Ride along on “The Beginning of After” blog tour

How did the folks at HarperCollins get me to mine the mortifying depths of my past for all to see and snicker at? By coming up with the idea for a blog tour that focuses on the “Before and After” of nine game-changing events in my life (complete with photos — gah!).

It was a terrific idea, and it was terrific fun to write these guest posts that will appear on a bunch of the best YA blogs out there. Come along on the tour, and feel free to share your own “Before and After” moments. You know you’ve got some, and they probably aren’t as embarrassing as mine.

“The Beginning of After” Blog Tour
(I’ll add links to each post on the day it appears. Until then you’ll just have to guess at the next topic. Tee hee.)

Monday, August 29 at The Perpetual Page-turner
Before and After: First Kiss

Wednesday, August 31 at The Book Labyrinth
Before and After: High School Graduation

Friday, September 2 at La Femme Readers
Before and After: First Breakup

Tuesday, September 6 at The Reader Bee
Before and After: Marriage

Thursday, September 8 at YA Bliss
Before and After: First Apartment

Monday, September 12 at The Story Siren
Before and After: Killer Job

Wednesday, September 14 at The Crazy Bookworm
Before and After: Becoming A Mom

Friday, September 16 at The Bookish Type
Before and After: Signing A Book Deal

Monday, September 19 at The Book Scout
Before and After: Moving Across the Country

Happy happy, then not so much

Countdown to pub day for “The Beginning of After” continues, and it’s been a time of incredible highs and lows.

The Beginning of After hardcoverFirst, I tripped over a mysterious little package in my garage (where the UPS guy likes to leave deliveries). It looked unassuming — maybe more random weirdness my hubby bought on eBay — until I saw the HarperCollins return address and my heart spazzed. I ran upstairs to sit on our new leather couch, because that seemed like a better spot, and carefully opened the envelope.

Voila. My first copy of TBOA. With a glistening hardcover and solid corners I could run my fingers over, and enough heft to say, yes, I am real! I can’t truly describe the feeling because I have no idea what that feeling was. My closest guess is a combination of disbelief, happiness, and total panic.

It had been a great day already, since earlier I got the news that TBOA has been selected to the 2011 ABC (Association of Booksellers for Children) New Voices List. The New Voices project is “a selection of 20 books, 10 Middle Grade and 10 YA, by outstanding first-time authors, chosen by a committee of 14 independent children’s booksellers from around the country.” Surprising and thrilling, especially coming from indie booksellers, for whom I have so much respect, and who are really on the frontlines of putting new books into the hands of readers.

Oh, and there was a fantastic review from the ForeverYA blog, which made me, my agent, and my editor all laugh out loud. Posh rocks!

Then while I was flying around on that high, someone I loved went away forever.

Often, the most a woman can hope for in the mother-in-law department is to get one you can co-exist peacefully with. I was lucky. Mine was awesome. Kathy was the most selfless and dynamic person I’ve ever met, filled with constant good humor and joy. She was a matriarch in the truest sense — she mothered everyone around her, including me. Even when she was diagnosed with cancer early last year, none of us could imagine a world without her in it. Kathy fought that cancer with old-school, Irish-style courage and strength, but in the end it wasn’t enough.

Ah, the irony: to be grieving a loss at the exact moment my novel about grieving and loss is published. But that just adds another dimension to what it all means, and another prism through which I can regard my own work. With all the research I did for the book, I’m new to the sensation that you can grieve not just for oneself, but for others too. Because although I’m coping with my own devastation, I also grieve for my husband losing his mother, and for my children not having this gigantic love and wonderful spirit in their lives, and simply never feeling those arms around them again.

The lesson I learn over and over again is that life doesn’t stop for anything. There is still writing and book promotion and parenting and housecleaning and breathing in, breathing out. Going to bed at night, waking up the next day. I’m not sure what this one will bring, but I’m ready for it.

Twitter, you’re not scary and weird to me anymore, so I’m doing a giveaway on you

One month until pub day. Can hardly believe it, is it really happening, this is going to be so surreal, blah blurgle beh…I’m so excited that see, I can’t even talk about it.

Instead, I’ll give away some ARCs and other goodies as thanks for all the TBOA love out there.

I was late to the Twitter party, wary of another techno time-suck. People convinced me I’d really be missing out, as an author and as a general human being, if I didn’t join up. At first, the whole thing confused me and made me feel dumb. (“What are hashtags? What’s the deal with putting @ in front of someone’s name?” I’m the dork who had to look up what “#FF” meant.) Now I am schooled and totally, shamelessly, in like with it.

So here’s my first Twitter giveaway…the first of many! I have not one but TWO prize packages to offer up, each of which will include:

  • A signed (and dedicated, if you wish) ARC of “The Beginning of After”
  • An ARC of another, highly anticipated Fall YA release; one package will have “The Future of Us,” the other “Shatter Me”
  • A CD of The Weepies’ album “Hideaway” — music that provided much of my writing soundtrack for “The Beginning of After”

Open to readers in the U.S. and Canada only. (I plan to do an “international only” giveaway soon!)

To enter, retweet this message or something like it (and follow me if you don’t already):

RT and follow @Jennifer_Castle to win “The Beginning of After” signed ARC and other prizes

I’ll use random.org to choose two winners. Giveaway ends Monday, August 15 at midnight PST. Good luck!