Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A.G. Howard's Red Carpet SPLINTERED Event (Featuring IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS as a Giveaway Prize)

Fellow Amulet Books author A.G. Howard is celebrating the upcoming release of her whimsical and wonderful Alice in Wonderland-inspired novel, Splintered, which debuts January 1. She's throwing a major Red Carpet Event that includes several major INTERNATIONAL giveaways...and a signed advance reading copy of In the Shadow of Blackbirds is part of one of her prize packages!

You can also win advance copies of other 2013 debuts, some of which I've had the privilege of reading, such as Sarah Skilton's Bruised and April Genevieve Tucholke's Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. And, of course, you'll have the opportunity to win Splintered!

Congratulations to A.G. Howard for her upcoming book birthday!

On a separate note, in case you didn't hear my announcement before Christmas, In the Shadow of Blackbirds is now on NetGalley.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Holiday Greetings, WWI Style

May you have a safe, relaxing, and joyful holiday season!

A glimpse at Christmas, WWI style:

1918 Christmas, Courtesy Library of Congress,
Prints & Photographs Division

1914 Christmas truce between the British and the Germans.

1918 Red Cross Christmas Poster, Courtesy Library of Congress,
Prints & Photographs Division

And last, but not least, a WWI holiday image for fans of fictional versions of the time period...

A rockin' 1918 Christmas, Downton Abbey style!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


If you're a book blogger, bookseller, librarian, book reviewer, teacher, or anyone else who normally receives galleys, I'm pleased to announce that In the Shadow of Blackbirds is now available on NetGalley!

Thanks so much to all the lovely, enthusiastic people who have already expressed an interest in receiving an advance copy of this book. For more In the Shadow of Blackbirds info, visit my About the Novel page.


The Opening Line Revealed

I stepped inside the railroad car, and three dozen pairs of eyes peered my way.
In the Shadow of Blackbirds, opening line

Courtesy Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

If you'd like to sample the opening lines of sixty-seven other debut YA, middle-grade, and children's books that will be coming your way in 2013, visit The Lucky 13s. I gathered all of our first sentences together in one major list I think you'll enjoy perusing.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Sneak Peek of Chapter 1!

I discovered something in the ABRAMS UK Spring 2013 catalog that made me beam with pride: the In the Shadow of Blackbirds cover art has been used to introduce the Amulet Books titles...

...and you can read an excerpt from Chapter 1! Click "Expand" below, and you'll be able to adjust the size of the page by sliding the little circle in the toolbar at the top of your screen.

Thank you to everyone involved with featuring In the Shadow of Blackbirds so prominently in the ABRAMS UK catalog!

Friday, December 7, 2012

December News (Including Launch Party Info)

I just realized it's been a couple weeks since I've posted anything new, but during that time I've compiled exciting In the Shadow of Blackbirds info to share. I'm dividing this post into items I can publicly announce, and teaser items I can't yet completely reveal.

Visit Scenic Powells.comWhat I can reveal:

I've scheduled my In the Shadow of Blackbirds launch party! I'll be discussing the novel, reading from the book, and giving away prizes and other goodies at the following location and time:

Powell's Books at Cedar Hills Crossing
3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd., Beaverton, OR
Saturday, April 6, 2013
4:00 PM

More details and reminders will follow as April gets closer.

Also, I'm signing advance copies of In the Shadow of Blackbirds at the following event:

ALA Midwinter, Seattle, Washington
January 26-27, 2013
(Times TBA)

I can't wait to meet all the librarians attending the conference! I'll post my exact signing times once the ALA author schedule goes live.

In foreign-language rights news, In the Shadow of Blackbirds sold to Scolar Kiadó in Hungary! I'm thrilled the novel will be translated into another language and hope Hungarian readers enjoy the book. I'm keeping my fingers tightly crossed that more foreign rights sales will follow.

Save the date: Monday, December 17, 2012. I'm compiling a post at The Lucky 13s blog that you won't want to miss. I'm not just saying that because I'm organizing the post; you won't want to miss it because we're offering an extra-special sneak peek of close to fifty debut 2013 YA and kid-lit books.

What I can't completely reveal:  

We received more In the Shadow of Blackbirds cover blurbs, including one from a New York Times bestselling author. I'll be revealing those the week before the January ALA event.

Also in the works for January: The launch of an In the Shadow of Blackbirds website that will entail behind-the-scenes treats and plenty of extras, including an interactive In the Shadow of Blackbirds map of San Diego. I'll reveal the URL the very last week of January. 

And in February, the book trailer reveal tour will arrive...

Friday, November 23, 2012


On Tuesday afternoon, the UPS truck pulled up to my house with a delivery I'd been anticipating with bated breath: advance reading copies (ARCs) of In the Shadow of Blackbirds. Here's a view of the front cover and the spine: 

The back cover is lovely, but I had just seen a sample of the full hardcover book jacket just hours before receiving the ARCs, and the final version is so much more jaw-droppingly stunning that I'm not going to even share a photo of the ARC's back cover. Even the spine in the final version has a little more to it, as well as the interior pages. As excited as I am about the ARCs (which are indeed amazingly beautiful), I have to say the finished version will be a breathtaking work of art, thanks to the book's talented designer, Maria T. Middleton.

I'll give you a tiny peek of the ARC's frontmattera sample of the flavor of the book's gorgeous and spooky interior design:

If you're interested in receiving an In the Shadow of Blackbirds ARC, here are three ways to try to obtain a copy:  
  • If you live in the U.S., enter to win my current giveaway at The Mod Podge Bookshelf
  • If you're a bookseller, librarian, book reviewer, book blogger, or someone else who typically receives galleys, fill out my ARC request form. If you are open to receiving an electronic copy, please note that the book will be on NetGalley in early December.
  • If you are heading to ALA Midwinter in Seattle this January, stop by the ABRAMS booth. I'll be signing ARCs that weekend (exact dates and times to be announced).
Thanks so much to everyone who's already expressed an interest in receiving an advance copy. More giveaways are also in the works.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS Giveaway at The Mod Podge Bookshelf

Advance reading copies of In the Shadow of Blackbirds have arrived at my publisher's offices (check out the sneak peek of the book's beautiful spine here), and I should be receiving my copies before Thanksgiving.

To celebrate, I'm over at The Mod Podge Bookshelf with an ARC and swag giveaway, as well as a guest post called "Five Reasons Why Historical Fiction Rocks!"

If you're the winner of one of my Halloween giveaways and still waiting for your ARC, thank you for your patience. I'll put your copy in the mail shortly after I receive my shipment. I'm dying to see the ARCs myself and will definitely post photos when they arrive!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Abrams Kids Spring 2013 Catalog!

The Abrams Kids Spring 2013 catalog is now available, and I'm happy to report that In the Shadow of Blackbirds is featured on page 41, right next to Bruised, a novel by one of my fellow debut author friends, Sarah Skilton. And sharing my April 2013 release date is pub-day buddy Elisabeth Dahl, author of the middle-grade novel Genie Wishes (p. 32).

The catalog also features novels by two authors who have been showing us newbies the ropes, A.G. Howard's Splintered and Shelley Coriell's Welcome, Caller, This Is Chloe.

I'm incredibly thrilled and honored that In the Shadow of Blackbirds has been included with the works of ALL the talented ABRAMS writers and illustrators. It's been an amazing experience working with this publishing company, and I'm so grateful to be part of Spring 2013.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

So...Is Mary Shelley Black Related to THE Mary Shelley?

I haven't yet received enough frequently asked questions to create a FAQ page, but one question that keeps coming up is whether or not my In the Shadow of Blackbirds protagonist, Mary Shelley Black, is related to THE Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein.

No, she's not. My fictional Mary Shelley's mother gave her that name because Frankenstein was her favorite novel.

Like her mother, and like Dr. Victor Frankenstein, Mary Shelley Black is scientific minded and madly in love with modern technology and electricity. She frequently wears gadgets and contraptions that reflect her scientific curiosity (hence, the goggles around her neck on the cover).

However...even though In the Shadow of Blackbirds isn't a retelling of Frankenstein or anyway related to the famous Shelley family, I have inserted other Frankenstein references throughout the book. I'll be curious to see if readers and reviewers pick up on all my tributes to the real Mary Shelley's classic tale of horror.

What you won't be seeing in the novel, however, is a scene like this:

(Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle in one of my favorite movies,
Young Frankenstein

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Name of My Book's Ghost, My Poster Contest Winner, & Trailer News

On Halloween, I sent readers on a scavenger hunt through my various guest posts to find the name of my In the Shadow of Blackbirds protagonist's first loveaka, the book's ghost. I slipped his name into my Halloween spirit photography post at Corsets, Cutlasses, & Candlesticks, but if you missed it last week, let me cordially introduce you to him right here:

I'm not going to say too much about Stephen at this point—you'll have plenty of time to get to know him when you read the novel. If you really, really can't wait until April and are dying to ask a question, feel free to see if I'll budge on any info in the comments section of this post. I may answer questions that don't involve one of the book's many secrets.  

The winner of my giveaway for a signed In the Shadow of Blackbirds poster and swag pack (a giveaway that entailed finding Stephen's name) is...

Malvina Beatrice

Congratulations, Malvina! I'll contact you soon.

The winners of my giveaways at IceyBooks and Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire are being contacted by those bloggers.

If you didn't win this time around, don't fret. There will be plenty more opportunities to try to win In the Shadow of Blackbirds swag and advance reading copies in the months to come. As a matter of fact, I'll be stopping by The Mod Podge Bookshelf on November 19 for another guest post and giveaway. And look what's on the horizon for February...

 Exclusive Trailer Reveal Tour
February 7–14, 2013

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Week Giveaway #3: A Signed IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS Poster & Swag

Welcome to the final stop in my Halloween week blog tour for In the Shadow of Blackbirds.

On Monday I was at IceyBooks with one of my Amulet Books siblings, Sarah Skilton, and on Tuesday author Mindy McGinnis interviewed me about the In the Shadow of Blackbirds cover at Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire. At both stops I've provided opportunities to be placed on my list to receive an advance reading copy of In the Shadow of Blackbirds. I'm also over at Corsets, Cutlasses, & Candlesticks today discussing the strange history of spirit photography...and explaining that ghostly figure that appears on my book's cover.

And right here on my own site I'm celebrating Halloween with an In the Shadow of Blackbirds prize package that includes a signed bookmark, a signed bookplate, stickers, and a signed 12x18 In the Shadow of Blackbirds poster!

The signed poster.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds bookmark, stickers, and bookplate.
Here's what you need to do to enter the giveaway:  

Find the name of my novel's ghost. 

My ghost likes mysteries and word games and would love to send you on a scavenger hunt. I've slipped his name into one of this week's guest posts. Visit the three guest post sites, find his name, and enter it in the form at the bottom of this post. 

Once again, here are the links to all of my Halloween stops:
Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire
Corsets, Cutlasses, & Candlesticks

ONLY ONE ENTRY PER PERSON WILL BE COUNTED, so please enter only once. I'll pull a name from the correct entries using The giveaway is international!

DEADLINE: Tuesday, November 6, 2012, at midnight.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween Week Giveaway #2: IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS ARC and Swag

It's Day 2 of the In the Shadow of Blackbirds Halloween Week Giveaways, and I'm making a stop at Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire. Author Mindy McGinnis (Not a Drop to Drink) interviewed me about my book's creepy-cool ghostly cover, so if you want to know the story behind the design (and what I originally envisioned for the cover artwork), head on over to Mindy's amazing site.

We're also giving away an advance reading copy of In the Shadow of Blackbirds (to be mailed when the ARCs are available in November), along with a signed swag pack:
Swag pack with a signed bookmark, stickers, and a signed bookplate.
You can enter either here or at the Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire post. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween Week Giveaway #1: IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS and BRUISED ARCs!

Welcome to Day 1 of the In the Shadow of Blackbirds Halloween Week Giveaways! Over at Iceybooks today, Sarah Skilton and I are discussing our respective 2013 Amulet Books releases. Sarah is the author of the contemporary YA novel Bruised, and my novel is a historical YA, so we're chatting about writing books set in the past vs the present.

The giveaway: We're sending advance reading copies of both Bruised and In the Shadow of Blackbirds to one lucky winner! My ARCs should be arriving mid November, and Sarah's are already available to ship.

We're willing to mail the books internationally, so anyone reading this post should scurry over to Iceybooks for details immediately. Good luck!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Halloween Week Blog Tour starts Monday... but I'm Offering One Giveaway Today!

I'm excited to share all the giveaways that are waiting to be put in the mail during next week's Halloween blog tour.

So excited, in fact, that I'm going to sneak in one giveaway early! My dining room table is covered with boxes of In the Shadow of Blackbirds swag that's just waiting to be shared, so here's what I'm going to do:

I'll send a swag pack to the first person 
who comments on this post!

You can still enter next week's giveaways (psst, those will contain even bigger and better goodies!). But this swag wasn't meant to just sit on my table in cardboard boxes.

Here's a sneak peek at my collection of In the Shadow of Blackbirds treats: 

(Signed bookmark, stickers, and signed bookplate.)

The bookmarks were designed by Amber at Me, My Shelf, & I.

If you don't win today, here's where you can catch me during the week of Halloween:

Monday, October 29
Sarah Skilton, author of Bruised, will be joining me for a combined Amulet Books guest post and giveaway.

Tuesday, October 30
Mindy McGinnis, author of Not a Drop to Drink, will be interviewing me about the In the Shadow of Blackbirds cover...and offering prize packages.

Wednesday, October 31, Halloween
Return here to learn about a giveaway that will involve the name of one of my major characters. It seems highly appropriate to reveal his name on Halloween.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS Advance Reading Copy Requests

In the Shadow of Blackbirds advance reading copies (ARCs) are currently in production, which means my historical ghost tale will be heading out to early readers soon (approximately mid November). If you are a book blogger, reviewer, librarian, bookseller, or anyone else who typically receives ARCs, please fill out my ARC request form. I will forward all requests to my marketing contact at Amulet Books/ABRAMS. The novel will also eventually be available via Netgalley.

If you don't fall into any of the above categories (or even if you do), I'll be providing opportunities to win ARCs, as well as swag, at two of my stops during my Halloween week blog tour.  Check out last week's blog tour post for details.

Advance praise for In the Shadow of Blackbirds:
“Cat Winters deftly captures the darkness and the light of human nature with In the Shadow of Blackbirds. I swear, I can smell the smoke from the flashlamps and taste the electricity in the air—and Mary Shelley Black's dark and startling story lingers long after the final page.”
    —Saundra Mitchell
      Edgar-Nominated Author of Shadowed Summer
and The Vespertine Series

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS Halloween Week Giveaways

I'm gathering In the Shadow of Blackbirds treats to share with readers this Halloween season. Visit the following sites during the last week in October, and you can enter three ghostly giveaways that will include chances to win an advance copy of my novel.

Monday, October 29
Sarah Skilton, author of Bruised, will be joining me for a combined Amulet Books guest post and giveaway.

Tuesday, October 30
Mindy McGinnis, author of Not a Drop to Drink, will be interviewing me about the In the Shadow of Blackbirds cover...and offering prize packages.

Wednesday, October 31, Halloween
Return here to learn about a giveaway that will involve the name of one of my major characters. It seems highly appropriate to reveal his name on Halloween.

Feel free to share the banner at the top of this post on your own site.

If you need a little extra help getting into the Halloween spirit,
here's a dark and spooky sample of one of Kristen Lawrence's  
Halloween Carols:

Monday, October 8, 2012

Why I Write about the Early 1900s

Today I'm blogging over at Corsets, Cutlasses, and Candlesticks, the new YA and middle-grade historical fiction site I launched with eight other authors in September.

The theme this week is our favorite time periods, and I'm explaining how growing up near Disneyland in Southern California can turn a person into a historical novelist.

I'm also kicking off my October tribute to Halloween music today by sharing my very first favorite ghost song, "Grim Grinning Ghosts"...also from Disneyland.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

My Giveaway News about Upcoming Giveaways & Halloween Blog Stops

Thanks so much to everyone who entered my cover reveal giveaway!

The winner of a Halloween prize package that includes a copy of Kristen Lawrence's Poe-inspired CD, The Raven, four vintage-style crow bookmarks, and a signed bookplate featuring a line spoken by my In the Shadow of Blackbirds spirit photographer character during the scene pictured on the book cover:

Tonja D.

The winners of signed In the Shadow of Blackbirds bookplates:

Caterina T.
Dannielle B.
Susan R.

Congratulations! I'll be sending all of you an email with more details soon.

If you didn't win this time, do not despair! Anyone who's taken a good look at my cover can probably guess that the Halloween season is the perfect time for me to be traveling around the blogosphere to discuss In the Shadow of Blackbirds. Here are my October blog stops, some of which contain more giveaways:

Oct. 5 - The Lucky 13s
I belong to this wonderful group of 2013 debut YA and children's book authors, and tomorrow we're all answering a single book-related question on the blog.

October 8 - Corsets, Cutlasses, & Candlesticks
I'll be chatting about my favorite historical time periods. And Disneyland.

Oct. 29 - IceyBooks
Fellow Amulet Books author Sarah Skilton (Bruised) and I will be teaming up for a post. GIVEAWAY INCLUDED!

Oct. 30 - Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire
Fellow 2013 debut novelist Mindy McGinnis (Not a Drop to Drink) will be interviewing me about the In the Shadow of Blackbirds cover. GIVEAWAY INCLUDED!

Oct. 31 - Corsets, Cutlasses, & Candlesticks
I'll be celebrating Halloween by sharing some of the spookiness you'll find in In the Shadow of Blackbirds.

The dates are subject to change, of course. Please stop by and visit if you can.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS Cover Reveal & Giveaway!!!!

In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?

Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time.

Coming April 2013 from Amulet Books/Abrams.

I'm trembling with excitement as I type up this post to reveal the hauntingly beautiful cover for In the Shadow of Blackbirds and to finally share an official synopsis for the novel. The cover was designed by the talented Maria T. Middleton, and the photography is by Symon Chow.  The lovely cover model is portraying a scene in which my protagonist, Mary Shelley Black, begrudgingly poses for a photographer who claims to capture the spirits of lost loved ones with his camera.

In celebration of the cover reveal, I'm giving away an In the Shadow of Blackbirds prize package. I don't have advance copies of the book available yet—those will wait for a future giveaway. But I do have some pre-Halloween treats involving creepy dark birds, which play a major role in my novel:

If you enter my giveaway using the Rafflecopter form below, you'll have a chance to win a copy of Kristen Lawrence's Poe-inspired CD, The Raven, four vintage-style crow bookmarks, and a signed bookplate featuring a line spoken by my In the Shadow of Blackbirds spirit photographer character during the scene pictured on the book cover. I'll run the giveaway until Thursday, October 4. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 17, 2012

Corsets, Cutlasses, & Candlesticks Site Launch & Giveaway!

I'm thrilled to announce the debut of a new blog I'm launching with eight other authors of young-adult and middle-grade historical fiction: Corsets, Cutlasses, and Candlesticks. We're kicking off the site with a major international giveaway that will include signed books, a CD, swag, and other entertaining goodies.

Here's a list of the participating authors:

J. Anderson Coats (The Wicked and the Just)
Sharon Biggs Waller (A Mad, Wicked Folly)
Claire M. Caterer (The Key & the Flame)  
Laura Golden (Every Day After)
Katherine Longshore (Gilt)  
Elizabeth May (The Falconer)  
Jennifer McGowan (Maid of Secrets)
Jessica Spotswood (Born Wicked)  
Cat Winters (In the Shadow of Blackbirds)

Sharon Biggs-Waller pointed out that three of our titles contain the word "wicked" in them, which I thought was an interesting observation. Our novels range from straight historical fiction to sub-genres like historical fantasy and alternate history, and we cover eras from the Middle Ages to the Great Depression.

The blog is located at, and you can find us at Twitter under the handle @corsetscutlass. We would love for you to stop by, enter our giveaway, leave a comment, and if you can, help us spread the word through places like Twitter and Facebook. Thanks so much!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Pre-ordering Available at Indie Bookstores

I'm a huge supporter of independent bookstores, so I'm thrilled to announce that In the Shadow of Blackbirds is now available to pre-order through IndieBound, the site that connects readers to their favorite local indies. Click the graphic below to head to the Blackbirds pre-ordering page: 
Shop Indie Bookstores

In other exciting September news, I do believe the Amulet Books Spring 2013 catalog debuts either this month or October. And once the catalog is published and my cover is finalized, I can share the official synopsis and the novel's beautiful cover artwork!

Also, I'm launching a new site with eight other YA and middle-grade authors on Monday, September 17. We'll be offering piles of giveaways to celebrate, so definitely save the date.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Preview of the Dystopian/Apocalyptic Side of My Historical Novel

Level Two author Lenore Appelhans interviewed me at her website, Presenting Lenore, as part of her Dystopian August feature.

I'm sure you might be wondering why an author of a historical ghost tale was interviewed for a dystopian celebration. Instead of answering here, I'll send you over to the interview, where you'll learn about the dark, strange year of 1918, the setting for In the Shadow of Blackbirds:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Tentative Release Date

I now have a tentative release date for In the Shadow of Blackbirds: April 1, 2013. The date won't be official until the Amulet Books Spring 2013 catalog debuts in another month or so, but it sounds like there's a strong possibility that will be the date. Definitely check back here for updates by October.

Furthermore, In the Shadow of Blackbirds is now available for pre-ordering over at Amazon. We haven't yet revealed the cover or the official synopsis, so the Amazon page for the book is a little empty right now. Here's the only blurb we've released about the novel so far:

Cat Winters's IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS, the story of a teen girl mourning the loss of her first love in 1918 California, where a flu has turned deadlier than a world war, and spirit communication has become a dark and dangerous obsession, illustrated with early-twentieth-century photographs.
(From Publishers Marketplace)

I'll make a much larger announcementand share details about the Spring 2013 releases of my fellow Amulet Books authorswhen there's more info to reveal.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fall Passionately in Love with Your Book

Yesterday, dozens of us 2013 debut kid-lit authors offered writing and marketing advice at WriteOnCon. I feel like I need to expand upon the advice I gave over there, so I'm going to continue my thoughts here.

This is what I said:

Make sure you’ve fallen passionately in love with your book before you try selling it. If you don’t love it, readers won’t either. It’s also perfectly fine to call the book a practice run and move on to a completely new project.

If you're an aspiring writer and you're not feeling passionate about your current project, I don't mean to leave you shaking in your boots. I'm not suggesting you immediately scrap the entire draft of the troublesome manuscript you're tackling. But let me offer some food for thought...

Writing a book isn't easy. You're mapping out plots, struggling to make your characters fascinating and three dimensional, avoiding awkward sentences, keeping grammar in check, etc., all at the same time.

You NEED to have passion to keep you going. If your story is feeling more like a business relationship—something you feel obligated to sit down and do each day—and less like the rush of a brand-new romance, perhaps you should question yourself, "Why am I writing this book?" Is it because everyone else on Twitter is announcing their daily word counts and you want to keep up? Is is because you once caught the writing bug and are fighting to get it back? Or is it because you truly have a story inside you that needs to be told?

In the Shadow of Blackbirds is my first major book success story, but it's not the first manuscript I ever wrote. I started penning a few novels as a kid, completed my first book in high school, and finished another one in college. Those books were set aside. They were practice runs, not ready to head out to the world.

After I graduated from college in the mid-90s, I fell madly in love with an idea for a historical novel geared toward adult readers. I sat down and churned out the pages and daydreamed about my plot on my drive to work and while shopping in the grocery store. I was brimming over with the need to share this book with the world, and I was more than happy to revise it and polish it like crazy after receiving feedback from other writers.

That was the first book that landed me an agent.

The book never sold because of marketing reasons, and I did have to put it aside and move onward. But I learned that my own passion for a story would translate into other people falling in love with it.

Fast forward to 2007. I fell in love with another book idea, which led to me signing with a new agent. The book also didn't sell for marketing reasons. 

Fast forward again, this time to 2009: A brand-new romance bloomed. I fell head over heels in love with an idea for a WWI-era YA ghost tale. I was calling the manuscript simply Blackbirds at the time, and I knew in my gut this book was extra special. Yes, some scenes didn't come easily, and I would end up reworking the entire manuscript numerous times, but I loved the story dearly and always looked forward to sitting down with my characters. My agent and I sold In the Shadow of Blackbirds to Amulet Books in the fall of 2011, seventeen years after I started writing the first book that I sold to an agent.

Were there other books in between that didn't inspire as much passion in me? Yes. Definitely. I had many practice runs along the way—manuscripts I was rushing through just to try to sell anything, but those novels didn't garner agent interest. I knew deep down they weren't my best work, but I was trying to write books I thought would sell... not books I truly loved.

Can you eventually feel passionate about a manuscript that initially feels more like work than pleasure? Yes. I'm working on a new book right now, and earlier this year, that story started feeling more like a business relationship than a romance. After I put the manuscript aside a couple times to work on In the Shadow of Blackbirds edits, some serious character changes hit me, and I found myself daydreaming about the book at the grocery store, in the car, etc. In fact, I'm feeling the itch to work on the new manuscript as soon as I finish this post.

Why do you write? Is it just to put words down on paper in hopes that someoneanyone—will read them? Or is it because you have a story you want and need to share?

Your love for your story will become our love for the story. Find your passion, and you'll eventually find success.  

Monday, August 13, 2012

Line Edits, Cover News, & Other Updates

I just wrapped up the latest revision stage for In the Shadow of Blackbirds, a process called line edits. My editor, Maggie Lehrman at Amulet Books/Abrams, went through the entire manuscript and commented about any actions or dialogue that didn't seem quite right, cleaned up awkward words and phrases, and addressed plot issues that still needed some work. Her notes were brilliant. I'm so thankful to be working with Maggie.

It was an intense process, especially with the colorful array of tracking changes showing all our edits throughout the document. But I'm extremely glad this stage exists. When you're writing a historical novel that involves a mystery, cleaning up plot holes and anachronisms is essential.

Toward the end of these revisions, I received a lovely surprise in my inbox: A peek at my cover art.


That's all I can say about the cover for now, but I will share it as soon as I'm able. To ensure you don't miss out, sign up for my monthly newsletter (launching this fall) at You can also subscribe to my posts in the right sidebar of this page.

Other August news:
  •  I'm a contributor at WriteOnCon, an online writer's conference that starts tomorrow (August 14 & 15). I'm giving writing advice, along with other members of The Lucky 13s.
  • Later this month I'm being interviewed about the setting of In the Shadow of Blackbirds. I'll post a link as soon as that feature is live.
Many more updates are yet to come. I hope everyone is enjoying the summer! Don't suffer too much Olympics withdrawal.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS Mentioned in Publishers Weekly

I found out In the Shadow of Blackbirds was mentioned in the Publishers Weekly Spring 2013 Sneak Previews article. Look for a blurb about the novel in the ABRAMS/AMULET section. Thanks so much to Abrams for including my book in the preview!

Several of my fellow members of The Lucky 13s also had their books spotlighted, and I know of many, many more exciting debuts that will be making their way to shelves next year. Thankfully, 2013 is now less than six months away so we can all start reading these books soon!

Some other places to learn about 2013 YA and middle-grade releases:

YA Novels of 2013
2013 Debut Authors (YA and Middle Grade)
2013 Book Cover Love (one of my own Pinterest boards)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Contest Winner...and an Introduction to My Protagonist's Name

Congratulations to Diane! She was the first person to guess the name of my protagonist after I gave the following two clues about my central female character:

Hint #1:
Her mother named her after a 
famous author from the 1800s.

Hint #2:
Her mother named her after the author of a 
famous HORROR novel from the 1800s.

And the full name of my In the Shadow of Blackbirds protagonist is...


Yes, my main character was named after the author of Frankenstein. Her mother loved Mary Shelley's classic horror tale and was a student of science. Look for a few other nods to Frankenstein throughout the book when you read it.

Diane will receive the In the Shadow of Blackbirds prize package I announced in my original post. She did not come up with the correct last name (I gave a hint that it was a color), but three other visitors who entered did guess Black. I'll send those three people signed bookplates featuring a sneak peek at a quote from my novel.

Thanks so much to everyone who entered! I definitely have more giveaways in the works, so be sure to follow this blog or keep track of me through Twitter and Facebook.  

A Giveaway: Guess My Protagonist's Name (Major Hint Included)


Unless you've read an early draft of In the Shadow of Blackbirds, you don't yet know my main character's name. In fact, up to this point I've been secretive about all of my characters' names to build suspense before Amulet Books reveals the official cover blurb.

However...seeing as though it's Friday the 13th, I've decided to celebrate my upcoming YA ghost tale by running a contest. It involves you answering a question:

Can you guess my protagonist's name?

A major hint:
Her mother named her after a 
famous author from the 1800s.

Second major hint:
Her mother named her after the author of a 
famous HORROR novel from the 1800s.
(You may enter again if you guessed before with only the first clue.)

Here are my rules:

1. Enter the giveaway using the form below.

2. The first person to send the correct answer will win two handcrafted blackbird bookmarks, a signed bookplate featuring AN EXCLUSIVE LOOK at a line from In the Shadow of Blackbirds, and a blank notebook with a cover containing a beautiful illustration of my character's real-life namesake.

One of the prizes: two handcrafted bookmarks.
3. If the winner also guesses my protagonist's last name, he or she will win a $25 Amazon gift card in addition to the other prizes.

4. The contest will run until a winning entry is received.

5. Please do not enter if you've already read the novel. More giveaways will follow.

Good luck!

The contest is now closed. Thank you for entering! 

The announcement of my protagonist's name.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Back from the Land of Tornadoes and Ralphie Parker

I'm back from my vacation to Ohio, where I visited with family, hid out in the Smucker's basement during a tornado warning (which was terrifying for a person who isn't from tornado country!), toured the house where they filmed A Christmas Story, and had dinner with fellow 2013 debut YA novelist Jennifer McGowan.

I'm making this post short but sweet due to jet lag, but I wanted to make sure my Lucky 13s giveaway announcement wasn't the top story on the site. That contest ended Sunday, and the winner was announced here. Thanks to everyone who entered!

Ralphie's house from A Christmas Story.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Massive Six-Months-Until-2013 Book Giveaway!

The year 2013 is now only six months away, so we debut 2013 authors at The Lucky 13s are celebrating with a major giveaway. Each of us will be mailing the winner a copy of a novel that influenced our writing, as well as swag for own books.

I'll be contributing The Book Thief  by Markus Zusak, two handcrafted crow bookmarks, and a signed bookplate featuring AN EXCLUSIVE LOOK at an In the Shadow of Blackbirds quote, spoken by a spirit photographer character in the novel. Here's a preview of my prize package, with the exclusive quote craftily hidden: 

To enter the giveaway, head over to by July 7. I'm having to auto-post this message because I'm taking off on vacation July 1, so I'm unable to include the direct link. You may have to scroll down to the July 1 post at The Lucky 13s site if you're visiting on a later date.

I picked The Book Thief as my giveaway novel because of Zusak's ridiculously skilled use of language and brilliant talent for developing characters. He challenged me to make my own writing better. Furthermore, his ability to weave the horrors of history with a fictional tale told by an otherworldly narrator (Death) was a huge inspiration to me. In my own novel, I'm blending the unsettling realities of 1918 America with paranormal nightmares and a ghost. I hope, like Zusak, I've grounded my story in enough human emotions you can feel in your gut to make the fantastical side of the tale believable.

Good luck to everyone who enters the giveaway, and keep in mind I won't be responding to comments and emails until after July 9 due to my trip.

Also, be sure to check out Marta Acosta's Gothic YA debut this week: Dark Companion, available from Tor Books July 3. Marta has been a supportive cheerleader for my own writing during the past few years, and I'm thrilled the world is getting a chance to read her Jane Eyre-influenced tale.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

June Updates

Here are some of the latest behind-the-scenes tidbits about my books.
  • An In the Shadow of Blackbirds book trailer is in the works, and it will feature the music of Jill Tracy! I won't reveal the specific song at this point, but Jill's dark, Victorian-inspired work is absolutely perfect for my WWI-era ghost tale. The trailer will more than likely make an appearance a couple months before the novel's release date. More details to follow.

  • I may be seeing In The Shadow of Blackbirds cover art by the end of the summer. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to that particular stage! For more 2013 covers, visit my 2013 Book Cover Love Pinterest board. Several new covers debuted this week.

  • I'm gathering some swag for a few upcoming contests this summer. We're making plans for a major July giveaway at The Lucky 13s, so please check over there for details at the beginning of the month.

  • As I wait for my second stage of revisions for In the Shadow of Blackbirds, I'm busily working away on my new book. I can't give any specific details about the novel, but I've left a few clues on my newest Pinterest board, Inspiration for Secret Writing Projects. A major plot point isn't portrayed on the board, but you can get an early taste of the book's setting and Gothic influence.

  • In September, I'll be launching a brand-new website with other authors. Giveaways and celebrations will ensue, so definitely check back for news on that project.

  • I'm heading to Ohio to visit family the first week in July. No, that has nothing to do with my books, but it will explain why I'm not responding to emails or blog comments until after July 9.   
Happy summer, northern hemisphere visitors! And to the southern hemisphere crowd, happy winter!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Confessions of a Reader Who Bawls over Books

Last week I admitted on Twitter that I broke into tears when I read the last lines of Judy Blume's Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing to my seven-year-old son. Two fellow 2013 debut YA novelists, Elsie Chapman (Dualed) and Alison Cherry (Red), joined in on the conversation, and it was determined I was the wimpiest one of the group when it came to books and crying. Elsie suggested I blog about which books make me cry the most and give them tissue ratings for the amounts of tears they produced. Therefore, I present to you…

by Cat Winters 

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee (3 out of 5 tissues)

Lee's novel is the first time I can remember crying over a book. When I was nine, I was bored one day and looking for something to read. Aware I was an advanced reader in need of a challenge, my dad pulled his old 1960s copy of To Kill a Mockingbird off the shelf and handed it to me.

I didn't shed a single tear until I came to the very last line: "[Atticus] would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning." I don't know if it was the sadness of reaching the end of an amazing book that got me, or if I was getting emotional about the bonds between Scout, Attitcus, and Jem. But I cried. And I cry EVERY SINGLE TIME I come to that final line in the novel—and when I hear it spoken in the movie. Moreover, I've tended to get misty eyed over the last lines of every superb book I've read since that moment.

CHARLOTTE'S WEB by E.B. White (5 out of 5 tissues)
I think this book's sob factor needs no explanation, unless you are a robot.
ANNE FRANK: THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL by Anne Frank (5 out of 5 tissues) 

Another book that pulled at my heartstrings during childhood. A prime example why: "…in spite of everything I still believe people are really good at heart." If a girl hiding from murderous Nazis could write a line like that, who was I to view my parents as tyrants for making me do the dishes? Don't even get me started about the way the diary simply ends without Anne getting a chance to truly finish it.

GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU by Sam McBratney (3 out of 5 tissues) 

I'm sure I must have cried over many other books between childhood and adulthood, but I didn't start really losing it until I became a mom and began reading books out loud to my kids. When my children were babies, Guess How Much I Love You was a particularly difficult one for me to get through without my voice breaking, especially whenever I arrived at the words, "I love you right up to the moonand back." *gulp* My kids have probably learned throughout the years that whenever Mom stops and looks like she's lost her place on the page, she's really just trying to regain her composure and keep from blubbering.

THE LORAX by Dr. Seuss (4 out of 5 tissues)

It takes just one word for this book to bring me to tears: "UNLESS." Maybe it's because Dr. Seuss was able to wrap up our eternal hope for a better world in just six letters, but I always have to pause before I read that word out loud in this story.

INKHEART by Cornelia Funke (5 out of 5 tissues)

I read this children's fantasy novel to my daughter a few years ago, and I literally broke into hysterics during one scene and handed her the book so she could read it to me. Without giving away too many spoilers, the main character, Meggie Folchart, reunites with someone who means the world to her, and I just could not read about their emotional moment without becoming a wreck. My husband looked at me as if I were insane.

THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak (5 out of 5 tissues) 

It would ruin the ending if I revealed why this book made me bawl, but if you've already read it, you know exactly what I mean. That kiss, especially. Oh, that kiss.

THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET by Brian Selznick (3 out of 5 tissues) 

I'm a sucker for stories about people who rediscover themselves later in life. For example, I still can't sit through the movie Babe without crying over Farmer Hoggett's "That'll do pig; that'll do" line (the cinematic equivalent of "UNLESS"). I read Hugo out loud to my son on an airplane, and I had to do the pause-and-pretend-you've-lost-your-place move quite a bit so other passengers wouldn't hear me sobbing. I'd also place Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree into this same category of getting touched by the anguish old age and a life passing by.

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green (5 out of 5 tissues) 

Tears streamed down my face with such violence when I was reading the end of this novel that I tripped over my dog on my way to the Kleenex box. The dog was fine, and I recovered physically, but Green emotionally punched me in the gut through his characters. Plus he managed to incorporate Anne Frank into one crucial scene! Nicely played, Mr. Green. Nicely played.

What about you? Which books make you bawl?