Friday, December 28, 2012

Calling All Book Bloggers!

Attention Book Bloggers (and Vloggers!):

I'm working on a super secret project with a few other authors. And we'd love to have your help in revealing this project. If you'd like to participate, fill out the form below by Sunday. On Sunday, I'll be sending out an email to everyone who signs up, with details on what the secret project is, and how to reveal it. If you want to, you can then post a reveal of the secret project on January 3rd.

The secret project is a lot of fun, and something I think everyone will like. There's no obligation to participate, but if you do decide to participate in the secret project, then your post will be something that is very simple, and something that will be individual to you (in other words, you're not just copying and pasting the same post as everyone else, but it will not be labor-intensive, and will probably only take you about fifteen minutes).

The only requirements are:

  • You need to have some sort of media outlet that can host your post (such as a blog or vlog)
  • You can post the content on January 3 (you can post at a later date, but the big blast will be Jan. 3)
  • You fill out the form below--there's no string attached; this is just so we can contact you with the info. You can always decide to bow out after you find out what the secret is.
I really hope you want to participate! This is going to be really exciting! :)


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Poll: Spam Prevention

So, I've been getting a lot of spam in the comments section lately. I have a couple of options--turn off comments (which I don't want to do), put on captcha (which some people hate), or let the spam happen and just trust you guys not to click on any links in the comments (which can be a little dangerous if someone does click a link unwittingly--although I've added a warning in the comment section--and it's also just annoying to look at).

I figured I'd let you guys decide--so if you care about commenting here, let me know. Here's the options:

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Which do you prefer? This site and the comments are for you, so I want to do what you want. Please vote, if you care about this sort of thing!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Ultimate Fan Contest Winners!


Your entries in the Ultimate Fan contest made me cry. Four times. They were absolutely brilliant. And so wonderful. I feel like it's kind of lame for me to announce winners now, since obviously I'm the winner here, to be lucky enough to have readers like you. Which makes me sound like a tool, I know, but I really mean it. <3 p="p">
But since some of you have been asking, and since I have had a couple of people ask to know who the winners are, maybe I should... :) Just as a reminder, it was a random drawing, but I gave extra entries to people who did more stuff; so if you didn't win, it's not because I didn't think you were awesome. I sincerely and truly wish I could give everyone who entered something.

That said, the winners are:

GRAND PRIZE: Jasmine L. 

Thanks again for playing along everyone! And if you didn't win, don't worry--I still have January yet to give you stuff :)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Upcoming Events & More

I just sent a newsletter to everyone on the mailing list with this info, and realized as I was working on it that it was, by far, the most newsy newsletter I'd ever done, so I should probably put it here, too :)
Portrait of Amy, made by Corinne Duyvis, who is BRILLIANT. Her eyes, y'all. Look at them green eyes. 
Penguin's doing this thing, see. Where, if SHADES OF EARTH gets enough pre-orders, they're going to send my books into space. You can find full details here (and see me be awkward here).

And to encourage you to pre-order books, I'm giving away free bookplates and bookmarks. There's about 20 left, if you're still interested. Full deets.

ANY pre-order counts including from any online retailer, your local bookstore, or mylocal bookstore, which ships signed books.
If you're worried about having forgotten everything that's happened in ACROSS THE UNIVERSE and A MILLION SUNS, the good people over at AtUFacts are running recaps--the first book's in the archives, and the recaps for AMS are happening right now. Get it all here.

The Breathless Reads Tour Dates have been announced! You can find them all here. I'm at all the East Coast stops which (so far) include:

To see a picture of what book tours mean to me, click here.

I've got several events lined up to celebrate the last launch--hope you can make one!
  • Jan. 15th, 4-7pm, Morganton, NC, at the Morganton Public Library, King Street: Book launch and author panel with Victoria Schwab, Alexandra Duncan, Megan Miranda, and Jessica Khoury. Full details here. 
  • Jan. 25, 6pm, Charlottesville, VA, Barnes & Noble: Book signing with Jodi Meadows, Victoria Schwab, and Ellen Oh. Full details here.
  • Feb. 2, 7pm, Asheville, NC, Malaprops Bookstore: Book signing with Victoria Schwab, Lenore Appelhans, and Megan Shepherd. Full details here.
The Ultimate Fan contest ends tonight at midnight, and I should have a winner posted here over the weekend. But never fear! Next is a blog tour that will have a prize for everyone involved--and a BIG prize for at least five people! Also, I'm going to be announcing something new...and big..and special...SOON! I can't say more than that you should absolutely check back here in the new year :)

And if you want a contest for RIGHT NOW, check out the girls at Secret of the Stars!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pre-Order for the Holidays, get Free Stuff


Okay, so here's the deal. Penguin's doing this launch thing (*snicker* launch) where, if we get enough pre-orders, they're going to launch my books literally into space. For more details, see the last post. 

And I got to thinking: it's near the holidays. Maybe someone wants to give books as a gift. That's cool. But a pre-order is a pretty crappy gift--there's nothing to open. 

SO. Here's the deal. If you pre-order SHADES OF EARTH as a gift for someone (or for yourself!) fill in the form below--and I will mail off a signed bookmark and a signed bookplate. It's so close to Christmas that it might not make it under the tree, but I don't have a time travel machine yet. I will, however, mail them off as soon as I can after I get the addresses. 

I'm really, really sorry, but funds are tight right now, so I can only do this for North American addresses please. I know. That blows. And I'll put a limit of a hundred of these for right now--if there's a huge demand for more than a hundred, I'll have to re-assess my supplies. 

So! Want a signed bookmark & bookplate for a pre-ordered SHADES OF EARTH? Fill this out:

That's it! Totally free, totally for you, as a thank you for pre-ordering! 


Okay, not me, actually, but my book.

Penguin is going to send my book into space. WHAT THE WHAT I KNOW. Space. Entertainment Weekly, which just announced the program, calls it a "literal book launch into space" and my heart did a little flipflop because word play and space y'all.


*rocks in the corner and hyperventilates*

This is by far one of the coolest things that has happened to my books ever. Here's a little bit about how it went down. (Edited because my mind's still doing flips at the announcement.)

Me: Um. You guys? I had this weird idea that maybe we could do but you probably won't like it okay I guess I'll go shut up now and type something on my computer please ignore me.
Penguin: (in a very kind voice) What was your idea?
Me: Um. No. That's okay. It was really weird and you'll probably just laugh at me and maybe take away my book deal for being so weird.
Penguin: (pats me on the head) No, seriously, just tell us.
Me: Okay. Okay. See. I know this is strange. But. Um. What if we sent my books into space. That would be kind of cool, yeah? No? Okay. I'll go sit quietly in the corner now. 

Have I mentioned how much I love Penguin? BECAUSE I LOVE THEM LIKE WHOA. I mean, honestly. What publisher would be willing to send a book into space for you? Penguin, that's who.

The official announcement about the launch (space launch. book launch. squee! word play!) is over at Entertainment Weekly, along with a video where I tried my best not to be awkward and that was like the 20th take, no lie.

But here's the thing. The launch will only happen if we get as many preorders for Shades of Earth that we got for Across the Universe and A Millions Suns combined.

Which. *gulp*

But. I think we can make it happen. I really, really, really do. I have total and absolute faith that we can make this happen.

Here's some details:

  • If you've already pre-ordered the book, congratulations! I LOVE YOU. And your pre-order counts toward the final count! Also? Your pre-order counts toward my ultimate fan contest, so don't forget to enter it!
  • If you've not pre-ordered the book yet, pretty-please do. ALL pre-orders count, no matter where they come from. Here, for your convenience, are links:
  • If you want, you can also pre-order a copy from your local bookstore (which I highly encourage!) This also counts toward the contest.
  • You could also pre-order a copy from my local bookstore, and when it is shipped to you, it will be SIGNED by me, and I'll throw some extra swag or something in with the package. You can pre-order it online or by phone here.
  • If you live near Morganton, NC, and would like to come to my book-signing, the book launch party will be held on January 15, from 4-7pm at the Morganton Public Library. More details on that will be posted soon, but you can pre-order your copy through Fireside Books, and come to the party, and it will be waiting there for you, and I will sign it, and we'll talk about that time you helped me book get into space, good times.
  • Don't have the funds to pre-order the book and want to help out with this campaign? All you have to do--and this is so simple--is ask your library to pre-order it. Seriously! If they buy the book--which they are more likely to do because it is requested--then their pre-order counts, and you don't have lose any cash over it! Also, if you do this, I will love you forever and ever. Also? Doing this counts toward my ultimate fan contest, too.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Norton Award Blog Tour

If you write science fiction or fantasy, then you should be aware of the SFWA, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. And if you also write YA, then I'm betting you're also aware of the Andrea Norton Award for Excellence, one of the most prestigious honors for a YA sci fi or fantasy author.

Several of the authors in SFWA are doing a blog tour about the Andre Norton award (including me!) and you can check out the other links here. I definitely think you should read Sherwood Smith's blog on the topic--she knew Andre personally, and was in on the inception of the award. And you should also check out this interview with the Norton jury--absolutely fascinating. You know what? Just read all the blogs on the tour :)

One of the things I really have loved about this blog tour is learning more about Andre Norton. Norton was one of my first introductions to modern fantasy. As a kid, I read CS Lewis and Tolkein--but it wasn't until I joined a sci fi mail-order book club that I got exposure to a lot of the new and latest books coming out in the genre. I was in middle school, I think, when I read my first Norton title--MIRROR OF DESTINY. I still have my copy--with this exact cover--but I've never re-read it. I've not needed to. Norton's descriptions were so vivid that I still recall the book just by looking at its spine. There's one particular scene--where the main character polishes the mirror with her fingertips until they become bloody--that is so realistic in my memory that I can picture it as vividly as any memory I actually lived through.

The Andre Norton Award is for YA and MG in the sci fi and fantasy genres published in each calendar year. As such, one of my favorite reads of the year (THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS) isn't eligible--but the sequel, THE CROWN OF EMBERS is! And while it's not eligible right now, I already know one of the books I'll be nominating next year.

If you put me on the spot and forced me to pick two titles RIGHT NOW that I'd nominate, I'd select two of my favorite reads of this year.

First: GRAVE MERCY by Robin LaFevers. I just. You guys. This book. It's brilliant. It's the perfect combination of fantasy and history, and it's beautifully woven together in an intricate plot full of intrigue and mystery and general kick-butt-ness.

I read it via audiobook, and loved the narrator for the story. She definitely added appeal for me.

But the story, overall, is just amazing. I love the way Ismae is both fragile and strong. She is given a rare opportunity to choose her own destiny--and she does. Entirely.

Also, as if that's not convincing enough, here are two simple words for you that should make you want to pick this book up.


I know, right? What more do you need?

The next book I'd nominate for a Norton is one by my splendiferous friend, Lauren DeStefano: FEVER. (Although, ZOMG, you guys, you won't believe how much the last book of the trilogy, SEVER, will knock your socks off.)

WITHER was one of my fave 2011 titles, and Lauren doesn't disappoint with the sequel. It takes every idea in WITHER and amps it up even more. It left my head spinning with possibilities, and is the perfect lead-in to the final volume.

Also? One of the best things about Lauren's writing (aside from the brilliant plot and pretty world and awesome characters) is her actual writing. I don't know how she does it. Her words sing like poetry.

Reading Lauren's works sometimes makes me feel like she's DaVinci and I'm drawing on the walls with a crayon. It's just beautiful words, all lined up to make a stunning story.

I have more top picks--in fact, my hardest choice is narrowing down my selections!! But I don't want to overwhelm you. I actually want to ask you what are your top YA and MG fantasy and sci fi reads this year? Let me know in the comments--I'd love to add even more books to my teetering TBR pile!

And definitely check out the other blogs on the tour for more info about the Andre Norton Award, Andre Norton, and other top reads by many different authors!


As a member of SFWA, my works are eligible to be nominated for the Nebula and Norton awards. If you're a SFWA member and would like to enter my works, here's what I have out now that's eligible.

A MILLION SUNS -- The sequel to ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, in which Amy and Elder must discover a way off their generational space ship.

"The Other Elder" -- A story about the governing system on Godspeed, a generational space ship, that has an ambiguous ending in which the reader must decide what happened to the narrator. Published in the anthology AFTER edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Ultimate Fan Contest!

 AHHH!!! If you thought the last contest was big, I can't wait to share this one for you! Because I've been working on this prize for three years. Seriously! I've saved up stuff from before I was even published for this prize!

Basically, this prize is HUGE collection of everything AtU. I've saved up all the promo stuff, all the little extras, everything--just to give away to ONE fan of the books!

If you love AtU, then this is the contest for you. The prize is so rare that some of this stuff is entirely one-of-a-kind, and nearly all of it is so rare it's not even sold in stores--it was just used for super-limited promo items, often only given to top booksellers.

Wanna see?

Reallly? Reallllllly? Okay!

Look at all the goodness!!

Full prize list: 
--A complete signed trilogy of all three books
--Signed copies of the two anthologies with AtU stories in them: 
SHARDS & ASHES (which just came out in ARC form!) and a hardback of AFTER.
--A "Name a Star" kit--you get to name a star anything you want! 
--A Godspeed water bottle made of metal
--An Across the Universe watch--so rare that only a handful were made!
--A container of astronaut candy
--A custom, hand-made bracelet featuring characters from AtU made by SweetGeek
--A cover flat of the original paperback of AtU--only a few of these exist, and yours will be signed!
--A CD by the band Snow Patrol called "A Hundred Million Suns"
--Buttons, rubber-band bracelets, postcards, bookmarks
--Two hidden, secret prizes

Yes! Two hidden, secret prizes. They're in the middle of the picture above, wrapped up like presents. The reason why they're hidden is because they're slightly spoilery. These two prizes are VERY relevant to Shades of Earth, and I think SUPER fun and exciting, but because they're a teeny bit of a spoiler, I've hidden them in this picture. If you want to see what they are, though, then CLICK HERE. I made a whole new webpage that shows what these super-secret prizes are. 

Here are some close-ups of the prizes.

-Signed paperback of Across the Universe
-Signed paperback of A Million Suns
-Signed ARC of Shades of Earth
-Signed ARC of Shards & Ashes--This anthology features stories by Melissa Marr, Kelley Armstrong Margie Stohl, Kami Garcia, Veronica Roth, and more! My story in this antho is "Love is a Choice" and tells Orion's history.
-Signed hardback of After--This anthology features stories by Carrie Ryan, Gregory Maguirre, Cecil Castellucci and more! My story in this antho is "The Other Elder" and tells about the origination of the Eldest system on Godspeed. 

-A metal Godspeed water bottle--just a few of these were made, and given to book bloggers, reviewers, bookstore owners and more at the launch of the first book.
-An AtU watch. Only a few dozen of these were made, and only given to a few, select bookstore owners. That's it. There's hardly any of these still in existence! (Also, btw, the watch doesn't work--I suspect the battery's dead? But it's still new in its package.) 

A custom, hand-made, one-of-a-kind charm bracelet by SweetGeek! 
but I can tell you that it features three characters--Amy, Elder, and Harley--as well as books, an ice cube, a paint pallet, Amy's bear Amber, a book, and more!

In addition to one grand prize winner,
there will be TWO runner-ups!

--Signed trilogy of all three books
-Astronaut candy
-ONE runner up will get a water bottle, one won't

That's it! Three prizes, one of them truly grand and unique :) Obviously, I want these special prizes to go to someone who will really appreciate it, a true fan of the books. This is a prize that I hope you want and love as much as I searched for and collected the perfect pieces of it. So I definitely want it to go to someone who will actually care about having it, and really is a fan of the books.

So, in order to enter, all you have to do is tell me that you're a fan of the books. That's it! Super simple--I'll randomly draw from the list of everyone who enters. Of course, there are ways to earn extra entries. The easy way to enter is just click on the list of all the common ways people are fans. Have you read the books? That counts! Have you told a friend about them or done a review? Those count! Just pick from the list whatever you've done (or plan to do) and that all counts as an entry! You can use any of the links to the sidebar on the right ---> for the "follow me" options, and you can download pre-made Across the Universe avatars at the AtU website!

But if you're a SUPER fan, you get MORE entries. Just make a post (or email me) with what sets you apart from the regular fan. Write fan fic? Made a fan website? Fan art? Entered the Creative Contest before--or making a creative entry now? All of that counts--and more! Just let me know what you've done, and I'll add in an extra number of entries based on what I think is fair for your ultimate fan entry. If you've done a ton of stuff, you get a ton of entries :)

The contest IS open internationally. I love all my fans :) <3 nbsp="nbsp">

Contest is open until December 21st. I'll announce a winner by Christmas Eve. 

Thanks for playing, everyone! The contest is now closed, and the winners are:
GRAND PRIZE: Jasmine L. 
Guys! I wish I could have given every single person a prize. Seriously.
You are all amazing.
Your stories and support mean the world to me.
YOU are the best Christmas present I could ask for.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Thanks everyone for understanding the delay in announcing winners for the contests I've been running! I was going to be a huge tease and draw it out, but why wait? :)

Winner of the Signed Paperback Copy of A MILLION SUNS:



Winner of the Library of Signed YA Books
(Including a COMPLETE AtU trilogy by me!)

Her entry on why she loves YA is HERE.


Thanks for playing everyone! Winners have been contacted by email.

And if you didn't win, don't despair! I've got a few more ginormous contests in the works for you, one of which will be announced by the end of this week! And don't forget that the League is holding a huge giveaway right now, too--12 signed books up for grabs!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Slight Delay

Hey guys! Just wanted to let everyone know that I had to go out of town suddenly for an unexpected trip. I can only access the Internet with my phone, which can't open Rafflecopter forms--so I can't pick a winner for my big contest until I get back on Wednesday. Also, if you're having any trouble with the YA Scavenger Hunt, the other authors should be able to help on the YASH homepage. Thanks for understanding and see you next week!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

YA Scavenger Hunt Winter 2012!

Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This tri-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors...and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize--one lucky winner will receive one signed book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!
Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are TWO contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the RED TEAM--but there is also a red team for a chance to win a whole different set of twenty-five signed books!

If you'd like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt homepage.


Directions: Below, you'll notice that I've listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the red team, and then add them up (don't worry, you can use a calculator!). 

Entry Form: Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian's permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by August 5, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.


Today, I am hosting my good friend Elana Johnson on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt! Elana Johnson’s work, including Possession, Surrender, and Regret, published by Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster), is available now everywhere books are sold. School teacher by day, Query Ninja by night, you can find her online at her personal blog or Twitter. She also co-founded the Query Tracker blog, and contributes to the League of Extraordinary Writers.

Find out more information by checking out the author website or find more about Elana's books here!


The hunt is over--exclusive content is back on lock down :)


To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author--Nancy Holder! Click here to continue the journey! Also, PS: I'm holding a huge contest in both December and January--so be sure to check back here for more info on that. December's contest opens next week!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Writing Wednesday: How to Find Critique Partners

Ah! It's been a bit since I've done a Writing Wednesday! Sorry, guys!! Gearing up for SHADES OF EARTH launch has been all-consuming (speaking of, zomg, Penguin just sent me more ARCs for prizes! yay!).

I also did a (failed attempt at) NaNoWriMo, as well as a "Ask a Published YA Author" forum. I think perhaps the most common questions we've gotten have dealt with critique partners, so I thought I'd turn it into a post.

Q: Do I really need a critique partner?
A: Yes.

Q: Why do I need a crit partner?
A: Because you're not perfect. Because everyone needs help to write better. Because you cannot see the forest for the trees. Because you cannot identify your own mistakes--very few people can. Because critiquing other people's work will help you learn to identify your own mistakes, and because that will make you a better writer. Because it's a part of being professional. Because it's cheaper than hiring an editor--and you can rarely trust someone you pay money to be honest with your flaws. Because if you want to be a professional writer (i.e. published), then you have to learn to work with others on editing a manuscript.

Q: But how can I be sure a crit partner won't steal my ideas/book?
A: Don't be paranoid. Also? If I told you the idea of my next book, would you write it? Or would you rather write your own idea? We all have an idea of what we want to write--and writers are stubborn by nature and are unlikely to abandon their idea for yours. Also also? The key is the writing not the idea.

Q: What kinds of crit parnters/groups are there?
A: Here's a list--and I've used all of these different kinds of readers in the past:

  • Alpha reader: someone who reads pages as you write them. If you have trouble finishing a novel, this might be a good fit--you and the Alpha Reader both swap a set number of pages a week (for example, you each agree to write/swap 50 pages a month). Pros: You get the work done and catch some problems as they come. Cons: An alpha reader will often get too close to the work to see for the forest for the trees; you almost always need someone else who can look at the work as a whole after.
  • Beta reader: someone who reads a complete draft of a novel. If you have a manuscript done, you need someone who can fulfill this role. It's preferable to have someone entirely new (i.e. not your alpha reader)--fresh eyes are important. Pros: You get a holistic idea of what needs to be done to fix your manuscript. Cons: This often takes a long time to complete--make sure you're clear about any deadlines you may have before swapping. Also, be clear about the type of edit you need (i.e. you want the reader to focus on plot and characters rather than grammar).
  • Gamma reader: this is someone who reads after you've finished all edits. I have used gamma readers in the past to make sure that I've fixed everything the beta readers caught and let me know if the book is ready to be submitted. Pros: Usually quicker than a beta read, because the manuscript is all cleaned up now. Cons: Still takes a long time to read a whole book.
  • Critique Partner: anyone who reads for you. The term "crit partner" can refer to an alpha reader, a beta reader, or anyone else who helps critique your manuscript. Note the word "partner"--you cannot expect someone to help you without you offering to help them
  • Critique Group: this is when more than two people are involved in subbing a book. Typically, there's a schedule (i.e. Person A subs a set number of chapters/pages in week 1, Person B subs in week 2, etc.).  Pros: You get several different opinions simultaneously, which is very helpful. Stronger and better discussion on your work. Cons: To get through everyone's work this way may take a long time. 

Q: So how do I find a crit partner?
A: That's a little harder--and easier--than you might think. Here's some methods that have worked for me:

  • Writers Forums: NaNoWriMo was a good place to start, but there's lots of writers forums throughout the internet. Become a part of the community, and then, when you find people who seem to be on the same page as you, offer to swap pages. In my early years, I participated on the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest--I didn't come close to winning, but I found my first critique group through the message boards here.
  • SCBWI or other professional organizations: if you have a local chapter, see if there's a chance of meeting in person--that can be invaluable. Even if not, take advantage of list-servs. If there's no crit groups, just ask! Professional organizations are a great place to start because you have a higher chance of working with a serious writer rather than a hobbyist. 
  • Blogs: if there's someone who has a blog and you admire their style, try emailing them to see if they want to swap pages. If you own a blog, you might want to consider an "open call" for crit partners--although do put them on trial first (see below). I've nabbed two crit partners through blogs. 
Q: Anything else I should know about crit partners?
A: Yes. Here's a list:
  • This is a professional relationship, not a friendship, although the lines can get blurry. If you're working with a writer who doesn't get your work, who isn't critical enough--or is too critical, whose work is miles ahead of or behind yours, then stop working with that person. It will do neither of you any good to stay in a working relationship that's not working.
  • Put crit partners on trial before you use them. One method I used was to ask to see the query letter and first fifty pages of a manuscript before swapping the whole book. This gave me an idea of their professionalism (the query letter is a dead giveaway between amateur and pro) as well as writing style. If I wasn't interested in the book, if I felt I had nothing to contribute--or that it would take me too long to help--or anything else that was a red flag, we both agreed to back away.
  • Don't be afraid to break up crit groups. I joined an online crit group where everyone swapped chapters on a weekly basis (i.e., I sent out 2 chapters in week one, the next person sent out 2 chapters in week two, etc., etc.). Out of 5 other people in the group, there was only 1 that I thought was a good connection for my work. So I dropped out of the group, but contacted her separately, offering to work with her alone rather than the rest of the group. It was a great decision--she's still one of my crit partners!
  • Make sure you have similar goals with your crit partners. 
To see a complete list of writing posts as well as request topics, please see the master Writing Wednesday post here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

AtU Featured on Good Morning Texas!

This post could also be titled, "Reason Number 5478945230 I Love Texas!" I just found out that Good Morning Texas featured the Across the Universe trilogy as a book series to pick up after Hunger Games! Gwen Reyes from Fresh Fiction is the Literary Expert, and I want to give her a huge hug for picking my books to feature! You can see the full video here or here or below :)

Gwen describes my book as "a good book for families to read together" and "for fans of The Hunger Games" and reminds everyone that if you start reading right now, you'll be just in time for the release of Shades of Earth in January!

*flails about*

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Paperback Book Birthday!

Hurrah! Today's the day A Million Suns officially comes out in paperback! I'm so excited about this--it's still honestly such a thrill to know my book is out in the world.

I know the cover redesign has been a little controversial, but you guys. When you see it in real life--wow. It's stunning. And they look so good all lined up together!

To celebrate the release of A Million Suns' paperback, I'm holding another contest (do I know how to celebrate in any other way? Um...nope! And don't forget: this contest still has 8 more days to enter.)

Thanks for celebrating the paperback release of A Million Suns with me! You guys are the BEST. (And yes, this contest is open internationally!)

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Monday, November 19, 2012

On Mistakes

Yesterday, I wrote about how I went to the fine art museum at the Bellagio, and that I saw Grainstacks at Sunset, a painting I mention in Across the Universe. I saw another painting, and it really struck me as amazing, and I want to talk about it now.

This painting, Woodgathers at the Edge of the Forest by Monet in 1863 was one I barely glanced at when I started wandering through the collection. I thought there was an odd shadow in it, but thought nothing of it. Fortunately, the docent tour started soon after, and the docent spoke about this one specifically.

See, if you look at the painting just right, you can see the faint remains of a tree sprouting right in the middle of the painting.

I've looked online (to no avail) to find a detailed image of this. It's the sort of thing you'd NEVER see unless you just happened to be standing in the right corner, when the light hits it just so. And suddenly, you can't help but see the perfect outline of a tree hidden behind the blue paint of the sky and the green of the grass.

It was there. Monet just edited it out.

It was sort of amazing to see a mistake in a work of art by Monet. We see the end result, and we often forget the work that goes into it. There's a saying--it's been going around Pinterest but I can't find it atm--about how we usually judge others by their end results whereas we're still looking at our own finished products. It's easy to see how brilliant others are when all we see is the finished result. I read books sometimes and I stand in awe of their brilliance and despair of my own work. But I am looking at my tree that I've yet to cover up with paint.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

On Art

I'm currently in sunny Las Vegas for the NCTE/ALAN conference, and I have the privilege to be staying at the Bellagio, famous for the fountains that go off in time with music (which, ironically enough, my room faces away from and I have yet to see!). I've never stayed at a classy casino before. Once, in college, I and a group of friends all split a room at Circus, Circus, but it wasn't exactly classy.

Anyway, I went exploring the casino today, and discovered that there's actually rather a lot of art at the Bellagio, something I'd never known before. They have a theater for Cirque du Soliel (which I'm seeing tonight! With Marie Lu! SQUEE!) and right beside it is a gallery of art inspired by the performances by sculpter Richard MacDonald.

It was stunning, and I'm so glad I got to see it before the performance. It really gave me an appreciation of the body as art.

The Bellagio also had a fine art gallery (another surprise!) and from now until January 6, they're displaying a Monet exhibit. I had to go--not just because I like art and Monet, but because the star of the show was this painting:

If you've read Across the Universe, you might recognize this beauty, Grainstacks at Sunset. When Elder sees Amy for the first time, frozen in ice, he thinks:
It's her hair that pulls me forward. It's so red. I've never seen red hair before, not outside of pictures, and the pictures never caught the vivacity of these burnished strands tangled in the ice. Harley has a book of paintings he stole from the Recorder Hall, and one of the paintings is just a series of haystacks at different times of the day. He showed me the last painted haystack, the one covered in snow, the one at sunset. Harley went loons over it, saying how the artist was so brilliant to paint stuff with different light...
This was the painting I was thinking of when I wrote that passage. And today I got to see it in real life.*

I love art. And I love seeing the real thing, not just a print or an image on a screen. It was surreal getting to see this painting just as the last book of the trilogy is being printed. I won't lie: I got a little teary.

Especially because, for the first time in my life, I could see the real detail of this painting. I had no idea the paint was so thick. I wonder if he gobbed the paint on, or if it just accumulated brushstroke after brushstroke. I've always thought that the colors in most impressionist works was just a sort of playful bit to add to the painting--throw in a spot of bright red or blue or gold, just for effect. But seeing it in real life made me realize why each color was important, the role the bright plays in the muted.

There are tiny little lines of red and yellow around the edges of the haystack that make it feel like light, real light. The docent at the museum gave a little speech about this piece, and he mentioned that to Monet, the subject of the painting wasn't a haystack, but was light itself. I can understand that now, seeing it in person. The light is the most visceral thing in the whole painting.

The sunshine felt warm; the glow seemed real.

There's no real point to this post except maybe this: whenever you can, find art.

*You might notice that there's no snow in this painting, but I mention it in the quote. There are snow-covered haystacks in the collection by Monet, but the painting I was referring to was actually this one. Having never seen it in real life and after looking at dozens of images by Monet, including the snow-covered ones, I mistook the paler spots on the ground as snow.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Where Ideas Come From

I've been thinking a lot about process lately. About story ideas, and where they come from, and how to make them work. About good ideas and bad ideas and good ideas that aren't bad but aren't good enough, either.

Anyway, this all led to me thinking about process, and so I decided to write a bit about the very first days of a story, the point where something rises from the ether.

This is basically the answer for anyone who asks, "Where do you get your ideas?"

Because I was thinking so much about how I think, I broke this down much more than I normally do--usually my brainstorming is a scattered collection of random notes and ideas, nothing so organized as this.

But first I start with a list. I thought of my favorite books, movies, and manga, and listed both them and a few of things I really liked about the stories. The list was varied--whatever I was thinking of the time, including classic faves such as Firefly and Harry Potter, but also a recent read--Clockwork Angel, which I've not even finished yet, but adore. I'd also like to point out that this is a reflection of book ideas I've already been thinking of--if you were to see my brainstorming list I made in my head before working on Across the Universe, it would reflect a very different list.

Then I went through and highlighted similarities. I noticed right off the bat that a lot of what I'd listed featured an ensemble cast and comedy in some way (usually through at least one sarcastic/funny character). I also underlined or circled some of the things that weren't similar with other things, but that I really like anyway (such as the different houses in Harry Potter).

As I was still brainstorming this one, I remembered another show that I'd forgotten to list, and I was quickly able to see the key about what features I, personally, enjoy in a story.

Something definitely clicked when I added Doctor Who (the Doctor would be proud). The thing that I love about DW is that it mixes the comedic with the tragic, usually though some sort of sacrifice. In the end, the Doctor is a sacrificial character who's incredibly funny, and I love that.

So, all this thinking helped put me in the mindset of my next step: transferring the things I love into a story of my own.

So, my brainstorming had led me to two key details that I like in stories and wanted to see in my own: sacrifice and comedy. And I tend to think in terms of plot and characters, so it was easy for me to separate these ideas--I wanted (at least one) funny characters and a plot that would center on some type of sacrifice.

Now I want to point out a few things. First, setting comes last for me. This is not true of everyone. Some people think of setting first, then populate the world. But I think of plot/characters, then make the setting fit it. For Across the Universe, I came up with Amy and Elder first, then the mystery, then the ship. The ship came last--and because (in genre fiction) setting does so much to dictate the genre, I feel compelled to point out that the genre came last for me, too. I didn't set out to write a sci fi. I set out to write Amy and Elder's story, and it became a sci fi.

And I'm pointing this out because this is very very individual. Writers don't all work the same way, and I don't want you to think this is the only way.

Which leads to my second addendum: What works for one author, doesn't work for all. If I had given another author the exact same list of books and movies, she would have come up with different things she liked about them and different inspirations. My favorite character in Firefly is Captain Mal--but if someone like River better, or Zoe or Kaylee or Jayne, the result would be a different idea, a different inspiration, a different book.

Someone on the NaNo board recently asked about whether or not she should worry about people stealing her plot idea. Here's why she shouldn't: no one will come up with the same book based on the same idea. I feel absolutely no fear in showing you any of this because I know even though I've posted my brainstorming, (a) you have no idea what I'm going to write based on it, and (b) even if you did, you couldn't write the same story as me. Every story is distinct and individual.

Okay, moving on. So at this point, I've come up with two puzzle pieces--I would like to have some humor, and I would like to have some sacrifice, and it's all a part of the plot and characters. I extrapolated from there:

This was basically just elaboration on the ideas. For plot, I like two things: the characters who, in the final battle, have to "give it all" in a self sacrifice. Basically, I want the fight to the death. And I also really want a sympathetic villain--that's important to me, and I didn't want to forego that in the work.

For the characters, I figured that I'd like the comedy to come from a flirty bad boy--think Captain Mal, Han Solo, Will Herondale. And to counteract that, I'd like to have a quiet girl heroine--but I want her to kick absolute ass. The boy is the bluff, the girl is the bomb.

But a key thing in a lot of the stories I brainstormed was an ensemble cast--I've long wanted to do something with a big cast of characters, each unique. And my fave character of an ensemble is the "weapons guy"--the guy who just wants to blow stuff up. This is Jayne in Firefly or even Sam in iCarly. I want the guy or girl who throws punches first and doesn't even bother to ask questions later.

This is basically where I'm at now. It's mostly just a wish-list for a book I want to write--I've gathered the ingredients, but I don't know if it'll make a cake or an omelet, and I'm not sure if it'll even be tasty. And just to clarify--this is all very nebulous right now, and not something I've written even one word of, so it might not happen. This is the very very early stages of an idea.

But at least it's a start!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Liberate the Lush! In Which I Bribe Myself

So. Yesterday, I said that if I made it to 10k words, I got to buy the stuff that I put in my Lush shopping cart. Because ZOMG, I love Lush stuff, but super expensive, yo.



I didn't make it to 10k words.

I made it to almost 9k words.

Which is SO. CLOSE.

And I even went to bed early in the hopes of wrapping up that last 1k of words and then splurge on Lush.



I mean, look. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries are WAY GOOD. And I don't have good enough internet at home to watch them, so I was way behind. And also the internet here at the retreat IS good enough. And.



So I stayed up two more hours watching The Lizzie Bennet Diaries instead of writing. Even WITH a shopping cart full of Lush stuff to bribe me. (Which, btw, should tell you how awesome TLBD is, and means that you should start watching now, like stat. Here, start here.)



I do have a book that needs to be, um, written. That's probably a crucial step in this whole I'm-a-professional-writer-and-should-actually-write thing.

And I love this story, and want to write it. But I'm hesitating for lots of stupid reasons.

But....I also still want the Lush stuff.

So! New goal! If I write 20k words by the time I go home on Tuesday, I get to buy all the stuff in my Lush shopping cart.

That's a big jump in word count. I know. But I've been stagnant too long, and Lush stuff is expensive, and it deserves a big push.

So...can I do it??? I don't know! I honestly don't! I'm def setting myself a goal here that I don't know if I'll make--which is actually kinda exciting...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Live-Blogging, NaNo & Retreat Edition

As long-time readers know, occasionally I'll live-blog my writing. Basically, what this means is, I make a post and update it periodically throughout the day with stats on how much writing I've done. I usually do this to kickstart my butt in gear and get back on a roll after I've lost said roll.

For this particularly live-blog, I'll add this: I'm working on a NaNo novel. And while I had gotten up to 10k, I deleted back down to about 600 words and started over--it was the right thing to do, and I don't regret it, but darn, I need to get my wordcount way the heck up again. I *know* what needs to happen in this story, I've just not written it yet (like, not at all).

Also: I'm at a retreat! Yay! And this retreat is one with a huge focus on work (as opposed to, you know, drinking), which means even more I SHOULD BE WRITING. But I'm two days down, and haven't touched the NaNo book yet. (Day 1 = travel, Day 2 = finishing up something super secret that you don't get until January.)


So! Stats!

Word Count At Start of the Day: 3699

Round One: 3699 words.
Time: 10am
Status: I've basically finished the opening scenes, where everything gets set into motion. Now it's time to push my character into accepting her fate and going off to ADVENTURE!

Round Two: 3919 words
Time: 10:30
Status: I wrote a paragraph, then checked email. Sigh. I'm going to have to turn off the internet, aren't I?

Round Three: 4399 words
Time: 10:47
Status: Okay! Boring stuff of getting the character from Point A to Point B is done. Now for fun things! I CAN DO THIS!

Time: 11:09
Status: I got an email from Lush, and then I went shopping, and now there's $100 worth of bubble bath in my online cart and no more words on my manuscript.

Round Four: 4852 words
Time: 11:27
Status: I had to stop in order to research sheep. Yes, really.

Round Five: 5420 words
Time: 11:46
Status: Yes! Getting back into the groove. I've decided that if I hit 10k words by the end of the night, I get to actually buy that $100 worth of bubble bath in my Lush cart. Carrot, meet stick.

Round Six: 5642 words
Time: 12:05
Status: Lunch! And then describing the hot new boy character! Yay!

Round Seven: 5903 words
Time: 12:56
Status: Lunch is OVER, time for SRS BSNSS.

Round Eight: 6837 words
Time: 1:23
Status: Chapter finished. Yes! Now for some MAGIC.

Round Nine: 7349
Time: 1:46
Status: I need Goldfish crackers in order to survive. That is all.
...15 minutes later...
I wish I had the Jedi Force, and could make the Goldfish crackers just float to me...

Time: 2:33
Status: Well, I got my goldfish crackers. Also? You know what's fun? Not working. Also, the Internet.

Round Ten: 7757
Time: 3:08
Status: Ugh. I think I need a break. Right? I'm taking a break. That swimming pool looks nice...

Round Eleven: 7757
Time: 4:44
Status: Mmmm, swimming was nice. So. I have to get to 10k before I go to bed in order to get all those Lush goodies. Hm. I think it's worth it...? (Also: WOO! NY Times list was announced and Laini Taylor and Carrie Ryan both listed--YAY!)

Status: After a delicious dinner, I spent the evening talking with my friends at the retreat. This is the best part of retreats, and the reason I go to so many: days are spent focused on words with other people also focused on words. Evenings are spent talking, and it's great fun. I always learn something new, I always find out about books I'd not known of before, and I always come away with astounding memories.

Word Count At End of the Day: 8829

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Charleston is the Place to Be this Weekend!


If you are anywhere near or in Charleston--or you can feasibly get there this weekend--you need to be there.


Yesssssssssssssssssss! Y'All Fest is one of my favorite book festivals  and I have the privilege of attending again this year!

You can get the full schedule and details here. But here's where I'll be:

Melissa de la Cruz (Blue Bloods), Cinda Chima (Seven Realms), Caitlin Kittredge (The Iron Thorn), Kim Derting (The Body Finder), Siobhan Vivian and Jenny Han (Burn for Burn) 
Moderator: Beth Revis (Across the Universe) 

Beth Revis (Across the Universe), Kathy Reichs (Virals), Dave Macinnis Gill (Black Hole Sun), Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Raised by Wolves), Kimberly Derting (The Body Finder), Diana Peterfreund (Rampant) 
Moderator: Rose Brock

There will also be signings! And books! And pie! So be there! For all of that!!

Side note: This will be my last open public appearance until January 2013 (I'll be doing more events later this month for NCTE/ALA, but you have to be a part of those organizations to attend.) But! I've already got several things in the works for January and February!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Corollary to NaNoWriMo, or, Why I'm Prouder of 600 Words than 10,000

Those of you who've been doing NaNo with me may have noticed something on my stats:

Let me blow that up for you a bit:

You can see that on days 3-4 I was pretty much stuck. No improvement. Then Day 5, I did a massive cut. Day 6, I cut more. I'm down to 600 words right now. 

Some of you noticed and were concerned (thank you; that's sweet!), but here's the thing.

Nothing bad happened.

I was getting close to 10k words. And then, on Day 5, I realized: that was the wrong 10k words.

So I deleted them all. 

Then I got in an interesting email convo with someone who'll remain nameless (but who's cool with me writing about this today; I asked). First, she advised that I put the words back. Her reasoning:

"You can still count them so you can win NaNo."

I. Um. I'll be honest here. I didn't realize people were that concerned about "winning" NaNo. When I signed up, I signed up for the momentum and community. I thought it would be fun to do this craziness with other people. I liked the stat record--long-time readers will remember how often I do live-blogging to keep myself accountable and to kick my writing in gear when I get stuck. 

I didn't do it to win.

Now, that said, I would like to have 50k by the end of the month. I'd love it. Given the prep work I've put into this, I'd actually like to have more than 50k by the end of the month, even with my cutting and slow start.

But I don't care about "winning."

My friend on email was still a bit shocked. "The point of NaNo is to push through doubt," she said. "Just keep writing."

Me: "But I have no doubt that those 10k words are wrong. And there's no point to keep writing on something that's not right."

Her: "But you're supposed to turn your inner editor off," she said. "And just write."

Me: "I am writing. Deleting the wrong words is part of writing."

Her: " you're behind. You were ahead, and now you're behind." 

Me: "But...I'm ahead on getting the right story."

Her: "...but you're going to lose NaNo."

I was honestly a little surprised by her reaction. Is it that important to "win" NaNo? I mean--it's just a number. And it's fine if your goal is just get a certain number of words on the page. But it's better to get the right words on the page. If you're stalling, or fretting, or worrying--that's one thing. Push through that. But if you know you've gone off the wrong path, don't stay there. 

In short: do what's right for you. I'm still in NaNo, and I still intend to "win." But I'm also still prouder of the 600 words I currently have than the 10k words I had a few days ago. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Celebrate Books & Win a Library of Signed YA Books

I love books. Like, I really love books. And I kind of have a habit of collecting signed books. I like to support YA authors, and I love to support bookstores, so whenever possible, I buy signed books from indie bookstores.

Now, you might remember that at the beginning of the year, I made a resolution to not do any events alone. (Proof of my resolution!) Events are just so much more fun with other authors! So, starting with my very first events in January this year, all the way through the end of September of this year, I've collected signed books of every author I did an event with (plus a few extras that I nabbed at the indie bookstores I visited along the way).

And I'm giving them all away to one lucky winner.

That's write! One lucky winner is going to win an entire library of SIGNED YA BOOKS. That's right:

Every single book in the giveaway is SIGNED.

And when I say library, I mean library--there are nearly FIFTY books up for grabs here!

Wanna see the stash?

First up, you'll get a signed copy of ALL my books in the shiny new covers:

You'll also get a signed copy of all the books of the lovely ladies who were with me for my debut parties in NC, NYC, and CT:

And you're going to get a signed copy of each of the books by the lovely ladies who were with me on the Breathless Reads Tour of Awesome:

And I had the very great fortune to be a part of two wonderful retreats that also did bookstore events, so I nabbed a signed copy of each of their books, too... (Note: The Springsweet is an ARC)

And I got lucky enough to bribe coerce nicely ask people to come visit the lovely Asheville and Malaprops, where I was able to procure signed copies of their books...

And let's not forget Ascendio 2012, the amazingly wonderful Harry Potter conference where I got to meet up with some of my favorite authors and get them to sign their books...

And I was absolutely thrilled to be a part of the Smart Chicks Kick It Tour in Edmonton, Canada so I could add a ton more signed books to my carry-on luggage... (Note: Beautiful Creatures is signed by Margie but not Kami.)

This summer, I also traipsed around in Texas where I got a chance to finally meet my longtime friend Tricia and new friend Kari at BookPeople in Austen, as well as get signed copies.


And then I just nabbed signed books wherever I festivals, indie bookstores, and anywhere else I could grab more signed books for you! (Note: Dust & Decay is signed, but not Rot & Ruin--but I figured you'd rather have the first and second book, even if only one is signed.)

 And as a last special treat, if the entries for this contest hit 10,000--which I know you guys can do--I'm adding more book to the grouping, After, the dystopian anthology I was able to be a part of--and it's signed by eight of the authors in the antho, including Gregory Maguirre and Ellen Datlow!
Bonus book!
SO! How do you win this plethora of SIGNED YA books?! A prize pack this big would completely alter the size of someone's library and collection of signed books! And I want to give people several chances to win. (And I am terribly sorry, but this giveaway is open only to American addresses. It's already going to be rather expensive to ship fifty books within America. You are, of course, welcome to enter and donate the books to an American library or school, or to coordinate with a friend in America to receive the shipment--as long as I only ship to one American address.)

There are several ways to enter: you can tweet about it, Facebook, etc., but I figured that with a bigger prize, people who do extra deserve extra entries.

The simplest way to earn extra entries is to share the graphic I designed for the contest (and also please share the link to this page, too). To make it easy for you to share this, I've included the html for the graphic here, already linked up :) You can also just save the graphic from this post, if that's easier for you. You get extra entries for putting it in the sidebar of your website, but you can also share it on any social media as well.

Share the Love of YA

But to get the big entries, you need to share the love of YA. It's simple! Make a blog post (or FB note, or whatevs) and let the world know: Why do you love YA? It's November--the month of giving thanks--so let us know why you're thankful for YA. You can write about the genre itself, or about a favorite author, or about a favorite book. It's wide open: just let the world know why you like YA! Also: you absolutely don't have to write about me. This isn't about me--it's about the love of YA. The only requirement is that you also include the above graphic and a link back to the contest.

That's it! Questions? Let me know in the comments here. The contest runs the entire month of November--so spread the word now!

Remember: to enter, you must fill in the Rafflecopter below.

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