Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Recommendations

First - how do you like the new design? She still has to add the social media buttons, but other than that, it's done and I have to say -  I LOVE IT! When Lauren, the person I hired to do a custom blogger design, sent me the pink typewriter image as an idea, I freaked out a little bit. I had mentioned the idea of a pen or pencil or maybe some typewriter keys as ideas for the header, and from that, she suggested the pink typewriter. How did she know that's so ME??? I'm not kidding when I say every time a pink typewriter shows up on tumblr, I reblog it. If you would like to give your blogger site a makeover, I highly recommend Lauren. You can find out more by visiting her etsy shop HERE.

Anyway, I haven't done a book recommendation post for a long time. I sometimes worry that people will have their feelings hurt if I don't mention one of their books. But, I can only read so much. I mean, I wish I could read ALL the books that everyone I know writes, but alas, I cannot. And until a week ago, I've been on deadline after deadline, and I didn't even have much time to read. So, right or wrong, here are some books I've read recently that I recommend.

Middle Grade:
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
Beautiful language along with lots of fun and unique characters make this one a winner:

Doll Bones by Holly Black
A little creepy but a delightful adventure story that highlights the difficulties of growing up:

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
A fun mystery with cool art history facts:

How to Outrun a Crocodile when your Shoes are Untied by Jess Keating
This is such a fun novel for tweens, filled with humor and heart (out June 1st):

Young Adult:

Better off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg
Really cute - if you enjoy light and fun contemporaries, definitely check this one out:

Also Known As by Robin Benway
This one is so smart and funny - I LOVE Maggie and Roux. I need to get the sequel:

Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick
Beautiful writing and a riveting story make this historical fantasy a gem:

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Tough subject matter, but wow, so gripping and well written.

I hope to read a lot in April, so will have more recs in a month or two, I'm sure. Would love to hear what you've been reading and loving!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Keeping the joy alive

For the first time in a long time (like years and years) I don't have anything to work on, writing wise.

It feels strange. But also, nice. I can finally watch "Frozen!" And catch up on all of these books I've been wanting to read. And in April some of my favorite TV shows return for another season. "Game of Thrones." "Mad Men." "Call the Midwife."

Yes, basically, my life is all about stories.

So, how long am I not going to write? I don't know. I recently found the first pages of a story I started a couple of years ago that I really like, and that may be the next thing I work on, but not now. Not for a little while. Not until I get through this busy spring with some travel and appearances and getting stuff done around the house.

I've been thinking about how my writing life has changed from when I first started doing this as basically a hobby (since I had a day job) to now, when writing IS my day job.

Again and again I would write because it was fun. Because I loved making up stories and seeing where the characters took me.

Last year, when I had to write four books back to back, that didn't seem fun. It seemed like work. And, you know, it was work. I had a contract that specified when my drafts were due and I was getting paid to meet those deadlines.

Except for me, I knew the key would be to go back to the basics. Make the books fun. And that's what I did. With each book, I found something that made the book fun and exciting for me. That doesn't mean that it wasn't hard sometimes. Writing is often hard. The key is to write anyway, get through the hard parts, with the characters you love pulling you through.

I get lots of e-mails asking about getting published. Kids or teens wanting to know what it takes to become a published author. There are entire books on the subject, so it's not something I can easily explain in an e-mail. So while I refer them to books on the subject, and point them to helpful forums on the web like SCBWI's or the Absolute Write Water Cooler, I also try to say, in the nicest way possible, to not worry too much about that now. Write because it's fun. Write because you enjoy it and you want to get better at it. Write for yourself, because you love creating stories.

The publishing business can be brutal. There is no guarantee, ever, for any of us. My career could be over tomorrow. Even now, with over a dozen books published, I still have books rejected. I still get discouraged. But what pulls me back again and again is creating a story that makes my heart flutter. That is where the joy is - in the creating. Again and again, I have to remind myself of that. Love of story is what has pulled me back from the edge of "I can't do this anymore" many times.

I also think the pressure of creating and creating more can cause you to start to hate it. That's why I'm taking a break now. I want to be excited about writing when I return, instead of going to the keyboard filled with dread.

I've been writing a very, very long time. Because I love it. Because it's fun and challenging and satisfying and lots of other things. The most important thing I can do for myself as a writer is to not lose the joy that comes from writing.  Like the joy I found when I made this book at the age of seven or eight, that my grandma kept and gave to me when she found out I was having my first book published.

Okay, so it's not a very good story. There's no conflict and nothing much happens, but still. I finished it. I'm pretty sure I enjoyed creating it, even if there were parts that were hard (like drawing a lion when I was probably afraid it would look like a sheep).

And now, more than ever, I understand that joy is one of the most important things we can bring to our writing. And we have to do everything within our power to maintain that sense of wonder and joy.

So in the coming months, I will watch shows I love, read great books, frolic in the tulips, and much, much more.

I will be "not writing" and yet, all of it will eventually help my writing. I am sure of it!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Giveaway Winners!!

Thanks to everyone who entered the Spring Has Sprung giveaway. More pretty flowers for you!

I will be mailing out bookmarks to anyone who said they'd like some over the next couple of weeks. There were a good number of entries, so it may take me a while, but I will get them to you.

As for the prize pack winners, here they are (all winner have been contacted by e-mail).

Prize Pack #1 - Allison H.

Prize Pack #2 - Deana S.

Prize Pack #3 - Hannah B.

Thanks again and hope you all have a wonderful spring!!


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Spring Has Sprung Giveaway

Sunshine! Blue Skies!! Daffodils!

If you still have snow where you are, I am so, so sorry. Really and truly.

Anyway, I was thinking about Caitlin, the girl on the cover of the first CHARMED LIFE book, because she loves flowers and dreams of working in a flower shop someday. And then I remembered I have a few Advanced Review Copies that are just sitting here, waiting for a new home.

And I thought, I haven't done a giveaway in a long, long time. So how about I do one now!? Okay? Okay! We'll have THREE lucky winners!!

Winner #1 will get:

IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES, personalized/signed
SPRINKLES AND SECRETS, personalized/signed
FROSTING AND FRIENDSHIP, personalized/signed
Advanced Review Copy of CHARMED LIFE #1, Caitlin's Lucky Charm, personalized/signed

Winner #2 will get:

Advanced Review Copy of CHARMED LIFE #1, Caitlin's Lucky Charm, personalized/signed
Advanced Review Copy of the middle grade novel UNDER THE EGG by Laura Marx Fitzgerald (I've read this book and it's so good!)

Winner #3 will get:

Your choice of CUPCAKES, SPRINKLES or FROSTING, personalized/signed
Advanced Review Copy of CHARMED LIFE #1, Caitlin's Lucky Charm, personalized/signed.

But wait, there's more!! Anyone and everyone can win some signed bookmarks, featuring the new CHARMED LIFE series. Aren't they pretty?

So what is the CHARMED LIFE series about, you ask? It's about four sixth grade girls who meet at summer camp and think they've found a lucky bracelet.

In book #1, you'll get to know Caitlin, who lives in Connecticut
In book #2, you'll get to know Mia who lives in Southern California
In book #3, you'll get to know Libby who lives in a town outside of London, England
And in book #4, you'll get to know Hannah, who lives in Tennessee

Like my "sweet treat" books, these books are mostly about friendship, with some other fun things thrown in too. Books 1 and 2 will be released May 27, 2014 and can be pre-ordered at your favorite bookstore or on-line.

To get some bookmarks and to enter the giveaway, simply fill out the form below. Deadline to enter: Monday, March 17, 2014 at midnight. Please note: Kids under 13 are not allowed to enter the contest. Due to privacy laws, if you are under 13, you must have your parent enter for you.

Thanks for being awesome and GOOD LUCK!

Sorry, giveaway is over.