Duo launch party: THE HUNT and THE SAFEST LIES

Official launch party news for THE HUNT! Mark you calendars!

4:30-6pm, Tuesday, May 24
Transylvania County Library, Brevard, NC

That's not just the day the sequel to THE HUNT (book #2 in THE CAGE series) hits shelves, but also the day another fantastic young adult book will be published: THE SAFEST LIES by Charlotte author Megan Miranda. Megan M and I are teaming up for a duo launch party at Transylvania County Library. We'll be interviewing each other, signing books, and there will be plenty of freebies and refreshments. All are welcome for this free event!

And if you can't make the launch party in person but you want a signed copy of THE HUNT, you can order them from Highland Books in Brevard, NC or Malaprops Bookstore in Asheville, NC. Just let them know you'd like me to sign & personalize it. And they ship internationally!

First look: THE SECRET HORSES OF BRIAR HILL cover

I've been thinking hard about how to word this post to convey how strongly I feel about THE SECRET HORSES OF BRIAR HILL, my debut middle grade novel, which comes out in October, and about its beautiful cover, which you'll see below. My feelings for the book and for the cover are wrapped up together so tightly that I can't really separate the two, and that is a credit to the illustrator, Dan Burgess, and the cover designer, Kate Gartner at Delacorte/Random House, who were able to take a story that means a great deal to me and give it a cover that captures my complex feelings for this book in this single, striking, powerful image.

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I love the contrast of the dark horse silhouette and the light horse; the moon, which is relevant to the story; the magical connection between girl and horse. I've gotten a glimpse at Dan Burgess's interior illustrations as well, a silhouette-like style that feels both classic and modern at the same time. And to go with the cover, here is the full description:

A contemporary masterpiece in the vein of The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, this stark, beautifully written story about a girl and the winged horses she sees will be cherished as a beloved classic for years to come.
 
There are winged horses that live in the mirrors of Briar Hill hospital. In the mirrors that line its grand hallways, which once belonged to a princess. In those that reflect the elegant rooms, now filled with sick children. It is her secret.

One morning, when Emmaline climbs over the wall of the hospital’s abandoned gardens, she discovers something incredible: a white horse with broken wings has left the mirror-world and entered her own. 

Tucked into the garden’s once-gleaming sundial, Emmaline finds a letter from the Horse Lord. He is hiding the wounded white horse, named Foxfire, from a dark and sinister force—a Black Horse who hunts by colorless moonlight. If Emmaline is to keep the Black Horse from finding her new friend, she must collect colorful objects with which to blind him. But where can Emmaline find color when her world is filled with gray?

Though the book doesn't come out until October 11, Random House has advanced reader copies that it will soon start passing along to booksellers and educators. I'm fortunate to have received a few copies, and the book looks simply gorgeous. 

GIVEAWAY:

Onto the fun part: Are you a teacher or librarian (preferably grades 5-8) who loves classic children's literature? I'm going to give away three ARCs to educators. Email a request for an ARC to meganshepherdauthor@gmail.com by Friday, January 22, and I will pick three educators to receive early copies!

Top Reads of 2015 + Year in Review

It's time for my very favorite blog post of the year, my top reads of 2015! I read so many fantastic books this year and I am brimming over with excitement to recommend my favorites to all of you. Here's the breakdown of what I read:

Total books: 58
Of which were adult fiction: 13
Of which were YA fiction: 13
Of which were MG fiction: 27
Of which were nonfiction or memoir: 5

Clearly this was a year when I was exploring writing more middle grade fiction, and many of those MG titles were classics and award-winners that had been on my to-read list for years. I also read considerably more adult fiction this year, mostly recent titles that all my bookish friends have been buzzing about, and I was not disappointed! 

My favorite reads of 2015 were (in no particular order):

Looking back on 2015, I'm a little bit astounded by everything that happened. Putting together this year-in-review post made me emotional for several reasons; there were numerous setbacks, both professionally and personally, that were disappointing or anxiety-producing or frustrating, though overall I was proud of what I accomplished and deeply grateful to the many people who made it possible. Some of my highlights:

Ending the Madman's Daughter series with the publication of A COLD LEGACY
When A COLD LEGACY came out in January 2015, it brought to a close my first published series. This is a series that I am fiercely proud of and miss working on almost daily. I loved the moodiness of these books, the darkness, the friendship, the moral ambiguity. I know these books resonated as well with many readers who sent me kind letters, emails, and fan art to let me know they loved Juliet, Montgomery, Edward, Balthazar, and Lucy as much as I did. Thank you to everyone who read these books & especially to the publishing folks who brought them to life.

Starting a new series with publication of THE CAGE
As sad as I was to end the Madman's Daughter series in January, it certainly helped to have a new series launch in May 2015! The best part about this series was working with the same team at Balzer+Bray who made the Madman's Daughter series possible. They were patient, supportive, and designed such a gorgeous cover for this book. I love the momentum of a new series and look forward to the other two books coming out in 2016 and 2017.

Selling the middle grade book THE SECRET HORSES OF BRIAR HILL
Maybe my very, very favorite part of 2015 was working on my first middle grade book with Rebecca Weston, my editor at Delacorte. This book is so close to my heart and was a daunting departure from my YA series, but one I am deeply proud of. It comes out in October 2016, and has already gotten wonderful blurbs from booksellers across the country. Delacorte has designed an incredibly striking cover and interior illustrations. This is a special one. I cannot wait to share it.

Having a short story in the SLASHER GIRLS AND MONSTER BOYS anthology
One of my goals for 2015 was to diversify, and part of that was wanting to write more short fiction. My friend April Tucholke was the brilliant mind behind this YA horror anthology, which came out August 2015, and included 14 stories by some of the top names in YA fiction. 

Signing at Book Expo America
It's always been a dream to sign my books at Book Expo America, the largest book event in the country. I flew up to NYC in May and signed hot-off-the-presses copies of THE CAGE for a line that ran so long we had to move into an overflow area! I also got to visit with my Balzer+Bray editor, Kristin Rens, and visit the HarperCollins offices.

And on a personal note, 2015 saw a lot of changes as well:

My parents sold their independent bookstore
After 40 years of owning and operating Highland Books, my parents decided to retire. Luckily they found an energetic new owner who is as passionate about books and the local town as they are, and who is already continuing the tradition of a great indie bookstore in Brevard. My parents were even honored by the town by being Grand Marshals in the Christmas parade.

Chickens on the farm
My husband and I expanded our farm to include a chicken coop for five hens and a rooster. We aren't sure which part of owning chickens we like best, the daily fresh eggs or the antics of our crazy free-range flock. Luckily the dog and cats get along with them well, though my flower garden beds haven't fared as well.

Sisters' trip to Dubrovnik
Because my older sister lives in Colorado and we rarely get to see each other, we decided to spend some time together on vacation in Croatia. Dubrovnik is a gorgeous town with a walled city, also known as the filming location for King's Landing in Game of Thrones. We had so much fun wandering the narrow cobblestone streets, eating seafood in cliffside bars, and biking through wine country.

So what will 2016 bring? I'll continue the CAGE series with the second book, THE HUNT, coming out in May 2016. In October, I'll launch THE SECRET HORSES OF BRIAR HILL, my first middle grade book. I'll also be doing more creative writing teaching, and working on a second middle grade novel. Most of all, I'm looking forward to meeting more of you and sharing the love of books!

Sending very happy wishes to all of you for a great beginning to your next year :)

THE HUNT (THE CAGE series #2) cover reveal!

As promised, I have some good news for you CAGE fans out there...the beautiful cover for the second book in the series, THE HUNT, is live!

I got spine tingles when I saw this cover. Once again, HarperCollins' design team nailed the book's creepy and mysterious tone. We get a sense of Cora trapped in an even more dangerous puzzle, but this time she's ready for what the Kindred have planned for her. And she's not about to forgive Cassian.

THE HUNT hits shelves May 24, 2016 and is now available for pre-order.

They’ve left the cage—but they’re not free yet.

After their failed escape attempt, Cora, Lucky, and Mali have been demoted to the lowest level of human captives and placed in a safari-themed environment called the Hunt, along with wild animals and other human outcasts. They must serve new Kindred masters—Cora as a lounge singer, Lucky as an animal wrangler, and Mali as a safari guide—and follow new rules or face dangerous consequences. Meanwhile, Nok and Rolf have been moved into an enormous dollhouse, observed around the clock by Kindred scientists interested in Nok’s pregnancy. And Leon, the only one who successfully escaped, has teamed up with villainous Mosca black-market traders.

The former inhabitants of the Cage are threatened on all fronts—and maybe worst of all, one of the Hunt’s Kindred safari guests begins to play a twisted game of cat and mouse with Cora. Separated and constantly under watch, she and the others must struggle to stay alive, never mind find a way back to each other. When Cassian secretly offers to train Cora to develop her psychic abilities—to prove the worthiness of humanity in a series of tests called the Gauntlet—she’ll have to decide fast if she dares to trust the Kindred who betrayed her, or if she can forge her own way to freedom.

Haven't read THE CAGE yet? It's on sale now! Or pick up a copy from your favorite local indie bookstore.

If you want to be the first to see cover reveals like this, and get exclusive excerpts and giveaways, sign up for my author newsletter.

THE CAGE hits shelves today!

It's official...THE CAGE is now available for purchase!

Description:
The Maze Runner meets Scott Westerfeld in this gripping new series about teens held captive in a human zoo by an otherworldly race. From Megan Shepherd, the acclaimed author of The Madman's Daughter trilogy.

When Cora Mason wakes in a desert, she doesn't know where she is or who put her there. As she explores, she finds an impossible mix of environments—tundra next to desert, farm next to jungle, and a strangely empty town cobbled together from different cultures—all watched over by eerie black windows. And she isn't alone.

Four other teenagers have also been taken: a beautiful model, a tattooed smuggler, a secretive genius, and an army brat who seems to know too much about Cora's past. None of them have a clue as to what happened, and all of them have secrets. As the unlikely group struggles for leadership, they slowly start to trust each other. But when their mysterious jailer—a handsome young guard called Cassian—appears, they realize that their captivity is more terrifying than they could ever imagine: Their captors aren't from Earth. And they have taken the five teenagers for an otherworldly zoo—where the exhibits are humans.

As a forbidden attraction develops between Cora and Cassian, she realizes that her best chance of escape might be in the arms of her own jailer—though that would mean leaving the others behind. Can Cora manage to save herself and her companions? And if so . . . what world lies beyond the walls of their cage?

Get your copy today!

You can buy your copy from your favorite independent bookstore or one of these online retailers:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository

Signed copies are available from my family's bookstore, Highland Books in Brevard NC. They ship internationally, too. More details here.

Blurbs for THE CAGE + giveaway!

What other authors are saying about THE CAGE:

“Gripping and addictive—Shepherd has delivered again! A captivating mix of intrigue, deft twists, and complex questions, this is a must-read.” --Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, New York TImes bestselling authors of These Broken Stars

“A brilliant, exciting tale of what it’s like to be human, even when all hope is lost. Shepherd perfectly contrasts freedom and entrapment, humanity and alien nature, loss and love.” --Beth Revis, New York Times bestselling author of the Across the Universe series.

“Megan Shepherd’s The Cage is a thrilling sci-fi/thriller mix with a healthy helping of Lord of the Flies. This fast-paced speculative tale will keep you thinking long after you turn the last page.” -----Aprilynne Pike, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Wings and Earthbound

“Riveting and haunting, The Cage is both a suspenseful page-turner and a thought-provoking look at humanity. With its terrifying premise and captivating plot, this is a story that truly lingers. I can’t wait for the next book!” --Megan Miranda, author of Fracture, Hysteria, Vengeance, and Soulprint

I'm giving away a book by each of these authors plus an ARC of THE CAGE. That's five books in all to one lucky winner! Just use #thecagegiveaway on Twitter or Instagram to be entered to win. (US only, giveaway ends Friday 5/15/15)

If you haven't preordered your copy yet, do so before it hits shelves on May 26!

You can preorder from your favorite independent bookstore or one of these online retailers:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository

Signed copies are available from my family's bookstore, Highland Books in Brevard NC. As a bonus, any preorders from Highland Books will get this free THE CAGE sticker sheet! They ship internationally, too. More details here.

Happy reading!