Cynthia Hand's Blog

July 27, 2016

Okay, so I haven't been around on this website for a while. *checks the last time I posted* *it was February* Yep.

I've been super super super busy promoting and writing marketing content for my latest book, MY LADY JANE, on the Lady Janies website here: And I've been working with my besties on a new Jane book, too. Woot woot!

I am also on a very tight deadline for my next solo book. So I'll be underground for a little while yet.

But check back soon for some amazing news that I'll be allowed to share with you any day now, and, if you're interested in what I'm doing, keep track of my feed on Twitter (@cynthiahand) or Instagram (@cynthiahand).

I'll just be here typing away.

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Published on July 27, 2016 09:46 • 165 views

February 6, 2016

So this week THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE is coming to paperback, and to celebrate (and to try to er, promote it), I am going to do an exclusive giveaway to help get the word out. So tell your friends--if this is a book you think they'd like to read, NOW is the time to get it.

Between now and Tuesday only, when you buy the paperback, I will send you a signed THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE bookmark (while supplies last). All you have to do to receive this is to :

1. Email me a screenshot of your purchase or your receipt or whatever form of proof you can produce that you've bought the book during this promotion time.

2. In the email, tell me your mailing address. Please make sure it's complete.

3. If you're interested in winning a signed advanced copy of MY LADY JANE, click on the rafflecopter contest below and follow the instructions. No international entries, sorry. You can get an entry for just tweeting about the contest, but you'll get FIVE entries if you actually bought the TLTWSG paperback.

4. Enjoy TLTWSG while you wait for your awesome bookmark (and possibly, your ARC)!

5. Accept my many many thanks. You rock.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Published on February 06, 2016 00:00 • 208 views

January 20, 2016

The new book!For those of you curious about what's next for me, I should probably tell you about MY LADY JANE. It's coming out on June 7, 2016, published once again by the wonderful HarperTeen, and it is quite possibly (cover your ears, UNEARTHLY and THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE, Mama loves you, too) my favorite book that I've ever written.

Let me explain.

Writing THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE was difficult. It was a subject that had been tumbling around in my brain for a while, and it felt important to talk about, but I knew from the start that writing it was going to just about kill me. It was so hard, and there were so many days I wept copiously at my keyboard, but I did it and I was so glad I did. I am so proud of that little book. It's my heart's truth, right there on the page.

But needless to say, it took a lot out of me. I went into a bit of a funk after I finished writing THE LAST TIME WE SAID GOODBYE.

So I needed something else. Something that would be a joy to write. Something to make me laugh.

At this point I'd been talking for more than a year with my friend Brodi Ashton (author of the EVERNEATH series) about writing a book together. I had this strange little idea that we could retell the tragic story of the Lady Jane Grey. If you know British history, you'll know that LJG was "the Nine Days Queen," as she was the queen of England for nine(ish) days in the year 1553, before Mary Tudor kicked her off the throne and had her beheaded.

I thought we could rewrite Jane's story. . . as a comedy. And Brodi Ashton had the best comedic sense of any writer I knew. So it made sense to team up.

You should have seen the look on Brodi's face while I was trying to pitch her this idea. We were having lunch at Cafe Rio. I was yammering about how great the real Jane was--a book nerd even before book nerds were a thing, so smart and passionate and awesome, and how dare she get her head chopped off, a girl like that! We could write an alternate version, and we could write it so Jane lives! We could use magic in place of the religious elements of the real story! Then I started talking about this idea I had that maybe our magic could be that people turned into animals, and maybe Guildford, the guy Jane was forced to marry, could be cursed to spend his days as a horse, wouldn't that be funny, and then the story would kind of be like THE PRINCESS BRIDE and like SHREK and like LADY HAWKE and there's not really anything like that in YA, right, so it'd be so cool and it'd be funny and it'd be a blast to write, don't you think?

I am not great at pitching. Kudos to Brodi for keeping her face so carefully blank as she ate her salad and listened to me go on and on about how awesome it was going to be. "Sure," she said a the end of this conversation. "Sounds like . . . er, fun."

We didn't talk about it again for, oh, about six months. This time we were hanging out in Virginia with our friend Jodi Meadows. Somehow I got on the subject of this awesome novel about the Lady Jane Grey that Brodi was going to write with me (you're still going to write it with me, right Brodi? Right?) and Brodi turned drowning eyes to Jodi, hoping our friend would say something reasonable like, "Hmm, Cynthia, a comedy about a famous beheading? That seems a little far-fetched."

Instead Jodi said, "That sounds amazing. There's not much comedy in the YA fantasy market."

And I blurted out, "Hey, you write fantasy. You're funny. Would you like to write it with us?"

And Jodi (poor, dear Jodi) said yes, why yes she would. And Brodi looked relieved that now she wasn't the only person who'd been fool enough to agree to such a thing.

Fast forward six months. California. Jodi and Brodi were visiting to do a couple of events in Los Angeles and talk to my novel writing class at Pepperdine. And what did I keep bringing up, over and over and over again?

That novel about the Lady Jane Grey.

Sometimes I can be like a dog with a tooth in a towel, I tell you.

Me, Jodi, and Brodi that fateful week in CaliforniaThere was a free day in the middle of that week. We were thinking about going to Disneyland.

"But instead, we could stay home and start writing this Jane Grey novel," I suggested cheerfully. "I mean, we could go to Disneyland any old time, but how often could we write a book together? And maybe there are three characters, and we could each write one and rotate chapter to chapter."

And that's how MY LADY JANE was born. Because I shanghaied my two besties into writing a book with me instead of spending the day at the happiest place on earth. But it worked out, because now that book is a REAL book, and it's going to be out this summer.

I loved every minute of writing MLJ. We each wrote an opening chapter that day in California, each taking the point of view of a different character: Edward, Jane, or Gifford (who you'll notice that we slightly renamed). We talked about the story a lot and hashed out plot points and revised a little, and then a couple months later we met in Utah to hide away in Brodi's mountain condominium to really work on the book. The days went like this:

We'd get up, eat breakfast, shower and get coffee.

We'd spend the morning writing and brainstorming and giggling to ourselves at our own jokes.

We'd eat lunch.

We'd write hard all through the afternoon and finish our individual chapter.

We'd eat dinner.

We'd sit around the living room with our laptops and read our day's chapter out loud to each other, and we'd laugh and laugh. Sometimes we'd laugh until we'd cry. We'd make suggestions. We'd plot. We'd plan for what we'd write the next day.

We'd stay up late talking.

And then we'd get up the next morning and do it all over again.

It was the most fun I'd ever had writing anything. It was exactly what I needed. Fun fun fun.

At the end of that week we had twelve chapters of a novel, and we'd fallen in love with the story of Lady Jane Grey.

A comedy. An adventure. A fantasy. A story about friendship and loyalty and love and being true to yourself.

It's so good, you guys, the best book I've every written a third of. Seriously. And the best part is that now I get to share all the joyful fun with all of you.

If it sounds like MY LADY JANE is going to be up your alley, please check out our website, The Lady Janies for more information about where you can pre-order the book and join our new fan club.

Trust me. It will be good for a laugh.

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Published on January 20, 2016 09:00 • 169 views

December 31, 2015

It's that time again, when I list the books I read this year. To be honest, it was a lighter reading year than I've had in a very long time. I had a lot of other things on my plate this year, but I snuck in a book whenever I could.

So here we go:

1. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson. I've been a huge fan of LHA all the way back to Speak, and this book was just as good. What is so killer about Anderson is her amazing ear--she just gets how teens talk and how they feel and conveys it so well on the page. I am struck anew with writerly envy every single time I pick up one of her books.

2. The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows. Okay, disclaimer: Jodi is one of my very best friends, so I am not exactly objective when it comes to her work, but in my opinion this is one of her best books. If you love fantasy, you'll love this. It has it all: magic, political intrigue, a kick-ass heroine and a guy who runs around wearing a mask. Love love this one.

3. The Martian by Andy Weir. This is an adult book, and I loved it so much I bought it for my parents. They, er, thought it was a bit boring at times and greatly preferred the movie. I will have to agree to disagree--the book is awesome. It is a love letter to science in the best possible way, and the voice of the main character is so winning and lively that it's easy to follow all the science that comes with surviving when you've been abandoned on Mars.

4. Golden Son by Pierce Brown. If you caught my list last year you'll notice that the first book in this series, Red Rising, was one of my favorites of the year. I went into Golden Son with a little bit of trepidation, honestly, because I loved the first book so much I was worried that the second one couldn't possibly measure up. I was wrong--this book is every bit as tense and engaging and beautifully written as the first novel. Easily the best sci-fi I read all year.

5. The Glass Casket by McCormick Templeman. I really liked this fantasy/horror retelling with whispers of Snow White and Rose Red and the Snow Queen all in one. Reading the book felt like a beautiful nightmare, in the best sense possible.

6. Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter. This felt like the good old paranormal teen stories of old to me, which I miss. The modern life of the main character was so believable. I also loved the ways the author used clouds and symbols.

7.  The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black. Ah, Holly Black, you slay me. How do you do it every single time? This story was soooooo compelling, one of those hide-in-the-closet-so-I-can-finish-reading kind of books--you other mothers know what I'm talking about. I loved that this was a fairy book, and the characters were so well drawn and the plot was so engaging. Sigh. *fangirls all over Holly Black.

8. All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. Okay, so this was the year of the suicide novel. That sounds like it shouldn't be a thing, but it's good. It's an issue we need to talk about. And it felt like all of these suicide novels came out at roughly the same time, my own included. So I read a bunch of these last winter. ATBP ended up being one of my favorites, because the characters, particularly the guy character, felt so real to me. Bring tissues for this one, though. You'd have to have a heart of stone not to cry at the end.

9. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga. This one is hard for me to talk about for a few reasons. If you've read the acknowledgements of my book The Last Time We Say Goodbye, you'll know that I lost my younger brother to suicide when I was in college. Books about suicide can be pretty difficult for me. This book came out the same day as TLTWSG, and we were going to tour together, so HarperTeen sent me an ARC. I got to page ten, and then I had to put the book down for a while. It's a story about a girl who is contemplating suicide, and she seeks out a "partner," someone who also wants to kill himself. She ends up connecting with a boy who wants his life to end on a specific date: April 7. The entire book from that point counts down to April 7. Which just happens to be the date that my brother died. I got to that date and felt a ripple of shock go over me. It was painful to read and anticipate how Warga's April 7 was going to turn out, but I did pick up the book again and keep reading, and I'm so glad I did. T's a beautiful about, i think, how human connection can save us.

10. I Was Here by Gayle Forman. I am a big fan of Gayle Forman--her book If I Stay is one of my favorites of all time, and I've never read a book of hers I didn't like. That said, this one is probably my least favorite, even though it's a very good book. This is about a girl whose best friend has committed suicide, and the girl goes on a journey searching of answers. Again, a really good book, but it felt like a head book to me instead of a heart book. If you know what I mean.

11. The Young Elites by Marie Lu. I loved Marie's previous Legend series, but I have to say I loved this novel even more. The Main character was just so fascinating, and the world the book operates in is dark and engrossing. And the end was so awesome.

12. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. Again, I might be a bit biased, as I toured with Victoria this year, but this novel was so well crafted--it keeps you pretty much on the edge of your chair for the entire read. If you read a lot of fantasy, you'll dig it. The ship situation is pretty intense in this story, too. Hot guys and red-blooded girls for the win.

13. The Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes. I really love survival stories, so I was excited to read this one, about three teens lost in the woods. It was pretty good, too, a little kitchy at times, maybe, but a feel-good read, for sure.

14. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. This was the book that I recommended when people asked me for my favorite book this year. In so many ways it was just another one of the gazillion fantasies that flooded the market this year, but IT WAS SO GOOD. It's from the point of view of two characters, and the stakes are so high for both of them, and I was just holding my breath for them by the end. AWESOME AWESOME.

15. A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thompson. This was an excellent retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story, which begins with the kiss that wakens her and proves that happily ever after isn't necessarily a given.

16. The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons. Gosh, this was the year for great fantasies (and the word glass in the title, apparently). This one hooked me right away, and had one of the most interesting, engaging main characters I read this year.

17. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. This book about aliens was hands-down the goriest, foulest-mouthed, most intense YA I read this year, but it was also really funny at times and incredibly authentic to the experience of a teenage boy. I enjoyed it.

18. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton. The title is so apt for this book, which is both strange and beautiful, about a girl who is born with wings. But ultimately it is about so much more than that--it's about family and womanhood and the way people can treat each other as symbols instead of as human beings.

19. The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough. I loved this one--it felt a bit like The Book Thief, about Love and Death competing with each other over the lives of two star-crossed lovers in the 30s. The world of this novel was so rich, and the story was so tense and compelling, and the premise was so imaginative and well wrought. A great book.

20. Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge. Yet another amazing fantasy. At this point some of the fantasies had started to blend together in my head a bit, but this one stood out for Hodge's deft use of sexual tension--I liked her book Cruel Beauty a little bit more than this one, but she she continues to write attraction mixed with hostility so well. Great writing and imagery in this one, too.

21. Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan. I am a HUGE Carrie Ryan fan, and I tore through this book the moment I got my hands on it. It's a great, quick-paced thriller where you definitely can't see all the twists coming.

22. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahndieh. One of my favorite books of the year--this is a super cool retelling of the 1001 Arabian nights. I found the world and the characters here simply mesmerizing, and I loved the storytelling aspect, and how the revenge in the main character's heart slowly shifts into something else, and the torment of the male lead. Wow. Wow wow.

23. The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy. This is an adult novel that reimagines the Lewis and Clark expedition in a post-apocolyptic landscape, and it was brilliant, easily my favorite of Ben Percy's books so far. I loved that the Sacajawea character was constantly thinking about just murdering the whole bunch of them so she would be rid of them. I loved the steampunk feel.

24. Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. Okay, so I read and loved this two years ago, but this year my family and I went to dinner with Ransom and Tahereh, (his equally lovely and talented wife) and my eight-year-old son was immediately enraptured by Ransom and came home wanting to read his book. So we read it, although I had to do some heavy editing because it was a bit too scary for my kid.

25. Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman. I LOVE Westerns, and I was instantly smitten by the cover of this book, so I went right out and got this the day it came out. It was a fun, exciting read, and I loved following this kick-ass girl's path through the Old West. Awesome.

26. Walk On Earth A Stranger by Rae Carson. Another Western! Woohoo! This one I felt had a bit more of an "educational" feel to it--like we were learning about the history of the Oregon trail as we went along, but as usual Carson's language was beautiful and the little paranormal twist to it made it so cool.

27. These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman. A sci-fi version of the Titanic, set in space and on some distant planet. There was a moment in this one where I literally gasped--what happened was so unexpected. I'm eager to read the next one.

28. Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone. This was easily my favorite contemporary YA of the year--it was just so heartfelt and authentic and true. I loved the main character in all her flawed and wonderful struggles--she is trying to hide her obsessive-only OCD from her mean-girl friends, learning how to express herself and come to love herself through writing, and reinventing her life. If there's one book I wish all teens would read this year, this is it.

29. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. Gosh, this was a beautiful book. It struck me as a literary novel that got swept into the YA category because the characters are fairly young. I don't want to give too much away, but I flat-out loved this one--the gorgeous language, the strange yet familiar story, the yearning characters, the small-town revelations.

30. The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle. This was an awesome book, too. I think this year, which my more limited time and budget, I really only bothered with books that I had a strong sense that I would love. This one is about a family with a kind of curse on them--every October they tend to get into strange "accidents." It had mystery and romance and one of the best family dynamics that I've read in YA.

So that's it--the books I read this year! If I had to pick favorites I'd go with:

The Darkest Part of the Forest , if you miss the paranormal romance phase and love the dark and engrossing kind of fantasy.

An Ember In the Ashes , if you want a book to get completely lost in.

Bone Gap , if you're in the mood for something beautiful and completely engrossing.

The Game of Love and Death , if you like historical and magical.

Every Last Word, if you want a contemporary that will make you think about the ways we define ourselves.

What strikes me every year when I go to make this list is just how great teens have it now--you have SO MANY AMAZING BOOKS TO READ. I mean, seriously. There are great books of every type and genre--the world is your oyster. Every year I am amazed at both the quantity and quality of the books on the YA shelf, and I grew up in a time where there was no YA shelf--you just kind of skimmed the adult shelves looking for something that would speak to you.

So what was YOUR favorite book of 2015? Tell me in the comments. And stay tuned for tomorrow, where I will give you the list of books I read to my son in 2015. *spoiler alert--there was an equally-great selection of kids books this year.

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Published on December 31, 2015 10:50 • 357 views

October 7, 2015

I've been trying to write this post for a year. Brace yourself, it's going be long and weepy, but sometimes these things just need to be said because it's important to say these things out loud (sort of). So here it goes:

One morning last October I was packing up and getting ready to leave Yellowstone National Park, where my family had been staying at the Old Faithful Inn for a long weekend. My cell phone rang. I smiled when I saw who was calling: my friend Joan Kremer, who had been my off-and-on writing partner for the past six years.

"I was just thinking about you yesterday," I said as I picked up. "Happy birthday!"

But on the other end, there was silence.

"Joan?" I asked.


"Silas?" I said, thinking maybe Joan's baby grandson, whom she adored and was often joyfully babysitting, had gotten ahold of her phone. "Silas?"

A throat cleared. Then, in a faltering voice, Joan's wife, Brenda, told me that Joan had suffered from a sudden brain hemorrhage the day before. She'd been in the hospital all night, surrounded by her family, but there hadn't been anything the doctors could do.

"She's gone," Brenda whispered.

After I hung up I sat down on the edge of the hotel bed in total shock. Just like that, my friend, who I'd spent hours upon hours talking to and laughing with and goofing around with, was dead.


I spent the first several months in that stage where I couldn't get my brain around what had happened, where it felt like there'd been some kind of awful mistake. Joan can't be gone, I'd think. There was just so much I had to tell her. I never got to tell her, I kept thinking, how she kind of saved my life.

Hiking with my son in Westlake Village, CARewind seven years. My husband and I had just moved to southern California so my husband could start his new job at Pepperdine University. We had very little money at first, and only one car. Every day my husband took the car to Pepperdine, and I was stuck at home with my toddler in a city where I didn't know anyone.

To say that I was unhappy during that time is such an understatement that it almost makes me laugh. I was deeply depressed--a touch of postpartum, a dash of guilt that I clearly wasn't "enjoying the time" with my baby, a whole lot of cabin fever. I was bored. I was wildly lonesome--the kind of lonely that caused me to start up conversations with the grocery store clerk just so I'd have a flicker of adult conversation. The second my husband crossed the threshold of our apartment I was like an excited puppy waiting at the door. The problem was, he was usually exhausted at the end of the day, trying to get on his feet in his new job.

It was not a good year.

In April of that year I heard an NPR story about a new internet phenomenon: SecondLife, a virtual world sort of like The Sims but where the inhabitants were all real people and the content was all created by the players. It wasn't a game so much as a social experiment, NPR claimed, and it cited colleges setting up virtual campuses to hold virtual classes and people doing cool things like recreating the Sistine Chapel and having poetry readings attended by people from all over the world.

I was intrigued. I was also, as I've said, dull-eyed bored, so I thought I'd check this Second Life thing out. So, one day during my son's nap, I created a profile, put together an awkward avatar, and stumbled into another world.

My avatar at the virtual Sistine ChapelI'm always a little hesitant to talk about SecondLife, honestly. It shows off my geek side, sure. There are some incredibly cool things to see and experience in that place--yes, there IS a virtual Sistine Chapel, where you can fly up and get a closer, private look at every nook and cranny, which is SO cool-- but there is also a very seedy underbelly. It can be like a gigantic costume ball where everyone is wearing masks. Real money is constantly flowing through that world--money for virtual clothing for your avatars, virtual property that you can rent, virtual furniture you can buy for your virtual property, sounds and textures and animations for sale to make your experience more and more lifelike, and it isn't really surprising that the best selling items in SecondLife have to do with sex.

It can be a creepy place, is what I'm saying. But I guess, like anything, SecondLife is what you bring to it.

So there I was, duck-walking around a self-proclaimed "writing center" in SecondLife--somewhere that people had set up to hold these aforementioned poetry readings and serve as a resource for writers--when I literally (or virtually, I should say) bumped into an avatar named Alas Zerbino.

Like me, Alas was new to SecondLife. She quickly introduced herself as a freelance writer and educator who'd heard the same NPR story that I had and come to check it out.

So we decided we'd check it out together.

Alas Zerbino and me in the virtual Vincent Van Gogh exhibitAt first we were just merry traveling companions. There's a lot to do and see inside Second Life, and from pretty much that first day, Alas Zerbino and I experienced it together. We went to poetry readings and fiction writing groups. We explored the Emerald City and the planet Mars and the inside of the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh. We shopped. One of our favorite things was to collect a bunch of free hair demos (in SecondLife, you have to buy your hair the way one buys a wig, already styled, but most places will let you try on a demo first) and then try on the silliest ones and laugh our butts off. In the beginning Alas wore her hair in an updo--a cascade of curls. Over the years we both went through a series of different looks, but Alas always sported auburn hair, large brown eyes, and a hint of a smile.

We were a bit guarded with each other at first. We were both wary of the dangers of the internet, and we didn't give out our real names and locations. We didn't voice chat--only type. But over the weeks and then months that Alas and I hung out in that virtual space, the details of our lives started to trickle out. We started to talk about more than just our writing. Alas Zerbino slowly became Joan, and Clarissa Tolsen (which was my avatar's name) became Cynthia, and we spent less time exploring and more time just finding cool places to talk.

Joan and me literally hanging out
It didn't add up to that much time that we spent together, really, maybe one or two hours a couple of times a week, but it made a HUGE difference in my life. Suddenly I had someone to talk to, and not just someone, but Joan--Joan who was quietly funny and whip-smart, sympathetic yet capable of calling a spade a spade when the need arose. We were both writers and mothers. Her younger sister had died when Joan was a teen--my younger brother had died when I was twenty. She was older than I was, in the next stage of her life, with two kids in their late teens / early twenties who she was constantly worrying about, but she remembered her early times with her kids so well. We had so much, we found, to talk about.

After so long feeling completely adrift, I felt like I'd found myself again. And it was all because of the power of one good friend.

It was about a year after I met Joan when I had the idea for UNEARTHLY. At the time it seemed like a huge undertaking--WRITING A NOVEL!-- one that I had tried before and pooped out on long before I'd finished. When I told Joan about it, she was the best cheerleader. Not only did she urge me to just start writing, she offered to write with me. By this time Joan and I had pitched in to get our own little spot in SecondLife, a place we called Story Mountain, which was basically like a big ski lodge where Joan and I compiled all the SL information about writing and writers into one beautiful reference location and where I taught intro classes in creative writing from time to time.

My alter ego working on my real book.So for the next six months after I had the big idea for UNEARTHLY, Joan and I showed up every day at Story Mountain to work. We both set up virtual desks with virtual computers and directed our virtual avatars to sit at those desks and type while we sat at our own real life computer and wrote. We wrote hard for a couple of hours, and then we retreated to a couch in my Story Mountain office. We copied and pasted our day's work onto a virtual notecard and traded. We read each other's work and offered advise and encouragement. (Click here to see a transcript of one of our discussions of Unearthly.) And then we showed up the next day, and the next day, and the next.

At the end of that six months I had a novel, and within a year, I had a book contract with HarperCollins and my life would be forever changed.

And it was all because of the power of one good friend.

Joan and me in ChicagoI met Joan is real life once. I came to Chicago for the Romantic Times Book Convention. Joan and Brenda drove down from Wisconsin. I remember that I was a little nervous to meet her in person, and I knew I was being silly. We ran up and gave each other a big hug and then found a spot to hang out and talk. I shouldn't have worried; it was just the way it always was--totally comfortable. Sure, we weren't as thin or as well-dressed as we were in SecondLife, but guess what? Our friendship wasn't based on looks, obviously. We had a great time.

In the past few years we didn't log in to SecondLife as much. I became monumentally busy with all of my Unearthly stuff, and I had another baby. Joan finished her novel and shopped it around for an agent, but didn't have any luck. But she was tough--she just kept working on it, revising and revising. And then along came Silas, her grandson, and Joan threw herself into being the epitome of the loving grandmother. We both got caught up in other things, but every now and then we carved out a little bit of time and found a place to work together--a virtual cabin or a virtual beach, wherever we could put down some virtual laptops to work. We'd write and we'd talk, and it was always like picking up right where we left off.

Joan and I writing together and also 1500 miles apart
This is the last picture I have of Joan and me: the two of us as avatars writing together. Today, on what would have been Joan's birthday, I pulled it out and looked at it, and finally let myself have a good long cry over the loss of my friend. I wish I could call her right now and say thank you, for being my person when I desperately needed a person, for being my cheerleader and my writing partner and my friend. You showed me just how much power one good friend can have in changing a life.

Thank you, Joan. Love you. Wherever you are.

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Published on October 07, 2015 16:28 • 13 views

September 30, 2015

Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This tri-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors...and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize--one lucky winner will receive TWENTY signed books, one book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!
Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are THREE contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the GOLD TEAM--
but there is also a red team  and a blue team for chances to win a whole different set of twenty signed books!

If you'd like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt homepage. Scavenger Hunt PuzzleDirections: Below, you'll notice that I've listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the gold team, and then add them up (don't worry, you can use a calculator!).

Entry Form: Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.
Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian's permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by October 4, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.
Scavenger Hunt PostToday, I am hosting Pintip Dunn on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt!

Pintip Dunn

Pintip Dunn graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She then received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL. She is represented by literary agent Beth Miller of Writers House. She is a 2012 RWA Golden Heart® finalist and a 2014 double-finalist. She lives with my husband and children in Maryland.

Find out more information by checking out the author website!

Buy the book from here!

Imagine a world where your destiny has already been your future self.

It's Callie’s seventeenth birthday and, like everyone else, she's eagerly awaiting her vision―a memory sent back in time to sculpt each citizen into the person they're meant to be. A world-class swimmer. A renowned scientist.

Or in Callie's case, a criminal.

In her vision, she sees herself murdering her gifted younger sister. Before she can process what it means, Callie is arrested and placed in Limbo―a hellish prison for those destined to break the law. With the help of her childhood crush, Logan, a boy she hasn’t spoken to in five years, she escapes.

But on the run from her future, as well as the government, Callie sets in motion a chain of events that she hopes will change her fate. If not, she must figure out how to protect her sister from the biggest threat of all—Callie, herself. 

Exclusive Content -

FORGET TOMORROW – alternate openingThe following is the original opening of FORGET TOMORROW. I decided not to use this scene pretty early on – although I’ve always liked it, this scene didn’t fit the direction of the story.  What was originally scene two is now the opening of the book. Enjoy!
We’re learning in school that our ancestors believed in God. He took many forms, appearing sometimes as a single omniscient being and other times as a whole gang of deities. “God was necessary,” Ms. Farnsworth lectures, tapping teal blue fingernails against her beaky nose, “because back then, in the pre-Boom era, time travel was nothing more than a theoretical possibility.” She doesn’t add that time travel still isn’t possible, at least not for physical bodies. In the future, we’ve apparently figured out how to send memories back in time, but so far, the present’s yet to see evidence of an actual time-traveler. Unless, that is, you count Ms. Farnsworth, who seems stuck in a fashion-era of her own making.   Even now, she tosses her pink feather boa around her shoulders as if she’s a flamenco dancer. Or a flamingo. “Any questions?”            My hand shoots into the air. “You mean, our ancestors didn't have to wait until their 17th birthdays?” I blurt out. “They had this God’s comfort all of their lives?”            My classmates gasp. Ms. Farnsworth blinks. Even my best friend Marissa knits her eyebrows like she’s just been pinched.             What am I saying? This is blasphemy.            Every citizen in the North Amerie is allotted one memory to fling into the space-time continuum, to be received by his or her seventeen-year-old self. The memory can be sent any time after the legal age, but conventional thinking advises waiting as long as possible, to ensure choosing a proper memory.Sometimes, I feel as if I’ve been waiting all my life to turn seventeen. I measure my days not by my experiences but by the time remaining until I receive my memory, THE memory, the one that’s supposed to imbue meaning into my life. They tell me, then, I won’t feel so alone. I’ll know, without a shred of doubt, that somewhere in another spacetime exists a future version of me, one who turns out alright. I’ll know who I’m supposed to be. And I’ll never feel lost again.             Too bad I have to live through sixteen years of filler first. “Calla Ann Stone.” Ms. Farnsworth’s high-pitched voice squeaks an octave higher. “I hope you’re not seriously suggesting that the Agency is mistaken in setting the age of receipt? You don’t actually believe that a sixteen-year-old is mature enough to handle future memory?”             Right. As if a few months’ time will stop Bobby Fernandez from drawing pictures of his anatomy on his desk screen and turn him into a responsible adult. I drop my eyes to the table. “Of course not.”             Ms. Farnsworth sits in her chair and drums her hands along the edge of her desk, fingers dangerously close to the button embedded in the underside of the glass. “That’s not the way it sounded to me.”            Eighteen pairs of eyes fix on her hands. The button is supposed to be a secret, but everyone knows it’s there. One push, and officials from ComA will descend on the school so quickly, you would think they were staked out in the trees. The button’s only been pressed twice since I’ve started school – once, when Mikey Russell made a ball fly across the racquetball court, without touching it, and the second time, when Lena Pereles flipped out and started hacking at the ComA’s Rulebook with a pair of scissors. I really don’t want to be number three.  “Callie’s not herself today,” Marissa says, grabbing my arm. “She’s getting her memory tomorrow, remember? It’s enough to put anyone on edge.”            Ms. Farnsworth purses her lips. My heart misses a few beats and then, thank the Fates, she moves her hand from the button.            “I was hoping you could tell us about the time you received your memory,” Marissa continues. “It must have been so exhilarating, learning that you would someday become a teacher in this school.”            “Well, I suppose I could.” Ms. Farnsworth pats the glass beads around her neck. “As you know, my class was one of the very first to receive the memories in a structured manner Before the Agency intervened, the memories struck individuals like a bolt of lightning – randomly but so vividly, it gave the survivors of the Dark Days the hope they needed to rebuild the future…” I mouth “thank you” to Marissa. We turn to our desk screens, and I tap out a word here and there, barely comprehending what I’m typing. It’s over. I’m safe. She didn’t report me.  And then I hear, from somewhere behind me, in a voice so low it might just be my imagination: “It’s not like the Agency has any control over it.”

Enter the ContestAnd don't forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of signed books by me, Cynthia Hand, and more! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 37. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the green team and you'll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!
Continue the HuntTo keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author! Click here!

Enter The Extra ARC GiveawayIn honor of this special event, I'm going to give away 1 extra signed copy of THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE. Just follow the directions in the rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Published on September 30, 2015 20:36 • 143 views

August 31, 2015

This is what last (deadline) week looked like for me:

Monday - Friday:

6 am - Woke up, drank coffee, and worked on my revision for the new book.

7:30 am - Woke the kids up, drank coffee, and got them ready for school.

9 am - Returned home from dropping off the kids, drank coffee, dinked around on the internet and/or called my agent / editor to freak out over my impending deadline and book issues.

10 am - 4 pm WORKED WORKED WORKED on the revision, eating lunch at my desk. Also drank some coffee.

4 pm - Picked up my kids. Homework. Shenanigans.

6 pm - Threw something together for dinner and shuttled the kids to various activities and / or found a movie for them to watch so I could WORK WORK WORK on my novel.

8 pm - Bedtime for kiddos, which is always a circus entitled, Tricks My Children Do To Avoid Going To Bed. I should charge admission for this. . .

9 pm - WORKED WORKED WORKED on the novel.

12 am - Went to bed. Stared up at the ceiling thinking about the revisions.

1 am - Fell into fitful sleep in which I actually revised my novel in my dreams. All night long I wrestled with phantom lines.

5 am - Woken up by two cats jumping all over me who had decided it was time for the human to WAKE UP AND PLAY. Threw ungrateful cats out of the bedroom.

6 am - Started all over again.

Behold the oh-so-glamourous life of a writer! It went like this until Friday, where I'll add -

11:52 pm (8 minutes before my deadline) - Pressed send to give the draft back to my editor

12 am - Went to bed, stared up at the ceiling for no good reason.

3 am - Finally got my brain to turn off enough to fall asleep. But that's okay because it's Saturday so I can sleep in. . .

5 am - Woken up by my 4 year old because she was cold. Also, was it time for cartoons?

The weekend was a total blur- not even sure what I did there--maybe cleaned up the house and had some friends over for both me and the kids, ate donuts and pizza, played the game Munchkin for the first time, which was highly entertaining, but mostly just sat still with my brain going DUHHHHHH DOHHHHHHH DERRRRRRRR.

Which leads me to this morning, which went like this:

7 am - Woke up and laid in bed for a while.

7:30 am - Woke the kids up and got them ready for school

9 am - Returned home and threw myself into my To Do pile: finished several writer errands I've been procrastinating on, like signing up for YASH and filling out my author profile stuff they make me do for every book for the new book, sent a barrage of emails

10 am - Stared at the computer.

11 pm - Spent an hour making homemade banana bread. The house now smells amazing.

12 pm - Ate leftover pizza and took a shower so long it would have made Al Gore cry.

1 pm - Stared at the computer.

1:30 pm - Wrote a bizarre blog post about my schedule for the past week.

2 pm - Eyed the notebook for the next project. . .

2:03 - Picked up a pen.

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Published on August 31, 2015 13:05 • 126 views

July 20, 2015

So last Wednesday I finished the first draft of my sixth novel!!!!

 . . . which I can't tell you much about yet.

*frowns* Well, that's no fun.

What CAN I tell you?

Hmm, well:

-It is a stand-alone.

-It is NOTHING like my last (solo) standalone, (i.e. THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE) in that it is not a straight contemporary, and it will probably (hopefully) make you laugh more than it will make you cry. (I did sniffle a bit writing a scene or two at the end there, but that's just me. I'm emotional about the needs of my characters.)

-It is also nothing like my last (group) standalone (i.e. MY LADY JANE) in that it is not a fantasy, and I am not writing the point of view of a sixteen year old boy.

-It was a blast to write, because I've had this story in my brain for, like, three years now and it was awesome to finally get to write it.

-It was the fastest I've ever written a book.

-It's probably the roughest first draft I've ever produced, which is both exciting and terrifying for me, because, at this point, so much could change.

-The main character is EVIL. I love her so much. I also kind of hate her. She and I have a love-hate thing going.

-It is mainly set in Manhattan, and also a little bit in Malibu, and I listened to Taylor Swift's new album a lot while I was preparing to write it. Like, a lot a lot. Welcome to New York.

-It will (fingers crossed) be out Fall 2016.

These last few days I haven't even really known what to do with myself, because I have been working SO HARD for the last six months and my brain just wants to keepgoingkeepgoinsomuchtodo. I spent a few hours today playing SKYRIM, which, I kid you not, I have not played since May 2012. And the whole time I was playing I felt vaguely guilty, like I was betraying my writer self by letting my video-gamer flag fly for even a little while.

But that's how it goes.

If you need me, I will be over here either a) working on my mad-bow-skillz or b) pacing while waiting for my editor to tell me what she thinks.

Either way, it's always good to be at that place where I've written a NOVEL. It feels like a miracle every single time.

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Published on July 20, 2015 08:00 • 309 views

June 1, 2015

It's June! (How did that happen?!)

This month THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE is coming out in Italy. (June 16, to be exact). The publisher there (Harlequin Mandadori Editore) has been so wonderful and proactive, so there's going to be an official Italian blog tour, starting today, featuring lots of exclusive content from me and other sources.

And here is the Italian cover:

Beautiful, right? I love it.

So if you're Italian, or if you speak Italian, here's the link to where you can buy the Italian version.

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Published on June 01, 2015 08:23 • 130 views

May 27, 2015

Wow, I have been absent from this blog for a long time. Sometimes this crazy, unreal writing life of mine leaves me very little time for anything else. What have I been doing these past few months? Well, let's see:

1. In February I went on the Epic Reads tour with Victoria Aveyard and Jasmine Warga to Chicago, North Carolina, and Florida. This was so fun, especially because I got to meet two lovely debut authors and get to know them beyond their books. These girls were so smart and funny and great to be around. Some highlights of this tour include: a. being in a Chicago cold spell that was so fierce that they cancelled school and my nose hairs froze (but I did get to eat the most amazing pizza), b. getting to interact with so many amazing readers and booklovers, c. HARRY POTTER WORLD at Universal Studios, and d. Girl Scout cookies that a wonderful reader brought us.

Book tour!
2. In March I went to New York City to throw a book launch for my friend Jodi's new book, THE ORPHAN QUEEN. We had an awesome event at seriously the best children's book store I've ever been to (Books of Wonder!), ate dinner that night at a place that uses chocolate in everything on the menu (Max Brenners!) and then tearfully said goodbye to my friends (it was okay; I'd see them next month). I spent an extra few days in New York researching for my new book (which takes place in NYC), meeting with my HarperTeen editor, and hanging out with my agent--who is one of my favorite people in the world.

A picture my agent took of me outside of a restaurant in New York
3. In April I went to ENGLAND with the Lady Janies. In case you missed this from an earlier post, the Lady Janes are myself, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows, three authors who wrote a book together this year about the Lady Jane Grey called MY LADY JANE. (Click here to go over to the Lady Janies page and find out more about this.) Anyway, in between the first and the second draft of the book we went to England to do some research and work on the revisions all together.  I'll save the highlights for the Lady Janies web space, but I will just say that it was the best trip ever. We wrote, we laughed, we took a gazillion pictures and video, we got lost, we got found, we wrote some more, we laughed some more, and we enjoyed every bit of our adventure.

The Lady Janies at Windsor Castle
4. In May I went to Texas to take part in the Romantic Times Book Convention, which was, as usual, both overwhelming and awesome. I was on a couple of brilliant panels, the first on how to throw a successful launch of your book (led by the always-charming Victoria Scott), and the second on writing tips and techniques led by Aprilynne Pike. On this second panel was Alyson Noel, Rachel Caine, Claudia Gray, me, and . . . Kathy Reichs. KATHY REICHS, as in the real life forensic anthropologist who writes the books they make the TV show BONES about. She may have asked me to pour her some water. I may have poured her a glass, and then poured some water on the table. Because I am smooth that way.

My view from the giant book signing at RT. That's Rachel Harris on my left.

5. I worked my backside off all this time on MY LADY JANE. Yesterday we turned in our final draft before the book goes to copy edits, and I have serious revision hangover. I would be just lying on the couch going GAHHHHHH for a few days, but I can't. I have a draft due on my next solo book (which I can't really tell you about yet) coming right up.

So consider this the part where I peek out of my writing cave, wave to you all, and then . . . crawl right back in.

I'll be out more at the end of summer.

I hope.

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Published on May 27, 2015 07:10 • 132 views