Five Good Things {MECHANICA edition}

tumblr_nssujvo5za1r4vop9o2_1280·Dear Teen Me invited me to write a letter to my teenage self in advance of Mechanica‘s release, and you can read it here. I talk about cute girls, my high school boyfriend, family, and The Ridiculous Pressures Teens Face. You can also check out my prom dress, which I still feel was a solid fashion choice–although the plastic shoes maybe less so.

tumblr_nssujvo5za1r4vop9o1_500·The Mechanica street team is in full swing, and my thirty ‘teamers’ are doing amazing things, from hosting giveaways and making Pinterest boards to attending release parties. I have to play favorites, though, and say that the project that’s really taken my breath away is Laya Rose’s Jules & Nicolette portrait. All the details are precisely accurate to the book, from Nick’s kerchief and work boots to Jules’ glass-and-copper coloring. I just love it, and I’ve ordered the art print to hang in my office. (FYI to artists: I try to buy all the fan art of my books. I’m an easy sell. Srsly.)

·Speaking of launch parties, they were so much fun! I brunched with the Junior League in Baltimore, panelled with fabulous YA authors Annie Cardi and AC Gaughen in Boston, and drank Mechanica cocktails in Brooklyn. I was unprepared for the, um, potency of those drinks, by the way. I only had two and the end of that launch is much fuzzier in my memory than the beginning. Maybe I’m a children’s author for a reason.


·The Mechanica blog tour launches tomorrow! There will be ten stops at bookish sites all around the internet in the next two weeks, including guest posts, interviews, reviews, and my own Mechanica playlist. There’s even a tour-wide giveaway, so you should definitely check it out. I’ll be tweeting and FB-ing about the tour every day and doing weekly recaps here.

·Mechanica is a Spotlight pick for Amazon’s Best Books of August 2015, which means you can see it (twice!) right on their Best Books of the Month page right now. Children’s books editor Seira Wilson called it “one of my top reads this year” on Omnivoracious, which made me happy-panic a little.



Read MECHANICA for free on Noisetrade

I’ve used Noisetrade for years to find new music; you can download EPs and sometimes full albums for free, or in exchange for a tip of your choice. You do get signed up for the musician’s mailing list in exchange, but I’ve always found it more than worthwhile.

Now Noisetrade offers books, too, so I am extra excited that my publishers partnered with them to offer the first half of Mechanica as a free ebook right now. The offer will go away after a few weeks, but if you download the book you get to keep it forever. For free.

So read away, and please share this offer with your friends if you’re at all inclined. It doesn’t cost anything, and it’s a wonderful way to help spread the word.

Thank you!

MECHANICA Street Team Signups


Pub day is only a month from now. Even though I’ve been writing Mechanica since the summer of 2009, when I was living in a tiny garage apartment and working as a nanny before my senior year of college, that seems surreal. It can’t possibly be done now, right?

Well, no, it’s not quite done. This last month before my steampunk Cinderella baby is officially born will be one of the busiest and craziest of them all, with book signings and launch parties, blog tours, this teaching job that’s kept me from blogging all summer, and a trans-Atlantic flight for good measure.

So I need your help. I’ve put together a ‘street team’ of readers and friends to promote the book up to the official release day on August 25th. I’m rewarding my street teamers with all sorts of prizes, from signed book copies to my homemade goat’s milk soap and caramel (hey, I know what the people really want!).

There are still several spots open, and I would love to have you on board! Just fill out the quick form below to get involved. You can read details about all the goodies here, too. The team is designed so you only spend as much or as little time as you’d like helping out, so don’t feel like you have to go for a big prize. Every street team member will get a special gift from me right after pub day to show my appreciation. I could seriously use all the help I can get.

We’re going to really get going on August 1st, so try to sign up by then, but you’re welcome to join afterward too!

August 25th, here we come!

Street Team Details & Prizes:

Prize A: Signed, personalized copies of Tides and Mechanica, PLUS copies of two of my favorite books, I Capture the Castle and The Bloody Chamber. To win this, earn 50 points.

Prize B: An annotated hardcover of Mechanica. I’ll go through it with little comments about the scenes, my process, and how much I love/hate/cried over this or that. To win this, earn 40 points.

Price C: A critique of a full manuscript (for writers) To win this, earn 35 points.

Prize D: A cotton Mechanica tote bag full of my handmade goat’s milk soap and caramel. To win this, earn 35 points.

Prize E: Having a character named after you in my next book. To win, earn 30 points.

Prize F: A special early sneak peek of Compass, the sequel to TidesTo win, earn 15 points.

All street team members will receive a special thank-you gift after publication.

To get these prizes, earn points. Some of you have already done these things, and those count! You can choose your prize, or split your points among several prizes.

Here’s how to earn those points:
Social Media:

1 point: Like my author page on Facebook and subscribe to notifications:

1 point: Follow my blog:

1 point: Follow me on Twitter:
1 Point: Follow me on Instagram:
Spread the word, online and in person:

2 points: Add/mark as “read” on Goodreads

3 points each (9 points total): leave a review (same review is fine) on Goodreads, Amazon, & Barnes & Noble. This is a significant help so it’s worth 3 times as much.

3 points: Tweet or post to FB (or both for 6 points) a buy link (any store you like that carries Mechanica) and a quick comment about why people should read it.

3 points: confirm with your local library that they ordered the book and will be stocking it.

3 points: Tell your friends. In any way you want. If you read and enjoyed the book, tell someone why. Word-of-mouth is the biggest marketing tool authors have, and you can reach your friends far better than I can!

5 points: Follow along on my blog tour (I’m tweeting the stops each day, and posting a round-up each week) and help share those posts. I don’t want you to spam anyone, so I’m leaving this open-ended. Find the posts that you think your followers/friends would find to be good content, and share them throughout the next 3 weeks. The tour is hosted by Rock Star Book Tours, and you can find more info here:

5 points: Buy the book (always a great way to support an author) if you want to, and tweet/post on FB a picture of you with it! Be sure to tag my author page, Betsy Cornwell (rather than my personal page, Betsy Lyons).
Release Parties:
5 points: Attend a release party! So far I have launch parties planned in Baltimore, NYC, and Boston, and there should be a few more coming your way. You can find the details on my Facebook page or my website. The schedule so far is: Baltimore August 2, NYC/Brooklyn August 8th, and Boston August 9th.
3 points: blog about a release party (I’ll send you more details if you let me know)
1 point: tweet about it
1 point: post to FB about it

3 points: Bring a friend with you (Yes, that’s 3 points per friend!)

3 points: on August 18th (one week from release day), change your Twitter profile photo to the cover of Mechanica  for the week.

3 points: change your Facebook profile photo to the cover of Mechanica from August 25th-September 2nd.
Blogging, Book Clubs, and Beyond:
3 points: Blog about the book any time from August 1st-25th. Any kind of post you can think up, from a review to a Mechanica-themed recipe, is great!

5 points: Make fan art! Draw Jules and the insects, Nick’s ball gown, Fin and Caro in their Market stall, or anything else that inspires you. Fan art is pretty much my favorite thing ever, so this is worth a couple extra points!

5 points: any awesome project you can think of. Get your library or school to read it for a book club. Buy it for holiday gifts. Host your own giveaway. Cosplay as your favorite character. Anything you want–pitch me something cool!
[Thank you to Alison Doherty and Kate Brauning for the inspiration and prize list!]

MECHANICA Launch Events: Baltimore, Brooklyn, Boston

Expanding Horizons 8.2.15 - Flyer v.2

The first three Mechanica launch events are booked! You may have noticed that the official publication date is August 25th (or August 18th for e-readers), so that means you can get signed copies at these events several weeks before they hit bookstores.

I’m pretty excited about that.

There will be more events to come, in Ireland and in the US, but here’s the current schedule:

Baltimore: Sunday, August 2nd, 1-3 PM, Junior League of Baltimore. Author talk, signing, and brunch, darling. All ages. Details above.

Brooklyn/NYC: Saturday, August 8th, 6-8 PM, The Way Station. Reading, signing, and signature cocktails! 21+. Details here, or RSVP to the Facebook event.

Boston: Sunday, August 9th, time TBA, Brookline Booksmith. Reading, signing, and general shenanigans. All ages. Details here.

At all these events, the more the merrier, so please bring your friends! I’d love to meet them. And you. Mostly you. But also them.

I’ll see you there!

YA Summer Reading Giveaway


I got to feel like an Actual Real Writer this week (which is rare even for the actual-est of us, I hear) when Lisa Schroeder asked me to participate in a multi-ARC giveaway that has turned out to include some of the books I’m most excited for this year. I mean, check out this list:

MECHANICA by Betsy Cornwell (hey!)
LOCK & MORI by Heather W. Petty
YOU AND ME AND HIM by Kris Dinnison
DUMPLIN’ by Julie Murphy
ALL WE HAVE IS NOW by Lisa Schroeder

I want to win this giveaway myself. But I can’t.

If you want to win all seven books, you can enter using the Rafflecopter below. The giveaway is running from today (Monday, June 22) to midnight Eastern time on June 30th, and you can gain more entries by tweeting every day and doing other social media good deeds. (Please note that this giveaway is US-only. Sorry, my fellow international friends! I have some digital ARC giveaways coming up just for you.)


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck, and remember to enter every day!

Leaving Home


As a teenager, I counted down the days to CTY each year. I waited desperately, 49 weeks at a time, for those three scant weeks when I would be home at nerd camp.

When I started teaching at the same program three years ago, a lot of that same excitement came back, but it was mixed with trepidation. Would I feel the same homecoming, the same magic I’d known as a lonely teenager?

0f0f60b463b82ef37a61316dda69d71fOh, I did. It was different this time: I was an adult (okay, I was twenty-three, but that’s in the ballpark), and I was as close to a Real Writer as I could have wished when I was an ambitious and idealistic thirteen-year-old. Both those things made the experience of CTY, in small ways, better than it had been before. I now had the power to create the loving, challenging, inclusive environment that had exploded my in-turned heart as a teen. I could give that gift to the kids of 2012 who were stuck in the same place I’d been in 2001. That was magic.

In 2012, I was still coming from a place I couldn’t quite call home. I had just graduated from the MFA program at Notre Dame, a school where I’d met some beloved friends but had felt overwhelmingly frustrated by the various bigotries both on campus and in Indiana at large. I’d felt physically and emotionally landlocked, and coming back to CTY–on a Los Angeles campus no less–was like diving into cool water after a hot day. The work of teaching wore me out, but my relief was huge.

Of course, shortly after my summer of teaching I left for Ireland. Here I found a new home. I meant to stay and research the sequel to Tides for a month or two and nurse my burnout and my broken heart, but (as you’ll remember if you read my first essay for Parabola) life had vastly different plans for me. Just over a year later I eloped and moved with my Irish husband into the stove-heated cottage that has been my heart’s home ever since.

Just under a week from now, I’m leaving this home to go back to CTY.

For the first time, I don’t want to go.

Of course I love teaching; of course I love my students, and CTY students most of all. I have a passion for teaching writing and for this program in particular that I can already tell will supersede a lot of my homesickness once I’m actually gone.

But it hurts to know that CTY isn’t my home any more. The fiercely lonely, fiercely loyal teenager who found kindred spirits there doesn’t want me to give it up. I still have the lanyards students were given each year, but I don’t keep my keys on them any more. That makes some part of me inexpressibly sad.



Maybe it’s a universal feeling of young adulthood–not #YA like I write it, but the phase I’m in now, going on twenty-seven. Maybe we all have to mourn our first homes, wherever they were, when we realize we don’t live there any more. I know that happened to me when I left Smith, where I was a happy feminist undergrad for three and a half years. It happened when my high-school/college sweetheart and I decided that despite how much we cared for each other, we shouldn’t be together. It still happens to me sometimes, in quiet and complicated ways, when I find myself missing America.

5d3be755f65afc8ba0951182775b0863Richie (that would be my husband) often says that people don’t give themselves enough permission to mourn. If we’re happy about a change, we don’t let ourselves be sad for what we’ve lost along the way. I know he and I both mourned our singledoms when we got married. If we hadn’t accepted that sadness in ourselves and each other, I don’t think we could have dealt with it in the same way.

Part of me is sad that I’m not that CTY kid any more: the quiet girl who suddenly didn’t have enough minutes in the day to chatter with her roommate. The shy girl who sang in the talent show. The awkward girl who had her Perfect Teenage Moment (everyone needs one) at a camp dance. I miss being her, and I can look back and love her more kindly than she was able to love herself. CTY is part of what let me get to the loving adult that I can be now.

That makes me think that some future me is looking back and loving who I am today, too. Maybe she’s mourning something else that’s changed, even though I hope she’s happy with where she’s gone. I know my lonely thirteen-year-old self would be thrilled to hear where I’ve ended up.

So I might cry when I chaperone the dances this year, and I’ll definitely cry when my husband drops me off for my flight. But with that sadness–I can already feel it welling up–comes so much gratitude.CTY helped me survive in a pretty literal sense, and I know I wouldn’t be the same me without it. That place and time is not my home any more, but I get to help create it for other bright, lonely kids, and that’s something worth leaving my adult home behind to build.

I go from one happiness to another, counting down the days. And at the end of it I get to come home, and feel happy and safe for much longer than three weeks this time.


Art credits: X X X X X

TIDES Preview



The color at the bottom is so deep, there are few who would call it blue.

There is light there—a little—for those who can find it. It shifts in the water, a vague, New England light—just darkness unless you look carefully. If you want real light, you’ll have to stay on the surface.

The Isles of Shoals have plenty of it, light that refracts off the salt-swept rocks and old, whitewashed houses. Light that clinks its way over the waves like so much dropped and dented silverware.

It will hurt your eyes to look, on those bright summer days. You’ll sit on the rocks until the spray dries and strings salt beads in your hair, but the brightness will eventually hurt.

Be careful. That not-blue of the deepest water will call to you, a seeming balm for your stinging eyes. But it will surprise you.

It’s the shallow water you really want, what the Old Shoalers call the inbetween. It’s that space between light and blue, land and sea, where the water is sometimes warm. The little fish swim there.

Once you’re safe in the inbetween, you’ll wonder why you’d ever dare to broach the deep, with its hidden teeth and tentacles. You’ll reject the white sun and dry salt above. For a while.

It’s the colors that will make you stray. They sing to you, the not-blue and the searing light, and no matter how tightly you tie yourself to the inbetween, eventually you will break free.

No one swims only in the shallow water.


One: Tales

“No one is happy in the inbetween,” said Gemm. “Not even selkies.”

Wind moaned in at them through the windows. Gemm quieted, letting the weather have its interruption.

Her grandchildren stared at her, wide-eyed, mugs of tea growing cold in their hands. It didn’t occur to Noah that he was far too old for these stories.

Well, that’s not really true. The thought occurred to him—but in his father’s voice instead of his own, as too many of his thoughts tended to do. Gotta stop that.

He glanced at his sister, Lo, seated next to him at Gemm’s kitchen table. She was still wrapped in the story, her face open with wonder. She pushed aside a black length of hair that had fallen over her eyes. Noah wondered if she felt too old for fairy tales, too. These days, Lo seemed to think she was too old for everything.

Noah tapped the side of his mug. He hadn’t come to the Isles of Shoals to listen to fairy tales. He had an internship at the Marine Science Research Center on nearby Appledore Island, and starting tomorrow he’d work long hours there until he left for college in August. If he did well, this internship would be his first real step toward becoming a marine biologist—something Noah had wanted since the first time his father took him fishing.

He remembered staring into the green water, watching a bluefish glint out of the murk and flash and fight as his father pulled it into the boat. The fish had been almost as big as five-year-old Noah, and he’d thought it was a monster, all metal-bright scales and spiked fins.

Noah loved that monster. He was desperate to know what else lurked and slept and waited in the water, and he knew he’d spend the rest of his life trying to find out.

That’s why I’m out here in the middle of nowhere this summer, anyway, he thought. He was choosing this dream over every other consideration, something he’d done many times before—maybe too many times. Noah remembered all the nights he’d stayed up studying, all the dances he’d skipped, all the time he’d spent alone—so much that he didn’t even mind, really, being alone. He kind of preferred it.

He’d worked so hard just to get here. Starting tomorrow, he’d work even harder.   He told himself he’d earned the chance to feel childish once in a while, to listen to a fairy tale without overanalyzing everything. He tried to slip back into the rhythm of Gemm’s story.

“The land calls to the selkies, sings to them, promises of new knowledge and new joy. It whispers to them, and they cannot avoid its call.” Gemm poured a thin stream of milk into her tea. Clouds bloomed in the dark liquid.

Noah closed his eyes and breathed in the ocean smell that filled his grandmother’s cottage. The beating, shuddering wind outside led him deeper into the tale.

“They swim to the rocks and the beaches, and they shed their seal forms. They look like people, then. Humans.”

The pale woman sitting beside Gemm—Maebh, she’d said her name was—took in a deep breath. The corner of her mouth twitched.

“Selkies need the land as we need the deep ocean,” said Gemm. “They need it for its danger and its mystery. They come to the beaches and they sing, they sing to the ocean and the sky.”

“Like sirens?” Lo asked. Noah knew she’d read The Odyssey in Freshman English that year. He remembered reading it himself, but he preferred the part with Scylla and Charybdis, the two monsters on either side of you, with hardly any way to go between them.

“A bit like sirens,” Gemm said, smiling. “Their songs are very beautiful. But unlike sirens, selkies don’t mean you any harm with their songs. They don’t sing to seduce or to kill. Their songs have nothing to do with anyone but themselves. They sing for the simple joy of it, and because of that I imagine their songs are more beautiful than any sirens’.”

Maebh and Lo both smiled at that. Noah couldn’t help staring at Maebh for a moment. It wasn’t just that her skin was almost paler than white, as if she hadn’t seen sunlight in years. He thought she must be about thirty, but something about her—the way she moved? —seemed much older.

Maebh’s round dark eyes flicked toward his and Noah lowered his gaze, embarrassed.

“In this story,” Gemm said meaningfully, as if she knew Noah hadn’t been paying attention, “there is a young fisherman, the handsomest in his village. Many women noticed him, wanted him—even loved him. But he never loved any of them back. Some said his true love drowned when they were children. Others said he was simply too proud, thought himself too special for any of the village women.

“He enjoyed his life, his fishing, but he wasn’t satisfied. He often wandered the beaches at night, so handsome, but empty around the eyes. He brought a satchel with him to collect shells and sea glass and the like, but none of those things made him happy for long. He was looking for something—anything—that would satisfy him.”

Maebh stiffened in her chair. Her large, round hands twisted together in her lap.

Gemm continued her story, unaware. “Once, just on the cusp of autumn, the young fisherman wandered on the beach very late into the night, and he heard something. It was a sort of music that trickled through the air, low and sweet and eerie. He started to run, rushing over the rocky shoreline, careening around boulders and tide pools, hunting the source of that beautiful sound.

“He tripped and fell onto a patch of sand. Blood trickled down a gash in his cheek, and his hands stung with scrapes. But the pain in his body was already fading away, borne out to sea by the wonderful songs he heard. He had found the source of the music.”

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