Friday, April 25, 2014

Travel is the Greatest Inspiration

Relatedly, I'll be away on travel from now until mid-May. If you don't hear from me on email, Twitter, FB, Instagram, Tumblr, etc., know that I am soaking up as much inspiration from the world as I can in preparation for future books! Replying to you all will be even slower than normal as I go on a few trips over the next few weeks. Go! Explore!

And coming soon...

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Your Favorite Reads: Share & Win!

I love books.

I don't think I'm in the minority here at all. You are my people. Books are awesome!

As an author, I'm sometimes given books to read for a blurb--a sort of recommendation for others to read. I can't blurb every book I get, even if I like it; I have to limit my blurbs to only a certain number per season, etc. So, of course, I have love a book in order to blurb it. It has to be the kind of book that I have absolutely no reservations thrusting into the hands of readers, the sort of book I can't stop raving about, the sort of book I wish I'd read when I was younger, that I want to re-read as soon as I finish.

When I find those kinds of books, I sort of flip out in my excitement.

And I tend to buy extra copies of them, so I have them on hand to give out to other people. Recently I was cleaning out my shelves, and realized that I had four extra copies of four awesome books I've blurb recently, and I thought--let's share the love! Not just of these amazing books, but of all books!

So--I'm going to tell you about these books and why I loved them, and I want you to pass it on: tell the world about your favorite books and why you loved them. Tweet it or post it on Facebook or writing a review or anything else--and you'll be entered to win signed copies of all these books, plus a signed copy of my book as well :)

My review:
An amazing contemporary fantasy that explores the vast legends of Korea, this richly detailed novel kept me turning the pages well into the night. Jae Hwa starts off as a strong character and ends as a noble one, using both her brains and her brawn to win the day--she's exactly the kind of girl YA literature needs.

My review: 
Rhine's struggles and pain are real, and her story is both heartbreaking and hopeful.
I couldn't read this book fast enough.

Salvage by Alexa Duncan

My review:
Alexandra Duncan's debut illustrates a richly detailed world that vividly shows a possible future of Earth where society has both regressed and progressed, where the struggles of humanity have become more dire, but where love still remains. Everything--from the world to the characters--felt viscerally real.

Origin by Jessica Khoury

My review:
I loved Origin's action, romance, and mystery--
and I couldn't stop thinking about the questions it raised.

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

My review: 
Absolutely brilliant. This is the sci fi I've been waiting for!
Action, romance, twists and turns--this book has it all!

In addition to all these wonderful books, signed, one winner will also get 
a signed poster for These Broken Stars,
 a bunch of swag from other authors, 
and a copy of Shades of Earth (signed of course)!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Contest Details:

  • Open to US addresses only--sorry, this is a heavy prize pack!
  • Open to readers aged 18+ or who have permission from their legal guardian to enter
  • Prize won't be shipped until the end of May--I'm on the road!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

After the End Blog Tour with Amy Plum

I absolutely adore Amy Plum. She's one of the nicest, most considerate people I know, and I wished she lived next door to me so we could chat over tea every day. Scratch that, I wish I lived next door to her because she lives in France!

To celebrate her upcoming book, After the End, Amy's doing a bit of truth or dare. And of course chose to make her go on a dare. Anyone who lives in France has access to to do...

Welcome to the AFTER THE END blog tour!

Amy's Truth or Dare

This is one of Amy's special author-hosted Truth or Dare stops. (The truth-or-dare theme is particularly relevant to AFTER THE END, since Juneau's oracle has said she has to tell the truth or she won't find her clan.)

I opted for "dare," giving Amy the mission to kiss an author's grave in Paris's Pere Lachaise cemetery! And here she is, thwarted in her efforts to kiss Oscar Wilde's grave by a big glass case put around it SPECIFICALLY to thwart grave-kissers.


IMG_3874Mission accomplished!

And now, on to the juicy info about AFTER THE END + prizes!

About the Book

By: Amy Plum
, Published by: Harper Teen, hitting shelves on May 6, 2014

Pre-Order from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

Find out more about the book
World War III has left the world ravaged by nuclear radiation. A lucky few escaped to the Alaskan wilderness.
They′e survived for the last thirty years by living off the land, being one with nature, and hiding from whoever else might still be out there.
At least, this is what Juneau has been told her entire life.
When Juneau returns from a hunting trip to discover that everyone in her clan has vanished, she sets off to find them. Leaving the boundaries of their land for the very first time, she learns something horrifying: There never was a war. Cities were never destroyed. The world is intact.
Everything was a lie.

Now Juneau is adrift in a modern-day world she never knew existed. But while she′s trying to find a way to rescue her friends and family, someone else is looking for her. Someone who knows the extraordinary truth about the secrets of her past.

About Amy Plum

Amy Plum is the author of DIE FOR ME, a YA series set in Paris. The first three books—DIE FOR ME, UNTIL I DIE, and IF I SHOULD DIE—are international bestsellers, and have been translated into eleven different languages. The fourth book is an eNovella, entitled DIE FOR HER. The first book of Amy’s new series, AFTER THE END, releases in May 2014.
Amy grew up in Birmingham, Alabama before venturing further afield to Chicago, Paris, London and New York. An art historian by training, she can be found on most days either daydreaming or writing (or both) in a Parisian café.
Visit her on: Blog | Twitter | Facebook | GoodReads

The Giveaway

Each stop on the tour will be hosting a giveaway! We're giving away:

- 13 SIGNED After The End books

- 6 iPhone After the End shells.

*This is open Internationally*

To enter, please be sure to fill out the form featured on each stop along the tour.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
The first 300 people who pre-order AFTER THE END and show proof of their pre-order will receive one of these limited edition After The End water bottles. *see below*
Please be sure to send your mailing address and receipt to

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Paper Hearts: Some Writing Advice

Look, I'm no expert. I want to say that, straight off the bat.

But...I like analyzing. I like knowing how things tick. I like breaking things down into smaller bits, and I like thinking in terms of how I'd teach someone else the idea. It's how my brain works. To understand something, I have to explain it, both to myself and to others.

I've slowly been amassing an archive of writing articles and thoughts (I've been blogging for half a decade!), and recently, I was compiling it all together for my own use and thought...maybe I should just make this available for anyone who wants to read it.

I quickly realized that I needed the right format to compile everything. A website was too spread out--despite archives, they're hard to search, and who reads archives any more? I'm not ready to self-publish a finished version. I wanted something accessible. Fortunately, about the same time that I was researching all this, my publisher pointed me toward Wattpad, a website that compiles things into a similar format as an e-book, is absolutely free, and can be read by someone without the need to create an account (you only need an account to post your own work or comments).

So...I did this.

I'm slowly amassing everything that I've done in terms of writing and serializing it at Wattpad. The archives are organized and will be easy to search. Some of it has been published on this blog before, and some of it hasn't, but none of it has been grouped together in one spot.

and more will be posted periodically.

I hope it's something that you find helpful. It's definitely an on-going project--I'm publishing several opening chapters now, and then will publish more on a schedule after returning from an upcoming trip. I'm particularly proud of the third chapter, "Why All Writing Advice Books Suck, Including This One." :)

I hope you check it out! Please let me know your thoughts and if there are any topics you'd like me cover.

Cover designed by the insanely talented Hafsah at Icey Book Designs!

The Slutshelf

When Alexa Duncan told me that her book had been shelved on a "slut shelf" in GoodReads, I was...shocked.

Ava, the main character of Salvage, has sex, yes. Once. With a man she thought she would marry. And that--that?--made her a slut?

I've talked before about how the sexualization of young people--particularly women--is seen as very wrong in our society. More wrong than murder and graphic violence. I've talked before about how wrong that is.

Consider, for a moment, Hunger Games. A novel where, literally, children kill other children. There's no other way to look at this: a society has promoted, encouraged, and forced a group of children to attempt to kill each other, and they do, graphically.

This book is sold in Scholastic book order forms distributed to schools. The publisher recommends the title for children aged 11-13. The movie is rated PG-13.

You know what's not in Hunger Games? Sex of any kind--there's hardly even a kiss.

Sex is the golden taboo, the one thing that, if included, moves a book past the pale. But why? These are conversations we should be having--not shying away from. Personally, I'd much rather a teenager enter a mature, consensual, healthy sexual relationship than a blood-soaked arena where only one person will make it out alive.

I'm not saying Hunger Games is bad. On the contrary, I think it's brilliant. And I'm not saying that children shouldn't read Hunger Games--I am all for people reading the right books for them, and I think there are many powerful messages in the context of the violent storyline.

What I'm saying is, the line should not be between violence and sex.

You can read Alexa's full post here; as usual, she's brilliant. She's also giving away a huge prizepack of books (including a signed AtU!) to encourage people to discuss what this trend of slut-shaming books means to our society as a whole. Additionally, for every person who enters the contest, Alexa will donate one dollar to the Freedom to Read Foundation (up to $1,000), so please spread the word!

Friday, April 11, 2014

I'm not a feminist, but...

I've always had a fairly complicated relationship with feminism.

When I was younger, I was fairly proud to not be a feminist. Feminists were screaming harpies who demanded attention and were just causing trouble. Sure, I'd see things that were wrong with society, but I'd say something along the lines of, "I'm not a feminist, but..."

This attitude carried on for quite some time. I remember first coming up with this idea of "I'm not a feminist, but..." in high school--I don't remember the exact reasoning behind the words, but I remember having that attitude. I had that attitude in college, too. We'd discuss literature that obviously had sexist undertones (typical, to be fair, of European literature of a certain age), and that phrase would come up. When I participated in the semi-political professional organization of my state's branch of the National Education Association, I'd make arguments for fair wages and treatment and say, "I'm not a feminist, but..."

But we deserve equal pay.
But the society we live in isn't fair.
But not enough people are standing up for the rights of others.
But we deserve respect.
But it's not right for a woman to be judged solely by her gender.
But, but, but.

There are two things wrong with the phrase, "I'm not a feminist, but..."

First, it's wrong for me to couch my opinions with a disclaimer. Saying something like, "I'm not a feminist, but I feel like women deserve the same rights as men," belittles not just the idea of feminism, but also the idea that what I'm saying matters. I'm dismissing my own words before I even speak them. I'm giving an excuse for why I should be allowed to say the words following the phrase, as if the only reason I would say those words is if I had such an excuse.

The second thing wrong about that phrase is the fact that it exists.

Our society has turned "feminist" into a bad thing to be. A screaming harpie seeking attention and trouble. A thing that we should distance ourself from.

But we deserve equal pay.
But the society we live in isn't fair.
But not enough people are standing up for the rights of others.
But we deserve respect.
But it's not right for a woman to be judged solely by her gender.
But, but, but.

On my second Breathless Reads book tour, I remember very clearly a man from the audience asking us if we felt guilty that we had written books told from a female's point of view. "What about the boys?" he asked. "What about their voices?" Disregarding that myself and Marie Lu had written books that were half from a boy's point of view, I want to point out that word he used.

Guilty. For writing from a woman's perspective.


I'm not a feminist, but I should feel guilty for writing from a girl's point of view.

Across the Universe won an award from RT Book Reviews--the best YA of the year--in 2012. I told a friend about the award.

"What does RT stand for?" she asked.

"Romantic Times."

I can see the confusion in her eyes. "Like...romance novels?"

"Yeah," I said.

She smiled sadly. "Well, it's nice you won an award, even if it's from romance people."

Even if it's from romance people--a genre dominated by women. A genre entirely dismissed as being lesser. Is romance lesser? Of course not. There are some poor romance novels. But there are poor novels in every single genre in print. Had I won an award from, for example, SFWA--maybe an Andre Norton Award for YA SF--that, that would have been prestigious. There are just as many bad SF novels as there are bad romance novels.

I'm not a feminist, but an award in a female-dominated genre is regarded as less that one from a male-dominated one.

(By the way, I'm damn proud of that RT award, and I am freaking excited to accept another one for Shades of Earth next month.)

I'm not a feminist, but books written by women in YA tend to have far more gendered covers than books written by male authors.

I'm not a feminist, but when a book is written about a girl who's real and embraces herself for who she is, it's labeled as feminist, as if such a book cannot stand on its own merit and is somehow odd for being that way.

I'm not a feminist, but when an author is female and writes a female character, some critics automatically assume that the character is far more vapid and stupid than if a male had written a female character.

I'm not a feminist, but I have read book reviews of female authors which are focused primarily on the authors' appearance, giving the book less points because the author is either too slutty or not lady-like or too fat or wears too much (or too little) make-up.

I'm not a feminist, but when a female author is aggressive about her own marketing plan, she's dismissed as being pushy or bossy, but when she's not, she's dismissed as being meek and worthless.

I'm not a feminist, but JK Rowling has never published a book with an obviously female author name.

I'm not a feminist, but an actress in an upcoming YA film recently dismissed the entire YA genre for "diminishing a book's value."

And when I started adding up all these "buts," I realized something important.

I don't have a complicated relationship with feminism at all.

I am a feminist, and I am damn proud of it. Because all a feminist wants is equal treatment and respect. That's all. And the reason why we need feminists in society is because we don't have equal treatment and respect.

It's because even when we see these discrepancies in the world, we still say, "I'm not a feminist, but..."

But...that's changing. Slowly but surely. And part of the reason our society is changing is because more and more people aren't letting their voices fade to silence. From now on, I'm going to say:

I am a feminist, and I believe we're going to change the world.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Why You Should Read Salvage Right Now

Today marks the release of one of my favorite YA science fiction novels! From the very first page, I was enraptured with the brilliance of Alexandra Duncan's world.

Okay, so I'm working under the assumption that everyone on Earth has seen the brilliant show Firefly, yes? If not, GET ON THAT PEOPLE, there's naked Nathan Fillion to be had. But meanwhile, you know that episode where we see Saffron for the first time? And we think she's just a completely naive girl from a planet that's kept their society rather primitive, and then she winds up on a spaceship and having adventures? Salvage reminds me of Saffron (except minus the knock-out lipstick).

Let me try to explain in words that don't rely on a deep-seated love of Firefly to understand. Salvage follows Ava, a girl raised on a spaceship that is ruled in a very specific, limiting way. But after she tastes a different life, she is forced to flee her ship. And that's just the beginning...

What I loved about this book (the same thing, btw, that I loved about The Martian and the movie Gravity) was the realism. Alexa has done her science--when Ava leaves the spaceship she's lived on all her life, she doesn't just walk off with no issues at all. But she also knows her sociology and psychology, exploring not just Ava's perspective, but also the different societies she winds up in and how Ava fits into that.

But it's also real in the way it seems like the world and the people are real. Some books you read, and you know they're fiction. And that's fine. We need an escape, and there are some books I pick up, and I know there's going to be a happily ever after, and I know there's going to good guy's going to win, and I can see the plot as it unfolds.

Salvage is not that book.

In Salvage, I had no idea what would happen next. I had no idea if Ava would find a happily ever after. If the characters I'd come to love would live.

Salvage was real.

So definitely give this one a read. It will creep inside your mind and stay under your skin for a long time.

Find out more about the book
Find out more about the author

The Best Students are Teachers

I am extraordinarily lucky to have had the opportunity to pursue two careers--writing and teaching. Although I'm no longer a teacher (I used to teach English to high school students), there's a part of me that still sees the world through an educator's eyes. I'll visit a museum and think of my former students who would like to see the exhibit, or I'll read something and think to myself, "that would make a great lesson!" I've harassed Laura, my fellow teacher and dear friend, more than a few times with ideas for her to turn something into a lesson because I'm no longer in the classroom.

This is probably why I'm an active mod over at the YA Writers group on Reddit, why I make blog posts about books that are sometimes in an academic or instructional variety, and why my favorite style of presentation to give is a Q&A. It's also probably why I identified so strongly with Hermione Granger.

I'm always afraid of pushing the Hermione-ness of myself too much, and I try not to be a know-it-all, but if you're my friend, there's a 99% chance I've tried to one-up you in a conversation, or slip in a random historical fact, or inserted a weird bit of trivia. It should be noted that the husband won't play Trivial Pursuit with me, and that's probably why we've got such a happy marriage.

But seeing the world with an eye for education has definitely helped me to understand the world better, and to seek out the why of things.

Teaching something forces you to know more about the subject than a student does. This was the first thing I learned as a teacher, the most important lesson, and the one that has stayed with me. I thought I was so smart as a college student. I had a decent GPA, I was young, I was brilliant, I was going to change the world! But knowing the answers to the test don't always mean you understand why an answer exists.

My first few weeks of teaching taught me more about education than five years of college and two degrees and three certificates did. I did far more homework as a teacher than as a student. I prepared a million times more. For every page my students read, I read ten. When I taught a novel, I read not only the novel, but all the criticism, all the analyses, all the background.

In order to condense my lesson into a short, 90 minute lecture, I compiled enough information to fill a book.

Every year, at least one kid would ask: "Why do we have to learn English anyway? How is that going to help us in the real world?" And every year, I struggled to find an answer. Math and science are easy to see the relevance of. Vocational studies had real-world implications. Even PE could have a lasting effect on the body, if not the mind. But was all just stories and grammar, right? And while lessons on the parts of speech and how to compose a resume are helpful, the literature--the core of every English class--has no real world implications, do they? Your ability to read Shakespeare will likely no effect your chances of securing a job; your understanding of symbolism in modern literature won't get you a pay raise.

Except English classes and literature aren't about what you learn. I don't really care if you know that Moby Dick is a whale or not. English classes and literature are about how you learn, and what matters is that you understand the futility of Captain Ahab's quest.

I never really had a good answer for "why do we have to learn English" when I was a teacher. I tried--the quickest way to distract me from a lesson and invoke a thirty-minute rant from me was to ask that question during class. But it's only now, as a writer, as someone who's making literature, that I realize the importance of it. Just as, as a teacher, I had to truly understand a subject before I could teach it, as a writer, I have to understand the importance of literature before I can write it. And just as my point as a teacher was always to help guide my students into understanding rather than rote memorization, my goal as a writer is to show the world and the character and the story and leave the meaning to grow in the reader's mind.

Writing books isn't just about telling a story. It's about creating a story not of ink and paper, but of thoughts and ideas. If I've done my job--and I try very hard to do this with everything I write--then the story exists beyond the book. It changes the way you see not just the characters, but yourself.

That's why we learn English lit.