Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Him Her Him Again The End of Him by Patricia Marx

I try to read and review books that most people I know haven't already read, 1) to give the authors more exposure, and 2) because once everyone I know has read a book, I don't see much point in checking it out myself. This results in a lot of enthusiastic group conversations where I stare blankly at the wall and mumble something about the book having a "nice cover."

Sometimes I'll meet the actual author of said super-popular book, and she is so stunned to find someone who hasn't read it that she immediately becomes my best friend because she knows that I'll always love her for herself.

Okay, that never happens. Usually she asks me where the restroom is.

Reason #1 doesn't really apply here, because someone with a Huffington Post column and a cover quote from Steve Martin ("I laughed at its audacity then cried because I didn't write it") doesn't need a whole lotta help from me.

In fact, if Steve Martin and Umberto Eco got together to write a chick lit novel, this would be one of the results. The other results would no doubt make a great documentary.

Anyway, the book. Have you ever committed really pathetically outrageously formidably catastrophically stupid acts because you were in love with someone who didn't deserve it? If not, you've missed the world's best source of comedy material. But don't worry--it's never too late to meet some jerkoff like Eugene.

Eugene is a pompous twit whom the unnamed heroine of Him Her Him Again The End of Him meets while doing grad "work" at Cambridge University. It's hard for the reader to understand what she sees in him--which is exactly the point. Him Her Him Again The End of Him is an anti-romance; the reader spends the entire book praying for the relationship to finally end. And when it does...it's one of the most satisfying moments in all of bookdom (<<hee, if you read the novel you'll see why that's an extra humorous choice of words; if you don't, you'll always wonder, or perhaps not).

Him Her Him Again The End of Him
was the funniest thing I've read since Stupid and Contagious by Caprice Crane, and that's saying a lot. The only part that disappointed me was when the book ran out of pages. Stupid publishing wankers.

P.S.: Ignore the Amazon customer reviewers. They just didn't get it. If you find comedy writing to be shallow, then yeah, avoid this book. And have my pity.

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Now playing: Born Blind - Sonny Boy Williamson
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Where English majors will shop forever

I was at Giant Foods today (it's a grocery store, for those who don't have this chain in your area), and I saw the most amazing sign at the Express Lane:

15 ITEMS OR FEWER

Not the grammatically incorrect "15 Items or Less" that we've all grown up with and learned to accept.

My faith in humanity has been restored.

Well, not really.

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Now playing: 2:1 - Elastica
via FoxyTunes

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Monday, January 28, 2008

16 random facts meme

Rachel Caine honored me with a tag on a fun new meme--actually, an extended version of the Eight Things You Don't Know About Me, which I posted last June.

The mission: list sixteen random personal facts or habits, and then pick twelve of my friends to tag. I'm going to cheat a little and start off with an edited version of my Eight Things:

1. Like last year's Miss Michigan, I have maimouphobia*. (Also coulrophobia, but everyone knows that.)

2. Favorite song: "Inside Out" by Eve 6. Singing along to this tune is a better aerobic workout than the Stairmaster, and much easier on the knees.

3. Sometimes when I'm in the self-checkout lane at the supermarket, I pretend I'm auditioning for a job.

4. Favorite classical composer: Franz Schubert. This is not interesting.

5. I once spent the night at Eugene O'Neill's boyhood home, the setting for his Pulitzer-winning play, Long Day's Journey Into Night. Alas, I neither saw nor heard the famed ghost of his mother, wandering the halls looking for her next morphine fix.

6. Secret Celebrity Crush: Ben Stiller

7. I'm obsessive but not compulsive, mainly because I'm too lazy to follow through on most thoughts. I might be having lunch with you, and 99% of my attention is focused on what you're saying (honestly!), while the remaining 1% is thinking, "The tablecloth is crooked, the salt shaker is at a hostile angle to the sugar bowl, and I'm dying to make an Olympic rings symbol with the condensation on the bottom of my water glass." But don't worry--I won't do anything about it.

8. In my head, the alphabet still looks like this.

Now, the new ones:

9. I have passed out once in my life--in Bruges, Belgium. Yes, I'll be seeing the Colin Farrell movie.

10. I wait to buy a Tori Amos album until the following one is released. No reason, it just works out that way, and so far I've been happy with the results.

11. I never turn my back on a saguaro cactus.

12. I directed Sartre's No Exit as part of my senior thesis. Only two out of the four actors learned all their lines.

13. Speaking of college theatre, I played Crow in Sam Shepard's Tooth of Crime. This was the pinnacle of my acting "career." Can you find me in the photos?

14. I only need two more random facts after this one.

15. One of my friends in college went out with a guy who went on to marry Amy Carter. She went on to be a lesbian. My friend, not Amy Carter.

16. The coffee is ready.

*that's fear of monkeys, for those too lazy to skim the article

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

What's an ARC, anyway? (The last contest)

Congrats to tezmiller from LiveJournal on winning last week's drawing for an ARC of Wicked Game. I let her have it even though she caused Poison's "Unskinny Bop" to get stuck in my head.

And now...the last ARC to be given away on the blog.

To review, an ARC is an Advance Readers Copy of the book. Sometimes the R stands for "Review," which is technically more correct, because the publishers print them up several months ahead of time for the purposes of giving to people who will, you know, review them.

Besides reviewers, who gets ARCs? Key booksellers, readers groups, major bloggers, interviewers--anyone who will get the word out and create a buzz prior to publication. Sometimes authors get a few for their own promotional purposes.

BRAG ALERT: I showed the people at Pocket my detailed marketing plan for Wicked Game; in response, they sent me many, many ARCs.
END BRAG, BEGIN LESSON: It just goes to show that if you demonstrate a willingness to do your part to promote a book, a publisher will help you out if they can. It's a partnership--you can't expect them to do everything while you stand by and wait for success to fall on you.
END LESSON

There are a few major differences between an ARC and the actual book,* and ARCs have their pros and cons. Since the main character is a grifter, we'll start with:

Cons:

  • Quality on the inside: They're uncorrected proofs, which means typos. Don't let them distract you from the story or make you think poorly of the author or publisher. In the interests of getting them out quickly, they're usually not proofread.
  • Quality on the outside: The binding isn't as resilient, and the paper is sometimes of a lower grade. Many ARCs have a blank cover with just the title and author's name. (Fortunately the Wicked Game ARCs feature an early version of the purty purty cover.*)
  • You can't resell them. Well, you're not supposed to. No bookseller will buy them off of you (and those who do are rounded up and shot). Authors do not receive royalties or credit from ARC sales, but personally I believe that if you buy one to have as a collector's item and still buy the book itself, you're OK (in fact, you're FABULOUS for keeping it out of the hands of someone who'll buy it instead of the book).
Pros:
  • Early! For this reason, I gobble up ARCs at trade shows like crazy. I want to be the first person to read a new book. Not so much for bragging rights, but to experience the story pre-hype, without prejudice.
  • Typos can be entertaining! For instance, in the middle of a riveting action scene, the baddies are described as running "up the stairs of David's desk." (Mainly I just feel lucky that they misspelled 'deck' that way.)
  • Insider information! The back of the ARC often contains super-secret marketing stuff, like the fact that Wicked Game will be a Feature Title on Simon & Schuster's Book Club Reader website and at the American Library Association conference. And that it's been optioned for a movie with Scarlett Johanssen and Ryan Gosling. Oh wait, no, that last one is Heavier Than Heaven, not Wicked Game. Sorry!

So for the final contest, tell me why I should give you the last ARC of Wicked Game. Does your blog get lots of hits? Are you the biggest gossip in your vampire novel-loving neighborhood/book club/quilting circle/coven? Are you on Death Row, with an execution date of May 12?

Give me your best pitch in the comments, or if you prefer, send me an e-mail (in case you really are on Death Row). And since Ciara is a con artist, points will be given for creativity.

As always, deadline is next Thursday, noon EST. Good luck!

*If I ever find the *%$&ing USB cable for my digital camera, I'll show you what mine look like.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Good week for Wicked Game

Four months before publication (and just in time to be printed in the front of the book itself), Publisher's Weekly gave this review to Wicked Game:
Newbie marketing intern Ciara Griffin lands a job at WMMP, a station threatened with being sold to Skyware, a giant communications conglomerate, unless ad revenue picks up. A former con artist with a canny way with people, Ciara soon learns that the DJs are undead and specialists in the musical eras in which they were turned into vampires. One of them, Shane McAllister (turned in 1995), is really hot and dangerously tempting. In order to attract more listeners, Ciara promotes a new marketing strategy and the Sherwood, Md., station becomes 94.3 WVMP, the “Lifeblood of Rock and Roll,” exploiting the fang factor (which no listener takes seriously) for profit. It works, until an ancient vampire cult wants to pull the plug. Also playing in is “The Control,” an equally ancient paramilitary group created to protect good vampires and kill bad ones.

Smith-Ready's musical references are spot on, as is her take on corporate radio's creeping airwave hegemony. Add in the irrepressible Ciara, who grew up in a family of grifters, and the results rock.

Here's where I become the pointyheaded pseudo-intellectual version of Beavis & Butthead:
Heh. They said, 'hegemony.'

Seriously, I'm beyond thrilled about this review, because it's my first ever in Publisher's Weekly. It means a lot. And, heh, they said 'creeping airwave hegemony.' I'm thinking Bill Moyers might love this book.

The other great news is that my editor, Jennifer Heddle, was just promoted to senior editor at Pocket Books. She absolutely deserves it, though whenever someone younger than I am has the word 'senior' in front of their title, I feel like an underachiever.

In fact, I'm going to put a new sign on my office door:

SENIOR SLACKER

Come back Friday for a new ARC contest, and soon thereafter to see the final cover! Then we'll figure out how to pass the time for the next four months until the actual book comes out.

I'm sure we'll think of something.

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Now playing: The Killing Lights - A.F.I.
via FoxyTunes

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bad band confessional - the penultimate ARC contest

Congrats to Erica J. from MySpace for winning last week's ARC drawing, and thanks to everyone who shared their misheard lyrics. Many laughs were had.

The other night I was listening to the Go Go's Beauty and the Beat for the first time in over two decades. It was one of my favorite albums growing up, and I was thrilled to discover that I agreed with my thirteen-year-old self that it was a fantastic album (and that my thirteen-year-old self was spot on when she felt that "You Can't Walk in Your Sleep (If You Can't Sleep)" is the flattest track).


(As an aside, I was able to remember words to songs I hadn't heard in over twenty years. Yet I can't remember where I left my snow boots, and I just saw them yesterday. Somewhere. In the house. On a floor of some sort.)

Mostly, though, when I look back at the bands I liked as a pre-teen and teenager, I cringe. In some cases, I don't feel outright shame. For instance, I went through a whole progressive/art rock phase, worshiping bands like Steely Dan, Yes, Rush, Emerson Lake & Palmer (and, oh save us Lord, who can forget the Law Offices of Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe?). From an objective quality standpoint, they're all excellent bands; but now they make me want to puke.

The same lack of embarrassment does not apply to Loverboy.

Man, I loved those tantalizing troubadours from Toronto. I played "Working for the Weekend"* first thing when I got home from middle school every Friday. I stared longingly at Mike Reno's red-leather-clad butt on the cover of Get Lucky (I assumed the lead singer was the model, which I now realize was probably not the case). And who can forget that sweatband thingie?

So for this week's comment contest (from which I will draw a winner of an Advance Review Copy of Wicked Game, deadline next Thursday at noon EST as usual):


Which band makes you want to smack your twelve-year-old (or twenty-year-old) self upside the head with the Mighty Baseball Bat of Good Taste?

I promise not to get mad if it's the Go-Go's.


*a brief perusal of YouTube didn't turn up an original video of "WftW," but here's "Turn Me Loose," which, upon reflection, is not a half-bad song, for what it was.

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Kwik-E-Reviews

One of my unspoken New Year's resolutions was to do more book reviews, but having an English major background I expect long dissertations from myself, which means I rarely do them. I can't take the pressure, man!

One of my Facebook apps (hey, I'm on Facebook! Come friend me.) is a Visual Bookshelf, which encourages me to write brief reviews of books I've claimed to have read. So I'm reproducing them here, without editing. Enjoy.




I Am America (and So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert

Hilarious! I couldn't read too many chapters in one sitting because a) my cheeks hurt and b) the humor loses its impact with repetition. Colbert's use of footnotes and marginal notes were my favorite part. A true classic.



Sojourn by Jana G. Oliver

A gripping mystery set in Victorian times. The story is about a professional time traveler from 2057 who goes back to 1888 London in the middle of Jack the Ripper's killing spree. She gets caught up in the current chaos, and when her 21st century support system fails, has to use her wits and bravery to overcome daunting situations.

Recommend for anyone who likes Victorian-set novels (the research and world-building were impeccable) or just mysteries in general. There were also some paranormal elements (shapeshifters), but I felt this was primarily a mystery/suspense.

Vivid characters and sensory details made me feel like I was there. The tale is continued in VIRTUAL EVIL--I can't wait!



The Song Reader by Lisa Tucker

This was a poignant, emotional book that nonetheless never veered into the realm of the sentimental. It's about a young woman who sort of tells people's fortunes (not in the sense of predicting the future, but in discovering what to do about the problems in their lives) based on the songs stuck in their heads.

I highly recommend this for anyone who likes novels about music, sisters, and/or mental illness. It's sad at parts but not depressing. Definitely suitable for young adult readers.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Misheard lyrics - new ARC contest

De do do do, de da da da
Is all I want to say to you.
De do do do, de da da da
Their innocence will pull me through.
De do do do, de da da da
Is all I want to say to you.
De do do do, de da da da
They're meaningless and all that's true
--The Police, "De Do Do Do"

Congrats to __bac__ from LiveJournal, who won last week's drawing for an ARC of Wicked Game.

Now let's have some fun....

Recently I was using the internet for its most important purpose: looking up song lyrics. In this case it was the words to a Rusted Root song. Not surprisingly, the first Google result was a site called The Archive of Misheard Lyrics.

The Archive invites users to submit their misheard lyrics and vote on other people's. The Top 100 Funniest are a hoot, though I think some of them are invented.

The song I was looking for was "Send Me on My Way,"* originally released in the early 90s but apparently resurrected in the movie Ice Age, where a penguin named Matilda dances or gets mauled by mastodons to it. I haven't seen that movie.

The line in question takes places after, "I may see you, I may tell you to run" (which for the record, I misheard as "Ombay say to you, ombay tell you to run.").

I used to think the next line was gibberish: "Mo-buddy-seh, mo-buddy-yuh," or perhaps actual words in a sub-Saharan African dialect currently spoken by fourteen people. It is world music, after all.

After further listening, I thought it was, "Nobody safe, nobody on," a twist on the baseball announcer's standby, "Nobody out, nobody on." It didn't make much more sense than, "Mo-buddy-seh, mo-buddy-yuh," but I thought it an improvement.

The real line is "You know what they say about the young." Who knew?

So for this week's contest, tell me one of your favorite misheard lyrics in the comments section. Deadline, as usual, is noon EST next Thursday.

Make me laugh, people!


*which my husband originally thought was called "Simi and the Whale"



UDPATE: after viewing the video to this song, I'm sticking with, "Mo-buddy-seh, Mo-buddy-yuh."

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Now playing: Muddy Waters - Walking Thru The Park
via FoxyTunes

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A Rush of Wings by Adrian Phoenix


Every once in awhile a book comes along that transcends categorization. I looked at the front and back cover of Adrian Phoenix's debut novel, A Rush of Wings, and thought, "Hmm. Another vampire novel."

(I shoulda known better. Here's the full disclosure part: we share an editor at Pocket, the brilliant and beautiful Jennifer Heddle. Adrian and I met when I heard about her book and stalked her until she agreed to send me a copy.)

Not only is A Rush of Wings not your typical vampire novel (though there is plenty here for fans of the genre to love), it's not even a typical urban fantasy. I would describe it more as a paranormal thriller, and not just because of the body count. The story is shown from the points-of-view of numerous characters, including the law enforcement officer, the victim(s), and the villain(s), which is more typical of a thriller than an urban fantasy.

I suck at story summaries, so I'm going to use Adrian's description from her interview at Darque Reviews:

A Rush of Wings is a story of betrayal, shattered beliefs, and blackest secrets as Special Agent Heather Wallace trails a serial-killing sexual sadist to New Orleans. An unexpected twist leads her to Dante, a gorgeous, talented vampire -- and the killer's next target. She tumbles into a deadly moonlit world of vampires, fallen angels and hidden experiments in sociopathology.

Caught in a web of deception stretching to the Bureau and beyond, Heather runs a desperate race – against time, against other agents, even against her own deepening feelings – to keep Dante alive, but she can't save him from his own stolen past. Or his destiny.

No mere description of plot can capture the magic of this book. I shall attempt in my pathetic way to give you a hint.

First of all, the writing is exquisite. Phoenix describes the little moments--the ones most of us fill in with an offhand gesture--with actions that convey intense emotional clarity. Each character has such distinctive motions and speech inflections, after awhile I could probably tell who was in the scene without reading their names.

But enough about why I admired it. I admire plenty of books that leave me cold. I loved it because it had heart. The characters went through a world of hurt but still had the capacity for compassion and connection. Because of this, an intense and often heartbreaking story never felt grim or bleak.

I also loved the way I felt like I was there in the scene. I could hear the wail of guitars, smell the sweat and blood, feel the shift of leather against skin, and--well, that's enough sharing. It was a vivid experience, let me tell you.

Though the story is set in modern-day New Orleans, it has an epic feel, with a complex plot and many levels of good guys and bad guys. It's not the kind of world that can be fully fleshed out with just one novel--there's a hint of a larger mythology surrounding the fallen angels and the origin of vampires, the surface of which has barely been scratched. Normally that would bother me, as I'm not much of a series reader. But A Rush of Wings both tantalized and satisfied me enough to know that I'll devour Book Two (tentatively titled In the Blood, appearing in January 2009).

And last but not least, my husband really loves the cover, which gives me some wardrobe ideas.

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Now playing: These Days - R.E.M.
via FoxyTunes

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Top Ten signs a book was written by me

Rachel Vincent brought a meme to my attention on the Fangs Fur & Fey LiveJournal community and invited us all to take part. I promised myself I wouldn't take more than half an hour away from Bad to the Bone to jot this down, so forgive the brevity.

Here we go, in order in which I thought of them. Call them Jeri Cliches or Smith-Ready Selling Points, it's the Top Ten Signs a Book Came Out of My Head:

1. Hero and heroine hit the sack fast. They don't always go all the way, but they usually break the sexual tension in a hot and hasty fashion. Exception: Voice of Crow. Oh, and The Reawakened, where self-denial reaches new heights of insanity. It's important to break out of ruts.*

2. Main character has hostile and/or distant relationship with father. Exception: Eyes of Crow.

3. Prominent gay or bisexual characters. Exception: Eyes of Crow.

4. Music is integral to the plot and characters. Once again, exception is Eyes of Crow (did I actually write that book?).

5. Moderate to heavy alcohol consumption. NO EXCEPTIONS

6. Natural dialogue and a fast pace. I guess these go together as stylistic factors, and the former certainly helps the latter.

7. Beta male hero. Exception: Requiem for the Devil. They don't get any more alpha than Lucifer. But he's the POV character, which probably increases my tolerance for the attitude.

8. Main character's friends and/or siblings get a lot of "screen time." This is self-explanatory, and yet I'm adding a note here because otherwise it looks funny, like I didn't want to talk about it.

9. Religion is prominent. Whether negatively or positively portrayed, it's always a psychological factor.

10. It's about more than what it's about. This probably sounds pompous, but I like my stories to be meaningful. My primary concern is to entertain, but if a reader comes away from the book looking at the world in a different way (or just looking at the world period), that's a bonus.

*Ruts. Hee. I just got that.

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Now playing: Round & Round (It Won't Be Long) - Neil Young
via FoxyTunes

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Friday, January 04, 2008

The winnahs keep comin' -- Be one today!

The winner of last week's drawing for an ARC of Wicked Game was Crystal from MySpace. Yay, Crystal!

This week's contest is so easy it makes me want to weep and take a shower. On December 26, my Pick Six interview appeared on author Heidi Ruby Miller's blog. (It's called Pick Six because she gives authors 15 questions and we answer 6.)

So be a bud, go to Heidi's blog, and comment on my interview. It's the least I can do since she was nice enough to give me a little exposure. Plus, she'll be totally weirded out by the sudden influx of comments.

***NOTE: if you can't post a comment there because you don't have a Live Journal account (I think you might be able to do it anonymously and just sign your name so I know who you are), then just post your comment here. Sorry for the inconvenience.***

I'll draw one ARC winner from the commenters, and I swear I won't give extra weight to those who say something along the lines of, "Jeri, how'd you get to be so cool?".

Deadline, as usual, is next Thursday at noon EST.

Have a great weekend!

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Now playing: King For A Day/Shout - Green Day
via FoxyTunes

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year!

(Quick reminder, since a lot of you were away doing whatever it is normal people do over the holiday: there's another Wicked Game ARC drawing this week. Scroll down to last Friday's post. There aren't many entries yet (slackers!), so your chances are excellent.)

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I read yesterday that the way you spend your time at midnight on New Year's Eve is the way you'll spend the rest of the year. I guarantee that I will not spend 2008 drinking too much champagne (how can 1.75 glasses be so intoxicating?) and staring at the blandly handsome face of Ryan Seacrest (how can 1 man get paid so much for doing so little?).

I took the whole day off yesterday, something I never do. Saw Sweeney Todd, which was amazing, the ideal marriage of men and material. When I heard last year that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp were bringing the Sondheim musical to the big screen, I thought, "It will be perfect." And it was.

Then I spent the evening finishing A Rush of Wings by Adrian Phoenix, which comes out next Tuesday. I'll blog in detail about it over the weekend, but it was awesome--serial killers, vampires rock gods, FBI conspiracies, and fallen angels, all in one gorgeously written novel.

On to my 2008 Goals:

1. Rewrite The Reawakened (non-negotiable, since it's under contract)
2. Write and rewrite Bad to the Bone (ditto)
3. Write six tie-in stories for Wicked Game
4. Submit proposal for more vampire books
5. Submit young adult fantasy proposal (completed Book 1 and series synopsis)
6. Write and submit proposal for new adult novel/series
7. Fix screenplay ending and begin submitting it to contests again
8. Design and build WVMPradio.com website and blog for Wicked Game's release
9. Build MySpace pages for WVMP and characters
10. Attend 5 conferences/conventions/book festivals
11. Sign stock at 100 bookstores
12. Do 10 non-conference appearances (signings, talks)
13. Do 25 online interviews/guest blogs
14. Read 50 books
15. Watch 50 movies
16. Foster 5 dogs (not all at the same time)
17. Do my part to make sure my candidate becomes President
18. Never be satisfied with "good enough."

You'll notice that a lot of these are repeats/carry overs from my 2007 goals. I'm a work in progress.

What are your hopes and dreams for 2008? Do they involve booze and fake celebrities? If so, consider revising. Or hell, go for it.

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Now playing: Sleater-Kinney - Start Together
via FoxyTunes

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NEW RELEASE!

This Side of Salvation

This Side of Salvation, Jeri's new contemporary YA novel!

Now available in hardcover and ebook.

“A smart, well-rounded, and unpredictable tale...bringing to light issues of belief versus free will, spirit versus body, and family versus self.” —Booklist, **Starred Review**

More about THIS SIDE OF SALVATION

Order from Indie Bound, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.com.

NOW AVAILABLE!

Shattered

"Shattered," a Shade novella!

Available here on this website as a free download in all major ebook formats, as well as a printable PDF (now with photos!).

More about "Shattered"

About the author

Jeri Smith-Ready

Jeri Smith-Ready is a Maryland author of books for teens and adults.

Learn more about Jeri...

Photo © Geoffrey C. Baker

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