new blog! book giveaway!

I’m ready to direct you all to my new blog at where I will be posting from now on. Yes, it looks just like this wordpress blog, but it is hosted by my website. The new blog also has a “follow” option that wordpress doesn’t offer. And right now, I have no followers. How sad! How lonely this little blog must be!

Here is where you can help me out. Click on the link above and click the “Join this site” widget in the right hand menu. Sign up to follow my blog, and you will be entered into a FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY! Here is what I have for you, so far:

Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Nothing Like You by Lauren Strasnick
Her and Me and You by Lauren Strasnick (hardcover)

And, of course, signed copies of The King’s Rose and The Blood Confession.

Just go to and follow the blog. I’ll give these books (and maybe more) away to some lucky followers. And I promise to write informative posts about writing and publishing and the whole shebang. And if I’m not feeling entertaining I’ll post a muppet video, or some other nonsense. Anything to keep you happy. It’s a win-win.

Published in: on December 13, 2010 at 6:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

vampires are immortal, see?

I read a post on Book Chick City, responding to Stephen King’s thoughts on vampires: that they should be evil, soulless killers, not the soft, non-killing types we’ve got parading around book shelves these days, batting their long eyelashes at the lady folk instead of sucking their blood. King is contributing to a new comic series, American Vampire, in which there will be lots of blood and not much eyelash-batting. It actually sounds pretty awesome.

Still, while the overly romanticized vamps are a bit toothless for my taste, I agree with Miss Book Chick; a little variety in the undead keeps things interesting, yes? It just shows the longevity of this creature in the human imagination that it can be reinterpreted in so many ways. In 20 years some book or movie will come around and we’ll be gaga for vampires all over again. But I bet those vampires will look different–not the kind that we’re accustomed to from King or Anne Rice or Stephanie Meyer. It will be a new twist on an old story; the fact that the vampire legend can have so many twists is what makes it fascinating to me. That’s immortality, baby!

And since we’re on the subject, here’s a hilarious comic strip version of Dracula, which made me laugh out loud (warning: some four-letter words are used):

So, what’s your favorite type of vampire? Sensitive and sexy? Deadly and dangerous? I vote for a mix of both – a vampire bad boy, still potentially deadly and filled with centuries of dark secrets. Still scary, even if there is a little romance thrown in, too. What about you?

Published in: on November 5, 2010 at 2:38 am  Comments (2)  
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Inspired by a post on the Enchanted Inkpot, as well as Halloween, I want to talk about monsters. I LOVE MONSTERS! I love reading about them and writing about them. Erzebet in The Blood Confession is about as monstrous as you can get – so obsessed with her own beauty that she’s willing to kill and bathe in her victim’s blood. In The King’s Rose I had some very different monsters to write about: King Henry, and – perhaps even more so – the dowager Duchess of Norfolk. I knew that whenever the Duchess swept into the room and appraised Catherine with her ice-cold eyes, sparks would fly.

As implied above, it’s the human-variety of monster that intrigues me the most. As for my favorite monster from literature, the first that came to mind was Carmilla, the titular character in J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s vampiric masterpiece. Carmilla’s monstrous identity is concealed behind a pretty, endearing facade. Carmilla’s affection for the main character makes her true nature that much more unsettling: they’re constantly walking arm and arm or whispering secret confidences. That’s awfully close proximity to a monster. And the blood-drenched nightmares “warning” the narrator still give me chills!

What about the monsters that are ourselves? I read Stephen King’s Carrie as a teenager, and I think it affected me so profoundly because the sad sack, depressed, troubled Carrie White was so sympathetic and repulsive – she was everything I feared I was, worthy of ridicule. What could be worse than our own fears about our true selves? And then, when she cracks and unleashes havoc on her tormenters – sweet revenge! Also, quite terrifying. The movie, in particular, scarred me at the age of thirteen.

Speaking of fears of self, I’m so glad that Ellen Booraem mentioned the Dementors and their connection to depression in the Inkpot post. This is much scarier than the scaly skin or eyeless faces: “Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself…soul-less and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.” (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)

And speaking of Potter, I love a monster that has a connection to our hero. Voldemort’s mind-connection to Harry manifests itself in terrifying dreams. Also, Harry fears that he inherited some of Voldemort’s powers during their first face-off. Likewise, Wilhelmina Harker carries the mark of Dracula (the bite marks on her neck, the burn of a holy sacrament on her forehead) which is both danger and boon – they use this connection to track Dracula down. But they must be wary of any changes in the brave Wilhelmina; the evil aspect taking over her otherwise pure soul.

This comes up in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, too: she’s the good guy, slaying vampires. But that makes her sort of magical, not like a normal human – and therefore maybe a bit more like her fanged enemies than she would like to admit. Could she really belong to the night, like the demons she slays?

So not only do I love a good monster – especially one in a human guise, with true evil lying beneath the surface – but I also love a hero with some monstrous aspects, as well. It’s all a metaphor for the human condition: there is the potential for true good or true evil in all of us. Sometimes the scariest thing on earth is the face staring back at you in the mirror. We could all be monsters, if only to ourselves.

book talk at Malden Public Library

I gave a book talk at the Malden Public Library this afternoon. It’s been a while since I did a book talk and I felt nervous. I talk for a while and then stare nervously at the audience, hoping they’ll have questions. And they did! Lots of questions! Terrific questions! Everything from what I like to write and read to what inspires me to my writing process. I hope the teenagers enjoyed it as much as I did. They were an impressive bunch. I only regret that I didn’t get a chance to ask them about writing. I sensed that there were a few poets in the crowd.

In other news, I’m still revising. Oh, wait, that’s not news at all! In fact, it’s the opposite of news: I’m still doing what I’ve been doing for weeks, now. But I feel like I need to report to this blog, so here it is: I wrote today. I can’t write anymore, I’m too tired. No, I don’t plan on chasing down any more vampires over the weekend – I plan to be good and stay home and write.

don’t mess with Sinestra bear

What could be better for an author than hearing from her readers? Um, nothing. That’s what.

Here is the beautiful Caitlin in her limited-edition The Blood Confession t-shirt:

The shirt reads “she bathes in the blood of virgins.” Sweet.

As if that wasn’t enough, Caitlin sent me a photo of her teddy bear. His name is Sinestra. He is, as stated above, not to be messed with. (Same goes for Caitlin).

This does a writer’s heart good. Seriously, it fills me with bravery as I stare at the pile of notes I’ve scrawled that I need to turn into a novel. THANK YOU, CAITLIN!!

Published in: on September 29, 2010 at 5:11 pm  Comments (1)  

What makes a book GOOD or BAD?

I finally listened to the “Summer Reads for Kids” episode of On Point that aired earlier this month. Visit the website to listen to the interview: It’s a great discussion which raised a lot of questions for me.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins came up in discussion. Interviewee Pete Cowdin felt that, though he enjoyed it, he considered it a “guilty pleasure” but not necessarily a good book. Theoretically I can see his point (though admittedly I really enjoyed it) but does that mean that all guilty pleasure books are inherently bad?

Huge blockbusters influence the entire publishing industry – we’re wading through mountains of paranormal romance novels about girls dating vampires, werewolves, zombies, pixies, demons, etc. I get irritated at the huge stacks of Twilight in big bookstores while so many other books aren’t getting much attention, or even a space on the shelves. Big sales certainly does not mean good writing and exemplary literature. But what is the criteria of great literature? I have my own ideas of what works for me, but that doesn’t mean that I know what deserves to be labeled a good or bad book. And if readers are to make up their own minds, is there really any use in making this distinction?

The market influences writers, too. I can’t imagine that SO MANY authors just happened to be writing about vampires in time to jump on the Twilight bandwagon – not that I blame them for doing so. In the NPR interview, Esme Raji Codell expressed the sentiment that children should come first for the author, not the marketplace. I agree: if every writer catered to the whims of the marketplace then publishing would stagnate – there would be no growth, no freshness. But if our readers are salivating for more indulgent, guilty-pleasure stories, how bad is it for us to indulge that desire if that is what we truly want to write?

Published in: on July 11, 2010 at 11:28 pm  Comments (4)  

busy week. lots of revising.

It’s been forever since my last post! I had a busy week at my day job and then sat down every night with my draft for a good hour or two. The Teen Book Festival – more specifically, the super-accomplished authors and amazingly enthusiastic readers at TBF – has lit my industrious-writer fire. I just hope that I can keep the flame burning.

I’ve been revising my Nanowrimo book. The book still doesn’t have an ending. I have an idea of what the ending should be, but I just haven’t written it yet. I really have to get to it this week. The longer I let it sit without an ending, the more difficult it will be to write. And if it’s lousy, at least I’ll have something to work with instead of just a blank page.

I do want to share more TBF photos. Vivian Vande Velde posted some great photos on her site: I’ll post more soon. Must get back to revising.

TBF Live 2010 (more photos to follow)

I’m back from the Teen Book Festival in Rochester, New York. It was amazing!

In the limo on the way to the Teen Book Festival, I  sat across from Laurie Halse Anderson and Robin Brande – two of my favorite YA authors. And it gets better, also at the festival: Mari Mancusi (wearing awesome shoes), Marissa Doyle, A.S. King, Amy Kathleen Ryan, Lisa McMann, Barry Lyga, Daniel Kirk, Holly Black, Matt de la Pena, and more…the longest list of authors they’ve ever had at TBF!

As we got closer to the school where the festival would be held, we were trying to get a look out the window to see Ellen Hopkins on a motorcycle with Terry Trueman in the sidecar (no, I’m not kidding – Ellen had “requested” this after last year’s festival and the brilliant organizers complied). Then I think it was Laurie who announced: “Oh my God! There’s a marching band!”

Yes, a marching band. Arrayed in white uniforms with sparkly blue sashes. And a color guard with blue flags. It was off the hook. We were then greeted by a cheering crowd, and a drum line played as we walked down the red carpet and into the school.

This doesn’t happen to YA authors very often, let me assure you.

And it gets even better: Marissa Doyle and I met our volunteer “handlers” for the day, who were amazing. (Here I am with two volunteers, Whitney and Molly). They had breakfast with us and answered any questions we had. First there was a rapid-fire Q&A with the whole crowd in the gymnasium (awesome) and then we were brought to our sessions.

And this brings me to my favorite part: the festival attendees. In every session, Marissa and I fielded great questions from the audience – different questions every time, both from teens who had read our books and others who were interested in historical fiction and history in general. (One reader asked what my favorite Edgar Allan Poe poem is – “Annabelle Lee!”). Their questions were insightful and interesting and engaging.

So here is my message, both to the organizers of the Teen Book Festival (especially the AMAZING Stephanie Squicciarini) their esteemed volunteers, and the attendees: YOU are the reason why I write young adult novels. YOU are the reason why writing young adult novels is so utterly cool, because there are readers out there this excited to read them. And I want to sit down now and write a book that you all will love to read, as my thank you for your enthusiasm. Seriously. I can not thank you thank you thank you enough.

red pen, song musings, links

I’ve been reading my Nano book on my morning commute, covering the pages with little (and numerous) scribbles in red pen. It’s sort of exciting. I just hope I can keep the excitement up throughout revision after the holidays are over. Must create a soundtrack for this book! If you have any suggestions – something dark, moody, rockish – I’m all ears. So far I’m thinking of Yoav’s “Wake Up”. I’ll let you know what else I come up with.

Here are some links I’ve been meaning to share:

Blog review of The Blood Confession:

Blog review of The King’s Rose:

My guest blog about my current reading habits was posted on this great blog:

Published in: on December 19, 2009 at 6:57 pm  Comments (1)  

every book has a theme song

I’m hesitant to prescribe a contemporary song to a historical novel, but the fact is that both of my books have theme songs. While I listened to more era/mood appropriate music while writing, I’ve already mentioned that “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones was definitely my theme for The Blood Confession.

I was inspired to write this post when the theme song for The King’s Rose snuck up on me earlier today: “The Other Side” by David Gray. It may seem an odd choice, but take a look at some of these lyrics and imagine it from Catherine to Henry:

Maybe I oughta mention
Was never my intention
To harm you or your kin
Are you so scared to look within
The ghosts are crawling on our skin
We may race and we may run
Well not undo what has been done
Or change the moment when its gone…

Something about the tone of this song always made me think of the end of the book. As much as The Mediaeval Baebes were my muse throughout the writing process, this is the song you should listen to once you’ve finished the book. I’ve found a live (and sort of long) version for you on

As for my current work in progress, I don’t think it has a theme song yet. But there are certainly a range of things that I listen to when I’m writing it or trying to get into the mode of writing. I was suffering some serious writer’s block when I started this book, so sitting down at the computer often became an uncomfortable experience. So instead of worrying about choosing music that would make me think about my character or the time period, I just put on music that I love, that makes me happy. And that, my friends, equates to David Bowie.

David Bowie close up

Published in: on September 5, 2009 at 8:10 pm  Comments (2)