Friday, January 31, 2014

CUPIDS ARROW: Where I declare my ♥ for ARCs! (GIVEAWAY TIME!!)

I've just returned from the coldest, freezingest (it's a word!) most frigid *ss place on the planet, Philadelphia, where I was fortunate enough to attend ALA Midwinter. Besides the fact I was surrounded by oodles of the coolest folks on the planet (LIBRARIANS!), and lots of amazing authors, I was also drowning in a sea of ARCs!!

YA, MG, NA...


And I went a little ...

gollum photo: Gollum gollum.gif

Well, let's just say the other attendees were lucky that my suitcase exceeded the 50 pound weight limit on the trip out (don't judge. this hair requires a lot of product, yo!), because I would have thrown down to get my paws on every ARC there if I had the Samsonite space to back me up.

I'm not sure what it is about an ARC that makes me crazy...Maybe it's knowing that something might change in the story before the final book comes out. Maybe it's because since the day I read the PM announcement I've been dying to get my hands on that particular story, or maybe it's because I know the rest of the world doesn't have access to it yet and somehow that makes me feel special.

The reason doesn't really matter, all I know is that ARCs are one of the coolest parts of the publication process. And because I'm having so much fun on this wild ride, it seemed like a great opportunity to give away an ARC of my book, SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS. 

The giveaway only lasts 5 DAYS so don't dilly dally...

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, January 24, 2014

Cupid's Arrow: How to Make a Chakram

Sara Raasch here with a Cupid's Arrow that is either really creative or slightly disgusting.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sweet Six Interview with Amber Skye Forbes

For today's Sweet Six interview, we're chatting with Amber Skye Forbes, author of WHEN STARS DIE!

Amber Skye Forbes is a dancing writer who prefers pointe shoes over street shoes, leotards over skirts, and ballet buns over hairstyles. She loves striped tights and bows and will edit your face with a Sharpie if she doesn't like your attitude. She lives in Augusta, Georgia where she writes dark fiction that will one day put her in a psychiatric ward...again. But she doesn't care because her cat is a super hero who will break her out.

Goodreads, Amazon, Smashwords, Blog, Website

Amelia Gareth's brother is a witch and the only way to save her family from the taint in his blood is to become a professed nun at Cathedral Reims. However, in order to become professed, she must endure trials that all nuns must face.

Surviving these trials is not easy, especially for Amelia, who is being stalked by shadowy beings only she can see. They're searching for people they can physically touch, because only those they can touch can see them. Amelia soon learns why she is being stalked when she accidentally harms her best friend with fire during the third trial. Fire is a witch's signature. The shadows are after witches.

Now Amelia must decide what to do: should she continue on her path to profession knowing there is no redemption, or should she give up on her dream and turn away from Cathedral Reims in order to stop the shadows who plan to destroy everything she loves?

1. Tell us about your book!

Put simply, When Stars Die is about one girl's determination to erase the stigma of being a witch, only to find out such a stigma is impossible to erase, not when the world has been brought up since birth to hate people like her.

2. What scene in your book do you LOVE the most?

I tend to go back and forth over what scenes I love. I don't know if other authors do that, but I do. My favorite scene is near the end of the book (no spoilers), where Amelia is walking through this paradisaical setting meant just for her, which stands in stark contrast to the turmoil happening outside of it. It's such a crucial scene, because Amelia's not buying any of it. She's not being lured in by it. She's going for something major in this scene, and she won't allow such a fallacy to stop her, even though the scene is filled with everything she loves.

3. If you had to pick a character you LOVE (and not your own!), who would you pick and why?

I'm assuming you mean a character of other books. I'd choose Gemma Doyle, because she's sarcastic, witty, fierce, and determined, while at the same time being sensitive and burdened. Her and I are very similar, and if I went to Spence Academy, we'd probably connect right away.

4. What's the craziest/most memorable valentine you've ever received?

I suppose the most memorable valentine I've ever received was one of those generic ones you can buy at a kiosk, with a little balloon and stuffed animal and some candy, because no one has ever gotten me a valentine before, until my fiance came along. So, really, it was the thought in it that touched me. I had boyfriends before him, but when valentine's day came, they never got anything for me, even though I did.

5. If you were a Brach's Heart, what phrase would be written on you?

You Crazy Nut

6. The all-important choice: flowers or candy?

Flowers, definitely. I really, really want flowers. My fiance gets me candy, but, seriously, I want those cliched flowers, even if they die the next day.

Friday, January 10, 2014

CUPID'S ARROW: Middle Grade Movies

Just a reminder: ***ARC Giveaway***
I'm giving away a signed ARC at Fiction the New Reality. She's also giving away an ARC prize pack that includes Sara B. Larson's DEFY! Time is almost up to enter. Throw your name in the hat here.

For this week's Cupid's Arrow, not only am I going to profess my love to something, but I'm going to make a plea to bring it back. Since I am a millennial, it's only appropriate that I wax nostalgic any chance I get. So today, I am professing my love to an endangered, possibly extinct, species of film: kids movies.

I was lucky because I was a kid when kids movies ruled. The one that started it all was HOME ALONE. That kicked off a trend in the 90s of movies starring kids, about kids, and for kids. Here's a semi-comprehensive list:

Home Alone 2
The Sandlot
The Secret Garden
Now and Then
Hocus Pocus
Free Willy
Rookie of the Year
Dennis the Menace
Little Big League
Life with Mikey
3 Ninjas
The Little Rascals
Angels in the Outfield
Richie Rich
Now and Then
Blank Check
My Girl
Monkey Trouble
and my personal favorite...Harriet the Spy

I would also include family movies were the main character was an adult, but kids had substantial roles in the action.

Mrs. Doubtfire
Curly Sue
The Addams Family
Addams Family Values
Little Giants
The Mighty Ducks trilogy

I know, I know. This is turning into a Buzzfeed listicle.

But these movies were amazing, at least to my kid self. And there were so many of them! Looking back, it was an embarrassment of riches for a 10-year-old. Millennials lucked out as Hollywood tried to capitalize on Home Alone's success. Movie studios basically catered to us all throughout the 90s, which also explains the teen movie boom of the late 90s. I admit that I wasn't a big reader growing up, and I realized that a lot of my reading time was spent at the movies.

These movies didn't try to talk down to kids. They were about kids dealing with kid issues. Kids drove the action; kids were the hero. I could see myself in these characters, no matter how outlandish their situation. Being left home alone and creating an elaborate trap for burglars was not something I experienced growing up, but I understood facing my fears and learning to be self-sufficient.

So where are the kids movies of today? Unfortunately, Hollywood has stopped making them. Studios now only want to make four-quadrant, broadly-appealing pictures that are as close to guaranteed moneymakers as possible. Why shell out $10M for a movie that may only make $20M when you can make a movie for $100M that you know will make at least $200M? Studios are producing less films and concentrating their resources on a few big blockbusters. (It's what some fear is happening with publishing.) Today, there are only two types of films available to kids: animated films and comic book movies.

Don't get me wrong. Those are two very lucrative genres that make entertaining films (Frozen and The Avengers just two recent examples). They're movies the whole family can enjoy. Kids can relate to Peter Parker's alienation and The Avengers' struggles with teamwork and Elsa's shame to an extant, but not as much as they can to other kid characters. There will always be a disconnect because these characters are older and inherently more mature. It's important that kids see characters who are on their level and whose world is closer to theirs. There's something to be said for a kid main character dealing with these same issues. Watching Elsa handle her ice power isn't the same as watching Henry Rowengartner deal with his suddenly amazing pitching arm. Tony Stark saving the world from the Mandarin doesn't feel the same as Max saving Salem from the Sanderson sisters.

The only way a kid movie can get made is if it's part of an existing lucrative franchises, hence the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies. The Book Thief was adapted for film, but it was positioned as an Oscar contender and marketed to arthouse audiences, not kids.

So Hollywood, I'm shooting my Cupid's Arrow right into your heart. Bring back kids films! Yes, they probably won't be as lucrative as an Iron Man or a Tangled, but they do have upside. You could come out with the next Home Alone, which made $285M, or $531M adjusted for inflation. (per BoxOfficeMojo) Middle grade books are so awesome because kids get to see themselves in those pages. I think we're depriving them of the incredible experience of seeing themselves on-screen, too.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


It's here, it's here, it's finally here! Yes, that's right, today, January 7th is the release day for Sara B. Larson's debut novel DEFY!

Want to know more? Of course you do! Here's a description of DEFY:

A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and heart-racing romance.

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?
Um, one butt-kicking heroine, two gorgeous guys, and a jungle kingdom in peril? Yes, please!
But wait, there's more! Sara will be signing copies of DEFY and generally looking awesome with her perfect hair at The King's English Bookshop TONIGHT from 7-9 pm. The address is 1511 South 1500 East in Salt Lake City, Utah.  
Congratulations, Sara!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Cupid's Arrow: Thoughts on Bad Reviews

Hi interwebz!

So I realized it was my turn to do this post about 2 days ago. Problem, since I've been sick for 4 days and when I am sick I HATE EVERYTHING! Sorry Cupid. You missed. Paula is going rogue again.

I was going to do a recap of the #NYE14reads event, which you should totally check out if you need book recommendations, but then I started talking about reviews with some of my friends. And then I started thinking and thinking and once I go down that road I have to just write it out, you know?

So here goes: You probably know that even though I am here on the YA Vals blog and “debuting” in 2014 with my YA contemp The Art of Lainey, that I also wrote 3 books under the name Fiona Paul in collaboration with the literary studio Paper Lantern Lit. I don’t discount or downplay those books when I think of The Art of Lainey as my debut—there’s just a huge difference between writing work-for-hire under the guidance of others and writing your own personal story where you are the one with the copyright and final creative control. Or there was for me, anyway.

Still, I did not spend two years writing Venom, Belladonna, and Starling without getting invested in the characters and story, and putting some of myself into those books. So when Venom got eviscerated by both personal and professional reviewers months before it released, it felt like an entire bus stop full of strangers had lined up to punch me in the face. The girl who pretty much got an A+++ on every assignment her whole life now seemed to be getting a big fat D- from The World, and I was not prepared.

For a while, I just kind of dealt with it, mostly by not talking about the book and downplaying the release date. Letting random strangers steal my joy and shame me over what should have been an impressive accomplishment. Yeah, don’t be like me.

No one can tell you how to deal with something like bad reviews. We all handle things differently. But my first author-friends all shared wisdom with me--wisdom that helped me find my peace. Here are some of those thoughts, along with my own, for those of you who are just starting to get reviewed. Maybe they will help you find your peace, too. Got more thoughts? Share them in the comments.

I know there are some people out there who really like punching other people in the face. But these people are not the majority. If you are reading this because you wrote a book, then how's about taking a moment to remember how epic and awesome it is that you wrote a freaking book :) Who does that?? Awesome people, that's who.

The person who leaves a 1-star review is not more important than the person who leaves a 5-star review. Their opinion is not more valid, even if they write 10,000 words. Failure to recognize this is insulting to the people who really love your book, AKA your fans. 

Collectively, the blogosphere hates everything. Might as well write the book YOU want to write. At least that way the person who matters most will like it. 

Reviews are one person’s opinion at one point in time. There are reviews all over the internet that say “Well, I was going to give this 5 stars, but then I thought about it for a day and decided to give it 2 stars instead.” So in that way, reviews are kind of like photos, and even the superest supermodel sometimes takes a bad picture.

I never saw the old woman until someone pointed her out.

Reviewers aren’t criticizing your book, they’re criticizing their own perception of it. People can experience the exact same stimulus and perceive it differently. That’s why my mom thinks my green sweater is brown. That’s why some people see the young woman and some see the old woman. That’s why one reader’s poetry is another’s purple prose. Not everyone is going to read—and therefore review--the story you think you wrote. 

Know your book. My MC is a little shallow and abrasive at first. Some people will dislike that. But I did it for a reason, so seeing those complaints won’t hurt me. If you know why you did what you did, then you'll see that sometimes it’s just a difference in personal taste. 

Once when I was sick and watching Hulu, I heard British dating coach Matthew Hussey say something like this: "95% of people let their happiness be determined by the opinions of random strangers. Don’t be one of those people." I’ve been crushing on him ever since. 

Can you blame me?

If your strategy for dealing with reviews is to avoid them and that works, rock on. But keep in mind you’re denying yourself all the amazing ones. And you’re losing the chance to learn from the critical ones that are RIGHT. Once, a girl wrote a fairly scathing review of Venom, pointing out all of its anachronisms. I pouted. Then I sighed. Because that girl was right, and I told her so. She went on to proof Starling for historical inaccuracies and is now a twitter friend and a member of my street team. If you avoid all your reviews, you deny yourself the chance to turn a lose-lose into a win-win. 

Some of my all-time favorite authors wrote books I just couldn’t get into. Hey, it happens. They’re still my favorite authors. Some people just won’t like this or that book. So, you know, write more books! Or don’t. But either way, not liking your book isn’t the same as not liking you.

This blog post brought to you by the number 7.

Edited to add: In a world where people often feel like they have "earned" or "paid for" great or acceptable experiences, but feel justified in complaining about less than favorable ones (Think about it: when's the last time you stopped on your way out of Burger King to say "Just what I ordered. Stellar job, guys. 4 stars") it sometimes amazes me there are any good reviews at all, let alone that the good outnumber the bad for almost every book. So author-people, when you are obsessively crunching your GR stats, don't forget about all the people who really enjoyed your book, but couldn't quite find the time to tell you about it. And reviewer-people, thanks again for taking the time. We know you have lots of other things you could be doing.