great dragon, Grootmonya. She returns with her friend, Rufus, and the two children then embark on an imaginative adventure, full of dragons, magic, and peril around every corner.

Jorie and the Magic Stones is a wonderfully creative chapter book for children, similar to classics like The Chronicles of Narnia in depth and content. It’s full of complex magic and an alternate world detailed enough to satisfy adult readers, while narrated by the innocent, age-appropriate voice of a child. While Jorie and the Magic Stones does contain themes of darkness and/or evil, it never feels too scary. Rather, it promotes kindness, intelligence, creativity, and perseverance in a manner that is both straightforward and thought-provoking.

A. H. Richardson’s descriptive writing style and pure creativity made Jorie and the Magic Stones a pure joy to read. It’s exciting and immersive, and chock full of humor, adventure, and magic that will thrill readers of all ages. Although it is meant to be a children’s book, Jorie and the Magic Stones is the type of exhilarating fantasy book that the whole family will enjoy.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Miriamne the Magdala – Entered in 2017 Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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JB Richards

In Miriamne the Magdala penned by JB Richards, we’re taken through the ‘lost years’ of Jesus or Yeshua as he’s known as in the novel. Richards introduces us to Miri, a 13-year-old girl who meets her mother’s cousin, Mary, and is introduced to Mary’s son, Yeshua. Yeshua is a gifted boy who feels he was put on this earth for a greater purpose, such as healing the sick and sharing his wisdom with those who would listen. Shortly after meeting, Miri and Yeshua fall deeply in love which shines through in many intimate moments but more so when Yeshua’s father passes. He finds Miri to be his only source of happiness during his darkest times. It doesn’t take long for Yeshua to ask Miri to be his wife and while Miri had wedding jitters as she came to the realization that Yeshua would soon be her husband, she truly loved him and went on to have a very beautiful wedding. While there was much love and adoration in all the crevices of the book, readers will run into the ups and downs of both Yeshua and Miri’s life – such as the familial relationships they each have with their siblings, their everyday lives outside of each other and the general quandaries of life.

JB Richards eloquently provides the reader with a well-researched historical-fiction which transports you to an ancient time without ever becoming too “preachy.” The characters Richards mentions throughout the novel fit perfectly into the biblical timeline, leaving almost nothing to question. Richards’ description of a young Yeshua – “a thin boy, with sun-bronzed skin, light chestnut-colored eyes, high cheekbones, and two vertical dimples on his cheeks,” brings on the visualization of the Jesus we’re used to seeing in churches and crosses, which makes the novel very easy to picture. Richards also makes Miri and Yeshua very loveable as individuals so you find yourself falling in love with the characters and their journey through life and with each other. While some of Richards’ scenes can be a bit too descriptive and lack proper editing, you will still find yourself glued to the novel and yearning for more after each page. Miriamne the Magdala is a beautifully transporting read, which leaves readers wanting more of Richards’ work in their libraries.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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Difference Between Middle-Grade, Young Adult, New Adult and Adult Books – Guest Post

Difference between middle-grade, young adult, new adult and adult books


Guest Blogger: Chris Weigand

I recently gave a presentation at an online conference about the differences between middle-grade, young adult, new adult and adult books.  After doing my research and sharing the information at the conference I realized that the information was probably something that could be shared with a wider audience. I know I usually take this space to share something of the characters in my books and this won’t be completely different, because I will explore each of my books in the examples. So on to the differences.

Defining the different categories by age groups

Middle-age (also known as middle grade): 8-12 year olds

Young Adult: 12-16 year olds 

New Adult: 16 and beyond.

Adult: 18 and beyond

These age groups are more guidelines than set in stone rules. Also you will note that middle-age or middle grade is not middle schoolers. While this category includes low end middle schoolers it also includes high end elementary school.  And the young adult category can include high end middle school (junior high) as well as high school. I also feel that the YA category can be bumped up to eighteen years old, but once the characters is out of high school and heading to college or independent living they definitely fall into the new adult category. 

Expand the definitions with word counts

Middle-Age: 20-55,000

Young Adult: 55-80,000

New Adult: 70-90,000

Adult: 70-110,000

One thing to note about these word counts is that some genres like science fiction/ fantasy tend to defy these rules and have higher word counts, because the author is creating a world instead of using the known world.

Differences in writing

Now you can see the older the reader the longer the word count, but it still doesn’t tell us what the differences are in the actual writing of the category. So I will go on to supply a more fleshed out definition. I have learned in making the transition from YA to MG, writing for each category is different. Each has its own nuances that can be overcome, but not without some learning curve.


  • the story features pre-teen and teen characters, 10-13 year olds
  •  is often told in third person. 
  • usually a single inciting event
  • no profanity, graphic violence or sexuality (May include romance, crush or first kiss)
  • readers and characters are focused on friends and family 
  • outwardly focused on the character’s immediate world
  • characters react to what happens to them with minimal self-reflection
  • material can’t be too mature
  • generally end on a hopeful note 

Middle grade: Sir E. Robert Smythe and the School Bully:

  • characters are 12 and 13 years old
  • Paul and Nate are bullied by Billy
  • Paul reacts by disobeying his superiors and striking out on his own to learn about Billy
  • Lives with parents
  • reacts without thinking about consequences or how others will be affected
  • story ends with Billy and Paul resolving their differences
  • fantastical creatures can serve as alternatives or helpers in conjunction with parents 

Young Adult: 

  • stories feature 14-18 year olds not yet in college
  • often told in first person
  • presence/absence of parents add a wrinkle in characters story arc
  • like real teens- emotionally volatile wanting independence but needing parental guidance
  • more easily tempted by the present while developing a more mature long range view
  • profanity, graphic violence, romance and sexuality allowable
  • discovering how they fit in the world beyond friends and family
  • more reflective and analyzing the meanings, more inwardly focused
  • endings can be less optimistic
  • romance often an element
  • the world can be weird and scary, complex place
  • complexity in text and theme 

Young Adult: Palace of the Twelve Pillars

  • Brandan and Joachim 15 years old
  • parental influence limited, still living with family at beginning of book
  • both struggle with independence: forced on Joachim, Brandan strives to find it without parental 


  • Both are tempted and led by the situations they find themselves in; Joachim would rather things stayed the way they are, Brandan wants to rush into the future with no regard for the past
  • Both have definite ideas about their faith and their decisions show what their beliefs are
  • know what is right and wrong
  • focus inward to make choices based on what they have learned
  • at the conclusion the future is not so bright or clear 

New Adult: 

  • stories feature 18-25 year olds in the real world or college
  • story lines include being on your own, college, jobs, dating, figuring out how to adult
  • can steam up the pages, no limit on sex, foul language
  • characters are independent, facing adult responsibilities
  • physical and emotional focus in intimate scenes 

New Adult: Palace of the Three Crosses

  • Brandan and Joachim are in their late teens 
  • They are living independently of their families and figuring out how to be kings and husbands
  • Each will marry; there is some courting and the loss of a child and later the birth of a child
  • there is consideration of the world beyond their own as they learn how to be husbands and kings 


  • implies more about the characters thoughts and reactions
  • adult characters interact with other adults
  • little difference between NA and adult that I could find

Adult: Sanctuary of Nine Dragons

  • Brandan and Joachim are in their 20’s
  • Their interactions are with other adults
  • Brandan and Joachim’s faith is tested as each confronts their beliefs
  • They face adult situations like marriage and parenting 


Some authors like Rick Riordan, J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, and Veronica Roth have novels spanning more than one category. For instance, I would have thought Rick Riordan’s books were YA and yet they are read by Middle-graders, New Adults and Adult. Even the Palace of the Twelve Pillars series that I wrote, I would have never said I was writing that it was Middle grade, yet I know middle graders that have read it. I thought it was YA and even possibly New Adult, although at the time of publication NA was just coming on the scene.

Anyway I guess the point here is; yes there are guidelines and it would behoove a writer to explore and learn where hers/his story fits. That being said I would only worry about the category after the book is written. The one thing I haven’t talked about is your personal preference. Each category has its own unique set of parameters and while there is a little fluidity between the categories you must remember that just because you can write one transitioning to another may not be as easy as it sounds. I remember thinking when I took on the Middle grade project; how hard can this be? What I discovered is that those differences I mentioned before can be challenging. Younger or older audiences have different needs, different levels of comprehension and just because they are only a few years apart the writer really needs to consider those parameters when making the shift. The results can be rewarding when you find your niche. Just make sure to follow the guidelines while following your heart.

Christina Weigand’s a writer, wife, and mother of four and Nana to three. Through her writing she strives to share God and help people realize His love and mercy.

Nathan and Paul have a bully problem. Billy, the school bully, has chosen them to be the target of his aggression. Paul, along with Sir E. Robert Smythe of the Galactic Safety Council, discovers the root of Billy’s issues and strives to convince the bully to change his ways.

When Billy runs away from home, Paul goes after him. Billy’s dad, the cause of Billy’s anger, finds the boys and threatens them. They are rescued but not before each are injured and Billy’s dad escapes.

During their recovery they learn more about each other and face Billy’s dad once again. Can they overcome their differences and confront the bullying going on in their school before someone gets seriously hurt?  Click here for your copy.

*Guest posts are NOT edited by ATAI.

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Water Entered in the 2017 Book Award Contest

4 Stars

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Emory Gayle

Water by Emory Gayle is a fantasy story that takes us into a world of Merpeople, Sirens, young love and secret histories. Told through the perspectives of Cora Reed and her love interest Darrien, the story focuses on Cora’s life as she slowly discovers who she is and what love could feel like. There are fights, quite romantic moments and underwater mysteries that start bubbling up.

The mythology and characters are well rounded, and Emory has created an underwater world as well as a real world that are made for the big screen. The romance is very sweet, and Cora and Darrien are full of butterflies and young love. The story is fast moving, and the description of the murky Sirens as well as the fight scenes are very well written and offer something away from the romance. Water is a great read for anyone looking for fantasy with a softer edge.

However, the biggest problem with the book is the “perfect “nature of almost all the characters. All the females are beautiful, and the men have chiseled abs.  Darrien and Cora constantly refer to one another’s physical attributes as being breath-taking which in turn makes them less believable and less likable. While this beauty can be attested to their Mer genetics, it can read like a soap opera at times which diminishes the unique love story that Emory aims to provide. This “perfection” may also not click with a young adult reader who may feel anything but flawless.

Overall, Water is a well-crafted novel that slowly brings the Mer world to the real one. The romance is innocent, and the development of the relationship is complex. It is easy to read and has a love story that is filled with questions about trust, class and what lies at the bottom of the lake. This is the first in Emory’s Water series.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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The Dream Walker

Author Michelle Murray writes a young adult series in which the main character sees visions in her dreams.  What do they mean?  Are they really meant to be her future or are they just dreams?

Michelle also has a G+ Community, Chell’s Writing Cafe, that she recently started as a place for authors to connect and share.

The Dream Walker_eCover_Final  Get a copy now.

Book Description:

Once upon Mystica there were six wizards, three light, and three dark. One day, one of the dark wizards Midnight says a spell to trap the fellow wizards. The spell goes astray, and all the wizards are trapped in stones. Now, one curious boy finds one of the stones and releases Midnight upon Mystica. Midnight gathers an army and prepares for war. Miranda is an average college age girl, until she starts having dreams of Mystica. These dreams lead her to journey through Mystica to find the one wizard that can stop Midnight, Lightning. Follow Miranda through the Ice Caves, Forest of the Lost, and the Dragons Lair. Can Miranda find and release Lightning and save Mystica?





Michelle Murray is a married working mother of two fine young men (her children). She lives in Wisconsin. When not writing, she enjoys reading especially science fiction/fantasy and classics.

Her favorite authors include Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Margaret Weiss, and Colleen Houck.

She also enjoys doing painting and crafts, and spending time with her family. She enjoys going for walks, and swimming. She has been known to jump in Lake Michigan with no life jacket!

She has been writing since high school. Michelle took a break from writing to concentrate on raising her children.

She has an app on her IPad that gives her a word of the day and poem of the day.

Find her on Facebook



Drs. Rob + Janelle Alex, Ph.D.

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Earth Girl Returns to a Magical Planet in 24th Century

What if this happened to you? What if this was the Monday morning headlines about you: Earth Girl Returns to Magical Planet?

In the twenty-fourth year of the last Highking of Doria: Aurora Celeste crash lands on Talus IV and finds herself scarred, stranded, and all alone, save for her android companion, on an alien planet full of magic and danger. To make matters worse, Aurora is also the focal point of a prophecy that foretells of a cataclysmic war that will test the souls of men. To Aurora, she is nothing more than a little girl, stranded and fighting to survive. To the inhabitants of the planet she’s landed on, Aurora is known and revered as… The Starchild.

What would you do?  How would you react?  Fred Strange’s main character is just 13-years-old, has a scar on her cheek that is connected to a prophecy, and she is abandoned and alone on a plant ruled by magic.

Starchild Prophecy Cover v2-0


Click here to get a copy.


If you enjoy reading “fish out of water” stories blended with fantasy and science-fiction, then this book just might be for you.



Fred Strange was born in California. An Army brat, he spent his elementary school years living in Kansas, Germany, and Oklahoma before returning to California. Fred wanted to be a musician, but unable to secure a band, he tried teaching, and focused on prose literature. Fred started on his first major project in 2001 titled Starchild: Prophecy, completing the book in 2003. Fred has written one full novel, Starchild: Prophecy, and has several short stories.  Learn more at

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