Friday, December 30, 2011

My year in writing - 2011

I did this last year, and thought I'd do it again this year. It's nice to have a summary of the year to remember all the fun I had.

Baby it's cold in Utah
January marked my one year anniversary of quitting the day job. It felt so good to make it to that year mark. As for writing, I was revising a YA novel I'd written in the fall. I worked on it during a writing retreat my friend, Lindsey Leavitt, hosted in Utah. So much fun. That's me with rock star author, Becca Fitzpatrick.

One day, forever changed
I have written books about love and loss, healing and hope. But nothing can really prepare you for losing a dear friend. On February 23rd, I got the call that Lisa had passed away. A few hours later, I got the call that I had sold my first fantasy middle-grade novel to Holt. As it says in THE DAY BEFORE, "Life is the bad with all the good. The deadly sharks with the beautiful sea stars."

Tri-Cities, here I come and Hello, are you serious?
I attended the Cavalcade of Authors in Washington the first part of March and it was SO much fun! Look at all of those kids, excited about reading and writing. I did three back-to-back workshops on revising and then spent the afternoon signing and answering questions. Later in the month, I got the call that CHASING BROOKLYN was a RITA finalist. I'd finally get to go to NYC!!!

Paperback releases and YAY Scholastic
IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES and CHASING BROOKLYN both came out in paperback in April. I also got word that Scholastic had picked up I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME and CHASING BROOKLYN for book clubs/fairs in the fall. This made me all kinds of happy. Honestly, getting books picked up by Scholastic has been one of the best things that has happened to me career-wise.

I love Oregon Trail Elementary!
The highlight of May was definitely the elementary school visit I did. The K-2nd graders went on an imagination safari with me and Little Chimp from LITTLE CHIMP'S BIG DAY while the 3rd-5th graders learned how baking up cupcakes is a lot like baking up stories. Thanks to my friend Jenn who helped make the school visit happen. I loved every minute of it.

My fourth YA novel released in June and for the most part, was positively received by readers. The end of June, I headed to New York City for the RITA awards, where I had lunch with my agent, met my fabulous editors in person, had a cupcake party at the S&S offices, and signed books at Books of Wonder. June was an amazing month. More months like June, please!

Vegas, baby!
When you combine Lindsey Leavitt and Lifehouse, Lisa Schroeder will be unable to say no. Lindsey tweeted me one day - Lifehouse will be here in two weeks. Wanna come visit? Yes. Yes I do. And so off I went. And what a fun weekend we had, even if it was about 133 degrees outside. Crystal Perkins, the amazing bookseller at B&N even threw together a signing for me. Awesome.

Summer time, fun time
August was all about enjoying the nice weather that we'd been longing for here in Oregon and preparing for the release of SPRINKLES AND SECRETS. I made a bunch of videos dressed as a cupcake, which you can see on youtube if you'd like by searching for "Fun with Cupcakes Lisa Schroeder."

Yay, after months and months of kids asking if there would be another book about Isabel and Sophie, I could finally say Yes there is and you can read the book now! I also started writing a new book - a YA novel with four different POVs. Oh boy.

Wordstock with special thanks to Sara Gundell
I love this picture like WHOA! Hung out with my pals Lindsey Leavitt, Suzanne Young, Sara Gundell, and Corey Whaley, who I hadn't met until Wordstock but fell madly in love with because he is the type of guy you just can't help but adore. The panel with Lindsey, Corey and myself was awesome and I want to do it again. Please, someone invite us - we're an entertaining trio and you will LOVE us! Thanks Sara, for making it happen!

Hit me Vegas, one more time
I couldn't resist. I went to Vegas again! My sweet friend, Suzanne Young, and I shared a room and participated in the Vegas Book Festival with a whole bunch of amazing authors. We also played the Wizard of Oz penny slots while drinking Coronas and had a magical night with Dorothy. I'm ready to go again. Suz??

First draft done!!
I finished the year with a new YA manuscript. Yay! I'm getting ready to send it off to a beta reader and after that, to my agent. The new year will bring revisions on contracted books (one of which I haven't even announced yet, but hopefully SOON), a new middle grade fantasy I want to write, and a couple of trips I'm really excited about. The best one? A trip to Rhode Island in March to participate as a JUDGE at an event called Cupcake Madness!

I have the best job in the world!! And I just realized I saw Lindsey four months out of twelve this year. Thank you, God. You obviously gave me what I really needed.

Here's to a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year for everyone!


Thursday, December 29, 2011


Thanks to everyone who entered the contest!! I appreciate all the comments and tweets, really and truly.

The winner, according to the random number generator, is Bookish Sarah!

Sarah, drop me a note with your address so we can get your goodies in the mail to you.

Thanks again, everyone!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Contest Time - Happy Holidays!

Welcome to another stop on the Mid-Winters Eve Blog Hop! Thanks to Kathy at I am a Reader, Not a Writer and Jessie Harrell at Oasis for YA for hosting another fabulous giveaway hop. 

What am I giving away, you ask?

First of all, you get an amazing couple of YA reads written by my friend, Daisy Whitney. I loved THE MOCKINGBIRDS, and you have a chance to win a signed copy from Daisy!

But, wait, There's more!! Because she's also throwing in an Advanced Reader's Copy of THE RIVALS, a follow-up to THE MOCKINGBIRDS that doesn't come out until February. So this is a rare chance to get the book early!

Here's what the book is about:

When Alex Patrick was assaulted by another student last year, her elite boarding school wouldn't do anything about it. This year Alex is head of the Mockingbirds, a secret society of students who police and protect the student body. While she desperately wants to live up to the legacy that's been given to her, she's now dealing with a case unlike any the Mockingbirds have seen before.

It isn't rape. It isn't bullying. It isn't hate speech. A far-reaching prescription drug ring has sprung up, and students are using the drugs to cheat. But how do you try a case with no obvious victim? Especially when the facts don't add up, and each new clue drives a wedge between Alex and the people she loves most: her friends, her boyfriend, and her fellow Mockingbirds.

As Alex unravels the layers of deceit within the school, the administration, and even the student body the Mockingbirds protect, her struggle to navigate the murky waters of vigilante justice may reveal more about herself than she ever expected.

In addition to those two fantastic books, I'll throw in one more thing - a $20.00 Barnes and Noble gift card!!

GIVEAWAY DETAILS: (must be 16 or older to enter this giveaway)

1 easy entry - leave a comment

+1 tweeting about this contest (tell me in the comments)
+1 follow me on twitter (@lisa_schroeder)

Please make sure you give me a way to contact you if you should win. The contest runs from December 21st all the way through 11:59, December 27th, and is open to anyone who has a US address. 

I will announce the winner on December 29th!!

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

Click on the link below to find the list of the participating blogs - hop away!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Happy Nat'l Cupcake Day - Dr. Seuss Cupcake Recipe!

December 15th is National Cupcake Day - hooray!

To celebrate, and as a special holiday gift from me to you, I'm going to give everyone the Dr. Seuss cupcake recipe.

If you've read IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES, you know that Isabel visits a cupcake shop in New York City and there she decides to try the Dr. Seuss cupcake. It's a secret what's in it, until she tastes it! Here's an excerpt from IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES:

     I reached down and took a bite. First I tasted chocolate. Then I tasted something sweet and crunchy. Jelly beans! But there was something else I couldn't quite figure out.
     I sat there chewing and thinking. "I know. Bananas! Chocolate, jelly beans, and bananas. It's so good! It's like they threw a bunch of stuff into a bowl, not sure how it would turn out, and surprise, it turned out fantastic!"

I get asked for recipes from the book all the time, but this recipe is the one kids wanted to have the most. So, I went to my kitchen, and tried to come up with something using the ingredients I came up with as I wrote the book. See, there really wasn't a Dr. Seuss cupcake when I wrote the book.

But now there is!! Here's the recipe - enjoy!

Dr. Seuss Cupcakes
1 3/4 cups granulated white sugar 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (regular or Dutch-processed) 
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
2 large eggs 
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2-3 medium sized bananas) 
1/2 cup warm water 
1/2 cup milk 
1/2 cup canola or corn oil 
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 
24 Jelly Belly jelly beans in flavors that will compliment, like banana, vanilla, tutti-fruiti, etc.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in the center of the oven. Line 24 regular-sized muffin cups with paper liners or spray each cup with a non-stick vegetable spray.

Take the jelly beans and carefully chop each one into 3-4 pieces with a sharp knife. This is something an adult should do. (If you don’t chop them in to pieces, they’ll sink to the bottom and burn.)

In a large bowl whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs, mashed bananas, water, milk, oil, and vanilla extract. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Carefully pour the batter into the muffin cups, about 3⁄4 full. Stick just a few pieces of jelly beans on top, and bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

Cool completely before frosting. Makes about 24 regular sized cupcakes.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
2 cups (16 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature 
5 cups powdered sugar 
2 tsp vanilla extract 
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Whip the butter on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice. (If you have a stand mixer, use the wire whisk attachment). Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the powdered sugar. After all of the powdered sugar has been added, increase the speed to medium-high and add the vanilla, continuing to mix. Add the melted chocolate and whip at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about two minutes, scraping the bowl as needed. Pipe onto cupcakes. Top with a slice of banana and/or chocolate sprinkles and/or a jelly bean.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Friday Five - Cookie edition

I have such fond memories of getting together with my best friend, Laurie, when I was nine, ten and eleven, and spending an entire day baking cookies during Christmas vacation. The one I remember most vividly were these candy cane cookies. They were tricky!

What are your favorites to make? To receive? Is it impossible to narrow it down to five? I know, I know, I feel your pain.

I'm going to attempt to do it, though. I'm going to do the ones that are my favorite to eat. And usually, the ones I like to eat are the ones I make, because hello, I may give away some of them, but I'm keeping some too!

1. Sugar cookies

I love them. LOVE them. They are a bit of work, I know, but when all is said and done, they're pretty and delicious and they just say Christmas like nothing else does.

I posted my favorite recipe HERE. Mmmm, so good. This year, I have two new cookie cutters, a candy cane and a snowflake. So exciting, right!?

2. Peanut Butter Bon Bons (click on link for recipe)

Okay, so maybe these are more of a candy than a cookie, but either way, how can you go wrong with the combination of chocolate and peanut butter? They're messy to make, but well worth it, I think. In fact, be careful. They're kind of addictive!

3. Russian Tea Cakes

No one in my family likes these except me. Which is just fine, because when a plate comes from a friend or neighbor and there are a couple of these on there, I know they are MINE. I just love the nutty flavor combined with the sweet powered sugar. They are really so simple and yet, so delicious.

4. Peanut Butter Blossoms

My grandma Beavens always made these and so, they remind me of her, which is a special thing. But aside from that, they are just SO FREAKING GOOD. Again, like the bon bons, we have the combination of peanut butter and chocolate, but it's not just that. When they are cooled somewhat, but still warm, and the soft peanut butter cookie gets eaten alongside the Hershey's chocolate, it's like heaven in a cookie. Seriously. In fact, I microwave them just a few seconds before I eat them after they've cooled completely because I like the chocolate melted just a little bit.

5. Mounds Bars

These are my husband's favorite. Every year, his mom makes some for all of us to have on Christmas Eve, so it's a bit of a tradition now. The graham cracker crust, coconut, and chocolate all work together to make something that is really special. Of course, if you're not a fan of coconut, you won't like them, but I am, along with a fan of graham crackers and chocolate. So, another perfect cookie, in my book!

So there you have it! My top five Christmas cookies (or top six, if you count the candy cane cookies, which are really good, just tedious to make).

Happy Baking!!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Draft is Done!

It was like this in my house last night.

Yes, I finished the draft. SO happy to be done.

The manuscript needs a lot of work, and I'm making a long list of things I need to tackle when I revise. But for now, I'm making plans to bake some of these:

To do a lot of this:

And dream of Christmas morning, when we get to see what the guy in the red suit left in these:

19 days, people.
19 days!!

Monday, December 5, 2011

It's the final countdown

Two chapters to go on this first draft.

Just two more!!

It's a really messy first draft and is going to need a LOT of work in revision. But I'm trying not to think about that now. I am so close to the end, I can taste it. One chapter today. One chapter tomorrow. And then, I can do my Christmas cards and bake cookies and go shopping, while the book rests.

I'm a big believer in that "resting" time. Even if it's only a few weeks, stepping away from the manuscript can help you see the story with fresh eyes.

I bought Cheryl Klein's book about revision, Second Sight, so I'm looking forward to reading that while the manuscript sits for a while.

I Skyped with some teens at the Salem Public Library last week and many of them asked about how you finish a draft when you feel like what you're writing is so bad. I told them, it comes down to total will. There really is no magic answer. Most of the time, it's just powering through. I told her ALL writers hit those low points where we feel like there is no point in finishing. Even Neil Gaiman.

I had a number of those moments throughout this manuscript. But I kept writing and now, I'm almost finished! Whew.

I best get to work!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Happy December!

I can't believe December is here!

I will not panic, I will not panic.

Here are some cute cupcakes, to help get us in the holiday spirit.

photo credit: cakemommy

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A look at Goodreads ads (long)

I have to preface this post about my experience with a Goodreads advertisement by saying, I know a lot of authors don't like Goodreads. They don't like the mean-spirited reviews that are allowed, the bad language that's allowed, the sorting system that can put one of those horrible, mean-spirited reviews at the top because a bunch of people "like" it, and more.

And I get it. I do. There was huge thread about it on Verla's message board awhile back, and I know some authors have really strong feelings about Goodreads, and have encouraged other authors to leave the site to send a message to the people managing the site. If you are one of those authors, please don't be mad at me for supporting the site.

I guess my take on it is that anywhere that books can be reviewed, bad things can and will be said. It's the nature of the beast. I have read some terrible reviews on Amazon. Mean reviews. It's not just Goodreads where this happens.

I'm not saying I agree with it. And I'm certainly not saying I like negative reviews. Ugh, no, I am as sensitive as the next guy. Probably even more so.

But stepping back, and looking at it from a different perspective, Goodreads is a popular site with readers. And in my opinion, there are too few places for readers to gather and discuss books. And whether I like it or not, readers are there. And so, knowing that, I decided I wanted to try and reach some of them.

When THE DAY BEFORE came out, I spent $45.00 to run a small ad on the site. They call it a "campaign." I was curious if an ad on Goodreads would help get my book exposure it might not otherwise get, and I was willing to spend around fifty dollars as an experiment, of sorts. Now I'm going to share the results of that experiment with you.

When you set up a campaign, you decide how much you are willing to spend per click. Apparently the higher the amount of the click, the better your chances of getting your ad seen. I set the amount per click at 20 cents, which is on the lower end. I wanted a long life for my ad versus a ton of exposure for a short time. As you'll see in a minute, this amount got me plenty of visibility. You can also set a cap as to how much you spend per day. I think I set the amount at $2.00 per day, but now that I've done this, I know your chances of getting even a click or two per day are pretty small.

After you figure out the money part of your ad - how much you are willing to spend, how much you want your "per click" rate to be, etc., then it's time to figure out the targeting of your ad. I think this is HUGE, and I wonder how many authors err on the side of a wide audience. I didn't want a wide audience. I wanted a narrow one. I wanted my ad to target readers who would be most likely to like my book.

I left age blank, chose United States as the country, turned off "target specific genres" and selected about twenty YA authors to target. What does that mean? Let's say someone goes to the site to look up books by NYT bestselling author Jenny Han. Along the side, that person will see ads for books as she pokes around, reading reviews for Jenny Han's books or perhaps logging her own reviews. I decided I would like the ad for my book to be one that potentially shows up around that author. To make this feature work well, you want to think like a librarian. If a reader likes THESE books, she might also like THESE books. Where would your books fit well? If you write fantasy, think of other fantasy writers. If you write contemporary, probably want to target other contemporary authors. One of the best things about this strategy is I can list myself. That way, if someone goes to review another one of my books, hopefully they might see the ad and discover that I have a new book out.

Please know, the ad won't show up *every* time. My understanding is ads are rotated, trying to give everyone a share of the ad time. You have campaign stats you can see at any time on your author page if you set up an ad. You also get e-mails sent on a daily basis that show how many clicks your ad received that day, and how many times readers added your book. Because they may see the ad, not click on it, and still add the book.

For me, it wasn't about the clicks. It was about the cover of my book popping up for people to see. If they saw it enough, maybe they'd want to check out. It was all about exposure!

In November, the graph shows that sometimes my ad was shown 700 times, other days it was shown 2,500 times. The most clicks (that is, where someone clicks on the ad and goes to the goodreads page of that book to read more about the book and read reviews) was 5.

It's almost December, and I have just a few dollars left in my "campaign." Yes, that $45.00 lasted about six months. So now the question... was it worth it? I believe it was. Would I do it again? Absolutely. And here's why.

Right now, out of all my books, including I Heart You, You Haunt Me, which has been out for almost 4 years and was recently available through Scholastic book fairs and clubs, The Day Before has the highest number of people marking it as "to read." Of course I realize, marking a book "to read" doesn't mean a person will actually buy it or read it. In fact, most won't. To me it means, I'm thinking about it. I might like to pick it up at some point. Something about the book intrigues me enough to remember it.

Out of all the thousands of books, a reader has decided she wants to remember mine. I'll take that!!! Because maybe in the future, she'll see my book mentioned again, and this time she'll decide to act and pick up the book. Again, it's about exposure, and helping people to notice my book.

So let's look at my "to read" numbers for all of my YA novels.

Far From You: 1,831 people
Chasing Brooklyn: 3,697 people
I Heart You, You Haunt Me: 4,612 people
The Day Before: 6,359 people

But what about sales, Lisa? That's what you're thinking, right? We will never be able to know for certain how many books were sold because of an ad on Goodreads. I do know that almost 1,000 have "rated" the book (which, in my mind, means they read it). I think that's a decent number. Not phenomenal, mind you. Maybe not even great. But decent. Compare that to Far From You, which has been out for a couple of years and hasn't sold all that well, with only 919 ratings. And I Heart You, You Haunt Me, which has sold very well, has been out four years and is in its tenth printing, and has 3,555 ratings.

Sorry this got so long, but I hope you found some helpful information here, if you've been considering an ad on Goodreads. I certainly think it's worth a try, given that you can spend a small amount of money for quite a bit of exposure. I should also mention you can change the campaign at any time, if you decide you want to change the text of your ad, who you're targeting, the cost per click, etc. I actually changed the text of my ad after a couple of months, and I do think it helped get me more clicks.

Any questions you have for me about this - let me know in the comments and I'll try to answer them.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Limited Time Offer - Signed Bookplates

Are you planning on giving one of my books this year to someone on your Christmas list? If you are, THANK YOU!!!

To help make your gift extra special, for one week only, I'm offering FREE personalized and signed bookplates (3 maximum).

I can't offer this up all the time, because of a) the time it takes and b) the expense, but because it's Thanksgiving week and I'm feeling especially thankful for all of my readers, I wanted to do something special to show my appreciation.

To get a personalized and signed bookplate that you can stick on the title page, all you need to do is send me the following via e-mail at

Name of person the book is for (yes, it can be for yourself - just let me know that)
Which of my books the bookplate is going inside
Your mailing address

I use clear bookplates, so when you peel off the backing and stick it in the book, the bookplate is barely visible. It looks clean and professional, I promise.

So hurry - this offer is good through Monday, November 28th, 2011.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Five - TV show edition and what I take away for my writing

1. "New Girl" CRACKS ME UP. I love it. Love, love, love it. Every time they showed the turkey in the dryer, I laughed.

2. I love "Modern Family" for the same reason - funny!

3. My new obsession is Downton Abbey. I've watched five episodes and cannot wait to watch the rest. Season 2 starts up January 8th on PBS and I will be there with bells on. The characters. The setting. The dresses! And Matthew. Ohhhhhh Matthew.

4. "Vampire Diaries" has been excellent this season. I've loved finding out about the history of the originals and seeing a different side to both Damon and Stefan.

5. "Once Upon a Time" is a new one I've been watching. I love how the show flashes back and shows us the characters' history, and feeds our desire to see the fairy tale aspect alongside the present day, contemporary characters.

Wow, what a varied list. And yet, what it shows me, what I take away as I go back to work on my YA WIP, is that whether the story is about vampires or aristocrats or a gay couple, what pulls me in, what makes me want to keep watching, are the characters.

And so it is in the fiction that I read as well.

We must remember, as writers, that yes, a great hook and fascinating plot are well and good, but in the end, it's the characters the reader wants to connect with. Give me an interesting character, someone I can relate to on some level, or admire, or want to be, or maybe even despise and want to see change, or SOMETHING, and I will follow that character anywhere. Yep, character is where it's at.

Happy weekend!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Recommendation - Daughter of Smoke and Bone


When it comes to YA, I'm partial to contemporary. I read other things, and often enjoy them, but I still find myself most excited about a new book by my favorite contemporary authors - John Green, Sara Zarr, Sarah Ockler, Lindsey Leavitt, to name a few.

But Laini Taylor's latest, a YA fantasy, I had been excited about reading for at least a good year. First of all, I know the girl has a magical way with words, as is evidenced by her DREAMDARK books as well as LIPS TOUCH. Second of all, there were so many cool things that piqued my interest as I read about the various parties held to celebrate the book, both here and in the UK. Wish bones? Teeth? Blue hair? Marionettes? I could go on and on! Finally, the early reviews raved about it. I mean, RAVED.

And so, a few weeks ago, I finally got to read it. I really have no words for how much I loved this book. The writing is gorgeous, and the story original and fascinating. The worlds she created blew me away. And the mysteries she weaved into the story kept me guessing, and when things were revealed toward the end, it all made perfect sense and yet, I hadn't seen any of it coming.

It's made PW's and Amazon's Best Books of 2011 lists and I'm sure we'll see it on many more lists to come. And rightly so.

I'm not one who gets into trilogies, most of the time. I read the first book, a year goes by, I can't remember much of what happened in the first book to care enough to read the second book. I can't tell you how many books I've read that were the first in a trilogy and then I never read beyond that first book. The exception to this would be THE HUNGER GAMES.

But this trilogy, I'm in it for the long haul. I cannot wait for the second book. Like, I'm DYING to read the next one.

I think Laini Taylor is one of the greatest writers of our time. Yes, I'm lucky to call Laini a friend, but just go and read all of the 5-star reviews on Amazon, and you'll see that many, MANY people feel the way I do. She is one very talented lady!

Don't miss this book. Seriously.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Chasing Brooklyn in German

Yesterday I got a package from my editor. I was so surprised when I opened it.

Small, adorable books, written in German!

Here is IN LIEBE, BROOKLYN next to her big sister, CHASING BROOKLYN, so you get an idea of the size. It's almost pocket-sized.

And check out the bookmark that is sewn into the book:

I would love to give away a couple. If you read German or know someone who does and might like to read this book of love and loss, healing and hope, let me know with an e-mail address and I'll get in touch with you.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Two things every middle grade author should do

It can be hard to figure out where your money is best spent when it comes to promotional activities.

I did a checklist and timeline a year or two ago to help authors organize those activities. You can find that HERE.

But two things I've discovered over the past year I wanted to share here, in regards to middle grade novels.

First - a reading/discussion guide is one of the BEST things you can do for your book. I paid to have one done for It's Raining Cupcakes, because I wasn't sure what went into one and I wanted to make sure it was done well. For Sprinkles and Secrets, I decided to try and do one on my own. As I got into it, I found it wasn't really that hard, and I'm happy with how it turned out. Check with your publisher too - they may be willing to do one for you!

Because I'm using a web site that doesn't allow for documents to be uploaded, I state in a couple of different places on my site to drop me an e-mail and I'll send the document along that way.

I'm actually glad now that I did it this way, and here's why. When a teacher or parent or book club member e-mails me, I can reply with the document she's requested for AND ask if she'd like some signed bookmarks to give out at the meeting or event. They seem to really love that I do this.

(By the way, I get a lot of mother-daughter book clubs requesting my discussion guide. Do you know how happy this makes me? VERY happy!)

Which leads me to the second thing I think you should do if you're publishing a middle grade novel. Have bookmarks made! I can't find a digital copy of the ones I had done with both covers on the front, but here are the ones I had made before It's Raining Cupcakes came out.

Anytime someone e-mails you about the book, offer to send some. Especially if you've written a series - as soon as you have the cover for the second book, get bookmarks made with both books and send them to everyone you can. This way, they have a visual that lets them know there's a second book coming. (Make sure to list the release date of that second book too).

As far as where to get bookmarks made? I LOVE Ask for Kelly - she's great!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Vegas Book Festival Recap

I flew to Vegas this weekend to be a part of the Vegas Book Festival. This was the first year they had a Teen Book Festival as a part of it. So much fun! Thanks to all the teens, parents, teachers and librarians who came out. It was great to meet you!

Below are some pictures, courtesy of Suzanne Young, Crystal Perkins and Heather Davis, because I seem to forget to take many pictures. Okay, actually, it's just that I don't have an iphone and everyone else does and they snap pictures right and left while I seem to just get in them and smile.

Friday Night:

Suzanne Young, Liz Gallagher and me, as we looked for a place to eat
After we saw Blue Man Group - what an strange amazing show! 

Me, Suzanne Young, and Lindsey Leavitt waiting in the freezing cold to eat at Serendipity's.

The large topiary outside Serendipity's. Is that a milkshake? Yeah, I think it's a milkshake.


Contemporary panel w/ Lindsey Leavitt, Emily Wing Smith, Daisy Whitney, me, Liz Gallagher, Jay Asher

All of the YA authors with Crystal Perkins, B&N bookseller extraordinaire

Saturday Night (Paranormal Ball):

Suzanne Young and I dressed up like vampire slayers.

James Dashner (The Maze Runner series) was dressed in black. And scared of us.

Be careful James. Sometimes when you least expect it...

Cute kitty Heather Davis (latest book is WHEREVER YOU ARE) and me
A great time was had by all. Now, back to work!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

From my mail

Author Cynthia Lord does a blog post every few months with lines from her mail that made her smile or touched her. I've never done one of these, but today, I'm going to!

These are from both e-mails and actual letters I've received over the past few weeks.

Thank you readers - I love hearing from you!

"I actually hated reading until I discovered I Heart You, You Haunt Me at the book fair at my school. I am reading Chasing Brooklyn at the moment. I love how you wrote them in verse form." ~Candie, 14

"I read Chasing Brooklyn last night. I couldn't put it down! My mom said 30 more minutes and you have to go to bed. I stayed up until 1:45 reading it!" ~Caitlynn, 12

"I would like a reading/discussion guide for It's Raining Cupcakes and Sprinkles and Secrets. Thanks so much. I am a school librarian and my kids LOVE them." ~Christy

"I stayed home sick today and my dad said NO TV!!!! At first I was terrified ~ and my mom finally came home, she got me a brand new copy of Sprinkles and Secrets. On the first page I fell in love with your book. I looked on your web site to see if there are any other books in this series. I was devastated when I found out there are no more." ~Kaitlyn

"I was trying so hard to be patient for the ending (of Sprinkles and Secrets) but it was hard and so intriguing. I am so sad it's over. Please write a third because I would be thrilled." ~Samara

"I'm going to give you come special things too. A handmade bookmark signed by me!" ~Isabelle

"I just read your books It's Raining Cupcakes and Sprinkles and Secrets. They are my favorite books in the world." ~Brianna

"Will there be an It's Raining Cupcakes 3? This is just an idea, don't you think you could do a donut one?" ~Ashlee

I'm off to Vegas bright and early tomorrow morning. If you're in the area, come and see me at the Vegas Book Festival. I'm on a YA teen panel Saturday afternoon at 11:25.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Authors get asked about inspiration a lot.

It's not always a cut and dry answer for me. And I think there's different kinds of inspiration, too. The kind that provides story ideas. The kind that keeps you writing day after day. The kind that picks you up when you're feeling down. Some of it is not inspiration as much as it's perspiration, right? But still, I think it can be helpful to spend time thinking about what inspires you. Because when you are in need of a little inspriration, then you know where to look!

Nova Ren Suma, author of Imaginary Girls, is doing a month-long event at her blog to provide inspiration to people doing NaNoWriMo this month.

You can read my post about inspiration HERE.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Goodreads giveaway - SPRINKLES AND SECRETS

I dressed up as a cupcake for Halloween!

I'm all out of candy to give away, so I'm giving you a chance to win a signed and personalized copy of SPRINKLES AND SECRETS over at, hoping to help get the word out that there is another book out about Isabel and Sophie!

Go HERE to enter!

Good luck!

Also, if you have read SPRINKLES AND SECRETS enjoyed it, please consider reviewing it over at Amazon. It only has a couple of reviews over there and I would love to have more. Thanks!!

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Lisa's Confidence Needs a Boost Project

I'm about 35,000 words into a first draft. It's a YA novel with four points of view. Yes. Four. I'm pretty sure I am certifiably insane.

I woke up one morning last week at 4 am, freaking out that I needed to scrap the book and start over on something new. Thank goodness my friend Lindsey talked me off that ledge. She said, "35k is always panic stage. Everything sucks at 35k. Middles are ridiculously hard, it's amazing we ever get past them."

So did I dive back in, telling myself, the only way out is through? Well, yes. But it was so painful and slow. And I was miserable. I walked out of my office, which is near the living room, and said, I hate this room. I want to redo it.

A lot of times, I'll hear writers say cleaning is a great procrastination tool. I actually think what happens is that we need to see that we CAN tackle a project and have it turn out well. So by cleaning out the refrigerator or a closet, or redecorating a room, it gives us the confidence we need to do the work necessary in the WIP.

So back to the living room, otherwise known as The Lisa's Confidence Needs a Boost Project. At first, I was convinced I needed new furniture. My 17 YO son set me straight on that. He's so wise. And practical. He convinced me that there's really nothing wrong with the stuff we have now. I'm just tired of it. But there are plenty more important things to spend money on, and so, I decided the challenge was to fix up the room using the sofa and loveseat we have.

 I should have taken a before picture! Here is one from Christmas last year, I think, with a mess on the floor so you can't see the rug, which I was really tired of. But you can see the pathetic picture we hung on the wall behind the dining room table because we had nothing else, and oh fine, it's good enough. And the ugly table lamp that sat in the corner.

I went to one of my favorite stores in our town called Consignment Northwest. It's a huge showroom with items people want to sell. If the store sells an item, the person who owned that item gets a percentage of the sale, of course. It's a nice way to buy "gently used" without having to sort through junk and deal with weird people on Craig's List. The coffee table and the art behind the table came from Consignment Northwest. The end table and lamp I found at Ikea. And the new accent pillows came from Ross Dress for Less (only $6.99 each).

The boys do their homework at the dining table, so books and papers and things are around the dining table, but that's okay. It looks ten times better than it did.

Now I have to get back to my mess of a first draft. But when I was in Ikea, I started dreaming of a new office for myself.

I think that will be my next project. But not until I finish this %&$^ book! :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Switched at birth stories

Do you find switched at birth stories fascinating?

Me too!

A new story was released yesterday - you can read about it HERE.

When I wrote The Day Before, I used a real-life switched at birth story that happened in another country (England, I believe) as inspiration. I've since tried to find that story, and haven't been able to. Basically, two parents realized something was wrong when their daughter needed a blood transfusion and neither of them were a match for her blood type.

The mystery surrounding Amber in my book isn't revealed right away. Her history, and why she wants to get away to the beach to spend the day, unravels slowly. So the flap copy doesn't talk about the switched at birth thing. But today, I'm sharing that plot element because maybe you are like me, and find switched at birth stories fascinating. And if you do, you might like to read The Day Before!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Motivation - On disappointment

"If I could only sell a book to a publisher, then..."

"If I could only get a large advance and a big marketing push, then..."

"If I could only get some starred reviews, then..."

"If I could only make some lists, then..."

Then, I wouldn't feel so disappointed.

Sometimes it feels like disappointment is a writer's best friend.

I will not lie. When B&N decided to skip The Day Before, I was pretty disappointed. I knew that meant sales would be affected in a big way. And they have been.

Readers, for the most part, have enjoyed the book. It's also on some YALSA nomination lists, though I'm trying not to get my hopes up. I've had other books on these nomination lists in years past, and they didn't make the final cut.  My YA novels thus far are this strange breed of verse, which not everyone likes in the first place, paired with a more commercial story. I think some people like their verse, if they like it at all, much more literary. Sometimes, I don't think reviewers or other professionals "get" what I'm trying to do with these books. And at some point, when that happens, you just have to shrug your shoulders and go, oh well. My reader e-mails tell me there are lots of teens who DO get them, and that's what I try to focus on.

Anyway, there are a hundred ways to be disappointed and discouraged in this business. At least. I could easily be discouraged right now because sales haven't been what I'd hoped they'd be for The Day Before.

But do I feel washed up? Like my career is over? No way. And here's why.

Each book is separate and distinct from the one before it. Each book is a new opportunity. I write each book with hope that good things will happen! Because why not?

Do you think Kate DiCamillo knew which of  her books would become movies and which ones wouldn't? Do you think she could predict which ones would become Newbery winners and which ones wouldn't? No. She had no idea. She just wrote the best book she could each time, and then released it out into the world, and waited, like any other author, to see what would happen.

My next YA novel, not out until 2013, will be completely different. I'm trying something new, and with that, I have a new sense of hope that good things might happen. Onward and upward, I say!

My strategy for keeping disappointment at bay is pretty simple:

1) Keep writing. With each book, try to improve. Play to my strengths while at the same time, be open to trying new and different things. Sometimes changing it up a little bit is the best thing a person can do.

2) Do not compare myself to others. Some days, this is SO hard. But really, there is no way that will end well. I have to focus on me and my books and let everyone else do what they do well. I read a lot partly because it's a way to love authors I might otherwise be envious of. :)

3) Remember there are many ways to define success, and numbers are only one way. If you haven't, I encourage you to read this great post by Erin Murphy on the Shrinking Violet's blog.

We can't let disappointment get the best of us. I battle it by writing a new book and keeping hope alive.

I'm curious. How do you battle it?

Friday, October 21, 2011

I love this ad

There is something about old photos, and how time goes by, that just... gets me. Pair that with America the Beautiful sung by the great Ray Charles, and WOW.

This ad is genius. I love it.

My great grandparents had an old Chevy truck, and I can remember riding to church in it with my great grandma.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How to combat the fear of rejection

Last night, I went to see Matt de la Pena at the 2011 Teen Author Lecture here in Portland, made possible by the Library Foundation.

First of all, if you ever get a chance to hear Matt speak, GO. He is personable, relatable and funny! I told him afterwards I want to steal all his stories, because they are that good. The audience was filled with teens, which was so awesome to see. It was an amazing event, and I'm really glad I went.

Plus, I've been meaning to read one of Matt's books for a long time, so I'm happy that I now have a personalized copy of WE WERE HERE to dive into soon.

One of the questions an audience member asked him got me thinking, and I wanted to talk about that a little bit today.

A man said he'd been writing for a long time, but he was afraid of rejection, and did Matt have any advice for him?

Matt said something like, even when you're a published author, there is still rejection. Basically, it comes with the territory. Because, after all, not everyone who reads our books likes our books. Sometimes we get bad reviews, and all that fun stuff. Matt said when he was submitting stories to magazines, he made a game out of the rejections. When he got one, he celebrated. It made the rejections easier to take.

I love that idea!

And he's right - in order to be an author, you have to develop a thick skin. But how do you DO that? Here are some of my thoughts on the subject.

1. Separate yourself from the story. Just because they reject a story, it does not mean they are rejecting YOU. Pretend the story is a fruit cake. You are sending the fruit cake out to people to see if they like it. You KNOW some people don't like fruit cake. But obviously, some do, or fruit cakes wouldn't even exist. You are trying to find the person who likes fruit cake. When you get the fruit cake back in the mail, saying, "No thanks," it's not about YOU. The person simply does not like fruit cake. No big deal.

Years ago, I submitted stories over and over to one editor in particular. They were an open house at the time, and I really wanted to work with her, as I'd heard amazing things about her. Each time, she sent me a nice little rejection letter, and I'd file it away. I'm guessing I have close to ten rejection letters from this ONE editor. Yikes. Fast forward six or seven years, and my agent suggests sending my middle grade fantasy to this same editor. Oh no, I thought, what if she remembers all those awful stories I sent her in the beginning of my writing career, and doesn't want anything to do with me?

I don't know if she remembered or not, but she loved the story we sent her, and she bought it. This batch of fruit cake, she loved, and the other batches didn't matter to her.

2. Don't be afraid to fail. Markus Zusak gave this advice at a book signing I went to a few years back. Although, with his adorable accent, it sounded like, Don't be afraid to file, haha. He went on to explain that he felt like he had failed thousands of times writing THE BOOK THIEF. Can you imagine? The award-winning, NYT best-selling book?

Yes, because when we are writing, it is hard and it is painful and we ask ourselves over and over, why are you doing this, no one is going to want this failure of a book. But write anyway. Revise anyway. Make it the best it can be and maybe, in the end, it won't be a failure after all. But if it is, at least you tried!

3. Which leads me to the next point. You will never know unless you try. Are you going to be on your death bed regretting that you tried and got 100 rejections? No. Are you going to be on your death bed wondering what might have happened to that novel you spent years on and never sent out? Yes. Live so you have no regrets.

4. Rejection is part of the job. It's that simple. If you want to be an author, rejection is part of the job description. Every job has an aspect that isn't very fun. Teachers have to deal with angry parents. Maintenance techs have to unclog toilets. It *never* goes away for an author. But the good parts of the job, like getting letters from readers who felt a connection to your book, make the sucky part totally worth it.

5. Life can't be all pleasure and no pain. Working out is hard. Painful some days. But the results - a healthy and fit body, make it worth it. And so it is with rejection. It's going to be painful some days, there's no way around it. But you have to go through the pain to get to the pleasure of seeing a book YOU wrote on the shelves. You *have* to go through it. Just like every traditionally published author before you.

Is the fear of rejection holding you back? Well, go on, submit something. And if you get a rejection letter, I hope you'll pop a bottle of champagne and celebrate. You're in the same league as Markus Zusak now - just like him, you're not afraid to fail!