Not too long ago, I was in my basement, which just might be the scariest place on earth. We’re talking Silence of the Lambs scary, Night of the Living Dead scary, “lions ands tigers and bears, oh my” scary . . . . On some level I understood that the basement door was going to lead to a novel. Novelists are asked all the time where our ideas come from, and I have done this long enough that I suspected someday that door would, quite literally, open a novel: “The door was presumed to have been the entry to a coal chute, a perfectly reasonable assumption since a small hillock of damp coal sat moldering before it.” So begins The Night Strangers.

Dr. Steve Perry, author of Push Has Come to Shove, is the founder and principal of headline-making Capital Prep Magnet School, which sends all of its mostly low-income, minority students to four-year colleges. He is also the chief contributor to CNN on education issues. Capital Prep has been visited by experts from around the world to study the magic taking place there! Today we’ve asked Dr. Perry to share with us what he thinks can make a difference in the education system and what he’s doing at his school. Let us know what you think and what’s going on at your kids’ schools!

Nothing shakes up a life like trauma. Fiction writers have known this secret since the early days – think Ahab, Hamlet, or Batman – and introducing a bit of quick chaos into the life of a main character, particularly in their formative years, has always been the preferred method of amping up the intrigue. Authors Susan Gregg Gilmore and Michele Young-Stone and Susan Gregg Gilmore discuss how trauma – specifically trauma as a result of natural disaster – informs the creative process and affects the individual.

At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, Ready Player One is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut – part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed. It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. A world at stake. A quest for the ultimate prize. Are you ready?

“Dwelling in a town where I would never live by choice, exploring the life of a man with whom I have little in common, I couldn’t feel more at home,” writes bestselling novelist Lisa Unger about her latest thriller Darkness, My Old Friend. “I understand and like Jones Cooper in a way that I can’t help but feel is special. He’s a little grouchy, somewhat (okay, deeply) cynical. He has a hero’s heart, can’t resist a damsel in distress. I find him endlessly amusing; he makes me laugh. He’s a good man at his core, but with a real connection – and an attraction – to the darkness within him, within everyone.”

“After spending more than a year working on my debut novel, Before Ever After,” writes Samantha Sotto, “emerging from the safety and solitude of my little writer’s cave was daunting. Remaining holed up in it, however, was not an option. If I wanted readers and reviewers to discover this book, then I needed to buckle down and treat social media the same way I had treated school. In short, it was time to brush my hair, change out of my pajamas, and start interacting. First stop, the Blogosphere.”