Friday, December 30, 2016

My new year's wish for you

Let us read voraciously.
Let us read widely.
Let us read because it allows us to visit new places.
Let us read to better understand the world and the people in it.
Let us read to grow empathy in our hearts and minds. 
Let us read for comfort.
Let us read for pleasure.
Let us read for the beauty of the written word.
Let us read for any reason at all.
Please...let us read.
Happy new year!

From Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel

Monday, December 12, 2016

Signed Bookplate Offer

I'd like to offer up personalized/signed bookplates along with a couple of bookmarks to people who are giving one of my books as a gift this year.

To get yours mailed to you, please send an email to lisaschroederbooks (at) gmail (dot) com with the subject: HOLIDAY OFFER. In the body of the email, please tell me the first name of the person getting the gift so I can personalize the bookplate, along with a mailing address of where I should send the goodies. This offer is good until Monday, December 19th!!

Happy Holidays!!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Holiday Entertainment

My friend and writer-extraordinaire Sonia Gensler has compiled an awesome list of holiday-themed fiction. You can check it out HERE

I'm hoping to read the YA novel THE TWELVE DAYS OF DASH AND LILY by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn sometime this month, as I really loved DASH AND LILY'S BOOK OF DARES.

LET IT SNOW, also YA, by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle is probably my favorite of the ones she listed that I've read.

I've been thinking about favorite Christmas movies and my favorites are pretty unconventional. In other words, weird. But you know, we like what we like and we should never apologize for that. So in case you don't want to watch It's a Wonderful Life for the umpteenth time, here are a couple I love to watch every year.

The first is a class. A classic romantic comedy that I just adore so, so much in all of its black-and-white charm. "The Shop Around the Corner" takes place during the depression and stars Margarat Sullivan and Jimmy Stewart.

Favorite Quote: "The boss hands you the envelope. You wonder how much is in it, and you don't want to open it. As long as the envelope's closed, you're a millionaire."

Next this funny and heart-warming film that probably shouldn't work but really does so perfectly, thanks to spot-on writing and Michael Caine's brilliant acting.

Favorite Quote: "Light the lamp, not the rat!"

We have lots of snow and ice here and more coming next week, so I'll be doing a lot of reading and movie watching I suspect. Hope you can take the time to do the same!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Meditating with Poetry

I find poetry soothing. Especially poetry that has been around a long, long time. There is something about reading words written long ago that have stood the test of time that I find comforting. I was sharing these thoughts with a writing friend the other day, telling her how sometimes I'll take a little break and pull a poetry book off my bookshelf and fill myself with the beautiful words for a few minutes. She said, "It's like meditating with poetry."

Yes. That's exactly what it is.

If you'd like to add some poetry meditation into your day, I highly recommend it. Here is one, from one of my favorite poets, Sarah Teasdale, to get you started. Her work is in the public domain.

by Sarah Teasdale

Day, you have bruised and beaten me,
As rain beats down the bright, proud sea,
Beaten my body, bruised my soul,
Left me nothing lovely or whole --
Yes I have wrested a gift from you,
Day that dies in dusky blue:

For suddenly over the factories
I saw a moon in the cloudy seas --
a wisp of beauty all alone
In a world as hard and gray as stone --
Oh who could be bitter and want to die
When a maiden moon wakes up in the sky?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Author event - Saturday, November 26th

Just want to let Portland/Vancouver people know I am doing an author event this coming Saturday at Vintage Books in Vancouver, Washington.
From their website:

2 pm – 3:30pm Come Mingle with Popular Children's/Middle Grade/Young Adult Authors!
  • Heidi Schulz (Hook's Revenge, The Pirate Code & Giraffe's Ruin Everything)
  • Laurel Gale (Dead Boy)
  • Lisa Schroeder (It's Raining CupcakesAll We Have is NowMy Secret Guide to ParisThe Girl in the TowerSealed with a Secret The Day Before)
They will be chatting with customers, signing books, & answering questions!

Address: 6613 E. Mill Plain Blvd., Vancouver, WA 

Ready or not, the holidays are here!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Lucky, lucky me

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of Skyping with a group of students who are in an English as a Second Language class at a middle school in North Carolina. Their teacher likes to use I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME with his students because he's found the way the verse is written, with lots of white space and not a lot of flowery language, works well for them and where they are at with their reading skills. It was so great to talk to these students and answer their thoughtful questions.

When I'm writing a book, I never know how it will be received or who, if anyone, will end up reading it. I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME has had a reach far greater than I ever imagined.

I'm so honored to have written something these students read and then discussed with each other in class. Even more than that, I'm honored to have met and talked with them. Kids often think that they are the lucky ones when they get to meet an author, but I consider myself even luckier every time I get to meet or talk with one or more of them. They wow me. They inspire me. And they fill me with hope.

Friday, November 11, 2016

On empathy

"A human being is a part of a whole, called by us "universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest...a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." ~ Albert Einstein

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Getting past the fear to begin

In April I went to a retreat outside of Austin, Texas, in the lush, rolling hills. I'd been toying with a book idea for a while, an idea that would be different from anything I'd ever written. I was so afraid to begin. I think it's one of the hardest things for a writer - going from idea to story and putting words on paper.

Sometimes the idea seems too good to be true, and we're afraid we'll ruin it.

Sometimes the idea is too vague and we worry it will fizzle out once we start writing.
Sometimes the idea feels bigger than we are, and we're not sure we have what it takes to write it.

But as I sat in a quiet, sunny spot with my journal, the trees whispering encouragement, I realized I was in exactly the right place to start this story that scared me so much. I had time and space and room to breathe. I could immerse myself in those early chapters and see what might come of them. I could let the characters lead me where they wanted to go and wherever it was, it would be okay because that is what a writing retreat is for: to write and to explore.

And so I wrote. I wrote 25 pages or so, and then I came home and had to put it away for a while but over the summer, I kept working and working. I had hoped I'd have a draft by September, but that didn't happen. So I wrote in September. And I wrote in October. And finally, a couple of weeks ago, I finished the draft.

I'm revising now, reading over printed out pages, marking them up, trying to figure out what's missing, what doesn't ring quite true, and on and on. I don't know if or when it will sell, although I hope it does someday. What I do know is that after I read a scene today, it brought tears to my eyes. And then, I thought back to those magical trees, and I'm just so glad I took that first scary step and started writing.

We don't always get to write in such a gorgeous spot, I know. Although I think the universe is happy to give out words of encouragement wherever we are, if we just take a moment and listen for them. I wish they were as loud as the words of doubt always seem to be, but they're not. So get quiet and listen, and remember, there can be no ending unless there is a beginning.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Cover for Keys to the City

A box of Advanced Review Copies (ARCs) arrived on my doorstep yesterday so I think it's time to share my May, 2017 cover.

It's my third novel about girls having fun adventures around big cities, and this time you can see it takes place in the wonderful New York City! I'm really happy with how this story turned out. There were a lot of "magical moments" while writing this book -- that is, connections that came together very organically as I wrote. I love when that happens!!

Here is the adorable cover:

Brief description: Lindy can't believe she has homework this summer -- to find her "true passion." Does curling up with a good book count? Probably not. Luckily, Lindy has the help of a new friend, a happy dog, and a special journal as she hits the streets of New York City to unlock her secret talents.

Let me answer some questions you may have:

What's the dog's name and does anything happen to him?
The dog's name is Odie and he is alive and well the entire novel, I promise!

Did you include NYC pizza in this book?
Um, pizza is basically my middle name alongside cupcakes and pie, so yes, of course I put pizza in the book!

Anything else you can tell us?
Nora from My Secret Guide to Paris is in the book! Here's an except featuring a short conversation between Nora and Lindy:

"Okay, here are the things I know for sure I'm good at. Eating doughnuts. Choosing just the right emoji for a text. And finding the perfect book to check out at the library. Do you think any of those will work for my project?"

Nora laughed. "Emojis? Really?"

"Hey, it's not as easy as it seems. Pick the wrong face and you might offend someone."

So what do you think of the cover? Maybe we need to see the others to compare.

So excited to have a cute little trilogy now. Thanks for letting me share!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A list of happy just because

Is it November 9th yet?

About once a day I think to myself, I should just delete my social media accounts. It feels like everyone is angry, all the time, and I know there's a lot to be angry about, but I also think there's a lot to be happy about. Isn't there?

I want to believe it will be better after the election, but as time goes on, I'm thinking that is probably very wishful thinking. We may have gotten to a place that will be almost impossible to leave.

Anyway, here's a list of things that are making me happy, because the world needs more happy!

Flowers that my husband brought home for me one day:

Blue skies, for now anyway:

My dog, always: (funny story, sometimes Stormy sits in a camping chair at the top of the driveway, just inside the garage. She's tethered, so she can't go anywhere, which is fine with her because really she just wants to be outside, in the front, where all the action is. When the UPS driver delivered a package yesterday, he told me our house is known as "the house at the top of the hill with the dog in a chair.")

And books. Don't have a photo to share, but I'm reading a lot of great ones. Just finished a short but sweet middle-grade called THE POET'S DOG by Patricia MacLachlan and a page-turning YA titled DANGEROUS GIRLS by Abigail Haas. If you are fascinated by the Amanda Knox trial, this is an especially great read. Right now, I'm in the middle of reading a few different YAs, KIDS OF APPETITE by David Arnold, TROUBLE IS A FRIEND OF MINE, by Abigail Haas, and SPEED OF LIFE by J.M. Kelly. Other MG novels I have here to read soon (hopefully): TWO NAOMIS by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich & Audrey Vernick and MOO by Sharon Creech.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Some love for school libraries

I was subbing in the library at one of the alternative high schools in town. 

A girl came in and stood there, surveying the shelves of books. She looked a little bit lost. I got up and asked her, "Can I help you find something?"

"I don't read," she said. "But I need a book. For class. To read for 30 minutes."

"Do you like fantasy or realistic fiction?" I asked.

"I don't know," she said. "I don't read."

I went to the shelves and pulled out a book by Sonya Sones called WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN'T KNOW. It's written in verse, like some of my YA novels, and because I've heard from lots of teens over the years who say, "I usually hate to read, but I like your books..." I thought it might be a good choice. 
I told her what it was about. I showed her how the pages have lots of white space on them. I told her how much I enjoyed the book.

She looked at me and smiled. "Maybe I can even finish most of it in 30 minutes."

I smiled back. "I bet you can. And if you like it, she has another one here as well you should check out."
"Okay. I will. Thanks."

She left with a book but more than that, she left with confidence and encouragement that she could read it. 

All it takes is one book to turn a kid into a reader, and you know where that often happens? At a school library. That's just one of the reasons why I love them so very much.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

One brain, two stories

I've always worked on one novel at a time.


If an idea for a new story wouldn't stop bugging me, I'd let myself write some notes in a notebook to at least get it out onto the page somewhere. But I wouldn't let myself actually start writing it, because when you're in the middle of writing a book, it is not fun. It's work, work, and more work. There's a reason why writers often describe it as "slogging through the middle."

See, it's fun, starting a new story. There is hope for great things and the characters are full of possibilities. There aren't pages and pages of your imperfect words that depress you, and so, the beginning is fun! But the middle, the middle is usually not fun. You have to figure out pacing and what obstacles to put in your character's way and you have to keep thinking of ways to keep the tension going. You have to keep track of all the different threads and make sure you don't drop one or two or seven. It's hard. Many novels are abandoned in the middle, so usually, I make myself finish a book before I allow myself to start working on another one. A new story often makes a great carrot for a writer.

But for the past month, I've been working on two different novels. And you know what? Right now, I really, really like working this way. I work on one for a couple of days and then, when I want my subconscious to think on it for a while or I get bored with it or whatever, I switch over to the other one and work on that one for a while. There is something really great about having different things for my brain to work on. Some days, I work on one in the morning and the other one in the afternoon. It's like in school when we'd do writing in the morning and math in the afternoon - keeps things interesting, you know?

So not only am I trying my hand at some new genres (for me), I'm also trying out a new way of working. Sometimes it's good to shake things up. In fact, sometimes, I'd argue, it's quite necessary!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Suspenseful stories

Lately I find myself drawn to mysteries with suspense. There is something about wondering - what happened and WHO did it? And not just that, but wondering if a character you immediately like could have possibly done such a horrible crime.

Maybe it started with the Serial podcast last year. That could be it. Up until then, if you'd asked me if I was interested in murder mysteries, I would have said no. But it seems to me, as time goes on, it makes sense that we like to try new things in the way of stories. If we've stuck with the same kind of things for a long time, isn't it natural we'll start to maybe get a little bored?

Like, I've had somewhat of a hard time finding YAs that keep me interested lately. But I read this YA novel, WITH MALICE, by Eileen Cook recently and I really enjoyed it. It kept me wondering, turning the pages quickly, trying to piece together the puzzle. A girl's friend is dead, but she can't remember the last six weeks or what happened the night her friend died.

I also just watched the last episode of "The Night of" on HBO, an 8-show series about a young man who wakes up in the kitchen of a girl's apartment and goes upstairs to find she's been stabbed to death, only he doesn't remember anything past a certain point in the evening. All of the evidence points to him and yet, it doesn't add up. He's a nice guy. He didn't do it. Did he?

So interesting that both the book and the show I've enjoyed recently play around with mystery and memory. Of course, for me, it's also about the all important main character - finding ways to make me care and to keep me vested. It's a skill, that's for sure!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Summertime Memories

My grandparents lived on a farm out in the country in the mid-Willamette valley in Oregon. For a couple of years, starting when I was about 13, while my mom went back to school, we lived on the farm in my great grandparents' old house. 
The summers I spent there are some of the strongest memories I have to this day. I don't think I knew how much I loved being on the farm. I loved wandering around. I'd visit the old playhouse that my mother had played in when she was younger. I'd swing on the tire swing. On hot days, the cool barn was the place to go. Upstairs in the barn was a built-in trampoline my grandpa had built for his three daughters. When I wrote the fourth book of the Charmed Life series (Hannah's Bright Star), the barn she has on her farm is just like this one I knew well growing up. 
Here's that old barn, built around 1929, as it looked the last time I saw it five years ago or so.
Some afternoons, my grandma and I would go bike riding on back country roads, collecting pop cans and bottles from the ditch as we went along.
When strawberries were in season, I would ride the bus to the fields and pick berries. I soon learned that picking berries all day made for one very, very long day. At least for a 13-year old. I talked my grandma into picking me up at lunch time some days. Those were the best afternoons, because we'd go back to her house, have lunch, and watch soap operas for a couple of hours. (Thanks to me and my obsession with Luke and Laura, my grandma got hooked on General Hospital and continued to watch it for many, many years to come, usually before her afternoon nap).
I made $75.00 picking berries that summer. My grandpa had promised to match whatever I earned, so I finally had enough money to buy myself the dog I'd always wanted - a purebred cocker spaniel. I named him Lucky.
I miss my grandma and grandpa. I miss wandering around that old farm. I miss my sweet dog, Lucky.
But I still have summertime, along with the lazy days and fun times and sweet fruit it brings. Thank God, I still have summertime.

Friday, August 5, 2016

On social media and not feeling social

There's this strange thing that is happening to me. I don't want to talk online anymore. I don't want to tweet, I don't want to blog, I just... I don't know. I have to force myself most of the time to speak up and say something.

I've been trying to figure out why and maybe it's because I'm having a bit of a difficult time in my career right now and when things aren't going well, it can feel a little bit like - what's the point? Except I think it's even more than that. I'm having to work hard to protect what little confidence I have left as a writer and so even just sitting down to write stories at the moment is tough. It's like I have to save all of my bravery for that and then there isn't any left for the other types of writing.

But here's why I'm blogging today. It is easy to disappear. Like, really really easy. To tell myself I don't matter, that no one would care if I just stopped showing up on the web one day and then, suddenly, I do it. I stop. And before I know it, I've quit writing all together and out of desperation I put in an application to work at Taco Bell. Which, if you work at Taco Bell, thank you for feeding burritos to the world and please don't take that as meaning that I think there's anything wrong with working at Taco Bell. I am just not sure that is what I want for me, personally, at this stage in my life, you know?

I think it's easy to "be social" when your career is going well. When your book hits the NY Times or you win a big award, and everyone wants to congratulate you, there is nothing easier than being on-line and taking that all in. And please know, that is not meant to be a criticism at all. If you hit the NY times, YAY FOR YOU, I'M TOTALLY SERIOUS, because that is some super exciting stuff that may never come around again.

But when everything is a struggle? When all you want to do is sit on the couch and watch Netflix and eat ice cream but you make yourself go to the computer because that is what a writer does for crying out loud? It's difficult to find anything left after that to put out into the world. Especially when you're feeling vulnerable and no replies to whatever you put out there can feel like another kind of rejection.

I also think there has been a shift in social media over the years. Now, more than ever, it seems like people admire the loud, the bold, the indignant, the outrageous, the hilarious. And when you are generally not any of those things, it's hard to feel like your voice has any value. It's like a mouse trying to get noticed in a pit of roaring lions. It's easiest to just hide in a hole and watch the roaring from a distance. That's kind of what I've been doing lately.

There is no lesson learned at the end of this blog post. No revelation that has come to me as a result of writing this. All I know is I felt like perhaps I should explain why posts have become less frequent. If you are feeling like a mouse in a pit of lions lately, please know - I see you. I hear you. You are not alone. We must remember there is a place for us in this world too, even if it doesn't always feel that way. And now I'm signing off to open the manuscript. To do the work I feel called to do, even if it feels much, much harder today than it did ten years ago. What?  You thought it got easier? Ha. Nope. Not even close.

Friday, July 22, 2016

A day at the beach

Cannon Beach, Oregon
"Back outside
we stand
at the edge
of a cliff
and look out
at the endless supply
of blue.

              It takes my breath away.

and me
and the sky
and the sea.

It's like a dream.
The kind of dream
you wish for again and again,
night after night,
because it was so good
the first time."

~from The Day Before
by Lisa Schroeder

Monday, June 27, 2016

On creativity and play

Ponytail Falls, taken by me on a hike

"For most people, creativity is a serious business. They forget the telling phrase 'the play of ideas' and think they need to knuckle down and work more. Often, the reverse is true. They need to play." 
~ Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

On Mixing Things Up as a Writer

Since 2008, I have published seven young adult novels


and eleven middle grade novels

CHARMED LIFE #1, Caitlin's Lucky Charm
CHARMED LIFE #2, Mia's Golden Bird
CHARMED LIFE #3, Libby's Sweet Surprise
CHARMED LIFE #4, Hannah's Bright Star
2017 MG title not yet finalized

Eighteen books.
In eight years.

Starting in 2010, I worked hard to publish two books a year, one YA and one MG. Then, I had the year where I wrote all four of the CHARMED LIFE books, because my publisher wanted them to come out quickly, one after the other.

The thing is, if I'm not regularly selling books to publishers, I'm not making the kind of income I need to pay the bills. You're probably wondering, don't you get lots of royalties on all of those books? Well, no, not really. Some of them haven't even earned out their advance, and may not ever do that. Others give me a small amount of royalties every six months, but once books are gone from the shelves of bookstores, they aren't selling enough copies to make much of a difference.

I have a couple of things on submission now, and I'm crossing my fingers something will sell. In the mean time, I decided it was time for me to mix things up a bit. Stretch myself. Write something that would make me forget about the stressful business side of publishing and fall in love all over again with the act of writing.

If you're a writer and feeling like you'd like to mix things up a bit too, but don't know what that means or how to do that, here are some things you can try.

Write for a different age-group.
Write a different genre.
Do something new with point-of-view.
Do something new with timeline.
Play with voice.
Write in a different form - short story, poetry, essay, etc.
If you've never outlined, try outlining.
If you've never gone without an outline, try drafting without one.
Write faster.
Write slower.

I've always been a pretty fast writer. Also a lean writer. Perhaps the two go hand-in-hand?

But this summer, I am mixing things up by first and foremost, slowing things down. I'm also trying a different genre (historical fiction), although it's a book that alternates between the past and the present so it has other challenges besides the research aspect. Talk about mixing things up!! I started the book I'm working on now at a writing retreat back in April, and I'm probably one-fourth of the way through a first draft right now. I am letting things simmer more than I usually do and giving lots of thought to decisions I make about what happens next. I'm trying to write two pages a day, but if I only get one done or even a couple of paragraphs, I don't sweat it.

There are times when things are hectic and chaotic and dinner at my house consists of soup and sandwiches. Other times, I can spend an hour and a half in the kitchen, making a really nice home-cooked meal. No doubt about it - the dinner I spend more time and care on is usually a much more special meal. That's not to say the soup and sandwich dinner is bad - I can make a pretty tasty sandwich. I guess my point is that life doesn't always allow us to spend an hour and a half on dinner every single night. Similarly, life doesn't always allow authors many months and even years to write books. I've done what I've needed to do over the years to feed my family, and did the best I could with the time/resources I had at the time.

But right now, with this particular book, I know I need to take it slow. It is the kind of book that deserves care and attention and a lot of thought. So that's what I will give it.

Eighteen books in eight years may be great or it may be slightly insane, I'm not quite sure. What I do know is that it's okay to slow down once in a while. Hopefully this particular story will be better for it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The healing power of art

Artwork by Nicoletta Ceccoli from The Girl in the Tower

"All of us use art and literature
as an escape from time to time,
but if it's any good,
it has a healing quality --
a quality that enlarges our
human spirit."
Katherine Paterson

Thursday, June 2, 2016

B&N Teen Book Festival

If you're in the Portland area, I'll be participating in the first B&N Teen Book Festival at the Clackamas, Oregon store. There are things happening all weekend, but on Saturday, June 12th, I'll be signing books alongside April Henry at 4:00 p.m.

And if you're not in the Portland area, make sure and check the B&N near you because most likely they'll be having some fun events as well!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

High tide and low tide

I listen to a lot of podcasts on my dog walk every morning. I recently started listening to one called "Millennial," about what it's like to be in your twenties in this day and age. I've really enjoyed following her story as she tries to figure out what she wants to do career-wise and the challenges she faces in looking for work. Since I have a son who is about to graduate from college, and because things are quite different from when I graduated from college years and years ago, I find it all very interesting.

In one of the early episodes (sorry, not sure which one), the host, Megan, was talking to an older coworker (at the restaurant where she works part-time) about success, and he said something that really resonated with me. He said something like: In life, it's impossible to always feel like everything is going well and that you're exactly where you want to be in terms of success. It's like the tide - it ebbs and flows. Sometimes you'll feel successful, like the high tide, and other times, the tide will go out and you'll feel dissatisfied with the way things are going. You just have to ride it out. Eventually, the tides will turn again.

I love that. To simply know that high tide all the time is impossible sort of takes the pressure off. A little bit, anyway.

Monday, May 23, 2016

In the land of no contracts

It's always a bit of a strange feeling for an author when a contracted book (one that a publisher has bought and is scheduled to be published) is turned in. On the one hand, there is this huge sense of relief - the book is done and the editor is pleased. Hooray!

But it also can be a bit nerve-wracking. The book is done, so now what? Because books are published so far ahead, authors also have to be thinking ahead. I'm now thinking about 2018, wondering if I'll have any books that year. If I don't sell something here in the next little while, I may not have anything published in 2018 and as someone who relies on this writing gig for income, it's really not good to skip a year.

I try not to worry, but it's hard. It's really hard. It's like this little nagging voice in the back of my head all the time - you need to sell something, you need to sell something. The fact that publishing is the slowest business in the world doesn't help. Once an author has something to sell, it can be a loooong time before a sale actually happens. Editors are busy. Most of them read submissions during their "off hours."

So, I'm busy working on coming up with a couple of proposals for future series. I'm also working on a manuscript I don't want to sell on proposal because I want to make it the best I can without any deadline pressure. And I have a completed manuscript on submission now.

Just like when I'm writing sometimes, I'm not sure what's going to happen next. But I hope I don't have to wait too long to find out!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Attention Seattle People - Come See Me!

I'll be at Third Place Books on Saturday, May 21st at noon participating in Scholastic's Summer Reading Road Trip. Try saying that five times fast. They'll have copies of my latest middle-grade novel, Sealed With A Secret, available for purchase that I'm happy to sign for you! Not sure about other books - you can always call and ask.

There will be other authors there too and lots of fun things happening. So if you're in the area, please stop by and check it out! You can learn more about this particular event HERE


Monday, May 9, 2016

Sealed With A Secret

Sealed with a Secret appears to be available now from online retailers and is popping up at some bookstores already, so yay!

Here's the description from the publisher:

When Phoebe finds a beautiful antique at a flea market, she's not sure if it's as valuable as it looks. But inside she discovers something truly amazing -- a letter, written during World War II, from a young woman to her sister who's been evacuated from London. The letter includes a "spell" for bringing people closer together: a list of clues leading all through the city. Each stop along the way adds up to magic,

Phoebe is stunned. Not only has she found a priceless piece of history, but the letter is exactly what she needs -- she's also separated from her sister, though not by distance. Alice leaves for university soon, but in the meantime, she wants nothing to do with Phoebe. They used to be so close. Now that Phoebe has this magical list, maybe she can fix everything! That is, unless she accidentally makes everything worse instead...

From the author of My Secret Guide to Paris comes an unforgettable trip through London, with secret treasures around every corner!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Can't find a book you want in the bookstore?

Just a friendly reminder that you can ask to order a book you're looking for. Doesn't matter if it's an independent bookstore or a big chain. They are happy to order it for you AND it really helps the author when you do this because then the store knows there is interest in that particular book.

Coming May 10, 2016

Thursday, April 28, 2016

From my mail

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

Here's what some readers have said recently:

"I am such a fan of your young adult books. They are perfection!" ~Izzy

"I am one of the many teens that read your books. I have two left then I'm done with reading your novels and I do not not know what I am going to do!" ~ Abbi

"I'm an 8th grader and I hate reading. However, I just read Chasing Brooklyn and I Heart You, You Haunt Me in two days. I couldn't put them down because of how amazing and engaging they are." ~Juliet

"I showed all of your books to my friends and now they are all over them too." ~Meghan

"I researched you and I wanted to tell you that I like sunshine and movies too." ~ Taylor, 5th grade

"I love your books because they are so mysterious. I think you were born smart!" ~Hooriya


This business can be so hard, but notes from kids and teens remind me of why I do this. Why I hope I can keep doing this for many years to come. 

Thanks for the love, readers. Right back atcha, always!

Monday, April 25, 2016

On secrets and magic

"The greatest secrets are always hidden
in the most unlikely places.
Those who don't believe
in magic will never find it."
~ Roald Dahl

Friday, April 22, 2016

Thinking about what Prince means to me

Here's the thing about Prince's music. His songs were often the background of my life in high school. I mean, there was a lot of music we loved, a lot of music we cranked in the car and danced to at the school dances. But his was there a LOT. Like, I have such a strong memory of a friend and I driving around blasting Little Red Corvette in my very first car, and I think back to that night, to that time, and it is like we were swathed in magic.

Prince = Magic

And what's amazing to me is that over time, some of the music I listened to back then I don't like as much anymore. But Prince's music? My love has only grown over the years. And it was on my bucket list to see him in concert at least once, and I'm just so sad that will never happen now. I came from a small town. To go to the big city, to see a concert, hardly ever happened. A bunch of us made the two-hour trip to see Journey, and man, that night was epic. I wish we'd made it happen for Prince too.

Here are the things I know about Prince.

He was extremely talented.
He worked hard.
He was brave with his art.
He wanted control over how that art was seen and heard, and so he took control, and he did NOT apologize for that, or care what people thought.

Today, I'm feeling inspired to be a little more Prince-like with my work.

To be brave.
To work hard and put work out there that I'm proud of and;
to not care so much about what other people think.

Thank you, Prince, for the music and for the inspiration. I am so grateful the music lives on.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Bookshops around the world

I'm still in Texas, writing for just another day or so, and then I'm off to the Texas Library Association conference to sign some books for some wonderful librarians - yay!! The weather has turned stormy, so I'm glad we got some nice walks in when we did.

I'm working on two new projects that I won't say much about, since I've come to learn it's best for me to keep them close to my vest, so to speak, for as long as possible. Both projects are requiring quite a bit of research, which can be overwhelming sometimes, but also pretty fun.

I thought it'd be fun to share some images of bookstores I found while doing a search recently.

London, England
Rochester, England
Westport, Ireland

Paris, France
Don't you want to visit all of them? I sure do! This is where research gets very dangerous - it's fun to learn and discover so many things. But at some point, you have to stop and get back to writing. Just like I must do now.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Books and flowers

Before I share some pretty tulip pictures, have I mentioned here that MY SECRET GUIDE TO PARIS is now out in paperback? I don't think I have so here's a picture to prove it, right alongside THE GIRL IN THE TOWER that I snapped at Powell's when I was there.

And another book-related thing to share, SEALED WITH A SECRET comes out in just one month. I got a few early copies from my editor. Phoebe! London! Sisters! A magic spell!!

"With freedom, books, flowers and the moon,
who could not be happy?" ~ Oscar Wilde

Monday, April 4, 2016

On jumping to conclusions

Why are we so quick to jump to conclusions when it comes to books, movies, TV shows, etc.? This is something that completely baffles me. And the thing that's terrible is that I am guilty of it too!

Case in point: I was not going to watch "American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ" because I thought - why would I want to watch that when I watched the real thing unfold twenty-two years ago? But then a guy I went to school with and was in a play with in middle school told us all on facebook that he was playing the part of the polygraph tester in the first episode. See? That's him with the glasses. SITTING NEXT TO CUBA GOODING JR!! Cool, huh?

So I set my DVR to record the show. And fifteen minutes into the show, I was hooked. The writing was excellent, the acting superb. I have learned so many things I hadn't known all those years ago. The real case unfolded the year after my son was born. I was busy learning to juggle full-time work and an infant. I caught the highlights of the case and that was about it. Like, I don't think I knew how horribly mean the press was to Marcia Clark.

Anyway, the series wraps up this week and I never in a million years would have guessed that this show would be the highlight of my TV watching the past couple of months. But there you go.

Batman vs. Superman released a couple of weeks ago and everyone, for months, was so quick to judge Ben Affleck in that role. I didn't see the film when it came out but my husband and two sons did and my oldest son said Ben Affleck is his new favorite batman. I mean, imagine if he'd listened to all of those people saying bad stuff months before the movie was even released? He would have missed out on a movie that he really enjoyed.

And when it comes to books, we aren't any better. We dismiss books based on titles and covers so easily. Too easily. And on the other side of the coin, books that hit a home run with a title and a cover will often score big because we love cool things. Pretty things. Strange things. Whatever. If it makes us sit up and notice, that matters - a lot.

THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER by Leslye Walton (a novel for teens) is a book that hit it out of the park with the cover and title.

Another one that just came out recently (also for teens) - WINK, POPPY, MIDNIGHT by April Genevieve Tucholke. I haven't read it yet but I want to. I'm SO curious!!

I'm thinking about all of this as it relates to THE GIRL IN THE TOWER. Because I'm worried people assume they've heard this story before. That it's another Rapunzel story and gong-shoo, how boring, we certainly don't need another one of those.

I find myself wishing we'd gone with something a little more imaginative, a little less... telling, maybe. Because while it is a story about a girl in a tower, AT FIRST, it isn't only a story about that. It's also a story about the evil queen who is really a witch. And a story about the two hummingbirds, Peace and Pax, who try to help locate Violet's father. And a story about the family of minstrels who travel the land looking for Violet and her mother because they don't know where they are.

I'm not sure most people realize how difficult it is to title a book, and on top of that, to find an image that will do all the things a good cover should do. We do our best and then we hope for the best.

So the next time you find yourself jumping to conclusions about a book based on the title and/or cover, stop for a second and realize what it is you're doing. Of course, you may be right after all - the assumptions you make may turn out to be true. But often times, they aren't. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me they almost didn't read FALLING FOR YOU because of the kissy-kissy cover, but were so glad they did after all, I'd have...about thirty dollars. Ha ha. But still, the fact that I feel like I've heard that thirty times? How many people actually did dismiss it because of the cover and never read it? We'll never know...

Are there any books you can think of that you almost dismissed because of the cover and/or title, and were later glad you didn't? I'd love to hear...

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A day I'll never forget

It was a cold, February day. A Wednesday. 

That morning, I was doing some grocery shopping in Safeway when my phone rang. It wasn't a phone number I recognized right off the bat. I answered to discover it was the husband of my friend, Lisa. When I heard his voice, I instantly knew.

My friend had passed away that morning from pancreatic cancer. She was only 47 years old.

I was devastated she was gone, but also thankful she was no longer in pain. After we hung up, I stared at my cart of half the groceries I had intended to buy wondering what to do next. I called my husband. He asked if he should come and drive me home. I said, "No, I'll just go check out now with what I have. I think I'll be okay."

I remember so clearly wondering what to say when the clerk asked, "How are you today?" Do I tell him, I thought? No. Of course you don't tell him. You say fine like everyone does 99% of the time, even if they aren't fine, because it's silly small talk, and that's what you're supposed to do.

"Fine," I said. 

I held my breath, telling myself to hold back the tears. That I could do that. It was just three minutes. Hang on for three minutes. You can lose it in the car. But not here. Not here, not here, not here.

I made it to the car. And I cried. My husband pulled up just before I was about to pull out of the parking lot. He'd driven the five minutes from work to make sure I was okay. He followed me home. We put the groceries away. I cried some more. I called my friend, Suzanne. She came over and it was good to have a friend to be sad with.

And then, another phone call. This time, from my agent. My book, then titled IMPOSSIBLY SMALL, had officially sold. I had a publisher and an editor I was excited to work with. Except, how could I rejoice when I was so incredibly sad at the loss of my friend? I explained to my agent what had happened, and she was kind and understanding, as I knew she would be. It's hard to be happy when your heart has just been shattered into a million pieces.

Previously, Lisa would have been one of the first ones to hear my good news. But she was gone. I couldn't tell her.

It's been five years. Five years without Lisa. And five years since I got the call that my first foray into fantasy would be published. The title has changed. There was a lot of revision. And there were beautiful illustrations added to make the story even more special. I think Lisa would love this book. She'd especially love the hummingbirds at the heart of the story, named Peace and Pax. One of the last emails she sent me simply said this:

Isn't it so pretty today?
I'm sitting here watching the birds and squirrels.

It's so strange how five years can feel like just yesterday, and like a million years ago, all at the same time.

My dear friend and this book are forever linked. So today I just want to tell her -- look, Lisa, it's a real, live, beautiful book.