Thursday, December 18, 2014

And it's the first FINDING PARIS 'official' review!

The whole review will go live next month, but for now, I can share that School Library Journal's review of FINDING PARIS calls it: “An intricate guessing game of sisterly devotion, romance, and quiet desperation.”

Needless to say, I am thrilled!

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Watch What's Happening Live, Andy Cohen, Shotski Wednesday and Other Thoughts

It's the best live television you may not be watching. Okay, it's not always the best. Sometimes it panders. But often enough it's surprising and fresh and rude and provocative and very New York, and it makes me laugh. It's Bravo producer Andy Cohen in his Clubhouse interviewing a wild mix of celebrities and 'Bravo-lebrities' and other famous folk, some of whom are famous for real and serious reasons. As Andy himself called it on NPR the other day, he likes to have a mix of guest that you might find on either the cover of The New Yorker or US Weekly. Think about that, okay. (Also, yes, NPR! He was hawking his new book and playing a game show where he answered questions about houseflies. Yes, really. Here's the link:   It made me smile so much that I tweeted and lo and behold my very awesome editor was also listening. It was a bonding moment. But I digress)

If you don't know, Andy Cohen is the one who's responsible for the Housewives franchise on Bravo. Yes, yes, I know you're too cool and serious to be watching. But I watch. And while sometimes it's too much even for me, I find it fascinating on more levels than I can discuss here and if nothing else, it's like a little morality play some days. And trust me when I say I'm not the only one who has this at the top of her guilty pleasure list.

 NPR has actually talked to Andy a lot about the whole issue of pop culture. Here's another one:

But back to WWHL and the Clubhouse. They sit in this tiny space and drink cocktails and talk. They play a few games. On Wednesday nights it's Shotski night, which means that midway through, Cohen and his guests simultaneously drink shots from glasses attached to a ski. So yeah. Dan Rather taking a shot. Julie Andrews, for god's sake! Dick -freaking- Cavett. (if you are too young to know his importance to television interviewing, just google it.)

Even The Daily Beast has talked about this show that you're probably not watching but should be!

Guests offer up surprisingly candor in silly games like Plead the Fifth. (Maybe it's cause they're drinking cocktails. Maybe because it's the kind of down and dirty talk show that no one else is doing, not even cute little Jimmy Fallon (who does, I have to admit, do other things make me laugh, like photo bombing family pics on top of 30 Rock with Cameron Diaz) It's why he gets one on ones with Cher. And Oprah. (Who gave in and said his name in that Oprah voice. "Andyyyyyyyy Cohennnnn" which made him delighted in a real way) And Lady Gaga, who, according to WWHL lore, also peed in the dressing room trash can. (one can only wonder.)

Mashable has talked about this, too!

So yeah, he's also interviewing Teresa and Joe Guidice of New Jersey Housewife and indicted for tax fraud fame. And the episodes that air from SXSW in Austin sometimes feel a bit self-conscious. But he paired Tori Spelling with George Takei once! And Soleil Moon Fry (little Punky Brewster!) with Dr. Sonjay Gupta. Seriously. It happened. And a recent favorite: Amy Sedaris and Deeprak Chopra. Sitting together for 30 minutes. Talking.

I could go on. But I have a book due by the end of the year and I finally know where the plot is going and so I better jump in there and finish the darn thing.

If you're not watching -- it's on 3 or 4 nights a week on Bravo. You won't be sorry. I promise.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Fighting the Doubt Monster

So here's the tricky thing about highly competitive occupations: Some days you feel like you will never be enough. I'll be writing along, as fast and well as I can-- loving the story and its complexities and loving the challenge of putting this grand adventure on the page--and then it happens. I catch up on the industry news or I dip my toes into some form of social media or another and there it is: The three book series that someone else sold while I'm still trying to get a proposal to work. Or yet another list of wonderful books which I'm not on. Or an event to which I wasn't invited. Or I read a review that is less than stellar. Or someone says, no, unfortunately, we couldn't budget that for you.

And suddenly I feel like I'll never possibly be enough. I started too late, or I'm just not good in the first place. I'm not smart enough or quirky enough. I don't have a fascinating narrative. My wardrobe is dirty yoga pants. The shelf life on me being labeled a prodigy has expired, and even if it hadn't, I was pretty ordinary to begin with. (my stellar Star Trek fan fic on yellow legal pads and reams of angsty unrequited love poetry aside. Cause that stuff is killer.) I am the Queen of Sucky who lives in Suckyville and that's how it is, you know? What did I expect? Who did I think I was? Aren't I looking at all those Instagram shots of all those people having fun and being uber cool while I'm struggling with this page I can't get right? If I posted right now, I would caption it:  #isuck

Yeah, whatever.
The truth as I see it: You don't have to be the smartest person in the room. You just have to show up and keep at it. And yes, some luck is often involved. (that's the scary part)

Wildly successful fashionista Diane von Furstenburg once said that she often feels like a loser. That in fact, according to her, all successful people HAVE to feel like losers sometimes or they don't get that creative, competitive fire in the belly that pushes them to do something new.

So yeah. I agree.
I think if you're not hungry enough of the time, you stop reaching high enough.
But what can you do when you feel less than enough?
What do I do?

I take a deep breath.
Sometimes I have to take another.
Or walk the dog.
Or buy a new coffee pot.
Or--yes, really -- do something nice for someone who is not me.

I remember that I did come to this later in the game and how freaking wonderful is that? I shifted course  and left a more comfortable niche and found the creative life. Being brave enough to do that has changed everything for me. I am very lucky.

Then I get to work on the one thing I can control--which is, of course, the work.
As Mark Twain once said and as I quote to myself quite often: The world owes you nothing.
But I owe the world my best work. I owe my readers my best work.

Going to finish this book now. You will see it in 2016. :)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Five For Friday

And somehow, it's Friday again!
And the middle of December!

1. Today's observation is that when you write a novel that covers a vast spectrum of time (in this case, 1913 until the present), you find out many tidbits you never knew before. For example! Did you know that Martin Luther King and Anne Frank were both born in 1929?

2. The 200th episode of Bone last night! I've not been as loyal of a viewer as I used to be. But last night, they hooked me back! The ep was done as a Hitchcock movie -- with everything from the setting to the dialogue to the music and credits and scenes in gorgeous cars. It was truly fabulous and amazing fun and I say Bravo!! Here's a good link with a little clip:

3. Macy's -- taking over from the now defunct Marshall Field's-- sells my childhood favorite candy, Frango Mints, but only at Christmas time. At least here in Houston stores. I'm sure I can get them year round on line, but there is something about seeing the stacks of boxes in the store and all that yummy chocolate/minty aroma! If you have never eaten a Frango Mint, you are missing out!

4. Newsies is finally coming to Houston! Need I say more?

5. John Corey Whaley is a genius. NOGGIN is brilliant. Read it now.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Five For Friday

And in no particular order…

1. I have many, many thoughts on Peter Pan Live, which so many of us watched last night. But Time and the Daily Beast say it better than I can. Beyond that, I applaud you Allison Williams. You flew very well. And nailed your landings many more times than Walken nailed his lines. There truly are no words for Walken's "I've put the plank on the poop." 

2. Lovely, lovely time Wednesday presenting workshops to amazing librarians in Texas Region 12 at the Waco Library Jubilee. Hooray for librarians!! Plus an entire day hanging out with my partner in crime P.J. Hoover, whose latest MG novel TUT just made the Lone Star list!!

3. Oh how I love writing IT WASN'T ALWAYS LIKE THIS -- which will hopefully arrive in 2016 from Soho Press and will be what happens when you morph Tuck Everlasting with Veronica Mars and amp up the romance and broaden the historical scope. 

4. Still racing through season 2 of House of Cards. Oh Francis Underwood. Oh Claire Underwood. Oh the glorious, nasty corruption.

5. And finally, in a miraculous moment, my favorite Chicago pizza place, Gino's East, is branching out to other states and somehow decided that my little north Houston 'burn was the place to begin!! Yes! They are bringing me their version of deep dish pizza with that yummy blanket of sausage!! It's a pizza miracle, I tell you!! A pizza miracle!

Monday, December 1, 2014

House of Cards, Noggin, Stephen Hawking, and Holy Moly, It's December

I don't know about you, but when I get overwhelmed with deadlines and doing All the Things (whatever those things might be), I usually find myself retreating to a corner with a book or TV show or magazine or soup can label that must be read. (Okay, that last part isn't exactly true. But if there's nothing else to read, I've been known to read labels or cereal boxes...)

The point being, I have a book due soon and a proposal and sample pages that are due as well and so of course I have been reading and watching things and sneaking in moments to fill the well as best I can. Plus Thanksgiving was here this year, and I made stuffing from scratch! And the leaves have turned amazing colors because it got freakishly cold very early for the Gulf Coast and now they've been falling off the trees in flurries like autumnal snow. Every time I see it,  my breath catches. So lovely.

In no particular order:

1. House of Cards!! Yes I know many of you have already become obsessed. In this house we are late to the game, but every time Kevin Spacy turns to the camera, I shiver and laugh and clutch my knees! It's Shakespeare gone to DC politics and backstabbing and pushing your enemies in front of an oncoming subway train. Robin Wright as Claire Underwood! Lady Macbeth with awesome outfits and heels. Love this show. Love. Love. And it's huge-- dozens of characters coming and going and power, power, power! Worth getting Netflix for.

2. Noggin - by John Corey Whaley. I'd bought it when I met him at Carson City Lit Fest back in June and read a few pages until work and life got in the way. But now I'm back (having just re-read Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King, which if you haven't read, you absolutely must), and I'm loving Noggin, too. More than just its high concept 'dying kid allows his head to be cryogenically frozen and wakes up 5 years later attached to another body' premise. It's about life and death and what happens when you stop out of the world for five years but everyone you love moves forward. Loving this, too.

3. Haven't seen Mockingjay yet or Birdman (which I really want to see!) but did squeak in The Theory of Everything-- the Stephen Hawking biopic. It was, at times, immeasurably sad, but for me this sadness wasn't for the reasons most people might state. Yes, I know it's one of those cosmic tragedies: one of the greatest scientific minds trapped in a body ravaged by ALS starting at only age 21. But for me, the saddest thing was the inevitable dissolution of a marriage. (and in full disclosure, this film is based on Jane Hawking's memoir) I sat there watching Jane fall in love with quirky, brilliant Stephen. And there she is-- also brilliant and in school and studying for a PHD in Medieval Spanish poetry. (okay, I know this is not a practical field, but it's her passion.) And it's 1963, and so you know what's going to happen. You know that she is going to by necessity and love, circumvent her studies and her passions to make sure Stephen becomes everything he needs to be.  And you know that eventually, this is going to make her feel lonely and trapped and bitter and terribly guilty because she loves him so much. And that unless she's a saint, eventually, they will part. And so that's what made me cry at the end-- and actually not until the very end where they scrolled those sentences of "what happened next" and I read that Jane finally got her PHD. Curious to see what everyone else's take on all this is...

4. And in other news, on 12/13, I'll be teaching a class at Writespace Houston on How to Find an Agent. We'll also be talking about what an agent does and doesn't do and why you might or might not need one. It's a quick 2 hour workshop. If you're just getting started in your career, then this might be the class for you!

Til next time...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

In Which I Present the Thanksgiving Play

So yeah, it's my annual literary gift to the world time. The VERY FIRST THING I ever wrote was a 5 act Thanksgiving play. Yes, 'tis true. 2nd Grade. I got my friends to perform it with me. We played multiple roles. The Pilgrims came from Holland. (this is actually historically accurate, although why I knew this is a HUGE mystery.) Mostly they were concerned about washing their clothes. I don't know why. They just were, okay? 


READ ON AND SEE HOW I WAS DESTINED FOR AUTHORIAL GREATNESS!! This is where the magic began, folks. A 7 year old playing with 5 act structure!
*please note that the original is in brown crayon. I have typed it here for your ease of reading*

Scene 1

Mary: Oh, we hardly have enough food to last us on the whole trip to Virginia, Sue.
Sue: I know it, Mary, but we will soon be there. We will have good crops and maybe the people there will show us how to make our homes snug inside.
Julie: Sue, we are near to shore now.
Sue: But Julie, all I see is trees and grass and how cold it is out.

Scene 2
Sue: The men are going down on the new land now, Mary.
Mary: But look, what is on the land, Sue?
Sue: Maybe the Indians are going to welcome us.
Julie: I certainly hope they're not angry at us, Sue.
Mary: Julie, listen to what the Captain is saying. All women go to shore.

Scene 3

Julie: Now we are on land, Mary and we must wash our clothes.
Joe: Hey, Jack!
Jack: Yes, Joe, those Indians are pretty friendly!
Joe: Well, let's start building and cutting down trees, Jack. Jack! I've made friends with some Indians.

Scene 4

Sue: We're certainly having a cold winter, Mary.
Mary: And a hard time finding food, too.
Julie: We are having so much snow this winter.

Scene 5

Mary: Now that the winter is over we shall have to thank God by having a feast.
Julie: We shall invite some Indians to share it with us.
Mary; When we are done, some of us shall go back home.
Sue: now we shall start our feast. The turkey is good and the cranberries are delicious.
Julie: Now that we are done, we shall say goodbye to some of us.
Mary: They shall go back to Holland.

All: Good bye. Good bye.

Monday, November 17, 2014

In Which I List 5 Ways to Improve Education

Mostly, I use this blog to post about writing, authors, the writing life, publishing, and the like. I tell you about my own journey through all that and I hope you celebrate it with me.

Today, I want to talk about education. About school reform. About teaching English. It’s been on my mind these days, in part because I’ve done some subbing at my old school, including a two week stint for a colleague whose daughter had a very serious surgery. And once you’re back in the groove, it sticks with you. I may not be in the trenches every day, but I’m back there regularly enough.

Want to make our educational system better? I mean, do you really?

1. Hire teachers who are truly experts in their fields. The ones who can teach their subject matter without the teacher’s guide that comes with the textbook. The ones who are passionate and in love with their subject matter and widely read. Yes, teachers teach children. But they have to teach them SOMETHING. And if you can only function with guides and pre-canned Pearson materials, then you are not a master teacher. You’re just not. This means that when you interview a candidate to teach, say, Junior English, sit her/him down without access to the Internet and ask her to write a sample lesson for how to teach, say, The Great Gatsby. If she can’t do it, don’t hire her. If he/she can teach math but not explain the 'why', don't hire him. If she’s graduated with an English degree and does not have a command of the basics, don’t hire her. Or him. Similarly, if he/she knows only the canon classics and is not keeping up with the best of what's being written now, the gloriously diverse world of contemporary literature, that's a problem, too. Yeah, that's lot, I know! But what teachers know, the depth and breadth of their education, really does matter. Put only the best and the brightest in classrooms with our students.

2     2. Commit to how many students TOTAL is a workable load for a teacher to do a good job. English teachers at the high school where I taught full time until recently, now teach an average total of about 180 students each. Yes, you read that correctly. 6 classes of well over 30. Just do the math. If each student wrote one essay per week (and I’m not counting quizzes, tests and other written assessments, much less lesson planning and reading and everything else), and the teacher spent just five minutes per student grading/assessing progress, the total for that ONE assignment with 180 students would be 15 hours. Yes, you read that correctly. 15 hours. The average teacher has at maximum, 40 free minutes a day during the work day to grade/plan without meetings, paperwork, duty. So yes, about 3 hours a week. If they’re lucky. So the grading gets done in the evenings and on the weekends. Which is fine. I mean, most editors I now work with do their editing at home, too. But 180 students means that the teachers who are doing the best of jobs are burning out fast. They are working every night and 8-10 hours plus on the weekends, sometimes taking sick days to grade all day. They are not filling the well with life experience that will make them better teachers because they are never, ever done. And that’s just for ONE assignment. 100 students per secondary teacher should be the max. If it’s not, your school ISN’T doing its best job for its community.

3. Accept that collaborative learning is not always the best type of classroom structure. Understand that it works once material has been taught by the teacher. But zero plus zero equals zero, you know? Which means that divvying up chapters to have students read and then each group ‘teaches’ the material to the class, but the entire class does not actually read all the material, is actually quite often LAZY TEACHING. It’s the kind of thing that you save for those days when you’re sick or hungover (yes, it happens) or worried about an ailing parent or your own kids or whatever. It is NOT creative, although it may look like it is on the surface. It is not productive. It really isn’t. Calling teachers facilitators falls under the same category. Yes, it really does. My best teachers knew more than I did. A lot more. And they found creative and interesting ways to present that information to me. They did not rely on me to find it all myself, although they encouraged me to search and think and question. Often they simply lectured and I took copious notes, but not verbatim ones, thus ensuring that I was actually transferring that material to my brain in a way that worked for me. Don’t mistake the glitter for the substance. It’s easy to do. Trust me on this.

 4. Mentor newer teachers with more seasoned staff members. Make sure they know how to assess written assignments consistently. Make sure they’re not drowning in the work. Be a shoulder to lean on and a voice of reason in the academic wilderness. Remind them that they must teach the students that they’re given, find delight in these unique human beings who they have been given the privilege of educating. They should learn with them and laugh with them and cry with them and LISTEN to them. Remind them that some days, nothing they do will be enough. On those days, maybe all they can do is smile at this kid who is doing all the wrong things, whose issues won’t be fixed by you, not then or maybe not ever, and treat him/her with respect. Even when it’s almost impossible to do so. Even when your kindness will be perceived as weakness. And trust me, sometimes it will. Do not become too jaded, you must tell them. Keep your sense of humor and wonder at the human condition. Do this all year long, not just the first week.

5. And if you’re a parent, do your job, too. Instill a love of learning in your children. Encourage them. Read to them. Read with them. Don’t ever tell them that school is just a game. Be their advocates. Discuss world events. Tell your children that learning is a lifelong journey. It has value. Information is powerful. Turn off the screens at night. Talk. Explore. Do this even if you are exhausted or broke or sad or struggling to keep afloat. Even if your child is difficult. Even if life is falling on your head.  Know your child’s learning style, but don’t make it a crutch. Sometimes failure is okay. It really is. If your child never fails, he may not be stretching far enough. Tenacity is a good thing, too. In fact, it’s a very good thing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Five Years

Hanging out at Houston Community college
Been doing some events-- Had a lovely time speaking to the reading club at Houston Community College.
And then last Friday, I spent the day at the John Cooper School Signature Series as a local guest author. Keynote was given my the delightful Tyler Florence of Food Network fame, who was quite gracious about photo ops, as you can see here!
At the John Cooper School Signature Series
And it's Tyler Florence!
I'd participated in this event back in '09, when DREAMING ANASTASIA was first out, so it was fun to be back now as book 6 is ready to arrive. And humbling and also fun to have various people come up to me, saying how that's where they first met me and started following my career and reading my books. So much has happened--both professionally and personally-- since then it's kind of crazy, really. Just five years, but holy cow! Books (two more in the DREAMING trilogy, then two SWEET DEAD LIFE books, and now FINDING PARIS in April 2015 and then IT WASN'T ALWAYS LIKE THIS in 2016) and travel and teaching and then deciding to quit teaching full time and building this career… And as many of you know, a scary battle with thyroid cancer that began just as things were taking off. (MD Anderson declared me cancer free in 2013. I hope to stay that way.)

It hasn't always been smooth. In fact, quite often it has not. It's been a wild ride of revolving editors and promises both kept and unkept and amazing mentors who lift me up every single day, and the total thrill of what is truly an entire new world of people and ideas. I know I've found my tribe and I know that makes me lucky beyond words.

Still, I think I'm just one who is destined to work a bit longer and harder. Some days I angst over not sitting at the cool kids' table. Maybe I never will. Most days I get over my bad self and just do the work and enjoy the ride. No good comes in this profession from playing the comparison game.

I've realized along the way that somehow I was writing about all that in the white space between the words in all my stories: about what it means to be human--the good, the bad, and the ugly of it.

And for this I am profoundly grateful--particularly to all of you who buy my books and read my words and love my characters as I do. Even on the days when the words aren't coming easily.

And so!

You guys, FINDING PARIS is up on Edelweiss now, which means that people are requesting it (and YOU can request it!) and if Harper Collins says yes, then you get an early read before it arrives from Balzer and Bray in April! This is of course, both thrilling and nerve wracking -- as it always is.

 People are reading Leo and Max and Paris's story. It is out in the world and no longer mine and I am writing away on other things. This book that I love with all my heart, this story of how far you'd go to protect someone you love, about terrible secrets and what they do to us, about love and loss and very broken families. And road trips and Vegas and LA--both places where people flock to have their dreams come true. It's out there for you now, dear readers, at least in its galley form. It's dark and twisty, and it's my first contemporary without a paranormal element. *shivers with excitement.*

And I've got some really really awesomely cool swag in the works for those who pre-order. Stay tuned for that soon!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Stuff People Say to Authors

So when you become a published author, you discover that people say stuff to you. And while much of it is wonderful and supportive or just curious or whatever, some of it is just, well boggling.

In no particular order:

1. How many copies have you sold?
(answer: I have no idea. I don't sell the books out of the trunk of my car. I do get royalty statements and those give me the specifics, and I can in fact ask my agent and editors but that's not what this question means. This question presumes that I have a running tally in my head.)

2. What do you do all day?
(answer: I sit in dirty yoga pants and type. Sometimes I stare out the window. Then I type some more. I am not sure if this is what you want to hear.)

3. Are your books like Harry Potter/Twilight/The Hunger Games/Fault in Our Stars?
(answer: No. And yes. And no.)

4. How much do you make?
(answer: Do I ask your salary? Perhaps you are really asking how authors get paid. In that case, the answer is that we make an advance when we sell the book and we get half of that on signing the contract and half on completion. And when we earn out that advance through sales -- which is figured, more or less, on the royalty percentage-- we get royalties while the book is in print. If our publisher sells  our books at deep enough discount, this may occur only after a trillion books are sold.)

5. That seems like a lot of work. Why do you want to work so hard? (asked after asking me "How's the writing going?)
(Answer: Seriously? What kind of rain on my joy question is that? Begone with you. Nothing worth having comes without work. I LOVE what I do. It's the best kind of work. People PAY ME for making up stories. And yes, I'm neurotic some days, but seriously! I get paid for making stuff up.)

6. I'm going to write a book when I get the time.
(response: No you're not.)

7. Does anyone read anymore? There aren't even bookstores anymore, are there?
(answer: Yes. Yes they do. Lots of them. And did you know that there's been a revival of indie bookstores -- amazing places that love books and can't wait to put them in the hands of readers? In fact the indie book stores are doing better than ever.)

8. Still writing YA? Do you think you'll ever write an adult book?
(answer: So should I ask my child's pediatrician when she'll start treating adults?)

9. Would I like your books?
(Answer: I hope so. Sure. Why did you ask me that?)

Friday, October 31, 2014

HAPPY HALLOWEEN and other Friday Stuff!

Halloween has grown on me over the years. We weren't big into costumes when I was growing up: either we ended up with the Toys R Us cheap costume with the plastic mask or we went as a gypsy, witch, ghost, or hobo, all of which could be accomplished after school with a minimum of effort. It wasn't until high school and college that I actually put effort into costumes and I'm sure the word cosplay was not in my vocabulary. I loved trick or treating. I was a fan of candy. That was about it.

As a teacher, some years we were encouraged to wear costumes. Some years not. (I think just pretending I'm a responsible adult who you are supposed to emulate is costume enough, you know?) I find teaching the Great Gatsby while dressed as Buffy or a cheerleader or a vampire or a zombie is a bit disorienting. One year I gave up and just bought a scrub suit and borrowed a stethoscope from the nurse and put fake blood on my face. The plan had been to be a zombie nurse, but I was lazy. So I was just a bloody nurse, which actually didn't feel like a costume but boy those scrubs were comfy.

Anyway. Next year, Austin Comic Con is back over Halloween weekend. I've  got a year to perfect my Outlander costume. That's all I'm saying for now. Except that it's going to be awesome and I can hardly wait.

In other related Halloween anecdotes:

Once, in college, the hubs and I won 1st place as Laurel and Hardy.
The next year we were a pimp and a hooker.
A couple years ago, we went to a party dressed as Wash and Kalie from Firefly. We figured this was obscure so we even put on name tags. NO ONE understood who we were. This, and the punch, made it funnier.

And one year when I was about 10, a group of us got stuck in an elevator while trick or treating. (when you grow up in Chicago, in the city, you trick or treat in high rises a lot. My grandma lived in a 29 story building. You'd fill the pillow case after two or three floors. We also lived in a historic district. I learned not to assume that the people in the big Frank Lloyd Wright prairie style houses would give the good candy.

Also, I am the only human who actually likes those black and orange wrapped peanut buttery candies.
But I despise candy corn.

Happy Halloween!

Other Friday Stuff: Still reading Lena Dunham's NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL.

And back to the deadlines!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


So thrilled to help my friend, awesome author, and fellow blogger at YA OUTSIDE THE LINES, Jennifer Doktorski, reveal the cover of THE SUMMER AFTER YOU & ME, which releases in Spring 2015, from the lovely folks at Sourcebooks Fire !

On the day before Superstorm Sandy crashes into the New Jersey shore, local girl Lucy Giordano spends an intense morning with the summer boy next door, Connor Malloy. Lucy believes it’s the start of something special between her and the boy she’s been watching for years from behind sunglasses. But when Connor returns home and doesn’t call like he promised, Lucy realizes she made a big mistake—one she vows to keep a big secret. A smart girl like Lucy knew better than to cross a line that big with a player like that. She accepts that her love life is just one more thing that took a big hit from the devastating hurricane and moves on.

Now it’s the first summer after the storm, and the boy Lucy spent all winter trying to forget returns to Seaside Park with a new girlfriend, Bryn. Lucy tells herself it doesn’t matter, she’s with Andrew Clark now, her best friend who recently became more. Forget love and destiny, Lucy is more determined than ever to think with her mind, not her heart, and spend the summer hanging with her Seaside friends, working at Breakwater Burrito, and focusing on her goal of becoming a marine zoologist. But Lucy’s grand plans unravel before the first tan lines appear. When Lucy discovers her twin brother, Liam, and their parents have secrets of their own, and her rock-solid boyfriend is not-so-solid after all, she struggles to rebuild a life with the people she cares the most about in the place she loves.  


Where to find Jen Doktorski:

Twitter: @jdoktorski

Monday, October 27, 2014


We do, you know!
We need diverse books because we are all diverse.
We need books that reflect the glorious variety of the human experience: our colors and sexual preferences and genders and faiths and the millions of places in between where we land and call home.

Want to know more?
Go here:

Want to contribute to a very worthy fundraiser?
Go here:

Want to pre-order NONE OF THE ABOVE, written by my Balzer and Bray publishing 'sister' and awesome debut author/surgeon, IW Gregorio, who's written an amazing book about intersex?
Go here:

Happy Monday!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Macbeth, Pep Rallies, and Other Lessons from High School

3 Lessons learned while subbing for a friend, teaching her AP English IV classes on Friday:

1. Pep rallies at 7:16 AM are still an out of body experience. An entire gymnasium filled with 3,000 students cheering and watching the drill team perform (in full makeup) and vying for the spirit stick and the sun is not even fully up in the sky. Did you see the opening sentence where it was 7:16? (not 7:15 or 7:17.)

2.  Turns out it was Blackout Friday, with hopes that this theme would encourage a high score by our team at the District Championship football game on Friday night. (personal note: I was wearing a black tunic top anyway because no matter how much I try to add color to my wardrobe, black and grey and brown just seems to sneak in there and always have. Actually, I pretty much wear the same thing now as I did in high school: jeans, t-shirt and a navy hoodie and clompy work boots of varying sorts. But that's another story. Friday I was wearing jeans and a black tunic top.) In any case, it was like being at a funeral with cheering and basket tosses and speeches by the girl's volleyball team.

3. Turns out that even if you take a three year hiatus from teaching Macbeth, if you've taught it enough times, it remains in your active memory. Every bit of it. Like rolling off a Shakespearean log. King Duncan is still a nitwit. Lady Macbeth is still scary, although much sadder to me now. I still wonder what the Macbeths would be like to have as neighbors here in the boring Houston 'burbs. Would they dine at Olive Garden? Be excited for the impending Costco? Decorate for Halloween? Would I see them ordering queso at El Bosque?

It was a good day. A very good day. The students were honestly, awesome. Funny and smart and thoughtful.

And I got to pretend I was a responsible grown up who had power to say yay or nay to their requests to go to the bathroom. (a thing I absolutely do not miss. Because if you have an active sense of living ironically, it's hard write bathroom passes for students old enough to vote, and tell them to put away their cell phones while reading an email from my agent on my own phone.)

**If you want to read an irreverent view of suburban Houston and high school life, but with mystery, angels, poison, romance, dysfunctional family life, and potential global destruction if 15 year old Jenna doesn't save the day, I'd highly recommend THE SWEET DEAD LIFE and THE A-WORD, both out now from Soho Press.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Random Tuesday Updates

Yes, this post title is lame. But accurate!

In no particular order:

1. Finished E. Lockhart's Ruby Oliver quartet. Love, love, love. Do not assume -- as I did-- that these books are fluffy stuff. Because they are not. They are funny and clever and amazingly layered and have stuck in my brain making me ponder women and men and the varied nature of feminism and other things. More soon.

2. And then there's THIS!! on the EpicReads site at Harper Collins! Do you see FINDING PARIS??

I am dancing, people! Just dancing!!

3. Had a great trip to Nashville where we ate biscuits and gravy here:

And also listened to music a million places and went to the Grand Ole Opry and posed with cowboy boots on Broadway:
And more music and cocktails and a visit to Corsair Distillery and many other adventures.

4. Am reading Lena Dunham's NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL and loving it. It's easy to assume that Lena Dunham is simply Hannah Horvath but with better posture but she is not. She is brilliant and thoughtful and f-ing funny.

5. And speaking of pop culture, if you are not watching JANE THE VIRGIN on the CW, you need to be. Seriously. Do not let the title throw you. It pays homage to tele novellas, it is well-acted, it blends Spanish and English seamlessly and it is cleverly written and smart and funny and sweet. I am telling you, I love this show. And you should love it, too.

6. And speaking of TV, last nite's Blacklist was certainly timely in terms of the Ebola scare. Also, what does Lizzie have in the locked room? And how does James Spader manage to delight me so much with each line he delivers?

I could go on, but I've got a deadline to meet and agent Jen is getting antsy.

Til next time.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Wanna read FINDING PARIS before everyone else? Before it arrives from Balzer and Bray/Harper Collins on 4/21/15? I know you do!! Then scroll down to the Rafflecopter and enter!! Contest is running from today through 10/21/14!

(Domestic and Canada only this time. Hope to do an international soon!)

A page-turning, evocative novel for fans of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY and SPEAK, about a girl who must follow a trail of mysterious clues to discover what happened to her sister.