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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Giveaway: The Gathering & Huntress

I'm giving away to ARCs of April releases to one lucky reader. This one's going to be a short giveaway so hurry up and throw your name in the hat! I'll use Random.org to pick a winner on April 4. To enter just fill out the form below and cross your fingers.

The Gathering
by Kelley Armstrong

Strange things are happening in Maya's tiny Vancouver Island town. First, her friend Serena, the captain of the swim team, drowns mysteriously in the middle of a calm lake. Then, one year later, mountain lions are spotted rather frequently around Maya's home—and her reactions to them are somewhat . . . unexpected. Her best friend, Daniel, has also been experiencing unexplainable premonitions about certain people and situations.
It doesn't help that the new bad boy in town, Rafe, has a dangerous secret, and he's interested in one special part of Maya's anatomy—her paw-print birthmark.

Huntress by Malinda Lo

Nature is out of balance in the human world. The sun hasn't shone in years, and crops are failing. Worse yet, strange and hostile creatures have begun to appear. The people's survival hangs in the balance.

To solve the crisis, the oracle stones are cast, and Kaede and Taisin, two seventeen-year-old girls, are picked to go on a dangerous and unheard-of journey to Tanlili, the city of the Fairy Queen. Taisin is a sage, thrumming with magic, and Kaede is of the earth, without a speck of the otherworldly. And yet the two girls' destinies are drawn together during the mission. As members of their party succumb to unearthly attacks and fairy tricks, the two come to rely on each other and even begin to fall in love. But the Kingdom needs only one huntress to save it, and what it takes could tear Kaede and Taisin apart forever.

More Author Insight: Writing under wraps

  Have you ever hidden something you’ve written from a family member? Why? 

"As I've been writing since kindergarten, my entire family has always known that at any given time I was toiling away at one literary opus or another. But most of my family members, including my mother, hadn't read any of it until they received ARCs for Wither. Years after my father's death, I found out that he used to read my school essays when I left them in the printer, which gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. I kept my stories to myself because my early writings were as intimate as diary entries to me, and not meant to be shared." - Lauren Destefano, author of Wither. 

 "I'd say no.  I have a great family and a great family life. I don't use my writing to work out any "issues" I have with my family, so I have no reason to hide it from them.  I was slightly embarrassed when I found out that my mom was showing all her friends my book prior to actually reading it.  When she finally did read it and realized she'd been showing her friends a book full of penis jokes, she admitted to be a little red in the face.  But she never apologized for me. I could write anything and my family would support me." - Shaun David Hutchinson, author of The Deathday Letter.

"No." - Andrea Cremer, author of Nightshade

"If something's hidden from a family member, it probably means that it's hidden from the entire world. I have files upon files of story ideas, snippets, failed paragraphs, etc. on my computer, but they will never see the light of day. Ever." - Robin Benway, author of The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June

"Nope, but my mom once asked me if I’d consider using a pen name for my adult paranormal romance books (the ones with the graphic sex scenes). I declined. (My mom, to show her support of my writing, came to an erotic reading I participated in. My mom rocks. :)" - Jackie Kessler, author of Rage

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The story of a mistreated book...

Book condition can tell you a lot about a person. When you think about it, really, it comes down to respect. Much the same way taking pride in your personal appearance, having good hygiene, and being healthy signifies self-respect, taking good care of your books signifies respect for those books and the careful work that went into creating the finished product.

By no means am I saying that appearance is everything. That's not true of anything, but it does make a statement. What you take care of in your life shows other people what is important to you. Your personal appearance, your dog's appearance, your muscle car.... For literary nerds, it's books. 

I have worked in retail and used book stores and have plenty of book condition horror stories. There's the stuff we've all seen before. Multiple dog-earred pages, torn dust jackets, funky smells, highlighting and writing inside the book, etc. Then there are more serious offenses, like missing pages, covers that are taped back together, and spill stains that discolor and warp the books. But a book that I recently received in a swap topped all of that.

Granted, I'm probably an elitist when it comes to book condition. My "Good" could be your "Very good", and that's understandable. We're different people. We qualify things differently. And when you swap books there is always a risk that the item won't live up to your expectations. When I received this particular book I was dumfounded not only by it's condition but by the way it arrived.

A rather unassuming package arrived in the mailbox, wrapped in brown paper with a printed address label on it. Once I touched it I knew that it wasn't just books wrapped up. It was too sturdy. They had to be in some kind of box. I tore into the paper and this is what I found....

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Author Insight: Writing under wraps

Have you ever hidden something you’ve written from a family member? Why?

"Not hidden, no.  But I don't share work-in-process with my family.  There's really no need.  My husband read The Cinderella Society in ARC form, but that was the first time he'd laid eyes on it." - Kay Cassidy, author of The Cinderella Society.


"Yes! Mostly because I just didn't have enough faith in the story to show it to ANYONE. I have lots of stuff hidden on my computer that's simply not good enough." - Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe.

"No. My wife and sons understand that I am protective of my writing, and they respect that. I’d rather they don’t see my work until it is in its final book form. I also think that reading my stories puts a lot of pressure on them to like it. They may not and I’m totally cool with that. I just don’t want them to have to worry about hurting my feelings." - Ty Roth, author of So Shelly.

"Yes, because it’s based on the town that they live in, and the town doesn’t come off too nicely." - Cynthia Omololu, author of Dirty Little Secrets.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Dark Days of the Supernatural at Anderson's

You know that crazy driving thing I do sometimes? Well, I did it last weekend. I hopped in the car and headed to Chicago to be at a Dark Days of the Supernatural event, which was awesome, and meet Claudia Gray (Afterlife), Courtney Allison Moulton (Angelfire), Ellen Schreiber (Once in a Full Moon), and Kimberly Derting (Desires of the Dead). I could have shaved three hours off my drive and gone to Michigan, but I had friends going to the Chicago stop and it offered the chance to see the famed Anderson's Bookshop so the extra drive time was well worth it.

I left my place Thursday morning, admittedly not as early as usual, and was on my way. I had to take the same seemingly-serene-but-somewhat-creepy route I took when I went to Smart Chicks Tour in Ohio last fall. This is desolate two-lane country highway that produced the house where the windows had been fitted with boards and slits, eight or so inches long and about an inch wide, cut into them. What I thought was a cute farm house was suddenly not so cute, hence the creepy. I must have blown past it this time or I would have taken a photo. (If anyone can expain the slits please enlighten me!)

Anyway... I traversed Virginia, West Virginia, and Ohio before finally crossing into Indiana, but insted of continuing on to Illinois I took a detour to The Story Siren's house! It was about 9p.m. when I arrived so I was running a little late. Mr. Story Siren was nice enough to hold dinner for me! He is truly Master of the Grill.

I spent the night in a super-cool green room that made me happy and slept on a leaky air matress that made me less happy because I woke up in the morning with my butt on the floor. Regardless, I slept well. Kristi and I had breakfast then got on the road around 11a.m. Little did I know that Kristi planned to chronicle the entirety of our roadtrip...

After arriving in Naperville we stopped by a Half Price Books to waste some time while Stacey from Page Turners Blog, who we were staying with that night, drove in to meet us. We had a huge blogger dinner at Ted Montana's Grill just up the block from Anderson's. I met Anna from Anna Reads, Tara from Fiction Folio, Erika from Moonlight Book Reviews, D.J. from DJ's Life in Fiction, Jacinda and Jasmine from Reading Housewives of Indiana, Heidi from YA Bibliophile, Jen from Makeshift Bookmark, and Lynn Marie from Bringing the Epic. (Later at the event I met Heather from One Pushy Fox.) It was a blast and the food was delicious to boot.

There was a good crowd at the event. It ran really smoothly and the authors just had fun the whole time which made for a good time for everyone. We hung around so long that we actually shut down the store! No really. They made us go out the back door.

Thanks to all the authors and Anderson's for a great event!

Sarah from Harper Collins, Claudia Gray, Courtney Allison Moulton,
Ellen Schreiber, Kimberly Derting, Stacey, me, Kristi, and Heidi.

Bloggers in all their glory! (The "Ask Us" sign was a total photo framing accident.)

I got a few ARCs signed at the event, so I'm going to give them away to one lucky reader. Up for grabs are signed ARCs of Afterlife, Angelfire, and Desires of the Dead.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

More Author Insight: Fictionalized Friends

  Have you ever based a character in part or fully on an actual person? If they read it, would they recognize themselves?

"I haven't. My real life and the people I know have nothing to do with my stories. When I create new characters, I give them a name and throw them into the story and wait to see who they will be and what they will do. They always tell me." - Lauren Destefano, author of Wither. 

 "All my characters are based on bits of real people, including myself.  For example, Shane Grimsley drives like my mom but he's got my friend Rachel's humor and smarts.  The only time I ever wholesale based a character on a real person was the character Nana from Deathday.  I might have embellished but that's how I remember her." - Shaun David Hutchinson, author of The Deathday Letter.

"The only character I've based on a person is Calla's younger brother, Ansel, who is loosely based on my little brother. Yes - Ansel is very much like brother at fifteen and he's aware of it." - Andrea Cremer, author of Nightshade

"This is one of my favorite stories ever: Certain parts of Victoria, the best friend in 'Audrey', were based on my best friend Adriana. (Only the good qualities, of course!) When I sent her the first half of the manuscript, I was so worried that she'd be upset that I'd 'stolen' her personality for a fictional character. She read it and called me immediately. 'I love it! It was great! Am *I* going to make an appearance anywhere in it?' She had no idea that she was all over the page! I still tease her about that." - Robin Benway, author of The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June

"Fully? Absolutely not. Many of my characters have been inspired by real people." - Jackie Kessler, author of Rage

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Author Insight: Fictionalized Friends

Have you ever based a character in part or fully on an actual person? If they read it, would they recognize themselves?

"I sometimes pull in bits and pieces of people, quirks and that sort of thing, but never someone's full personality.  The characters are usually pretty vivid in my mind so it would be strange to view them as a real person I know.  They need to react to things organically in the story and, for me, I think it would be hard to let them do that if I were basing them on a people I know." - Kay Cassidy, author of The Cinderella Society.


"Yes! A character in Across the Universe--Harley--is based on a former student from when I was an English teacher named Charlie. The whole story is on my website here. (Password: seekthetruth)" - Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe.

"So Shelly uses the lives, personalities, and philosophies of the great Romantics: Byron, the Shelleys, and Keats, so in that case, yes, but I never base whole characters on actual living people. I think that is a dangerous game. I’m sure, however, that bits and pieces of real people show up in my characters but never so much as to be wholly reflective of any one person. " - Ty Roth, author of So Shelly.

"Not consciously, but most of the characters are usually a combination of several people. I did include one of my critique partners in my new book – it’s just a minor character, butif you know her, you’ll recognize her." - Cynthia Omololu, author of Dirty Little Secrets.

Interview with Lauren Destefano (Wither)

Lauren Destefano's debut novel Wither, book one of The Chemical Garden Trilogy, releases today. This dystopian YA novel, set in a hopeless world full of dying people and things, is not to be missed. (I'll be posting my review soon.)

To celebrate her release, Simon & Schuster provided a short interview, compiled from questions submitted by bloggers, in which Lauren dishes about Wither. Here's what she had to say...

Describe your debut novel, Wither, in three words.
         A broken fairytale.

Your novel combines genetic engineering, polygamy, and super-low life-expectancies to create an awesome storyline. How did the idea come to you?
        I may never know exactly where it came from. This story is the culmination of many strange factors. I was bedridden with the flu, for starters, and I was getting frustrated with an adult writing project I had going. My agent suggested that I try something out of my comfort zone, something that I would normally never write, and she also linked me to a site that was taking short story submissions. I began Wither with the intention of making it a short story, and I had no idea where it would take me. Page one began with a girl in a dark place; she didn’t know where she was going, and she was scared. That girl turned out to be my protagonist, Rhine, and at the time she knew about as much of her story as I did.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Patricia Briggs at Bailey's Crossroads

Another year of bookish events got kicked off on about two weeks ago when Meaghan from A Bookworm's Haven told me she was going to the Bailey's Crossroads Borders store just outside of Washington, D.C. to see Patricia Briggs, author of the wildly popular Mercedes Thompson series. The latest book in the series, Rivermarked, released on March 1.

I drove up from Richmond and met Meaghan for a dinner of Belgian waffles (gluten-free for her) at Silver Diner in Arlington. As usual there was some book banter and catching up while we ate, then we headed to the bookstore. Unfortunately we didn't arrive early enough because the place was jam packed with people. (This is the same reason I didn't even try for a photo.) Understandable, but still unexpected more than a half hour before the signing was scheduled to start.

Instead of finding the perfect place to stand and look awkward until the signing began, we opted to go downstairs and find books. (We found one for you guys too.) It was a good thing we did. There were only three of the newest book available! Moments later we overheard the store manager telling an employee that if the hardcovers were gone that was it. There were no more.

Briggs read from Rivermarked once she arrived and the reading was excellent. However, she did confess that sometimes she reads things that aren't there because she has a good memory and will reinsert things that were taken out in the editing process.

As far as the signing itself, I thought it could have gone better. The reading and Q&A were over around 8pm, but it took over three hours to get books signed. I have no idea what the hold-up was but there seemed to be a lack of organization.

We actually shut the store down. At 11:20pm, over an hour after Borders had locked their doors, we finished up. All considered, the event itself was great. The signing portion could have gone a bit better, but I'd glad I got to go and meet Patricia Briggs. She was delightful to listen too and nice as could be.


I figured I would tack a different tack on this giveaway since it's a series and get a copy of the first book so that those who haven't had a chance to read it or didn't even know about it can start. I've included a description of it below. Happy entering!

Description: Goodreads
Werewolves can be dangerous if you get in their way, but they'll leave you alone if you are careful. They are very good at hiding their natures from the human population, but I'm not human. I know them when I meet them, and they know me, too.

Mercy Thompson's sexy next-door neighbor is a werewolf.

She's tinkering with a VW bus at her mechanic shop that happens to belong to a vampire.

But then, Mercy Thompson is not exactly normal herself ... and her connection to the world of things that go bump in the night is about to get her into a whole lot of trouble.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

More Author Insight: Swapping Stories

  Do you ever share your story with anyone prior to submission? At what point and with who?

"I try to wait until I'm about halfway through a story before showing it to my agent. I also have a handful of friends who are kind enough to read it piecemeal when I need some fresh perspective, and this can happen whether I have one page or hundreds of pages." - Lauren Destefano, author of Wither. 

 "I try to wait until I'm about halfway through a story before showing it to my agent. I also have a handful of friends who are kind enough to read it piecemeal when I need some fresh perspective, and this can happen whether I have one page or hundreds of pages." - Shaun David Hutchinson, author of The Deathday Letter.

"I let my family, my critique partner, and my agents see first drafts." - Andrea Cremer, author of Nightshade

"My agent is always the first person to hear my idea. I get incredibly shy when it comes to describing my stories (even after they've been published!) so sometimes she has to drag it out of me. Sorry, Lisa." - Robin Benway, author of The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June

"I have a crit partner who sees nearly all of my work, depending on how busy she is — usually, it will be a page here, a paragraph or two there, and then the entire draft when it’s complete. I also have a beta reader who has read every single thing I’ve ever written. More than once. (Poor beta reader!)" - Jackie Kessler, author of Rage

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Shimmer Trailer

Today Macmillan released the trailer for the second book in Alyson Noel's Radiance series, Shimmer. Take a look...

Description: Goodreads
Having solved the matter of the Radiant Boy, Riley, Buttercup, and Bodhi are enjoying a well-deserved vacation. When Riley comes across a vicious black dog, against Bodhi’s advice, she decides to cross him over. While following the dog, she runs into a young ghost named Rebecca. Despite Rebecca’s sweet appearance, Riley soon learns she’s not at all what she seems. As the daughter of a former plantation owner, she is furious about being murdered during a slave revolt in 1733. Mired in her own anger, Rebecca is lashing out by keeping the ghosts who died along with her trapped in their worst memories. Can Riley help Rebecca forgive and forget without losing herself to her own nightmarish memories?

Find out more about Shimmer and read excerpts here.

Author Insight: Swapping Stories

Do you ever share your story with anyone prior to submission? At what point and with who?

"Not anymore, no.  Before I had an agent, I exchanged work with a few trusted (and wildly talented) authors.  I still do on occasion if there's something in a scene that I just don't think is working but can't put my finger on no matter how many times I come back to it.  So now, it's more to brainstorm a sticking point rather than have someone do a critique.  My agent is a brilliant editorial sounding board for new projects, so I utilize her when necessary too." - Kay Cassidy, author of The Cinderella Society.


"I do! I have a cadre of critique partners and beta readers who help me figure out what kind of mess I'm dealing with in my story. I work my readers in shifts--send some a first draft, send some a second, and a few more even get a third. It keeps the perspectives fresh." - Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe.

"No. I tried working with critique partners, and it didn’t work for me. I found myself second-guessing everything I wrote and losing touch with my own vision for the work." - Ty Roth, author of So Shelly.

"I have several people that I swap stories with, mainly other YA writers. I usually write the first draft and let it sit awhile before I send it to my readers. I also have two teen readers that go over my drafts to give me their perspective, which is really valuable." - Cynthia Omololu, author of Dirty Little Secrets.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

More Author Insight: The e-book bandwagon

  As a reader, are you on the e-book bandwagon or would you rather have a physical book? Do you feel differently as a writer?

"I prefer to have the good old fashioned books, but on a whim I once bought an ebook on my phone while waiting for my car to be serviced, just so I could resume reading it." - Lauren Destefano, author of Wither. 

 "I love physical books.  I love looking at them and holding them and smelling them and turning their pages.  Reading is like a love affair: sometimes you tear through it anxious to get to the end, and sometimes you linger over every page to draw it out as long as you can.  Yet, I think e-books are here to stay.  I might never have read The Passage if I hadn't picked it up in e-book format.  When I travel, I love that I can pack my Kindle and iPad and not have to be burdened with one of the twenty books I was thinking about reading.  If I'm indecisive (and I frequently am) I don't have to make the tough choices. E-books are convenient.  As a writer, I don't care how you read my book.  I actually like Cory Doctorow's method of allowing unrestricted, free access to his books.  The first book of his that I read was Little Brother, and I downloaded it in PDF off his website.  I became a fan and got others to buy it. When his next book For the Win came out, I bought it at the store.  I believe in free, unfettered access to information. I think e-books scare a lot of people because they think it'll lead to piracy much like what happened with the music industry, but I believe that if we give people access to the things they want in the format in which they want it and then get out of the way, people will choose to do the right thing." - Shaun David Hutchinson, author of The Deathday Letter.

"I use an e-reader to read manuscripts for books I've been asked to blurb. I'd rather have a physical book - I think they are beautiful. E-readers are convenient but don't offer the comfort of a book. A book is like good company." - Andrea Cremer, author of Nightshade

"I love this question. As a reader, I love physical books. My family members all have Kindles and love them, but I just can't make the leap. I recently moved and I have about 30 boxes filled with books, so it's become fairly obvious that I'm a fan of the actual book. As a writer, though, I want people to be able to read my words through every possible avenue, whether it's a library, bookstore, or e-reader. The way people tell stories will always change and it'll be interesting to see how the publishing industry changes along with it." - Robin Benway, author of The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June

"As a reader, it depends. E-books are sooooooo convenient: one device, a ton of books. And for books that are roughly a bajillion pages? Wow, e-readers rock. But there’s really nothing like the feeling of an actual book in my hands. So...it depends on my mood. As a writer, there’s still part of me that feels if you can’t buy it in a bookstore, it doesn’t count. And then the rest of me says, “Grow up, Kessler!” I think I’ll always love physical books, but I’m becoming more and more comfortable with e-books, especially as the technology keeps improving." - Jackie Kessler, author of Rage

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Author Insight: The e-book bandwagon

As a reader, are you on the e-book bandwagon or would you rather have a physical book? Do you feel differently as a writer?

"Definitely hard copy.  I bought a Nook this fall because it makes it easier to exchange work with other authors during the draft stage, and I like being able to check out books from my library on it.  But when I find a new book I want, it's almost always in hard copy form.  So far, anyway.  :-)" - Kay Cassidy, author of The Cinderella Society.


"Depends. If it's a book I want to keep forever, hard copy all the way (hardcover if I can get it). Otherwise, I'm fine with an ereader or paperback. I feel the same way as a writer, too." - Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe.

"I was an early owner of an e-reader. Over time, I’ve learned that I prefer physical books. I especially prefer scouring for books in bookstores and libraries to scrolling selections and downloading text. Also, with the spike in the use of e-readers, I’m really beginning to miss spying what books others carry or have shelved in their homes. I’m in no way opposed to e-readers, especially if it inspires reluctant readers to read more frequently. With that said, however, I’m not overly given to nostalgia or resistant to the inevitable transition to e-readers. They just make sense." - Ty Roth, author of So Shelly.

"I like both for different reasons. I love ebooks because I can have it downloaded before I’ve even really decided that I want to read it. I love hardcovers too, especially if I know I’m going to be able to get it signed." - Cynthia Omololu, author of Dirty Little Secrets.

Monday, March 7, 2011

How L.J. Smith helped me rediscover my love of reading...

My parents are both big readers. They're the type of people who can go to the library or the bookstore and get lost in the stacks for hours perusing the possibilities. And true to form, they always emerge with a stack of weighty looking books. Hardback, five-hundred-plus pages, and bearing a strange resemblance to the Oxford Unabridged Dictionary... Sometimes they were fiction, sometimes not, but they were always books my parents could bury themselves in for days.

I inherited their love of reading, completely with a tendacy to run my fingers across the spines as I walked the shelves. Granted, as a child I wasn't ready to tackle hundreds of pages. I doubt I could have even carried those books, but I did love them.

Sadly, in middle school I lost my love of reading. I can make a lot of excuses for why books and I grew apart. I was a busy kid during those years with lots of school sports, non-school sports, performances, competitions, etc. But the truth is, I don't know what happened. There's no specific moment I can pinpoint that changed it all. I just put my books away and never looked back. In fact, I can't honestly tell you that I remember reading a book until the summer before my freshman year in high school.

My mom took me to the bookstore I guess because she needed to pick something up or maybe she was secretly hoping that I'd find something for myself. She parted me in the teen secetion (still an extension of Children's at the time) and told me that she'd be back. So I scanned titles, looked at covers, pulled out books and reshelved them until I ran across one book in particular.

The book in and of itself was nothing special. It was a tiny paperback with a cover done in that distinctive '90s style a la R.L. Stine or Christopher Pike, but I'd never heard of the author -- L.J. Smith.

My mom bought it for me without a single question and I devoured it. And when the last page was turned I went back to the beginning and started over. It was the only book I read until the next book in L.J. Smith's the Night World series came out the following spring.  I had to have them all the minute they were released and I had to read them as soon as I got home from the store. I still have my original set of these books along with the Vampire Diaries, the Secret Circle, Dark Visions, and the Forbidden Game. I also own the bind ups of each.

These books, particularly the Night World series, are near and dear to my heart. I've been waiting for well over a decade for the final book, Strange Fate, to be released although it looks unlikely. (It was scheduled for April of last year, then this year, and now it's listed on Amazon for 2014.) But that's neither here nor there because L.J. Smith has given me so much more than a pile of books. She gave me a renewed love of reading. Without her writing I might never have picked up a book again.

I don't fangirl over famous people. It's not in my nature, but I think if there was one person who might get a fangirl moment out of me it would be L.J. Smith. That's why I was so outraged about a month ago when I learned that she had been fired from writing the Vampire Diaries series and subsequently saw this letter from her.

I understand the politics of the industry and have some knowledge of the intricacies of contracts and books-for-hire, but I was no less upset that the woman who had crafted a world so many readers have come to love would  no longer be guiding the characters she created as the story moves forward. Even moreso, it hurts my heart to know that she will have to relinquish the series and watch someone else take over. I know how difficult it is for me to hear that as a reader. I cannot imagine how difficult it is for her as a writer.

For all she has given me I want to do something to give back and to celebrate her writing, so I'm giving away a full set of Night World bind-ups. If you haven't these books and you love young adult fiction then you are missing out. They have been out there for well over a decade and have remained relevant to the genre, falling out of print briefly and making a triumphant return. They've stood the test of time, and if you don't own them then I want you to have the chance to add them to your collection.