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.