Friday, June 28, 2013


Batman, age 2.
In the midst of a few hours of desk- and online- cleaning, I discovered half a dozen reflections that never made it from draft to posting. Some were written before I sold my first novel. Before any of my kids had driver's licenses. Back when I was an in-the-trenches mom-with-a-dream, a true writer-on-the-side. Some are kind of cute and fun so, over the course of the summer, I'll share them with you. Here's the first...

Before I drop in my tracks each night, I try to read a few pages of Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. It is a diverting book, both wryly funny and insightful. A good bedtime read for a writer. The problem is that, as with all writing craft books, they are written by people who have, by definition, got book contracts. The result for me—journeywoman writer of marketing materials, jacket copy, and educational books—can be a subtle textual layer of smug, occasional name-dropping self-satisfaction that taints the works’ instructive qualities. Maybe I am simply revealing my exquisitely petty nature, but I am HUGELY JEALOUS that Stephen King plays in an amateur rock band with the likes of Amy Tan and it’s hard to get past this to see what he says about WRITING. All you housewives-and-writers out there will likely point to notable exceptions to the above observation. In particular I must point out Anne Lamott’s beautiful Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. I keep this volume right next to Strunk & White’s Elements of Style and W. Somerset Maugham’s A Writer’s Notebook.

What do the how-to books on your shelves reveal about you, your dreams and the places you’ve been. Who are the heroes whose biographies you keep? What skill or talent do you want to develop? What cosmic notions are you struggling to understand? And how old do your kids have to be before you can tell them to clean their own bathroom? (That's an important question, too, you know!)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

BOOKANISTAS: Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy by Elizabeth Kiem

Plot without spoilers...Rising Bolshoi Ballet star Marina's life is thrown into turmoil when her mother, prima ballerina Sveta, disappears. Believing she is being held captive by the Russian government because she knows military secrets, Marina and her father fear that they, too, are in danger. They gather false documentation and flee to New York. There, Marina struggles to make a new life, gaining admission to the prestigious Julliard School and making friends with the mysterious Ben Frame. Her father scrambles to make a life and earn an income, while trying to figure out a way to rescue Sveta. Past, present, future. Old life, new life. Memories and dreams. Marina struggles to make sense of all of these as she dances through her new world.

Of literary interest...There's some great language in this novel. A few gems...

"It was a cold afternoon, late in the day, clouds overhead like shifting bruises." (p. 77)
"I would like to appear at the party precisely as I see myself in the unlit theater of my windowpane. Silent, graceful, but ultimately not there." (p. 89)
"In Russian, any foreigner is a foreigner and the foreigner and collectively foreign all at the same time. But in America, even foreigners can be individuals. And can make albums that are on the Top Ten charts." (p. 107)

Finally, just gotta say...I'll pretty much pick up any book with a tutu on the cover--that's how this one caught my eye. What I loved once I cracked the cover was how ballet was used as a metaphor but the story was actually one of mystery, Cold War history, with light overtones of psychological thriller. And the very Russian feel of the novel--from its structure to its book design to its language "accents" made it a unique and compelling addition to the "ballet book" genre.

For more Bookanista book suggestions, visit...

Lenore Appelhans is bewitched by CHARM AND STRANGE by Stephanie Kuehn
Shelli Johannes-Wells  gives cover love to FAKING NORMAL
Elana Johnson and Nikki Katz adore THIS IS W.A.R. by Lisa & Laura Roecker
Gretchen McNeil  is wowed by THE WIG IN THE WINDOW by Kristen Kittscher
Katy Upperman praises WORST CASE OF PASKETTI-ITIS by Kris Asselin

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: Two Fall Temptations at the Start of Summer

Just as summer vacation begins, I'm going to give you two great reasons not to be sad for the inevitable return of back-to-school September. (Note: My summaries are distilled from Goodreads synopses). They're both about mystery, identity and the ticking of clocks...

Rachel died at two a.m . . . Three hours after Skyler kissed me for the first time. Forty-five minutes after she sent me her last text. 
That text is Rachel's first clue to her once-best friend Jaycee, who embarks on a search that leads to a shocking secret. Rachel’s death was no random crime, and Jaycee must figure out who to trust before she can expose the truth...
DEAD GIRLS DON'T LIE by Jennifer Shaw Wolf

Josie Byrne's life is spiraling out of control. Her parents are divorcing, her boyfriend Nick has grown distant, and her physics teacher has it in for her. When she's betrayed by the two people she trusts most, Josie thinks things can't get worse. Until she starts having dreams about a girl named Jo. Every night at the same time—3:59 a.m.  3:59 by Gretchen McNeil

Both look like perfect fall reads by a fireside to combat the inevitable eerie shivers!
For more WoW fun, click over to BREAKING THE SPINE, founder of this fabulous midweek meme!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Back-to-Business: TSoLG Winners & Teaching About Writing

Congratulations to the winners of THE SOUND OF LETTING GO cover reveal giveaway! All of the following winners were contacted via email yesterday.

The signed hardcover of AUDITION was won by Vivien
The signed arc of TSoLG was won by Kaitlin

The swag from Elana Johnson, Carrie Harris, Jessi Kirby & Gretchen McNeil was won by Mimi
And, since we had over 2,000 entries, I added 2 extra prize packs (hot-off-the-presses Sound of Letting Go swag ) which were won by Kristia & Debby

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of teaching a workshop to some wonderfully talented teen and adult YA writers. The workshop was called NOVEL SUMMER and we discussed strategies for producing a first-draft manuscript by August 30. Here are some of the "rules" we came up with to avoid self-defeating thoughts and behaviors en route to the finish line!
  1. Don't read yesterday's work.
  2. If you get stuck, allow yourself to "switch brains" by doing research or something else manuscript-related for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Don't fear making choices. If you are uncertain about a setting, a character name, or a plot twist, allow yourself to make a decision (choose a city in which to set the story, for example) and remind yourself you can always change these choices in your next draft.
  4. Learn your writing idiosyncrasies. Do a ten-minute timed write. Note where you pause, put down your pencil. Is it at the six-minute mark? At the nine? Push yourself a couple minutes past the stall. Force yourself to write two more sentences. See if you can stretch that writing muscle. When you master ten, try twelve minutes. And so on.
  5. Incentivize your writing. Look deep in your heart for a reward you can give yourself for a good day, a good week, or a good summer of writing. It doesn't have to be expensive or even tangible. Perhaps you will just allow yourself to have a messy house and not apologize for it. Perhaps you will reconnect with an old friend. If you can afford it, a massage or nice meal isn't bad either!
  6. Don't wait for "inspiration to strike." Acknowledge that bad writing days are still better than non-writing days and just because you don't feel creative all the time doesn't mean you have no future as a writer.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


They say the rains come in April, but this year JUNE seems to be a shower of gorgeous cover reveals (including my own!). Today's is extra special because it celebrates the arrival of a the smart & sassy SALLY SLICK AND THE STEEL SYNDICATE authored by zombie-loving, super-mom, writer-person-of-awesome CARRIE HARRIS, author of BAD TASTE IN BOYS and BAD HAIR DAY.

I had the privilege of doing a bit of beta reading for Ms. Slick and I can assure you that it's a snappy, spryly-plotted, steampunk story packed with humor, an incredible alt-history 1914 Chicago, robots, trains, mobsters and the kind of snark only Carrie can sneak into a high-action adventure. In case you can't quite imagine this, here is the first line of cover copy...
Every hero has a story.
This one starts with a girl and a racing tractor.

I know! Right? So, here's the cover. Perfect, huh? Now GO OVER TO CARRIE'S BLOG and tell her how awesome she is. Or pre-order Sally on AMAZON (it pubs in December).



Bookanistas: Reading, reading, reading...

Sadly, haven't written the reviews but I have a couple of good ones coming. Meanwhile, the other gals of The Bookanistas can certainly help you add to your TO-BE-READ lists this week...

Shari Arnold marvels at THE MOON AND MORE by Saran Dessen
Tracy Banghart is thrilled by 3:59 by Gretchen McNeil
Christine Fonseca shivers over SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi
Carrie Harris and Elana Johnson reveal the cover of SALLY SLICK & THE STEEL SYNDICATE by Carrie Harris
Corrine Jackson is nuts for AU REVOIR, CRAZY EUROPEAN CHICK by Joe Schreiber
Jessica Love joins the BY BLOOD by Tracy Banghart book blitz – with giveaway
Shannon Messenger  raves about JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta
Tracey Neithercott adores THE ARCHIVED by Victoria Schwab
Kimberly Sabatini is touched by OUT OF REACH by Carrie Arcos
Katy Upperman gushes over THE GIRL GUIDE by Christine Fonseca


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Melissa Etheridge, Angelina Jolie and other things I shouldn't talk about...

So, it's been a crazy few weeks. My eldest graduated high school and got a new girlfriend. My
youngest finished first grade. My middle two are performing, partying and adjusting to summer. And me...?

Well, I've been dealing with some health stuff. It's all good and I'm fine but it's been one of those "biopsy springs." TMI?  Probably. And I'm generally the kind of blogger who doesn't get personal, talk politics or badmouth anybody. But it's interesting what a few weeks of fear-of-mortality will do for one's attitude.

With no further ado, a few opinions I've been swallowing...

1. Removal of body parts. Recently, rocker and breast cancer survivor Melissa Etheridge weighed in on Angelina Jolie's dramatic health decision, suggesting that she was "fearful" and that many people with the dangerous gene just try to "not stress" and it all works out. So, um, first, it ain't Ms. Etheridge's business. And, second, after having gone through the "tests" process more than once, I am not certain that every person could live with the uncertainty Ms. Jolie faces and "not stress" for the rest of her life. Even if the outcomes have been, like mine, unpleasant but benign. (Rhyming is sometimes impossible to resist.) Should Angelina have told the world about her choice? Her body, her bully pulpit, so fine by me. I just don't really think outsiders should judge. Even if they do still blame her for breaking up Brad and Jen. ALSO, that line between what uncertainty we can survive and what can break us is THE STUFF OF NOVELS--it's the space in which we writers create. So, yeah, think about it!

2. Goodreads. So, I could pretend to be all Melissa-Etheridge-zen about this but, yeah, I look at my ratings (and kudos to those of you who manage not to). And yeah, I know they're pretty much baloney and some people love the power of giving one star to stuff and other people just give five stars to everything (which is fine with me because, while not particularly useful, it is does not seem malicious). HOWEVER, for some reason (and again, I've had a rough spring), I got kind of pissed yesterday when I saw a 4-star rating for my new book. WHY? Because there is no way this international blogger could have gotten her hands on a copy. The arcs are NOT PRINTED YET. And a four seemed weird. I guess she didn't think it was a five-star title? Whatever. Honestly, I think such weird random ratings devalue Goodreads (a site I truly enjoy) even more than whatever Amazon plans to do with it. ALSO, would it be so hard for people to have the minimal honor system of at least not RATING a book without reading it? I mean, fine, vote for it on lists, mark as to-read, leave a comment, but RATING without reading? SO. VERY. LAME.

3. My kitchen. I am EXTREMELY JAZZED by the new tile in my kitchen. Here's a picture. Look closely. See the bunnies and turtles? They're scattered all along the walls. My 12yo loves turtles; my 7yo loves bunnies; and I love the two of them. My kitchen tells you so. You should see the rest of my house ;)


1. Have I deeply offended you? Shocked you? Surprised you?
2. How do you feel about Goodreads?
3. Do you like my new tile?

Back to nice-girl tomorrow. I think. Well, maybe...

Monday, June 17, 2013

BY BLOOD cover love!

Joining the fun in celebrating the cover of Tracy E. Banghart's
Look at the spectacular wrap (front-and-back) art
and don't even try to tell me it's not gorgeous!

Find Tracy in the cyberverse at...Goodreads, Amazon, Facebook and (my favorite) Twitter

I know you want to win your very own copy of BY BLOOD, a paranormal YA set in sexy Oxford, England, with cute boys, annoying stepparents and some very cool outfits! So, go on and enter the giveaway HERE!

In her bio, Tracy admits to being "a cheesy movie–loving, fantasy football–playing (go Ravens!), globe-trotting Army wife who began “practicing” her craft at the age of five, when she wrote her first story. She loves visiting the international friends she met while pursuing her MA in Publishing and spends a portion of every summer at her family’s cabin in Canada, where she finds inspiration and lots of time to relax on the dock. She lives with her husband, son, two lazy dogs and one ornery cat. When not writing or spending time with her family, she is on a mission to bake the perfect cupcake."
But if I were writing her bio, I'd add that she's an awesome champion of YA lit and a woman of boundless determination and energy. In sum, she's a true writer-person and I am so thrilled to have gotten to know her better as a fellow Bookanista!

Back to Business: The Cover Reveal Story & a Question

So, here's a funny story. After weeks of back-and-forth with my exceedingly patient editor, we finally settled on a cover--and not a moment too soon. The galleys needed to be printed. The Penguin Winter 2014 catalog was being designed. Translation: We were under the wire.

What I didn't know last Monday was that the cover was slated to go up on Amazon at the end of the week.

(Interesting factoid: They give you a multi-day window during which the cover will go online so, though it could have been as early as Thursday, might not be up until today.) Next translation: No time to have any fun with the cover reveal...or was there?

In a panic, I emailed a few close writer friends who in no time put together a fun plan, donated awesome swag and, come Thursday morning, the interwebs were plastered with THE SOUND OF LETTING GO. More than amazed and delighted, I was so very deeply touched by the support of my friends--and of the entire book-loving internet community. Third translation: I've teared up quite often these last few days.

This morning, I felt a sudden pressure to write an amazing blog post for all my new followers and friends of TSoLG. But the only words I really want to say today are...THANK YOU.

Final translation: Everyone reading this post today is awesome and wonderful and amazing. My gratitude is boundless. My heart is full.

NOW, THE QUESTION. And it's a BIG one (okay, more than one):
  • What does is mean to be a writer-blogger today versus when I began in 2007 (here are my first two posts) before the economic debacle of 2008...before the implosion of Borders and before the explosion of self-publishing?
  • What does it mean to be a midlist writer (like me) who doesn't get a huge publicity/marketing budget from her traditional publisher and who is also an avid Tweeter/Blogger with awesome friends in these online book worlds?
  • In the wake of all this cover-love gratitude, how can I pay it forward and remain true to my own book and business aesthetics?
  • Are there changes to be made?
Please share your thoughts by commenting on this post and I'll include some of your insights in a"trying to answer some big questions" post next Monday. Meanwhile. Again. Thank you!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

THE SOUND OF LETTING GO has a cover! Plus prizes & Bookanista fun!


But, before I post that picture, I have to send HUGE THANKS OF THANKFULNESS (yeah, that's quality writing) to the AMAZING Elana Johnson who put together all the cover-reveal celebration happening around the interwebs today. She is incredible, a true writer's writer and supporter of everything book. Go over to HER BLOG today and send her shiny comments of awesome. And now, without further ado, here it is...

Oooh, pretty. And left-aligned, like the verses inside. Speaking of which, here's a tiny taste of what's between the covers...

My mother keeps things organized.
Our lives in labeled albums,
Our showpiece house in designer paint colors
Vacuumed, swept, so pretty that if you just looked
You might want to come inside.
But if you listened,
You’d hear another story:
Incomprehensible wailing,
Shouting, urgent phone calls,
Crying You'd want to ask if a monster
Lived in our house.
I am not sure how I'd answer.
WANNA WIN AN ARC?  Or an SWAG PRIZE OF AWESOME from Elana, Gretchen McNeil, Carrie Harris & Jessi Kirby?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Need MORE book love today? Visit some more Bookanistas!

Lenore Appelhans  wonders at ALL YOU NEVER WANTED by Adele Griffin
Shari Arnold loves SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL by Trish Doller

Tracy Banghart embraces IMPOSTOR by Susanne Winnacker
Shelli Johannes-Wells  delights in Cory Doctorow’s LITTLE BROTHER and HOMELAND

Nikki Katz gets the shivers for 3:59 by Gretchen McNeil
Carolina Valdez Miller sings out for the cover of THE SOUND OF LETTING GO
Jessica Love raves about ROAD TO TATER HILL by Edith M. Hemingway
Katy Upperman celebrates THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY by Katja Millay

Monday, June 10, 2013


Three big series are concluding this year. Three best-selling series by amazing women. And I have only read the first book of one of them, Lauren Oliver's DELERIUM (which I LOVED, btw). Sigh. This is one of those astonishing gaps in my reader-education.  Here are the series...

How lame am I? Do you worry about any holes in your reading experience? What must-read series have you missed? Anybody out there still a Harry Potter naif? Or a Hunger Games newbie?

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Yes, I am late to the party for Stephen Chbosky's spectacular novel, originally published in 1999. Okay, very late. I can vividly remember conversations with writers, bloggers and others who, tears-in-eyes talked about the beauty and power of this book. But somehow, it never reached the top of my tbr list. Then, last month, I bought the book-on-CD for a long road trip. I was driving in the car with an 18yo, a 12 yo and a 7yo. Oops. Just a few chapters in, off went THE PERKS and on went the show tunes. But I was already hooked and could not wait to get home and start listening on my loops HOME after dropping the younger kids at school, or driving to my exercise classes. Heck, I'll admit it, I spent more than one half-hour in the grocery store parking lot just listening.

It is a gorgeous book. The format, an epistolary novel with each letter addressed to "Dear Friend," draws you in, and keeps you wondering to whom these heart-wrenching and powerfully honest disclosures are being made. The main character, Charlie, is so relatable because, even though everyone is not a wallflower, everyone has experienced, like Charlie, horrific moments of loneliness and joyous moments of feeling connected to others--feeling "infinite."

I don't listen to a lot of books on CD but this one worked wonderfully because of its letter format. It made perfect sense to be narrated in one voice and I thought the young actor reading the book did an excellent job.

This is one of those books I'm just going to tell you to read--or listen to. And please don't wait as long as I did.

For more Bookanista book love hop along...

Carolina Valdez Miller celebrates 17 & GONE by Nova Ren Suma
Carrie Harris awakens you to INSOMNIA by Jenn Johansson…with giveaway
Christine Fonseca praises THE PLEDGE by Kimberly Derting
Corrine Jackson is wild for WHEN IT HAPPENS by  Susane Colasanti
Elana Johson invites you to her ABANDON release par-tay!
Katy Upperman is bewitched by NANTUCKET BLUE by Leila Howland
Lenore Appelhans  swoons for STAR CURSED by Jessica Spotswood…with an annotated snippet
Tracey Neithercott  highlights WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE by Trish Doller
Tracy Banghart  raves over JUMP WHEN READY by David Pandolfe

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: THIS IS W.A.R. by Lisa & Laura Roecker

BREAKING THE SPINE’s fabulous midweek meme helps readers learn about great books to add to their tbr lists. Here’s my pick this week…


Why?... Two words: LIAR. SOCIETY.  Love that smart 'n' snarky prep school-set series. Now, the spectacular sister-writers sometimes known as LiLa have written a darker, slightly higher YA novel with the same intense energy and intelligently woven mystery that made their debut series such a smash.

Preorder at AMAZON.

What are you waiting on this week?





Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Happy Book Birthday to ABANDON by Elana Johnson!

Writer-blogger extraordinaire Elana Johnson celebrates the publication of the final installment of her Possession trilogy today.

You can find the book at all the usual places...Barnes & Noble, IndieBound and Amazon

If you want a little catch-up on the series, here's my review of Surrender, the second book in the series.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Back to Business: Marketing and...MATH!

Over the last few weeks, we have defined the term "marketing plan" and worked to identify our "ideal readers" and other features of our market. We talked about sharing this information with our editor (or agent or whatever).  Here are a few more things an author should consider before picking up the phone. EACH OF THESE IS A QUESTION FOR YOUR EDITOR but YOU SHOULD HAVE AN OPINION BEFORE YOU ASK IT...

1. Ask yourself how many copies of your book YOU want to sell. No, not one million. How many do you feel you can realistically hope for? This may be different than the first print run. This is something you should also discuss with agent/editor, too, unpleasant as it may seem because HAVING A SALES GOAL is helpful for your marketing plan. AND it helps, as you work through the remaining steps below to ask yourself if the elements of your marketing plan will HELP THE SALES TEAMS and are worth the effort in terms of reaching your goal.

2. Given what your publisher's marketing plan offers to do, make a list of questions as to how these bullet points will be implemented. For example, how many arcs are being distributed, where and how? Will you be allowed to attend any events at which arcs are being displayed? Do you have an opinion about how many arcs should be sent to bloggers and other reviewers? Do you have a list of bloggers you'd specifically like to receive an arc and how can this be implemented. Can you write a personal letter to go with the arcs?

3. What will you offer to do? Are there cities/towns you can visit inexpensively (staying with family or friends) to promote your book? If you can get there, can your publicist help connect you with bookstores, libraries, media outlets? Will you be doing giveaways (possible goodwill giveaways, such as query critiques or virtual school visits (on Skype)) and, if so, can your publisher post this information on their FB, Twitter, etc.? Do you have any special plans related to your non-writer life that can also be considered marketing for your book?

Don't just ask questions. Provide feedback, answers and ideas of your own. In these very challenging times in the publishing world, it is incredibly valuable and helpful to your editor and house if you are the kind of author who proves they want to meet the efforts of their publisher and take them further than either of you could do alone.

FINALLY, BEFORE YOU PICK UP THAT PHONE, realize that nothing is really free. Every minute you spend marketing your book is time you are not writing the next one. And producing good work is really the key to a long, fruitful writing career. So, once you've made your lists of questions, ideas, clarifications, and OFFERS OF STUFF YOU'LL DO, take a long look and make sure you have the time and energy and that you have a clear expectation of what each effort will yield, be it sales or the opportunity to meet librarians and educators, or a chance to see long-lost cousins, or maybe a bit of a smorgasbord. Draw a line through at least two ideas that are just too much work.

THEN...MAKE THE CALL! (Let me know how it goes if you want!)