Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Thank You, Booklist, for loving FINDING PARIS

Can't share it all yet, but happy, happy to end the day yesterday with an email from my editor, sharing the Booklist review of FINDING PARIS. (4/21/15, Balzer and Bray)

For now, this clipping:

Preble skillfully paces the quest as her character development gently unfolds along the desert highway. Readers are privy to deep, dark secrets and, like Preble’s characters, are left to reconcile them with the unexpected owner of this painful past.”

Monday, February 23, 2015

MCBF15 and Fifteen Minutes of Fame

One of the most enjoyable parts of the author biz is getting to hang out with readers and librarians and other authors at festivals and conferences and trade shows and the like. Nothing beats the excitement of talking to readers and answering their questions. And nothing beats the time spent with other authors who all 'get it' and share the wild and crazy ups and downs of what is mostly a dream profession and some days like a perpetual heart attack.

Plus this weekend of the Montgomery County Book Festival (MoCo Texas, that is) had the extra added  thrill of getting to be interviewed for three solid minutes on live TV on the ABC Houston morning show! Yes, author Kim O'Brien and I headed down to ABC got our three minutes of fame. It was surreal and fun and honestly not at all terrifying. Partly this was due to the fact that just as I might have gotten nervous, the troupe of Chinese New Year dancers, complete with a multi part dragon, finished their segment and trouped through the ABC lobby where we were waiting. This was so mezmerizing  that I forgot to be nervous when the producer came to get us seconds later. After that, it goes quickly and we were miked up and sat down and boom there we went, prompters scrolling for the news anchor and us chatting away as he asked questions.

And then it was back to the festival with a brilliant and heartfelt keynote by my friend and mentor, the ever awesome Ellen Hopkins and a closing keynote by the equally brilliant Andrew Smith, who never fails to make me both laugh and cry and whose writing blows me away just as his philosophy of public education makes me want to give speeches of solidarity!

I'm on a deadline right now and I honestly need to walk the dog before the ice creeps down from Dallas -- as they say it will-- so a few quick pics for you from both!
And a heartfelt thank you to librarian Natasha Benway and to MCBF board member and TV anchor Tom Abrahams for asking us to do this!

in front of ABC at 7:45 AM

In the ABC lobby after it was all over.
Chatting with Chauncy Glover

It's Paris on TV!

Our Can I Get A Witness panel: Meg Gardiner, me, Kim O'Brien

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


FINDING PARIS is almost here! The novel will release on 4/21/15 from Balzer and Bray/Harper Collins, which is just two short months away, people!

And I am VERY EXCITED to announce that I've partnered with both Blue Willow Bookshop as well as JewelsbyTay (aka my very talented Austin cousin who sells her jewelry creations by that name on both Instagram and Etsy) for an awesome pre-order swag giveaway.

Here are the details:

In FINDING PARIS, Leo's flighty artist sister, Paris, goes missing one night in Vegas. Here's what Leo tells us about Paris and her art: "My sister's an artist…Her room is filled with odds and ends that she turns in something." Paris takes bits of discarded this and that and turns them into "Tiny red beads strung on black thread. Bright red stones glue to an oblong piece of metal hanging from a thin chain."

And I thought, wouldn't it be awesome if my readers could win exclusive Paris Hollings/Finding Paris jewelry? Well, now you can!

The first 10 pre-orders through Blue Willow Bookshop will win a swag pack including an exclusive, limited edition FINDING PARIS necklace, bracelet, or jeweled bookmark, a signed FINDING PARIS postcard, and a Hello Kitty bandaid because that's what Paris uses to tape her scavenger hunt notes around Vegas. (domestic US only)

The second 10 pre-orders through Blue Willow Bookshop will win a signed FINDING PARIS postcard or bookmark and a Hello Kitty Bandaid. (domestic US only)

Order through Blue Willow Bookshop here:

Offer good through 4/10/15 or until supplies run out.

Want a swag pack? Pre-order PARIS today!
And thank you! A million, trillion thank yous! Plus huge thank yous to Blue Willow Bookshop for partnering with me!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Five for Friday: The Valentine's Day Version

I've never been the biggest Valentine's Day fan. I'm not sure why except that it always feels slightly forced to me and the grocery store goes nuts with the chocolate covered strawberries and the lobster tails and I think, you know, I'd rather my true love make me the perfect grilled cheese sandwich and the perfect cup of coffee or whatever.

But still. Romance. I'm a fan of romance. I'm a fan of love. I'm a fan of the happy ending. (Okay, I'm a fan of the ambiguous ending, too. And the sad ending, if that's what the story needs. And I hate a happy ending that hasn't been worked for. I really do.)

But happy endings. Who doesn't love a happily ever after?

In honor that, five of my favorite romantic happy endings, in no particular order:

1. The ending of Serendipity with John Cusak and Kate Beckinsdale on the ice with the snow fluttering down and that single missing glove falling. It's impossible and wonderful and I always worry that both of them will be cold, but I can watch it over and over.

2. The ending of Sleepless in Seattle. On top of the Empire State Building. With Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan and that cute little boy. Runner up is the ending to You've Got Mail. With Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan and that cute dog. Neither is my favorite movie. But the endings make me weepy in the best of ways.

3. And okay, the ending of When Harry Met Sally… with Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal and New Year's Eve and all that running to get to the right person and those cute old people right after that. (Yes, I know that Meg Ryan seems to be in all my happy ending movies.) Runner up is the ending to Kate and Leopold, with--wait for it-- Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman and all that time travel craziness and a cute dog.

4. The ending of Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere and all that Hollywood stuff and a limo and fire escape and you know, I don't even like the whole Cinderella trope and certainly I don't think that prostitutes are typically going to marry millionaires with fear of heights, but here I am listing this is one of my favorite HEAs! Runner up, the ending to An Officer and A Gentleman with Richard Gere and Debra Winger and all that carry her through the factory stuff. Plus the drill sergeant. And the whole "Mayonnaise' riff.

5. The endings to Love Actually and The Holiday, both of which take place at least partly in England. Both are hokey but I love both of them awfully much.

What are your favorite happy ending movies?
Happy Valentine's Day!
And Happy Friday the 13th!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Some Thoughts on Outlander

Took a longish hiatus from reading the Outlander series. Deadlines, other books I wanted or needed to read, life, etc. got in the way. It had been a lovely late spring/summer/ part of fall run-- all the way to the middle of Book 6 when it was time to stop for bit.

Unfortunately, I'd left off in the middle of a lengthy section about William (Jamie's illegitimate son who is being raised by Lord John Grey and is now a British soldier while Jamie is now on the American side of that pesky Revolution) being lost in the middle of something called the Great Dismal and then getting rescued by Quakers and his (unbeknownst to him) cousin Ian Murray, who is mostly a Mohawk now but not always. So I returned to lots of slogging through bogs and fog and losing his horse and more slogging and on like that for a very long time until hooray! Ian wandered in to orient me and save the day.

It's been on fairly quickly since then, remembering that Diana Gabaldon tells Claire's parts in 1st person but everyone else's in 3rd and finally some Jamie and Claire time (which is why you read this series, among other things) and some cleverly smexy times and more Ian and the Quakers (who seem to get in a lot of trouble) and more than one leg amputation and some other grizzly deaths and talk of herbs and oh yes, both Claire and Jamie need spectacles now, and in fact he has just told her they'll have to wait until they get to Edinburgh (God knows when?) where he knows a guy and then he'll get her two pairs. Of course, this reader assumes that those words are queuing up the arrival of Ben Franklin, spectacle maker supreme! Hopefully he will make Claire a pair of bifocals! Cause these things happen in this series. I'll let you know.

And yet… There is just something about Outlander that makes me come back for more. Even if I occasionally skim pages about the Great Dismal or too much scenery or too much herb analysis. And even if the Quaker story line is feeling forced and honestly William is rather a jerk at times, but no one has told him who he really is and he seems a bit of a dim bulb about those things…

The romance is quite fine. (Just read an article about how the director of 50 Shades is hoping she's created a stronger, more feminist narrative for the film than the book. Well, good luck with that.) Outlander has strong women. And strong men. And love and sex and romance on an equal basis. I mean let's face it, when they first got married, Jamie not Claire, was the virgin. (He's made up for this since then, but still) As I like to remind people it's the women in this series who killed a buffalo with a hand saw. (specifically Jamie and Claire's daughter Brianna.) And yes sometimes the whole Brianna and Roger in Scotland in the future story line feels a bit like just a set up for a time travel kidnapping. But the series has dealt with death and loss and rape and starvation and war and love and revolution and fear and joy and everything in between.

It is big and bold and wonderful. It has jumped the shark any number of times (see: killing buffalo with a hand saw and my prediction about Ben Franklin and the glasses). But never mind! It is about flesh and blood characters who are living big and small lives against an ongoing historical backdrop. It is about life and love and the joys and sorrows of both. And I haven't even mentioned about 98% of the plot lines!

And the STARZ series, coming back in April, is mighty fine, too. (see: the wedding night between Jamie and Claire. And a bunch of other stuff.)

So yes, each book is like 1,000 pages. Fine with me.

If you haven't read it, find a copy and catch yourself up!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Five for Friday

Did you know next week is Valentine's Day? Already?!

And with that out of the way, the Friday five:

1. Huge congrats and awesome sparkly things to my friend and amazing author Crystal Allen, who was chosen as the Thurber House Writer in Residence for this coming summer! This is a huge honor and Crystal is wonderful writing coach and teacher, as well as the author of lovely MG/tween-ish titles HOW LAMAR's BAD PRANK WON HIM A BUBBA-SIZED TROPHY and THE LAURA LINE, both from our mutual publisher, Balzer and Bray/Harper Collins. Read more about it HERE

2. Author lunches. With cake. And industry talk. Went to one yesterday and I'm feeling recharged and focused. And not just because of the cake. Writing is such a solitary activity. It's easy to be neurotic some days. Most days. Well, maybe that's just me, but I don't think so. Anyway, it's always a true gift to hang out with other people who are battling the same battles.

3. Okay, so maybe possibly Scandal has jumped the shark for me with this new #saveOlivia plot. Because seriously? The most powerful man in the world is afraid of the VP and all his crazy machinations? Not working for me. Not even as over the top satire, which I don't think Shonda Rimes means it to be. If you do, Shonda, then, okay. Cool. Your dialogue is still stunning. But the plot is the kind of thing that I fear my editors would toss back at me and say, really? I was, however, relieved that Olivia was able to get a clean outfit and have her hair blown out. Although honestly, I like Olivia's hair when it's gone rogue. Just clean it up and it's just fine. But I know that's not Olivia. Which is a whole interesting discussion of its own, perhaps for another day.

4. So excited for two other author friends! The very kind and very talented Michael Northrop has a new series out, TOMB QUEST, from Scholastic. And book one, Book of Dead, just debuted on the NYTimes Bestseller's List! Hooray!!! You can grab a copy at your favorite bookstore. Or one of my favorites, Blue Willow:

And the delightful Cory Oakes from Austin has a new middle grade out from Sourcebooks, DINOSAUR BOY!

5. Getting excited for two upcoming book festivals: Montgomery County Book Festival, north of Houston in The Woodlands will be 2/21. I get to hang out with a bunch of my favorite authors and bloggers and readers and librarians. And the two keynotes are both authors I admire so greatly: Ellen Hopkins and Andrew Smith. So hooray for that! Then on 2/28, it's off to Corpus Christi for the first ever Teen Book Fest by the Bay!

And now that I just spilled my coffee, I'd say it's time to go.
Happy Friday.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Opening Lines part 2

Still thinking about the power of those opening few sentences in a novel and I came upon this, by author Beth Kephart, a writer whose prose I deeply admire.

I love this idea that not only do those crucial first lines set the tone, they also encompass the book in miniature.

I think back to what I shared yesterday, the first sentence of my forthcoming FINDING PARIS. "My sister leans over me while I am trying to sleep."  In many ways both large and small, this sentence reflects everything that happens after that. I'll be honest here and say that when I wrote it, I knew it felt like the right place to start, but I didn't think about it as containing the book in miniature. But I read that first chapter aloud at a book event the other night and I thought, hmmm. My subconscious is smarter than I am!

So today in between writing and other work, I am pondering this again.
Would love if you pondered with me!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Opening lines

Reading the brilliant A.S. King's Glory O'Brien's History of the Future. It begins like this: "So we drank it--the two of us. Ellie drank it first and acted like it tasted good. I followed. And it wasn't half bad. / When we woke the next morning everything was different."

There's more on that first page, but those are the first lines we get. Later we find out they've somehow drunk petrified bat and can now see the future-- and a grim one it is. I'm not that far into the novel so I'll talk more about it in a later post, but I love that King gives us SO MUCH in these first few sentences. I don't know how much of this will be the truth later, but I know that I'm pondering.

Let's deconstruct:

  • She begins with the act of drinking…. something.
  • She uses the pronoun 'we' followed by 'the two of us' and so I think that partnership/friendship/relationship (I'm not sure yet here in paragraph one) is significant. 
  • She tells us that Ellie drank first and then 'acted like it tasted good' which probably tells me a lot about Ellie even before I really meet her on the page. 
  • And then she writes, "I followed." Which also tells me a lot about the narrator, whose name I don't yet know.
We writers talk and think a lot about openings. It's that first page that I often write and re-write many, many more times than anything else I revise. Because it's everything, really. It's a reader's gateway into the novel, into the characters, into relationships and conflicts and things to come.

So we want to get it just right. It's not just about drawing the reader into the story. It's about telling things without telling them fully, which is sometimes-- many times-- harder than it looks.

The opening line of my forthcoming FINDING PARIS (April 21, Balzer and Bray) reads, "My sister leans over me while I am trying to sleep."

This was not the original first line. Or the second draft first line. Or even the third. In fact, it wasn't even where the book began in its first iteration. But eventually, I knew where the book needed to begin and what it needed to begin with. 

More on that later.

For now, a question: What are some opening lines that have stuck with you/made you wonder? Lines that when you finished and went back to them, you realized what they were doing?