More ARC pictures!

Guys, ARC went wandering around the house today and I managed to snap a few pictures!

ARC on a chair!

My, what an attractive cover you have, ARC! 
You're looking quite fetching today. 

ARC having a late night snack.

Stay out of the fridge, ARC. You don't even drink milk. 

ARC taking a sneak peek at the second book.

No, no ARC! You'll find spoilers!

ARC, looking adorable with a stuffed spotted cat that my husband brought me from the San Diego Zoo.


ARC learning bad habits from our real cat, Kona. (aka Sneaky Bastard Cat)

Kona had to be bribed with tuna to take this picture. 
Not a good influence, ARC.

Happy author, happy ARC.

Not so happy cat, but he got tuna so I don't feel bad for him. 

Do you have any ideas for where ARC should go next? 

Cover Contest Winners!!!!!

At last, the winners of the cover contest! The judges panel was very divided on this, and each entry had a cheerleader. But in the end, (as promised in the original post) we settled on a top five and let the random number generator do the rest.

And the winners are....

Grand Prize:

Winner of a set of signed Lois Lowry books, a journal and a City of a Thousand Dolls ARC.

First Runner Up:

Winner of a signed set of Alaine Fergeson's Forenic mysteries, a journal and a City of a Thousand Dolls ARC.

Second Runner Up:

Winner of a signed copy of Matthew Kirby's Edger-Award winning book Icefall and a City of a Thousand Dolls ARC.

Honorable Mentions:

Winners of a fifteen-dollar gift card to an online bookseller.

And here's where I hit a snag. I couldn't just not recognize the other entries not when everyone did such a fantastic job. So if you entered the contest and did not win, I will send you a five-dollar gift card to the online bookseller of your choice.

So to sum up:


If you all will email me your addresses/gift card preferences, I'll start sending out prizes. And stay tuned. August is the *eep* start of the six-month countdown to City of a Thousand Dolls releasing, and I have another great contest in store.

Thank you so much for entering, everyone!

In which I get ARCs and iPads are annoying

So Blogger and my iPad are having a fight and won't let me post pictures of the AWESOME tear-inducing box of ARCS I just got.

And for some reason half the pictures I posted on my Facebook page are kind of sideways.


*happy dance*

You can find the pictures by clicking here. I will try and do a better post when my computer returns this weekend.

Also, those books next to mine in one of the pictures? They're some books that my awesome editor also sent me today. And more books means more contests!


Win SURRENDER and POSSESSION by Elana Johnson!

Happy Monday all!

I know I changed the blog schedule to Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday, but this post has been in the works for several months. That's when I signed up to be part of Elana Johnson's SURRENDER blog tour.

As many of you know, SURRENDER is the companion novel to Elana's debut POSSESSION, and I hope there's another one in the works because SERIOUSLY I MUST KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT AAAAAHHHHH!!!

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First a bit about the author and the book, and then the review. And after that I'm going to GIVE STUFF AWAY!

(I know how much you all love it when I give stuff away.)


Elana Johnson wishes she could experience her first kiss again, tell the mean girl where to shove it, and have cool superpowers like reading minds and controlling fire. To fulfill her desires, she writes young adult science fiction and fantasy.

Elana's works, including POSSESSION, REGRET, and SURRENDER is available from Simon & Schuster wherever books are sold. She is the author of From the Query to the Call, an ebook that every writer needs to read before they query, which can be downloaded for free on her website. She runs a personal blog on publishing and is a founding author of the QueryTracker blog. She blogs regularly at The League of Extraordinary Writers, co-organizes WriteOnCon, and is a member of SCBWI, ANWA and LDStorymakers.

You can find her on her blog, Facebook or Twitter.

From Goodreads:
Forbidden love, intoxicating power, and the terror of control…
Raine has always been a good girl. She lives by the rules in Freedom. After all, they are her father’s rules: He’s the Director. It’s because of him that Raine is willing to use her talent—a power so dangerous, no one else is allowed to know about it. Not even her roommate, Vi. 
All of that changes when Raine falls for Gunner. Raine’s got every reason in the world to stay away from Gunn, but she just can’t. Especially when she discovers his connection to Vi’s boyfriend, Zenn. Raine has never known anyone as heavily brainwashed as Vi. Raine’s father expects her to spy on Vi and report back to him. But Raine is beginning to wonder what Vi knows that her father is so anxious to keep hidden, and what might happen if she helps Vi remember it. She’s even starting to suspect Vi’s secrets might involve Freedom’s newest prisoner, the rebel Jag Barque....

One of my favorite pieces of writing advice ever is from the awesome Terry Brooks and it goes like this. The strenth of the protagonist is determined by the strength of the antagonist. In other words, your heroes are only as strong as the villains they are up against.

If that's true, then Elana Johnson's characters have strength in spades. This isn't one of those neatly packaged dystopias where the heroes decide to rebel or escape and somehow make it happen with only two or three major complications. This is dystopia in the old school tradition, where impossible choices and double crosses and bittersweet victories are the rule of the day. A world where your friend can be brainwashed into your enemy and there's no one you can fully trust. There were many points in the book where I honestly wondered how the crap these poor kids were going to get out at all. (And I'm usually pretty good at guessing that sort of thing.)

And did I mention impossible choices? Like loving two people in totally different ways and not wanting either of them to get hurt and NOT BEING ABLE TO STOP THAT FROM HAPPENING? I'm not a fan of love triangles in general, but the ones in these books feel sad and real and...well...impossible!

The upshot is, that I feel like I've been through a lot with Raine and Gunner and Vi and Jag and the rest of them. I'm invested and I want to know what happens next!

*pokes Elana* *grins*

So now that I've told you all about the book, on to the contest. And this one is super simple. All you have to do is leave a comment! One lucky winner will receive both the hardcover of SURRENDER, and the shiny white hardcover of the first book POSSESSION.  The contest is international, and ends midnight,  PST on July 30th.

Go forth and enter!

Sunday cute and updates.

via the wonderful folks at @emergencypuppy

(doesn't he just look like he needs a cape?)

Some updates! 

1.) My husband left yesterday to go to California for a week and took my laptop. Which means I'll be online a little less, as the iPad isn't quite as user-friendly for commenting and whatnot.

2.) BUT, it is fabulous for first drafting without distraction.

3.) Which means I can get a lot of work done on this stinking second book.

4.) Which refuses to be finished and is currently sitting on my computer MAKING FACES AT ME.

5.) So I'm going to be writing a lot next week, in a very Nanowrimo sort of way.

6.) But there won't be a lot of online stuff.

7.) We are however, getting close to deciding on our winners for the cover contest! The winners should go up next Sunday.

8.) AND I'm having a contest tomorrow, in which you will get a chance to WIN BOOKS. So you should totally come back tomorrow.

Happy Sunday!

First draft tip #4: Finish what you start.

One of the interesting things that happens when people find out you're a writer is that they want to tell you about their own writing. Or if they aren't writers, they want to tell you about other writers they know.

It makes sense, of course, sharing narratives is one of the ways human beings build connections. And I love meeting writers and talking about writers. But one thing I have noticed is that a lot of the stories seem to revolve around the same theme.

The Unfinished Book.

*cue scary music*

found at

Every writer has one, it seems. I had a great conversation once with a lady whose friend was blogging a novel. Everyone really enjoyed it, and thought she was a good writer, but she could never finish a story. Instead she would decided her current book one wasn't working and start a new one. She did this several times, much the the frustration of her friends and family.

I understand that. It took me the better part of a decade to finish my first novel. I've talked to lots of people who say they've been working on a book for a long time, or that they have a lot of unfinished stories lying around. It's really common.

And really sad. Because here's the truth.

Writers who are serious about reaching readers finish what they start.

Do serious writers start stories that go nowhere? Absolutely. But they don't make a habit of it. Readers hate unfinished stories. No one wants to read the seventeen different openings to your novel without ever getting to read the whole thing.

Finishing the first draft of a novel, writing a complete story arc, that is the first major milestone in the Journey of Being a Novelist. Think of it as reaching base camp before you climb a mountain. It takes a long time to get to base camp. (So I've been told. I've only ever climbed two small mountains. And a butte.) And it's not easy to get there a lot of times. But you have to if you want to climb the mountain.

found at
This may look like Everest, but it's actually Novel Mountain.

Completing a novel (or a short story or graphic novel or screenplay or whatever floats your writer-boat) is like that. It takes time and it's not easy, but you have to finish before you have any hope of your story reaching anyone.

But how do you do it? Well, every writer is different, but here's what worked for me.

1. Make sure you have enough supplies (i.e. story) before you start.

For me personally, I can't start a book unless I know the first scene, the last scene and enough about the world and the characters that I think I can stay with them for an entire book. I know if the story doesn't feel solid enough in my head, I won't finish it, and I don't start things I don't think I can finish. However...

2. Don't overpack

If you find that outlining every single detail of your novel makes it hard for you to write it, stop it. Leave yourself some mystery, some room to play. For example, I wrote most of City of a Thousand Dolls without knowing who the villain was. I had several really good suspects, but I didn't try and figure out who it was until I was almsot done with the story. Keeping it a mystery kept it fun.

3. Beware the Shiny Detour

The leading cause of unfinished novels is the Shiny New Idea. After a while the inital glow and excitement wears off and you start to realize that this is hard work. That's when the Shiny New Idea kicks in, a sparkly story that's so amazing you're sure you were supposed to be writing this one all along. But--and I cannot say this enough--Shiny New Ideas lie. They are not magical fairies that will help you complete a book, they are willow-the-wisps that lead you into bogs and off of cliffs.

4. Accept that it's going to be hard.

Look, pulling 50-100k words out of your ear and putting them down on paper is hard. It is hard work. There's no elevator that will get you to the top quicker, no magic formula that will make the words flow like water from your fingers, no way around it at all.

You--and no one else--must write the words down. You must pull the story from your brain when you are tired, when you are busy, when you don't feel inspired at all. Whatever you do...

5. Don't stop walking.

Don't stop. Don't turn around and second guess your path. Don't wait for some muse to come and sprinkle fairy dust on you. One foot in front of the other, one step at a time. One word, one sentence, one paragraph, one chapter. Keep working and don't quit.

Finish what you start.

Do you have any tips on how to finish? Leave them in the comments!

No. Just no.

Okay, so I was going to do another first draft post on finishing what you start, and I think I still will, probably on Thursday, but right now I have to talk about this because it is REALLY REALLY BOTHERING ME.

It's this whole Stop the GR Bullies thing.

For those of you who don't know, a group of anonymous people, who may or may not be writers, has taken it upon themselves to make a website--which I'm not linking to--where they post the real names of several Goodreads reviewers that they label bullies along with everything else they can dig up, including pictures, hometowns, spouse's names, where they like to eat and speculations on whether or not they are fit parents and HOLY CRAP DID I JUST TYPE THAT WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

*deep breath*

Okay look, I get it. I'm an author with a book coming out in seven months and ARCs are almost done and I am TERRIFIED that people won't like it. And I know this new entwining of author and reader on the Internet is causing all kinds of tension and problems and hurt feelings on both sides.

But this? This is messed up. It's making me sick to my stomach. I don't want to be defended like this. I don't want reviewers--even ones who may hate my book and say mean things to me--to have their private lives smeared all over the Internet.

Look, I love books.  I've built my life around books. I read them, I write them, I talk about them and I sell them. BUT BOOKS ARE NOT PEOPLE. Our books are not our actual babies and reviewers are not actually hurting them. So what if a bunch of people on the Internet don't like what we write? Have you seen the one star reviews of Harry Potter? Of Lord of the Rings? Of Pride and Prejudice?

So someone doesn't like our books. Maybe they say we're hacks or morons or worse, maybe they use all kinds of bad language and say mean things that they would never ever say to our faces.


At the end of the day when I close my computer and walk away, I still have friends and family who love me. I still have a wonderful supportive husband and a cuddly, hilarious cat and a job I'm proud of. I still have the warmth of sunlight on my arms and the sight of branches against the moon and the smell of fresh-washed grass after it rains. I still have hands to type and feet to dance and a voice to tell my stories with. And no bad review or mean reviewer can ever, ever take that away.

But tracking down and posting someone's real-life information without their consent? And linking it to posts that accuse them of bullying? That affects people in their real lives. That's something that goes beyond the computer and it is




And it needs to stop.

Related links:

Foz Meadows: Bullying and Goodreads

Stacia Kane: I don't need you to avenge me, thanks.

Her Hands, My Hand: Endangering others because they hurt your feelings.


The amazing Beth Revis on how she handles bad reviews.

Sunday awesomesauce: Paper art.

One of my favorite art forms is the kind that makes magic out of books. Literally.

I've long been impressed with the delacasy and precision of paper art, especially paper art that uses books as a base. Recently I stumbled upon the website of an artist name Su Blackwell who does some amazing things with paper and books. If you want to go and see some of her fantastic creations, her website is here.

What do you think about paper/book art?

First drafts as underpainting

If you've been around writing blogs or forums, you've most likely come across the idea of the "crappy first draft." It's a fundamental tenet of most writers, the acknowledgment that a first draft will often be frustrating and horrid but it's important to get through it because...say it with me...if you don't write it down, you can't fix it.

I'm a fan of the crappy first draft. It's remarkably freeing to give yourself permission to write clunky dialogue, or thin and watery descriptions, knowing you can go back and fix them later. But lately I've also begun to see first drafts as more than just initial word crap.

I've begun to see them as underpainting.

What is underpainting, you ask?

According to Wikipedia:
In art, an underpainting is an initial layer of paint applied to a ground, which serves as a base for subsequent layers of paint. Underpaintings are often monochromatic and help to define colour values for later painting. has this to say:
In its simplest terms, an underpainting is a monochrome version of the final painting intended to initially fix the composition, give volume and substance to the forms, and distribute darks and lights in order to create the effect of illumination...Color was then applied over the underpainting only when it was thoroughly dry.

It also adds:
Underpainting is rarely practiced today. For the last century, artists have simply begun painting directly on commercially pre-prepared white canvases with full color surpassing anything but a abbreviated drawing. Therefore, neither the function or the practice of underpainting are well understood.

I can understand why it fell out of fashion. Why paint the same picture twice?

Because that's how you get depth. Even if the first layer is completely painted over, it still informs and supports the picture as a whole. It's a place to get the lighting and the volume right, like in this example of seven layer painting. Or as seen in this video.

In short, underpainting lays out the foundation for the art to come. Just like a first draft.

For example, in City of a Thousand Dolls, I ended up rewriting the end completely, with a totally different set-up. And that was a lot of work, so much so that I actually debated not writing the full ending of this next book and just sending it to my editor in outline form.

But if I hadn't already written the ending to City that I did, I don't think the new ending would have been as solid. What I wrote earlier was like underpainting, making the whole thing better, even though the reader will never see it.

And you know what? I like thinking about first drafts this way. Instead of just wading through a crappy first draft so I can get to revision (my first love), I now see myself as doing essental work for my story, laying down a base coat that will add depth and beauty to my final book.

And that's kind of amazing.

How about you? How do you get through the first draft?

Tuesday News

1.  Some of you might have noticed that I didn't blog yesterday. That's because I'm changing my blog schedule to better fit with my new job. Working a full seven to eight hour day at the bookstore on blogging days was playing hell with my consistency, and you guys deserve better than that. So from now on I'll be blogging on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

2.  I have finally worked through the Horridly Hard Scenes in my book and gotten past my character block! *happy dance* Now I'm back to writing my crappy first draft and it feels fantastic. 

3.  The judging for my cover contest is proceeding apace. The entries are all amazing, so it's no easy feat to pick the top five. You can see them here.

4.  I've developed a mild obsession with this website, and used it to make representations of some of the girls who live in the City of a Thousand Dolls, which you can see in my facebook album here. I have yet to find a good way to make pictures of the boys yet, but I'm looking.

5.  For those of you who missed it, a few weeks ago, fellow dinosaur obsessive Ashelynn, from Gypsy Book Reviews interviewed me about the City of a Thousand Dolls cover. You can find the interview here. It has some teasers about the book, the one thing I didn't want on the cover, and one of my favorite covers of all time.

6.  I finally got my debut author-y self together and joined the Lucky 13s, a fabulous group of fellow authors who have their first books coming out in 2013. You should go check out them and their books, because they are all SUPER COOL. I'm also an official member of the awesome Enchanted Inkspot blog, which makes me very happy.


7.  This is my new favorite website of the week. It's called Underground New York Public Library and it's pretty much just pictures of people reading on the subway, along with what they're reading. It's so much fun!

How about you? Anyone got any Tuesday News to share?

Sunday song: Lift Me Up by Kate Voegele

This is my go-to song lately for doing difficult things. I've actually been listening too it on repeat quite a bit. As you do. :) So I'm sending it out to all of you in case you are doing difficult things too.


Anyone else been obsessed with a song lately?

Happy Fourth of July!

Here are some fireworks for my US friends.

And for my international peeps: Happy Wednesday! Have a baby giraffe.

Baby giraffe courtesy of

More questions for you!

First off, THANK YOU everyone for spreading the word about my contest, and a special thank you with kittens to everyone who entered it. You are all awesome. I hope to announce the winners sometime next week.

found at

(Note: The ARCs are still printing, and I don't know where they are in the process. But as soon as I get them, I'll send the prizes out.)

Second, thanks and hugs to those of you who weighed in on what series I should do next. A lot of you seemed interested in more worldbuilding posts and first draft tips, which is great, but that means I still need some help to narrow it down.

So, what do you want to know about worldbuilding specifically? Any special problems? The same goes for first drafts.  Where do you get stuck?

You tell me.

What do you want to know?
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Fabric art in the header by Carol Riggs.