Win an ARC of The Diabolic

img_20161003_131517847Last week I got my grubby hands on an advanced reading copy (ARC) of S.J. Kincaid’s latest novel, The Diabolic. I’m not sure why Kincaid sent it to me, but I’m glad she did! She didn’t ask me to write a review, but I’m going to anyway. It’ll be extremely biased because 1) I love her work and 2) my God this book rocked! (It rocked so hard that I just used two exclamation points in one paragraph. I’m pretty sure I’ve written whole books that don’t have many more exclamation points than that.)

Anyway, our heroine in The Diabolic, Nemesis, is an artificially created being, trained for one thing only: to kill. She is imprinted on Sidonia, the heir to the galactic Senate. This means Nemesis is programmed to do anything to protect Sidonia, to kill anyone who threatens her or, if necessary, to die for her. There’s no escape from her programming–her duties will end only with her death. Nor does she want to escape–her programming causes her to love Sidonia. But when the Emperor summons Sidonia to serve as a hostage, Nemesis can only protect her by impersonating her. Thus Nemesis is forced to enter a web of galactic intrigue that she’s woefully unprepared for.

The Emperor and Galactic Senate depicted in The Diabolic are clearly based on ancient Rome, right down to their updated version of sun worship. It’s a fascinating take on the future of humanity, if a depressing one. I’ve always hoped humans would go down the rational path depicted in Star Trek, leaving our old biases and religious prejudice behind on the earth. Sadly though, I found the government in The Diabolic perfectly believable.

Nemesis is a fascinating character. She’s stronger, faster, and smarter than any human. She assesses everyone but Sidonia as a threat, calculating multiple ways to kill anyone who crosses her path, and, in fact, killing at least one person who only appears to be a tangential threat to Sidonia. I love the fact that Kincaid carried her concept through to its logical conclusion and fearlessly depicted a somewhat morally ambiguous heroine. It shows the high regard in which she holds her readers.

As I was reading, I frequently found myself comparing The Diabolic to Graceling by Kristin Cashore. If you’ve ever heard me rave about Graceling, you know what a compliment that is. Nemesis, like Katsa, is supremely gifted at killing. They are both forced to navigate political systems that neither is remotely prepared for. And ultimately, both Nemesis and Katsa find meaning in their lives by protecting another.

The pacing in The Diabolic is crackling fast. I would have read it in a day, but I had a school visit and forced myself to put the book aside and go to bed at eleven. The next day, I carried The Diabolic along on my school visit, hoping (fruitlessly) I’d have time to sneak in a few more pages. I finished it that evening.

img_20161003_131548803The Diabolic will be available on 11/1. But I’ll help you get a copy early! I’m giving away my signed ARC to one lucky winner. It pains me to do this, because Kincaid wrote such a nice inscription to me in the ARC. But I’m going to buy a hardcover when it comes out, and don’t have space on my shelves for both. Why am I buying a hardcover when I already have an ARC? Because I want to read more Kincaid books! And the royalties on an ARC are a big fat zero. But if you’d like to read it ahead of time, all you have to do is sign up for my mailing list via the Rafflecopter below. I’ll mail the ARC to any U.S. address. (Sorry, international readers. I love you, but I’m too cheap to spring for international postage.) Happy reading!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Win One of 14 DARLA’S STORY Audio E-books

I have 14 codes for a free DARLA’S STORY Audio E-book, narrated by Sarah Chevalier. If you like Darla, you’ll really enjoy this. It’s about everything that happens to her between the Yellowstone super-eruption and when she meets Alex. Sarah’s narration is amazing–I chose her because she sounds like Darla to me. You can win an audio e-book with a tweet, a Twitter follow, and/or by signing up for my new mailing list. (I will only email you when I have major new book news or if I’m holding a public event in your area.) You can enter by tweeting once per day. Contest ends on May 18th. Enter via the Rafflecopter below. Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway





One of the most common questions questions I get is this: what’s ASHFALL #4 about? Instead of typing a separate answer yet again, I’m going to share everything I’m currently willing to discuss here.

First, yes, there will be a fourth full-length ASHFALL book. So it will no longer be a trilogy. Or a three-and-a-half-ology. Now I think it will be a tetra-logy? Or a four-and-a-half-ology? Anyway, the series order will be: ASHFALL, (DARLA’S STORY is a novelette that can be read before or after ASHFALL), ASHEN WINTER, SUNRISE, and ASHFALL #4. No, I don’t have a title for the fourth book yet. If you’ve got a great idea and don’t care if I use it (you won’t get paid anything), then email me!

I have until December 31st, 2017 to deliver the manuscript for ASHFALL #4. I hope to get it done a lot sooner. But I’ll take as long as I need to to write a great book. I know it’s hard to be patient, so thank you.

I outline my books before I write them, but while I’m writing I often change the outline. Or scrap chunks of it completely. So the information I’m about to share may change. With that said, here’s what ASHFALL #4 is about: It starts two years after SUNRISE ends. Alex and Darla are the proud parents of an 8-month-old girl named Gloria, after Darla’s mother. Speranta is incredibly prosperous. In terms of technology, standard of living, and food storage, they’re years ahead of all their much larger neighbors. One of those neighbors wants Speranta’s riches for itself. And they’ll stop at nothing to get them.

Thanks for your continued support and all the questions you’ve emailed me. I love my fans! –Mike


Win One-Of-A-Kind ASHFALL & ASHEN WINTER Manuscripts

I’m in the middle of moving and have to empty out my closet of doom. The one that vomits on me anytime I open the door. Part of the closet of doom is 14 old manuscripts of ASHFALL and ASHEN WINTER.  I could recycle them, but maybe some of you would be interested in seeing just how bad my writing is before it’s edited? Or reading the original ending to ASHFALL or ASHEN WINTER (both of which sucked, by the way)? These are unique manuscripts that may have editing marks and comments from me, my wife, my publisher, or various beta readers. Some of them may not be complete. Enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win. If you live in the United States, I’ll spring for shipping. If you have a non-U.S. address, you’ve got to pay for shipping. (Sorry, but international shipping on 14 manuscripts would be expensive!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here’s the stack of manuscripts I’m giving away:


I’ve also got an extra copy of In Real Life, an awesome young adult novel about a teen struggling to make it in big-league Korean professional video gaming:

In Real Life Cover

And finally, a copy of Eleanor and Park:

Eleanor and Park Cover

It’s signed to Mike (I met Rainbow twice and had a copy signed to me both times, because I’m a ditz):

Eleanor and Park Signature

Good luck!


Teachers: You Make a Difference

I occasionally get depressed about the state of the teaching profession. This past month, for example, it seems like my wife (who teaches in an elementary school) hasn’t been able to do anything but administer tests. First it was LAP tests (not sure what that stands for, something about English as a new language). Now they’re moving straight from that into ISTEP practice tests (that’s Indiana’s version of the high-stakes test), then they actually have to give the ISTEP itself, which will take them well into April. So from February to April basically nothing happens but testing. How can any teacher be effective in that kind of environment?

There was an education rally at the statehouse in Indianapolis earlier this week. I put it on my calendar but I felt totally unenthusiastic about attending. As I tried to figure out why, I realized that the rally was to support a Democrat who supports a ridiculous excess of high-stakes testing against a Republican who also supports a ridiculous excess of high-stakes testing. What’s the point?

Not all is lost, however. The same day of the rally, an email hit my inbox that reminded me that there are still teachers out there achieving great things despite the best efforts of our politicians to undermine them. So I asked for and received permission to share it with you here:

Dear Mr. Mullin,

My name is Lexi and I am 13 years old. Until I was 12 I hated reading and everything that had to do with it. I would never independent read or follow along in classroom reads. Last year, my class went to our school library to learn how to classify different book genres. My group was given Sci-fi. As we were classifying I saw the title Ashfall and read the back page. After reading the page I knew that I would love the book. I was very nervous because I didn’t think I could finish or even read a chapter from the book. I told myself that I will try to read it so I checked it out. Later that night I decided to put my computer down and read the book. Little did I know that I had been reading over an hour. I couldn’t believe that I read a book and actually enjoyed it! Everyday I just kept reading and reading until I finished the series. Ever since that one night I haven’t been able to stop reading. I am writing you this for a couple reasons. One reason I am writing to you is to thank you. Thank you so much for getting me into reading. I have seen improvement on many things in my English class. You are a very talented writer and I hope to be like you one day. A final reason that I am writing to you is for an autograph saying to Lexi From: (your autograph) I would love to hang it up in my room for a great memory to have forever from my favorite author.

Thanks so much for taking your time to read this email. You are a very talented writer! My address is:


Thanks Again!

Lexi [Redacted]

Some wonderful teacher marched her/his class down to the library, exposed them to books, and allowed them to make a free choice of what to read. Some brave librarian put ASHFALL in a middle school library (not all can or will due to its content).

Also note from this email that Lexi had never done reading assignments, which brings up an important point. Teachers can assign “classics” or “challenging reading” all they want, but if the students don’t want to read the material, they wont. They’ll read the Wikipedia article on the book and fake it. If students are to become competent readers of long works, teachers have a far more challenging job than ordering them to read: teachers must inspire their students to want to read. In Lexi’s case, a teacher did exactly that. I don’t know who Lexi’s teacher is, so I’ll just offer kudos to all the teachers out there who are doing great work connecting kids with books. Thank you.


A Valentine’s Day Post

Didn’t get enough romance on Valentine’s Day? (I did, my wife and I went shopping for a washer and dryer!) Well, I’m here to help. Kaylie Corban told me part of this story on Twitter, and I just had to know the rest. Writing can be a lonely profession, (not that I’m complaining, I make up lies and get paid for it!) but sometimes I wonder if what I do really matters–does it make a difference in anyone’s lives? Well, here’s the true story about how ASHFALL and a ridiculously long signing line helped Kaylie meet her boyfriend. I loved the story so much that I asked Kaylie to share it with you in honor of Valentine’s Day. –Mike

Sadly (for me), the line wasn’t quite this long.

There I was, at the book signing that would make my year. Mike Mullin,  the man that wrote the ASHFALL trilogy, my favorite book series, was standing right in front of me! Well, about thirty feet across the school auditorium because of the infinitely long line I’d been in for the past half hour. I felt like a stalker with how long I’d just been staring at him, waiting for the line to shorten, but I had nothing else to do! It had already been so exciting, but I was bored, egregiously. Bored enough to tear my hair out! Why hadn’t I brought another book? I would have read my copy of Ashfall again, but I’d read it three times in the past week alone!

There was, however, a remarkably cute guy in line ahead of me. At least he looked like he might be cute. All I’d seen was his back.

It was a hard decision, but I knew what I had to do. I tapped on his shoulder, and said, “Hello.” My heart was racing like a driver in the Indy 500. I hate introductions with a passion, but this one was an exception. He turned around, and I inspected his face. Yep, cute. He had adorable green eyes and big bushy eyebrows that I just couldn’t get over.

Crap! I’m staring!

I immediately looked down at my shoes.

“Hi.” He replied quietly.  His whispery  tone made me want to hear more so I kept asking questions.

“What’s your name? I don’t think I’ve met you before.”


“David who?”

“Just David,” and for a second, just a second, I saw him smirk. It was incredible. I’d later find out that it was because it was a book reference that I didn’t quite get. Which baffled me, because I thought no person in the world read more than I. But he had. As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one that had a really close friendship with the school librarians.

Our hour long conversation about Ashfall spilled out. I was so nervous, more than I usually would be, but at the same time I felt a sense of comfort at the soft sound of his voice.

By the time we got to the front of the line, I was so absorbed in him, I had forgotten where I was! I got my book signed by the Mike Mullin and left both him and “just David” to themselves. That was the start of the best and longest relationship of my life, and it’s still ongoing. I fell in love with David thanks to Mike Mullin’s ridiculously long signing line. It would’ve been the perfect day… if someone hadn’t stolen my newly signed copy of Ashfall fifteen minutes afterward. –Kaylie Corban


Aww, my heart is melting. Thanks for the inspiring Valentine’s Day story, Kaylie. As a thank you for your bravery in letting me post this on my blog, I’d like to send you a signed set of hardcover first printings of the ASHFALL trilogy. These are collectable editions you can’t buy in stores anymore. I think I should sign them to Kaylie Extraordinary and Just David. –Mike



Calling All Librarians and Teachers in Des Moines and Philadelphia

I’m speaking at the Iowa Association of School Librarians (IASL) conference on April 12th in Des Moines. I’d love to stay over on Monday the 13th and Tuesday the 14th to visit schools and/or libraries in the area. Since IASL is paying my airfare, any events scheduled Monday or Tuesday would be significantly cheaper than normal. Full information on my school and library visits can be found here.

I’ll also be speaking at Garnet Valley High School near Philadelphia on Tuesday, April 21st. I’d love to do other events on Monday, April 20th. (I’m already booked in Indianapolis on Wednesday.) Garnet Valley is  paying my airfare, so a visit on Monday the 20th would be significantly cheaper than normal.

If you’re interested in either of these opportunities, please email me at before February 15, 2015. Thanks, and happy reading!

*I guess I won’t be taking a Romanian airline to either Des Moines or Philadelphia, but I wish I could. It can’t be any worse than the U.S. companies!



Do Men or Women Write Better?

It’s a ridiculous question, right? When you love a book, who cares if a man or woman wrote it? Although to be fair, I reviewed the list I keep of my all-time favorite books, the ones I read over and over and over, and 80% of them were written by men. I certainly don’t consider the gender of the author when I’m deciding what to read, but it’s entirely possible that I have an unconscious bias.

Grammarly commissioned a study to see if there’s a bias among readers at large, and the results are interesting. Fifty-nine percent of the respondents believe that women are better writers than men, a result I find both surprising and encouraging. Surprising because books written by men get far more coverage in literary journals. Encouraging because, hey, maybe the public at large doesn’t share the literary world’s apparent bias, or is actually biased toward female writers. The survey appears to be reasonably scientific, with a sample size of 3,000, 54% of whom were men. It was conducted by Google Consumer Surveys. Here’s the infographic:


Many thanks to the folks at Grammarly for doing the study, providing the infographic, and donating $50 to Reading is Fundamental in my name in return for this post. Somebody over there knows exactly how to offer me an appealing bribe. Grammarly is an automated grammar checker. I’ve never used it, but I probably should.


Kirby Heyborne Will Narrate ASHFALL Audiobook

I’m frequently asked about an ASHFALL audiobook–Why doesn’t one exist? When will ASHFALL be recorded? Lots of people–including me–rely on audiobooks for entertainment on car trips. But the appeals that hit me the hardest are the folks who want to share their love of my work with friends who can’t consume normal print due to visual impairment or dyslexia.

Tanglewood Press has been working on a possible audiobook for more than two years now. They’ve auditioned narrators–some of whom were very good–but none of whom seemed perfect for ASHFALL. I agreed to read my own work, but my voice is closer to James Earl Jones’s than a typical teenager’s voice, and my editor wisely nixed that idea.


So I’m thrilled to announce that Tanglewood Press has hired one of the best narrators in the business, Kirby Heyborne, to record ASHFALL. If you’ve listened to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Cohn and Levithan, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, or any of dozens of other amazing novels, you’ve heard Kirby’s work.  He recently won The Odyssey Award–The American Library Association’s version of the Newbery for audiobook narration–for reading Scowler by Daniel Kraus.

I’m excited to hear what Kirby does for my work, and want to once again thank Tanglewood Press for their dedication to presenting ASHFALL so well in all formats, and to thank my fans who have been waiting only somewhat patiently for this for years now.


How Many Times Do I Have to Say This? Reviews Are for Readers, Not Authors

A Facebook friend shared this article from The Guardian tonight, and I was absolutely appalled. An author, Kathleen Hale, stalked the author of a one-star review of her book, and The Guardian printed an account of said stalking in her own words. What’s next, will The Guardian start printing fawning accounts of burglar’s exploits without any discussion of the cost to their victims?

Think I’m exaggerating? Here’s a quote from the article authored by Ms. Hale, “A few nights later I called my friend Sarah, to talk while I got drunk and sort of watched TV. Opening a new internet window, I absent-mindedly returned to stalking Blythe Harris [the blogger who had written a one-star review of her book].”

I have a couple of things to say to Ms. Hale and any other authors who might consider behaving in a similarly execrable manner. It is not okay to visit a blogger’s house uninvited, even if s/he wrote a one-star review of your book. It is not okay to peer into a blogger’s car, even if s/he tweeted mean things at you. It is not okay to call a blogger unasked at work even if s/he blogs under a pseudonym. If I were Ms. Harris (or Donofrio, it really doesn’t matter), I’d be angry and terrified at Ms. Hale’s behavior.

This stuff matters. If we (authors) persist in ridiculous vilification of bloggers, fewer readers will blog. And that will make the whole book ecosystem poorer. Bloggers are doing authors a huge favor–they generally work for absolutely nothing but the love of books. This also means that yes, authors are and should be held to a higher standards than bloggers–we’re getting paid for what we do, and are therefore professionals, whereas bloggers are generally amateurs and private citizens.

Ms. Hale has failed to grasp two critically important facts. First, her work is separate and different from herself. Look, I cry, sweat, and even bleed over my books, but I am more than my work. I will never, no matter how much I toil, capture the totality of my experience in my books, nor even a dim shadow thereof. Neither will Ms. Hale. Yet she obviously misses this point, writing, “My book had not even been published yet and already it felt like everybody hated it, and me.”

Second, Ms. Harris was doing Hale a favor. Every person who gave Ms. Hale’s book a one-star review was also doing her a favor. Why? Bad reviews sell books, at least for authors who haven’t built strong name recognition yet. For more detail about that assertion and the research supporting it, see my two previous posts on this subject.

I have a simple suggestion for authors, like Ms. Hale, who are too thin-skinned to read their own reviews. Don’t. Add Goodreads to the porn blocker on your browser. Then you can’t visit the site even if you’re tempted by something you see elsewhere. If nothing else works, stay off the internet. Sure, your publisher will whinge about how you need a social media presence–just ask to see the data on how many extra books social media sells. They won’t be able to tell you. Why? Because nobody has that data, as best I can tell. And plenty of authors have built fabulously successful careers with virtually no presence on social media (Suzanne Collins, Cormac McCarthy, and Thomas Pynchon spring to mind.) You don’t need to do this stuff. And if you can’t handle it professionally–that is, without stalking bloggers who post negative reviews–then you’re screwing things up for the rest of us. Please quit.