Friday, March 27, 2015

Five for Friday

Last Friday in March! Now that is madness. (okay, a weak pun that vaguely alludes to basketball. Best I can do today)

1. Getting very excited for HOUSTON TEEN BOOK CON, which is coming up on 4/11! Here's the link:  I am absolutely thrilled that FINDING PARIS will be available for sale there early and exclusively! So yes, if you are in Houston and want to read two weeks before everyone else, come to Houston Teen Book Con! I am also insanely, fan-girl ecstatic that I am on the Truth About Love panel with Alexis Bass, Susan Colasanti, David Levithan (!!), Jen Mathieu and me!

2. Getting equally excited for TLA the following week, which for the uninitiated, stands for Texas Library Association. I am very honored to announce that I will be signing FINDING PARIS in the author area on Wednesday 4/15 from 11-12, courtesy of Balzer and Bray/Harper Collins, but my other publisher, Soho Press, is generously providing some stacks of  SWEET DEAD LIFE series to sign as well! Now that makes me so happy. My full schedule will be up in appearances soon, and also includes TT4L and the Texas Author Tea.

3. It is finally spring here in Texas. At least more or less. Of course the pine pollen has coated the world in a dusting of yellow, but even that seems to be fading. *sneezes*

4. Very excited for the debut of Meredith Moore's I AM HER REVENGE on 4/7! Click on the title and get a copy and we can read together! She'll be debut launching at Blue Willow Books on 4/4!  (and fyi, Meredith and I will be signing together on 5/2 at Murder by the Book. More on that soon.)

5. And in my iZombie report, I can say that episode 2 has kept me coming back for episode 3. Rose McIver continues to nail it as Olivia. The writing is clever, although definitely hits every trope beloved to my have CW shows. Still giving it 2 brains up!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Five Reasons You Should Be Watching iZombie

If you haven't watched the pilot for iZombie that aired this week, then you need to. The CW network has given me a new show to love and so I dedicate today's Friday Five to five reasons why you should, too!

1. Because it's quirky and created by Rob Thomas and the writers are in a word, awesome. It's funny and poignant and clever and if Veronica Mars married Buffy The Vampire Slayer and gave birth to a suddenly zombie-ized med student named Olivia who wants more out of life than to be the walking dead, then this is what you'd have. And who doesn't want that?

2. Because Liv solves murder mysteries with her fellow morgue examiner (Okay, I do have to say that this makes two shows I follow where the main character finds the best way to hide what he/she really is, is to be an ME and solve mysteries. (I'm looking at you, FOREVER) and a newbie cop and hopefully a host of other Scoobies as the eps build. She helps the helpless. (okay, that was an ANGEL reference). She uses her sudden zombie power of absorbing the memories (and to some extent the personalities) of the cadavers when she munches on their brains for the greater good. (Tastefully. With hot sauce. And chopsticks.)

3. Because it's interspersed with cartoon frames while Liv gives a clever, snarky, and sometimes heartfelt voice over that WORKS.

4. Because Rose McIver rocks it as Olivia! Totally and completely. Platinum hair and zombie pallor and all of it.

5. Because it was totally time to move beyond the Walking Dead and get a girl zombie/hero/med student who can't tell her former boyfriend/almost fiancé that she can't marry him because she is basically dead now and when she gets angry, she can go into super, bad ass chick zombie mode and then watch out bad guys.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

You Can't SILENCE Deborah Lytton!

Today I welcome author Deborah Lytton, who I first met as part of Class of 2k9 when we were both tender little debut authors! She's a cool chick, let me say, and also one of the most multi-talented individuals I've ever known. Author, Actress, Singer, Lawyer--that's just the tip of the iceberg. Plus she was on Mod Squad as a little girl. One ep, but Mod Squad! Her debut, JANE IN BLOOM was simply beautiful and now she's got a new book, SILENCE, just hitting the shelves.

Amazon sums up SILENCE like this:
Love Is Not Blind, It is Deaf.
Stella was born to sing. Someday Broadway. Even though she is only a sophomore at a new high school, her voice has given her the status as a cool kid. But then a tragic accident renders her deaf. She cannot hear herself sing not to mention speak. She cannot hear anything. Silence. What happens when everything you have dreamed of and hoped for is shattered in a single moment?
Enter Hayden, the boy with blonde curls who stutters. He is treated like an outcast because he is not normal. And, yet, Stella feels an attraction to him that she cannot explain. As Hayden reaches out to help Stella discover a world without sound his own tragic past warns him to keep a distance. But their connection is undeniable. Can the boy who stutters and the girl whose deaf find a happily-ever-after?
SILENCE is a story of friendship and hope with a lesson that sometimes it takes a tragedy to help us find beauty and love in unexpected places.

I sat down with Debby, laptop to laptop, to ask her some questions about life, her career, and SILENCE. And yes, Mod Squad. Because I know you all want to know, too, right?

Joy: SILENCE deals with some very serious issues: a girl rendered deaf from an accident; a boy who has been bullied because he stutters. How did you come to write this story?

Debby: I wanted to tell a story about a girl who loses her hearing and how this shatters her world. So many people, including teens, see themselves as what they are rather than who they are. Our preoccupation with social media only enhances this because we are reduced to single word descriptions instead of multi-dimensional individuals. Hayden is an outcast because he is different, yet it is his difference that allows them to communicate. The story grew from there.   

J: I know that you are not only an awesome author but also a lawyer, an actress and singer/songwriter. (Yes, I am totally envious of all this! Not limited to your role on Mod Squad, because Linc. And Julie. But I digress) How much, if any, of the performer part of you did you give to Stella?

D: That Mod Squad episode was the first acting job I booked. It was many years ago, but I still remember how incredibly kind all of the actors were to me. As for Stella, I accessed that part of myself that loves to sing and perform, and I translated that to Stella’s world. I did not star in any of my high school’s musicals or plays, but my brother did, so I used the experiences he had to anchor Stella in reality. As an actor, the best moments are when you can lose yourself in the character, and I tried to share that in Stella’s portrayal of Maria.

J: You and I first met as debut authors in the Class of 2k9. Are there any similar themes in SILENCE and your debut, Jane in Bloom?

D: It’s amazing to think that it has been over six years since we joined the Class of 2k9. Even more incredible is the fact that so many of us are still close and still sharing our journeys with one another. Although JANE IN BLOOM and SILENCE are very different stories, they do share similar themes of loss, self-discovery and ultimately hope. Both books might make readers cry. I know I cried when I wrote them. A lot.

J: What advice do you have for aspiring writers/singers/actors/lawyers?

D: You’re funny, Joy! I’ll stick to the writer part. My advice to other writers is to believe in yourself and follow your dreams. There is room for everyone to tell a story because we all have a unique way of looking at the world. We just need to trust ourselves enough to share our stories.

J: What’s next for Deborah Lytton?

D: Right now, I’m focusing on the release of SILENCE as well as finishing a new young adult novel about two high school students who help each other through a very difficult time. It’s been an emotional and difficult book to write (a few more tears), but I hope it will be really powerful.

Thanks, Deborah Lytton!
For more info on Lytton and her books, go to:

Monday, March 16, 2015

You Don't Have To Like Them and Other Truths About Characters and Storytelling

Just finished reading the very talented Julie Murphy's amazing debut YA novel, SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY. And here's the thing about her main character Alice: She is a mean girl. Getting cancer has not changed this; in fact dying has through much of the book, exacerbated her meanness. She is angry and cruel and her bucket list of revenge (it's not all revenge on the list, but a lot of it is) includes some very awful acts that she commits with pleasure. She loves a boy named Harvey but she fears--and rightfully so--that even though her disease is suddenly in remission, it will return, and so she pushes him away, cheats on his loving heart, uses him shamefully and with full knowledge of what she is doing and honestly has to think hard, once she tries to change her mindset, about what a non-mean person would do. The punishments she doles out to those who have wronged her (and let me say they've done some pretty crappy things) are as harsh if not harsher than the crimes they've committed.

I don't like her very much, not even at the end. I wouldn't be her friend. I have never understood the Regina Georges of the world. It rarely occurs to me to act in those ways and trust me when I say I'm no saint. I'm mouthy and snarky and sarcastic and I see the world through a sardonic lens most days and am happiest when surrounded by those who see it that way, too. But although I am myself a cancer survivor, I still don't relate to the way Alice acts, even if I can understand and analyze it. Almost dying--however close you get--changes you in ways you might never suspect it will. Trust me on this. Unless you've experienced it, you can't honestly say how you'd react. You really can't. It doesn't always make us noble. Even Gus and Hazel Grace in TFIOS--surely the prettiest, most articulate cancer-suffering duo in YA--have their awful moments. 

But I don't HAVE to like Alice for me to read and enjoy and savor this book. I don't HAVE to like her for me to think that Julie Murphy's written an awesome novel. I simply have to find her authentic and consistent within the fictional boundaries and character arc Murphy has created. And I do. (Okay, as someone who's spent a number of years in the classroom, I will say that my long term experience with high school is that there are fewer powerful student queen bee types in real life than there seem to be in fiction, but I'm okay with the trope. It's a decent stand in for the many nasty power mongers in the world. And interestingly, the place I see it most is the teacher's lounge, which is often a scary, angry, territorial den, a place where I was once told by someone in authority, "I don't care how smart you are as long as you're nice,"--implying that I wasn't-- but that's another story)

Still, I frequently read reviews of various books--including my own-- in which readers say, "I didn't like her/him." or "That was a terrible way to act." or "9th grade girls wouldn't swear like that." or "I would never do that to my sister. It made me hate her." And they down rate accordingly. 

Except my job as an author is NOT to make my characters all likeable. My job is to tell the authentic story of this character at this place and time in this particular set of experiences. My job is to ruminate on the nature of being human, which let's face it, is quite the journey. Some of us are awful. Some of us aren't. Some of us (even 9th grade girls!) swear like sailors. Some of us do terrible things and all of us have no idea how we would behave if our world was up-ended, or we were struggling or trapped in a life we didn't want but couldn't escape, one in which horrible things sometimes happened. If the truths we had to face felt, well, unfaceable. 

Writers are not obligated to tie it all up with a pretty pink bow, although I personally prefer a note of hope at the end, which Murphy has definitely supplied.

This means that my characters will frequently act or speak or think in ways I might not. And as a reader, I am thus privileged to safely experience worlds beyond my own limited personal experience.

 I'm hoping very hard that I have captured these things for my readers in the forthcoming FINDING PARIS (Balzer and Bray) and all its characters Leo and Paris and Max, as they struggle--not always in the best of ways-- to face their own choices and truths. 

Bravo, Julie Murphy, for being fearless enough to write a character that I don't like very much.
And if you haven't read SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY (Balzer and Bray), you need to do so.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Five For Friday: Teen Book Fest by the Bay Style

Five (plus a few more) Reasons Teen Book Fest by the Bay was made of much awesome.  (and if I'd taken more pictures, you'd also see other authors like Django Wexler, Christie Craig (CC Hunter), Lindsey Lane, Guadalupe McCall, Rosemary Clement Moore, and many, many more!
Did you know that besides the Selena statue and wonderful beaches, Corpus Christi has the only 2 story Whataburger?

This is my friend Jan Mathieu, who wrote THE TRUTH ABOUT ALICE.  She makes me laugh. A lot.

Pat Anderson of Overlooked Books sold our books. There are lots of mine! Hooray for that, right?

Assassins and Protectors panel. I think we look somewhere in the middle: me, Jackson Pearce, Joe Shine.
And PJ Hoover and Mari Mancusi talking Tut and dragons and other stuff.

Our rooms had a beach view! (okay, it was raining and 45 degrees, but the beach!

The awesome Debbie Van Zandt and her team made us so welcome and their first book fest ever was wonderful!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What's Up Wednesday

It is about 70 degrees out right now, muggy and airless. My azaleas have started blooming. Weeds are springing up in the yard. By the end of the day, I think it will be dropping into the 30s, with the possibility of ice and storms. And so it goes as Houston attempts to leave its version of winter and head into spring.

Reading a number of books at once, in fits and starts as the mood or need strikes:

  • Andrew Smith's The Alex Crow, which has already drawn me in because Andrew has this way of making me think about life and the universe and the weirdness of being a human on this planet. 
  • Julie Murphy's Side Effects May Vary, which I started awhile back and now am back to. Alice had cancer. Now she doesn't. But the relationships she destroyed -- or tried to-- before and along the way-- are still looming. And then there's Harvey, who loves her. Alice is a prickly, prickly soul.
  • The Storied Life of AJ Fikry-- which I like very much. If you are a book person, so will you. AJ, like Alice in Julie's book above, is not a particularly warm and fuzzy soul. But he changes because of his daughter and finding love again and there's a lot of secrets on Alice island. (wow! Alice again!)
  • Outlander, book 8, which means I am headed toward 8,000 pages of Outlander. It's the Revolutionary War for Claire and Jamie and Ian and the gang. But back in the future in 1980s Scotland, Roger Mac and Brianna and the kids are having troubles of their own… Plus Quakers and love stories and a lot of Rollo the dog time and yeesh, but young William (aka, Jamie's illegitimate son who thinks he's a British lord) is a jerk sometimes! Over the top. Jumping many sharks, but I adore this series with a full heart. What can I say?
And in other Wednesday news:
  • It's Rodeo time here in Houston. Debating which fried food on a stick I should eat when we go. As people do.
  • Revising IT WASN'T ALWAYS LIKE THIS. (Soho, 5/2016) Pondering immortality. A lot. Oh my gosh I love this novel. 
  • Just over a month until FINDING PARIS. (4/21/15, Balzer and Bray). Pondering why we keep secrets and how hard it is to tell our truths. More on that soon. Pre-order swag giveaway still going on through Blue Willow Books.
Happy Wednesday!