Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What to Get Your Writer Friends

It's the season of giving. (I REFUSE to say 'tis. I just refuse.)

And if you have any writer friends on your gift list, you might be wondering what the heck to get them. A pen? Some paper? A QUILL?

Here, are some suggestions that go beyond a gift card to Barnes & Noble:

His/Her Book
Notice I didn't say 'a book' but your writer friend's actual book. Whether it's a self-pubbed e-book or a traditionally published small press number - SUPPORT YOUR FRIENDS' WRITING by buying their book. If you already have their book, buy it and give it to someone else, letting that person know how much you love said book. Nothing feels warmer and fuzzier than spreading the word about books you love (by people you love.)

Here are two books I recently bought for friends, after buying for myself:

Cat Winters. SO GOOD.
Sarah Bromley - so excited, picking up my copy from

What all writers want more of (yes, even more than chocolate.) If you can give your writer friend an extra couple of hours where you will watch their kids for them, or where you will pick up their dry cleaning or take up some other mundane task for them so they can have writing time - this is more precious than gold.

Time, The Luxury Edition
If you are feeling flush and/or particularly love your writer friend, you can help ship them off to a writers retreat or conference. Nothing is better for the writer's soul than being forced to be writerly, to put DOWN the dishtowel and be FORCED to be immersed in writing. A retreat is perfect for a writer who just needs to finish the *FUDGECICLE* up. A conference is good for a writer looking for representation, community or guidance.

For writers conferences listed by state, go here.

Writers retreats can be formal like these, or it can be informal - as in one or two nights at a quite inn or hotel.

The Lambertville Station Inn is great for informal retreats - just outside of Philadelphia and overlooking the Delaware river, it's perfect for contemplation.

Pendle Hill, a Quaker retreat and center is wonderful for getting the writer-mojo flowing. No TV's in the rooms, dorm-like accommodations, beautiful, walkable and woody setting and, the cherry on the creative sundae, a 24 hour Art Studio that you can use when you have writer's block and need a work around. I can't recommend Pendle Hill enough.

I have a fridge magnet that I keep on my desk. My husband gave it to me and I don't even have to look at it. I know what it says. I feel the fridge magnet's pull (get it?) every time I get crushed by this writing life.

Sometimes, that is all your friends who write need to hear.

Encouragement, The Luxury Edition
A cheerleader is great. A truly interested reader is even better. My mom is both. She tells me I'm awesome (naturally) but she also reads my books and tells me what she thinks of them. She tells me one character reminds her of a babysitter I had when I was little - and did I mean to write all about Olga? The gift with this kind of interest is that I get a glimpse into how my writing affects someone who isn't the intended audience, but who's opinion means more to me than I can show. If you are that person for a writer friend, take the time to read and comment.

Booze/Chocolate/Comfort Drug of Choice
There Will be Tears. The writing life is basically a mash up of hysterical, joyful and despairing crying mixed liberally with the writer's comfort drug of choice. Give them a whole box of it. A really great vodka. A box of expensive chocolate. A lunch date to a Jersey Diner for Disco Fires (what? That's legitimate!) Whatever gives comfort and fuel to keep fighting the good fight - that's a great gift.

So, what are you giving your writer friends? And what do you hope to get?

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Happiest of New Years!

Monday, November 24, 2014

What to Drink While on Submission

I know what it's like to be on submission with a publisher. I am doing it right now, even though you can't see me. It's like FIGHT CLUB because Rule One is that you are not supposed to talk about it. (Rule Two is to take a soap making class from your local community college, to pass the time.)

No. No, no no. Rule One is to write the next book. I am doing that. I am almost ready for little MOA to go to beta readers. I am happy with MOA and it's given me some distance from my baby, erm, book that is out on its own, sloshing in and out of email inboxes.

It's almost Thanksgiving and almost winter, but seasonal changes don't just mean changing outerwear and finally taking down the Halloween decorations. It means (for me) changing what I am drinking.

Last season's drink of choice was the Dark & Stormy. I was feeling a bit 'lashed to the mast.' But my new submission drink of choice—the drink I will enjoy while trying not to worry—is Penicillin. Here's how you make it, courtesy of Serious Eats.

Photo: Jennifer Hess

  • Ingredients:
  • 2 ounces blended Scotch whisky (Famous Grouse works well)
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 ounce honey syrup (see note)
  • 3 slices fresh ginger
  • 1/4 ounce Islay single malt Scotch (such as Laphroaig)
  1. 1
    Using a wooden muddler or mixing spoon, muddle the fresh ginger in the bottom of a cocktail shaker until it is well mashed. Add the blended Scotch, lemon juice, and honey syrup, and fill shaker with ice. Shake until well chilled, about 20 seconds.
  2. 2
    Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass (you may wish to double-strain through a fine tea strainer to remove the small flecks of ginger), and pour the Islay Scotch over the back of a bar spoon so that it floats atop the drink.

BUT WAIT! are you on submission and a non-drinker? Never fear!
Here's a gorgeous recipe for a Hot Cranberry Orange Wassail which I've tried and is delightful (would be more delightful with scotch, but that's me...)

What do you do when you are querying or on submission or entered in a contest - when your baby is out in the world and you are biting your nails? How do you cope?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

I am THISCLOSE to being finished...

with my middle grade fantasy opus. Which is why I have been ignoring you, blog o' my heart.

What I would like is a t-shirt that says 'SHUT UP AND WRITE' which I can wear when I am distracted by other shiny things. And if I'd been wearing that shirt around you, dearest blog, you would have known that I hadn't died, been deported or gone off grid.

I was writing my freaking former-eleven-year-old heart out.

If you thought going back to high school to your teenage self was hard (it is) going back to the edge of puberty is harder. Because you don't know who you are - you're not even sure that you get a say about who you are going to be. You are still wondering what happened to believing in Santa Clause and fairies. I had to do a lot of gentle excavating with a pick axe and a brush to get down to my eleven year old self. But she was there. And she shared her Twizzlers with me.

That's the world I've been living in and it's hard and awesome. My beta-peeps will be getting this draft in December and I will be able to start thinking about my next project.

What have you been up to?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What's Up, Wednesday?

Today, in my continued Herculean efforts to keep my (writing) self honest, I am participating in Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk's bloghop: What's Up Wednesday?
Can't say 'Wednesday' without thinking of either Wednesday Addams or Odin All Father, but that's my own damn fault.

I will answer some questions about my writing and you will try to believe me. Then, you will visit some of the other lovely writers in this bloghop to see if you believe them. It's all about accountability!

At BEA this year I was lucky enough to get a shed load of books. and ARCs. One of which is AFTERWORLDS by Scott Westerfeld. I loved the Uglies series and I adored the LEVIATHAN trilogy (especially since I read it on audiobook with Alan Cumming doing the narration. It was STELLAR.) AFTERWORLDS is a mammoth book at 600+ pages and that makes sense because it's really two interconnected books at once. It's the story of Darcy Patel, a teenaged writer who manages to write an awesome book, get repped AND a publishing deal for serious kish kash. It's ALSO the story of Lizzy and Yama, the two protags from Darcy's book. So you're reading about Darcy's publishing life (hard not to be jealous and fascinated at the inner workings) and about the life of her 'creations'. Very Meta. And unputdownable.


I'm writing an MG Fantasy or Magic Realism - the jury on classification is still out. There's magic. There's Jersey Shore. Enough said, I think. I am trying to faithfully stick to tackling the problems I'm having with the MS (a first draft) but I'm at that wrestling stage of the crafting where you go in and fight the words (and the words fight back) until you're too tired and the coffee's gone. Then you get up the next day and do it again. 

Nature. It's corny I know, but being out in the world is a balm, especially around where I lie where the green stuff is everywhere and the sounds you hear at night are cricket and owl noises. and during the day, wild rabbits hop past the window. Even the rustle of wind in trees seems to be noise to smile at. I'm also watching a lot of Studo Ghibli movies with my kids and reading MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO to my eldest.


I've been a work from home mom for five years now and this fall I'll be the same. The difference is that my littlest is going to kindergarten and I'll have more time for myself. When I say myself I actually mean my APW (actual paying work) self and my writing self. I'm taking on one (possibly two) APW projects that are bigger, and more challenging that anything I've done in a long time. I hope I don't wipe out. But we'll see!

Please take the time to visit these guys who are also sharing WUW details today on, Oh, is it Wednesday all ready?
Link to your WHAT'S UP WEDNESDAY post:
1. Erin Funk  6. Emma Adams  11. Colin D Smith  16. Rachael  
2. Miss Cole  7. Melanie Crouse  12. Valerie Cole  17. Kitty Murry  
3. Leslie Ann  8. Alex Villasante  13. Kaitlin Bartlett  18. Melanie Stanford  
4. Jessie Humphries  9. Majanka Verstraete  14. Steph Scott  19. Ania Pendancer  
5. Sarah Kettles  10. Jess Gofton  15. Tonja Drecker 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Writing Like it's Your Job - Day 2

this is an analog version of what I'm talking about
Hmmm. If writing *were* my job, I might have been fired yesterday.

Or put on probation.

Not because of the brazen visits to Pottermore or Buzzfeed. Not because the more-than-necessary tea breaks. (Also, my mom in law was in minor fender bender - she's totally fine but was FREAKED out, as she's never had a car accident in over 40 years of driving. I had to go help her out. That was my only legit excuse.)

I broke my own first draft rule. I let the Little Editor out of her cage. And she was red-pen mad.

Here's how it went down. It's been a while since I worked on my WIP, so I decided to read through the last chapter. Okay the last five chapters. Then something I was writing didn't square with something I wrote before (a timeline issue, no biggie) so I went further back. I ended up reading from the beginning (this draft is currently 42k so this took a while). That's when the Little Editor made her power play. I rewrote sentences. I cut things and put them back. I wrote an entire piece of dialogue to explain something that didn't need explaining. (I did cut that out, never fear.)

In essence, I tinkered.

Tinkering in the first draft is VERBOTEN. I am going get a t-shirt that says exactly that.

So, on today's agenda I aim to be more modest and more surgical in my drafting.
I will map out where this scene is going - an outline within the outline - so that I don't stray off the path.
I will NOT rewrite diddly. That's for laters.
I will not try to wizard duel ANYONE today.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Writing Like it's Your Job

I don't look like this.
This has been a bad summer for writing. After an intense spring of BEA, writing conferences, writing and critting, somewhere around July 1st, I hit a wall. It wasn't laziness. (I tell myself. Myself is only somewhat convinced.) It was the muchness of life. We went on vacation. My husband got a new job (yeah, Tim! Art Director at Quirk Books!) My mom came to visit from Uruguay. Uruguay did not win the World Cup but became famous for biting jokes. You can see how this would break my concentration, no?

In 22 days I will get to know, at long last, what it feels like to write like it's my job. I will have actual 'office hours' that are longer than two hurried hours on a bar stool at Starbucks watching the clock until my littlest's preschool is over. Because littlest is going to Kindergarten. 8:40 On the Bus. 3:40 Off the Bus.

I still have work to do that isn't writing. I have APW (actual paying work) and I have blog/critting/reading work. But I will suddenly have this huge chunk of glorious time.

I'm afraid of blowing it. I'm afraid that I'll wake up on October 1st having written very little but having perfectly polished fingernails and an alphabetized book shelf.

So this week (while both girls are at Girl Scout camp) and my mother is engaging in a long-distance romance with her boyfriend (they are currently on the outs, but it won't last) I am going to practice Writing Like it's My Job.

Here's how I'll do it:

1) I will dedicate a minimum of four hours (pee breaks allowed. shopping breaks not allowed) a day to writing, thinking and researching. NOTE: Researching does not happen on or Perez Hilton or
2) I will allow myself one hour first thing in the morning to reach out to long neglected writing pals and connect with them on their blogs, twitter etc. I will read and comment on blogs. I will do this ONLY FOR AN HOUR, lest it become a consuming vortex.
3) I will not berate myself for not doing more. Word count is not my game. Story through line - hat's my goal this week.
4) I will not compare myself to others or moan about why I have not reached the achievements they have. I have my own achievements. And if I want other ones, I have to move my blooming arse.
5) I will not let the overgrown grass or the honeysuckle vine choking the boxwood deter me from my appointed task.
6) I will report back on how many of these tenets I actually adhere too.

Off to Work!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

BEA and a Wee Hiatus


I want to write extensively about my awesome first time at BEA but can't. My day job is taking me away from hearth and home pretty much until June 16. By which time no one will even remember what BEA is because everyone will have sun-nesia (amnesia that happens when exposed to too much sun and vodka.)

So. Here's what I loved about BEA in a short, somewhat rambling, post:

Yes, it's soylent green. I loved meeting people and talking about books. I loved that it was positive talk about books. Not author bashing, not genre bashing, no one was interested in making anyone else feel bad about the books they like to read. For me, the expo echoed what Maureen Johnson said in her Keynote speech at the Blogger Conference. Critical discussions, yes. Sweeping judgements, no.

I DIDN'T KNOW. When I first signed up, I didn't know the books would be free. Is this me being stupid? I guess. But I didn't know. When I realized there was tonnage of books to be had, I read up on DO'S and DON'TS and made sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring an empty rolling bag to keep in coat check. I also made sure only to take a book that I truly wanted and would read. THAT'S ALMOST ALL OF THEM. By Saturday evening, as I headed back to Pennsylvania, that rolling bag was bulging with books. Books I am GEEEEEEKED to read. A sampling:

This is only a THIRD of the book haul. I also got tons of books for my kids and husband. Everyone was happy.

And I got THIS:
I waited in line and loitered near the Harper Collins booth for a LOOONG time. I annoyed everyone who worked there and got my mitts on this. I am complete.

I wasn't a fan of Grumpy Cat - especially as I tried to wiggle my way past the gigantic line of people who wanted to look at this cat. It was more than an HOUR long. And I did think that the organizers might consider opening up the other half of BEA to the BOOK CON crowd - to alleviate some of that crowding but also to give some of those more indie publishers more traffic.
The best booth by far at BOOK CON was the MACMILLAN booth. It was totally consumer focused with give aways and buzz panels and awesome 'genius bar-esq' staff ready to give you recommendations based on what you want to read. I got some great rec's on YA mysteries I'm going to check out AND I managed to snag a copy of Rainbow Rowell's LANDLINE.

My daughter also got to meet Jeff Kinney, a person she spends a lot of time with. That guy signed for hours. Definitely better than Grumpy Cat.

My friend and awesome person Jenny Herrera texted me to ask, Friday afternoon, if I felt like, I don't know, heading out to a screening of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS followed by a discussion with Lev Grossman and John Green. I may have broken one of the glass ceiling panels in the Javits with my screech. So that happened. And it was glorious.

What was your best time at BEA?

I look a little scared, don't I? It's because Kitty exudes fabulosity. And I'm not worthy.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Book Expo 2014 - Maureen Johnson Makes Me Laugh/Think (damn her!)

Day One
Maureen Johnson is my new hero. I will likely stalk her to the end of my days. Her keynote at the start of the Blogger Conference at BEA14 was genius. She pretends to be a laid back, rambly sort of girl (the kind of girl I often find when I look in the mirror) but she's actually an insightful, deep-thoughts, whip-smart kind of author and speaker.

Her big take away? Book bloggers challenge the lazy status quo. For every broad, lowest common denominator media story designed to panic (TEENS DON'T READ! FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY IS BAD WRITING!) there needs to be (and there are) bloggers who challenge generalization. Bloggers need to shine a light on book love - because there is so much to love. Instead of click-bait rage.

She mentioned a recent article in the Atlantic that was just such click bait. (And of course, I clicked it.) But her point was that this kind of article is not engendering discussion (good) it's just a didactic rant (bad) and it's making readers sound stupid. I haven't finished reading the article, but I imagine it not only seeks to make readers feel stupid, but also seeks to make other people feel smug about not reading.

Lots of great food for thought! I've already had three cups of coffee!! If you see me buzzing around confusedly at BEA, please point me toward a bathroom/food table.

Are you at BEA? What are you looking forward to?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


This is a review of the audiobook for IN THE AFTER by Demitria Lunetta. First I'll review the book itself, then the 'audiobookness' of the book. THEN I'll give away a SIGNED copy of IN THE AFTER!

Blurb from Audible:
Amy is watching TV when the world is attacked by Them. Most of the population is overtaken, but Amy manages to survive - and even rescue "Baby" - a toddler she finds in an abandoned supermarket.
Then, after years of hiding, they are miraculously rescued and taken to New Hope, a colony of survivors living in a former government research compound. While at first the colony seems like a dream, with plenty of food, safety, and shelter, New Hope slowly reveals that it is far from ideal. And Amy soon realizes that unless things change, she'll lose Baby - and much more.

Oh man, I loved this book. Maybe more so because I didn't think I would. I had shied away from it because I *thought* it was like a lot of other dystopian books that I've read lately (to remain nameless) all action no depth. But Amy is a deep character. She is not just reacting to situations - attacks by flesh eating 'them', having to become completely silent so as to not attract 'their' attention. She's got a rich internal life, and moral struggle. Should she leave Baby behind? Should she just save herself? When she reflects on what her life was like 'in the before' she realizes that the world she used to live in is gone forever.

Or is it? When she's rescued and brought to New Hope - a colony that tries very hard to replicate life 'before' - Amy is skeptical. She's an intriguingly prickly character with conflicting motivations and feelings. This makes her strong and real - she's no cardboard cut out heroine.

The scenes I love best are the ones between Amy and Baby. Their bond is amazing and I love the way Lunetta conveys so much emotion between the girls as they live in a silent world - using sign language, walking on bare feet, always hyper vigilant against the slightest sound that could bring 'their' attack.

The twists and turns in IN THE AFTER are unexpected and when they come, and you cast back in your mind to see if there were any hints that came before, you realize they were there, you just missed them. I didn't know how Amy would survive, not just physically but emotionally and the end made me impatient for more.

The good news is 'more' is coming. IN THE END the sequel to IN THE AFTER comes out June 24th. I can't wait.

I listen to a lot of audiobooks - it's how I get to read as many books as I have to/need to. If I had to wait to have some quiet, alone time in my household of crazy, I'd still be waiting. Audiobooks allow me to read while I'm cutting the lawn, driving, running and ignoring my kids caring for my children.

But the nature of audiobooks is such that the narrator becomes nearly as important as the book itself. A very good narrator is practically invisible, a voice in your head that stands in for you. A bad narrator - or even one that just rubs you the wrong way - can kill your book-enjoying buzz. I could not finish listening to FLORA & ULYSSES by Kate DiCamillo because the narrator got on my very last nerve. Hopefully, I'll be able to pick up the paper version soon and have a better experience.

The narrator for IN THE AFTER is Julia Whelan and she does not disappoint. She captures the tone and character of Amy perfectly, managing to convey the girl's fierceness and vulnerability at the same time. She also does a very good, seamless job of speaking in a slightly different voice when speaking another character's dialogue. Some narrators do this with a very heavy hand. They try to put on a 'voice' or accent so you know that the person speaking is someone other than the main character (especially in a book that is first person like this one.) I think Julia Whelan does this effectively but subtly. I never felt taken out of the story by the narration.


This is the lovely swag I have for you! A signed copy of IN THE AFTER along with a bookmark and sticker. All you have to do is leave a comment below and, if you'd be so kind, follow me on twitter if you don't already (@magpiewrites)

I'll select a winner at random on Monday June 2nd. Good luck!

Monday, May 12, 2014

GUEST POST by Sharon Bayliss - Wizards and Religion and Magic - Oh MY!

I'm thrilled to host Sharon Bayliss, author of DESTRUCTION, on my blog today. I gave DESTRUCTION five stars (see review here) because I found it to be such an original, intriguing take on magic and wizards in the world. Particularly magic and religion, which is often ignored or sidestepped in books about magic. In real life, people who believe in magic *often* also believe in some kind of religion - they're not mutually exclusive. 
In my recent release, Destruction, realism was critical. I wanted to show wizards as they would be in the real world. So, a family of wizards living in Houston, Texas in present day are going to have some obvious questions like, "Am I going to get an owl from Hogwarts?" and since the family was raised Christian, they're going to have some more serious questions too like, "Do wizards get into Heaven?"

Here is an excerpt from the book:

While glaring at his sister, he tugged a chain out from under his shirt and pulled it over his head. A heavy silver object clattered onto the counter. A Christian cross.

David didn’t know if this meant Xavier was secretly a wizard or secretly a Christian, or which one of those things seemed more unbelievable.

“Are you a Christian?” David asked him.

“No,” Xavier said neutrally. He grabbed the cross again, put it back around his neck, then tucked it into his shirt.

“Thank you for showing me,” David said to Xavier, who ignored him.

“Our mom gave it to him to use as his object. It’s more powerful as an object than my stone, but I wanted something of my own to build from scratch. The cross comes with built-in magic. Millions of people across the world and across time have used it as their talisman. People sing to it. Speak to it. Put it over the bodies of their dead. It all adds up. But you still have to make it your own, put your own magic in it, or it’s still just an object.” She swished a piece of waffle around her plate with her fork. “You have these in your house,” she said, still looking at her plate.

“Yes,” he said. “We’re Christian.” He didn’t know if she expected any more explanation.

“I thought you might understand then, if you saw his,” she added.

“I do,” he said, even though he wasn’t entirely sure.

Another excerpt:

“I thought you were a Christian,” Emmy said to Amanda. “Have you been pretending all these years? Why even take us to church?”

“What you are is different from what you believe. We can believe whatever we choose to.”

“Do you believe in God?”


“Do you believe in the Devil?”


“Can wizards get into Heaven?”

“They have the same chance as everyone else.”

“But you don’t know for sure.”

“Emmy, no one knows for sure. Not about any of this.”

“We know what’s in the Bible. And there are no wizards in it.”

“Are you sure?”

Emmy knitted her brows together. “No,” she said firmly.

And another (I blacked out a spoiler):

“Who were you talking to? Grandma?”

“Actually, it was Lydia Armstrong, you know, from church. She’s the one who always wears those gaudy pins on her blouse.”

“Why were you talking to her in the middle of the night?”

“She’s in my prayer circle.”

“You mean, they’re praying… for us? For this situation?”

Mom smiled a little. “They don’t know all the details. Just that Emmy is missing. As nice as it is to think I can cast a spell and protect my family on my own… I feel safer knowing I’ve consulted an expert.”

“You mean God?”

“Yes, I mean God.”

Amanda, the mother in the book, was taught by her parents that miracles that don't come from God are from the Devil. She believes that the only way to be a good and godly person and a wizard, is to deny her magic. So, even as it becomes apparent that denying magic won't be possible, or a good idea, she struggles against it. There seems to be no place in the world for a Christian wizard, but as the story progresses Amanda tries her best to fit that role and stay true to her faith and to her true self, as you see a little bit in the last excerpt.

I'm very proud that I have fans from all varieties of religious and spiritual beliefs, including Mormons, Catholics, Protestants, pagans, agnostics, and atheists. I don't intend for the story to have any specific religious message, but understanding oneself in relation to God (or a lack thereof) is an important theme, and one that I think most people can identify with.

Here is more about Destruction:

Introducing a new dark wizard family drama, Destruction by Sharon Bayliss, Book One in The December People Series.

An independent family-owned bookstore. The ONLY place to buy signed copies!

A locally owned book store in Austin, Texas.

David Vandergraff wants to be a good man. He goes to church every Sunday, keeps his lawn trim and green, and loves his wife and kids more than anything. Unfortunately, being a dark wizard isn't a choice.

Eleven years ago, David's secret second family went missing. When his two lost children are finally found, he learns they suffered years of unthinkable abuse. Ready to make things right, David brings the kids home even though it could mean losing the wife he can’t imagine living without. 

Keeping his life together becomes harder when the new children claim to be dark wizards. David believes they use this fantasy to cope with their trauma. Until, David's wife admits a secret of her own—she is a dark wizard too, as is David, and all of their children.  

Now, David must parent two hurting children from a dark world he doesn’t understand and keep his family from falling apart. All while dealing with the realization that everyone he loves, including himself, may be evil.

Destruction (Book One of The December People Series)

The Author

Sharon Bayliss is the author of The December People Series and The Charge. When she’s not writing, she enjoys living happily-ever-after with her husband and two young sons. She can be found eating Tex-Mex on patios, wearing flip-flops, and playing in the mud (which she calls gardening). She only practices magic in emergencies.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Who's Going to BEA?

I've never been to Book Expo America (May 28 - May 30) and am really looking forward to it. I know there's some controversy about BookCon on May 31st, which is a reader-facing con (to make it really overly simplistic it boils down to: We Need Diverse Books and get Grumpy Cat instead. I actually think Book Con is trying to address this with a panel on Dystopian featuring Veronica Roth, Marie Lu, Danielle Page and Alaya Dawn Johnson. We shall see.)

I'm going on Wednesday for the Book Blogger conference and I'll be there Friday and Saturday.
So, if you've been to BEA before - what should I know? What should I definitely do and definitely, under pain of humiliation, NOT DO?

If you're going to BEA this year, let me know if comments so we can get together - I'd love to meet.

Finally, what are you excited about?

Here's a short list of what I'm pumped about:

  • Maureen Johnson's Keynote on Wednesday
  • Tiger Beat with Libba Bray (please do a Prince cover, PLEASE!)
  • Bob Shea & Lane Smith autographing on Friday
  • The Graphic Novel Today panel on Saturday
  • And the Macmillan booth because I *hear* (the books speak to me, you know) it will be EPIC.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Review: DESTRUCTION By Sharon Bayliss

Given the choice between reading 'children's' books (picture/YA/MG) or 'adult' books, I'll pick the children's book almost every time. I like children's fiction because it's raw and full of wonder and nothing is taken for granted–regardless of the genre. Children's fiction is filled with magic of every kind. I'm sure there are books for adults that are full of wonder, that do have magic, but it's a lot less common in my experience.

So I was wonderfully surprised by Sharon Bayliss' DESTRUCTION. It's for grown ups–it's about grown up things, family and mortgages and adultery and abuse. But it's also about magic.

David Vandergraff wants to be a good man. He goes to church every Sunday, keeps his lawn trim and green, and loves his wife and kids more than anything. Unfortunately, being a dark wizard isn't a choice.

Eleven years ago, David's secret second family went missing. When his two lost children are finally found, he learns they suffered years of unthinkable abuse. Ready to make things right, David brings the kids home even though it could mean losing the wife he can’t imagine living without. 

Keeping his life together becomes harder when the new children claim to be dark wizards. David believes they use this fantasy to cope with their trauma. Until, David's wife admits a secret of her own—she is a dark wizard too, as is David, and all of their children.  

Now, David must parent two hurting children from a dark world he doesn’t understand and keep his family from falling apart. All while dealing with the realization that everyone he loves, including himself, may be evil.

What's fascinating about this book is how seamlessly it integrates magic into the real world. No dart behind the Leaky Cauldron is necessary to find magic. It's in David's house, intwined in his family's DNA. There's no on/off switch. The Vandergraff's live steeped in it, whether they know it or not.

The depiction of family life–and the complicated additions to that family–are completely engaging. Sharon does a stellar job of getting us to care for eight distinct family members of wizards, imbuing them with motivation, soul and mile-wide-streaks of bad choices that make the wizards very human. That's another thing I loved about these characters - especially a flawed character like David. No one wears the white hat. That's what makes this book so intriguing.

DESTRUCTION challenged me. It was unpredictable and a hell of a ride. Nothing came easy for these characters and the resolution was one that I didn't see coming but, when it came, made perfect sense.


An independent family-owned bookstore. The ONLY place to buy signed copies!

A locally owned book store in Austin, Texas.


The Author

Sharon Bayliss is the author of The December People Series and The Charge. When she’s not writing, she enjoys living happily-ever-after with her husband and two young sons. She can be found eating Tex-Mex on patios, wearing flip-flops, and playing in the mud (which she calls gardening). She only practices magic in emergencies.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

YA FEST PA Recap, or How To Build a Shelter Out of Books

There’s was only one bad thing about the 2014 YA FEST in Easton PA.
There were so many people (yay!) that it was a crush. Getting to any author's table to chat and sign was difficult until I learned the secret of walking behind the book stacks to get to the far side where the books were being sold. I spent a kajillion dollars on books. Then, because I am a sick, sick individual, I spent MORE money at the library’s used book sale. My reasoning? Why not build a shelter out of books for the coming Fill-In-The-Blank apocalypse?

Speaking of the apocalypse, I had the amazing fortune of meeting Demitria Lunetta.

Her post-apocalyptic book IN THE AFTER is stunning. I told her that I’d shied away from the book initially because I’d been burned by dystopians and post-apocalyptics before – books that were all action, no depth. IN THE AFTER is not at all like that. While being well paced and full of action, there are a lot of questions raised – morality, responsibility and how, in the ruined world of the after, the ideas of right and wrong are highly subjective. It reminded me of THE REAPERS ARE THE ANGELS by Alden Bell and ASHES by Ilsa Bick. (Those are about zombies, and there are no zombies in IN THE AFTER. But the sequel, IN THE END comes out in June and I just don’t know what the heck could happen next. IT'S THAT GOOD.) I'll be doing a full review of IN THE AFTER audiobook soon but just know it's an excellent read.

Demitria Lunetta and me. (Why do I look like a demented school marm? Not sure...)

I got to see and meet lots of interesting authors – both published and unpublished. I got to talk to kids and teens and ask them what they were reading, what they liked. It was wonderful to see their enthusiasm. This was a gorgeous sunny Saturday. And they were in the library talking to authors, collecting  autographs and chatting about books. Wish this event could happen every weekend. But then I would absolutely need that shelter of books as my house would be repossessed. 


Next week I’ll be talking about another YA FEST author, Aaron Starmer who I babbled to unceasingly before remembering to let him get back to his signing table. His book THE ONLY ONES has twisted my mind forever. In the best possible way. I'm reading his new book THE RIVERMAN now.

What's been your favorite author event?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Predisone is Not your Friend and Allergies Suck

SO. The title of this post explains my recent absence. I had a weird severe allergic reaction that made me look like I lost a fight and sent me to the doctor.

She put me on Predisone which got rid of the evil rash on my face and made me nauseous. Do you know how hard it is to work/write when your tummy is threatening to leave you, repeatedly?

I'm better now. And I wanted to tell you what's coming up on the blog.

Tomorrow: PART 1 Of my report from the YAFest PA - which was awesome! I met Aaron Starmer and Demitria Lunetta and got a ton of books. There is a giveaway coming.

May 5th - My review of DESTRUCTION by Sharon Bayliss. Guys! This book is so good! It kept surprising me and that's not an easy thing to do. I can't wait to give you the whole guacamole on this awesome book. (See what I did there? It's subtle. May 5th. Cinco de Mayo. Guacamole. You Are Welcome.)

I'm starting a review section that centers on AUDIOBOOKS. I listen so much - it's sometimes the only way I can get through the amount of books I need to read. And there are nuances, NUANCES, I SAY!

I'm fine. How are you?

(I was addicted to this show like crack in the late 70's. My first crush was on a Sherlock. Unfortunately, he was a squirrel)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Writing is Magic

I have proof. As if you need proof. As if you aren't already completely convinced that words = magic, end of story.

So if you (not you, but JK Rowling, actually) start here:

(it's the 1990's and you are scribbling away and nursing the same cup of tea you ordered when you came in 2 hours ago, scribble scribble)

And you create a world so real and engaging that millions of children and adults are enthralled for YEARS -

You can turn fiction into non-fiction

I'm saying, kids, that there's a real Hogwarts online and you can take real courses. Like right now.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry MOOC (massive open online courses)

Beside the obvious (I WANT TO WRITE AN ESSAY ABOUT NARGLES!) the reason this is so astounding to me is that the words she wrote (doesn't matter whether you like the books or not, doesn't matter if you think the writing is good) have engendered in others such a passion that they are MAKING her word real. More than a studio tour, more than a cool amusement park attraction, more than college kids playing Quidditch (all of which are nice but they are pretend) This is a real school with a curriculum you have to work hard at. And who would do this? Who would kill themselves to write essays and get good grades for a subject (Charms, Potions) that doesn't in actual fact exist?

Who wouldn't?

Read the short Slate article about Hogwarts Is Here

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Slightly Hallucinogenic Writing

First, a disclosure:
I have a sinus infection. My teeth ache and I'm on mucus draining drugs.
But this has been going on for almost A WEEK. I can't not work for that long. I can't put my kids on ice for that long (wait, can I?) I have to get on with it.

This is where I find that my new writing approach is paying off. If you remember, I recently have thrown my lot in with PLOTTERS. I have outlined my current WIP in a mind bogglingly detailed excel document. This has generally meant that when I open up my WIP, I am confronted, not by a sea of blank space but by a prompt 'THIS SORT OF THING GOES HERE'. It's working well. You'll not be surprised to hear that I'm not sticking to the outline religiously (you can take the pantser out of the pants...wait, what?) but that's okay too.

Now that my head is full of gunk, I find it very helpful to know the general direction I'm meant to be going in. I have started to imagine that a person different to myself but also named Alex (this person doesn't have a constant low-level headache) is leaving me messages in my WIP. I open up the word doc and say to myself "hey, look what Alex says I should write next. Phew. I was worried I'd have to come up with it myself."

I'm not completely round the twist - I know that the kind person who outlined my WIP for me is Me-from-three-months-ago. But as I struggle on with the WIP and the head case, urm, I mean head cold, it's nice to feel that I'm not alone.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Two years ago I went to the first YA Fest in Easton PA. I ended up sandwiched between two literal and literary giants - Jonathan Maberry and Charles Benoit.

Laura Campbell, Jonathan Maberry, me, Charles Benoit 2012 YA Fest

Now YA Fest is BACK! I can't tell you how excited I am. Not only is it a great program, it's in my state of Pennsylvania. No need to schlep to NYC or wish I lived closer to Denver/Rochester/Raleigh. I am LOCAL. And this is so freaking awesome.

Last year there were quite a few really interesting panels and a really fun quiz contest at the end of the day. But most importantly, there were authors I adored and could talk to. I will try not to go too fangirl (who am I kidding? no one) but here are the authors I am looking forward to seeing:

Jennifer R Hubbard
I don't read a lot of contemporary YA, but I will read anything Jennifer Hubbard writes. Thank You notes, shopping list, tweets - it's all good when it comes from her brain. Check out her new book, UNTIIL IT HURTS TO STOP.

Aaron Starmer
My good friend Becky Levine introduced me to Aaron Starmer's THE ONLY ONES. So I have her to thank for the mind pretzel I found myself in after reading this extremely different, intelligent and thoughtful middle grade. I still find myself looping through the sequence of events. I made the mistake of lending his new book THE RIVERMAN to my eleven year old niece, and now she has a death grip on it. BUT, now I have an excuse to buy another copy.

Demitria Lunetta
I just started listening to Demitria Lunetta's debut book IN THE AFTER on audiobook. Just so you know, I ran an EXTRA MILE this morning. Do you know what that means? I could ignore the pain for an extra 12.5 minutes just to keep listening to the story.

So, are you in the Philly area? Are you also into crayons? Do you yearn for early spring in the gorgeous countryside? YES? Then I'll see you at YA FEST!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

How to Waste Time Productively - Part 2

Again, I say, diversify your hopper. What you put in to your writer's brain is as important - MORE IMPORTANT - than what you get out.

Of course reading is the number one food for your writerly brain. You need to be omnivorous in your habits. This morning, I read a small (incredibly sad) piece in the NY POST about a veteran who died after being left in an excessively hot jail cell on Riker's Island. I remembered that Riker's Island is near the location where book two in my trilogy takes place. And one of my supporting characters has a rap sheet. This reminded me that I need to research Riker's Island. And veterans. And anti-psychotic drugs.

All of this from a short piece in a newspaper I would normally not read.

So, in this installment of Wasting Time Productively, let me see if I can introduce you into something that you would not normally read - and hopefully it can spark creativity for you too.

Alta Obscura

Is there anything more evocative in writing than location? Place can be character, mood, voice and more. Alta Obscura is brilliant for discovering weird, wonderful, unexpected and REAL places.

The Catacombes of Paris

The Hidden Tunnels of Los Angeles

The Ghost Cities of Chernobyl

And of course, one of my favorite places, Philly's own Mutter Museum. Been here many times and it's a disturbing, awe inspiring visit. Plus the medicinal plant garden in the summer is heavenly.

If you are in the Philly area you should really visit the Mutter this spring, particularly to see this exhibit:
Image from Mutter Museum website, courtesy of Patrick Awa

Grimms' Anatomy

Magic and Medicine: 1812-2012

The bodies of fairy tale characters are rarely ordinary. They may be injured through acts of violence, healed or harmed by medicinal potions, or altered by magical transformations. Though many fairy-tale bodies belong to the realm of the marvelous, some have real-world counterparts. In honor of the 200th anniversary of the publication of The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, this exhibit will present real-world examples of the sometimes gruesome or grotesque fairy tale bodies, along with instruments from and rare illustrated editions of these stories. On view in the Main Museum Gallery. Free with Museum Admission.

Go forth and waste time productively!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How To Waste Time Productively Part 1

Want some advice you don't need? Don't have internet access while writing - you're sure to get sucked down a Pop Sugar Wormhole, blinking in surprise when your writing time has dwindled to zero before your eyes - and all you have to show for it is knowledge of red carpet fashions.

Grab on to your garters, though, because my writing THRIVES on time wasting. In fact, when I get stuck while writing, I often turn to the interwebs for a shift in gear. I grant you, my mind is weird. I do best in a high stimuli environment. Writing in a cafe, listening to music, taking breaks to play Candy Crush - it all adds to the impetus. I'm not a monastic writer. 

But even I have my standards (though, since I already name checked Pop Sugar and Candy Crush, you probably have your doubts.) For the next couple of posts I'm going to share with you the BEST sites to cruise through when you're taking a break from your writing. Guys, I am opening up my SECRET stash of awesome sites. I almost don't want to do it.

Particularly with this site. SCOUTING NY.

Every time I visit SCOUTING NY, I feel like I'm opening a present.
I spend A LOT of time on this site, run by Nick Carr, a film scout with a bone deep love of New York and all its quirks. He finds the most amazing gems. A haunted house in the Bronx. The last decorative remains of an art deco pool from a long-defunct hotel. Ghost train lines in Van Cortland Park. SCOUTING NY does more than peak interest, it actually feeds my writing mind. I read a lot of Nick's posts on the Bronx while writing my last book and it just added to my existing memories and images. 

I warn you, visiting SCOUTING NY will suck up your time - but it will also spark ideas and get your writing juices flowing.
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