Saturday, December 18, 2010

Work-In-Progress: 40,085

Apparently I've got more in common with my dog than I realized... I wonder how many dog biscuits it would take to get him to finish my novel?  Here's this week's vlog post (

Next week I plan to sneak in some writing along with holiday fun!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fictional Characters Showing Up In Real Life...

 I always tuck a small notebook into my purse so I can record story ideas, interesting tidbits, strange human behaviors, cupcake places I'd like to try... But I especially collect potential characters.

(You can see why I did not pursue illustration!)

A cute grocery checker turned into a love interest in one of my stories, so did a teenager sipping a strawberry frappuccino that matched her hair... My next WIP idea sparked after a few random encounters with intriguing strangers (but I have to finish my current novel first!).

And it's no secret that a neighborhood skateboarding hottie inspired the character of Xander Cooper in Swoon At Your Own Risk.

But I was a little surprised when he showed up at my daughter's soccer game on Saturday. I did know that his little sister played on my daughter's team, but he's away at college now, and no longer skateboards down the street.

No one in his family knows that I've written him into a novel, and I really only borrowed his mop of curly hair and graceful skateboarding. Xander Cooper is a completely fictional character. Still--it felt so strange to sit close to someone who looks so much like the character I created...

But it was nice to see him cheer so sweetly for his little sister. (Nice guys DO live outside of books!)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Work-In-Progress: 34,700-ish

I'm not really a superstitious person, but Chapter Thirteen... Ack! I'm still working on the right words, erasing the wrong ones. Here's this week's vlog post:

Next week if I make it to 40,000 words I'm buying myself a Peppermint Mocha! That's motivation :)

Contest Winners!


Jpetroroy won a copy of When The Stars Go Blue

Debbie/Cranberryfries won a copy of My Invented Life

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Work-In-Progress: 32,045 words

So it turns out that sitting in front of one's laptop for several hours a day actually does increase word count!

Here's this week's vlog:

* Also starring Minnie and Otis

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Relationship Advice from Caridad Ferrer

Please welcome Caridad Ferrer, author of When The Stars Go Blue. Leave a comment to win your own copy! Here's Caridad's advice:

1. What is the dumbest or smartest thing you've done after a breakup?

Well, it's embarrassing as all get out (which is why it was dumb), but after a college boyfriend broke up with me, I punched my car's windshield.  Didn't break anything, but my hand swelled up to the size of a grapefruit. Not one of my better moments.  I have since learned to control my temper a great deal. Punching windshields HURTS.

2. It's your turn to play Miss Swoon--give us your best relationship advice.

Well, make sure you set aside a drawer for the takeout menus and make sure your partner knows which drawer it is.

3. If you could go on a date with any fictional character, who would it be?

Boy, this is kind of tough-- I'm torn between Sebastian St. Cyr, the lead of C.S. Harris' mystery series (tall, dark, and brilliant) or Richard Castle (he's ruggedly handsome, you know-- as well as being brilliant and witty and incredibly devoted to the people he cares about).

About the Book:

A dancer driven to succeed.

A musical prodigy attempting to escape his past.

The summer they share.

And the moment it all goes wrong.

Dance is Soledad Reyes’s life. About to graduate from Miami’s Biscayne High School for the Performing Arts, she plans on spending her last summer at home teaching in a dance studio, saving money, and eventually auditioning for dance companies. That is, until fate intervenes in the form of fellow student Jonathan Crandall who has what sounds like an outrageous proposition: Forget teaching. Why not spend the summer performing in the intense environment of the competitive drum and bugle corps? The corps is going to be performing Carmen, and the opportunity to portray the character of the sultry gypsy proves too tempting for Soledad to pass up, as well as the opportunity to spend more time with Jonathan, who intrigues her in a way no boy ever has before.     
But in an uncanny echo of the story they perform every evening, an unexpected competitor for Soledad's affections appears: Taz, a member of an all-star Spanish soccer team. One explosive encounter later Soledad finds not only her relationship with Jonathan threatened, but her entire future as a professional dancer.

About the Author:
Caridad Ferrer is a first generation, bilingual Cuban-American, whose young adult debut, AdiĆ³s to My Old Life won the Romance Writers of America’s 2007 RITA® for Best Contemporary Single Title Romance as well as being named to the 2009 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults list, awarded by the ALA. Her second novel, It’s Not About the Accent was released in 2007 with Publisher’s Weekly stating, “…this twisting book amply rewards readers.”

She has also contributed to the anthology, Fifteen Candles: 15 Tales of Taffeta, Hairspray, Drunk Uncles, and Other QuinceaƱera Stories. Her newest young adult novel, When the Stars Go Blue, is a contemporary retelling of Bizet’s Carmen, and will be released by Thomas Dunne Books in November 2010. Booklist calls it, “Beautifully written, with contemporary characters and an engaging story line.”

To win a copy of When The Stars Go Blue: 
please leave a comment by midnight, December 7, 2010. 
Open to everyone, everywhere.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

NCTE, Magic & Many Mickey Mouses

Today I'm shoveling snow, but last weekend I played in the sunshine with many of my favorite author friends in Orlando, Florida at NCTE. My roomie, Lauren Bjorkman, and I also snuck away from conference duties for a little Magic Kingdom fun. Mickey Mouse, here we come!

I started spotting Mickey Mouse everywhere--starting with my breakfast waffle! 

I decided to find other unusual Mickey Mouse products. Hungry?

Enjoy some Mickey Mouse butter on your Mickey Mouse waffle.

I found Mickey Mouse lollipops, chocolates, and pasta. Oh, and lots of kitchen items. 

Pizza cutters, spoons, measuring cups, pot holders... Done eating? Time to play!

Toss your Mickey Mouse baseball around. Or scratch your back. I seriously started thinking that I could replace every item in my house with something Mickey. 

We had a great day--we even rode Space Mountain twice. Zoom!!! Before heading back to the hotel, we treated ourselves to some ice cream--shaped like Mickey Mouse, of course! 

I loved chatting with so many wonderful, innovative teachers during our roundtable discussion. Much thanks to my co-presenters Lauren Bjorkman (My Invented Life), Jen Dutton (Stranded), Janet Fox (Faithful), Cheryl Herbsman (Breathing), Edie Hemingway (Road To Tater Hill), Danielle Joseph (Indigo Blues), Rosanne Parry (Heart Of A Shepherd), and Joy Preble (Dreaming Anastasia). We discussed all aspects of girl characters' fictional journeys & ways to help readers connect with literature. 

I did come home with a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt... And lots of Advance Reader Copies of books I can't wait to read.

On my last day, I spotted soap bubble Mickey on the hotel towel carts...

I kind of miss the guy! 

Leave a comment to win one my favorite girl characters with you--Roz from My Invented Life by Lauren Bjorkman. 
Entries accepted until midnight, December 1, 2010.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Off To Disney World (and NCTE)

I did add words to my WIP, but I'm going to include them in next week's vlog update. Today I wrote most of chapter eleven while flying to Orlando, Florida to attend NCTE (a big teacher conference). When my seat mate asked about my story, I realized that I've got to work on that snappy hook thing. But at least she went back to sleep and I wrote a few more pages!

Anyway, while I'm talking about THE OTHER HAPPILY EVER AFTER: TRANSFORMING AND EMPOWERING READERS THROUGH A RE-TOOLING OF THE FEMALE HERO JOURNEY (sounds fancy, huh?) at NCTE, please stop by and read the interview I did on Debbie's Cranberry Fries Blog

Here's the view from my room at The Coronado:

I'll post some fun Disney details next week!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Contest Winners!


(I'm announcing two winners today--that SCBWI conference stuff kind of got in the way last week.)

Bee wins Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

Kelley wins Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Writing More Emails Than Fiction

In addition to writing, I'm also a Regional Advisor for the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). I hold monthly meetings & organize conferences in Utah and Idaho (with the help of my assistant Neysa Jensen in Boise). I love helping aspiring writers & illustrators improve their craft & make those helpful connections. Just like Carol Lynch Williams & Rick Walton did for me when I was just starting out. 

Children's writers are friendly like that! 

Volunteering as a Regional Advisor has also helped me learn skills I've needed as an author. I'm no longer a shy speaker & by promoting others I've gotten better at promoting myself.

Today I ended up on NPR--part conference promotion & part celebrating our supportive Utah writing community. Take a listen!

So this week I'm spending more time phoning caterers, taking last minute conference registrations, and answering emails instead of adding to my WIP word-count. But maybe I'll have some small part in helping someone else's publishing dream come true.

And that's totally worth it!  

Monday, November 8, 2010

Impromptu Kitten Acquisition!

We went to the pet store for reptile reasons, but stopped to visit the cats waiting for adoption. One spunky kitten bounced around a cage of older cats, catching tails, and leaping in the air.

We hadn't planned on adding a kitten to our busy household quite yet--but this one had the kind of personality that meshed with our other pets. And our old cat needed a bit of relief from our young cat's playfulness. So we brought her home.

Everyone loves her. Especially Otis. And, even though she's tiny she's got our big dogs under her spell too!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Work-In-Progress: 25,189 words

In the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I got back to work on the story I put on hold last summer to work on another novel. Taking what I learned during that revision process, I'm making a few changes as I get to know my plot and characters again. I hope to really add to my word count next week! Here's my vlog post:*

*Co-starring Ken & my dog Jack.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Relationship Advice from Daisy Whitney

Today I'm happy to welcome Daisy Whitney, author of The Mockingbirds. Leave a comment and win your own copy! Now, here's Daisy's relationship advice:

1. What is the dumbest or smartest thing you've done after a breakup?

Dumbest thing. Oh dear. I supposed that would be going to his gig in the West Village and staring at his beautiful new girlfriend the whole time he played guitar and sang to her.

2. It's your turn to play Miss Swoon--give us your best relationship advice.

Trust your gut. If he’s too good to be true he probably is.

3. If you could go on a date with any fictional character, who would it be?

Etienne St. Clair from Steph Perkins’ ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS. Sigh. I love him.

More About Mockingbirds:

Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way--the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.

In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone--especially yourself--you fight for it. Buy the

To find out more about Daisy Whitney check out her website.

To win a copy of The Mockingbirds, please leave a comment by midnight, Tuesday, November 9, 2010. 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Wanna Know Scott Westerfeld's Favorite Halloween Candy?

Yesterday I got all dressed up as my most klutzy self and headed to the Provo Teen Lit Fest.

Scott Westerfeld started us off with an inside look at how text and illustrations merge in his Leviathan series. I'm always curious to see what doesn't make it into the book.

I loved spending the afternoon talking books and writing with teens, as well as chatting with author friends.  We mostly talked candy. Check it out:

I'm a Reese's fan myself. Leave a comment telling me your favorite Halloween candy & you'll be entered to win a signed copy of either Uglies or Peeps by Scott Westerfeld (your choice!).

Contest ends, Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at midnight.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Playing Hooky With Jimmy Carter

My daughters skipped school yesterday & I ignored my laptop so that we could meet President Jimmy Carter at his book signing at The King's English in Salt Lake City.

We waited in a line that stretched three blocks from the bookstore, but only two and half blocks from Starbucks. The hours went fast as we chatted with fellow Jimmy fans. Plus, the bookstore handed out patriotic taffy to the crowd. Local businesses handed out coupons--I can now get my dogs washed while eating a bucket of discounted bagels. And, of course, campaign volunteers took advantage of a captive audience. I will now be spending an hour making get-out-the vote calls on Monday.

All our local newscasters milled about with their satellite trucks and cameras. My daughters swear that the backs of their heads made it into one of the interviews as they waited in line for hot chocolate.

We finally got closer...

And it was over in a flash. Jimmy Carter signs fast! But he made eye contact and spoke to everyone in line. To my youngest he said, "here you go, sweetheart." So cool. The other cool thing: he sat right next to my YA novels on the bookstore shelves! I like to think that maybe as he finished signing, he thought: I must learn more about these Big Noses And Other Natural Disasters. Or maybe he thought, I lust in my heart for that girl on the Swoon At Your Own Risk cover.

What's not so cool. We could only take one photo--after we signed. So everyone has pictures of the people behind them in line. Some people traded email addressed to swap, but I lost sight of my line pal.

Afterwards we lunched at Caputo's Deli. And maybe we didn't rush right back to school, but stopped at the Red Balloon toy store. And we might have been spotted trying out a new cupcake place...

After all, it's not every day that you get to meet one of the guys on your presidential placemat!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

Relationship Advice from Denise Jaden

Please welcome back, Denise Jaden, author of Losing Faith:

1. What is the dumbest or smartest thing you've done after a breakup?
The dumbest thing I've done after a breakup was when I continued to call and pursue the guy. The smartest thing I've ever done--the opposite. I decided to move on and not look back.

2. It's your turn to play Miss Swoon--give us your best relationship advice.

Don't be in a rush. Great relationships take time to build and deepen. Quick passion can often hide what's under the surface between two people. Also, be quick to forgive.

3. If you could go on a date with any fictional character, who would it be?

Wes from Sarah Dessen's
The Truth About Forever. He's that quiet artist type - contemplative and sexy. I'm a little old for him, but whatever!

More about Losing Faith:
When Brie's sister, Faith, dies suddenly, Brie's world falls apart. As she goes through the bizarre and devastating process of mourning the sister she never understood and barely even liked, everything in her life seems to spiral farther and farther off course. Her parents are a mess, her friends don't know how to treat her, and her perfect boyfriend suddenly seems anything but.
As Brie settles into her new normal, she encounters more questions than closure: Certain facts about the way Faith died just don't line up. Brie soon uncovers a dark and twisted secret about Faith's final night...a secret that puts her own life in danger.

About Denise Jaden:
Denise lives just outside Vancouver, Canada. When she’s not writing, she can often be found homeschooling her son or dancing with her Polynesian dance troupe. Losing Faith is her first novel. Find out more at   

You know you want this book...Leave a comment for a chance to win your own copy! 
Contest ends, Tuesday, October 26, 2010.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Adventures In Author Visits!

Last week I traveled to the Northwest for a series of author (and family) visits. I had a wonderfully fun, wonderfully exhausting week--and it only rained every time I happened to be driving 70 miles per hour on the freeway. Yikes! Here are some other highlights:

Powell's--one of my favorite bookstores ever! I taught a workshop for teens and tweens who like to write with author Anne Osterlund. This is a monthly event--authors mentoring students. Check the schedule!

We had a small, but enthusiastic group. And I got to fulfill my dream of signing my books at Powell's. Plus, I had lots of fun visiting with my Portland family members and the next day I went bookstore hopping with author friend Rosanne Parry. We visited the big Powell's and Annie Bloom's (they have a bookstore cat--I LOVE bookstore cats!). I also added a few more books to my already heavy suitcase.

After a night in Olympia, Washington hanging out with my mom & brother-in-law, I rode the ferry to Lopez Island to do school visits at Lopez High and Lopez Middle School. Much thanks to the lovely folks at Lopez Island Library.

I had so much fun getting to know the fabulous teens of Lopez Island--lots of creative, funny, and nice people! (*waves* to MacKenzie & Kevin.) I showed them how I've added real life experiences from my diaries to my novels. And I made fun of one of their favorite teachers--my brother! (My sister-in-law is an amazing teacher too!)

Other Lopez highlights. Eating. Mmm. Galley hamburgers. Vortex burritos. Collecting rocks on Agate Beach, watching the seals at Shark's Reef. And a post-school visit first: my brother convinced me to allow him to winch me 30 feet up a sailboat mast so that I could string a rope for him. Let's just say that the thigh master has nothing on a sailboat mast as the wind picks up...

In other adventures, I spent the day with my five-year-old nephew, Quinn, at preschool. We were driving to school, rocking out to Taylor Swift, when I noticed flashing lights behind me. Oops! 35 MPH in a 25 MPH zone. As I'm trying to talk my way out of a ticket, apologizing, explaining, apologizing, my nephew calls out, "My dad got stopped by the cops too!" I started laughing, but I still weaseled out of the ticket. Phew! (My brother hadn't been so lucky.)

A half hour later I got busted at preschool for suggesting that my stuffed squirrel karate chop Quinn's stuffed squirrel. Oops! Karate stays at The Dojo, even for stuffed animals, on Lopez Island. But Quinn now thinks his Aunt Syd has some serious street cred!

Next I headed to Seattle--and lunch with my high school friend Amy. After spending a week reading my high school diaries, full of serious boy craziness, I thanked her for putting up with my seventeen-year-old self! We had a great Greek lunch near her office in the shadow of the Space Needle. How cool is that?

The next day I spoke at the WLMA (Washington Library Media Association). Just before my talk, I ran up to my room to brush my teeth, comb my hair, and look over my PowerPoint one last time--only to discover that my computer claimed that my presentation was corrupted (my HS diary isn't that edgy!). The only presentation accessible was one geared toward 4th grade Girl Scouts. Quickly I scrambled to add a few slides. And the presentation went fine, but not exactly as I'd hoped. Next time I'll remember to actually use that flash drive I carry with me!

I also had a great time visiting with old Whitman College friends: Margy and Roz are librarians, and Royce Buckingham writes great boy books (we took the same English classes in college--and never imagined this day!). I also loved hearing Sherman Alexie read the first chapter of his sequel to The Absolutely True Dairy of a Part Time Indian (it's SO good) and listening to Alyson Noel's publishing journey (she's so charming!).

Oh, and if you haven't sang karaoke with eleven librarians at midnight in an airport hotel lounge, well, I'm just saying, all that hush-hush stuff about librarians? Rumors, all rumors. Librarians are a blast!

Contest Winners!


Bee won a copy of Lauren Strasnick's Her And Me And You.

Yan won a copy of Linda Gerber's Trance.

Didn't win? I'll be giving away another book later this week.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Relationship Advice from Linda Gerber

Linda Gerber's novels are favorites at my house, so I'm excited to read her new novel, Trance. (Leave a comment and win a copy!) Here's Linda's breakup advice:

1. What is the dumbest or smartest thing you've done after a breakup?

Probably the smartest thing I did was to move away after a serious breakup. It was time for me to return to college anyway, so it's not like I was altering my life because of a guy, but taking the out option when I did gave us both a clean break.

2. It's your turn to play Miss Swoon--give us your best relationship advice.

NEVER change who you are for a guy (or a girl). Try to be a better person around the person you like, maybe, but always be true to yourself.

3. If you could go on a date with any fictional character, who would it be?

I wouldn't mind a stroll with Mr. Darcy.

More about TRANCE:
Almost everyone has wished that they could take a glimpse into the future--but what if such visions came unbidden, and they only foretold danger? A dark but addictive tale of one girl's curse to unwillingly foresee future tragedies, and the debilitating toll that it takes on her present life--until she realizes that her unwanted power may be more of a gift than a curse.

More about Linda Gerber:

Linda Gerber ( is the author of the popular Death by Bikini, Death by Latte, and Death by Denim as well as two books in the S.A.S.S. series. She lives with her family in Dublin, Ohio.

To win a copy of Trance, please leave a comment by Tuesday, October 19, 2010.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Relationship Advice from Lauren Strasnick

After finishing Lauren Strasnick's debut novel, Nothing Like You, I immediately ran upstairs to my teen's room, handed her the book, and told her to read it quick. We later had a great discussion about friends-with-benefits--one that would've involved a lot of eye-rolling if we hadn't been talking about Lauren's compelling characters.

 Needless to say I can't wait to read Her And Me And You. Here's Lauren's relationship advice (I've already thanked her for the parenting help). Lauren is donating one of her author copies for a giveaway, so please leave a comment! 

1. What is the dumbest or smartest thing you've done after a breakup?
Smartest?  Cut off all contact.  Dumbest?  I’m not telling :)
2. It's your turn to play Miss Swoon--give us your best relationship advice.
I’m much better at this when I have some gnarly romantic situation to analyze and dissect!  But!  Be true to yourself!  & don’t stay with someone who treats you like trash!  Stellar advice, right?  Oh boy.
3. If you could go on a date with any fictional character, who would it be?
Marcus Flutie from Megan McCafferty’s Jessica Darling series.  Love!
About Her And Me And You:
First love, broken friendships, and heartache all play a part in this evocative, voice-driven novel about Alex, a girl whose world is ripped apart when her father’s affair splits her family in two.
Alex moves with her mess of a mother to a new town, where she is befriended by hot, enigmatic Fred–and alternately flirted with and cold-shouldered by Fred’s twin sister, Adina. Others warn Alex to steer clear of the twins, whose sibling relationship is considered abnormal at best, but there’s just something about Fred–and something about Adina–that draws Alex to them and makes her want to be part of their crazy world, no matter the consequences.

“Strasnick’s slim second offering packs a lot into its short chapters: divorce, broken friendships, crushes, the lines between love and sex and more. Characterization, scenes, dialogue and setting are seamlessly distilled into so few sharp, image-rich phrases that the novel reads almost as if it were written in verse. Less is definitely more here, and readers are plunged into Alex’s physical and emotional world within three to four words. Although the plot moves swiftly, the author’s ability to capture Alex’s inner world in so few words give the novel depth and balance. Complex and thought-provoking.” –Kirkus

To find out more about Lauren see:

Please leave a comment by Tuesday, October 12, 2010 to enter to win a copy of Her And Me And You. 

Contest Winner!


Kayla won a signed copy of Chris Crutcher's novel Deadline

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Auction For A Good Cause


To honor National Domestic Violence Awareness month, author Swati Avasthi has combined a blog tour for her debut novel, Split, with a charity auction. Over 40 authors (like me!), agents and editors have donated manuscript critiques, personalized books, and more to an online auction that anyone –reader, writer, booklover -- can bid on and buy.  

All proceeds go to the Family Violence Prevention Fund. In addition to the auction, Avasthi is donating $1/comment on her 26-stop, month-long blog tour, coordinated by Kari Olson at Teen Book Scene. If we reach the goal and cap of $250, Swati will double the donation to the Family Violence Prevention Fund.  

The CDC estimates that one in four women will experience intimate partner abuse during her life and UC Davis estimates that a child who grew up witnessing abuse is four times as likely to perpetrate abuse, 25 times more likely to commit rape and 6 times more likely to commit suicide. Family Violence Prevention Fund has some great initiatives, including Coaching Boys Into Men and Start Strong, that are about breaking the intergenerational cycle and preventing abuse.  So, follow the tour, get stuff you want, and make a difference.

Please follow the tour and support this great cause. I've donated a twenty-five page critique, along with a signed book.

Blog Tour

Monday, October 4, 2010

This Week In Revision: The End

I'm done. I hit send & now the manuscript is with my agent. I thought about writing a post on what I do at the end of revisions--it involves list making and obsessive double-and-triple-checking. And, maybe, I'll do that someday, but right now I'm still celebrating!

And that's really my number one End of Revision Tip. Do something nice for yourself. I got a massage.

And then I hosted a cupcake party for my daughters. I've been pretty preoccupied for the past several weeks, sneaking away from home on the weekends to work on revisions. So that's my second tip: do something nice for the people who've supported you (or is tolerated the better word?).

Celebrate your accomplishments--even the small stuff--finishing a draft, reaching a nice fat word count, a personal rejection letter... You work hard and deserve a treat!