Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Holiday Reviewer Appreciation Giveaway

Hi guys! Happy December :)

I've talked a lot about why reviews are important. For example here and here. I even wrote specifically about negative reviews here. Tl;dr is that reviews matter for a lot of reasons, but one of the most crucial is they function as free publicity and help sell books. I realize it takes time and effort to leave reviews, which is why I try to do a couple of these contests each year to thank the people who are willing to go that extra step.

For this international giveaway, the winner will have a choice of a $25 B&N gift card, or a signed copy of any of the books you see in this post. (For Ferocious and TIHIH, you'll receive a signed ARC.) You can earn points for reviewing any of my last four novels--Vicarious, Girl Against the Universe, Liars Inc., and The Art of Lainey. You can also earn points just by tweeting or by leaving a comment about how to encourage readers to write reviews.

The dangers of running a giveaway likes this include that people will plagiarize/write fake reviews to qualify or that people will think I am bribing readers for positive reviews. It's important to me that neither of these things happen. So:

1. If I think your review is fake or plagiarized (meaning that you copied someone else's review, not that you used quotes from the book--that's totally fine), I will disqualify you from consideration without notification.

2. Any honest review qualifies you to win. 5 stars. 1 star. A GR review with no rating if that's how you roll. I probably won't even read your reviews unless you're the contest winner.


1. You must have read a book in order to review it.
2. Your review must be at least 50 words long. (Reviews that you have already posted also count. No need to edit or update, unless you need more words.)
3. Reviews can be written in any language.
4. You can copy/paste the same review to different sites for multiple entries.
5. You must fill out the Raffecopter below.


I know some readers aren't comfortable writing reviews, which is why I kept the length requirement short and included other options to enter the contest. But if you want more entry points, here are some things you could incorporate into reviews that might be more fun for you than just writing them in "book report" formula.

1. Pretend you are an author writing an official blurb for the book jacket. What would you say to the world about this book if you had to condense all your thoughts into one or two sentences?

2. Make your review two lists--the things you liked the best and the things you liked the least about the story.

3. Make your review a mini "editor letter" by commenting separately on the prose, voice, setting, plot, and characters.

4. Pretend you are the book's publicist and it's your job to come up with good comparison titles. End your review by saying "Fans of [these books] and [these movies] will enjoy [book] because [reasons.]"

5. Choose your favorite quotes from the book. Tell how each
affected you and how it connects to the overall story.

Do you have other ideas for "reluctant reviewers"? Share them in the comments :) The Rafflecopter comment question is about how authors can encourage readers to leave more reviews. It's generally unethical to pay reviewers (exceptions being things like Kirkus Indie, etc.), so authors and publishers frequently trade free books in exchange for reviews. That sometimes works well at the publisher level, but the expense of sending books is often too much for individual authors and doesn't always pan out in the form of reviews. I would love to hear any suggestions you guys have on how to score more honest reviews, especially on book-buying websites.

Thanks and happy holidays :) See you in January when I'll be giving away a signed copy of Kristen Simmons's Metaltown!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Questions about the giveaway? Put 'em in the comments :)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Discussion guide for VICARIOUS

Hi guys! I've updated my discussion guide page to include non-spoilery questions for Vicarious. These are great for anyone reading the book for a book club or online read-along.

I know I haven't been online too much, but I'll be back on Twitter and FB regularly in January or February. In the meantime, be sure to stop back by the blog because later this month I'll be running another Reviewer Appreciation Giveaway where you can score entry points for reviewing any of my books online. Then, in January, I'll be doing a giveaway for a signed copy of Kristen Simmons's Metaltown. Plus there will be exclusive holiday giveaways for my awesome newsletter subscribers. Join the mailing list here.


Pre-reading questions:

1. Vicarious takes place in a world where futuristic technology makes it possible for people to record their sensory experiences and share them with others. Maybe you’ve always wanted to go shark diving or bungee jumping, but you’re too scared or you can’t afford it. Maybe you want to snowboard but you don’t have time to take lessons. With Vicarious Sensory Experiences (ViSEs), people can experience not just the first-person visual of what these activities are like, but also the sounds, smells, and tactile sensations. It’s like Virtual Reality on steroids.

Name one or two things you might like to experience via a ViSE recording. It doesn’t need to be an adventure sport. It could be something like walk along the Great Wall of China or go on a date with a celebrity.

2. Name one or two things you’ve done in the past that you might want to share with friends or strangers by making a ViSE. Again, it doesn’t have to be anything expensive or overly glamorous. Maybe you went sledding over Winter Break or saw one of your favorite bands perform live.

3. Who is the person you are closest to in the whole world? Why did you pick that person?

4. Do you think it’s okay to lie to people “for their own good?” Does it depend on the circumstances? Discuss why you feel the way you do.

5. What is your definition of family?

Questions while reading:

6. Winter exercises, perhaps obsessively, to calm her nerves. Is there anything that you do in order to calm yourself before a big test or a potentially scary task?

7. The author intended for the book’s setting to be an alternate present day, but a lot of readers assume the book takes place in the future. Can you find two examples that make the book feel futuristic? What about two examples that make the book feel like it’s taking place in the present?

8. Describe the phenomenon of overlay. Why does it affect some people more than others?

9. At one point Winter plays a ViSE of Rose winning a large amount of money in a casino and muses that her sister might have been making recordings that function like high-tech commercials. Do you think that would work? That is, do you think having a positive virtual experience would make people more likely to try to replicate the experience in real life? Why or why not?

10. What does Winter think is happening in the bathroom at Zoo before she and Jesse enter? What is actually happening? Why do you think Winter had preconceived notions about what goes on at Zoo?

11. There are definite privacy concerns when it comes to recording ViSEs, especially some of the ones that Rose records. Given that ViSEs are essentially recorded personal memories, do you think it should be okay to sell them or share them without the consent of other people who are part of the recording? Why or why not?

12. Do you see Winter as a strong character, weak character, or somewhere in between? Why do you feel the way you do?

13. Do you see Jesse as a strong character, weak character, or somewhere in between? Why do you feel the way you do?

14. Which characters in the book were the easiest for you to relate to? Which did you find to be the most likable? Explain why you feel the way you do.

15. How would you describe Jesse’s feelings for Winter? Gideon’s feelings? Sebastian’s feelings? Give examples from the text to back up your answers.

Post-reading questions:

16. Almost all of the characters in Vicarious seem suspicious at one point or another in the book. Did you figure out who killed Rose before the answer was revealed? Discuss who your major suspects were and at which point in the novel you started to put the pieces together.

17. Who does Winter trust at the beginning of the book? Who does she trust at the end of the book? What things happened throughout the story that caused her to switch her allegiances?

18. Would you like a job recording ViSEs? Why or why not?

19. The author has mentioned that this book was inspired by her love of gritty, high-tech movies, including Inception and The Matrix. In The Matrix, main character Neo is offered a choice of two pills—the blue pill that will put him back into the false reality of the matrix, or the red pill that will allow him to see the world as it really is. He chooses the red pill, but is horrified by the truth. Winter isn’t given a choice, but like Neo she experiences a series of revelations and is also horrified by the truth. If you were her, would you want to know everything that she discovers in the last several chapters of the novel? Or would you prefer to be protected from the truth? Are there any scenarios in real life you can think of where you would definitely want to “take the blue pill” and be protected from reality? Explain your answer.

20. What do you think is going to happen in the second (and final) book of the Vicarious series? What questions do you have at the end of Book #1 that you still need to be answered?

ICYMI, check out the official Vicarious trailer:

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Third Party Voting: Did it Matter and Why People Do It

Hi :) I don't generally share my political views on the internet because I think it's best when people do their own research and come to their own conclusions. This is also why you don't see me jumping into the fray much on controversial issues. I often have strong feelings, which I discuss with people offline, but I try not to say anything online unless I'm certain of the facts. I worry sort of obsessively about spreading disinformation or propagating false narratives, and usually by the time we know all the facts about something, people have moved on to talking about something else.

There were a lot of false narratives spread by major media outlets on election night, one of which is that "If HRC had gotten all of Jill Stein's votes and half of Johnson's she would have won." That's not true. As far as I can tell, it was never true at any point during the vote counting. Media personas who spread this falsehood gave HRC half of Johnson's votes but conveniently didn't give the other half to Trump. When you give the other half to Trump, those votes cancel each other out and become mathematically irrelevant. Then when you look at the total number of Stein votes, it's not enough for HRC to win. (These figures are from 11/20.)

                             Trump             Clinton                Difference             Stein
Florida               4,605,515           4,485,745               119,770                64,019
Michigan            2,279,221           2,267,798                 11,423                50,690
Pennsylvania     2,912,941           2,844,705                 68,236                48,912
Wisconsin          1,409,467           1,382,210                 27,257                30,980

It's enough for HRC to win Michigan, and just barely Wisconsin (needing 88% of Stein's votes), but that's all. I've heard people say it might be close enough to trigger a recount in Pennsylvania, but that's before you allocate the 20,000 votes for Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party (theocratic paleoconservatives) to Trump. [Please let me know if my math is wrong or there's something I'm leaving out and I will update this post. My intent is to clarify, not mislead.] And if you seriously believe that more than 50% of the Libertarian (no social services, very small government) voters would have voted Democrat (lots of social services, big government), consider this post about third party voters from Jill Stein herself, where she explains her beliefs about third parties and cites exit polls that indicate 55% of Libertarian voters and 61% of Green Party voters would have stayed home/opted not to vote rather than choose Trump or HRC.

I understand that voter suppression played a role and that some people suspect there was election fraud, and I'm not trying to downplay the seriousness of either of those issues. But even if the numbers in this chart were different, given that in every election a significant percentage of registered Democrats vote Republican and a huge number of Dems don't vote at all, there's no logical reason to blame third party voters (who are often Independents), other than the fact that they're convenient scapegoats. But do you know what else they are? They're people who might have taken the time to vote for your preferred down ballot candidates, even if they didn't share your choice for president. They're also the voters most likely to return to the fold if the Democrats put forth a strong progressive candidate in 2020.

So if you truly believe that swing state third party voters had a major role in putting Trump in office, my recommendation would be to stop bashing them, or else we might be right back here in four years. Because when it comes to influencing voter behavior, shaming and coercion don't work. If you don't believe me, review the psychological theory of reactance, which states essentially that when someone or something threatens our idea of free will, we adjust our behavior in a way that works to reestablish it.

You know you want to.

But why would people throw away their votes in such an important election?

Well, I suspect for most, it wasn't throwing away their votes. There's been a lot of talk of "wasted protest votes" but when I think of a protest vote, I think of the 88,000 Michiganers who voted down ballot but skipped over the choice for president. I think of people who wrote in Sweet Meteor of Death or Cthulhu for president. Those people literally selected "None of the Above." Don't get me wrong--I'm not saying you should shame or blame those people either. We need their votes for 2020 too. But I think their motivations were different from those of third party voters. I asked a few people I know who voted for Stein or Johnson why they went third party. Here's what I found out:

Third party voters invested their votes for 2020:
"Growing up, I thought the Republicans were the party of the rich and the Democrats were the party of the common people, but this year both parties seemed to serve the same master. We need a third party for the 99% I voted for Jill Stein because I wanted to increase the chance that the Green Party could get campaign funding for next time."
This hasn't been mentioned much in the media, but the #1 reason people voted for Green or Libertarian candidates was to try to get them federal funding and auto-ballot access for 2020. If a third party received 5% of the popular vote, that party would have been automatically eligible for millions of dollars in federal funding. They also wouldn't have had to petition each state individually to get their names onto the ballot--something that burns through a lot of limited resources each cycle.

Simply put, these voters invested their votes, hoping to be able to build a viable third party for 2020. Considering that more than 60% of people said they think we need a viable third party, this feels like the furthest thing from a "protest vote." It was a strategic choice that didn't pan out, but given that Stein was polling 2-3% and Johnson was polling 4-6% in polls that focused mainly on older respondents with landlines, there was no reason to think this goal would be impossible to achieve.

Third party voters wanted to send a message/decrease the chances of a mandate:
"I don't like Trump at all, but as a Bernie supporter I just didn't feel like the democrat platform was progressive enough. And after the whole "public and private" policy debacle, I didn't even trust Hilary to stick to any of the things she promised Bernie."
One of the reasons third parties exist is to keep the main parties "honest." Did you notice how as the race progressed, Clinton veered more toward Republican ideals and started courting neocon endorsements while Trump began stealing lines from Sanders? That's a thing that happens as candidates try to draw in undecided voters, many of whom are presumably moderates.

When the Democrats look back and see that although the Green Party percentage of the vote was still very small, it was three times what it was in 2012, what they should do is recognize that they failed some of their progressive base. Ballots don't have a comment section and voting is the most powerful way to send a message to a political party that says "Hey. Not good enough." Also, if HRC had won, but ended up without a mandate, it might have made it harder for her to go to war or implement policies that the majority of people did not want.

If you saw my chart numbers and thought "Yeah, but I'd feel better if HRC had won Michigan and Wisconsin because it would have been really close and with her winning the popular vote it would have been like she lost on a technicality," that's the whole point of what I'm talking about here. A lot of people are desperate for change. If HRC wins huge or loses in some way that it looks like a technicality, then the Democratic Party will change nothing.

And before you judge people for sending messages and demanding change instead of fighting Trump, ask yourself if you have a home, a job, health insurance, and a fallback source (spouse/parent/savings account/401K/etc.) of financial support. Many people don't have those things. Many people have spent the last eight years struggling. Asking them to support a candidate who they felt would be a less-effective version of Obama is asking them to struggle for eight more years without even voicing their opposition.

Third party voters voted based on their principles:
"Donald Trump is offensive and unqualified but Hillary Clinton has made choices that killed thousands of innocent people and she wants to go back to the Middle East and do it some more. Both of these candidates also support the death penalty and don't seem worried about climate change at all. They stand for everything that I don't. I voted Jill and I don't regret it."
These people took a lot of crap online for allegedly acting morally superior or something, but I related to this woman's reasoning because I am also anti-war, anti-death penalty, and anti-fracking. But when I think about how my principles figure into voting, it has nothing to do with being able to pat myself on the back later. It's not like people who voted based on their principles are going to shrug it off if we go to war and the bodies start piling up, like "Don't blame me. I voted for Jill!" No, it's more a matter of reducing the chances of a mandate, as mentioned before, and not giving tacit consent for your government to engage in activities you find morally unacceptable.

Third party voters voted for their preferred platform:
"It's weird so many people are asking why I voted for Gary Johnson. I did it because I wanted him to be president. Isn't that the whole point of voting? I figured anything was possible this year and I like what Johnson stands for--the whole less govt interference thing. I'm sick of rich politicians telling us we have to buy expensive health insurance and putting people in jail for smoking weed."
Sometimes it's just that simple. I mean, I think they still teach in school that voting is to select who you want to be the leader, right? And the major reason third party candidates can't win is because no one votes for them because people think they can't win because no one votes for them... If Stein and Johnson had been given media coverage, if they'd been allowed in the debates, I think this could have been a whole different race.

Full disclosure: I voted for the Green Party.  I have the good fortune of living in Oregon, one of the bluest states in the nation, so I was able to vote Green with no real fear of affecting the final outcome. (If I were living in a swing state, I would have engaged in a "vote swap" like many people did, voting Democrat for someone in a safe blue state and having them vote Green Party for me.) I don't regret my vote. I do not view it as a wasted vote, because like the Green voters I quoted above, I was hoping to help a more progressive party gain federal funding for 2020. If the Democrats do not veer back to the left and once again become the party of the 99%, I will continue supporting the efforts of more progressive third parties.

Trump was not an option for me because, well, he's Trump. Nothing in this post should be interpreted to mean that I support Trump. I didn't before the election and I don't now. I do not condone his actions or his words. I hate that his election has emboldened racists and neo-nazis. I condemn any and all acts of racism and bigotry, as does every third party voter I know.

With respect to Clinton, I was disappointed by the various scandals and outraged by the DNC's unfair treatment of Bernie Sanders in the primary, but the biggest reasons I didn't vote for HRC were her disastrous foreign policy record and her eagerness to establish a no-fly-zone in Syria, a move which would, in her words, "kill a lot of Syrians."

A couple people felt I was misinformed about that, so in the interest of info sharing, here's a 30 second video of a high-ranking U.S. general on C-SPAN saying that implementing a no-fly-zone would be declaring war on Syria and Russia, here's an article from Salon quoting HRC as saying a no-fly-zone would "kill a lot of Syrians" and here's an article from Vox explaining why that is. Here's another article discussing why establishing a "safe zone" would also be highly problematic and require 30,000 or more U.S. troops to maintain it.

When I researched HRC's foreign policy history, from voting to go to war in Iraq, to pushing for more intervention in Afghanistan, to advocating regime change in Libya, to facilitating a coup in Honduras and later advocating deportation of child refugees who fled the new violent government, etc., what I found was someone who is very pro-war and pro regime change, but doesn't seem to learn from her mistakes. Syria, if it happens (and it still might) will probably be Iraq 2.0. I don't claim to be a foreign policy expert and I'm sure a lot of people disagree with my assessment, which is fine, but I take voting seriously and I put a lot of thought into my decision.

I was never in the armed forces, but back in my twenties I was engaged to a soldier who deployed to Iraq. I count several military members and veterans among my family and friends. Our enlisted military is full of brave people who sign up to protect America from enemies foreign and domestic. That shouldn't include fighting in other countries' civil wars for profit or political gain. It shouldn't include forcing democracy on countries that don't want it or aren't ready for it.

I was unable to verify the source of this meme, but I have no reason to
believe it's fake. If you have any info about it, please email and let me know.

Our leaders will tell you that when we intervene, we do it for "humanitarian reasons" and it's true that our brave military heroes have saved a lot of lives. But a glance back through history's genocides and massacres reveals that our government picks and chooses who it is that we help. A glance back through some of our military interventions shows that we've spent trillions of dollars killing people, destroying infrastructure, and bombing whole cities to rubble. Sure we depose the occasional tyrant or capture/kill the occasional terrorist, but more often than not we leave behind an unlivable country and a fragmented society ripe for a new dictator or terrorist group to move in. Trump was wrong to say that Obama founded ISIS, but it's undeniable that America's actions around the world have bred more terrorism and created circumstances ideal for radical groups to thrive.

I realize war may be an abstract concept if it hasn't touched you personally, and that the media often shields us from the knowledge of what are tax dollars are doing overseas. I know some people can rationalize "collateral damage" in exchange for political power or economic gain. I can't. The "lesser evil" argument falls away for me when we start talking about thousands of people dying. (Again, I am not saying Trump is better. I am saying both choices were unacceptable to me.) A couple of people cut me out of their lives because they said my vote means I don't care about marginalized groups, and all I can say is that the foreign people we kill in our wars are marginalized too. Their lives matter just as much to me as the lives of Americans.

Trump could very well be worse when it comes to war, but according to someone who has listened to a lot of his speeches, Trump professes to be anti-war, except for fighting ISIS.
"Much to my surprise, the young Yemeni American shopkeeper at my local convenience store in Brooklyn supported Trump. Why? Because, instead of hearing in Trump’s rhetoric a threat to round up Muslims, he heard a promise to stop supplying Saudi Arabia with bombs to drop on Yemen. “Over a thousand school kids killed by those bombs! Just little kids!"” -Christian Parenti, Listening to Trump
Of course I have little confidence in what Trump says, especially when he's surrounding himself with warmonger types, but when the choices are definite war and probable war, that's when (for me, anyway) it was time to look for better options. We third party voters understand if you're angry, but society needs dissenting opinions. Without them, you get things like Bay of Pigs. Also, we are angry too. We're angry that the DNC conspired against Bernie Sanders. We're angry that the Clinton campaign and major media tried to help Trump in the primaries because they felt he'd be easy to beat. We're angry that more people didn't choose peace. I think anger can be a positive, motivational force, but keep in mind that if we want to win in 2020, the Democrats, liberals, progressives, and whatever else leftists are calling themselves will have to find their way back to common ground. I'm open to that. Are you?

This is TV coverage during the primaries, not the general election. I wonder
why the media worked so hard to put the blame on third party voters. Could
it be partially because they don't want you to blame them?

Also, and this is not to downplay the horror of the recent surge of hate crimes, or of probable worse things to come, but it's important to realize that a lot of what people fear about Trump was already happening long before the election. I campaigned fervently for Obama and I truly believe he had our country's best interests at heart when he was elected, but at some point he got sucked into the cesspool of politics or something and stopped being our "hope and change" president. Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than any other president. He has detainment camps full of immigrants living in terrible conditions. The FBI is already profiling and spying on Muslims. On the war front, Obama has bombed seven countries this year. He's ordered ten times as many drone strikes as George W Bush. In addition to innocent foreign casualties, these drone strikes kill Americans, both on accident and on purpose. He's currently letting the #NoDAPL water protectors be attacked with tear gas and water cannons. Oh, and the U.S. spent the last year helping Saudi Arabia commit war crimes against Yemen, including providing the bombs from the above quote that killed lots of kids :/

So yes, we should be worried about Trump, for sure. We should resist the terrible things he stands for. But we also shouldn't give the current administration a pass. Be informed. Be angry. Be active. Be vocal. Be brave. Protect each other. And please know that I accept you and support you regardless of how you voted/you would have voted/your family voted. Political beliefs come from a variety of places--parents, teachers, friends, churches, communities, and more. They are influenced by past experiences and current situations. We can learn from each other if we're willing to listen. If you've walked away from friends or disowned family over this election, I hope you spend some time thinking about who they really are over the holidays or the next few months. Do they want the same things you want? Are they willing to fight against ignorance and hatred? If so, maybe you're on the same side in everything that really matters. We can help each other if we're willing to unite against common enemies. It is our actions that define who we are. It is our actions that can save us <3

*Comments disabled because the people who shared their thoughts with me have been blamed unfairly and I won't subject them to more hate. I'm totally open to discussing my thoughts with anyone, so hit the contact tab for my email address if you want to talk. I probably won't be on Twitter much for the next couple of months because I'm hard at work on books #11 and (hopefully) #12 :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

VICARIOUS: Reviewer Appreciation Giveaway

Hi guys :D In case you missed it, I revealed the cover for FEROCIOUS as part of the YA Scavenger Hunt. I love love love love it, maybe even more than the cover for VICARIOUS. I honestly can't decide. Check it out in extra-large size:

We're not releasing the official description for the book yet, because it will be hard to do so without spoiling any of the twists in Vicarious, but I'm going to give away a signed ARC to one lucky reader (INT) who has read and reviewed Vicarious online.

Wondering why I'm running a reviewer appreciation giveaway? Here are some reasons why reviews are important to authors:

1. There's the obvious way, where if a book has a lot of positive reviews, then a prospective reader might be more willing to take a chance on it. Positive reviews have the power to influence readers who are "on the fence."

2. There's the inverse (converse?) where a negative review might prevent someone who wouldn't like the book from picking it up, which is also a good thing. Sometimes I’ll read a negative review that says “This book had too much swearing and underage drinking” or “I hated that this book had a love triangle.” Readers are totally justified in not liking those things. However, those things don’t bother me, so those reviews they don’t affect whether I’ll buy a book. Other reviews says stuff like “This book was really slow-paced and took 250 pages to get to the inciting incident” or “I hated that the heroine’s pet kitten died a brutal death.” When I read that, I’m less likely to pick up a book, and that’s actually a good thing for everyone involved. Maybe it means that I don’t buy a book I was thinking of buying, but I am much more likely to buy the author’s future books if I haven’t labeled her or him in my brain as slow-paced or “Violent Kitten Killer Author.” 

3. So-so reviews can also sell books. One of the three-star reviews I've seen for GATU was extremely well-written and complimentary--the reviewer mostly felt that book was kind of long. (It is.) If a reader sees that and likes long books, that might be even more persuasive than a 5-star review. Also, everyone knows that not all 3-star reviews are the same. Some reviewers have their reader-meter set to LOVE and three stars means the book let them down. Other reviewers have a "no five star" policy since no books are perfect, and three stars might be a really good review from them.

4. Even one-star reviews can sell books. I will openly admit that when I see a book being obliterated with one-star reviews, my curiosity is piqued and my sympathy-response is activated. I am more likely to read that book. Also, some one-star reviews are more "it's not for me" than "no one should ever read this." One of my Liars, Inc. one-star reviews says this: No matter how I didn't like the plot/decisions of the characters, I will say the writing was exceptional, and the book is a fast read. I love flawed characters and fast reads. That's basically a blurbable quote from someone who "borderline-hated" the book.

5. Most book-buying websites also have algorithms that cause the more "popular" books to come up more frequently in site "If you like [Book] you might be interested in [Other Book]" features and targeted emails, etc. This placement can be tremendously helpful in getting the word out about a new book to targeted audiences--almost like free advertising. One way a book's "popularity" is measured is by number of reviews.

6. Sometimes just the sheer numbers of reviews (say 60 on Amazon vs. 10) is enough to cause a potential buyer to click for more info. The only reason I ever clicked on Susan Ee'sAngelfall is because it had a massive number of reviews, and I really enjoyed that book. Volume of reviews can influence casual browsers who might click on "People who bought [Book] also bought [Other Book]" links.


1. You must have read Vicarious in order to enter.
2. Your review must be at least 50 words long. (Reviews that you have already posted also count. No need to edit or update, unless you need more words.)
3. You can copy/paste the same review to different sites for multiple entries.
4. You must fill out the Raffecopter below, providing links/identifying info to your reviews.
5. There are more points for Amz/B&N than GR/your blog because right now those are the places where more reviews will really benefit the book, and also because I'm hoping this giveaway might encourage people who reviewed on their blog/GR to cross-post those reviews to Amz/B&N.

If you want to enter but you don't generally leave reviews because you're not sure what to say or not comfortable sharing your prose publicly, consider leaving a list of things you liked and/or didn't like about the book. That adds up to 50 words pretty quickly :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway


The dangers of running a giveaway likes this include that people will plagiarize/write fake reviews to qualify or that people will think I am bribing readers for positive reviews. It's important to me that neither of these things happen. So:

1. If I think your review is fake or plagiarized (meaning that you copied someone else's review, not that you used quotes from the book--that's totally fine), I will disqualify you from consideration without notification.

2. Any honest review qualifies you to win the ARC. 5 stars. 1 star. A GR review with no rating if that's how you roll. I probably won't even read your review unless you're the contest winner. And if you didn't like the book and would prefer a $10 gift card to Amazon or Book Depository instead of an ARC, that's fine too.

Got questions about the giveaway or about reviews? Put 'em in the comments.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Vicarious Gratitude Giveaway

It's time for another gratitude giveaway! I'm very thankful to Lindsay Cummings, Victoria Scott, and Kristi Helvig for providing blurbs for VICARIOUS. Scoring blurbs for a book's jacket is something that is highly stressful to most authors, and extremely so for me, because I have been rejected a lot--way more than I ever got rejected by agents. (Stuff like this is part of what I mean when I tell people the rejection part of writing increases dramatically after you land an agent.)

All three of these fabulous authors have written books that I think are good comparison titles for Vicarious, and I am grateful they found the time to fit reading my ARC into their busy schedules. If you have enjoyed their novels, chances are you'll enjoy the action-packed sci-fi storyline and tough but vulnerable heroine of my latest novel too :)

Lindsay also hosted the book's trailer reveal! Vicarious features Korean sisters as main characters. ICYMI: You can read more about why I made Winter and Rose Korean in my blog tour posts.

For this contest, I'm giving one lucky reader their choice of one currently available book by Lindsay, Victoria, or Kristi. This giveaway is INT and I will be ordering from The Book Depository or Wordery. Here's some information on each author's latest book or series.

An action-packed, blood-soaked, futuristic debut thriller set in a world where the murder rate is higher than the birthrate. For fans of Moira Young’s Dust Lands series, La Femme Nikita, and the movie Hanna.

Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision.

The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn’t know it—one of the MC’s programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?

Do you already own a copy of The Murder Complex? Check out Lindsay's other books here.

Ever since the Titans first appeared in her Detroit 
neighborhood, Astrid Sullivan’s world has revolved around the mechanical horses. She and her best friend have spent countless hours watching them and their jockeys practice on the track. It’s not just the thrill of the race. It’s the engineering of the horses and the way they’re programmed to seem so lifelike. The Titans are everything that fascinates Astrid, and nothing she’ll ever touch.

She hates them a little, too. Her dad lost everything betting on the Titans. And the races are a reminder of the gap between the rich jockeys who can afford the expensive machines to ride, and the working class friends and neighbors of Astrid’s who wager on them.

But when Astrid’s offered a chance to enter an early model Titan in this year’s derby, well, she decides to risk it all. Because for a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, it’s more than a chance at fame or money. Betting on herself is the only way she can see to hang on to everyone in the world she cares about.

Victoria's got two fantastic series in addition to Titans. See her whole collection here.

Most people want to save the world; seventeen-year-old Tora Reynolds just wants to get the hell off of it. One of the last survivors in Earth's final years, Tora yearns to escape the wasteland her planet has become after the sun turns "red giant," but discovers her fellow survivors are even deadlier than the hostile environment.

Holed up in an underground shelter, Tora is alone--her brilliant scientist father murdered, her mother and sister burned to death. She dreams of living on a planet with oceans, plants, and animals. Unfortunately, the oceans dried out ages ago, the only plants are giant cacti with deadly spines, and her pet, Trigger, is a gun--one of the bio-energetic weapons her father created for the government before his conscience kicked in.

When family friend, Markus, arrives with mercenaries to take the weapons by force, Tora's fury turns to fear when government ships descend in an attempt to kill them all. She forges an unlikely alliance with Markus and his rag-tag group of raiders, including a smart but quiet soldier named James. Tora must quickly figure out who she can trust, as she must choose between saving herself by giving up the guns or honoring her father's request to save humanity from the most lethal weapons in existence.

Have you already read Burn Out? Here's more information about Kristi's other books!

Enter in the Rafflecopter below. Don't forget to comment on the post and tell me one bookish thing or person you are grateful for :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Welcome to the YA Dash

What is the YA Dash, you ask? It's a blog hop where you can win a slew of awesome  YA suspense novels. Participating authors were asked to put their posts up early so the organizer can make sure everyone's links are working, but the YA Dash officially starts at 8 a.m. Eastern Time on August 25th and ends at 11:59 p.m. on August 29th. If you have shown up early, some of the links might not be functioning yet. For more info, check the official site here.

The DASH rules:
Participants in the DASH need to visit all fourteen authors and tally the answers to the featured question. Count how many authors chose A, B, C, D, E or F as their answer. The most popular answer will unlock the Rafflecopter and enter participants into the prize pack draw. Please note, only those participants indicating the correct answer will be eligible for the prize draw. Participants can find the Rafflecopter for the YA DASH prize pack draw at

Here are all the books you can win! Pretty sweet, huh?

I'm giving away a hardcover of my new thriller VICARIOUS. Vicarious features sisters, high-tech stunts, murder, car chases, knife fights, shark diving, shocking revelations, and a diverse cast of characters.

My first ever mood board. How did I do? :)

Here's the official info:

Winter Kim and her sister, Rose, have always been inseparable. Together, the two of them survived growing up in a Korean orphanage and being trafficked into the United States. But they’ve escaped the past and started over in a new place where no one knows who they used to be.

Now they work as digital 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 digital 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.

Check out the super-cool book trailer:

Now back to business. Here's my answer to the YA Dash question:
What’s your favorite way to kill a character?
A. Gun
B. Poison
C. Buried Alive
D. Drowned
E. Strangled
F. Fire
Winter carries throwing knives and I like myself a good old-fashioned fictional stabbing, but since that is not an option, I'll go with my second choice, which is F for Fire. 

I've got a secondary contest for a second signed Vicarious hardcover giveaway for people with a US address. INT people, you're welcome to enter this Rafflecopter too, but I'm limiting my INT postal allowance until I have ARCs of FEROCIOUS to give away, so the INT prize for this RC is signed Vicarious swag.

However, I do have an international social media graphics contest for a finished copy of VICARIOUS going until Sept 1st. All entrants score signed bookmarks. One winner gets a finished hardcover. I only have about five entrants right now and the contest ends soon, so if you're feeling artsy, your odds are pretty good :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ready to keep dashing? Author Y.S. Lee has the next stop!

Friday, August 19, 2016

VICARIOUS: Guess the title to the sequel!

Sometimes I know the title to a book before I even start writing it (like with Liars, Inc.), but more often, the title reveals itself during the writing process (like with Vicarious.) Occasionally the title to the book is decided after all of the writing and revision is completed (like with Girl Against the Universe.

The title to the Vicarious sequel was one of those third ones. I kept a running list of title ideas on the document file, and then crossed them off when I decided they didn't quite work. There was one I liked a lot, but it happened to be a single word that had been used in multiple other book titles over the past few years. I try really hard to come up with unique titles when I can, because this makes them easier for readers to find online by searching. The title my editor and I settled on isn't 100% unique, but it's close :)

I thought it would be fun to post clues to the title and let people try to guess. The first person to guess the right title wins their choice of a finished copy of Vicarious or an ARC of the sequel. I'll make this contest international so everyone can guess, but after this I'll be cutting back on INT contests because I've spent over $600 on postage this year already 0_0 If you live outside the US and want access to regular contests, I run them several times a year in my newsletter, and most of those are INT. Subscribe by clicking the "Mailing List" tab and filling out the form.

Here are the rules for this contest:
  • All entrants must be at least 13 years old.
  • You can only guess here on the blog. I might post clues on Twitter or Instagram, depending on how long it takes people to guess, but all guesses have to be in the comments here.
  • You can only guess once per comment.
  • You can only comment once per hour.
  • I turned off comment moderation temporarily, so you can see that your guess went through, but if you violate the one guess per hour rule, all of your guesses will be invalidated and deleted.
  • In order to win, you have to have the right title and spell it correctly.
  • I'll add clues to this post sporadically throughout the day (and weekend if no one guesses today.)

Here are a couple of clues to get you started:

Clue #1: The title is one word.

Clue #2: The title ends in US.

Clue #3: The title is a word that can be used to describe at least one of the book's major characters.

Start guessing, or stay tuned for more clues. In the meantime, have you checked out the official VICARIOUS book trailer?

UPDATE: This contest has been won! Add FEROCIOUS to your Goodreads TBR list :)

Monday, August 15, 2016

VICARIOUS Blog Tour: Introduction + Schedule

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 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 completely 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, we should not be limiting 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 fully believe that the best book a person can write is the story they love and desperately want to read, but once you become a published author, there are multiple entities limiting what you can submit/sell. Agents advise against projects they feel aren’t right for the market. Editors reject ideas they aren’t passionate about. Acquisitions teams do not offer deals to books they don’t think will make the company money. 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 be further 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 tomorrow, as I’ll go into much more detail.

Later in the blog tour I’ll also discuss my research strategies, my feelings about authenticity and respect, how I attempted to balance sharing cultural information with story pacing, 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:

Mon. 8/15      Introduction + tour schedule

Tues. 8/16      Writing outside my perspective: Part 1
                      Why I wrote Korean main characters and what I hoped to accomplish

Wed. 8/17       Review + interview with Paula          

Thurs. 8/18     Writing outside my perspective: Part 2
                       A summary of my research strategies

Fri. 8/19          Review + five facts about Winter

Mon. 8/22       Writing outside my perspective: Part 3

                      Maintaining authenticity and respect; balancing info and pacing

Tues. 8/23       Review + five facts about Jesse

Wed. 8/24       Writing outside my perspective: Part 4

                      Thoughts on using cultural beta-readers

Thurs. 8/25     Review + five facts about Rose

Fri. 8/26         Writing outside my perspective: Part 5
                     Specific issues/problems I encountered while writing Vicarious


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Five fast facts about Vicarious + a giveaway!

Happy National Book Lover's Day!! My seventh novel, Vicarious, releases one week from today and I still have a couple of ARCs I've been keeping in case of emergency. You know what that means...last minute giveaway :D

This is my first ever print review, in Justine Magazine. I was so honored
that they chose Vicarious as one of the August/September Buzz Books!

Check out these facts about the story and the writing process, and enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win a signed ARC. This contest is international.

Fact #1: I wrote Vicarious as a light sci-fi mystery taking place in an alternate present.
I've seen the book shelved as futuristic, fantasy, dystopian, etc., and if that's the reading experience you have, that's totally fine. We all come to books with a different set of experiences and ideas. Who we are affects how we interpret stories.

Fact #2: This story was inspired by a lot of different things.

First and foremost, the story was inspired by my time teaching English in Seoul. I'll be writing extensively for my blog tour about why I chose to make my main characters Korean, so if you're interested in that, check back here on Monday Aug 15th for the whole schedule. This book was also inspired by a lot of dark or high-tech movies that I love, including The Crow, Strange Days, The Matrix, and Inception. Nineties music like NIN and System of a Down played a big part in creating the book's setting and ambiance.

Bright lights, big city! This pic is from my trip to Seoul in
January 2016, when I went back to do research  for the sequel.

Fact #3: I wrote Vicarious years before I wrote Girl Against the Universe.
I wrote Vicarious from mid 2012 to early 2013, at the same time as I was writing Starling (now called Dangerous Heart.) I was struggling to complete the work-for-hire trilogy (trilogies are hard!) and juggling writing for two publishers, part-time nursing, and full-time grad school back then. Vicarious was the project I worked on for ME. It was a total love project--I didn't even tell my agent about it until I had finished and revised the first draft.

Fact #4: What I originally planned as one book turned into a duology.
My high-tech mystery idea became something a lot more complex while I was outlining. That led to splitting the story into two parts, where the first part involves Winter finding her sister's killer and the second part is about what she does with that information. That means that even though this book was partially inspired by my time in Seoul, none of the characters travel there until the second book.

Fact #5: I did a great deal of in-depth and varied research for this duology.
From reading the memoirs of trafficking victims to researching Korean culture to furiously Googling to find out how exactly Winter and Jesse could jump off a bridge and survive unscathed, I easily spent more time doing research for this book than I did writing it. Luckily, Vicarious contains a lot of topics that I love and/or find fascinating, so the research hardly ever felt like work.

Click here to read the beginning of Vicarious on my blog. Click here to read the first 100 pages on Net Galley. (Free access to everyone with an account.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want a second chance to win a copy of Vicarious? So far I have only a couple of entries in my Vicarious graphics contest, and one person is going to score a finished hardcover :)

Got questions about the contest or the book? Put 'em in the comments :) And tell me a recent sci-fi book that you enjoyed and what you liked best about it for 4 points in the Rafflecopter.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

VICARIOUS Graphics Contest!!

ETA: I have extended the deadline of this through the end of August, because the majority of my graphics contest entrants are usually international readers, and someone brought to my attention that Vicarious does not release internationally until mid-September.

It's time for another great graphics contest!! VICARIOUS releases in two weeks and I'm looking for cool fan art or quote/image pairings to share on social media. These images should include the title of the book somewhere and can include quotes from the novel, suggested taglines, your own taglines, etc. You do not have to read the book to enter.

Here are some examples from my last contest for Girl Against the Universe!

By Aila from One Way or an Author

By Marian X

By Eli from The Silver Words

By Irene from Boghunden

My favorite entry (or a random selection from my top three faves if I can't pick) will win a finished copy of Vicarious + signed swag. Everyone, US and INT, who enters this contest is eligible to receive 2 signed bookmarks and a sticker, just for taking the time to help me promote my latest novel.

Possible text for your graphic:
Your graphic does not need to have text (aside from the book's title), but it can. If you've read the book, you can use anything that stood out to you. If you have a Net Galley account, you can check the first 100 pages of the story for inspiration. You can also use part or all of one of the quotes that are listed on Goodreads.  You can make up your own tagline or phrase. Or consider this list of possible taglines:
  • Live through this.
  • What is real?
  • Perception is reality.
  • How far would you go to protect someone you love?

  • This contest is international and open to everyone ages 13 or older.
  • You must share your graphic on Twitter, Instagram, or Tumblr at least once between now and Sept 1. Caption/tag the image similar to: Like thrillers? Check out #Vicarious by @pstokesbooks! Published by @torteen.
  • Aside from the Vicarious cover, which can be freely used, any photography or imagery must belong to you. Polyvore, Wikipedia, etc. images cannot be used unless they are completely open source without even requiring crediting of the source. When in doubt, don't use it.
  • You can enter up to three graphics, but each one must be shared on social media.
  • Copyright of your design belongs to you, but I reserve the right to post/repost your designs on my own social media to promote the book and/or sequel, with credit given to you.

To be officially entered and to qualify for your signed swag, your designs need to be emailed to me as a .JPG for easy sharing at pstokesbooks [at] gmail [dot] com by Sept 1, 2016, subject: VICARIOUS graphics contest. In your email, also include a link or enough information so I can find your shared image on social media and your mailing address, including zip or postal code

General questions? Put them in the comments.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

VICARIOUS Pre-order Incentive!!

Are you planning to buy Vicarious? If so, you might want to order early and take advantage of this awesome pre-order incentive :D Everyone who orders a new hardcover or e-book, from any store or website, by Aug 14th (so yes, if you ordered last week or 6 months ago it counts) is eligible to receive 2 signed bookmarks, a signed bookplate, a magnet, and 2 Vicarious-themed stickers. Bookmarks by Julie Heidbreder. Stickers designed by Ri from Hiver et Cafe :)

This incentive is international. In order to get your free goodies, you need to email your mailing address to pstokesbooks [at] gmail [dot] com subject: VICARIOUS pre-order, and include a photo, scan, or screenshot of your order confirmation or receipt. Lovely international peeps: It helps me a ton if you type out your address on multiple lines like my super-clueless self should address the envelope. Also, don't forget to include your postal code if that's something you're not used to using. Please allow four to six weeks for arrival.

BONUS: Enter to win a painted tote + ARC of the sequel!

Once again the lovely Becca Fowler from Pivot Book Totes has created an awesome giveaway tote for me. Sorry. The lighting does not do it justice here, but rest assured it is a thing of immense beauty and fine detail work :D I mean, look at that water! One lucky pre-orderer will be chosen at random to receive this painted tote plus one of the very first ARCs of the sequel (available this fall.)

Wanna try before you buy? Click here to read the book description and first three chapters of Vicarious or if you have a Net Galley account you can read the first 109 pages here. Dying to read the rest? Buy links are available on the countdown widget in my sidebar :)