Friday, August 29, 2014


Hi guys! Happy holiday weekend to those of you for whom that applies. Happy regular weekend to everybody else.

So last month I was lucky enough to meet Rachel Harris as part of the Mighty Mississippi Book Blast!

Team MMBB-Texas with blogger Sara S!

I love Rachel and her books a lot. See:

My first blurb (as my pen name): for A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES :)

I've already gotten to read her upcoming release THE FINE ART OF PRETENDING, and I loved that too! See:

What's it about? Well, it has a few similarities my own book, THE ART OF LAINEY (no wonder I loved it! Ha, just kidding...mostly :D), but they are definitely two totally different stories. Here's more about TFAOP:

According to the guys at Fairfield Academy, there are two types of girls: the kind you hook up with, and the kind you’re friends with. Seventeen-year-old Alyssa Reed is the second type. And she hates it. With just one year left to change her rank, she devises a plan to become the first type by homecoming, and she sets her sights on the perfect date—Justin Carter, Fairfield Academy’s biggest hottie and most notorious player.

With 57 days until the dance, Aly launches Operation Sex Appeal and sheds her tomboy image. The only thing left is for Justin actually to notice her. Enter best friend Brandon Taylor, the school’s second biggest hottie, and now Aly’s pretend boyfriend. With his help, elevating from “funny friend” to “tempting vixen” is only a matter of time.

But when everything goes according to plan, the inevitable “break up” leaves their friendship in shambles, and Aly and Brandon with feelings they can’t explain. And the fake couple discovers pretending can sometimes cost you the one thing you never expected to want.

Because Rachel is awesome, she has given me a signed ARC of THE FINE ART OF PRETENDING to give away to one lucky winner!

And because I love giveaways, I'm going to throw in some extra prizes, including a copy of my latest release, the e-novella INFINITE REPEAT. This is a prequel to THE ART OF LAINEY from book-boyfriend and punk rock baker Micah Foster's POV, and can be read before or after the full novel. I'm also going to throw in a mystery ARC that I won off twitter not too long ago, and a swag pack full of bookmarks, buttons and other fun stuff from the #MMBB authors. Two runners up will also win #MMBB swag packs.


Actual swag received to include some of the pictured items plus more!

This contest is going to involve a lot of mailing costs so I've got to go US only on it. Sorry international peeps. You know I love you :) I love you so much that I'll be doing an international secondary contest for YASH in October where you can win an ARC of my forthcoming twisty murder mystery, LIARS, INC. Did you like GONE GIRL, I HUNT KILLERS, OR DANGEROUS BOYS? If so, you'll probably like LIARS too :)

Who's ready to win? BOOSH! The Rafflecopter is your friend :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Five Things You Might Not Know About LIARS, INC.

Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell lies to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money and liven up a boring senior year. With the help of his friends Preston and Parvati, Max starts a business providing forged permission slips and cover stories for the students of Vista Palisades High. Liars, Inc. they call it. Suddenly everybody needs something and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?

When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn’t think twice about hooking him up. Until Preston never comes home. Then the evidence starts to pile up—terrifying clues that lead the cops to Preston’s body. Terrifying clues that point to Max as the murderer.

Can Max find the real killer before he goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit? Paula Stokes starts with one single white lie and weaves a twisted tale that will have readers guessing until the explosive final chapters.


Tis the season for shiny new e-galleys to be downloaded from Edelweiss and read eight months before the books appear in stores. LIARS, INC. is one of the new HarperTeen titles available, and here are a few things you might want to know.

1. The ARC is a WIP.
There’s nothing horribly wrong with the advanced reader copy of LIARS, INC., but I did make over 100 changes—mostly small—since the galley got printed. So if you read an early version, you’ll be reading the text with some legal/weapons inaccuracies, continuity errors, overused phrases, line-break issues, and a couple hazy areas where Max forgets to share his thought process with the reader. You’ll also be missing a few passages added to strengthen some of the plot/character elements and to tie up one loose end.

Why all the fixes? A lot of reasons, one of which is when I work nonstop doing several revision rounds back to back, I don’t get enough distance from my MS to see what’s on the page. I see what my brain knows is supposed to be on the page, only sometimes it’s not there because I pulled it out in an earlier revision round. Sometimes it was never there to start with. Then the MS goes away for a month or more to be printed and when I get it back to look at again I can suddenly see all the things that I missed. I also got last-minute feedback from a beta-reader who had a few questions she felt didn’t get adequately answered, and I agreed that I could do a better job clarifying a couple of issues. If you are a reviewer and you read the ARC but want to know about the larger revisions I've made, email me via the info on my Contact page and I'll send you a summary of the changes.

2. Once again, the main characters are flawed.
I wrote Max as sort of an emotionally unavailable loner. He starts out fairly standoffish with his adoptive parents, and he really only has 2 friends. He does some questionable things at the urging of these friends, because he thinks they're smarter than him and they're the only people he trusts. Because this is in first-person, the reader is inside Max’s head, which is not always the nicest place to be. Max thinks some snarky and hurtful thoughts during parts of this book, but try to keep in mind what he thinks and what he says are different. All teen boys—all humans!—think angry or sarcastic things sometimes, but just like in real life, the best judge of a person is by their actions.

I wrote Parvati to be a high-functioning sufferer of Borderline Personality Disorder. She’s not suicidal, but she does possess most of the other BPD symptoms in various degrees.

Why did I choose to write about these people? Take your pick:
  1.  Max and Parvati came to me with these personality traits already in place.
  2. These personalities fit their backstories.
  3. There are a lot of people in the world with psychiatric problems (many undiagnosed), and I think these people deserve to be represented in literature.
  4. I find White Knight hero archetypes to be unrealistic and boring. (Remember—you only have to spend a few hours with these people. I live with them for a year or more.)
  5. I have a degree in psychology and psychiatric issues fascinate me.
  6. When you start with people who have problems, there is more room for character development. 

3. This book only barely passes the Bechdel Test.
This bothered me at first because I consider myself a feminist and a writer of girl-power things, and I had been brainwashed by the media to think this test was a gold standard. But then I did a little research about how the Bechdel test originated. And even if you believe this test is a good measure of feminist creative work (After careful consideration, I don’t, though I do think the original context of Bechdel’s cartoon had something important to say about women in Hollywood), you should consider the differences between movies and novels before you start judging. No movie I can think of has ever been shot in first-person limited POV, but many books are written like this, which makes passing the Bechdel Test a lot tougher. And my book features a male protagonist who spends much of the story alone, hiding from the feds and investigating a crime. So no, not a ton of chances for women to talk to other women about non-guy-related things.

But you know what? That’s totally okay with me. For one because there’s plenty of stated/implied women talking to women about non-guy-things going on offscreen. If my book were a movie, could some of this be shown via an omniscient POV? Sure, why not? More importantly, just like the women in the Harry Potter books (some of which I’m told don’t pass the Bechdel test), the women in LIARS, INC. all possess strength and smarts and general badassery. Parvati, even with her flaws, is a fiercely ambitious teen girl who wants to join the CIA someday. She’s reckless, but takes responsibility for her actions. She never lets society tell her who she should be. Her mother is a lawyer who married outside of her race for love, even though that meant being ostracized by her family. Max’s mom, Darla, is her own brand of admirable, as is his little sister Amanda, who suffers from cystic fibrosis but never lets it get her down. The whole point of Bechdel’s “test” was to point out that the role of women in film at that time was to focus their attention on men. My women, yeah, they don't do that. The females of LIARS, INC. are strong, interesting, capable people who know what they want out of life and aren’t afraid to go after it. That’s feminist, if you ask me. For more about the problem of using the Bechdel Test to judge creative works, read this post by Jenny Trout.

4. This book has more objectionable content than THE ART OF LAINEY.
Max is a teen boy, the kind of kid who wears ripped jeans and hoodies and sometimes falls asleep in class. I’m not going to say all of those guys swear, but some do, and Max does. We’re not talking super-profane, but there are about 20 F-bombs, and various numbers of other swears. There is also sex. It’s not gratuitous, but it’s not fade to black. There is also mention of past drug use and one instance of underage drinking. I am not apologizing for any of this--I’m merely telling you it’s there so you can skip my book if that stuff offends you. Trust me, sometimes I wish I could be happy writing the kind of super-clean-teen books that make it into a lot of schools and libraries, but I didn't grow up in a G-rated world and I don't live in one now. I have to create my worlds in a way that feels authentic to me and meshes with my plot and characters.

5. This book is a standalone with companion book potential.
LIARS wraps up all of the mystery threads and addresses the romantic subplot for the most part, but I’ve got at least three ideas for companion novels. One of them is already outlined and partially written. Different story, different main character, but still overlapping in cast. I did this last summer when I had some free time between revision rounds, and it's a really cool tale that takes place mostly abroad and features a racially diverse cast of characters--kind of like OCEANS ELEVEN  meets NIKITA. I have no idea what kind of sales numbers LIARS would have to post for Harper to buy a second INC. book since they’ve already bought more romantic comedies from me, but the thought of letting go of Max and Parvati forever makes my insides hurt. This could very well be the first book I indie pub if the publisher doesn’t pick it up.

Do you want to win an ARC of LIARS, INC.? I'm giving one away (INT) when I reach 1000 Facebook likes, so like my page here. For a second chance to win, RT this twitter status before 8/18.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Mighty Mississippi Book Blast Recap!

I'm still kind of winding down from the #MMBB tour, having gone directly from a 12-hour driving day, to a full day of airplane travel, to getting back to work on an overdue freelance project the day after I made it back to Portland. #MyGlamorousWritingLife :)

However, non-MMBBers keep asking me how the tour went, so in the interest of not having to repeat myself (AKA general laziness), I give you:


1. Some people are natural performers and others are not. 
Even though I knew what basic questions I was going to be asked about my book--heck, I even made up some of them--I realized after the first event in Wayzata that I had basically described my book in a rambling and roundabout way that made it sound so unappealing that even *I* wouldn't buy it. Next to me, Philip Siegel was so funny that I probably would have bought his book even if he said it was about how to mix wallpaper paste. I do believe I'm a funny person, but I'm third-draft funny. I'm funny on paper. I'm funny in my comfort zone, surrounded by cats people I know. I am not a natural performer, but that's okay. It just means I should think a little about how I want to present my book before I do it in front of an audience.

Dawn Klehr, Philip, me, and Lindsay on Day One of the #MMBB

2. It's best if I be myself (but with less swearing ;-D)
I don't mean my rambling and roundabout self. I mean if I start out nervous and then try to be funny because everyone else seems to be rip-roaring comedy club hilarious, uh, that doesn't end well. Better to be unfunny but add something else to the mix--thoughtfulness? honesty? encouragement?--than to go for the laughs but come up short. Also, it's also best to dress as myself. Is it a coincidence the two events I felt most uncomfortable at were Iowa and Dallas, the two places where I wore a dress? (Sorry, Mom. I'm just not a dress girl.) If you're doing events for the first time, resist feeling pressured to get fancy. Go in the clothes you feel best represent you...unless those clothes are pajamas...unless your pajamas are really stylish...You see where I'm going with this. People who buy your book because of how you are dressed are probably not readers that you need.

Us in Iowa with bookstore owner, Sue. I look uncomfortable, don't I?

3. Acting silly never stops being fun.
Lindsay Cummings and I played Blair Witch with her phone cam in the bed & breakfast where we stayed in Dubuque, sneaking up to the deserted third floor in the dark. Either the stairs in that place were the creakiest stairs ever or Lindsay and I are really bad ninjas. Anyway, the third floor was deliciously creepy by the light of my cell phone. In one of the rooms we found...FACELESS DOLLS. 

More silliness, in group form. Team Anderson's poses for pix after the event.

4. Doing events gets easier with time and experience.
I'll never look forward to bookstore events because I'm just not an extrovert, but it did get easier throughout the week. Or maybe I was so deliriously tired by the time I got to Houston that I just didn't have the energy to be stressed anymore. Also, I really liked the events that were more about giving writing advice to aspiring authors and less about singing the praises of my books. I love my stories, but it's way less awkward to be my own book cheerleader when I can hide behind the interwebs.

Team Houston, with blogger Sara. Yep, I look pretty tired.

5. Hanging out with other writers is informative and inspirational.
I'll be the first to admit I'm prone to writer jealousy, so you might think that hanging out in groups of authors, many of whom are more successful than me, would be a recipe for disaster. But that's not what happened at all. Part of the reason I even thought I could plan this tour was because I'd heard Victoria Schwab planned tours on her own. I admire so much how she has made a name for herself by being prolific and tenacious. Hearing her and all of the other authors talk about their successes just filled me with this sense of "Hey, I can get to where they are someday, too!" Everyone was so incredibly kind and gracious to each other. Victoria Schwab, Courtney Stevens, and Heather Brewer in particular all shared such wise and thoughtful words that I felt uplifted just being around them.

Memphis was a laid-back event where we spent a lot of time talking about writing craft.

6. Everyone is nervous about the future.
Just like I found inspiration and energy from hearing about other authors' successes, I found comfort in realizing that everyone shares the same fears about their publishing futures. The only way to stay in the industry is to sell more books, and that's never a guarantee until your books have their own theme parks. Hearing authors talk about diversification, hybridization, working with multiple publishers, trying out new genres, etc. made me realize that there are a lot of options when it comes to building a career as an author. 

Dinnertime with Phil, Lindsay, Lydia Kang, and Whitney Miller.
People wearing pink in the back, please :-D

7. Making connections with indie bookstores has a lasting effect.
Setting up a tour like the #MMBB wasn't just about trying to sell a few more copies of our books to a few cities. Unless you are mega-famous, a tour would never pay for itself in that way. For me, it was all about the connections: meeting readers, meeting other authors, and meeting booksellers. When you set up an event with an indie, often times they let you sign stock. Then, after you're gone, your books will continue to sell well because they're signed. And then, maybe the booksellers will remember you and continue to hand sell your books. Maybe they'll be more likely to order your next book. No guarantees, of course, but I sold more than twice as many books in Chicago and St. Louis the week of the tour than I signed on event nights, so I have to partially credit that to the connections made with the bookstores. Indies forever!

Look at all those LAINEYs! Signed copies available throughout the Midwest!

8. St. Louis will always be part of me.
When you spend 35 years in a city, it gets inside of you. As much as I just cannot handle the St. Louis weather anymore, being back in town made me super-nostalgic. I miss my St. Louis author pals like Cole Gibsen, Heather Brewer, and Sarah Bromley. I miss my writer-blogger friends Christina and Jamie. I'm so glad I made the decision to set THE ART OF LAINEY in St. Louis, to highlight the Cardinals and the Arch, Forest Park and Wash U. Sure, some of the places are made up, but many are based on real places where I spent a lot of time--Mississippi Nights? Pi Pizza? Kayaks Cafe? Look hard and you'll find them :) And I'm so glad I got to do this big event with the amazing people at Left Bank Books. They brought me to St. Louis Comic Con, something that will forever be one of my greatest writer experiences. If I ever get famous, I'm signing all the books for Left Bank, no matter where I live at the time. I LOVE YOU GUYS!

Me with Christina from Ensconced in Lit

Me with Jamie from This Isn't Rocket Science

9. Power comes from doing the things that scare you.
A blogger in Houston (hi Nikki!) asked what dystopian world we could survive in and I said I'd be Dauntless in Divergent-land. [Sidebar: Everyone else said they couldn't survive in ANY dystopia and that they'd be killed/eaten first in an apocalypse scenario. This saddened me. Step it up, guys! When the zombie apocalypse comes I want GOOD people for my team :D] I always tell people I'd be Dauntless because even though everything scares me (seriously, everything), I do it anyway. I was scared to plan the tour, scared to go to the events, basically terrified to drive most of the way. I was scared to move to Portland, again terrified to drive there, scared to apply for a new nursing job, scared to quit said nursing job when I sold more books. Going further back, I was scared to live in Korea, scared to pet tigers, scared to ever show my writing to industry professionals. But I did all these things, and now none of them own me. To be honest, I wish I had done most of them sooner. Bravery isn't about not being scared. Bravery is about being scared but doing it anyway! 

Hey! We made the digital sign in Dallas! It doesn't get more powerful than that, right?

10. In the end, it's about the love of books.
Networking and selling copies is great, but in the end a tour should be about celebrating the joy of books with other readers. From Minnesota to Houston, the #MMBB was blessed with good-sized, attentive crowds who were enthusiastic and engaged. I am so grateful to each and every one of you who came out, and to those of you who couldn't make it but still mail-ordered books or spread the word about the events. I say this on basically every Acknowledgments page, but it all comes back to you guys. Without readers, there would be no authors. Thank you for making it possible for us to live our dreams <333

Amazing book cheerleader, blogger, and librarian: Mary from Mary Had a Little Book Blog.
(I swear we're not related. She's just that cool.)

St. Louis had the biggest crowd, but Naperville probably had the most teen attendees.
Thanks for coming to see us! We love you guys!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Lainey and Bianca's first date tips

In honor of the World Cup (which I won't even pretend to be watching because I'm a little busy preparing for the #MMBB tour and writing lots of books :D), I am re-posting these informative dating tips from Lainey and Bianca, complete with handy sports metaphors and soccer gifs. Originally posted at Read My Breath Away for the Canada blog tour.

Pre-game warm-up:

Plan your outfit and hairstyle beforehand and do a practice run getting ready. Maybe it seems like a waste of time, but my friend Kendall does some modeling and she says they sometimes do this at fancy fashion shows. If that epic dress you bought has a rip somewhere or those perfect shoes hurt so bad you can’t walk in them without limping, you’re going to want to know more than ten minutes before game time.

Bianca: Come up with two or three possible conversation starters, just in case things start to feel awkward. Don’t fill your brain with more than that, or you’ll just get confused. Think of something about a class you share in school or a movie that just came out. Don’t rehearse exactly what to say, because no one wants to sound like a programmed robot.

Lainey: Oh, and also think of an escape route, just in case. Maybe you’ve set a time limit on this date because of your curfew or other plans. Maybe a sibling or trusted friend is going to check in with you mid-date and suddenly “need” your help if things aren’t going well. This might sound sketchy to you, but it’s not like you’re planning for a bad date, you’re just covering the bases. And you’ll be less freaked out from the start if you know you’re not trapped with someone for hours and hours.

Bianca: But, don’t activate Operation Escape Route just because you’re feeling nervous. It takes time to get to know someone. I went on a first date not too long ago and it was a little awkward at first, but once we started talking we realized we had a ton in common. You wouldn’t want to pass up a good thing because you didn’t give it a fair try.

Lainey: Finally, set your limits beforehand. Are you okay with a goodnight kiss or are you going to wait a little longer (like oh, I don’t know, 250+ pages…) before you lock lips for the first time? You can always change your mind mid-date, but if you know at the start what you’re comfortable with, it’ll be easier to stick to your guns.

Game time:

Pick an activity that gives you a chance to talk, but also keeps you doing stuff so that you don’t have to talk a lot if you’d rather not. Dinner is kind of a high-pressure way to go for a first date because it’s just the two of you staring at each other. A movie is better, because you’re both busy watching, and then afterward if you’re feeling it you can go grab coffee or food and talk about what you liked and didn’t like.

Lainey: Other things that would be cool are a sporting event, a concert, a play, an amusement park, or maybe something like hiking or paintballing! If you pick an activity that you would enjoy on your own or with friends, chances are you’ll enjoy it on your date.

Bianca: You hate hiking. And I’m fairly certain you would hate paintball too. It hurts.

Lainey: Whatever. It’s not all about me, Bianca! These people know what they like. You know what’s funny? You and I both did the dinner thing on our most recent first dates. We should probably take our own advice! Not that we’ll need it anytime soon since our guys are epic. Okay next, try not to check your phone every five seconds while you’re out. It’s kind of distracting…and rude. Maybe leave it in your purse or pocket and sneak away mid-date to the bathroom if you just can’t help yourself.

Bianca: Listen, don’t just plan what you’re going to say next while the other person is talking. Don’t be too quick to judge your date. He or she might not have our awesome dating tips and therefore might be really nervous. Don’t be too quick to judge yourself, either. There’s no need to appear perfect.

Lainey: Try to just be yourself, and have fun!

Post-game wrap-up:

There’s nothing wrong with a little post-date analysis with a trusted friend, but don’t blab the minute details of your time together across the whole school. It’s no one’s business what you did or didn’t do.

Lainey: If you had a great time, it’s okay to call or text and say so. You don’t have to wait for the other person to initiate contact. You don’t have to wait three days or whatever the internet tells you in order to look cool. There’s nothing uncool about liking someone.

Bianca: But at the same time, don’t be a stalker. If you call or text two or three times and the other person doesn’t respond, maybe it’s not meant to turn into a relationship. That stings, but he’s not the right guy for you unless he thinks you’re the right girl for him. Or vice versa. You’re a varsity dater—a starter, at that, not a benchwarmer.

Lainey: If the first date leads to a second date to a third date and then maybe to trespassing on federal property, repeat all of the above until you’ve got so much game you no longer need our help. And if the romance fizzles out before the ref blows the whistle, no big deal. Look at yourself in the mirror (no, don’t fixate on that red spot that might be a zit) and remind yourself of why you’re awesome. Maybe it’s your welcoming smile, your quick wit, or your big heart. Or in my case, all three ;-)

Bianca: *cough* Or maybe it’s how you’re extra humble.

Lainey: Hey, no one is perfect. Right, reader-person? Keep that in mind if your date ends up less than fairytale-like. The real world can be a little trickier than the book world, but just as magical. Maybe there’s someone better—a tattooed, mohawked prep cook of your very own—lining up to take a shot at winning your heart.

Monday, June 23, 2014

#TeamLainey Winners!

What feels like forever ago I made the grand decision to give my little contemporary book, THE ART OF LAINEY, the best chance possible of succeeding by assembling a street team. I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew that bloggers like prizes so I came up with a list of things I could give away that wouldn't cost me too much money--signed books, swag, manuscript critiques, gift cards (that I sometimes get free from my credit card. What's in your wallet?) And of course, the piece de resistance--a role in a future book!

My street teamers performed like champs, tweeting, posting, sharing, voting, and changing their twitter icons to the LAINEY cover at a rate that had some people complaining that my book was too hyped. *side eyes* Whut? I guess if you live on twitter. Oh wait, that's most people.

Anyway, today I am announcing my winners!

Winner of the GRAND PRIZE EXTRAVAGANZA, which includes so many prizes I'm not even going to list them all so no one is too sad when I don't offer quite so many freebies next time (an annotated book? Whose idea was that? *gives Nikki Wang the evil eye*) is Sara from Forever 17 books. I think I got to know Sara back when she played Where in the World is VENOM?? She's been a fantastic supporter ever since and it's always an honor to be featured on her blog. Also, I <3 that tiger.

Winner of my 2nd prize, which includes a signed copy of THE ART OF LAINEY, a B&N gift card, and a partial manuscript critique, Is Jessica from Read My Breath Away. I also "met" Jess when she won a copy of Venom (or was it Belladonna?) Jess organized my Canada blog tour, accumulated more street team points than any other teamer, and recently helped get LAINEY into the Ottawa library system! 

And finally, my 3rd prize, a signed copy of THE ART OF LAINEY, goes to Lili from Lili's Reflections! I first got to know Lili when she emailed me back in 2012 asking for a book donation for a literacy program she was heading up in her town. I loved this idea so much I sent her ALL of the books I had lying around that I had gotten free as a reviewer but knew I would never read. We've stayed in contact ever since and I'm so grateful to have her on my team.

Every year the publishing industry hatches 200+ new debut authors and I've heard there are even non-debut authors writing epic books too (*waves hand in the air*). The fact that these ladies have supported me for four straight books is really amazing and I am so grateful that I know them. I'm glad I could give a little something extra back to all three of you in the form of street team prizes. Thanks again for all of your hard work!

If you would like to be part of the LIARS, INC. street team and have the chance to win the first ARCs of LIARS, INC. (and possibly VICARIOUS, depending on its release date), as well as get monthly emails from me with writing excerpts, exclusive news, and occasional groveling for tweets or author-favors (who? me?) check the street team tab after September 1, 2014 for more information.

Until then, keep an eye out for the LIARS, INC. cover reveal this week (allegedly...I am still awaiting the final file *taps foot*). And don't forget about the Mighty Mississippi Book Blast if you live in the middle of the US and the  <333 MICAH <333 novella INFINITE REPEAT that releases on August 5, 2014.