Sunday, October 28, 2012

Wild at Heart--A Worthy Cause

I wanted to let you all know about a project the Diamond State Romance Authors have been working on.

This group of romance authors pulled together two collections of short stories compiled into books to benefit the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. It's a large cat refuge that is doing amazing things for the rescued cats. Some of the authors include Elle James, Brinda Berry, Cynthia, D'Alba, Margaret Ethridge, Candace Sams, Gina Wilkins, Delilah Devlin, Karis Walsh and many others from across the nation.

All the profits will go to saving the lives of rescued big cats (tigers, lions, puma). The print volumes are now on sale at Amazon and would make great gifts. I'd appreciate any likes and tags and spreading the word. It takes a lot to feed and shelter the big cats.

Wild at Heart Volume I -

Wild at Heart Volume II (young adult) -

Monday, August 20, 2012

CONJURE Cover Reveal!!!

Today I'm excited to host a giveaway AND a new cover reveal. It's CONJURE, an amazing new YA book from Entangled author Lea Nolan!!! Isn't it amazing?

About CONJURE: Be careful what you search for…

Emma Guthrie expects this summer to be like any other in the South Carolina Lowcountry--hot and steamy with plenty of beach time alongside her best friend and secret crush, Cooper Beaumont, and Emma’s ever-present twin brother, Jack. But then a mysterious eighteenth-century message in a bottle surfaces, revealing a hidden pirate bounty. Lured by the adventure, the trio discovers the treasure and unwittingly unleashes an ancient Gullah curse that attacks Jack with the wicked flesh-eating Creep and promises to steal Cooper’s soul on his approaching sixteenth birthday.
When a strange girl appears, bent on revenge; demon dogs become a threat; and Jack turns into a walking skeleton; Emma has no choice but to learn hoodoo magic to undo the hex, all before summer—and her friends--are lost forever.

I can't wait to read it! For more info about the book, visit any of the following links:

CONJURE on Goodreads: http://www.
Lea's website:

In honor of the cover reveal of CONJURE, Lea is hosting a contest. To enter, just choose your poison on the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ready or Not, It's Time for Back to School!

In two weeks, school will start here. The kids will be back in our library, looking for more Teen Talk Tuesday questions. I'll probably start off by by asking them what they did over the summer. (Hmm...that's a loaded question!)

As for me, I read...and read...and read.

I'm on the state committee for this year's Teen Book Award, so I was given a list of over a dozen different books to read during the months of May, June, and July. Then we discussed each title in an online forum. Our committee is comprised of public and school librarians. We can choose which genres we want to read, and then we're given the titles a steering committee has pre-selected.

I thought the experience was pretty daunting but worthwhile. The hardest part for me was scrambling to get the titles. They're all books that were published a year ago, so some were bestsellers (easily found) and some were nearly impossible for me to locate by my deadline. My chosen genre was "adrenalin," which includes paranormal, sci-fi, and fantasy.

Add these books to the ones I'm already obligated to read for my editor, and I was reading about 3 YA novels a week. Somehow I made it through the whole "adrenalin" list, and found some new favorite reads. At the end of July, we were asked to rank our top 5 picks. It was a very hard decision!

I can't wait to share the best books with my students when they return. In the coming months, I'll be posting a few reviews on the blog. My favorite read of the summer was Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, hitting the stores this week! What great book did you read this summer?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cover Reveal: DOOMED by Tracy Deebs!!!!

Today I can finally reveal the stunning cover for DOOMED by YA author Tracy Deebs. Isn't it fantastic?

Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Available in Hard Cover and Ebook

Tracy is allowing us to read an excerpt of this cool new book which I've posted below. Visit Tracy's blog to learn more:

Beat the Game, Save the World.

One Stuxnet type worm,
One Greek-themed MMO,
One real world scavenger hunt,
Three teenagers on the run
And a ten-day countdown to total nuclear annihilation .
Pandora’s Box isn’t just a myth anymore …

When seventeen-year-old Pandora Walker opens an email attachment, she uploads the most frightening worm ever invented—and in doing so, brings about total technological Armageddon. Everything from the internet to communications to utilities collapses and suddenly Pandora finds herself on the run from Homeland Security, the FBI and every police department in the country, all of whom blame her for the technological wasteland sweeping across the U.S..  With the help of stepbrothers Eli and Theo, her neighbors and the two hottest guys in school-- plus codes encrypted in a world famous MMO--  she sets out on a real life scavenger hunt that only she can solve.  A scavenger hunt that pits her against one of the most brilliant men in the world—the maker of the Pandora worm.  Her father.  Only by unraveling the clues left by him in the MMO, and in real-world places around the U.S., can they hope to beat the clock ticking the days off until the entire planet is Doomed. 

“That’s not the really puzzling part,” Agent Lessing finally continues.  “Especially if you insist on your innocence in this matter, how is it that starting at seven-fifteen this morning, someone from this IP address opened the twelve different sections of code that make up this worm and uploaded them onto the internet, one by one?”
Emily gasps and I want to protest.  I want to tell the FBI agent that she’s crazy.  That I have no idea what she’s talking about.  But the truth of the matter is that suddenly I do.  I know exactly what I was doing at seven-fifteen this morning.
The tentative fairy tale I’ve been building in my head all day—the one I wasn’t even aware of until right now—collapses.  I swear, I feel it shatter and my stomach, though close to empty, chooses that moment to revolt.
 I spring up from my chair.
“Hey, you can’t go anywhere.  Sit back down!”  Lessing tells me firmly, reaching into her jacket and pulling out her gun.
I don’t stop; I can’t.  Even so, I barely make it to the trash can in time.  I don’t know how long I sit there, puking my guts up, but by the time I finish, Lessing has put away her gun.  Emily is looking at me in dismay, while Mackaray and Lundstrom—who rushed in at Lessing’s alarmed shout—are wearing identical expressions of smug triumph.  Even Lessing seems satisfied, and I know it’s because I’ve blown it big time.
            It’s pretty hard to protest your innocence when you get so upset by what they’re telling you that you hurl.
I don’t get up right away.  Instead, I stay on the floor, my head resting against the cool wood of a cabinet.  I think about my laptop, stuffed in my backpack, with all the incriminating evidence on it.  I think about what else is in the bag—namely the pictures from my father that I’d shoved in there at the last minute.  All twelve of them.
            I’ve been wracking my brain, trying to figure out why me, and the answer has been there all along.  The psychopath who did this, the one who chose me as this harbinger of destruction, is my father
            He did this to me.  Used my curiosity against me—and the world—and turned me into a modern-day Pandora.  Like my namesake before me, I’ve brought a new kind of evil into the world and there’s no going back.  Maybe Emily’s dad and the others can fix it.  Maybe they can’t.  But either way, I have a feeling that deep, dark hole they want to throw me in just got a lot deeper and darker.
            Every writing campaign I’ve ever partaken in for Amnesty International flashes through my head.  Letter after letter about Guantanamo Bay.  Sierra Leon.  Somalia.  Story after story of Americans taken to foreign countries and tortured because they’re suspected of terrorism. 
Even as I tell myself I’m being silly, I hear the president saying the United States doesn’t tolerate terrorists.  That’s what I am, what my father has turned me into with a few strokes of my keyboard, a few picture downloads that I thought were to celebrate my seventeenth birthday.
            A cyber terrorist.
            I reach for the trash can again as dry heaves shake my entire body. 
What am I going to do?  What am I going to do?      What. Am. I. Going. To. Do?
            Behind me, I hear movement and brace myself to be yanked to my feet.  But that doesn’t happen.  Instead, Emily settles on the ground next to me and hands me a bottle of water.  I rinse my mouth out, drink a few sips.  Then she’s hugging me, stroking my hair.  “It’s going to be okay, Pandora,” she whispers to me.  “I promise. It’s going to be okay.”
            I open my mouth, plan on telling them everything and begging for mercy.  Instead, only four words come out.  Four words I never thought I’d say.  “I want a lawyer.”
            “A lawyer?”  Mackaray’s eyes gleam with triumph as he crouches down next to me.  “Pandora, where you’re going, lawyers rank right up there with fairies and unicorns as mythical creatures.”
            “You can’t do that!” Emily protests.  “She didn’t do anything wrong!  My father—“
            “Your father is one of an elite few who could pull off something of this magnitude, Ms. Wood.”  Lundstrom speaks up for the first time in a long while.  “So I suggest you close your mouth unless you want to bring a lot of trouble down on him as well.”
            Emily shuts up then, her eyes wide and frightened as she presses her back against the cabinet, almost like she wants to shrink inside.  The arms wrapped around me start to tremble, but I barely notice since I’m shaking just as hard.
            “She didn’t do anything,” I tell them, wondering if I should just tell them everything? 
If I should send them next door to retrieve my laptop from Eli and Theo and get them involved in this? 
Do I admit that my father is behind this and let them arrest him, lock him up and throw away the key like they’re threatening to do to me?  But if I admit I had an unwitting part in this, are they going to believe me?  The looks on their faces say no, that they’ve already made up their minds about my guilt.  My best bet, then, is to wait for Mr. Wood.  He’s one of the best computer security guys in the country.  He’ll know what to do.
I shut down then, refuse to say anything else.  They keep asking me questions, but I ignore them.  Even when Mackaray grabs onto my arms and lifts me into a standing position, I don’t protest.  I’ll wait for Mr. Wood, I tell myself.  He’ll be able to fix this.
As we wait, the house grows quiet around me.  The front door opens and closes numerous times and I hear the slam of car doors outside.  The rev of engines that mark the end of the search.  Everyone else has done their jobs and now I’m left alone with these three.
Mr. Wood finally arrives, with a police escort.  He’s all outrage and concern as he wraps his arms around us, but it becomes clear very quickly that he won’t be able to help me.  He’s not my parent or guardian and no matter how much he argues with the agents—he knows two of them personally—they aren’t budging.  But at least Emily seems safe, and that’s something.
“I have to go to the bathroom,” I say, after Mr. Wood’s been here about an hour.  They’ve told him both he and Emily are free to go, but he hasn’t budged.  I know it’s because he doesn’t want to leave me alone with them.
“Tough,” Lundstrom tells me.  “You’re not going anywhere.”
“Jesus, Mike, she’s just a kid!”  Mr. Wood exclaims. 
“She unleashed cyber Armageddon—computer genius trumps kid every day of the week.”
“Please,” I say.  “I really need to use the restroom.”  Even though I don’t.  I just want a couple of minutes alone to think, a couple of minutes where they aren’t staring at me like a bug under a microscope.
“I’ll take her,” Mackaray finally says, and I almost change my mind.  I don’t want to be alone with him, even for as long as it takes to walk to my bathroom.  But it’s not like I have a choice now, not after I made such a big deal of having to go.
We leave the kitchen together and when I try to head upstairs to my bathroom, he grabs my elbow and directs me to the half-bath down the hall.  The one without any windows.  I shake my head in disbelief.  They already think I’m some kind of genius hacker-- now they think I can mastermind an escape from federal custody as well?  Who the hell do these people think I am?
“Leave the door open,” Mackaray tells me when we get there.
“What?” I stare at him incredulously.
“You heard me.”  The face staring back at me is implacable.
“Where am I going to go?  There’s no other way out of the bathroom!”
“Take it or leave it.”  Something moves in his eyes and I know he’s waiting for me to leave it.  But I won’t give him the satisfaction.
“Does your wife know you get your kicks by listening to teenage girls pee?”
The hand on my elbow gets tighter, his fingers digging into my flesh until I start to see stars.  He pulls me towards him and whispers, “You don’t want to play games with me, little girl.  I win every time.”
I’m straining so hard in the other direction that when he finally lets me go, I stumble, crack my funny bone hard against the door frame.  He laughs, at me and at the helpless tears of pain that spring to my eyes.
I go into the bathroom, leaving the door partially ajar.  I turn on the faucet, splash water on my face, blink back the tears.
“Hurry up!” he says after a minute.  “We don’t have all night.”
Before I can respond, the lights blink once, twice, then go out completely.  My entire house is plunged into an inky blackness.
“What the hell!”  Mackaray says, slamming the bathroom door open all the way.  “Either get it done or not, kid.  You’ve got one minute and then I’m taking you back to the kitchen.”
I barely hear him over the pounding of my own heart and the panic clawing through me, trumping everything else.  Even my fear of going to jail.  I hate the dark, hate it, hate it, hate it.  Ever since I was five and ended up getting trapped in my uncle’s storage shed, under a pile of heavy boxes that fell when I was looking for my Christmas presents.  There’d been no lights, or windows, and I’d laid there in the dark for hours, crying, convinced that no one was ever going to find me.
Curiosity had been my downfall then as well.
“Tom?”  Lessing’s voice drifts through the hall.
“Just checking.  It looks like the whole grid just went down.”
“I can see that.”  Lessing must catch the sarcasm in his voice because she shuts up quickly.
“Pandora—“  In his voice is a warning and I know my time is up.  But he stops abruptly and there’s a muffled thump, followed by a slithering sound that has me imagining a bunch of snakes sliding down my hallway.  I press myself back against the wall and try not to scream.
Something large moves in front of the doorway.  “Pandora?”
“Theo?” I whisper incredulously.
He leans forward, until his face is only centimeters from mine.  “Let’s go.”  His voice is pitched so low that I have to strain to hear it even this close.
“Go where?”
“Out of here.  Come on, we’ve only got a couple of minutes before they come looking for you.”
“Looking for—you want me to break out of federal custody?”
“Would you rather I leave you here?”
“I don’t know.  I—“ My head is spinning.  Of all the ways I envisioned tonight ending, this wasn’t even in the top thousand.  “Where’s Mackaray?”
“I hit him.  He’s out, but I don’t know for how long.  Now are you coming or not?”
Am I?  I look back at the kitchen, where Emily and her father wait with the other agents.  I can’t leave her—
It’s like Theo can read my thoughts, because he says, “Emily will be fine.  She’s not the one in trouble here.”
He’s right; I know he is.  But still.  Can I do this?  Bad enough to be a federal suspect—but to be a fugitive?  How is it even possible?  They’ll find us in minutes.
Except, the electricity just went out.  Communications are gone.  No cameras to catch us running by.  No way to get out word of a widespread manhunt (or in this case womanhunt).  No way for them to track me when they’re basically blind, deaf and dumb. It could work.
But still, do I really want to do this?  Do I really want to go down this road?
Hell, yes, I do.
I slip my hand into Theo’s, not bothering to ask how he knew I was in trouble, and we glide as silently as possible through the hallway into the living room.  He seems to know exactly where he’s going and I wonder how long he’s been here, prowling around the house, without anyone knowing. 
He slides open the glass door that leads to the deck just enough that we can slip out.  As he silently closes the door behind us, I realize this is it. 
I really have reached the point of no return.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Review: The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee

Review: The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee
Published by Bloomsbury
July 2012

Rinn suffers from a bipolar disorder, which has caused her family to dissolve. Worse, her condition led to her grandmother's death, and Rinn is haunted by the memory of the horrible tragedy. After a suicide attempt, she and her mom relocate to Mom's hometown, where she hopes to keep her past hidden from her new friends, and takes meds for her condition. However, Rinn's new house hides secrets of its own. Rinn questions her sanity as strange things also happen at school. Her friends share the story of a girl who drowned in the school swimming pool years earlier. Are the bizarre events in the darkened tunnel Rinn's imagination, or is the dead girl still trapped inside the condemned building?

This gothic story reminded me of an old-school horror movie, complete with a seance, a ghost, and gruesome deaths. The beginning was a little slow, but once I learned about Rinn's history, I could identify with her. Her disorder gave the story a lot of tension, and I found myself unable to stop reading. I knew early in the story what was happening and why, but there was enough happening to the characters that I didn't care. I wanted to know what ordeals they would face. Again, just like an old high school horror flick. 

I enjoyed the story immensely, and look forward to more by this author. This is a fun, creepy read with an interesting protagonist. 

Reviewer copy provided by Bloomsbury and Netgalley.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Retreat, retrench, refresh

This is why writers retreat.

The picture above is from a recent trip I took with members of my writing group, the local chapter of Romance Writers of America. As you can see, we were entrenched in a lodge in the Ozark Forrest (though far from roughing-it with Jacuzzis, a gourmet kitchen, wi-fi, etc) where our cell phones had no signal.

We talked publishing, love, and life, and had a great time joking inappropriately.

Most of us were able to do loads of writing and revising while we there for the QUIET weekend, away from our jobs, kids, and partners.

Today, I'm spending my Saturday the way I usually do, at my regular writing cave in a cabin on the river. It's beautiful here, and I'm happy to have the time off from my day job for writing. Unfortunately, QUIET doesn't describe my morning. A man on a red tractor is circling the cabin, mowing the area...loudly...for the past three hours. In fact, the only thing louder than the mower drowning out the sounds of the birds is my hubby's snoring in his recliner, just a few feet from my writing spot.

So writerly folks, take note: this is why we should allow ourselves a retreat. If I accomplish little writing today, at least I can look back at my retreat and know I banked a few extra hours for this very reason. Now, where is my calendar? I need to plan a new retreat.

(photo by the awesome Megan M. Mitcham)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Fandemonium: Teen Talk Tuesday

Earlier this week and for the very first time, I purchased concert tickets to see my teen idols, Duran Duran, on stage.


Yes, that was me you heard screaming across the country. Today they're as old as dirt, but they were my everything when I was ## years old. (I'm still half in love with the bassist, but don't tell my hubby!) I literally papered my entire bedroom with posters of them, and I'm sure some marketer somewhere had me on his radar. I bought everything there was to buy!

This lead me to this week's questions for a few of my students:

Which celebrity are you a fanatic for, and on a scale of "casual interest" to "Stalker", where do you see yourself?

The first celebrity named was Ke$ha.

"Alex," 16, said she loved Ke$ha and owns all her songs. She rated herself a 4 on a "1 to STALKER" scale.

Next, Chris Brown.

"Mya," 14, rated her fandemonium for Chris Brown as a 6. She loves all his songs.

And finally, Carrie Underwood.

"April," 14, rated herself a 7 on the fan scale. She has all her songs.

And a 4th student said she didn't consider herself a fanatic for any single celebrity.
None of these students admitted to spending much money on their favorites, but they were all very emphatic about their listening preferences. Word, writers! Music is a key part of a teenager's life.

As always, my students love to answer your questions. If you want a teen perspective about most anything, post your question as a comment and I'll share their response.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Unforgettable Villains

Recently, Masterpiece Theater aired a version of Charles Dickens' The Mystery of Edwin Drood. I generally like Dickens because of his fantastic characters and dark Gothic themes. I wasn't familiar with Drood, but I was pleasantly surprised by the villain of the tale. He's not an entirely unsympathetic character. He seems to feel genuine remorse for his evil actions. The viewer eventually learns his motivations, and, not to spoil the story, I'll just say they're believable. Good book characters usually aren't born bad, but if they're written well, they become unforgettable villains because something in their lives has helped to corrupt them.

Some of my favorite literary villains have some redeeming quality or remorse for their wicked ways. Here are just a few of my picks: Ebenezer Scrooge, Frankenstein's monster, Othello, Dorian Gray, Professor Snape,  Richard III, and Grendel's mother--hey, as a mom, I can empathize. Who else is unforgettable?


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Teen Talk Tuesday: Prom

Our school's prom was a couple of weeks ago. I usually attend as chaperone--yeah, I love to buy  dresses!--but I skipped this time. I asked a couple of students for a breakdown of what it was like this year.

Me: There's usually a rumor that someone's going to spike the punch, but not this year?
Maurice 17: There were teachers standing around the table. I don't think anyone could.

Me: What were the memorable dances?
Maurice: Cha-Cha Slide and Cupid Shuffle

Me: What about the music? What else did the DJ play?
Shelly 17: Not as good as last year. Some hip hop, some country. They only played two slow songs, so I didn't dance much.

(Note from the chaperone's perspective: The DJ is usually asked to only play two slow songs because of the PDA. )

My students said that after 10:30, the atmosphere started getting dull, and people started leaving in droves. The after-prom destination for most was IHOP. (Yeah, we're just cool like that!!)

Except for the music, the dances, or the fashions...prom hasn't changed all that much over the years.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Cartoon Character Crushes

Confession: I once loved a skunk. Yeah, he was stinky, but he spoke with a French accent. What can I say?

My favorite human cartoon crush was Gambit from the Xmen, who had a Cajun accent. Hmm. Maybe there's a trend here. A lot of the characters from my books have accents, too.

Can you guess my next favorite? No accent, but I have one word for a clue: ASCOT

Who's you favorite cartoon character crush?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Something More Than Friends: Teen Talk Tuesday

Today some of my students share their secret feelings. One Teen Talk Tuesday commenter asked, "Have you ever had a girl (or a boy) as a friend and considered them as something more?"

Here's a sampling of what my students had to say:
Tim (18): Never have. My friends are just my friends.

Don (16): Yes. I asked her out. We went out a while. Then we went back to being friends.

Tiffany (13): Yes. I never told him! Other people got in the way. He started going out with someone, but I sometimes wish I'd told him. We're still good friends.

Tami (14): Yes. When I told him I liked him, it made everything awkward. We didn't ever go out. We're still friends but not as close.

Molly (14): Yeah, I told him I liked him, but we didn't talk as much. We started going out, but things were different. After we broke up, the friendship went back to the way it was before.

Kelly (16): I was friends with this guy, and we started to like each other. We talked more and more at school. Then we started talking on Facebook, and he came over to my house. We went out for a while. After we broke up, we stayed friends. If I started to feel like that with another friend, it could happen again.

As always, my students love to answer your questions. If you want a teen perspective about most anything, post your question as a comment and I'll share their response.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Meet Author Lisa Amowitz!

Today I'm so honored to have new YA author Lisa Amowitz as a guest on my blog. I've gotten to know Lisa over the past several days, and I've discovered she's one brilliant, funny, sweet chick. I put my blog in her hands for a revamp with very little guidance--I think I asked for something like "True Blood" without all the sex--and I got the amazing results you see now!
I know y'all will like her as much as I do. Here's what Lisa had to say when I interviewed her:

Tell us about your book.
This is a draft of the text for the back cover of Breaking Glass, due out from Spencer Hill Press in Spring 2013: On the night seventeen-year-old Jeremy Glass winds up in the hospital with a broken leg and a blood alcohol level well above the legal limit, his secret crush, Susannah, disappears. When he begins receiving messages from her from beyond the grave, he's not sure whether they're real or if he's just succumbing to the Glass family "crazy gene". Clue by clue, he gets closer to unraveling the mystery, and soonrealizes he must discover the truth or wind up the next victim.

What was your inspiration?
It started with a boy who was an unreliable narrator, an individual who’s perspective is somewhat warped by his insistence on seeing only what he wants to see and believing only what he wants to believe. It just seemed like an interesting premise—a love-struck boy, so obsessed with his crush that he is blind to reality, who is then forced to unravel a mystery in a town where nothing is what it seems.

The town of Riverton, which is nearly a character in the book, is based loosely (as far as its physical appearance) on the real town of Croton-on-Hudson (population 7,000), 45 minutes north of the New York City border in Westchester County. It has the same creepy twisting roads, the reservoir, the Gorge and also borders the Hudson River. Croton is a former Communist stronghold, so it’s populated by an interesting variety of quirky characters. I know the town well because our good friends live there and we once spent the summer in the area. It’s quite beautiful, tranquil and country-like, yet with a metropolitan vibe.

If you could cast a movie of your book, who would be the main characters?
Oh dear. Kids grow up so fast. How could I possibly guess who would be the right age at the right time? The only individual I can think of who actually looks a bit like Jeremy Glass in my mind, is not really the person I’d choose to play the part. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that Jeremy looks a lot like Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers! But he doesn’t sing and is a lot more surly. Beyond that, the only person I could cast for sure would be the father of his best friend Ryan, the horrible Patrick Morgan, Jeremy’s nemesis and tormenter. I’d go with Ed Harris—he has just the right cold blue eyes and fake smile when he wants to charm you. That’s all I can come up with! In my mind my characters look like real people, not movie stars, so that may be part of the problem. Breaking Glass is no Twilight!

What made you decide to be a writer?
I’ve always been an artist, identified myself as an artist (we’ll talk about that more when I answer the next question), but yet I wrote-poetry, stories, bad songs. I always scored high in English. It was an ability I pretty much took for granted, a handy tool for bluffing my way through school so I hadmore time to do art. Fast forward umpteen years—when I decided I was finally (after, at long last I had achieved tenure in my professor job) going to write, it was simply so that I could have something to illustrate. I jotted down character information on some index cards and the next thing I knew, I’d become completely obsessed. It took me three years to finish that first book and it was a hot mess. But, by then, I had joined a critique group and had learned so much. And that was that. Now six books (yes, I four unpublished books in the dust heap and have completed an entire first draft since Breaking Glass. Icurrently have three more in the works) later, there’s no turning back.

Tell us about teenage Lisa!
Oh my. In my mind I was this dark, moody, sulky girl. The Art Girl could always be found in the Art room with her nose buried in whatever she was painting. But oddly, when I’ve asked people I knew in high school they seemed to have known a different Lisa. You were always smiling, I’m told. For real? I remember myself as shy and awkward and obsessive—either over music, abook, a movie or a boy. Let’s put it this way—I survived, and I guess I’m still writing about it in one way or another.

What books are your favorites?
I am a huge fan of the Hunger Games. I read the series before the big uproar and waited on line in the summer of 2010 to meet Suzanne Collins at the Oblong Bookstore in Millerton, NY. I also ADORE the Patrick Ness Chaos Walking series. And I live in wait, impatiently, for the next Cassandra Clare book from either the Clockwork Prince series or the Mortal Instrument series whatever it may be. Fortunately the woman is an industry, churning out two fat tomes a year. C’mon, Cassandra—Lisa’s Kindle is HUNGRY. Lately I’ve been exploring ebooks and less well-known authors. I recently downloaded the free ebook, Daimon, from Jennifer Armentrout, who is also published by Spencer Hill Press. I think I may have found a new favorite author!

If you could beanything else besides a writer, what would you be?
A rock star, of course.

Let Lisa know what you think & visit her at

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My New Blog Look !!!!

...via fantastic YA author, graphic designer, and illustrator Lisa Amowitz! I won a blog makeover on her site, and wow, what a prize!! I'm so amazed at how she captured exactly what I was looking for.

What do you think?

Lisa also designs book covers and teaches graphic design. Visit her blog for more examples. I'll bet you'll be as impressed as I was. Thanks a million, Lisa!


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Guys & YA Romance: Teen Talk Tuesday

You've seen it written on his face: the awkward moment when a boy is reading a book that's  become too mushy and romantic to his taste. This week we're learning more about the "ick" factor for guys.

One Teen Talk Tuesday commenter asked, "How much romance is acceptable to boys in YA dystopian or fantasy? And does the sex of the narrator make a difference?" Here's what three of my male students had to say:

      Ben, 18: I'd rather there be no romance at all in the fantasies I read. If there's a steady romance going on throughout the book, I don't want to read it at all. I guess if it's off and on, that's okay. But if there's going to be romance involved sometimes, I'd rather it be in the boy's voice.

     Max, 18: I don't like novels with several sex scenes or lots of moments with kissing or sexual feelings. But I think even fantasy novels need SOME romance to keep them real. They can have a little emotion on each page and I'd be okay with that. Just no heavy stuff. It doesn't matter to me if it has a male or female narrator.

    Lance, 15: There's usually not any romance in the fantasies I read. If there was, I wouldn't be able to read a book where half of every page is about the romance. Whether the narrator is a boy or a girl doesn't make a difference to me.

As always, if you have any questions you'd like me to ask my students, please post them in the comments. The kids are eager to share their wisdom! Next week, a commenter's request on Teen Talk Tuesday: Something More Than "Just Friends."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Jocks & Geeks: Teen Talk Tuesday

Some of the same old cliques still exist in high school that were around twenty years or more ago. Depending on the community, culture, and environment, cliques revolve around everything from country clubs to farming, and from sports to art. In my school, there's a definite divide between the athletes and the rest. So where do book readers fit in?

Not ALL the time, but frequently, readers in my school are labeled as geeks or nerds. In keeping with the sports theme I promised for this week, I've interviewed student-athletes about their reading habits and about what gives reading the "geek" stigma.

From the perspectives of two cheerleaders, a boxer, and two basketball players, I was told there is a stigma around reading. The athletes I spoke with were all very confident about their reading habits, and weren't concerned by what others thought. When asked if they were ever teased by their peers for reading, they all said they were (except for the boxer! HA!), but that they weren't bothered by teasing. For one reason, their friends were doing the teasing, and it's all in good humor. For another, the athletes didn't feel the need to hide their books or cover the fact that they enjoyed reading. I was very glad to hear one player remark that he defends his reading by telling his friends that "at least he's doing something to make himself smarter!" The only complaint any of the athletes had was one who wished he had more time to read, because he said sports takes away a lot of his time.

My hope is more of these athletes take a similar attitude and that they know they're in a position to influence others in a positive way by enjoying great books.

As always, if you have any questions you'd like me to ask my students, please post them in the comments. The kids are always eager to share their wisdom! Next week, a commenter's request on Teen Talk Tuesday: romance in YA from a boy's point of view.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Teen Talk Tuesday: School Sports

Our school had Presidents Day off, so we're taking this Tuesday off from the blog, as well. We'll be back next Tuesday addressing school sports. Our senior girls' and boys' basketball teams are in the Regional Basketball Tournament, so there's sure to be a lot of high emotions this week. I'll be asking student athletes for their thoughts about athletics in general. Do their friends treat them differently when the team wins or loses? Is it hard to face parents after a loss? What's the hardest thing about being a cheerleader?

If there's anything you'd like me to ask a basketball player or a cheerleader, let me know and I'll pass it along (Get it? I'll "pass it" along. I made a funny, right? Right.) Then I'll post their responses next week on Teen Talk Tuesday. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happily Ever Afters

I married my high school sweetheart as a teenager a long, long time ago, so if anybody asks, I do believe in love, in soulmates, successful relationships, in Destiny, and of course in Happily Ever Afters.

So, keeping that in mind, I expect the books I read to have a happy ending, too. Always! Simply "satisfying" doesn't cut it. I don't care what changes the characters make along the way, if they're not totally stoked with their significant other by the end, I'm ready to throw the book. UNLESS...the book is part of a series. In fact, some of my favorite YA books end with a cliffhanger and doubts about the couple's HEA, but I'm assuming the couple will get there eventually. At least they BETTER or else, authors! Diana Gabaldon's Outlander, Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices series, and several more come to mind. These are the stories I love and devote many hours of my life to.

What are your favorite HEA's?

Teen Talk Tuesday: Happy Valentine's Day!

What do today's teens think about Valentine's Day? Is it romantic, or no? Fun or disappointing? 

To start today's Teen Talk Tuesday, I got some students' views on Valentine's Day. The worst story I heard was from a boy who caught his girlfriend cheating on him on Valentine's Day. Another student told me about the awful time when she'd thought her mom had forgotten to send her something to school and how it always breaks her heart to see her classmates sad that special day when nothing arrives for them. What did they most enjoy getting? Flowers and chocolates.

However, not all kids hope for presents. Some find the holiday overated. One of my seniors said he dislikes Valentine's altogether because he's "not romantic in the least." Just as adults often complain about the commercialism of holidays, one boy said the holiday was too expensive, and another girl said she hated seeing so much red and pink together.  Not surprisingly, most of my teens mentioned that being single on Valentine's Day sucked.

What did they like the most about the holiday? The majority of both girls and guys said "being part of a couple in love."

Do you have something you want to know from a teen's perspective? Post your question, and we'll get back to you with their answer.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Teen Talk Tuesday: Boys & Books

Teen Talk Tuesday is now in its third week. The students have been very helpful and are always willing to answer your questions throughout the school day. If you have a question for the teens, please post it in the comments. We look forward to hearing from you!

Last week a commenter wanted to know what books the boys in my library preferred: genres, titles, authors, fiction vs. nonfiction. So here's a random sample from young men I interviewed as they came in this week. Remember, the names are changed to protect the innocent.

Todd (a junior): prefers High Fantasy and "absolutely no other genres." His favorite series is Adventurers Wanted by M.L. Forman, and his favorite author is Robert Jordan.

Colby (senior): prefers non-fiction but has "no specific titles or authors." For fiction, he prefers Dystopian. His favorite fiction titles are The Eleventh Plague, Tales of a Madman Underground, and Looking for Alaska.

Kevin (sophomore): prefers Humor and Graphic Novels. His favorite series is the Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Nate (junior): prefers Paranormal, Mysteries, and Adventures. His favorite series are Vladimir Tod and The Edge Chronicles.

Sean (junior): prefers Realistic Drama. His favorite author is Coe Booth, and he says he will always read anything by her.

Ken (senior): prefers Dystopian. His favorite is The Hunger Games, but he says he also enjoyed Legend. His favorite author is Darren Shan.

Andre (freshman): prefers non-fiction books on basketball. His favorite series is the Guinness Book of World Records, and he has no favorite author.

What would you like to know from a teenager's perspective?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Super Senses

Every super hero has one. Superman and Spiderman had several. On USA's Psych, one of my fave TV shows, there's a running gag about Gus's "supersniffer" and its amazing ability to detect scents.

Over the years as a librarian, I've sometimes noticed a single student in a large group will complain about something random: a chair being too hard, the room temperature too hot or cold, a smell or a sound that no else notices or can identify. It's no joke. Some people are more sensitive than others. My husband's super sense is his sense of hearing. It's spooky how he can recognize songs or singers by only listening to a couple of notes. He can even predict what song will be playing next on the radio with surreal accuracy.

However, almost everyone has a dominant sense. My strongest sense (not so super) is my sense of touch, so I find myself describing textures in great detail in my writing. In my last book, my heroine's strongest sense was her sight, which came in handy for her as an artist. Maybe the next MC could have a dominant sense of taste. I'd have to sample a lot of goodies for research, of course! Don't know what your dominant sense is? There are some nifty quizzes online, including some to see if you're compatible with your partner based on your dominant senses.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Teen Talk Tuesday: Trends

Last week was the debut of Teen Talk Tuesday, and I just wanted to share how much the participating students enjoyed it. They were so excited to see your questions and seemed eager to impart their knowledge of all things teen.

The kids were able to answer most of the questions posted on the blog last week, but we saved two questions for this week:
1. Popular clothing brands
     The kids listed the following labels and stores as being trendy: Nike Jordan shoes, Polo, American Eagle, Hollister, Toms shoes, and Abercrombie. For less expensive labels, they named Rue 21 and Forever 21. (One young lady said she didn't care which store her clothes came from, and left her mother to choose her styles for her.)

2. E-books vs Print books
     Students with e-readers at our school unanimously preferred reading print books over e-books. However, they emphasized that they loved Kindles for the other features.

Writers, what would you like to ask the teens this week? Please post your burning question as a comment, and I'll pass it along to my students who are sure to know the answer!!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Breaking Stereotypes and the Use of Physical Traits

Our doorbell rang one day last week, and my husband found a brawny, 6'4" one-eyed ex-convict on our doorstep. You can imagine our initial thoughts when the man (I'll call him Joe) offered to do work around our house. Joe's heartfelt request for work impressed my hubs, however, who sympathized. Parolees have to pay for their ankle bracelets or go back to jail, and Joe also needed cash to support his ex-wife and kids. With that in mind, we decided to take a risk on hiring Joe, because like he told us, who else in our small town would hire "a 300 lb black ex-con wearing an eyepatch and an ankle bracelet?!!!" Within minutes of hiring him to paint our house (for a fraction of what a pro would charge), he rounded up an unemployed woman picking up pecans and 2 more random guys off the street to help him for a cut of his pay. Just like that,  Joe became a boss (and a hero) to several good folks who also needed a break. Under his supervision, the motley crew did such a fantastic job on our house that several of our neighbors hired Joe. They love his work so far.

If I had written Joe as a character before I got to know him, I probably would've cast him as an antagonist. All too often, we create stock characters based on physical traits and stereotypes. Cliches are boring! The lesson I learned from my new friend is that characters are far more interesting when they break the mold, and even ex-cons can sometimes be angels.

Thanks to those who posted questions on my first TEEN TALK TUESDAY. My students were excited to answer your questions and were very delighted to help writers. We hope you'll join us next week for more Q & A with the teens!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Announcing...Teen Talk Tuesday

Managing a library media center and sponsoring a teen book club, I'm smack-dab in the middle of drama every day: boyfriend/girlfriend fights, breakups, mean girls, rebels, and--oh God, the issues. But I wouldn't want to work anywhere else. It's the work environment I love best. I order books the kids want, and my students recommend books I'd like to read, too. It's a wonderful, symbiotic situation. 

Writers' blogs are symbiotic, as well. We share tips and expect that others will pass it forward. With this thought in mind, I've decided to stop hoarding my trove of teen culture experts to myself. I'm declaring every Tuesday from here forth to be Teen Talk Tuesday. I'll choose a question to pose to my students and then I'll post their anonymous response on the blog. Possible topics could include: clothes, social norms, slang, how they would respond to a given situation, dating advice, friendship, etc. 

****WARNING: This could get ugly!!*******

If you've got a question, fire away.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Wild at Heart Contest

Recently, I attended a retreat with five other writers from my local RWA chapter at a place called Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. The experience was wonderful, as retreats usually are, but this one was different. Each morning we were treated to the soul-stirring sounds of beautiful cats in the nearby sanctuary. When we talked with one of the leaders of the refuge, she shared the most heartbreaking stories an animal-lover would ever hear. How these lovely animals were "adopted" as pets by owners who eventually couldn't abide or handle their special needs in an average they were abused...or how they were left to die. The refuge provides a wonderful place for these cats to go when no one else can help. They give them food, shelter, medical care, and their hearts.

My chapter, Diamond State Romance Writers, is offering an opportunity for writers to help these cats. Please read more below to see how you can help. ---Sandi

Wild at Heart
Editor: Delilah Devlin
Publisher: Diamond State Romance Authors
Deadline: April 1, 2012

Wild at Heart is open to all authors.

Editor Delilah Devlin is looking for stories for a special project to benefit the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge.

Recently, six Diamond State Romance Author chapter members spent a weekend falling in love with the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge and its exotic inhabitants. The refuge is home to large cats and a variety of exotic animals that would otherwise have to be put down because they aren’t suitable for placement in zoos or to be returned to the wild. The need for financial support was apparent. Our chapter decided to pool its resources and find a way to help.

What we propose is to produce a volume of short stories, all centred around animals in need of refuge. All proceeds from the sales of the book will go directly to the Turpentine Creek Refuge. We will edit the submissions, seek professional cover art and formatting, and assist the refuge by uploading the anthology to online bookstores like Amazon’s Kindle store and Barnes & Noble’s Nook store. Additionally, we will help upload the book to CreateSpace so that printed volumes can be available for sale in brick-and-mortar bookstores throughout Arkansas and inside the refuge’s shop.

This is a national call for submissions of short stories to be donated for the cause. Only the best stories will be accepted. All genres of fiction (contemporary and paranormal, sweet adult romance and Young Adult) will be considered. Please keep in mind that stories must be PG-rated as the book will be two-sided—one side geared toward adult readers and the other toward teenaged readers.

Examples of the kinds of stories we seek:

A maimed Iraqi war veteran learns to accept his disability by working with equally damaged animals
A teenaged girl helps a were-cougar hide his true nature while both hunt for an escaped cat
A teenaged couple encounters a tiger escaped from its private owner’s cage and work together to find help to capture and care for it
A pushy animal psychic must gain the trust of the refuge’s veterinarian to help a depressed bear
A troubled teenager discovers a tiger living in a national forest, then seeks a way to prevent locals staging a hunt from killing it
How to submit: Prepare your 1,500 to 4,000 words story in a double-spaced, Arial, 12 point, black font Word document with pages numbered (.doc, NOT.docx) OR rich text format. Indent the first line of each paragraph half an inch and double space (regular double spacing, do not add extra lines between paragraphs or do any other irregular spacing). US grammar (double quotation marks around dialogue, etc.) is required.

In your document at the top left of the page, include your legal name (and pseudonym if applicable), mailing address, and 50 word or less bio in the third person to If you are using a pseudonym, please provide your real name and pseudonym and make it clear which one you’d like to be credited as. Authors may submit up to 2 stories.

About the editor: Ms. Devlin has published over one hundred stories in multiple genres and lengths. Her published print titles include Into the Darkness, Seduced by Darkness, Darkness Captured, Down in Texas, Texas Men and Ravished by a Viking. Her short stories are featured in Zane’s Purple Panties, and Cleis Press’s Lesbian Cowboys, Girl Crush, Fairy Tale Lust, Lesbian Lust, Passion, Carnal Machines, and Dream Lovers. She is published by Avon, Kensington, Harlequin, Atria/Strebor, Ellora’s Cave, Samhain Publishing, and Berkley. In Fall 2011, she debuted her first anthology with Cleis Press, Girls Who Bite.

Direct any questions you have regarding your story or the submission process to Delilah at