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.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Book Trailer and Launch Party for The Girl in the Tower

Here it is, the book trailer I made myself!

And I would like to invite you
to my book launch party...

Where: Powell's Books, Cedar Hills, Beaverton, OR
When: Sunday, April 3nd, 2:00 p.m.

I'm gonna share some stories,
read a little bit from the book
and serve you cookies!!

(If you aren't local, please note you can pre-order a signed copy!)

I can't believe release day is just eight days away.
I'm crossing my fingers it may be in stores
this weekend for people who might like
to put a pretty little book in an Easter basket.

Monday, March 14, 2016

It's like a painting by Nicoletta Ceccoli with a book attached!

I'm so incredibly busy. I'm actually working right now, at 7:00 at night, something I rarely do but I have a lot going on and so, it's necessary. But never mind about that.

What I want to tell you is that I got a BEAUTIFUL book in the mail today! My editor sent me a copy hot off the presses. And I have a few photos to share with you. I wish I could show you every gorgeous page with Nicoletta Ceccoli's amazing illustrations, but I should probably give you a reason to check out the book for yourself, right?

Okay, back to this PowerPoint presentation that isn't going to create itself. Have a great week!

Monday, March 7, 2016


"She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor,
'Winter is dead.'"
~A.A. Milne


"It is spring again.
The earth is like a child
who knows poems by heart."
~Ranier Maria Rilke

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The most important thing a writer must learn to do

That probably reads like a click bait headline. Oh well. I'm keeping it. I like it. And I completely one hundred percent believe what I'm about to tell you IS the most important thing a writer must learn to do.

 I wonder, right now, what do you *think* it is?

Write every day, even when you don't want to? No way. I don't believe that.

Develop a thick skin? Not this either, although of course this is true, but you've heard it a million times.

Write a FANTASTIC story in order to get it published? Nope. Because I'm not even talking about writing to get published.

I'm talking about writing wherever you are on the path of being a writer. Maybe you're just playing around right now. Writing to see how it feels. See what it looks like for you. Or maybe you are one that's been doing this for a while, and you're thinking about querying agents soon. Maybe you're like me and you've published some books, had some successes and some failures, and you're wondering - what's next?

There's one thing you have to do and keep doing no matter if you've never published a book or published a hundred books.

You have to learn to write with doubt. 

I feel like I could make a rhyme about that.

Figure it out,
all writers learn to write with doubt.

I did an author visit at a middle school one time and I LOVED this wall of poetry they made in honor of my visit. Do you think those students worried about me reading the poem they had written and that would be hanging on the wall in the room where I'd be speaking? Of course. Do you think any of them were afraid I might not like what they'd written? Absolutely. But you know what? They somehow managed to DO IT ANYWAY.

Every time I start a new book, I have doubts. I am scared. I am worried it won't be good enough. But I understand it is part of being a writer. It shows I care about the work I'm doing, and that's not a bad thing. The difficulty is in learning how to manage the fear.

In her book BIG MAGIC, Liz Gilbert tells us to tell Fear it is welcome to come along with us, but it does not get to drive the car. No, if it wants to come along, it has to sit in the backseat and be quiet.

I think I've always thought of Doubt as this pesky little thing on my shoulder that won't go away. It really likes my shoulder, and so it sits there. And when it starts whispering ugly things in my ear, I have a choice as to whether I listen or not. It's completely up to me. I have the power - Doubt does NOT have the power. It simply has messages, messages that often times aren't even true.

Often, Doubt is loudest when I sit down to start my work for the day. Opening the document is often the hardest part, yes? But once you just do it, and you let your characters talk to you, Doubt tends to quiet down.

I get so many notes and emails from kids and teens asking me - how do I write when I'm scared? Scared it won't be good enough? Scared I don't know what I'm doing? Scared people will say bad things if I even manage to somehow show it to someone?

I wish I could say there is a magic trick writers use to make the fear and doubt go away, but there isn't. The truth is, every writer who has finished a book managed to figure out how to send it to the back seat or to write with it sitting on their shoulder.

You can't avoid it. You simply have to figure out for yourself how to write with it.

Happy March - hope you have a great month!