Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best of 2011, with digressions & confessions

Okay, I'll play. The year in review. (NOTE: This post was basically shot out in one fast draft, so sorry if it's a bit rambly or incoherent or embarrassing. I'm pretty sure I spelled everything right.)


Best Books: You can see all my favorite reads over on my GoodReads Favorites page. I just started my GoodReads this year, so every book there is a book read in 2011. Some of them actually were released in 2011, too!

Breaking down a few standouts:

Favorite Adult book: Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire. Toby Daye continues to be my favorite urban fantasy series ever.

Favorite YA overall: Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Favorite contemporary YA: Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick

Favorite paranormal YA: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Favorite published-in-2011 YA novel: Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Overall, the book I loved the most was Craig Ferguson's novel, Between the Bridge and the River. It made me laugh myself silly and even cry a few times. It's one book I know I'll reread next year.


Um, I hardly saw any this year, but my favorite was the first one I watched, Pirate Radio. Anyone who loves rock 'n' roll needs to see this movie. Plus, it's where I "met" my first real candidate for Zachary, Tom Sturridge:



Community was better than ever this year, and I will kill everyone in the world if it's canceled (so be prepared). I came to love Game of Thrones, though I took it on a week-by-week basis for most of the season. It's where I met the NEWEST candidate for Zachary, Kit Harington:

That's him before he got all buff and beard-y to play Jon Snow (a look that suits him very well, I might add), a character who shares Zach's loyalty, self-sacrificing-ness, and purity of heart.

Jon (Episode 2): First lesson, stick em with the pointy end.

Zachary (SHINE, Chapter 30): The sharp end goes into the bad guy. homage? Perhaps.

Okay, that was a major digression. Happens to me a lot these days. Where was I?


I actually went to shows this year--many, in fact! The best two were Mumford and Sons and the National. M&S were joyful, exuberant, intensely emotional. The National were simply masterful. I loved them ten times as much when I left as when I entered.

But the single most important show I went to was Death Cab for Cutie. Not because it was awesome, though it was. (They started with "I Will Possess Your Heart," which pretty much MADE MY LIFE.) It was because their opening act was an indie band I'd never heard of, Frightened Rabbit. I asked for FR's latest CD for my birthday, figuring it'd be cool to at least be familiar with their music before seeing them. My sister-in-law, may an eternity of goodness rain upon her, got me Winter of Mixed Drinks.




Insta-love, from the first note of the opening track, "Things." I've been mad, mad, mad about them for months now, playing WoMD and their three-song, extremely Scottish EP, again and again and again on repeat for weeks, the way I haven't done for any album since I was a teenager.

Because Frightened Rabbit did more than provide great music--they helped me unlock a character who'd been a mystery to me for two whole books: Zachary Moore.

With Logan the writing was always easy, because he wears his heart on his sleeve and, let's face it, Logan is me but with talent and charisma. We're both paranoid, self-absorbed little divas who spend half our time putting our feet in our mouths and the other half apologizing for those feet. For some reason, people still love us, but we honestly can't figure out why.

But in writing Shade and Shift, I never quite GOT Zachary. I only saw him from the outside, the way Aura and the readers see him: a smart, gorgeous, compassionate, preternaturally patient boy. I didn't know what was inside his head and heart, other than a deep, unshakeable love for Aura and his family (and chocolate).

Until I heard Frightened Rabbit. Maybe it was the accent: Frightened Rabbit hails from Glasgow (though originally fromSelkirk), so they sound like him. But it was beyond that. On WoMD, Frightened Rabbit sings of more than love--they sing of the fear and pain of life's uncertainties. They sing of silent suffering and loneliness and loss. But they do it with humor and hope.

Whatever it was, I'd found the key to Zach's heart and mind, and to his experiences in Shine. That's often what it takes for me to really get to know a character--find their perfect band, whether it's one they would actually listen to or not (he does, and Aura does in Shine, obsessively, thanks to Megan).

There was one song on their EP that rang painfully true to me, "The Work."

Scott Hutchinson says this about the song, sung with Scottish folk legend Archie Fisher:

I have been thinking a lot about ageing and death, especially on our new songs. So two distinct characters emerged fairly quickly. There’s me being the belligerent young upstart asking ‘what’s the point in getting old?’, then there’s Archie as the counterpoint, convincing me that it ain’t all bad.

The chorus goes like this:

When the work stops working
What was light becomes a weight
When the work stops working
Shall we pack it all in?

When the work stops working
And the weight becomes an ache,
When the work stops working
Shall we pack it all in,
Or start again?

In 2011, the work stopped working for me on many occasions. I wrote a failed novel (Let it Bleed) that became a struggling novella (still struggling but hopefully coming together soon), and I threw away as many words of Shine as I ended up putting in the book.

This song was there for me when Shine wasn't working, when I thought it never would. It helped me keep the faith and not give into the fear. It reminded me that the work didn't have to be easy to be good.

And in the end, Shine worked, thanks to the help of many, many people. But it probably wouldn't have worked so well without Frightened Rabbit.


Favorite Book-Related Moment: Two words: TEAM KILT. (Which is sometimes one word.) This blog post sums up everything that they are, and this Crush Tourney tag will take you on a trip down memory lane on everything that they accomplished. Team Kilt has often been imitated, but will never be topped. Team Kilt bows to no one.

Favorite Sports Moment: November 7, Ravens defeat Steelers, 23-20 in the closing seconds in Pittsburgh. It was like I was living in a new universe, where history stops repeating itself. Of course, the final chapter in this story could still be so, so heartbreaking.


Going to Ireland and Glasgow with my husband Christian. Not because, you know, IRELAND AND SCOTLAND OMG, but because we have a lot of fun traveling together. We rarely get on each other's nerves, and the memories and catch phrases we create are revisited many, many times for the rest of our lives. We're still using jokes that we made up on our honeymoon in 1994.

Plus, the food was outstanding. Go figure.

Thanks, 2011. You rocked pretty hard.

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

St Stephen's Day giveaway for Kaylee & Tessa

Happy December 26! Known in Great Britain and Canada as Boxing Day and in America as I Do Not Want This Gift Day, today is St. Stephen's Day (or just Stephen's Day) in Ireland.

If you're like me, you mainly associate the day with the fabulous Elvis Costello song, "The St. Stephen's Day Murders," off of my favorite ever Christmas album, the Chieftains' Bells of Dublin.

Today is also the day that the fabulous Kaylee Cavanaugh (one of my favorite characters of Irish heritage), whose army of supporters overcame "AuraFTW" a couple weeks ago in the Heroine Tournament, is now the underdog--in a matchup against Tessa from Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices series.

Tying it all together (in an admittedly not very coherent fashion--I've been up since 6am and am in a serious post-Christmas dinner food/wine coma), I'd like to give away a copy of your choice of TWO INSTALLMENTS of my good friend Rachel Vincent's Soul Screamers series, PLUS a CD of The Bells of Dublin.

EDITED TO ADD: I will also give away a copy of Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare--and, Kaylee's advocate Fiktshun is also offering me a SIGNED COPY OF CLOCKWORK PRINCE (I KNOW, RIGHT??) and a keyring to give to you!'s four books, a keyring, and the best Christmas CD ever--to ONE WINNER.

Beginning at 12:01am Eastern, go vote for Kaylee (or Tessa if you prefer--I just got Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince for Christmas, so I'll be meeting her soon, yay!), then come back here and tell me your favorite thing about December 26. The leftovers? The spending of gift cards? Having the day off (if you are so lucky, which I am not, but then again I do have the best job in the world, which this week involves writing about vampires and possibly an Angel marathon for extra inspiration)?

Deadline: 12:01am Eastern, December 27. US addresses only--sorry, after Christmas, the bank account, she is empty. EDITED: NO! Now that this giveaway has grown three times as awesome, I will open it up to international folks. Heck, St. Stephen's Day only comes once a year.

Whatever you call December 26--Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, Stephen's Day, or just Chillin' With New Books Day--hope you enjoy it! And hope I can string together two sentences then with proper syntax 'n' everything!


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holiday SHINE excerpt, just for you

So about an hour ago, as I was wrapping gifts and watching the Ravens pull out another squeaky (but not squeaky clean) victory, @BookishlyMalyza tweeted me this

"You should tweet like the best shine line for a Christmas present to your fans!! :)"

Many agreed.

But I don't like to do what I'm told, so instead of a SHINEline, here's a short excerpt from Shine, from a serene scene in Ireland. Zachary and Aura are having dinner at a pub/restaurant, modeled on the Black Bull Inn in Drogheda, where my husband and I ate and drank a couple times during our stay last April.

Photo #6 in the slide show is where the scene takes place. Zach and Aura are at that booth in the back left-hand side, with the little couch, sitting side-by-side. Imagine it at night with Christmas lights, and a three-man band playing carols right about where the camera stands.



How could I leave him to go back home? It scared me to need anyone so much. If our souls became inextricably tangled, would mine still be mine? Did I care?

Zachary leaned in, and I thought he was going to kiss me. Instead he pressed his cheek to mine and held it there. It felt more intimate than a kiss.

"What did you say to me before?" I asked him. "[...] In Gaelic."

He sat back and looked away. "Oh. That. There's no exact translation."

"But roughly?"

Zachary rubbed his lips, as if to keep them closed. "Naw, you'll think it's too much."

"Not possible."

His gaze came at an angle, slightly guarded but full of hope. "It means 'soul mate.'"

His words made my world spin faster. We weren't the type to believe in destiny or soul mates or anything that took away our choices. But sitting here, seeing the gazebo's glistening white lights dance in his eyes, I could believe in our magic.


Happy Holidays, everyone, and thanks for making this the best year ever.

(The phrase in question, by the way is Mo anam caraid, pronounced roughly mo AN-am CAR-idge. *sighs*)

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Solstice Surprise and SHINE countdown widget

Tonight (tomorrow morning), at 3:49am eastern standard time, the lovely ladies at Fictitious Delicious book blog (aka fearless leaders of Team Kilt) will be revealing a little something-something related to SHADE.

It's major.

Like, Logan's-17-minute-miracle major.

I know, it's in the middle of the night for a lot of people (including me), but they're doing it to commemorate Aura's and Zachary's birthday and time. Which is mentioned in one of the first chapters of Shade, so it's too late to change it.

Right now, and all day tomorrow, they're holding a Solstice Surprise party on Twitter (#solsticesurprise) with giveaways, music, and a SHINE-line (mini-teaser) from me every hour on the 0:49 minute mark. I started at 3:49pm EST and will tweet the last one at 2:49am. Then att 3:49am comes the big...thing.

For the halfway point, I wanted to offer something a little extra, something fun and gorgeous. So I present to you, designed by the amazing and talented Croco Designs, the SHINE countdown widget!

I know what you're thinking: "That's too soooooon!"

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Monday, December 19, 2011

SHADEboys Team Smackdown (*averts eyes*)

Library Mosaic book blog is hosting a character tournament (wait, don't run off screaming yet!) called "Team Smackdown," in which two members of a love triangle face off against each other, with advocates, in an online poll.

Today's the day for Logan and Zachary. The winner will eventually go on to battle a guy from another series. Nicole and Saleana did fabulous jobs defending Logan and Zachary. Go and read their descriptions--they're spot on. And as a special bonus, Library Mosaic is giving away a bracelet with a quote from the book. Such an original prize idea!

As you may know, I'm the captain of Team Don't Make Me Choose, and though Aura (and therefore I) do make a choice between Logan and Zachary, I still love the SHADEboys equally.

So can we make it a tie? Voting continues until Saturday night.

If you'd like to show your support for both boys, you can use these sincere but incredibly amateurish avatars that "Zachary" made Saturday night using Microsoft Paint. (ZOGAN is the combined name of Zachary and Logan, in case you're confused.)

Or this one by @JustJuliHelms, someone with actual talent:

Or if you prefer something truly innovative, check out this St. Andrew's Cross on a guitar by @jderucki:

Or this sweet star by @jware29:

Or look! A skull-and-crossbones AND star, by @idabosita:

And...awww...a plaid skull and crossbones by @marisolgaddi:

Send me your ZOGAN avis via Twitter/FB/email, and I'll add them to the gallery. Now GO VOTE! I don't really care who wins, but I would like to see tons of action (on the poll, I mean). If the SHADE boys can get more total votes than any contest yet, I might just have to give away something really cool....

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Heroine Tourney Wrap-Up

As I mentioned on Friday, Aura lost her first round of the Tournament of Heroines to a very worthy opponent, Kaylee Cavanaugh of Rachel Vincent's Soul Screamers series. But tons of fun was had, and we raised $470 to help keep open the Baltimore Poe House and Museum, a featured setting in Shade and Shine.

Obviously it would've been nice to win if for no other reason to keep raising funds for the Poe House. (And it would've been nice to keep Aura on Twitter for a few more weeks. But she'll be back for special events with Logan and Zachary.)

So until the Poe House either shuts down permanently or until it's rescued by the city, state, or a private enterprise, I will donate ten percent of author royalties from the Shade series to the fund to keep it running. At my last royalty check in August, Shade was $28 from earning out, so I know I'll be getting a check from S&S in February. And eventually from other publishers who've bought audio and translation rights.

This isn't a big deal--I donate ten percent of Eyes of Crow royalties to Conservation International and ten percent of Wicked Game royalties to VH-1's Face the Music (both of which will get their checks by December 31). I'm not a bestseller by any means, so the amounts are modest, but they do add up over the years. I'd been looking for a charity appropriate to the Shade series, and now I've found it!

Back to the tournament. My favorite part of the whole day was the "celebrity endorsement" pics that people posted. It started when @idabosita put a "Vote for Aura" sign up in front of a cardboard cutout of Lebron James:

and then a Public Service Announcement from Justin Bieber:

And finally support from a guy who really knows how to run a campaign:

These pics cheered me up as Aura started to fall way behind and I got sad face (not just about the vote--there was a sort of family emergency thingie going on at the same time that held most of my attention for most of the last two weeks, including the day of the tournament. Everything's good now, though, so yay!).

To keep me laughing, I asked people to post more "Celebrity Endorsement" photos, and they came pouring in:

From @Kimberdee:

And @MandieBaxter:

And @idabosita again:

And @jderucki:

And @dirtybrit, going for the youth vote:

They say politics makes strange bedfellows. @3fixedhearts proved this with a mix of real-life and fictional characters (Bieber, Barbie, Edward):

Speaking of storybook characters, @librarychickD found this guy, who unsurprisingly was taking the low road:

@JessLeake tried to play on voters' emotions:

While @jware29 appealed to American patriotism...

...@Kimberdee came back with an appeal to, um, Scottish pride:

After seeing the Will Ferrell photo, I really wanted to see one of my favorite fictional figures, Derek Zoolander, ask for votes for Aura, so I put out a special request and got these really really really good looking works of Photoshop:

Like this one from @jware29:

or another from @idabosita:

and finally, from @jenduffey:

There aren't enough ways to thank the Shade readers. I hope that being the best fans in the world is reward enough. I love you all!!!

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Humane Society Auction - the ONLY sure way to get a SHINE ARC

A quick thanks to everyone who supported Aura in the Tournament of Heroines on Wednesday. Sadly, she didn't quite win, but she drew to around 50 votes after being down by almost 200! The important thing is, we all had fun and raised $470 for the Poe House.

I'll do a tourney wrap-up post maybe over the weekend, so you can see the excerpts I posted, plus Logan's song and some of the hilarious "celebrity endorsement" pics people tweeted. I've said it before and I'll say it again: SHADE readers are the funniest, most passionate, most inspirational fans in the world. You rock.


Remember how on Monday I explained that Advance Review Copies of SHINE are pretty much impossible to get, unless you win one by chance?

Here's your chance to tell "chance" to take a hike!

A friend of mine, author Christine Johnson, is holding a multi-writer, multi-book auction to raise funds for the Humane Society of Indianapolis. The sad story of what inspired her generosity can be found on her blog. It's hard for any animal lover to read. Some of you may know that years ago, before our greyhound Meadow hurt her back, we used to foster shelter dogs for Tails of Hope animal rescue (click that link for funny stories--for some reason all the photos are gone from Blogger! Booo hiss Blogger!).

All of our fosters had happy endings. The dog Christine found wasn't so lucky.

So...the auction for HSI is going on right now! Christine has a list on her blog of all the signed books from authors up for auction. Each "item" is actually a group of books, so for one bid you get at least two, sometimes three books, all signed!

If you bid on the ARC of SHINE (and win), you'll also get signed copies of Diana Peterfreund's fabulous Rampant and Ascendant. If you enjoy my books because they're different and surprising, you will LOVE Diana's. (Oh, and we sort of recruited Diana as a foster mom for Tails of Hope a few years ago when we stopped fostering, so she's awesome in that way, too.)

Right now, Diana's and my set has the highest bid yet, at $107.50! But I think we can do better than that for the cats and puppers.

(If you're not sure if you want to read Shine sooner rather than later, maybe you wanna take a look at Chapter One.)

So even if you can't bid, please spread the word about this auction and all the wonderful books up for grabs.

Meadow, a former rescue dog herself, says THANKS!

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tournament of Heroines Round 1 starts at midnight!--NO, IT HAS BEGUN!

Aura Salvatore (whose last name means "savior," have I ever mentioned that? No? Hmm, now seems like a good time), the main character in the Shade trilogy, is competing in YA Sisterhood's Tournament of Heroines, a March Madness-style elimination tournament to determine the favorite female lead in YA literature.

For making the tournament, I promised that Logan would write Aura a song. He's been working very hard on this, and gotten a little help from one of Aura's biggest, um, advocates (subtle hint there.) The song will be revealed during Round One, which begins... midnight EST tonight! is now ongoing!

Her advocate is the luminous, hilarious Brooke of Brooke Reports book blog, where you can find tons of clever avatars to support Aura during the tournament. More will be popping up there during the day.

Aura is facing a very tough competitor in Kaylee Cavanaugh from the fabulous Soul Screamers series, written by not just one of my favorite writers, but one of my favorite people, Rachel Vincent.

Voting continues for 24 hours, and during that time I'll be tweeting some SHINElines here and there, just for fun. Zachary's gotten the bulk of them so far, so these'll be all Aura quips.

And now, the obligatory bribes incentives:

1) SOMETHING FOR AURA. If Aura wins, Zachary will create his own homage to Aura. It’ll involve music, but it won’t be a song. All I can tell you is that it’ll be…cosmic. (Ooh, look, another subtle hint!)

2) SOMETHING FOR GOOD. For every 100 votes Aura receives (up to 1000 votes), I’ll donate $10 to the Edgar Allen Poe Society of Baltimore to help them keep open the Poe House. Due to budget cutbacks, they're in serious danger of having to shut down this historic landmark, which was featured in SHADE (here's the attic bedroom where Poe once lived and where Zachary hit his head on the ceiling), and, hmmm, just might make a reappearance in SHINE. Without outside help, the Poe House will be closed in June 2012.

John Cusack says noooooooo!

If you’d like to pledge your own donation for the tournament, fill out this form. (More information on the threatened Poe House closing.)

3) SOMETHING FOR YOU – Admit it, this is what you’ve been skimming the entry for. One of the incentives for the Crush Tourney final round was listing Team Kilt members' names in the acknowledgments of SHINE. Almost 200 names will appear, and I’m grateful to each of you.

It's nice to see your name in print in the acknowledgments, but how would you like to have your name in the story itself?

SHINE's copyeditor noticed that two completely unrelated people had the same last name, for no apparent reason. Oops! I had to do something to fix this. Since I suck at coming up with names for minor characters, I'm copping out and naming one of them after YOU.

The contest winner can choose to give their name to:

a) last year’s senior class president


b) a shade

One wreaks serious physiological and psychological damage, and the other goes to Harvard.

You can name the character after yourself or a loved one (ooh, a lovely holiday gift!). If the winner is under 18 years old, he or she must have parental permission.

To enter this Be a Character contest, go to the Aura vs. Kaylee tournament post between midnight tonight and tomorrow, vote for Aura, and leave a comment containing the phrase "AuraFTW" (FTW = "For the Win") on the tournament match's post. Including "AuraFTW" will make it easier for me to do a search on the page to find the entries.

***If you are the FIRST COMMENT on the entire post, you get TEN EXTRA ENTRIES in both this contest and the one below, so be ready to vote and comment right at midnight!***

Also, please keep all comments positive and fun--no bashing allowed. If you need convincing (which I know you don't), please read my R-E-S-P-E-C-T post from Friday.


*waves ARC of SHINE*

YES! If Aura wins--and only if Aura wins--I will give an ARC of SHINE to one of the entrants in the Be a Character contest above. No need to do anything extra except GOTV (Get Out The Vote). Tell your friends, family, coworkers, and random folks on the street.

ARCs of Shine are extremely rare. There are only five left. See yesterday's blog post for details on how you can win one of these five.

Winner(s) will be announced here on the blog on Friday, December 16. If I can't reach you to get a mailing address by Friday, December 23, I'll pick another winner.


Join us on Twitter at 11pm Eastern tonight for a very special #SHADEboys chat. Logan and Zachary will be taking questions about Aura (sorry, questions like, "Zachary, what would Aura say if I asked her what you wear under your kilt?" do not count). Can't wait to see if they get the answers right.

AND...last but definitely not least:

A special surprise guest will be joining the chat around 11:30pm.


(Shh...don't tell Logan and Zachary.)

Have fun voting, and THANKS!

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Monday, December 12, 2011

How do I get an ARC of SHINE?

I've been getting this question a lot lately, which makes me very happy--glad to see so many people are interested in reading the final installment of the Shade trilogy.

The answer to the question: Get lucky!

My publisher generally doesn't provide ARCs for third books in a series, so with their permission I am printing a limited run of 20 ARCs of Shine.

Even with my OMG-not-YOU-again frequent-shopper discount at Office Depot, these'll be rather expensive. But I wanted at least a few ARCs for giveaways, because I love you.

Most All ARCs are already spoken for, having been given as prizes during the Shift blog tour, the YA Crush Tournament, or Fictitious Delicious's fantabulous cover reveal. As of today, there are is five three none left:

  • One will be given away on January 3 to a randomly chosen newsletter subscriber. Signup box is on this blog's right-hand sidebar, and on most pages of my website.
  • One will be auctioned off in author Christine Johnson's Humane Society fundraiser, which begins Wednesday, December 14. Keep an eye on Christine's blog for details, and I'll update this entry when I have a direct link. (EDITED TO ADD: Here's a direct link to the auction. Bidding runs through December 20, 9:51pm EST.)
  • I will give away one SHINE ARC for every round in the Tournament of Heroines that Aura wins, up to 3 ARCs total. The first matchup is Wednesday, December 14. Voting runs from 12:01am eastern time for 24 hours. Here's the tournament's full schedule. To enter, leave a comment containing the phrase "AuraFTW" (FTW = "For the Win") on the tournament match's post. Including "AuraFTW" will make it easier for me to do a search on the page to find the entries. FIRST COMMENT on the post gets TEN EXTRA ENTRIES.
  • EDITED TO ADD: The remaining two SHINE ARCs will be have been given away at TeamKilt parties on January 25 and March 17, for holiday celebrations of Burns Night and St. Patrick's Day, respectively. Watch this blog for details (or sign up for the newsletter), and then come join the fun!

ARCs will be mailed to winners probably in early February (except the St. Patrick's Day one, obviously). All ARCs will be signed and personalized.

Shine will not be available on Simon & Schuster's GalleyGrab, but Pulse will do a finished-book mailing in April for reviewers/bloggers. If you would like to be considered for this mailing, please fill out the form below and I will forward your information to my publicist.

****(EDITED TO ADD: All ARCs have been mailed, and the list of finished-book requests has been sent to my publisher. Thanks for your interest in SHINE!)****

But if you're a fan of the series, I would ask that you seriously consider (please please please) buying a copy or getting it from your library. The amount of support I get from my publisher on future books will be greatly affected by the sales of Shine. I would like to keep this crazy writing gig for a long time, and only you can help me do that. Thanks for all your amazing support!

Pre-order from Constellation Books (signed copies--if you want your copy personalized, please note on the online order form in the comments section), Barnes & Noble, or (All links are for hardcover, but each store will also offer the paperback version.)

Release dates: May 1 in the US and Canada; June 7 in the UK.

For more on what an ARC is and how to request one (or a review copy), check out this very helpful ARC FAQ post by Story Siren.

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Friday, December 09, 2011

R-E-S-P-E-C-T and the heroine tourney

As some of you know, Aura from my Shade series is in the Tournament of Heroines over at YA Sisterhood's blog. Which I was kinda psyched about, despite the fact that I have a looming January 3 deadline for Lust for Life and shouldn't even be thinking about the Shade characters, much less figuring out incentives and gathering votes--FUN THOUGH IT MAY BE.

But here it is almost 4am, and I'm thinking about this tournament. Why?

The tenor of some of the heroine posts (especially the "How is your girl better than her opponent?" section), and the ensuing discussion in the twitter-sphere, have me a little worried, and almost wishing Aura hadn't made it.

I think the question, "What makes a heroine?" is an extremely important discussion to have. Some people, including Aura's opponent's advocate, have very strong feelings about what a heroine is and isn't. And we should examine society's beliefs and preconceptions critically.

But when thrown into the cauldron of competition, those opinions can turn nasty. Part of me is dreading next Wednesday, when Aura's fans and I will have to hear all about what's wrong with her. She's not your typical kickass swashbuckling heroine. She's never killed or even punched anyone (um, yet--she still has one book to go). She's never saved a life (yet) or led a revolution (yet). She's just a girl who is herself.

Women can be extremely harsh when they talk about other women. This happens in real life, of course, and it really pervades reader reactions to female characters--especially online where we don't see each other face-to-face. Men can get away with all sorts of scurrilous behavior, and they are called "rogues" and "alpha males" and "bad boys." They are swooned over, more often than not.

But if a woman's actions hurt someone, she's a "bitch." And God forbid she is involved with more than one guy--then she's a "slut" or considered "weak" and "indecisive." It's okay for boys to play the field, but not girls. Girls have to be perfect.

But wait--not too perfect, because then they're "Mary Sues" and are clearly a manifestation of the author's deepest fantasies. (It's only female authors accused of playing out emotional issues through their stories.)

It's not just on blogs. I could fill a book with all the mean things people sitting next to me on convention panels have said about Laurell K. Hamilton or Stephenie Meyer. This doesn't happen to male authors. Not in public, at least. We afford men, both real and fictional, a different level of respect.

For instance, I can't think of any advocate post in the YA Crush Tournament that "dissed" a character. The "worst thing" anyone ever said about Zachary was that he wore a skirt, which I thought was hilarious. It never got personal.

Why do women hold women to a higher standard of morality and behavior? Why are female characters judged so harshly? Is it because we want every female to be a positive role model? Why can't they just be real people, with faults and weaknesses like the rest of us? Boys and men can be well-balanced characters because they have nothing to live up to. They don't represent their gender the way girls women do.

Why do guys get to be human, while girls have to be superhuman?

It's the same for people of color, or non-heterosexual characters. They're scrutinized against a very narrow standard--a character can't be "too black" or "too gay," because that's stereotyping. But if they're not "black enough" or "gay enough," then they're being whitewashed (or straight-washed--is that a word? It is now.).

So because straight white males are society's default, by virtue of their position of power, those are the only characters who get to be themselves and not a representative of their group.

Getting back to the tournament: I'm not suggesting we shouldn't argue about the value of heroic deeds, or that we should "all play nice" and walk on eggshells. I merely ask that everyone show the same respect for the characters (and authors and fans) that they did during the YA Crush Tournament.

  • My plea to advocates: defend your heroine without diminishing your opponent.
  • My plea to spectators: appreciate the advocates' hard work and keep discussions amicable.
  • My plea to voters: reward those who run positive campaigns.

Today's competition features two strong but friendly defenses of fascinating, complex characters, Luna from Harry Potter and Sophie from Hex Hall. The posts celebrate the wonders of these extraordinary girls without slamming the other. I hope more advocates follow these examples.

Many new friendships came out of the YA Crush Tournament last summer. I will always cherish those memories and the folks who supported Zachary, most of whom I "speak" to online on at least a weekly basis. Let's not let this heroine tournament harm those friendships.

It's not my place to defend Aura--Brooke of Brooke Reports will do a fantastic job herself. But I will say this: I never set out to write a heroine. I set out to write a real person, with real conflicts and feelings that people could relate to. She is not Everygirl, representing her entire gender. She's not Wonder Woman, a superhero saving the world. Aura's just herself, and I love her.

You don't have to love her, or agree with all her choices or the way she makes them. But I do ask that you respect her. And that you respect Bella. And Nora. And Luce. And Clary and Tessa and all the other fabulous girls who are loved so fiercely by their readers and their authors.

Now take it, Aretha!

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Thursday, December 01, 2011

YA Scavenger Hunt is back!

...and even bigger and better than before! Last summer's scavenger hunt was such a hit with readers--I think I had ten times the usual number of visitors to this blog--mastermind Colleen Houck decided to hold another one.

This time it'll run for 4 days, not just 1, so if you're too busy today doing your holiday shopping, or studying for exams, or you know, working a job, never fear! You have until Sunday, noon Pacific time (that's 3pm for us easterners who think the world revolves around us) to finish the puzzle and enter the GRAND PRIZE drawing!

EDITED TO ADD: The giveaway for the Grand Prize and my individual prize is now closed to entries. The winner was Cristina! Thanks for taking part, everyone and I hope you had fun!

Details on that are below, but first, let me introduce the wonderful author I have the pleasure of hosting this time around:

PJ Hoover!

P. J. Hoover first fell in love with Greek mythology in sixth grade thanks to the book Mythology by Edith Hamilton. After a fifteen year bout as an electrical engineer designing computer chips for a living, P. J. decided to take her own stab at mythology and started writing books for kids and teens. P. J. is a member of THE TEXAS SWEETHEARTS & SCOUNDRELS. When not writing, P. J. spends time with her husband and two kids and enjoys practicing Kung Fu, solving Rubik's cubes, and watching Star Trek.

Her first novel for teens, Solstice, takes place in a Global Warming future and explores the parallel world of mythology beside our own.

Her middle grade fantasy novels, The Emerald Tablet, The Navel of the World, and The Necropolis, chronicle the adventures of a boy who discovers he’s part of two feuding worlds hidden beneath the sea.


Her new book is called SOLSTICE, and it sounds amazing!

Piper’s world is dying. Global warming kills every living thing on Earth, and each day brings hotter temperatures and heat bubbles which threaten to destroy humanity. Amid this Global Heating Crisis, Piper lives with her mother who suffocates her more than the chaotic climate. When her mother is called away to meet the father Piper has been running from her entire life, Piper seizes an opportunity for freedom.

But when Piper discovers a world of mythology she never knew existed, she realizes her world is not the only one in crisis. While Gods battle for control of the Underworld, Piper's life spirals into turmoil, and she struggles to find answers to secrets kept from her since birth. And though she’s drawn to her classmate Shayne, he may be more than he claims. Piper has to choose whom she can trust and how she can save the people she loves even if it means the end of everything she’s ever known.

Since SOLSTICE is about a apocalyptic "endless summer" future, Hoover has given us some helpful (and entertaining) hints on how we can survive when global warming strikes here in our own reality.

Read more about SOLSTICE on PJ's website. If you're as psyched to read it as I am, you can purchase it NOW at Amazon, B&N, or Smashwords.



EDITED TO ADD: The giveaway for the Grand Prize and my individual prize is now closed to entries. The winner was Cristina! Thanks for taking part, everyone and I hope you had fun!


There are two contests you can enter from this blog post. The first is the GRAND PRIZE giveaway, which includes roughly a bajillion books, swag, and other goodies, with at least one gift from EVERY AUTHOR. I'm including a signed hardcover of Shift, Book 2 in the Shade trilogy. Shift recently went back to print, so this is your chance to get a signed first edition while they're still available!

Directions: Search for the 37 keywords, one on each website that will be highlighted in RED. When you are finished, go to the entry form, where you will find a list of scrambled keywords. List your keywords in the same order as the scrambled ones—from #1 - #37—and paste that list into the entry form.

Rules: To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit this filled in puzzle before noon Sunday, Dec 4, Pacific Time. All the keywords must be in the correct place and you must include your full name and address. Entries sent in without name and address will not be considered.


While you're here, sign up to win a very special prize: "marked-up" copies of Shade and Shift! Discover some of the secrets behind the writing of the first two books in the Shade trilogy, including hidden musical references, original plot ideas that got changed, and the substance that inspired "Liquid Stupid."

To qualify for this prize:

1) Complete the YA Scavenger Hunt! See instructions above.

2) E-mail me at jeri AT jerismithready DOT com with the Subject Line "YA Scavenger Hunt Giveaway." (please use that subject line or your entry will get lost in the quicksand that is my inbox).

In the body of the e-mail, answer these questions based on PJ Hoover's video above:

1. List two ways to survive after global warming strikes.
2. Who makes the best burgers in Austin?

3) I will check your e-mail against the list of people who completed the Scavenger Hunt, then draw a name randomly from those who both e-mailed me with the correct answer to my question AND completed the Hunt. Deadline is the same as that for the Grand Prize Giveaway, which is...everyone say it with me: noon Sunday, Dec 4, Pacific Time. Winner will be notified by email next week.

4) Both this giveaway and the grand prize giveaway are OPEN to international entries. Cool, huh?

Now off with ya, to the next stop on the Scavenger Hunt, Myra McEntire! Good luck and have fun!



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**


Order from Indie Bound, Barnes & Noble, or



"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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