Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Interview With Rae Carson



I am such a fan of Rae Carson's series, I hardly know how to type without gushing fangirlisms all over the page. I had Rae on the blog last year to celebrate her debut THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS, and I'm thrilled to welcome her back for the sequel, THE CROWN OF EMBERS. If you haven't had a chance to try this epic fantasy series, I think you should drop every other book you planned on reading and grab these instead. Seriously. These stories are fully realized tales with nuanced characters, epic stakes, and an incredible world. There's also swords and kissing, so there you go.

Let's take a look at THE CROWN OF EMBERS.

She does not know what awaits her at the enemy's gate.


Elisa is a hero. She led her people to victory over a terrifying, sorcerous army. Her place as the country's ruler should be secure. But it isn't.

Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream, from both foreign realms and within her own court. And her destiny as the chosen one has not yet been fulfilled.

To conquer the power she bears once and for all, Elisa must follow the trail of long-forgotten--and forbidden--clues from the deep, undiscovered catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her goes a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man who--despite everything--she is falling in love with.

If she's lucky, she will return from this journey. But there will be a cost.

Rae chose to be interviewed by Giselle, our resident pink sock monkey. Let's meet today's guests and get into the interview!

Giselle


Rae Carson

1. I believe a girl should be able to describe herself in a single word. Naturally, the word I’d use for myself is “perfect.” What word best describes you?


Sock-lover. (The hyphen totally makes it one word.)

2. On the one hand, I don't understand a fascination for socks when shoes with six inch heels exist. On the other hand, I appreciate that you look at me and see my true beauty. Though it would be nice if you understood the not-so-subtle difference between my incredible gorgeousness and all the other drab, ordinary, non-pink-sock-monkey socks in the world. A common misconception about sock monkeys is that we adore socks. This is foolishness. Speaking only for myself, I adore Jimmy Choos and diamonds from Tiffany’s. What are a few of your favorite things?

Coffee, kitties, books, and warm socks on my feet.

3. If you ever try to put me on your feet, I'll bite off your toes. Many crave my approval, but few are clever enough to win it. What are you willing to do to win my favor?

I will flatter you outrageously and coax you closer and closer until you are on my feet where you belong. I understand that I would have to take you apart a little to accomplish this, but the sacrifice is worth it, don't you think?

4. Outrageous! Blasphemy! Sacrilege! You'd better step carefully. The heels on my Jimmy Choos are useful for more than just keeping me on my feet. If I was a dessert, I’d be a French macaron. Strawberry, of course. Why? Because I am French and pink and altogether lovely. What kind of dessert best describes you and why?

I would be tiramisu, because it is full of interesting layers. Also, I just like to say "tiramisu."

5. If you try to disassemble me, I'll turn you into a bowl full of interesting layers. I understand you write stories. Please tell me why the hero of your book would be my perfect boy toy for a day.

Hector is warm, loyal, and hardworking. Also, completely hot. It might take some convincing to get him to hang out with you though, even though you are the most beautiful sock monkey I've ever seen. He doesn't date just anybody.

6. Who said anything about date? I simply wish to be amused for a few hours. And perhaps treated to a seven course meal and a new wardrobe. You Americans love your movies. One day, when Hollywood tells the story of my life, it will be called Gone With The Perfect Pink Monkey. If your life was a movie, what would be the title?

Everyone who knows me knows that I am passionate about my footwear, especially in the cooler seasons. So my movie title would be: The Warm Sock Monkeys of Autumn.

7. Starring moi, of course. Pink? Or some lesser, inferior color?

I do love pink. Especially for my socks.

8. Back off, you loquacious biped, or you'll have the business end of a Jimmy Choo buried in your left eye socket. I love fairy tales. If I was a fairy tale character, I’d be Snow White. The fairest in all the land. Which fairy tale character would you be and why?

I would be Ursula from the Disney version of The Little Mermaid. It's obvious that she has a healthy appetite like mine. Also, the ability to wear a lot of socks at once.

9. I hope you do become Ursula. I do appreciate a lovely squid saute. I am, of course, a fashion trend setter. (Glitter eye shadow? Six inch heels? Retro gowns making a comeback? Yes. You may thank me with your undying adulation.) If you were to start a trend, what would it be?

I would bring back the hair scrunchie, which was one of mankind's greatest achievements. It deserves an epic comeback.

10. *shudders delicately* Not while I'm alive. I am addicted to all things French—baguettes, macarons, Chateau Lafite, moi … the list goes on and on. What is your favorite thing from France?

The Statue of Liberty.

11. Well, I suppose I can't fault that answer, but to pass up baguettes and macarons and the Eiffel Tower for a statue is as incomprehensible as wanting hair scrunchies to return. A smart woman always maintains an air of mystery. Often the art of being mysterious involves doing the unexpected. What is the most unusual thing you’ve ever done?

I quit a high paying job and lived off savings while I finished writing the book that eventually became The Girl of Fire and Thorns. My family thought I was CrAzY. They were probably right.

12. I've only known you for five minutes, and I can assure you they were right. Hair scrunchies? REALLY? What's next? Banana Clips? I also believe a smart woman always gets the last word. Any last word you’d like to leave with my readers?

Support the economy. Buy more socks.

  Thank you, Rae, for such an entertaining interview! It takes an impressive woman to get the best of Giselle. To learn more about Rae, visit her site. To grab your own copy of THE CROWN OF EMBERS, head to Indie Bound, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.   The fun isn't over yet! Rae is giving away a paperback copy of GIRL OF FIRE & THORNS and a hardback of THE CROWN OF EMBERS, both signed and personalized! The contest is open to North America and you can enter until midnight EST October 15th.   Good luck and happy reading!  

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ask C.J. - Reviews

Anonymous asked: "What do you do about reviews that are mean, or harsh, or that get things all wrong? I know you don't want to start drama, but if someone is saying things that aren't true or are mean, how do you set the record straight?"

Here's the absolute honest truth: As far as I'm concerned, the record is always straight. Always. It needs no help from me. Let's look at each piece of your question, and I'll explain what I mean.

1. Things That Aren't True: Well, that sucks, doesn't it? If you're going to be judged and found wanting, it would be awesome if the person doing the judging had his or her facts straight. I don't read my reviews, but a few of my friends and family members do, and so I've been told that there is a review that gets my timeline wrong, and another that gets a main character's name wrong, and another that misquotes or takes things out of context ... and even one that claimed I humped the reviewer's car.

I think I would remember that. Probably.

But here's the thing. Whether someone screws up facts or takes things out of context to prove a point doesn't matter. It doesn't. The truth is that a book is a work of art, and art is essentially about the emotional reaction the consumer has when interacting with that art. If someone responds strongly to my book, good or bad, does it really matter if they screw up a few facts? Nope. Because their emotional response is still valid. I know that's a hard pill to swallow. I really do. Something inside of you wants to stand up and say "But, if you're going to say X sucks, then at least let X be in my book!"

Don't stand up and say that. Don't say anything at all. What do you hope to accomplish? You aren't going to change the reviewer's gut emotional response to your book. You'll just succeed in looking like a douche because you're standing over them with your red marker ready to correct perceived mistakes. The review will still stand because the emotional response still stands. Only now you've guaranteed that this reviewer and all of his or her friends won't be willing to take a chance on another book of yours again.

2. Things That Are Mean: Here's another difficult piece of honesty--snark is entertaining. Most reviewers run blogs or have followings on Goodreads who expect to be entertained in some way. For some, that entertainment comes in the form of pop culture references or an unusual method of giving stars or something that thematically goes with their blog. For others, it means writing a witty, scathing piece designed to both express their true opinion and get a laugh out of their readers. It's all about the audience. It's never about you.

Did you get that?

It's all about their audience. It's never about you.

Reviewers don't hope and pray that you'll wander by their blog and read their snarkalicious review of your book. Nope. They hope and pray that their readers will consistently choose to return to their blog for more of what entertains them.

Once you put a book out into the world, it doesn't belong to you anymore. It belongs to the readers. Some of them are going to fall all over themselves to gush about your book and your characters and that perfect little sentence you wrote on page 294. Some of them are going to shrug their shoulders and say "meh, whatever" and walk away unmoved. Some of them are going to hate your book with the burning passion of 1000 suns. All of them have the right to express their emotional response to your book in a way that entertains their readers or that accurately sums up that response.

3. Kill Your Curiosity: Which brings me to my final point. Don't read your reviews. Seriously. I know you think the curiosity will kill you if you don't, but I'm telling you that's a jagged little blade that will cut your creativity down to something you barely recognize. Shut out the outside voices, sit yourself down, and write the next book. Make it better than your last. And then sit down and do it again. Don't worry about what others are saying. Focus on spending enough quiet time with yourself to hone your vision. Focus on pushing yourself to take an artistic risk. Let the vision and the risk be its own payoff. If you run around seeking affirmation from the rest of the world, you'll end up hungrier than you were when you first began to crave their approval.


Because this question ended up taking longer to answer than I originally thought, I'll save the rest for the next post. If you have questions you'd like to ask me about writing, publishing, Defiance (non-spoilery), or life in general, please feel free to leave it in the comments. :)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Interview with Franny Billingsley



I am sooo excited to welcome Franny Billingsley, author of the highly acclaimed CHIME, to the blog today. I started hearing buzz about CHIME last year when it came out, and then saw it in the bookstore and decided I had to have it. I'll be honest. There's about to be some serious fangirling up in here. You might want to brace yourself.

Once in a great while, I read a book that captivates me from the first word and won't let me go long after I turned the last page. CHIME was that book for me last year. The prose is unbelievably gorgeous. The imagery is so striking, I paused to reread sentences countless times. The characters are flawed and interesting and authentic and the entire thing feels like a dark, haunting dream. This is a book I will reread, highlighter in hand, so I can take notes on how she does it.

Want a peek at CHIME? Here you go!

Before Briony's stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for all the family's hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it's become a second skin. She often escapes to the swamp, where she tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment.


Then Eldric comes along with his golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair. He's as natural as the sun, and treats her as if she's extraordinary. And everything starts to change. As many secrets as Briony has been holding, there are secrets even she doesn't know.
Franny decided she wanted to be interviewed by our newest staff member, Giselle, the conceited beautiful French sock monkey. Let's meet today's guests and get into the interview!

Giselle



Franny Billingsley


1. I believe a girl should be able to describe herself in a single word. Naturally, the word I’d use for myself is “perfect.” What word best describes you?


Modest.

2. I've never understood the point. Flaunt what you've got, that's my motto. A common misconception about sock monkeys is that we adore socks. This is foolishness. Speaking only for myself, I adore Jimmy Choos and diamonds from Tiffany’s. What are a few of your favorite things?

Paisley cowboy boots and big necklaces.

3. Paisley cowboy boots? These are a thing? *Googles* Well, as soon as Jimmy Choo or Manolo Blanik designs a pair, I'll give your feet a run for their money. Many crave my approval, but few are clever enough to win it. What are you willing to do to win my favor?

On peut parler Français . . .

4. Quel magnifique! If I was a dessert, I’d be a French macaron. Strawberry, of course. Why? Because I am French and pink and altogether lovely. What kind of dessert best describes you and why?

Lemon Meringue—sweet and tart.

5. It takes a confident woman to describe herself as a tart! *reads answer again* Oh. That's not precisely what you meant. Well, still ... between the boots and this, it makes you fabulously interesting. Not as interesting as moi, but then, no one is. I understand you write stories. Please tell me why the hero of your book would be my perfect boy toy for a day.

Eldric has the gift of bringing out the best in others. But as you are already perfect, perhaps you should leave him to Briony.

6. Oh, you do have a clever tongue, don't you? And no, I never leave any eligible man behind for another girl. You Americans love your movies. One day, when Hollywood tells the story of my life, it will be called Gone With The Perfect Pink Monkey. If your life was a movie, what would be the title?

Lord of the Bling.

7. I approve of this. A girl can never have too much shiny in her wardrobe. Pink? Or some lesser, inferior color?

Green, which is pink’s complementary color. Green makes pink look even more fantastique.

8. I accept your logic as sound. I love fairy tales. If I was a fairy tale character, I’d be Snow White. The fairest in all the land. Which fairy tale character would you be and why?

Gerda from The Snow Queen because of her persistence.

9. I am, of course, a fashion trend setter. (Glitter eye shadow? Six inch heels? Retro gowns making a comeback? Yes. You may thank me with your undying adulation.) If you were to start a trend, what would it be?

Romantic Bohemian.

10. I suppose that explains the boots. I am addicted to all things French—baguettes, macarons, Chateau Lafite, moi … the list goes on and on. What is your favorite thing from France?

The animal jewelry from Boucheron.

11. *sniffs* Until they see fit to design a sock monkey pendant, I'm not shopping there. A smart woman always maintains an air of mystery. Often the art of being mysterious involves doing the unexpected. What is the most unusual thing you’ve ever done?

Moved to Mexico.

12. I also believe a smart woman always gets the last word. Any last word you’d like to leave with my readers?

I’ll pass the torch to Corinna, heroine of my novel The Folk Keeper, because she has the power of The Last Word.

Not if I usurp her power and leave the last word myself. Au revoir!


Thank you, Franny, for the entertaining interview! To learn more about Franny, visit her site. To pick up your copy of Chime (and trust me, you want one) head to IndieBound, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.


Don't forget to enter our current giveaways before it's too late!

Enter to win a signed copy of THE UNNATURALISTS by Tiffany Trent. Open until 9/30/12

Enter to win a signed copy of THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS by Claire Legrand. Open until 10/9/12 and open internationally!


Friday, September 21, 2012

Weekend Reading

Weekend Reading is a weekly opportunity to share books we've recently read and loved, and books we're about to read. Please feel free to share your recommendations in the comments!


This week, I read the amazing debut WHAT'S LEFT OF ME by Kat Zhang. Such a unique concept, and so well done! I found both the writing and the characters to be compelling, and the mystery was enough to keep me turning the pages. I especially enjoyed the fact that the main character doesn't respond to terrifying situations with skill and calm poise at first. She freezes in place, hopes her parents can figure out a way to protect her, or has a hard time wrapping her mind around the true scope of the threat until it's already too late.   In other words, she behaves like a normal person. I really liked that because it rang so true. And I can't wait to see what happens in the sequel! I'm betting once you finish reading this, you're going to be anxious for the sequel, too!   Here's a look at WHAT'S LEFT OF ME. 


I should not exist. But I do.

Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t . . .

For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable-hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet . . . for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.  

Next up on my reading list is THE DARK UNWINDING by Sharon Cameron. What have you read lately that you'd love to recommend to others? What are you reading next?  

Don't forget to enter to win a signed copy of THE UNNATURALISTS and THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS.  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fast Five with Tiffany Schmidt

Today, I welcome debut author Tiffany Schmidt to the blog for a round of Fast Five! Tiffany is the author of the much anticipated SEND ME A SIGN which hits the shelves October 2nd. Let's take a look at her book and then dive into the Fast Five.


Mia is always looking for signs. A sign that she should get serious with her on-again, off-again soccer-captain boyfriend. A sign that she’ll get the grades to make it into an Ivy-league school. A sign that the summer before senior year will be the best one yet.


But when Mia is diagnosed with leukemia, the only sign she wants to see is that she will survive cancer and still be the girl she’s always been—top student, top cheerleader, and top of the social food chain.

Until she’s better, Mia doesn’t want anyone to know she has cancer. She doesn’t want her friends’ pity. And she certainly doesn’t want to start feeling something more than friendship for the one person who knows her secret, her best friend, Gyver. But the sicker Mia gets, the more she realizes that not even the clearest signs offer perfect answers, an in order to discover what will happen in her life, she will have to find the courage to live it.



As a cancer survivor myself, I am very drawn to this book. Knowing Tiffany, I believe I'll find a story that rings with humor, pathos, and emotional truth. I can't wait to read it. Tiffany dedicated the book to a former student of hers who passed away this past January from cancer, and is currently running a pre-order promotion. For every pre-order (you must send her proof of purchase ... go here for details), she'll donate one dollar to two separate cancer charities focused on kids.  Want to grab your own copy and help? Here are some links! IndieBound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

Now, let's see what Tiffany had to say for her Fast Five!

Movies:


1) Newsies (Let's be honest, this is Christian Bale's best role ever. Even when he's playing batman & Bateman, I'm wishing he would sing & dance.) (C.J. here: GIRL YOU KNOW BATMAN IS CAPITALIZED. AS IN THE ONE AND ONLY HOLY CRAP AWESOME BATMAN. COME ON. But yes, I wish he'd sing and dance, too. Maybe we could convince him to dress up as Batman and perform at your launch party? *schemes*)

2) Pride & Prejudice (ALL Versions, but especially the one with Mr. Darcy Firth) (The almost kiss that shook the foundation of the earth. Or was that just me?)

3) Easy A
4) Elf (This is a year-round movie in our house, not a holiday one) (Smiling is my favorite! I know him! I KNOW HIM!)

5) The Princess Bride (FYI - If you're ever reading something I've written, the answer is ALWAYS, "YES! Yes it IS a kissing book.") (Dude. If I typed every quote that just crammed its way into my head, I'd fill up the page ...)

Childhood books:

1) There's A Monster At The End of This Book (I read this to The Schmidtlets tonight, it's STILL awesome)

2) Sweet Valley Twins -- all of them (Jessica ... girl knew her way around an eyeliner pencil and a hair dryer. I'm just saying.)

3) Little Women (and I'm FIRMLY in the Amy+Laurie club) (There's a club??? *joins*)

4) The President's Daughter by Ellen Emerson White (Guys, I just found out this was a series THIS YEAR. More Meg = life made.)

5) Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews (which made my friends and me feel like the biggest rebels ever--and I'm pretty sure all our moms knew and were laughing at us...)

Foods:

1) Lobster

2) Soup (pretty much ANY flavor as long as it's not sweet versions of butternut squash) (What do you have against sweet versions of butternut squash soup??? We might be breaking up, here.)

3) Salted caramel anything

4) Gummy peaches (really, any fruit made into a gummy is a friend of mine) (Mmm ... peaches.)

5) Homemade mac 'n cheese

TV Shows:

1) Gilmore Girls (Though I've still never seen the last episode -- so no one spoil it for me)

2) New Girl (Anyone up for a game of True American?)

3) Party of Five (My BFF & I would spend the whole show on the phone discussing how hot Bailey was and ignoring call waiting beeps...) (I was more a Charlie girl, myself. And then Charlie grew up and became Jack on Lost, so that was a WIN.)

4) Veronica Mars (Team Logan and also Team Veronica Mars Needs A Movie) (Wouldn't that movie just rock the world?)

5) Punky Brewster (Awesome fashion sense, best dog ever, to-die-for bedroom & sass-to-spare. I STILL want to be Punky when I grow up)

Items in my closet:


1) The tiara from my wedding (I wear it on my birthday and on random of course I'm a princess days) (I think there should be more random tiara days.)

2) Wellies (I heart puddle-jumping)

3) Running shoes

4) Baskets of PJ's (let's be honest, on about 50% of my writing days, I never change OUT of these). (Yoga pants FTW!)

5) The yet-to-be-purchased dress for my launch party. I'm not sure what it will look like yet, but let's cross our fingers I find something fabulous.

Thank you, Tiffany, for such a fun interview! What do you think of Tiffany's lists? Is she your soul sister or are giving her the Beady Eye over batman and unsweetened butternut squash?


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Interview with Claire Legrand






Today, I'm thrilled to welcome the funny and talented Claire Legrand, author of THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, to the blog. I've been anxiously awaiting this book since I first read the synopsis. Creepy house, reluctant but capable heroine, and a mystery to solve? Sign me up! Here's a look at Cavendish:
At the Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, you will definitely learn your lesson. A dark, timeless, and heartfelt novel for fans of Coraline and The Mysterious Benedict Society.Victoria hates nonsense. There is no need for it when your life is perfect. The only smudge on her pristine life is her best friend Lawrence. He is a disaster—lazy and dreamy, shirt always untucked, obsessed with his silly piano. Victoria often wonders why she ever bothered being his friend. (Lawrence does too.)


But then Lawrence goes missing. And he’s not the only one. Victoria soon discovers that The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is not what it appears to be. Kids go in but come out…different. Or they don’t’ come out at all.

If anyone can sort this out, it’s Victoria—even if it means getting a little messy.
I jumped at the chance to have Claire on the blog. She decided to be interviewed by the spitastic Were-llama (brave girl). Let's meet today's guests!


The Were-llama



Claire Legrand


Now that you know who's who, let's dive into the interview!


1. So, you’re a writer. I’m a super-scary shape-shifter who can command obedience with the awesome power of my glowing red eyes. What do we have in common?


Well, I’m a big fan of llamas, and I assume you are too, so there’s that. Or is it like you were cursed into being a were-llama, and before you were some other creature, or maybe even a human, so you actually kind of hate llamas now? If so, llamas are sooo dead to me. DOWN WITH LLAMAS.
Also, I can command obedience with the power of my raised eyebrow. It’s not as impressive as glowing red eyes, but it IS more subtle. So boo-yah!

2. You are malleable. I like that in a minion. I like to spit at my enemies from whichever end is closest to them. Do any of your characters have cool abilities like that?

Man, if I were you, I would make sure my butt was always closest to my enemies. Because butt-spit is way more disgusting than mouth-spit. Especially since I assume that, since you’re a magical creature and all, your butt-spit is venomous? Or at least especially pungent?

The main character in Cavendish, Victoria, has some pretty awesome abilities. You know when people say “Man, I win at life”? But they don’t actually win at life, they just managed to do maybe one or two things without screwing them up? Well, Victoria actually DOES win at life. She’s the best at everything. She’s smart, snarky, and stylish, and she undoubtedly has better hair than you.

3. NOBODY HAS BETTER HAIR THAN ME. *glares at you with awesome red eyes* NOBODY. If I had a nickname, it would be The Awesome. You?

The Awesomest. OH SNAP, WERE-LLAMA. OH SNAP.

4. You are not as malleable as I originally presumed. I shall have to fix that. *readies spit* I hang around this blog because I love stories. What’s your story about? Bonus points if it includes a llama.

That’s another thing you and I have in common, you spitalicious beast, you. We both love stories. Can I get a high five? Are we total BFFs now?

Anyway, my story is about a 12-year-old girl named Victoria whose best friend disappears, disrupting her practically perfect life. When she sets out to investigate, she discovers that her town is hiding many secrets, that other kids have disappeared, too, and that Mrs. Cavendish of the local orphanage is behind it all. See, Mrs. Cavendish likes to take kids and fix them, make them better, smarter, prettier. And if they don’t like it, she’ll make them like it. Or she’ll just get rid of them forever. Diabolical, right? Only Victoria, who wins at life, could possibly stand up to someone like that. Take that, Charlie Sheen! Oh man. Is that totally passé now?

5. One does not simply "high-five" a were-llama. Not unless one wants to be "high-fived" in the face. One bows in absolute deference and AWE. You’re making me a cake worthy of my awesome Were-llama status and decorating it to represent your story. What does it look like?

Well, don’t be grossed out or anything, but it would be one of those cakes made up of cupcakes, and every cupcake would be a little bug, and put together they’d make a GIANT bug, and that bug would have bright red lips and stare at you until your soul shriveled up and flaked off. But in the meantime, you’d sure be eating some awesome cake!

6. The Were-llama's soul is incapable of shriveling. OTHER souls shrivel at the mere THOUGHT of the Were-llama. Any Were-llamas in your book?

Sadly, no. Were-llamas do not exist in Belleville. But I bet Victoria would have loved to have you on her side to fight evil and whatnot, if she could get over the fact that you probably have fleas. Or . . . would you turn to the dark side and support Mrs. Cavendish? You WOULD, wouldn’t you? You fiendish red-eyed beast. No cake for you!

7. The Were-llama does not have fleas. The Were-llama has were-fleas, and your little prissy Victoria, whose hair is NOT better than mine, should tremble. TREMBLE. Anyone in your story who might be a Were-llama and you just haven’t figured it out yet?

You know, Lawrence might be a Were-llama in disguise. Hence Victoria being inexplicably drawn to him despite his disorderliness and lack of hygiene. Not that you smell bad or anything, Were-llama. Nah, you smell like unicorn farts!

8. I smell like AWESOME. I'd bottle it and sell it, but you puny humans cannot survive the AWESOME for long. Llamas or camels and why? Think carefully.

Llamas, all the way! And I’m not just saying that because I’m intimidated and trying to butter you up. I actually wrote a story about a llama once. Maybe someday you can read it! Or butt-spit on it. Man, you’d better not butt-spit on it. I’ll unleash UNICORN’s wrath upon you and then there will be this clash of titans, apocalypse-style. Oh, what’s that? UNICORN? Yeah, he’s only my special unicorn friend, no big.

9. You know how UNICORN got his horn? Yeah, I once kicked him so hard in the posterior region, I sent his tailbone straight out of his forehead. BOO-YAH TO YOU, PUNY HUMAN. I give you a baby Were-llama as a companion. What do you name her?

I would name her Pookie. Because I need more things in my life need Pookie. Plus, just say that out loud. Pookie. Pookie-llama. Poooookieeeeee. Llaaaaamaaaa.

10. It's possible you've been breathing in one too many unicorn farts, puny human. My favorite word is “awesome” because, yanno, look at me. What’s yours?

Discombobulated, because I so often am. Or cellar, because it’s pretty. Or poop, because I like poop jokes, so sue me.

11. Well, in that case, allow me to tell you that when a Were-llama spits on you from his business end, the joke's on you. Literally. As a young Were-llama, I dreamt of taking over the eastern seaboard one face full of spit at a time. What did you dream of doing when you were young?

First of all, I know you meant butt full of spit at a time. Right? Because we’ve already discussed that should be your weapon of choice.

When I was young, I dreamed of being a writer, which is boring but true. I also dreamed of being President until I realized that was way too stressful, and of being a professional trumpet player who records movie soundtracks, until I realized that required too much practicing.

I also really wanted to own a castle. That hasn’t changed.

12. I wanted to be President, too, until I realized I'd rather be Grand High Llama Over All The Universe. Cake or cookies?

Cookies, because one of my favorite things in this world is a sugar cookie from Paradise Bakery. I bite into one and my blood suffuses with joy. A choir of unicorn angels dances on my head. Rainbows explode out of my nose. Needless to say, it’s a damn good cookie. And it beats everything, ever.

13. That is a disturbing image. Do you share chocolate?

Only with you, Were-llama. Only with you. *bats eyelashes*

14. The Zombie Goat invasion is upon us. How will you fight them off?

With UNICORN, of course! And also, I wouldn’t share chocolate with them (everyone knows that’s a Zombie Goat’s weakness), and then they’d all get sad and go cry in a corner somewhere, and I’d be Heroine Supreme and get a castle. Oh man, this is a fantastic plan. And don’t worry, Were-llama, you’d get your own suite. Just not in the west wing. That’s where I keep Martin Sheen. (Man, two Sheen family references in one interview. I’m on a roll here!)

Foolish puny human! The Were-llama does not get a suite. The Were-llama gets THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE. Including your precious UNICORN and all the chocolate. All of it.   The end.   Thank you, Claire, for such an entertaining interview! To learn more about Claire, visit her site. To grab your very own copy of THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, head to Indie Bound, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.   Of course, the fun isn't over yet! Claire is offering a signed hardcover of CAVENDISH, and the giveaway is international! You have until midnight EST October 9th to enter. Good luck and happy reading!  

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Weekend Reading

Weekend Reading is a weekly opportunity to share books we've recently read and loved, and books we're about to read. Please feel free to share your recommendations in the comments!

This past week, I read the HOLY COW AMAZING The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson. (Hits the shelves this coming Tuesday, Sept 18th!!) This sequel to The Girl of Fire and Thorns was just ... I am almost without words. It was fully realized, nuanced, and constantly compelling. The romance is aching and lovely and sad and beautiful, and actually those words describe Elisa for much of the book as well. She's just starting to come into her own strength as a girl and as a queen, and she must slice her way through betrayal, political intrigue, self-doubt, and war to do so. I don't think I can properly gush enough about this book. You. Must. Read. This.

Well, first read Girl of Fire and Thorns so you aren't lost, and then READ THIS.

She does not know what awaits her at the enemy's gate.


Elisa is a hero. She led her people to victory over a terrifying, sorcerous army. Her place as the country's ruler should be secure. But it isn't.

Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream, from both foreign realms and within her own court. And her destiny as the chosen one has not yet been fulfilled.

To conquer the power she bears once and for all, Elisa must follow the trail of long-forgotten--and forbidden--clues from the deep, undiscovered catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her goes a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man who--despite everything--she is falling in love with.

If she's lucky, she will return from this journey. But there will be a cost.


Next up on my reading list is Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff. What have you read lately that you'd love to recommend to others? What are you reading next?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fast Five with Jay Kristoff

Today, I welcome debut author Jay Kristoff to the blog for a round of Fast Five! Jay is the author of the highly anticipated STORMDANCER which hits stores this Tuesday. Let's take a peek at his book, and then dive into our Fast Five.


A Dying Land


The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.

An Impossible Quest

The hunters of Shima's imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger – a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.

A Hidden Gift

Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.

I know I'm not the only one salivating over this book. You can grab your own copy on Indie Bound, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. You can learn more about Jay and his writing at his site.

For today's Fast Five, I gave Jay a list of topics and asked him to give me five favorites under each topic. Let's get to know the man behind the fabulous Japanese steampunk novel!

Movies


Most loved – The Princess Bride

Most hated – Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (also known as The Buggery of My Childhood)

Haven’t seen, but probably should – Bully

Can recite by heart – Aliens

Wish more people had seen it – Brotherhood of the Wolf



Books From Childhood

Most loved – Where the Wild Things Are

Most hated – My maths textbook

Haven’t read, but probably should – The Last Unicorn

Can remember where you were when you first read it – The Hobbit

Wish more people had read it – I am the Cheese



Foods

Most loved - Italian

Most hated – Anything spicy. Spicy kills me

Haven’t eaten, but probably should – Strawberry. (yes, I’ve never eaten a strawberry. Weird, I know)

Would eat anytime, anywhere – My bride’s fettucini carbonara

Best fuel for writing – Red Bull and chocolate



TV Shows

Most loved – The Wire

Most hated – Big Bang Theory (insult to nerds and geeks everywhere)

Haven’t watched, but probably should – Fringe

Can remember where you were when you saw it – Carl Sagan’s Cosmos

Wish more people had seen it – HBO’s Rome



Items in your closet

Most loved – My leather jacket

Most hated – My pile of dirty laundry

Haven’t worn in forever, probably should throw it out – My old Pittsburgh Penguins jersey

Wish you’d never thrown them out – My old band T-shirts

Why do I have so many – Sneakers


Thanks, Jay! Although our friendship nearly ended when I saw you hadn't yet watched Fringe ... *whispers loudly DOOOO IIIIIIITTTTTT!*

What do you think about Jay's lists? Anything you agree with? Disagree with? Would challenge him to a duel over?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Interview with Tiffany Trent



Magical creatures, steampunk, alternate London, and a high stakes plot full of intrigue and danger? Sign me up, please! I'm excited to introduce you to the lovely Tiffany Trent and her fabulous debut novel, THE UNNATURALISTS, today. Want a closer look? Here you go:

In an alternate London where magical creatures are preserved in a museum, two teens find themselves caught in a web of intrigue, deception, and danger.
Vespa Nyx wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life cataloging Unnatural creatures in her father’s museum, but as she gets older, the requirement to become a lady and find a husband is looming large. Syrus Reed’s Tinker family has always served and revered the Unnaturals from afar, but when his family is captured to be refinery slaves, he finds that his fate may be bound up with Vespa’s—and with the Unnaturals.

As the danger grows, Vespa and Syrus find themselves in a tightening web of deception and intrigue. At stake may be the fate of New London—and the world.
And some blurbaliciousness:

"Fast-paced, heart-wrenching, magical and fascinating."--Tamora Pierce, author of The Song of the Lioness quartet

"Utterly ingenious! Tiffany Trent has more fine invention at her fingertips than a roomful of magical Leonardos!"—Ellen Kushner, World Fantasy Award-winning author

“By St. Darwin and his Great Apes, The Unnaturalists is unnaturally good! Few authors can mix science and fantasy the way Tiffany can; her science-worshiping New London is perfectly original and perfectly realized, and Vespa Nyx is a heroine to cheer for. So much steampunk is just more of the same; The Unnaturalists is captivatingly different.”—Ysabeau Wilce, Andre Norton Award-winning author of Flora’s Dare

"Thrilling, intricate and magical, The Unnaturalists is a formidable entry into the steampunk genre. Vespa Nyx is a spunky heroine we can all root for, and Tiffany Trent's worldbuilding skills are unmatched. This book will delight anyone who loves magic, gadgets and brilliantly drawn settings. I highly recommend it."—Caitlin Kittredge, author of The Iron Thorn

"Thoroughly magical...leaves readers wanting more."--Kirkus Reviews


Sounds fabulous, doesn't it? I couldn't wait to have Tiffany on the blog! She decided to take on the formidable Spork of Doom. Let's meet today's guests.

Tiffany Trent



Spork of Doom


Now, usually this is the point in the interview when I show off the amazing cupcake my hubby created for Tiffany's book. But life has been hovering around the level of Defcon 4 in this house for the past two months, and so I've decided to suspend the cupcake creations for a while until things settle down. Instead, let's dive right into the interview!

1. I’m all about world domination, and I’m always looking for good help. Why would you be an acceptable minion in my quest?


Minion? Heck—I’m thinking more on the level of co-conspirator! ;-) I have an entire army of mad scientists at my disposal!

2. The Spork of Doom does not usually take on co-conspirators, although the idea of having an army of mad scientists minions is tempting. Perhaps we'll have a trial period. You can prove your sporky worth. Being a Spork of Doom takes moxie. What’s the sporkiest thing you’ve ever done?

Hmmm…there seem to be a number of things I could mention (and many I can’t). One that springs immediately to mind: I once stepped up and sang “Country Road” to a group of Tibetans in the Chinese highlands to avert international disaster.

3. You see? You averted international disaster. If you truly want to be my co-conspirator, you must CAUSE international disasters! When I’m not busy taking over the world, I like to eat pie. What kind of pie do you think is worthy of my Spork of Doom status?

Strawberry-rhubarb, my dear Spork. Strawberry-rhubarb all the way.

4. Hmm ... I'm sorry, what were you saying? I couldn't hear you over this mouthful of strawberry-rhubarb pie. What’s your favorite thing to do with a spork?

Egg toss. Or digging into shepherd’s pie. I can’t decide.

5. Egg toss?? For the sake of your probationary co-conspirator status, I hope you mean you use a spork to toss eggs into the faces of your enemy. I have the ability to be simultaneously spoon, fork, and weapon of mass destruction. What unique ability do you have?

The ability to identify most living organisms at a single bound. ;-)

6. Add to that the ability to quickly eliminate the most living organisms in a single bound and you might prove useful in my quest to take over the world. In this day and age, a savvy spork bent on world domination can’t afford to ignore a good marketing campaign. I’m thinking t-shirts with “Spork or Die.” If you made a shirt with your own slogan on it, what would it say?

I think you should also make a shirt for yourself that says, “Let’s Get Runcible.” For myself, hmmm…I would probably go with “Dark Geniuses don’t get even, they just kill you in their novels.”

7. My theme song is I'm Runcible And I Know It, so also putting that on a t-shirt seems like overkill. WHICH I APPROVE OF. You are hereby dubbed my official co-conspirator! Why is your job just as much fun as world domination?

Well, isn’t that what writing fantasy is anyway? :)

8. I wouldn't know. I make my fantasy a reality one sporked-up enemy at a time. In between conquests, I like to read a good story. What can you recommend and why?

If you fancy middle-grade, I can’t recommend Stephanie Burgis’s Regency magic series enough. Start with KAT, INCORRGIBLE. They’re delightful and feature some truly excellent villains bent on just your type of world domination. Try also Ysabeau Wilce’s FLORA series, starting with FLORA SEGUNDA. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Lisa Mantchev’s THEATRE ILLUMINATA series, which I believe you’ve featured here before, yes?

9. You need to accomplish a secret, night-time mission as my minion. Cloak? No cloak? Why?

Cloak, of course. All the best villains wear them.

10. Cloaks, mad scientist army, and a strawberry-rhubarb pie? I like you more and more. My best piece of advice to others is this: “Fear the spork!” What’s your best advice?

Eat more chocolate! (Unless you’re diabetic—in which case, you probably shouldn’t).

  Thank you, Tiffany, for such an entertaining interview! Of course, the fun isn't over yet. Tiffany is offering a copy of THE UNNATURALISTS to one lucky winner, and the contest is open internationally! The contest is open until 9/30/12, midnight EST. Good luck and happy reading.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ask C.J.

Because I get emailed or messaged questions throughout the week, I decided to start compiling them and answering them here twice a month in a column. It saves me time (I am already woefully behind on replying to things!), and gives others a chance to get answers to questions they might also have.

This week, I'm going to tackle 5 questions I was recently asked.

1. Miss Katie asked on Twitter "What do you do when facing writer's block?"

I determine what exactly is stopping me from writing. I don't believe true writer's block exists, but I do think our brains sometimes tell us a) something isn't working in the story, and we need to stop and search for the problem and a variety of solutions or b) our well of creativity is running dry, and we need to refill it.

If something isn't working, I retrace my steps to the last place where everything WAS working, and then start thinking through other possible scenarios until I see which way the story wants to go. Sometimes that means sitting down and listing every possible thing that could happen in the story until a clear picture forms. Sometimes that means calling one of my CPs and talking through the difficulty until the solution is obvious. (Side note: One of those convos is what lead me to decide to rewrite Defiance and include Logan's POV.)

If the problem is my well of creativity is running dry, I go fill it up. For me, that means watching a movie or a tv show in the same genre as my story, reading a great book, or just taking a break and running around with my kids. My brain is still working in the background.

I'm going to be honest, here, and you might not like it, but I think half of the time we say we have writer's block, what we're really saying is that the story is tangled up or the writing is hard now and the shine has worn off and we just don't want to make ourselves sit down and continue. Part of what separates those who've finished books and moved forward in their quest for publication and those who haven't is the discipline to write even when we'd rather light our laptop on fire and walk away. This is a really valuable skill to master early on because once you're contracted and under deadline, writer's block just can't raise it's ugly head for long at all.

2. Katie also asked: What advice do you have for those writing their first book?

I actually wrote a post on that, so I'll send you here. But in addition, I'm going to say that above all else, don't quit. Finish the book. Learn what you can from that experience. And start the next one. The only way you guarantee failure in this business is by quitting.

3. Aqsa Naveed asked: Do you like the good guy in a book or do you dig the bad boy?

Both! It all depends on how the character is written. I adore a well-written, fully fleshed out character. I love the ones who step up to be heroes and the ones who are twisted and scary. And if by "bad boy" you meant the angsty bad-boy-turned-reluctant-hero, I also enjoy those if they're done well. Character development is one of the things that can make or break a book to me. If I understand the character's motivations, and I feel like I'm under his skin, I will follow him anywhere.

4. Simon asked: How do you get all the physical description and personality about a character onto the page when you first meet that character?

You don't. If you try to, you'll have written what we call an "info-dump" and you'll be revising that right out of the manuscript. :) Don't worry, all of us did that when we started out. It's part of the learning curve. The best method is to weave in bits of description throughout the story, and to keep the description as minimal as you can without failing to deliver the character. You want just enough to let the reader have an idea of the character without putting in so much that it's a struggle to remember all of those details the next time the character enters a scene. As for personality, don't tell us anything. Show the personality through that character's dialogue and actions, and through the response of other characters.

5. Keli asked: How many wardrobe malfunctions have you dealt with during your release, if any?

No wardrobe malfunctions! No one is more shocked by this than me. It flies in the face of everything you've come to expect from me! After all, there is precedence for a clothing disaster while I'm up on a stage. And for me not paying close attention to my undergarments. Well, generally just not paying attention at all.

But luckily, no wardrobe malfunctions during an author event yet. However, I do have multiple events scheduled throughout the fall, so I'm sure I'll break my winning streak soon enough.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pep Talk Fail & Other Things




1. Yes, I laughed myself stupid over that pic.

2. Yes, I've been a sucky blogger. Some days/weeks/months I have to make the choice between sucky blogger or sucky writer, though, and writing pays the bills.

3. I am going to try hard to do better.

4. I've even given myself a pep talk. It sounded a lot like YOU ARE GOING TO DO THIS THING, REDWINE. THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL. WITH GREAT GIFTS COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY. HE'S ONLY MOSTLY DEAD. ONE RING TO RULE THEM ALL. AVADA KADAVRA. FOR NARNIA!!!!

5. Clearly, I got a little distracted by the various EPIC movies I love ... so yeah, I am also sucky at pep talks.

6. At any rate, I'm here! Blogging! And also writing under another fast-approaching deadline, so we'll see just how well I can juggle the two.

7. As most of you know, Defiance hit the shelves on 8/28 and it was lovely and crazy and exhausting and fun. The local launch party was a blast, and I was so amazed at how many people showed up!

8. Of course, I did advertise the fact that my hubby would be making one of his infamously yummy cakes, so that helped. :) Defiance and cake! Destined to go together.

9. The online launch party was also tons of fun, and I really enjoyed the question and answer portion. Some great questions were asked! If you missed that chat, I have two more coming up in the next two months. Check my Appearances tab to see when you can talk to me either online or in person.

10. The weekend after launch, I traveled south to be on a panel at Dragon*Con and one at the Decatur Book Festival.

11. Both events were fun in different ways (very different atmosphere and audience but same intelligent, interesting questions!) and thankfully, I didn't eat anything while having to also be "on" because we all know how well that turned out for me last time.

12. When I returned home, I came into my local bookstore to sign some stock, and a man noticed me standing at a counter scrawling my signature across the title page to a stack of books. He got WELL into my personal space and the conversation went as follows:

Him: What are you doing?
Me: Um ... signing books.
Him: Why?
Me: Because the manager asked me to.
Him: Did you write this book?
Me: Yes.
Him: All of these books?
Me: *kindly does not point out that all of the books in the stack have the exact same title* Yes.
Him: So, you get to sign your name in books if you write them?
Me: Sometimes
Him: I mean, I guess if you're an author you could just sign any book, really, because your signature is what's worth money.
Me: No. No, that's not right at all.
Him: Think about it! You could sign this book *grabs Rick Riordan's latest* and someone would be excited because it's like getting two authors for the price of one!
Me: I just ... that's not exactly ... I don't think Rick Riordan would appreciate that. I'll just stick with signing my own books.
Him: Well, is your book any good?
Me: I'm done signing now. See you later.

And yes, I think maybe I do have a "crazies welcome" sign blinking over my head.

13. Coming this week:

Tues: Ask C.J. - in which I answer a variety of questions sent to me via Twitter and Facebook.
Wed: Author Interview and giveaway. (You're going to love this one!)
Thurs: Fast Five questions with a 2012 debut author
Fri: Weekend Reading Recommendations (I'll tell you what book I just read that I absolutely loved, and you share your latest book crushes with me as well!)





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