Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Where I've Been...


I'm not sure how many people are still reading this blog, but you probably know I also write as Paula Stokes. My first YA contemp, THE ART OF LAINEY, released last month, and I now have five more books and a 100-page e-novella coming out under my real name. Pretty epic, right? I think so ;-) I'll be blogging over at Author Paula Stokes mostly from now on. Come see me--I miss you! :-)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Happy Birthday STARLING!

Hi hi :)

I'm so excited that STARLING flutters into the world today. If you happen to see it at your local bookalicious place (be that a library or bookstore), snap me a pic and tweet it to @FionawritesYA.

I'd talk all about what it's like to finish a trilogy, but I already did that for my friend Stacee at Too Fond of Books, so look for that post on Monday. Speaking of Monday, Australian STARLING releases then. Go get that pretty dress cover, Aussie-types :)


In honor of both Starling's release and @pstokesbooks finally amassing 1000 twitter followers, I am getting ready to do a dual WHERE IN THE WORLD IS?? contest with both Starling and The Art of Lainey. Be sure to stay tuned for that.

Happy reading and writing!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Happy Birthday Nikki: Thoughts on Serendipity

When I was in elementary school, I was obsessed with a series of books by Stephen Cosgrove. One of them was called Serendipity.

Isn't she the cutest? I don't honestly remember the storyline, but I remember this was my introduction to the word serendipity. Even as a seven-year-old, I loved the idea of stumbling across something awesome purely by chance.

This happened to me in June of 2012, at a book event called Teen Author Carnival that took place in NYC. I got invited as Fiona Paul because I was going to be at Book Expo America with the 2012 debut group, the Apocalypsies. I remember being overwhelmed by BEA, being exhausted as I hurried from the conference to the library with a group of other authors. I remember feeling outclassed and outperformed by many of the other writers doing panels with me. They were all so polished, so professional. Me, I was sweaty and shy and scared.

After the panels were over, the authors hung out to sign books. My first book wasn't out yet so I was signing ARCs and bookmarks. One of my editors came up to me and gave me an ARC of Venom that someone had won as part of a box of books but forgotten at the library. "I figured you might want this," she said. My first thought was: Yikes. One more thing to fit in my already overstuffed luggage. But I put it away and kept talking to readers. I was sitting next to Lauren Morrill, another 2012 debut (she's awesome, buy her books!), when a tiny sprite of a girl bounced up to me. "Do you know if they'll be giving away more ARCs of Venom at BEA tomorrow?" she asked.

"I'm not sure." (Authors are usually the last to know anything). I paused. "How old are you?"

"Thirteen," the girl replied.

"Hmm. Venom is technically age 14 and up." I looked at Lauren Morrill. She looked at me. This girl looked younger than thirteen. But she was so cute and enthusiastic and it wasn't like the people at BEA were carding book readers to make sure they were old enough to get the free ARCs. I made one of those split-second decisions. "Here." I pulled out the copy of Venom my editor had just given me. "I just happen to have an ARC with me. You can have it, but if any of the material makes you uncomfortable, just skip over it, okay?"

The girl nodded happily. I signed the ARC for her and she bounded off. That girl was blogger Nikki Wang from the blog Fiction Freak. I didn't think too much about the interaction, aside from praying that I wouldn't get an angry email from Nikki's mom if she found the ARC and deemed it too adult for her daughter.

After I got home from the conference, Nikki emailed me about doing a feature on her blog. I said yes. We got to talking. We got to talking some more. Slowly, via the magic of the interwebz, Nikki and I became friends.

Since then, Nikki has been a such huge motivational and promotional force in my writing career that I wanted to write this happy birthday blog post just to thank her. THANK YOU, NIKKI! Many other bloggers have inspired and promoted and motivated me too, and I am grateful to all of them. But Nikki truly has gone above and beyond, in so many ways. Here's just a smattering of things she is to me:

1. One-girl focus group if I have a question about teenspeak or whether teens do or don't like something.

2. Reviewer extraordinaire. The PenguinTeen catalog even blurbed her:

3a. Epic supporter. She sponsored a readalong with blogger Annabelle from Sparkles and Lightning:

3b. She also made my first fan art for both the Eternal Rose series and The Art of Lainey:

3c. She also personally encouraged her friends to read my books.

3d. She also had me on her blog multiple times to promote my writing.

3e. She's also heading up THE ART OF LAINEY blog tour via the company she started with her friends, Merp Squad.

3f. She's also done a lot of other little things to promote me, like being first to sign up for my street team and tweeting and FB likings and sharing my bookmarks, etc.

4. Graphic designer. She made the banner and button I'll be using as part of a multi-author tour this July. More info on that coming soon.

5. Last, but never least, friend :) Maybe it's weird for a "grownup" to have teens as friends, but I like to think of it as one of the best things about the internet. Cyberspace breaks down barriers that might keep people apart in real life.

I am so glad I made that random serendipitous decision to give my extra copy of Venom to Nikki almost 2 years ago. Whether you're Team Fate or a big believer in free will, I encourage you to remain open to the idea of serendipity. Life hands you amazing things sometimes when you're not even looking for them. You never know--the next person you meet might become your Nikki Wang :)


Monday, March 10, 2014


Guys, guys, I can't believe it's finally time for STARLING to release. I finished revising and editing this book over a year ago, so for the longest time it felt so dreamy and distant, almost like it hadn't happened.

But that time has come to an end as the book gets ready to finally hit the shelves. Thanks to Jean and Book Nerd tours for setting up an awesome tour for me. It's full of Q&As, fun guest posts, and GIVEAWAYS! Here's a link so you can follow along with the merriment!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thoughts about STARLING, plus an excerpt!

Hi. There seems to be some confusion about the third book in the Secrets of the Eternal Rose series. Originally the book was called FORBIDDEN. This title was in place before I even began to write the book, and when I was finished  my editors and I all believed that the book needed a new title. STARLING was suggested by my Penguin editor, along with two other possibilities, both of which didn't capture the feeling of the narrative arc the way STARLING did.

We all felt STARLING was a good choice, but it was March of 2013 when we made this decision and the VENOM paperbacks were already at the printer. So if you bought a Venom paperback (thanks!) the end of your book will announce the title of book three as FORBIDDEN. That is no longer the title. Apologies for the confusion :-)

Note: many readers believe STARLING to be a spoiler for the end of the trilogy, since that's the nickname that Falco gave her. The reason we went with this title is because it fit Cass's journey of learning to fly, to free herself from the expectations on her under her own terms. It has nothing to do with the romantic resolution.

Here's a short excerpt to give you a little idea of what Cass and Luca are up to at the beginning of the book!

Excerpt from Chapter 4, edited slightly to remove spoilers
The next day, Luca awoke free of fever and feeling stronger. Cass informed him of everything Narissa had told her.

“Vampire attacks in Venice? Could it be a coincidence?” He stretched his injured shoulder across his chest, massaging his stiff muscles with his other hand.

“I don’t know, but we should find out more before we go to Florence,” she said. “If Belladonna has come to town, it quite possibly means that she believes the book is here.”

Luca looked down and noticed Slipper still curled up on the wool blanket. He petted the cat gently. “What do you recommend?” he asked.

“I suppose we could do like Narissa and eavesdrop at the market,” Cass suggested.

“What about that workshop you told me about, the one with the symbol for the Order? Perhaps we should go by there and see if there’s any obvious activity.”

Cass blanched. She had mentioned Angelo de Gradi’s workshop to Luca but had never told him that she had broken in with Falco. He didn’t know about de Gradi’s collection of body parts or how the physician had nearly caught Cass trespassing. He didn’t know the mere mention of the place terrified her. She scooped Slipper into her arms, nestling the cat against her chest. He blinked sleepily and then started to purr.

“Cassandra,” Luca said. “You’ve gone white as a seabird. I don’t mean for us to go inside. I thought we might watch the building for a bit and see if anyone comes or goes.”

She nodded, but the thought of it made her breath go taut and her heart slam against her rib cage. The room with the tin basins appeared before her. She could smell the tinge of balsam in the air. She could feel the fabric of her nightgown catching on the broken shutter.

Angelo de Gradi’s hands reaching out for her...

“Or I could go alone,” Luca offered. “You could wait here for me.”

Cass knew they would be in little danger if they were only going to watch the de Gradi workshop from afar, but she never wanted to go anywhere near that horrible place again if she didn’t have to. But how to explain that without divulging that she had been inside, with Falco?

“What if you go to the workshop and I go to the market,” she suggested, releasing a squirming Slipper to the floor. “Then we can meet back here later and discuss what we’ve found.”

Luca watched as the cat pounced on a ball of dust. “It’s not safe for you to go wandering around the Rialto by yourself.”

“Luca, be reasonable. I’ll borrow a servant’s outfit and no one will even notice me. The market is always crowded. I’ll blend in with the masses.”

He reached out to touch the diamond necklace that hung in the hollow of her throat—a lily. He had given it to her before his arrest. “You’re a little well adorned to be a servant,” he said drily.

Cass tucked the pendant inside her bodice and chemise so that even the chain was hidden. “All better,” she declared. “Besides, consider this: if anyone is still looking for us, there’s a greater chance we’ll be recognized if we stay together, right? It’ll be safer for us to split up.” She wasn’t sure if this was technically true, but it made a logical kind of sense. The Senate knew she and Luca had escaped as a pair. They would most likely be expecting them to still be together.

Luca appeared to be thinking it over. “Just the market?” he asked. “You promise you won’t go anywhere else without me?”

“I promise I won’t do anything foolish,” Cass said. “Between the two of us, perhaps we’ll hear something about Dubois or Belladonna, or if not them, then something about this sudden scourge of vampires. If we don’t, we’ll plan to head to Florence tomorrow.”

Luca frowned. “I know how strong you are, Cassandra, but I hate the thought of leaving your side even for an instant. Perhaps we’re crazy to fight the Order by ourselves. Perhaps you should remain here and I should take the pages we have to the Senate and ask them to hear my testimony.”

Cass shook her head vehemently. “Don’t be ridiculous. Dubois owns the Senate. They wouldn’t hear your testimony. They’d probably execute you immediately.” Leaning close to Luca, she ran her fingers through his hair and then pressed her lips to his cheek. “I risked the world to get you back. I will not lose you again.”

Luca turned toward her. Cradling her face with one hand, he closed the gap between them until his forehead rested against hers. “I never imagined you . . .”

“What?” Cass whispered, the soft word melding with Luca’s breath. The sharp smell of the theriac balm tickled her nose. She could see the beginnings of a beard already growing out on his cheeks. “Wouldn’t want you to die?”

He leaned away so that he could look into her eyes. “That you would look at me as you are, and speak in this manner. Not as if you’d feel responsible if something happened to me, but as if you’d feel . . . lost.”

Cass felt her heart opening. It was like Luca had put into words something she hadn’t been able to herself. “Without you, I would be lost,” she admitted.

Want more STARLING? The book goes on sale March 20, 2014.