A little bit about Sacrifice. (And a chance to win the whole series, signed!)

Here’s a little story. (You can skip to the end for the contest if you want.) SacrificeCover

So last year, around May, my husband and I talked about having another baby. Nothing happened, and we figured, “Whew, dodged that bullet, we’re so busy that we don’t really want another baby right now. What were we thinking?”

Fast forward to June 29 of last year, when I was standing alone in my bathroom at 11pm, staring at two pink lines. My husband and kids were all at the beach, but I’d driven home because I had to go to ALA the next morning, and I had a 6am flight to catch. (I did not sleep at all that night. If you met me at ALA and you thought I was vaguely nuts, now you know why.)

Now, if you’ve been following me on Twitter or Facebook or if you know me in real life, you may know that I used to do the majority of my writing in the middle of the night. I would get the kids to bed, start writing around 9pm, go to bed around 1am, then get up at 5:30(ish) and start the day. I couldn’t do that every night, of course, but a couple nights a week, no problem. E_Sacrifice_CVR[IMG]

Guess what pregnancy does? It makes you tired. Especially when you already have two young children. Especially when you have a day job. Especially when you’re promoting books that have already been published. First baby? People pamper you. I remember a girl in my office would come around and rub my shoulders. People would offer to make me tea or bring me lunch so I wouldn’t have to get up. Third baby? People wonder if you know how to use birth control. (That’s not a complaint. It’s just reality. It affects the baby, too. I mean, with my first, he got a clean blanket every time I laid him on the floor. Zach gets put straight down on the carpet half the time. :-D)

For some reason, I thought this pregnancy wouldn’t be a challenge when combined with the writing. I’ve done it before (I was pregnant with Sam while writing Spark, and I wrote Elemental in the first month after he was born), but that was before Storm was even published, when all my writing activities were solely focused on actually writing, and nothing promotional.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Writing Sacrifice kicked my ass. My editor and I had a few inside jokes about how we never should have chosen this title, because it was really a little too close to the truth. It doesn’t help that I started the book several times and kept scrapping it, because it just wasn’t right. Michael Merrick wouldn’t cry in every chapter! Michael Merrick wouldn’t say that! Ugh, I have to delete this scene because Michael Merrick isn’t a frigging moron!

Then the baby was born early. That meant I was writing Sacrifice like this:

IMG_1605

 

Or like this:

IMG_1695

 

Or like this:

Zach Sleeping Mommy Writing

 

They say that when you’re nursing a newborn, you should sleep when the baby sleeps. I couldn’t do that because I was writing when the baby was sleeping. I think I put Michael Merrick through hell just because I felt like I was going through it myself. (“You think a little smoke inhalation is bad, Michael? Try picking up a screaming 35lb. toddler while wearing a newborn in a sling. TRY IT.”)

I finished Sacrifice through the eternal patience of my amazing editor and my amazing agent. There were tears involved. A lot of them. But I got it done.   In looking back, I wouldn’t give up one minute of the experience. It was the biggest challenge I’ve faced in quite a while, and I’m proud of myself for getting it done. Baby Zach is by far my most cuddly, snuggly, happy baby, which helps. I’ve been up since 2:30am (it’s 5am now) because his belly was upset, and I can’t even be irritated with him, because I just love him so much. I don’t mind the missed sleep or the spit up down my shirt or the fact that I’m going to be a zombie by lunchtime. I love how one day I’ll be able to show him those pictures and show him the book and say, “You were a big part of this.” Part of being a parent is the sacrifice, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

So here’s the contest. I’ll give away a signed copy of THE ENTIRE SERIES to two winners: one in the USA, and one international. All you have to do is leave a comment about what sacrifice might mean to you. There are no wrong answers. This contest is open to everyone on the planet, even if you’ve won something from me before.  The contest will be open until Wednesday, September 10, at 9am Baltimore time.  

Good luck!

Signings and book festivals and book recommendations, oh my!

Hi, guys! I was going to do a Reader Question Friday post today, but those take me a while, and I’ve been trying to spend my laptop time actually writing books instead of blogging. But I’ve missed you all! If you’ve sent me a message and you’re waiting for a response, I do still have some emails pending.

Upcoming signing/appearance:SacrificeCover

If you’re in the Maryland area, I’ll be at the Frederick Book Festival next Saturday, June 27, 2014. I’m presenting on a panel with Jodi Meadows, Lea Nolan, Elizabeth Kirke, and Julie Lindsay at 1pm, and signing books afterward. The festival is free, so if you’re in the area, stop by! I have ARCs for Sacrifice, and I’ll bring a few with me. If you ask for one, I’m happy to give you one! Don’t be shy! First come, first served! Don’t worry if you don’t live locally. I’ll be doing a few contests for ARCs in the next few weeks…

Book recommendations:

I recently read the following books and really enjoyed them. Check them out:

These Gentle Wounds by Helene Dunbar (Contemporary YA, somewhat dark)

Five years after an unspeakable tragedy that changed him forever, Gordie Allen has made a new home with his half-brother Kevin. Their arrangement works since Kevin is the only person who can protect Gordie at school and keep him focused on getting his life back on track.

But just when it seems like things are becoming normal, Gordie’s biological father comes back into the picture, demanding a place in his life. Now there’s nothing to stop Gordie from falling into a tailspin that could cost him everything—including his relationship with Sarah, the first girl he’s trusted with the truth. With his world spinning out of control, the only one who can help Gordie is himself . . . if he can find the strength to confront the past and take back his future.

Split by Mel Bossa (Contemporary Adult Fiction with LGBT Themes, this book was AWESOME)

Quiet and imaginative, Derek O’Reilly spends a lot of time watching a movie in his head. His fiancé Nathan, aka “Mr. Alpha”, wonders why Derek hasn’t taken any interest in their wedding planning. Aunt Fran—his spiritual guru—would like to know when her guilt-tripping nephew became some kind of kept boy. One evening, she drops Derek’s childhood journal on his lap, forcing him to remember the name he’s been trying to forget since he was eleven years old. Nicolai Lund.

Nick was Derek’s neighbor—and first love.

Weeks before Derek’s engagement party, a chance meeting with Nick catapults Derek into the past. Nick could flood Derek’s stale existence like a blond tidal wave, but Nick isn’t that sixteen-year-old rebel anymore. He’s a man hardened by invisible scars.

As Derek reads through his diary, Nick and Derek’s powerful relationship sways between past and present, sweeping over their emotional landscape, revealing what they were, still are, and might yet be to each other.

Alienated by Melissa Landers (Paranormal YA, very fun, reminded me of the show Star-Crossed)

Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them.

Handpicked to host the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket.

Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking.

But when Cara’s classmates get swept up by anti-L’eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn’t safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara’s locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class.

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she’s fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.

White Hot Kiss by Jennifer Armentrout (Paranormal YA, fun and sexy)

Seventeen-year-old Layla just wants to be normal. But with a kiss that kills anything with a soul, she’s anything but normal. Half demon, half gargoyle, Layla has abilities no one else possesses.

Raised among the Wardens—a race of gargoyles tasked with hunting demons and keeping humanity safe—Layla tries to fit in, but that means hiding her own dark side from those she loves the most. Especially Zayne, the swoon-worthy, incredibly gorgeous and completely off-limits Warden she’s crushed on since forever.

Then she meets Roth—a tattooed, sinfully hot demon who claims to know all her secrets. Layla knows she should stay away, but she’s not sure she wants to—especially when that whole no-kissing thing isn’t an issue, considering Roth has no soul.

But when Layla discovers she’s the reason for the violent demon uprising, trusting Roth could not only ruin her chances with Zayne…it could brand her a traitor to her family. Worse yet, it could become a one-way ticket to the end of the world.

What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton (Contemporary YA dealing with rape in a non-“issue book” way)

Before the ski trip, sixteen-year-old Cassidy “Sid” Murphy was a cheerleader (at the bottom of the pyramid, but still…), a straight-A student, and a member of a solid trio of best friends. When she ends up on a ski lift next to handsome local college boy, Dax Windsor, she’s thrilled; but Dax takes everything from Sid—including a lock of her perfect red curls—and she can’t remember any of it.

Back home and unable to relate to her old friends, Sid drops her college prep classes and takes up residence in the A/V room with only Corey “The Living Stoner” Livingston for company. But as she gets to know Corey (slacker, baker, total dreamboat), Sid finds someone who truly makes her happy. Now, if she can just shake the nightmares and those few extra pounds, everything will be perfect… or so she thinks.

Witty and poignant, Colleen Clayton’s stunning debut is a story about moving on after the unthinkable happens.

45 Pounds (More or Less) by Kelly Barson (Contemporary YA, LOVED this book, very relatable)

Here are the numbers of Ann Galardi’s life:

She is 16.
And a size 17.
Her perfect mother is a size 6.
Her Aunt Jackie is getting married in 10 weeks, and wants Ann to be her bridesmaid.
So Ann makes up her mind: Time to lose 45 pounds (more or less) in 2 1/2 months.

Welcome to the world of infomercial diet plans, wedding dance lessons, embarrassing run-ins with the cutest guy Ann’s ever seen—-and some surprises about her NOT-so-perfect mother.

And there’s one more thing. It’s all about feeling comfortable in your own skin-—no matter how you add it up!

Speechless by Hannah Harrington (Contemporary YA, another one I loved)

Everyone knows that Chelsea Knot can’t keep a secret

Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast—and nearly got someone killed.

Now Chelsea has taken a vow of silence—to learn to keep her mouth shut, and to stop hurting anyone else. And if she thinks keeping secrets is hard, not speaking up when she’s ignored, ridiculed and even attacked is worse.

But there’s strength in silence, and in the new friends who are, shockingly, coming her way—people she never noticed before; a boy she might even fall for. If only her new friends can forgive what she’s done. If only she can forgive herself.

 

Being an author is AMAZING! Except when it’s not. Expectations vs. reality for the debut author.

A few years ago I was on a panel with several other authors, and a teacher in the audience stood up to ask a question. It was something like, “We have several students who want to be published authors, but they’re frustrated at the amount of work and time that it takes. What would you say to them?”

And another author on the panel jokingly said something like, “I’d tell them to do something else and enjoy a long and happy life.”

It was funny and it made people laugh.

It was also kind of true.

Another story. I recently received an email from a young writer who’d gotten some feedback about his work and he was looking to pay for editorial services to help him make it better. I let him know where to find some editors, as well as giving him some advice on how to clean up the manuscript himself. He admitted that he wasn’t any good at self-editing and didn’t want to put in the time.

If this were a movie, you’d hear the screech of a record needle right about here.

Regardless of whether you publish traditionally or on your own, it generally stands to reason that writing and self-editing the book is the easy part. When you write, it’s just you and the story. When you edit your own work, all the changes are your own. You are 100% in control. If you’re not under contract, you don’t even have to worry about time limits. You can write on Tuesday night or wait until Saturday. You can write five words or five hundred or five thousand. Doesn’t matter.

When you’re publishing professionally (in the traditional sense), you have an agent who will have his/her own thoughts about your work, and you’ll have to make changes. You’ll then have an editor who will have his/her own thoughts, and AGAIN, you’ll have to make changes. Then you’ll get to copyedits, and you’ll have to make changes AGAIN. This is not a complaint, it’s just reality. I’ve said before that a book is not a child, but it makes for an easy analogy. It’s like raising a child for five years and suddenly having a bunch of people swoop in and offer commentary on your parenting. “Oh, he doesn’t know how to place a napkin on his lap before eating? We’ll have to fix that.”

Here’s the thing: all this input on your work is great. We all have the same goal: to make the book as good as it can be. I love working with my editor and my agent. I can’t emphasize that enough. My point is that it’s more WORK, and sometimes it’s hard to move beyond the knee-jerk reaction of HOW DARE YOU CRITICIZE MY PERFECT CHILD *cough* I mean STORY. Beyond that, sometimes these changes need to be made really fast. It’s not uncommon to need a substantial rewrite to be done in a matter of weeks, if not days.

But let’s get beyond the editing part of it. I think everyone realizes that the writing and editing are going to be part of the game, right? When you get right down to it, that’s what you’re signing up for. You might not be ready for the amount of work involved, but that’s not a slap in the face, really. You knew you were going to be in for something when you first set out to be a published author.

What took me by surprise was the amount of promotion required. Before selling my first novel, I was already active on Twitter and Facebook and I blogged somewhat regularly. But when your first book is released, you need to do blog tours and interviews and guest posts. I cannot say how grateful I am to the multitudes of book bloggers who have read and reviewed my books and helped get the word out there, especially those of you who have participated in or organized blog tours. Again, none of this post is a complaint. I’m talking about expectations versus reality. It’s one thing to answer a blog interview for someone who wants to help you spread the word about your books, and entirely another to gracefully field yet another email that says, “If you want to send me all the books in your series via snail mail, I’ll think about reading and reviewing them on Amazon.” (Yes, really.) Or an email that says, “I offered a full set of your signed books as a contest to go along with my review. Here’s where to send them.” (When the reviewer has never even asked if this is OK.) Or the numerous emails that say, “I found you on Goodreads and your books look really interesting. Can you send me a free copy?” (None of these are direct quotes, and they’re so frequent that I’m not singling out ANYONE.)

All of this promotion takes a ton of time and money. I don’t get free books, and any postage costs come out of my own pocket. (I spent almost a thousand dollars in postage last year. Before you roll your eyes, wait until we get to the part about financial realities.) Writing guest posts or character interviews takes a ton of time, and that’s after you actually think of something interesting to say. I spent a long time (three hours) writing a specifically requested guest post on why I added a gay character to the Elemental series. When the post went live, I retweeted it, only to get smacked in the face by a response asking why I thought I deserved special attention for writing a gay character.

Again, NOT A COMPLAINT. REALITY.

And that brings me to my next point: you’re doing all this promotion in the public eye. In this day and age, people have no hesitation expressing their thoughts on the internet. (Hi, I’m doing it right now.) They have no hesitation telling you exactly what they think of your work. Hell, people have no problem criticizing my TWEETS, much less an entire book. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, but it’s one thing to believe that, and entirely another to read something online that’s absolutely trashing your book. To stick with the child analogy, it’s the difference between knowing your son isn’t going to be liked by everyone he meets and overhearing someone actually saying, “That kid is a real asshole.” I will always stand by the belief that all reviewers are entitled to say whatever they want. Once a book is published, it’s out of my hands and it’s out there for the reader. That doesn’t mean the commentary doesn’t hurt sometimes. Especially when it’s directly emailed to me, along the lines of a recent message that told me I was killing my career by pushing my political agenda in my books. (And here I thought I was telling a story. Go figure.)

Right from the start, you’ve got to make a decision: you can read reviews and acknowledge that there’s nothing you can do about them (What are you going to do, change someone’s mind by protesting? Come on.) or you can completely ignore reviews and pretend they don’t exist.

While we’re talking about social media, it’s both a blessing and a curse. I love (LOVE!!) being able to communicate with readers and other writers. I have made so many friends on Twitter and Facebook that I’ve lost count. At the same time, it can be really, really, REALLY discouraging to go from glee over a five figure advance — and then five minutes later seeing someone post that they got a six figure deal. Or that they hit the New York Times Bestseller list. Or that they’re going to be a featured speaker at a conference that you can’t even afford to attend. Or how about feeling proud that you got the kids to bed and wrote 1,000 words before falling asleep on the laptop, then seeing someone tweet that they wrote 10,000 words today?

You run into this in all walks of life (like when you buy your first home and think it’s stunning, but then six months later, your college roommate buys a home that costs twice as much). But when you’re a writer on social media, you see this all day long. I love seeing people celebrate their victories, so this isn’t a dig at those people AT ALL. I’m sure people see some of my tweets/posts and feel the same way. Again, this post is all about the reality of being a published author. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard about being a writer was “Keep your eyes on your own paper.” So true. If Twitter and Facebook is starting to get you down, step away from the computer. There was a recent article about how you shouldn’t be “that writer” on Facebook who talks about her successes. That’s bullshit. Talk about your success. Better advice would be to not be that writer who lets someone else’s success tear her down. Books are not vacuum cleaners. If someone buys a book by another author, it doesn’t mean they can’t buy yours. If someone writes 10,000 words a day, that doesn’t mean that your 1,000 words suck. If social media is getting you down, TURN IT OFF.

Money. I’ve talked about the financial realities of being a writer before, here. (All links in this article open in a new window.) Jessica Spotswood did a fantastic post about managing expectations here. (Definitely worth a read if you think the six-figure book deal is the answer to all your prayers.) I just had my third baby. Combined with my amazing stepson, I have four kids. I also have a full time job aside from writing. I don’t watch a lot of television (Though I’ve been watching a lot of Property Brothers while nursing the baby. Hot twins AND home renovations? Sign me up.) and I don’t have much of a social life. This morning I realized that I went to Target yesterday wearing the SAME CLOTHES I HAD WORN TO BED THE NIGHT BEFORE. (Look, a nursing tank and yoga pants are totally day-or-night wear.)

Wait. I lost track of my point. OH.

People ask me all the time why I haven’t quit my day job.

This is a really frustrating question. I’m not shy at all, and I’ll happily tell anyone anything they want to know about anything. But how do you answer in a way that doesn’t make you feel like shit? Because the bottom line is basically, “I can’t afford to.” While I absolutely love my day job (really!), I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’d love the opportunity to be home with my kids. Anyone would. Being asked over and over (and over) again why I still can’t do that just drives home the point that I’m not successful enough (YET!). When you get asked this question enough, especially when you’re basically working two full time jobs, you start to wonder if this is all worth it.

And what’s funny is that you’ll get people wondering why you’re not making enough money, and then on the flip side, you’ll have people who will treat your writing career as a hobby. People ask me all the time if I’m still writing books. Do people walk up to doctors and ask if they’re still dabbling in medicine? I was floored when, in a public venue, in front of fifty people, one person said, “On top of her day job, did you know Brigid is also a published author?” (which made me feel great!) and before I could say anything, someone else brutally mocked that I write paranormal romance for teens. That quickly, just cut off at the knees. I wasn’t there in a writing capacity, so I wasn’t prepared to defend myself. It was years ago, but I’ll never forget how that felt.

At the beginning of the publishing journey, so much is in your control. Get a query rejection? You can send another one. Go through enough queries and decide you want to self-publish? Go for it. But once you’re out there, it’s not just about your story. It’s like poker. You can be a great poker player, but you can’t control the cards, and you can’t control the other players. Luck is part of the game, and sometimes that can be awesome, and sometimes that can be truly terrible. I always say that you have to be a little bit arrogant to succeed in publishing. Not a lot — no one will like you — but a little.

Is it worth it? It’s hard to say. I hope that’s not a downer, because it’s absolute honesty. I recently told my husband that one day my kids are going to be teenagers, and I don’t want to look back at ten years of sleepless nights and weekends spent at Starbucks and wonder why I didn’t give up earlier. At the same time, I’ve invested years of my life already. Why give up now, when things are starting to go really well, and I have such a wonderful legion of readers out there?

Anonymous commenting is always allowed, so I hope some other authors out there will weigh in with their experiences. What do you guys think?

Is it worth it?

If you could go back and do it over again, would you?

The Query Wars: An author and agent analysis of a query that worked!

donna-of-the-dead-mockup-HHi, guys!! I’m delighted to welcome amazing author Alison Kemper and her amazing agent Kristin Miller-Vincent of D4E0 Literary Agency with an analysis of Alison’s original query for Donna of the Dead. You can definitely say that this query worked. Alison’s book was just released by Entangled Publishing in March!

Without further adieu, take it away, Alison and Kristin!

The Query:

Dear Ms. Miller:

I read on your “Wish List” that you are seeking non-gory horror novels, and thought you might be interested in DONNA OF THE DEAD, my lighthearted zombie romance for the young adult market.

When most people hear creepy, disembodied voices, they think they’re going crazy. But when fifteen-year-old Donna Pierce hears them, she knows she’s in danger. Thanks to their warnings, Donna and her best friend Deke narrowly escape a zombie-infested cruise ship—but they have to leave their parents behind.

By the time they reach their hometown, the worldwide Zompocalypse is in full swing. They seek refuge in their high school with thirty other survivors—including Lance, the hottie Donna has been crushing on since fifth grade. With the undead lurking outside, and no place to take a shower inside, it seems like the last place to start a romance, but Donna and Lance can’t fight their growing attraction. If Deke-the-geek would stop acting like a jealous freak, the end of the world might just be perfect.

When Lance bites Donna, she discovers he is a zombie in disguise—sent to kill her, no less. It turns out those voices have a lot to say—Donna is immune to the virus, and might possibly be the key to survival of the human race.

I have master’s degrees in English and library science, and currently work as a librarian for young adults. I have included the first five pages of the novel, and would be thrilled to provide the completed 45,000-word manuscript at your request. I sincerely thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,

Alison Kemper

Alison:

I could tell I was getting close. After weeks of form rejections and non-responses, my query was finally receiving requests. For partials. Then fulls. At the very least, agents were sending personalized rejections with advice or offers to submit other projects.

It took long enough! My query letter went through seventeen incarnations. Things changed once I began crafting individual letters for each agent. After all, I researched everyone I queried, making sure we’d be a good fit—that they repped what I was writing, that they were passionate about young adult lit. Why not put that info to good use? I’d start each query with a line or two letting the agent know I’d checked their website/blog or sales on Publishers Marketplace—that I wasn’t just mass mailing the same query to 256 agents in one fell swoop. Almost immediately, my inbox lit up with requests.

I found Kristin through Chuck Sambuchino’s “New Agent Alert” in Writer’s Digest. Her Wish List included “non-gory horror” and her bio named her as a co-founder of my favorite YA book blog. Score! When I sent the query, I struggled with those first few lines, wanting her know that while I’d written a zombie novel, it was “non-gory” and “lighthearted” (words I hoped translated to “different than the gazillion other zombie novels out there”). Lucky for me, she picked up on the clues and made the request. I’ll never forget her “Dear Alison, I’m intrigued!” reply. I screamed so loud, I probably startled the inmates at the prison down the road.

……………………………….

Kristin:

A well-written query always catches my attention. Alison’s is the perfect length and did a great job of introducing the main characters and the main conflict using a voice that I loved immediately. To begin with, it’s a zompocalypse . . . on a cruise ship. Instant tension because there’s nowhere to run! But also instant humor because, let’s face it, cruise ships are funny. Zombies on the Love Boat.

Further into the query, this line in particular is such a win: If Deke-the-geek would stop acting like a jealous freak, the end of the world might just be perfect. Why is it so fabulous? Because it rhymes, it’s breezy and it’s so unexpected to hear that hey, the end of the world might not be so bad as long as the hottie you’ve been crushing on is beside you. Ultimately, it’s so, so voicey. Donna’s personality dances off the page and because the voice is so breezy and almost flippant, I knew this character was going to go through some serious growth during this story, especially as a classic “chosen one” character.

The query captured my attention, so I read on. Alison included the first few pages of her story and, as I was so glad to see, that great voice was there from page one. Donna is a wonderfully authentic teen—the girl you totally want to hang out with. The story was so different from the other zombie books I’d read so far, but still full of action and tension and, sure, some body parts falling off. Knowing that zombies were a very tough sell at the time, I’d hoped the humor was enough to set this book apart. It was for me. I found myself actually laughing out loud at several scenes in the book and I know writing truly funny stuff is hard. But Alison is so good at it and YA will be enriched with a voice like hers.

Donna of the Dead is fun and smart and I can’t wait for everyone to read it!

 

Alison Kemper grew up in South Florida, the only girl on a street with eleven boys. She spent most of her childhood paddling a canoe through neighborhood canals and looking for adventure. She usually found it. Sometimes the police were involved. And large dogs. And one time, a very territorial snake. Now that she’s grown up, she lives in North Carolina and writes books. The books often include girls having adventures. With boys. Cute boys. And cute dogs too. But no cute snakes. Never cute snakes.

Her debut novel, Donna of the Dead, will be published by Entangled Teen in 2014 and followed by two companion books in the series. She loves to meet new people and talk books, so send her a friend request or connect with her on Twitter and Instagram. Alison’s website can be found at www.alisonkemper.com

Happy Release Day to Alison Kemper with Donna of the Dead!!

donna-of-the-dead-mockup-HGuys. YOU GUYS. I’ve locked myself and the baby in a writing cave to finish Sacrifice, but I need to congratulate my friend and critique partner Alison Kemper on the release of her amazing novel, Donna of the Dead. This is a SUPER fun book, and I’m so excited that Alison’s publication day has come. This is NOT your typical zombie romance novel. (Personally, I hate zombies, so for me to love this book, that’s saying something.)

Even better, the introductory price is only $0.99!! Come on, anyone can try a book for less than a DOLLAR.

You need to check out this book. Here are some handy-dandy links:

Buy on Amazon

Buy on B&N

Buy on Google Play

Buy on iTunes

Buy on Kobo

Add on Goodreads

Alison’s Website

Summary:

Donna Pierce might hear voices, but that doesn’t mean she’s crazy. Probably.

The voices do serve their purpose, though—whenever Donna hears them, she knows she’s in danger. So when they start yelling at the top of their proverbial lungs, it’s no surprise she and her best friend, Deke, end up narrowly escaping a zombie horde. Alone without their families, they take refuge at their high school with the super-helpful nerds, the bossy class president, and—best of all?—Liam, hottie extraordinaire and Donna’s long-time crush. When Liam is around, it’s easy to forget about the moaning zombies, her dad’s plight to reach them, and how weird Deke is suddenly acting toward her.

But as the teens’ numbers dwindle and their escape plans fall apart, Donna has to listen to the secrets those voices in her head have been hiding. It seems not all the zombies are shuffling idiots, and the half-undead aren’t really down with kids like Donna…

Reader emails, FAQs, an update, and an animated Zac Efron gif…just because.

Hi, guys!! I hope you’re all doing well! Thank you all for the tremendous support for Secret. It’s my favorite book in the series (so far), and I’m so touched by all the kind emails / tweets / Facebook messages you’ve sent my way.

Some of you might not be aware, but I’m currently pregnant, and expecting my next little boy to arrive any day now. I’m trying to be productive, but it’s like there’s a flashing light in my brain saying BABY BABY BABY BABY BABY. Also, due to the high risk nature of my previous two pregnancies, I’m currently on “modified” bed rest, meaning I’m not actually confined to a bed, but I’m not supposed to work or do anything stressful or strenuous. I have a goal of finishing Sacrifice before the baby is born, but it’s been slow going due to the nature of the book (and my own personal limitations) so that’s taking priority over reader emails. It’s breaking my heart a bit, because I’ve received so many deeply moving, personal emails, and I want to respond so badly, but I also don’t want to respond with something vaguely like a brush off, along the lines of, “Yay! Thanks for sharing so much of your life! Keep reading!” And you guys, my readers, you all deserve better than that. For a real response, you’re going to have to wait a little bit. 🙂

Some quick answers to questions that keep coming up:

For blog interviews, guest posts, giveaways, contests, “blogiversaries,” appearances, etc., I’m not taking anything on until after April 1. These take time and energy I just don’t have right now, and I can guarantee you don’t want me answering interview questions at 2am while I’m dealing with pregnancy insomnia (right now) or trying to feed a baby (in a few weeks). I’m also not going to be able to handle standing in line at the post office, so while I love donating books and swag for contests, at this time, I have to politely decline. (But please feel free to hit me up later this year.)

Release dates can be found on the “Books” tab above. Just go to the appropriate book and it’ll have all the information I have available. If you live in a country other than the USA, you might be better served to check Goodreads (or Amazon) for your country’s specific release date. I do respond to these types of emails, but sometimes it takes me a while. If you think the fastest way to get release date information from an author is to email him or her personally, you’re using the internet wrong. 😛

The novellas will be available in Australia and the UK soon. Breathless is already being published along with Secret, so you don’t need to get something separately. The novellas will not be released in a separate physical format (like a paperback) at this time. No, there is not a novella between Spirit and Secret, and I don’t currently have plans to write any additional novellas for the series.

If you are working on a project and you want me to read some of it, unfortunately, I have to say no. (This does not apply to agented or published authors looking for a blurb. For blurb requests, drop me a line at brigidmary@gmail.com and I’m happy to consider it.) Some authors will say that it’s because of liability, because they don’t ever want to be accused of stealing an idea. For me, I just don’t have time. That’s really the bottom line. I also hate hurting anyone’s feelings, and there’s nothing harder than getting an email like, “Brigid! I love your books! You’ve inspired me as an author! Will you read this story I wrote and tell me if I’m a good writer too??” and then seeing a twelve-page block of unedited text with no punctuation. There are fantastic resources online where you can swap critiques with other writers. I got a lot of use out of the forums at Absolute Write. Once you’re a member, you can share your work and post critiques of others. I found TWO critique partners on the internet, one of whom has her own first novel coming out March 4. Be brave! Put your stuff out there! In fact, way way way back when, I posted the first chapter of Storm for critique. Just search for BrigidMary23 and you’ll find it. 🙂

That said, if you have a specific question about writing, feel free to ask. I love helping new writers, and I can do specific questions all day. I even have a ton of writing blog posts already written, and my posts about revising are some of my most popular. Just hover on the “Other Stuff” header up top and navigate to “Writing Advice,” or if it’s quicker, click here.

I’ve been getting a TON of emails asking if I’ve ever considered making the series into a movie or a television show. These emails are extremely flattering, and there’s not an author alive who hasn’t thought about it. That said, it’s not up to me; it’s up to people who actually make movies and television shows. 🙂 If and when I have something to announce, I will make sure you hear about it. You won’t be able to get me shut up about it. TRUST ME.

All right, I think that’s all I’ve got. Here, look at Zac Efron for a minute. JUST BECAUSE WE CAN.

ZacEfron

ZacEfron2

 

Launch Party for Secret TOMORROW!! Join me!!

Secret

Just a quick reminder about the launch party for Secret: Book 4 of The Elemental Series.

As in the past, the launch party will be at the Barnes & Noble in Ellicott City, Maryland, tomorrow, Saturday, February 1, at 1pm. All are invited. As usual, we’ll have fun gift card giveaways, some exclusive information about the series, and a book signing. I will also be reading an exclusive scene from Sacrifice, Book 5 in the series!

For official details and directions to the store, please click here.

Who’s coming? I can’t wait to see you all!

Secret, Book 4 in The Elemental Series, is out TODAY!

SecretGuys. My life has been crazy. I know I haven’t been posting much recently, and as soon as I finish Sacrifice (Book 5), I’ll be back in action on the blog. That said, I needed to take a moment to thank you. To thank ALL of you. Tomorrow, my fourth book will be released. Storm originally came out in April 2012, so as of tomorrow, I’ll have released four books and three novellas in less than two years. I’d be crazy if I didn’t admit a little pride — yet I’m so humbled, too, because I know all of you had something to do with it. Many writers spend years dreaming of publication (I was one of them!) and many writers never get to publish one novel, much less four. So thank you. All of you. I’m so lucky to have gotten the chance to meet so many of you, and I can’t wait to see how many more people will affect my life as I continue this publication journey.

Whether you’ve been with me since the beginning or you’re deciding to start with Secret (which is fine — it can stand alone), here are some ways to buy the book, if you’re so inclined:

> Buy on iBooks

> Buy on Google Play

> Buy on Barnes & Noble

> Buy on Amazon

> Buy on Books-a-Million

> Buy on indieBound

E_Secret_Sales Kit Cover

Please consider joining me for the launch party for Secret, this Saturday, February 1, 2014, at 1pm, at Barnes & Noble in Ellicott City, Maryland. Click here for details. 

If you can’t afford to buy the book, but you still want to read it, I encourage you to borrow from your public library or to borrow from a friend. If you find the book available for free on the internet, that is a piracy site, and downloading it for free is illegal.

If you do choose to read Secret, I can’t wait to hear what you think. Please know that one of the greatest favors you can do for a writer is to review his or her book. Even if you don’t like a book, reviews matter. (I fell in love with Pamela Clare’s romantic suspense series after reading a bad review of one of her books and deciding I had to see what all the fuss was about! Now I’ve bought all the books in the series!) That said, I know Secret deals with a lot of issues that may be painful or private for some readers, and if you’d like to share any thoughts privately (good or bad), please don’t hesitate to email me directly at brigidmary@gmail.com. I will never make reader emails public without permission, and I don’t collect email addresses for marketing purposes.

 

 

You’re Invited! Launch Party for SECRET, Saturday February 1

SecretHappy New Year, everyone!

I’d like to cordially invite all of you to the launch party for Secret: Book 4 of The Elemental Series.

As in the past, the launch party will be at the Barnes & Noble in Ellicott City, Maryland, on Saturday, February 1, at 1pm. All are invited. As usual, we’ll have fun gift card giveaways, some exclusive information about the series, and a book signing.

For official details and directions to the store, please click here.

Who’s coming? I can’t wait to see you all!

No question Friday. Instead, some old writing from the vault.

I wrote this years ago, but it’s one of my favorites. This piece is from somewhere in the middle of a sequel to an unpublished novel, but Max was the first teenager I attempted to write. He carries a lot of angst, a fifteen year old kid who grew up watching his stepfather beat the crap out of his mom. When the novel opens, his mom has been divorced for a while, and now she’s dating Gus. Max isn’t too happy about that.
Maybe his attitude would change if he knew Gus was the son of Hermes, the Greek god of orators and wit, literature, athletics, and lots of other things…

~~

Gus stopped outside Max’s door. He wanted to tear it down, drag the kid out by force, and use every ounce of his power to pull an apology from his lips.
But he sighed and lifted a hand to knock. “Max? I’d ask you to speak with me.”
No answer.
“Surely we can come to some sort of understanding.”
Max snorted.
Gus stood there for a moment. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that someone who would strike his mother would hide behind a locked door.”
“Screw you.”
At least he was talking. Gus stepped closer. “Open the door, Max.”
“Jesus. Go away.”
“If you think a lock will keep me out, you are sadly mistaken.”
“Break it down then. See how much mom likes you then.” But this time there was just a hint of fear behind the arrogance.
Gus smiled. “I don’t need to break anything.”
“What are you, a frigging locksmith? Good luck, asshole.”
Not even a challenge. Less than twenty seconds later, Gus threw the lock and opened the door.
He found Max sitting on an unmade bed, staring with wide eyes and flared nostrils. A black vinyl backpack and a notebook sat beside him on the rumpled quilt. “How the hell did you do that?”
“It’s a talent.” Gus hooked his thumbs in his pockets and surveyed the cramped room.
A small desk hid in the corner, with stacks of worn spiral notebooks spilling across the top. The wood of the desk was old and weathered, and Max had clearly taken liberties in doodling and scrawling phrases along just about every available surface. Old soda bottles and food wrappers were spilling out of the trash can to the side of the desk. Max didn’t have a television in his room, but there was a small stereo on the floor next to the bed, serving as a table for a lamp and a small stack of paperbacks. Homemade bookshelves of wood and cinderblocks were stacked almost to the ceiling of the opposite wall, a frightening construction that barely looked stable. A guitar in a case stood in the corner by the window, next to a pile of CDs and more notebooks. What Gus could see of the carpet was crying out for a vacuum. The rest of it was cluttered with textbooks, magazines, and some sheet music.
“Clearly you live in splendor,” said Gus.
Max hadn’t moved, but his eyes narrowed. “If you don’t like it, get the hell out of here. I don’t break into your house and whine about the décor.”
“Lucky for you.”
“What are you doing here?” But then Max’s lips found that smirk again. “Wait—did Mom make you come back here to apologize—”
“Hardly.” Gus stepped into the room and looked at the makeshift bookcase, partly out of curiosity and partly because he knew it would infuriate Max. “Did you read all these books?”
“No, they’re just holding up the sheetrock.”
“Hmm. As I thought.”
The mattress springs protested as Max lurched to his feet. “Look, dickhead, this is my room. You can’t come in here and insult me—”
“You’re the one so keen on name-calling.” Gus moved away from him and lifted the cover of a notebook on the corner of the desk.
Max slapped the cover down and shoved it out of reach. “Keep your hands off my stuff! Don’t you have any respect for other—”
“Oh, you speak of respect?” Gus raised his eyebrows. “Now there’s a bit of irony.”
“Shut up.” Max stepped closer. “You’re just back here to impress my mom—”
“No. I came back here to warn you.”
Max rolled his eyes. “Gee. A warning. I am scared.”
He was. Despite the bravado, Gus could see it. “If you lay a hand on your mother again, you and I will have a conversation. One you will not enjoy.”
Max mock gasped. “Not a conversation.”
“Hide behind sarcasm if you must.” Gus gave him a level stare. “I know you understand me.”
Max glared right back at him. “You don’t know anything.”
“Do not test me, Max.”
The quiet words seemed to have the opposite effect—a challenge instead of a warning. Max drew himself up, his shoulders tightening, his hands lifting as if readying for a strike. He was a brave kid—Gus had to give him that.
But he held Max’s eye, calling his bluff. Whatever the boy saw there must have been enough. Max scowled and stepped back, dropping onto the corner of the bed. “Whatever.”
Gus looked down, shifting the displaced notebook back to where it originally sat. “I will not—”
Then he stopped short, leaning closer to the desk, reading the words dug into the wood with a pen.
I assess the power of a will by how much resistance, pain, and torture it endures—
“Nietzsche quotes?” said Gus. “Did you write these here?”
“You gonna bitch at me about the furniture now?”
“No.” Gus moved another notebook to read the rest of the line, though he knew it.
and knows how to turn to its advantage.
“Which one is it?” said Max. His voice was still sullen, but there was a thread of interest there, mixed with wariness. These words mattered to him—and he wasn’t entirely sure about Gus looking at them. “Is that—is it the one about torture?”
“The line has nothing to do with torture,” said Gus. “Not really.”
“Then what’s it about?”
Gus glanced up. “Survival.”
“I don’t like that one as much.” Max stood and came over to the desk. For the first time, he wasn’t being belligerent, and Gus wondered how long he’d be able to maintain this flimsy truce.
Max shoved the notebooks into a sloppy pile and dropped them on the floor. “Here—the one about hope is my favorite of the Nietzsche ones.”
These words were scrawled in German. Hope, in reality, is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.
Max leaned in a bit. “It says—”
“I can read it.”
Max looked a bit surprised, but shrugged. “He was kinda pessimistic, but I get it.”
“Me too.” Gus hesitated. He didn’t want to find anything about this child intriguing. “Sprichst Du Deutsche, Max?” You speak German?
Max shook his head, making his hair fall into his eyes. “Not really anymore. I mostly just read it.”
He seemed uncomfortable by the sudden scrutiny, so Gus dropped his head and followed other lines across the wood. Some were song lyrics, some were nonsense. Some, like the Nietzsche quotes, were surprising in their depth. After his demonstration in the kitchen, Gus hadn’t expected this kid to comprehend a compound sentence.
But so what if he did? Would that make the transgressions against his mother any less offensive?
Max was fidgeting, shuffling his feet against the carpet. Gus lifted his head. “Ask your question, Max.”
His eyes flared a little and he took a step back. “I, uh—well—it’s nothing. Forget it.”
Gus straightened fully. “You’ve already struck me in the head and called me an asshole to my face. Surely a question isn’t so intimidating.”
Max’s eyes hardened for an instant, but then he looked away. “Just—how’d you do the lock?”
Gus put a spark of power into his voice. “Magic.”
For the barest instant, there was a flicker of belief in Max’s eyes. So much for the pessimistic quote about hope.
But then Max scowled. “Shut up. Come on.”
“I picked the lock. How do you think?”
“Really?”
“Never doubt my words over such trivial things.”
“Was that, like—a yes, or—”
Gus sighed. “Yes, Max. Really.”
Max swallowed, and Gus could feel the teenager reassessing him.
“So…are you a thief?” There was something akin to hushed awe in Max’s voice. “Are those prison tats or something?”
Gus put a hand to his neck without thinking. He was so used to his markings that it still surprised him when people did not understand their significance. Here this child thought he was a common criminal. It reminded him that he had no business here, that he had duties outside this small apartment, away from these people.
“No, Max.” He sighed heavily. “I’m not a thief. And these are not prison tats.”
“Oh.”
“You’re disappointed?”
“Naw…I just thought maybe Mom had gone off the deep end finally.” He hesitated, fidgeting again.
“Ask, Max.”
“Well—would you show me? How you did the door?”
There was interest in his voice—too much. Enough to bargain? Gus looked down at him, deliberating. “Yes, but only—”
“No way, really?”
“—if you apologize to your mother.”
Max scowled and folded his arms, his brief good nature gone. “I knew it. This was some stupid trick—”
“You asked me.” Gus wouldn’t pander to this child. He took a step towards the hallway.
“Whatever.”
Then Gus stopped just outside the door and turned. “My offer has no time limit…should you change your mind.”
Max wasn’t looking at him. “Yeah. Okay. Whatever, Gus.”
Then he reached out and slammed the door shut.
But he didn’t turn the lock.

~