Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cover for ALL WE HAVE IS NOW

It's popping up in places on the internet and I just got a few galleys so I'd say it's time to share this beauty with the world.

This will be my 7th YA novel and I have to say, it is my new favorite cover! I LOVE IT!!! I love the colors, the font, the starry sky and the bridge that looks very much like the Vista Bridge in Portland, which plays a part in the story.


This is speculative fiction, in the vein of THE AGE OF MIRACLES and LIFE AS WE KNEW IT (both of which I read and enjoyed) about two teens who have just a little over twenty-four hours before a giant meteor is due to destroy much of North America and decide to spend their last hours helping to fulfill as many last wishes as they can.

Coming in July, 2015 from Scholastic!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Tomorrow is release day for CHARMED LIFE #4

This year has flown by. Seriously, how is it even possible we have reached October and the date when the last CHARMED LIFE book comes out? Wasn't I just writing this series yesterday?

Kind of unbelievable.

So far, the series has told Caitlin's, Mia's, and Libby's stories. Now readers get to read Hannah's story. Hannah lives on a small farm in Tennessee with her older twin brothers and her parents. Next door, on the same property, are her grandparents.


This book is special to me because I based the farm on my grandparents farm, where I spent many happy days growing up. My grandparents had mules and rode them, well into their seventies, as they went on excursions (mostly in Eastern Oregon) sometimes camping for up to a month.

The barn in the book, where Hannah discovers a surprise upstairs at one point, is like the barn my grandma helped build when she was just eight years old. She grew up on the property and later, when she got married, her and my grandpa built their own house there. Years later, they built a bigger house, and the old little house became the garage. My grandma would tell the story of going to the river bed with the buckboard, all by herself, to get rocks for the foundation of the barn.

Here's a brief description of the book:

It's finally Hannah's turn to wear the lucky charm bracelet -- and not a moment too soon!

Hannah's parents have a surprise for her, and she's sure it's her dream come true: a horse of her own. Instead, they've gotten her a mule!

Everyone says she can still ride the mule, even in the 4-H parade, but how silly will that look? Hannah is so embarrassed, and she needs the luck from her Cabin 7 BFFs' charm bracelet more than ever.


Don't tell the other characters, but I think Hannah's story is my favorite. I suppose you can see why?

Happy Monday!

Monday, October 13, 2014

From my mail

It's time, once again, for another edition of "From My Mail!"


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

Here's what some readers have been saying recently:

"I think you're an awesome writer that has amazing ideas in your brain all the time. I love how you made the characters with love and care, especially Isabel." ~ Anamika

"I enjoy your books so much I could give you a hundred reasons why I love your book It's Raining Cupcakes, but I'm only going to give you three, and here they are... 1) It's different than other books 2) the details 3) the character's names." ~ Natalie, age 9

"Your novel Chasing Brooklyn has truly touched my heart. It was absolutely beautiful. I have never written a fan letter to an author before but I want to thank you for the message I received through your writing." ~ Jori

"I love I Heart You, You Haunt Me so much, I didn't want to put it down. Most books I read it takes me 1-2 weeks, but your book, it was hard for me to go eat dinner with my family." ~ Cali, age 13

"I am a middle school reading teacher. On a recommendation from our media specialist, I planned a unit on I Heart You, You Haunt MeHoly Wowsers!! My students absolutely love(d) it!! I had several students take the book home and finish it the same day we started. In just two weeks they've already completed Chasing Brooklyn and The Day Before. In fact, I constantly see students reading your books who aren't even in my class. You have become a sensation at our school. So many teens that had "given up" on reading, have a new found love for literature." ~ Mr. B.

Yeah, that last one pretty much made my week. This business is not always easy. It's competitive and there is no guarantee, ever, when it comes to the future. It's like Project Runway in that regard, one week you're in, but the next week, you very well could be out. So hearing my books matter somewhere makes the angst and uncertainty of it all a little easier to take.

Have a great week!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Did you know...

Quick post today because my to-do list is a mile long. Okay, not really. It just feels that way. At the top of the list are clean the bathroom and work on a synopsis. Ugh, happy Monday to me.


A few things to tell you about.

Did you know...

there is a wonderful discussion guide for Caitlin's Lucky Charm, the first book in the CHARMED LIFE series? Scholastic has put it together, so if you are in a book club or are a teacher/librarian at school, please do check it out. HERE is the link. There's even a recipe for Snickerdoodle cookies - yum!!

that I will be at the Vegas Valley Book Festival in two weeks, on Saturday, October 18th? I'll be on the Tweens Read panel at 1:00 and the More Than a Love Story panel at 2:00. If you're in the area, I'll hope you'll come see me!

I will be doing a newsletter 3-4 times a year? I'm calling it a quarterly newsletter, but I may not do it exactly four times a year. Anyway, it's the best way to stay up-to-date with book releases, appearances, etc. plus I'll be giving sneak peeks you won't get anywhere else AND will be doing special giveaways that are only for subscribers. The first issue will be going out SOON, so sign up HERE if you want to be in on that.

Okay, that's all I've got for today. Have a great week!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Book Recommendations

I've been doing quite a bit of reading lately. Because I haven't been writing. Well, that is, I haven't been drafting a story. I've been working on outlines. Thinking about characters. Writing in my journals a lot. Getting ready to start drafting - soon, hopefully! I constantly have to remind myself that just because I'm not drafting doesn't mean I'm not working. Some of the best writing often happens away from the page. It's SO important to remember this.

Anyway, thought it was time to do another post of books I've read and enjoyed lately. You should see the pile of library books on my coffee table right now. It's crazy. Always a case of too many books, too little time.

I have a new favorite author - Jojo Moyes, who writes women's fiction. I've read a couple of her books recently and I thoroughly enjoyed them.

The Girl You Left Behind
I love books that alternate between past and present when they are done well!



Me Before You
Made me laugh and made me cry, as the best books do.



Young Adult:

Kiss of Deception by Mary Pearson
Great fantasy with a strong female lead and a plot that will keep you guessing



The Treatment by Suzanne Young
Awesome sequel to The Program - such a unique premise!



To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
I really loved the family in this one. Made me long to have a sister or two.



We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Kept me turning the pages for sure!


And that's what I've been reading! Have a great week!!

Monday, September 22, 2014

The one thing every author wants - word-of-mouth buzz

I think about it often. What makes a person tell a friend, "You HAVE to read this book."

We all know word-of-mouth is the best promotion there is. So what makes people talk about a book? I read many books - so what is it that makes ME talk about a book? I don't think it's necessarily one thing. I think it's a number of things mixed together with a little magic sprinkled on top that create a fantastic reading experience.  

Here's my list of story elements:

1) A gripping story. I think it's usually a story we haven't heard a hundred times before. A story that pulls us in, and it's hard to put the book down once you start reading. It is a unique reading experience, and the story is one you are excited to hear. Examples I can think of: WATER FOR ELEPHANTS by Sara Gruen, MATCHED by Ally Condie, and THE PROGRAM by Suzanne Young.


2) A character or characters we admire. Maybe they make us cheer. Maybe they make us laugh. Maybe they make us feel things we haven't felt in a long time, if ever. Maybe they open up a hidden space inside of us we didn't even know existed! Maybe their strength and determination or their steadfast love and devotion to someone makes us cry. Whatever it is, I think the character(s) have to think and/or act in a way that makes us go WOW. It's not enough to just like a character. To really make a reader grip the book at the end and scream to the world, I LOVE this book, the characters connect with us on a deep, personal level. Possible examples: THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett, THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green.

3) Good writing. Some will argue this is not necessary. Certainly there have been books that have been popular where the writing was less than stellar. But often, it IS a key ingredient in the books that become huge hits by word-of-mouth. THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson is one I'm thinking of as well as DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE (and the rest of the trilogy). Also, a recent middle-grade that comes to mind is A SNICKER OF MAGIC by Natalie Lloyd. I've read books where the premise was fabulous, but in the end, I was let down by the writing. Stilted dialogue or inconsistencies in how the characters talk or act will take a book down a few notches for me. And those kinds of things will often keep me from recommending a book.

4) We can see ourselves there. Some books do an incredible job at making us feel as if we are there. Maybe we want to be, maybe we don't, depending on the story, but regardless, it is easy to picture the setting, the characters, the world, and once we are immersed in it, it is hard to leave. BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys was like this for me. It is a tragic story and yet, it was so REAL and I could not set that book down, as hard as it was at times to read. I also think Sarah Dessen is a master at this.

5) It elicits strong emotions. I often don't remember details in books, because I have a terrible memory, but I can tell you I DO remember how a book made me feel. Sometimes I feel like I'm leaving treasured friends behind as I turn the last page, as it was with ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins. Sometimes I feel changed in how I view life, as it was with THE BOOK THIEF by Marcus Zusack. Sometimes I feel I've read something so special, so perfect, I fear I won't ever read anything that good ever again, like A NORTHERN LIGHT by Jennifer Donnelly.

As I mentioned earlier, I do think there is a bit of magic that happens in a book where everything comes together and it becomes the book everyone talks about. It isn't a formula or an equation - a little of this plus a lot of that will get you word-of-mouth. If it was, someone would have developed it by now and we'd be able to buy it on every corner. 


To those of you who recommend my books to your students or friends or whomever, please know I really and truly appreciate it! I feel like two of my books, I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME and IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES, both sold much better than anyone expected specifically because of word-of-mouth. Both of those stories poured out of me as I was writing them, so it's interesting to me that those are the ones that have sold the best. I wasn't thinking consciously about any of above items, checking boxes off a checklist, so to speak. I simply wanted to tell a good story, and as I went to the computer every day, I was excited about the story and characters I had created. Something to remember, I suppose, as I look forward to getting back into a new story one of these days!! 

I'm curious, what book have you read lately that made you want to shout its gloriousness from the rooftops?

Monday, September 15, 2014

The best thing publishing teaches you

Let's face it, publishing teaches you a lot of things.

Life isn't always fair.
It is impossible to please everyone.
Success is a relative term.

And, the one I'm going to talk about today. Patience is an excellent thing to have.


I think most people know publishing is known for its snail-like pace. Nothing happens quickly in publishing. Like, it generally takes about two years for a book to come out once the book is sold. Sometimes, it's much longer than that. Like, I have one book going on five years. Crazy, I know. I'm hoping it will be one of those things that is very much worth the wait.

Anyway, what I've learned is nothing good comes from worrying about it, thinking about it, wishing things would just hurry up already! In fact, all that does for me is to make me anxious and depressed. So I really try to put the stuff I'm waiting on (and have basically no control over) out of my mind as much as possible. This is how I manage to keep my good attitude while waiting.

Last month I made the big decision to give my home office a makeover. I started by ordering a desk from Pottery Barn that was on sale. It was on backorder and was due to be delivered mid-September to October. I decided this was okay because it gave me time to do other things - go through stuff, pack up boxes of books and sell the old furniture I didn't want anymore, paint the room, etc. etc.

Normally when I decide to do something like this, it is all I think about and work on from beginning to end. Because I want to get to the end result. I don't like the mess and the chaos and the ugliness that happens in the middle, so I try to go as quickly as possible to just be DONE. But this project is taking a long time. Well, a long time in my mind, I guess.

The good news is that the books are packed up and I've donated some I don't want anymore. I've sold some stuff on ebay. I've sold some furniture on craigslist. The room is looking emptier and emptier, which is nice. I think I've decided on a paint color, so the next big thing will be to buy the paint and let my talented handyman husband do his magic over a weekend. I was hoping we might do it next weekend, if the desk will be here in the next couple of weeks, but I checked the status of the order and learned that the shipping date is now not until sometime in October, which means I won't get it until mid-October through the first part of November.

Ughhhhhh.

More waiting. I e-mailed Pottery Barn and asked if there was anything they could do, because two whole months is a long time to wait for a desk and maybe I should look for a desk elsewhere. They said it's on back order through the supplier so there isn't much they can do, but the customer service rep did say she'd give me a 15% credit at the time the thing is shipped and my credit card is billed.

The thing is, I looked at a lot of desks before I placed my order, and there isn't a whole lot out there that I like. I really DO want my order. I just don't want to have to wait for it. But I'm going to have to. The nice thing is that extra money does help me keep a good attitude while I wait. It's going to help buy a new bookcase or two. And, it's not like I don't have a desk now - I do. It's ugly and crap, but I've been using it for the past 5+ years, so what's another month?

In publishing, a month is nothing. So, for now, I put the desk and the paint out of my mind. While I look at bookshelves, and look around to figure out what else I can get rid of around here.

Mess. Chaos.

Still, of I can wait two years for a book to come out, surely I can wait another month for my lovely new office.

And now, back to bookshelf shopping!