Sunday, December 5, 2010

Shameless Holiday Book Spree

I now bring you my shameless holiday book list. I hope you will buy these books for two reasons:
The first being that that are excellent! The second being that I know all the authors and want their books to sell.

So, keeping that in mind, I bring you the totally biased and self-serving booklist 2010: (Note--at the end of my fiction list, I am including a book that I read this year that hasn't gotten the attention it richly deserves, Ellen Potter's THE KNEEBONE BOY).

1. THE BONESHAKER by Kate Milford

2. CLAIRE DE LUNE by Christine Johnson

3.COMPROMISED by Heidi Ayarbe


And now for additional bonus, recommendation (pssst..I am going to be interviewing the author, Ellen Potter in a few weeks).

6. THE KNEEBONE BOY by Ellen Potter

And now for our non-fiction portion of the list:

by Christine Fonseca, School Psychologist


Friday, November 12, 2010

The characters who live in my head want to meet you

Hi all. My characters from LIFE and BETH have been living in my head for a very long time. They felt they deserved a proper send off. What I am posting here are photo-illustrations which I will then render as traditional drawings.

This first image is Beth Collins, the girl who not only plays a killer lead guitar, but can kill with her mind.

The second image is love interest, Alain Duquette, the French classical guitarist with secrets of his own. (pssst...note I gave Alain's shaggy main a trim--thanks, Christine!_

Monday, November 8, 2010

Finally--Rewrite off to readers (and agent) and what I learned

I know I've been absolutely silent on here and I apologize. I've been dedicating myself to completing the rewrite of my book LIFE AND BETH and it's taken WAY longer than I ever imagined. But, finally, finally, finally, I finished. I'm not fooling myself that more revisions aren't in store before my lovely agent Victoria Marini subs, but it feels good to have reached this milestone.

And you know what I learned? No matter what your writing method is--seat of the pantster, outliner, whatever, there are no shortcuts. I wrote the first draft of this book almost a year ago, in a very random way. It was DREADFUL. Then I created my (very pretty and useful looking) plot map. That helped a lot. THEN, I started to submit to agents and most of them came back and told me--yeah--we like your premise, we like your writing, but the whole thing falls apart like a flabby souffle.

So, then I downloaded Scrivener and used THAT to help me RE-OUTLINE the whole mess--and still, still I had a long haul ahead of me.

So what's the lesson here? The lesson is that there is no substitute for an awesome critique group and beta readers who target your weak spots like a laser beam. Thank you to all of you geniuses for getting me through this!

I am very excited to sink my teeth into my next project, which is writing and illustrating a picture book. There is also my untitled WIP, which I am going to outline on Scrivener FIRST.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Christine Fonseca Blog Tour Book Giveaway—WINNER!

We have a winner. The method for choosing the winner was this: I counted all the comments that were not either mine or Christine's. I entered the total amount into a random number picker and voila--the winner was commenter #6, and that was...drum roll....


So, Padget, whomever you are--please email me your address. I will forward it to Christine and you will get your copy of Christine's book!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Rutgers One on One/ Christine Fonseca book giveaway reminder

Today I am leaving for the Rutgers One-one-One conference in Piscataway, New Jersey. I'll be driving there with my good friend and writing-mate Dhonielle Clayton and meeting up with my other good friend and writing-mate Colleen Rowan Kozinski, both of whom are wonderful muses and exceedingly talented writers. I'm also looking forward to the BlueBoarders dinner tonight at the Radisson Hotel.

I'm excited and a bit nervous. Since I've never been to one of these events before, I don't really know what to expect. It's a much less passive experience than most conferences as you are paired with a mentor. And you have no idea whom your mentor is until you get there. Kind of like a blind date. So, I'm busy getting myself together with my usual fear that I am going to forget something crucial. Hopefully, I won't. I know one thing I am bringing which I would rather not and that's a head cold. Wouldn't you know that after not having a cold for at least a year, I came down with one. But I refuse to let it slow me down. I'm planning to resist it! Hopefully, it won't slow me down too much.

Anyway, I hope to report back on this event when I return, or if I have a moment, maybe while I am there. Have a great weekend, all!

And just a reminder: Comment on the post below this for the chance to win the new book on gifted kids by the amazing Christine Fonseca.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Christine Fonseca Blog Tour Pitstop and Book Giveaway!

First, I want to thank Lisa for hosting a leg of my blog tour. Be sure to check out the great contest at the end of the post for a chance to win a signed copy of EMOTIONAL INTENSITY IN GIFTED STUDENTS. Now, on to the post –

When Lisa and I talked about a topic for my guest post, she asked a great question – “Why are gifted kids so difficult at times?”

That IS the question, isn’t it!

The answer lies in understanding the underlying intensity present in gifted individuals. I think this poem by Pearl Buck really sums things up:

The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this:

A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.
To him...
a touch is a blow,
a sound is a noise,
a misfortune is a tragedy,
a joy is an ecstasy,
a friend is a lover,
a lover is a god,
and failure is death.

– Pearl Buck

I have worked with gifted children and adults for more than a decade, and I can say that nearly everyone I have met lives this poem to some degree.

Intensity refers to how an individual approaches life. At its best, it is the driving passion that enables some people to achieve amazing things - in any domain. But at its worst, it is the turmoil that has the power to consume these same individuals from time to time as they learn how to manage that aspect of their personality.

Intensity comes in the form of cognitive intensity - those aspects of thinking and processing information that all gifted individuals use to problem solve. It relates to the attributes of focus, sustained attention, creative problem solving, and advanced reasoning skills. Most people think of cognitive intensity as intellect, or "being smart" - all good things.

Emotional intensity is akin to the above poem. It refers to the passion gifted people feel daily. But it also refers to the extreme highs and lows many gifted people experience throughout their lifetime, causing them to question their own mental stability from time to time. This type of intensity is a natural aspect of giftedness. However, in my experience, it is also one of the most misunderstood

attributes – and it IS the reason gifted kids sometimes struggle.

My newly released book, EMOTIONAL INTENSITY IN GIFTED STUDENTS, talks not only about the specific difficulties inherent with gifted individuals, but also ways to help teach kids to manage this part of giftedness. I hope you check it out!

Thanks for stopping by, Christine!

And now for the giveaway. Just comment below and you will be included in the randomly chosen giveaway contest!



Find me on Facebook or Twitter

Order the book.

Want an e-reader version? Order here.

Read the first chapter here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Phew--It's Dusty in here! Cleaning out the place for a guest post from the awesome Christine Fonseca

Well, I hope you will all forgive me for falling down a rabbit hole for nearly the entire month of September.

September is life re-entry time for me after being away all summer. Back to my wonderful job teaching graphic design at Bronx Community College where I find a good deal of my inspiration; back to being the General Manager and CEO of my family; and lastly but certainly not least, finishing the massive rewrite of my book LIFE AND BETH, which my wonderful agent, Victoria Marini would like to start selling. And I am nearly finished. Victoria and I both agree that writing is a priority, so the blog has languished a bit. But, hopefully not for long.

What better way to celebrate my Bloggiversary than with a visit from the amazing Christine Fonseca, whose book EMOTIONAL INTENSITY IN GIFTED STUDENTS is has been released by Prufrock Press.

So, I hope you'll all join me when Christine breezes through. There'll be a cool contest, too. Just to let you know, the incredibly energetic (and gifted, of course) Christine is also a writer of young adult fantasy, hence our friendship. Talk about multi-tasking—no one multi-tasks better than Christine Fonseca!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Remembering 9-11

Was it really nine years ago? Two wars and a changed world later, here we are. And so much has changed in my life since that it's almost incomprehensible. I do believe I began writing in response to that awful day.

I'm not going to say much. I'm just going to post this link to the website I designed for the City University of New York, my employer. I won the competition and I think it was working on this website that saved my sanity. It was this website that led me to the conclusion that creativity of any kind is the cure for the feeling of out-of-controlness all New Yorkers (and Americans) experienced on that day.

I hope you'll visit this website. It doesn't get much traffic, but it still means a lot to me. It captures exactly how I felt that day when terror rained down from a clear blue sky.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recollections on 9-11 and the state of the world in general.

I'd also like to state for the record that the hatred that is brewing in this country is frightening to me. Intolerance is the most un-American of all behaviors. We owe it to ourselves and our constitution to be bigger than our enemies, not to become like them.

And let's all pause to remember those who died and those who sacrificed their own lives to save others.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bigtime Mockingjay Spoiler--Don't read unless you are done and want to discuss

Here are my thoughts.

While I love the characters in the HG trilogy at face value (I am firmly Team Peeta, BTW--he is my dream man) I think the true reason for the trilogy's popularity goes beyond even the great plot, characters, writing, etc.

It is the underlying theme, the basic sensitive, gentle and thoughtful nature of the author (who I met in person yesterday-swooooooon) that informs her ferocious story-telling skills. Suzanne Collins has something she wants to tell us. And her characters are more than just people. They are symbols.

Katniss is all of us--unsure, wanting to do good, but often mislead and used as a pawn in other people's agendas.

Snow, of course is just plain old base evil.

Gale--and this is controversial but I think after you've read the entire MG book you'll see my point. Gale is an example of how outrage, deprivation and abuse can make you a killer. Gale has become everything Katniss has tried to avoid. Gale is in transition to the point where he can become as bad as Coin, someone who might have started off as well-intentioned but lost sight of her moral compass. And this is what Katniss has always feared. And this is why things end so bad with Gale--no kissy-kissy. No closure. Katniss fears what Gale has become. What she might have become--if not for one person.

Which brings me to Peeta. Peeta is hope, beauty in the midst of chaos, love, everything that is good, that can still prevail even in the worst of circumstances. This is why when Peeta briefly turns bad it kills us (and Katniss) so much. Prim represents the same thing, but she is not as strong as Peeta. He is strength and beauty combined. SO in the end--Katniss had to choose Peeta. How could she not? He represents the hopeful future for humanity (and for her). Oh--and Haymitch. He's what you get when you are like Peeta, but without the hope. And Haymitch is whom Katniss might have become if she'd not found Peeta to remind her of why life is still worth living, even after you've survived the Hunger Games .

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mockingjay Day in Millerton, NY

I picked up my copy of Mockingjay on Tuesday, Aug. 24 at 2PM at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, NY, the town I am summering in. By 2AM of Aug 25th I was finished having read it in one long marathon interrupted only three times (of course not counting human necessities) 1) when I went to Winter Sun and purchased my awesome tomato red Baggalini purse, which I will always think of as my Mockingjay bag. 2) when I made dinner (can't remember what) and 3)when I watched my new favorite show Covert Affairs with my new favorite hottie Chris Gorham (you know I must like him if I put down MOCKINGJAY).

Yeah--so you won't get any spoilers from me. I'm going to wait until a reasonable amount of time goes by until I discuss.

I do want to discuss the great opportunity I had to meet and get my book stamped by Suzanne Collins at Oblong Books at the Millerton Branch. But first I want to thank the local hero, Suzanna Hermanns, proprietor of Oblong Books (@oblongirl ), for organizing this terrific and well-planned event.

By all reports, Ms. Collins was kind, patient and very lovely. I told her that as a writer, she is a great inspiration to me. She was so warm. I respected this amazing woman before, now I feel like--I don't know--awed even more. She read from both Catching Fire and Mockingjay, and her lovely voice gave me chills. I just don't know what else to say.

Afterward, I went for milkshakes with the lovely Jules Dominguez a local YA writer and the brand new resident of Rhinebeck, the awesome Jennifer Laughran (@literaticat), who also now works for Oblong Books (Rhinebeck branch). What fun. With the sun setting behind us as we laughed and slurped our really REALLY thick milkshakes--I was so happy to have found this little pocket of YA heaven right in Dutchess County.

I should tell you--I have had the amazing experience of meeting and getting to know Jennifer this summer and she is FUN. And smart--and she seems to know me way too well already. (enough to finish my sentences and laugh at me. Am I that transparent? yeah--I am) Okay--she is not my agent--that would be Victoria Marini who I have yet to meet, but I am happy to call her a friend. So I feel extra lucky. And it was so great to get to know Jules who I've *known* on Twitter for quite some time.

So--it was a great evening, all in all. I had time to reflect on the way back, driving past the rolling golden hills of the gorgeous Hudson Valley, the sun low in the sky, Suzanne Collin's mesmerizing voice still in my ears, about just what a great summer it's been.

All I can say is, wow. And thank you Suzanna(@oblongirl) for working so hard to make this happen.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Mockingjay Countdown

Mockingjay comes out this Tuesday, August 24th and along with it, for me, comes the thrill of finally knowing the outcome of Katniss' adventure combined with the struggle to slow it down and SAVOR the book and the writing. It's like having the world's most delicious meal plunked down in front of you when you are ravenous.

So, I just wanted to share that I am unbelievably fortunate to have purchased my book and a ticket to get it stamped IN PERSON by Suzanne Collins herself on Thursday, Aug 26 at Oblong Books in Millerton, NY. I know, don't hate me. Call Oblong Books and get your own ticket! (I get to pick up the book in Rhinebeck, NY on the 24th---YAY). The question being, will I be able to stall finishing the book until then? I don't know--it's usually a struggle of heroic proportions to keep from gobbling down a hundred pages at a clip.

I will try.

So what are your thoughts on the impending release? Has it defined your summer as it's defined mine? Who's re-read the previous two. Who doesn't understand what the fuss is about?

Let's hear it!

Oh--and LISTEN to the first chapter as read by Ms .Collins herself on's FB page!/

Monday, August 9, 2010

Exciting News!

I've just signed with agent Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider for my young adult paranormal LIFE AND BETH, and I am OVER THE MOON. Victoria is smart, enthusiastic and seems to do her homework big time. I think after all this time, I HAVE THE RIGHT AGENT FOR ME.


It's been a long strange trip, and of course, it's far from over, but this is an important milestone. I can safely say that past experience has enabled me to recognize someone who is professional, proactive and dedicated.

So--YAY! and thanks to my hardworking, patient critique-mates and beta readers who put up with me, my endless drafts, my doubting, my anxiousness and my goofball sense of humor. (oh--and my own skin-stripping crits) Seriously. None of this could be happening without all of you--and you ALL know who you are.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Kate Milford's amazing reader encounter

I really just had to share this. I love Kate and I just love thinking about how great this experience was for her and her little circle of Boneshaker Fans! Hey girls and guys!!! You are some awesome kids!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tenner Tuesday with Kate Milford!

Go read this interview my pal Lindsay Eland of SCONES and SENSIBILITY did with my other pal Kate Milford of BONESHAKER. It's so much fun. just like Linds!

Tenner Tuesday with Kate Milford!

Monday, July 26, 2010

It does pay to google your own name

Wow. I just read this in a forum and so I did. Buried under all of my blog posts and comments, ad nauseum, I discovered a reflection on MY SUBWAY art written this past December by a grad student the prestigious City University Macaulay Honors College. Holy wow!!

In case you all do not know this about me, I am an artist, illustrator and professor if graphic design in addition to my career as professional book geek.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

In Brief: July 22

I just had to share this. Lookee here--this is my homey, Christine Johnson! I am SO proud!!! She is SO awesome!

In Brief: July 22

ShareThis | | Reader Comments (0)

Blog Contest Reveals Title of Sophomore Novel

First-time author Christine Johnson’s novel, Claire de Lune, about a teenage werewolf, was published by Simon Pulse this past May, and because of the positive responses the book received among book bloggers, Johnson held a contest for bloggers to win the chance to announce the title of the book’s sequel, as well as a prize pack of books and other items. Eighty-five bloggers entered the contest, and the winning blogger, Cherry Mischievous, announced the title (Nocturne) earlier this week. Nocturne will be published in May 2011. Photo: Joy Oxenrider.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pssst..Guess who's getting married in the town I'm in?

Chelsea Clinton. Yep. It's all anyone's talking about in Rhinebeck. The wedding is July 31. Crazy. This small town is already pretty hectic. Do I actually need to escape from my VACATION? Or maybe I'll run into Bill. Yeah. I'd like that.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cottage Days

My, my, I've been negligent. Which is one of the reasons I'd hesitated to start a blog in the first place. I'm always hectic, and even though my head is usually buzzing with a million things, I don't always know what to post.

So I'll just report on life as it stands. I'm on summer vacation in the hills of northern Dutchess county New York! I'm a professor, so don't hate me, but I'm off until late August.

But I'm trying to write, write, write. Before that I'd been query, query, query-ing. And got an impressive batch of responses, most of which are still out for review. But the best part was that two agents wanted to TALK and suggested that I do a major revision and were willing to give me some feedback. I'm not going to comment on either agents, just that no promises were made. But for me, the fact that two agents bothered to fit time to talk into their crazed schedules and discuss my book was AMAZING.

And the ideas were awesome.

So that's what I am doing this summer. Not revising. Rewriting. My new WIP is on hold and the picture book I won a grant to illustrate and write is percolating, too.

About the picture book: I'm very excited, but terrified, too. I wish some kind soul would step in, siphon the visual ideas out of my brain and put nice childlike words to them so I can start drawing. I love picture books. I love the idea of illustrating them. Writing one scares the heck out of me.

Any ideas, crowd?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Guest post on Michelle McLean's blog

(Pssssst---I love you, too, Elky--I mean Michelle.) Bet you didn't know that for two years Michelle and I knew each other only as *Elky* and *Justwrite* from the querytracker forum. Which is a good time to put in a plug for Querytracker. Run by the awesome Patrick McDonald, QT has come a long long way since I first joined it in 2007. I am using it for this agent search and it has been invaluable. Check it out:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Free Online Writer's Conference in August

This is so exciting! It's founded by Elana Johnson (my favorite kick-ass empress of the blogosphere) and some other cool folks like Lisa and Laura Roecker. There are going to be a host of agents and writers check it out!!! It's free!

And don't forget...It's Ten Word Tuesday on Michelle McLean's blog where I continue to spout my infinite font of wisdom. (ouch--that was hard pulling my tongue away from my cheek, especially after the oral surgery I had last Friday.)

Monday, June 14, 2010

My Interview on Michelle McLean's website

Come visit Michelle's website. She spotlights different authors monthly and this June she is spotlighting me! I think I'm going to have to turn the tables on her very soon. Michelle has an awesome NF book coming out for writing essays and term papers and was kind enough to help my daughter out of a major pickle, the end result being a glorious win. She is also a YA author. So stop by and say hello!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bear with me as I clear out the cobwebs

Some of you may have been wondering if I tripped and stumbled into a black hole. Well, I did sort of. Partly because it was the end of the semester and I had a bazillion work related things going on, and the other part was because I was furiously polishing my just completed WIP, which is now a finished novel out for query.

Hurray, you say? Congrats for finishing? Hmmmm. There is no one happier than me when I am revising and editing a manuscript I love.

I HATE letting go.

What's even harder is sending the poor baby out into the world. And that is what has been going on. LIFE AND BETH, my YA contemporary fantasy is on the dating circuit. She's all grown up and trying to meet her perfect agent. She's actually out on dates as we speak. Without a cell phone.

Okay--enough silly metaphors. I have issues. Issues that have NOTHING to do with this industry because I have nothing but admiration and respect for the agents and editors who slog through thousands of manuscripts. At my job we just had to look through about fifty resumes and the amount of people who send to the totally wrong position is astounding. So pity on the agents.

That being said, my issues have nothing to do with those good people. It has to do with me. I need to move on. Like any good parent, I have to cut the apron strings and let my baby find her own way in the world.

Good luck, Beth (my mc). I hope you find true love!

That being said, it's time to get to work on the next WIP!!

And now for some cool news. Next week I am guest blogger on Michelle McClean's website!
Be sure and stop by!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Live chat with author Christine Johnson at 9PM eastern TONIGHT

Reviews: Heidi Ayarbe; COMPROMISED, Christine Johnson; CLAIRE DE LUNE, Kate Milford; THE BONESHAKER

It has been very exciting for me this month to see books in print from three wonderful writers whom it has been my privilege to know so well. I've had interviews of all three of them posted here and I've noticed the positive reviews stacking up, so I thought I'd share some of them with you!

COMPROMISED, by Heidi Ayarbe

CLAIRE DE LUNE, by Christine Johnson

THE BONESHAKER, by Kate Milford

Thursday, May 13, 2010

This just in--WINNERS!!!

And..drumroll...the two winners of the Claire de Lune contest are...

Deb Salisbury
Keri C!

I'm so happy because you guys are such great blog pals!

Deb definitely gets a copy of Claire de Lune and I do believe Keri gets one as well.
So message me, guys and Christine will send you your booty.

Congrats, ladies, and stay tuned for my Boneshaker contest.

Interview with Kate Milford of The Boneshaker

Tell us about a bit about yourself--as in your film background and that other strange place you inhabit known as Nagspeake.

When I moved up to New York, it was to write for the theatre. I was mostly writing historical stuff—absolutely nothing like what I write now, weirdly. I started writing for screen to adapt one of those plays, and I’m not going to tell you I got all that great at screenwriting, but I do think I learned to write much more visually and (control your laughter, considering The Boneshaker wound up almost 400 pages) much more efficiently than I did before. I think, even though I didn’t wind up being great at either stage plays or screenplays, I learned a lot from studying both that helped to make me a better fiction writer.

The easiest way to explain Nagspeake is that it’s my vacation getaway. As a reader, some of my favorite books are city-as-character stories, so my husband suggested I amuse myself by building a character city online, where ultimately it can exist alongside real cities and maybe even pass for one of them. Nagspeake has its own mythology and local mysteries and oddities, characters that live there who write for the websites that make it up. I have some crazy plans for it down the line. It’s also the setting for the book I’m working on right now.

Can you give us a quick synopsis on The Boneshaker?

Sure. Basically, it’s 1913 in a crossroads town called Arcane, Missouri. Natalie is 13; she loves machines and bicycles (her father’s a bike mechanic) and local folk tales she hears from her mother. Then Arcane’s doctor is called out of town just before a traveling medicine show run by Doctor Jake Limberleg rolls in. Natalie’s suspicious of the hucksters right along with everyone else, but it’s Limberleg’s collection of automata (which don’t seem to behave the way Natalie knows machines should) that keeps her skeptical even when the rest of the town starts to believe in the medicine show’s miraculous cures. Then there’s some devil-at-the-crossroads excitement, a temperamental antique bicycle, and of course lots of weird antique medical creepiness.

People are calling The Boneshaker a middle-grade steampunk fantasy. How would you characterize it?

When I wrote the first synopsis I put on my website, I think I used the phrase “a mechanical fantasy for all ages.” There’s certainly lots in the book that will appeal to steampunk fans, but I should be very clear that this is not a pure expression of the genre by any means. But then, as a reader, I’m a big fan of books, movies, tv, etc that blend genres, so I guess that’s going to turn out to be what I like to write, too. This one wound up being a little of this, a little of that.

How on earth did you come up with the concept for Boneshaker. Knowing you as I do, I'm quite convinced aliens visit you in your dreams and whisper this stuff in your ear.

If by “aliens” you mean the weirdos in my life like my dad and my husband, then yes, you’re absolutely right. They do, only it’s not in my dreams, it’s every minute of the day. I called my father yesterday to ask him to send me a book and he said, “Oh, hey, I just remembered something you might want to write about someday. Remember how your great aunts had those fruit trees they were really proud of that bore all those wormy apples they had to cut up into a million pieces before you could eat them? Well, Myrtie’s favorite one was an old-fashioned apple tree, and the kind of apple it grew was called Seek No Further. Isn’t that cool?” And you know what? I actually know exactly what I’m going to do with that bit of information. Once he sent me an email about the proper way to give chisels as gifts. And let me not begin to talk about the weird stuff I get from Nathan. Let’s see. In my inbox right now: emails about secret subway entrances, the Briggs-Rauscher Oscillating Reaction, the history of using 60 as a base for seconds and minutes, and (no surprise) scary old surgical tools. Plus my grandmother and Nathan’s mother are big genealogists who love details as much as I do. Nathan’s mom told me a story once about the little Missouri town where his father grew up where they stole the train station from the next town over. They all know I love weird stories and details like that, so they all save them up for me.

Man, I am so jealous. But then again, I've got my son. Who may actually be an alien.

What else are you working on these days?

Right now I’m revising the book set in Nagspeake; the working title is Charlotte Underground, but that will almost certainly change. It’s about the phenomenon in that city of Old Iron—iron that forms a sort of skeleton the city is built upon, and that nobody really knows the origin of, and that moves on its own power, kind of like the way plants reach for the sun. For some reason I started thinking about Jack and the Beanstalk, and Charlotte’s story started coming together. I’m also working on the continuation of Natalie’s story, if anybody decides they want to read more of that.

What has been your path to publication?

My first reader and editor was my friend Julie, and I absolutely credit her with this book being whipped into sufficient shape to land an agent. The original draft was maybe novella-length, and over a period of two years I expanded it into something approaching a book and started looking for representation. That process—finding an agent—took about six months. I queried something like twenty agencies, and I think I met you, Lisa, at about the same time I signed with Scovil Galen Ghosh. Then I revised the book with the help of my agent, Ann Behar. She shopped it around for just under a year before it sold to Lynne Polvino at Clarion Books.

Any advice for striving authors to be?

Do the work. Write the best book you can, and revise it until it’s the best book you can imagine. Then find yourself a critique group you trust to help you revise it until it’s the best book they can imagine from you. Then write the best query letter you can, and repeat the process. When you have the best query letter ever to represent your best book ever and your ego is ready to get smacked around, then start contacting agents. I know people have sold books without agents, but I don’t know how to do it.

Also, I think it’s really important to have a network, and not to work in a vacuum. There are lots of ways to build a network; Verla Kay’s Blue Boards are free and give access to a huge, responsive and very supportive community, for instance. There are group blogs that focus on every conceivable genre. Getting involved with groups like the SCBWI and SFWA do require registration fees, but I’ve found them well worth those costs. Most important for me, though, has been having a really supportive, trusted critique group. And I’m not just saying that because Lisa recruited me into hers three years ago.

Tell us something unexpected about Kate Milford.

Well, this week I’m really missing muay thai, so let’s go with that. I practiced muay thai, which is Thai boxing, for a year before I had to stop last fall in order to meet my deadlines for The Boneshaker, but I can’t wait to get back to it. A year is nothing, by the way—just long enough to move from beginner to intermediate classes and start sparring and occasionally not get totally owned. I’d go into work with bruises all up and down my shins from checking kicks, bruises all over my arms from blocking punches, black and blue elbows, the occasional shiner…I was pretty.

I'd also like to share that talking to Kate about food and its emotional resonance can be a transcendent experience. If she ever gets tired of writing children's lit, she can always be a food critic! And that anyone overhearing our conversations when we meet up will be certain WE are aliens.

I hope this interview gives you the idea of what a fascinating, gifted and generous person Kate is. I have been fortunate to know her in person and I can attest to her splendiferousness. And her hugs can kill. Kate is a full six inches taller than me and can rip my small head off with one of her powerhouse love-you-to-death hugs! Love you to pieces, Kate. You are a genuine artist with a unique and amazing vision. And now the world will get to see it! I couldn't be more thrilled!

Claire de Lune Contest winners to be announced soon!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Claire de Lune Contest Giveaway

So here are the rules:

If you are not a follower, become one. Comment. Then tweet, blog or post on a forum about the contest (include a link).

Winner will be chosen at random. (Christine will pick a number and that's the winner!)

Deadline: Monday May 10, midnight.

So get commenting and win a copy of Claire de Lune!!!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Interview with Christine Johnson of Claire de Lune

Welcome to Christine Johnson, my good friend, critique partner and author of the upcoming YA paranormal romance, Claire de Lune. And stay tuned for another book giveaway contest!

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in Chicago, but moved to Indianapolis when I was too little to remember living anywhere else. I have two small kids and a wonderful husband. I write YA fantasy and I adore reading and chocolate and I have a degree in Political Science. Also, as you may have gathered, I have a talent for being exceptionally random.

Tell us about your upcoming release, CLAIRE DE LUNE. Tell us about any sequels you may have in store for readers.

CLAIRE DE LUNE! Coming to bookstores May 18th! Huzzah! Okay, now that that’s out of the way - CLAIRE DE LUNE is about Claire Benoit, a girl who discovers on her 16th birthday that she’s a werewolf. She’s descended from a long line of female werewolves - it’s actually a female-only species. Unfortunately, she’s also just begun a romance with Matthew Engle, the ultra-hot soccer star who’s father is leading the hunt for a rogue, human-killing werewolf in their hometown. Claire has to struggle with her new identity while also dealing with the danger that seems to be coming at her from every direction . . . with life-changing results. And there will be a sequel! It’s currently slated for publication in the summer of 2011. I’m drafting like mad. Writing like crazy. Staring at the computer endlessly. It’s awesome.

You somehow juggle a demanding writing regimen and raising two small children. How do you do it?

I don’t. Seriously. I could be a more effective mom if I wasn’t a writer. I could be a more effective writer if I wasn’t a mom. But I love both of those roles so much - they’re so essential to who I am. Also, I think I’m *better* at each of them because I am both. The logistics work because I have a really fabulous mom and a great husband and a couple of fantastic baby-sitters who help out with the kids so that I can get my writing done.

What inspires you?

I love this question! Great books inspire me. Every time I read something new that I really love, it makes me want to run off and write. I also always come back from long walks and hot showers with new ideas - that’s when the knotted-up scenes come unsnarled, or a sticky sub-plot gets greased. And NPR is great, too. Seriously! I’m always hearing stories on NPR that give me ideas for new things to think about - new jumping-off points for my own stories.

What advice to you have for aspiring writers?

Read. Write. Repeat. You can only know what you’re aspiring to by exposure - hence the reading. And you can only creep toward those aspirations by trying and failing and trying and failing and improving inch by inch until you’re good enough. And also - there’s a boatload of patience and a modicum of luck involved, so be prepared to weather the passage of much time and also the unfairness of an agent’s or editor’s personal tastes.

What kind of books would you like to see more of on the shelves?

Oooh! YA fantasy, just like the ones I write! (Heh. I’m working on my shameless self-promotion, since it doesn’t come naturally to me. How did that sound? Kidding!) Okay. I think - I really like the direction that the YA genre has gone in the last few years. The books, as a whole, are treating teens as legitimate, capable, discerning readers. Which they *are.* The more honest and well-crafted the books are, the better the genre does, the more teens read, and the happier I am. I think it’s happening already, but I really want to see it continue.

Tell us something we may not know about Christine Johnson.

Oh, man. Let’s see . . . I’m passionate about and obsessed with sharks. Matawan, NJ, anyone? I’m miserable at math. I can’t stand the word “ointment.” Just typing that made me shudder a little bit. Hey, Lisa! Thanks for having me by for an interview. I always love talking to you. Let’s do it again soon!

Thanks, Christine, or C as she is fondly known in our corner of the world. Gee, didn't know about the shark or ointment thing. That's pretty hysterical. I'm going to press you on that to find the root of your aversion when we meet up in June!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Contest Results!

FIRST PLACE (signed copy of COMPROMISED – hardback): VESUVIUS CRIPPA (Absolutely cool and I loved the string of names afterward. Honestly, Magenta Maccaroni was my favorite in the pile .. as well as Al Dente. J )

SECOND PLACE (signed copy of FREEZE FRAME – paperback): THE KNICKERBOCKER MAINSPRING (and I also loved Katie Barracuda because, well, if I’m the CAPO of the bunch, I need followers that suck up!)

And, KUDOS to Lisa's mom. She was disqualified because a family member can't win the prize. Nevertheless, I was quite impressed with Moishe the Mohel.

CONGRATS TO ALL! Happy happy reading! Please send your addresses to Lisa, so she can pass them on to me. I’ll mail them out next week when I’m in the States!

Thanks for participating.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Heidi Ayarbe—Compromised Contest Opens!

First prize—A signed copy of COMPROMISED
Second prize—A paperback copy of FREEZE FRAME

Deadline: Monday, April 26, 2010, 12AM

All you have to do to enter this contest is..
1) either Tweet, Facebook or post a link in your blog and show evidence of this in your comment
2) Come up with a creative Mafia-boss name! Yeah, it's kind of random, but fun!

So have at it!!!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Interview with Heidi Ayarbe

I'm switching the order here, folks. The awesome debut author Christine Johnson will be my next interview. This week I am featuring Heidi Ayarbe author of 2008's FREEZE FRAME and the forthcoming COMPROMISED. Heidi joins us to talk about her books, her philosophy of writing and a few random thoughts about American Idol (a guilty pleasure I share ).

Heidi is another of my long-time critique-mates (since 2005- wow) and I have had the great joy in witnessing her rise as a successful author of YA fiction. Aside from being a truly original voice and gifted writer, Heidi is almost pathologically generous of spirit. She feels everyone's pain, which could be why her books never fail to move me to tears. Even after I've read them six times. Go out and read them all. You will be changed.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a daughter, sister, *favorite* aunt, wife, mother, and YA author. (I’m really good at being an aunt! ) Other people may call me other things, but we’ll just leave it as is.

Tell us about your forthcoming May release, COMPROMISED.
Maya’s always lived a life of science based on procedures after her father’s arrest, Maya is sent to live in Kids Place, a group home, while waiting for foster family placement . She makes a plan to escape – in search of an aunt Maya’s never met and is joined by Nicole (Cappy), a street smart illiterate kleptomaniac. The two are joined by Klondike, a burn victim who suffers from Tourette’s. The unlikely trio sets forth to face life on the streets.

..and your previous release, FREEZE FRAME...
No matter how many times Kyle re-writes the scene, he can't get it right. He tries it in the style of Hitchcock, Tarantino, Lynch -- all his favorite directors -- but regardless of the style, he can't remember what happened that day in the shed. The day that Jason died. And until he can, there's one question that keeps haunting Kyle: Did he kill his best friend on purpose?

...and your next year's release, THE DOUBTING.
I’m on final revisions stage of THE DOUBTING about a high school soccer star who suffers from OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and has spent his life hiding it from everyone he knows. The novel has been a challenge because it all takes place over the course of a weekend – a weekend when everything comes crashing down in his life and he has to come to terms with the fact he has this disorder.

Any hints of what your fourth book will be? (pushy, aren't I?)
I’m really excited about the little seed of an idea I have … But I’m a bit superstitious and never tell anybody (except for my agent) what I “might” be working on.

Do you feel being an American native residing primarily in Colombia affects your writing about contemporary American teens, either adversely or positively?

Well, we don’t have Cheerios here which is a travesty. That alone must have some kind of adverse effect. Let’s call it, “The Cheerios Effect.”

That said, in all honesty, I don’t think living abroad has affected my writing for American teens at all. You had a great interview with an author who said something to the effect of, “We never get over middle school.” (I believe that was the magnificent Anne Spollen). Much of my writing comes from my experiences growing up as a teen in Carson City, Nevada (where Freeze Frame and The Doubting take place). I always draw from that world to write. And from Colombia, I draw on the texture, smells, and colors of a world that’s very different from the one in which I was raised to help remind me of the details of Nevada. (It’s ALL about the details in this business!)

What it does effect, though, is the ability to promote my books in the States. As you can imagine selling books written in English about American teens doesn’t really draw in the Colombian buyer.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to the Cheerios deficit.

What inspires you?
Challenges. Tackling something that I think I can’t. For some reason I have stories that I want to tell. I don’t know why they’re here with me, but I need to get them out on the paper. Plus, having a deadline is a great inspiration. J

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
LOVE words. Read. Read, read, read, read, read. Write what you love – don’t write for the market. Share your writing with competent, supportive, critical readers and LISTEN. Listen to ideas. Filter the information and revise. Revise, revise, revise, revise … And keep at it. There’re so many wonderful opportunities for writers out there, and I really believe that this is a tortoise/hare business. Right now, though, it’s tough to break in – even tougher than a few years ago. So make sure your first draft is as perfect as can be. Be market savvy. Know what’s out there similar to yours and find a way to makes yours stand out. Then read some more.

What kind of books would you like to see more of on the shelves?
Maybe the question could be what would I like to see “less” of on the shelves. Last year almost 300,000 books were published in the USA. THAT’S MADNESS. That said, within that deluge of words and pages, there’s so much amazingness out there. SO MUCH! I can’t wait to see “more” of something I never expected, like last year’s brilliant surprise, giving us a modern-day Don Quijote on acid (Libba Bray’s Going Bovine) for instance.

Tell us something we may not know about Heidi Ayarbe.
I have a crush on one of this year’s American Idol contestants. This makes me a “cougar.” Gack! Okay. Other than that, which might not be the most appropriate fact for your interview, let me see … I’m actually a really private person, I guess, and don’t feel comfortable with people knowing too much about me. For this reason, I will not disclose the name of my secret crush.

Heidi, thank you so much for dropping by. As evident in your answers, you are made of awesome and so are your books. Love you, lady!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Live blogcast from the SCBWI retreat

No, I'm not there, but my new critique-mate Jeff is and so is my fellow Cuda, Cathy Giordano, who asks that I post a link to the firstnovelsclub live bloggers. I did attend in 2007 and it was a lovely weekend! So here's the link. Enjoy! Thanks, Cath!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Interview with Cyndy Henzel

Cyndy, (who writes historical young adult and middle grade fiction as well as magical reality) and I have been members of our online critique-group the Cudas since its inception in August 2006. I have come to depend on Cyndy's unfailingly sharp eye (and teeth) to kick, pummel and slash my manuscripts into shape. I've been inspired and delighted by her masterful ability to weave a tale and bring it to life with her vivid descriptions. I feel as if I have personally traveled to Stalinist Ukraine, Maldives, the Arizona desert and the Republic of Georgia thanks to her lush imagery. Cyndy is one of my unsung heroes (who really squirms when she is praised) and my trusty partner-in-crime in the Cuda approach to bone-crunching critiques. I hope I see the day at long last when she is granted the Newbury honor she is destined for.

Tell us a little about your background.

As a kid I loved reading and science. We moved a lot, so books were my dependable friends. When I was 15, my parents decided to leave the city and move to rural Oklahoma and live off the land. My parents, 3 younger siblings, and I moved into a one room cabin and learned to grow and can food, butcher pigs, milk goats, and build a house. I went to a small town high school where I learned to be comfortable not fitting in.

I’ve written everything from a weekly newspaper column to fiction and nonfiction for children. My graduate work was in geography, the field that covers everything that happens someplace -- perfect for me because I find everything interesting (yes, I even watched curling during the Olympics). I spent ten years working for an international environmental program which created the wanderlust itch that I still like to scratch.

What kind of books do you write?

Mostly great books, although one or two have been merely good.

Actually, I tried writing picture books but was told you can’t tell little kids that the rattlesnake was chopped and stomped and burned (this was before Neil Gaiman). Now I write mg and ya novels set in lesser known places. Currently, I am interested in young people in the post-Soviet countries that are struggling to regain – or invent -- their identity.

You just returned from a trip to the Republic of Georgia. Can you give us some highlights from your visit?

This was my third trip to Tbilisi, Georgia, one of the settings for my current work-in-progress. This time we went out to an ancient monastery. One of the monks took a liking to us and took us on a tour of the Patriarch’s private quarters (the Georgian Church is an Orthodox Catholic sect) then down the creepy stone steps into the cellars where we saw the 200-year-old wooden vat for grapes and cavernous underground storage jars for making wine. Then he opened a bottle to sample and toasted us – a lovely, lovely experience.

How have the places you've traveled inspired your writing?

I like to walk through regular neighborhoods, see what is on the shelves in the grocery store, visit local shops, watch the kids play in the park and how their parents react to them. I read up on the history of an area, then read local newspapers to see what people are talking about. I always think about what it would take for me to adapt to living in a place; and what it would be like for someone from this place to adjust to life in America. This is a theme that runs through much of my writing – what you keep, what you have to give up, and how you change in a new place.

What kind of children's and young adult books would you like to see more of on the shelves?

I love well-written, intelligent books; ones that transport you to another time or place or make you think about things that have never occurred to you before or that let you see things through new eyes. I’d like to see more historical fiction and contemporary stories set outside the US and more insightful science fiction.

Tell us something surprising about Cyndy.

Hmm. Writing? I wrote a My Turn column that was published in Newsweek then was reprinted as the Column of the Year with an update for their 30 year anthology.

Personally? I can make a wedding gown, tile a house, scuba dive, and I’ve never been bored.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Coming in April

Yeah, yeah...I've been silent of late, stewing in the juices of my revisions. But I'm breaking my silence to announce four, yes FOUR, fabulous interviews and two contests!
I should divulge that all of the woman I am going to interview are my critique-mates from two different groups. Once you *meet* them you are going to go green with envy to think that I get input from these awesome people on a regular basis! And they are SO AWESOME I am compelled to share:

First interview: Cyndy Kennedy Henzel, writer of middle-grade and YA historical fiction. (aka Cuda of the west, and I'm going to fess up, the best damn editor and critiquer in the known universe.) Cyndy is way too humble so I'm happy to embarrass her and heap public praise on her writing, editorial skills and her incredible generosity of spirit which she cloaks in hysterical one-liners.

Second interview: Christine Johnson, author of the upcoming CLAIRE DE LUNE, a YA werewolf love story from Simon Pulse/ May 2010. Christine is a member of my crit group The Wordslingers. Christine writes first drafts that are better than most of what makes it into print and we all *hate* her for it. Nah--we love her to pieces. Plus she does all the amazing things she does with a toddler and a five month old baby. Yikes!

Third interview: Heidi Ayarbe, author of the upcoming COMPROMISED/ May 2010 (HarperTeen—an imprint of HarperCollins) and the 2008 FREEZE FRAME (Laura Geringer Books/HarperTeen an imprint of HarperCollins), is also a member of Wordslingers and in addition to being one of the most caring humans on the planet writes the most gut-wrenching YA fiction in print today. Her writing often drives me to tears (in a good, cleansing sort of way).

Look out for other upcoming Heidi Ayarbe releases: THE DOUBTING from Balzer and Bray 2011 (HarperTeen an imprint of HarperCollins)

FREEZE FRAME paperback release: May 2010

First contest: We are going to be holding a signed ARC giveaway for CLAIRE DE LUNE and COMPROMISED.

Fourth interview: Kate Milford, author of the upcoming THE BONESHAKER/ Clarion May 2010, and another member of the Cudas is our very one female Stephen King and purveyor of mg steampunk fantasy. I featured a little info about THE BONESHAKER a few posts back.

tentative second contest: I hope to hold a BONESHAKER ARC contest as well.

Okay, PHEW. Now you know why I was quiet...I had to store up energy. April is going to be hectic around here. Sorry if I'm gushing a little too much, but they are all very, very dear to me and totally brilliant in their own individual and fascinating ways.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Some Questions for Chuck Sambuchino

Hey all! Sorry I've been uncharacteristically mute for awhile. It's been a busy week and a half. But things have calmed down and now I can share with you the Wisdom of Chuck and everything you ever wanted to know about literary agents.

What do you believe is the average amount of clients that an agent reps at any given time?

Hard to say, but perhaps 25 is a good average. Some can rep 40 or more. Others 15 or fewer. It just depends on how many books the writers are churning out.

Hey, Chuck! Any advice about marketing for us playwrights?
Never underestimate 1) referrals, and 2) the ability of a good developmental workshop. Get some actors in a space to workshop the play. Invite producers to see it, and let that baby fly. If the work has potential, power players should approach you afterward and talk about a regional production.

Is it wise to get an experienced agent for my fiction?

Newer agents are actively looking for clients and will have more time to put into your manuscript. A more experienced agent will probably know plenty of editors and sell your work quicker, but they are not often taking on new clients, and will probably give your work less attention. It's a trade-off.

I'm looking for an agent who lives near me but can't find anyone? What should I do?

Most agents are in NYC, and you don't have to live near an agent to work with one. I know both of you would like to meet face to face, but in-person contact is not mandatory to have a wonderful and successful agent-author relationship. Keep in mind, though, that agents who live outside of NYC are still great choices. Look for sales they've made. If they're selling books, then they're good at what they do. Plenty of great agents live in California, Colorado, Florida, Boston, DC and Texas.

I've heard of writers selling their novels based on a synopsis only, but a lot of advice says you should only query with a finished manuscript. Which is correct?

If you're a new author, you need a finished, polished manuscript. After your agent sells that book, you may run into some editors who like your writing and want to line up other books from you. This is a situation where editors can ask you for synopses and make deals on those alone. In other words, never plan on this happening. Just hope!

Agents love writers with platform, but I'm new to this whole thing. Can you give some advice on building a platform?

This is a topic that could require hours. But I will tell you that an underestimated tactic is teaming up with others. For instance, if you're having trouble producing blog content and getting readership (and thereby building a platform), start a blog with other like-minded writers. So instead of just you writing about fantasy writing, there are seven of you and each writes one day a week. Also, if you want to write about a nonfiction subject (parenting, for example), but lack credentials, then team up with an expert. They supply the expertise and credentials, and you do the writing.

Thanks for visiting, Chuck and be sure to visit Chuck's blog at

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ask Chuck, Blogger and Chief at Guide to Literary Agents

So Chuck is the great guy who runs the GLA blog, the one that ran the contest I just won first runner up in. I wanted to interview him, but Chuck and I decided that a Q and A session would be more useful than an interview, since he's been interviewed so frequently.

So start asking!

I am going to activate comment moderation to screen questions. The best four questions will be posted for Chuck. So it is YOU, my blog readers, who will interview him instead of me. I'll post my cool contest in a day or so.

Chuck Sambuchino is an editor for Writer's Digest Books (an imprint of F+W Media). He is the editor of two annual resource books: Guide to Literary Agents, as well as Screenwriter's & Playwright's Market. He also assists in editing Writer's Market ( He recently helmed the third edition of Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript (a WD trade book), released in 2009. He is also the author of a forthcoming humor book, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack due out in Sept. 2010 (Ten Speed Press / Random House). Chuck is a former staffer of several newspapers and magazines - most notably Writer's Digest. During his tenure as a newspaper reporter, he won awards from both the Kentucky Press Association and the Cincinnati Society of Professional Journalists.

He is a produced playwright, with both original and commissioned works produced. His work has appeared national and regional magazines, with recent article in Watercolor Artist, Pennsylvania Magazine, The Pastel Journal, Cincinnati Magazine, Romance Writers Report and New Mexico Magazine. During the past decade, more than 600 of his articles have appeared in newspapers, magazines and books. Sorche Fairbank of Fairbank Literary Representation ( is Chuck's literary agent. To read his blog, visit

You can also see interviews with him on Writer Unboxed, the Texas Sweethearts website, the Novelists, Inc. website, and Writers on the Rise. Besides writing, Chuck loves music, and plays guitar and piano in a rock cover band. He also has an insatiable sweet tooth and is forever searching for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. He and his wife have a flabby-yet-lovable dog named Graham, and they live in Ohio.

This is TOTALLY crazy

Whoops—It was for the previous contest...the kid lit one. I forgot I entered! The one I posted about is still on, so hurry and enter!!!

There were 400 entries and...

I WON. Tied for second place. I am in shock. I get a ten-page crit from Jennifer Laughran and a years membership to Writer's Market. WHEEEEE!!!! You guys bring me good luck!

So in honor of all of my awesome followers, present and future, I am going to run my own paranormal YA contest where what you win is a crit from me, the blood-thirstiest Cuda of them all.

Yep. So stay tuned for details. And an interview with Chuck Sambuchino, from Guide to Literary Agents.

Just had to share.