Dystopian February Theme Month at Presenting Lenore

In February 2010, I kicked off my very first theme month dedicated solely to dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction.  Back then, dystopian was an emerging trend, buoyed by the popularity of THE HUNGER GAMES and CATCHING FIRE.

Now, two short years later, we are in the midst of a dystopian explosion, with new upcoming titles being announced every week it seems.  But with so many new dystopians available, how do you choose which to read?

That's where Dystopian February at my personal blog, Presenting Lenore, can help.  Starting tomorrow and continuing all through the month, I will be posting reviews, previews, author interviews, and in-depth discussions of books that may or may not be on your radar.  I also have so many book giveaways planned, I can hardly keep track of them. (Spoiler alert: I'll be giving away, among others, League books such as A MILLION SUNS, STARTERS & THE OTHER LIFE)

By now, I've read over 100 books in the genre (see index of all my dystopian reviews) and I'm still super excited about it.  Based on the types of books I've come across in my reading, I've created five categories of dystopians/post-apocalyptics:

World-building books - These are the books that (usually) take a real world issue or concern and barrel down the slippery slope to explore a future world through the distorted lens of that issue.  They can be very deep and philosophical. For example: FEED by MT Anderson (media addiction)

Action books - These are the page-turners that get your adrenaline pumping and make you bite your fingernails until the tips of your fingers are raw.  They are often stories of surviving despite terrible odds.  For example: ASHES by Ilsa J. Bick

Twisty books - Surprising, original, fun - these are the books that are unpredictable and make the genre feel fresh again.  For example: VARIANT by Robison Wells

Romance books - The world may be ending, but that doesn't stop the chemistry between these books' characters from melting off your pants. For example: SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi

Amazing writing - These are the books that get under your skin with their perceptive insights into character, their lyrical prose, and their masterfully created atmospheres.  For example: WITHER by Lauren DeStefano

And of course, there are the books that seem to have it all and could fit into any category (HUNGER GAMES, anyone?) -- but for my purposes, I'm giving each book I review a merit badge in one of the above categories (see the merit badges here - they are ADORBS!) so if you know you prefer world-building books over all else, you'll know which titles to look out for.

Hope you enjoy Dystopian February!  What do you think my categories? Am I missing any in your opinion?

The Super Bowl, The Hunger Games, and me.

On Friday, my wife and I walked from our house near downtown Indianapolis to the Super Bowl village. The game was more than a week away, but the whole area was already crowded. It appeared that every pavilion and tent within 500 miles was either already set up or currently being assembled in the streets and parking lots of downtown Indianapolis.

There are giant Super Bowl sculptures, at least three stages, dozens of outdoor bars, a zip line down the middle of Capitol Avenue, and half a dozen buildings wrapped in enormous Microsoft Kinect ads. Here’s a shot of Monument Circle:

 As I walked around this temporary amusement park, I got more and more depressed. Why? For every scene like this:

There’s also one like this:

Now, I know that only a minority of the people holding signs are actually homeless or hungry. And giving money to panhandlers only exacerbates the problem. But the dichotomy between the glittering temporary bars and stages for Super Bowl XLVI and the panhandlers points up a real problem in our society—one that calls The Hunger Games to my mind.

Are the fashionable spectacles of the Super Bowl Village really that different from the glitz and glamor of the Capitol District? And while we don’t have any place labeled District 12, you could easily form one among the population of Indianapolis. Consider this:

167,000 residents of Indianapolis live below the federal poverty line
63,000 of them are children
34,000 residents will go hungry at some point this year.
3,000 will be homeless at some point this year.
About 50 homeless people in Indianapolis will die of exposure this winter.

And consider these stats:

Lucas Oil Stadium cost $750,000,000, of which $650,000,000 was public tax money.
The Super Bowl will cost at least $29,000,000 ($25,000,000 from private donors and $4,000,000 from the Capitol Improvement Board, which is publicly funded.)

No, we don’t kill 23 kids per year for our entertainment. Football only kills about four people each year, making it a relatively safe sport (gymnastics, cheerleading, and downhill skiing are far more dangerous.) But as I walked through the Super Bowl Village on Friday, I had the feeling that I was bearing witness to an inevitable slide—America becoming Panem.

What do you think? Please convince me I’m wrong in the comments. I’m getting depressed all over again.
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Bloggers + BEA

Did you hear the awesome news this week about BEA and book bloggers?  If you're a book blogger or a book lover or a bookseller, something very cool is afoot in the book world. (I win for most uses of book in a sentence.  Also my copy editor would be banging her head on her desk and scribbling "repetitive" all over this post.)

First of all, in case you aren't a total nerd for all things book like me, BEA stands for Book Expo America, and it's sort of like heaven for readers.  Technically it's for booksellers, who are readers of course, but in recent years, intrepid writers and bloggers have been turning out for the event in NYC.  Basically it's a conference to showcase books by publishers as well as other book related services.  It's also an excellent way to get your hands on advanced copies of upcoming books and even rub elbows with authors.

So what does this have to do with book bloggers?  Well, the organizers of BEA just announced that they've officially purchased the Book Bloggers Convention.  BBC used to be hosted at the end of BEA in a co-location but the events were separate.  This year BBC will be held in conjunction with BEA at the beginning of the week, because BEA wants to get bloggers even more involved with the conference.  Why?  Because book bloggers are integral in getting the word out about books!    

You can read all about the merger here on the BEA blog, and I don't know about you guys but I'm definitely looking into going this year.

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A Shout Out to a Few Bloggers

While I was busy writing and trying to get published, I didn’t read book blogs. I read blogs about writing, mostly written by agents. It is only recently that I’ve come to discover the great variety of book blogs.

I have so much admiration for all the book bloggers. I’m going to do a shout-out to a few that you’ve probably never heard of (that’s the point), and two that you should definitely know about if you don’t. Some of the following are small, but display an infectious love of reading.

http://Brokeandbookish.blogspot.com American college students who love YA.

http://onceuponaquote.blogspot.com A French college student studying English.

http://www.overflowinglibrary.com/ A British blogger.

http://www.publishingcrawl.com An international group of authors and publishing professionals.

http://presentinglenore.blogspot.com - our own Lenore did my first blog interview.

http://www.kamigarcia.com/blog/ - One of my favs, by rockstar bestselling author Kami Garcia (Beautiful Creatures), lots of YA dystopian book recs. And currently, she has a great post up now with writing links that is a don’t-miss for the writers out there.

Enjoy the read!

Why I read reviews

I know many experienced writers tell debut authors: “don’t read reviews of your books” or “don’t read the bad reviews” or “stay away from goodreads, shelfari, etc...” or even “don’t read good reviews”. And many writers seem to take this advice to heart – stop interacting on goodreads altogether once their ARCs are out in the world for readers to dissect.
Back in October 2010, when I sold THE OTHER LIFE and reviews were still far off, I thought: “Huh, why should I not read reviews? I can take criticism.”
Fast forward a few months, when ARCs were finally sent out, I suddenly wasn’t all that sure about my thick skin. I checked goodreads religiously and then I got my first not-so-stellar review (a two star rating) and I sat in front of my laptop paralyzed. I was too scared to read it and was driving myself insane with the possibilities. But then I told my husband (with the warning that he shouldn’t read it either and that I didn’t want to know what was written!).
Yeah...Husband didn’t listen and in the evening while we were making dinner, he described the review to me and I didn’t die. I could deal with it. My husband shrugged at the end of his recount and said “that wasn’t so bad”. And he was right. The next day I read the review and it was well-written and I was grateful that the reviewer had taken the time to write something about my book, though they didn’t like it.
I still cringe every time I see a low-rating, I still hesitate before I read a negative review but I do it anyway because, while it hurts a little to find out that not everyone loves your book, it helps me grow as a writer. Every time someone criticizes some part of my writing, I challenge myself to do better next time. And I love a good challenge.
Of course I know that no matter how hard I try, I’ll never make everyone happy and that’s not what I’m striving for (though maybe a little part of me does). But I want to know what readers think, want to know why people hate some books while they love others with such a fervor that they fight for them.
I often find myself browsing reviews of books I’ve read, and one day I found a negative review for a book almost everyone loved (myself included). And there were dozens, maybe hundreds of comments defending that book. I was stunned (and I felt a bit sorry for the poor reviewer who’d done nothing but write their opinion and got bashed for it). People were willing to defend a book – not because it was written by their relative, or agent sister, or friend. No, because they loved it so much. I think it’s wonderful that books are still capable of evoking such strong emotions in us – hate, love, despair, blind rage. Isn’t that what we want as writers?
Movies have pictures, soundtracks and big actors to get a strong reaction from their audience, we have only our words.
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Celebrating Bloggers

Where would I be without blogs and bloggers? Maintaining a book blog and reading a ton of other book blogs and author blogs is what originally sparked my interest in YA lit – and in writing my own YA novel.

By keeping up with blogs, not only do I keep up with the zeitgeist, but I also learn what readers love and love to hate (insta-love, red-headed best friends, inaccurate college application timelines to name a few) as well as a ton about craft and how to improve my storytelling.

Let me give you one example of a blog event that directly impacted LEVEL 2. Frankie Diane Mallis (writer, blogger and member of The First Novels Club) puts on an event in January called the No-Kiss Blogfest, where participants are challenged to find or write an "almost kiss-- the rising, crushing, excruciating, longing, tension that comes when two characters get oh-so-close to kissing that you can just feel it, want it, NEED it....and then...they don't!"

Well, it just so happens that in January 2011, I was about to sit down to revise chapter 1 of LEVEL 2 when I stumbled upon Frankie’s post. My first draft of LEVEL 2 had my main character reliving one of her favorite memories with her boyfriend and it involved a kiss. But Frankie got me thinking … could the scene be even better with an almost kiss? So I tried it out. And guess what? It upped the excitement factor tenfold – and had a profound effect on the plot going forward too.

So thank you Frankie, and thank you book bloggers and writing bloggers who continually inspire me with your insights, passion and love of literature. I am proud to be a part of the conversation.

PS: For more tales of blogger love, check out YA Fusion.

Lenore's Blog

Celebrating Bad Reviews

I come from a line of men who worked with their hands. My grandfather rebuilt boat motors; my dad builds and repairs furniture.  For almost ten years, I made a living as a carpenter/handyman/remodeling company owner.

When you do this sort of work, you inevitably accumulate coffee cans filled with random nuts, bolts, and screws. And this gives rise to what I’m modestly calling Mullin’s Law: In any can of random nuts, 2% of them will be wingnuts.

The rest of this post is not for the wingnuts out there. If you’re an author who trolls threads on Goodreads, you’re a wingnut. If you’re a blogger who continues to review YA, despite professing a disdain for the whole literature, you’re a wingnut.  If you’re a blogger who reviews the author’s weight instead of her book, or uses hateful and misogynistic language in your reviews, not only are you a wingnut, but your threads are stripped. Seek professional help retooling.

Now, to the rest of you, the 98% who are just plain nuts: bad reviews rock. One-star reviews rock. Two-star reviews rock. Authors, celebrate your bad reviews (you’re allowed 5-10 minutes of cringing self-pity first). Bloggers, don’t feel badly when you negatively review an author’s work. Unless that author has published ten or more books, you’re helping her with your negative review. 

Want evidence?  Check out this study of New York Times book reviews conducted using Nielsen Bookscan data and reported in Marketing Science. The upshot is that negative reviews of works by authors who had previously published fewer than two books boosted their sales by 45% on average. Negative reviews of well-known authors (i.e. those who had published 10 or more books previously) hurt their sales by 15%. So the advice about celebrating your one-star reviews doesn’t apply after you’ve published your tenth book.

I first posted on this topic on my blog last July. If you're interested in a more thorough discussion of the benefits of bad reviews, click through. To sum up, the worst thing that can happen to an author isn't bad reviews; it's being ignored.

What do you think? Do the other authors out there help spread the word about negative reviews of your work? Do those of you who blog feel hesitant to post a negative review? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments, please.
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Truth Virtual Launch Party, part 2

Yesterday was Truth's official foray out into the real world. Today there are still questions to be answered! Here's the second installment of Q&A for Truth!

TRUTH's Book Birthday!!!

Today is the official release day of TRUTH, the sequel to XVI. And, wow - can I just say how unbelievably great that feels? It is like a "birth" day in so many ways. From conception to actually seeing your book in print, and then... presenting it to the world. The parallels are obvious and true. If you've ever actually given birth, which I have - twice - you'll know what I mean. If not - trust me. It's not an easy process! But, the feelings you have when you see your "baby" wipe out all the problems that preceded it!

You can see my "baby" there on the left side. Beautiful, no?

And... in prep for my launch parties (both in-person and virtual) - I've been working on some video & am going to share the 1st segment right here - right now!

Readers gave me questions they'd like answers to - so, I answered them. Here's a vid with the 1st set of questions (more tomorrow!)

Interview: Julia Karr on Writing Truth

Tell us a little about Truth. No spoilers, of course!

In Truth, Nina is really pushed to come into her own. Through a series of unforeseen events, her life becomes much more complicated. And, as she learns more of the truth about the government & the media, she also is forced to dig deep and discover her own truths. What she will and won't do to make things right.

What did you learn from writing the first book that came in handy with this one? 

Probably one of the most important things I learned was that editing - and not being afraid to edit (sometimes meaning deleting) major chunks of a story - can make your book just that much better!

Did you know what was going to happen in Truth when you were writing XVI? In other words, did you plan out the sequel(s) ahead of time? 

I did not. As a matter of fact, I had several false starts on Truth while I was going through edits on XVI. Then, when I got my editorial letter on Truth - I ended up changing a lot - A HUGE LOT!

Big question. Was the second book harder to write than the first one? Why or why not?

Oh yes - it was a whole lot harder. Mainly for the reason above - doing edits on XVI and then coming back to Truth to write and rewrite.

Are you planning a third book? If so, details please! 

Honestly? When I was done with Truth I thought I was done. I thought I had nothing else to say about Nina and her friends. But... you know, a couple of months ago she came knocking on my imagination and I don't think she's going to go away until I finish her tale.

TRUTH - A Worthy Sequel!

Writing a sequel is hard work, much harder than writing the first book. I hear that often and have experienced it myself while I’ve been working on the sequel to my own book. That’s why I have even more respect for what Julia did. She created a worthy sequel which I enjoyed even more than XVI, though I didn’t think that was possible. But TRUTH did it!

Nina Oberon’s life has changed enormously in the last few months. When her mother was killed, Nina discovered the truth about her father, the leader of the Resistance. And now she sports the same Governing Council–ordered tattoo of XVI on her wrist that all sixteen-year-old girls have. The one that announces to the world that she is easy prey to predators. But Nina won’t be anyone’s stereotype. And when she joins an organization of girls working within the Resistance, she knows that they can put an end to one of the most terrifying secret programs the GC has ever conceived. Because the truth always comes out...and the consequences can be deadly.

In TRUTH, Nina has to deal with the aftermath of what happened in XVI and she’s growing with the challenge. It was wonderful to watch her character growth, to see how she realizes that women are just capable as men and that she doesn’t have to sit back; she can fight for what she thinks is right - and she does.

This realization and her becoming more pro-active leads to some interesting disagreements between her and her boyfriend Sal who thinks she needs his constant protection. It added nice tension to the plot! At the beginning of the book, I was convinced that Nina and Sal belonged together, that there was no other way, but as the book progressed, Julia managed to open my eyes to other options. Nina is a strong girl who doesn’t need a boyfriend at her side, even though she longs for the love and closeness of someone else. Her world isn’t centered on a guy. She’s got her family to take care of, and friends, like Wei, who stand by her.

I absolutely loved Dee, Nina’s younger sister, in this book. She’s a strong character of her own and handles difficult truths thrown her way with courage. What I particularly loved about XVI and again about TRUTH are the strong bonds between Nina and her sister, and between them and their grandparents. It’s nice to read a book that shows the importance of family, especially in a dystopian society.

Another aspect I enjoyed was that we learn more about the resistance and the fact that more people want to change the society than Nina, and we as the reader, might’ve guessed.

As you probably gathered from my review, I absolutely recommend TRUTH. It keeps you on the edge of your seat while still managing to show softer moments between characters.

A must-read for fans of dystopian literature!

Buy your copy of TRUTH:

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Introduction to Truth Launch Week!

Sequels have been on my mind lately as I do battle with the edits for ASHEN WINTER, the sequel to my debut novel, ASHFALL. My latest plan for learning to write a sequel? I’m going to drive to Bloomington for the Truth launch party (Friday night from 7 to 10, be there!), corner Julia, and generally make an annoyance of myself until she agrees to give me a three hour seminar on writing the perfect sequel.

Because here’s the thing, Julia’s accomplished the nigh-impossible—writing a sequel that’s even better than her excellent debut. Movie directors can’t do it (I’ll give you The Empire Strikes Back, but outside of that? Watchable sequels are thin on the ground). Most authors—even the very best—can’t live up to their original work (Little Men, anyone? Prince Caspian?).

Julia achieves this feat by deepening and complicating Nina’s story. In XVI, sex is a threat that looms with Nina’s sixteenth birthday—when her dystopian society will literally brand her a sex-teen.  In Truth, sex is something to be both feared and enjoyed, making Nina’s inner struggle more complex and relatable. Similarly, the world-building deepens in Truth—we learn how the Governing Council formed—and as a consequence the book feels even more plausible than XVI.

What I’m trying to say is this—read these books. For one thing, they’re enjoyable: XVI is something of a dystopian mystery, Truth more of a thriller. But they’re also important. Like all great dystopian fiction, their real subject matter is present day society, our tragically waxing rape culture. Something is wrong when the word “rape” is used casually in many quarters, while the word “feminist” is unutterable except as a perverse portmanteau, “feminazi.”  Julia Karr’s fine work is, I hope, part of the antidote.

Where to Buy:
Indiebound: Truth/XVI
B&N: Truth/XVI
Amazon: Truth/XVI

Connect with Julia:
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Creating Atmosphere: An Essential Component of A MILLION SUNS

The journey began in ACROSS THE UNIVERSE and continues in A MILLION SUNS. If you thought being on a spaceship traveling for over 300 years from Earth to a new planet was claustrophobic before (and I did), Beth Revis really ups the ante in this second installment. There were times during the novel when I thought if I had been on the Godspeed, I might have clawed my fingernails against the steel walls in desperation.

That’s a real testament to Beth’s writing. She so excels at creating an atmosphere that makes staying on the Godspeed seem like someone’s last resort – if they had a choice. And she does it without a single terrifying killer alien attack!

We already know that Amy is not happy about being reanimated early. She fully expected to wake up on the new planet, and instead, she’s stuck in a strange society where she sticks out. I love this thought of Amy’s that comes early in Chapter 2 of A MILLION SUNS:

There are no more cars. No more endless highways.

Just this.

Two melting cryo chambers on a spaceship that grows smaller every day.

Oh Amy – it’s about to get so much worse.

As the new leader of the ship, Elder is faced with some difficult choices. Especially when he’s made painfully aware that the ship won’t sustain their current population as long as might be necessary. Via the drug Phydus, Eldest kept people compliant and working. Elder swore never to fall back on Phydus, but he also doesn’t have a workable strategy to control the chaos that erupts without it.

Because people are starting to realize that they can do whatever they want. No one is forcing them to work. No one is keeping them from attacking others if they feel like it. No one is preventing them from ripping the ship apart in senseless acts of violence.

Now, add to this the fact that Orion left Amy a trail of clues, warning her she’s running out of time – and tell me, how badly would you want to get off the Godspeed?

Explore the Godspeed, here.

Visit Beth's blog and website.

Hardcover (Amazon, B&N, a signed copy at Beth's indie, Fireside Books)
Visit the A MILLION SUNS page for more links, purchasing options, fan art and more!

Writing a sequel to a Bestseller -- Exclusive Beth Revis interview about A MILLION SUNS

I had the joyful opportunity to interview Beth Revis during her exciting launch week of A Million Suns. Her answers surprised me, gave insight into her writing process, and also gave me a chuckle.

Across the Universe has one of the most memorable and visceral beginnings in recent YA science fiction. How much did that weigh on you when writing A Million Suns? Were you trying to top it? Or were you not thinking about that at all?

Heh. I'm obsessive. I thought about that first chapter SO MUCH. And I wrote about six or seven completely different openers. Should it start with Amy or Elder? Should it I go for emotional or physical punches? Is it good enough?

I wrote far more Elder chapters than Amy chapters to open with. One of the first chapters was moved to the middle of the book--it's a flashback chapter, and I think it works better in the middle (when they actually talk about the flashback) but I also quite liked it as an opener. I also had another chapter where Elder remembers one of the first lessons he had with Eldest. There are remnants of that chapter throughout the book (look for the character Evie), but otherwise it was cut.

In the end, I opened with Elder--and I really love the chapter we settled on. It ends with a punch and a revelation, and it echoes the tone of the whole book.

I know that chapter one in Across the Universe was originally chapter four. Did you have any big changes in revisions like that for A Million Suns?

Ha! HAHAHAHA! HAAAAHAAAAHAAAA!!!!!! <--insert more maniacal laughter here-->

Dude. SO MUCH REVISION. I finished AMS in October. Sent to beta readers. Who hated it. Rewrote the entire manuscript in November. Sent to my editor. Who is too polite to tell me she hated it. Rewrote the entire manuscript in February. I estimate only 20% of the original manuscript made it to the final, and that I wrote approximately 300,000 words for a 90,000 word novel.

This was sold as a trilogy. How much of the entire story arc – if any -- did you have in your head when you finished Across the Universe?

Well. Here's the thing. I like to make things up as I go. Which is why I'm an author. Technically, I submitted a synopsis of Books 2 and 3 when I sold AtU. But...I didn't stick with them closely. In fact, the person who's the killer in Book 2 was supposed to be a key good guy or girl in Book 3. That's changed. I was a little worried that my editor would hate SHADES OF EARTH because it was SO different from the synopsis...

What discovery -- about your characters, or about yourself -- surprised you the most in the writing of A Million Suns?

That I will actually be happy to rewrite the same novel four #$%! times, because it matters that much to me that the words are right.

Your first book made the best-seller list. When did that happen and what was that experience like?

It happened the first three weeks the book came out (I made the list the first and third week of the debut; apparently that second week was killer, lol!).

The experience was INSANE. I found out while sitting at my kitchen table, paying bills. A friend got the list early and congratulated me...and I had no idea why. Then I got the email from my editor. Then I flipped out.

What would the published Beth say to the pre-pubbed Beth?

Told you so.

An "Oh My Heck!" and A MILLION SUNS

First off, it doesn't feel real that Beth now has two books out! Can you believe we've been here this long?

Well, we have. And today I'm going to be reviewing Beth's sophomore novel, A MILLION SUNS.

I hope she doesn't hate me after this, but *ducks* I loved A MILLION SUNS about a million times more than her first book (which was FANTASTIC and you should all read it if you haven't).

I think that's a high compliment. It's not like I didn't like her first so I was grudgingly giving AMS a "second chance." Not at all.

But I think it's a very hard thing to write a second book that's as good as the first. As someone who's had to do so, I *know* it's hard. We usually take years on our first books, getting feedback, editing, tweaking, etc. And we usually only get a few months to work on the second.

So yeah. I think that's a high compliment.

There were many things I loved about A MILLION SUNS. I even sent Beth an email with the subject of OH MY HECK!!! at one point and everything inside the email was also in capital letters.

If a book can spark that kind of reaction, you know you need to read it. But let's be a bit more specific.

About A MILLION SUNS: Godspeed was fueled by lies. Now it is ruled by chaos.

It's been three months since Amy was unplugged. The life she always knew is over. And everywhere she looks, she sees the walls of the spaceship Godspeed. But there may just be hope: Elder has assumed leadership of the ship. He's finally free to enact his vision - no more Phydus, no more lies.

But when Elder discovers shocking news about the ship, he and Amy race to discover the truth behind life on Godspeed. They must work together to unlock a puzzle that was set in motion hundreds of years earlier, unable to fight the romance that's growing between them and the chaos that threatens to tear them apart.

And this time it all builds to one mind-bending conclusion: They have to get off this ship.

Trust me, you'll feel the same anxiety, the same, "I will die if I don't get off this ship!" It's that intense.

I've already gushed about the writing of this book here on my own blog. The verbs are fabulous, and it's exactly the kind of fast-paced action that I like. There were a couple more things that I loved:

1. The romance. It's broken and messy. And this is exactly the kind of romantic relationship I like. It's complicated. People in real life are complicated. I want my books to match that, and A MILLION SUNS is a great authentic read.

2. The characters. I thought I loved Amy and Elder before. I was wrong. They have to go through some hard(er) things here, and it makes them come even more alive. There's one particular scene I'm thinking of that I can't say for fear of spoilage. But dude. I so did not want Amy/Elder to die!

And that's worth a lot.

Explore the ship, Godspeed, here.
Visit Beth's blog and website.

Visit the A MILLION SUNS page for more links, purchasing options, fan art and more!

Virtual Party in Celebration of A MILLION SUNS!

Today we’re celebrating the launch of Beth Revis’s A MILLION SUNS by participating in the Virtual Party! Each hour of the day, from 9am to 5pm EST, there will be a different feature on a different blog. And each stop, in true party fashion, will have a party favor to give out—in the form of a signed book plus some cool swag—and a party game: a puzzle piece to a truly epic prize for one winner! So read on to find out exclusive information about A MILLION SUNS and enter to win a signed book!


One thing that I think a lot of people miss is that there is a fully interactive model of Godspeed online, there for your viewing pleasure! It's located at http://acrosstheuniversebook.com, and you can click on each level of the ship.

Make sure to click around; there's some special features in each level, including details about the Bridge, the Hospital, and more.

As you explore, you might notice that some of the rooms are off-limits. If you click on the Feeder Level, you'll find a blocked section for "storage." Those of you who have read ACROSS THE UNIVERSE might know that this is the cryo level, where Amy is.

But here's something no one knows yet. On the cryo level, there are several locked doors. One of them--the hatch that leads out to space--can be opened with the code G-O-D-S-P-E-E-D. But there are more doors...and by the end of A MILLION SUNS, Amy and Elder are going to go through all of them.

And two more people are going out the hatch. 

Thanks for stopping by today as a part of the Virtual LaunchParty for A MILLION SUNS! To help celebrate, one commenter on this post will receive a signed paperback of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, the first book of the trilogy, along with some custom swag, including a poster, an art print of a koi fish (made by the student who inspired Beth to write the character Harley), NASA goodies, and more. This contest is open internationally, and will end in 24 hours.


Make sure you go back to Beth’s website for full details onthe party. Visit every site in the party to gather clues that will enable you to enter for the GRAND PRIZE—a signed paperback of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, a signed hardback of A MILLION SUNS, an exclusive water bottle, a poster, an art print, and more!

In order to win that grand prize, you need a clue. And the clue for this blog stop is...

A Million Suns Week!

Let it be known Across the Universe that tomorrow Beth Revis's sequel to her bestselling novel hits bookstores everywhere!

To get pumped up for A Million Suns, I decided to post a million ways to prepare to get back on the Godspeed.  Then I realized that might be a tad ... ambitious.  I thought 5 might be more reasonable, so here they are:

Five Ways to Get Ready for A Million Suns 

1. Read and/or review Across the Universe 
A spaceship fueled by lies, a girl awakened to a life she never wanted, a boy groomed to become a leader, and a murderer waiting to strike again. Across the Universe revealed the secret of the stars, but how Amy and Elder come to terms with their new roles onboard the Godspeed, and their feelings for one another, are issues that having me eagerly awaiting the release of A Million Suns on Tuesday.

2. Check out the trailers
You can watch the absolutely stunning official trailer from Penguin here, and while you are on youtube check out fan-made trailers for both books.

3. Go aboard the Godspeed to discover its secrets 
The official website for the books features a working diagram of the ship and snag one of the gorgeous backgrounds for your computer.

4. Listen to the song 
One of the Beatles' loveliest songs, Across the Universe inspired the trilogy's titles.

5. Leave a comment sharing your favorite Across the Universe scenes, your predictions for A Million Suns, or just a little book launch love for Beth. 

And don't forget to check out Beth's virtual launch party, which you can not only attend in your jam jams, but also includes cool prizes!

An Interview With Gennifer Albin

Hello, my name is Adelice Lewys and Gennifer asked if I could host an interview with her.  I considered saying no.  After all she left me plunging into icy, churning water to do this, but then she reminded me that I live entirely in her head and that I had to do it.  She's just that much of a tyrant.  Seriously, she could give some people here a run for their money.

Gennifer: Ad, I can leave you in the water.

Adelice:  See, this is what I'm talking about.  Positively tyrannical.

Gennifer: Maybe they want to hear about me.

Adelice (under her breath): Not likely.

Gennifer:  You're giving me a complex.

Adelice:  Then I guess we're even.  Ok, so give us the scoop. When will we see Crewel's cover?

Gennifer:  I wish I knew.  I'm under threat of pain not to share it.

Adelice:  I'd like to point out that I'm usually under threat of pain, but I still take action.  Fortune favors the bold.

Gennifer:  Yes, and see where's that gotten you.

Adelice: Bobbing in icy water.  Point taken.  What can you tell them about my world?

Gennifer:  Well, officially it's a world of secrets and lethal intrigue.

Adelice:  Can you be more vague?

Gennifer:  Ok, sassypants, it's a world of cigarette holders, cocktails, beautiful women who hide deadly secrets behind their made-up faces and silk stockings, and men who fear women so much they keep them bringing coffee.  No one is quite who they seem.  Even you.

Adelice:  That leads me to a very important question.  Do I have to wear all those stockings in book 2?

Gennifer:  I see you're going to ask all the hard-hitting questions.

Adelice:  And you are avoiding the question.  Ok, less about my world and more about yours.  What do you do when you aren't torturing me?

Gennifer: I'm usually chasing my toddler and preschooler, watching too much Fringe and Harry Potter, and eating all my husband's delicious baked goods.  Oh, and thinking about torturing you.

Adelice:  Gee, thanks.

Gennifer:  You're welcome.

Adelice:  Ok, can you please pull me out of the water now?  I'm getting pruney, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to freeze to death soon.

Gennifer:  I guess.  It would be pretty anti-climatic if you bit it like that.

Adelice:  Exactly what I was worried about.

Please feel free to let Genn know that stockings are completely unnecessary in book two.  I'm sure you all agree with me.

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Ten Things You Didn't Know About My Debut Novel, STARTERS, by Lissa Price

  1. It sold right before May 2011 in six days and is being published by Random House Children’s Books, Delacorte, on March 13, 2012. That’s fast.
  2. Because that was so fast, there isn’t as much perception about it as there might be – yet. We won’t have ARCs until later in January, so I’m grateful for any help spreading the word now. Thank you to the kind bloggers (Lenore was the first) who discovered Starters.
  3. It’s sold to 20 countries so far and launches a new German YA imprint of the big publisher Piper Verlag called IVI. (The blue cover you see in my sig).
  4. Starters was the only 2012 book that was featured at the 2011 SCIBA awards dinner where I dined with real, published authors including winner Andrew Smith (Marbury Lens), John Stephens (The Emerald Atlas) and Tahereh Mafi (Shatter Me).
  5. A German TV journalist is coming with a crew to interview me next week. (yikes!)
  6. The publisher just finished the amazing book trailer, complete with actors, sets, and special things I dare not reveal yet.
  7. I’ll be on a six-city book tour the second half of March.
  8. It is the first of a two-book series, a duology (no, I did not make that up), with the second one coming out December 2012. I’ve told my buds that until April I have no time to do anything more than eat, sleep, write, blog and sometimes tweet.
  9. The concept was kept secret by my clever publisher all these months. With their permission, I revealed it on my bio here.
  10. Starters has more sekreets, soon to be revealed.
Thank you, Beth, and this truly great group of authors for inviting me to be part of the League. I’ll try not to do anything to embarrass you all, like dance on tables or kiss poodles. At least, not on the mouth.

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Introducing Susanne Winnacker a.k.a. myself

I’m not good at writing bios (yeah, I know. That coming from an author. The SHAME). Maybe it’s because I hate writing about myself.


Here comes the most rambling bio ever with more info about me than you probably ever wanted to know.

I live in Germany (just like Lenore!), more precisely the Ruhrgebiet (and you all know where that is, don’t you?? Don’t you?!).

I love parenthesis (oh well). My husband and I are slaves to three bunnies: She-devil, Volderabbit and b*tch (not their actual names but they could be...). They like to spend their days destroying everything that crosses their path. Their latest victim: my edit letter. But I’ve got to hand it to Volderabbit, he took care to gnaw off only my notes, not the actual letter. Lucky for him that I have a good memory.

Our fourth housemate is a Komondor, a Hungarian livestock guardian dog. His hair is short right now, so he looks more like a curly sheep than a huge mop.

I love Chai Latte and coffee, especially Espresso. My husband and I travel a lot. I love to cook and unfortunately to eat. I can’t resist a chocolate soufflĂ©, tiramisu, panna cotta or creme brulĂ©e. Yum.

We rarely watch TV but lots of movies and dvds.

My favorite movies: Alien, Avatar, Men in Black, Teminator, Die Hard, Indiana Jones, Kill Bill, Bad Boys, Inglourious Basterds, Lethal Weapon, Sherlock Holmes, X-men, Ice Age, Madagascar, Miss Incongeniality, The Devil wears Prada...

My favorite series: Californication, Six Feet Under, The X-Files, Lost, King of Queens, Home Improvement, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

German is my first language but I write in English anyway.

Before becoming a full-time writer, I studied law. And it so wasn’t my thing.

Oh, and I have a book coming out this year: The Other Life, a YA dystopian thriller. You can watch the trailer!

I think that’s enough info about me.

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An Introductory Q&A with Lenore Appelhans

As a longtime follower of the League blog, I’m thrilled to have been asked to join this inspiring, talented group.  I’m an American living in Germany with my illustrator husband Daniel Jennewein and three fancy Sacred Birman cats.  In addition to writing books, I work as a freelance advertising copywriter, I love to travel and I blog at Presenting Lenore.

For my League introduction post, I thought I’d go to twitter and put out a general call for questions.  Here’s what I got.

From  @bermudaonion  How long have you been writing fiction?
From @ReadersInk At what age did you start writing stories, or telling them?
I dabbled in creative writing throughout my schooling, penning several short stories for assignments, literary magazines and writing contests (In 8th grade, I even made it to the state semi-finals of Ohio’s Power of the Pen competition).  My friends and I used to write terrible plays and act them out for the neighborhood. I wrote 2/3 of a novel in high school (I allude to it in LEVEL 2).  LEVEL 2 is my first completed manuscript, and I started writing it in November 2010.

From @novaren What was your journey to becoming an author?
Daniel and I used to joke about moving to a secluded cabin in the woods where he’d illustrate and I’d write novels.  The writing novels part always seemed like a pipe dream though.  I’d heard how hard it was to break into publishing.  Once I started blogging about books and meeting real life authors, I slowly started to think about writing LEVEL 2.  It wasn’t until I had my “Pompeii epiphany” (where I finally figured out how to execute my idea), that I really committed.  

I chatted with BEFORE I FALL Author Lauren Oliver about LEVEL 2 and the fact that she took me seriously, gave me advice and told me to go for it was a real confidence booster.  By the time SCBWI New York conference rolled around at the end of January 2011, I had five chapters written and soon after caught the eye of an agent.  It’s been a whirlwind since then.

From @TiffanySchmidt  Do you have any writing rituals?
Not really.  I usually write between 2-11 pm because I’m useless in the morning.  I start with a loose synopsis as a guideline, but not much is set in stone. I’m a pretty slow drafter because I prefer to write in scene order and I can’t bring myself to move on until I have something right.  I really need to work on that!

From @BethFishReads How long have you lived in Europe? What took you there? Do you plan to stay there?
I moved to Germany in March 2000 for an internship, planning to stay only six months.  I ended up meeting Daniel and not moving back. As far as staying here, only time will tell!

From @BrokeandBookish  What is your favorite place you've ever travelled? 
This is as impossible to answer as saying what my favorite book is! I've been to over 55 countries now, and every trip has been enriching in some way. That said, there are a few destinations I'd love to return to asap: Iceland (for the breathtaking nature), the Galapagos Islands (for the fascinating wildlife) and the Greek Islands (for the food). 

That's all for now - but I guess you'll be hearing a lot more from me on Tuesdays in the months to come!

Hi, My Name Is Mike

I’m told this week is for introductions, and my day to post is Monday, so here goes:

Hi, my name is Mike. I’ve been a writer for 32 years. Wow, that sounds like I’m at an AA meeting, doesn’t it? I suppose it’s appropriate—writing is a tricky addiction.  It gets into your veins and even when you don’t want to do it, when every word makes you shake and sweat and want to rocket out of your chair to scrub the bathroom floor—which doesn’t need it—you keep going because you need that high of the perfect sentence, the beautiful paragraph, the well-crafted chapter close. Or maybe that’s just me.

Here’s the weird thing about writing an introduction for myself: it’s unnatural. If I wanted to write about myself, I would have written a memoir, not a novel. I’d rather hide behind the cloak of fiction, to embed pieces of myself in my characters—in Alex, Darla, and even Target—but not to take responsibility for denuding myself to an audience of thousands.

I even resisted writing the flap copy for the back of my debut novel, ASHFALL. When I finally forced myself to task, I evaded responsibility by writing the silliest bio I could. My publicist insisted that we needed a more serious biography, so I tried again. That still didn’t satisfy her, so I wrote this staid version. Luckily, I was able to convince my publisher to use the silly bio on the book.

So that’s me. My name is Mike. I don’t like writing about myself. And I wrote a novel called ASHFALL. It’s out now. Buy a copy so I can keep writing, would ya? Because I need another fix.

p.s. If you want to know more, ask in the comments. Or let me know what you’d like me to write about on this blog. I’d appreciate the help. Because I have no clue how I’m going to come up with 35 more posts this year.
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Let's start the new year with a 

At the end of last year, we held a giveaway--one signed book of each of our works!
And the winner of all five books is...

and that person is....


Congrats, Amy!

Meanwhile, we're working hard behind the scenes to make sure we start the new year right. We've got five new bloggers, two book launches, some giveaways, and more...and that's just January! Stick around for all the fun. Thanks for reading!

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