Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bye Bye 2013!!

It has been a challenging year… for the world, for the country, for people I know and love-- and for me. One of those years with the huge ups and downs, that cosmic roller coaster that happens some times. In one two day period in June I sold a new book and was declared a cancer survivor. In one two-day period in September, that book got announced on PW to great excitement and the husband found himself in the emergency room with what turned out to be blocked arteries he was far too young to have and a minor stroke he was also far too young to have. And yet.

It was that kind of year. The cosmic give and take. A book deal with Harper Collins! Good health! But okay, that was me. How about the people I love? Let's see what the universe can cook up for my family!

Still, I bumble along, because as I've learned, what else can you do?

As so many people have recently blogged in end of the year posts, 2013 has been an endurance contest some days. Friends have lost jobs or been downsized or had traumas or fires or deaths of people they loved.  I could wax poetic on it, but so many others have written so beautifully and heart-wrenchingly, including Sarah Dessen, Jessica Spotswood, Stephanie Pellegrin. And that's just the publishing world. That does not include bombings and typhoons and government shutdowns and Ted Cruz reading Green Eggs and Ham.

I could tell you about the doubt monster that creeps into my heart many days. The riskiness of starting over with new publishers and new projects. The disappointments of book events I wanted to do but wasn't asked to. The frustrations and stops and starts and the moments when I think "What if no one reads what I have written?" Or the ones when I want to grab people by the collar at Wal-Mart and say, "Have you read THE SWEET DEAD LIFE? You would love Jenna! Really, you would! Find a copy! Read it! It's been out since May, did you know?"

I could tell you that when your loved ones face serious and lengthily un and mis-diagnosed illness that it is no fun. And that not everyone in your life can handle this. I knew this already because I am a cancer survivor, but I guess I'd sort of forgotten. Some of my friends deserve medals. Certainly my son and daughter in law deserve a million trips to Disney World for going above and beyond. Some of the people in our lives backed off or seemed angry that I wasn't 'doing it their way.' Others called or texted and just checked in and if I asked for help (something I am NOT GOOD AT) they came right away. They did not say, "Well, let me check and see what we're doing." They did not tell me what to do unless I asked. They did not tell me that I had picked the wrong doctors because I didn't go to theirs.

Or that one of my favorite and closest cousins passed suddenly a few weeks ago from serious heart disease.

But no matter.

It's New Year's Eve! In this house, we're healing nicely. Things feel normal again, whatever that means. I am crossing my fingers that it will last. The world is filled with scary stuff but also with amazing people that I love, who bring laughter and adventure and general goofiness. Plus I just caught up with Season 2 of Girls and Season 3 of Game of Thrones and am about to catch up with Breaking Bad. Plus RHONY is almost back. And the books I've read! So many! And I get to meet Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden next week at Murder by the Book!

It is time to celebrate the good stuff.

In that spirit of fresh starts and cold weather and the fact that Lyla the basset has shaken off the doggy flu or puppy malaise or whatever made her heave up bile on my clean carpet yesterday, I bring you Joy's Top 10 List of Good Things in 2013:

10. I got to travel to fun places: New York City, Las Vegas, Avila Beach/San Luis Obispo/LA, Portland OR, Chicago. Also Dallas and Austin and Ft. Worth and Waco.

9. I was asked to do/created many lovely book events and visits: Montgomery County Book Festival; Houston SCBWI; book signings at Blue Willow, Murder by the Book, Woodlands B&N; Champions Forest B&N; B&N College Station; Pasadena B&N; Book People; Powell's and Annie Blooms in Portland; Anderson's in Naperville, IL. Also: Waco Library Jubilee; Houston Book Rave; plus school visits and book clubs and Comic Palooza and Austin Comic Con and other good stuff.

8. I already know that in 2014 I have many other events on the way: Signings with many of the above. MoCo Book Festival again and my first time at YAK Fest in Keller, TX and a panel with amazing authors at AWP in Seattle!

7. I got to go to some great concerts: Lady Antebellum, Heart, Lumineers… and some great plays like Book of Mormon and a bunch of other stuff.

6. I got to hang out with amazing friends and family. (You really should all be #1. But I am not good at this list making thing. *side note*-- you know who is good at list making? Jenna Samuels in THE SWEET DEAD LIFE! Which you should totally read, especially when it comes out in paperback on 2/4! But seriously-- my friends and my family are honestly the best. Including the family that is made by choice and not just blood. I am hugely fortunate that so many people are in my life-- friendships old and new. And that the publishing world has helped me find my tribe in ways I never thought possible! Plus as mentioned above, I have a kick ass son and daughter in law who drove the 3 hours from Dallas to Houston a zillion times this fall and never once asked if I needed them. They JUST KNEW.

5. THE SWEET DEAD LIFE released in May from Soho Press, my lovely, gorgeous new publisher who lets me write quirky wonderful books of my heart with my editor and friend Dan Ehrenhaft.

4. I finished the A-WORD, which is the sequel to TSDL and the arcs are out in the world, with book coming in May 2014! I love this book, you guys! I KNOW you will, too.

3. I sold FINDING PARIS to Balzer & Bray/Harper Collins! This is largely because of 3a. My agent/business partner/cowgirl/friend Jennifer Rofe. I was privileged to work with the best agent ever for another year! And now I get to work with BOTH Alessandra Balzer and Sara Sergeant!

2. 3 years after being diagnosed and treated for advanced stage thyroid cancer, I was declared a cancer survivor by the lovely doctors at MD Anderson. I even got a diploma!

1. I got to keep writing for a living-- a job that makes me crazy some days but is also my passion and dream.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Welcome Jody Casella and THIN SPACE!!

Today, for my last interview/book feature of 2013, I’m welcoming amazing author and fellow YAOutsidethelines blogger, Jody Casella, whose debut YA novel, Thin Space arrived in September of this year from Simon & Schuster.

Here’s a quick synopsis:

There’s a fine line between the living and the dead, and Marshall is determined to cross it in this gut-wrenching debut novel.

Ever since the car accident that killed his identical twin brother, Marshall Windsor has been consumed with guilt and crippled by the secrets of that fateful night. He has only one chance to make amends and set things right. He must find a thin space—a mythical point where the barrier between this world and the next is thin enough for a person to step through to the other side.

But when a new girl moves into the neighborhood, into the exact same house Marsh is sure holds a thin space, she may be the key—or the unraveling of all his secrets.

As they get closer to finding a thin space—and closer to each other—March must decide once and for all how far he’s willing to go to right the wrongs of the living…and the dead.

SLJ calls Thin Space, “a spooky story of the highest order” and Kirkus says,  A creepy supernatural chiller sets up a gut-punch of desolation and loss....Brutal and brilliant."

As for me, my mom was an identical twin, so stories about twins, especially spooky, creepy stories about twins and secrets, are an automatic must read! (Full disclosure, my mom and aunt were TOTALLY identical. Like even boyfriends and sometimes family had trouble telling them apart. So I grew up always wondering what it would be like to have an exact doppelganger like that.

In any case, if you want a cool, spooky, and atmospheric mystery with twins, this is the book for you! Even if you don’t want that, you will adore this book. It is a spectacular debut and I’m thrilled to feature Jody’s writing here today!

So let me introduce Jody Casella and Thin Space!

Joy:  Well, I have to ask first, what was the inspiration for Thin Space? It is such a sad and devastating premise! Plus the ‘thin space’ idea – is it based on anything you’ve read about or something you created on your own?

Jody:  Thin Space came about in kind of a weird way. Several years ago when my son was in 7th grade (he's now a sophomore in college, just to put in perspective how long this process sometimes takes), he rode a school bus with an older boy who was always barefoot. I pestered my son for months to try to get the inside scoop about the boy. What was the kid's motivation for going shoeless? What were his parents thinking? Why would the school allow one of their students to walk around (in winter!) barefoot?  During that same time, I came across an article in a magazine about the Celtic belief in thin places, sacred places on earth where the veil between our world and the world of the dead is thinner. The two seemingly unrelated ideas--the barefoot boy and the Celtic thin place--came together when I started writing the book.

Joy:  The brief version of your debut author journey? Because we all love debut author journeys!

Jody:  Thin Space is the sixth book I've written and the first to be published. My long, bumpy, rollercoastery journey to publication is either depressing or inspiring, depending on how you look at it. I had been writing since I could I hold a pencil. I have a degree in Creative Writing. I've had stories published. But for whatever reason, I wasn't able to transfer my story writing experience to novel writing. In the end I think I broke through because of a mixture of determination and dumb luck. In other words, I kept writing and submitting until I wore the publishing world down. 

Joy: Without getting too spoilery, tell us about Marsh and Austin Windsor.

Jody: Marsh is reeling after a car accident that killed his identical twin brother Austin. He blames himself for his brother's death, even though it truly wasn't his fault. He can't let go of the guilt though, and when a dying elderly neighbor tells him that she's going to make a thin space in her house, he basically becomes obsessed with finding it. He gets it into his head that if he can find a thin space, he can see his brother, and all of his problems will be solved.

Joy:  Have you always loved supernatural tales/ghost stories/tales of loss? Are there any other books/films in particular that inform your love of these genres?

Jody:  I do love stories with supernatural or fantasy elements, but that are also grounded in reality. Two of my favorites growing up were Jane-Emily by Patricia Clapp, a creepy story about the evil spirit of a dead girl, and Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer, a time travel book about a haunted boarding school. Both books, come to think of it, deal with the theme of loss. And both are psychological thrillers with lots of twists and turns.

Joy:  What books are on your nightstand right now?

Jody: For my book club I am reading Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Up next on the pile is the latest by one of my favorite writers Meg Rosoff, Picture Me Gone.

Joy: Oh! I just read Me Before You! I wasn’t as sad as some readers, but it was still an emotional roller coaster!

Joy: Any favorite TV shows or other pop culture obsessions?

Jody: I love watching Teen Wolf with my teen daughter. My husband and I are catching up on Breaking Bad. We are always a few steps behind everyone else pop-culturally. Last summer we watched all of Game of Thrones. Man. That show was insane.

Joy: We are finally catching up on GOT season 3 in this house. Tonight we'll watch ep 9, which is the Red Wedding! We already know how it turns out, but now we have the full context of the earlier eps of the season. Holy cow. And also, Theon Greyjoy's torture sequences have been quite well, I don't have a word right now. Other than ouch. People have lost a lot of body parts this season.

Joy: When you’re not writing, what can we find you doing?

Jody: Reading. Being a mom. Walking the dog multiple times a day.

Joy: What’s next for Jody Casella?

Jody: In the years it took to find a publishing home for Thin Space, I wrote four other novels, including the sequel to TS. I have no idea if it will ever see the light of publishing day, but I had a blast finding out what would happen next for my barefoot boy. Lately, I am struggling with a rewrite of a rewrite of a rewrite of another novel. I can't get it right--whatever that means--but I can't see myself quitting on it either.

Thanks, Jody!!

If you want to find out more about Jody and her books, here’s the virtual places she hangs out:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Three for Tuesday

It's that in between time right now. I've turned in 2nd draft revisions for FINDING PARIS to my editors at Balzer and Bray. A-WORD is in arc form and on not quite ready for last pass proofreading before it becomes a book. Common Core Educator's Guide for the Sweet Dead Life series (more on that soon) is back at Soho Press. And I'm digging out the office and transitioning to new projects and catching up on my life.

So a quick three today while my head settles:

1. Just finished SAVE THE ENEMY by Arin Greenwood. I read the arc, but the book has been out for a few weeks from Soho Teen. LOVED this one. Zoey Trask is an amazingly funny, wry narrator with a mother who's been murdered, a libertarian father who's been kidnapped, and a younger, autistic brother Ben who may or may not be getting messages from the dead mother that can solve the mystery of the murder and the kidnapping. Plus a cute guy named Pete who also has some secrets. A DC setting, more or less. Political intrigue. Libertarian humor. (who knew?) And a clever, if not a bit too repetitious use of the Passover song Dayenu. Yup. You have to read it. You really do.

2. Been watching a lot of Hallmark/Lifetime Christmas movies. Tis the season after all. Snow Bride gets two thumbs up. Snow Globe Christmas made no sense at all, except that it was about the 4th or 5th  of this oeuvre to include a main character who gets hit on the head/bewitched/cursed and ends up living a life that isn't hers in order to be happier/better in the life she actually has and runs around part of the time in her pajamas. Any thoughts on these films and these tropes is more than welcome. There was another one (I've blocked the title right now) with Jennie Garth where she has a concussions and ends up saving her small Illinois town from the big bad conglomerate and finding true love. It was better. Way better. I think that is saying a lot.

3.  Comcast has given us 6 free months of HBO. GIRLS better start up again soon, that's all I'm saying.  And in other TV news: I need to catch up with my DVR'd eps of Vampire Diaries and Sleepy Hollow. Also Scandal. And I think we can all agree (by we, I mean other Bravo addicts) that on this season of RHOB, Brandi is mean to Joyce but Joyce is a sneaky mean one herself; Kim rarely seems sober even thought supposedly she is; everyone's got a dog that poops in their mansions; and in general non-Housewife news, the ep of Watch What's Happening Live where part of the cast of Downton Abbey visited with Andy Cohen was the kind of 30 minutes of television that dreams are made of. I am telling you!!  Also, we are finally watching season 2 of Homeland. So don't spoil season 3 for me! One thing is still true: NO ONE cries like Claire Danes. NO ONE!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Are You Ready for Christmas and Other Holiday Observations

I am filled with a general holiday cheer right now. It has -- as I've been alluding to on and off in recent posts-- been a crazy fall around here. Husband had what was originally diagnosed as 'possibly carpal tunnel' which turned out to be something a lot more serious and although he is on the mend, the resulting doctors visits and tests and therapies and other medical stuff have left us feeling a bit like Alice down the rabbit hole… If the rabbit was mean and toothy and really pissed off at you. (Which actually may be the case in the original Alice in Wonderland, but the sad truth is, if I ever read the whole thing I have no memory it, only the Disney movie.)

In between, of course, I have been finishing THE A WORD (May 2014, Soho Press) and now the revisions for FINDING PARIS (which got announced in late September, the day before we took a nose dive into medical mystery land and is coming in 2015 from Balzer&Bray) and doing book events and all the rest of the things that make up this crazy wonderful career I have fallen into.

In any case, it's suddenly December! I love December. I love October more, although this year it sucked because of all of the above. But December is nice. It has red holiday cups at Starbucks and decorated houses and lights and cookies and treats and mechanical reindeer on our neighbors' lawns and Christmas trees and menorahs (although this year Chanukah coincided with Thanksgiving and is thus over until next year when it will once again be back in late December because that's how things work with a sort of lunar calendar) and other festive stuff.

Our extended family covers just about every religion in the book, so we're a fairly ecumenical/equal opportunity holiday bunch. I don't personally celebrate Christmas but I love the pomp and circumstance of it and who doesn't love good will on earth and peace toward men? I love the music, too, the grand majesty of so many Christmas songs -- although not that one about "Baby it's cold outside" which if you listen to it is essentially a rapey/roofie in your drink so I can have my way with you while it snows song, which is not quite so jolly as one would think from the tune.

If you ask me, as my neighbor just did as I was walking the dog, "Are you ready for Christmas?" I will give you a resounding "Yes!" Because since it's not my holiday, the prep is fairly minimal. ( I find that this is easier all around than me  launching into a discussion of "Different Religious Traditions" while my dog poops on your lawn.)

 Of course there are the tricky moments in our varied sides of the family like over Thanksgiving when my in-laws' 7 year old asked if Santa brought Jewish kids presents and I mulled this over while eating pumpkin pie and eventually just said, "No. Could you pass the whipped cream" and then had a not unpleasant flashback to the time when I was eight and decorated our rubber tree plant with Christmas ornaments and insisted on sitting on Santa's lap at the mall only to feel like a total imposter once I got up there. But let me add here that if you are reading this and you are an adult who regularly bends down in the grocery store and asks random children what they want Santa to bring them, you might consider that some Jewish kid is going to tell you that Santa doesn't come to his house, and that he will spin a dreidel , eat latkes and enjoy those socks and underwear he gets on night 3. Or in the case of our son, he will then ask you what you plan on doing for Purim in March and did you fast at Yom Kippur, and you will walk away muttering.

Once, a few years back, the high school football team persisted in roaming the 'burb each night, placing the reindeer in highly compromising positions. Another year, our next door neighbors tried to throw away their Wise Men when they got new ones. Each garbage day, the garbage men would have replaced them neatly on the lawn.

I love the holidays.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Captain Kirk Liked My Wings and Other Comic Con Austin Tales

Been toiling on revisions for FINDING PARIS, my contemporary road trip/mystery/romance that comes out in Spring 2015 from Balzer and Bray. Yes, I am revising in 2013 for a 2015 book! That is a good thing, people.

But this single-minded focus on top of holiday hoopla and other family things means that I have been a bad blogger and have not told you about Comic Con Austin, which occurred the weekend before Thanksgiving and at which I and the other Writing Ninjas of Texas hung out in costume, ate copious amounts of chocolate and fan-girled William Shatner, Norman Reedus and James Marsters and also met amazing fans and readers and other stellar humans. And supported a fabulous local Austin indie bookstore-- The Book Spot-- owned and run by Danny and Julie Woodfill, who sell books for us all weekend each year and who support books and literacy and local Texas authors in their wonderful shop in Round Rock. I can't thank them enough!

I love Comic Con! I really, really do. I know there are some who mock the fan experience, but I have to tell you that when Cory Putnam Oakes and I stood in line so she could get an autographed pic of William Shatner for her mother, who was/is a huge Trek fan, we were rather blasé at first. We were deep into publishing gossip and catching up and casting our eye rolls at the 60 something guy in full Enterprise regalia… UNTIL WE GOT UP CLOSE. Close enough to snap this contraband pic since technically you're not supposed to take pics if you're only paying for an autograph. (their rules, not mine)
And then-- and I am not exaggerating-- we were like two thirteen year old girls. I am telling you, it was crazy. I look at Cory and she looks at me and now we're squealing. And when Captain Kirk chatted us up and told us we looked really good (which he said TWICE), we squealed some more. And shook his hand. And stood there while he signed the picture and then spent the rest of the morning reliving the thrill. Yes! It was thrilling. I'm not going to lie to you. Captain Freaking Kirk. Liked our angel wings.
(in full disclosure, so did a lot of random guys in costume who asked us to pose for pics while we walked the convention floor. But whatever)

Here is what CAPTAIN KIRK said looked good:

And here are a few other pics from the weekend. You should go next year. You really should!
Zombie Kari Anne Holt

Mari Mancusi and friend

Me, my SWEET DEAD LIFE costume and TARDIS

This Ain't My First Rodeo, Predator

And it's Dread Pirate Roberts...

The Fates: PJ Hoover, Jessica Lee Anderson

Julie of Book Spot, Jessica Lee Anderson, Cory Oakes and friend

PJ Hoover and Mari Mancusi channeling her Mother of Dragons

The lovely Jo Whittemore and guess who

Monday, December 2, 2013

And the Winner is!

And the contest hat has picked deatsmeg  as the winner of the A WORD arc!!

Email me at joypreble at gmail dot com with your address and I will send your prize!

An international giveaway coming in early 2014!

And a few other arcs will start floating around in an informal arc tour!

So keep your eyes peeled! (okay, not like zombie peeling, but you know what I mean!)

Congrats Megan!