Friday, December 31, 2010

My year in writing - 2010

Inspired by Shannon Messenger's month-by-month look back, I thought I'd do something similar. I like the idea of having this post to look back on when I'm having a bad day/week/month to remind myself I can be productive when I really put my mind to it.

New book, new career, new story:
On January 5th, my third novel, Chasing Brooklyn was released. It received good reviews. Many readers told me it was their favorite book of mine yet. I breathed a big sigh of relief. On January 15th, I worked my last day at the day job so I could write full-time. I should have been on top of the world, but I received some rejections that I had to shake off, and it wasn't easy. But somehow, I did it, and the end of January saw me beginning a brand new story. 

The month of love

On February 4th, I wrote this in a blog post about disappointment: "Believe it or not, I'm now thankful for that disappointment! Isn't that amazing? I'm actually THANKFUL for it! Because I am now writing a  story that I love with my WHOLE, ENTIRE HEART." 

A dream come true filled with cupcakes

Middle grade fiction has always held a special place in my heart. The first three novels I wrote (that were not good enough to be published) were middle grade. The strongest memories I have from my childhood around books and reading are during the middle grade years. Books were a lifeline for me then. So what a thrill to have my first middle grade book released to the world. And even more fun? Having a book release party with CUPCAKES!!

In addition to the release, in the middle of March, I sent a new verse novel manuscript to my agent. She replied back, after reading it, "I LOVE this book." 

It's going to be a book, hello Texas, and a companion

It's always a good month when a book sells. And the book I worked on night and day for two months, The Day Before, sold to Simon Pulse. And then I was off to San Antonio, for TLA, where I did a panel with Sonya Sones and Ellen Hopkins. Wow, I had SO much fun at that conference, and trust me when I say Texas Librarians are AWESOME! A highlight of that trip was chatting with Suzanne Collins (THE HUNGER GAMES) on the Skylink train in the Dallas airport. When I got home, I began working on a companion novel for It's Raining Cupcakes.

Rochester and a new story

The highlight of May was definitely the Rochester Teen Book Festival. So fun meeting all kinds of amazing writers, including Joanne Levy who I sat by at dinner one night, and my on-line friends Deena and Kate from the Author2Author blog. And how many times does a person get a POSTER made of him/her? So cool. The end of May, I started writing a new MG novel, while we waited to hear back on the proposal and five chapters for the companion novel to It's Raining Cupcakes.

LOTS of writing

I wrote fast and furious the first two weeks of June. I finished one middle grade novel and then decided, on a whim, to fast draft the rest of the companion novel to It's Raining Cupcakes. Yes, lots and lots of writing. And then revisions came for The Day Before and I spent long hours every day working on that. A vacation to Disneyland at the end of the month was a welcome break. And a signing at Vroman's, where I met Shannon Messenger, Alyson Beacher, Christine Henderson, and others I'm forgetting right now. Ack!

LOTS of revising and a sale!!

More revisions for The Day Before. And, hooray, Aladdin buys the companion novel to It's Raining Cupcakes, which stays untitled for the next few months. And of course, lots of summer fun.

LA SCBWI, Write On Conference, and The Contemps

The SCBWI in LA is always a fun time and this was no exception. Lindsey and I scored a suite and we were the talk of the conference. Ah, good times. The first annual Write On Conference was a huge success and I was honored to be a part of it, with my video on writing romance in YA. AND, what an exciting time, launching the new group of contemporary authors called The Contemps

Welcome to the world Little Chimp, and more revisions

I sold Little Chimp's Big Day a long, long time ago. When it finally released, it was almost like - I wrote this? Yes, I did. And Lisa McCue's illustrations are so adorable, and what fun to do a reading and signing with a group of little kids and share Little Chimp with them. And my friends Lisa and Sara too, who were so kind to drop by.

I spent most of the month in revision mode. Again. For the companion novel to Cupcakes.

A title, FINALLY and a new story

We decide on the title Sprinkles and Secrets for the follow-up book to Cupcakes. Yay! I love it, it's perfect! And I start in on a new YA project. It is nice to be out of revision mode and back to writing something new.

New web site, lots of writing and cover revealed

I moved my web site over to blogger to save money and to make it easier to update it myself. So far, I'm happy with that decision. I continued working on the YA novel, none of it very easy going this time. I just kept telling myself, keep writing, keep writing, keep writing.

And, I got the cover for The Day Before. When I shared it with the world, the reaction was very, very positive. So excited to share Amber's story with the world in June!!

First draft done!!

I finished the year with a fourth manuscript complete. Yay! I will work on revising it in January and then, see what my agent thinks. There's a middle grade novel up there in June that has been in a bit of limbo for a while, but I'm crossing my fingers for good things for that book (one really close to my heart) in 2011!! 

Wishing you all much success, as well as health and happiness, in the new year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

On fear and what I learned in 2010

The dedication of my next YA novel, THE DAY BEFORE, reads:

This one is for all of you
who feel the fear and do it anyway,
in writing and in life

It's interesting to me, but perhaps not surprising, that my next book tackles the subject of fear when 2010 has been a year where I myself have had to, again and again, feel the fear and do it anyway.

A year ago, I had given notice at the day job and I can't even describe how scary that was for me. I'm not a bestselling author! Yes, I get royalty checks, but they are about ten to fifteen percent of what I made at the day job. I would have to sell not one, but TWO books in 2010 to make up for my loss of income. And the one and ONLY book I had completed had already garnered a number of rejections.

But I believe in listening to the still, small voice and trusting it. And it had whispered to me, after lots of discussions with my husband and prayerful consideration, "It's time."

I'm going to do a month-by-month look at 2010 tomorrow or Friday, but I've learned a lot about myself this year. I've learned trusting God is hard sometimes, but I'm getting better at it. I've learned over and over again, the only thing I can control is the writing, and it's not always easy, but the key is to keep writing. When something isn't working, it's okay to scrap it and start something new. No writing is wasted writing. It is a journey. As I started my new career of full-time writer, I had to shelf a completely good manuscript that took me an entire YEAR to write, because no one wanted it.

Was I afraid? Abso-freaking-lutely

But I dug deep, told myself I didn't have to understand why things happen but needed to trust it was for the best, went for walks, scribbled in my idea notebook, and after even more rejections on other projects, I began writing what would eventually become THE DAY BEFORE.

A book about fears - big and small - and how we can help each other through but ultimately, it's about confronting them straight on and not letting the fear win.

So, my biggest accomplishment this year?
Not that I wrote four books.
Not that two of them sold.

No. I think it might have been - I didn't let the fear win.

Remember this? One of the best movie scenes of all time.

"You must believe." Oh yeah.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Thankful Heart

On Saturday, as the kids played new games, I flipped through channels trying to find a Christmas show to entertain me and my husband before we had to leave for Christmas dinner at my brother's home.

I stumbled upon the The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Thank the good Lord, I stumbled upon the The Muppet Christmas Carol! I was smart enough to hit record, since we'd have to leave before it was over. So, later on, we all sat down and watched it from (almost) the beginning, the whole family. And my kids loved it too.

How I've managed to go through almost twenty Christmases since it was released and not watch that movie before this weekend is beyond me. I was mesmerized. Michael Caine was BRILLIANT. I laughed, I cried, I laughed some more.

When I was a child, I listened to a record called The Frog Prince over and over and over again on my little record player in my room. Back then, we didn't have DVRs or even VCRs (I know, the horror!), so I saw the movie once, and then it lived on through the record. It's fun to revisit the movie on youtube now. Anyway, until now, that was my favorite muppet movie:

But now, I have The Muppet Christmas Carol. Ahh... love, love, love!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!

A modified version of the Christmas letter I sent with cards this year.

As always, Scott has been working hard in our back yard.

Lisa is really enjoying her job as full-time author.

Our sweet little boys... oops. Our teenagers (gulp) keep us on our toes.

Wishing you all the joys of the season, and a happy and healthy new year!


Wow, what a great response to the contest! It was fun to read what books people are looking forward to. It really is going to be a great year of books.

So, drum roll please....

Congratulations to Germain, who is the winner thanks to the random generator! Germain, I sent you an e-mail.

Thanks again and I'll definitely participate in another giveaway hop in the near future. Probably to give away one of my own ARCs!!

Happy holidays!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Midwinter's Eve Giveaway

I'm really excited to be participating in the Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop, hosted by Kathy Habel at I am a Reader, Not a Writer. Every month, Kathy organizes a "hop" so blog readers can quickly hop from blog to blog and enter to win lots and lots of prizes. Cool, huh?

Since I'm in the giving mood with Christmas just a few days away, I decided it was a perfect time to put my name on the list and give something away!

So... want to know what you can win?

A highly sought after ARC of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis which comes out in just a few short weeks from Razorbill. You can read the amazing first chapter HERE.

From Goodreads: Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

Source of the book: Publisher

Entering my giveaway is EASY. I'm so excited about all the great books coming out in 2011! It's going to be a great year for YA, don't you think? Maybe I'm telling myself that because I have one coming out myself? Nah - it really is going to be great! :)  Anyway, all you have to do to enter to win ACROSS THE UNIVERSE is leave a comment and tell me one of the books you are looking forward to reading in 2011. Please make sure you give me a way to contact you if you should win. The contest runs today AND tomorrow, and is open to anyone who has a US address. Deadline to enter is 11:59 PM, December 22, 2010.

I will announce the winner on December 23rd!!

If you're new to my blog, thanks for stopping by! If you're one of my regular readers, thanks, as always for reading!

(Below is the list of blogs participating in the giveaway - click on as many links as you'd like and enter to win many more cool prizes!)

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Friday Five

1. I have this longing to go to a movie theater and spend a whole day watching film after film. To just get swept up and away in story after story. Should I do it? Have you ever done it?


Of course, I've had SCOTT PILGRIM VS the WORLD sitting here to watch at home for over a week, and have I made time? Uh, no.

2. Speaking of movies, have you seen the trailer for WATER FOR ELEPHANTS? I loved that book. And the trailer makes me squeal with joy. It looks magical!

3. I just posted my Christmas list on Facebook. Here it is:

FALL FOR ANYTHING by Courtney Summers and FIXING DELILAH by Sarah Ockler
Taylor Swift's Target Special Edition CD
Trip to Paris

4. I'm a little sad today, as I say good-bye today to the girls and readers of the Author2Author blog.

5. My copy-edited manuscript of SPRINKLES AND SECRETS is calling to me. I better get to it.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Did you celebrate?

Did you know there's a National Cupcake Day? I didn't find out until about noon yesterday, thanks to the powers of twitter!

December 15th is NATIONAL CUPCAKE DAY!

I hope you were able to celebrate. And if not, well, you have a second chance because today is National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day!! And no, I'm not joking. Would I joke about something as serious as chocolate?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Thinking about school visits

Next spring, I will be participating in the Cavalcade of Authors, which I'm very excited and honored to be a part of. Middle school students from all over Washington's Tri-Cities come to learn about writing from a number of Pacific Northwest young adult authors in a full-day event. 

I'm leaving a day early so I can visit a middle school in Umatilla, a fairly rural area, the day before the Cavalcade. I'll be speaking to all of the students for about an hour.

I've been thinking about what I have to offer the students. I'm not a stand-up comedian, unfortunately. I know kids this age love to laugh, and I'll try to throw in some funny lines, but uh, it's really not my strength.

I'm thinking more along the lines of inspiration. I figure I'll share my bumpy path to publication, throwing in things I've learned along the way of pursuing my dreams - things that they can apply in their own lives. I want to inspire them to read and to write through personal stories - that those two things will help serve them well throughout life.

Do you think inspiration is a good goal to have at a school visit like this one? I'm curious how others might approach a one-hour talk like this one.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday Motivation - Inspiration

"Music is what feelings sound like." ~ Author unknown

 Authors are often asked where we get our ideas and inspiration. I've read many interviews where authors respond to this question with similar answers - from movies, books and music. I think sometimes people who aren't writers don't fully understand what we mean when we reply this way.

For me, it's not just the idea that I'm looking for, although it's that too. For example, what is a small element in one book may cause me to go - hey I could do a book about THAT, and take the topic to a whole new level. But more than that, I look for replicating the emotions a piece of music or a book or film might evoke in me.

Because the best stories make us feel something, and especially in my verse novels, I'm all about bringing emotions out of the reader.

With every book I write, it's about finding something that speaks to my heart in such a way that I want to speak to others' hearts in a similar way. This song --- or this book or movie -- made me feel a certain way, so now let me see if I can write a book that makes *you* feel that same way.

When I wrote THE DAY BEFORE, I wanted to write a book that captured the same feelings I had after I listened to Pink's song Glitter in the Air. Pink sings, "Have you ever wished for an endless night? Lassoed the moon and the stars and pulled that rope tight?" The way she sings it, you can feel the longing there, and that is what I wanted to bring to the page for my characters. For them to long for the day/night to never end, and for the reader to long for it as well.

This week, think about your favorite books. They made you feel *something*. What did they make you feel? And how can you make others feel *that* in your own writing? Even if you can't listen to music while you write, try listening to a song that brings out your emotions before you write, and then try to carry those emotions with you to the page.

For each of my YA novels, there is a song I listened to over and over again that helped me write. Is there a particular song that inspired any of your stories? I'm fascinated by how music, especially, plays a part in the author's writing process.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Six Things on a Saturday

 1. I am going to make cookies today. COOKIES!!! Like these. Sugar cookies are one of my most favorite things in the world!

2. Yesterday my husband was at the NIKE air hanger. The flight director got off the plane, that had just been in Hawaii, and handed him a pineapple as he said, "Mele Kilikimaka!" Okay, what is almost as good as being in Hawaii? Eating a pineapple that has just been in Hawaii. I got up this morning and the first thing I thought was - fresh pineapple!!! 

3. We are supposed to get 1-2 inches of rain today and possibly tomorrow too. I watched Sam Champion all bundled up on GMA yesterday as he stood in the snow in Vermont, blue sky behind him, and my heart ached a little bit.

4. I read an adult book this week - APE HOUSE by Sara Gruen. First time in a long time. For the most part, I liked it. Even better, I liked going to book club and when asked if I read the book being able to say, "Yes!"

5. At book club, we were talking about what makes us pick up a book. Well, they talked and I listened because I wanted to know what they had to say! Some said the cover art. Some said the jacket copy. Some said knowing the author's name and having liked his/her work before. And of course, word of mouth. But you know what everyone agreed is important, too? A great title. And the more I'm in this business, the more I believe that to be true. 

6. Last but not least, I'm thrilled and honored that my poem has been accepted for inclusion in the DEAR BULLY anthology with so many other amazing writers. Kelly Milner Halls and Carrie Jones deserve huge kudos for taking on this important project!!! You ladies are amazing!

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Joy Not Sorrow Playlist from Chasing Brooklyn

In every one of my young adult novels so far, music plays an important role. Music can be salve to our souls, and so it is with my characters.

I often get letters from teens, struggling with the loss of a loved one. The playlist I've put together (mentioned in my book, CHASING BROOKLYN) is for you.

I know it's hard losing someone. The pain at times seems unbearable. Music can be a comfort, whether it's music that makes us cry because we relate to it, or because it's music that gives us hope. The songs on this playlist takes a similar journey we do when we're grieving - from love and loss to healing and hope.

Here are the songs from the Joy Not Sorrow Playlist given to Brooklyn.

Can't Cry Hard Enough - Williams Brothers

All That I'm Living For - Evanescence

Sleeping to Dream - Jason Mraz

Say (All I Need) - OneRepublic

Hope for the Hopeless - One Fine Frenzy

The Heart of Life - John Mayer

All We Are - Matt Nathanson

When I Look to the Sky - Train

I Will Remember You - Sarah McLachlan

My Wish - Rascal Flatts

(a BIG thank you to Maggie, L.K. Madigan and Teresa Schauer for helping me with my song selection.)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I hope Santa brings me this

I mean, it comes "with amazing push-button shushing action!!!

And a stack of tiny books to play with! Wouldn't it be cool if you could even READ the tiny books?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday Motivation - Triumph

(no children were hurt in the making of this photo)

"The difference between try and triumph is a little umph." ~ Author unknown

So. Uh-hum.

I did it!!!!

I finished my draft! 58,000 beautiful (and at the same time terrible) words. :) I wrote around 10,000 words in 3 days. That's a lot for me! But I was SO motivated. I really wanted to finish by Sunday. I set aside big chunks of time on each of the 3 days and I wrote my little heart out. This book was challenging for me, in a lot of ways. But as I worked hard this past week, I learned that I really can accomplish big things when I set my mind to it.

I think completing a first draft comes down to basically one thing - you have to want it enough to see it through to the end. You have to say, I'm going to do this, and then do it. It's all about commitment - being committed to getting to the end. When you aren't 100% committed, it's easy to quit when the going gets tough.

Of course, there are revisions to be done. The book needs quite a bit of work. I've already started a notebook page of things I need to do when I go back to the manuscript and start revising. But for the next three weeks, there will be no writing. I'm basically "on vacation" now through Christmas! Yay!!!

Have you had any big or little triumphs lately? I'd love to hear about them! We can celebrate together!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Four things on a Thursday

1. I apologize if you've been trying to get to my web site. My domain is being transferred, so for a few days, you can't get to it through my web site address that I've had forever. ARGH.

Deep. Cleansing. Breath.

2. I keep forgetting to mention the auction going on for YA author Bridget Zinn. Bridget is battling stage 4 colon cancer. She is the sweetest thing, always smiling, even with all of the horrible stuff she's having to endure these days. But cancer is expensive. Her and her husband are traveling to Phoenix once a month now for an intensive new treatment at Cancer Treatment Centers of America. 

There are all kinds of great things to bid on - books, critiques, jewelry. 

I have offered up a copy of It's Raining Cupcakes, so if you'd like a personalized hardcover copy to give to someone for the holidays, I will personalize, sign it, and send it off to you next week. 

But check out all of the items, there is some REALLY good stuff. You only have until December 4th, so hurry!
The auction ID is: bridgetkicks and the password is: cancer.

If you would like to donate directly to the fund rather than bidding on items, you can! Go to Bridget's blog and on the sidebar on the right, you'll see a "Donate" button. Click on that and you can donate directly into the fund. That's what I'll be doing.

3. ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins is out today! What are you waiting for? Go and buy this beautiful and romantic book!! I promise you'll be glad you did.

4. I really, REALLY want to finish the book I've been working on. I think I'm going to try to plow through and finish the draft by Sunday. I need to be done with it so I can get on to the fun stuff of December: decorating, baking, shopping!!! 

So... you won't see me again until I've finished. See you on the flip side!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I heart bookmarks

I know authors have varying opinions about bookmarks - whether they're a worthwhile investment or not. Personally, I LOVE them.

Here are just a few of the ways I've used them in the past:

A librarian was going to a conference and planned to book talk my book. She asked if I might send her 50 bookmarks to hand out to the attendees of the session. I was happy to do so.

An acquaintance of mine wrote to me and told me how a student in her daughter's English class mentioned my book as a favorite of hers. I asked her if I could send some signed bookmarks for her daughter to pass out to kids in the class. Apparently, they were a big hit.

Anytime I mail a book for a prize, I stick a few bookmarks in the envelope. Many bloggers love collecting swag to include in their prize packs, and I'm happy to send some along to them as well.

If a kid e-mails me, excited about an upcoming book, I'll ask her to get permission from a parent to give me her address, then I mail signed bookmarks for her and her friends.

I always get the bookmarks as soon as I have the cover, so I have a whole lot of months to be passing them out. Yesterday, my order arrived for my next YA novel, THE DAY BEFORE.

I think the designer did a great job. I recommend her and the company she works for ALL the time. She doesn't charge for putting the design together. All I have to do is send her what I want on the front as far as text goes, what I want on the back, and attach a high resolution jpg of the cover. She does the rest.

Their prices are pretty reasonable, I think. (You can go to the web site and see a chart of prices, depending on what you want on the front and on the back). Yes, it's cheapest if you design the bookmark yourself and send it out to be printed, but I don't know how to do that and frankly, don't want to spend the time. So it's worth it to me to just have Kelley do it for me!

The company I use is - kelley's e-mail address is kelley(at)iconix(dot)biz.

What about you - are you a fan of bookmarks?