Thursday, April 28, 2016

From my mail



Readers send me notes via regular mail as well as email, and I appreciate every single one of them. I try to respond to emails within a few days and regular mail within a couple of weeks. If I'm busy drafting a book or traveling, it may take longer.

Here's what some readers have said recently:

"I am such a fan of your young adult books. They are perfection!" ~Izzy

"I am one of the many teens that read your books. I have two left then I'm done with reading your novels and I do not not know what I am going to do!" ~ Abbi

"I'm an 8th grader and I hate reading. However, I just read Chasing Brooklyn and I Heart You, You Haunt Me in two days. I couldn't put them down because of how amazing and engaging they are." ~Juliet

"I showed all of your books to my friends and now they are all over them too." ~Meghan

"I researched you and I wanted to tell you that I like sunshine and movies too." ~ Taylor, 5th grade

"I love your books because they are so mysterious. I think you were born smart!" ~Hooriya

*****

This business can be so hard, but notes from kids and teens remind me of why I do this. Why I hope I can keep doing this for many years to come. 

Thanks for the love, readers. Right back atcha, always!

Monday, April 25, 2016

On secrets and magic



"The greatest secrets are always hidden
in the most unlikely places.
Those who don't believe
in magic will never find it."
~ Roald Dahl

Friday, April 22, 2016

Thinking about what Prince means to me



Here's the thing about Prince's music. His songs were often the background of my life in high school. I mean, there was a lot of music we loved, a lot of music we cranked in the car and danced to at the school dances. But his was there a LOT. Like, I have such a strong memory of a friend and I driving around blasting Little Red Corvette in my very first car, and I think back to that night, to that time, and it is like we were swathed in magic.

Prince = Magic

And what's amazing to me is that over time, some of the music I listened to back then I don't like as much anymore. But Prince's music? My love has only grown over the years. And it was on my bucket list to see him in concert at least once, and I'm just so sad that will never happen now. I came from a small town. To go to the big city, to see a concert, hardly ever happened. A bunch of us made the two-hour trip to see Journey, and man, that night was epic. I wish we'd made it happen for Prince too.

Here are the things I know about Prince.

He was extremely talented.
He worked hard.
He was brave with his art.
He wanted control over how that art was seen and heard, and so he took control, and he did NOT apologize for that, or care what people thought.

Today, I'm feeling inspired to be a little more Prince-like with my work.

To be brave.
To work hard and put work out there that I'm proud of and;
to not care so much about what other people think.

Thank you, Prince, for the music and for the inspiration. I am so grateful the music lives on.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Bookshops around the world

I'm still in Texas, writing for just another day or so, and then I'm off to the Texas Library Association conference to sign some books for some wonderful librarians - yay!! The weather has turned stormy, so I'm glad we got some nice walks in when we did.

I'm working on two new projects that I won't say much about, since I've come to learn it's best for me to keep them close to my vest, so to speak, for as long as possible. Both projects are requiring quite a bit of research, which can be overwhelming sometimes, but also pretty fun.

I thought it'd be fun to share some images of bookstores I found while doing a search recently.

London, England
Rochester, England
Westport, Ireland

Paris, France
Don't you want to visit all of them? I sure do! This is where research gets very dangerous - it's fun to learn and discover so many things. But at some point, you have to stop and get back to writing. Just like I must do now.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Books and flowers

Before I share some pretty tulip pictures, have I mentioned here that MY SECRET GUIDE TO PARIS is now out in paperback? I don't think I have so here's a picture to prove it, right alongside THE GIRL IN THE TOWER that I snapped at Powell's when I was there.


And another book-related thing to share, SEALED WITH A SECRET comes out in just one month. I got a few early copies from my editor. Phoebe! London! Sisters! A magic spell!!



"With freedom, books, flowers and the moon,
who could not be happy?" ~ Oscar Wilde





Monday, April 4, 2016

On jumping to conclusions

Why are we so quick to jump to conclusions when it comes to books, movies, TV shows, etc.? This is something that completely baffles me. And the thing that's terrible is that I am guilty of it too!

Case in point: I was not going to watch "American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ" because I thought - why would I want to watch that when I watched the real thing unfold twenty-two years ago? But then a guy I went to school with and was in a play with in middle school told us all on facebook that he was playing the part of the polygraph tester in the first episode. See? That's him with the glasses. SITTING NEXT TO CUBA GOODING JR!! Cool, huh?


So I set my DVR to record the show. And fifteen minutes into the show, I was hooked. The writing was excellent, the acting superb. I have learned so many things I hadn't known all those years ago. The real case unfolded the year after my son was born. I was busy learning to juggle full-time work and an infant. I caught the highlights of the case and that was about it. Like, I don't think I knew how horribly mean the press was to Marcia Clark.

Anyway, the series wraps up this week and I never in a million years would have guessed that this show would be the highlight of my TV watching the past couple of months. But there you go.

Batman vs. Superman released a couple of weeks ago and everyone, for months, was so quick to judge Ben Affleck in that role. I didn't see the film when it came out but my husband and two sons did and my oldest son said Ben Affleck is his new favorite batman. I mean, imagine if he'd listened to all of those people saying bad stuff months before the movie was even released? He would have missed out on a movie that he really enjoyed.

And when it comes to books, we aren't any better. We dismiss books based on titles and covers so easily. Too easily. And on the other side of the coin, books that hit a home run with a title and a cover will often score big because we love cool things. Pretty things. Strange things. Whatever. If it makes us sit up and notice, that matters - a lot.

THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER by Leslye Walton (a novel for teens) is a book that hit it out of the park with the cover and title.



Another one that just came out recently (also for teens) - WINK, POPPY, MIDNIGHT by April Genevieve Tucholke. I haven't read it yet but I want to. I'm SO curious!!



I'm thinking about all of this as it relates to THE GIRL IN THE TOWER. Because I'm worried people assume they've heard this story before. That it's another Rapunzel story and gong-shoo, how boring, we certainly don't need another one of those.

I find myself wishing we'd gone with something a little more imaginative, a little less... telling, maybe. Because while it is a story about a girl in a tower, AT FIRST, it isn't only a story about that. It's also a story about the evil queen who is really a witch. And a story about the two hummingbirds, Peace and Pax, who try to help locate Violet's father. And a story about the family of minstrels who travel the land looking for Violet and her mother because they don't know where they are.


I'm not sure most people realize how difficult it is to title a book, and on top of that, to find an image that will do all the things a good cover should do. We do our best and then we hope for the best.

So the next time you find yourself jumping to conclusions about a book based on the title and/or cover, stop for a second and realize what it is you're doing. Of course, you may be right after all - the assumptions you make may turn out to be true. But often times, they aren't. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me they almost didn't read FALLING FOR YOU because of the kissy-kissy cover, but were so glad they did after all, I'd have...about thirty dollars. Ha ha. But still, the fact that I feel like I've heard that thirty times? How many people actually did dismiss it because of the cover and never read it? We'll never know...

Are there any books you can think of that you almost dismissed because of the cover and/or title, and were later glad you didn't? I'd love to hear...

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A day I'll never forget

It was a cold, February day. A Wednesday. 

That morning, I was doing some grocery shopping in Safeway when my phone rang. It wasn't a phone number I recognized right off the bat. I answered to discover it was the husband of my friend, Lisa. When I heard his voice, I instantly knew.

My friend had passed away that morning from pancreatic cancer. She was only 47 years old.

I was devastated she was gone, but also thankful she was no longer in pain. After we hung up, I stared at my cart of half the groceries I had intended to buy wondering what to do next. I called my husband. He asked if he should come and drive me home. I said, "No, I'll just go check out now with what I have. I think I'll be okay."

I remember so clearly wondering what to say when the clerk asked, "How are you today?" Do I tell him, I thought? No. Of course you don't tell him. You say fine like everyone does 99% of the time, even if they aren't fine, because it's silly small talk, and that's what you're supposed to do.

"Fine," I said. 

I held my breath, telling myself to hold back the tears. That I could do that. It was just three minutes. Hang on for three minutes. You can lose it in the car. But not here. Not here, not here, not here.

I made it to the car. And I cried. My husband pulled up just before I was about to pull out of the parking lot. He'd driven the five minutes from work to make sure I was okay. He followed me home. We put the groceries away. I cried some more. I called my friend, Suzanne. She came over and it was good to have a friend to be sad with.

And then, another phone call. This time, from my agent. My book, then titled IMPOSSIBLY SMALL, had officially sold. I had a publisher and an editor I was excited to work with. Except, how could I rejoice when I was so incredibly sad at the loss of my friend? I explained to my agent what had happened, and she was kind and understanding, as I knew she would be. It's hard to be happy when your heart has just been shattered into a million pieces.

Previously, Lisa would have been one of the first ones to hear my good news. But she was gone. I couldn't tell her.

It's been five years. Five years without Lisa. And five years since I got the call that my first foray into fantasy would be published. The title has changed. There was a lot of revision. And there were beautiful illustrations added to make the story even more special. I think Lisa would love this book. She'd especially love the hummingbirds at the heart of the story, named Peace and Pax. One of the last emails she sent me simply said this:

Isn't it so pretty today?
I'm sitting here watching the birds and squirrels.

It's so strange how five years can feel like just yesterday, and like a million years ago, all at the same time.

My dear friend and this book are forever linked. So today I just want to tell her -- look, Lisa, it's a real, live, beautiful book.