Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Interview With Editor Kristin Daly Rens & ARC Giveaway for DEFIANCE

I'm thrilled to welcome my amazing editor Kristin Daly Rens to the blog today! Not only is she an insightful, talented editor who brings out the best in her authors, she's also a genuinely awesome person through and through. She decided to come on the blog today to publicize my forthcoming debut, DEFIANCE. Here's a look at what DEFIANCE is about:

Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city’s brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses, host dinner parties, and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father’s apprentice, Logan—the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same boy who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father’s survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.

At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city’s top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor’s impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.

As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can’t be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.
Kristin chose to be interviewed by the Were-llama. Not only does she find him adorable, but there's a fun story of epic awkwardness behind her choice. On the day I sold DEFIANCE, I spent an hour talking with each editor involved in the auction. Kristin was my first phone call of the day. I was both excited and nervous! And when I'm excited and nervous, my mouth tends to outdistance my brain. I opened our conversation with the following statement: "I had a dream last night that I showed up at the Harper Collins office dressed like a llama!" And immediately after I said it, I thought to myself SHUTUPRIGHTNOWWHATAREYOUDOINGOMG???? But Kristin found it amusing, connected with me on a deep level over my story, and after I signed with her, she sent me a box of books and a stuffed llama. <3

Let's meet today's guests!


Kristin Daly Rens

Of course, my hubby designed a cupcake for today's interview. Because he also had a groom's cake due, he eschewed all of my more complicated suggestions (There should be a sword in the middle of real flames! You could do the monster's head coming out of the cupcake and breathing FIRE! You could make a little mini city-state!) and instead, made a cupcake that captures Rachel facing down the beast. Without further ado, I give you the cupcake and Kristin vs. the Were-llama.

1. So, you’re an editor. 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?

I, too, command obedience—but with the awesome power of my green pencil. Or, more likely these days, the awesome power of track changes in Word, my current editing weapon of choice.

2. I will pit my glowing red eyes against your skinny green pencil any day. I like to spit at my enemies from whichever end is closest to them. Do any of the characters in DEFIANCE have cool abilities like that?

Unfortunately, neither Rachel nor Logan is a spitter—from either end—but Rachel DOES wield a mean sword. Not to mention a totally badass weapon called a Switch, which is basically a wooden walking staff, with a spring-loaded double-edged blade on one end, and a mallet-like weight heavy enough to crush a man’s skull on the other. And Logan is an inventor who creates all kinds of crazy stuff—weapons, explosives, tracking devices…magnetic hand-grips to help you climb over the wall that surrounds your city and escape. You get the idea.

3. They sound like worthy minions for the Were-llama. Even if they are sadly deficient in spitting abilities. If I had a nickname, it would be The Awesome. You?

The Grammatically Correct.

4. I hang around this blog because I love stories. What’s your story about? Bonus points if it includes a llama.

DEFIANCE is the story of Rachel Adams, whose father is the top courier in Baalboden, a walled city-state where the serpentine Cursed One lurks outside the town walls, while the brutal Commander rules within, and every girl must have a Protector with her at all times. But when Rachel’s father disappears on a mission, leaving her under the Protection of his apprentice Logan—whom she has despised ever since she told him she loved him and he turned her down—Rachel knows that she’s the only one who can find him. So she embarks on a high-stakes journey outside the walls to find her father and the mysterious package that he was carrying—a package that the Commander will stop at nothing to get his hands on. And as they follow her father’s tracks and fend off attacks from the Cursed One, she and Logan forge a bond that even the Commander’s iron fist can’t break.

Really, this book’s got it all: danger, swashbuckling battle scenes, and of course, romantic tension that is absolutely through the roof—full of longing, and misunderstandings, and forbidden love, all heightened by the fact that Logan has now become Rachel’s guardian. It ROCKS.

5. I see a regrettable lack of llamas listed in that description. You’re making me a cake worthy of my awesome Were-llama status and decorating it to represent DEFIANCE. What does it look like?

A city with a towering wall around it! No…a slithering, fire-breathing beast! No…a sword-wielding redhead! Ack! I can’t decide! But there should definitely be FIRE.

6. Any Were-llamas in your book?

No Were-llamas, alas—talk about a missed opportunity! But there are delicious baked goods like sticky buns and raisin loaves; a fire-breathing serpentlike creature stalking our heroes; and lots of cool technology that blows stuff up, Not to mention a very steamy smooch in a lake. So maybe that makes up for the absence of Were-llamas at least a little bit?

7. If you think sticky buns and kisses in unsanitary lake water make up for the stunning lack of llamas in this book, you are sadly mistaken, Madam. I will give you one more chance to redeem yourself before I forget that you called me adorable and begin a campaign of spit in your general direction. Anyone who might be a Were-llama and you just haven’t figured it out yet?

Um, have you looked at the person who runs this blog lately?

8. I am not appeased. Llamas or camels and why? Think carefully.

Llamas, CLEARLY. And not just because you can spit at me from either end.

9. You have mollified me for the moment. I will hold back the mighty llama spit glands unless you give further offense. I give you a baby Were-llama as a companion. What do you name her?

Veronica, after Veronica Mars. It’s a fierce moniker worthy of sassy teen detectives and were-llamas.

10. Acceptable. My favorite word is “awesome” because, yanno, look at me. What’s yours?

Pithy. Because I am so not.

11. This is when it's helpful to practice one's spitting ability. No reply is as pithy as a face full of spit. 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?

I dreamt of being a private detective like my then-idol, Nancy Drew. I even went to my third-grade career day dressed in a trench coat over my St. Elizabeth Ann Seton uniform, with a notebook, magnifying glass, and “fingerprint powder” (which was really some talcum powder I pilfered from home). Clearly, my love of Nancy Drew was a precursor to my current Veronica Mars obsession.

12. Cake or cookies?

Cookies. With frosting. Best of both worlds.

13. I cannot help but approve. Do you share chocolate?

Only with my husband, because he’s wonderful and amazing—not to mention he actually finds it cute that I constantly have my nose buried in a manuscript (I am a very lucky woman, I know). And with my Assistant Editor of Awesome, Sara Sargent, because she runs my life and I need to stay on her good side. Other than that, all the chocolate is MINE.

14. *looks up from eating all of YOUR chocolate* I'm sorry, you were saying? The Zombie Goat invasion is upon us. How will you fight them off?

I don’t. I barricade myself in my apartment with my husband, a year’s supply of Diet Coke, Veronica Mars and Buffy DVDs, and some good books until it’s all over.

Thank you so much for the entertaining interview, Kristin! To get to know Kristin better, you can follow her on Twitter - @kristin_rens. Of course, the fun isn't over yet! Kristin is going to give away the very first ARC of DEFIANCE to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out the form below. The contest is open until 8 pm central time Monday, March 5th and is open for North America. Good luck and happy reading!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Trailer for THE LIMIT

This book came out in 2010, but I haven't read it yet. The premise is interesting--feels very Hollywood to me. Have you read this book? Does this interest you?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

DEFIANCE Cover Reveal & Giveaway!

The day has finally come for me to reveal the HOLY COW AMAZING cover the talented team at Balzer+Bray designed for DEFIANCE. I am beyond excited!!! The cover reveal is happening on the lovely YABooksCentral site. The chance to enter to win a DEFIANCE prize package is happening here.

First, the cover. Go ahead. Click! Drool! Admire! I'll wait for you.

Isn't it gorgeous? And fierce? And just ... *happy sigh*

Right. Prize package. Ready for this? I'm giving away a signed hardback of DEFIANCE (when they become available) along with a one-of-a-kind DEFIANCE journal and tote bag!

(They are pretty! *pets journal and tote bag*)

Entering is easy. Just fill out the form below. Send a few more people to look at the cover if you want extra entries! I'll use to choose a winner. The contest runs until 8 p.m. central time Thursday, March 1st and is open internationally!

Good luck!

(P.S. Come back here next Wednesday for an interview with my amazing editor who is giving away the very first ARC of DEFIANCE!)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Author Mad Libs: Rachel Hawkins

Today's Author Mad Libs guest is Rachel Hawkins, author of the best-selling Hex Hall series. The final book in the series, SPELL BOUND, will be in a bookstore near you on March 13, 2012. I sent Rachel a parts of speech list. She sent back words. This is the result.

Hailed as “impossible to _defenestrate_,” the Hex Hall series has both critics and _Pudding Pops_ cheering. With a winning combination of romance, _grapefruit_, magic and humor, this third _dime_ will leave readers _spankable_.

Just as Sophie Mercer has come to accept her extraordinary_funky_powers as a _cupcake_, the Prodigium Council strips them away. Now Sophie is defenseless, alone, and at the mercy of her sworn _gnomes_—the Brannicks, a family of warrior _gnomes (again!)_ who hunt down the Prodigium. Or at least that’s what Sophie thinks, until she makes a _scintillating_ discovery. The Brannicks know an epic _butt_ is coming, and they believe Sophie is the only one _calm_ enough to stop the world from ending. But without her magic, Sophie isn’t as _freaking_.

Sophie’s bound for one hell of a _mountain lion_—can she get her powers back before it’s too late?

About Rachel:

Rachel Hawkins is a 20-something former _David Hasselhoff_ who left teaching to take a chance and get serious about finishing that _Snuggie_ she'd always wanted to _freak_ Her first book, Hex Hall, was the result of that leap of faith. She's a _TARDIS_ of Auburn University in Alabama and lives with her husband and six-year-old _pineapple_.

She's also hopelessly addicted to watching Downton _Chicken_ and Dr. _She_, and I have it on good authority that she regularly _gyrates_ about popular _tacos_.

Thank you, Rachel, for that highly entertaining post! To learn more about Rachel (And really ... after this? Who could resist?) visit her blog. To purchase SPELL BOUND, or any of the Hex Hall books, head to Indie Bound, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Oh, yes please! I've been waiting for this movie since I saw the last Lord of the Rings movie. I'm pleased that Peter Jackson is once again at the helm. What do you think?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Author Mad Libs: Emily Danforth

When Cameron Post’s parents _whisk_ suddenly in a car crash, her _obscure_ first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing an _ennui_.

But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her _high-falutin_ aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly _newfangled_ grandmother. She knows that from this _Bundt cake_ on, her _pomegranate_ will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means _cartwheeling_ in and leaving well enough alone (as her _rucksack_ might say), and Cam becomes a _lotto ticket_ at both.

Then Coley Taylor _grasps_ to town. _Florid_, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect _pantaloon_ with the perfect _soda pop_ to match. She and Cam _slurp_ an unexpected and intense friendship—one that seems to leave _rattlesnake_ for something more to _maraud_. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, _robust_ Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the _marmalade_ of denying her true self—even if she’s not exactly sure who that is.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a _ham-handed_and unforgettable literary _socket_ about discovering who you are and finding the courage to live life according to your own _shenanigans_.

Thank you, Emily, for being a good sport! (Also, this is another cover I adore!) To learn more about Emily, visit her site. To purchase THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST, go to Indie Bound, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Author Mad Libs: Jessica Spotswood

Today's Author Mad Libs guest is Jessica Spotswood, author of the highly anticipated BORN WICKED which came out last week. I sent Jessica a parts of speech list. She sent back words. This is the result.

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are _scandalous_. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too _dreadful_ for their own good. But the truth is even _creepier_: they're witches. And if their _hedgehog_ is discovered by the _Tater Tots_ of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early _monkey_.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to_snuggle_ her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between _a mermaid_ and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to _critique_ her _cupcake_...especially after she finds her mother's _shark_, uncovering a secret that could spell her family's _champagne_. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts _typing_ banned books and questioning rebellious new _sandwiches_, all while _singing_ tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a _murderous_ romance with the completely _sparkly_ Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren't _breathless_. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.

Thank you, Jessica, for playing along. What a gorgeous cover! To learn more about Jessica, visit her website. To purchase the book, visit Indie Bound, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


I'd never heard of this book (the first in a series), but this trailer certainly makes me want to read it. What do you think?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cue the Geriatric Bull Moose!

1. Last week was a busy week.

2. There was the release of my QUERY book on Amazon and Nook, which was exciting.

3. There were the final preparations for my upcoming cover reveal on the 23rd, which were also exciting. (Because HOLY COW do I love my cover!!)

4. And there was a bout of stomach flu that each of my boys caught which was not exciting in the least.

5. Unless, of course, you think being awakened at 3 in the morning by a child telling you he's just puked all over his carpeted floor is exciting.

6. Usually, I can roll with stuff like this without much of a problem.

7. Unlike my hubby who gets one whiff and joins the hork fest.

8. But this time ... THIS TIME, dear reader, I could barely hang on to my cookies.

9. I don't know why.

10. I just know that I gagged and choked and nearly lost it several times.

11. I tell you all of this so you will understand the following story.

12. If you are super, super squeamish, you may want to consider skimming past the next few points.

13. Actually, if you are super, super squeamish, you might want to consider not reading most of my blog posts because I do some really stupid squeamish-y stuff all the time.

14. Anyway, after spending the week taking care of sick kiddos (and thankfully never getting the virus myself), my fibromyalgia sat up and said YOU ARE GOING DOWN, SISTER.

15. And I got body aches and sore throat and all the lovely things that go along with my body calling it quits for a few days.

16. Only I couldn't call it quits.

17. Because I was scheduled to give my query workshop to the Heart of Dixie RWA chapter in Alabama on Saturday.

18. So, my hubby bought me some Thera-flu, and I prepared to suck it up and perform.

19. I boiled some water, mixed in the daytime Thera-flu, poured it into my thermos, and headed out the door.

20. The problem hit when I was exiting my neighborhood and driving into my city.

21. I slid the tab open on the lid of my thermos, lifted it to to my face, inhaled the fragrant steam that was wafting out of the opening ...

22. And gagged like my lower intestines wanted to say hello to my nasal cavities.

23. Why?

24. Because something about the medicinal/berry smell of the Thera-flu combined with the metal rim of my thermos smelled EXACTLY like the puke I'd cleaned up a few nights earlier.

25. Oh, reader.

26. I cannot even begin to tell you ...

27. I mean, I knew it wasn't vomit. I knew it.

28. But it didn't matter. My brain had associated the two smells and the two had become one.

29. Unfortunately, I was still feeling sick. And was still on my way to another state where I needed to be on all day.

30. Which left me with but one choice.

31. Plug my nose and drink.

32. This was easier said that done. The fact that I couldn't physically smell it anymore made no difference to my brain.

33. Scent memory hit me every time I lifted the thermos to my lips. It took an act of extreme willpower to force myself to take a sip.

34. Even more willpower to swallow before my gag reflex kicked in.

35. But I did it. Because the only thing worse than swallowing it would be to gag and have vomit-scented Thera-flu shoot out my nose.

36. I'd be smelling it all day.

37. And I don't think the HoD folks would've appreciated a workshop given by a woman who paused to gag vociferously every few seconds throughout her presentation.

38. As a side note, my gag reflex sounds an awful lot like the desperate mating call of a geriatric bull moose.

39. Sexy, I know.

40. And to attempt to tie this entire post into a nice tidy little bow, I'll bring us full circle and refer back up to the pic at the top.

41. This is entirely true for me.

42. In honor of Valentine's Day (which is a holiday I honestly could care less about, but whatever), I give you a brief insight into what happens when I try to be sexy or sophisticated.

43. Oh, yes. That is soooo me.

Friday, February 10, 2012

QUERY-palooza: Day Five

I used to choose the winner of today's query critique. Here it is:

Dear Agent,

I read on your blog that you’re actively looking for historical fiction and books with a sweeping, saga-length scope, and I hope you will consider YOU CANNOT KILL A SWAN, a historical saga set during the Russian Civil War and early 1920s Manhattan. Good start!

Seventeen-year-old Lyuba Zhukova is left behind in Russia when her mother and aunt immigrate to America, forcing her to go into hiding from the Bolsheviks and sometimes flee at a moment’s notice. By the time the Civil War has turned in favor of the Reds, Lyuba has also become an unwed mother. But she still has her best friend and soulmate Ivan Konev, a cousin, and a band of friends, and together they’re determined to survive the Bolsheviks and escape to America. Why was she left behind to fend for herself? When you say her cousin is her soul mate, do you mean they are romantically involved? That’s the impression I get. Does that mean Ivan is her baby’s father? The only thing missing in this paragraph (besides considering my previous questions) is Lyuba’s personality and emotions. The story set up is excellent, but who is Lyuba and why should I care if she escapes? How does she feel about being left behind? What is her agenda beyond survival (if anything.)? What is she willing to do to survive/get what she wants? If you give me a little bit of her emotional state of mind and what makes her tick, a reader can relate to her and start championing her story.

As Lyuba runs for her life from during (Need to delete from or during) the terror and uncertainty of the Civil War, she’s committed to protecting her daughter and staying together with Ivan, who’s raised her child as his own since the night she was born. The race to get out of Russia, into Estonia, and over to America intensifies after Ivan commits a murder to protect her and becomes a wanted criminal. Ok, you answered my questions about Ivan. Is he her first cousin? Forgive my ignorance here, but was it common in Russia during this time period to be swoony with one’s cousin? If so, rock on. If not, consider second cousin and state that here to overcome any immediate “eek!” response from readers.

Once in America, Lyuba discovers the streets aren’t lined with gold and that she’s just another Lower East Side tenement-dweller. Ivan brings in dirt wages from an iron factory, forcing them to largely live off the savings they brought from Russia and to indefinitely defer their dream of having their own farm in the Midwest. And though the Red Terror is just a nightmarish memory, Lyuba is still scarred in ways that have long prevented her and Ivan from becoming husband and wife and living happily ever after. Can she ever heal from her traumatic past and have the life she always dreamt of with the man she loves before Ivan gets tired of waiting? Wait a minute. She is traumatized and scarred in a way that keeps them from being man and wife? That goes beyond the being abandoned by mom and aunt that you’ve told us about. This is good stuff and will help your reader identify with Lyuba. This goes in your first paragraph about her. How did she become an unwed mother? What did that do to her?

I have a BA in history and Russian and Eastern European Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, with a focus on 20th century Russian history.

I would be happy to provide a synopsis, a partial, or the complete manuscript. (You don't need to say this as it's a given.) Attached please find the first chapter. You may reach me at [phone number] or You need to give the word count. Most writers give the word count with the title. If you're uncertain whether your word count falls in acceptable parameters for your genre, Google it and proceed accordingly. Too long or too short can hamper your ability to get requests. 

 Great job! Just a little work uncovering the heart of Lyuba and you’ll have a stellar query to send. Best of luck to you!

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Carrie-Anne Brownian

Want your own personal query guru to help you craft an amazing query letter? QUERY: Everything you need to get started, get noticed, and get signed is available now! Full of research, innovative tools, and strategies every writer can use to query well, QUERY is available for the introductory price of $2.99 on Kindle and Nook.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

QUERY-palooza: Day Four

As always, I used to choose the winner of today's query critique. Here's our winner!

A lightning rod for tragedy, Nox Sumner (has) lost every member of her family. She is haunted by the fear of who will be next. (If she lost every member of her family, it sounds like she doesn’t have anyone left to lose so who is she really worried about? Maybe be a tad more specific.) When the Grim Reaper turns up on her doorstep, answering her question with the name of her BFF, only her ghostastic older bro standing in the way stops her from kicking his hooded ass to the curb. 1. How does she recognize him? 2. Why isn’t she afraid? 3. What question does she ask? 4. I like her style. :)

Grim's in a bind. His boatman, River Crowe, is hiding out at Nox's high school. Loving life, he flipped (flips – Queries are written in present tense.) Grim the bird and refused (refuses) to return to his dismal existence as (an) exalted taxi service for the dead. Since River isn't on his list (what list?), Grim needs Nox to kill River and send him home. And if she'll do it, he'll (Grimm. Otherwise “he” refers back to River in the previous sentence.) spare her best friend. Make it clear in the first paragraph that her best friend is all she has left. That’s how you tweak that second sentence. Also, it occurs to me to ask who Nox lives with now that her family is dead. You can answer that in the first paragraph by identifying the doorstep Grim shows up on. “When the Grim Reaper turns up at her foster parents’ doorstep” etc.

The thought of killing anyone—let alone River—makes her want to vomit. Six feet of tall, dark and oh-my-god, he is a whirlwind of hedonistic pleasure.(This could just be a matter of personal taste, so take this with a grain of salt, but I’m uncomfortable with the phrase “hedonistic pleasure” in a query for a YA. Makes me think of adult paranormal romance instead. Maybe find a more PG way to describe this? Up to you.) Nox thought the loss of her brother (In the first paragraph, it sounds like she suddenly lost ALL her family members at once. If her parents died earlier and her brother is the recent death, you might tweak the first sentence to reflect that.) had extinguished any happiness left inside her until River's love affair with mortality reignites something she thought lost forever.

But that doesn't change what she has to do. The ranks of the reaped grow as a rash of drownings illustrate the danger in leaving souls stranded on the banks of the Styx. (The phrase “a rash of drownings illustrate the danger in leaving souls stranded…” feels a bit unwieldy. I think it’s the “illustrate the danger.” It puts distance between us and the heinous stuff that is happening. Make it more immediate. i.e. “The ranks of the reaped are growing as the souls stranded on the banks of the Styx __insert appropriate gruesome action here___”) Her quiet, corn-fed community is rapidly becoming a literal ghost town. With her closest friend's life hanging in the balance, her time is running out … and so is River's. Love these last two sentences. Nice job!

THE STYX is an 85,000 YA paranormal set in the real town of River Styx, Ohio and my debut novel. (You can cut the “and my debut novel.”) If you would like to read more, I would be delighted to send you sample chapters or the completed manuscript. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sounds like a high stakes, interesting story! Best of luck to you with this.

Want your own personal query guru to help you craft an amazing query letter? QUERY: Everything you need to get started, get noticed, and get signed is available now! Full of research, innovative tools, and strategies every writer can use to query well, QUERY is available for the introductory price of $2.99 on Kindle and Nook.

Author Mad Libs: Kelly Keaton

Today's Author Mad Libs guest is Kelly Keaton whose book A BEAUTIFUL EVIL hits the shelves February 21st. Kelly received a list of parts of speech from me. This is the result. :)

_hedgehog_ she can’t deny. A destiny she’s determined to _poke_.

When Ari first arrived in the _diabolical_ city of New 2, all she wanted was to figure out who she was. But what she _strutted_ was beyond her _wee_ nightmare. Ari can already sense the evil _pumping_ inside her—a power the goddess Athena will stop at nothing to _slurp_.

Desperate to hold on to her _tree_ and _consider_ her loved ones, Ari must fight back. But Athena’s playing mind _high heels_, not just with Ari but with those she cares about most. And Athena has a very special _lamp post_ for the brooding and sexy Sebastian.

Ari is determined to _mutter_ Athena, but time is running out. With no other _chains_, Ari must unleash the very _arena_ she’s afraid of: herself.

What reviewers are saying:

"Unforgettable, _witchy_, and unique. I could not put this _church_down.”– #1 New York Times Bestselling author Christopher Pike

“Keaton creates a New Orleans setting rife with Gothic _basketball_and decay.” — Booklist, STARRED Review

“If I could become an _island_ in a fictional world, I would pick this one. Action and romance combine with _weary_ storytelling and an alluring world. More, please!” —Melissa Marr, New York Times bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely series, on A BEAUTIFUL EVIL, the sequel to DARKNESS BECOMES HER

Thank you, Kelly, for participating! To learn more about Kelly and her amazing (trust me!) books, head to her site. To purchase a copy of A BEAUTIFUL EVIL head to IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

QUERY-palooza: Day Three

As always, I used to choose today's winner of the free query critique. Here is the winning query:

Super Duper Agent
City, State Zip

Dear Super Duper Agent:

Fifteen-year-old Britt Donnelly is used to getting what she wants, thanks to her fourth class witch powers. In the last four years, she’s made herself the most popular girl in her class at Lincoln High, spelled herself into a leadership spot on the cheerleading squad, and earned top notch grades despite not actually learning anything. Most recently, she “persuaded” the junior running back that he should take her to Homecoming, even though the dance is still almost two months away. Life is absolutely perfect in her eyes. This is a fabulous first paragraph. We get a good sense of who Britt is, where her ethics/agenda lie, and what her life is like as the story starts.

But when Marc Trent moves back to town, Britt realizes that her view of “perfect” wasn’t even close…because Marc is the epitome of perfect. (I don’t think you need the “because…perfect.” Feels redundant.) He’s beautiful in a way she’s never seen before (add comma) and now she must have him. Problem is, he isn’t taking to her charms, and her persuading spells that work on everyone else aren’t working on him. Worse yet, if she doesn’t hurry, her best friend Haylie will steal Marc away from her. She sees only one possible solution – to complete an illegal-for-her-age love spell. Very good set-up of the conflict!

When the spell backfires, Britt finds herself in a mess she can’t spell herself out of. Her popularity status disappears, her friends choose sides, and all her magical powers are taken away. With the interest of a guy she never would have known if not for her illegal spell, Britt learns the hard way that sometimes it takes losing everything to discover what you really want. Nice! I understand how it all goes wrong, and what Britt must do to come out the other side.

_____________ is a young adult paranormal/contemporary romance novel complete at 70,000 words and can best be described as a mix of the 80’s movies Teen Witch and Can’t Buy Me Love. I’m a member of the SCBWI Midsouth Region and YALitChat group. Thank you for your time. Love it, except for the overly long genre description. This is a young adult paranormal romance. :)

Excellent job! I think you're ready to start querying this. Best of luck to you!

Sincerely, Me

Want your own personal query guru to help you craft an amazing query letter? QUERY: Everything you need to get started, get noticed, and get signed is available now! Full of research, innovative tools, and strategies every writer can use to query well, QUERY is available for the introductory price of $2.99 on Kindle and Nook.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

QUERY-palooza, Day Two

Here is today's winner of the query critique!

Dear Agent,

In *"GD", fifteen-year-old Grace thought (“thinks” – Queries are written in present tense.) insomnia was (is) her biggest problem. Until she starts seeing things that can’t possibly be real, like shadow people and an evil doppelganger of her secret crush. (This sentence is a fragment and belongs with the sentence before. To keep it from becoming too long, I suggest putting a period after “real” and then saying “Thinks like shadow people …”) Determined to sleep no matter what the means, Grace accepts a joint from Raf, her close friend—and secret crush. All it takes is one hit for Grace to find herself surrounded by the dead, drowning in their emotions as they suck the life from her. One of the strange things about trying to summarize our manuscripts in a query is that we know what we’re talking about when we references things, and sometimes we don’t realize the reader hasn’t followed along. :) You’ve told us her biggest problem was insomnia UNTIL she starts seeing things. But you follow that with her taking a hit off a joint because she’s determined to get some sleep. It feels off because we’re totally with you on the whole “Grace needs to solve the problem of seeing things that can’t be real!” Also, the other questions that come up for the reader: 1. How does she know she is seeing an evil doppelganger instead of her friend? The doppelganger option isn’t one most people would immediately reach for. 2. Why would smoking a joint bring out the dead? Does it knock her defenses down? We don’t realize she has any in the first place. You can fix all of this with just a little bit of editing. :)

Grace is rescued a little too conveniently by the Grim freaking Reaper. (Why is it convenient? And how bad is her situation right before the Reaper arrives? Really show us she’s desperate and NEEDS rescue. All you need is something like “As the dead souls surrounding Grace slowly consumer her, she __insert emotion or action or need__.” And then follow it w/the Reaper’s arrival.) He whisks her away to a powerful Underworld demon whose plans include using Grace to transport souls. (Why would the demon need Grace to transport souls? Is she specifically qualified for this?) But becoming Death Jr. was never in Grace’s life plan. (lol) She may have been tricked into donning Death’s hoodie, (She was? I think we might need that info earlier.) but that doesn’t mean she has to use it—even if it does have a way of appearing to her at the most inconvenient times. While using the hoodie may promise unimaginable power and a restful night’s sleep, the escape comes at the cost of an innocent soul. Grace wants nothing to do with taking people’s lives—even if it means losing her own. How would she lose her own if she doesn’t use the hoodie? This explanation can be given at the same time you show us when/how she got tricked into taking the hoodie. If this paragraph feels too long once you add in those details, you can break it off before the “But become Death Jr.” sentence.

Overwhelmed, Grace turns to her friends, but her BFF doesn’t believe her and Raf knows more than he’s admitting. Soon Grace can no longer put off using the hood (hoodie) and stealing a soul. You want to end your query with a nice, punchy line that delivers the stakes and makes us wonder if she’ll succeed and what will happen to her if she fails. Something like “If Grace can’t force Raf to come clean and help her turn the tables on the Underworld demon currently ruining her life, she’ll be forced to steal a soul and become a Reaper forever.” Or whatever is actually true for your book.

"GD" is a young adult paranormal novel complete at 70,000 words. My previous manuscript (*redacted*) won the 2010 Sourcebooks Fire YALitChat writing contest. I am also an active member of YALitChat.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my novel. Great job! You’re just a few tweaks away from having a polished query ready to send. Best of luck to you!

Want your own personal query guru to help you craft an amazing query letter? QUERY: Everything you need to get started, get noticed, and get signed is available now! Full of research, innovative tools, and strategies every writer can use to query well, QUERY is available for the introductory price of $2.99 on Kindle and Nook.


I am an unabashed fangirl of Christopher Nolan's gritty Dark Knight series, and I promise you I'll be at the theater on opening night for this film. This is the third and last in the Dark Knight series, and it looks like Nolan isn't pulling any of his punches. What do you think?

Monday, February 6, 2012


Thank you to all who entered the giveaway for a signed copy of Beth Revis' A MILLION SUNS! As always, I used to select the winner. And the lucky winner is

Alyssa Sooklal

Congratulations, Alyssa! You will receive a confirmation email from me shortly. Thanks for entering and happy reading!

QUERY-palooza Day One!

Today kicks off my week-long QUERY-palooza with the release of my QUERY: Everything you need to get started, get noticed, and get signed and with the first winner of a free query critique!

I've very excited to package my research and querying experience, along with the tools I've created to help every writer master the art of query letter writing, into one shiny little package. The handbook contains everything I use in my query workshops, plus new worksheets and sample queries. 


QUERY: Everything You Need to Get Started, Get Noticed, and Get Signed covers everything from basic query format to agent research to innovative strategies for creating a fabulous hook. The handbook gives examples, worksheets, and tools to enable every writer to query well. For writers seeking publication, QUERY will provide practical, usable assistance for every stage of the querying process.

To celebrate QUERY's release, I'm offering it for an introductory price of $2.99 on both Kindle and Nook!


Today's query critique was used as my monthly column at Romance University. Congratulations to the winning writer! Didn't win today's critique? Another winner will be announced tomorrow!

Friday, February 3, 2012

QUERY-palooza Last Call!

Today is the last day to enter to win 1 of 5 free query critiques next week! Go here and fill out the form to enter. Good luck!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Interview with Beth Revis

My blog readers know that Beth Revis has become somewhat of a repeat offender regular visitor around here. There was the time she was interviewed when ACROSS THE UNIVERSE came out. And then there was the time she tried to kill me. Not once, but twice. Still, since apparently I enjoy a good nemesis (especially one as devious as fun as Beth), I've invited her back. :) ACROSS THE UNIVERSE was different, compelling, and has one of the best opening scenes ever. I can't wait to get my hands on A MILLION SUNS! Here's a peek.

Godspeed was once fueled by lies. Now it is ruled by chaos. It’s been three months. In that time, Amy has learned to hide who she is. Elder is trying to be the leader he’s always wanted to be. But as the ship gets more and more out of control, only one thing is certain: They have to get off the ship.

Um ... yes, please! I was thrilled when Beth agreed to come back on the blog, especially because she agreed to be the first author to take on our newest interviewer, Giselle. Let's meet today's guests.

Giselle, the French sock monkey

Beth Revis

They look like two worthy adversaries, don't you think? Before we dive into today's interview, we get to see the cupcake my hubby made in honor of A MILLION SUNS. Rejecting all of my perfectly valid suggestions to make a jar of Nutella labeled "Instant Death" or a tombstone for my local dental hygienist (If neither suggestion made sense to you, you didn't click on the links above to read about Beth's various crimes against me.), my hubby made a cupcake that beautifully reflects the meaning of A MILLION SUNS: a scattering of stars against an ebony background. Without further ado, I give you the star cupcake and Beth vs. Giselle.

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?


2. As all should be when they come into my presence. 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?

True story: once I was on a Jack the Ripper tour in London with some of my students (when I was a teacher). The Jack the Ripper tour guide started telling a story about a murderer in this old London house who liked to chop up his victims and then, to dispose of the bodies, he would wrap their dismembered flesh in brown paper and tie it up with string.

One of my trouble-making students then asks, “What did you say?”

The tour guide (a little louder): He wrapped up their flesh in brown paper and tied it up with string.

My student (with a completely straight face, starts singing): These are a few of my favorite things…

We had to tip the tour guide extra for that one.

Wait, what was the question?

3. I find this discussion of dismembered body parts wrapped in brown paper and tied up with strings to be one of my very least favorite things. Many crave my approval, but few are clever enough to win it. What are you willing to do to win my favor?

I have been known to attack my enemies with Nutella, and have a legion of ninja dental hygeniests on my side, ready to kill at my whim.

(And now I hope that CJ links to those posts so that new readers know I’m not an insane creeper…)

4. *sniffs* If I was to attack my enemies, I would have better weapons at my disposal than some sugary hazelnut spread and a person who spends all day obsessed with teeth. 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?

Oh, that is a REALLY good choice. Seriously. OK, if I were a dessert, I’d be a cupcake. Because my favorite drink is cupcake-flavored vodka, and honestly, I’ve drunk enough of it to become one myself.

5. Then henceforth I shall refer to you as Cupcake, the vodka swilling, Nutella wielding author. I understand you write stories. Please tell me why the hero of your book would be my perfect boy toy for a day.

Well, Elder is the hero of my books. He’s a genetically engineered spaceship commander trying to hold together his people before mutiny tears apart his ship. Also, there’s a scene where one of the characters has to tell him to, and I quote, “Shut up and put some pants on.” So there’s that.

6. *gazes off into the distance and delicately fans face* Genetically engineered, you say? *raises brow* ALL of him? 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?

Much Ado About Awesome

7. Pink? Or some lesser, inferior color?

Silver. Which is actually a very nice compliment to the color pink.

8. I prefer diamonds, myself. 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?

Rapunzel. Because my mother was actually an evil witch who locked me in a tower until I was 18. Or, really, just because I have crazy long hair.

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?

I am all for glitter anything, so I thank you for the eye shadow! If I were to start a trend, though, it would be that yoga pants were suddenly the most fashionable thing ever. Because honestly? That’s all I wear anyway.

10. What are these ... yoga pants? *Googles* Oh. How ... utterly delightful. I suppose you have some in silver? 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?

Macarons are pretty freaking sweet. I also like cheese and wine. Basically, whatever can make me fat and/or drunk is probably a good thing.

Although I have to say…Nutella, the most perfect food form in the universe, comes from Italy, not France.

Also: J'ai appris le français au lycée et je peux encore parler un peu. Pouvez-vous faire cela, le singe?

11. Comment osez-vous insinuer que je serais incapable de parler ma propre langue, vous la vodka swilling cupcake, vous! 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 once killed a squid and then ate it. After, you know, cooking it. Have I mentioned that my mom is Katniss and my dad is Aquaman?

12. If I ever need a squid killed and then eaten, I now know whom to call. I also believe a smart woman always gets the last word. Any last word you’d like to leave with my readers?


Thank you, Beth, for such an entertaining interview! I think you gave our fair Giselle a good run for her money. To learn more about Beth, visit her site. To grab your own copy of A MILLION SUNS, visit Indie Bound here.

Of course, the fun isn't over yet! Beth is giving away a signed copy of A MILLION SUNS to one lucky reader. The contest is open to North America and you may enter until 8 p.m. central time, Monday February 6th. To enter, simply fill out the form below. And be sure to leave a comment for Beth in the blogger comment box at the bottom of the post!

Good luck and happy reading!

A Bad Culinary Decision

A few days ago, on a whim, I bought a bag of Lay's Potato Chips in their new Chicken and Waffles flavor. I figured my kids (who love bot...