Friday, September 1, 2017

You, a Friend, a Stranger Giveaway!

Hi :) I am going to keep this short(ish) because you're all here for the giveaway, aren't you?

So here's the thing. I've had some definite writing setbacks over the past few weeks. I wouldn't say any of them were unexpected, but I don't know, things don't really hurt me less just because they didn't surprise me. It's a different kind of pain I guess, like another bag of bricks added to an already heavy load.

But despite that, I am trying to focus on the positive. I'm strong and I'm healthy, so I can carry those extra bricks. I have a new nursing job which admittedly is extremely stressful and probably not a good fit for me, but it allows me to be a positive force in the lives of mentally ill people and addicts--many of whom are often surrounded by negativity. This job also pays enough so that I can donate to hurricane relief and GoFundMes and buy books to support my writer friends (even if I have no time to read the books--I am sorry, writer friends!) These are all things I was not able to do for years when I was struggling to survive as a full-time writer, and that weighed heavy on my heart. So trade-offs, right?

I also have an amazing volunteer position with Transition Projects, a local homeless-to-housing charity here in Portland. Between work and volunteering, I spend a lot of time listening to people who are often disparaged or ignored by the public. There is something powerful and life-affirming about validating the very real struggles these people go through every day. I am constantly awed by their strength and inspired by the solidarity they show to each other. So yes, I am feeling kind of beat down, but I am also finding peace and hope in the world around me.

In the interest of finding even more peace and hope, I've decided to take a bit of a break from social media for the month of September. I'm going to concentrate instead on improving my mental and physical health, becoming a better psychiatric nurse, being more aware of the world around me so I can better help people in need, and revising a "book of my heart" that was passed on by my publisher. [Gentle reminder that unless you self-publish, the only guaranteed time you can write ANY story you want is before you get an editor and a publisher. I actually had two projects rejected by publishers in the past two weeks and both of them are over 25% written. So please, please, if you are pre-published, do not squander that magical time by being sad about not having a book deal. Book deals are great. So is the freedom to write wildly and freely about anything inside your soul without being constrained by editor preferences, profit and loss sheets, sales figures, acquisitions teams, etc.]

I'll be reading email and logging onto Twitter every couple of days to read my @ tweets because my readers matter to me and I will always have time for you <3. Other than that, my Twitter and Facebook posts are scheduled and I might pop onto Instagram if I find something magical I want to share with everyone. I wanted to leave you guys with a giveaway, so I decided to create something kind of fun that encourages other people to also go in search of peace and hope :)

Below is the You, a Friend, a Stranger giveaway. International. One winner receives $100 in prizes as follows:

  • Winner gets $25 transferred to a PayPal account or paid out via a bookstore, grocery store, department store, or gas station gift card. It's about you and what you need <3
  • Winner's friend also gets $25, paid out via any of those gift cards. Sorry, no cash. [Int'l winners will have a limited selection to choose from.]
  • Winner gets $25 in credit to contribute to any GoFundMe or YouCaring (or you can split between two campaigns) during the month of October. I am registered and I will give the money in your name.
  • Winner gets a $25 gift card to If you aren't familiar with Kiva, it's a micro-lending website where you can help finance a business loan for someone on the other side of the world. Then they pay back the loan and you can re-lend. It is literally the gift that keeps on giving.
  • Because I'm an author and I have lots of free books to give away, I'll throw in a copy of any of my Paula Stokes books, either for you or your friend who gets the gift card. [I won't judge if you keep it for yourself. My books are awesome, after all ;D]

I know that's technically you, a friend, and two strangers (or two friends if you know someone with a GoFundMe) but that just didn't sound as good ;) The Rafflecopter activities are a mix of self-care and helping friends and strangers. Most of them cost absolutely no money and don't involve driving anywhere. I tried to make them as inclusive as possible so that everyone could participate in whatever they wanted. Please use common sense when completing the activities and enter at your own risk. They're not particularly dangerous things, but most of them involve more than clicking a link, so I'm erring on the side of caution.

I created this contest so you could technically do one activity every day in September, but if you want to crush them all out in a weekend marathon of kindness, empathy, and introspection, well, that works too :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Can you cheat? I mean, yeah, most of these are "on your honor" activities. But this specific contest was created to help people feel better about themselves and the world. If you cheat and win, you might not regret it now, but chances are at some point you're going to feel a little down on yourself. I don't want to do that to you, so how about you don't do that to yourself either? Have fun with this. If you have a really meaningful experience doing any of these activities, be sure to leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Happy September. Best of luck in whatever goals you are pursuing this month, and as always, thanks for everything that you do <3

Monday, August 28, 2017

Repost: Vicarious blog tour

In honor of the VICARIOUS paperback releasing tomorrow (thank you Tor Teen for giving this book a second chance in paperback to find a readership) I decided to repost the links to last year's blog tour. The tour includes reviews and "fun facts" about the characters, but it focuses primarily on my experiences writing outside of my own race and culture--why I did it and what I learned along the way.

Winter Kim and her sister, Rose, work as high-tech stunt girls for Rose’s ex-boyfriend, Gideon, engaging in dangerous and enticing activities while recording their neural impulses for his Vicarious Sensory Experiences, or ViSEs. Whether it’s bungee jumping, shark diving, or grinding up against celebrities at the city’s hottest dance clubs, Gideon can make it happen for you—for a price.

When Rose disappears and a ViSE recording of her murder is delivered to Gideon, Winter is devastated. She won’t rest until she finds her sister’s killer. But when the clues she uncovers conflict with the neural recordings her sister made, Winter isn’t sure what to believe. To find out what happened to Rose, she’ll have to untangle what’s real from what only seems real, risking her life in the process.

Great for fans of Inception and The Girl With the Dragon TattooVicarious is an adrenaline-fueled, high-tech thriller that will keep you guessing.


Edited slightly. Originally published in August of 2016: I decided to kick off the VICARIOUS blog tour on my own site so that I could share some thoughts on #OwnVoices and writing outside my perspective, as well as introduce the rest of the tour.

I think the #OwnVoices movement is extremely important, and I fully believe that the literary community benefits by increasing the diversity of both authors and stories across races, cultures, sexual orientations, mental health statuses, socioeconomic classes, and more. For me it’s a no brainer that the exact same story written by someone inside of a group is going to feel more authentic than the one written by an outsider.

However, I feel like it’s rare that two authors want to tell the exact same story. If publishers are using a formal or informal quota/limit system, where buying an excellent contemporary romance with a main character from a marginalized group means they have to pass on an excellent murder mystery with a main character from the same marginalized group, or even another contemporary romance with a different plot, that’s a problem—one that needs to be addressed at the publisher level. A good story is a good story, and assuming the representation is accurate and respectful, there is no reason to limit the number of diverse books published, especially after straight, white, privileged main characters have dominated the literature for so long.

Therefore, while I believe we need more #OwnVoices books, I also think all authors should have the right to work on any story they strongly need to tell, as long as they’re willing to do the research needed and be receptive to criticism during and after the publication process. I understand that's a statement made from a position of privilege and that many authors from marginalized groups have been shut out of writing stories about their own culture or other cultures, but again that is a problem that needs to be addressed at the publisher level. Publishers should be working to elevate authors from marginalized groups and not discriminating based on author or character identities. Still, denying authors who are willing to put in the hard work to tell stories from outside their perspective in an authentic, respectful way the opportunity to do so would reduce the number of high-quality diverse books available to all.

I fully believe that the best book a person can write is the story they love and desperately want to share with the world. One of the reasons I started writing was to escape the confines and limits of my own experiences, to explore other realities and learn about other worlds. Accepting the premise that authors shouldn’t write about a country where we’ve never lived, or a culture we’re not part of, or a character with a disability we don’t personally have, would mean limiting ourselves and forcing us to censor our characters before they even get a chance to speak.

Because yeah, I don’t know how it works for other writers, but when my characters appear in my head for the first time, they usually show up with a lot of characteristics already in place. So many people asked me why I chose to write about a clueless, shallow, popular girl in The Art of Lainey. Um, that’s just who she was. It didn't occur to me to change her because I found her interesting and engaging, and I think less-than-perfect characters also deserve to have their stories told. Sure, I polished her throughout the drafting and revision process, and like most of my characters she undergoes a lot of character development, but I didn’t completely overhaul her identity. If I had, she would have no longer felt real to me. Same goes for Max in Liars, Inc. Same goes for Vicarious. From the moment Winter Kim first whispered in my ear, she was a Korean girl with a tragic past who was overcompensating for her emotional problems by building up her physical strength. If you want to know why I think she was that girl, check out my post on Ivy Book Bindings, where I go into much more detail.

Later in the blog tour I’ll also discuss my research strategies, how I attempted to balance sharing cultural information with story pacing while maintaining authenticity and respectfulness, my experiences using multiple cultural beta-readers, and finally some specific challenges I faced throughout writing and revision. Note that these posts are not meant to be “how-to” posts about writing outside one’s experiences. I don’t believe there’s one right way to do it, and I am in no way an authority on any of the strategies I used. I’m simply writing about how and why I did what I did, because several people have asked me about it.

Here’s the tour schedule: (all posts are available now)

 Introduction + tour schedule                   

Writing outside my perspective: Part 1
Why I wrote Korean main characters and what I hoped to accomplish
Review + interview with Paula 

Writing outside my perspective: Part 2
A summary of my research strategies

Review + five facts about Winter

Writing outside my perspective: Part 3
Maintaining authenticity and respect; balancing info and pacing

Review + five facts about Jesse

Writing outside my perspective: Part 4
Thoughts on using cultural beta-readers

Review + five facts about Rose

Writing outside my perspective: Part 5
Specific issues/problems I encountered while writing Vicarious

Wanna learn more about the sequel, FEROCIOUS, also available now? Click here to read the beginning.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Ferocious mini blog tour


Hi everyone. Today I’m introducing a mini-travelogue blog tour for FEROCIOUS. This tour is in addition to a bigger tour planned by my publisher, so if you see overlapping posts, that’s why. The other tour is mostly videos and reviews—this one highlights the different parts of Korea that Winter Kim travels to in the sequel to VICARIOUS. Both tours include giveaways, so you should definitely check them out :)

I spent a year living in Seoul from 2005 to 2006, during which I fell in love with the frenetic pace and high-tech feel of the city. You might be surprised to find out that some of the technological advances that are somewhat new to the US, like paying for purchases with your cell phones, were already commonplace in Seoul over ten years ago. Korea is definitely ahead of the US when it comes to certain things.

I returned to Seoul in January of 2016 for research and so I could see how things had changed. I unfortunately got sick soon after arriving, so I stuck to the stuff that was essential for the novel and didn't do much sightseeing. That means my pictures (featured in four of these blog tour posts) aren't as gorgeous as they might have been, but you should totally go to Korea if you ever get the chance because it's amazing.

At the end of Vicarious, Winter is standing at a St. Louis train station, forced to decide between going to her therapist appointment as scheduled or embarking upon a mission of revenge. Spoiler: she goes for Option #2. This leads her from St. Louis to Los Angeles and then back to her homeland of South Korea.

While in Seoul, Winter visits several different areas of the city. At the end of the book, she has left the mainland for Jeju-do, a volcanic island located off the Southwest corner of the Korean peninsula. Follow this tour for a sneak peek at some of the unique and colorful settings of Winter’s adventures in Ferocious.

Mon. Aug 14: Itaewon Jen Ryland Reviews 
Tues. Aug 15: Gangnam-gu Beauty and the Bookshelf 
Wed. Aug 16: Namdaemun Market Snuggling on the Sofa 
Thurs. Aug 17: Namsan Tower Owl Always Be Reading 
Fri. Aug 18: Jeju Island Love is not a Triangle 

Have you read the first book in the duology? Here’s the mood board for Vicarious. Click here to learn more about the book and read the first few chapters!

Tomorrow, see the first place Winter and Jesse go when they arrive in Seoul over at Jenn Ryland Reviews.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Ferocious Graphics Contest!

I have mailed out all of my swag for THIS IS HOW IT HAPPENED. You know what that means--it's time for another great graphics contest! Do you want to win a copy of any of my novels, including a pre-order of FEROCIOUS or my forthcoming NA novel THE KEY TO EVERYTHING? I'm looking for cool fan art or quote/image pairings to share on social media related to FEROCIOUS. You don't have to have read the book to enter.

These images should include the title of the book somewhere and can include quotes from the novel, suggested taglines, your own taglines, etc. You can use your own photography, draw something, make word art, create an image in Canva, modify the official cover art, etc. (Click the Books or Media tab for access to the official book cover.)

What you can't do is use someone else's copyrighted material as the base for your work. If you don't know for sure it's open source (from a Canva free image bank or via Wikipedia where the image info says open source, etc.) assume that it isn't. I know a lot of you guys pull images from Pinterest and Tumblr for your blogs, but technically you might be infringing on someone's copyright when you do that and writers have gotten sued for doing that in the past.

Here are some of my faves from the TIHIH contest :)

Cover art modification by Agustina Z.

Mixed media by Alyssa C

Original photograph by Mariely V

Modified graphic by Rebeca G

Just like last time, I am picking at least two winners for this contest (assuming I get at least 2 entries), one based on the artwork I like the best, and one randomly selected from all of the other entries that follow the rules. It's not always just about who has mad design skills--it's also about the fact you took the time to help me promote my book <3 Just like last time, I might award additional prizes if I have trouble picking winners.

Each winner of this contest will get a signed finished copy of Ferocious if you have a U.S. address or a Book Depository or Wordery pre-order of the novel + a signed bookplate if you live outside the U.S. If you want Vicarious or one of my other books instead, just ask. I have no problem subbing in a different title as long as it's available. Everyone who enters, regardless of location, will receive swag to include signed bookmarks and stickers. All submitted designs remain copyright of their creator but will be fawned over by me and may be shared via my social media ;D

Possible text for your graphic:
Your graphic does not need to have text (aside from the book's title if you're not using the cover image), but it can. If you've read the ARC, you can use anything that stood out to you. If you haven't read the ARC, you can check out this six-chapter sample. You can also use part of one of the quotes that are listed on Goodreads. You can make up your own tagline or phrase or use one of the ones below.
  • Everyone has a dark side.
  • Monsters don't get happy endings.
  • Tonight is just a single perfect moment trapped in glass.
  • An unfamiliar feeling starts to wash over me. I think it might be happiness.
  • My name is Winter Kim. Today I killed a man. Soon I hope to kill another.
  • How far would you go to protect someone you love?
  • How far would you go for revenge? How much would you sacrifice for love?
  • Sometimes I feel like I'm not even real anymore.
  • Vengeance is waiting.

  • You must share your graphic on Twitter, Instagram, or Tumblr, at least once by August 14. Caption/tag the image similar to: Winter Kim is back and she's out for vengeance! #Ferocious by @pstokesbooks releases August 15 from @TorTeen
  • Again, you can't use copyrighted material in your entries. Aside from the book cover, which can be freely used/adapted, any photography or imagery must be open source or belong to you.  When in doubt, don't use it.
  • Designs can be any shape or size and do not need to be high resolution.
  • You can enter up to three graphics, but each one must be shared on social media.

Final designs need to be emailed to me as a .JPG or .PNG for easy sharing at pstokesbooks [at] gmail [dot] com by August 14, 2017, subject: Ferocious graphics contest. In your email, also include your mailing address if you want swag and a link or enough information so I can find your shared image on social media.

General questions? Put them in the comments.

Monday, July 10, 2017


Hi :) I'm leading off a short five-stop blog tour for THIS IS HOW IT HAPPENED this week. I decided to do a themed tour and talk about five of the challenges I had while writing and revising the novel. Here's the whole schedule:

Monday July 10
Author Paula Stokes: Intro + challenge of writing a book quickly

Tuesday July 11
Gabriella M Reads: Challenge of incorporating real places into the book

Wednesday July 12
That Book Gal: Challenge of incorporating the internet into the story

Thursday July 13
The Book Bratz: Challenge of incorporating a romance into the plot

Friday July 14
We Live and Breathe Books: Challenge of writing my first "issue" novel

Here's the story about writing books quickly--it's hard, but it's doable. You probably know that after a book is announced there's usually one and a half years or more before it's published. But what you might not know is of that one and a half years, the author might spend only about three months writing the book. Another few months are shared between author and editor in revision and editing. And then usually a hardcover title for a major publisher is completely finished, aside from in-house proofreading, ten to twelve months before the publication date.

Obviously this varies from house to house, book to book, and writer to writer. Paperbacks often have a shorter lead time. Some writers spend five years writing each book, but in that case the book is finished before it's announced or that release date is getting pushed back quite a bit. A delayed release generally results in delayed payments, and sometimes a delay in being able to sell more books. If you've read any of the "writer finances" blog posts I've tweeted lately, you know the only way to survive on a writing income is to sell, sell, sell.

So basically what happened with this book is that I hit a wall with the previous book, Jack of Hearts. I sold that book on proposal, meaning in this case that my publisher bought the title based off an outline (sometimes a proposal involves a lot more than that.) I was already behind schedule with it and the sequel to Vicarious, because my anxiety had derailed the revision process for both of my 2016 releases and I spent way too long on final edits for them. But then I got halfway done with Jack of Hearts and I was just...stuck. I hated the main character, I didn't like the plot, and I felt like I had so many loose ends floating around it was going to end up as a 150,000 word contemporary novel. I tried to fix it--I really did. I went on a retreat, I signed up for an online writing class. I even went back to Copenhagen for inspiration! But nothing helped, and in late October of 2015, just two months before my manuscript was due, I asked if I could start over with a new book.

My publisher said yes, what did I have in mind? I polished up a couple of my favorite ideas (contemporary romances, as that's what Jack of Hearts was so I figured that'd be best) as well as a couple other ideas--a Liars, Inc. companion novel with a speculative element, and the plot for This is How it Happened, back then called Shattered Hearts. I expected them to pick one of the contemp romances or the Liars companion, but they picked Shattered Hearts. Guys, I had literally come up with this idea a few days before. And now I had to outline it, write it, and revise it in about four months, and two of those months were November and December.

My publisher offered me the chance to bump the book back a year, but that would have likely meant bumping half the payment back a year, which at the time was simply not a financial option for me. So I outlined the whole story ASAP so my editor could preview the plot and point out any major issues with it. Once I got approval on the outline in early December, I had about two and a half months to write and revise the book and turn it in by the beginning of March to meet the publication deadline. Oh, and I also had the sequel to Vicarious due to my other editor at the end of January, and a week trip to Seoul in mid-January.

Long story long, I wrote the first draft of This is How it Happened in about six weeks. It was 85,000 words. It was also pretty terrible, as you can imagine. I had to go to NYC in April to sign Girl Against the Universe for Uppercase Box, and while I was there my editor and her assistant were like "Wow, your new manuscript is really compelling!" I just kept apologizing. I was so horrified that multiple people had read it. I got about a month to do a major revision and another week or two to do a second revision. Then (as I often do) I continued to tweak and rework the book at copy-edits...and first-pass pages [Newbie authors: This is a bad habit. Don't read this and think it's how it's normally done.]

I haven't read the whole book since I got printed copies because I know if I do I will see things I want to change. I will think "If only I'd had more time. If only I could have done a couple more revisions." The reality of professional writing is that there is not always more time, especially not when you're trying to do it as a career, not when paying your bills depends on meeting deadlines. Alternatively, sometimes your book publication date is bumped back months to years due to in-house scheduling issues, even though your part is completely finished. In that case, you might feel like there was too much time. For the most part, writers do not call the shots on their books' publishing schedules. did I write the book so fast? First, I had a tight outline. If you're writing on a time crunch, a detailed outline will save you because you won't have to stop to untangle plot problems or fill in plot holes. I also felt really strongly about the subject matter. I didn't have to stop and think "oh, but how would this character respond to that?" because I had been interested in internet shaming and its effects since 2005 and watched shaming dramas play out so frequently online. So it helps to be emotionally invested in your plot.

 Beyond that, I basically worked all day, every day until I was finished, giving myself mini-breaks to check Twitter or go for walks around the block. No TV (okay, I did watch iZombie), no movies, no hobbies, no social life. Thanks to tips from my friend Christina, I pretended like I was a resident doctor. Do you know what a resident doctor does for fun? They sleep. I got into a routine for eating--cereal in morning, sandwich for lunch, frozen thing for dinner--all easy to fix things requiring minimal thought. All my thought and effort went to the book. It's not a fun way to write, guys. But if you ever get into a situation where you feel like you have to get X pages done in Y days, whether it's a novel or a research paper for college or whatever, you can do it.

More tips. If you've got friends and family nearby, ask for help. If your family is pretty needy, ask for patience. (I am not advocating anyone neglect their children, or perhaps overfeed their extremely needy cats on a regular basis, even though I might have done one of those things.) Find a mantra. Something you can repeat in your head when you start to get distracted or despondent. Mine was: "What matters most is how well you walk through the fire." That's the title of a Bukowski book of poetry. I haven't read it, but I saw that line on Instagram and it spoke to me. I just kept thinking that writing isn't supposed to be easy, and that if I could survive the next few weeks I could survive anything Publishing threw at me. Also, tiny rewards. Even if all you can do is set an alarm for five minutes and spend that time with your cat, or take ten minutes to walk to the store for a cupcake. Cut yourself some slack on your diet and exercise plan because it's only for a limited time and you need to minimize other stresses as much as possible. But drink water and get sleep and eat something vaguely healthy now and then--even if it's just buying a bottle of Green Machine and chugging out of it.

And then, when you make it, because I know you will, CELEBRATE! You earned it :)

Have you ever had to write something quickly? What are your tips for surviving the process and ending up with a solid finished product? Share your experiences in the comments!

Want to win a copy of THIS IS HOW IT HAPPENED or any of my novels? Enter the Rafflecopter below. And look for tomorrow’s blog tour stop about the challenge of incorporating real setting into novels at Gabriella M Reads.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About This is How it Happened:

When Genevieve Grace wakes up from a coma, she can’t remember the car crash that injured her and killed her boyfriend Dallas, a YouTube star who had just released his first album. Genevieve knows she was there, and that there was another driver, a man named Brad Freeman, who everyone assumes is guilty. But as she slowly pieces together the night of the accident, Genevieve is hit with a sickening sense of dread—that maybe she had something to do with what happened.

As the internet rages against Brad Freeman, condemning him in a brutal trial by social media, Genevieve escapes to her father’s house, where she can hide from reporters and spend the summer volunteering in beautiful Zion National Park. But she quickly realizes that she can’t run away from the accident, or the terrible aftermath of it all.

Incredibly thought-provoking and beautifully told, Paula Stokes’s story will compel readers to examine the consequences of making mistakes in a world where the internet is always watching…and judging.

THIS IS HOW IT HAPPENED  is available July 11th in the USA and on July 18th overseas. Read the first four chapters now or check out the discussion guide!