The Costliest Price for Ebooks? Free.

My debut novel, ASHFALL, has become popular enough that it's being widely pirated. Oh. Joy.

For the last week or so, I've been having a remarkably civil conversation via email with the owner of one of the pirating sites. It's not so much that I think I'll change his mind--I'm pretty sure that the next time someone changes their mind due to the internet will be the first--I just want to understand what motivates him to take the considerable personal risk of owning a pirate site.

It turns out that he feels justified in what he does because he believes he is helping authors--he's tasked me with reading extensive selections from Cory Doctorow's writings about the benefits he gets from making his ebooks available for free. Now Doctorow is both smarter and a more accomplished author than I, and I have no doubt that making his ebooks free benefits him. But here's what he gets wrong about the ebook market: an environment in which the value of a book descends to zero hurts both authors and readers. In the long run, the costliest price for ebooks is free.

There's no doubt that copyright laws are in serious need of overhaul. As currently written, they excessively protect corporate interests at the expense of individual consumers and content creators. But the important part of copyright law--of any law, actually--isn't what's written down in the law books--it's the social norms and  habits that follow from the law.

I learned this viscerally during the year I was a foreign exchange student in Brazil. On my way out of the airport in Cuiaba, we slowed nearly to a stop at every green light. I tried to ask why, but my broken mix of Portuguese and Spanish wasn't up to the task. I had my answer soon enough though, as I saw cars ahead of us blowing through the reds at cross streets, full speed. Does Brazil have traffic laws? Yes, but the norm is that traffic lights are suggestions, not mandatory, so every intersection becomes a high-speed game of chicken. And to insure a car in Rio costs about a third of its purchase price every year. A similar phenomena applies to speed limits in the United States. The limit in Indiana, where I live, is 70 mph, but the norm is that people drive 75-80, and most of us tend to get annoyed at those going much slower or faster.

When laws work, they become a benchmark that sets a social norm and creates the habits that govern our day-to-day life. Right now, the social norm is that people who create and publish books deserve to get paid for their labor. Most people make sure the authors they enjoy do get paid, either by checking their books out from a library (which paid for the books) or by buying them.

Could I make more money giving ASHFALL away for free, like Cory Doctorow? Maybe, at least in the short-term. He's right when he says the biggest challenge facing new authors isn't piracy, it's obscurity. But my personal test for whether my behavior is moral or not is this question: If everyone behaved this way, what would the world be like? And if we all pirate books--or even give them away for free--the social norm becomes that books are free. And in a world where authors don't get paid for their work, I (and thousands of other authors) can't continue to write. Such a world would be considerably poorer for readers and writers alike. Which is why the costliest ebooks are free.

By the way, at least one of the sites pirating ASHFALL is charging for it. If you pay anything less than Amazon's price for ASHFALL, currently $8.98, I don't get even a penny.

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Dystopian Places Answer Key

How many did you get correct?


Panem - The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Ludania - The Pledge by Kimberly Derting

Nollop - Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

Hailsham - Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Goodside and Otherside - Bumped by Megan McCafferty

Prime Destinations - Starters by Lissa Price

Godspeed - Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Forgetting clinics - Memento Nora by Angie Smibert

Prime Destinations - Starters by Lissa Price

Heart - Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

Opium - The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

CMS boarding school - Tomorrow Girls: Behind the Gates by Eva Gray

Balanchine chocolate factory - All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

The Pentagonal Spire - Insignia by SJ Kincaid

Goodgrounds - Possession by Elana Johnson

Unlake Superior - Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien

Settler’s Landing - The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

OASIS - Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Demesne - Beta by Rachel Cohn

Rusty Ruins - Uglies by Scott Westerfeld 

Comic-Con 2012 continued...

Large crowd for the Hungry for Dystopia Panel

Low light level. Our panel: Gennifer Albin (Crewel) Paolo Bacigalupi (Hugo winner, Wind-up Girl, Ship Breaker), Michael Grant (Hunger, Gone and many others), Marie Lu (Legend), Lissa Price (Starters), Neil Shusterman (Unwind, Unwholly and more), Daniel H. Wilson (Robopocalypse, Amped). It was a great line up and the more experienced authors were very welcoming to us debuts

The signing line for our panel, held in the signing area.

Signing. You can see Marie Lu, Michael Grant, me, Genn Albin (very small)

Marie, Michael, me, Paolo Bacigalupi, Anna North, (author of america pacifica and our kind moderator).

Goodreads, Youtube and Anonymity

I know many authors stay away from goodreads and after the last few weeks that probably hasn’t changed. Of course there are arguments for staying off goodreads as an author: you don’t have to obsess over the number of adds your book has, your rating or not so favorable reviews. Authors are a neurotic bunch, and sites like Publishers Marketplace, goodreads or amazon can make us even more anxious.

When ARCs of The Other Life were sent out into the world, I considered staying off Goodreads (not to cancel my account though) but I was too curious and kept checking how many people had added my book as to-read and every review I got. You could say I was addicted to my author’s dashboard on goodreads but eventually the curiosity lessened and I stopped checking reviews. And yet I’m still on goodreads on a daily basis but not as an author. I’m there as a reader because even though I’m an author, I’m also a reader. I love reading books, I love browsing the goodreads lists for new books, I love reading reviews of books – the good and the bad. Maybe that’s why I’ve made peace with reviews. Does a bad review stop me from buying a book I’m excited about? No. Sometimes the arguments why a reviewer hated a book convince me to buy the book. Because one person’s hate-list is another person’s love-list.
Of course some GIFS or pics in reviews are kind of mean but they are also entertaining and that's one of the goals of a review, isn't it? If reviews are boring, nobody wants to read them. I have to admit that I sometimes read the one or two star reviews for entertainment. Nothing is better than a rant accompanied by a few funny pics. I don't have to agree with a reviewer to enjoy their review. Sometimes I read negative reviews of books I've loved and though I might disagree with everything the reviewer says, I'm often entertained by their review.
I know some people think reviews and especially comments on goodreads are too harsh and should be censored. I’m not one of those people.

That brings me to a related topic: Youtube’s plan to force people to use their real names, if they want to comment on videos. Have you ever read the comments on youtube? One word: holy shit. They make even the harshest comment on goodreads look like a lovenote. I’m sure that people won’t be as racist or hurtful or sadistic on youtube if this real name rule is enforced. And maybe at some point (and some of the comments on Youtube have passed that point) it is necessary to exercise control over the way people comment. Not the content, but that isn’t Youtube’s agenda. So if you don’t mind saying hateful, racist stuff under your real name on Youtube, you can still do it. But maybe people will stop to think about it for a moment, if it can have consequences for their offline life. I like the anonymity the internet provides, though I’m using my real name everywhere so it doesn’t really apply to me. Anyway. I don’t really think we need to lose the anonymity. I think each of us should just try to be considerate(I know it can be hard). I’m sure some people want a real name rule for Goodreads too. But as I said, I really like the anonymity of the internet.

Do you think Youtube is making a step in the right direction with their real name rule? Do you think other websites like amazon or goodreads should do the same?
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Dystopian Quiz: Places

I was thinking about the words writers use to label people and places to bring depth to their world building. So, I racked my brain and came up with some quizzes. Last week we had the People quiz which many of you found too hard. This week, it's all about Places and I tried to make it easier (look how easy #1 is!). Match the term with the book it came from. Genn will give you the answer key in Friday's post. Let us know how many you got right in the comments!

Here are the 20 terms:

1. Panem

2. Ludania

3. Nollop

4. Hailsham

5. Goodside and Otherside

6. Prime Destinations

7. Godspeed

8. Forgetting clinics

9. Prime Destinations

10. Heart

11. Opium

12. CMS boarding school

13. Balanchine chocolate factory

14. The Pentagonal Spire

15. Goodgrounds

16. Unlake Superior

17. Settler’s Landing


19. Demesne

20. Rusty Ruins

And the books they came from:

a. Insignia by SJ Kincaid

b. Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

c. Bumped by Megan McCafferty

d. Starters by Lissa Price

e. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

f. Across the Universe by Beth Revis

g. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

h. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

i. The Pledge by Kimberly Derting

j. Memento Nora by Angie Smibert

k. Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien

l. Starters by Lissa Price

m. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

n. The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

o. Tomorrow Girls: Behind the Gates by Eva Gray

p. Beta by Rachel Cohn

q. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

r. All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

s. Possession by Elana Johnson

t. The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

(And yes, I have read ALL of these books!)

Authors Behaving Badly

Goodreads exploded in another of its periodic conflagrations this weekend. This time it was a self-published author whining in disturbing terms about bloggers who allegedly promised reviews in return for free e-books and allegedly failed to deliver. He even went so far as to post a list of said bloggers, describing them as "liars and thieves." In fact, one of the bloggers in question had never even heard of the author before the kerfuffle this weekend. If you'd like a more thorough review of this author's meltdown, Evie at Bookish has a recap.

As I've said before in other terms, 98% of authors are not cocoa-loco crazy like this guy. (We are, however, cocoa-loco crazy in more socially acceptable ways. We'll lock ourselves away with a computer on a perfectly nice day when we could be riding a bike, for example. Like today. Sigh.) Here's what I'd like to say to the other 2%: Book bloggers are not your prison bitches. They don't owe you anything. Not even if you send them a free book. Not even if you spend time doing an interview for them. They are doing a service to the literary community, promoting books, and in most cases they get paid absolutely nothing for that service.

We should nurture and thank book bloggers, not publicly call out their alleged failings or create lists of disfavored bloggers. They are helping to grow and support our industry, providing some of the milk we all suckle. They succeed or fail based on the services they provide to their readers, and their obligation is to their readers, not to authors.

Look, I like the current trend of inexpensive e-book self-publishing. One of the glories of it is that anyone can do it without being taken for ride on the multi-thousand dollar Ferris wheel of vanity presses. I'm on record saying that I would consider self-publishing at some point in my career. But one of the problems with it is also that anyone can do it, some of whom clearly aren't emotionally prepared for the considerable stress of publishing a book. If a traditionally published author behaved like this chap, he'd hear from his literary agent and editor tuit de suite, and soon join the ranks of self-publishers if he didn't get his behavior under control.

I also think this spat demonstrates something about the costs of cheap ebooks. The author in question was whinging over supplying a free e-book that retails for $2.99. His lost profit on that ebook (assuming the bloggers bought it instead of getting it free--an unlikely assumption, since I started the free sample of one of the fellow's books and put it down after the second sentence--yes, it was that bad) would have been $2.09. But the average person requires about 5 hours to read a 300 page book--even at minimum wage, that time is worth $36.25.

Cheap e-books are not cheap for the reader. You're investing at least $40 worth of time every time you pick up a book. Would you rather spend $42.99 on 5 hours of crappy reading or, say, $54.99 on five hours of thought-provoking entertainment? I prefer the latter.

The last thing I want to say is congratulations to Goodreads. They banned the badly behaving author fairly promptly. That bodes well for Goodreads--civility requires rules and an enforcement mechanism, and I applaud Goodreads for supplying both.

What do you think? Have you seen any other examples of authors behaving badly? Let me know in the comments, please.

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Dystopian Answer Key

If you haven't taken Lenore's awesome dystopian quiz, check it over here, and then come back and check your answers.

Uncured  - Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Weepers - The Other Life by Susanne Winnacker
Dauntless - Divergent by Veronica Roth
Spinsters - Crewel by Gennifer Albin
Morati - Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans
Color Control Agency - Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
Changed and Spared - Ashes by Ilsa J Bick
Chromes - When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
Spackle - Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness
Scrubs - Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder
Freaks, Breeders, Builders and Hunters - Enclave by Ann Aguirre
Wretches - Pure by Julianna Baggott
Unconsecrated - The Forests of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Misfits - Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody
Light crew - Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Shadow children - Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Surplus - The Declaration by Gemma Malley
Pipeworks laborers - The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
Chaal addicts - Blood Red Road by Moira Young
Wheezers - Lockdown: Escape from Furnace by Alexander Gordon Smith

Who got the most right?

Images of Comic-Con 2012, Preview night

Long lines to enter for preview night.

Registration upstairs for panelists was no waiting.

Elevators in Hilton Bayfront

More photos next week!

How much progress is too much progress?

The technical progress takes more and more work off our shoulders, and in many cases that’s a good thing, but sometimes I wonder how far is too far when it comes to machines/computers doing what we used to do with our own two hands.

I recently read an article about intelligent cars, and how they’ll make driving in the future much easier and safer. They’ll be able to read street signs and traffic lights, evaluate the traffic to decide if you need to change your route, change lanes if necessary. They’ll practically drive for you and you’ll be the passenger. Even some of today’s cars are already capable of slowing down if the distance between your car and the car in front of you isn’t big enough, or warn you if you’re crossing over to another lane and some even park the car for you. Maybe it’s just me but it would bother me if my car decided when I should slow down or when to change lanes. Of course humans are prone to mistakes but machines too. And I would really hate it if I crashed into a wall because my car decided to accelerate due to a technical problem. I guess I just don’t like to lose control. Maybe I’m being too cautious and not future-oriented.

And cars aren’t the end of it. I read about a prototype of an intelligent house and it reminded me a lot of things I’d read about in dystopian books. The house does everything for you. The fridge is connected to the internet and orders food once you’re running out of certain things, it informs you about your calorie intake if you want, and suggests menus. Everything is electronic. There’s even some kind of robot that does the cleaning and, though that is very tempting since I detest cleaning, I’d be freaked out if I had a semi-intelligent machine running around my house. Am I being stupid? Have I watched “I, Robot” once too often? I don’t know.

I guess it’s important to ask ourselves if we really need a machine that takes care of every little thing. I’m not sure if that would make our lives easier. Maybe we’d be relieved of physical work, but is that a good thing? I think our bodies want a certain amount of physical work. If I don't move enough or don't really exert myself once in a while, I get restless and can't sleep, and my mind has too much energy to worry and think about strange things. And that's never ever a good thing.

What do you think?

(As you might have guessed: revision brain makes me feel philosophical, and that’s never a good thing)
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Dystopian Quiz: People

I was thinking about the words writers use to label people and places to bring depth to their world building.  So, I racked my brain and came up with some quizzes.  Today is the People quiz. Match the term with the book it came from. Genn will give you the answer key in Friday's post.  Let us know how many you got right in the comments!

Here are the 20 terms:

1.  Uncured

2. Weepers

3. Dauntless

4. Spinsters

5. Morati

6. Color Control Agency

7. Changed and Spared

8. Chromes

9. Spackle

10. Scrubs

11. Freaks, Breeders, Builders and Hunters

12. Wretches

13. Unconsecrated

14. Misfits

15. Light crew

16. Shadow children

17. Surplus

18. Pipeworks laborers

19. Chaal addicts

20. Wheezers

And the 20 books they came from:

a. Enclave by Ann Aguirre
b. Divergent by Veronica Roth
c. The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
d. Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody
e. Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
f. Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix
g. The Declaration by Gemma Malley
h. Blood Red Road by Moira Young
i. Lockdown: Escape from Furnace by Alexander Gordon Smith
j. Crewel by Gennifer Albin
k. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
l. Ashes by Ilsa J Bick
m. When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
n. The Other Life by Susanne Winnacker
o. Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans
p. Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness
q. Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder
r. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
s. Pure by Julianna Baggott
t. The Forests of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

A Post-Apocalyptic Dinner

Last year after ASHFALL got a starred review from Kirkus, my editor drove to my house in Indianapolis with a bottle of champagne to celebrate. I volunteered to cook dinner. Since we were celebrating ASHFALL, I decided to serve food based on some of the meals my protagonists, Alex and Darla, eat.

When the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts again (the disaster I depict in ASHFALL), a lot of people are going to starve. Something like 20% of the world's grain is grown in the areas that will likely be buried in ash, and we have less than a 60 day supply of stored grain worldwide. So the central feature in any post-apocalyptic diet is scarcity. Those who survive will be eating almost anything that's available. (Some, no doubt, will eat absolutely anything that's available. Avoiding that group will be one of the tricks to surviving.)

Alex and Darla suffer through many days with not enough to eat. But at one point in the book, they wind up at a farm with goats, ducks, and a greenhouse kale garden. And occasionally they have access to pork. So here's the menu I came up with--I've made this several times now, so I'll give you two sets of recipes, one more accurate, and one that tastes better. These recipes feed four.

Kale . . . yum!

ASHFALL Menu (Accurate Version)


10 slices side pork (check with a butcher to find this, it's uncured bacon)
A bunch of kale--about 12 large leaves.
4 duck eggs
Goat cheese

  1. Fry 10 slices of side pork in a large skillet. Salt heavily. Set aside 8 slices and half the grease. Crumble or chop the last two slices to cook with the kale. 
  2. Wash the kale leaves and remove the stems. Save the stems to feed to your goats. Don't dry the leaves.
  3. Add kale to skillet and toss with grease and crumbled side pork. Cover skillet and cook until the kale turns a brighter shade of green--about 8 minutes.
  4. Set cooked kale aside and use the same skillet to cook two omelets. Make each omelet with 2 duck eggs, a slab of goat cheese, and a scoop of the cooked kale mixture.  Salt to taste.
  5. Cut omelets in half and serve with 2 slices of side pork, 1/4 of the remaining cooked kale, and corn pone.

ASHFALL Menu (Better-Tasting Version)


10 slices thick-cut bacon
A bunch of kale--about 12 large leaves.
2 cloves minced garlic
Small onion, diced 
Red wine vinegar
4 duck eggs or 6 chicken eggs
Goat cheese


  1. Chop 2 slices of bacon and fry the bits in a large skillet until almost done. Add garlic and onion and fry a little more. 
  2. Wash the kale leaves and remove the stems. Don't dry the leaves.
  3. Add kale to skillet and toss. Cover skillet and cook until the kale turns a brighter shade of green--about 8 minutes. Splash kale with red wine vinegar and set aside.
  4. Use the same skillet to cook two omelets. Make each omelet with 2 duck eggs or 3 chicken eggs, a slab of goat cheese, and a scoop of the cooked kale mixture.  Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Microwave the other 8 slices of bacon.
  6. Cut omelets in half and serve with 2 slices of bacon, 1/4 of the remaining cooked kale, and cornbread.
So there's my post-apocalyptic dinner. Do you have any favorite recipes from books? Let me know in the comments, please.

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Giveaway: BETA

This post comes to you live from Comic-Con International (and by "live" I mean I am alive at CC — this post is prescheduled.)  

With less than 100 days until Crewel's release, I find myself casually sitting back, sipping coffee, marveling at the meaning of life while the grass grows.

HA! Who am I kidding?  I am running around trying to finish revisions, return emails, plan for trips and do all that stuff that comes with being a mom.  So like any good mom I'm going to make myself feel better about how absent I've become by giving you stuff.  Today I'm giving away BETA by Rachel Cohn, which also releases on October 16, 2012!

From Goodreads:

In a world constructed to absolute perfection, imperfection is difficult to understand—and impossible to hide. 
Elysia is a clone, created in a laboratory, born as a sixteen year old girl, an empty vessel with no life experience to draw from. She is a Beta, an experimental model of teenaged clone. She was replicated from another teenage girl, who had to die in order for Elysia to be created.
Elysia's purpose is to serve the inhabitants of Demesne, an island paradise for the wealthiest people on earth. Everything about Demesne is bioengineered for perfection. Even the air there induces a strange, euphoric high that only the island's workers—soulless clones like Elysia—are immune to. 
At first, Elysia's new life on this island paradise is idyllic and pampered. But she soon sees that Demesne's human residents, the most privileged people in the world who should want for nothing, yearn. And, she comes to realize that beneath its flawless exterior, there is an undercurrent of discontent amongst Demesne's worker clones. She knows she is soulless and cannot feel and should not care—so why are overpowering sensations clouding Elysia's mind?
If anyone discovers that Elysia isn't the unfeeling clone she must pretend to be, she will suffer a fate too terrible to imagine. When Elysia's one chance at happiness is ripped away from her with breathtaking cruelty, emotions she's always had but never understood are unleashed. As rage, terror, and desire threaten to overwhelm her, Elysia must find the will to survive.

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Bloody Feathers and How to Tell a Complete Story – a Guest Post by Lauren DeStefano

Intro: I am at ComicCon today speaking on a panel discussing dystopian fiction with Neil Shusterman, Paolo Bacigalupi, Michael Grant, Daniel H. Wilson, Marie Lu and our own Leaguer Gennifer Albin. My agency-sister and novelist of the Chemical Garden Trilogy – WITHER, FEVER and soon SEVER - Lauren DeStefano, was kind enough to step in for me today. I love her writing and I know you will too – Lissa.

When I was invited to do a guest post for the League, I started mulling over possible topics that I haven’t covered before. If you’ve ever been to my blog or my twitter page, you know that I like to talk… a lot, so this was going to be difficult.

But then something happened. While I was out having lunch with a friend, my mother called. She was at my house, making her rounds in my garden, planting perennials and making sure I hadn’t killed the tomatoes, and she noticed something. Two small birds had been nudged from their nest. When she approached, the mama bird swooped at her, so she wanted to warn me to approach that particular shrub with caution.

Now, I don’t make it a secret that I’m sort of a hippie about animals. Not just animals, really—I was deeply offended a few months ago when the deliveryman stomped on a spider in my house. And this past spring, when there was a mouse in my garage, I set a snap trap, and that night I tossed and turned until I begrudgingly stomped out of bed to do away with the trap before it had killed anything. I’m fascinated by living things, and I’m more of an observer than an interloper. (Besides, I have three cats, so the spiders in my house aren’t long for this world anyway). So the idea of baby birds in my heavily-wooded neighborhood unnerved me, and I checked on them when I came home. There they were: fuzzy and gray and clearly new to the concept of life outside of the nest that sat just three feet above their heads. I had an uneasy feeling about them, but mama bird was circling and I could see that my presence was keeping her from her job, so I left them alone.

The next morning, I took a step outside and peered into the shrub. From where I stood, it appeared to be empty. But that emptiness was confirmed by the bloody feathers pressed into the sidewalk at my feet. It was an ugly answer to my unasked question. Later in the day, my mother returned to tinker in my garden some more, and when I came outside, I noticed that she had watered the sidewalk. My mother being my mother, she probably hoped I hadn’t seen the carrion and wasn’t going to mention it. The water was already beginning to dry under the hot sun. In a few minutes, it would be as though the baby birds had never existed. Mama bird was gone, and her nest was pointedly empty. But I could hear other birds in other trees—birds who had been hatched, and been bumped from the nest, and beaten the odds. Every living thing can make the claim that it battled odds of some sort just to be born and to make it this far. Every insect we see, and every animal, and every person. The only thing that connects us to birds and bugs and people and that squirrel darting in front of your car is that we all survived.

When people ask if my writing is personal, I think they mean more along the lines of, “Is this character based off of anyone you know?” or “Did you draw this story from one specific experience?” And my answer to these is usually no. But what is writing but the words we say? And words come from thoughts and from experience. It’s impossible for writing not to be personal. If I were to write a story about baby birds being killed before they learned to fly, that story would be incomplete. I wouldn’t be telling of the birds that migrate, and nest, and peck at my strawberry plant. And it wouldn’t be much of a tale.

Writing, like life, won’t go as planned. Or at least mine doesn’t. When I’m beginning a new story, I don’t always know what it will be about. I don’t always know the name of the town or what the central conflict will be. All I know is that it will be a world in which awful things happen, and happy things. It’s a world where things live and things die. In order to write believable fiction, all one needs to do is live. And I don’t mean fly to Paris or be the son of a serial killer. I only mean to live—to pay attention and to see enough to tell a complete story. A complete story acknowledges the ugly things, but also the pretty things. Your characters were born—they battled those odds, and here they are. They aren’t props for entertainment, and you aren’t telling just a story—you are telling a LIFE story. Don’t worry about taking the story too far. Life certainly doesn’t worry about that. Life doesn’t apologize; it doesn’t explain; it doesn’t pander. So neither should the writer. The act of writing requires bravery, because living requires bravery.

Lauren DeStefano was born in New Haven, Connecticut and has never traveled far from the east coast. She received a BA in English from Albertus Magnus College, and has been writing since childhood. She made her authorial debut by writing on the back of children's menus at restaurants and filling up the notepads in her mom's purse. Her very first manuscript was written on a yellow legal pad with red pen, and it was about a haunted shed that ate small children.

Now that she is all grown up (for the most part), she writes fiction for young adults. Her failed career aspirations include: world's worst receptionist, coffee house barista, sympathetic tax collector, and English tutor. When she isn't writing, she's screaming obscenities at her Nintendo DS, freaking her cats out with the laser pen, or rescuing thrift store finds and reconstructing them into killer new outfits.

She blogs at Her twitter handle is @LaurenDeStefano and her facebook page is On tumblr find her at

The Next Big Thing

In publishing people always seem to be looking for the next big thing, the next big trend. Agents, publishers, even authors. Sometimes this desire to not miss a trend can take on ridiculous proportions. But maybe that’s part of the charm of publishing?

So what’s the next big thing in YA? I think for the adult market this question might have been already answered. Fifty Shades of Grey sells hundreds of thousands of books and while I haven’t read it and won’t, I still have to admit that it started something. Now many publishers seem desperate to acquire their own Erotica/BDSM book. And doesn’t that prove what we all knew all along? Sex sells.

But for obvious reasons that trend won’t spill over to the YA market. And yet books like Fifty Shades of Grey and other recently acquired romanc-y erotica show the reader’s desire for romance, for the prince that sweeps them off their feet.

Does that mean the time of YA contemporary romances has come? Will we see more books like Perfect Chemistry and Anna and the French Kiss? Will YA authors become increasingly more daring with their steamy scenes?
Perfect Chemistry has some steamy scenes but of course it's nothing compared to the likes of Fifty Shades.

I wouldn’t mind more YA contemporary romances, but will they take the place of dystopians as the next trend? I don’t know. What do you think? Will the hype surrounding Fifty Shades influence the YA market? Will this lead to more sex in YA books?

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Catching Fire Casting!

Yesterday the first official casting announcement for the Catching Fire movie was announced on - Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee. My burning question is: Will he sport a funky beard to rival that of Seneca Crane?

Though it's not officially official yet, entertainment sources are saying Jena Malone is tapped to play Johanna Mason.  I can see it - totally.

But who is going to play Finnick? I must know!

Looking forward to seeing the whole cast come together in the coming weeks.

Any casting predictions? Hopes and dreams?

Thank You from Me and Hillsboro!

On Wednesday I posted an impromptu auction to raise money to open an new public library in Hillsboro, Missouri. The auction closed last night, and I'm thrilled that with one blog post and in only five days we were able to raise $855. One of the things I like best about being an author is that I can do things like this--support causes I believe in, reward fans with cool prizes, and make a contribution bigger than my personal finances would otherwise allow.

So here's a huge thank you to everyone who helped spread the word and/or contributed. If you've won something, you'll get an email in a few minutes with detailed instructions. Thanks again! --Mike
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Kick-@ss Girl Characters in YA

In April, The Atlantic ran a story called "The Greatest Girl Characters in YA Literature." Katniss headlined (of course). And the Atlantic listed several other solid girl characters, BUT the list seemed dated and more MG than YA (IMHO).  For instance, Atlantic picked Pippi Longstockings and Ramona Quimby--both of whom are 8-9 years old.

Our genre--YA science fiction / fantasy in general, dystopia in particular--is chocked full of strong teen girl characters like Katniss. Off the top of my head, I can think of Tris (Divergent), Tally (Uglies), and Katsa (Graceling). I could go on, but I thought I'd leave that up to you all.

What are some of your favorite YA girl characters? (You don't have to stick to genre fiction, if you don't wanna.) Why?

Let's Build a New Public Library!

Happy Birthday, America!

To celebrate, how about we build a new library? Last week I posted about libraries being closed and librarians cut--what do you say to reversing the trend and opening at least one new one? Here's how you can help:

Hillsboro, the seat of Jefferson County, Missouri, lacks a public library. I first became aware of this problem when Deborah Johnson Horn from Barnes & Noble and Karen Creech Huskey welcomed me to Hillsboro High School last November for a fun and exhausting presentation about my debut novel, ASHFALL.  Now Karen is spearheading the next step—her committee has succeeded in placing an initiative to build a public library on the ballot this fall. But ballot initiatives take money to pass (to buy yard signs, posters, newspaper advertising, mailings, etc.), and this is where you and I come in.

I’d like to support this effort in a bigger way than my personal finances allow. And I happen to have a bunch of ASHEN WINTER advanced reading copies (it won’t be out until October!), rare first editions of ASHFALL, and extremely rare ASHFALL  posters (only nine are left). And I'm in the middle of writing the third book of the ASHFALL trilogy, and I think your name should appear in that book, don't you? So I’m holding an impromptu auction. Simply click on the item you want to win, which will take you to the item page on my personal blog, and place a bid in the comments. Top bidder when the auction closes on Sunday, July 8 at 9:00 p.m. EST wins.

1) A rare signed FIRST edition of ASHFALL. The first editions are no longer available in stores.  Includes shipping anywhere in the world at my expense. Bid here.

2) A rare signed, ASHFALL poster. There are only 9 of the ASHFALL posters left.  I'll ship the poster anywhere in the world at my expense. Bid here.

3) An Advance Reading Copy (ARC) of the forthcoming ASHEN WINTER. The book won't be out until October, so you'll get to read it 4 months early! I'll ship the ARC anywhere in the world at my expense. Bid here.

4) Tuckerization in the third and final ASHFALL book (title and release date TBD). I'll include any reasonable name of your choice as a minor character in the third and final ASHFALL book. Bid here.


1) All three auctions will be open until 9 pm EST on Sunday, July 8th.

2) Bid by commenting on the item page with an amount and email address. High bid wins. Minimum bid is $10. Bid in increments of $1 or more, please. All bids should be in U.S. dollars.

3) If bids go high enough, I may award multiple copies of any of these prizes.

4) Winning bidders will be informed by email. The campaign to pass the ballot initiative is decidedly local and low tech, so we don’t have a PayPal account to donate to. Instead, if you win, you have to mail a check to:

Campaign Committee for Hillsboro District Branch
of the Jefferson County Library Committee
P.O. Box 176
Hillsboro, MO 63050

Make your check payable to the same--yes, the name is ridiculously long--write small. When they receive your check, they’ll email me, and I’ll mail your prize.

Everything make sense? If not, email me at mike.mullin.writer at gmail dot com, or ask your questions in the comments on this post. Good luck and bid high—it’s for a good cause!
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My Go-To Places for Geeky Awesomeness

What are your go-to sites to find cool new things, inspiration, and awesome stuff to buy? I mean other than the League ;)

For me, if I'm scrambling for new ideas, one of the first places I go is io9. io9 has great articles that touch on all the best geeky things--where else can you go to find an archaeological article on a purse that's 4,500 years old and decorated with dog teeth? Or learn about tornadoes in the sun? io9 has it all, from science to pop culture, from the truly weird to the informative.

If I just want something funny and quick, I usually go to Dropping the Science on Memebase. Arguably Definitely the smartest series on Memebase, Dropping the Science usually has a mix of comedy and interesting facts. Often sarcastic or punny, most of the comedic postings will require a bit of knowledge to "get"--which makes it even better, in my opinion! This is totally a great site to explore, but be warned--if you don't watch, you'll suck away hours to time to this site!

The Mary Sue is the best of both worlds--it often has the interesting/weird/awesome news articles like io9 has, but will also have the hilarity that I find on Dropping the Science. With a refreshing feminist bent, The Mary Sue consistently delivers news that I actually care about (new Doctor Who t-shirts? Yes, please!), and news that the world cares about (they are adept at critically examining pop culture and geek works for race fails and gender fails. But I'd be lying if I didn't say that my favorite thing about The Mary Sue is the series of reviews by Amanda. Go on. Just click the link.

Two months ago, and I might have laughed if you'd suggested Pinterest as a source of nerdiness. I thought it was just for crafters! But boy, have I changed my tune. Pinterest is a fun, quick, easy way to get new ideas, find awesome art, and discover inspiration. I definitely suggest checking it out. To get your started, you can check out my board entitled "Geek Awesome" :) You can also see my boards on "Across the Universe" and another board I've made just for the next project I'm working (even though it's secret for now!).
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Extraordinary News!

We here at the League would like to start a monthly feature where we post about the good news we've accumulated in the previous month. So sit back, settle in, and get ready for a laundry-list of awesome!

First and foremost, on the crazy chance that you missed it, congrats to Elana for the launch of the second book in the POSSESSION series, SURRENDER! She celebrated with blog tours and giveaways and lots of awesome insider information (swidt?), and some of it is still happening, so be sure to check out her blog for more! SURRENDER was also recently reviewed by SLJ, which said:
This dystopian novel…might appeal to readers of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies and Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games.” --SLJ 
Susanne also has new book news--a new book deal! Her next title will be out from Razorbill and is called IMPOSTOR. You kind more about it here. Her first book, THE OTHER LIFE was nominated for an Anobii First Book Award--and you can determine help make her the winner! The winner will be announced at the Edinburgh Book Festival.

And more book news--Angie just got a deal for the third book in her series! It's called THE MEME PLAGUE and you can read more about it here. Also, if you're into audio books, the audio version of Angie's first book is available now!

Lissa has lots of exciting news for STARTERS! First, it was nominated as a YALSA Award for Best Fiction for Young Adults. In May, it was featured in the Christian Science Monitor Magazine, and you can read the article here. And if you'd like to meet Lissa, she'll be at ComicCon on Thursday, July 12, and on the Debut Author Panel at Thrillerfest on July 14. Additionally, STARTERS was selected as an Amazon Best Book of the Year So Far!