Saturday, September 29, 2012

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit features Gretchen McNeil & TEN!

I'm incredibly excited to be sharing today's GCC interview with you today. I've known Gretchen McNeil since before she made her first sale (her debut YA horror novel, Possess, came out last fall), partly because we are agent-mates (the inimitable Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown, Ltd.) and partly because she's a member of YA Rebels, a fantastic group of published and aspiring authors who video blog regularly, which I admire. (I admire anything done regularly.)

Last week her second novel, TEN, released to a world eager to get its mitts on it, and the buzz online has been fabulous! Here's a little bit about the book:

And their doom comes swiftly.

It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives – three days on Henry Island at an exclusive house party. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their own reasons for wanting to be there, both of which involve Kamiak High’s most eligible bachelor, T.J. Fletcher. But what starts out as a fun-filled weekend turns dark and twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine. 

Suddenly, people are dying and the teens are cut off from the outside world. No electricity, no phones, no internet, and a ferry that isn’t scheduled to return for two days. As the deaths become more violent and the teens turn on each other, can Meg find the killer before more people die? Or is the killer closer to her than she could ever imagine?


"TEN is a real page turner! Gretchen McNeil knows how to plot a thriller: Her setup is flawless and the suspense kept me on the edge of my seat."(Christopher Pike, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the THIRST series and REMEMBER ME)

"Gretchen McNeil's TEN is my new number one! I jumped at every creaking floorboard in my house and on the page. This is sure to be a teen thriller classic!" (Nancy Holder, Bram Stoker Award winning author of THE SCREAMING SEASON)

"You want to read this book. McNeil incorporates all the thrills and chills of a horror movie into this fast-paced, gripping tale. With its quippy dialogue, it’s like reading Scream. This reviewer got the willies while reading Ten on a sunny afternoon." (Top Pick in Romantic Times, September 2012)

"A scary gorefest of murder and mayhem, not for the faint of heart [...] a breathless read." (Kirkus)

"Agatha Christie meets Gossip Girl [...] in McNeil’s (Possess) throwback to old-school thrillers [...] has all the hallmarks of a traditional slasher flick, including imprudent sex, gory slayings, and dramatic revelations." (Publisher's Weekly)

"In the esteemed tradition of teen horror fiction, Ten hits all the high notes: a stormy night, illicit liaisons, cut phone lines, suspicious disappearances, double-crosses, secret histories, and plenty of twists." (Booklist)

And now, my interview with the lovely and hilarious Gretchen!!

We're always told to "kill our darlings." Do you have a short excerpt--a couple lines or a paragraph--that you'd care to share with us, something you love but just didn't quite make the cut? 

Sadly, with TEN everything after the first page practically is a spoiler.  I will say this – I usually write SHORT first drafts, so it's less about killing things and more about beefing them up.

Turn to page 99 of your current release: which word on that page describes your main character best, and why?

"Kumiko immediately came to his defense.  'Oh yeah, Miss Brilliant?'"  Brilliant.  I like to think I am.  Reality likes to remind me I'm not.

What’s the most amazing book-related thing to happen to you in the last year? 

Christopher Pike read, loved and blurbed TEN, then called me on the phone the day TEN released.  Yeah, it doesn't get any better than that!

Do you have a quirk or detail in common with your main character (e.g., favorite food, habit, phrase)?

Meg talks to herself a lot.  Tells herself to calm down, think logically, step back from a situation.  That's me.  Sometimes, people catch me having full, imaginary conversations with myself, complete with hand gestures and facial expressions.  That's…embarrassing.

What’s your favorite place you’ve ever traveled for book research? 

Dun Aengus, Inishmore, Aran Islands, Ireland

Speaking of travel, which do you like best: planes, trains, or automobiles? 

I'm an LA girl and I love to drive.  Love.

In the SHADE trilogy, Aura is the first of a generation that can see ghosts. What do you think defines your generation?

We're one of the first generations of women to put off having families until well into our 30's and sometimes 40's.

If you could bring any person back as a ghost so you could ask them about their lives, who would it be?

Dorothy Parker.  I feel like she and I would have been epic friends.  And drinking buddies.


Thanks so much to Gretchen for stopping by, and BIG congrats on the new release!


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Baltimore Book Festival schedule this Friday

Hey all! Quick post before I go to bed, then get up for another looooong day of writing and editing before next Friday's deadline for Sekrit 2014 YA novel.

I'll be at the Baltimore Book Festival (which goes all weekend) but only on Friday (see aforementioned deadline). Both of my panels will be at the Maryland Romance Writers stage on the South Park.

12pm-1pm: Meet & Greet. Casual hangout with readers and authors. This is your best chance to get books signed! Ukazoo Books will be selling some of my titles (definitely the SHADE books, possibly others).

2pm-3pm: On Writing Young Adult Romance Series Authors talk about the challenges of writing engaging series and offer readings from their latest works. With Jennifer L. Armentrout, Claudia Gabel, Lea Nolan and Jeri Smith-Ready.

3pm-4pm: Craft & Character Lessons Authors offer advice, guidance and tricks of the trade in developing your writing craft and characterization. Authors include: Miranda Neville, Jeri Smith-Ready, Rebecca York and Laura Kaye.

Hope to see you there!


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Morgan Keyes and DARKBEAST (with giveaway)!

I'm super excited to introduce you to a fabulous new middle-grade author--Morgan Keyes! Her first book, Darkbeast, features a strong heroine who defies her society's conventions to stay true to her lifelong companion, who happens to be a none other than a raven. I had the privilege of reading Darkbeast last month, and I fell in love with Keara and Caw and their fascinating story.

Though it's a middle-grade, it's also most certainly a book for those who love my Aspect of Crow fantasy series. The world-building is top-notch, the main characters have to make hard choices, and of course: there are animals!

Morgan is giving away a copy of Darkbeast to one lucky reader today (US and Canada addresses only), so please welcome her to the blog!


Many thanks to Jeri, for allowing me to visit and tell you about my middle grade fantasy novel, Darkbeast. Due to the generosity of my publisher, Simon & Schuster, I will give away a copy of Darkbeast to one commenter chosen at random from all the comments made to this post by 11:59 p.m. EDT Monday night.

In Darkbeast, twelve-year-old Keara runs away from home rather than sacrifice Caw, the raven darkbeast that she has been magically bound to all her life. Pursued by Inquisitors who would punish her for heresy, Keara joins a performing troupe of Travelers and tries to find a safe haven for herself and her companion.

In many ways, Darkbeast is the exact same story as Jeri's Shade series. 

Okay. Darkbeast is about tweens, not teens. And Darkbeast is set in an imaginary land, one that has only the faintest resemblance to the world we live in. And Darkbeast doesn't involve ghosts, or cool bands, or hot Scottish guys, or, or, or…

But both Darkbeast and the Shade series are about ways of seeing the world.  Aura and all the other teens born after the Shift literally see the world differently than adults do – they see ghosts that are invisible to older people.

Similarly, my heroine Keara sees the world in a way that sets her apart from her mother (and from her sisters and from just about everyone else she knows.) Keara sees a world where she loves her darkbeast, even though her bonded raven companion knows the absolute worst things about her – her most evil thoughts, her absolute worst deeds.

Most people shy away from bad memories, from the confirmation that they could have acted better, they could have done more. Most people struggle to fit into their society, doing everything they can to be a happy, healthy, integrated part of the whole.

But where's the fun in that? More to the point, where's the fun in reading about that?

Keara breaks the rules – the very first section of Darkbeast is entitled "Rebellion". Keara's rebellion costs her a lot – family, friends, the comfort of living and working in a familiar world. 

But in exchange, Keara gains an entire new world. She travels to new places and sees new things that she only has only imagined in the past. And if her unique vision, her special understanding of the facts places her directly in harm's way, then maybe – just maybe – it also gives her the keys to her own salvation. All of her adventures grow out of the different way that Keara sees the world around her.

What about you? Are there things that you see completely differently from other people in your life? 

(For me, I have to say it's texting. Almost everyone around me – family and friends – live and die by their cell phones. Me? Not so much. Actually, almost not at all! Half the time, my phone is floating in the bottom of my purse, having run out of power because I forgot to recharge it. And now you probably think I'm as strange as Keara must seem to her people!)

Morgan can be found online at:

Darkbeast is for sale in bricks-and-mortar and online bookstores, including:  Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

Morgan Keyes grew up in California, Texas, Georgia, and Minnesota, accompanied by parents, a brother, a dog, and a cat.  Also, there were books.  Lots and lots of books.  Morgan now lives near Washington, D.C.  In between trips to the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery of Art, she reads, travels, reads, writes, reads, cooks, reads, wrestles with cats, and reads.  Because there are still books.  Lots and lots of books.


Friday, September 21, 2012

SHADE named a hot, smart read by the Atlantic!

It's Happy Friday here at the Smith-Ready homestead! Progress on my Sekrit 2014 YA novel is going well, with the deluge of breakthroughs that always comes in the second draft.

("Wait, what if the dude who holds the forbidden after-prom party is the same guy the main character used to *****-***** ******* with??" and "What if the **** ****** was a WOMAN instead of a man?? It would explain SO MUCH.")

And then...excitement happened!! The Atlantic named the SHADE trilogy as one of their "Teen Reads Better than Fifty Shades."

I've only read bits and pieces of Fifty Shades of Grey, so I can't say whether Shade is better or worse, but that's not really the point. The article's point was that sex in YA books is not only okay, but can be a good thing when it's done in a nuanced way organic to the story:
To think that this whole major portion of life could be ignored by those who write for teens is silly and small-minded; part of the benefit and power of Y.A. fiction after all, along with sheer entertainment value, is to give teens the opportunity to consider and confront things happening in their own lives in the best way they can, and sexuality is one of those things.


I wish I'd had books like Jennifer Echols' and Francesca Lia Block's when I was 14. Instead I learned about relationships from horror novels and soap operas. (SO not healthy.) It's why I try to handle sex as realistically, responsibly, and engagingly as possible in my own books.

I respect authors who choose to keep their books "clean" (though I despise that term, because it reinforces the idea that sex is dirty), but my approach springs from my own experience and philosophy. I write my books the way I do because that's the way they need to be written. Period.

I certainly don't do it for the money. Sex may sell in adult books, but in YA it's just the opposite. Books that are designated ages 14 and up, often for sexual content or profanity (but never for violence), have an automatically smaller audience. We lose younger readers as well as many school and even public libraries. Theoretically we might make up the difference by drawing in older readers, but adults have the option of reading, you know, adult books.

So I'm pretty tickled that a major news media outlet is discussing sex in YA books in a positive, non-sensationalistic manner. More, please--and thank you!

(Special thanks to the awesome Kate Milford from NYC bookstore McNally Jackson for bringing SHADE to the Atlantic's attention. She writes amazing books, too!)

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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**


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!).

More about "Shattered"

About the author

Jeri Smith-Ready

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

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