• Oct. 2nd, 2014 at 8:12 AM
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OMG I am excited.

I am so excited. Here are some gifs to convey my excitement because AHHHH.

As explained in words and images above, I am very excited to finally be able to tell everyone about the book I wrote with Maggie Stiefvater, called PIP BARTLETT’S GUIDE TO MAGICAL CREATURES.

In PIP BARTLETT’S GUIDE TO MAGICAL CREATURES, Pip is a girl who can talk to magical creatures. Her aunt is a vet for magical creatures. And her new friend Tomas is allergic to most magical creatures. When things go amok—and they often go amok—Pip consults Jeffrey Higgleston’s Guide to Magical Creatures, a reference work that Pip finds herself constantly amending. Because dealing with magical creatures like unicorns, griffins, and fuzzles doesn’t just require book knowledge—it requires hands-on experience and thinking on your feet. For example, when fuzzles (which have an awful habit of bursting into flame when they’re agitated) invade your town, it’s not enough to know what the fuzzles are—Pip and Tomas also must trace the fuzzles’ agitation to its source, and in doing so, save the whole town.

Here’s the press release from Scholastic!

Here are some things to know:
-It is a middle grade book (a touch younger than my other middle grade, THE DOUBLECROSS).
-It is full of magical creatures, some which are traditional (unicorns and griffins) and some that we invented (bitterflunks and bog wallows).
-Maggie illustrated aforementioned magical creatures in the book.
-There is a unicorn who, like my dog, is afraid of everything.
-There are a lot of capers.
-There are a lot of animals.
-This is a book I would have LOST MY MIND over as a kid because ANIMALS AND MAGIC.
-In fact, for years, my bio has said: “Jackson began writing when she got angry that the school librarian couldn’t tell her of a book that contained a smart girl, horses, baby animals, and magic. Her solution was to write the book herself when she was twelve.” THIS IS THAT BOOK. Only instead of horses, they’re UNICORNS, which is EVEN BETTER.

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Your tax dollars at work

  • Sep. 25th, 2014 at 1:42 PM
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So, I am pretty horrified (like most acceptable humans are) by this whole Sam Pepper thing. If you don’t know what that is, see below:

I’ll totally admit that as I’ve stepped back from the YouTube community in the past year due to time restraints, I totally missed that stuff like this is a THING. Like, I had no idea people DID THIS and put it on YOUTUBE. I thought this was the sort of stuff perverts did quietly in the shadows, you know?

And anyhow, I thought I’d share a story with you:

Back in 2007, I was a few weeks shy of graduating college, and had been querying agents daily with a book called THERE ARE NO STARS IN CALIBAN– a book that later was bought by Harper Collins and became AS YOU WISH. I was fortunate enough to get offers from two agents. That evening, I called my mom to debate both agents; mid-phone-call, I decided to run to a nearby grocery store and get Pull-N-Peel Twizzlers, because they are delicious and as we all know, candy helps your decision making skillz.

So I’m standing there in the candy aisle, talking to Mom, getting my Twizzlers, and my eyes drift to the tiny little natural foods section. And there, about thirty feet away from me, is some guy’s penis.

Like, right there. He has pants on, but he’s got them unzipped and it’s just THERE, bouncing away as he peruses the whole grain cereals.

My first thought is: OMG THAT POOR GUY HE DOESN’T KNOW!!!!

I tell my mom what I see, and her first thought is: THAT GUY IS A PERVERT GET OUT OF THERE NOW

And suddenly I realize she’s RIGHT. This dude IS a pervert, and his penis isn’t hanging out on accident, and by this point he KNOWS I’ve seen it and I can tell this is PLEASING.

So my second thought is: OH #$%(#$ NO.

So I spin around and march to the customer service desk, where some poor kid who’s maybe 17 is working. I ask to see a manager.

Him: I’m sure I can help you, ma’am!
Me: I REALLY need to see a manager, and fast.
Him: Why don’t you tell me what’s bothering–
Me: There’s a man exposing himself by the Toastie-Os.
Him: I’ll call a manager.

By this time, of course, Pervert Dude realizes that I am ratting him out, and hurriedly rushes toward the exit, zipper up. I point and tell 17-year-old THAT’S HIM and 17-year-old frantically calls a manager and has no idea what to do.

Me third thought: WHAT WOULD BATMAN DO? (or something similar)

So I hurry outside after this guy (a safe distance, btw) and memorize his license plate/car make as he drives off. Then I call 911 and tell the police what happened, and all the info I have.

Now, to be honest, I figured that was the end of it. I mean, the guy was GONE before the cops got there. Hell, even I had left before the cops got there. But damn if a week later, the cops didn’t call me and ask me to come in and identify him in a photo line up, and ask me some questions, and get a “victim impact statement”. They’d actually used the store’s surveillance video, the license plate I’d given them, and my description (which included the LOGO-BEARING WORK SHIRT he wore to this little fiesta) to arrest him. He was being charged with a smattering of things, and apparently admitted to even more once they had him in custody.

Anyhow, the point of this story is: If someone exposes themselves to you, or touches you, or does ANYTHING YOU DO NOT WANT, CALL THE POLICE. Whip out your cell phone and GET SOME $&#* ON VIDEO. It does NOT take much to get the police to look into something, and what’s more, it’s important the police get this sort of information on file, even if they don’t make an arrest. THIS IS PART OF WHAT YOU PAY TAXES FOR- A POLICE FORCE THAT WILL PROTECT YOU. You don’t have to HOLD THE CREEP there to prove to the police that he’s a creep. I didn’t even have a picture of the guy who exposed himself to me, and he got arrested– and this was in a small college town with limited resources.

Obviously, I know in some cases coming forward can be difficult, and I’m sympathetic to those. The point of this post is more about– don’t think calling and reporting a creep is pointless. It’s important, it’s helpful, and moreover, it’s your RIGHT. Use your phone if it’s safe, get photos and video, and don’t be shy about the fact that you’re doing it– you have nothing to hide or be ashamed of, after all. Even if you aren’t particularly traumatized by seeing some random dude’s junk, call in support of the woman or child he might do it to in the future who WOULD be traumatized by it.

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  • Sep. 10th, 2014 at 11:52 PM
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As always, here’s my 9/11 video that I made a few years ago. I know a lot of readers are too young to have memories of 9/11, which might mean this day is a little weird for you. I get that. But I think it’s important you listen– that we all listen– because empathy is what will always, always bring us together, no matter how hard hate tries to drive us apart.

Also, the other day I came across these in a drawer:


Those are the Atlanta newspapers from September 12, 13, and 14. I was 17 when 9/11 happened, and I’ve moved…five? Six? Seven times since then? But through all the moves, through dorm rooms and small apartments, I’ve kept these. I’m not even sure WHY, to be honest– it’s not like I could forget this stuff. But here they are, anyhow…

And here’s this, by the way– it’s something I neglected to mention in the video. An article from the 14th’s paper:


Just a few days after September 11th, you couldn’t GET an American flag. For real. They were NO WHERE. Everyone had sold out. I remember that my sister somehow had the hook up, and managed to get one for our car, and everyone was all OMG HOW DID YOU FIND ONE?

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  • Sep. 9th, 2014 at 8:14 AM
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Do you know what THE DOUBLECROSS is? Allow me to tell you, in this hastily-written (sorry) blurb:

Everyone in Hale’s family is a spy, going way back. His great grandfather. His grandmother. Both his parents. They’ve all worked for the Sub Rosa Society, an elite, top secret organization—so top secret that new agents aren’t recruited; they’re born.
Unfortunately for twelve-year-old Hale, he was born (as his mother puts it) “big-boned”– or (as his SRS classmates put it) “fat”. Despite the fact that Hale can diffuse an explosive, don a disguise in seconds, and speak eleven languages, he’s often overlooked by his SRS classmates because he’s not so great at running, fighting, or back-handspringing over a laser grid.
But one day, Hale’s parents are kidnapped by a rival spy organization, and it turns out Hale– with some help from his little sister, Kennedy– might be the only one who can save the day. The trouble is, when everyone’s a spy, who can you trust?

It’s a middle grade– my first! And I love it so much. It’s so much fun. It’s funny and adventure-y and antics-y. It’s full of missions and full of family and full of heart and full of explosives.

And here’s the cover for THE DOUBLECROSS (and other skills I learned as a super spy), which I adore:

The Doublecross



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Publishing: Square One

  • Jul. 26th, 2014 at 8:25 AM
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I get a lot of emails from friends and family and people-I-once-met-at-the-grocery-store that ask: How do I get published?

I get the impression most people want me to hand them a website, or give a quick and simple answer, but there’s really no instant-response to that question. Publishing is a big giant industry, and getting published isn’t a quick and simple thing, no matter how you go about it.

BUT, everyone needs to start somewhere, and so I’ve written this post as just that: a place to start. This is your square one, people.

Now, before you read this, I want to be very clear: There are exceptions to every rule. So when I talk about how it’s easier to be a full time writer if you’re traditionally published, I know that some traditionally published writers have day jobs, and some self-published writers have yachts. When I say traditionally published writers get to go on book tours, I know that a self-published writer can pay for her own book tour. I am making generalizations in this post in order to help those who are brand-spanking-new to the publishing industry decide how they want to move forward. This post is NOT a debate about which method of publishing is superior or inferior, but rather just a place for some general, just-getting-started info.

Okay? Okay.

On to square one.

There are two main “ways” to get published:
1) Traditional publishing:
This is where a publisher—be it a big one, like Random House, or a small one— pays you an advance on sales, and then publishes the book, handles the design, marketing, and release, and you split the profits with them. You retain the copyright, and the advance is yours to keep regardless of how well the book sells. Once you’ve “earned out” the advance, you start earning royalties on each book sold. You still own the copyright on your work, and publishing this way costs you nothing out of pocket—the publisher pays you if they want to publish your book. That said, traditional publishers are choosy about what they select to publish, so there’s a risk (and high likelihood, no matter who you are) of rejection.

2) Self publishing:
This is where you basically do everything yourself. You edit the book, design a cover, design the interior, upload it to Amazon or B&N or get copies printed, market it, etc. It’s a lot more work on your end, but nearly all the profit is yours (if you’re doing an ebook, Amazon/B&N/whatever platform you use will take a cut of your sales). Obviously, you still own the copyright on your work here too. Since you’re not submitting the work to anyone who must approve it, there’s no risk of rejection.

Which one is better?
There’s no answer to this question.
-Traditional publishing means you get an advance right out of the gate, which is nice—it means you have some money to live on while you wait for the book to comes out.
-Self publishing is fast—with traditional publishing you usually have a year or more between turning in the book and seeing it on shelves.
-Traditional publishing means a professional designer will create your cover.
-Self-publishing means you get to make the final decision on your cover.
-Traditional publishing means a marketing team with connections, data, and a budget can send you on a book tour, get you in newspapers, and get you professionally reviewed.
-Self-publishing means that you can release the book on Sunday and immediately start writing a new one on Monday if you’re not the promo-ing kind.
-Traditional publishing means you must submit your work to publishers and be accepted—or rejected.
-Self-publishing means you’re the decision maker on if the book will be published or not.

There’s admittedly a certain prestige that comes with traditional publishing. This is not to say all traditionally published books are inherently better than all self-published books. But, when I see a traditionally published book, I instantly must assume that at a publishing house, this book was chosen from the thousands by a team of acquisitions editors. I must assume that it has been professionally edited, copyedited, and designed. I must assume this book was so good that the bookstore I found it in chose to carry it on their very limited shelves.
With self-published books, the only thing I must assume is that the author knows how to use a computer.

I’ll be the first to admit that I grow very tired of traditional publishers talking about how their way is better because they’re “gatekeepers” for great books—all while releasing some celebutante’s ghostwritten autobiography. But, like it or not, self-publishing is easy. It takes less than ten minutes to load a book to Amazon’s website (yes, it takes more time to write, format and design it, and those things might not be easy, but none of that is required to get it loaded and stick a price on it). When it’s easy, everyone can do it—which means you, who are reading this and take writing and publishing very seriously, might be published alongside a frat guy who wrote an expose about the girl who wouldn’t make out with him and loaded it just before beer pong started.

My point is: For me, and I think a lot of others, self-published books have to prove themselves to me in a bigger way than traditionally published ones do. I think it’s important to consider that when choosing what route to go for publishing your book.

How do I decide which route to go?
It very much depends on you, your goals, and your book.

I encourage traditional publishing if:
-You want to be a full time writer
-You want to go on book tours and have your book professionally promoted
-You want to see your book in brick and mortar stores (bookstores, but also Target, Costco, etc)
-You want to have your book professionally reviewed
-You want to see your book on the NYT list
-You want your book to be in schools and libraries
-You want to be paid in advance of the book releasing

I encourage self-publishing if:
-You are writing a very niche book (for example, one self-published author I know wrote a series about kids who went to conventions, and he sold the book at conventions)
-Writing is a hobby for you, rather than a legitimate career path*
-You want to have total control over all aspects of the book
-You write very quickly, and want to get the book out and move on to the next faster than traditional publishing allows
-You are writing in a genre that super-embraces self-publishing (for example, romance and erotica)
-You don’t want to do any real promo (or, conversely, are on board with doing all promo yourself, which is very very time consuming)
-You want to pocket all the proceeds
-You have a built-in audience from your previous books/wacky TV show/massive Crossfit following

*Because I sense people freaking out on me: Some self-published authors do treat writing as a serious career path. But if you don’t, but have written a book or memoir or whatnot just for kicks, self-publishing is definitely the route for you.

What’s important is that you look at both these options and decide what is best for you. I strongly, strongly discourage you from self-publishing (especially your first book) as a last resort. If you think traditional publishing is your best route, then shelve the book, lick your wounds, and write another one.

Because it’s important, I do want to mention some personal negative experiences in both camps:

I self-published a few adult novellas under a pen name. I know how to write a book, edit it, design a cover, and market it. I did all of these things, and even did a little paid promotion. When all is said and done, I’ve sold about 100 copies (about $30 worth). That’s not to discourage you, but rather, to give you a very realistic idea of what self-publishing can be. Yes, there are the people who make six figures a month on their self-pub books, but that’s not everyone.

Likewise, I have plenty of friends who traditionally published, only to have their books ignored, moved by their publishers, go under-edited or over-edited, or not make it into bookstores. I have seen traditional publishers come up with some truly heinous covers despite their professional designers (and as an author, you can beg for a cover change, but the publisher doesn’t have to do it). And often there’s a let down when you traditionally publish and the book doesn’t live up to expectations—and sometimes it can be harder for you to sell and publish additional books if a traditional publisher has sales records to show your first one didn’t go so well.

What should I be wary of?
In some places, the lines between traditional publishing and self-publishing are becoming a little blurred.

For example, there are some small “indie” e-publishers. They release the book online-only, edit it, and promote it, but the author receives no (or a very, very small) advance. This seems a little suspect to me—if you’re going to give someone a cut of your sales, I think they need to really earn it. If they’re not doing anything you couldn’t do for a few hundred books (hire an editor, do some light promo, and load the book to Amazon), why give them that cut?

Additionally, keep in mind that it is very, very easy to make a professional-looking website. If the small “indie” publisher you’re talking to won’t share sales, or hasn’t had any big sellers, or has no industry experience, do some more research to make sure they’re what you want.

Be wary of self-publishing help sites where for a fee, they’ll edit your book and design your cover. Who is the editor? Does that person actually have experience? How do you know? And how good is their graphic designer? Will they do it again if you hate the cover? If it were me, I’d probably hire a freelance editor and graphic designer whose credentials I could verify.

This post isn’t really about agents (who are essentially only used if you’re traditionally publishing), but if you do find yourself looking at agents, run away if one requests any form of payment from you before selling your book.

Great! Where do I go to start traditionally publishing/self publishing?
Ah, dear reader, this one is all you. The good news is that by reading this, you already have started. The bad news is that if I were to list all the various resources for both self-publishing and traditional publishing, I would spend my entire life making that list. Plus, the first steps are different if you’re writing, say, a non-fiction book than they are if you’re writing a young adult novel, so there are simply too many variables for me to walk you through.

That said, now that you have some information, you and your buddy Google are probably better prepared to sort through the internet and find a great traditional publisher to submit to (or an agent who will submit to a traditional publisher for you) or to start researching how you’ll go about self-publishing (what editors you’ll hire, where you’ll get your cover from, promo opportunities, etc).

I want to add: I am a traditionally published author. All of my books– the seven that are out and the five under contract– are through traditional publishers. Because I’ve had success there and am very happy with my career at present, I suspect this post leans toward preferring traditional publishing despite my best attempts to keep it neutral. With that in mind, I encourage you to seek out self-published authors if you feel like that route is something you want to explore– and, of course, please keep in mind that they probably lean toward preferring self-publishing.

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The Anastasia Story

  • Mar. 8th, 2014 at 10:00 AM
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She’s everyone’s favorite Romanov. In fact, she’s usually the only Romanov people know by name. If you’ve been reading the other posts in this blog tour, you already know that the animated Anastasia movie is basically all lies. Why?

Because she’s the one who supposedly escaped and survived the executions.

Before I go on, I have to tell you something— this blog post is going to get kind of dark. So, to help, I’m going to put some photos of kittens here and there. If things are getting too dark for you, look at the kittens, okay?

Okay. Here we go.

Who was Anastasia?
Anastasia was the youngest of the Romanov sisters— her brother, Alexei, was the youngest over all. She was a pretty delightful and mischievous kid— one of the family doctors said she “held the record for punishable deeds in the family”. She played outdoors, liked acting, and was especially close to the other younger sister, Maria, who she shared a room with. When she grew older, she would visit the Red Cross hospital and play checkers with wounded soldiers and occasionally write poetry. Simply put, she was pretty cool. I think you would have liked her.

(Anastasia and her siblings)

What happened to her?
The entire Romanov family was executed in Ekaterinberg by a group of Reds who’d had them under various forms of house arrest for over a year. The execution was brutal— I won’t go into detail, but know that I cried over it several times while researching TSARINA. Actually, if I think about it too hard, I still cry over it.

Screen Shot 2014-01-17 at 2.22.02 AM

Why do so many people think she survived the execution?
When the bodies of the Romanov family were excavated in 1991, they’d been exposed to the elements so long they were skeletonized. Through DNA and skeletal analysis, they were able to sort out who the Tsar and Tsarina were, as well as the handful of servants that had been executed with them. They also were able to identify Olga and Tatiana, the oldest two Romanov sisters, and then a third skeleton, which they believed to be Maria.

And then they were out of skeletons. Anastasia and Alexei weren’t there.

Actually, it could have been Maria and Alexei that were missing— the Russian scientists said that Anastasia was that third found skeleton, and it was Maria who was unaccounted for, while the American scientists working the case said it the third found skeleton was Maria and Anastasia was the missing daughter. Maria and Anastasia were similar in size and, obviously, would have the same mitochondria DNA since they had the same parents, so it was impossible to tell for sure. For the sake of this post, let’s assume Anastasia was the missing daughter.

So, doesn’t that mean it’s possible she and Alexei survived?
It never was particularly likely, seeing as how the soldiers who were there that night insisted that everyone was killed. I mean, why kill the servants and the dogs (seriously— they killed the family’s dogs) if you’re just going to let a legitimate heir to the throne survive?
But, the whole matter was put to bed in 2007, when two final skeletons were found in the forest near Ekaterinberg. These skeletons were in really bad shape. While the other skeletons had been burned and buried, these had been cut up, smashed, and appeared to have acid damage. The theory is that the Reds didn’t want anyone to know that the royal family was dead— at least not right away— so they wanted to do a really, really good job of hiding the bodies. Because Anastasia and Alexei were the smallest…

(you’re going to need a kitten for this)

…the Reds used their bodies to test out various disposal techniques— like dissolving them in acid, burning them, throwing them down a well, etc. When that didn’t work, they decided it was easiest to just bury the rest of the family and leave Anastasia and Alexei’s bodies elsewhere. They were hoping that anyone who found the bodies would assume these were just regular-old-graves, since the number of bodies wouldn’t match the number of missing Romanovs.

I heard some lady says she’s the real Anastasia.
Yeah, that lady is lying. Or maybe she’s just confused. I don’t know. Over the years, dozens of people have claimed to be Anastasia. Some have even claimed to be Maria, Tatiana, or Olga, and a few men have insisted that they’re Alexei. I would love it if that were true, but it’s not. DNA proves that the entire Romanov family is accounted for, now. Even if we can’t be totally sure whether it was Maria or Anastasia temporarily lost with Alexei, we now have seven bodies to match with seven family members.

Where is Anastasia now?
Before Anastasia and Alexei’s bodies were found, Russia held a state funeral for the other Romanovs, and interred them in the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. You can see video from the funeral services here:

When Anastasia and Alexei were found, their bodies were interred alongside the rest of their family. They’re all together now in the St. Catherine chapel of the Cathedral.

Here is something that I think you should remember though: The most interesting thing about Anastasia isn’t the theory that she might have survived. The most interesting thing about Anastasia is that, really, she wasn’t that interesting. She was just like you, or me, or any other teenager. She happened to be royalty, sure, but she also loved her siblings, was a bad speller, ate too much chocolate, and had a purple bedroom with butterflies on the walls.

So, instead of remembering what didn’t happen— her escape— maybe we can remember the things that did happen, and the Romanov family as they really were: People.

People with kittens, in fact:

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The Constellation Egg

  • Mar. 7th, 2014 at 10:01 AM
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In the last post, I told you guys about Faberge eggs. In this post, I want to talk about the egg that’s at the very center of TSARINA.

It’s the Constellation Egg!

Obviously, I made the magic parts up for TSARINA. But the Constellation Egg itself is real. The Constellation Egg was the very last Faberge egg that Tsar Nicholas commissioned the Faberge company to make as a gift for his wife, the Tsarina. Unfortunately, Nicholas never got to give the Constellation Egg to his wife— the revolution happened, the Romanov family was taken into custody, and eventually, they were executed.

I used the Constellation Egg for TSARINA in part because it was the very last Faberge Egg the Romanovs commissioned— but also because of the design itself. The egg is basically Alexei themed. It’s made of cobalt blue glass; embedded in the glass are diamonds meant to represent stars, set in the shape of the Leo constellation— Alexei’s zodiac sign. Inside the egg is a clock mechanism, and the whole thing is set on quartz carved to look like clouds.

So, where is the Constellation Egg now?

For a long time, it was one of the missing eggs— no one knew what happened to it, since keeping track of fancy jeweled eggs wasn’t really anyone’s priority during the Revolution. Then, in 2001, a mineral museum in Moscow found what they believed to be the unfinished egg in their archives:

And everyone was like…yay! Constellation egg! They found it!

But then, in about 2004, a Russian billionaire revealed that he had the finished Faberge egg— and claimed the thing the mineral museum found was just some sort of light fixture the Faberge company made. The billionaire also had the second-to-last Faberge egg ever, the Karelian Birch egg, so…all signs seem to point to this egg being the real deal. The Russian authorities say neither of the eggs is real, but billionaire-guy also has the invoices from Faberge to Tsar Nicholas, the original drawings…

If you ask me? Billionaire man has the real egg.

By the way— because the Constellation Egg isn’t as egg shaped as we wanted for the cover (we wanted it to be really clear Natalya was holding a Faberge egg!), I suggested that the cover designers at Razorbill use another egg, called the Tsarevich Egg, which was also Alexei themed and a bit more traditionally egg-shaped:

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Faberge Eggs

  • Mar. 6th, 2014 at 2:50 PM
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In TSARINA, Natalya is on a quest to find a magical Faberge egg. The egg was enchanted by Rasputin for the Romanov family— with it, the Romanovs will always control Russia. The egg also keeps the Romanovs healthy, cures them when they’re sick, binds them to the land…it’s why Alexei Romanov’s hemophilia is no longer a problem, why it snows when the Tsar wants it to, and why wild elk happily eat from the Romanov sisters’ hands.

The magic may not be real, but Faberge eggs are. Here’s some knowledge about them:

1) A lot of people think any sparkly, bejeweled egg is a Faberge egg but…not so much. The term “Faberge egg” only applies to a very specific group of eggs made by the Faberge company between 1885 and 1917.

2) The eggs were commissioned as Easter gifts. The tradition began when Alexander III had the Hen Egg commissioned for his wife, Maria Feodorvna. She loved the egg so much that Alexander began commissioning them for her every Easter.

3) Each egg had a surprise inside. For example, the Moscow Kremlin Egg is a music box:

The Catherine The Great Egg has a mechanical sedan chair inside, with a little figure of Catherine the Great on it. The super cool chair has, sadly, been lost, but at least we still have the Egg itself….

And the Standard Yacht Egg has a freaking boat in it:

4) After Alexander III died, his son, Nicholas II (the last Tsar— Alexei’s father) began commissioning the eggs both for his mother and his wife, Alexandra.

5) Only 57 of these eggs are left of the 65 that were originally made. The eight “missing eggs” were either lost, stolen, or misplaced over time. If you see one, call me?

6) Of those 65 eggs, only 52 were made for the Romanov family. Once other nobles saw how awesome the eggs were, they began commissioning their own. Very few could afford them, but the Rothschild family had a few, as did an industrialist named Kelch and the Duchess of Marlborough.

7) The eggs typically had something to do with the Romanov family. For example. in 1915, the egg for the Tsarina was Red Cross themed, since she and her daughters were volunteering with the Red Cross as nurses:

8) Despite the royal family’s reputation for unapologetic opulence, they actually didn’t commission any eggs at all in 1904 and 1905, since Russia was in the middle of the Russo-Japanese war and they thought it would be in poor taste to spend so much on luxuries. They also had some eggs made of less expensive materials during World War 1— for example, the Steel Military Egg:

9) Stalin, everyone’s favorite guy (much sarcasm there) sold a lot of the eggs in 1927 to try and raise money for the government, which is why all the remaining eggs are sort of spread out all over the world. Many are even owned by private (and very wealthy) collectors.

The Pelican Egg, for example, is in Virginia:

The Gatchina Palace Egg (one of my favorites!) is in Maryland:

The Diamond Palace Egg is in a private collection:

The Basket of Wild Flowers Egg belongs to the Queen of England these days:

Zero of the eggs are in my living room. Which, I know, my house is no place for a rare Faberge egg.
But still. I wish it was.

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Grigori Rasputin: Russian Player

  • Mar. 5th, 2014 at 2:45 PM
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In TSARINA, Rasputin is a major character— even though he never actually appears on screen. Rasputin is the one who created the Faberge egg that Natalya is so desperate to find. He’s one of those historical figures who, even in his lifetime, was something of an enigma. I mean, look at him. Does this look like someone you want in your house?

No. If you spy this man through the peephole on your door, lock it and then arm yourself with whatever is convenient.
And yet, the Tsar and Tsarina, the most powerful people in Russia, allowed him full access to their home and children. How did he do it? Was he really a mystic? A prophet? A holy man? Or was he just a crazy drunk?

Let’s think on this together.

Rasputin was born in Siberia. He had a pretty rough childhood (Siberia isn’t exactly the easiest place to live)— he never had a formal education, and his siblings, Maria and Dmitri, both died when he was young (Dmitri’s death was especially hard on Rasputin— Dmitri fell through some ice into a river. Rasputin saved him from drowning, but Dmitri later died of pneumonia). He was always sort of the weird kid— he shook and sometimes spoke strangely— but he wound up getting married and having three children of his home (two of whom he named after his lost brother and sister).

On day, Rasputin sort of just wandered away from home, leaving his wife and children behind. He trekked around for a while, sort of sampling different religious places and people and things, not so much in a scholarly way, but kind of in a vagrant way. Somewhere in the midst of all this wandering, he managed to get a reputation for being a religious healer.

The Tsarina, Alexandra, heard about Rasputin through some friends— a holy man who had the power to heal. Her son and the heir to the Russian throne, Alexei, had hemophilia, and was a very, very sick kid— he would get a bruise and nearly die on a pretty regular basis. The Tsarina was desperate to help Alexei, so she called up Rasputin.

Rasputin looked like a creeper. Let’s just admit it. He had those freaky eyes, and he drank a lot, and he smelled, and he had no real sense of personal boundaries. But the Tsarina really, really wanted this whole healing-the-tsarevich thing to work out, so she looked past all that, and convinced her husband to as well. She invited Rasputin into the Winter Palace to heal her son.

And you know, it actually seemed to work! Alexei did improve when Rasputin was around. There’s a lot of speculation as to why this is— some people think he hypnotized the boy, others think it was divine intervention…what it probably was, however, is that doctors at the time were really big on giving Alexei aspirin. Aspirin was new and fancy at the time, but it’s also a blood thinner. Giving someone with a bleeding disorder a blood thinner? Not such a great idea. So, when Rasputin would tell the doctors to get out and leave Alexei alone, it would actually give Alexei time to get the aspirin out of his system, relax, and heal.

(Rasputin, a drunk vagrant, hanging out with the heir to Russia, LIKE YOU DO.)

Rasputin was so successful that the Romanovs put him up in an place in St. Petersburg so he could stay close by. Eventually his daughter, Maria, came to live with him there. That sounds sweet of Rasputin— bringing his daughter to St. Petersburg to live the good life— until you hear about his…um…pastime.

Rasputin believed that sin was kind of like a poison inside you, and that you had to get it out. The only way to get the sin out was by committing sin. So…he had to get all the sin out by sleeping with the women of St. Petersburg and drinking vodka till he passed out. He didn’t want to! But he had to! To get the sin out!

(If you’re thinking that Rasputin might have been a little delusional, you’re not the only one.)
(If you’re thinking Maria Rasputin probably needed more than a little therapy, you’re not the only one.)

Given his love of getting all that sin out, it makes sense that a lot of the Russian public suspected that Rasputin was also getting freak with the Tsarina— after all, they were alone together an awful lot. There were even rumors that he was seducing the Grand Duchesses. However, there’s actually no evidence to support he was ever sexually involved with members of the royal family. The rumor alone was enough to make Rasputin pretty hated though, and the idea that the Tsarina of Russia was hooking up with a drunk womanizing mystic didn’t really help the Romanov’s reputation either. When Rasputin started giving political advice to the Tsarina while the Tsar was out of town, a group of nobles decided they’d had enough. Rasputin had to get dead, fast.

A noble named Felix Yusupov— who was super interesting in his own right, so Google him— helped plan the whole thing. They lured Rasputin out of his house by telling him there was a really awesome party going on down the street, full of booze and Yusupov’s super hot wife. Being a fan of the booze and super hot wives, Rasputin followed (some stories say his daughter, Maria, suspected something was up and begged him not to go). At Yusupov’s house, Rasputin was first poisoned with cyanide. After a few hours, though, he was still alive, so they decided to get hardcore with this murder and shot him. He collapsed, and when they went to inspect his body, he leapt up and fought them off and ran out the door. They shot him a few more times, then Yusupov clubbed him for good measure. Then they chained up his body and threw him into the river.

They really wanted him dead.

Supposedly, when Rasputin’s body was finally recovered? His cause of death was drowning.

Now, to be entirely honest— there’s lots of evidence that the story of Rasputin’s death, which was largely told by Yusupov, has been exaggerated. Modern science suggests it was actually one of the gunshots that killed him, and there’s even some speculation that an undercover British intelligence officer was the one who actually made the kill shot, since the Brits weren’t big fans of Rasputin either.

Here’s the thing though— few figures have managed to be as legendary as Rasputin. Is he a villain? A hero? Crazy? Mystical?

Yes. Yes, to all of the above.

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The main character of TSARINA, Natalya, has a beautiful love story with none other than Alexei Romanov, the heir to the Russian throne. The sad truth is, Alexei was a little young (he died when he was about 13) to have a love story of his own. BUT…his older sister Tatiana had a beautiful one.

Tatiana was the second oldest sister— born after Olga but before Maria and Anastasia. Like the rest of the Romanov children, she was super super sheltered. Lots of people like to blame royalty for wasting money and living in luxury and generally being fancy, but the truth is, lots of royals— especially women, and especially young women— had no idea what money was. Why would you, when you’d never been allowed to go to a store, when you’ve never shopped for groceries, and when everything simply arrives at your house, all boxed up and lovely? Once when they were teens, Tatiana and Olga decided to sneak away and go shopping. They got to the store and looked around, but realized 1) they didn’t have any money and 2) they had no idea how to use it anyway. The ended up having to ask someone exactly how this whole paying-for-things system worked.

Olga and tatiana the big pair
(Tatiana is on the left. That’s Olga on the right.)

Tatiana, Olga, and their mother Alexandra all worked as Red Cross nurses during World War I, and convinced lots of other nobles girls too as well. This wasn’t some sort of PR thing— they were legit nurses. Tatiana even was asked to take on some nurses duties when they were in captivity, before they were executed, and was often mad that senior nurses were hesitant to let her do some of the dirtier jobs.

BUT, back to the love story.

There was lots of speculation who Tatiana would marry. When she was 16, the Serbian king tried to convince Tsar Nicholas to marry Tatiana off to him, but Nicholas wouldn’t do it because she was so young. Then, during her stint as a nurse, along came Dmitri Malama.

Dmitri was a calvary officer. A wounded calvary officer, who had recently gotten an award for gallantry. And Tatiana was his nurse. They fell in love while Dmitri was recovering from his wounds, and their relationship continued when Dmitri would up working for the Tsar at the palace in Tsarskoye Selo. They wrote each other all sorts of letters, and Dmitri got her a French Bulldog.

That’s right. He got her a puppy. Smooth move, Dmitri.

(Tatiana and the puppy)

Obviously, she adored the puppy (his name was Ortino), and her parents were pretty pleased that such a nice guy was after their daughter’s heart. Alexandra wasn’t so sure they’d actually be able to allow Tatiana to marry Dmitri, since being a Russian princess, she really needed to marry a foreign prince (especially since the war meant Russia needed some political alliances). Still, though, everyone adored Dmitri, and he came over for dinner and visited them and it was all just adorable and sweet. When the first puppy died, he actually got her another puppy, because clearly the whole puppy-giving thing was working well for him.

(Tatiana and Dmitri. Well, maybe— there’s no proof this is Dmitri, but I’m just saying: They’re sitting awfully close, and this was taken at the exact right time.)

Of course, they didn’t end up getting married or running away together to live in a land of puppies and sunflowers because the Revolution ended up taking both their lives in the end— Tatiana’s in the basement in Ekaterinberg and Dmitri’s a year later as he lead a group of Whites against the Reds in the Ukraine.

But let’s not think about that, guys.
Let’s just remember the puppy.

(Alexei, Tatiana, and Ortino)

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Oh, hi!

My name is Jackson Pearce-- I'm the author of retold fairytales (SISTERS RED, SWEETLY, FATHOMLESS, COLD SPELL), funny contemporary stories (PURITY), tales of wishes come true (AS YOU WISH), and middle grade adventures (THE DOUBLECROSS, coming July 2015, and PIP BARTLETT'S GUIDE TO MAGICAL CREATURES, coming May 2015).

This is NOT my main blog page-- this is a syndicated livejournal account. Please check out my main blog/site at!
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