Thursday, May 31, 2012

Book Expo and other Thursday Stuff

So the thing about Monday holidays is that suddenly it's Thursday and it still feels like Wednesday. And because I'm going to NYC for BEA next week this is making me panic in both small and huge ways. I love New York. But this is Book Expo of America. A really huge show with amazingly famous people at my elbows 24-7. A guppy in an ocean, that will be me. Half a guppy maybe. But nonetheless, I will be at

the Soho Press booth, 3949, on Wed. 6/6, signing arcs of THE SWEET DEAD LIFE from 10:30-11.
Also hanging out with editor Daniel Ehrenhaft and the Soho crew who have all been so nice to me that I wish I could buy them all ponies. And rainbows. And unicorns.

And then doing other things that I will report on once I have done them. Even a party or two thrown in for good measure, which (see above) makes me panic in both small and huge ways.

If you're there, say hi. Come to the signing. I'll even give you a bookmark for ANASTASIA FOREVER,  and you can zip over to the Sourcebooks booth 4112 and tell them that you are dying to read that too! Maybe get on the Net Galley list or something. Tell them how much you adore the series and how thrilled you are that August 7th is almost here!

Beyond that I'm writing away. Proposals and such and book ideas that I hope will become books.

And reading WHITE CAT by Holly Black, the first in the Curse Workers series. It's been out for awhile but I hadn't gotten to it yet but now that I have, I am blown freaking away by it. Holly Black is the queen of world building. She achieves it so seamlessly. You're reading along and realizing in this organic way that everyone in the society she's created is aware that there are curse workers among them. They've developed knowledge and protection and ways of identifying and it's this gritty organized crime sort of scenario that's simply in the world of the book. Later, various characters provide further history, again in mostly seamless, organic ways. But it works so well. Brilliant and fun urban fantasy noir mystery that I cannot get enough of.

What are you reading?
Let me know!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In Which I Get to Show THE SWEET DEAD LIFE

The interesting thing about having a book that's not coming out until May 2013 is that you know all sorts of cool things about it, but you really can't quite tell people yet. And that's how it's been with the book I've written for the new SOHO TEEN imprint of Soho Press.

But since I'm going to be going to Book Expo of America soon, and signing advanced reading copies on 6/6 from 10:30 - 11,  Editor Dan has given me the okay to show you the cover!! And give you a little tease about what's inside. (Some of you got SOHO TEEN samplers back at ALAMW and some of you have gone to and clicked on the sampler, so you've seen an early incarnation. But now I'm getting to show you the real thing and I couldn't be more proud and excited and thrilled to be working with SOHO PRESS.

Drumroll please!

“I found out two things today. One, I think I’m dying. And two, my brother is a perv.”

So begins the diary of 14-year-old Jenna Samuels, who is having a very
bad eighth-grade year. Her single mother spends all day in bed. Dad
vanished when she was eight. Her 16-year-old brother, Casey, tries to
hold together what’s left of the family by working two after-school jobs—
difficult, as he’s stoned all the time. To make matters worse, Jenna is sick.
When she collapses one day, Casey tries to race her to the hospital in
their beat-up Prius and crashes instead.

Jenna wakes up in the ER to find Casey beside her. Beatified. Literally.
The flab and zits? Gone. Before long, Jenna figures out that Casey didn’t
survive the accident at all. He’s an “A-word.” (She can’t bring herself to
utter the truth.) Soon they discover that Jenna isn’t just dying: she’s being
poisoned. And Casey has been sent back to help solve the mystery that
not only holds the key to her survival, but also to their mother’s mysterious
depression and father’s disappearance.

Monday, May 21, 2012

And the Winner is

And the winner of Geoff Herbach's Super Pack/Why Funny giveaway is CHRISTINA, who commented:
I totally support the use of humor as a defense mechanism. Life isn't unrelentingly depressing. There are moments of humor if you look for them. Joss Whedon certainly knows that.

Funny makes the heartbreak easier to get through, and the juxtaposition can really help you recall the book.
Christina -- please email me your mailing info so Geoff can send you:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

In Which Geoff Herbach Guest Posts about Why Funny?

Last month I had the pleasure to meet fellow Sourcebooks author Geoff Herbach at TLA. First I sat across from him at a very long table at a Mexican restaurant in downtown Houston at a wonderful blogger/author dinner arranged by fabulous Texas blogger/social media goddess, Maria Cari Soto.
Here we all are. That's Herbach, poking his head out three down on the right.
Then, I got to watch him sign his new book NOTHING SPECIAL, which is the sequel to last year's STUPID FAST. Here's Geoff signing: (or at least flipping through his own book)
Geoff's books are both funny and serious and it's that combination of humor and angst that makes me love his writing. (you'll understand this more in a minute when you get to his guest post) I'm a fan of humor under pressure and that's why I like Herbach: he knows that life sometimes sucks donkey balls and that all we can do really is laugh our way through. (see my posts from 2010 about thyroid cancer and going radioactive. Cause yeah. Getting super spider powers was kinda cool)

Here is what STUPID FAST looks like:
And here is what NOTHING SPECIAL looks like:
Both are about Felton Reinstein, a very fast runner/cool dude whose life is funny/tragic/funny. Felton's boy voice is pitch perfect and if you haven't read these books, get thee to your favorite bookstore/virtual store now! AND YOU WILL HAVE A CHANCE TO WIN THEM BELOW!!

NOTHING SPECIAL is described on Goodreads like this:
Felton Reinstein thought he had it all-a great girlfriend, an athletic scholarship in the bag, and football friends he could totally count on. Wrong Like an elephant storming a house of cards, it all comes crashing down. And it's Felton's fault. Turns out his little brother has taken an impromptu road trip to Florida (aka desperate flight from all the talented people) to make a bid for stardom (aka fronting a hotel rock band with escapees from a retirement community). What's a big brother to do but help pick up the pieces, even if it means giving up all the status, all the glory and once again facing a life of nothing special.

Anyway, Geoff stopped by today today to talk about Why Funny?
This is what Geoff looks like when he's not eating his weight in chips and salsa (seriously, the dude was crazy about the salsa. Almost nipped my hand off when I tried to dip a chip)
And now here's the man himself, Geoff Herbach of the great state of Minnesota, with his guest post. Enjoy! 
Why Funny?

By Geoff Herbach

I can’t help it.  When I write, I make jokes.  Sometimes the jokes are at weird moments, when things are going very badly my characters.  When I was a kid and got in trouble, I’d always make jokes.  I giggled when getting yelled at.  I’m not sorry.

The worst thing I can hear as a writer (and believe me, I’ve heard it): You shouldn’t be funny.  This is serious material.

It sort of sounds to me like: You shouldn’t be here.  Life is serious.

Hey, I know it’s serious.  I know people struggle (I struggle).  I know terrible things happen (I’ve seen some terrible, sad stuff).  Life is hard.

Humor is my best defense mechanism.  For my characters, it’s sometimes all they’ve got, the ability to laugh.

My father was born in 1940 in Antwerp, Belgium.  He was Jewish.  A couple of months after he was born, the Nazis swept into the country.  My grandmother watched the air battle over Dunkirk as the family fled by car south, into France and eventually to Portugal, where they were lucky to catch a ship to Brazil.

So many of their friends and relatives died.  And, yet, my father and grandmother were two of the funniest people you could ever meet. 

My dad’s favorite joke began with: Did you hear about the guy with the glass ass?  It ended with: Everyone has a glass ass (everyone has their own trouble).  In between the story of the guy with the glass ass is beautiful and hilarious.

I’m writing a three book series about a kid, Felton, and his little brother, Andrew.  Their dad committed suicide.  Their mom has gone fairly crazy (for obvious reasons).  They’re both messed up in their own way (glass asses). They’re left to make sense of the world.  Felton, really, is only happy when he is 1) running, or 2) making jokes.  He knows he can’t run forever.  Funny doesn’t leave.  Jokes take the edge off.  Jokes give him distance from the pain, perspective, so he can find his way through. 

I think authors use what they’ve got.  I do want to explore serious issues.  I don’t want to write a bunch of underpants jokes that go nowhere, lead to nothing but a laugh.  I do want to write underpants jokes, though.  I naturally write underpants jokes.  The ability to make jokes about tough content provides an opening, a perspective, a space to breathe, so I can talk about this stuff as honestly as possible. 

My hope, of course, is that the humor works the same way for the reader.  The funny stuff is sugar that coats the harder notions, the bitter pill.  My hope is that readers who have no desire to think about the hard stuff, will read for laughs and find the serious stuff inside engaging.  My hope is that opening with a joke gives the reader space to breathe, perspective, an ability to empathize with the characters when things are tough.

That’s my hope.

And for me?  I need funny.  I have a glass ass, like you.  I need a little sugar so I can breathe for a second then deal with it.
Glass asses. We all have 'em. And no one explains it like Herbach!

Sure you do!
Just comment on this blog and give Herbach some love. Do you also use humor in painful situations? Let him know and we'll put you in the giveaway hat!

Giveaway lasts through Sunday night, 5/20. Winner announced Monday 5/21.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Save the Cat and other Wednesday Stuff

Revisions are sometimes endless journeys for me. Occasionally, everything works just right and I know my characters inside and out and okay yeah, sometimes I have to cut an extra character who although funny and sweet seems to have no actual purpose in the novel. But it  works.

And then sometimes, it's sort of working and there are all the right scenes but there's just something...

Been reading Save the Cat. It's aimed toward screen writing but story telling advice is story telling advice and besides, I'm going on the BEST WRITER RETREAT EVER next month and we all promised to read it, so even though I was already reading I'm even more excited about the whole thing.

Blake Synder really breaks it down. Why movies work and why they don't. Why even your hero needs to do something small and winning right at the beginning so that the audience will root for her/him and, in my case, allow her to whine a little along the way because they know from the get go that she 'saved the cat' so even if she's a user now and then she is REDEEMABLE and WORTHY of the JOURNEY.

And that every damn scene better have conflict and an emotional character arc.
Which I already knew.
But sometimes you need reminding.

Otherwise, you have conversations with your agent (who even as I type this is typing up her new revision notes, which I think will be it but you just never know) that sound a lot like this:

Cowgirl Jen: Not working for me.
Me; What?
Cowgirl Jen: The so what. It's not so- what-ing enough.
Me: Oh but it is.
Cowgirl Jen: Nope.
Me: Crap.
Cowgirl Jen: Get at it. There's a lot riding on this.
Me: Is that a cowgirl pun?
Cowgirl Jen: *makes face over the internets*
Me: *makes face back*
Cowgirl Jen: I saw that.
Me: But
Cowgirl Jen: What does your hero want? What does she really really want?
Me: Are you singing?
Cowgirl Jen:  *manages to kick me over the interwebs*
Me: Wahhhhh!!!
Cowgirl Jen: I did fall in love with her romantic interest though. I luuuuurve him. You've got that just right. 
Me: yay?
Cowgirl Jen: Here are my notes. Get to work. Hurry. The clock is ticking.

And on like that.
Nora Roberts has written like what? 200 books?
I prefer writing one book on repeat.... like Groundhog Day only without Bill Murray.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Toughing it out Tuesday

  • Still revising the romantic comedy. 
  • Feeling like I'll be typing this next Tuesday as well.
  • The dog has fleas. I have done everything I'm supposed to do. The dog still has fleas.
  • This makes me itch.
  • The AC/Heater guy was just here doing something called, "Lifting and pinning the duct work" It seems to make the AC flow better upstairs. Then he told me that out in Montgomery where he lives, they have a tarantula issue. And that he was mowing the grass the other day and saw 15 tarantulas migrating across his yard. In a herd.
  • This makes me itch.
  • Some people are better than others at returning emails. Just saying.
  • I need to get better at letting. shit. go.
  • Maybe even though I didn't teach this year, I'm still having the May "Let me out of here" syndrome.
  • Back to revising. 
  • Cause I really really love this book.
  • And did I tell you that I'm going to be in an anthology? It's called Who Done It and it's coming out in February 2013 from Soho Press, proceeds benefitting 826nyc. And even though (see above) I am angsty and itchy about all of the above, I am thrilled at the classy author company that I get to keep in this book! My name is in the table of contents with a lot of really really fancy names of really really famous people. People I adore. Who let me play with them -- or at least play near them.  So yeah, maybe they're all on the jungle gym and I'm on the swing nearby, but still. In the same playground. Me!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The ANASTASIA FOREVER cover final tweaks

I am in LOVE with the final tweaks on the ANASTASIA FOREVER cover that Sourcebooks just sent to me. Some gold tones,  a moved tag line, everything all bright and shiny and still that gorgeous red. Getting ready for August 1!  Let me know what you think!

Friday, May 11, 2012

And the Winner Is...

And Lyla the wonder dog is here this morning to present the ANASTASIA FOREVER arc to one lucky winner!

Here's what she had to say:

Me: What did you think of all the giveaway entries?
Lyla: Wow! Four paws up! Those answers about mermaid vs. witch? They all deserve to win. Or they all deserve a Milkbone.
Me: Fabulous! So who did you pick?
Lyla: Well, it wasn't me, remember. All entries go into the contest hat. I picked the winner with one of my huge Basset paws.
Me: You really do have big feet.
Lyla: No need to get insulting! That's why everyone thinks I'm still a puppy. Which is lucky, since I still act like one.
Me: So who? Who?
Lyla: Are you an owl?
Me: The winner?
Lyla: The winner is Tayler Clements!!! CONGRATS!! She needs to email you at joypreble at gmail dot com

And if you didn't win, I am going to convince Joy to give away another arc next month! (or possibly an arc of THE SWEET DEAD LIFE while she's at it)

Here's what Tayler had to say:

Anonymous Tayler Clements said...
I would pick the rusalka. They are like sirens and no one can resist their lure. The witch however can be defied, it'd be difficult yes, but not impossible. And if the witch and rusalka battled? The rusalka would have to win, they are just too determined to lose!! I mean really, they get what they want no matter the costs. Plus, if it was one against Baba? She could just call for her sisters to come help, who'll help Baba Yaga? So yeah. I'm for the evil-ish mermaids all the way. I can't wait to see what happens in Anastasia Forever....wait, will there be a witch/mermaid "smack down?" Because that'd be quite entertaining to read about :)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What are you reading?

Nice kid lit event Tuesday night at Murder by the Book, one of our beautiful Houston indies -- this one dedicated as the name would suggest, to crime and mystery. My friend Mary Lindsey (Shattered Souls, Penguin) and blogger Maria Cari Soto (who is also the social media guru for my other favorite indie, Blue Willow) and John Kwiatkowski, the  publicity manager at MBTB chatted about everything from ebooks to the next trends in YA and MG. An hour talking books with people who love books. Heaven.

I'm a scattered reader these days -- a bunch of books going in both physical form or on my Kindle.  Picked up so many arcs at TLA that I don't know if I'll get through them any time soon, but that's what summer is for, right? Right now I'm starting Dairy Queen and loving it. I lapped up Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Studied the mystery structure of Megan Miranda's debut Fractured. And can hardly wait to dig into Insurgent. I am anxious to read Geoff Herbach's sequel to Stupid Fast, Nothing Special, which just came out. (Geoff will be guesting on this blog very soon, btw) Am also reading Save the Cat, which I'll talk about at a later date -- about plotting screen plays, but everyone's finding it applicable to writing novels and I agree. It's already been a nice revelation and I'm glad for it! And I've started reading Cara Black's mysteries set in Paris. She's a Soho Press writer I had the privilege of meeting when we launched Soho Teen at ALAMW and I'm already in love with her female detective and the Parisian setting. I read so much YA that it's nice to read an 'adult' mystery, too. Oh, and Grave Mercy by RL LaFevers. I snagged that at TLA, too, and can hardly wait to dig in.

How about you?

What are you reading right now?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wanna win an arc of ANASTASIA FOREVER?

As I mentioned yesterday, if you were at TLA you had a chance to get an advanced reading copy of ANASTASIA FOREVER, book 3 of the DREAMING ANASTASIA series, which is coming out on August 1, 2012 from Sourcebooks. But if you weren't, you're probably pretty sad about that! (go ahead - make your sad face) Publishers tend to make a limited amount of arcs and so these suckers can get pretty sparse.

But no worries, my reader minions! I am giving you an opportunity to win one today - and you don't even have to leave your house/school/office! Yup! You win it and I send it to you. Easy peasy.

So what do you have to do to win one of these pretty, pretty books that let you know how the story ends way before everybody else?

Here's what to do:
ANASTASIA FOREVER not only continues Anne and Ethan's love story, it also has both a witch (the infamous Russian witch Baba Yaga) and a rusalka, a malevolent and cursed Russian mermaid who was introduced in HAUNTED.

If you want to be in the contest hat for the ANASTASIA FOREVER arc, comment on this blog, and choose one - witch or mermaid and why? If you had to pick between these two fairy tale characters, which one would you pick? Who would win in a witch/mermaid smack down? Why?
Include where you can be reached if you win.
Giveaway will continue until Thursday May 10 at 11:59 PM and I will announce the winner on Friday May 11!

May the witchy/mermaid odds be ever in your favor!

Monday, May 7, 2012

In Which I Realize Interesting Connections

Well, ANASTASIA FOREVER arcs have been seeping into the world since TLA. But not everyone got to go to TLA. So tomorrow, I'll be doing a giveaway of an advanced reading copy, so spread the word! I can hardly believe that it's now less than three months until the book is finally here on August 1st.

In other news, here's something I realized the other day: I am currently writing books for both Sourcebooks and Soho Press. Both of my publishers are strong, creative women. Dominique Raccah at Sourcebooks is a keen analyst of publishing and the move to digital.  Bronwen Hruska, my delightful and brilliant publisher at Soho Press was recently lauded in Publisher's Weekly for her own keen eye since taking the helm in 2010. Two independent houses. Both run by women. Both allowing me to write stories with strong female characters.

At both houses, my publicists are from Houston (where I live) but now live and work in NYC. Pretty cool, huh?

I love those moments when some weird and interesting synchronicity occurs. Here's another one: when I graduated from Northwestern, my first job teaching English was at a high school in Naperville, IL. Fast forward a few years and there I was again, with Sourcebooks, a publisher located in Naperville, IL, now offering to publish my first book. The odds seem astronomical, but there you go.

This happens to me frequently, actually. I'll meet someone and realize some strange connection, some person or event or place we have in common that seems surfacely impossible and yet...

How about you? Any moments of synchronicity in your world?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Five for Friday

1. And the great landscaping project of 2012 is complete. I have a backyard again!.... which the dog can't run around for two solid weeks until the grass sets. Okay then.

2. About to work on the script for the ANASTASIA FOREVER book trailer that the fabulous Marianne Nowicki will be creating for me. Good way to spend a Friday morning!

3. And speaking of August's new book, I'll be doing a giveaway of an arc of ANASTASIA FOREVER next week! So stay tuned!

4. Am finishing Megan Miranda's Fractured, which has such  lovely style and such a gripping plot about a girl who falls under the ice, dies, and is revived after being underwater for eleven minutes.... and what happens after that. Lots of twists and turns in this one.

5. And mostly, I'm thinking about how fabulous book blogger Maria Cari Sotos (Cari's Book Blog) is. She volunteered to give my blog a facelift and wow!! She did a fabulous job, don't you think? THANK YOU, Mari Cari Soto! That's me and Maria at TLA, below!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

All Shiny and New

Starting a new novel this week -- a mystery/thriller/romance I do believe, although sometimes the plan isn't what ends up on the page. I'm in that happy first date phase right now. We're getting to know each other, these new characters and I. Already I've discovered quirks and desires in them that I had no idea existed when I first sent my agent a basic thumbnail sketch of what I had in mind and she said, "go for it." One is funnier, one has deeper secrets, and they have told me (yes, they seem to do that) about their family and their childhood and a trip to the circus, which I totally wasn't expecting. Usually, I flesh out the mc first. But her sister spoke louder and the mc is the younger one and so I let the sister tell me stuff and it informed what the mc told me after that.

That was yesterday. Today I'm plotting and character developing some more and in the spirit of fresh starts, supervising (translate: watching out the window) as a crew digs up my back yard to make it all shiny and new, too. Drainage issues and a tree that we loved but whose roots had come up so much during our ongoing drought that it had to go because the yard had become an undraining swamp in spots, which is not what you want a yard to be. So... a drain and new grass and new shrubs and ground cover and then I said, "Oh what the heck. Fix the front, too."

Because home ownership = Money Pit. Did you ever see that movie? My husband can't even watch it because he sees it as a documentary. It is a phobia that has transferred to me and so I won't even post a clip for you, although I almost did.

Even my draft 3 of a book I hope to talk about eventually feels shiny and new because it's with agent Jen so I can imagine that it is totally perfect and she will say: "You know, it was so amazing that I sold it yesterday at auction without even involving you because really, I can say yes to a million dollars as well as you can. Plus they threw in a bag of Dove chocolate. The dark ones with the almonds. And an Sbux card." Even my daydreams are shiny and new today.

It's attitude, folks!

In other news:

Last call for Anastasia Forever Street team members. Email me if you're interested.

Going to be doing a Teen Writer's Workshop next Saturday 5/12 at Barbara Bush Library with the fabulous CC Hunter. 2 PM. Call the library to reserve a spot!

And in July, I'll be teaching workshops in Bay City and Huntsville!
More on all that soon.

And in the most thrilling shiny new news, my friend Lynne Kelly, Houston girl, YAHou, Apocalypsie member, all around talented and fabulous author, has written a phenomenal middle grade debut novel called CHAINED, which is already filtering into the stores but will officially be on the shelves on May 8th. More on that soon too! But here's what Amazon says:
After ten-year-old Hastin’s family borrows money to pay for his sister’s hospital bill, he leaves his village in northern India to take a job as an elephant keeper and work off the debt. He thinks it will be an adventure, but he isn’t prepared for the cruel circus owner. The crowds that come to the circus see a lively animal who plays soccer and balances on milk bottles, but Hastin sees Nandita, a sweet elephant and his best friend, who is chained when she’s not performing and hurt with a hook until she learns tricks perfectly. Hastin protects Nandita as best as he can, knowing that the only way they will both survive is if he can find a way for them to escape.