Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Writing Contest for Teens - Win THE BRIDGE FROM ME TO YOU

Gah, I should have mentioned this earlier. But there's still time to enter, so if you are a teen and you like writing, this contest is for you!

The great folks at the site have featured THE BRIDGE FROM ME TO YOU as the book of the month for August. They are doing a fun giveaway to reward readers who like to write - is that you? If so, check it out!

Read all about the writing contest, which ends THIS Sunday, 8/31 so there's still plenty of time, especially since it's only about 250-500 words. Basically, write a short piece of fiction that combines poetry and regular prose somehow. That's all there is to it. One person will win a signed book, while two others will win a signed bookplate + bookmark.

Happy writing and good luck!!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Doing the work

I get a lot of emails from kids and teens asking about writing a novel. They often say that they start out excited, but then they get writer's block and they don't know how to keep going.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could wave a magic wand and have the idea in our brain magically turned into a book without doing the work? I always have to tell them, as nicely as possible, there is no magic wand. There is only you putting in the time, writing down the words, one at a time, until the book is finished.

Lots of people love the idea of writing a book. But the actual writing of a book, not so much. Because it's writing down word after word, yes, but trying to do so in such a way that there is a compelling plot and characters you care about and pacing that doesn't bore a person to tears.

I think it's very important, early on, for wanna-be-authors to simply finish a book, no matter how bad it is. The first novel I wrote was not good. Oh, I suppose there were some promising pages in there, but the premise was odd and it just didn't work, overall. But finishing that novel proved to my ever-doubtful self that I could do it! Perseverance is a writer's best friend. You have to be able to keep going even when it's REALLY hard. A completed manuscript reminds you that the only way out is through. Keep writing. Keep plugging away. Every day, add words to the word count and some day, it will be a finished book.

For a long time I've wanted to redo my office. It's a mishmash of furniture that we've collected over the years, none of which was specifically purchased for my home office. Finally, this past week, I decided, it's time to make my office the way I want it to be. I spend lots of time in here, and soon the days will get shorter and darker, and it would be so nice if I had something light and bright and cheerful to greet me each day.

Just like writing a book, figuring out where to begin with a room makeover is not easy. But, as I've learned with my writing, the important thing is to simply begin. So I went out Friday and looked at furniture. I didn't find anything I liked. I came back and look online, specifically at Pottery Barn, knowing it was going to be expensive but also knowing there would probably be something there I'd really love. And there was. Thankfully, I got the desk and hutch that sits on top of it on sale. The downside is it won't be here for a month or so. But that's okay - I'm telling myself it will be worth the wait. In the meantime, there is plenty of work to do to get ready for its arrival.

Here's part of my office as it is now. The walls are darker than they look here - kind of a rust color. While it's pretty, I want something lighter. Peach? Lilac? I'm not sure - we'll see. Anyway, I've been going through stuff, figuring out what I want to keep and what I don't want anymore. It's not a fun job. It's work! A lot of work. Since I don't have Nate Berkus or someone else coming to my rescue and sending me off to enjoy a day at the spa while he redoes the room.

Here are some of the boxes I've packed up already, and there will be more before I'm through.

It is so much work! Packing stuff up and moving furniture out and selling and/or donating the furniture I don't want anymore. Picking out the paint color and painting the room (although my husband who is a really good painter will probably do that part).

But I know the only way out is through. Do the work, and there will be something cool to show for it when it's all done. What do you know...just like writing a book.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Finding beauty every day

This morning I ran across a tweet I really loved, retweeted by someone I follow.

As I often do, I clicked over to see who Lisa Adams is. The very first words in her profile? "Living w/ stage 4 breast cancer."

Stupid, ugly, lots-of-bad-words-here, cancer.

Lately, it seems like no matter where I look, there is hard, painful stuff happening. Anxiety rises up in me, as it feels like everything is lined with razor-sharp edges. People are hurting. Suffering. And I feel guilty looking away, but for my own sanity, I have to. It is not because I don't care. I do. But what can I do? Tell me, and I'll do it. I give money to help with research for the stupid, ugly, lots-of-bad-words-here cancer. And I give money to charities who try to make life better for those who are suffering, both overseas and at home.

I do what I can, though it never feels like enough. And then I think of Lisa's plea today. "Find a bit of beauty in the world today. Share it. If you can't find it, create it."

People probably wonder why I post lots of flower and sunset pictures on instagram. Do you know why? Because they are beautiful, and because it's one small way I can bring some beauty to the world. We each need as much beauty as we can find, because God knows there is more than enough ugly out there. The ugly is everywhere. Those of you who have been following the news this past week know we don't have to look far to find it.

But really, we don't have to look far for the beauty either. It's everywhere, too. And every day, I seek some out, because it helps me feel better. It reminds me that things aren't hopeless, though at times it may feel that way.

Yesterday, we went to the gorge to get away for a few hours. It was wonderful. Quiet and serene. I could practically feel my soul being restored, breath by breath, as I walked amongst the giant trees that have stood there, guarding the precious land, for hundreds of years.

It will be okay, they seemed to whisper.

I always try to enjoy the journey and not put too much emphasis on the particular destination, but it was pretty wonderful to come to this beauty after our one hour hike into the woods.

Still, I thought later as we drove away, toward a favorite little drive-in hamburger/ice cream place we like to eat at after our hikes, it's easy to find beauty out here. I need to be better about recognizing it in my every day life. In those moments that are easy to take for granted.

Lisa's words were a reminder of that today.

After our hike, we had to wait in a long line to place our food order. Long lines are not very beautiful. Waiting is not very fun. But this place is known for its amazing ice cream cones. Someone didn't know you should never order a large cone - the small cone is large enough! Everyone in line gasped and/or laughed when the person behind the counter handed this lady her large cone. Pretty spectacular, right?

I hope you can find some beauty today.

If you're having trouble, go have an ice cream cone. Ice cream is always pretty beautiful in my book.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Book signing Thursday August 14th

Just a reminder that I'll be participating on a YA panel with four other authors this Thursday, 8/14 7:00 p.m. at Powell's Books at Cedar Hills. It's an evening of YA fiction, and you don't want to miss it!

The other authors participating are:

Amy Tintera (REBOOT and REBEL)
Debra Driza (MILA 2.0 and MILA 2.0: RENEGADE)
Kasie West (ON THE FENCE)

If you aren't in the Portland, Oregon area, have no fear - you can order a signed copy from Powell's (they ship anywhere in the United States). CLICK HERE to order.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

A story of not giving up and some gratitude

I'm off to the farmer's market in a little while and after that, to visit the Pittock Mansion with my family and hike one of the trails nearby. The Pittock Mansion plays a part in my YA novel coming out next year, so I've been meaning to make another visit before the book is put to bed, so to speak, to ensure there's nothing I want to change.

The mansion was built in 1914 and various members of the Pittock family lived in it until the 1950s. They put it on the market and tried to sell it, but they weren't successful. They almost demolished it after the Columbus Day storm in 1962, which caused extensive damage, but the community came together and raised $75,000 to help the City of Portland purchase the property, because it mattered to them. The city bought the mansion in 1964 and went on to refurbished it, and since then, it's a place the entire city can enjoy.

The thing about the Pittock mansion is the incredible view. It sits up high in the west hills and it's just a gorgeous piece of property. You can also tour the mansion, which we're also going to do today because my boys haven't been through it since they were little.

Here's what I love about the Pittock mansion story. It was almost destroyed. Its owners almost gave up on it, but there were other people who said - this place has value. We WANT it in our community.

There are times when I want to give up on a book. Sometimes when I'm drafting it. Sometimes when I'm revising it. And sometimes, even when the book is out in the world and a horrid review or two comes in. It's easy to throw my hands up in the air and say, I give up. 

But then I'll get a nice e-mail from a librarian telling me how her middle school students are taking turns reading THE BRIDGE FROM ME TO YOU and she can't keep the two copies she has on the shelves. Or someone will tweet me with kind words about one of my books. Or I'll remember that every day, the things that make me the happiest, besides my loved ones, are the things created by other people -- books, music, movies, art. 

Art matters. Stories matter. I love being a part of that. 

And, I really do LOVE writing.

One of the hardest things we have to do as writers is to separate the business side of writing from the creative side. I have to continue to write stories, somehow, without worrying about whether slow sales of the current book might affect the next book. It's hard some days to do that. To see other authors on twitter who have legions of fans and sell a gazillion copies and to know that will probably never be me.

Around release time, when things can be particularly stressful, I try to step away from the computer more. To get outside and spend time doing things that I love, and I try to constantly remind myself that there are many other things worth thinking about/stressing over than one teensy tiny book. 

For those of you who have bought or read the book, I do want to take a moment to say THANK YOU. Every book that makes it out into the world at some point, could have been demolished. When doubt and fear creeps in, as it so often does, it takes effort to push it away and to keep going. But I do it because there are people who do like my books. Who tell me my work matters. 

Over the years, I've learned a lot of things, but one of the most important things is this -- there are big successes and there are small successes, but they are successes all the same.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, August 4, 2014


I'm so excited to share this adorable cover for my February 2015 middle grade book. It feels like I've been working on this book forever, and I'm SO thrilled young readers will get to read it soon!

From the publisher: 

Nora loves everything about Paris, from the Eiffel Tower to chocolat chaud. Of course, she's never actually been there -- she's only visited through her Grandma Sylvia's stories. And just when they've finally planned a trip together, Grandma Sylvia is suddenly gone, taking Nora's dreams with her.

Nora is crushed. She misses her grandmother terribly, but she still wants to see the city they both loved. So when Nora finds letters and a Paris treasure map among her Grandma Sylvia's things, she dares to dream again . . .

She's not sure what her grandma wants her to find, but Nora knows there are wonderful surprises waiting for her in Paris. And maybe, amongst the croissants and macarons, she'll even find a way to heal her broken heart.


The interior of the book is so much fun, with wonderful artwork at the beginning of every chapter. I plan on sharing some exclusive sneak peeks with my newsletter subscribers in a few months.

Oh, yes, that's right, I've decided to send out a quarterly newsletter in an effort to stay in better touch with my readers, along with teachers, librarians, and parents who might be interested. The first one will go out this fall. You can sign up by clicking on this link: Newsletter

In the meantime, don't forget there are now THREE books in the CHARMED LIFE series out now. The latest one, Libby's Sweet Surprise, takes place in England, where she lives with her aunt and uncle who own a sweet shop!! Did someone say candy? Why, yes, I did!