Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Spring 2017 YA Scavenger Hunt!



Hi hi! Once again it's time for the YA Scavenger Hunt!!! YASH gives you a chance to check out scads of fun bonus material and enter to win awesome twenty-book prize packs, not to mention all the secondary contests with more good stuff up for grabs. If you're new to YASH or confused about how to play, check this site for instructions on how to hunt. If you're in the middle of the mayhem and completely stuck, here's some help for that.


This hunt I am proud to represent the PURPLE TEAM!! I'm hosting Claire Luana. From the pictures on her website, I can tell that Claire has done more than 5  (yes, FIVE) things I still need to check off my bucket list, like glacier hiking and scuba diving #ENVY ;D

Claire’s here to talk about her book, Moonburner! The book is set in an Asian-inspired fantasy world and is filled with snarky talking animals, devious villains, and girl power. Here’s the blurb:



 When 17-year old Kai is exposed as a female sorceress–a moonburner, she knows the punishment is death. Despite the odds against her, Kai escapes her fate and undertakes a harrowing journey to a land where moonburners are revered and trained as warriors.

But the moonburner citadel is not the place of refuge and learning that Kai imagined. The ongoing war against the male sorcerers, or sunburners, has led the citadel leadership down a dark path that could spell the end of all magic. Armed with a secret from her past and a handsome but dangerous ally in the sunburner prince, Kai may be the only one able to prevent the destruction of her people.

***********************

Claire: Today, I’ll be sharing a deleted scene from Moonburner!

But first, a little backstory. Moonburners are female sorcerers who draw their power from the light of the moon. Moonburners are forbidden to marry, have children, or have any relations with men. The punishment for violating this ban is death. Kai, the main character, is walking around the citadel, the moonburner school, with her silver fox animal companion, Quitsu. Ok, here we go!

The sunlight filtered through the trees, leaving this corner of the garden half-cast in shadow. Kai and Quitsu rounded a stone wall and found themselves in another courtyard, even more deserted than the first. An ornamental bridge spanned a narrow pond in the center of the space, koi fish floating lazily in its depths. As Kai took a deep breath, reveling in the serenity of the solitude, she froze. They weren’t alone.  Against the far stone wall, a couple lay under a red maple tree, clearly engrossed in each other. 
Kai shrank against the wall, kicking herself for her intrusion. Her cheeks flamed red as she tried to cast her eyes anywhere but the most intimate scene. She froze as something caught her eye. A light blue uniform top lay discarded on the green grass next to the entwined couple. 
“A samanera,” Kai whispered to Quitsu. “I thought we weren’t supposed to… you know.”
“I guess they don’t all play by the rules” he retorted quietly. 
“Let’s go before they see us.” Kai began creeping backwards, out of the courtyard, when her heel caught on a rock and she tumbled backwards, landing in an undignified pile in a rustling bush. Kai shot to her feet, her ears burning. The couple was on their feet, the girl with her light blue top clutched to her bare chest, and the boy, no, man, standing protectively in front of her. 
“Maaya?” Kai exclaimed. Even across the courtyard, she recognized her friend’s pigtail braids, now mused with dust and crowned with a stray maple-leaf. And the man…he looked familiar too. Kai’s eyes narrowed. It was Atsu, the biwa player from the Fox and Fiddle.
“Kai,” Maaya exclaimed, a look of relief plain on her flushed face. She darted across the bridge, pulling her shirt over her head. Maaya gripped Kai’s arms, a fervent gleam in her eye.
 “Kai, please. You cannot tell anyone. I know I’m not supposed to, but…” she looked back at Atsu, who stood and watching the scene impassively.
“How long has this been going on?” Kai hissed. “Don’t you understand how dangerous this is? How could you bring him here? If one of the masters found out…”
“I know,” Maaya said miserably, biting her lip. “I saw him after that night at the Fox and Fiddle. We’ve…been sneaking off together ever since. I know it’s insane, but…Kai.” Maaya’s voice wavered. “I’ve never felt like this as long as I’ve lived. I love him. I can’t live without him. I don’t want to live without him.” A rivulet of tears ran down Maaya’s cheek.
Kai sighed, drawing Maaya into a hug, glaring at Atsu over Maaya’s shoulder. “It’ll be okay,” she murmured, not at all sure that it would be. If Maaya and Atsu were found out, the punishment was death. What were they going to do?

Moonburner is available in Print, eBook, or Audio! To find out more, click HERE.

And don’t forget to stop by Claire’s website to snag a copy of Burning Fate, the prequel to Moonburner for FREE!

**********************

Great scene, Claire! And oooh, a talking silver fox animal companion. I want one :) 

Here's more info about Claire herself:

Claire Luana lives in Seattle with her husband and two dogs. By day, she works as a commercial litigation attorney, and by night, she writes young adult fantasy novels.

Some little-known facts about Claire:

She knows how to Scottish Highland Dance.
Cadbury Mini Eggs are her Kryptonite
She sucks at any sport that requires hand-eye coordination.
She loves country music.
She wishes she could freeze time and catch up on her reading list!

Find Claire online:


SECONDARY GIVEAWAY!!!

One lucky purple team winner will score a 20-book prize pack, including a copy of MOONBURNER from Claire and an ARC of THIS IS HOW IT HAPPENED from me. But you guys know I love these secondary giveaways, so a second lucky winner will win their choice of any of my YA books shown in the sidebar + a second YASH book of your choice (max value US $18.00, to ship from Book Depo or Wordery) or a ten-page critique of your writing (submission due by 12/31/17.) Read more about each of my titles on my Books page.

The winner's choice of Paula Stokes novel will be signed and personalized if you have a US address, or shipped from Book Depo/Wordery with a signed personalized bookplate mailed separately if you're an international reader.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Are you hungry for more exclusive content, epic secondary contests, and general YASH mayhem?!? My agent-sister Ilsa J Bick is next for Team Purple. Happy hunting, and may the odds be ever in your favor!

As always, A HUGE THANK YOU to the organizers of the hunt for including me, and to all of the participants for taking the time to stop by our blogs and enter our contests.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Do It Yourself MFA: Month One recap

Happy almost April! The YA Scavenger Hunt starts on April 4th and you know I'll be participating, so now seemed like a good time to do my first DIY MFA update post. These posts are part of the Community element of my DIY MFA program.

What is Do it Yourself MFA? For more info you can check out the intro post I wrote at the beginning of the month. The quick and dirty is that I would love to do an MFA program but I can't afford it, so I found this book that is basically the blueprint to create my own graduate program in writing and I tweaked the author's formula to fit me and my goals. Here's the official description from Goodreads:


Get the Knowledge Without the College! You are a writer. You dream of sharing your words with the world, and you're willing to put in the hard work to achieve success. You may have even considered earning your MFA, but for whatever reason--tuition costs, the time commitment, or other responsibilities--you've never been able to do it. Or maybe you've been looking for a self-guided approach so you don't have to go back to school. This book is for you.


"DIY MFA" is the do-it-yourself alternative to a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. By combining the three main components of a traditional MFA--writing, reading, and community--it teaches you how to craft compelling stories, engage your readers, and publish your work. 

Inside you'll learn how to: Set customized goals for writing and learning. Generate ideas on demand.Outline your book from beginning to end. Breathe life into your characters. Master point of view, voice, dialogue, and more. Read with a "writer's eye" to emulate the techniques of others. Network like a pro, get the most out of writing workshops, and submit your work successfully. Writing belongs to everyone--not only those who earn a degree. With "DIY MFA," you can take charge of your writing, produce high-quality work, get published, and build a writing career.



from DIY MFA by Gabriela Pereira


Pro tip: The hardest book for you to write is probably the one you should be working on.

Let's see how I did with meeting my goals [Spoiler: I crushed them :D]

Writing:
My writing goals are to write and revise an average of 120-160 pages a month.

Outcome: 
Not only did I squeak out (barely) the 120 pages on my first DIY MFA project, I also wrote and obsessively honed the equivalent of 60 pages for a proposal to turn into one of my publishers. This is without a doubt the tightest proposal I've ever pitched, and I'm really excited and hopeful about the book's possibilities.


Reading:
My reading goals are to average one book a week throughout the whole program.

My titles will be selected from four different groups:
  1. Free choice 
  2. Comparison 
  3. Classic/Literary
  4. Research
Outcome:
During the month of March I read:

Free choice: Noggin by John Corey Whaley, A Tyranny of Petticoats edited by Jessica Spotswood
Comparison: Speechless by Hannah Harrington
Classic: Animal Farm and 1984 by George Orwell
Research/Non-fiction: I am slowly working my way through The Essential Chomsky, by Noam Chomsky, but that is dense reading and I'll be working on that book for a while, or until the library makes me turn it in ;)


Community:
This category encompasses everything from interacting with authors, teachers, librarians, readers on social media to attending events and doing presentations, etc. This will be the hardest category for me.

Outcome:
During the month of March I did the following:
  • maintained relationships with bloggers, readers, etc. online
  • set up a Skype visit giveaway for teachers and librarians
  • attended an author dinner with local authors
  • attended an author event at Powell's
  • worked on getting book donations for a local teen addiction center
  • completed three short editing projects with Manuscript Critique Services
  • emailed/messaged to discuss story, industry, motivation with multiple author buddies
  • blogged about my DIY MFA experience


Education:
My plan for this month's educational component was to review the first four lessons from the Masterclass James Patterson writing course.

Outcome:
I completed this goal :)

Pro tip: Don't let momentary failure derail your progress. No one meets ALL of their deadlines.

I was really lucky this month because I had no deadlines and no major promotional responsibilities so I could give DIY MFA a lot of focus. I know there will be some months, especially when I'm revising, where I don't meet my goals, but that's okay. The best thing about this program so far is the way it's encouraging me to read regularly, and read critically as well. Reading great books has the added bonus of inspiring me to focus on my own writing, so even though I spent more time in March reading, I also saw an increase in my writing productivity!

If DIY MFA is something you're interested in, check out Gabriela's website, and check back here at the beginning of each month as I review my progress from the previous month and share tips and tricks I've discovered along the way. I hope you drop by for the YA Scavenger Hunt next week too :D I'll be running a secondary contest where you can win any of my published books, as well as either of my Summer 2017 ARCs!

Have you checked out my next release yet? Taz and Moo give it two tails up :)
Click on the cover in the sidebar for more info and to read the beginning.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Free Skype visits for librarians and educators!

In an effort to broaden my literary community and interact with awesome YA readers, I’m giving away free thirty-minute Skype visits for classrooms and book clubs all throughout April, May, and June. Slots are limited, so if you’re interested in booking a session, please contact me directly at pstokesbooks [at] gmail [dot] com by May 1, 2017. 

Skype sessions will include a short introduction of me and my recent novels, a ten-minute presentation on either Girl Against the Universe or Vicarious, and fifteen minutes for students to ask questions about the novel being discussed, or about writing and publishing in general. An optional discussion guide is provided.

"Filled with equal amounts of empathy, humor, and heart, Girl Against the Universe is an empowering story about finding the courage to piece your life back together, even when it feels irreparably broken." --Tamara Ireland Stone, NYT bestselling author of Every Last Word
Girl Against theUniverse is a mental health story that presents therapy in a positive light and ends on a hopeful but still realistic note. VOYA called it “a satisfying and breezy book with likeable characters working through trauma to move to better, healthier places in their lives.” This story would be ideal for middle school or high school students looking for a funny and uplifting read about overcoming survivor’s guilt with the help of family, friends, and a supportive therapist.




Vicarious was called “completely captivating for any audience” by VOYA in a Perfect Ten review and would be great for high school students who would enjoy reading about a diverse cast of characters thrown into a high-action, twisty mystery, where everyone is in danger and no one can be trusted.

“A total mind-bending thrill ride, with a heroine who’s as smart as she is strong.” --Lindsay Cummings, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Zenith and The Murder Complex
"Reading Vicarious is like tiptoeing across a field of landmines. Blindfolded. Stokes delivers enough adrenaline to make readers beg for mercy."
--Victoria Scott, author of Titans and Fire & Flood

Please contact me via email if you'd like to book a Skype session or if you have specific questions about the books or this offer.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Do it Yourself MFA: an introduction

A funny thing happened to this post when I went to write my DIY MFA Month One update. I meant to copy the text, paste it, and then edit over it so I could keep the basic framework of the introduction and my goals and just add in what I accomplished. But, uh, sleep deprivation will get you every time and I ended up editing this post and losing all of my original info.

Rather than retype all of that, the quick and dirty is that I would love to do an MFA program but I can't afford it. So I found this book that is basically the blueprint to create my own graduate program in writing and I tweaked the formula to fit my schedule and personal goals when it comes to my publishing career. Here's the official description from Goodreads:


Get the Knowledge Without the College! You are a writer. You dream of sharing your words with the world, and you're willing to put in the hard work to achieve success. You may have even considered earning your MFA, but for whatever reason--tuition costs, the time commitment, or other responsibilities--you've never been able to do it. Or maybe you've been looking for a self-guided approach so you don't have to go back to school. This book is for you.


"DIY MFA" is the do-it-yourself alternative to a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. By combining the three main components of a traditional MFA--writing, reading, and community--it teaches you how to craft compelling stories, engage your readers, and publish your work. 

Inside you'll learn how to: Set customized goals for writing and learning. Generate ideas on demand.Outline your book from beginning to end. Breathe life into your characters. Master point of view, voice, dialogue, and more. Read with a "writer's eye" to emulate the techniques of others. Network like a pro, get the most out of writing workshops, and submit your work successfully. Writing belongs to everyone--not only those who earn a degree. With "DIY MFA," you can take charge of your writing, produce high-quality work, get published, and build a writing career.


It's important to note that no, you don't actually get an MFA degree at the end of this program, but as someone who already works four or five part-time jobs to make ends meet, the allure of part-time teaching isn't why I wish I could do an MFA. It's the learning stuff--I want to Learn All The Things. I want to become a better writer!

I should also say that I don't know the creator of this program and I am not being compensated in any way for blogging about this experience.

Gabriela's DIY MFA program is very methodical and structured, emphasizing the importance of iteration throughout. Her DIY MFA framework has three elements: Reading, writing, and community. Her book has a section for how to get the most out of each of these categories. I added a fourth element: structured coursework. I came up with goals for each of these categories. My goals are for me, based on my schedule, an awareness of what I can reasonably accomplish, and what I'm hoping to get out of the program. If you pursue a program like this, your goals might be totally different. Your timeframe might also be different. I am going to structure my program from today until December 31, 2017, for a total of ten months.

from DIY MFA by Gabriela Pereira

Here are my goals:


Writing:
My writing goals are to write and revise an average of 120-160 pages a month. I will be working on two projects that are not under contract, in addition to doing revisions for a project under contract with Harper and ideally drafting another book that I sell on proposal.


Reading:
My reading goals are to average one book a week throughout the whole program. I know to a lot of people that probably seems like nothing, but it's easy for me to get into a funk during revision periods where after reading my own manuscripts repeatedly I just don't want to even look at any other words.

My titles will be selected from four different groups:
  1. Free choice (Yay! The best category :D)
  2. Comparison (to one of my MFA projects in plot or theme)
  3. Classic/Literary (my choice based on my interests, another plus of the DIY model)
  4. Research/Non-fiction

Community:
This category encompasses everything from engaging authors, teachers, librarians, readers on social media, to attending events and doing presentations, to interacting with editing clients and beta.readers, etc. This will be the hardest category for me. Rather than have quantifiable goals here, since so many different things play into this, my aim will be to slowly increase my engagement with the reading/publishing community, especially beyond Twitter, which tends to be what I fall back on when I am too afraid to pursue more meaningful forms of interaction.


Coursework:
I like to learn things from other people, especially writing pros, so I will be taking three different courses during the next ten months to fulfill my coursework. The first is James Patterson's Masterclass on novel writing. The second is Shonda Rhimes Masterclass on writing for television and the third is a screenwriting class I signed up for last year but still haven't worked through. I personally think learning about the craft of story in different mediums like this is more helpful than only studying the craft of novel writing.

Maybe you're turning up your nose at the idea of learning from James Patterson and Shonda Rhimes. Well, there's no denying they're both extremely successful storytellers, and writers tend to write the kind of books they want to read. I like to read fast-paced commercial fiction--both mystery/thrillers and books with poignant prose that punch you in the feels but ultimately leave you feeling inspired. In other words, these courses are perfect for me. If you want to do the program with a more literary slant, find classes offered by more literary writers or look into taking a course at a local college.


I also entered a Write a Book With James Patterson contest. Pick me, James!
I am a lifelong student who wants to learn from the best :)

If DIY MFA is something you're interested in, check out Gabriela's website, where you can sign up for her mailing list and get a free DIY MFA starter kit. And check back here at the beginning of each month as I review my progress from the previous month and share tips and tricks I've discovered along the way. I'm really excited about continuing with this program, and after cranking out multiple books for tight deadlines that sort of killed my writing joy a little, it feels great to be embracing a new writing adventure.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Metaltown and Necessary Trouble #PressBack Giveaway

Happy February! May this month bring you more joy and less freezing cold than January (or sweltering heat if you're in the Southern Hemisphere.)

Last year I was lucky enough to be sent on multiple events with the amazing Kristen Simmons. If you ever get a chance to meet her or hear her speak, I highly recommend it--she is passionate, informed, and entertaining. I learned a lot just from appearing alongside her (and Kristen, if you see this, thank you again for being the kind of patient, calming influence who lessened my public speaking anxiety just by being you.)




Kristen was nice enough to provide a signed copy of METALTOWN for me to give away. In case you're not familiar with the book, here's more info:

The rules of Metaltown are simple: Work hard, keep your head down, and watch your back. You look out for number one, and no one knows that better than Ty. She’s been surviving on the factory line as long as she can remember. But now Ty has Colin. She’s no longer alone; it’s the two of them against the world. That’s something even a town this brutal can’t take away from her. Until it does.

Lena’s future depends on her family’s factory, a beast that demands a ruthless master, and Lena is prepared to be as ruthless as it takes if it means finally proving herself to her father. But when a chance encounter with Colin, a dreamer despite his circumstances, exposes Lena to the consequences of her actions, she’ll risk everything to do what’s right.

In Lena, Ty sees an heiress with a chip on her shoulder. Colin sees something more. In a world of disease and war, tragedy and betrayal, allies and enemies, all three of them must learn that challenging what they thought was true can change all the rules.



This book was such an interesting mash-up of different genres to me. It's a dystopian story set in a completely fictional world, but at the same time it has the feel of a historical novel and addresses many present-day issues such as class struggle, environmental destruction, genetically modified organisms, and endless war. It's both plot-driven and character driven, with intricate yet easy to visualize worldbuilding. Parts of it made me laugh, parts made me cry, and all of it made me think. I suspect it's a book that will stay with me for quite a while.

Metaltown has been described as Newsies meets Les Miserables, and one of the major plot points involves the young factory workers banding together to organize a "press" which is basically a worker strike. Lead by Colin, the children and teens of Metaltown band together to #PressBack for better working conditions.


Blogger at The Eater of Books, @alyssa_susanna, presses back for the environment!

But pressing back isn't always about work. Over the past few months there's been a huge resurgence in political protesting and demonstrating around the world, particularly in the U.S. where I live. But a lot of activists leading the charges today have actually been fighting for better working and living conditions for the past decade or more. That's why I've decided to also give away a copy of Sarah Jaffe's NECESSARY TROUBLE. Here's more about that book:

Necessary Trouble is the definitive book on the movements that are poised
to permanently remake American politics. We are witnessing a moment of unprecedented political turmoil and social activism. Over the last few years, we’ve seen the growth of the Tea Party, a twenty-first-century black freedom struggle with BlackLivesMatter, Occupy Wall Street, and the grassroots networks supporting presidential candidates in defiance of the traditional party elites.

Sarah Jaffe leads readers into the heart of these movements, explaining what has made ordinary Americans become activists. As Jaffe argues, the financial crisis in 2008 was the spark, the moment that crystallized that something was wrong. For years, Jaffe crisscrossed the country, asking people what they were angry about, and what they were doing to take power back. From the successful fight for a $15 minimum wage in Seattle and New York to the halting of Shell’s Arctic drilling program, Americans are discovering the effectiveness of making good, necessary trouble. Regardless of political alignment, they are boldly challenging who wields power in this country.


Necessary Trouble is a great book for young activists, people interested in learning more about recent movements, or even for people who just want to better understand the motivation and strategies behind today's current movements. If you've ever wondered what the Tea Party was actually about, whether Occupy Wall Street resulted in any long-term positive changes, or why protestors block highways during demonstrations, then you want to read this book. If you're not used to non-fiction, you might find the sheer volume of information presented overwhelming, but the book is broken up into chapters that focus on different movements, so you can read it in smaller chunks if that helps you absorb it all.

Because these are both books about standing up for what you believe in, I've created a Rafflecopter that will give you entry points for doing just that. I realize many of you are already actively engaged in pressing back, but that others might be a little overwhelmed by the world right now, unable to participate in demonstrations for a variety of reasons, and/or unsure if their individual efforts will make a difference. Never doubt your own power, even if you're not old enough to vote. Right now a group of young people aged 9 to 20 are suing the federal government over climate change. The people of Alaska persuaded their Republican senator to change her mind and oppose one of Trump's cabinet picks by calling and showing up in huge numbers. [Side note: Showing up in person, calling  or emailing are more helpful than tweeting @ politicians. Calls and emails are generally counted and logged. At this point I don't think tweets are officially monitored to the same degree, but please correct me if I'm wrong.] On a local level, citizens of Seattle have persuaded their city counsel to have an official vote on removing all of the city's assets from Wells Fargo due to the bank's heavy investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline. In short, if you can find the time to support the causes you believe in, your voice will be heard by someone. You might not always win, but you'll never win if you don't try.




This giveaway is U.S. only due to mailing costs, but I hope everyone reading this post will check out both of these fabulous books if they are able. Rafflecopter rules are in the terms and conditions. If you've already contacted your local or state representatives in 2017, you can use your previous actions for entry points. Contest ends Feb 28, 2017. As always, if you've got questions, put 'em in the comments :)


a Rafflecopter giveaway
ETA: If you want to qualify for even more giveaways, join my mailing list! It's published six to twelve times a year and almost always includes exclusive giveaways just for subscribers. Later this month I'll be sending out a newsletter with two international giveaways--one for an ARC of This is How it Happened and one for a finished copy of one of my favorite books of 2016!