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.