Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Million Suns Description Blurb!

Over on GoodReads, the description for A MILLION SUNS is up!

Just in case you're curious, here's what the book is about....

When Elder learns harrowing news about the space ship Godspeed, he and Amy must work together to unlock a puzzle that was set in motion hundreds of years earlier, all the while dealing with the romance that’s growing between them and the chaos that threatens to tear them apart. It all boils down to one mind-bending conclusion: They have to get off this ship.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Congrats to Christy!

Go congratulate my crit partner, Christy--she just signed with an agent!

A Sneak Peek at the Prizes!

It's almost here! The very first A MILLION SUNS contest! It launches on August 1st. And since it's going to be a BIG contest--I mean, heck, I'm giving away the first A MILLION SUNS ARC in it!--I thought I'd give you guys a bit of a bigger sneak peak at the prizes.

Prizes. More than one prize. Multiple in the prize department.

Well, first there's going to be a grand prize, which will consist of two things. The first is an ARC of A MILLION SUNS (which will be delivered to the winner as soon as, er, they're delivered to me). The second part of the grand prize is this:

I've blogged before about how I contacted this awesome Etsy artist, Jennie, and we started working on a bracelet that's just for ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. We worked together over every. Single. Charm. And dude. There's nearly 20 charms on this sucker! And each and every one has a special meaning.
  •  2 planets--one Earth, one Centauri-Earth
  • A koi and paint palette for Harley
  • A running shoe and sun for Amy
  • A flower (from that scene) for Elder
  • An infinity symbol for the last line of the book
  • A block of ice for Amy's parents
  • ...and more
For a full list of the charms, plus details of how the bracelet was made, check out Jennie's blog!

There's just so much detail in this! 

Do you see the clasp? IT IS SHAPED LIKE A STAR. GUYS. GUYS. IT IS SHAPED LIKE A STAR. Jennie put so much love into these bracelets. Under the ice charm? A teeny-tiny almost unnoticeable star. It's just...*sigh*...perfect.

And each link that doesn't have a charm? Has a beautiful set of beads. The pictures just do NOT do this justice. The beads are all in colors that match both the covers of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE and A MILLION SUNS. They shimmer. They sparkle. They are shiny.

Now, as I mentioned, Jennie made these bracelets just for ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. She actually made a whole shop in her Etsy store just for AtU--and while the bracelets sold out (on the first day they were on sale!) she does have earrings for AtU and is working on more jewelry as we speak! So be sure to check out her store! (For the record, I'm partial to the Little Fish earrings, but then again, I've got a soft spot for Harley.)

Now, I did mention that there were prizeS. But...the other prizes are....secret. 


I know.

But on August 1st, in addition to opening up the very first contest that will feature the very first ARC of A MILLION SUNS, I'm also going to post a link to a scavenger hunt! And--for 24 hours only--if you follow the link, you'll discover what the secret prizes are.

So! Good times ahead!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Most Effective Book Trailer Ever.

So there's this book:

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN. I'd seen it around. And even though it looked creeptastic, it didn't really grab me for whatever reason.

Then I read this review, which led me to this book trailer:

Then, after I saw it, I saw this "making of" book trailer:

In the past, there have been book trailers that convinced me to buy a book I was on the fence about--this is the first time that I found immediately went out to buy a book that I'd consciously decided not to buy previously.

And I did. I downloaded it onto my Kindle that second--but I can already tell that I want this one in print. Because scattered throughout the text? Creepy old vintage pictures that go along with the story. And the author? He found the photographs, before he wrote the book!

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Learning Curve

I was talking recently with an author friend of mine, and we were discussing how we figured, by this point in our careers, we'd be, you know...better. She'd thought a draft of hers, while not done, was closer to being done. I'd thought that A MILLION SUNS would be easier to write than ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. Not--as it turned out to be--harder.

All this got me to thinking. While I've only got one book on the shelves now, I've been at this gig for a bit now--ten years, and ten unpublished manuscripts before ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. I'm not going to go into all that now because, frankly, you guys are probably getting sick of hearing about it.

But I'm going to tell you what I told my author friend the other night.

It's actually a good thing that it never gets easier.

See, here's the thing. If it got easier, that means we're not challenging ourselves any more. We've dug ourselves a nice little groove, and we're not trying to improve.

In my time while struggling to be a writer, I've noticed that people respond differently to critiques.

See, we wish we were the blue line--always, steadily getting better. That's the way it would be in a perfect world: we'd just continue to improve as we work.

But of course, it's not like that. It's just...not.

The red and green lines represent real authors, not this crazy ideal author that doesn't exist. At Point 1, you can see that most authors DO improve over time. I think that's certainly true--with practice, we get better. You can see that both Red and Green are advancing at the same rate over time.

But at Point 2, I introduce criticism. Now, authors get criticism in different ways, but what I mean by "criticism" is constructive advice. This could be--and will be for most authors--critique partners or beta readers. But it could also be an agent or editor. Either way, my point is--at Point 2, authors get advice.

You'll notice that the green line takes a sharp turn up. I personally think at the point when an author starts steadily working with other to improve his craft, he also takes a sudden bump up. These are big things that it's easy and quick for an author to learn once he starts working with others--basic things like formatting, pacing, structure. I sincerely do believe that when an author starts getting some sort of outside help--from critiques, agents, editors, whatever--he will see a sudden and marked improvement.

But then you'll notice that the road gets bumpy. There are a ton of little ups and downs--sharp peaks, sudden plunges--that the improving writer will feel. That's because the writer is improving. The writer, by this point, has developed a sense of what works and what doesn't, and is trying to make something grand and wonderful--and is still struggling.

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

This is the point my writer friend is at. She's constantly improving, but it's not one smooth ride up like the blue line.

And the thing I wanted to tell her was that that is a really good thing.

Because, essentially, that means you're starting to recognize that what you're doing now isn't good enough

And that, my friends, is a very good thing.

I think it's for the best that an artist never really gets to the point that she thinks something is good enough. If the artist--no matter what the art is--sits back and accepts her work as "good enough," that means she's satisfied. And, well...I don't want to be satisfied. I want to constantly struggle to be even better than I was before.

Because the author writer? The one with the red line? She gets to point 4 on my chart. She's placated. She's fine with the way things are. She gets a piece of advice--say, to make a character's motivations clearer. And she adds a scene and calls it done. Calls it good enough.

And there's no improvement there.

Maybe the Red Writer has a happier life than the Green Writer. Maybe Red is blissful in her ignorance, coasting through her art, creating a story and letting it ride.

I think many writers are like that writer--especially at the beginning, but sometimes I still feel that way. I'll admit that while I was working on A MILLION SUNS, I got to a point where I looked at the story and thought "done," well before it was, actually, done.

And I know I was like that at the beginning of my writing life--one reason why I went so long before achieving publication. I still remember the first time I "edited" my first book. You guys, I crossed out, like, a page, and then I fixed some grammar, and I think I added a paragraph. That was it. That wasn't editing. That wasn't ripping through the words to find the beating heart of the story.

That was good enough.

I never want to be good enough.

I want to be the best I can be.

And that--that--requires ups and downs. That requires recognizing when something isn't good enough. Now, if you haven't already, go watch that video I posted above. And also, read this. I think you'll see some parallels between writing and fighting there.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bookanista Feature: Maureen Johnson's THE LAST LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPE

So the first thing you should know is that I'm a raging fan girl of Maureen Johnson.

First, there was DEVILISH. It was clever and witty and it really just made me sit up and say, "wow. This is an author worth watching."

And then there was THIRTEEN LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES, and it was exactly the sort of book I wish I'd read when I was younger. It involved a girl who went off on an adventure through Europe, and she was a little scared, but she did it anyway, and she fell a little in love, but she kept going anyway, and by the end I found myself wishing with all my heart that I could send this book back in time and give it to myself when I was in high school.

And then I got to know Maureen a little better through Twitter. And she organized one-day Twitter explosions to donate money to ShelterBox and did a debate with the YA-hater Meghan Cox Gourdan, and I really wanted to nominate Maureen Johnson for the President of YA.


I have to say, I had mixed feelings about it. I loved 13LBE so much that I was honestly a little worried about what a sequel would hold. Would Ginny's tentative relationship that was really just a fledging survive across the Atlantic? What would that last little blue envelope actually hold?

I knew Maureen Johnson was a genius. But I didn't know she was THIS much of a genius.

Here's the single best praise I can give to THE LAST LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPE:

It was a sequel that was better than the first book.

Do you know how rare that is (or at least, how rare that is in my own reading)? Off the top of my head, I can think of only one other book (DEMONGLASS by Rachel Hawkins) where I thought Book 2 was better than Book 1. It's not that I think all Book 2s suck, it's just that they're often not as good (imo) as their predecessor.

But THE LAST LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPE? Better than 13LBE. I loved the person Ginny had become as a result of her aunt's journey for her. I loved the realism to the relationships (I'm not going to ruin anything by giving too much away). I loved how I honestly didn't know how the book would end.

And--I love--loveloveLOVE--the last sentence of the last page of the last letter Ginny's aunt left for her.

Oh, and my fangirl love for Maureen Johnson? Just hit epic proportions. I recently finished THE NAME OF THE STAR, and it's official: MJ is on my must-buy list. If I see a book she's written, I will buy it, no matter what. 

To see what the other Bookanistas are reading, click here:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Scavenger Hunt and Contests and More, Oh My!

Ack! I'm a little late in announcing the winners of the astronaut ice cream from the cover reveal! Sorry! But these five lucky winners are going to have some sweet astronaut ice cream delivered right to their doors :)

Mollie S.
Ashlee F.
Chloe P.
Maria G.

Congrats! Hope you enjoy! And if you're disappointed about not winning, don't worry. I've got more! :)

Also, if you follow my Twitter or Facebook, you may have seen me tweet about the completion of the super amazing ACROSS THE UNIVERSE bracelets! You can read about how the bracelets came to be here, but I have to say, they turned out really well! <---click for more pictures, including close-ups and a full list of charms

The artist, Jennie, made five bracelets. I bought up three of them--one for me, one for a gift, and one to give away to YOU. She put the other two up for sale...and sold out of them before the first day. I believe Jennie will be making more, but in the meantime, I'll be having a contest--a huge contest--on August 1st.

For this contest, I'm going to ask you to do something creative--so get those ideas going! And since this is going to be a little more in-depth than a regular ol' contest, I'm definitely going to have some great prizes. Yup, prizeS. Right now, I think there's going to be six winners with different prizes, and among the prizes will be the charm bracelet above, a signed copy of A MILLION SUNS (as soon as I get ARCs, which are being printed now) and a secret prize.

A secret prize you say?

A secret prize, I say.

A MILLION SUNS is all about secrets, and discovering them. I am going to reveal one of those secrets, for 24 hours only, in the scavenger hunt that Colleen Houck (author of THE TIGER'S CURSE) is organizing. For more information on the scavenger hunt, click here. Basically, what's happened is that a bunch of authors are going to reveal something special--an exclusive short story, a new giveaway, a secret about a book--and you get to go off on a hunt to find all the cool stuff!

The authors participating: YA authors Josephine Angelini, Angela Corbett, Andrea Cremer, Kady Cross, Heather Davis, Bree Despain, Clare Dunkle, Marley Gibson, Abbi Glines, Colleen Houck, Tara Hudson, Elana Johnson, Alexandra Monir, Lisa Nowak, Gregg Olsen, Amy Plum, Lisa and Laura Roecker, Inara Scott, Sophie Jordan, Lani Woodland and more!

What do you need to do? Just come back on August 1st--then you can enter the contest, and get started on the scavenger hunt that will lead you to one of the secrets in A MILLION SUNS!

Monday, July 18, 2011

What is Love?

What is love? Baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me no more.

Sorry. I couldn't help adding the cheesy music video to this.

Anyway, last night my  ever-patient husband took me to see DEATHLY HALLOWS! Yay! But with all the hoopla surrounding it, there's been some great discussions about one of the most complex charatcers of the series.


If you follow my Tumblr or Twitter, you might have noticed that I've gotten into a few (friendly!) debates about this character recently. The thing is...

I don't think Snape loved Lily.

Let me back up.

The Eskimos have how many gazillion words for snow because there are so many different kinds of snow to them. We need a few more words for love.

First there's true wuv love. It's so trite to call it that, but there's just a lack of a better word. True love is selfless. True love is a matter of putting another ahead of oneself. True love cares for the other's happiness more than one's own.

There's the Biblical definition of love, and while it is a bit cliched and read aloud at every wedding, it's no less true.

I honestly believe there needs to be more true love in the world. I think that between couples, on a romantic level, true love is often lacking--which leads, ultimately, to a lot of unhappiness and broken hearts. The easiest and most common form of true love we see in society today is the love a parent feels for a child. The way a parent will give up something he or she wants for their son or daughter is, at it's base, the heart of true love.

Of course, it's a sad but true situation that not every parent loves his or her child in a true way. You need only see an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras to know that: some parents replace true love for their child with a selfish sort of love that twists itself into something ugly. I saw that sometimes while I was teaching: a sad, self-fulfilling cycle of teen pregnancies where the teen mother believed the child was there as insurance to keep her man, or as a plaything that is there to love and adore her rather than the other way around. (This is not, btw, to say that all teen pregnancies are like this; I'm speaking of a specific few cases.)

It's often more complicated when discussing romantic love above parental love because while most parents feel true love for their children--it is, I think, a genetic default within our DNA to fall in love with our own children--I think true love on a romantic level between couples is not any sort of immediate or default response.

From my experience with teenagers--not only having been one myself, but also having taught them for six years--I think one of the earliest types of love, and most common types of love, especially among teens, is what I'll label "obsessive love."

Obsessive love--an extreme form of infatuation, perhaps even a shared infatuation--is what will lead a girl to write a boys name in every page of her notebook. It's what leads a teen to kiss a poster hanging on the wall. It's what inspires every girl (or boy) with Beiber fever. Obsessive love feels like true love, but it's often one-sided.

In its darker form, obsessive love will lead a boy to beat up a girl for looking at another man. It's what leads a girl to manipulate her boy through tears or self destruction. It produces lies and fear. It's what leads couples to burn themselves down eventually.

But obsessive love is often on a smaller scale, an unidentifiable scale that seems harmless. Obsessive love leads to devotion--and devotion can't be bad, right? It leads to hero-worship. It mimics true love in that it leads to self-sacrifice, and the one who is in obsessive love will often feel that he or she is in true love.

But the thing is...true love is shared. Obsessive love is clutched close you, like Gollum's precious.

I don't think Snape was in true love with Lily. He was in obsessive love. His love may have started out pure, but it became twisted with jealousy and guilt and regret. It became obsessive love. It became a sort of love that isn't shared, that's buried deep inside like a foul thing to be ashamed of. Yes--yes--it involved self-sacrifice, just like true love will involve. But the motivation behind the self-sacrifice wasn't pure.

Love does not destroy. But Snape's love did destroy him. He was so blindly obsessed with Lily that he forewent the possibility of love existing outside of his obsession.

Unpopular opinion: I don't think Twilight is a romantic book. I'm not speaking here as criticism or saying whether I like it or not: I'm just saying that I don't believe that Edward and Bella's love is true. I think it's a case of reciprocal obsessive love. They both have obsessive love for each other, not true love. Bella's self-destructive nature in the second book is basis of my argument here, as well as how they initially "fell" in love.

In fact, I think that many YA books don't portray true love, but instead portray obsessive love. And I don't think there's anything wrong with showing obsessive love opposed to true love, especially in YA books--I think most people experience obsessive love in some form as a teenager--it's an almost universal feeling of that age--but I also think that most people do not experience true love as a teenager...and sadly, many people never graduate from obsessive love to true love.
Edited to add: After posting this, I received an excellent question that I'd like to elaborate on here: Can unrequited love ever be real or always just obsessive love because it's not shared?

I think it depends. We really need more words for love! My best example is to go back to a parent's love. A parent who loves his or her child will eventually need to let that child go--move away, get married, essentially abandon the parent. I think parental love is in many ways both true and not shared equally. A child rarely--if ever--has the capacity to love a parent more than that the parent loves a child. It is in the nature of true parental love that the love, while not one-sided, is also not fairly shared. But is that love less real? No. It is more real because it is selfless in its love.

Snape's love, for example, was both unrequited and self-sacrificing--but the intent behind his self-sacrifice was not. Perhaps his love for Lily was real when he went to Dumbledore to ask him to save Lily--but the way he treated Harry after Lily's death, even though he was doing it in Lily's name, hints to me that his love had grown bitter. Had he been able to see Harry as Harry and not as James, perhaps I would see an argument for his unrequited love having been true love, but because his feelings had become so tainted with bitter anger and vitriol, his unrequited love was obsessive, not true.

This is something that I've definitely thought a lot about, and I know that my opinion on the matter isn't necessarily right and certainly not shared by all (Myra McEntire, I'm looking at you :P ). It's something I tried to portray in my own novel, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE: when Elder first sees Amy, frozen in her cryo chamber, he experiences an almost immediate obsessive love for her. His love for her at that moment is not true. How could it be? He doesn't know her. He's only seen her--and, I have to add, I don't believe in romantic love at first sight. As Elder gets to know Amy--and as Amy gets to know Elder--there is the potential of true love (you didn't think I was going to give away the plot here, were you?) but I tried to make it very clear that Elder's initial response to Amy, while he thinks of it as love, is not. Not true love. It's infatuation at best, obsessive love at worst. These feeling will certainly change as the story progresses, and develop more in the second and third books, but in those first chapters of the first book? Not love.

My point to all of this is simple: I would like for you, as a reader, to think about what real love is. When you read a story, even a story that's labeled as romantic, ask yourself if, at its heart, the love you are witnessing is true love or obsessive love. It is important for everyone to know that there is a difference between the kinds of love a person can have, that, like the Eskimos with snow, we need different words for love.

It is fine if you have obsessive love--as long as you can recognize that it is obsessive love. Most love starts out as obsessive love. The thing is: don't settle for it. Don't stay in a relationship that's based on obsessive love alone. Obsessive love is one-sided, and if it doesn't spill over into a shared, true love, obsessive love will turn something true and pure and beautiful into something dark and twisted and hollow.

I don't often get philosophical on this blog, and even rarer do I get preachy. But if there's anything I'd like to impart today--any day--it's this: you are worthy of true love. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Harry Potter Day!

Today is the day of the last film! Are you going? You KNOW I'm going to be there.

Before you go, watch this. It's basically the funniest thing EVER IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND EVER.

There is also this: quite funny, but I would rate it PG-13 for some crude humor:

JUST ADDED: This one totally cracked me up!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bookanista Feature: Recommended Reads

So yesterday, I talked about how hard it is to really recommend a book to someone, especially if you don't know that person.

Well, today I'm going to try to do just that.

Here's my list of "if you like one, you'll like the other." I tried to come up with some specifics on why someone would probably like both titles--each book is individual, but each has similar elements, so that if you liked the elements in one, you'll probably like the elements in the other.

Let me know if you like this feature--I may do some more of them :)

First up:

DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth and LEGEND by Marie Lu. You're going to have a little while to wait for LEGEND--and I'll do more of a review on it later, closer to its pub date--but I think fans of DIVERGENT are going to love LEGEND.

Second on my list of comparisons:

THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab and CHIME by Franny Billingsley. If you recall my review of CHIME, you'll know that it was one of my favorite reads of last year. It truly created a whole new world where the magic seemed real--and so does Victoria's debut.

And third:
THE LAST LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPE by Maureen Johnson and the S.A.S.S. books published by Penguin Young Reader's Group (various authors). The SASS books (School Across the Seven Seas) are exactly the kind of books I wish I had when I was a kid--a whole series of books that feature girls who go on study abroad trips. They discover new worlds (there are books that feature many different settings--Europe, South America, a cruise ship, and more) and they typically involve a personal mystery or goal for the girl to solve. THE LAST LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPE is one of those rare books where the sequel is even better than the first book--and it's the epitome of its genre.

I hope you like these suggestions! If you liked one of the books in the list, you should definitely check out the other--and if you're looking for something new, try both! :)

To see what the other Bookanistas are raving about this week, check out these links:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Problem with Recommending Books

I have a hard time recommending books.

Because here's the thing. We all like books for different reasons. And that makes it all but impossible to accurately recommend one book to someone else. I've found this is especially difficult for me because, well, I like a lot of books for a lot of different reasons. I read MG to YA to adult (sometimes), sci fi to contemporary, fantasy and romance and magic realism and everything in between. 

Let me give you an example. One of my favorite books is THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH by Carrie Ryan. After I read it, I pressed it into the hands of all my friends and forced them to read it. Many of them (like me) loved it. And they asked what they should read next.

The obvious choice is to look at the plot--at it's very basic form, THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH is a zombie book. So, makes sense to recommend another zombie book, right? Like Carrie Harris's (just released!) new title, BAD TASTE IN BOYS. 

Side note: What is WITH Carries and zombies?!

But....a book is more than one thing. THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH is more than zombies (and so, btw, is BAD TASTE IN BOYS). 

Let's say you loved it for the writing style--it was lyrical and beautiful and every word was like poetry. In that case, you should pick up LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES by Laini Taylor--another beautifully written book whose prose sings. There's not a zombie in it, but if you're like me, you'll love both books anyway.

But maybe you don't care so much about writing style OR zombies. Maybe the thing YOU liked in THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH was the complicated romance. You liked the love triangle built on difficult situations, the complicated society that constructed a situation where love is a luxury most people can't afford. In that case, you will want to read Lauren DeStefano's WITHER.

WITHER, BAD TASTE IN BOYS, and LIPS TOUCH are three very very different books--but each one is a possible recommendation for someone to read after reading THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH.

And therein lies the problem with recommending books. Unless you know why someone liked one book, it's difficult to really recommend another book based on it.

Things get even more complicated when you bring into account the idea that some people like--or dislike--a book for very personal reasons. I, personally, have heard from several people that they didn't like sci fi and the only reason they bought my book was because it was titled after their fave Beatles's song, "Across the Universe." For personal reasons of my own, I never read books about angels (fallen or otherwise) or where I know the plot relies on sibling death. My husband likes books where there's a terrible, tragic ending--my mom likes the exact opposite.

The truth of the matter is, there will NEVER be ANY book where everyone loves everything about it. And it's difficult to recommend a book to someone based on another title if you don't know why that person likes the book--writing style, subject matter, plot, or characters. There are, quite simply, just too many variables for every recommendation to work.

That said--I'm going to post tomorrow some books that I think are pretty comparable--a sort of, "if you like this, you'll probably like this." It won't be perfect--but I hope it'll make you think of some new titles to read!

Monday, July 11, 2011


Today's League post was about Google+. While I'm not going to go into all the deets of what I said there, I'll add here that I am on G+ now, so if you'd like to add me, please feel free! I'm at the point now where I'm basically adding everyone who's added me, but if you'd like to add a little note about who you are (i.e. author, book blogger, librarian) then that will help me sort you into the proper circles later.

I know a lot of people's first response to G+ was "not another social networking site! *groan*" And yeah, I get that. I feel like we have Facebook and we have Twitter and G+ is a little bit of both Twitter and Facebook. But the thing I like about G+ is that it takes the two things I dislike about Facebook and Twitter and changes it.

--What I dislike about Facebook: Privacy issues. There's not just the fact that FB has a very poor stance on a person's privacy to start with, there's also the issue with what you share with whom. I have a Page and a personal profile. Anyone can go on the Page, and I limit what I put there--it's all book-specific and author-specific stuff, stuff I wouldn't mind anyone in the world knowing. But on my personal profile (which, I'm sorry, but only people I know in real life are allowed to be on) I include pictures of my family and updates about my life that I want to share with family and friends I don't see everyday. But flipping back and forth between the two is a pain, and keeping things separated is sometimes difficult.

--G+ fixes the privacy issue for me. Because with G+ I only have one place to go--my own G+ profile--and I can filter from there who sees what. In G+ you create "circles" and you have the option of what you share with which circles. I have a "family" circle which will get the info and pictures that I would post on my Facebook profile page--the stuff that I want to limit to people I know in real life. But I also have circles for fellow writers, book bloggers, and librarians. I can easily post to any circle with just a click. Also: this helps ensure that the proper people get the proper info. I can post articles on writing for writers without bugging bloggers. I can post something about books for all the book-related circles without bugging my family.

Additionally, with the way circles are set up: anyone can follow you (unless you block them), but you're not obligated to follow back--it's similar to Twitter in that regard.

--What I dislike about Twitter: Keeping track of conversations. If I'm not online for a few days specifically, I sometimes get very lost in who said what, especially if there's more than one conversation going on. Also, I like to @-reply to everyone, and I sometimes miss out on that.
--Also: Not being able to easily see what a link or picture is. Call me lazy, but I don't always want to click on something. I often have slow internet, and it's kinda a pain to stop everything and wait for a pic or link to load.

--G+ keeps all conversations together, like in Facebook, and shows a smaller version of a pic or an extra bit of a link in a post, also like in Facebook. So there's that problem fixed.

As you can see, G+ is a little like Facebook (in appearances) and a little like Twitter (in functionality) with an additional bonus of organization (with circles). Do you need to sign up for it right away? No. But it's neat (especially for a technophile like me) to see how these sorts of things develop. Will G+ stick around? I think so. Judging by the rapid flock of people to the site, and how people really are thinking it takes the best of Twitter and Facebook into one world, I think G+ is a site that will continue to grow...until the next big thing.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

You Should Definitely... should definitely check out the Across the Universe Fan Page.

I mean, if you are curious about the cover of A MILLION SUNS or anything.

Just saying.

Today would be a good day to check it out.

PS: I'm technically not here today--I've scheduled this post in advance. So I'm not 100% sure what time it will be up...but still. Check it out! :D

Bookanista Feature: Interview with Aimée Carter, author of THE GODDESS TEST

Today, it's my great joy to be talking with Aimée Carter, author of THE GODDESS TEST! I first "met" Aimée on Twitter--and she was gracious enough to ignore my nerd-spazzing and do an interview here! Not only that, but...she's giving away a signed copy of THE GODDESS TEST--just read through to the bottom of the interview to find out how you can enter!

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?

Strangely enough, there is no bio in THE GODDESS TEST. There was an oops, and the first editions don't have any sort of bio or author photo in them (though the second printing will!). Does that count as a random fact? No? Hmm. In that case, I'm an extremely picky eater. Really, taste buds of a five-year-old over here. I don't think I've ever ordered an entree straight off an adult menu without some kind of modification, and I have a tendency to order off the kids' menu whenever a restaurant lets me.

As a kid, what was your favorite book? Have your tastes changed since growing up?

As a kid, my favorite book was probably Black Beauty or Matilda. My tastes haven't changed too much, though I tend to be a more selective reader than I used to be. I still troll the middle grade section though, trying to dodge the kids and parents who give me funny looks. There's a certain kind of voice that most MG writers have that I really connect with, and a lot of my favorites - Harry Potter, the Percy Jackson series, etc. - tend to be from that section of the bookstore.

Your academic background is in film. Did that have any influence on your writing?

A massive amount. I fully believe the screenwriting classes I took at university are the reason I'm published. They taught me how to craft a proper story, about making every scene, character, and line on a page count, how to really grab a reader's attention, how to include conflict in every part - they were by far the best (and most useful) classes I took. I highly, highly recommend every commercial novelist take a screenwriting course, if only to learn about in-depth story construction. They are two very different formats, of course, but they're both all about telling stories, and I can't rave enough about how much I learned and how much my storytelling improved.

It's the inevitable question: what inspired THE GODDESS TEST?

-I've been asked this so many times that I'm tempted to say it all came to me in a dream, but really, the truth is much more boring. I've always loved mythology, from the moment I first read D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths as a little kid trolling the grown-up kids section of the bookstore (sensing a pattern?). The first time I read about the myth of Hades and Persephone, I was fascinated about his side of the story. Being kidnapped must've been awful for Persephone, but why did Hades do it? Was he really so lonely to risk the wrath of his brother Zeus and sister Demeter?

From there, that question sat in the back of my mind for years. I started writing original works around fourteen or fifteen - I wrote fan fiction before then - and that was one of the first stories I came back to. I couldn't make it work though, so I set it aside and, over the years, continued to develop it. Eventually I decided that the protagonist wasn't Persephone after all - that Persephone, who was such a strong woman in mythology, could have left Hades, paving the way for a new girl. The only question was, who was that new girl, and why would she ever want to be with the gloomy and moody God of the Underworld?

Many years later, while I was taking those screenwriting courses, I began to think about that story again, and it occurred to me that maybe she wasn't doing it for herself or for Hades. Maybe she was doing it for someone else she loved, to keep Hades from taking them into the Underworld. And at that point, Kate's mother, who is dying of cancer, popped into my head. I immediately began to outline it, and first chance I got, I started to draft it.

One of the great things about THE GODDESS TEST is the background in mythology. What made you decide to write about mythology?

It wasn't a conscious decision, really. I didn't pick through a book of mythology, searching for a myth to redo. That story had been been in the back of my mind for so long, working itself out, that when all of the pieces fell into place, I had to write it. It's very much a sequel of sorts to that myth - Persephone has left Hades (now called Henry), and he must find a replacement Queen before time runs out, or he'll fade and someone else will take his place. Only problem is, someone's killing off the candidate, and the protagonist, Kate, is his last chance.

Can you tell us a little bit about the process--particularly the timeline--of writing THE GODDESS TEST?

I got the idea sometime in the early 90's, as a little kid questioning why the God of the Underworld would have to steal a girl to be his Queen. Everything snapped into place in 2007, and I outlined it many, many times, trying to find exactly the right way to put the story together. In the summer of 2008, I was supposed to be a production assistant on the set of a movie called Youth In Revolt, which was filming in Ann Arbor. However, I had my wisdom teeth taken out a week or two before everything was set to start, and the dentist had to break my jaw in two places in order to complete the surgery. Not fun, let me tell you. I looked like a chipmunk for ages. While that lost me the chance to be a PA, it did free up my summer to write the story that I'd been obsessing over - and that's exactly what I did.

I write fairly quickly, so by early July, I was done with the first draft. I edited it, edited again, edited a third and a fourth and a fifth time, and finally in August (I know, I know, don't make my mistakes - wait longer!) I queried agents. I don't know how I got so lucky, but my agent, Rosemary Stimola, signed me a few weeks later. During the submission process, I got a lot of "almost, but not quites", which were heartbreaking. I rewrote significant chunk of the story, including adding a prologue at an editor's suggestion, and finally almost a year after being signed, I received an offer from Harlequin Teen. At that point, however, I was so dissatisfied with the draft that after I received the editorial letter, I completely tore the book to shreds, rewriting a massive amount of it. So counting that, it took me over a year to really get it into anything close to resembling the story you read on the page now.

If your reader could only take away one emotion, theme, or idea from THE GODDESS TEST, what would you want it to be?

Interesting question! I've never thought about that. If I had to narrow it down to one thing...maybe that life goes on. For Kate, going through her mother's death; for Henry, who's lost the love of his life. Even the Greek gods in general, who in Kate's world have been reduced to mythology, but still continue to exist despite it all. There's still life after tragedy, no matter how difficult it might be to face.

What's the most surprising thing you've learned since becoming a writer?

That the rejection doesn't stop with getting an agent, getting a publisher, or even when the book comes out. It's hard - a lot harder than most of the writers out there today make it look, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Beyond the typical--never give up, believe in yourself--what would be the single best advice you'd like to give another writer?

For a commercial novelist, take a screenwriting course, definitely. And in lieu of that, pick up a book on screenwriting (The Screenwriter's Bible is one, but there are a ton of terrific options at your local bookstore) and read it cover to cover. For writers in general, nothing beats butt in chair. Don't let anything get between you and your writing time.

What do you think are your strongest and weakest points in writing?

Strongest - plotting, I'd say. And I think I've grown a ton since I wrote THE GODDESS TEST as well. The stuff I'm working on now won't be seen for at least a year and a half though, so we'll see!

Weakest - I'm not a master wordsmith. I'll never write literary fiction or the books that win all of the awards. I also have to really work at description. Some writers are truly incredible with the way they can paint a picture with their words, and I could never in a million years do that.

Thank you for stopping by, Aimée! And thank you for offering the readers here a signed copy of your book! To enter, just leave a comment to this post letting Aimée know why you're excited to  read her book. I'll pick one random winner next week to get a signed copy of her book, THE GODDESS TEST!

Additional contest information:
  • Open to US addresses only (sorry!)
  • Entrants must be 13 years old or older
  • Only one entry per person
  • Comment to this post to enter
  • Leave an email address if it's not linked with your profile already
  • Contest closes on July 14th

To find out what the other Bookanistas are reading today:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

On Reading

Like many of you, I joined up with the GoodReads reading challenge at the start of the year. After some thought, I decided to shoot for reading 30 books in 2011. For a lot of you, that won't sound like much, but in 2010, I only got through about 25 books, so I thought I was challenging myself.

I happened to look at my challenge the other day:

I...what?! It's only halfway through the year, and I've already read more book than I read in all of 2010?! And if you count manuscripts and books that aren't on GoodReads yet, I'm closer to about 35.

What precipitated this change in my reading style? Was it because I suddenly found myself with twice as much reading time?

Excuse me while I die laughing over that idea.
Nope, the simple truth is I actually have less time to read, but I'm still reading more. Why?

Because for the first time, I'm reading in different formats.

The first method: audiobooks. Now, I'd listened to audiobooks before, but I basically just listened to the Harry Potter books on repeat, because those were the only ones I had (thanks to a generous gift from my in-laws). Audiobooks were too expensive, frankly, and the ones I bought on CD didn't play nice with my iPod, my main listening device.

Then along came Audible. Audible has great prices on audiobooks--usually around $15 or so, often less--and it made it super-easy to get audiobooks onto my iPod, all nicely formatted for the audiobook part of the iPod.

That's all it took for me: ease of access and a lower price-point completely sold me on audiobooks. I've been downloading a variety of audiobooks (I'm in the monthly membership program) and love it. Those super-long adult books I've been avoiding? So much easier to read while on the treadmill at the gym. Those books I've been meaning to read and just haven't gotten around to yet? Listen to 'em while cleaning the kitchen. I generally listen in about half-hour chunks, and have found that I don't have a problem at all stopping and re-starting the audiobooks--much like I don't have a problem putting down a book and picking another back up. In fact, with a couple of really good audiobooks, I've actually volunteered to do more housework just for the excuse to keep listening.

The other reason why I'm reading more?


Now, I'm not about to get started on the ebook vs. print book debate. I used to do that: I used to be a total print snob and be one of those who would scream out about how much books will never die and nothing will replace the feel of a good book in my hands.

And that's still true. Sort of. I don't think books will ever die. But I do believe that there's room for ebooks, and that's it's not about one or the other.

Instead, I've found that since getting an ereader, my reading habits have changed. I used to read in two main methods: during the day, where I'd set aside part of my day to read, and at night, where I'd read a bit before going to bed. The Kindle has replaced the books on my bedstand. So, I still read a book during the day, but I shift to the Kindle at night and read that in bed. And...I'm reading more. There's a lot of reasons for that. I increase the print size so it's easier on my eyes, and the Kindle's lighter than a paperback, and easier to hold up for longer in bed.

If you look at my "currently reading list" over there on the sidebar, one of those books is an audiobook, one is a Kindle book, and two are hardcovers I bought from my local Indie. They are each providing me with a different, fun experience in reading--and they are each in a different format.

All this means is that stories are even more accessible than they've ever been before. You guys, it's an awesome time to be a reader right now. You can easily get your books in any format you want for a reasonable price, using devices that are perfect for getting you those stories.

And honestly? It's a great time to be a writer, too. I know there's a lot of stuff in flux right now. Pirates, ebook royalties, dominate formats, etc. But I'm not worried about that. (At least not much, lol.) I'm too busy being excited about how stories--in whatever form--are spreading around the world like a glorious plague.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ash2Nash: A Southern Book Tour!

GUYS. GUYS. GUYS. I am sooooo thrilled to tell you about my latest project: a book tour in my own backyard! You can find out more about it here, and you can be entered to win SIX SIGNED BOOKS while you're at it!!


Myra, Victoria, and Beth are thrilled about bringing a tour to their local areas--from Asheville, NC, to Nashville, TN. We'd love it if you came out to see us, and we want to make sure that everyone in the area knows about it!

But we know that not everyone gets to have a tour stop in their backyard. So, we're going to bring the tour to YOU. With signed books, straight from the tour, mailed straight to YOU.

We're going to be adding to the prize pack as we go, but so far we're happy to say that these will be included, all of which will be SIGNED by the author!

SIGNED hardback copy

SIGNED hardback copy

SIGNED hardback copy

SIGNED hardback copy


Signed copy PLUS a signed poster!

SIGNED hardback copy

That's right! SEVEN SIGNED BOOKS + a signed poster + more swag + some fun things that we're going to pick up on the way. THIS PRIZE PACK IS HUGE!!!

To enter: help us spread the word & fill out the form below!

There are lots of way to help us spread the word! You can do something as simple as tell a friend, but we want as many people as possible to come to our tour and find out about it. 

So, tell a friend about it!


Or...Facebook!! You could either make a post about it or share our widget!

Additional contest information:
  • Open to the US & Canada only--sorry, but the authors have to pay shipping themselves.
  • Entrants must be 13 years old or older
  • To be entered, you must fill out the form below
  • Contest closes on August 12, 2011