Thursday, October 19, 2017

Guest Post by S.A. Larsen (Marked Beauty Blog Tour)

I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am that my dear friend and critique partner, Sheri Larsen, has a book baby releasing this week. Welcome to the world, MARKED BEAUTY! I had the privilege to read an ARC of this fabulous book, and trust me when I say that everyone should be getting their grabby hands ready to obtain a copy. Here's what I said about MARKED BEAUTY:

"Vividly rich in detail, this compelling read has a tension-filled romance that leaves you turning pages and wanting more. A must-read for paranormal fans." 
-Kristin Smith, bestselling author of Catalyst

So, without further ado, let's celebrate the release of MARKED BEAUTY!!! But don't leave the party until you've entered the giveaway and read Sheri's awesome guest post. Everything you've ever wanted to know about the difference between writing middle grade versus YA is in a nifty post right below. Be sure to check it out!


Sheri's Blog Tour will run from October 16-27th, and if you want to read exclusive excerpts, interviews, and guest posts, you can visit the Tour Schedule HERE.

Title: Marked Beauty
Author: S.A. Larsen
Publisher: Ellysian Press
Release Date: October 2017

Uncovering hidden secrets can sometimes kill you . . . or worse, steal your soul.

Anastasia Tate has a secret. She can feel the emotions of others through their life energy auras. Not a welcome gift for a teenager. Especially when a sinister presence begins stalking her.

Viktor Castle also has a secret. He’s tasked with protecting humanity yet cursed by an ancient evil to destroy it.

After Viktor saves Ana’s life, her abilities grow stronger. Drawn together, she senses Viktor has answers to lifelong questions. Only he shuns her at every turn, knowing he has saved her only to put her in more danger.

As Ana struggles with her attraction to Viktor, he tries everything to bury his unexpected feelings for her. But they must find a middle ground. For only together can they combat the dark forces threatening both their lives . . . and their souls.

Link to Goodreads:

Purchase Links:


S.A. LARSEN is the author of the award-winning novel Motley Education, the first book in a fantasy-adventure series for middle grade readers. Her work has appeared in numerous local publications and young adult anthologies Gears of Brass and Under A Brass Moon by Curiosity Quills Press. Marked Beauty is her debut young adult novel. Find her in the land of snowy winters and the occasional Eh’ya with her husband of over twenty-five years, four children, a playful pooch, and three kittens. Visit her cyber home anytime at

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“MG vs. YA – How to Write Them Differently”
by S.A. Larsen

The first thing a writer of both middle grade and young adult stories needs to do is understand what sets these two audiences apart, but also what links one to the other. To explore the young adult arena and characters one must build upon their experiences, lessons, and guidance received during the middle grade years. Both stages pose an intricate labyrinth of growth and development from emotional and physical to mental and spiritual. There are many similarities, but at some point the teen maturity will take off, leaving the tween mentality behind.

Middle Grade conjures images of curious innocence and the first glimpses of possible risk-taking to sneak passed the boundaries set by adults. Hungry sweetness that yearns to spread its wings beyond elementary mind-set. Children of this age are just learning how to stretch their attitudes, opinions, and decisions. Middle Graders are still dreamers. They believe in the possibilities, yet tend to still see the main people in their lives as bigger-than-life or even heroes. But this is also a time that brings about their quest to discover who they are, their likes and dislikes, and where they fit into this thing we call the world. They look outward at what others are doing and try to find themselves in the mix until they push beyond themselves. This eventually bends and twists their Me-ism – the idea that the world revolves around me. We’re all born with it, and we all work through it toward the teen years.

Although the Young Adult age carries with it many of what middle graders thrived on, it's more complicated. By these years, most have experienced some sort of loss or pain that the world cannot give a resolute answer for. They’re less impressionable and more determined in those attitudes and opinions they discovered during their tween years. They’ve also established a sense of where they belong in their immediate world. Now, they look inward to solidify more of who they are so that eventually they can take in the outside world and make it theirs. Learning acceptance of personal failures, as well as failures of those around them—family, friends, teachers, and mentors—can be a difficult lesson to learn. Perfection is obliterated, which, for some, can be devastating. The realization that people they’ve thought of as heroes are nothing more than mere humans can be scary. But there’s also hope, a yearning for more of whatever is out there. They are more fortified than ever before in their short lives.

For the purpose of writing dynamic MG and YA characters and their worlds, here are a few elements to keep in mind. I’ll start with middle grade.

  1. MGers love adventure and the messier the better. Whether it be racing a fire giant to the finish line or passing notes in Mrs. Studebaker’s classroom, it has to have stakes. And again, the bigger the better.

  1. Humor is a must-have for middle school tales. Silly jokes or pranks, or even poking fun at themselves can go a long way. It’s refreshing and also relatable to MG readers.

  1. Incorporate history and all it has to offer. We already established tweens love to dream, so why not add in some real-life history mingled with a myth or two? It’s intriguing and will get them to think, which is a fabulous.

  1. At this age, most important relationships come in the form of existing friendships with their peers or those yet to be developed to move your story along. There are family interactions and those of acquaintances like the school janitor who’s always nice. Or maybe not nice. Romance can come into play with a sweet crush or the inevitable knowledge that someone doesn’t return their affection. It’s new and more or less on the surface.

  1. Magic is another huge factor that can be used to develop characters and worlds of this age group. Noticing the way a bird floats on a breeze can be magical for an MGer. It doesn't have to consist of wands and space invaders. Although, those are really cool too! Magic can be the unexpected or simple gesture that warms the heart. Help readers see the beauty and positivity in the world you're creating.

  1. Animals are another big hit with middle grade readers. Use them to teach lesson or responsibility within your story world. They also conjure a softer and sweeter reaction to unwanted hurts from the world around them.

  1. Speed (or pacing) is one of the biggest differences between MG and YA stories. Keep the action moving forward at all costs. Take an incident and use it as the foundation to build a race track of scenes that push and prod the reader to your finish line.

Young adult stories have a different set of needs. I don’t like to use requirements because you’ll always find an exception.

  1. The pacing of young adult tales is much different than in middle grade stories. The quick action isn’t as necessary. What is more pertinent is the depth of the action—the why, the how, the when, where, and what. There still must be action, but it tends to take its time, stewing along the story line until it eventually boils over in the climax of a scene or the inevitable climax of the story. Throughout this, subplots can be used to add a rev here and there of the main story line's goals and conflicts.

  1. Humor can best be used in YA as a character detail. This can be done through a physical quirk, a past event, or a scene that adds to the character. It can draw a reader into the reality of the world you’re creating.

  1. Descriptions have some similarities to middle grade, but usually focus on different aspects of the story. Where in middle grade seeing details of the world move the story along, adding to pace and adventure, young adult readers like to see, feel, and touch character. It's more personal. Of course, if your writing fantasy or paranormal and those world characteristics are important to story, then by all means use them. But as with middle grade, insert them within a scene in direct correlation to the characters.

  1. The essence of violence can be found in YA material through dialog, gestures, and even fight scenes. These readers are more emotionally equip to handle such realities and the aftermath for character and story than MGers. However, that does not negate some sort of maleficent action in middle grade. Whether writing reality or fiction the lives of your characters must be as tangible as possible. We’d like to shield younger children from the ugly of the world, but in reality that’s not always possible.

  1. Tension—pacing, violence, ME-ism, magic, and memories—can be used to add pull to the strings of your story. Roadblocks, unexpected boundaries, nibbles of mysteries unfolding will jive with anxieties your plot is pressing against your young adult characters. This is a great tactic to keep readers reading.

  1. YAers have learned or are learning about different cultures, histories, and famous (or infamous) figures. For the most part, these are used for world building, genre setting, and such as that. But that doesn't mean lessons still cannot be taught through these elements.

  1. Relationships are my absolute favorite part of writing YA. As with middle grade, use family interactions, social acquaintances (could be the kid in the row next to them in class or the older guy that works at the diner with them), and authority figures but all to a greater, deeper, and more intense degree. Romance is at a high in YA, as I'm sure most of you know. The young adult age is when wings are spread to explore this aspect of human reality. So whether in contemporary or fantasy literature, use it. Teasing and flirting can be sweet and playful or more forthcoming. Push love and/or lust through stares and discreet gestures or be bolder. The heart has a novel all its own. Each character's is unique. Use physical touch from hugs and long, lusting kisses, to the inevitable topic of sex--first timers and those who have been around the block a few times. For me, sex should be used with discretion and to add to character and world.

Ultimately, whether it’s a middle grade character or a young adult character, write from your heart and your character will grow one.


Blog Tour Giveaway:
  • One (1) winner will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card (INT)

Release Party Giveaway:
What better way to celebrate a book birthday then by a giveaway! There are many ways to enter, which you'll find below. You can win an iTunes, Amazon, or Starbucks gift card, an authentic Vera Bradley Little Crossbody in Cobalt Tile, an assortment of bookish swag, and even a KINDLE Fire HD 7"! The giveaway runs from release day, October 17, 2017 to December 5, 2017. Winners will be announced via social media December 7, 2017.

*No purchase necessary to win*
However, if you have read Marked Beauty or purchase it and read you can earn extra entries by posting a review on any major online retail bookstore and Goodreads! All the information you'll need is in the form below.

BUT there's more...


Writers who enter can WIN a first five pages critique!

a Rafflecopter giveaway 


Thank you so much to Sheri for her insight into writing middle grade versus YA books. What an informative guest post! And huge congrats to her on the release of MARKED BEAUTY!!! <3 Readers, did you add MARKED BEAUTY to Goodreads? Did you enter the Giveaway?


  1. It probably helps that part of a young adult's brain has simply stopped working for a while. That adds to the drama.
    Congratulations again, Sheri!

  2. Best of luck to Sheri! The cover is gorgeous.

    I think writing for either genre would be harder than writing for adults. Kudos to you guys who do it so well!

  3. This is so awesome, Kristin! Thank you. And you know I'd never have gotten through it without you. <3


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