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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Blog Tour for Matt Archer: Blade's Edge by Kendra Highley

Book Blurb:

When Matt Archer was fourteen, he discovered monsters are real. As if that wasn’t enough to go on for a few decades, Matt also found out that he’d
been chosen to hunt those monsters–with a sentient, supernatural knife. With disappearances mounting in Afghanistan, it's up to Matt to stop this
new threat before it's too late.

Jo-Anna's Review:

Wow. Just...wow. I signed our blog up for this tour because I just absolutely love YA novels. AND this YA novel is about a 15 year old fighting monsters! How cool is that?? This is the second book to the series and I am definitely enjoying it. I also devoured the first book in one sitting, that's how good this series is. This book is filled with action and has every type of monster your imagination could think of. Parts made me laugh, put me on the edge of my seat, made me cringe or broke my heart. I just absolutely love Matt Archer! I feel like he's my little brother. I can NOT wait for the next book! Definitely a must read!!

Except #1:

“Archer,” a man said. “Wake up.”
Since it wasn’t Mom demanding I get up for school, I ignored the voice and curled up tighter across my row of seats. The rumbling of the plane would rock me back to sleep.
Someone flicked me on the ear. Annoyed, I opened one eye to find Schmitz’s oversized beak inches from my own nose. He was leaning over the row of seats in front of mine to get close. Even with the shades drawn over the plane’s windows, I could still count his nostril hairs. Six.
I groaned. “Man, that’s an ugly sight first thing in the morning.”
“Nice. And you shouldn’t let your guard down like that. I didn’t even have to sneak up on you,” he said, leaning back to mock-glare at me. “Didn’t I teach you better than that?”
“You taught me to hide and track, not sleep with one eye open,” I grumbled. Being awake sucked.
Schmitz’s dog tags were dangling from his neck. We hit a patch of turbulence and they swung toward my eyeball, the imprinted letters of “T. Schmitz” coming at me in a blur.
“Master Sergeant, do you mind?”
“You’re such a daisy in the morning.” He tucked the tags down the collar of his green battle dress uniform. We all wore BDUs of various colors—desert, forest, jungle—when traveling. They were more comfortable than anything else, especially since we couldn’t wear sweats on ops.
I grunted. “What’s the ‘T’ stand for?”
“Too many questions,” he said.
“Oh, come on. I’ve known you a year, dude,” I said. “Isn’t it time you told me?”
“I don’t tell nobody my first name,” Schmitz said, crossing his arms. "Nobody."
“I’ve known that jackwagon six years, and he won’t tell me either,” Johnson muttered from across the aisle. “It’s probably Teddy Bear.”
“Sir, yes, sir. Means women find me cuddly, sir,” Schmitz said. He came around his row of seats into the aisle, saluted Johnson, then prodded me in the side with his foot. The combat boot in the ribs made me scowl, and he laughed, saying, “You’ve been out like the dead for the whole flight. Time to get your lazy butt up and report for duty, soldier.”
I sat up and stretched. My neck bones felt welded together, resulting in a massive crick. The headache from the knife fight was finally gone, though. “We almost back to Kadena?”
He nodded. “Thirty minutes out. Major Tannen wants to talk to you before we land, so you’d best get to the head and clean up some.”
I stumbled toward the bathroom, taking care not to bump arms flung over armrests or feet sticking out in the aisle. We’d hiked down the mountain early the morning after the hunt, then caught transport on a giant Chinook twin-rotor helicopter. It had been a very bumpy ride to the nearest airport, and most of us were feeling pretty rough when we boarded our flight. Nearly everyone else was still asleep, wiped from the mission. Uncle Mike, Colonel Black and Ramirez were huddled in the front row, their heads close together while they talked. Not a good sign. 

Except #2:

“Gentlemen, we’re going to be departing the aircraft shortly, so everyone get set,” Colonel Black hollered.
My breakfast rose in my throat. The colonel must’ve seen the look on my face because he chuckled as he drew a black watch-cap over his salt-and-pepper hair. From the look of things, he wasn’t the least bit concerned about jumping out of the plane, which made me feel like a wuss. That feeling wasn’t helped by the fact that Colonel Black was six-five, every bit of it solid muscle. Sure, I’d grown nearly a foot in the last year and put on some muscle of my own, but I had nothing on the colonel.
“Oxygen on,” the jumpmaster barked. “Eight-thousand feet.”
I sighed and put on a mask like the ones you see in hospitals. We were jumping from high enough up that we had to breathe pure oxygen from the plane’s air system until we switched to the tanks we’d wear on the way down. Uncle Mike explained this was to keep us from getting the bends from the altitude drop.
“So, Archer,” Colonel Black called to me, his voice muffled by his plastic breathing mask, “where are you this week?”
“Greece. Field trip for that ‘gifted and talented’ program General Richardson cooked up as my cover,” I said. “So far, so good. If my mom knew I was really jumping out of airplanes at high altitudes to hunt monsters, I think my number would be up.”
“Speaking of jumping…” Mike nodded at me. “You got that thing strapped on tight enough?”
My hand flew to the buckles and clasps holding my parachute pack to my back. “God, I hope so. Does it look loose?”
On my right, Lieutenant Johnson said, “Kid, the major’s just yanking your chain. You tighten those straps any more and you’ll cut off your own arm.” His laugh rumbled louder than the engine. “Stop worrying so much. You’re ready for this.”
“I’ve only done practice jumps, not combat.” I settled back against the wall and glared at Uncle Mike. “Just because you’ve jumped out of a perfectly good airplane onto mountains doesn’t mean I have. I’m allowed to be extra careful.”
Mike’s brown eyes crinkled up at the corners. Mine did the same thing when I was laughing at someone else. “Chief, what did you think being part of the 10th Airborne meant? The word ‘Airborne’ kind of gives it away.”
Schmitz, my hunting instructor, piled on. “Hooah, Major Tannen. We live to jump, sir!”
“That mean you’re going second today, Master Sergeant?” Mike yelled.
“Amen to that, sir!” Schmitz danced in his seat a little. The smallest member of our squad, Schmitz was wiry and less than medium height, his hair a five-o’clock shadow barely hiding his skull. He also practically buzzed with energy. “You hear that, ladies? I get to go second.”
“Not sure that’s a good idea, man. You’re so short, we won’t be able to spot you in the snow and one of us is bound to land on you,” Lieutenant Johnson said.
Schmitz made a face but his retort was cut off because the jumpmaster stood to start the ready protocol. Using a special set of hand signals, he motioned for us to prepare. The roar of the engines changed pitch and I felt the plane jerk as the pilots slowed so they could kick us out.
The jumpmaster gestured for us to stand and hook our parachutes to the anchor cable, shouting, “Green in ninety seconds.”
“You heard the man. Last check on equipment,” Colonel Black yelled.
My stomach did flips. “When do I go?”
“I’ll go first, then Schmitz, then you,” Uncle Mike said. He wasn’t kidding around anymore—his voice was tight and sharp. “Johnson will come behind you. Then the rest of the team.”
We took off our oxygen masks, lined up and clipped our chute lines to the wire suspended from the side of the plane. Schmitz stood in front of me with his head bowed.
“Our Lady, bless us and keep us,” he murmured. “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” He did the sign of the cross then let loose a bloodcurdling “Hooooo-aaaahhhh!”
The praying didn’t calm me down much. Too late to back out now, though, because the ramps at the rear of the aircraft opened. The sky yawned through the wide-open hatch and sunlight glinted off the metal around the edges of the ramps.
The jumpmaster signaled “stand by.”
Oh, man, this was it.
Mike turned around, his face totally intense. “Yellow light. Masks on.”
I slapped my mask into place on my helmet and a plastic smell invaded my nostrils as the oxygen started to flow from my reserve tank. Shouts of “Hooah” came from every which way, while my heart slammed around like a marlin caught in a net.
“Countdown!” the jumpmaster shouted. “In five…four…three…two…one. Green light. Go, go, go!”
Mike ran down the ramp, dragging his chute line, then leapt from the airplane with hands folded over his reserve chute’s ripcord. By the book. Seconds later, his chute opened.
Schmitz followed, screaming “Geronimo, you mother…!”
The last of whatever he had to say got drowned out in the howling wind.
Johnson gave me a shove. “Go, kid!”
I drew a huge breath and held it, ran, jumped, soared off the ramp just like I’d been taught in jump school. I braced myself for the pull of the chute as it slowed me down.
The tug never came.
My parachute didn’t open.

Guest Post #1:

Character Development: A Musical View

Music’s always been a big part of my life. I started taking violin lessons in third grade, and played into college. I was also in band and I love to sing in the car (although most people wouldn’t love to hear me sing). I feel like my days go better to a soundtrack.  
My love of music starts with my earliest memories.  While working around the house, my mom constantly listened to our stereo, a big console model in a wooden cabinet with huge speakers. This thing was furniture as much as a music maker. From as early I can remember, she’d be folding laundry at the kitchen table, singing along to the Urban Cowboy soundtrack, or Neil Diamond or The Beatles. Her taste was kind of eclectic if you can’t tell, and now I find that mine kind of is, too. I consider this one of the first, and most important, gifts my mother gave me.  She died when I was seventeen, but I still feel close to her whenever I hear certain songs. Music was simply always there at every stage of my life.
I guess it’s not surprising that I have a hard time writing without my earphones and the appropriate iTunes playlist queued up. For the first Matt Archer book, I had a character who was optimistic, self-deprecating and a whole lot of fun. Even on his worst days, Matt has hope. As I’ve written more installments, the playlist has changed dramatically. Matt not only ages, but his assignments are getting tougher. The “home front” isn’t as stable, either, so his life isn’t as clear-cut, and the music gets darker. He’s moved from Moby to AC/DC to Linkin Park. He goes from songs about getting stronger to songs about survival and staying true to yourself amidst chaos.
So what songs fit Matt in book one, Monster Hunter?  Check out the list below:
1.       The Only One, Evanescence
2.       All That I’m Living For, Evanescence
3.       Weight of the World, Evanescence
4.       Bodyrock, Moby
5.       Ride to Be My Girl, Benny Benassi
6.       Flower, Moby
7.       Speed of Sound, Coldplay
8.       Lost!, Coldplay
9.       No Line on the Horizon, U2
10.   Hello! (Good to Be Back), Scooter
11.   Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, The Police (Ella’s Song)

Compare that to the songs for book two, Blade’s Edge – there’s a marked difference in Matt’s world view:
1.       Thunderstruck, AC/DC
2.       Back in Black, AC/DC
3.       Honey, Moby
4.       Hero, Skillet
5.       Monster, Skillet
6.       Dirty Paws, Of Monsters and Men
7.       Let It Be, The Beatles (Schmitz’s Song)
8.       What I’ve Done, Linkin Park
9.       Map of the Problematique, Muse
10.   A Message, Coldplay (Ella’s song)
11.   The Inception Soundtrack

Now I’m writing the third book. So far, I’ve been listening to Sail and Soul Wars by AWOLNATION; Castle of Glass, Iridescent, and Burn It Down by Linkin Park; the Transformers soundtrack; and Extreme Ways (Bourne Legacy), by Moby. Darker, harder music, for a darker, more jaded guy. But I like to think it also points to Matt’s development as a character from that optimistic boy to a man of purpose and honor—no matter how deeply his experiences have wounded him.  He’s had a hard road to travel and each song catalogs another obstacle overcome.
By the way…I’m already plotting the final book, and I’ll give one hint: No Light, No Light, by Florence+Machine.
So how about you? What do you listen to when you want to feel badass? Any songs you think I should grab on iTunes to help me write? 

Guest Post #2:

Finding YA Voice

“Dude…you wrote this?”
That’s probably the nicest compliment I’ve ever gotten about my work.  Seriously.  Given that a thirteen-year-old boy said it to me, a forty-year-old woman, regarding a novel I asked him to beta read…well, it’s high praise indeed, especially considering that my main character was a freshman in high school. And a guy.
That’s the crux of it for YA writers—getting the voice right. Most of us have heard that teens “have their BS meters turned up to max.”  It’s true.  Try to sound too trendy, and you’ll miss the mark. Sound too adult, and you’ll lose your reader.  There’s a narrow gap where a genuine teen voice can be heard.  Having hit both ends of the spectrum, I really worried about this in the Matt Archer books and, to be honest, I got a lot of it wrong over the iterations.  So what changed between those early drafts and the copy I gave my young beta reader?
I listened.
Disclaimer—I enjoy teenagers. They’re paradoxes, especially middle graders, and it’s interesting to watch them grow and mature right before your eyes.  Working with youth groups gave me a front-row seat to see how teens talk and interact with each other.  That’s where I learned the word “hip” is uncool, and how to use “dude” correctly (it’s the perfect word, actually). But most of all, I discovered that what they love most is to be taken seriously.  If there’s a whiff of condescension or an overt message, they’ll blow you off.
So I let myself remember the angst of being a band geek surrounded by popular kids in Spanish class.  I daydreamed about the heady rush of my first kiss.  I relived the awful, sick feeling you get when you have a fight with your best friend. A lot of adults tend to forget how intense the teenage years can be, and how real and valid the feelings are.  That’s how YA writers work magic: creating characters teens can relate to in some way because we’re validating their experiences. We’re telling them they matter, even if we dress it up with monsters or aliens.
Bringing out your inner fourteen-year-old can be hard, but the reward is great, because teens are loyal readers. If they love one of your books, they will love all of them, defend you against your detractors and tell everyone they know how great you are.  It’s that passion that makes them special. 

Guest Post #3:

The Little Writer Who Could

One of my favorite stories as a little kid was The Little Engine That Could. I wasn’t very big for my age, nor fast, agile or tough. But I was persistent. If something interested me, I’d drive my parents crazy until we went to the library so I could read up on the subject. I was probably the foremost 6-year-old expert on Jacques Cousteau. Yeah, I was weird like that. Still am, to some extent, but most writers love research, so I know I’m not alone.

What drew me to the Little Engine was the fact that he wasn’t the biggest or the fastest but, even when he got teased, he stayed on course despite the perceived adversity. In the end, what did he do? He pulled those carts up the mountain when no one else could.

Writing, as a journey, is a lot like the Little Engine’s trip up the mountain. It’s hard work. Brain strain, writer’s cramp, writer’s block, piles of unwashed laundry, deleted words, blunt critique--all of it comes with the territory. Add in everyday concerns like paying the bills, taking care of your home and being there for your family, and it’s tough to keep going sometimes. That mountain looks like Everest from the bottom and seems to grow even as you climb. Two steps forward, one step back.

That’s where the Little Engine’s mentality has to kick in, except I’d take it a step further. Not “I think I can,” but “I know I can, and I will!” Expect failure, and that’s what you’ll get. So why not expect to succeed? Tell yourself, “It’s hard, it’s killing my mind, it hurts my heart, but when I’m finished, by God, it’ll be AWESOME!”

Take it in small pieces. Think of that mountain as a series of short hills. Climb a bit, then rest. Set your climbing pins. Tie in. Then get ready to climb the next part. In the end, you’ll look back at your finished “mountain” and I say, “I did that!”

And it’s AWESOME!

Author Information: 

Kendra C. Highley lives in north Texas with her husband and two children. She also serves as staff to two self-important and high-powered cats. This, according to the cats, is her most important job.

Kendra believes chocolate is a basic human right, running a 10k is harder than it sounds, and that everyone should learn to drive a stick-shift. She loves monsters, vacations, baking and listening to bad electronica.

More information about the Matt Archer universe, works in progress and the nature of the Higgs Boson* can be found at www.kendrachighley.com

(*Yeah…not really. We’ll let the scientists handle that part.)

 Buy the book: 

Matt Archer: Monster Hunter – Free!  Use coupon code XF23B via Smashwords

Matt Archer: Blade’s Edge—25% off!  Use coupon code UD38J via Smashwords

Coupons are good from the start of the tour through February 10, 2013.

***Below is the tour schedule to follow***

 Make sure to check out the stops each day of the tour!

January 28 - Reading Addiction Blog Tours - Meet and Greet

January 29 - Known to Read - Review/Guest Post
January 30 - Words I Write Crazy - Review/Guest Post
January 31 - Kinx book Nook - Review/Guest Post
February 1 - Solitary Bookworm - Review
February 2 - Twinsie Talk Book Reviews - Review
February 3 - Andi's YA Book Reviews - Review
February 4 - The Adventures Within - Review/Guest Post
February 5 - My Reading Addiction - Review
February 6 - My Cozie Corner - Review
February 7 - Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews - Review/Interview
February 8 - RABT Reviews - Review