Friday, December 20, 2013

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Can you even believe 2013 is almost over? I honestly am in shock, as I look at the date. December 20. Christmas is almost here, and before I know it, DEFY is going to be out in the world. Just over 2 weeks left.

I love this time of year, it's honestly my favorite season (even though I prefer summer to winter). I just love Christmas and all that it brings and stands for. I love how everyone tries to be a little bit kinder, a little bit more aware of those around them. I love the music. I love that it brings family and friends together. I love the lights. I love that we get to reflect on what's truly important in our lives, and our faith.

I am so incredibly grateful for all of the blessings in my life. I could make a big long list of what that includes, but I don't want to bore you. Yaddy-yaddy-my husband is amazing, my kids are cute-blah-blah. (But just to be clear, my husband is amazing and my kids are pretty dang cute.)

This has been quite the year, and I am so excited for everything that 2014 holds in store. I'll still be around online during the break (and don't forget to watch for the DEFY blog tour that Rock Star Book Tours is hosting!!), but I probably won't blog again until the new year.

Did I mention DEFY comes out in just over 2 WEEKS?!?!?!

Don't forget--if you've pre-ordered DEFY (or if you do anytime before Jan. 7), hop over and enter my Pre-Order THANK YOU contest!!!! CLICK HERE. It's super easy, all you have to do is leave a comment saying you pre-ordered and where. If you're hoping to nab a signed copy, my local indie The King's English will ship you a signed copy if you pre-order (or order) a copy from them, so keep that in mind!

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and enjoy these last two weeks to 2013! I will be back on the flip side to celebrate a new year and the release of DEFY!!!!

Friday, December 13, 2013

WINNER of DEFY ARC + Extracted Blog Tour!

Thank you all so much for your excitement about my German deal and for DEFY in general!! It really means so much to me. I can't truly express how happy it makes me whenever anyone writes me to tell me how excited they are to read my book, or if they've read an ARC and loved it and want to tell's just an absolute dream come true.

And I truly wish everyone who entered could win, but alas, only one person can get lucky on this Friday the 13th. Rafflecopter has spoken and that person is...



YAY! Congratulations Peggy!! As soon as you send me your address, I will send your signed ARC of DEFY to you! I hope you enjoy it!!

Also just one more tidbit of good news! Booklist thinks DEFY has "...grand adventure, romance, and thrilling political intrigue." I'd say that's a pretty accurate description! It's always wonderful to get a good review like that!

Now, on to the Extracted Blog Tour!

I haven't had a chance to read EXTRACTED yet but I met Tyler Jolley last year at a conference where he told me about it, and wow did it sound awesome! Here's the blurb:

Welcome to the war. The Tesla Institute is a premier academy that trains young time travelers called Rifters. Created by Nicola Tesla, the Institute seeks special individuals who can help preserve the time stream against those who try to alter it. The Hollows is a rogue band of Rifters who tear through time with little care for the consequences. Armed with their own group of lost teens--their only desire to find Tesla and put an end to his corruption of the time stream. Torn between them are Lex and Ember, two Rifters with no memories of their life before joining the time war. When Lex's girlfriend dies during a mission, the only way he can save her is to retrieve the Dox, a piece of tech which allows Rifters to re-enter their own timeline without collapsing the time stream. But the Dox is hidden deep within the Telsa Institute, which means Lex must go into the enemy camp. It's there he meets Ember, and the past that was stolen from them both comes flooding back. Now armed with the truth of who they are, Lex and Ember must work together to save the future before the battle for time destroys them both again.

Now to a guest post by Tyler!

This past May, Sherry, and I were honored to attend Book Expo America.  Naturally, we were very nervous and the normal insecurities started creep into our heads.  What if no one stops at our booth?  What if no one cares about Extracted?  What if I can’t fit into my steeplejacks?  

One of the awesome things about working with a smaller publisher is that you get actual face time with the owner and editors, and we love that.  One of the down sides is that you don’t have a million dollar marketing budget.  With that said, our publisher couldn’t advertise that we were there.  So we got creative and spent months preparing and trying to create buzz.  We were the first signing on the first day – not a lot of time to get word out at the conference.  Our plan was to hand out 3-inch mustaches on a sick that had our booth number and signing info on the back to the bloggers at the Javits Center.  Easy enough, right?  WRONG.  Trying to find 1,000 paper mustaches was next to impossible.  Then on we whim, we decided to contact a vendor on Etsy who was incredibly accommodating and made it happen.  Who would have ever thought that we’d be spending our first night in NYC attaching sticks to the back of mustaches? The next day we managed to hand out 800 in 15 minutes, and it’s a good thing we did.  We saw people sporting their mustaches all weekend.  Everyone knew who we were.

When it got close to the signing, we nervously sat down and waited for the doors to open.  Within 3 minutes we had people rushing us.  The moment we had a line I almost passed out.  The fact that my steeplejacks that were at least two sizes too small may have contributed to that.  Sherry planned a little better than me and ditched her corset for a steampunk jacket.  Smart lady. 

Meeting people who had been anxiously awaiting an ARC (advance read copy) of Extracted was one of the most thrilling moments of my life.  I couldn’t believe we not only had a line, but actually ran out of copies in 40 minutes. It was wonderful and we can’t wait to attend BEA 2015.  

Tyler H. Jolley is a sci-fi/fantasy author and full-time orthodontist, periodontist (see: Overachiever). He divides his spare time between writing, reading, mountain biking, and camping with his family.
Sherry D. Ficklin is a full-time writer and internet radio show host with more mouth then good sense. She has a serious book addiction, but continually refuses treatment, much to her husband’s chagrin.
Tyler and Sherry met one fateful day and bonded over their love for books, science fiction, and donuts. Their first co-written novel came shortly after. Now, they still do all those other things, but also go to various steampunk conventions and events under the guise of ‘research’. They can often be found lurking on the Lost Imperials Facebook page or over on the official website,

Click through to buy and make sure to enter the giveaway!

Preorder link US amazon:
Preorder link UK amazon:
Preorder link b&n:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

1 Month until DEFY giveaway! (+ some AWESOME news!)

So, some of you may have seen my little teaser post on Twitter or FB about having good news to share....wanna know what it is??

I've been sitting on this news for a quite a while, so I'm pretty darn excited to finally get to tell you all that DEFY sold to Germany in an AUCTION earlier this year!!!!!!!

My book is going to get TRANSLATED into GERMAN and get a shiny German cover and everything!!! I'm so excited to have cbj Verlag  (which is part of Random House) publish my book! any of my friends sprechen Sie Deutsch? :):)

I think this calls for a little Loki celebration!!
 You're welcome.
There's no real reason why I added Thor to this post except that he's hot and I like to look at him.

That alone is worth celebrating, right? But that's not all...

There's only 1 month left until DEFY publishes (well, technically it'll be one month in two days, but that's a Saturday so I'm giving you a little jumpstart). You know what that means?? It's time for my last giveaway of an ARC of DEFY!!!

This month has gotten crazy in a hurry, so I'm making it super simple this time. Just a straightforward Rafflecopter giveaway. Do as many or as few options as you'd like, and boosh! You're entered!

This giveaway is open to US and Canada only.

This giveaway will run for one week, and I will announce the winner on Friday, December 13! (Do you think Friday the 13th will by your lucky day?? Better enter to find out!)

Good luck!!

Now I better get back to running around like a crazy person....

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, November 28, 2013


It's a beautiful (albeit smoggy) day here in SLC, UT. The sun is out, it's hovering around fifty degrees. Soon, I will be gorging on tons of delicious food.

But the real beauty of this day is the chance to reflect on the blessings in my life.

I'm not going to lie, this life is hard. It's full of trials. At least, my life has been. It's had its ups and its downs. Some of the downs have been very, very low. But if I try to look for the good, I can always find it in abundance.

Many of you have been reading this blog for years, following me through all sorts of trials and triumphs. There has been joy, there has been grief and pain. There have been tears of happiness and tears of sorrow.

In just over a month, a lifelong dream of mine will be coming true. I will be a published author with Scholastic. I remember as a little girl, reading The Babysitters Club and wishing I could be Stacey. I thought if I had diabetes and was from NYC, then people would like me. I signed all of my i's with a heart like her. I even pretended I had diabetes at school once in second grade, hoping it would win me more friends. (That was an #epicfail, btw.)  Harry Potter is my favorite series of all time. And The Hunger Games is in a league of its own. Scholastic book fairs...I LOVED getting those flyers at school growing up. When I had sleepovers with my FarMor (my Swedish Grandma), she would take me to the mall to get something, and I always had her buy me books. Reading and writing have been a part of me my entire life.

And now, in just over a month, my book will be on a shelf with that same logo on the spine.

It is unbelievable. As I sit here writing this, I'm trying not to cry, and failing. (Unfortunately, I'm in a public place, too.)

Having a dream come true is an interesting thing. It's beautiful and amazing, but it's also hard in surprising ways. I've poured my heart and soul into this book, I've done everything I could to make it the best it could be. Am I perfect? No. Is my writing flawless? Of course not. But I tried my best, and I love these characters with my whole heart. I hope that many of you will, too. I know not everyone will and that's hard. It's hard to hear when people don't understand Alexa or Damian or Rylan the way I do. But that's also the beauty of writing a story and giving it to the world. It is no longer my story. Once you pick up that book, it becomes yours. You will meet these characters and experience their stories on your terms. My hope is that for some of you, you will lose yourself in Alexa's story, in her failures and triumphs. In her weaknesses and her strengths. This is a story of overcoming loss, of continuing on no matter what. It is a story of finding love amidst pain and fear, and it is a story of discovering true strength and the courage to overcome all obstacles on the path to the hope of a better future.

DEFY is preparing to spread its wings and take flight into the world. And that is both thrilling and terrifying. It is happiness and dreams-can-come-true and this-is-really-happening.

Not all of our dreams come true, this I know. God has blessed me with much in my life, but some of it has come at a great cost, and some blessings have not come at all, as much as I wish they had.  But I do know that God loves me, and I know that all of the blessings in my life are from Him. I have an amazing husband. I have three beautiful, healthy children. There was a time when I thought I would never have children, and then a time when we had to face the reality that we might only have one. We have an angel in heaven, watching over us. And miraculously, I have two more gorgeous children, even though getting them here were some of the scariest trials I've endured. I want more babies, I wish I could have more. There may yet be another miracle or two in store for me, but I hardly even dare hope or pray for that. I don't want to be greedy and risk leaving my family without a Mommy. But as I sit here, thinking over my life so far I realize just how incredibly blessed I truly am.

I hope that all of you are with those you love today, whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not. I hope you take the time every day to look for the good, because all of us are blessed in unique ways. Some blessings may only come after we do all that we can--as was the case with my dream of getting published. I struggled and worked for years and years to get here, but because I never gave up, I eventually had that dream come true.

And I am so grateful that I never gave up and never quit.

I am grateful for so much.

I am blessed.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013


It's been a crazy two weeks, and it's not over yet! I'm so excited for the Thanksgiving weekend. I'm ready to rest and relax for a few days with my family.

Now, on to the Q&A!

Nikki asked: how much does the YA Valentines group help you? Or the benefits of being a YA Val?
Being a part of the YA Valentines has been a huge benefit and help! We are all there for each other, supporting each other through the ups and downs of debuting and just publishing in general. We are all so different, as are our books, but that's part of what makes it so great. I always know I can go to them and that they'll make me laugh, make me feel better, and that they'll understand. That's a huge thing as an author, which can feel very lonely sometimes. I'm so glad I have my Vals!

Katy asked: I would love some background on how you came up with the basic story idea for DEFY! How long it took you to write it, to query it, etc.

The inspiration came from a very dark place in my life, when someone I loved (my cousin's husband) had just passed away from cancer. He was just 24. The very first scene I wrote stemmed from that grief, and for a long time I thought that was all it was--an exercise in grief. But the characters wouldn't leave me alone so I kept going. However, about 7 or 8k words in, I hit a wall. I couldn't figure out where the plot needed to go. So I put it down. But again, the characters wouldn't leave me alone. When I finally figured out that one of them was keeping a major secret from me, the rest of the plot suddenly clicked into place and the rest of the book flew out of me. (I finished writing it 2 weeks after I figured out that one, integral secret.)

I'd been querying agents for almost 9 months (with two different books) after parting ways with my first agent in February of 2012. This was now October. But I knew DEFY was different. I started querying on Monday, about fifteen queries. Then on Tuesday night, I saw that an agent I liked had just re-opened to queries. I sent one off, and was shocked to get a full request ten minutes later. And even more shocked to get an email the next day before lunch, asking to talk to me about the book! I ended up receiving more than one offer. It was a dream situation. But TRUST ME, I've been through query hell (TWICE!) before this. If you count up all the queries from both times I searched for an agent, the rejections were probably well over 200. It was amazing to have everything move so fast with DEFY. 

Andrea asked: How many books are you planning in the defy series/world? And what is your favorite and least favorite parts of the writing process?

There are 3 books in the DEFY series, with the second one coming out in January 2015!

One of my least favorite parts is when I'm on a roll or have some great inspiration/ideas and can't find the time to write and lose my momentum. 

And one of my favorite parts is when I feel like I'm going to burst from excitement because everything is coming together the way I dreamed it would, and I've got the perfect music playing, and my heart is racing and I'm writing as fast as I can to get it all out before I lose my steam! 

Thanks for the great questions you guys! We'll have to do this again soon! Hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about me, DEFY, and my writing journey!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Winner of MadLib + Something Awesome!

You guys, these MadLibs were SO hysterical! I was rolling on the floor laughing.
But, we'll get to that in a minute. First, I have some AWESOME news!

DEFY was selected for the Winter 2013-2014 Kids' Indie Next List!!!

I am SO unbelievably excited and honored to have my book be chosen for this list! I've seen so many wonderful books make the previous lists, and it still seems slightly surreal that DEFY is now one of them! THANK YOU for loving DEFY and choosing it for your list!!

I also want to take a quick moment to remind you of this Pre-Order M
adness post. If you've already pre-ordered DEFY, make sure you click through to enter to possibly win an awesome THANK YOU gift! And if you're still thinking about it, click through to find out how to pre-order a signed/personalized copy of DEFY from my local bookseller, The King's English! (They're awesome, so I hope you'll help me support them--and you can get a signed/personalized book of your very own, even if I don't live anywhere near you!)

Okay, now, on to the MadLibs!

This was TOUGH you guys. I had to assemble a panel of judges to decide the winner. We laughed so hard at so many. We narrowed it down to the top three, and then, finally, we found our winner....

MadLib scene from DEFY (with some verbs changed for tense):

"Nice job, Alex. Don’t DROOL to the prince. We all know he
couldn’t use a YO-YO if his life depended on it.” Rylan SNORT-LAUGHED at
me with an approving smile when I WINKED over to him and the
other men who’d been watching.

I CARTWHEELED, modulating my tone to keep the sound of my
amusement low and as BLUBBERY as possible. I’d been doing it
for so long, I didn’t even have to think about it anymore. Trying
to sound like a WHISKER was natural to me now. “When have I ever
cared what the prince thinks? The day I start taking advice about
WHIRLING from him will be the day Marcel can finally beat me.”
Rylan SHREDDED. “True. I think Marcel’s going to be feeling
that hit for a few days.”

“Well,” I replied, “it’s always good to give him a reminder of
why I’m going to beat him out for the captainship someday.” I
chucked my UNICORN through the air and Asher TICKLED it at the last second, just before it hit him in the chest.

I mean, how can you beat tickling a unicorn? We died laughing over that. Do you know who won yet? It was ANNE RILEY!! Congrats Anne! Email me your address so I can send you the signed ARC! :-)

Now, anyone curious to know what it really says in the book? Here you go! 

The real version:

   "Nice job, Alex. Don’t listen to the prince. We all know he
couldn’t use a sword if his life depended on it.” Rylan nodded at
me with an approving smile when I walked over to him and the
other men who’d been watching.
   I laughed, modulating my tone to keep the sound of my
amusement low and as unfeminine as possible. I’d been doing it
for so long, I didn’t even have to think about it anymore. Trying
to sound like a boy was natural to me now. “When have I ever
cared what the prince thinks? The day I start taking advice about
fighting from him will be the day Marcel can finally beat me.”
   Rylan laughed. “True. I think Marcel’s going to be feeling
that hit for a few days.”
   “Well,” I replied, “it’s always good to give him a reminder of
why I’m going to beat him out for the captainship someday.” I
chucked my sword through the air and Asher grabbed it at the last
second, just before it hit him in the chest.

Thanks again everyone for participating! 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

2 MONTHS until DEFY ARC Contest!

Have you looked at the date yet today? It's November 7th.


*ahem* Sorry about that outburst. I'm only a *little* bit excited. 

But, hey, there's reason for you to be excited, too! That means it's time for another DEFY arc giveaway! 

This time, I'm making it much easier. This idea was submitted by Nikki Wang--congrats Nikki!! (please email me your info, so I can send you the DEFY swag you've won!) Her idea was to do a mad-lib with a scene from DEFY. So fun, right? 

Okay, here goes! All you need to do is write your answers in your comment:

For example, if the first one were a noun, I'd write in my commment: "1. Noun = (the noun I picked)" then "2. adjective = (adjective I picked)" and so on until you did them all. 

I will pick the best one, post it for your enjoyment and that person will win the arc! 

Easy, peasy right? 

Here are your options--I tried to make this easy, so hopefully everyone can participate. 

10. NOUN
11. VERB

Remember to leave your responses in the comments. You have until Wednesday, November 13 at midnight to enter!

Also--don't forget, if you've already pre-ordered DEFY, or if you're thinking about it, you have a chance to win one of two pretty awesome THANK YOU packs--details can be found in THIS POST. (Including info on how to pre-order a signed copy of DEFY!)

Good luck everyone, and happy Mad-Libbing! (is that even a word?)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pre-order Madness (aka my way of saying THANK YOU!)

It's hard to believe that yesterday was near 70 and beautiful. Today, I'm sitting at my "desk" (aka, my dining table...if you don't believe me, go HERE) staring out at a blizzard. Oh, Utah. I guess we had a nice October, so I can't complain too much. It is November after all, so it's time for winter to come.

Whether you are excited for snow or not, there is one reason you can be really excited it's November--that means it's only 2 months until DEFY comes out!! Can you believe it? In just over 2 months, my little baby book will be out in the world!

There's intrigue, magic, sword-fighting, hot boys, a totally fierce heroine, hot boys, a kingdom set in the jungle, hot boys... *stares off into the distance, dreaming of the hot boys* 

Oh! You're still here. *ahem* Sorry about that! Anyway... On to the point of this post...

I know that some of you have already pre-ordered DEFY--which just blows me away with gratitude!! That means SO so much to an author, especially a debut author. I'm also guessing that there might be a few more of you out there who are on the fence, trying to decide if you want to pre-order or not. I know that's a big decision to make--to buy something you haven't read, especially when it's the first book in a series.

So I've decided to do something as a way of saying "THANK YOU" to those who already have pre-ordered--and to those who hadn't decided yet, maybe it will be the extra boost you are hoping for to make your decision.

Anyone who pre-orders my book before January 7, 2014 can enter the Rafflecopter drawing (below) to be entered to win one of two "thank-you prizes!!"

One Grand Prize winner will get to choose between getting a signed ARC or a signed hardcover of DEFY + a swag pack made of awesome! You can keep the extra book, or use it for your own giveaway, or gift it to a friend, or whatever you want! Now, why would you want the ARC instead of the hardcover? Well, because there's a little surprise in my ARC that you might want to see. When I got my ARCs, I had no idea it would be there either. I opened it up to look through it and saw an extra page--a letter from my editor, talking about her first experience reading DEFY and why she loves it so much! It pretty much made me cry. So, if you'd like to be able to read that letter, you can choose the ARC. Or if you'd rather have a signed first-edition of the hardcover, then pick that!

**EDIT** I just got word that I can add 2 MORE PRIZES to this giveaway!! You can now win a FREE download of the DEFY audio book, too!!!! EEP! I can't wait to hear this--I love the actress who read the book. WOOHOO!!!

PLUS a second lucky winner will also get chosen for another swag pack made of awesome!!

Wanna see what that swag pack will be? Here you go:

A this is teen "I read YA" bag (Scholastic gave these away at BEA last year, and there are only a few left in the world--how cool is that?!), a beautiful DEFY button (this picture doesn't do it justice AT ALL), a signed bookmark, a signed postcard, and surprise treat in the bag!!

Pretty cool, right? 

(Psst...For those of you who live by me and might come to my launch party on January 7th at The King's English, I will be doing a raflle with these same swag prizes--except there might also be a few bigger surprises in the possibly some ARCs of debuts coming out next year! So if you live close by, mark your calendars!)

***And speaking of The King's English--if you want to increase your chances of getting a signed copy (like, by 100%), if you pre-order through them, The King's English will have me sign/personalize your book the night of my launch party and ship it to you! How awesome, right?? GO HERE and you can order online, or you can call them to place your order (801-484-9100). Make sure to specify that you want it signed and/or personalized!***

This contest will run through DEFY's release, on January 7th, 2014 (when it will no longer be possible to pre-order). ;) 

Again, whether you pre-order or not, I can't thank you all enough for your support and excitement for DEFY. It means more than you could ever know!! *huge, awkward hugs*

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 28, 2013

Strong reactions

*disclaimer* There are no plot spoilers in this post, however there ARE emotional responses discussed, so if you wish to avoid ANY possible reference to a certain third book in a certain trilogy with a main character named Tris, you may want to read this after you've finished the book. *warning over*

So I'm still in recovery mode over here today. I read a certain book last weekend, and without being too spoilery, it left me feeling a little shell-shocked. I'm sure you've heard (unless your head is under a rock or you have adamantly been refusing to look at anything online) that reactions to this book have been VERY strong, and not all of them have been positive.

As an author, my reaction is complicated. I think many reviews that I've seen have been knee-jerk reactions. But I've forced myself to sit on this for a bit, to think it through--to let the immediate strong emotions to simmer a bit. Whether you like the ending or not, there is one thing I think we can all agree on, Veronica Roth is an amazing author. If she weren't, she wouldn't have elicited this strong of a response by what she chose to do. And she wrote a fantastic (and brave) response to the questions about the ending of her series HERE.

As authors, we are constantly making choices. We are trying to stay true to the story in our hearts, and the voices of our characters in our heads. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the fact that reading is so subjective is simultaneously one of the most wonderful and terrifying aspects of being an author. No author, not even J.K. Rowling, can make every reader happy with what happens within the pages of their book. (Although she's probably come the closest of any author I've read.) But she still has the one and two star reviews, and people who were mad about one thing or another in the Harry Potter series. On the whole though, most authors don't come anywhere near the kind of universal adoration that her books received. Do we all dream of that? Probably. I think we'd be lying if we said no.

The bottom line is that both Roth and Rowling accomplished something great: they elicited very strong reactions in their readers, and that means they made us care. And not just care, but care deeply.

Here's a true confession. I don't know if it's because of my internal editor, or just that I read SO MUCH, or being a writer myself, but for some reason, it has become incredibly hard to make me cry in a book. The only two fiction novels that have done it (that I can think of off the top of my head, and excluding writing my own, which can be very emotional) in the last ten years were The Deathly Hallows and Code Name Verity. Until last weekend. So, what does that mean to me? Regardless of whether I liked or didn't like the ending, Veronica Roth made me cry, and that means she did something right.

With my own book on the verge of being released (just over two months left!!), I have both excitement and trepidation for what lies ahead. I know that not everyone will understand my story the way I intended it to be understood, and not everyone will love my characters the way I love them. That's just the nature of our jobs as authors. We give our readers our best effort, we give them a piece of us, and they take and do with it what they will. Even though I know that, I also know it will still be hard to see or hear about negative reviews. Our books are such a part of us, that of course it stings if someone doesn't "get" them, or if they did but still didn't like it. (I wrote another post about that recently that you can read HERE.) But I also know that there will be those out there who will meet Alexa and Marcel, Rylan and Damian, and they will fall in love with all of them. Maybe some of you will even come to love them the way I do. And that is what sharing my book with the world is all about.

We all have books that reached out to us, past our minds, straight into our hearts and souls. The books that transported us out of our own lives to reside, at least for a time, somewhere else. Somewhere different. Somewhere unique and wonderful, with characters who felt completely real to us. We yearned with those characters, we ached with them. We triumphed with them. We fell in love right alongside them. And we warred with the need to finish and the desire to savor the experience, as we flipped page after page after page, our hearts racing.

That's what I hope for the most. I long to have someone, somewhere experience that through the pages of DEFY. But second to that, I hope that you feel something when you read it. Whether you love it or hate it, devour it or want to throw it at the wall, my job as a writer is to make you feel. Veronica Roth did that, J.K. Rowling did, Elizabeth Wein, and so many others--and all in different ways. I could compile a huge list here of authors who I admire and whose books have touched my life and inspired me, but this post is long enough.

In the end, that's what it all comes down to, isn't it? The desire to understand each other better, to feel connected, or validated, or not quite so alone, even if it's through a boy wizard, or a WWII POW, or a girl living in factions in an experimental future society. Or maybe even a young woman forced to disguise herself and use her skills at sword-fighting to carve out the best life she can, in the depths of a jungle kingdom immersed in a brutal war against magic.

So tell me, what are some of the books that have touched you the most--or made you feel the strongest reactions?


Friday, October 25, 2013

And the winner is....

It was a very tight race! (Which was expected because all the covers were just WOW. So amazing!)

But there can only be one winner...

And the mock cover you all chose was....





Cover #1 by Heather Senter!!!

Congratulations Heather!!! And thank you for creating such a gorgeous mock-cover for DEFY! I hope you enjoy the book!! Make sure to email me your address and I'll get it out to you as soon as possible.

Thanks again everyone for participating! And don't forget, if you didn't win, there is a goodreads giveaway being hosted by This Is Teen that runs until Nov. 1! CLICK HERE

And I will be hosting another giveaway next month as well, so watch for that! (And this one will be much easier to to do, for us non-artistic types.)

Happy Friday and happy reading!

Monday, October 21, 2013

DEFY ARC Winner + a vote

Wow, thank you for the amazing response for my DEFY arc giveaway!! I still can't believe we're almost down to 2 months until my book is out there in the wild! But for two lucky people, they won't have to wait any longer to read Alexa's story...

Rafflecopter has spoken and the winner of the first DEFY ARC is....


Entry 121: AMIE!!!! 

YAY!! Congratulations!!! *throws confetti*

Check your inbox! (You have one week to respond, or I will have to pick a new winner. So hurry and write back!)

And now, for the cover contest....

You guys are just too dang talented!! I am blown away by these awesome mock-covers, and honestly, I just can't choose one by myself, because I love them all!

So, here's what's going to happen. I'm putting it to a vote. Here are your choices, numbered in no particular order. Please vote in the comments, by saying which cover (by number) you like the best. The artist with the most votes by Friday afternoon at 12:00 (noon) MST, will be the winner of the second DEFY arc!!

Are you ready for this??? Here they are!






There you have them!! Can you see why I had such a hard time?!?! Absolutely amazing and unique--every one of them!

So now it's your turn to decide the fate of our entries. Which one will win? It's up to you!  Good luck!!

Monday, October 7, 2013

3 months until DEFY comes out ARC GIVEAWAY!!

Well, it's hard to believe it, but we're down to 3 months until DEFY comes out as of today October 7!!

So, as promised, I'm doing my first DEFY ARC giveaway to celebrate! Last week, I gave you the chance to win DEFY swag by giving me an idea of what to do for the giveaway...but there were quite a few good options to choose from. I wish I could have picked them all, but there were too many. However, instead of just picking one, since there's three months left until the book comes out, I choose three!

Yep. 3.

Here's how it will work: I'm going to do a giveaway each month until DEFY releases, and each month I'm going to use one of the three ideas I picked.

First up is Nova Lee's idea to have you make a mock cover of DEFY! (Nova Lee, make sure and message me your address so I can send you the DEFY swag you won!)

Now, let me just say, I LOVE my cover. It's so perfect for my book. But her idea sounded like a lot of fun--to see what all of you amazingly talented artists/photoshop geniuses/etc. can come up with! (Especially since I have absolutely no artistic talent at all...sorry, but there won't be any cool doodles in any of my signed books. Unless you like stick figures.) However, those of you who are like me, and don't have artistic talent--don't give up yet! Keep reading until the end.

Anyone who does wish to try their hand at the mock cover contest, you will have two weeks to do it--the contest ends at midnight on October 20th, the winner will be announced the week of the 21st. I picked this idea first because it's going to take more effort, and I figured it would be better to do it before the holidays all start to hit and life gets insanely busy.

Here is the goodreads summary to help you decide how to design your cover:

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?

And here is the actual cover art, to show you what Scholastic came up with: 

Oh, how I love this cover!! It's so perfect on so many levels. 

Once your cover art is ready, please post the image on your blog, or tweet a picture of it to me (@SaraBLarson), or you can tag me on a Facebook post of the cover you create. Just make sure you link to me somehow so I can see that you did it and enter it in the contest. I will pick ONE cover, the that I love the most and think is the best fit for DEFY, to win a signed ARC of DEFY!!

Now, like I said, I know not everyone has artistic talent (especially since I'm one of them), so I've decided that in order to make it fair, I'm also going to do a regular rafflecopter giveaway for a SECOND ARC of DEFY. Yes, you will all have 2 chances to win!! Just do however many options you want below, and may the odds be ever in your favor!

I can't wait to see what you all come up with!! And remember, if you don't win either ARC of DEFY this month, don't give up--there are two more contests coming up in November and December!

*(This contest is open to US/Canada residents only, as per my publisher's instructions.)*

GOOD LUCK and happy cover-making! :-)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 30, 2013

On overcoming doubt...

I think one of the hardest ongoing battles we authors fight is the war against doubt.

We come up with ideas, that to us seem unique and exciting. We love our characters. We pour our heart and souls into our books. They are a piece of us. But if what we want is to get published, then we have to take all of that hope and love and blood, sweat, and tears, and package it up in a little email and hit send. All with the prayer that someone is going to read what we wrote and ask to read some more. And maybe, hopefully, love it as much as we do, and ask to represent us.

Then you get to do it all over again when your agent sends your book out to editors.

Now, in a perfect, wonderful world, you would write your book, send it to ten agents, get ten offers, and then sell at auction within a week of going on submission. Right? Ah... the dream.

The reality is that most of us get to go through this horrible little detour on our path to success called REJECTION. Over the seven years it took for me to get my publishing deal, I accumulated hundreds of rejections. HUNDREDS people. That starts to sting after a while, no matter how nicely worded they were.

Enter my old nemesis: DOUBT.

When you keep getting told no, it's hard not to doubt yourself. To not start to wonder if your story is original enough (without being TOO original, because that can be scary to publishing folks, too). It's hard not to look at this piece of your heart and soul and wonder if it isn't good enough. And unfortunately, that can bleed over into real life. At least it did for me. Oftentimes I started to wonder if I wasn't good enough.

But here's the thing: the rejection never really ends. Not even after you do get an agent who loves your book as much as you do. Not even after an editor nabs your book and showers it with love and praise. Not even if you do sell at auction and get a hundred starred reviews, and make the top of every list.  (Which I obviously didn't or haven't, but I'm using my imagination here...) There will still be those who don't like you book, who maybe even attack it--and maybe even you.

And that doubt can wiggle and worm it's way into the happiest of moments, if you let it, because there will ALWAYS be people who don't like your writing, or your characters, or you-name-it. Reading is so subjective, which is simultaneously the most wonderful and terrifying part of being an author. It means, even if one person didn't like it, someone else will. But the opposite is also true.

So how do you handle it? How do you overcome the doubts and fears and rejection and keep going?

You surround yourself with people who love you and support you. You take part in real life, not just the book world. I'm lucky enough to be friends with some authors who are much wiser than I am, who help  teach me how to deal with all of this much better than I otherwise would. In fact, I was having a conversation with Ally Condie recently about all of this--dealing with doubt/rejection/etc, and she said some things that really stuck with me. She told me that when someone says something mean about your books or writing or anything else it hurts your feelings, but when something bad happens to your kids, that's what really kills you. (And this is true of all moms, I'm sure.) She told me, "I love my books, but my books are not my babies. My BABIES are my babies." And that is the honest truth--and something that has really stuck in my mind. My true loves are my husband, my children, and my family and my friends. My books and my characters are a huge part of me, and it hurts when people don't like them. But, as the release of DEFY grows ever closer, and more and more people start reading it, I know that I am going to have to deal with both sides of this equation: the love and the dislike that is bound to come.

And on the days when I struggle with doubt, because those negative reviews are going to come, and I know it, I will go read a couple of the letters and reviews that brought tears to my eyes because they were so wonderful. I will reread the letter my editor wrote me in the front of my arc. I will remember all the rejections that got me to where I am now, and know that not everyone is going to love my book and that's okay.

And then I will go hug my real babies, and remember that in the end, I did the best I could. I wrote the best book I could. I love DEFY, I love Alexa and Rylan and Damian, and in the end, that is what matters. And then I will go play another game of hide-and-go-seek with my kids.

So what's the point of this long post? I guess this: I don't have a magic formula to make it so you never have to suffer from rejection or doubt or fear. It's always there. Even for authors who have multiple published books and all sorts of accolades. There is always the fear of rejection. There are always the doubts, the worries that this time, they're going to figure out that you are a fraud. So all any of us can do is write the best book we know how, never give up, and when the day comes that you do get published, try to focus on the good. And then go outside, go for a walk, play with your kids, talk to a friend, go to a movie or to a football game or whatever it is that you enjoy.

And if I ever get down because of a bad review, will you remind me to do the same thing? Thanks. :-)

Now, for those of you who actually made it to the bottom of this post, congrats!! Here's your reward: Next week marks the 3 month mark until DEFY comes out! So, on October 7, I am going to start my first contest to win a signed ARC of DEFY + chances for signed swag for a few other lucky people!!

Here's the catch: I'm still trying to decide what exactly to do for this contest. Give me a suggestion in the comments, and if I love your idea enough to pick it, you'll win signed DEFY swag! So put on those thinking caps, and give it your best shot! (I reserve the right to not pick anyone's if nothing feels quite right. But I have faith that you will come up with something awesome!) Good luck!

Monday, September 9, 2013

The impact of powerful stories

Recently, Baby Girl (who is really not a baby any longer, but let's not talk about that) has decided she loves Disney princess movies. She's always asking, "Mommy, I watch Little Mermaid?" (You should hear how she enunciates Little Mermaid. It may be the cutest thing ever. Like, so cute that I sometimes make her ask me a couple of times before I respond just so I can keep hearing her say it. But I digress...) or "Mommy, I watch Belle?"

So if you hear me singing Disney songs, now you'll know why.

But the point is that watching these movies again has reminded me of when I used to watch these movies years ago. Particularly Beauty and the Beast. I have always loved Beauty and the Beast stories and movies, particularly BEAUTY by Robin McKinley and the Disney movie. (Except for how weird the beast looks once he's human again. What happened to the guy in the portrait? Anyway...) I used to feel like I could be Belle (minus the being so beautiful that guys were having bands waiting outside for me, preparing for our wedding before they even proposed). But the book-loving, kind of odd, not understood, somewhat lonely part? Yep. I totally related to that. And I'd dream of meeting my prince (even if he seemed like a beast at first, as long as he had that LIBRARY). (Wow, I'm using lots of parentheses in this post. [sorry about that])

Luckily, I eventually met my prince, and he wasn't even hairy at all. And he is going to build me a gorgeous library someday. Woot, woot! ;-)

The point is that watching this movie again has brought back those memories and got me thinking about the impact stories can have on us. They can help us to dream, give us characters to relate to. They can transport us out of our lives and take us anywhere in the world--or to completely different, new worlds. We can experience love, pain, loss, triumph--anything and everything in the pages of a book, or in a good movie.

And that's why I love to not only write, but also to read as many books as I possibly can. I love creating my own stories, in hopes that I will be able to do all of that for someone else--and I love reading fantastic books and letting someone else take me away into their world. I love that feeling of, "I can't stop, I have to finish this book! Except I don't want it to end... what do I do?!?!" (Even though that often leads to exhaustion the next day because I stay up too late finishing the book...)

Good stories wield a powerful and amazing kind of magic, don't you think? The kind of magic that can make an exhausted mom of three give up sleep to find out what happens. That is power, people.

So, tell me, what are some of your favorite stories from when you were growing up or now?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Local ARC tour for DEFY!

Calling all local peeps!!

If you're a book blogger, author, or librarian/teacher (particularly if you have a blog), and live in UT or Southern ID there is going to be a "local ARC tour" for DEFY starting in the next week or two! There are a limited number of spots available, so if you're interested you need to tweet @WindyAphayrath or comment on THIS FACEBOOK post to get on the list. She'll then email you with more details! Hurry, space is limited and it's first come, first serve.

So, uh, anyone out there want to read DEFY before it comes out???

*bites nails*

*is nervous*

Oooh, this might tempt you--there's a special letter about DEFY in the front of the book, that I didn't know would be there until I got my ARCs. And it made me cry. Pretty sure it's ONLY in the ARC, so if you want to see it...well, you know what to do! ;-)

BTW, did you know that as of this Saturday, it will officially be 4 months until DEFY is released??? *flails*

Lots of exciting stuff coming soon, so stay tuned!!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Thank you to everyone who entered the contest to win RELIC + THE HEALING SPELL! The contest has ended a winner was picked...

And the winner is...


ARIEL!!! Congrats to you Ariel! I will email you shortly to get your info and send your prizes!

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Relic + The Healing Spell + giveaway!

Lookie lookie -- I'm blogging AGAIN! That's three weeks in a row. Can you even believe it? I'm totally on a streak. One might even call it a winning streak. Okay, not really, BUT it could be--for you!


Because I'm doing a giveaway to celebrate the return to blogging and school and a schedule (and trying not to be sad that summer is over).

First of all, my incredibly talented friend Renee Collin's debut RELIC came out TODAY!! You guys, this book. THIS BOOK. It is SO good. When I first read it, before it went out on submisison, I knew it would sell. It was just that amazing. Unique, awesome, romantic and just made-of-awesome. So to celebrate, I'm giving away a signed copy of RELIC!!!! (Which I will be procuring for myself in 2 weeks at Renee's signing here in SLC!) Can't wait! Congratulations Renee, I'm so over the moon excited for you!!!

From goodreads:

After a raging fire consumes her town and kills her parents, Maggie Davis is on her own to protect her younger sister and survive best she can in the Colorado town of Burning Mesa. In Maggie’s world, the bones of long-extinct magical creatures such as dragons and sirens are mined and traded for their residual magical elements, and harnessing these relics’ powers allows the user to wield fire, turn invisible, or heal even the worst of injuries.

Working in a local saloon, Maggie befriends the spirited showgirl Adelaide and falls for the roguish cowboy Landon. But when she proves to have a particular skill at harnessing the relics’ powers, Maggie is whisked away to the glamorous hacienda of Álvar Castilla, the wealthy young relic baron who runs Burning Mesa. Though his intentions aren’t always clear, Álvar trains Maggie in the world of relic magic. But when the mysterious fires reappear in their neighboring towns, Maggie must discover who is channeling relic magic for evil before it’s too late.

Relic is a thrilling adventure set in a wholly unique world, and a spell-binding story of love, trust, and the power of good.


Recently, another one of my friends, my agency sister AND editor sister Kimberley Griffiths Little came to my neck of the woods to do a signing, and I happened to nab an extra book to give to one of you (and got it signed, too)! It's the paperback with a shiny new cover. Feast your eyes on this:

Beautiful and haunting, right?

From Goodreads:

Critically acclaimed author Kimberley Griffiths Little brings to life a sweeping and heartfelt story set against the lush backdrop of the bayou.

Twelve-year-old Livie is living with a secret and it's crushing her. She knows she is responsible for her mother's coma, but she can't tell anyone. It's up to her to find a way to wake her momma up.

Stuck in the middle of three sisters, hiding a forbidden pet alligator, and afraid to disappoint her daddy, whom she loves more than anyone else, Livie struggles to find her place within her own family as she learns about the powers of faith and redemption. Livie's powerful, emotional, and sometimes humorous story will stay with readers long after the last line is read.

Doesn't it sound SO SO good? Well, trust me, it is. I am just surrounded by insanely talented people. It's kind of intimidating!

So... Want a chance to win? Then enter below and may the Rafflecopter odds be ever in your favor!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway >

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Big Apple

In my last post, I promised a recap of my trip to NYC. And you know me (or if you don't, you will soon learn): that means picture overload!! (and also a plethora of CAPS and PUNCTUATION!!!) ;-)

I still can't quite believe it really happened. A large portion of my brain is still pretty sure it was a prolonged dream. The only reason I'm sure it wasn't all in my head is because I took pictures to prove it happened. Not to be corny, but it was, quite literally, a dream come true.

So here we go: Sara's first time in NYC!
In the air, still unable to believe this is really happening! I was also so nervous... not quite sure how I was going to handle being in NYC by myself. This might sound silly, but I was told my hotel was within walking distance of the Scholastic offices--only 7 blocks. Cue UT girl freak out. I'm supposed to walk 7 BLOCKS in my HEELS in a massive city BY MYSELF?? I was working on my whistle so I'd be ready to get a cab.
(My Hotel Lobby)
 And then I got to NYC and all my fear disappeared. As we drove through the streets I learned two things: 1. I LOVE NYC. And 2. It would be much faster to walk than take a cab. Holy traffic jam!
 (View in front of my hotel)
I had a little bit of time before I was supposed to meet Editor Lisa for dinner, and I decided to go wander around the city a little bit. (Like I said--all fear was gone.)
 (Me, being a nerdy tourist in front of my hotel)

Walking up and down the streets of NYC - this is Broadway. You guys, I can't even begin to tell you how much I loved it here. There was such an amazing, cool energy in the city. I couldn't wipe the grin off of my face as I wandered around, taking it all in. If I weren't married with 3 kids, I think I'd be tempted to up and move here. Not forever, but maybe for a year. It was just so... I don't know. I just loved it!
 Then I got to meet Editor Lisa for the first time in person and we went to dinner at this amazing restaurant in SoHo. She was kind enough to let me take pictures with her, even though she was due in only a couple of weeks. She's so beautiful and wonderful! I honestly can't imagine a more perfect editor for me and DEFY.
 My delicious breakfast as I got ready for my luncheon with Scholastic! I got up early, even though it was SUPER early for this UT girl, so I could have time to wander around the city some more. I brought a big bag to carry my stuff in--including my heels--put on my flip flops (yep, with my fancy outfit) and headed out the door!
 Anyone else out there a fan of FELICITY? My sisters and I used to watch it all the time, so I had to take a pic and send it to them!
 I found a (relatively safe looking) stranger to take this nerdy picture for me in front of the Scholastic building (complete with my awesome flip flops haha). She positioned that street sign just perfectly, don't you think? ha. Oh well! Here I am!
 Coolest building ever, right?? Notice how there are two doors--one said "Scholastic Store" and one said "Scholastic" with the Bldg number on it. So, being the savvy tourist/author that I am, I decided to go into the store first, and then head over to the other door and go to my luncheon.
 When I walked in, there was this huge lobby with security guards... weird for a store, right? But oh well, whatever! Nice to know my book will be well guarded once it's on those shelves.
 After I wandered back out front, I asked one of the nice security guards to take my picture with Harry. He asked if I liked the store and I told him how cool I thought it was, and then said, "My book is going to be back there in five months!" He was excited for me and asked me about it, so I told him a little bit about it and that I was actually there for a luncheon with my editor. "So, I better get going!" I said and breezily waved and walked out of the door. A different door than I walked in. And yet it still didn't click. I blame it on the nerves. So, anyway, I walk out, turn left to go in the "other door" and realize I'm past the Scholastic building. WHAT? I panic for half a second, until it FINALLY dawns on me. HELL-O! I had to turn around and go back in that door I'd just walked out of, straight up to those same two security guards and said, "Remember how I said I was a totally dork? Yeah, um, I need to go upstairs and see Lisa Sandell." I still can't believe I was so dumb. Haha. Oh well! The guard was very nice not to laugh at me as he printed off my badge and buzzed me through to go upstairs.
 Me and Lisa in her office with my ARCs of DEFY!! 
 The luncheon was absolutely amazing. I loved meeting the other authors there, and all of the incredible people at Scholastic. I'm so incredibly blessed to be working with all of them!! It was so fun to talk to people who love my book and are as excited about it as I am. I can't even put it into words.
 Just a few of the awesome people at Scholastic - Sheila Marie (my publicist), Bess and Emily! I don't want to go on and on, but this day was just... wow. I don't have words.
 The skyline on my way back to the airport. I hope I can stay longer next time and see more of the Big Apple, but I was also so excited to get back to my family. It was so strange to be the one on a business trip instead of SHH!
And speaking of him... he surprised me with the best "car service" (and sign) of the whole trip! Have I mentioned that I'm so blessed??

If you're still reading this -  congrats! You made it! That's the end of the recap. Phew, right? But here's the thing. So much of this journey is hard. Years of rejections, being told no over and over... Feeling like you're not good enough and never will be, and yet you somehow keep pressing on. I did that for seven years. It struck me the other day--I've been trying to get published for almost the entire time my oldest son has been alive. I started writing again and pursuing publication when he was eight or nine months old. He's 8 now. And it's finally happening. 

I don't know what lies ahead of me--I don't know how well DEFY will do. I don't know how many more books I'll be able to publish. I don't know--and can't control--SO MANY THINGS. But I can control one thing: enjoying the journey right now. 

And that's what this post is. Putting down my feelings right now, my happiness and excitement. So I can always come back to this and remember. I've learned this very important lesson through all these years and years of dreaming and working and hoping: You have to celebrate any success that comes, no matter how big or small. Savor the happiness that is there; find the joy and cling to it. 

I don't know what the future holds, but I do know this. Right now, I am happy. And that is an amazing feeling.