Friday, December 16, 2011

Silly Stuff

Spotted on my way to writing group:

Do porta potties get embarrassed?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gifts for Writers

Next week my critique group is having our annual holiday breakfast. We always exchange small writerly gifts. And I have no idea what to do this year. Some of my favorite writerly gifts that I've received are:

A framed ornament of my first ever book cover. Both my critique partner & I wrote stories that appeared in Blooming Tree Press' Summer Shorts anthology. I love seeing this on my tree & remembering how hard I've worked at writing for all these years.

A tote bag for all my critique group needs: notebooks, pens, books, and manuscript pages. And it's true: if you're interesting, in any good or bad way, I will put you in my novels! (That means YOU impressively grumpy woman at post office yesterday.)

I place all sorts of knick knacks on my writing desk, mostly so I can play with them when I get stuck. Or haven't quite started yet... I was thrilled to receive this little framed message reminding me simply to WRITE. I loved that the message was composed in kitchen utensils because I also enjoy cooking.

The students at Two Rivers High School, where I've been teaching a class this fall, gave me this cute little journal. Now I always love a cute diary, whining, I mean writing, my way through several volumes each year. But this one is extra special because each student wrote a short message to me. I love peeking at the messages--especially on bad days!

What are you favorite things to give to writer friends or to receive from writing & reading friends?

(I need some ideas to borrow!)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Blogging Elsewhere

I'm excited to have recently joined many of my very favorite authors over at the YA Outside The Lines blog! You can read my very first post about my New Year's goals at:

Hope you enjoy it!

Friday, December 2, 2011

NaNoWriMo: I did it!

Yay! (Well, really it's more like phew!) I crossed the finish line, writing 50,510 words by the end of the day November 30th (only because the official NaNoWriMo word counter shorted me 400 words--grrr). I've got an empty box of chocolate truffles, ten patches on my book bag, scary household clutter, and 193 pages to show for my efforts.

About those 193 pages... My other three NaNo novels poured out in a lovely organized fashion. Yes, I experienced tough days and needed to do a thorough revision, but at 50,000 words I'd written solid first drafts. Not so much this time. NaNo #4 came out all mixed up. Despite my efforts to outline, organize, and prepare in October, I found myself writing everything out of order in November. My characters kept saying, no, wait, wait. I have to tell you about this first. No, no, no--skip that part and go to this part instead.

It drove me crazy! But I was determined to add that "Winner" patch to my book bag, so I muddled forward (and backward).

I really have no idea what I've concocted with this mass of pages, but I'm proud of myself for soldiering on through my self-doubt and finishing 50,000 words. Now I'm going to clean my house, pay attention to my family, and read polished work for a week or two. And then I'll look at those 193 pages.

I never thought I'd say this, but I can't wait to start revising!  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

NaNoWriMo Day #29

I've discovered that I don't really need my thumb to type, begging the question: could a monkey write a better NaNo novel than I've written?


The Infinite Monkey Theorem postulates that a monkey, given an infinite amount of time, could eventually type the complete works of Shakespeare, randomly.

Well, I don't have an infinite amount of time, even though I do lack an opposable left thumb. I've got two days to make it from 45,172 words to 50,000. Will some of my writing be a tad random?


Friday, November 25, 2011

NaNoWriMo Day #24

I accidentally added the tip of my thumb to my Thanksgiving stuffing, so I spent my writing time getting stitches.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NaNoWriMo Day #23

I love writing away from my desk, sipping hot coffee at a crowded cafe, overlooking the mountains from a desk on the 4th floor of the Salt Lake City library, or surrounded by books at a bookstore... But yesterday I found myself typing away in the Toyota service waiting area. Next to a guy slurping strawberry yogurt.

No wonder I added a few extra explosions to the scene I was working on!

38,665 words written--and now I'm off to bake Thanksgiving pies. Tomorrow I'll type away while my turkey roasts, but at least that smells a whole lot better than bright pink strawberry yogurt.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

NaNoWriMo Day #17

I've been behind all week. Lost in the middle. Fretting about my whole idea. Not only am I wandering nomad with a laptop--I visited three coffee places before finding an empty table at the bagel shop last Sunday--but I'm lost in the middle of my novel.

28,454 words. But are any of them the right ones?!?!?!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

NaNoWriMo Day #9

Many times during my first week of NaNo writing, people said to me, "I'd love to try it, but I don't have the time to write in November." I don't have the time either. That's what I love about NaNoWriMo.

As I head into Week #2, I'm hosting an SCBWI conference & dealing with all those last minute details. Coordinating my daughters' after school activities requires military-level planning--cloning would be even more helpful. I've had fun events, too, like last night's dinner with Two Rivers High Students (amazing kids who are passionate about reading & many who will become authors in time).

I even went to the dentist this week.

And I still have to exercise, sleep, and feed everyone. I wouldn't have started this novel in November. Or maybe I'd still be dinking around with my first chapter--getting it just right while doubting my whole idea. But NaNo has forced me to squeeze writing into my hectic days. We've had homework/writing field trips to the bookstore cafe late in the afternoon. I've woken up early on the weekend. And today I'll probably add to my word count while waiting for soccer practice to end.

NaNoWriMo reminds me that I can always make writing a priority--no matter what is happening in my life. I've written 13,583 words so far & I've added two official patches to my book bag. I plan to hit 15,500 today. I'll get to add another patch & I'm sure there will celebratory chocolates too!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo Day #1

Today I transform months of...

research, planning & character development--into a novel. 50,000 words in the next thirty days!!! 

Find out more about National Novel Writing Month at

Monday, October 31, 2011

Contest Winner!


Sierra is the winner of Just Your Average Princess by Kristina Springer!!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

On The Go With Kristina Springer

Please welcome Kristina Springer. Her new novel Just Your Average Princess is on the shelves now! Please leave a comment to win your own copy.

You have been given your Dream Vacation. Where are you going and what are you doing?

Traveling throughout Europe for the summer with my hubby and kids. And the kids are all way well behaved: no one is fighting, they are feeding and dressing themselves and wiping their own butts. Bliss!

What if you could travel to a different time period?

Ooh, shoot me off to the future please. I’d like to see what’s up 100 years out.

What's the worst thing that's ever happened to you on vacation? 

On the last day of our big Disney trip, Hubby lost our car keys on the Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios and we couldn’t get into our car to get to my 8-year-old’s big birthday celebration dinner back at the Crystal Palace in Disney World. Solution? We piled the six of us into a friend’s minivan with the four of them (yep, ten of us), and all of their luggage, and made it to the dinner only a little bit late. Hubby went back to Hollywood Studios later that night and found the keys in the lost and found. Yay! We drove back to Chicago that night.

About The Book:

Jamie Edwards has loved everything about growing up on a pumpkin patch, but ever since her cousin Milan Woods arrived, things have really stunk. Jamie can’t imagine it was easy for Milan to leave her life back in Los Angeles and move to Average, Illinois, population one thousand. But it’s kind of hard to feel sorry for her since (a) Milan’s drop-dead gorgeous; (b) she’s the daughter of two of Hollywood’s hottest film stars; (c) she’s captured the attention of everyone in town, including Danny, Jamie’s crush since forever; and (d) she’s about to steal the title of Pumpkin Princess right out from underneath Jamie!

“This cheerful and heartwarming novel set in a small town will appeal to teens who enjoy YA chick lit.” --VOYA

About The Author:

Kristina Springer is also the author of The Espressologist, a A Society of School Librarians International Book Award Honor Book, My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours, which Meg Cabot calls, “Irresistible as a fluffy kitten. I laughed out loud and so will you!” You can visit her online at or follow her on Twitter @TinaSpringer, or friend her on Facebook at 

Please leave a comment to win your own copy! 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Creepy Cake N Bake: Witch Cupcakes

To me Halloween has always meant witches. As a kid, I dressed up like a witch almost every year, and now that I'm advancing in age, I invite my fellow crones to a special Witches Luncheon on Halloween. Naturally my creepy baking traditions are witchy too!

I begin with black bottom cupcakes, a college dorm favorite, and since I trick-or-treated into my mid-twenties (young for a witch, I assure you), they fit nicely into our family traditions. Here's our fifteenth batch of witch cupcakes:

Black Bottom Cupcakes 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line your cupcake tins! The recipe says it will make 24, but I usually only net 18 or so after a bit of "potion testing," if you know what I mean...

Step #1 In a small mixing bowl beat the following ingredients to create the filling:
8 ounces of cream cheese
1 egg
1/3 cup of sugar
1/8 teaspoon of salt
Next stir in:
6 ounces (about 2/3 cup or so) of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Now set this mixture aside.

Step #2 Sift together the following:

1 1/2 cups of flour
1/4 cup of cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 cup of sugar

Set this mixture aside too.

Step #3 In a mixing bowl combine:

1 cup of water
1/3 cup of vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon of vinegar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Step #4 Now combine the sifted dry ingredients with the water/oil/vinegar mixture. Beat on high until smooth. Note: the batter will be a tad thin & won't taste as rich as many chocolate cake batters. That's okay, I promise!

Step #5 Cupcake Time!

Fill your cupcake liners about 1/3 full with the chocolate batter. Top each with a heaping spoonful of the cream cheese mixture. Bake for up to 30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean, or the cream cheese on top turns a golden brown.

Frost with cream cheese frosting, tinted your best witchy green. To create the witches, you'll need: peanuts in the shell, candy eyes, red gummy candy (cut to make mouths), mini chocolate chips, and black shoe-string licorice.

Here's a short video about how to decorate your cupcakes (I apologize for the shakiness--my videographer was on a bit of a sugar high!)

The Creepy Cake N Bake-a-Thon is ON! Vote for your favorite entry by commenting below. You can comment on EVERY Cake N Bake post, one entry per post, for a chance to win a $20 gift certificate from Barnes and Noble or an official Creepy Cake N Bake doll! Please include your email in order to be entered to win. Trophies will be awarded on Halloween for the top creeptastic creations. Winners will be chosen by our special Celebrity Judge, Adam Rex, author of such deliciously creepy creations such as FAT VAMPIRE, FRANKENSTEIN TAKES THE CAKE, FRANKENSTEIN MAKES A SANDWICH, and PSSST!

Check the list of contestants and their post dates so you don't miss any of the fun: Mon Oct. 3 - Saundra Mitchell Wed Oct 5 - Stacey Jay Friday Oct 7 - Erin Dionne Saturday Oct 8 - Sydney Salter Mon Oct 10 - Brenna Yovanoff Wed Oct 12 - Tara Hudson Friday Oct 14 - Karen Healey Saturday Oct 15 - Robin Bridges Mon Oct 17 - Michelle Zink Wed Oct 19 - Julia Karr Friday Oct 21 - Victoria Schwab Saturday Oct 22 - C.Lee McKenzie Sunday Oct 23 - E. Kristin Anderson Mon Oct 24 - Natalie Zaman Wed Oct 26 - Stephanie Burgis Friday Oct 28 - Dawn Metcalf

Thanks for joining me for our Creepy Cake N Bake!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Contest Winner


Debi Murray won a copy of the Enthralled anthology! 

(Please email me your address & send the book ASAP)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

On The Go With Jeri Smith-Ready + Giveaway

Today I'm giving away another anthology--paranormal stories! Here's what contributer Jeri Smith-Ready has to say:

You have been given your Dream Vacation. Where are you going & what are you doing?

Scotland!  I would spend a week in Glasgow, then travel the highlands and islands.

What if you could travel to a different time period?

Ooh, I’d go to the 1940s, when men wore fedoras.  They looked so cool.

Are you a planner or a seat-of-the pants traveler?

I’m a planner, but I like to leave a certain amount of wiggle room for spontaneity.  Also, I forget to do things, so often the spontaneity is forced on me.

What's the worst thing that's ever happened to you on vacation?

Well, it didn’t happen to me directly, but my husband got the flu on our honeymoon.  The only fortunate part was that our honeymoon was three months after our wedding.  He missed the first couple of days while I went out on bus tours and stuff.  He still gives me guilt trips, in a joking way, for leaving him behind in the hotel room.


ENTHRALLED: PARANORMAL DIVERSION, edited by Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong

This collection of original paranormal YA short stories grew out of the 2010 Smart Chicks Kick It Tour, a multiauthor, multicity, author-organized tour of the US and Canada.  With it, these 16 authors hoped to bring a little taste of the Smart Chicks experience to readers everywhere.

Contributors to ENTHRALLED:

Claudia Gray
Carrie Ryan
Margaret Stohl
Kami Garcia
Jackson Pearce
Rachel Vincent
Melissa Marr
Kelley Armstrong
Sarah Rees Brennan
Jeri Smith-Ready
Kimberly Derting
Ally Condie
Jessica Verday
Mary E. Pearson
Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Rachel Caine


In the world of the SHADE novels, everyone seventeen and under can see and hear ghosts, but no one else can.  So when Logan Keeley dies and his eighteen-year-old brother Mickey blames himself, they can’t ease each other’s pain or reconcile their rage.  Over the course of SHADE and SHIFT, Mickey sinks into a near-suicidal depression over Logan’s death. 

“Bridge” is the story, told in free verse, of how two brothers, with the help of a stranger, forge the chasm between them to find a lasting peace.


“A solid collection of stories...Sarah Rees Brennan's ‘Let's Get This Undead Show on the Road’ follows a vampire in a boy-band and stands out with its perfect blend of snark and sincerity. It's followed in a one-two punch by Jeri Smith-Ready's intense and earnest ‘Bridge.’...This collection is ideal as a sampler tray for paranormal readers looking to pick up new authors to follow or to further explore the fictional worlds they already know. —Kirkus Reviews

A standout among the many paranormal-themed anthologies. -- Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (Recommended review)


Jeri Smith-Ready has been writing fiction since the night she had her first double espresso. Her nine published books include two series for adults and the SHADE trilogy for teens, about a world of ghosts only the young can see, which concludes May 2012 with SHINE.  Like many of her characters, Jeri enjoys music, movies, and staying up very, very late.  Visit her at, or on Facebook ( or Twitter (, where she spends way too much time.  Logan himself can be found on Twitter @keeley_logan, as can his rival/”brother-in-pulp,” Zachary Moore (@moore_zachary).  The boys love to chat with each other and with their real-life fans.

To win a copy of Enthralled, please leave a comment by Tuesday, September 27th

Contest Winner!


Maryanne is the winner of the Dear Bully anthology.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dear Bully Book Giveaway

In 4th grade my daughter watched a fellow classmate endure constant bullying--and it traumatized her. She didn't want to tell anyone because she worried the group of girls would turn against her too. When I stepped in to help, the school handled the problem in the worst way possible. The teacher never responded to me, but asked the principal to call both my daughter and the victim into her office. My daughter had no idea why she was in the principal's office. And the victim, a boy, had to tell the principal what had happened in front of my daughter. Talk about humiliating! 

Despite efforts to end bullying, it's still a huge problem for so many kids. That's why I'm pleased there's a new anthology addressing this issue: Dear Bully

Please leave a comment to win a copy.


Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones formed the group YAAAB (Young Adult Authors Against Bullying) in April 2010 when they both coincidentally blogged about the Phoebe Prince case on the same day. Megan reached out to Carrie expressing her frustration with this case and the fact that bullying that seemed to be growing at a ridiculously fast rate. As a Massachusetts resident and having already spoken about bullying in schools, Megan was horrified after hearing about the bullying that took place in the Phoebe Prince case. While writing her books, SISTERS OF MISERY and THE LOST SISTER, she had to dig deep to make “mean girls as evil as she possibly could. When she heard about all the bullying and bullycide stories in the news, she felt like the bullies had jumped off the pages of her book and into real life. She was also disheartened by the numerous times she’d done book signings and would say to readers, “I hope you never meet girls as mean as the ones in my book.” Shockingly, they almost always said, “We already have.” Carrie Jones was also moved to do something, as she was the target of bullying as a young child due to a speech impediment. Together, they felt that they owed it to teen readers to discourage bullying -- to make it "uncool." Megan Kelley Hall started by creating a Facebook page that kicked off an entire "movement" to end bullying.  This was the day that Megan, Carrie and other authors decided to use their platform as Young Adult authors to actually facilitate change and to be a voice for those kids who cannot speak out or are too afraid to be heard.

Right away, a large number of authors jumped on board of this cause -- wanting to be involved in any way possible. The Facebook group jumped from 5 to 1500 members in one weekend and is now closing in on nearly 5,000 members. Carrie and Megan were thrilled when HarperTeen offered to put all of the stories into an anthology. The thought of having 70 authors – well-known, highly successful writers – sharing their personal bullying stories with their fans was something beyond what they had ever hoped for.

The stories in DEAR BULLY come from all angles: from the point of view of the victim, the mother, the friend, the sibling, the classmate – even a few from the actual bully. Some of the stories are light-hearted, while others are raw and emotional.  All of them drive home the point that bullying is something that almost everyone has experienced. And while that is a sad fact, they want to prove that it's not a rite of passage. It doesn't make you stronger, wiser, or better. But it is something that can be overcome, something that can be changed, something that is relatable, and something that one should never be ashamed of. Through these stories, the authors want to show that they understand what teens are going through today. It is important to encourage bystanders to speak up and make bullying unacceptable. Parents and adults must get involved. Bullying is something that people no longer have to endure--at least, not by themselves. 

Though quite a lofty mission, the goal of DEAR BULLY is to help just one person get through a difficult time, and hopefully make bullying a thing of the past.
Don't forget to join the Facebook page at, visit the website at, or follow DEAR BULLY on Twitter at

“FIGHT BACK WITH WORDS. Better Homes & Gardens recommends DEAR BULLY: Remind youngsters heading back to school that getting picked on is tough—but that words can also heal as much as they can hurt, as one anthology proves.”  Better Homes & Gardens

“This anthology of personal essays provides empathetic and heartfelt stories from each corner of the schoolyard: the bullied, the bystander and the bully himself are all represented. Their words will be a welcome palliative or a wise pre-emptive defense against the trials of adolescent social dynamics.”           --New York Times

“Two of them, both authors of novels for young adults (Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones), have drawn on the power of the written word to focus attention on the problem and offer solace to the bullied.” – --The Boston Globe

“You’ll love it if… You know someone (or are someone) who’s ever been involved in any type of bullying incident. There’s something in it for everyone, on all sides of the spectrum. You’ll love it even more if you can find a story that inspires you to help someone else.” –

“With authority often turning a blind eye and cyber-bullying rampant, this timely collection is an excellent resource, especially for group discussion, and the appended, annotated list of websites and further reading extends its usefulness.” – Booklist

“Powerful…All of these stories feel authentic and honest, and readers will find a story or a person to identify with, to look to for comfort or guidance.” School Library Journal

“Bottom line is this anthology is a terrific tool for the counselor who can customize the entries to the needs of the victimized student.”  -- Harriet Klausner 

Leave a comment to win your own copy of Dear Bully
Giveaway ends on Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Outline Advantage

My task this week: plan and plot my new WIP. I know, I know, outlining is not cool, not artistic, it hampers inspiration... Tony Hillerman says, "Usually the book is finished long before the outline is. Go with the flow. Sometimes plots don't make sense, but it avoids that awful problem of outlining." Anne Lamott (Bird By Bird) is against outlining. So is Stephen King (On Writing).

But I still love it. I'm not talking about one of those big I, little i nightmares from school research papers, but rather creating a plan for the work I plan to write, or as Strunk and White say, "a suitable design." Having an outline gives me an advantage as I draft a new novel.

Advantage #1: Plot. Outlining allows me to work out the structure of the novel. I like to see everything visually and puzzle out questions. If this happens, then what will happen next? I can see the pacing, story arc, etc. 

Advantage #2: Avoid Meandering, Wandering, Getting Lost. An outline helps me keep to the story I intended to tell. I won't write hundreds of unnecessary words, or pages, that don't actually contribute to my main character's journey. Sometimes it's hard to cut clever or pretty sentences that sound good--even if they don't belong. 

A good outline also gives me a map through the middle. Knowing where I'm going prevents those panicky moments, "Eek! I've written 100 pages, but I don't know what happens next, and, maybe the whole thing is bad, bad, bad."

But--it is important to be flexible. I'm always adding and deleting things from my outline.

Advantage #3: Tracking Subplots, Minor Characters, Themes. To make outlining even more fun, I'll use color for each aspect of the story. At a glance I can see if I'm ignoring a subplot for too long, or leaving out a minor character who will confuse my readers if she all of a sudden pops back into the story 75 pages later. 

Advantage #4: Remembering The Good Stuff. I do a lot of research before I write, and I'd probably forget about some of my most interesting tidbits if I simply dove into the story and started wandering about. Outlining forces me to really think about my story and figure out how to fit all of my ideas into my plot in an exciting, relevant manner.

Advantage #5: Fast, Smooth, Writing. I rarely sit and stare at my blank computer screen wondering what the &#*!@  happens next. I've been letting my subconscious mind go to work. I always look at which scene I'm going to work on the next day, and think about it while I'm cooking dinner, driving carpool, walking the dogs, etc. I'm not worried about what will happen next, I'm focused on how to make it happen. 

Advantage #6: Cleaner First Draft. My outline serves as a first draft of sorts. And that makes revision easier. Oh, I still have things to fix, but I usually don't need a bulldozer during revision.

So what if Stephen King thinks I'm a dork?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Writing A Pitch

Today my goal is to create a pitch for my next YA novel idea--something so intriguing that people will say, "I've got to read that. Write fast!"

I've been researching my idea for months, reading like crazy, thinking like crazy, watching YouTube videos, picking up random bits on NPR, steering dinner party conversations in unusual directions... My brain is STUFFED with information. But now I have to explain it to people. Um...

I'm a rambling mess!

Lucky for me, I discovered Save The Cat by Blake Snyder. It's a book about screenwriting, but who better to teach me how to pitch than a Hollywood movie guy?

According to Snyder, a pitch answers this basic question: what is it?

(And it's not Snakes On A Plane meets Three Men And A Baby--although who wouldn't want to see that?!?!?)

A good pitch gives a clear sense of what the story promises to deliver (action, love, mystery). You want your audience to immediately form a compelling mental picture of your story. Better yet--you want to elicit an emotional response. A good pitch also includes a good title. Hunger Games? Yeah, I want to know what that's about!

People also want to know who the story is about. Short and sweet, a good pitch characterizes both the main character and the antagonist. Is your character's goal enthralling? The best way to hook someone with your pitch is to make sure that your character's mission involves primal needs: survival, love, protection. Snyder asks: would a caveman understand your character's needs?

Reducing all my research into a pitch only a few sentences long will probably be the hardest part to write. But I know that figuring out these basic elements will make the next 250 pages flow.

I'm excited and I want to write this story fast!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

New Dictionary Words!

For my writing exercise today, I challenged myself to write a paragraph using Merriam-Webster's new dictionary entries:

Mom says she's hoping my life will turn into a walk-off homer in the 9th inning of my twenties, otherwise I'll have to revive her broken heart with CPAP.

"You can't treat life like a duathlon," she says, "if you're not even bothering to enter the race."
"I'm gonna apply for that robocall job, I swear."
"Not if you don't get off the couch." Mom picks up her smart phone and whips up some crowdsourcing for her m-commerce vitamin business. She's always attached to some sort of electronic device, so I don't get why she bugs me about wasting time on social media. She tweets more than I do, hoping to sell supplements to parkour participants. Talk about a boring job!

I mean, it's not like I'm fist-bumping my buddies about being a boomerang child. And Mom's wrong about me going after the cougars in her book club, but could she blame me? My only relationship is a bromance with an old high school classmate based on our shared fondness for Americana banjo music.

Maybe I'm not doing the most I could with my life. But it's totally Mom's fault for being such a helicopter parent!

So what's your favorite official new word?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Still Collecting Characters...

One of my favorite neighborhood "characters" is a man who walks three little dogs every morning. With his dark shoulder-length hair, bushy beard, and old-fashioned coat, he looks like someone from another era. He should be wandering cobblestone streets in the mist, not dodging early morning sprinklers watering manicured lawns in a dry climate.

Seeing him, I sometimes wonder if there's a time travel portal hidden among the white vinyl fences in my neighborhood...

But today I saw him walking his three little dogs, wearing shorts--Richard Simmons shorts. Oh, no! It turns out he's a man from another era alright, but that time is 1980!

Well, at least he can still be a time-traveling nomad in my imagination.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Back To School (And Writing)

Yesterday I dropped my daughter off for her first day of 10th grade. Usually I drive away cheering the return of long uninterrupted writing days, but yesterday I found myself growing tearful, a bit nostalgic.

In 10th grade I started becoming myself. That year I began keeping the daily journal that would eventually give me the courage and voice to write fiction. I also started fighting against my failures. After a truly embarrassing drill team tryout at the end of freshman year, I decided to take ballet lessons and try again. I dragged my curvy post-pubescent body to a class of slim 5th and 6th graders. But I did make the dance team the following spring. And I've been working to overcome my failures ever since!

So while I happily dig into long days of writing, I'm wondering who is my daughter about to become?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Winners Galore!


Trudy won a copy of Love Story by Jennifer Echols.

Tiah won a copy of Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker 
(Tiah please leave your email address in the comments)

Yan won a copy of A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

On The Go With Jennifer Echols + Giveaway

Please welcome Jennifer Echols, author of Love Story. Leave a comment and you could win your own copy! 

You have been given your Dream Vacation. Where are you going and what are you doing?

I am going to Hawaii and learning to surf. I’ve been to Hawaii before, so I know how beautiful it is, and learning to surf is the only thing on my bucket list.

What if you could travel to a different time period?

I think I would stay here. So many people nowadays lament the loss of “the old days” and “old-fashioned values,” but I look around and see how much better off we all are than before. My husband and I are not of the same race, so we couldn’t have gotten married and had a child too long ago.

Are you a planner or a seat-of-the pants traveler?

In theory, I’m a planner, but my vacations never work out that way. I plan to plan, but then I get busy and wait until the last minute. And even on the rare occasions when I do have time to plan, I like to build in time for unplanned wandering. I don’t feel like I’ve been to a place until I get away from the tourist attractions and see where the people actually work and live.

What's the worst thing that's ever happened to you on vacation?

I convinced my friend Amy that we should go on a ski slope that was too difficult for us, and she ran into a tree, which tore her earring out of her ear. I documented this in my novel THE EX-GAMES and dedicated the book to her.

About The Book

For Erin Blackwell, majoring in creative writing at the New York City college of her dreams is more than a chance to fulfill her ambitions – it’s her ticket away from the tragic memories that shadow her family’s racehorse farm in Kentucky. But when she refuses to major in business and take over the farm herself someday, her grandmother gives Erin’s college tuition and promised inheritance to their maddeningly handsome stable boy, Hunter Allen. Now Erin has to win an internship and work late nights at a local coffee shop to make her own dreams a reality. She should despise Hunter… so why does he sneak into her thoughts as the hero of her latest writing assignment?

Then, on the day she’s sharing that assignment with her class, Hunter walks in. He’s joining her class. And after he reads about himself in her story, her private fantasies about him must be painfully clear. She only hopes to persuade him not to reveal her secret to everyone else. But Hunter devises his own creative revenge, writing sexy stories that drive the whole class wild with curiosity and fill Erin’s heart with longing. Now she’s not just imagining what might have been. She’s writing a whole new ending for her romance with Hunter… except this story could come true. 

About The Author

Jennifer Echols is the author of teen romantic dramas for MTV Books and teen romantic comedies for Simon Pulse. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her family. Please visit her online at

Leave a comment and you could win a copy of Love Story!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Contest Winner!


Yan wins a copy of Possession by Elana Johnson! 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

On The Go With Melissa Walker + Giveaway

Please welcome Melissa Walker! Leave a comment to win a copy of her new novel, Small Town Sinners.

You have been given your Dream Vacation. Where are you going & what are you doing?

I'm going to Spain, first to sit on the beach in Andalucia, then to spend a few days in Madrid, a city I love almost as much as NYC. 

What if you could travel to a different time period?

I'd go to the 1920s, if only for the style. I love a vintage flapper dress. 

Are you a planner or a seat-of-the pants traveler?

I'm a mix. I like to get flights and hotel in order, but for the day by day I go with what I feel like doing in the moment. 

What's the worst thing that's ever happened to you on vacation?

Flying back from Brazil once, we almost landed at JFK but then had to divert to MIAMI! I spent four hours on the runway there before flying all the way back to NYC. Luckily, I had a good book--Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides--to keep me distracted. And actually, I feel lucky that this is the worst thing that's happened to me while traveling--not so bad!

About The Book:

Small Town Sinners is the story of Lacey Anne, daughter of the pastor and perennial good girl, who is eligible for a lead role in the season’s Hell House production—a role she’s been coveting for years. But when Ty moves to town as casting begins, a new perspective is added to Lacey Anne’s world and she starts to see her tight-knit, Evangelical community in a different light. With the help of her two best friends Starla Joy and Dean, and her potential first love Ty, Lacey Anne begins exploring her own thoughts and feelings about her religion, her community, and her place within both. While this novel deals with provocative issues like religion, teen pregnancy and underage drinking, it is not an “issue” book; the topics are masterfully interwoven into this story of friendship and family. Read an article about the book in the New York Times Book Review.

About The Author:

Melissa has worked as ELLEgirl Features Editor and Seventeen Prom Editor. She is the author of the Violet on the Runway series as well as Lovestruck Summer. Melissa manages I Heart Daily, an e-newsletter and blogs for ReaderGirlz, an online community for teens.

To win a copy of Small Town Sinners, please leave a comment! 

Contest Winner!


YA Vampire Books has won a copy of Amanda Ashby's Fairy Bad Day!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Things I've Learned So Far

I enjoyed the challenge of coming up with seven things I've learned about writing and publishing for Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents blog. Now if only life would stop teaching me SO many lessons! Here's the first one:

It’s not always about you. When my first novel hit the shelves, I came across a surprisingly violent review: a blogger, upset with a particular passage, threw my book against her wall! Shocked and dismayed, I showed my mother, a psychologist, the review. She simply nodded and said, “Wow. That sure says a lot about her.” Oh, right. Readers filter stories through their own experiences, values, and expectations. Sometimes our work simply won’t connect—with anything other than a wall. 

To read the rest of my guest column, please go to the Guide To Literary Agents blog. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Jungle Crossing.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

On The Go With Suzanne Young + Giveaway

Please welcome Suzanne Young. Leave a comment to win a copy of her novel A Need So Beautiful.

You have been given your Dream Vacation. Where are you going & what are you doing?

I would love to go to Italy. I just want to wander and take in the sights, eat good food, study the architecture of the buildings. I hope to actually make it there one day.
What if you could travel to a different time period?

I've always been fascinated by history, but I don't know... time travel sounds dangerous!
Are you a planner or a seat-of-the pants traveler?

I love traveling but haven’t been able to do much of it lately. I like to just go somewhere spur of the moment when I can.
What's the worst thing that's ever happened to you on vacation?

On the way back from the Grand Canyon we were in an RV and nearly got trapped driving up a mountain range. I cried the entire time because I thought we’d end up on an episode of I Shouldn’t be Alive.

About The Book:

We all want to be remembered. Charlotte’s destiny is to be Forgotten…

Charlotte's best friend thinks Charlotte might be psychic. Her boyfriend thinks she's cheating on him. But Charlotte knows what's really wrong: She is one of the Forgotten, a kind of angel on earth who feels the Need—a powerful, uncontrollable draw to help someone, usually a stranger.

But Charlotte never wanted this responsibility. What she wants is to help her best friend, whose life is spiraling out of control. She wants to lie in her boyfriend's arms forever. But as the Need grows stronger, it begins to take a dangerous toll on Charlotte. And who she was, is, and will become—her mark on this earth, her very existence—is in jeopardy of disappearing completely. 

Charlotte will be forced to choose: Should she embrace her fate as a Forgotten, a fate that promises to rip her from the lives of those she loves forever? Or is she willing to fight against her destiny—no matter how dark the consequences?

« "A clever and well-written fantasy. Whether Charlotte is an angel or a being less freighted by religious tradition is left up to the reader, but the dilemma of how we can make a lasting impression is a very human concern. Young offers an elegant solution that is well worth consideration."
 — Booklist, starred review

“A gripping supernatural romance… An imaginative twist on the timeless battle between dark and light.” 
Kirkus Review

Suzanne Young currently lives in Portland, Oregon, where she uses the rainy weather as an excuse to stay inside and write obsessively. After earning her degree in creative writing, Suzanne spent several years teaching middle school language arts. Now she can be found at home chasing after her two children and poorly behaved dog and writing novels for teens. You can visit her online at or follow her on Twitter @suzanne_young.

Please leave a comment to win a copy of A Need So Beautiful.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On The Go With Elena Johnson + Giveaway

Today I'm pleased to welcome fellow Utah author, Elana Johnson. Leave a comment to win a copy of Possession.

You have been given your Dream Vacation. Where are you going & what are you doing?

The White Cliffs of Dover, and I’m just going to absorb the awesomeness of the UK.

What if you could travel to a different time period?

That would be wicked awesome! I’d like to go to the Old West. Cowboys and all that…

Are you a planner or a seat-of-the pants traveler?

Well, if it involves a plane, then I plan. If it’s a road trip, I’m a pack-a-bag-let’s-get-in-the-car! kind of planner.

What's the worst thing that's ever happened to you on vacation?

Hmmm…we had to buy new tires on our last road trip to Arizona. So we did. I live in Utah. They don’t sell tires in AZ. So about six months later, I had to buy new tires again. Yeah, not my best vacay.

Vi knows the Rule: Girls don’t walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn…and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi’s future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself.

But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they’re set on convincing Vi to become one of them….starting by brainwashed Zenn. Vi can’t leave Zenn in the Thinkers’ hands, but she’s wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous: everything Zenn’s not. Vi can’t quite trust Jag and can’t quite resist him, but she also can’t give up on Zenn.

This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.

"Possession held me completely captivated from beginning to end. And what an end! I fell in love with the characters and had countless moments of 'Wow.'"
--James Dashner, bestselling author of The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials

"Who Should Read This: Anyone who wants a challenge: This plot is so twisty, I had to read the last chapter twice before I could believe what happened. There's also a very nice balance between badass action and romantic tension for readers who like a good mix of the two."

To find out more about Elana, check out her blog:

Leave a comment to win a copy of Possession!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

On The Go With Amanda Ashby + Giveaway

Today I'm pleased to welcome Amanda Ashby. Leave a comment to win a copy of her new book Fairy Bad Day.

You have been given your Dream Vacation. Where are you going & what are you doing?
Oh, I love this game! I would go to Italy because I still regret that I somehow skipped it when I was traveling through Europe—okay, I didn’t skip it, I just forgot to get out of the train on the way to Greece (which considering the trip was something like 20 hours is a little bit stupid!) Anyway, I want to have about three or four weeks so I can do Tuscany as well as Rome, Florence and Vienna, and obviously apart from seeing lots of amazing and very worthy things I will eat gelato all day everyday!

What if you could travel to a different time period?

Regency period just to see if it was as awesome as Georgette Heyer made it out to be!
Are you a planner or a seat-of-the pants traveler?

I’m a panster who wishes that she was a plotter so I try my hardest to plot but it NEVER works. My brain just likes to through sensible suggestions out the window and change its mind ALL the time!
What's the worst thing that's ever happened to you on vacation?

We were on a train going through Spain and hadn’t validated our Eurorail passes so that they would last longer. We thought we could act dumb and pretend that we didn’t know we were meant to if we got caught. We did get caught and it turns out that Spanish train police have NO time for tourists who act dumb. We got away with a caution, though for awhile we thought we would lose our passes, which had cost a lot of money. We definitely never made that mistake again.

About The Book:

It’s going to be a fairy bad day

First, my rightful designation of dragon slayer is STOLEN right out from under me by Curtis Green. Sure, he’s really cute, but that doesn’t give him an excuse.

On top of that, I am assigned to slay fairies. I know what you’re thinking—how hard could it be, right? Wrong! These menacing beasts with their tiny hipster clothes and mocking sarcasm love taunting me. And they won’t STOP!

But the thing that tops my list of stuff to ruin my day? That would be the GIANT KILLER FAIRY that I have to hunt down and slay because I am the only one who can see it. There is someone who can help me. Unfortunately…it’s Curtis.

"Teens with a taste for the paranormal school story and a tolerance for raucous humor will be involved with and amused by this romantic fantasy. The exciting plot, humor throughout—often provided by the little fairies—and relatively innocent romance between characters will grab readers and keep them involved. " Kirkus Reviews

"In a fun mashup of the modern and the magical, Ashby (Zombie Queen of Newbury High) creates nicely developed characters and supports them with strong plotting and zippy writing. Laced with humor, danger, and romance, this book will have readers smiling all the way to the last page." Publisher's Weekly

About Amanda:

Amanda Ashby was born in Australia, and has spent the last fifteen years dividing her time between England and New Zealand before finally deciding that to move home. When she's not moving country, she likes to write books (okay, she also likes to eat chocolate, watch television and sit around doing not much, but let's just keep that amongst ourselves, shall we?)
She has a degree in English and Journalism from the University of Queensland and is married with two children. As well as writing, she works part-time at the children/teen desk of her local library, which basically means that someone pays her to talk about books. Her debut book, You Had Me at Halo was nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice award, and her first young adult book Zombie Queen of Newbury High was listed by the New York Public Library's Stuff for the Teen Age 2010.

To win a copy of Fairy Bad Day, please leave a comment! 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Other Kinds of Creativity

I'm just home from a jaunt through the Northwest. I brought books, notebooks, and my laptop, but I didn't do any writing work. I simply appreciated other people's creativity.

With sand:

Latte foam:

Salty soccer chants:

And lyrics. (Our marriage entered its last year as a teenager, so we took it to a My Morning Jacket concert.)

Watching others exercise their creativity always inspires me. So now I'm home with my notebook, adding characters like this cat who does fundraising for an animal shelter at Pike Place Market in Seattle.