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.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


At last! At last! Sound the trumpets! Rev the road trip engines!
I can finally let you see the gorgeous, wonderful, supremely awesome cover for FINDING PARIS, which is coming 4/21/15 from Balzer and Bray/Harper Collins!

Barnes and Noble did an exclusive review last week, which you can read HERE !
I spill the beans about the process and a bit about the book itself!

But first, take a peek!

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.

Sisters Leo and Paris Hollings have only ever had each other to rely on. They can’t trust their mother, who hops from city to city and from guy to guy, or their gambler stepfather, who’s moved them all to Las Vegas. It’s just the two of them: Paris, who’s always been the dreamer, and Leo, who has a real future in mind—going to Stanford, becoming a doctor, falling in love.

But Leo isn’t going anywhere yet… until Paris ditches her at the Heartbreak Hotel Diner, where moments before they had been talking with physics student Max Sullivan. Outside, Leo finds a cryptic note from Paris—a clue. Is it some kind of game? Where is Paris, and why has she disappeared?

When Leo reluctantly accepts Max’s offer of help, the two find themselves following a string of clues through Vegas and beyond. But the search for the truth is a not a straight line. And neither is the path to secrets Leo and Max hold tightly.

“An inspiring story of lost souls, and the hope and compassion that must piece together a family long exiled and devastated by secrets.” – Adele Griffin, author of THE UNFINISHED LIFE OF ADDISON STONE

“FINDING PARIS is a compelling page- turner. It's a road trip story, a mystery, and a romance all in one.  Add to that Preble's pitch perfect descriptions of place and you've got a real winner.  I couldn't put it down.” –Jennifer Mathieu, author of THE TRUTH ABOUT ALICE

And if you want to do a girl a favor, you can even pre-order! (Pre-orders really, really count!!)


Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Today, I’m honored to welcome my friend and awesome author, Holly Schindler, whose latest YA novel, FERAL, arrived this past August.

Here’s the flap copy for FERAL:
The Lovely Bones meets Black Swan in this haunting psychological thriller with twists and turns that will make you question everything you think you know.

It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words continue to haunt Claire Cain months after she barely survived a brutal beating in Chicago. So when her father is offered a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out will offer her a way to start anew.

But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire feels an overwhelming sense of danger, and her fears are confirmed when she discovers the body of a popular high school student in the icy woods behind the school, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it, and vows to learn the truth about what happened.

But the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to realizing a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley….

Holly Schindler’s gripping story is filled with heart-stopping twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the very last page.

Here’s what Holly had to say about FERAL and thrillers and supernatural elements and other things. And after the interview, some cool links!

Joy: FERAL is a psychological thriller.  What were some of your influences in this genre?

Holly: I’m a giant vintage movie buff.  Love old horror flicks (if it’s black and white and features a creature rising out of a lagoon or growing hair on fast-forward or even a few vampire cowboys, I’m totally in).  I also love Hitchcock (REAR WINDOW might be my favorite). 
FERAL really is a psychological thriller in the classic sense.  The book features Hitchockian pace and attention to character development.  While FERAL incorporates elements of other genres—horror, mystery, paranormal—the primary focus is on the “psychological,” or the inner workings of the main character, Claire Cain.  (As a side-note, my first book, A BLUE SO DARK, also focused on some psychological issues—in that book, I tackled mental illness and creativity.  Isn’t the mind just a mysterious and magical place?)
We don’t really see much right now in the way of psychological thrillers, especially at the box office.  Trying to brainstorm a few more modern psychological thriller movies I’ve seen and loved, I get to WHAT LIES BENEATH or MEMENTO, then start to stall out…But I saw those ages ago, in college!  It’s a genre I’d love to see more of, frankly.
Speaking of WHAT LIES BENEATH, though—that’s a movie that really makes fantastic use of the water metaphor.  It shows up often in psychological thrillers (PSYCHO’s shower scene, for example) as a symbol for the subconscious or unconscious mind.  The water metaphor is used in FERAL too—in the form of an ice storm that represents Claire’s “frozen” inner state.
Basically, every aspect of FERAL is used to explore Claire’s inner workings—even those feral cats…

Joy: The title clearly refers to the cats which play a large role in the plot.  Interestingly, this is not the first YA novel I’ve read that uses them as part of a thriller—The Turning: What Curiosity Kills, by Helen Ellis (Sourcebooks) created a very creepy story with them.  But as for you—what drew you to incorporate felines in the way you use them in this novel?

Holly: Part of it turned out to be me playing with some of those conventions of the psychological thriller…A few reviewers have smartly pointed to the ferals as a nod to Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS. 
But a big part of it is that I also wanted Peculiar to be full of parallels to Chicago.  I wanted Peculiar to be no escape at all.  I needed a gang to be relentlessly pursuing Claire.  As a lifelong Missouri girl, I know firsthand how the feral cat / barn cat population can explode in rural areas, and I thought it was the perfect rural “gang.”  
One of the cats—Sweet Pea—also turns out to be a way to show readers visually what Claire thinks of her own body, post-beating.
In addition, the word “feral” means “wild” and “savage”—which is a perfect way to describe the beating Claire survived in the Chicago alley, and the scene in the woods when Serena’s body is discovered, and Claire’s nightmares, and the way the ghosts in the town fog behave…“Feral” is a description of where Claire is mentally as the novel progresses…

Joy: What are the most challenging elements of writing a thriller, particularly one that doesn’t shy away from violence and gore?  What have been the most enjoyable moments?  What drew you to incorporate a more paranormal element within crafting a thriller?

Holly: The paranormal element plays into yet another convention of the psychological thriller: the attempt to untangle what is real from what is unreal.  Claire witnesses the spirit of the murdered Serena Sims falling into an old feral cat; she sees spirits of the dead in the town fog; but why doesn’t anyone else see the same things?  What can Claire believe in?  What can she trust?  The end of FERAL—and the explanation of the odd occurrences in the town of Peculiar—offer an exploration into and portrait of Claire’s psyche.
Most challenging?  It doesn’t matter what the genre is—I always find that writing dramatic scenes are the toughest.  I have an incredible amount of respect for authors who consistent write action-oriented work.  It’s seriously tough stuff. 
By contrast, I always find metaphorical writing the most fun and easiest.  In fact, in some ways, FERAL is the most metaphorical book I’ve ever written.  The central theme is recovering from violence.  That’s not just a lengthy or hard process; it’s a terrifying process, too.  In the end, the entire book—everything that happens to Claire—is a metaphor for the frightening process of recovery. 

Joy: Why YA?  That is—why YA for this specific story and why YA for you as a writer?

Holly: I dove headfirst into my writing career when I got my master’s in ’01 (which was only possible because of incredible family support).  At the time, I was drafting only adult work.  But in order to pay my own bills, I was teaching music lessons: piano and guitar.  I was so surprised at how familiar my young students seemed to me.  So much like the kids I’d known when I was in school.  They inspired me to try my hand at writing in the juvenile market.
I always say it’s funny—I thought those students would give me some cash.  I never would have suspected they’d give me career direction, too!

Joy: Tell us something (or a bunch of stuff) we might not know about Holly Schindler:

Holly: I have a spoiled Pekingese (Jake) who likes to talk on the phone (not joking).
I have rotten eyesight (20/700 vision!), but now think of my glasses as another piece of jewelry.
I have been knitting the same sweater since 2007.
I have double-jointed elbows.  Good for yoga.  Bad for volleyball.
I’m a music nut, and met just about every hair-metal band of the late ‘80s / early ‘90s.
My first concert was Kiss—and the reason behind my belief that all author events should have more pyro.

Joy: What’s next for you?

Holly: I’ve written my next MG and YA, and will be branching out into new genres soon.  Stay up to date with the latest on Twitter: @holly_schindler and Facebook:

And here’s some more about Holly!

Holly Schindler is the author of the critically acclaimed A BLUE SO DARK (Booklist starred review, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year silver medal recipient, IPPY Awards gold medal recipient) as well as PLAYING HURT (both YAs). 

Her debut MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, also released in ’14, and became a favorite of teachers and librarians, who used the book as a read-aloud.  Kirkus Reviews called THE JUNCTION “...a heartwarming and uplifting story...[that] shines...with vibrant themes of community, self-empowerment and artistic vision delivered with a satisfying verve.” 

FERAL is Schindler’s third YA and first psychological thriller.  Publishers Weekly gave FERAL a starred review, stating, “Opening with back-to-back scenes of exquisitely imagined yet very real horror, Schindler’s third YA novel hearkens to the uncompromising demands of her debut, A BLUE SO DARK…This time, the focus is on women’s voices and the consequences they suffer for speaking…This is a story about reclaiming and healing, a process that is scary, imperfect, and carries no guarantees.”

Schindler encourages readers to get in touch.  Booksellers, librarians, and teachers can also contact her directly regarding Skype visits.  She can be reached at hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com, and can also be found at,, @holly_schindler,, and

FERAL Trailer:
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Rafflecopter form for a giveaway of a signed copy of FERAL (running from Sept. 27- Oct. 13):