Saturday, October 31, 2009

Blogtoberfest Day 25 - Rachel Vincent

Happy Halloween, everyone! I can't believe Blogtoberfest has come to an end. I hope you've had as much fun as I've had reading all the entries and comments. We've had such a great variety of posts, thanks to the imaginative authors.

The drawings will continue throughout the week, which means you can still enter all the open contests. I'll announce the winners at the beginning of each day's blog post.

The final drawing for the super-ultimo-grand prize will be Saturday, November 7, 11:59pm, and the winner will be announced in a blog post on Monday, November 9.

Speaking of drawings, the winner of a signed copy of Simone Elkeles's Perfect Chemistry is...HeatherMarie!

Our final Blogtoberguest is New York Times-bestselling author Rachel Vincent, who writes two of my favorite series, the Shifters adult urban fantasy, and the Soul Screamers young adult series. Her heroines are strong, but so easy to relate to, they feel like the younger sisters I never had (Mom, if you're reading this, it's okay--I never wanted a real little sister).

I'm thrilled Rachel was able to join us this month and share her funniest/saddest/scariest Halloween moment, depending how you look at it:

* * * *

I don’t have a lot of luck with Halloween. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. It’s one of my favorite holidays. But my track record so far is less than stunning, and the memory that sticks out the most is this:

I started wearing glasses when I was in second grade, when the teacher noticed me squinting. It turned out that I wasn’t just a little bit nearsighted. I was practically blind and badly astigmatic. In fact, the eye doctor told my mother that I’d probably have to have eye surgery before I finished high school. Fortunately, that turned out to be unnecessary. But the glasses did not. By junior high, I couldn’t see to put on makeup without my glasses unless I was literally three inches from the mirror.

What does this have to do with Halloween? My glasses (with lenses so thick the edges had to be shaved to make them fit the frames) meant that all masks were out, and face paint never looked right. Ever. And my mother was a bit of an artist, so both my sisters and my step-brothers always had awesome face paint.

The year I was ten (I think), I decided I’d had enough of the glasses. I could go without them for a couple of hours. So my mother painted my face (Oddly enough, I can’t remember what my costume was. That may have been the year I was a hobo clown.), and I squinted into the mirror, trying to make some sense out of the bright colors. Then she drove all five of us to the nearest big subdivision.

Every year, we would walk from house to house, and my mom would follow in her van. That year, she gave my middle sister (we’ll call her B) specific instructions to look out for me. I couldn’t see the ground, so steps and yard decorations were perils I’d never even notice until it was too late.

For the first few houses, B was a loyal aid to the nearly-blind. But then she made a particularly big haul and got excited. And left me. I tried to follow, but other kids got in my way, and I couldn’t tell who I was following anymore. They were all dark blurs.

Then, I took one wrong step and landed face first in a ditch. Seriously. A wet ditch. In my costume. I came up dripping and covered in leaves, and half of my candy was soaked. My mom couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry with me.

I wasn’t mad—for long, anyway. My sister was barely nine years old, and candy can have a profound influence on a third grader. But I’ve never let her live it down, either. ;-)

* * * *

To enter to win a signed copy of My Soul to Take or My Soul to Save (winner's choice), leave a comment below. And remember, each comment automatically enters you in the drawing for the grand prize package: all 25 books!

For complete rules, read the introductory post.

Deadline for entry: Saturday, November 7, 11:59pm Eastern. NOTE: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. The winner is Belly!

Other open contests:

Maggie Stiefvater and Ballad
Stephanie Kuehnert and Ballads of Suburbia
Carrie Jones and an ARC of Captivate
Jennifer Echols and The Ex-Games
PC Cast and Tempted
Jeri Smith-Ready and an ARC of Shade

Thanks to Rachel for being our grand finale, and thanks to everyone, both authors and readers, who have made this such a fun blog-iversary!

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Blogtoberfest Day 24 - Jeri Smith-Ready

The winner of Tricia Mills's Heartbreak River is...ddurance! Deirdre, I don't have a way to reach you, so please send your mailing address to jeri AT jerismithready DOT com in the next week. Congrats!

Today's Blogtoberguest is, uh, me. I scheduled myself toward the end of the month because:

a) I'm a procrastinator.
b) I hoped by this point I'd have cover art for Shade.

As you can see, I have cover art! It's not final--they'll add a tagline and a cover quote--but this is the basic image. If you want to see Aura's face, check out the full wrap-around hardcover jacket near the end of this post. I love all my covers, but I am rabidly excited about this one. Aura looks like Aura and everything!

I'm still waiting for a trailer and back-cover copy, so I'll tell you about Shade in my own, non-marketing-professional words:

16-year-old Aura can see ghosts. Then again, so can everyone around the world who was born after her. In fact, they have a word for the moment of her birth: the Shift. Aura suspects that the Shift might be connected to her missing mystery dad and an event that happened at Newgrange tomb in Ireland a year before her birth.

Ghosts can be annoying at their best. At their worst, as dark, powerful "shades," they can be deadly. So Aura's major goal in life is to undo the Shift and make the ghosts go away.

And then, her boyfriend dies and becomes a ghost.

Release date: May 4, 2010, from Simon Pulse

So you'd think that because I write the spooky, I'd do a Halloween post. But Aura mentions in Shade that she and Logan went to Chiapparelli's before the Homecoming dance a few weeks before he died, so I decided to find out what happened on their last big date:

* * * *
SHADE prequel scene (not an excerpt from the book), in honor of Blogtoberfest

“I got us a ghost-free table,” Logan said. “At least, I hope I did.”

The hostess led us through the restaurant’s candlelit foyer, past the autographed photos of Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando, into the brighter back room.

“If they're here, at least I won't be able to see them. Much.” I shivered as Logan peeled off my coat, his fingers brushing my bare shoulders and the wisps of dark brown hair cascading from my up-do.

He gave the gawking couple at the next table a muted version of his magnetic smile. They looked away with matching grimaces. Maybe they worried their two little boys would grow up to pierce their own brows, or dye their own hair bleached blond with black streaks.

As soon as the hostess left, Logan’s animated blue eyes peeped at me over the top of his menu. “Then again,” he said, “your dress could scare off every ghost in Baltimore.”

My face warmed—okay, not just my face. The way he looked at me brought up thoughts of Thursday and the thing we weren’t talking about.

As for the dress, I always wore a lot of red—ghosts hated the color—but never to any place important. No one born before me could see ghosts, including Logan, who was two months and three days older. So a red outfit was like a neon sign reading, “Hey, I’m only sixteen!” But when I saw the Faviana cocktail dress (new-with-tags) on eBay for $45.99, I knew it was destiny.

Red didn’t always deter ghosts. The only foolproof spirit stopper was the expensive BlackBox technology, where charged obsidian was built into the walls. Only the big chain restaurants could afford it, and we were not about to waste Homecoming night on a lame-ass piece of Generica.

Logan gave the menu a quick glance, then tossed it aside. “Penne vodka.”

“The alcohol burns off when they cook the sauce,” I told him.

After a brief pause, he said, “I knew that.” But he picked up the menu again.

When we ordered, the waiter nodded approvingly at my pronunciation of manicotti (mani-GOT, as taught by my Italian grandmom) and winced at Logan’s mangling of “Spaghetti Bolognese.”

“How was rehearsal today?” I asked Logan, before he could wonder out loud why the menu didn’t just say “Spaghetti and Meat Sauce.”

He brightened at the sound of his favorite topic. “It was awesome. Mickey and I worked out Siobhan’s fiddle part on ‘Ghost in Green.’ The transposition was a bitch, but by the next gig the song’ll be perfect.”

My gut tightened with sympathy nerves at the thought of their big show on Logan’s seventeenth birthday. “It’ll be perfect if Brian can stay sober.”

“Yeah. Pretty big if.” Logan stirred the ice in his soda glass. “I know I get pretty wasted sometimes, but I never let it affect the band.”

True. Unlike their drummer, Logan saved his binges for after the gigs.

He grew still as he focused on the bubbly brown depths of his soda. “So. About what happened Thursday.”

I looked down at my hands and fought the usual urge to pick at the ebony nail polish. “You mean what didn’t happen. I’m sorry I chickened out.”

“It’s not your fault. It’s my fault.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” I felt suddenly cold, so I wrapped my black pashmina shawl over my bare shoulders, covering the top of my dress.


“Instead, let’s just try it again.” I dropped my voice to a whisper. “No, I mean—not try. Do.” Great, now I sounded like Yoda. “Tonight.”

“Aura, I’ve been thinking.” He set his elbows on the table and folded his hands together. “We’ve gotten really wrapped up in this do-we-or-don’t-we thing. Maybe we should take a break.”

A break? Icy fingers climbed the ladder of my rib cage. Is he ending us? On Homecoming night? We hadn't even gotten our appetizers.

“A break?” I choked out. “From each other?”

His eyes widened. “No! God, no. I meant take a break from thinking about sex.” He shifted his weight in the chair. “Okay, that’s not really possible for, like, two seconds in a row, but let’s stop obsessing about when and where. If it happens, it happens, and if not, that’s cool, too.”

I took as deep a breath as possible in the tight dress. “Really?”

“We’ll just put it away for a while.” He mimed opening a drawer and dropping something in. “We’ll have more fun together without all the pressure. Like we used to.” Logan closed the imaginary drawer.

“He’s lying,” said a voice behind me.

I turned to see the faint violet shimmer of a ghost, almost invisible under the recessed ceiling light. Her voice held a bitter, million-and-one-cigarettes edge.

“That boy’s not giving up on sex, hon,” she said. “He’s just giving up on sex with you.”

At the next table, the kid in the booster seat started to cry, his gaze fixed on the source of the voice. The baby in the high chair pointed and giggled, too young to know that ghosts were supposed to be scary (or at least annoying).

“He’ll find someone else,” the dead lady sneered. “With his looks—and did I hear right, he’s in a band?—it’ll take him about thirty seconds, if that.”

I clutched the edge of the table, refusing to react. Not that ignoring them made them go away or anything.

Logan looked at the kids, then at me. “There’s a ghost here?”

“Don’t worry about it,” I told him.

“You’re all pissed off. What’s it saying?”

“I said, don’t worry about it.”

He turned to the other table, where the mother was comforting the toddler. The father muttered, “So much for family-friendly dining. Karen, I told you we should’ve gone to the Cheesecake Factory.”

The ghost’s voice came close to my ear. “I bet he already has groupies.”

“Do you want to leave?” Logan asked.

“No,” I snapped. “This is my favorite restaurant. I’m not letting her chase me away.”

The ghost laughed. “He’ll go through those girls like a bag of potato chips. You know what they say, after all. You can’t eat just one.”

“Shut up!” I stood and whipped off my wrap, revealing the scarlet dress beneath. “Mind your own damn business!”

The ghost hissed as if she’d been burned. The little kid screamed louder, and the baby stopped giggling. Everyone else in the room just stared.

The dead woman slunk away, her slim, wispy form brightening in the shadows near the bar.

“I have no damn business,” she said in a forlorn voice. “No business at all.”

I smothered a pang of sympathy and sat down just as the waiter delivered our basket of fresh-baked bread. I reached for a slice.

“Hey.” Logan covered my hand with his. The warmth of the bread beneath my palm sent shivers up my arm. “What did it say to you?” he whispered.

I tried to tell him, tried to trust him. When he turned that gaze on me, I felt like we were the only two people in the world. But I knew that when he looked out into a screaming crowd, each person felt that same way.

Everyone said Logan would be a star before he turned eighteen. Not the kind of star I wanted to study in college—the kind that burned light-years away, glistening cold in the night sky. He’d be the kind that burned here, blazing in the eyes of those who would worship him. Who would come to possess him, piece by tiny piece, until there was nothing of him left for me.

I pulled out the bread loaf and tore off two slices. Handing one to Logan, I said, “She was in the wrong restaurant. She thought she was a walking fortune cookie.”

He took a pat of butter as I poured myself some olive oil. “You think the fortune’ll come true?” he asked.

I smiled at him around my bite of warm, soft bread, pretending my full mouth was what kept me from answering.

It'll never come true, I vowed. Not if I can help it.

* * * *

To enter to win a signed ARC of Shade (mailing in November), leave a comment below. And remember, each comment automatically enters you in the drawing for the grand prize package: all 25 books!

For complete rules, read the introductory post.

Deadline for entry: Friday, November 6, 11:59pm Eastern. NOTE: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. The winner is Leah!

Other open contests:

Simone Elkeles and Perfect Chemistry
Maggie Stiefvater and Ballad
Stephanie Kuehnert and Ballads of Suburbia
Carrie Jones and an ARC of Captivate
Jennifer Echols and The Ex-Games
PC Cast and Tempted

If you're wondering, Aura's dress can be found, among other places, here (sadly, not the bargain she found on eBay). Or visit the designer's website for more drool-worthy dresses.

Come back tomorrow for our final guest, Rachel Vincent!

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Blogtoberfest Day 23 - PC Cast

The winner of Christine Marciniak's When Mike Kissed Emma is...yabooknerd! Congrats, and thanks to everyone who welcomed Christine's debut!

A real quick Grand Prize FAQ:

Q. Will the books in the uber-mega-califragilistic grand prize package be signed?
A. Nope, the books--all 25 of them, worth over $300--will come directly from Amazon, ordered by yours truly in one lump sale. Some authors (including me) offer signed bookplates you can stick in your copy of the book, but you'll have to contact them individually.

And when I say "you," I mean you. No, don't look over your shoulder. I'm talking to you. The winner. But you probably want to come back on November 9, just to be sure.

Q. What about books that aren't out yet, like the ones being given away as ARCs in the daily contests?
A. Good question! Those will be pre-ordered for you, which means that over the next six to eight months, you'll get surprises in the mail as each book is released. Sweet, huh?

Enough with the business--let's welcome today's Blogtoberguest, PC Cast! She's one of my all-time favorite authors, and also a dear friend (FWIW, we started loving each other's books--well, book, singular, in my case--long before we met). I've probably read more of her novels than those of any other writer, and I've read all five in her New York Times-bestselling House of Night series, which she writes with her daughter Kristin Cast. The sixth one, Tempted, is on its way to my house. *taps foot, glares at mailman*

Anyone who knows me well would say that's about four more books than I usually read in a series. Short attention span, I haz it.

Where was I? PC rocks. Here's the trailer for Tempted:

And now, the Babe herself, PC Cast!

* * * *

I love Halloween! Mostly because it’s the only nationally recognized holiday that’s for girls, or as I like to think of it, a girliday. I mean, come on – we get to dress up in costumes (girl stuff), we get to eat chocolate. Lots of chocolate (again, a girl candy). And we get to party while we costume and eat chocolate and basically debouch until the wee hours of the morning.

Waaaaiiiitttt…maybe I am a vampyre…

Soooo, my favorite Halloween was not long ago. One of my girlfriends had an amazing house in a part of Tulsa called Reservoir Hills. Her place was super cool – a white stucco 1920’s movie star mansion complete with koi pond and an amazing balcony. Well, she had a par-tay. Which means the entire neighborhood, made up of an eclectic group of equally cool houses/people, went full out. They made graveyards in their front yards – strung lights everywhere – hired zombies to prowl – got a dry ice/fog machine. I swear you couldn’t walk a yard without getting totally stickied by one of those giant fake spiderweb thingies. Everyone dressed up, from the kids to the cats. There was food and music and dancing in the streets.

But you know what was coolest about it (outside of my excellent vamp costume)? It was the coming together of the entire neighborhood to make it a great time. I love that when it happens, and I also love that Halloween still brings kids and their (sometimes badly) dressed up parents out to go from door to door trick or treating.

So this Halloween how about starting an annual block party? Better yet – theme it! Make it a House of Night Party! If you do I wish you lovely tattoos, a brilliant moon, and the blessings of Nyx.

Oh, and on October 30th, if you’re in the San Francisco area come by and see Kristin and me for our Halloween tour party at Books Inc., 855 El Camino Real #74, Palo Alto, CA 94304, 7:00pm. Yes! Costumes are always encouraged!

PC Cast

* * * *

To enter to win a signed copy of Tempted, leave a comment below. And remember, each comment automatically enters you in the drawing for the grand prize package: all 25 books!

For complete rules, read the introductory post.

Deadline for entry: Thursday, November 5, 11:59pm Eastern. NOTE: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. The winner is Patti!

Other open contests:

Tricia Mills and Heartbreak River
Simone Elkeles and Perfect Chemistry
Maggie Stiefvater and Ballad
Stephanie Kuehnert and Ballads of Suburbia
Carrie Jones and an ARC of Captivate
Jennifer Echols and The Ex-Games

Thanks again to PC for taking time out of her busy book touring schedule to pay us a visit! Mmmm-wahh!!

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Blogtoberfest Day 22 - Jennifer Echols

The winner of Sydney Salter's My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters is...Sheila Deeth! If you've been paying attention, you might be thinking, heyyyyyy, Sheila already won another book. But I never stated in the rules that someone couldn't win twice. Random is random. One time at Atlantic City I saw a roulette wheel that had come up Number 5 four times in a row! This is much less weird than that.

Lesson learned, as they say in the military? You can (and should!) come back every day, especially since each time you comment, you're automatically entered into the humongo-jackpot-sweetness grand prize: a copy of every single YA book being given away this month. So come on back, now, y'hear?

Today's Blogtoberguest is Jennifer Echols, whose July 2009 release, Going Too Far, I just finished reading. It was phenomenal, one of the most emotionally honest books I've read in a long time. It made me think a lot about my own teenage years and why I did the things I did. (I don't have as good an excuse for my misbehavior as Jenn's protagonist, because real life just isn't as well justified as fiction. That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it. *whistles innocently*).

And I just read today that MTV Books and our brilliant mutual editor Jennifer Heddle has bought two more Echols romantic dramas, including July 2010's Forget You. Congrats, Jenn! (Both Jen(n)s, actually.)

Today Jennifer (Echols) is giving away a signed copy of her latest romantic comedy from Simon Pulse, The Ex-Games. But first, she wants to tell you about her not-so-little nekkid friend.

* * * *

Home Butt Heartsick

In 2000 I stopped writing. The rejections for manuscript #7 felt particularly harsh because I was pregnant and hormonal, and I just couldn’t do it for a while.

In 2001 my husband and I bought an older house in Birmingham, put our sweat and love into restoring every inch of it, and had the baby. We loved our neighborhood and our city, and we were thrilled to start our little family here. And then my husband got laid off.

In 2002 we moved to Atlanta, where he found another job. I was born in Atlanta and I’d spent some time there since. Certain parts of the city are great. Unfortunately, we were not living in the cool part. We were living in the burgeoning suburban hell part, where the houses are made of plastic and your neighbors move out every six months. My husband managed the night shift at a factory and slept during the day. So it was mostly me and the toddler and his temper tantrums, trying to be quiet so as not to wake the husband, alone, with no family or friends for support, in vinyl siding wasteland.

In 2003 I began writing again. The hormones had subsided and the self-doubt along with them. I wrote manuscript #8 and sent that out.

In 2004, I started manuscript #9. The Dixie Chicks’ CDs were being burned because they’d expressed a dissenting opinion against President Bush, and Tim McGraw had just gotten arrested for stealing a horse. Those events inspired Your Cheatin’ Heart, an adult romantic comedy about a wildly popular country band, The Cheatin’ Hearts, and the record company marketing expert sent down from New York to tame their public relations disaster of a lead singer--who turns out to be a lot smarter and savvier than he lets on. Briefly I thought about setting this book in a place I love, Key West. But I knew I’d hit on the right idea when I set it back in Birmingham.

At the climax of the book, the Cheatin’ Hearts play a Nationally Televised Holiday Concert Event on the Fourth of July at the base of the statue of Vulcan, an enormous iron statue that presides over downtown. Birmingham originated as a steel town, and Vulcan is the Roman god of the forge. That’s all fitting and proper...except that this version of Vulcan is wearing a smithy apron that does not wrap all the way around him. From downtown you see him in his smithy apron. From the back you see his naked booty mooning one of the most conservative states in the nation. Is it just me or is this hilarious? Somebody should write a romantic comedy about that! So I did. The whole book is a love letter to the quirky town I was homesick for.

In 2005, we moved back to Birmingham--thank goodness! Your Cheatin’ Heart never sold, but it did get me an agent, and that agent sold my first published novel, Major Crush, later that year. My road to publication was long and hard, and I never, ever take my success for granted. But it’s hard to let go of what might have been, and of all my unsold manuscripts, Your Cheatin’ Heart is the one I lament. I still think it’s my best work.

It’s on my mind today because I just took my son (now 8 years old and lovely with no temper tantrums in sight) to a concert at the base of the statue of Vulcan. I’m a huge Nickel Creek fan, and the chick from that band, Sara Watkins, has a new solo album out. I thoroughly enjoyed her performance and the beautiful fall afternoon, but it did begin to feel bittersweet when the band members exchanged comments all but ripped from my poor dead novel:

Bass player: You probably get asked this a lot by people who aren’t from Birmingham, but is that god wearing pants?

Crowd: Noooooooo!

Sara Watkins: If you were a god, would you wear pants?

* * * *

To enter to win a signed copy of The Ex-Games, leave a comment below. And remember, each comment automatically enters you in the drawing for the grand prize package: all 25 books!

For complete rules, read the introductory post.

Deadline for entry: Wednesday, November 4, 11:59pm Eastern. NOTE: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. The winner is van_pham!

Christine Marciniak and When Mike Kissed Emma
Tricia Mills and Heartbreak River
Simone Elkeles and Perfect Chemistry
Maggie Stiefvater and Ballad
Stephanie Kuehnert and Ballads of Suburbia
Carrie Jones and an ARC of Captivate

Thanks again to Jenn for sharing her personal story of coming home. I hope one day we all get to read Your Cheatin' Heart!

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Blogtoberfest Day 21 - Carrie Jones

The winner of Melissa Walker's Lovestruck Summer is...Marie Carlson!

Apologies for the slight schedule change, but Sunday found us at the vet ER with a sick Misha cat (he is home and doing well, don't worry!), so I didn't have time to post Rachel Vincent's blog at a decent hour. Rachel has graciously agreed to do her guest blog this coming Saturday instead, so she'll be closing out our Blogtoberfest.

I can't believe it's almost over! But there are still six open drawings, plus five more to come, including Jennifer Echols (tomorrow), PC Cast (Thursday), me (Friday) and Rachel on Saturday. And then--AND THEN, the grand prize, featuring over $300 worth of YA novels (i.e., the books the authors are giving away).

But first! Today's Blogtoberguest is Carrie Jones, author of several YA books, including 2008's Need (which I shamelessly gushed over last year when I interviewed Carrie). The sequel, Captivate, will be coming out in January 2010. She'll be giving away an Advance Review Copy of Captivate right here.

Carrie recently announced that her publisher has bought two more books in this series. Hooray for pixies! No, wait, pixies are evil. But hooray for books about pixies!

Carrie starts off her post from the point of view of Zara, the heroine of Need and Captivate:

* * * *


1. Canines aren’t supposed to eat chocolate, so you get all the treats.

2. If you get lost in the woods you don’t have to worry about the Big Bad Wolf coming because you are already with the sexy, hot wolf.

3. He wags his tail in both human and wolf form.

4. He doesn’t mind if you wag your tail either.

5. He runs around naked.

6. He isn’t afraid to howl.

7. Did I mention the whole dogs/wolves-no-chocolate thing?

8. He’s really good at begging at the door.

9. He doesn’t mind if you drool, because let’s face it: he drools too.

10. Body heat.

* * * *

And now a bit from Carrie herself...

* * * *


I grew up in Bedford, NH. I was the poor kid. This was really super obvious on Halloween. Actually, it was super obvious all year because people would always be like, “Do you live in that creepy brown house on the hill?”

And I was too stupid to lie so I’d always go, “Um….yes.”

Everyone else had clothes from The Gap. Everyone else had cable. Everyone else had a computer. I had a word processor. I had no cable for a really long time. I had clothes from Kmart and eventually the thrift store, because I could at least be sort of cool if I shopped there because it seemed like a choice, you know?

So, I was the quiet girl with the K-Mart clothes with the creepy brown ranch house in a town of colonial houses in cute subdivisions. OH! And my dad was a truck driver. Everyone else’s dad worked for Digital or designed space shuttle parts for NASA.

Anways, I wanted to LOVE Halloween. I wanted to have one of those awesome frilly costumes. I wanted to be a princess or a fairy or a deck of cards or something cool. But, my mom who is awesome is not very crafty. She doesn’t know how to work a glue gun. And we were poor.

So every year I was the same thing.

This thing was not a fairy princess.

This thing was not a deck of cards.

This thing was not a cat or a pumpkin or a sexy she-devil.

This thing was a private investigator. Year after year I would wear my mom’s trench coat and my dad’s dorky brown hat with the feather in it and be a private investigator. And every year nobody knew what I was. Don’t get me wrong. People would guess….

You’re a person on a rainy day….

You’re a teacher….

You’re someone in a trench coat…

But my favorite guess? Yeah, that one was golden. It was announced by Scott Quinn during our school’s Halloween parade where each class would do a circuit around the perimeter of the gym and the other classes would watch.

What did Scott Quinn yell?

You’re a flasher! Carrie’s a flasher!

Yeah. It scared me. Just a bit.

* * * *

To enter to win a signed ARC of Captivate, leave a comment below. And remember, each comment automatically enters you in the drawing for the grand prize package: all 25 books!

For complete rules, read the introductory post.

Deadline for entry: Tuesday, November 3, 11:59pm Eastern. NOTE: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. The winner is Bella!

Sydney Salter and My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters
Christine Marciniak and When Mike Kissed Emma
Tricia Mills and Heartbreak River
Simone Elkeles and Perfect Chemistry
Maggie Stiefvater and Ballad
Stephanie Kuehnert and Ballads of Suburbia (believe it or not, I didn't intentionally book these two similarly-titled-but-way-different novels back-to-back--just got lucky)

Thanks so much to Carrie for reminding us why we adore her!

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Blogtoberfest Day 20 - Stephanie Kuehnert

Today's Blogtoberguest is Stephanie Kuehnert, who (whom?) you know I adore. You can read my thoughts on her first novel, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, and my unworthy blatherings on her latest brilliant work, Ballads of Suburbia, which she'll be giving away today.

Since I've already said so much about how much I love Steph's books, I'm going to hop aside and let her do the talking instead of hogging up the bandwidth like I usually do.

* * * *

Halloween, Homecoming, Ballads of Suburbia & Me

My book Ballads of Suburbia could be like a Halloween costume for my own teenage years. It’s not autobiographical, but it is set in the town I grew up in during the time I grew up and in a way I took my own feelings and struggles and blew them up into a story. Jeri asked me a bunch of different questions about Halloween and Homecoming and the experiences that I had and the characters from Ballads of Suburbia had. One of the most poignant ones she asked was “For some, Halloween is an opportunity to safely tame their fears, using imagination to turn the dark side of life into something manageable and maybe even fun. Does writing fiction serve that same purpose for you? What monsters has BALLADS OF SUBURBIA allowed you to tame?”

And the short answer is yes. Fiction is catharsis. Fiction is dressing up and exploring some of the issues I faced and seeing how things would have been different if I’d made different decisions or done different things. I was an angry, lonely, and depressed teenage girl. I went through a lot to try to figure myself out. But I don’t know if I really did until ten years later, when I started to tell Kara’s story. In getting to know Kara, I came to understand myself. So in honor of Jeri’s fabulous Blogtoberfest (and thank you, Jeri, for inviting me to take part and share your blog with all these fabulous writers!), here’s a reflection about Homecoming and Halloween that should tell you a little bit about the teenager I was and my character Kara and her story, BALLADS OF SUBURBIA.

I never went to homecoming. I wasn’t that kind of girl. Freshman year, I thought about it a little bit. There was still a tug of war inside of me between “be the girl that fits” and “be the girl I am.” There was a pep rally during the last period of school the day before homecoming. It was required. I was still being good so I went. And the next day, my best friend at the time convinced me we should walk by the big game just, you know, in case people we knew were there. In case it was, like, a place to be seen. I didn’t like football, never have, so I didn’t want to stay and watch. Most of the girls we knew weren’t there because they were getting ready for the dance. We didn’t have dates. We still had crushes on the guys we liked in junior high. We’d been too shy to ask them to the 8th grade dance and we were still too shy. And the guy I liked, now he was dating a new friend of mine. She was on drill team, which means basically she was a cheerleader. But she was a cheerleader who wore Doc Martens and introduced me to PJ Harvey and she was the girl I smoked pot with for the first time. And I never told her that I’d been totally in love with her boyfriend for like a year. I just let her have him. They went to homecoming together. I stayed home and probably watched MTV. Yeah, Kara does a lot of that her freshman year of high school too.

The only high school dance I went to was a Morp. Yeah, that’s prom spelled backwards. Real creative folks at my alma mater, huh? *rolls eyes* We had morps a couple times per semester. They were supposed to be casual proms. Again my best friend and I went because we thought we were supposed to in order to fit in or something. We went to the first one of the year our freshman year. It got so rowdy that the school cancelled the next one. It seemed like everyone was high or drunk. It was the nineties, grunge had suddenly broken. So instead of like our eighth grade dance where it was all slow jams, Boys II Men and that sort of thing, there was Nirvana and people were moshing. It was kind of cool except that music was ours and there were the jocks and the bitchy girls that made fun of us moshing, stealing our scene. And the whole thing was so crazed and crowded.

But there was a moment which I stole for Ballads of Suburbia where my friend and I were hiding out in a corner, kind of overwhelmed by the insanity and this strange boy came up to us and grabbed my friend’s crystal necklace. He held it up between their faces and shouted, “Penial Augmentation!” Then he ran off and we were left laughing, going what the hell was that?

That was the highlight of my night, but mostly I just felt sick to my stomach, hating the crowd at the Morp, hating the feeling that I didn’t fit anywhere. Much like Kara.

And like Kara, my life changed sophomore year when I finally found my place: Scoville Park and I slowly became more confortable with who I was and I didn’t try to force myself to fit into some sort of high school mold. I ditched the pep assemblies and smoked cigarettes or pot in the park or someone’s garage. I didn’t even think about dances because none of my friends were going so it didn’t matter.

Senior year, instead of prom or morp or homecoming or king of hearts, we decided to have our own dance right in Scoville Park. My guy friends got all dressed up in thrift store tuxs or leather jackets with tuxedo tees and the girls wore their favorite dresses. We brought a boombox and blasted ska and punk songs, we slamdanced and skanked. We laughed and smoked cigarettes and swigged booze out of paper bags and hidden flasks. Eventually the cops came and kicked us out of the park, so we went to Jedi’s Garden, one of our favorite diners. We almost blended in with our post-homecoming peers except we had much better outfits.

That’s the only kind of homecoming I could see Kara attending, one right there in Scoville Park wearing a vintage dress, fishnets, and combat boots like I did. I kind of wish I’d thought of this memory earlier because I would have stolen it for the book.

But there is a Halloween scene in Ballads of Suburbia. There are Halloween scenes in both of my books because Halloween is definitely my thing, big time. I think I dress up my teenage characters because I neglected Halloween myself as a teen. As much as I loved it, I only remember dressing up for it my junior year because a couple of my friend had French foreign exchange students staying with them and they’d never been trick or treating. So we all came up with last minute costumes and took them. (And we found out that the people of Oak Park were not very keen on teenagers trick or treating.) I went as Sid Vicious’s infamous girlfriend Nancy Spungen, partially because all I needed was a blond wig, I already had plenty of clothes like Nancy’s and partially because everyone had me pegged as her. I was the crazy, self-destructive punk girl. There were rumors that my ex boyfriend and I were junkies. So that night I played the part I’d been assigned. It’s hard to explain it, but it was a release in a way, being this extreme version of me.

In Ballads, Kara dresses up as a punk rock Cinderella and I think that reflected who she wanted to be in a lot of ways. She wanted to be herself with her blue hair and crazy thrift store dresses, but she also wanted to find her Prince Charming. And who would it be, Christian or Adrian? Both of whom were too cool to dress up of course. But like a lot of teenagers both of them are hiding their true selves behind a tough facade. It’s like every day is Halloween in high school. Playing dress up, playing cool, trying to figure out what’s real, what’s fake, and who the hell you really are. That is basically what Ballads is about.

Wanna find out more? Enter to win the book!

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To enter to win a signed copy of Ballads of Suburbia, leave a comment below. And remember, each comment automatically enters you in the drawing for the grand prize package: all 25 books!

For complete rules, read the introductory post.

Deadline for entry: Monday, November 2, 11:59pm Eastern. NOTE: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. The winner is tetewa!

Melissa Walker and Lovestruck Summer
Sydney Salter and My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters
Christine Marciniak and When Mike Kissed Emma
Tricia Mills and Heartbreak River
Simone Elkeles and Perfect Chemistry
Maggie Stiefvater and Ballad

Thanks so much to Stephanie for sharing her always insightful and inspiring thoughts!

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Blogtoberfest Day 19 - Maggie Stiefvater

The winner of the ARC of OF ALL THE STUPID THINGS by Alexandra Diaz is...Karen! Karen, I don't have your e-mail, so please send your mailing address to jeri AT jerismithready DOT com. Thanks to everyone who commented, for their enthusiastic support of this debut author!

Today's Blogtoberguest is NY Times-bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater (pronounced like "Steve-Otter"), who is not only an amazing and lyrical novelist, but is also a visual artist and a musician (music is always important in her books, which makes me heart them so).

Her latest novel, Ballad, is a stand-alone sequel to her debut Lament (click the links to learn more about them). Within the treasure trove that is her website, I found this amazing animated storybook for Ballad, created by Maggie herself.

Today Maggie's here to give away a copy of Ballad and talk about what Halloween means to her.

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For me, it’s not Halloween until it’s evening. One of my sisters loves the pageantry—the costumes, the candy, the movies. Halloween for her doesn’t just last all day, it lasts all week. All month. But for me, this is Halloween: darkness. I don’t mind the costumes and revelry. I don’t mind that my son is dressed as a race car driver and my daughter as a monkey—no, princess!—no, baby kitten!

But to me, it’s not really Halloween. I like the old bits about Halloween. The fact that it’s transitional, and it’s about the end of the year, and the end of life, and the end of the day. That’s why Halloween happens in evening for me. It’s when things start to change. To darken. To shift into other things. Everything starts dying in October, so that other things can come to life later.

I set my latest novel, BALLAD, around Halloween, for that reason. Not only is the year changing and transitioning but so are my characters as they come head to head with the faeries. It’s disgustingly exciting to write about as an author; such a dynamic thing to watch. In folklore, it’s always the transitions and edges that are most dangerous. The shift from one season to another. The shift from day to night. The place where water meets the sand. The pause between one frenzied song to another.

So bring it on, Halloween. While the rest of the world curls up with the 16th Saw movie or whatever they’re up to, I’m going to be hunkering down and waiting until the world gets dark, and feeling that chill crawl up my spine as the world changes from minute to minute. I love it.

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To enter to win a signed copy of Ballad, leave a comment below. And remember, each comment automatically enters you in the drawing for the grand prize package: all 25 books!

For complete rules, read the introductory post.

Deadline for entry: Saturday, October 31 (appropriately enough), 11:59pm Eastern. NOTE: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. The winner is Sylvia!

Melissa Walker and Lovestruck Summer
Sydney Salter and My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters
Christine Marciniak and When Mike Kissed Emma
Tricia Mills and Heartbreak River
Simone Elkeles and Perfect Chemistry

Thanks so much to Maggie for sharing her thoughts on Halloween (with which I completely agree)!

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Blogtoberfest Day 18 - Simone Elkeles

The winner of Linda Gerber's Death by Denim is...Dawn M.! Also, I had to pick another name for Megan Crewe's Give Up the Ghost because the first winner did not respond, and the lucky new person is...Sheila Deeth! Congrats to both of you, and thanks to everyone for their enthusiastic comments. It always makes the authors feel at home.

Announcing a late addition to the schedule: Rachel Vincent will be joining us on Sunday, giving away her first YA, My Soul to Take (which I read, and it's wonderful and original!).

Today's Blogtoberguest is Simone Elkeles, whom I met this summer at the American Library Association national conference and then hung out with later that week at RWA Nationals (where she may or may not have been my date to a certain publisher's party, thus making it even more fun than usual!).

Simone is the author of Perfect Chemistry, which just happens to be the last book I finished. It was amazing, a truly beautiful love story of Brittany and Alex, who come from opposite sides of the tracks in a Chicago suburb. Their relationship is hot-and-cold, complicated, and absolutely against all odds. I loved every word.

She also has one of the best book trailers I've ever seen. Not just a commercial with stock images and music, but an actual rap music video, complete with characters from the book. It's a hilarious little parody, so check it out!

Simone will be giving away a signed copy of Perfect Chemistry to one lucky commenter. She's here today to talk about...

The Scary House

Halloween is fun for kids, but do you remember “the scary house?” You know, the one you and your friends were afraid to go ring the doorbell because they might actually make you close your eyes and reach into a bowl of “eyeballs” in order to get your “treat?”

We had one of those houses in my neighborhood where I grew up. I can’t say I ever had the nerve to actually ring the doorbell. I just stood by the sidewalk all bug-eyed hearing the nervous chatter and fear coming from the kids who were brave enough to venture to the door and say “trick or treat” without knowing what was to come next.

I like my candy to come easy. Go to door, say, “Trick or treat!”, reach inside a huge bowl and pick my favorite choice. Then say, “Thank you!” and I’m on to the next house. It’s the no-hassle, no-fear Halloween for me.

Now that I’m a mom myself, I take my kids trick-or-treating in my neighborhood every year. Lo and behold, we have “the scary house” in my neighborhood, too. (it’s even dubbed “the scary house” all year long by every kid in school). But my neighbors (who I don’t know personally) have taken scary to the next level. The adults recruit their friends and they all dress up in scary costumes. They stand or lay down scattered on the lawn…one is laying inside an open casket (you don’t know he’s alive until you get close and he suddenly reaches out for you and freaks you out)…one is dressed as the Grim Reaper with a very real-looking weapon…one with fake blood dripping down his face with a real chainsaw buzzing.

I laugh when the young kids clutch their parents on the sidewalk. Most trick-or-treaters actually cross the street to avoid “the scary house”. Then you get “the brave trick-or treaters” - the older kids who puff up their chest and mock these dressed-up adults. They say these parents can’t scare them with a ten foot pole no matter how scary they look…well, until The Grim Reaper and Chainsaw Guy slowly start following them to the next house, and the next…those “fearless” kids run like heck away, screaming and laughing because they truly are scared…and they know next year they’ll try again.

If you’re brave enough to reach the front door (after passing yet another “corpse” who reaches out at you or witch who says you’re the perfect specimen for her next stew – they do have a big black pot of boiling water with smoke coming out of it), they have a plethora of great candy in a bowl to choose from since few people actually reach the front door.

I never went up to the scary house in my neighborhood when I was a kid. Now I’m older and know better. Nobody is going to hurt me. Nobody is going to hurt my kids. I laugh at the other scared trick-or-treaters…of course I do it at a very safe distance on the other side of the street.

Do you have “the scary house” in your neighborhood? Are you living in “the scary house?” Got any pictures to share?

~Simone Elkeles

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To enter to win a signed copy of Perfect Chemistry, leave a comment below. And remember, each comment automatically enters you in the drawing for the grand prize package: all 25 books!

For complete rules, read the introductory post.

Deadline for entry: Friday, October 30, 11:59pm Eastern. NOTE: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. The winner is HeatherMarie!

Alexandra Diaz and an ARC of Of All the Stupid Things
Melissa Walker and Lovestruck Summer
Sydney Salter and My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters
Christine Marciniak and When Mike Kissed Emma
Tricia Mills and Heartbreak River

Thanks so much to Simone for sharing her Halloween memories! (I would've been too scared to go to that house, too.)

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Blogtoberfest Day 17 - Trish Milburn aka Tricia Mills

The winner of Linda Joy Singleton's Dead Girl in Love is...Jamie! Congrats!

Today's guest at the Halloween and Homecoming Blogtoberfest (ha, you thought I was going to say "Blogtoberguest" again, didn't you? I'm such a rebel.) is Trish Milburn, who writes YA fiction as Tricia Mills.

In addition to writing two different series, this year Tricia also launched the fabulous Healthy Writer blog, which offers great tips for authors or anyone else who spends a lot of time on his or her butt. I was particularly intrigued by the post on Energy Zappers, and particularly the part about multitasking. For instance, right now I'm trying to write this blog post, check e-mail, and "watch" a baseball game on GameCast, and I can attest that I feel zapped. (But I'd feel great if the Dodgers had pulled off that comeback. Just sayin'.)

Trish/Tricia had her YA debut this past April with Heartbreak River:

Alexandra Landon once loved running the Grayton River through the Colorado canyons near her home and couldn’t imagine doing anything else with her life but continuing the family’s river rafting business. But that was before her father died in a rafting accident and she developed a full-fledged fear of drowning. It’s been nearly a year since her father’s death, and the arrival of another summer means Alex has to face the river, the question of whether she can ever recapture her love of rafting, and the return of co-worker and former boyfriend Sean Kenley. One way or the other, this summer is going to change Alex’s life forever.

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The Past and Present Collide
By Trish Milburn

Earlier this month, I attended my first high school reunion -- the 20th. No matter how many times I see that number, it doesn't seem possible that it's been 20 years since I marched into my high school gym to the tune of "Pomp and Circumstance." A lot has happened since then. I got a college degree, I worked for many years full time in the journalism field, I got married, I moved to a different state, I traveled to or through 41 states, and I've managed to get three of my books published so far. Despite all the accomplishments, part of my less confident younger self emerged in the days leading up to the reunion. I was looking forward to it, to seeing friends I hadn't seen in awhile, but I wondered how people would react to each other. Would they pick up where they left off? Would they naturally gravitate toward who they'd been friends with in high school? Would the people who were at odds then still be that way?

I needn't have worried. Yes, we naturally gravitated toward the people we'd been closest to in high school, but that makes sense. While I spent time with most people there and really enjoyed the fact that the whole clique thing seemed to have faded, I hung out most with my closest friends from back then. In fact, I'm still in contact with them 20 years after we took our diplomas and left our small hometown.

The reunion was actually three days of activities. On Friday night, we were supposed to tailgate at the high school homecoming football game. But since the game was canceled because the other team had to forfeit, we ended up having a cookout and eating in our old high school cafeteria. I don't think I'd been in that room since the night I graduated. Some people were easily recognizable as they walked in; others not so much. I kept having to ask my friend Kim who people were. We took a tour of the school. Some things looked the same; even one of the teachers is still there. But there was a new annex, which included a very nice computer lab with big Mac computers. Way better than the Commodore 64 computers we had back in the day. :) There was also a new arena where the basketball games are played, though we did walk through the old gym. Still smelled the same as it did 20 years ago. LOL! And it was funny to see the kids of classmates playing with each other just like their parents did years ago.

The next night was the official dinner at the country club. At one point, we all introduced ourselves, told what we did for a living, if we were married, how many kids, etc. It was interesting to hear what people ended up doing -- teachers, chemical plant workers, lots of nurses, a prison guard, a state trooper, and a variety of other occupations. Only three of us didn't have any kids. The rest had anywhere from one to four. We sat around until midnight, catching up and recounting stories from those days of big hair, ‘80s music playing on the iPod speakers.

Sunday morning, one of our classmates who is now a minister preached a service, but I headed home instead of driving back into town for it since I was staying in the next county. I heard it was a nice service though.

Even though the reunion is behind me now, I still can't believe it's been 20 years. I hope the next 20 years don't fly by quite so quickly.

So, have you ever been to a high school reunion? What was it like? Were people the same? Different?

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To enter to win a signed copy of Heartbreak River, leave a comment below. And remember, each comment automatically enters you in the drawing for the grand prize package: all 25 books!

For complete rules, read the introductory post.

Deadline for entry: Thursday, October 29, 11:59pm Eastern. NOTE: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. The winner is ddurance!

Linda Gerber and Death by Denim
Alexandra Diaz and an ARC of Of All the Stupid Things
Melissa Walker and Lovestruck Summer
Sydney Salter and My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters
Christine Marciniak and When Mike Kissed Emma

Thanks to Trish for going to her high school reunion, so I didn't have to!

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Blogtoberfest Day 16 - Christine Marciniak

The winner of Shana Norris's Troy High is...cait045! Congrats!

Today's Blogtoberguest is Christine Marciniak, whose debut YA novel, When Mike Kissed Emma, came out recently from Climbing Roses, the YA imprint of Wild Rose Press.

Emma Landon has a plan: she's going to be in the high school musical and sing the most romantic song possible to her boyfriend. She's not looking for the lead, just a decent part where she and Trevor can dance together on stage. The plan starts to unravel when she gets the starring role, and playing opposite her is not her perfect boyfriend, but the school loner, Biker Mike. When Mike kisses Emma at the school dance, everything changes. Emma must figure out what is more important—the way things look or something deeper.

I can totally relate. In my wilder days (don't laugh), I used to do theatre and had a tendency to fall for my co-stars, due to my inability to distinguish between fiction and reality. I quit theatre when I met my husband (but we wouldn't have met if it weren't for a play, so there).

Christine is giving away a signed copy of When Mike Kissed Emma to one lucky commenter, so give a warm welcome to this fabulous debut author!

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First I want to thank Jeri for letting me share in her blog birthday celebration.

I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to write a Halloween-inspired post. Because, you see, the thing you need to know about me is that I am a complete wuss when it comes to scary things. The commercials for horror movies would give me nightmares. Remember the movie Edward Scissorhands? I don’t think that was supposed to be a particularly scary movie. I can’t be sure because I never saw the movie. I had nightmares for months just from the commercials. So, the scarier aspects of Halloween: I don’t do them. I do like the candy though.

So, now that we’ve established what a wimp I am regarding scary things, let me tell you a ghost story.

We lived in an old dorm in college. It had character. It had squeaky pipes and hidden corners. It had stories.

One cold and rainy night we were hanging out in the hallway eating pizza, because that’s what we did. (We tried to get a pizza delivered to the hallway once, but they made us give an actual room number.) So we were eating pizza, and joking around and moving out of the way for anyone who might want to actually walk down the hall, when Mike said: “You know, this dorm is haunted.”

“Haunted!” Lisa and I exchanged nervous glances. “What do you mean?” I asked.

“There was a girl who died here like twenty-five years ago.”

“That’s true,” I said. “My mom’s friend knew her. She lived in this dorm.”

“They say she committed suicide.” Mike said. “Hung herself.”

“In what room?” Lisa asked.

Mike shrugged. “Could have been any of them.” But none of us knew for certain.

AJ lit a cigarette and continued the story. “They say she walks the halls at night.”

“No way,” I said.

“It’s true,” Bob picked up the story from there, “And one time she unscrewed one of the light fixtures and it fell on top of someone.”

“I bet it was the light she hung herself from,” AJ said.

“Did that really happen?” Lisa asked, bumming a cigarette off of AJ.

“Absolutely.” Mike said. “Fish’s older brother knew the person the light fell on.”

Who could argue with a source like Fish’s older brother?

But there are no such things as ghosts. I knew that. I wasn’t worried about the ghost of student-past coming and haunting me in this dorm. Talk moved on to other things. We finished the pizza, people started drifting off to finish homework or watch something on TV. Lisa and I, both with early classes, headed down to the communal bathroom to get ready for bed.

“You don’t believe in ghosts, do you?” I asked her as we lathered soap on our faces.

“I don’t know,” she answered, which wasn’t the complete denial I’d been looking for.

Just then something squeaked. Was it a screw turning in the light fixture? We both looked up. Everything seemed in place. “Why’d you look up?” Lisa demanded.

“You did, too!” I answered.

Another squeak and hearts thumping we looked back at the light again.

“Don’t look up!” Lisa insisted.

One more squeak and we ran, screaming out of the bathroom, our faces covered in soap.

The hallway was empty and once we were standing there we looked at each other. “Heh heh” we sort of laughed and slunk back into the bathroom before anyone could see us. The light never fell off the ceiling, but the heater continued to squeak and thump as it always did on cold days.

Christine's Blogs:
The Simple and the Ordinary
Simply Put: The Writing Blog of Christine Marciniak

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To enter to win a signed copy of When Mike Kissed Emma, leave a comment below. And remember, each comment automatically enters you in the drawing for the grand prize package: all 25 books!

For complete rules, read the introductory post.

Deadline for entry: Wednesday, October 28, 11:59pm Eastern. NOTE: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. The winner is yabooknerd!

Linda Joy Singleton and Dead Girl in Love
Linda Gerber and Death by Denim
Alexandra Diaz and an ARC of Of All the Stupid Things
Melissa Walker and Lovestruck Summer
Sydney Salter and My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters

Thanks so much to Christine for sharing her "ghost" story!

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blogtoberfest Day 15 - Sydney Salter

The winner of Amanda Ashby's Zombie Queen of Newbury High is...Cara King! Cara, please send your mailing address to jeri AT jerismithready DOT com in the next week.

Today's Blogtoberguest is Sydney Salter, author of My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters as well as two more books to come in the next year.

Sydney and I have something very important in common. According to her website, she refused to wear her glasses in school and therefore couldn't see the board. I'm glad to know I wasn't the only one!

Sydney's not only giving away a copy of My Big Nose and Other Disasters (the cover of which I adore), she's also sharing with us a Halloween memory guaranteed to make you go, "Awwwwww."

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A Halloween Love Story (Mine!)
Based on a true diary account.

The week before Halloween, a group of girls from my freshman dorm went to see a hilarious unknown comedian named Jerry Seinfeld. After the show, we walked across campus with a group of Sigma Chi guys who invited us to stop by their house later (one of them was Mike--the cute guy in my biology class!).

A bunch of girls crowded the dance floor, but an hour later it was just me and Mike. Right as I was about to leave—it was three in the morning—he asked me to the Sigma Chi Pledge Dance the following Saturday. So many girls liked him—but he asked me!

And then he let his friend walk me home.

Events the following week only added to my doubts about him possibly liking me. On Sunday he watched me play sorority flag football and witnessed three Kappas crunching me to the ground. He didn’t say anything about the dance so I convinced myself that he’d forgotten that he’d invited me.

On Monday night, Mike came to my dorm to talk about the dance. But I was wearing my LL Bean “Laura Ingalls” nightgown (my dorm mates teased me a lot about this flannel atrocity, but, hey, it was comfy!).* I wanted to die! I convinced myself that he only asked me out because he was such a nice guy—and pitied me.

He wasn’t in biology on Tuesday, but he called me later. Turns out we were supposed to wear pajamas to the dance. I needed better pajamas ASAP!

On Wednesday, Mike came into the library while I was studying and I experienced that getting weak in the knees feeling for the first time in my life. Scared me to death! I’d never liked someone that much—and I started freaking out about our first date.

Thursday, my Halloween costume finally arrived! My mom shipped me her sexy Dracula’s Bride outfit just in the nick of time. Phew!

My sorority trick-or-treated for local charities on Halloween, giving me the excuse to collect free chocolate into my twenties. Our first stop: The Sigma Chi house. Mike joined us—dressed as Dracula!

By this point, I’d made more than one phone call to my mom freaking out about not being ready for a serious relationship. “It’s only a date,” she’d say. But here we were, married via Halloween costume.

We trick-or-treated all over the neighborhood, prompting more than one person to say, “My! You’re getting bigger every year!” ** Afterwards we went dancing, until Mike left to go win the costume contest (I was too shy, too freaked out about being bride to his Dracula to join him). If I could, I’d go back and revise that part of the story.

We had a great time at the Pledge Dance the next night. And pretty much every night since then. So while we both count November 1st as our first date anniversary and we always celebrate our June wedding, Halloween will always hold an extra special place in my heart. I honor it with lots of chocolate!

*His fondness for The Little House On The Prairie did not manifest itself until much later in our relationship.

**Note to teenage or older trick-or-treaters: come to my house. I will give you extra candy!

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To enter to win a signed copy of My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters, leave a comment below. And remember, each comment automatically enters you in the drawing for the grand prize package: all 25 books!

For complete rules, read the introductory post.

Deadline for entry: Tuesday, October 27, 11:59pm Eastern. NOTE: THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED TO ENTRIES. The winner is Sheila Deeth!

Shana Norris and Troy High
Linda Joy Singleton and Dead Girl in Love
Linda Gerber and Death by Denim
Alexandra Diaz and an ARC of Of All the Stupid Things
Melissa Walker and Lovestruck Summer

Thanks again to Sydney for sharing her favorite Halloween memory! (I assume it's the favorite--if not, I'd really like to hear the favorite, hee-hee.)

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Blogtoberfest Day 14 - Melissa Walker

We have two winners to announce today: a signed copy of Kelly Parra's Invisible Touch goes to...Lori T! Lori, I don't have your e-mail, so please send your mailing address to jeri AT jerismithready DOT com.

And the winner of Lauren Baratz-Logsted's Crazy Beautiful is...alanajoli!

We're heading into our third full week of the Blogtoberfest, but since you can enter each giveaway for a week after it's posted, only one-third of the prizes have been awarded so far. Then of course, there's the grand prize, which everyone is automatically entered to win by commenting on any post. It staggers the mind, doesn't it?

Today's Blogtoberguest is Melissa Walker, author of the popular Violet series and her most recent novel, Lovestruck Summer. Melissa has is also an accomplished journalist and has even been an editor at ROSIE, ELLEgirl, and Seventeen magazines.

(*Jeri has fit of biography envy*)

Lovestruck Summer sounds like my kind of book. Though I write paranormal (sometimes angsty, sometimes not), the books that really suck me in as a reader are the romantic comedies. This one features an indie rock girl (yay!) spending a summer music internship in Austin (double yay!) and falling for the unlikely guy. One lucky commenter to this post will win a copy of Lovestruck Summer signed by Melissa, who will now share her memories--photographic and otherwise--of Halloween costumes past.

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My two favorite Halloween costumes have been created in day-of situations. Both of them involved my local Salvation Army and bright red lipstick. That's really all you need if you wake up on October 31st and find yourself without an outfit for the evening's adventures.

Costume 1: Waitress
This gingham outfit reminded me of an old-time diner, so I added some blue plastic cat's eye glasses (completely with glitter) and put a pad and pen in my hand. Instant sassy waitress!

Costume 2: Overwraught Prom Queen
With this huge yellow prom dress, I knew I could invent a back story. I teased my hair into a mess and smeared mascara all over my face like I'd been crying all night. Instant prom-queen-with-a-problem. (The tiara I already had, naturally.) Okay, so more than one person asked me if I was Courtney Love, but I thought that was kinda cool.

This year, I'm not sure what I'll be, but I know I'll make it work. Anyone want to share a favorite costume? I'm all ears!

PS: The lipstick? It's Star Red by YSL. Awesome.

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To enter to win a signed copy of Lovestruck Summer, leave a comment below. And remember, each comment automatically enters you in the drawing for the grand prize package: all 25 books!

For complete rules, read the introductory post.

Deadline for entry: Monday, October 26, 11:59pm Eastern. NOTE: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED TO ENTRIES. The winner is Marie Carlson!

Amanda Ashby and Zombie Queen of Newbury High
Shana Norris and Troy High
Linda Joy Singleton and Dead Girl in Love
Linda Gerber and Death by Denim
Alexandra Diaz and an ARC of Of All the Stupid Things

Thanks again to Melissa for the Salvation Army/YSL lipstick tip--as a last-minute costumer, I could definitely use it!

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Blogtoberfest Day 13 - Alexandra Diaz

Sorry this is so late today! Maybe it's because it's the unlucky thirteenth day of Blogtoberfest, but Blogger was being very stubborn about posting this entry this morning, and then I had to leave all day for a librarians' conference. So I'm going to give readers an extra day to enter to win today's prize.

Speaking of prizes, the winner of the Nancy Holder five-pack is...Dawn M! Dawn, please send your mailing address to me at jeri AT jerismithready DOT com.

Today's Blogtoberguest is Alexandra Diaz, whose debut novel, Of All the Stupid Things, comes out this December.

Alexandra is in the Class of 2K10 with me, a group of debut YA/middle-grade authors who will knock your socks off next year (Alex's book comes out on December 22, so that counts as 2010 for our purposes).

When a rumor starts circulating that Tara's boyfriend has been with one of the guy cheerleaders, the innuendo doesn't just hurt Tara. It marks the beginning of the end for three lifelong friends.

Tara's training for a marathon, but also running from her fear of abandonment from her father.

Whitney Blaire seems to have everything, but an empty mansion and absentee parents leave her looking for her own value in the wrong places.

And Pinkie has a compulsive need to mother everyone to make up for the mama she's never stopped missing.

Then the new girl arrives in school and Tara starts to feel things she's never felt for before for a girl. Can the girls' friendship survive when all the rules have changed?

For today's post, Alexandra is sharing a glimpse of the past from one of her characters' perspectives.

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Mama’s Last Halloween

As remembered by Pinkie D. Ricci from Of All the Stupid Things

Mama doesn’t have any hair. Usually she wears a scarf. A red one or a blue one. But not today. It’s Halloween and Mama says it makes her look scarier without a scarf. Silly. Mama is beautiful. She never looks scary. Even with no hair. But that’s good because I don’t like scary things.

Last year I was a princess. This year I’m a fairy princess. That’s much better. Mama made the costume for me. It took her ages. That’s because Mama gets tired easily and needs to sleep a lot. It’s done now and it’s beautiful. Pink and purple and silver with lots of glitter. It even has real fairy wings, but I haven’t learned to fly yet.

I’m going treek-o-treeking with my friend David. David is a knight. He has a helmet and armor all over his body and a shield with a lion on it and a real sword. I tell David that since I’m the fairy princess, he has to rescue me. He waves his sword and says he only slays dragons.

His mama takes us treek-o-treeking and my mama stays home. She’s going to give out the popcorn balls. Caramel and peanuts with lots of other yummies. I helped make them. They made my hands sticky, but I didn’t care. They still tasted good. Mama gives David two popcorn balls. One for him and one to distract the dragon. David says that’s a good idea. I think so too. Mama always has good ideas.

At first I hold on to David’s mama’s hand. It’s a bit scary. Some houses are dark and have spooky noises. Some people have faces with lots of blood and teeth and that’s not nice. But David keeps them away with his sword. And people that answer the doors are very nice. I get lots of candy and chocolate and even some real money from an old man. Everyone says my dress is the prettiest dress ever. I know. The other fairy princesses have pretend dresses, but I have a real one.

I have a full bucket when I get home. I show it all to Mama. I tell her that David forgot to give the popcorn ball to the dragon and ate it himself instead. She says that is ok. Then I tell Mama what people said about the dress. She hugs me and starts crying. I look down at my beautiful fairy princess dress. Her tears wet it. I say that she can be a fairy princess too. She can even borrow the dress when she makes her trip to Heaven. She kisses me and smiles and says that she would like that.

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To enter to win an Advance Review Copy of Of All the Stupid Things, leave a comment below. For complete rules, read the introductory post.

Deadline for entry: Saturday, October 24, 11:59pm Eastern. NOTE: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. The winner is Karen!

Kelly Parra and Invisible Touch
Lauren Baratz-Logsted and Crazy Beautiful
Amanda Ashby and Zombie Queen of Newbury High
Shana Norris and Troy High
Linda Joy Singleton and Dead Girl in Love
Linda Gerber and Death by Denim

Thanks to Alexandra for this fabulous post, and congrats on your debut!

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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**


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"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!).

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Jeri Smith-Ready

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

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