Monday, August 27, 2012

Day 1 of Year 2 of Writing Full Time and Other Monday Stuff

If I were still teaching full time, today I would already be at school. I would have slept fitfully and I would be full of the excitement and nerves of the first day. Some kid in homeroom would have already bitched me out over something that I couldn't control. Like why we had to stay in homeroom for 3 hours on the first day. Or that he hated the dress code. Or was awake at 7 AM.

 Instead I am where I normally am these days: at my desk with the laptop getting ready to work.

I will write 1-2k on the WIP. I'll put the finishing touches on the ppt. I'm doing at East Texas Book Fest. I'll organize some tax stuff and walk the dog and get to the gym later and cook dinner and write some more and watch Grimm and my latest Bravo guilty pleasure, Gallery Girls, which is what you get if The Hills meets Mean Girls with art and cocktails. It is so hipster horrible and so deliciously addictive  and there's this street map of NYC they put up every time they change POV's to another girl so you now where everybody is. Plus a slimy gallery owner named Eli and rooms full of people who are so entitled feeing that it makes my jaw drop. I know I was full of myself at 22. I really was. (except when I got stuck coaching JV girl's volleyball.) But this is... well you have to watch for yourself. Or as more than one reviewer has commented: "Chantal is what is you get is Mary Kate Olsen fell into a Tim Burton film."

But to the point, what I won't be doing is trying to juggle 175 students and the endless paper grading and the increasingly crazy demands of the public school system. At least not this year.

So I guess i better get to work so I can keep it that way and have so exciting things to announce to you soon. Do I have exciting things coming up? Possibly I do.

Had a great signing at Deerbrook Barnes and Noble this weekend and so if you came out for that, thank you and I enjoyed meeting you. Or seeing you again, such as my former exchange student from Bulgaria, who stopped by with his mom, fresh from a summer in Europe!

WINNER of the arc of THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY by the delightfully and fiercely talented Nikki Loftin is McCourt Thomas. Why? Because she said her children would 'devour' it and if you read the book you'll know why this is really clever even if she maybe didn't know she was being that clever or maybe she did. Anyway -- McCourt-- I'll get that arc to you!

Oh and if you haven't seen the new SOHO TEEN TRAILER please look at the top of the blog and click over to it! You will love, love, love. I am so thrilled to be working with Soho Press.

Til next time..

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Photo Essay: Where in World Has Joy Preble Been Lately?

ANASTASIA FOREVER book launch at Blue Willow Books
(my street team, plus librarians and bloggers and Blue Willow's social media guru
Maria Cari Soto, 3rd from left, and author Chris Mandelski in the yellow)
ANASTASIA FOREVER book launch at Blue Willow Books
SCBWI LA: Christina Diaz Gonzalez, super agent Jen rofe, me , Barry Wolverton,
and Katherine Fitzmaurice photo-bombing cause she's tall!

SCBWI LA: Ann Leal (in tall shoes!) and me, switching books

At SCBWI LA: Class of 2k9 Reunion
(me, Ann Leal, Lauren Strasnick, Suzanne Morgan Williams, Katherine Fitzmaurice)
Yeah! That's me and the Fonz-- aka Henry Winkler
And the left over stick on smiley face tat on my arm from the Hippie Hop party
adds a little something...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


It's a fabulous title, yes? All dark and deliciously grim and humorous but not? THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY debuts today from my Austin friend, the delightful and whip-smart Nikki Loftin.

Nikki has an amazing way with words and characters and in her MG debut novel she turns any number of fairy tales inside out and back again, including but not limited to the Russian fairy tale that I also use in my DREAMING ANASTASIA series, Vasilisa the Brave! Nikki talks about that some on her own blog .

Here's what Amazon has to say:
“A mesmerizing read…a fantasy that feels simultaneously classic and new.”—Publishers Weekly

“A pinch of Grimm, a dash of Greek mythology and a heaping helping of fresh chills make for an irresistible contemporary fairy tale…Deliciously scary and satisfying.”--Kirkus

Lorelei is bowled over by Splendid Academy--Principal Trapp encourages the students to run in the hallways, the classrooms are stocked with candy dishes, and the cafeteria serves lavish meals featuring all Lorelei's favorite foods. But the more time she spends at school, the more suspicious she becomes. Why are her classmates growing so chubby? And why do the teachers seem so sinister?

It's up to Lorelei and her new friend Andrew to figure out what secret this supposedly splendid school is hiding. What they discover chills their bones--and might even pick them clean!

Mix one part magic, one part mystery, and just a dash of Grimm, and you've got the recipe for a cozy-creepy read that kids will gobble up like candy.

I know, right?  You totally have to read this book!

Nikki is here today, answering some questions.
And scroll to the end, because I'm giving away my ARC copy of her book today! It's signed!!

Joy:  I love to hear about debut journeys. Tell us about yours. 

Nikki: Where to start? I always wanted to be a writer -- I even got a Master’s degree in writing. But life, kids, and jobs got in the way of chasing my dream. Then one day when I looked in the mirror, I realized I had a whole LOT of gray hairs all of a sudden – and the same dream I’d had when I was young. So I started writing like I might only have a few days left to get my stories out into the world. I don’t know why, but that sense of urgency has stayed with me since then. I suppose I feel like I spent so many years just dreaming the dream, I have that many fewer to live it!
Sinister Sweetness was the second book my agent submitted to editors, after a previous one gained nothing but kind words and gentle rejections. (Sigh!) My agent sent Sinister Sweetness to my editor on her first day at Razorbill. It was the first manuscript to cross her new desk, and the first one she acquired in her new position. Hooray for good timing!
I’ve been extremely lucky to find friends in the writing community to help me navigate the perilous waters of the first novel (including you!), and I am so grateful for all of them. In fact, between the debut author group The Apocalypsies, SCBWI, and the Austin/Houston writing communities, I feel like I’ve found my tribe at last.

Joy: One thing I adore about you is your dark sense of humor. Tell us about the title of this book and about where the story came from. And perhaps about how your world view sneaks in here in this delightfully subversive MG.

Nikki: “Delightfully subversive” – I love it! (Can I use that in a blurb? J)
The book was originally called Gingerbread, after Hansel and Gretel’s architectural snack bar. But one of my very wise editor’s initial requests was that we change the title. It took (and I am not exaggerating) hundreds of title ideas before we landed on this one. And I adore it!
Okay, I’m going to pull an imaginary soapbox over for your next question. The germ of this story came from two things: my obsessive, lifelong love of fairy tales, and my dismay that they were/are being sanitized for today’s kids. Seriously! The first two little pigs in The Three Little Pigs are not supposed to live, people. They made stupid decisions, and they get EATEN by that Big, Bad Wolf! And Red Riding Hood ended with the wolf being KILLED, not running off, tail between his legs. The Gingerbread Man? Does not, ever, swim away from the fox. Somehow, in the past few years, these familiar, wonderful, scary, gruesome, amazing stories that had survived for centuries were being systematically turned into literary paste.
My husband and I were bemoaning this over lunch one day, when I mentioned that what kids needed (and what I wanted our boys to have, to spark their bloodthirsty interest) was the old fairy tales – scary bits and all – re-written for modern readers, in a modern setting, like a charter school, where the witches were the teachers… Then I left my husband with the bill and ran home to start writing as fast as I could!

Joy: What were you doing before you began writing? What else can we find you doing now besides writing?

Nikki: I was a teacher at a wonderful school in Central Texas. I taught… music. (Only funny if you’ve read the book, of course. And then you’ll never look at me the same way again. NO, I did not model the music teacher after myself.) I also taught the Gifted and Talented program. After I left to finish my Master’s degree, I started a career as a Director of Family Ministries for Presbyterian churches. I’ve worked with kids for my whole professional life; it seems natural to write for them now.
These days, I wrangle my two boys, 2 dogs, and however many chickens we have this week, as well as teaching Zumba 5 or 6 times a week. The Zumba helps to work off some of the chocolate I eat rather compulsively as I write.
No, really. There are little bits of melted chocolate between most of the keys on my keyboard. Sad. I may need help.

Joy:  In reading Sinister Sweetness, I discovered that, just as I have used Slavic folklore and specifically the Baba Yaga the witch fairy tale of Vasalisa the Brave in the DREAMING ANASTASIA series, you have used it here! I was so excited. Tell us about how this came into the story for you, how you use it, whether reviewers/readers notice it... whatever comes to mind on this topic.

Nikki: That is such a cool coincidence! I haven’t had many readers yet, of course, and the reviewers haven’t mentioned that particular strand! I think the Hansel and Gretel story is much more familiar, so people latch onto that. But I have fairy tales from all over the world in this book, and Greek mythology, too. I drew from one story of Vasalisa the Brave (which mirrors Hansel and Gretel in many ways) to bring one of my secondary characters out as a sort of cautionary figure and mentor for the main character. But I sprinkled little-known details from fairy tales all over the world into my book: the story of La Llorona, the Rusalka, Baba Yaga, the Lorelei, and more are all there for the attentive reader.   

Joy: Readers always want to know about writing process and habits. Tell us about how you get the job done.
Of course, we all know that every writer has his/her own process, right? And none of them are necessarily better than any others (unless yours includes watching Jersey Shore marathons all day and night, in which case, it needs improvement).

Nikki: What works for me are word quotas. I will give myself a deadline (if I don’t have an editorial one), and work out how many words per day I need to write to meet it. Usually it’s between 1,000 and 5,000 words per day, with one day off each week. I get up in the morning, send the kids to school, make a pot of herbal tea, locate a chocolate bar, and get to work. I stop every 500 words or so to rest my fingers and walk around. But I sit right back down and keep writing until I meet my quota for the day. 
Of course, this schedule varies! Recently, I was asked to write a first draft of a novel in five weeks. For some reason, I had to take a nap every day – 30 minutes or so – to keep the energy needed to meet my insane word count for each day. But it worked! And usually, any weird plot holes and/or loose threads got taken care of while I was dozing – I woke up knowing what to write to fix them. 
If I get stuck in a manuscript, I take a walk and meditate a bit. Usually, I’m stuck because I’m not paying attention to what the story wants – I’m trying to force it into a wrong plot direction. It’s so important to let the story unspool, and edit later!

Joy: Twizzlers or M and M's? 

Nikki: Ha! You’ve read the book, Joy. You KNOW it’s M&Ms.

Joy:  What's next for Nikki Loftin?

Nikki: Well, I have a VERY embarrassing letter coming out in the Dear Teen Me anthology this November! It’s the story of the Worst Kiss Ever, and how I never really learned to shut up.
Then, I have another book coming out from Razorbill in early 2014. Another re-imagined fairy tale (this time Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Nightingale”), this book is more magical realism and less straight-up fantasy. It’s called Nightingale’s Nest, and it’s the book of my heart – so I’m thrilled it’s going to be out in the world.

Thank you so much for giving me this space on your blog – and for being such an amazing author and friend!

Author Bio:
 Nikki Loftin lives with her Scottish photographer husband just outside Austin, Texas, surrounded by dogs, chickens, and small, loud boys. Her middle-grade novel, The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, will debut on August 21, 2012. You can visit her online at

twitter: @nikkiloftin
FB: Splendid Academy

COMMENT ON THIS BLOG POST AND GIVE NIKKI SOME DEBUT AUTHOR LOVE!! (Include your email so i can contact you if you win!)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Grimm is back and other things that make me happy

Grimm is back! (spoiler alert... although not hugely)

And it looks to be a good season, made better only if Portland OR opened up a branch of Wolfram and Hart and Detective Nick Burkhardt had to investigate. Just saying... (and if you weren't a Buffy/Angel fan, well...Google Wolfram and Hart on that funny thing called the Internets...)

Nick has a mother and it looks like she's staying. Plus she cleaned his house, which I thought was rather spiffy of her. Gone 18 years with no contact and there she is dusting and tidying and then killing a few people in between putting a roast in the oven. (I think I made up that last part) And the police chief speaks a strange language that sounds a lot like French. And Monroe still kicks Blutbladt ass. Plus Rosalee knows shit. She knows like every potion and says things like. "Yes. It will work. But it will take 16 hours to cook." Which is this wonderful random amount of time!

Also, Juliette could stay in a coma longer, but maybe that's just my opinion.

And!! I am going to Portland in January for an event at Powell's and one at Annie Blooms and mostly what I'm thinking is, will I run into Nick and Monroe? Cause you never know...

If you have read this blog before or you now me, you know that I'm a shameless TV lover. The trashier, the better. I'm the one with the Housewives habit, after all. I feel bad when Heather is mean to Ramona even if Ramona sometimes, maybe deserves it and what is up with the whole toaster oven thing and Sonja? Can someone explain?

Plus my guiltiest of pleasure, Covert Affairs, with Auggie the blind CIA agent and Annie Walker and her many spy loves... I even adore the opening credits on this one.

What are you watching?
Why should I add it to the DVR list?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Book 3 enters the world today.

I'd contemplated writing about my crazy publishing journey again -- the 4 editors and three publicists, and two agents and endless orphaning. The struggle that has sometimes felt harder than it needed to be. But if you read this blog or follow my career and books, mostly, this is old news. You know that despite it all, ANASTASIA FOREVER is on shelves today from Sourcebooks Fire and in digital form, and people are buying and downloading and reviewing and finding out what happens in the end to Anne and Ethan and Tess and Ben and the witch Baba Yaga and all the rest.

If you're new to the series, let me quickly catch you up. This way, you can dive into book 3 and then go back to the others, which I totally know you want to do:

DREAMING ANASTASIA series synopsis: The DREAMING ANASTASIA series is the saga of Anne Michaelson, a sixteen year old Chicago girl who discovers that she is connected through both line of descent and destiny to a complex mystery of love, betrayal and revenge. Her own family in turmoil from the recent death of her brother David to cancer, Anne finds herself dreaming repeatedly of a girl trapped in a room, who in turn is dreaming of her family’s murder. When Anne collides at school with handsome, mysterious Ethan, everything sets in motion. Dark powers of elemental control rise in Anne. Ethan tells her that she’s been dreaming of Anastasia Romanov, kept captive all these years by the Russian witch Baba Yaga.  Anne is somehow the one who can free her. And Ethan – well, he’s a member of a secret Brotherhood and he’s been immortal since Anastasia’s capture. Free one. Free the other. But Anne discovers that there’s a lot more at stake. Russian fairy tale figures come to life: rusalki and witches and Koschei the Deathless. People who will stop at nothing to keep their power and eternal lives. And a blood line connection to everyone and everything. As Anne works first to free Anastasia and then solve the mystery that has held part of her family captive for decades, she finds herself falling for Ethan, who may or may not be someone she can trust. The series travels backward and forward in time and place, in the real world and in Baba Yaga’s forest as Anne and Ethan race to uncover long hidden secrets and darkest of magicks before it’s too late.  In this thrilling tale of secrets within secrets and truths within lies, the reader quickly realizes that history never tells you everything.

I am truly excited for people to read. There's a happily ever after, but it's hard won. And I think for this story, that's just the way it needs to be.

Beyond that this morning, I am filled with buckets of gratitude. So many, many people are solidly in my world now that I did not know or dream of just a scant few years ago. It has truly taken a village -- and not just because of my editor revolving door! This I think is the greatest and fullest miracle -- that my world has cracked open wide in the best of ways.

I'm just back from SCBWI LA and many of them were there: editors and agents and so many, many author friends both new and old. The artist community here in Texas -- in Houston and Austin in particular: critique partners and my fellow alums of the Class of 2k9, who have for the most part remained my dearest of friends. Booksellers of all stripes and sizes and here I will mention a specific: the generous and gracious Valerie Koehler and Cathy Berner at Blue Willow Books who have helped launch my career in ways both big and small.

And bloggers. I thank my blogger community a lot. Because their devotion to books and literacy and authors is fierce. And my life is enriched by their passions and support.

Do you get it, dear reader? We're all in this together: the storytellers and the readers and illustrators and those who sell and promote and design our books. The first time I met Laurie Halse Anderson and told her I had my first book coming out, she autographed my copy of Catalyst with "Welcome to the tribe."

One of the ongoing conceits of the DREAMING ANASTASIA series is the Russian matryoshka doll -- those nesting dolls that fit one in the other, the same figure over and over, only smaller. In metaphor, it is stories within stories, the oldest type of storytelling that there is: the frame story. This has become my metaphor, too. My own story within the stories of all these wonderful people who are now in my life, all tucked inside each other, linked, repeated. Wonderful.

If you're in the Houston area, come on over to Blue Willow Bookshop on Memorial at Dairy Ashford this Saturday, 8/11 at 2PM. Check here for more info.  Join me in celebrating ANASTASIA FOREVER. Eat a cupcake.

Cheers, my lovelies!!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

And the winner is...

Wow! So many great entries to the ANASTASIA FOREVER giveaway! It's a good thing they all went into the contest hat because on my own I would never have been able to pick just 3 of you wonderful people! And if you didn't win this time, I'll be doing another contest in a few weeks.

Plus, the books are sneaking into stores now.... I just saw them on my BN New Teen Fiction shelf yesterday with MY OWN EYES!! (And at first I didn't see they were there because someone was standing and reading one in front of the little stack!)

But to the point...

Prize #1 -- an arc of ANASTASIA FOREVER goes to Ginny!!
Prize #2 -- a book of ANASTASIA FOREVER goes to Valia !!!
Prize # 3 -- a book of ANASTASIA FOREVER and a t shirt goes to Kai !!!

If you would all please email me your mailing addresses.

And if anyone else who entered who like bookmarks for entering, I'd love to send you some so please email me your address as well.