Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bookanista Interview with Michelle Hodkin, author of THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER

To wrap up my week of MARA DYER, I've got an interview with the lovely author herself. I was lucky enough to meet Michelle in NYC (she took me to this fab restaurant and coerced me into eating squid-ink pasta, and then she followed it up by taking me to a place called Pomme Frites which serves the BEST french fries EVAR). Then, Michelle was a guest stop at two of the Ash to Nash events, which was fantastic!

Still, I hadn't really had a chance to pick her brain specifically about Mara, so today, we're going to do just that!

We can read all about your life from your bio in the jacket flap of your book. So, what's a completely random fact about you that most people don't know?

I am a champion food-orderer at restaurants. A skill appreciated by no one but my dining companions, but a skill nonetheless. 

As a kid, what was your favorite book? Have your tastes changed since growing up? 
As a little little kid? The Joss Bird by Sarah Garland (about this bird that infiltrates a museum to retrieve her stolen egg). As an elementary-school kid, anything in the Fear Street saga by RL Stine. As a middle-schooler? Anything by Stephen King or Michael Crichton. As a high schooler? LOLITA and GEEK LOVE. As an adult, those books are still my top two favorites, I still think Fear Street is frightening (and awesome) and I still veer towards the dark and disturbing; the more dark and disturbing, the better. 

Did you draw anything in your book, THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER, from your real life? 
The Ebola incident (see e.g. 41-42)
A sketchy dog incident not unlike page 70 for reasons referenced on p.197
The jhbjhjhbb  gggggggggggggggggggggggggg and hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.                            
Err, actually, my lawyer told me not to answer that. 


It's the inevitable question: what inspired THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER? 
Short answer: I was inspired by true events.
Long answer: will be posted on when it goes live :)

You are unflinching with your words—unafraid to graphically describe hard situations or censor your characters. Can you talk a little about how you came up with this style of writing, and why you chose to tell your story in this way?

First: thank you. That means a lot, coming from a writer whose raw, emotional prose has made me a) cry b) laugh and c) scream in the span of a few hundred pages. 

I don’t censor my characters because I know they would sound false if I did. How do I know? 

I tried it. 

I was told by some people that choosing to use certain words (usually consisting of four letters, sometimes beginning with the letters f and s) would limit my audience. Which I didn’t really want. So I tried substituting the words out, changing the sentences, and dancing around the words to try and achieve the same emotional content of the scene without using the same language. 

It didn’t work. 

The truth? I personally believe that words are just words, and they only have the power that we give them. The f-word is no more inherently evil than the word “melon.” But when it’s used in the book, it’s used to convey emotion in a way that would be real to the teens in the story—Mara (the protagonist), who has been through events so traumatic that she hallucinates and has unconsciously self-harmed; Noah (the male main character), who really couldn’t give a *&^% what other people think of him; and Jamie (Mara's only friend in Miami), who is loud, obnoxious, and brutally honest no matter what. Eagle Scouts my characters are not. That’s how they roll, and those are the words they would use at the points that I used them. Daniel (Mara’s older brother) wouldn’t use those words, and so…he doesn’t. And he even comments (negatively) on Mara’s use of them. 

As far as describing hard situations, I felt (and feel) that my main responsibility was to always firmly stay in Mara’s perspective while I wrote the book. She has suffered through some tough stuff. Glossing over it would do the book, and it’s readers, a great disservice. 

That said, it is recommended for readers 14+, and I do strongly believe that teenagers (and their parents) should decide what kind of content they’re ready for. Is it a dark book? Yes. Is it a sexy book? I like to think so. And will the sequel get darker and sexier? Definitely. So if dark and edgy isn’t your thing? This may not be the book for you. 

Can you tell us a little bit about the process--particularly the timeline--of writing THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER?
It took me ten months from writing my first words of fiction ever (on May 15, 2009) to the day I submitted it to a handful of agents in March 2010. I signed with an agent a month later, worked on a few revisions over the course of a few of weeks, and then Simon & Schuster bought MARA DYER in a two book deal at auction on May 25th, 2010. It happened crazily (and unusually) fast. 

If your reader could only take away one emotion, theme, or idea from THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER, what would you want it to be?
I just hope that people have fun reading it!

Beyond that, I wouldn’t complain if it made even one person rethink the (silly) idea that pit bulls should be banned from towns, cities, states, and even countries. And that statement will make no sense to anyone who hasn’t read the book. 

What's the most surprising thing you've learned since becoming a writer?
The fact that I can write books. Seriously, I’m still getting used to the idea that I wrote a book. It’s still reaaaaallllly really surreal. Really surreal. 

Beyond the typical--never give up, believe in yourself--what would be the single best advice you'd like to give another writer?
Write the story that only you can write. And finish the book. 

What do you think are your strongest and weakest points in writing?
I’m proud of my characterization. I had no idea how tough it would be to write an unreliable narrator until I was in far too deep to quit, but I think that my legal experience helped me stay firmly in her perspective (which isn’t easy when you’re writing in the first person) even when I was painfully aware that what she was noticing, experiencing, thinking, feeling, or opining wasn’t accurate in the story’s context. Keeping track of who knows X, who believes Y, and who’s lying about Z was a juggling act, but I think I did the characters justice. I hope readers agree—especially when they read the sequel. 

Structure, on the other hand, was an enormous challenge. It’s kind of mathematical to me, which means I had to call in reinforcements (like my brother) to offer their assistance. I’m lucky to have readers whose strengths compliment my weaknesses. 

Don't forget! You can enter to win a SIGNED copy of THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER until October 3rd! And if you'd like to read what the other Bookanistas are reading, check it out here:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


So yesterday I posted an announcement about how I'm giving away a SIGNED copy of THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER--if you haven't entered yet, you might want to get on that ;)

Tomorrow I'll be interviewing the lovely Michelle, so make sure you tune in tomorrow as well. Meanwhile today I'm going to be reviewing this remarkable book...but keep in mind that if I'd written this review as soon as I finished the novel, my reaction would have just been a bunch of exclamation marks interspersed with appropriate emoticons. Like this: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :o !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :O !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *__*  !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OMGWTFBBQ !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now for a more appropriate review:

First: That cover! Man! I promise I don't just pick books to blurb that have pretty covers, but...I'm totally two for two right now.

Second: It is creeptastic. I'm so glad this novel's coming out in time for Halloween. It's the perfect story to read on a spooky, stormy, dark fall night. In fact, I wish you dark and stormy nights in which to read this book, just to set the mood.

Third: A truly surprising end. I'm not even worried about hyping this up, because you are NOT going to see the end coming. Not at all. I'm not saying it comes out of left-field--this isn't something random and crazy--I'm just saying Agatha Christie couldn't guess this twist.

Fourth: Realistic dialog and teens interactions. That sounds boring. It's not. I'm just saying, this book sounds real. A lot of adults write for teens, and sometimes the teens come across as wooden or old or preachy or whatever. In this book, the teens sound like teens.

Fifth: Did I mention creeptastic? Because that. Again.

Sixth: No one's perfect. Don't you hate the perfect guy? In real life or fiction, the perfect guy is annoying. I want characters flawed. And in Mara's world, no one is perfect...not even Mara.

Seventh: Strong pacing. I wanted to put this book down. I read until 4 am. I was tired. But I could not put it down, and that's mostly due to the strong pacing. Every time the action slowed down, the emotion ramped up. Every time I though Mara was okay emotionally, something dramatic happened.

Enticed enough yet? Don't forget to enter yesterday's contest for a chance to get a signed copy of THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER! Or pick up your copy, available in bookstores today! :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer Launch! Celebrate and Win!

Do you know what day it is? No?

Today is the launch of the fabulous Michelle Hodkin's debut: THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER!!!!!!

I got this book late one day--I was super busy, but thought Hey, I'll check out the first chapter. I then read until 4 in the morning, and as soon as I was done, I texted Michelle and demanded MORE RIGHT NOW.

She laughed at me.

And I have yet to break into her house and/or mind and steal the sequel. BUT I WILL.

Meanwhile, I did give THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER my second ever blurb.

"WOW. Michelle Hodkin's debut will keep
you guessing until the last page--
and long after."

Trufax. I am still making guesses about what's going to happen next...and what actually did happen in the story I read. That last page? Will blow your mind. 

Want a hint about what the story's about? Check out the creeptastic trailer:

I'll be doing a complete review tomorrow, but in the meantime, check the book out online at these places:
Also: Michelle is awesome. I know this. You know this. Know how you know this? Because she's donated a SIGNED copy of THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER (an ARC) for YOU! Yes, YOU! To enter, the only thing I ask of you is that you check out the book--you could click on one of the links above, or watch the trailer, or drop by a bookstore and pick it up. 

Just fill out the form below, and you're entered for a drawing for a signed copy of Michelle Hodkin's THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER.

And since Michelle's the one who donated the copy for you to win, drop her a comment here to say how much you like the book, the trailer, or how much you want to read this. Show her some love for donating the prize! :) <3

Additional contest information:
  • Open internationally
  • Entrants must be 13 years old or older
  • Only one entry per person
  • Contest closes on October 3rd, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Some Updates!

This weekend, I will be a part of the Smart Chicks Kick It tour!! I'm dropping in on the Portland and Vancouver stops, so if you're in the area, please come by and see me! I will sign your book, give you some swag, and/or sign THAT shiny poster over there

<<<------- THAT ONE

(Which you can download and print out for just such a thing here.)

I am. SO. Freaking. Excited about this.

Also? If you live in Portland, Vancouver, or anywhere in between, let me know about cool places to see, neat restaurants to chow down at, or whatever else is cool--because I'm actually going to be driving from Portland to Vancouver and would love a mini adventure on the trip.

Some other updates:

  • Between this and the conference I just presented at, I am VERY behind on email. Like, over a hundred emails behind. If I owe you email correspondence, please be patient with me. If it's super important, please yell at me and tell me to answer your super important email. 
  • I got an email from the guy who is shipping the charms for the creative contest. They are supposed to ship to me this week, and I'm taking cards with me on the road so I can get them made and written over the weekend and therefore get them back to you! Sorry this is taking so long, but please keep in mind that I was not originally prepared to award 50 prizes! I had no idea you guys were so awesome!
  • I am also super-slow on Twitter right now. I'm sorry. I should catch up after the trips and such. 
  • Giveaway! Yes! Coming tomorrow! 
  • And another one! In October! 
  • And another one! In November! My biggest giveaway to date!
  • And another one! In December! Even bigger than the November one!

Banned Books Week and Doctor Who

So I just did my post on the League for today--and it was about Banned Books weeks. I'm rather proud of it--I got quite a little rant on--and I realized that there was a perfect quote for me to use for that post:
You want weapons? We're in a library! Books! The best weapons in the world! This room's the greatest arsenal we could have - arm yourselves!
So, I decided of course I should just embed the Doctor Who video with that quote! Of course! So I trotted off to YouTube and looked up one of the best episodes ever, "Silence in the Library."

And...then I watched the whole darn episode, despite the fact that I have a house to clean and a book to write and a dog to wash and a million other things.

 Thing is, the weapons quote isn't in that episode. It's in "Tooth and Claw."

 I regret nothing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

As Easy As Falling In Love

A lot of times people ask me when I know that a work is ready, complete and to the point where I need to submit it for publication. Unfortunately, there is no cut-and-dry answer to this, but I can tell you what it tends to be like for me:

Dread and Hate: There is a moment--usually brief--before I start writing that I am filled with dread and hate for the project. I have this vague, wispy idea of what it should be, and I know I'll never achieve the ideal, and so it sort of makes me sick to my stomach to think about writing it. 

Falling in Love: Somewhere along the way, usually within the first fifty pages of the manuscript, I start falling in love with it. The words sing, the characters are vivid, and the story's zinging along. 

Blind Love: ...and then I start having this sort of blind love for the project. I think every words perfect. I get very self satisfied. This feeling typically lasts all the way to when I write THE END...and as I stare at the whole manuscript, I have this sort of "this-is-the-best-book-ever-written-and-I-am-a-genius" sort of attitude. 

I've learned, after years of trial and error and a ton of rejections, that this is NOT the time to submit a manuscript for publication. This is the time to submit a manuscript to peers for critique. 

So, then I submit the manuscript for crits. And my feelings when I get back the critiques--which have NEVER said that the manuscript is perfect and I am a genius and deserve a cupcake--my feelings are this:

Anger and Denial: My initial reaction, no matter how much I love and respect my critique readers, is that they are WRONG. Wrong, wrong, wrong. And MEAN. And they're out to get me. So I usually read a crit, then give it a day before I feel...

Determination: I think this comes from my Southrn upbringing--I get this bull-headed attitude where I want to prove the critiquers wrong, and I'll write the best frexing book there ever was no matter how hard it is, so I pull up my boot straps and get to work. 


Falling in Love...Again: When I get to the point where I've started to fall back in love with the manuscript--that's when I know it's ready. I no longer have blind love for it, I can see the flaws, and I can see the bandages I used to patch it up after I broke it down, but for the most part, I love it again. 

And that's when I send it out.

Monday, September 19, 2011

My Little SPACE!

Here are some things you might not know about me:

  • When I was a kid, I was obsessed with My Little Ponies. I had dozens of ponies, I had the knock-off ponies (sea-ponies, anyone?), I had a barn made of popsicle sticks, I had audio books on cassette tape...I was obsessed.
  • I am totally hooked on the re-boot of the show and have seen every episode at least five times each.

The only problem? I couldn't decide which of my characters would make the best pony! So I made THREE using this really fun pony-maker.

Amy Pony!
Type of pony: Earth Pony--because as much as she wants to fly away, 
she's stuck on the ground ship
Body type: short
Body Color: blue, for the sky she misses
Eye color: bright bottle green, just like the real Amy
Mane and tail: red and gold, just like the real Amy
Cutie-mark: an hourglass, to symbolize how she's out of time
Other details: freckles, to symbolize her fair complexion, 
and shoes, because she's a runner!

Elder Pony!
Type of pony: Unicorn, because he's the leader
Body type: tall
Body color: dark brown, just like his real skin
Eye color: blue, like the sky he longs for
Mane and tail: black, like the real Elder
Cutie-mark: a series of stars, because once he sees them, he can never be the same
Other details: I gave him a stern expression, to show how he's trying to be a leader

Harley Pony!
Type of pony: Pegasus--he wants to fly through the stars
(I did a screenshot without the wings, though, so you could see his cutie mark)
Body type: average
Body color: blue and yellow spatters--like the sea and the stars at the same time
Eye color: gold, to represent his heart of gold
Mane and tail: What I really wanted was a rainbow colored mane and tail, like Rainbow Dash has. BUT I couldn't do that in the generator, and I was too lazy to edit it in Gimp
Update! Thanks to @literaticat, I was able to give Harley a rainbow mane!
Cutie-mark: A koi fish, of course
Other details: Of course Harley would be laughing!

What do you think? I know it's silly, but I had so much fun doing this! If you have a character you would like pony-ize, then go to this website for a pony generator, and don't forget to enter Rebecca's contest yourself!

Speaking of, I have to pick ONE pony to enter into the contest...but I can't decide which. Which one is your favorite?

Friday, September 16, 2011

All the Creative Contest Entries!

I was finally able to get all the entries into the creative contest in one location! The permanent home of the images will be here, (I'll be snazzing up that page more soon) but I wanted to make sure everyone got a great good look at them all, so I've got them embedded below, too, with credit links.

I think you will be able to see why I couldn't pick just one winner from this. Every single person who entered will be getting a prize...although the prizes are currently back ordered! Apparently the seller didn't expect someone to order fifty at one time! But as soon as the prize is shipped to me, I'll be shipping them back out to you.

And let me also take a moment to say: YOU GUYS ARE THE BESTEST READERS EVER AND I <3 YOU ALL.

Seriously. This contest was

That said...I do still have a prize that I'd set aside for the most creative entry. It was just one thing, a secret extra gift from Jennie, who designed the bracelet. I think what I'm going to do is just slip it in the person's envelope and let it be a surprise when s/he opens the envelope with the thank you :) What do you think? Good idea? I do like giving people little surprises and such :)

Meanwhile, I really want to know, which one is YOUR favorite? 

Visual Art




Earrings by Anna (These earrings won the random drawing prize, too)





Purse by Melissa Click for more pics, including the inside that has a lining made with a koi fish print featuring quotes from the Gettysburg Address


Desktop Wallpaper by Lara Definitely click to see a bigger version of this one--it's a lovely desktop wallpaper!


Paper roses made by Amanda

Plastic Amy Doll by Vivien

Henna Tattoos by TheGirlOnFire27

Illustration by Christina

Custom stamp made by Amy


Illustration of koi swimming in stars by Michaela. The illustration was done by "stippling"--adding hundreds of dots, one dot at a time!



Badges by Margaret


"Sea of Stars" painting by Lillian (look closely; there are silver stars in the background)

Too cute charms of Amy and Elder by Lesley




Trailer video by April

Trailer video by Alayna

Song cover by Kayla

Flag routine by Lauren. Click her YouTube video for a full explanation of her entry! Song recorded by April: click the heart in the top right corner of this page to hear it! Hall of Awesome webpage by Rachel Across the Universe Press Kit by Jess

Written Works

Short story by Julia:
‘We want the book! We want the book!’ The crowd chanted. The scared booksellers huddled in the store, using the boxes of the book they were supposed to be selling, Across the Universe, to barricade the door.

‘They’re against the doors! GET THEM!’ one man yelled.

The crowd surged forward, using their hands, clubs, pitchforks, other people in the crowd, whatever they could get their hands on to beat on the doors. They slowly moved in. The crowd was no match for the heavy boxes.

‘Yes!’ several people yelled. ‘Autographed copies of Across the Universe!’ They eagerly flipped through the pages, looking for the author signature.

‘What the heck?’ someone hollered.

‘There’s no author signature in here!’

‘Well, um, she was supposed to come in today to autograph them,’ the timid salespeople volunteered.


Beth Revis, the author of the aforementioned book, huddled in a janitor’s closet at the back of the store. She wasn’t about to go out into the angry mob, no way.

‘All right, all right We’ll tell you where the author is if you just stop!’ yelled the bookstore’s manager.

The people from the mob stood in the middle of the store, surrounded by a pile of white paper and torn covers.

‘Well, where is she?’ multiple people hollered out.

‘In the janitor’s closet at the back of the store next to the YA novels.’

The mob stormed off. A few people started lagging as they looked at the book displays, but they were quickly herded back in by the rest of the mob.

When the mob reached the closet, everyone stepped back as a large man, who looked like he would be more comfortable in a pine forest then a bookstore, ran against the door.

It moves slightly.

‘AGAIN!’ yelled the crowd.

The man rammed into the door again, and continued to do so until the flimsy wood shattered, exposing the terrified author to the crowd.

‘Don’t hurt me, because if you do you’ll never find out what’ll happen between Amy and Elder,’ squeaked Beth Revis.

‘Hurt you? Why would we hurt you? You are going to go over to that table RIGHT NOW and sign out copies of Across the Universe or else!’ screamed the aforementioned lumberjack-like man.

Beth slunk over to the table and chair, plopped down heavily, and pulled out a pen.

‘Who’s first?’ she hollered.

A collective ME came from the entire crowd.

‘Okay, you,’ she said, pointing at random. ‘You’re first.’

A little boy skipped up to the table, holding the book to his chest.

‘Aren’t you a little young to be reading young adult novels?’ asked Beth.

‘It’s not for me, it’s for Mommy!’ he said. ‘Will you sign it, please?’

So she did.

All day, Beth sat there signing until she thought her hand would fall off. And then she signed some more. The author signed books for small children, old men, teenage girls, mothers, the list goes on. By the time she signed the last book, she had gone through fifteen pens and her name looked more like a scribble then her name.

The bookstore employees came over as the author stood up.

‘You owe me. That was the most people I’ve EVER signed for at a time, and the first time

I’ve ever hidden in a janitors closet!’

‘So… does this mean you won’t be coming back next week?’

‘Heck no!’ exclaimed Beth. ‘Never again!’


Beautiful Lies by Patrick
The Godspeed,
a beautiful ship fueled by lies.

Those beautiful lies,
other and I believe are not true

But whose’s there,
to telll them the truth?

The water,
full of life and beautiful lies.

It’s life,
died beacuse of Phydus.

They are brainwashed,
mixed with truth’s and beautiful lies.

They don’t know the truth

The ancient Plague,
a time where disorder ruled.

There was none,
but there was Eldest.

The one,
who decieved and lied beautifully to everyone.

For the sake,
of order.

They don’t know the truth,
but Elder and I will tell them.

Beautiful Lies hurt,
but the hidden truth hurts more.


Ode to Beth Revis by Jade
I’m not good at writing,
I can’t draw or sing
So I’m writing Beth Revis
A bad poem,

In Across The Universe,
We met Elder and Amy,
In a book that was original
And not at all same-y,

In the next book,
Their story goes on,
As they navigate Godspeed
Through A Million Suns

But alas, what is wrong!
(Be aware, spoilers are coming!)
Godspeed is slowing down,

Will Amy ever see her parents,
She was awoken too soon,
One a ship that may never make it through,
All the suns and planets and moons,

The story is compelling,
I was gripped from the first page,
This is a book I’d give to
Readers of any age,

I loved it that much
And I honestly can’t wait,
That’s why I need to win this competition,
I’ll call it, like, fate!

So Beth, take pity on me,
I have no talents to speak of,
I’m just a girl that reads a lot
And with your books, I’m in love!


The Ship of Lies by Brielle

A beautiful ship
flew into the sky.
They all knew
it wasn’t goodbye.
They’d be home soon,
a new home at least.
They had them all fooled
a mystery to piece.
Until Amy came along,
this fiery redhead,
she strung it together
like needle and thread.
Something was wrong.
A lie was covered.
She saw these “stars”
and the truth was discovered.
A beautiful ship
flew into the skies.
Too bad that the ship runs on
nothing but lies.


Stars Awakening by Nicole
We knew we couldn’t sustain. I think that was the worst part; knowing for so long, but never doing anything about it until it was nearly too late. I wish I could say I was one of those people who went wholeheartedly onto Godspeed, but being dragged unwilling doesn’t quite fit the description. It would be an understatement to say I’m claustrophobic, and my father has known that ever since I was a boy. It mattered little to him, in the long run.

That’s why I’m down here now, I suppose, in the deepest, darkest hull on the ship, with my knees tucked close to my body, shivering uncontrollably. It’s nearly frozen down here; I wonder what they hold in the wall-high containers, why they have to keep the room so cold. I looked for a light earlier, but the motion detector must be malfunctioning. It’s better this way, I think. The last thing I’ll see is darkness, the one thing I’m most afraid of. So many things can go wrong being trapped in a ship that’s on a course to a far-off planet that we’ve never even seen before. When I first got down here, I thought about all of them, until I exhausted myself and my eyes were weak with tears. I think I was hoping they’d be searching for me, check their video footage, and come rushing in. That someone, anyone, would care.

The quiet, distant hum of the machines reminds me that I’m not alone. I press my hands onto the freezing metal and push myself off the wall. I hear a click and I’m blinded by the sudden white light, and greeted by the slight stench of burning. The motion detector must be working after all. One of the long bulbs across the ceiling flickers, goes out, but there’s enough light to see what’s in the chambers.
They’re bodies. Rows upon rows of bodies. My jaw hangs slack. I feel myself stumble over the grated metal floor to the frozen chamber in front of me, placing my hands against the cold glass. It’s a girl. A girl with flowing red hair, full lips and closed eyes. She’s naked, completely exposed–more beautiful than anything I’ve ever seen. She has the strangest look on her face, and I wonder what her last thoughts were. Her face is slack, but her lips look pinched, like she was afraid. Or in pain.

I bang my head against the glass. Get a grip, Kyle. I’m letting a girl that lies immobile in a cryochamber distract me from why I came down here in the first place.

But I can’t help reverting my gaze back to her. Girls never paid much attention to me back home, and I’ve never seen this much of a body at one time, but somehow that matters little. I want to meet this girl, more than anything I’ve ever wanted.

I push myself back from the glass with resolve, my jaw tightening, and scan the panel of buttons along the bottom of the glass. There’s so many, and all unlabeled. I’m about to press my finger to the only green button–when the door to the room whooshes open and I’m knocked to the ground.

I land with a thump and a grunt, feeling the rivets in the floor digging into my back, the air forced out of my lungs. I fight my attacker, but they take their weight off of me almost immediately, pinning only my wrists to the floor. I stop fighting. It’s father.

“What,” he seethes, “do you think you’re doing down here?”

I grit my teeth. “Waiting to die.”

Surprise flashes across his face, but it’s fleeting, replaced quickly by anger. “Don’t be so foolish, boy,” father says. “You know not to be down here. I should have known I could not trust you on your own.”

“Who are they?” I ask, ignoring his conceding tone.

Father starts. “What are you talking about?”

“The bodies in the cryochambers,” I say, unwavering. “Who are they?”

Father clears his throat. “None of your concern.”

“I want to talk to one of them,” I say.

“Absolutely not.” He stiffens. “Out of the question.”

“Will you tell me nothing?” I plead. Secrets are all my father has, but if he tells them to anyone, it’s always me.

Father snorts out a breath, and his eye twitches. “Which one?” he asks, releasing his grip on me. I can hear the defeat in his voice no matter how hard he’s trying to cover it up as I climb off the floor and get back on my feet. I have to stop myself from smiling.

“Her.” I point to the slim, red-haired girl. I’m still looking at her, my heart beating faster unwittingly, when I hear my father suck in a quick breath.

“It can’t be…”

Another crashing sound echoes through the narrow room, and I look beyond father towards the door, just in time to see one of the guards bring his blade down onto father’s back, sliding the blade cleanly through his body before pulling it out again. I hear someone screaming, and I realize it’s me. The sound cuts off when the guard advances on me, stepping uncaring into the pool of blood that’s appeared from beneath my father’s body. I swallow hard and scramble backward. The guard’s expression is cold, hard, unforgiving.

“Please,” I whisper. “Don’t hurt me.”

He smiles then, toothy and ruthless. My head snaps back as he brings back his blade for the strike–


The guard turns around so quickly that he nearly loses the grip on his blade, the set of his shoulders giving away his surprise. And I can see why. There’s a man in the doorway, dressed in a white lab coat, with gray-speckled short hair and stormy eyes. He’s standing with his fists clenched at his sides, jaw tight, expression hard.

“This area is restricted.” The man’s voice echoes low and deep along the metal walls. “Even to guards.” He eyes the guard, and the murderer’s shoulders sink in submission. The doctor steps into the room, ignoring the dead, bleeding body on the floor. He moves his gaze from the guard, who leaves the room in a rush, over to me, his eyes traveling down the length of my body and back up again. He’s turned curious, less menacing.

“Why are you here?” he asks me.

I don’t answer, and without thinking, my eyes find the girl in the frozen chamber. She remains unchanged. The doctor follows my gaze and a small smile finds its way onto his lips. He looks back at me, eyes sparkling.

“We can arrange that,” he says.

My eyes widen, and I’m about to speak when the doctor lunges forward, stabbing me with a needle. Pain shoots up my arm, but I can’t cry out; whatever he’s injected me with has already slowed my mind.

“It’s better this way,” he assures me. My vision blurs and he manages to hold me up before laying me down on the floor. “You won’t want to feel the pain when I freeze you.”

I wish I could panic, but I can’t feel much of anything now as the poison makes its way through my system. He won’t kill me; somehow I know that. But…

“You’re going to see us land in the new world, child,” he tells me softly. “There’s nothing left for you here.”

Finally my vision leaves me, along with the rest of my senses. And all I can think is that, when I wake up, I get to see the girl with the red hair again.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bookanista Review: Maureen Johnson's THE NAME OF THE STAR

Maureen Johnson is a must-buy for me. I see a book with her name on it, I buy it.

If you are an MJ fan like me, then you will be so freaking excited by THE NAME OF THE STAR--possibly the best of her entire work, rivaled only by DEVILISH. If you are not an MJ fan (for shame!) then this is a GREAT book to start your upcoming MJ love. GET IT. READ IT.

So here's the thing: MJ knows how to tell a story well. Just follow her Twitter--if she can make 140-character tweets that entertaining, imagine what she can do with a whole book.

But the best part about THE NAME OF THE STAR? Is the plot itself. It's riveting. The basic plot is a girl from America goes to England for boarding school just as a Jack the Ripper copycat killer goes on a rampage. But then the girl becomes a witness--to a killer only she can see.

There's a little of everything in this book: a little funny (true laugh-out-loud moments), a little sad (I cried, I'm not ashamed to admit), a little mystery (who's killing--and how?), a little adventure (see: final battle), and a whole lot of amazing.

Here's the short story: this is a fantastic story wrapped around amazing writing. What's not to love?

Still on the fence? Then click here to read a free sample online!

To find out what the other Bookanistas are reading this week, click any of the links below!

Also: a special thanks to Pam for getting me a copy of the ARC to read! Click here to read Pam's review!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What Would You Like to See on the For Writers Page?

So I've been thinking about updating my website. I've already revamped the Books page, and if you were clever enough to find the secret page on the website, get your eyefull now, because that's about to go down and be redone, too...

Meanwhile, the page that I think is most lacking in my website here is the For Writers page. I always meant for it to be more, I just....never got around to it.

But when I stare blankly at it, I wonder...what would YOU like to see? Because honestly? I'd like to really make that page for fellow writers, not me. Now, keep in mind that I'm not expert and I don't really know what I'm doing and I spend a lot of time just bumbling around in the dark, but given that...are they any topics you'd like to see on that page? Any specific items or whatever you'd like to see?

Monday, September 12, 2011

This is Relevant to November

(And also, I'm having fun playing with Poll Daddy)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Another Day of Infamy

It's hard to believe that ten years have passed.

I was in college when 9/11 happened. I worked as an RA, and I woke up early and grumpy to do my assigned hours at the front desk in the lobby. There was something on the radio--an attack, something happening in NY--but I flipped it over to a music station.

Another RA came by. "Did you hear about the attack?"

"What attack?" I asked.

We turned the radio back to the news station.

As soon as I could, I ran back to my dorm room and turned on the television. By that point, only one tower had fallen. Before my eyes, I saw the second fall, too.

It was at that moment when I knew things had changed for me forever.

Glimmers of memories stand out from that time. Classes canceled. A friend, whose mother worked in the towers, crying unconsolably. My boss, who was a Muslim and wore a traditional head scarf, afraid to leave her office for a week. A campus-wide meeting, in which we warned, since we were located at the state capital, that we might be next.

But I don't think I really understood how the world had changed until I became a teacher, and started teaching kids who couldn't really remember a world before 9/11.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Do You Notice the Publisher? On EBooks, Money, and Publishers

***Just to clarify--I'm not trying to disparage self published authors with this post. The point of my post was to just extend the conversation; I was curious to see YOUR thoughts.

Even though I'm still in my debut year as an author (holy cow, that's insane, no?!), I've been writing for ten years and reading for most of my life. And I'm an avid reader--constantly seeking the next book, with a veritable of TBR books and even more already-read shelves of books.

So: I'm completely aware of books, authors, and--the subject of what I want to talk about today--publishers.

As you can probably guess: I'm a somewhat unusual reader. I definitely pay attention to who publishes what, and I have very clear, distinct opinions on publishers. Through years of reading and paying attention to who published what, I know that some publishers tend to publish books that I will universally like--and some publish books I universally don't. When it comes to buying a book, I first weigh the story: if I love the premise, I buy the book, if not, I put it back down. If I'm on the fence, though, I'll consider the author--if I know him/her (even just through online stuff), I'll buy the book. If not, or if I'm still on the fence, I look at the publisher. If it's from an imprint that I usually like--I buy the book. If not, I don't. There's one imprint in particular--and, merely because I've been paying attention to this stuff for so long--there's one editor in particular at that imprint, whose books I just don't like. It's not that they're bad--it's that this editor and I clearly have very different tastes. There were agents who I didn't query before I signed because I just didn't like the books that thanked that agent in the acknowledgements--and I could safely assume that our tastes were so different that those agents wouldn't have liked my book, either.

But as I've said: I'm an unusual reader. Most people, don't know the editor at a publishing house at all. Most readers, I think, don't even pay attention to who publishes what.

I'm thinking about all this today because of a post Nathan Bransford recently had on his blog.  In reference to ebooks in particular, I think that if readers are not currently looking at who publishes what, they will be soon. Right now, we're in a weird sort of "anything goes" age of epublishing--people are trying new things (different price points, established authors self-pubbing ebooks, interactive content, etc.) to see what will stick and what will be the best method in this new epublishing age.

Not too long ago, there were a lot of fight about what the maximum price an ebook should be. Many publishers and professionals insisted on a $9.99 price point--and Amazon, notably, was in favor of a lower price point. This is me just spit-balling here, but from that debate, it seemed to me that Amazon figured it would make more money with ereaders than with the sale of ebooks.

Recently, Amazon announced that they will be developing a new tablet (think: iPad, but with an Amazon brand name), and I read an article that speculated that the tablets will likely be sold at cost or even at a loss to Amazon in an effort to drive more sales to ebooks--which seems to me to indicate that Amazon now sees ebooks as the driving source of funds, not ereaders.

I think the shift has come from people who are burnt out of the 99-cent price point. Speaking on solely a personal level, I got an ebook reader for Christmas last year. I downloaded a crap-ton of free and 99-cent ebooks...and quickly became really rather disgusted by them. It became a matter, to me, not of how much money I was willing to spend, but how much time. To put it frankly, many of the cheap or free books were not worth the pennies I paid for them. I became the type of ebook reader who would rather take a chance on a $9.99 book than on a 99-cent book: I valued my time in reading the book more than the money I spent to purchase it.

Personally, I think a lot of people are going to end up doing the same. They are going to seek out quality over quantity--rather than buying many cheap books, they'll spend more money on fewer books of quality.

As Nathan points out in his article, one way that people can distinguish quality is through a publisher--it's a type of cachet, a sort of assurance that the book has been vetted in some way. A quality seal.

But of course, that only works if people actually notice who a publisher is.

So, I wanted to turn to you, fair readers: Do you notice who publishes a book?

And, to go along with that: What influences your purchase of an ebook? Please note: I've allowed multiple answers for this one!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

WINNERS of the Creative Contest! still just so gobsmacked by the Creative Contest that I cannot even begin to put into words how awesome you guys are. I think it's pretty obvious that, basically, I have the best readers EVER and I will monkey-cage-fight anyone who disagrees with me.

Now, if you remember, there were originally going to be two prizes for this contest. The first was going to be a random drawing of all the entrants, and that winner would get a signed ARC and a custom-made charm bracelet by Jennie on Etsy.

So, after putting together all the entrants and using the trusty-old Random.Org, I'm happy to announce that the random-drawing winner of the Creative Contest is....

*drum roll please*

Now, you'll remember that I also said that I reserved the right to give a prize to the person whose entry I thought was the most creative and neat.

And that's where I ran into a problem.

Because. Um. I couldn't pick.

It's YOUR fault, really. I mean, come on! You guys were making amazing things here! Paintings and henna tattoos and songs and videos and dances and sculptures and jewelry and poetry and MORE. How on freaking earth was I supposed to pick just ONE thing from that list of awesome!??! I can't, that's how. 


I decided to do something a little crazy.

I decided to give every single person who entered the contest a prize.

That's right. If you entered the contest, you get a prize. It's not huge (and not ARCs, sorry! I don't have that many!)--but it is a special, unique prize, and it is a secret prize. Why a secret? Because the prize will actually be a clue about A MILLION SUNS. And if you were one of the 42 people who entered the contest, then you get it. And no one else. Nanananabooboo.

I've emailed all the entrants already about this special prize--but three emails bounced back to me. If you entered and didn't get an email, shoot me a line so I can tell you how to claim your prize, and please include a link so I know it's you! :)

Meanwhile, stick around! I'm working on a new webpage right now featuring all the entries--and you'll be able to see for yourself how impossible it was to decide on just one winner!

ALSO: Safari Poet was awesome enough to translate my German book trailer, so check out the comments of yesterday's post to read her awesome translation!

German Book Trailer!

Still recovering from Dragon*Con and Decatur Book Fest--I think I picked up a nasty cold there, which is sad-making. Also sore-throat-and-runny-nose-making. But! Big announcement of prize winners TOMORROW!

And until then, can I entice you with the German Book Trailer for Across the Universe? I have NO IDEA what it says, but that bit at the end gave me goosebumps! Click here to see for yourself.