Saturday, June 29, 2013

ALA = A Lot of Awesome

Hey all,

So this weekend I headed up to the windy city - Chicago, IL - to attend the American Library Association's annual convention. What a blast! I'd never been before - though I'd been to TLA (Texas Library Association) convention a couple times.

It must said: librarians rock. For reals.

So I flew up to the convention Friday morning and decided it would be interesting to take the train to my hotel instead of a cab. What I didn't realize was that the Blackhawks victory parade was going on that Friday and the entire state of Illinois had come to town to cheer the players on.

As a Bruins fan originally from Boston, this gave me the sads.

But I rallied and made my way through the crowds. (Thanks iPhone mapping for pointing me to the totally wrong address, BTW.) I finally made my way to the hotel... and realized something was going on. Like a major "something."

Like the actual Stanley Cup was in the lobby bar of my hotel. And all the fans had gathered to see it in real life. 

Poor Boston girl!! 

Anyway, I rallied and met up with the lovely PJ Hoover and Madeline Smoot and we headed down to the Convention Center and got our badges so we'd be ready to enter once the doors opened. 

In case you can't read it, my shirt says, "Cool story, Bro. Needs more dragons."

Since we had a little bit of time we decided to grab a drink in the adjacent hotel bar. There, we saw Cory Doctorow, author of such awesomeness as Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Makers, For the Win, and Big Brother.

I get asked a lot if, as an author myself, if I have other authors that I can't help but fan girl. Well, Cory is one of those authors--for a gazillion reasons. My favorite of which is he's perhaps as big a Disney freak as I am. Perhaps even bigger. Which, if anyone who knows me in real life is reading this, is saying A LOT. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is one of my favorite books ever. And For the Win is about the gold mining/virtual economy created by MMORPG video games. Seriously, I could fan girl all day. 

I quickly texted my friend Bobby in Florida - who had introduced me to his books years ago. He "Disney Dared" me (long story) to go talk to him and get his autograph for him. Since Disney Dares are more binding than even double dog dares, I was left with no choice. 

So PJ (who, like Cory, also writes for Tor) and I made our way over and chatted with him for a few minutes. He was super cool and approachable and we talked Disney and he commented on my Mickey Mouse painted toenails (painted in honor of my daughter's 2 year old bday party last week.) So it all turned out well and I'm pretty sure I didn't come off too much like an idiot. 

And I got a photo. And Bobby's autograph. So yeah. Disney Dare in your face!

Someday I'll explain the Disney Dare thing. Someday I'd like to write a book on Extreme Disney. But that's for another day...

Once my fan girling was complete, it was time to head up to the convention hall. Since we have "exhibitor" badges we got to wander the floors a little early - before anyone else was allowed in. Now I have been to a lot of these industry conventions over the last few months - IRA, TLA, BEA, etc. But I was shocked at just how many free books publishers had earmarked for librarians. Seriously it was a major bookapaloza. And a little insane. 

I tried to restrain myself and only take books I *really* wanted and leave those that I only *kinda* wanted for the librarians. But it was tough, man. 

Also note: do not be in the path of librarians who are after said free books. Holy crap. They opened the doors and I was pretty sure I was going to be trampled to death. 

That said, I love the enthusiasm madly. 

That night I met up with Ally Carter and we went to Gino's for some real Chicago deep dish pizza. Sadly after a 45 minute wait for a table, they informed us it'd be 45 MORE minutes if we wanted pizza. We settled on chicken parm which was also good. 

After that we met Sarah Dessen and Laurie Halse Anderson for drinks. I had only met Laurie once and had never met Sarah so that was cool. Sarah has a 5 year old daughter who's hair is as curly as Avalon's. 

After that I headed back to my hotel room to sleep. Thankfully the crazy hockey fans and the Stanley Cup had left the building. 

The next morning I woke up and headed to breakfast. I ate this ridiculous thing called Red Velvet french toast at a restaurant called Yolk. Oh. My. God. It was like eating cake for breakfast. So. Good.

Then we headed over to the convention center. My signing was at 10am. Now usually I wear a dragon shirt to these signing events, but today I decided to go in a little different direction - channeling the Doctor and the time-travel aspects of my book. 

Needless to say, cool librarians are cool. And everyone freaked over my Doctor Who/Choose Your Own Adventure story mash-up. 

What else can I say? The signing was amazing. I met amazing people. We gave out lots of ARCs. It was a bit bittersweet since this is the LAST arc signing of Scorched before the release. That said, it's kind of exciting to know the next time I sign books they will be REAL HARDCOVER FINAL COPY BOOKS!


And now I'm at the airport, waiting for my flight home. The trip was a bit of a whirlwind - but in all the best ways. Thanks to everyone who came out. And to all those who have been buzzing Scorched to their friends and colleagues. I couldn't have gotten here without you.

And I'm So. Excited. about what is to come next!


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Scorched Cover Artist Interview: Tony Sahara

Hey guys, 

I've got a special treat for you today. An interview with Tony Sahara, the artistic genius behind the Scorched cover. (As well as my Tomorrow Land and Alternity covers) The Scorched cover has gotten SO much attention since its reveal back in May--people have just been over the moon about it and it's by far my favorite cover EVER of my 17 published books. So I wanted to get the inside scoop on how it all came to be. 

Mari: How much do you usually know about a book and its characters/plot before you start working on a cover concept?

Tony: It really depends on the book and the publishing schedule. Ideally, I would like to read the entire book prior to working on the cover art. But sometimes the manuscript is not complete, or I am given only a part of it, or just a synopses. In these cases I would talk to the editors to get as much information as possible about the book. For “Scorched”, the editor gave me the first nine chapters and some concept notes.

Mari: When you first heard about Scorched, did ideas immediately spring to mind?

Tony: I didn’t come up with the composition of the final art right away, partly because the entire manuscript wasn’t available. In fact you might be shocked to read this, but throughout the sketching process, I tried not to show the dragon. I thought just a suggestion of the dragon would provoke the reader’s imagination and be more intriguing.

Mari: This isn’t your first dragon book – what are some of the challenges in creating fantasy covers that you might not have with a contemporary story?

Tony: Sometimes I get books with a unique combination of characters and plot. “Scorched” is definitely one of them. It contains a unique mix of a mythological creature, time travel and romance. Every book cover is reviewed and discussed by many people from varying departments. They include the art director, editors, Sales/Marketing departments, the publisher and the author. I can come up with various cover concepts, but obtaining a unanimous approval on one visual is very challenging. However, my main focus is what is behind the art. I try to read between lines, I try to understand the authors’ inspiration and the core message. I could be off sometimes, but for “Scorched”, I think I accomplished the task.

"In my mind dragons are some surviving dinosaur of which we haven’t found the bones."

Mari: You absolutely did! Can you talk a little bit about some of the initial cover concepts you came up with for Scorched.

Tony: In each of the early sketches I incorporated one of two elements, instead of cramming in too many images and concepts. As mentioned earlier, I tried to show hints of dragon while avoiding the full visual. I made a few comps using dragon icons with the landscape of a burning city. I also did one comp with images of Trinity, Caleb, and Conner. Though dragons have a certain visual appeal, the romance aspect in the story could also be played out on the cover, depending on how the publisher intends to market this book.

Some of the original concept art for Scorched

Mari: Right. One of the things I actually love about the cover is how it appeals to both guys and girls. A rare thing in the YA cover market. How did you come up with the concept for the final cover?

Tony: Before “Scorched”, I was fortunate to work on your book covers “Tomorrow Land” and “Alternity”. At some point we became Facebook friends. I don’t actively use Facebook, but I flip through people’s posts that pop up on my wall. There you posted your picture with your daughter, Avalon. In the book, there is a profound affection between Trinity and Emmy the dragon. I could be wrong, but I feel Avalon was one of your major sources of inspiration. (Besides Robin Mckinley's "The Hero and the Crown.")

So, I decided to do one sketch focusing on this, and the straightforward way to show it was physical contact between Trinity and Emmy, without any hugging or kissing. As can be seen in the attached semi-final image, I was still trying not to show the dragon entirely. However, the publisher could not make out what I was trying to represent. So I ended up pulling back to show more of the dragon, and I put both of Trinity’s arms around the dragon paw, with the “scorching” color pallet throughout.

Mari: Awh. As if I couldn’t love the cover more! As does everyone else. In fact, this cover has been getting a LOT of attention. Are you pleased with how it came out? Do you have any favorite aspects to it?

Tony: Yes, I'm very pleased with the final image. I assume that the viewers are reacting to the violent aspects of the art, the fierce creature, the flames, and the destruction, etc. My favorite aspect is that the viewer does not immediately see what is built around it. It’s the mystical bond not only between Trinity and Emmy, but the families of each, which goes beyond time and space.  

"I try to read between lines, I try to understand the authors’ inspiration and the core message."

Mari: One of the things I keep hearing is about how much people appreciate the dragon looking so “realistic.” Talk about the work you did to create the creature itself.

Tony: I don’t know why dragons are considered “imaginary”. I don’t think that those ancient people could come up with mythologies out of total nothing. They must have had some type of reference. In my mind dragons are some surviving dinosaur of which we haven’t found the bones. To create Emmy, I looked at a lot of pictures of dinosaurs and various kinds of existing reptiles.  

Mari: This is the first in a trilogy. Are you already conjuring up any concepts/ideas for book two?

Tony: I was contacted by the publisher, and I agreed to do the art for book two. I heard that the tentative title is “Shattered”. I don’t know anything more than this at this point. In my imagination I am seeing “The Empire Strikes Back”! The pivoting point in the series, where everything fails, and some important characters are eliminated and some new forces are introduced. I really don’t have any details or even the general plot, but somehow I’m picturing the bird’s eye view of the burning skyscrapers. Battered Emmy is falling from the sky, and Trinity is also falling trying to reach out to her. Well, this sounds a bit too depressing. I will have a more concrete concept as I get more info. The “Scorched” art wasn’t a specific scene from the book, so I would approach book two in the same way—creating something symbolic to represent the drama.

Mari: I cannot WAIT to see what you come up with! Thanks so much for stopping by the blog. And for making the cover of Scorched so freaking awesome!!!


Friday, June 21, 2013

Want signed copies of my books? Two great deals!

Hey all,

Happy first day of summer! I can't believe how fast this year has been going by! Scorched will be out in stores before you know it!!

In the meantime, I've teamed up with a local bookstore here in Texas to offer readers some great opportunities to score signed copies of my books.

The Book Spot currently has two specials available:


That's all EIGHT books -- all autographed by me -- for only 50 bucks - which, if you do the math - is a $30 dollar savings. AND as a bonus, you'll get a personalize thank you card from you to me. Also makes a great gift - I can make the thank you card a birthday card to your recipient if you prefer. Just let them know when you order.


Want an autographed copy of Scorched when it comes out in September? Pre-order from The Book Spot and when the book is officially released they'll send you a personalized autographed copy right to your front door. (Or mailbox, as the case might be!) Right now, if you pre-order, you can get shipping for only 99 cents.

Great specials, right? And remember, if you're missing one or two of my books from your collection you can order those from The Book Spot as well. As always, they will have me personally autograph them to you. And they cost the same amount as they would if un-signed.

Want to know more? Here's the link to my storefront at The Book Spot. Tell them I sent you! :)


Wednesday, June 05, 2013

BEA Wrap-Up Day 3: The signing!

Hey all, 

I'm back and ready to talk about Day 3 (Friday) of The Book Expo of America. Otherwise known as signing day -- where I got to sign advanced copies of Scorched. 

In case you're wondering, I did NOT switch all the iPads in the Sourcebooks display case to my book. That was an evilly awesome blogger from Austin. And yes, I secretly approve! 

When I arrived at the Sourcebooks booth I was told that people had been lining up 45 minutes in advance to score themselves a book. I tried to take a photo of the line without being too obvious. 

But it possibly might have been a TAD obvious when they saw my dress. Annoyingly I'm sort of standing sideways here - but I hope you can get the idea! (Dragon breathing sequin fire!) The dress was made by an awesome Etsy seamstress known as Teeny Bunny who normally does dresses for toddlers. I convinced her to make one in my size and she did a FABULOUS job. Seriously, I got a gazillion compliments. 

At 3pm I started signing. With the help of my publicist Derry and later my agent Kristin. It was so awesome to meet people who love dragons as much as I do!!! 

In fact, it got kind of fierce at one point..... choking, photo bombs... BEA is a dangerous place! 

After the signing I grabbed sushi with Princess Alethea Kontis, Diana Peterfreund, and Leanna Renee Hieber at Blue Ribbon. We deserved it after such a busy day!!

On Saturday I had to do a webcast interview with Shindig where me and fellow Sourcebooks author Jessica Verdi talked about our very different books. 

And Diana and I walked the floor looking for books for our daughters. Avalon's a big Olivia the Pig fan so of course I posed for a photo op! 

Finally, we'd had just about as much BEA as we could take. So I said goodbye to the AMAZING Sourcebooks team and headed with Diana to grab some soup dumplings and drinks. Between drink locations we had to swing by and get our nails done. I did mine in "Starswept Sea" blue for Diana's book. She did mine in "Scorched" red. 

And that was my BEA! I'm sure I've only skimmed the surface and if I were a better blogger I'd name all the amazing people I met and all the great things I saw. I will say that despite me trying to stay strong I came home with more books that I could ever read. So perhaps we need to do a contest soon? 


Tuesday, June 04, 2013

We interrupt your BEA recap for a special Scorched announcement...

Hey all,

More BEA recap soon - I promise! After all, next up is my fabulously fun Scorched ARC signing and my custom dragon dress!

But I did want to mention that those of you who prefer your books of the "e" variety - you can now pre-order yourself a digital copy of Scorched. The pre-purchase price is discounted from the regular price so there is incentive to ordering early. PLUS you can ensure your copy is in your hot little hands at midnight on the day it comes out.

Which, you know, is made of awesome.

Here are the links for the digital versions that are currently available:




Also, if you prefer your books hardcover, you can also pre-order Scorched and have it shipped right to your door. The pre-order prices are heavily discounted so if you're going to buy it anyway - might as well get the sale price!

Barnes and Noble



Also, in case you were wondering, bookstores and publishers pay attention to pre-sales and they WILL affect the ultimate release of the book. (More pre-orders = more orders from bookstores/added exposure = very happy author and publisher!) So if you want to help me make this book a success, go forth and pre-order and I will <3 forever="" p="" you="">

Monday, June 03, 2013

BEA Wrap-Up Day 2

Hey all,

I'm actually back home from NYC after an amazing BEA. So much happened that I couldn't possibly contain it in one blog post so I hope you'll bear with me for a few days of wrap-up posts!

Day 2 (Thursday) Diana and I headed to the Javits Center bright and early so she could sign copies of Across a Starswept Sea in the author signing area. She had quite the turn-out, let me tell you! And she wore a really amazing ship fascinator on her head, since her books have a nautical theme.

I also had a signing that day - for a charity anthology put out by Month 9 Books. The anthology (out in October) is called Very Superstitious. All the proceeds go to the SPCA. I contributed a short story called "Gift of the Were Magi" loosely based on the 1906 story by O Henry "Gift of the Magi." But mine is about werewolves. Cause, you know.

The cover is really cute yet for the life of me I can't find it online anywhere. When I get a JPG I will post!

Though my Scorched signing was for the following day I did stop by the Sourcebooks booth to check things out. When I got there, I scoped out a small display for YA titles and was a little disappointed that there was no poster of Scorched. "Well," I thought, "I know they do have other books to promote. Maybe next year."

THEN I turned around.

Oh. OK. Maybe my publisher does love me a little bit. :) And being up there with Jessica Lange and Elmo - well, I consider myself in good company! It's hard to get a perspective on the actual size of the poster from photos, but believe me, it was freaking huge. You couldn't miss it. Dragons FTW!

I also had lots of dragon stuff to give away...but failed to give much of it away at all. :( Sometimes you just get caught up in the moment and forget you have dragons in your bag. It happens.

Speaking of dragon goodies! Diana gave me this amazing dragon eye bracelet she found on Etsy! Isn't it tooo awesome. Seriously, I think Etsy will be the death of both of us.

We spent the day wandering around the Expo and checking out all the cool booths and trying to resist taking home too many free books. One booth had these amazing full size lego guys! So cool!

Getting to meet readers is one of the perks of BEA. Kate Tilton stopped by the Month 9 Books with her entire collection of my books and had me sign them!

And it's fun to get to see author friends too. Here are the YA writer girls: me, Ally Carter, Simone Elkeles, and Diana Peterfreund.

I also met up with my agent, Kristin Nelson, and had drinks and appetizers at the Red Cat while plotting world domination.

That evening there were parties. LOTS of parties. I tried to hit the Foundry party that Stephen Barbara invited me too (Diana still laughs about how he came up to me at the booth and was like "There you are...MOTHER OF DRAGONS!") But the party was packed, so I left pretty quickly. I was supposed to hit the blogger rooftop party as well, but it conflicted with the Mortal Instruments party. So I'm sorry if I missed any of you there.

BTW I heard some naughty behavior took place at the rooftop party--people stealing ARCs of Scorched from the giveaway bags to make sure they got copies. Heh heh. I mean, TSK TSK!

But yeah, I headed to the Lower East Side to meet Diana at the Mortal Instruments party. It took place in an old temple-turned-event-space and was Ah-MAZ-ing. Looked like the freaking Institute from the books!

And they had all sorts of props from the movie. The Mortal Cup, the stele, the ring, etc.

And you could get your own runes drawn! 

We got to see a great never-before-seen clip of the film (OHMIGOD I AM SO EXCITED FOR THIS MOVIE!) and drank blood orange margaritas. Seriously, it was an awesome party.

After that, a bunch of us (including the star of the night, the lovely and hilarious Cassie Clare herself) and ate loads of  pierogis at a nearby Ukrainian diner. Yum!!!

I don't think we crawled into bed until after 1am. Tired, but happy and ready for day 2!!


Saturday, June 01, 2013

Hey all,

Wow - BEA (the Book Expo of America) has been insanely great! So great I've been a blogger slacker! I have taken lots of photos though so I hopefully I can do a good wrap-up.

I arrived on Weds and met up with my partner-in-crime for the week, Diana Peterfreund, who came in from DC. Diana's here to promote her amazing Across a Starswept Sea, the companion novel to For Darkness Shows the Stars. You don't need to read the first book to enjoy this one - BUT you should anyway cause it's a great book in and of itself. I got a chance to read an early copy of Starswept and it is AMAZING. Seriously pre-order now.

But I digress.

Weds night I participated in the Teen Author Carnival, put on my the amazing Mitali Dave. It took place at the Jefferson Market Library which was packed. We did two sessions - one on creating worlds and one on kick-butt heroines. There were like 8 people on each panel and every one gave either insightful or hilarious answers. For example Erin Bowman driven to literal tears when I told my Pennywise the Clown at Dragon*Con story. (Turns out she has a serious clown phobia! Sorry Erin!) Sarah Mass (Throne of Glass) and Susan Denard (Something Strange and Deadly) were their typical hilarious selves. Can't wait to panel with them again at Dragon*Con!

Here's a photo of the whole group:

After the Teen Author Carnival I went out to dinner with Melissa Walker, Tiffany Schmidt, Laura Whitaker (editor at Walker), Diana Peterfreund, Lauren and Tricia. We had margaritas and resisted the urge (Diana, Tiffany and I) of talking about our babies! 

That's just the very beginning of the awesome week, but Diana's looking at me like "Go shower so we can go eat!" so more later!