The First One is Free (On Chapter Samplers and More)

The concept of a sample is simple: give the potential customer a small taste of the product. The idea is that you trust the product is delicious enough (food sample) or good enough (beauty product) that samplers will become purchasing customers. And it works! (At least it does on me.) There is many a food item at Trader Joe's that I have bought on the spot and tons of beauty products at Sephora that have hooked me into wanting more (Boscia's Luminizing Black Mask, I'm looking esp. at you).  

Publishers often create chapter samplers and give them away. It's a great way for readers see if the story is one they want to get invested in. If I'm on the fence about buying a book, or have heard great things but want to see if the book gels with me personally, chapter samplers are a godsend. I've read chapter samplers on Facebook (where there is, in fact, a sampler of the first 50 pages of my novel The Memory of After) as well as downloaded them from Netgalley and ebookstores to read on my Nook. If I yell in frustration when the sampler ends and I want more immediately, then it's time to buy the book. 

I'll give you a recent example. I happened upon fellow league member Lissa Price's ENDERS sample (the first two chapters) and after reading that, I am itching to get my hands on the hardcover I preordered. But maybe I need to order the eBook too?! What are you doing to me, publishers?

Just a word of warning on that last link - if you haven't read STARTERS yet, you should start there, and until Feb. 1, you can get the whole STARTERS novel for just $2.99

Which samples have you wanting more? 

Tips on Surviving Revision Hell

It's been a crazy two months for me, with CONTROL being released in December and the piles of promo yanking me in various directions. I have a promo-sprain, I think. I need some ice for that!

But I've also had to revise the sequel, CODE, all this time. Personally, I love first drafts. Adore them. Revision is a little hellish for me, but I've learned to tackle them with the help of several things.

1. Character arc sheet. My main characters must go through a transformation through the book. I make lists of what these are, and the events that herald those changes for each character. Since CODE is a sequel, I'm often referencing the arcs in the first book. They have to be different but build on what the characters have already achieved in book one.

2. Relationship arc sheet. Like the notes above, this one is specific to relationships between characters. For example, in CONTROL, there was one with Zelia+Cy, Zelia+Marka, Zelia+Dad, get the idea.

3. The Fix-It list. As I revise and re-draft, I can't get everything perfect. I'd lose a ton of time fixing every last bit with every single sentence, so I make lists of things I'll go back and fix later, so that I keep the flow of my work going forward. This is mostly about keeping certain details consistent ("make sure this all happens within a one week period" or "make map so Carus layout makes sense"). Stuff like that.

4. The Theme List. I use a lot of themes in my books, such as references to science, foreshadowing, motifs/symbols, certain books, or underlying mysteries. They need to be revisited frequently enough that they're not forgotten by the reader. I eyeball this list as I revise every chapter.

5. Major Revelations. Every chapter has to reveal something important that propels the story forward, opens up new questions, or changes the dynamics of the plot or relationships. If one of my chapters is mostly filler, it gets axed.

6. Pretty up the prose. Sometimes when I'm drafting, the prose is very simple and not elegant. I take time during a second or third pass to really work on making a turn of phrase more beautiful where it's needed, without overwriting.

7. Trim the excess. Speaking of overwriting...I'm a terrible over-writer in my first drafts! Everything seems to read nicely right after I first put the words down. But a few days/weeks/months later, I find that I've been redundant or way too purple prose-y about things. Slash and burn! It hurts, but it's also great to tidy things up.

8. Pay attention to the Acts. I've always been a fan of the three-act plot structure of storytelling. I revisit this to make sure the macro structure of my book is on target.

9. Pay attention to the highs and lows. It's important that the stakes must increase as the story progresses, and the interval lows worsen. Here's a handy graph that helps depict this. 

10. Be willing to make sacrifices. You've probably heard of the term "kill your darlings." Well, it's not just about letting go of certain characters, but certain scenes and even huge chunks of your plot that simply aren't working. Be open minded about how your story could improve if you learn to let go. Remember you can always recycle what you've lost for other stories.

11. Eat. Drink. Sleep. Exercise occasionally. Take breaks! I'm terrible at this. Remember to take care of your body or your brain won't be able to revise. It's all common sense, and yet hard for me to do.

Hope this helps! Do you have any tips that help you revise? If so, please share in the comments!

Interview with CONTROL author, Lydia Kang

CONTROL by Lydia Kang came out last week! I think it is one of the best science fiction reads of the year. I hope you've been able to get your hands on a copy, and if you haven't, do it now!

I'm here today with Lydia to get a little insight into CONTROL, her writing style, and just her as a real, live person! Let's get this party started.

About CONTROL: When their overprotective father is killed in a terrible accident, Zel and her younger sister, Dylia, are lost in grief. But it's not until strangers appear, using bizarre sensory weapons, that the life they had is truly eviscerated. Zel ends up in a safe house for teens that aren't like any she's ever seen -- teens who, by law, shouldn't even exist. One of them -- an angry tattooed boy haunted by tragedy -- can help Zel reunite with her sister.

But only if she is willing to lose him.
Add to your shelf!


1. So CONTROL has quite a bit of science in it. Did you draw on your professional experience, or perform copious amounts of research?
A little bit of both! I'd get ideas out of my own noggin about things like, let's make this character photosynthesize. But then would come research about whether she needed to use her lungs for oxygen or if her skin could make enough on its own. Amazingly, the answers are out there!

2. When did you write CONTROL? What's one scene that you can still remember drafting for the first time?
I wrote CONTROL over a six month period between 2010-11. (Wow, I'm always amazed at how slow the publishing industry is!) Three months to draft and three months to revise. I really remember the ending well. It was so stressful to get those end scenes just right! (Yes, yes it is. But you did a great job with it!)

3. Is CONTROL your first novel?
It's my first published novel. I have two novels before that sitting in my computer. One was an urban fantasy; the other, historical. Both YA. (My third book was my first published too! Soul-sisters!)

4. Is CONTROL the beginning of a series? Tell us all about everything!
There will be a sequel to Control! The title is still up in the air, probably CODE (Intriguing. Goodreads is calling is CATALYST). The characters are going to have to leave Carus House and Zelia will be on the run and there will be revelations galore. :)

About Lydia: Lydia Kang is an author of young adult fiction, poetry, and narrative non-fiction. She graduated from Columbia University and New York University School of Medicine, completing her residency and chief residency at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. She is a practicing physician who has gained a reputation for helping fellow writers achieve medical accuracy in fiction. Her poetry and non-fiction have been published in JAMA, The Annals of Internal Medicine, Canadian Medical Association Journal, Journal of General Internal Medicine, and Great Weather for Media. She believes in science and knocking on wood, and currently lives in Omaha with her husband, three children, and a terrarium full of stick bugs.

5. When you're looking to decompress by reading, what book do you reach for?
My old standbys. I'm a serial rereader of old friends, like Bronte and Austen and Wilder. (I really need to read some of these books...)

6. If you could be a contestant on Survivor, what's the one item you'd take with you?
Oh geez. A really good hunting knife. Forget the toothbrush! (Seriously. And if you've ever seen Survivor -- which I have -- I've never seen such white teeth. I think they use sand or something...)

7. A guilty pleasure?
80's pop music. (Booyah!)

8. Bacon or chocolate?
Bacon! It's salt, all the way! (Yes! Bacon FTW!)

So there you go! I hope you'll pick up CONTROL and read it. I absolutely loved it, and I know if you like YA or science fiction or romance or thrillers, you will too!

Writing Rituals and Baubles

Whether you think about it, everyone has a ritual they have when it comes to working. Maybe it's getting coffee, or organizing your desk. Or not organizing your desk!

So I thought I'd share some rituals about my writing process.

1. I need bauble-y things nearby. 
That's a hand-boiler on the left. (You hold the bottom and the blue liquid boils up at the top). It makes me feel like I have paranormal powers — a nice trick when you're struggling in a very human way to revise the same darn paragraph for the fourth time. On the right is a 15 minute hourglass. I use it to set intervals of time to write and not look at email, Twitter, etc. It doesn't work, but by god, it's pretty. Behind it is a tiara. No idea how that got there. I certainly don't don it and scream "I'm Queen of the World!" I don't. I swear. (No, I really mean it. I don't.)

2. I need to wear baubles too.
Every time I commit to a new project, I put on a bracelet that symbolizes the project. Here, the moonstone symbolizes CODE, the sequel to CONTROL that I'm working on right now. (There's a reference to the moon throughout the book.) The acorn is for a new sci-fi I'm going to write this year, and the lotus flower is for a fantasy novel I'm finishing up. After about five months, the strings wear away and break. It forces me to look back on what I've accomplished.

3. Sometimes when I'm typing for hours on end, I'll wear a huge cocktail ring. 
This one is fake, but it makes my tired fingers feel very purty when I wear it.

4. I abuse Post-It Notes.
I also wear fingerless gloves to keep warm,
like the chunky pair in the upper left I got for Christmas.
Sometimes they get into a fight with the cocktail ring.
5. I have to listen to the music playlists specific to my books. I listen to them over and over again. My poor family. Their ears are so tired of my playlists.

Well, that's just five but the other five would make you think I'm really nuts, so...there you go! What sort of rituals do you have when your write or work?

The release of ENDERS-- the best SF gets in your head

The best SF books get in your head and won't get out. Since I read Starters back in the galley stages, it's been one of those books. As the mother of two young children, I spend a lot of time updating their vaccinations, and every time they get a shot I think of Starters. And that's what makes this duology so fantastic: the captivating premise. Lissa Price took a mundane fact of life—something we've all been faced with—and created an entire world from it. If the goal of science fiction is to raise questions about our lives then the best science fiction books fully explore the implications of the here and now.

So you can imagine my distress at having to wait soooo long for the sequel Enders, but my friends, the wait is over, and I for one am not disappointed. Starters was one of the most twisted and exciting books I've read in recent memory, and I've been dying to get my hands on Enders, especially after the gorgeous new covers were revealed. (Side note: seriously, how amazing are these covers? I saw them at Comic Con and squealed.)

Enders is perhaps even more cinematic than Starters, and I hardly thought that was possible. In fact, I really hope a film adaptation is on the horizon because it would kick serious butt. But back to the actual story, telling you about the plot of Enders would be a travesty. You must read it yourself and enjoy the wild ride, so instead I'm going to tell you why this book stands out amongst dystopian science fiction.

1. A fully fleshed-out science fiction concept. Personally I tend to think most dystopians fall under the science fiction category, but in Enders we get to really see the technology and also the implications of it. At times I was reminded of reading some of my favorite Philip K. Dick novels, and that is a high compliment.

2. A fearless heroine. Callie has a lot of tough decisions to face (what YA heroine doesn't?) but she doesn't sit around waiting for someone to make them for her. She takes action even though her situation is terrifying.

3. Truly creepy villains. I read Starters at my gym, and I remember looking up and realizing there were a lot of older people there. My mind immediately labeled them Enders. Sure, the entire population of Enders aren't evil, but there's something about Old Man that gets under your skin. Is there anything more distressing than the idea of your grandpa being a super villain? Yeah, I didn't think so.

In short, the wait is over and now you can read the whole story back to back. In fact, you can even grab Starters on Kindle right now for $2.99, so there's no excuse not to, and trust me, you want to.

Go get Enders at:
Your local bookstore

Add it to:

For more information about Starters, Enders, and the author behind them, visit

Lissa has taught workshops at SCBWI and the La Jolla Writer’s Conference, and spoken on panels at ComicCon, WonderCon, WorldCon, Workstock, The LA Times Festival of Books and many more. She’s a member of SCBWI, SFWA, ITW, as well as one of the Apocalypsies, a group of 2012 debut YA authors. She also blogs at The League of Extraordinary Writers . She has lived in India and Japan, and once traveled completely around the globe over two years. Now she resides in Southern California with her husband, coyotes and the occasional deer.

Gennifer Albin holds a Masters degree in English Literature from the University of Missouri. A recovering academic, she turned to writing her own books. In her free time she sits on the National Novel Writing Month Advisory Board, laughs (and cries) with her mom writers group, and watches too much Doctor Who (if that's possible). Gennifer lives in Poulsbo Washington with her family. You can find Genn online at

Now for the Main Course: Enders by Lissa Price

2014 is already off to a fantastic start for readers, because today we can finally pick up Enders, the long-anticipated conclusion to Lissa Price’s wonderful Starters!

Enders is a sequel, but this is where Callie’s story ends — just like it says on the tin. I’m becoming a big fan of duologies (two-book series), which are perfect for people who aren’t ready to let go of characters they love but are impatient for them to just get on with saving the world (or not). Duologies also skip the middle book of a trilogy, which all too often is awkward and unfulfilling on its own. I mean, would you buy a book called “Middles”? Nooooo. So just get Starters and Enders, both available in book stores today, and know that you’re getting all the good stuff in two complete volumes.

Enders is really the second half of a full story, and I envy those of you who can read both books for the first time back to back, instead of having to wait two long years like I did. (Though I have to say, it was totally worth it! And at least I don’t have to wait for a third one…) This is one of those rare sequels that not only is even better than the first, but allows you to enjoy the first book more in retrospect. The surprise twists and revelations in Enders will make you look at the events of Starters differently, and it’s awesome when an author can succeed at pulling that off.

Enders also fleshes out the so creepy world where most people between 20 and 60 have died off, and old people can download into the bodies of young people as easily as you can download Starters to your Kindle or Nook right now for only $2.99 to whet your appetite for Enders.

But seriously, taking over bodies is creepy, right? But creepy good: I love stories that mess with your head like that, where you don’t know if someone is who he says he is, with all the ethical questions raised by body swapping technology. My favorite thing about this series is that there are huge stakes for the world and particularly the teens living in it, but it’s all very personal to Callie: She constantly makes impossible choices to help her family and other “Metals” like her, in a world where most people — kids and elderly alike — are looking out for themselves.

In the tradition of the finest science fiction stories, Starters and Enders invite us to look at ourselves and question the world we live in, a world where most of us are the 99 percent, and we’re under constant surveillance from people we’d really rather not have tracking our every move. Enders also hits some of my personal storytelling buttons, and maybe yours: Kids trying to make up for the sins of their fathers; a complex, but subtle romance that doesn’t quite become a triangle (or is maybe more like a quadrilateral at times); and some really freaky twists. This book offers one of the most satisfying endings of the recent series I’ve read and left me wanting more — which is just what the best finales should do.

So if you like stories about corporate conspiracies, action-packed thrillers, and plot twists, go get Enders. If you like science fiction YA and/or kissing books, go get Enders. And of course, if you like Starters, go get Enders!

Go get Enders at:
Your local bookstore

Add it to:

For more information about Starters, Enders, and the brilliant, twisted mind behind them, visit

Launching Lissa Price's ENDERS

I am thrilled that Lissa Price's amazing sci-fi Enders is released tomorrow! I jumped at the chance to read an ARC of Enders. It was even more amazing than Starters, which is saying something.

(Haven't read Starters yet? A little recap: in the Spore War, virtually everyone between the ages of 20 & 60 was killed off, leaving Starters (under age 20) and Enders (over 60).
An evil company recruits poor street Starters, and puts a chip in their heads so they can be controlled by an Ender who rents their body to be able to do the things they used to do when they were young. Fascinating yet creepy, no? You should definitely pick it up if you haven't already!)

Both of these books kept me reading far into the night. Why? I'll tell you. :)

Top 5 Reasons to Buy Enders

1.The insanely high stakes
The stakes in Starters were high. The stakes in Enders blows them away. For one, the Old Man's voice is IN HER HEAD. And it has it's own special kind of creepy vibe. Plus, she finds out that the chips are much more dangerous than she thought, and it puts her bff and her brother in a lot of danger (not to mention her). AND, there is a much more sinister plan in place that threatens the lives of every single "Metal" (the Starters who have chips in their heads) if Callie doesn't save them.

2. The characters
The characters in Enders are incredible and engaging. Callie is smart, has a boat load of inner strength, steps well into her leadership role, is loyal like crazy, and is willing to risk big-time to protect not only those she loves, but others she doesn't even know at all. Hyden is a fascinating, smart, complex, rootable character full of conflict and problems and secrecy. One of the funnest parts is that you don't know if you should be rooting for him or not. Her bff Michael and her brother Tyler are, as always, enjoyable, and add a lot of chances for caring and conflict.

3. The action
There are explosions and car chases and being found when you thought you were safe, and enough other heart-pounding action to keep you on your toes, worrying about all the things that can happen.

4. The twists
From the new reveals in the way the chips work, to more details about the Metals and how they work, to how people can control others, to new characters introduced, to what happens to the characters you love, the twists in this book will keep surprising you over and over.

5. The mystery
I love how a mystery can pull you through a book, dying to solve it. And there are plenty of mysteries to solve in Enders. The two most notable is Hyden and Callie's dad. Hyden, because there are so many unknowns about his past and his motivations, and Callie's dad because we don't know nearly enough about what happened before he was exposed to the deadly virus. Both will pull you along and keep you guessing.

And the best thing is-- the wait is almost over! Enders releases TOMORROW. If you pick up a lucky penny, cross your fingers, and rub your rabbit's foot, you might just be able to find it in your local bookstore today! (And I highly recommend you do.)

Here's some other places you can buy it:

Your local bookstore

Lissa has taught workshops at SCBWI and the La Jolla Writer’s Conference, and spoken on panels at ComicCon, WonderCon, WorldCon, Workstock, The LA Times Festival of Books and many more. She’s a member of SCBWI, SFWA, ITW, as well as one of the Apocalypsies, a group of 2012 debut YA authors. She also blogs at The League of Extraordinary Writers . She has lived in India and Japan, and once traveled completely around the globe over two years. Now she resides in Southern California with her husband, coyotes and the occasional deer.

Changes! A new format and more at the League!

You're going to notice a few more changes here at the League for 2014.

Blogging Schedule
If you take a look at this year's schedule, you'll see that we've divided the year up. Each month, a few of the Leaguers will take over the bulk of posting, with a focus on quality over quantity. Rather than a strict daily schedule, the League's posts will be scattered throughout the month, focusing on new spec fic books and all the other things you guys love.

Guest Posts
We're also doing away with the affiliate guest post position. It was a great idea in 2013, but ultimately proved to be more work than we could handle. Instead, if you're an author or other professional in the field of speculative fiction, you're welcome to contact the League members in the month you'd like to post to do guests posts.

All of this is also tied to our newsletter. We're sending our info straight to your inbox! We have a whole new format designed for the newsletter, and we're focusing on providing quality content for you. The new newsletter will feature articles, information, and more. To see the last newsletter of 2013 (before the redesign) just click here, and you can subscribe to our new newsletter (first issue going out at the end of January) here!

As always, we want to thank you, our readers, for joining us on this journey. We hope you like the new format, and we welcome any of your comments and suggestions!