Thursday, June 27, 2013

All the Nomz: Great Recipes + A Great Charity

I was recently invited to join in a super fun project, and I'm happy to say that it's now available for everyone! All the Nomz! is a recipe book by and for geeks. Basically, geeks from all walks of life--authors, actors, artists, gamers, and more--submitted recipes for this very special cookbook. I'm honored to have a recipe alongside Tara Platt, Sandeep Parikh, Nathan Sawaya, and so many others. I'm seriously pinching myself that I was able to sub a recipe!

The recipes in this cookbook cover everything from snacks to main courses, and they show a wide variety of skills, ingredients, and more. My recipe is what I call "healthy writer's fuel"--when I eat it, I feel like I can write all day! And lest you think it's too healthy, my "writer's fuel" is the perfect vehicle for both cheese and bacon, so feel free to take out the healthy adjective whenever you like.

And the awesome part of All the Nomz! is that every penny from every purchase of the book goes directly to an amazing charity, Child's Play. A charity since 2003, Child's Play is "a game industry charity dedicated to improving the lives of children with toys and games in our network of over 70 hospitals worldwide" (source). There are children all around the world who have to face situations no child should face, and Child's Play brings a little joy and sunlight back to those children in the form of games, entertainment, and fun.

I've long been a fan of Child's Play, and I'm so happy that I was able to make a small contribution to the organization in the form of a recipe. If you're with me and want to help out, you can buy All the Nomz! You'll get:
  • an awesome cookbook that's nearly 80 pages long that features such amazing recipes as writer's fuel, R2-D2 cupcakes, and One Bread to Rule them All
  • the satisfaction that you helped bring a smile to a sick child's face, since 100% of funds raised go straight to Child's Play
  • a virtual high-five from me
To find out more, just go here. The recommended donation is just $5. And to sweeten the deal and help spread the word, I'm going to give away THREE copies of All the Nomz! Just spread the word about this charity-driven recipe book, fill out the Rafflecopter below, and you're entered to win! (Open internationally.)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Defy the Dark & Win Prizes!

Yesterday I talked all about the awesome debut authors found through the contest Saundra held for Defy the Dark. They are, simply, brilliant--as are all the stories in the anthology! There are 17 other short stories in the antho, each one better than the next. 
And to help make sure everyone check the antho out, we're having a contest!

Prizes! One lucky winner will get a hardcover copy of DEFY THE DARK and also my most recent title, SHADES OF EARTH, plus some awesome DEFY THE DARK swag (glow-in-the-dark bracelets! shiny bookmarks!) courtesy of Saundra Mitchell!

How to Enter: Enter using the Rafflecopter below. You have two ways to enter: tweet about the contest and/or let me know which story you're most excited to read. (Personally, I'd prefer that you let me know through a blog comment so that the authors can see the excitement, but because Google seems to be doing screwy things to the commenting system, you can also just leave your answer inside the Rafflecopter.) 

Want another chance to win Defy the Dark? Come to my Charlotte signing, August 2nd, at the Huntersville Barnes and Noble, to see me, Carrie Ryan, and Aprilynne Pike. I'll be giving away one copy there--and all three of us will sign it for you! More details here.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Defy the Dark Short Stories

Today we're celebrating short stories--specifically those found in the Defy the Dark anthology edited by Saundra Mitchell.

I've mentioned before how honored I was to be invited to participate in this antho, and how awesome it is to work with Saundra. But one of the things that made this antho even more spectacular was that Saundra did something I've never seen before in an anthology.

She solicited manuscripts from never-before-published author to be included in the anthology.

The contest, understandably, had more than a thousand entries--and nearly three and a half million words and Saundra read them all. And gave feedback. So when we say Saundra is awesome, we mean it.

In the end, there could be only three winners--one to be published in the anthology, and two more to be published online at

The Sunflower Murders
by Kate Espey
Read the full story in Defy the Dark

This short story is the grand prize winner, the one published in the anthology. And, as fate would have it, it's also the story published directly after my own, which makes me feel all sorts of awesome about it.

I can absolutely see why Kate won the contest and a spot in the antho. "The Sunflower Murders" is beautifully written, a vignette about life and death and the inconsequentiality and vast importance of both. There are lines in the story that just stun me with their deftness. Lines like:
She had unspeakable things done to her that everyone spoke about anyway...
Something was ending. Like a story coming to a close and there would be no epilogue, no To Be Continued.
Beautiful, no?  Kate perfectly grasped the horror of death and placed it beside the normalcy of it, something that is no easy feat. This amazingly talented highschooler definitely has a bright future ahead of her!

After Illume
by Emily Skrutskie
Read the full story online

Guys. Guys. It's a short story about space. You know I love that shizz! This sci fi short had me from the opening line (seriously, go read it). It starts with a serious bang--the modules of the Illume have broken apart due to a chunk of ice striking it, and the narrator is stuck inside one, with only the limited air, food, and water she has with her. 

The narrator is fine with being alone--she was hired for the job because she could handle solitude in a space station--but she now faces a slow, lonely death in the dark void of space. 

Or...not so alone. Because there is Samara. A voice sent from "the other side" to comfort the dying. But there's more to it than that. 

Of course there is. 

This story is smart. It touches on both the future and history, with a main character who's clever. And there's some whip-smart narration, too:
According to this wacky old psychology that some fart named Maslow came up with, I’m not actually allowed to need a nonessential like coffee more than human companionship, but the bastard’s wrong.
Go. Read it. 

Read the full story online

You know how some how-to-write books throw around phrases like "unique voice" and "atmosphere?" Well, this short story has both of those in spades--a totally fresh, unique voice plus a setting that's as vivid as the characters.

You'd think a story about swamp witches and were-gators and bogwater would be, well, gross, but it's not. It's a different story wrapped up in a totally different world and sprinkled liberally with flashes of brilliant lines--like this one:
The other truth is that there are worse things in the swamp besides boys who are
sometimes gators and sometimes not.
And trust me--seriously, trust me on this--you absolutely don't want to miss the ending of this one. It's quite the twist.


You can read the two runners-up stories online for free right now, and the grand-prize winner is published in the anthology, available now. But check back tomorrow, because I'll be hosting a contest so that you can win your very own copy of DEFY THE DARK--and more!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Failure is not the Enemy

I write this post with the clear understanding that it is much easier for me to say these things on this side of the fence. Ten-years-ago-me would have punched present-me in the face for what I'm about to say.

Failure is not the enemy.

Failure is, in fact, a good thing.

Failure is when you strive for a goal and don't achieve it. For me, my biggest life goal was publication, and then being able to be a full-time writer. For a decade, I failed at this.

While I was in the middle of that decade of failure, well, failure sucked. I was pretty miserable. Sure, I had a happy face on, but there was this niggling knowledge that I had yet to achieve something I wanted. It was a hollow place inside me that was perpetually unfilled, a gaping wound no one but me could see.

I recently read this article on failure, and followed closely be reading an article on reddit in which a writer bemoaned that she had failed to have something published (having just gotten a rejection), and many in the community were quick to say it wasn't a failure, that she won just by having written it, and that she could always self-publish, that no words were wasted, etc., etc., etc.

Which is true.

But it's also not true. Because her goal had been traditional publication, and she failed to reach it in that moment.

The thing is--it's not about having failed or not. There's a clear answer there. She had failed. Just as I had failed for a decade. Recognizing that it was a failure is as clear as recognizing that the sky is blue, that grass is green. There's no point in calling something other than what it is; lying to yourself in this way is a band-aid on a broken arm.

What's not as easy to see is that failure is not a bad thing. It's just a thing.

Like I said, it's easy for me to say this now, with my life dream realized. But it is one of the few things I wish I could go back in time and tell myself.

Failure isn't the enemy. In fact, failure has been as sure a mentor to me as nearly anything else in my life.

Failure taught me:

Failure is inevitable. I will fail. We all will. And having failed, and gotten back up, and failed again, taught me that I can survive failure. This is a downfall in most modern stories: the hero always wins. Because while this story is inspiring, it's also false. In reality, not everyone wins. It's 100% true that no one wills all the time, and we expect that--every hero must fall at least once. But it's also 100% true that some people never win at all, and that's the thing we try so hard to ignore behind the pretty stories. I could spend the rest of my life trying to be a prima ballerina, and it would not happen. I would fail at that for the rest of my life.

Failure teaches us who we are. Because even though I know I would fail forever at being a prima ballerina, I also know that I am not someone who should be a prima ballerina. It's not who I am, it's not what I want. Of course I would fail at it. And that failure may hurt--it would be nice to be a ballerina, yes--but it would also teach me that it isn't the thing I want more than anything else. The thing I want more than anything else is to be a writer; so when I failed (for a decade) at being a writer, it wasn't something that I gave up on. My failure taught me how much I wanted to be a writer. I had tried other things in life--careers, hobbies. I played piano for a decade; I know how to sew and design clothes. But when I messed up Beethoven at the talent show, it stung--I was embarrassed--but it held none of the soul-crushing defeat of a rejection on a manuscript. And while I could play the piano--and I could play it technically well--I never had the passion within me to make it anything more than a hobby. My failures taught me who I am: failing at being a pianist was fine, because it wasn't who I was. Failing at writing was not, because it was.

Failure makes the success worth it. Even if it's something we love, when it comes easy, we don't appreciate it. I am grateful for every second of my life I get to say I'm an author, because for so long I was not. I am grateful for every aspect of the writing life, even the hard bits, because it's a part of the whole.

Failure makes us fearless. This is the thing that I think is perhaps the most important lesson of failure. I don't mean to harp on it, and I feel like I've said it a million times, but that decade before being published--it really shaped who I am. I spent ten years as a failure. I have over a thousand rejections. This isn't a hyperbole; it's not a lie. I have over a thousand rejections to my writing. More than a thousand times, someone told me I had failed to reach my goal.

Now, I've reached my goal. But I still carry around the rejection. Because...well, I know I will fail again. I'm published now, and I will be published for the next three years, as long as everything goes as planned and the contracts hold, etc. But after those three years? I want to be published more--but I have no guarantee. I have no way of knowing that everything else I write will not be rejected. It might be.

But, that's the gift of failure. I've had it before. I know I will have it again. I have already had other book proposals and samples rejected. I've already heard "no" again.

There's something about being tempered in fire, though, that makes the steel stronger.

Failure is not the enemy. Failure shapes us into who and what we are. Failure shows us what we are willing to fight for, and it gives us the backbone to fight for it. We need it to knock us around and be the roadblock so that we know if we should turn around and find a different path, or if it's worth it to make our own path.

If your goal is publication, accept nothing less than that. Know that you will fail, but know also that failure is not the enemy. Because the last thing I want to say is:

Don't settle for failure. Even though failure is not the enemy, it shouldn't be your friend. Set your goal, and settle for no less. Ask yourself what you really want.

  • I want this single book published. Then do what it takes to make that single book as perfect as possible, and then either send it out to agents for traditional publication, or self-publish it.
  • I want to have a book I wrote be traditionally published. Write a book. Revise. Edit. Submit to agents. Accept their rejection. If that book doesn't sell, write another book. Repeat. Recognize that even if your book is not accepted--that you failed--the actual goal is to be published, not for that book to be published, therefore you've only failed to meet your goal yet. Writer another book, a better book. Work up until you write something that's worth publication.
  • I want to have a book I wrote be self published. Write a book. Revise. Edit. Publish. Recognize that even if the book flops in sales, you achieved your goal of self-publication. Write another book, a better book with more marketing. Revise. Edit. Publish.
  • I want a career as an author. Write a book. Revise. Edit. Learn everything you can about the craft of writing, marketing, publishing (both traditional and self). Focus you attention on the market--not so that you chase trends, but so that you're aware of the state of the market. Join professional organizations. Create the best possible work you can. Write it. Write more of it. Experiment. Edit. Revise. Publish. Repeat.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


It takes a lot for a book to totally engross me the way Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh did.

Book Info | Author Info 

I first heard about this book through io9, which featured a free first chapter read. I rarely bother with first chapter reads, but this one snagged my attention. Then, when I tried to order this one, I saw it wasn't out yet and only available for pre-order. I rarely bother with preordering books from authors I don't know, but something made me buy this one anyway.

And I am so, so, so glad I did.

This book has kept me reading for hours into each night. The concept itself is pretty straight-forward: in the future, if you're hot enough and female and young are selected for the "bridesicle" program: rather than truly dying, you're stuck into a cryogenic program where you will be revived for paid "dates" with men, and then, if one likes you enough, the man will pay for your entire revivification. In return for your life back, you become his wife. Which, in this situation, means you become his property.

But guys. This book. I just couldn't put it down.

I've spent the past ten minutes trying to put my finger on the exact thing that made this book such a great read, and I've come to the conclusion that it's not one single thing. It's all of them put together. The characters, who are each complex and unique, with realistic motivations, reactions, goals. The plot, which, while straight-forward enough, always kept me guessing. The philosophical questions raised by the program, which the author leaves to the reader to truly answer.

I particularly loved that the story is about many different characters, none of whom seem connected. Ostensibly, Love Minus Eighty is a love story. After a crushing break-up, Rob, a generally good guy, isn't paying attention while driving in the city and strikes and kills a beautiful young woman, Winter. Winter is put into the Minus Eighty bridesicle program, and Rob, wracked with guilt, works to earn enough money to visit her and apologize. What follows is the unlikeliest love story ever. Meanwhile, Veronika, a love coach, hides a crush from Nathan, her best friend, and, coincidentally, the ex-boyfriend of Winter. And then there's Lycan, the brilliant man who tried to kill himself. And Sunali, the former bridesicle stuck in a horrible family situation that includes Lorelei, a girl who's turned her life into a drama-filled money-spinner. Throughout the book, there's also Mira, the longest-frozen bride in the program. Her stories in particular seem to be disconnected from everyone else.

But in the end, much like a tapestry woven together by many seemingly unmatching threads, the author pulls all the characters together into one glorious story. Don't be afraid by the size of the cast--it's easy to keep up with, and every character plays an important role.

I think, though, that one of my favorite things about this book is the ambiguous philosophy. Will McIntosh raises some very important questions in the story, and he doesn't provide any answers--not really. The bridesicle program, for example, is horrid--the women selected for revivification are essentially slaves to the men who buy them...but the alternative is death.

But it was the implications of what love really is that has kept this book so present in my mind. I think the most lasting impression I have of the book is when Rob's father tells Rob about how his love with his wife isn't the ideal fairy-tale Rob seems to think it is...and how he's okay with that. This was something that particularly played through my mind with Veronika's character, and how she finally ends up. Love is not always the blinding passion and burning flame the songs tell us it is. Even with the example of True Love in the book, the two characters have been forced into a situation where, without it, that love might not exist, despite their compatibility together.

In the end, I guess I can only say this: this book is a combination of the best things in sci fi--an engrossing story told by fascinating characters in the future that raises questions for the reader now. It has the best bits of a Philip K. Dick novel and a Twilight Zone episode, and I couldn't put it down.


For my YA-preferring readers, this novel is classified as adult, and the language in particular may offend some readers, as well as some of the deeper contextual issues touched on. However, in terms of writing pace, style, and content, I think many YA readers will love this novel as much as I did. For general appeal, I think readers who felt like Ready Player One was a cross-over novel between adult and YA will feel the same way about Love Minus Eighty.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Star Cursed Blog Tour!

Welcome to the STAR CURSED blog tour! 

With the Brotherhood persecuting witches like never before, a divided Sisterhood desperately needs Cate to come into her Prophesied powers. And after Cate's friend Sachi is arrested for using magic, a war-thirsty Sister offers to help her find answers—if Cate is willing to endanger everyone she loves.

Cate doesn't want to be a weapon, and she doesn't want to involve her friends and Finn in the Sisterhood's schemes. But when Maura and Tess join the Sisterhood, Maura makes it clear that she'll do whatever it takes to lead the witches to victory. Even if it means sacrifices. Even if it means overthrowing Cate. Even if it means all-out war.

In the highly anticipated sequel to BORN WICKED, the Cahill Witch Chronicles continue Cate, Maura and Tess's quest to find love, protect family, and explore their magic against all odds in an alternate history of New England.

As part of the blog tour, each day Jess is revealing an annotated snippet from STAR CURSED. 

If you add up the page number from each stop during the tour, you can enter to win a one-of-a-kind annotated ARC plus a star trio necklaceFind the other stops below, and on June 21, enter the Rafflecopter here:

Tues, 6/4:  Ex Libris Kate 
Wed, 6/5:  Mundie Moms 
Thurs, 6/6:  Presenting Lenore
Fri, 6/7:  Hobbitsies

Mon, 6/10:  Green Bean Teen Queen 
Tues, 6/11:  I Read Banned Books
Wed, 6/12:  Two Chicks on Books
Thurs, 6/13:  Forever Young Adult
Fri, 6/14:  The Story Siren

Mon, 6/17:  YA Bibliophile
Tues, 6/18:  Marie Lu 
Wed, 6/19:  Beth Revis
Thurs, 6/20:  Veronica Rossi
Fri, 6/21:  Marissa Meyer

STAR CURSED releases on June 18. You can read the first chapter here

Pre-order links: Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon

Find Jess online: blog | Twitter | Facebook | Cahill Witch Inspiration pinboard

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Day of Many Great Launches!

There are a ton of good books coming out today, but there are three special ones I'd like to take the opportunity to highlight.

 Star Cursed
By Jessica Spotswood
Author Website
More info

I adore Jess--she's one of my favorite people. AND she writes wonderful books. This is the second in the Cahill Witch Chronicles, an alt-history trilogy where 1800s New England is a world of witches and brotherhoods. The best part about these books isn't the magic, though, it's the complex world that touches on themes of identity, love, morality, sexism, and more.

Bonus! Tomorrow, there's a guest post by Jess as part of her brilliant blog tour, so don't miss it!
By PJ Hoover

Tricia Hoover is a fantastic person, and I'm so happy for her release of Solstice.  I was lucky enough to read this early on as a manuscript, and loved it then. I can't wait to see what it's become since then. 

Solstice is a world of myth and dystopian--two traits you don't see often, but it totally works. And dude. The romance. HOT. 

Bonus! Tricia is giving away forty-two books in celebration of the book's launch! Check it out here.

Defy the Dark
Edited by Saundra Mitchell
Author Website
More Info

I was so honored to be invited to contribute to this anthology! Saundra is an awesome person, and the idea behind this antho--all the stories take place at night--is equally awesome.

My story is called "Night Swimming" and is about Kayleigh, told from the point of view of a narrator. Who's the narrator? Well, it's someone who loves Kayleigh. But it's not Harley. Figuring out the rest is up to you...

This antho also features a story by a debut author--Saundra ran a contest for unpublished authors, and one lucky winner is included!

Bonus! Next week, I'll be featuring Defy the Dark in a special contest!

As you can see, there are a lot of awesome books coming out today! Get thee to a bookstore or library and check them out!

Monday, June 17, 2013

On Tragedy & Comedy

The saddest (fictional) thing I've ever seen was in a cartoon.

Futurama is funny and sardonic and typically makes me laugh. It's famous for catch-phrases and hilarious characters and funny one-liners, and unique characters, and well-written plot lines.

And for the saddest fictional story line in the history of ever.

"Jurassic Bark" has all the things that make up a classic episode of Futurama: there's the science fiction bits (time travel and a futuristic world), there's the funny stuff, and...

Well. There's a tragedy. That's not typical of Futurama. This is a show that's quick to poke fun of society, people, and the world in general, but it keeps the tragic on the low end.

But this episode.

Man. This episode.

The tragedy comes out of freaking no where. No one--well, at least not me--expected it. I was blind-sided by what happened--and by my emotional response to it. Even now, if I see this episode playing, I shut off the television and run to the other room.

Something similar happened last year when I was watching Adventure Time, my current obsession. Adventure Time is just carefree fun--there are people made of candy, there's silly plot lines, it's just pretty much hilarious fun.


The Ice King is annoying, stupid, insipid, and just plain weird. Always the (bumbling) villain, never the hero. No one likes him--not even he likes himself. 

But then there was this episode, "I Remember You." And it gave just a tiny hint of his backstory, a visceral example of why and how he became the pathetic thing he was in the show. 

Seeing this episode gutted me. And it got me thinking: why was my emotional response to these two episodes so strong? Just hearing the music from "I Remember You" or the opening scene of "Jurassic Bark" makes me tear up--in shows that typically make me laugh.

And that, I realized, is the key. Futurama and Adventure Time are both really light-hearted comedies. They're cartoons for Pete's sake! Which means when I see the really, truly, tragic side of the worlds in these shows, I'm blindsided.

A tragic story can't be tragic all the time. The power behind the punches in "Jurassic Bark" and "I Remember You" comes in part because they're not expected. Light, funny, amusing stories and then bam! something tragic. That's the sort of emotional blind-siding that will last in a reader.

The same is true, by the way, of comedy. JK Rowling was particularly brilliant at this. The overall plot of the Harry Potter books is actually quite drama-filled: a boy must sacrifice himself and others in an effort to take down evil. But she liberally sprinkles the world with bursts of funny--a line of dialog there, a fun bit of magic here. And, of course, the coup de gras:

Of course there are ways to make a tragic--or comic--story in other ways. But for me, I've personally found the most meaningful, most resonating, and most emotional stories come from books where you don't expect the emotion. If you want to make a lasting impression on the reader, couch your tragic story in a comedy; put something comic within the tragedy.

Monday, June 10, 2013

AMA--Ask Me Anything on Reddit, today at noon!

Today at noon, I'll be doing an AMA on Reddit with author Julie Cross, who writes the Tempest trilogy and recently announced a self-publishing venture with her new contemporary novel, Letters to Nowhere.

I've had several people ask me what Reddit and AMAs are, so here's my (much abbreviated) explanation of the community:

If you've never heard of Reddit before, you should definitely consider joining the community! Reddit is called the "front page of the Internet" for a reason--everything is there. Basically, Reddit gathers together "subreddits," which are focused places for people to discuss things they like. For example, there are subreddits for fandoms like Doctor Who and Firefly; there are ones that are instructional and informational, like Writing and Travel; and there are ones where you can ask questions, such as AskHistorians and IAMA.

IAMA is short for the phrase "I am a..." and AMA is short for "ask me anything." So people who have a unique experience or interesting job or what-have-you, will go to the IAMA subreddit and offer for people to "ask me anything." This is what I'm doing today with Julie Cross--it's essentially a forum for people to ask us anything.

If you're still on the fence about joining Reddit, I also want to point out two very awesome subreddits. YALit is a place where people go to discuss YA books and literature, and YAWriters is a place specifically for those who want to write YA, or are interested in YA publication. I'm actually one of the mods of YAWriters. We recently did query critiques for all the members, and we have a full schedule of events, including future AMAs with authors, agents, and more; pitch and sample critiques, scheduled discussions, etc. So if you're interested in writing for a YA audience, consider joining us!

And meanwhile, feel free to ask us anything! (Our AMA link won't go live until noon, EST, and we'll be taking questions all day and answering as many as possible.)