Friday, April 30, 2010

Happy May Day!!

Tomorrow is May 1st - can you believe it?? April was a really busy month for me and my family, so I'm relieved we have made it here, to the other side - to May!

Look at these darling cupcakes, perfect for May Day! The center of the flower can be any candy, or, you can use raspberries and/or blackberries. To make the petals, take a large marshmallow, hold it lengthwise, and with kitchen shears, snip it into 5 pieces. The marshmallow will make your shears gooey, so you will have to wash them a couple of times during the petal making.

photo courtesy of

I've decided for the non-writerly types that read my blog, I will try to blog once a week about two things I love - cupcakes and cute animals. After all, 2010 is the year of IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES and LITTLE CHIMP'S BIG DAY. So yeah - cupcakes and cute animals - two things that bring a smile to my face and will hopefully bring one to yours as well!

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I have learned my lesson!!

Oh, you guys.

I feel like a very bad author these days.

I didn't realize how many kids would be so unhappy with an open ending. An ending that ends happily, with the character getting something she wants, but with a question that still remains.

I thought - oh, it's not really important to address that. Kids can imagine what happens, and they can see how happy she is just to have gotten there.

I am getting e-mail after e-mail after e-mail - kids wanting to know the same thing, and feeling a little disappointed and frustrated that the book ended too soon.

Yes, I have learned my lesson, and now I'm sharing it with all of you!! Because I would hate for you to feel like I do. Like this:

And all I can say is, I hope I get the chance to remedy the situation in the only way I know how!!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On not being perfect

Yesterday, I tried to channel Sheryl Crow.

See, a sweet book blogger named Briana (aka The Book Pixie) did a lovely review of FAR FROM YOU awhile back. Her blogaversary is coming up, and she decided to highlight books she loved that haven't gotten a lot of attention, and FAR FROM YOU was one of them she wanted to give away. On twitter one night we were chatting back and forth and I said, you know, I've put music to the song that FAR FROM YOU ends with (Alice, the main character is a singer/songwriter). I told her, maybe if I get brave, I can record it for your celebration.

Well, she didn't let me forget that conversation! So yesterday, I sat down with the music, my guitar, and my computer and I recorded myself playing and singing the song.

It's not that great. I haven't been playing the guitar very long and I still struggle with switching chords. I have to look at my hands a lot, not to mention that I can't even play the whole C chord yet (grumble, grumble, grumble).

But I sent it to her anyway. She said both her and her mom watched it, they really liked it, and it's scheduled to go up on her blog May 10th. But she also said she could tell I haven't been playing that long and I was kind of nervous.

Yeah. In other words - it's not perfect. Far from it!!! But she is so excited I did this for her.

On the one hand, I'm a big believer in working hard and becoming the best you can be. But I also think it's okay to NOT be perfect. To have fun and enjoy life and be okay with where we are with our skills and talents at any given time. I can work on my playing and my singing, and in a year, I probably would do a much better job. But she's celebrating now, and featuring FAR FROM YOU now. So I did the best I could, and I have no regrets. I made her really happy by doing this, and isn't that more important than worrying that I'm not perfect?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A few things to be thankful for on this Thursday

1. My husband spent 3+ hours yesterday working on our broken oven, half of it in odd positions that aren't especially helpful to his already sore back. And, yes, he fixed it!! Hundreds of dollars saved - hooray! He always jokes, if you can't be handsome, you better be handy. Honey, I think you're both.

2. I am so proud of my 15 YO son and his efforts on the HS tennis team. I don't think he ever imagined how much work it is being a HS athlete. Days they have matches, he is gone from 7 am until 8 pm. He is tired and sore a lot of the time, but he's keeping his grades up and every match, I can see that his tennis skills are getting better and better. And man, is the boy FIT! A lean, mean tennis machine, he is!

3. On the writing front, I am busy, and I'm thankful for the time I've had to write this week. I'm rewriting a tween/young YA to be a MG, based on feedback we've received on the book. Which means I'm basically writing an entire new book. Plus, I'm hoping to get 3-4 chapters done of another MG idea along with a synopsis done in the next couple of weeks. My in-laws are coming today to watch S. play tennis this evening, which means I have cleaning to do and a bed to make and groceries to buy. I hope I can get a few hours of writing squeezed in there.

4. Two library events coming up that I want to share here, in case I'm too busy writing in the next week to blog!

Thursday, 4/29 Sherwood Public Library, 6:30 - I will talking about and reading from IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES

Saturday, 5/1 Corvallis Public Library, 4:00 - A panel about writing YA with Suzanne Young and Lisa Madigan

Come and see me!!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

TLA - Part 2

Here is proof that I really did a panel with Sonya Sones and Ellen Hopkins. They were both so calm, cool and collected while I, on the otherhand, could not stop shaking. At one point, I went to take a drink of water, while one of them was talking, and it was almost funny how much my hand was shaking. I wonder how many librarians saw that and thought, what is wrong with that girl - does she have a medical condition of some kind? I mean, it was that bad. Oh well. Thankfully, my voice didn't show it (much).

I took a picture of the room with 550 seats a few minutes before we started. Most of the seats ended up being filled, which surprised us, and which also made us very happy.

The Texas Sweethearts (Jessica Lee Anderson (BORDER CROSSING), Jo Whittemore (FRONT PAGE FACE-OFF) and PJ Hoover (THE EMERALD TABLET) serving up some delicious desserts.

And here's me with Jess and PJ at the cocktail party.

You know who else was at that cocktail party? RICK RIORDAN!! Everyone was asking to take a picture with him, and although that would have been fun, I refrained, because the poor guy probably didn't even get a sip of wine with all of that going on. I did snap a picture from afar, however.

We had dinner Thursday night with a bunch of librarians, and I sat across from one of the librarians who was on the TAYSHAS committee and was instrumental in getting FAR FROM YOU on the list. It was a good time, and the margaritas were excellent!

I had fun chatting with teens and librarians during a teen chat on Friday. Here's a group of middle schoolers from a school in San Antonio (Frontier maybe?? I'm terrible with names).

And finally, Jess was kind enough to give me a quick tour on Friday, after we had lunch, when the sun finally came out for awhile. Here I am, in front of the Alamo!

One picture I don't have that I wish I did was of me and Suzanne Collins (THE HUNGER GAMES). We ended up on the Skylink in the Dallas airport together, and there was hardly anyone else there, and so I got brave and introduced myself. We chatted about the conference and traveling, and as much as I wanted to gush about her books and ask questions, I refrained. I attended her presentation at the conference, and a kid asked her if she could go back and change anything, what would it be? She said - oh no, there's something I should change? People laughed, and then she went on to say that even if there was, she's tired. Very tired! And so, I decided to give that tired author a break from those books that fill so much of her time. Still, a very cool five minutes for me!!

So there you have it. A fun, but busy, couple of days. I came home and took more naps this weekend than I can count. And now, I suppose it's time to buckle down and get writing.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Books CAN change lives

Last week was a whirlwind for me, but now that I'm back and catching up on stuff, I want to jump on board and point people to the awesome efforts of Guys Lit Wire, Readergirlz, YALSA, and If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything.

They are trying to get a bunch of books to two schools for Native Americans - Ojo Encino Day School and Alchesay High School.

Please read THIS POST over at Guys Lit Wire, and consider helping out somehow. You have until Wednesday, April 20th and get on board!! I'm doing what I can by sending some of my own books, since I still have a few author copies laying around. Here are the instructions, if you'd like to buy a book or two or fifty, which I'm copying from the original Guys Lit Wire post.

"There are wish lists set up for each school on the site. Once there, click on "wish list" up in the upper right corner. From there you will be prompted for the email address of the list owner. Type in "". You will then be given the choice to select either Ojo Encino or Alchesay.

After you are done shopping, and ready to make your purchase, you will be asked to confirm that you are buying books for a certain wishlist. Checking those boxes will keep the lists up to date and prevent books from appearing as unsold even after they were purchased. Now all you have to do is enter the mailing addresses, and here they are:

Mary Nickless
Ojo Encino Day School Librarian
HCR 79 Box 7C
uba, NM 87013
(505) 731-2333

Marilyn Hill
Alchesay High School
200 Falcon Way
Whiteriver, AZ 85941

If you'd like to send something other than what's on the list, please send an e-mail to GUYSLITWIREATGMAILDOTCOM."

I love picturing those kids' faces as they receive boxes and boxes and BOXES of books for their libraries, after they've had nothing new to read for so long.

I really believe books can change lives. So, let's change some, shall we??

Friday, April 16, 2010

TLA in pictures - Part 1

Still raining today - I managed to make it out yesterday for a little while, in between showers. Here's proof of that. So disappointed about the weather, but what can you do? I definitely want to come back!!

I snapped some pictures of friend's books when I thought of it. Here are some of those:

ARCs I snagged on Day 1, which I'm so excited about. Add to this pile the ones I just got before sitting down to blog, which includes TOUCH BLUE by Cynthia Lord (yaaaaaay!!!!)

Okay, must go ship these books back home and get ready for lunch with Jessica Lee Anderson (BORDER CROSSING). After that, I have a half hour to chat with teens, since today is teen day at the conference. They are all wondering around in their green shirts and it is SO cool to see them here. More pictures of all the fun when I get back home!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A quick hello from Texas!!

I have a publisher's reception and YART (Young Adult Round Table) Appreciation Dinner to get myself to, but just wanted to say - the panel with Sonya and Ellen went really well - whew!! And, I just have to say, Texas librarians are AWESOME!!

I did a quick walk along the river this morning in between showers. The weather is nasty. Flood warnings in some areas, that's how hard it's been raining. But it's so pretty here, and I can see what a fun place it would be when it's nice outside!

I have many pictures to share with you, but I'm afraid it will have to wait. I bought the basic internet service here at the hotel rather than the more expensive service, and I guess posting pictures doesn't work with the basic. Dang.

I may try an internet hot spot over at the convention center, if I get a spare minute.

My spare minutes today were spent freaking out because my e-mail account was hacked. The details show it was someone in Poland on a mobile device. Makes me SO mad. If you are one of the people who get a weird message from me, and wondered why I was sending you just a link, yeah, it wasn't me. Obviously, I wished it hadn't of happened and I'm sorry!!

Okay, must get my dress on and GO. Bye for now!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cue the cuteness and watch insecurity levels fall

After a day of level 4 insecurity (that's high, in case you don't have levels for your feelings of insecurity. What!? Don't look at me like that), I was SO happy to see this picture. OMG, isn't Abby in her pink shirt holding my pink book just the cutest thing??

photo credit: Pat Z. Miller

It took me down a level, maybe even two. Kids ARE actually reading my books. I may not be an author with a ton of buzz or even a little bit of buzz, an award-winner, a best-seller or (Alert, Alert! Insecurity level rising to level 3. Warning, warning, rising to level 3. Get off computer soon and do something else).

Um, anyway - SO CUTE!! Thanks, Pat, for sharing. You can read Abby's thoughts about the book HERE, although there are quite a few spoilers, so if you haven't read the book and plan to, you probably shouldn't read what she has to say quite yet. :)

In other news, today I must pack and get ready to leave for Texas tomorrow morning. I'm attending the Texas Library Association conference and will be doing a panel with Sonya Sones and Ellen Hopkins (Alert, Alert!...). Our panel will be on Thursday, 4/15, at 1:00 in Room 217. At 2:30, I'll be signing books in the author signing area! If you're there, please come by and say hi, I'd love to meet you!!

I may try to do a blog post while I'm there...we'll see. I'll be coming back home really late Friday night, and am so glad I'll have the weekend to recover.

I've never been to San Antonio!! I have my mornings free - any suggestions as to things that are a must-do or see?

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Friday Five - in links and thanks

Okay, here is where I point you to the places I've been lately around the internet. Hope you find some of these posts helpful in some way!

2. At the Crowe's Nest (a blog for an agent and her clients), I talk about writing for ourselves.

3. The web site,, selected me as their author of the month for April, and I did a blog post on why verse novels are a good kind of different.

4. Thank you so much for all the congratulations yesterday. I don't know when the new book will be out, but I'm guessing spring in 2011. The book is written, but of course there will be revisions and copy edits and cover design and all of that REALLY FUN STUFF THAT I'M SO EXCITED ABOUT!!

5. Finally, I want to say thank you to a librarian who wrote a review that really touched my heart. It made me teary. It reminded me that sometimes we get so wrapped up in the business of making books, we forget what really matters. This is what really matters.

And now, I must get ready to meet my agent for the first time. Fun times! Happy weekend all!!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Good news, GOOD NEWS!!!

I've had some good news lately, on various things, so I'll combine it all into one happy, slightly sickening post and then be done with it, how's that? That's a picture of me, being happy a few weeks ago, at the beach - happiness feels wonderful, doesn't it? That was even before all the good news hit, so wow, imagine how happy I look now - ha! I still look bundled up and slightly cold, however, thanks to the winter-like weather we've been experiencing here lately.


First item of good news - CHASING BROOKLYN is going to be published in Korea! Hooray!! It's my first foreign rights deal for that book, so I'm very excited.

Second item of good news - FAR FROM YOU is a 2011 Beehive Book Award Nominee (in the poetry category!) in the great state of Utah. You can read the entire list of nominees HERE.

And the last bit of good news involves this picture, which I also took at the beach a few weeks ago.

Who are Cole and Amber, you ask? They are the characters in my latest verse novel that I just sold to Simon Pulse this week, tentatively titled THE DAY BEFORE, described in Publisher's Marketplace like this:

The Day Before, about 16-year old Amber, who goes to the beach alone to spend one perfect day before her world is turned upside down, and meets and feels a strong connection to a boy, Cole, who she slowly discovers is looking for his own escape, but for a very different reason.

Yes, it is 100% contemporary and I'm SOOO excited about it. I'll be working with Annette at Simon Pulse, and I can't wait to dig into revisions with her notes and make it sparkle and shine. I'll share more about how I came to write the book and the inspiration behind it another time.

I really need to do some helpful posts soon, as my blog has been lacking in that area lately. I think it's because I did a bunch of guest blog posts recently, and so there goes all my good material! My own readers then get the leftovers. Sorry, dear readers!! I'll bake up something delicious just for you soon, I promise! And I should probably do a post linking to those helpful posts as well. I'll put that on my to-do list for next week, before I leave for the great state of Texas!

I'm wishing everyone a little (or a lot) of good news this week!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I love YA authors!

It's been a busy few days here in Portland, with Kimberly Derting coming to town for her debut YA novel THE BODY FINDER and Gayle Forman kicking off the PB tour here for her amazing novel, IF I STAY.

Here's Kim looking all authorly-like, signing books:

Here's Gayle talking to the crowd before she read her book with live musical footnotes inserted throughout her reading:

Here's Gayle, me and April Henry (look for her next YA novel, GIRL, STOLEN coming in Oct):

And finally, here's Stormy doing an impersonation of me after all that excitement:

Monday, April 5, 2010

Meeting readers is so FUN!!

Last week I drove to the cute little town of McMinnville, Oregon to meet with a group of 11 and 12-year-old girls to talk about my book, IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES. We sat in a circle, and the girls discussed the book with a nice lady named Linda. She asked them what they thought of the various characters, and she asked them to share their favorite parts, among other things. It was one of the coolest things I've done as an author. After their discussion, they asked me some great questions, like is Willow a made up town and if so, did I base it off of any real towns (the girl asking thought it sounded a lot like McMinnville!)

When we were done with the book discussion, a nice lady named Celeste, who owns Celestial Cupcakes in Newport and drove all the way to the event to share her cupcakes with the kids, helped the kids decorate cupcakes. Her daughter worked all day to recreate the cupcakes on the cover of my book in a nice display. If you look closely, she worked hard to get all the details right - the colors, the decorations, everything! Wow!!

Here's a picture I snapped while the kids were doing the decorating:

So much fun!! Thanks Anna at Third Street Books, for having me, and thanks to Celeste for bringing your wonderful cupcakes to the event.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Five things on a Friday

1. Looks to be a rainy weekend here. I have lots of cleaning, shopping and cooking to do, so for the most part, I don't mind. However, I do hope the rain pauses for awhile Sunday morning, so we can do our annual Easter egg hunt!

2. I have such happy memories of Easters past. It's a holiday where I really, REALLY miss my grandparents, as they were always a part of it. Definitely bittersweet.

3. I hope to attend two author events in the next few days - Kimberly Derting, author of the YA novel THE BODY FINDER, will be at Powell's on Saturday and Gayle Forman, author of the YA novel IF I STAY, will be at Powell's on Monday! I will make sure to take pictures (assuming I don't forget my camera, which happens about 50% of the time) and report back next week!!

4. You can watch my TV debut here, if you are curious. I was more nervous right before watching it than I was before actually DOING it.  But, thankfully, it's not too bad.

5. For those of you who celebrate, I wish you a happy, joyous Easter, filled with chocolate.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Thankful Thursday

It's been two and a half months since I quit the day job.

I've been busy every day, with writing and promotional things, on top of a new level of busyness where my kids are concerned. My oldest son joined the HS tennis team, and practice times vary because they have to share the courts with the girls. Matches with other schools are long, and go late into the evening. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't wonder, how would I DO all this if I was still working?

So in that regard, it was the best decision. I'm so very thankful to be at home, available to my kids in a way I couldn't be before. Yesterday I picked up my oldest son after school when practice was cancelled *after* the buses had already left for the day. I took him out for a taco. We sat and talked and laughed, and it was wonderful. Those are the moments I'm thankful for right now. The moments I'm choosing to focus on.

Do I miss anything about working? I miss the paychecks, absolutely. I miss the people I worked with. I miss getting out of the house on days where I'm feeling angsty about this business. As crazy as it sounds, work was sometimes a much-needed break. As an author who works from home, it can be really hard to turn off that part of our brain that is thinking about the current book or the next book, or the books already on the shelves and what else can be done to help sales, or a hundred other things. I'm not good at turning it off, but I'm trying to be better about it now that I don't get that forced break. I'm trying to exercise more. I get out with friends for lunch dates or an occasional movie date on a Friday afternoon. I don't work at all in the evenings, and some evenings, I've decided I just need to stay off the computer, period. So there is progress, slowly but surely.

Overall, I'm thankful for less stress in my life. I'm thankful for more time with my kids. And most days, I'm thankful to be able to say my job is that of an author. Who knows what the future will bring, but for now, it's a pretty nice place to be - home with my stories and my kids!