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  


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.

i see you, new idea, so shiny and proud of yourself

Here is what writing is like for me: I come up with an idea that I really like – yes, the story starts in Salem, on Halloween weekend! And the main character has a weird run-in with a creepy old witch lady…yeah, yeah, this sounds good. So I write and write and then when I go back and revise, Salem and that witch lady prove unnecessary. And the character’s past isn’t quite right. And her friends, who I like a lot, also aren’t quite right. And her secrets are interesting but need to be developed. And that big reveal that takes place on page 80? That should happen on page 5.

Also, a word on IDEAS. Ideas are terrific, yes. It’s very exciting and inspiring to come up with a really great idea. But ideas are a penny a pushcart. What’s worth something is actually ACTING on that idea and writing it down. Yes, J.K. Rowling came up with a great idea: a boy who goes to magic school (not that she was the first to come up with this idea) but we wouldn’t be so jazzed about it if she hadn’t WRITTEN IT DOWN in a way that was compelling and interesting. To be honest, when I first heard about Twilight I thought “She can’t write about a vampire falling in love with a human girl, that’s so Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That’s been done.” But guess what: who cares if it’s been done? As long as the story is going to be told again in a completely different way, you can make it new and fresh. You can make it your own.

So, yes, ideas are great. But don’t get too hung up on your ideas. Right now, a penguin is mulling over an idea that could, if written, win a Pulitzer prize. But if it’s never written, what’s the use?

A review of The King’s Rose on the Damsels in Regress blog:

Published in: on July 21, 2010 at 4:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

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)  

yup, I need to blog about The Tudors…

This season of The Tudors, my dear Catherine Howard was up at bat. I was really hesitant to watch it, due to my proprietary feelings about King Henry’s fifth queen. But curiosity got the better of me, and now I need to share my thoughts with you.

The first few episodes of this season struck the right chords: Henry’s infatuated with this pretty little thing (played by Tamzin Merchant) who revels in the luxury of being queen but has no freaking idea what she’s just got herself into. The costumes are divine, down to the jewelry on the new queen’s fingers. And I loved the great big unicorn statue standing in the middle of the hall when Catherine is first introduced. Henry knew how to throw a great banquet; apparently he even invited mythical creatures.

However, I thought some decisions ultimately robbed Catherine’s story of it’s dramatic power. When she was introduced at the end of the previous season she acted far too bold, too sexually brazen. When King Henry talks about the purity and virtue of his new wife, it’s in ironic terms. In my research, Henry was enticed by her innocence – hence his despair when he learns it was all a farce, and that she had played him for a fool before the entire court.

Also, with the slightly-aged but still trim and very good-looking Jonathan Rhys Meyers playing King Henry, we lose some of the embarassment (or amusement) the court may have felt watching their 50-year-old king dote on his new young bride. Meanwhile, Thomas Culpeper desires the queen, physically, but seems to hate her every time she speaks.

While I enjoy The Tudors, I was disappointed that Catherine’s story lacked tension. King Henry was already getting bored with her before he learned of her checkered past – the revelation of which shouldn’t have been so surprising. And I was getting bored with her, too. A Catherine who is unpolitical and unschooled in the ways of court is fine with me. A Catherine who is too busy giggling to experience substantial fear gets to be a bit of a bore. But I realize that I’m probably overly critical, for (I think) obvious reasons.

Published in: on June 2, 2010 at 10:43 pm  Comments (3)  

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.

TBF Live (next weekend)

One conference down, another to go! Next weekend I’m trekking up to Rochester, New York for the Teen Book Festival. I’m nervous but also super excited – it sounds like a fantastic festival and I’m really honored to have been invited. I just hope I don’t pass out from public speaking anxiety. That said, I’ve been meaning to do a round-up of books written by authors I’ll be meeting next weekend at the Festival.

This is the perfect time of year to read Bewitching Season – it’s Spring, people are just finishing up school and in need of something fun. This book is a gorgeous mix of Victorian lace and pearls, petticoats and princesses…and a little magic to add extra spice to the festivities. I’m a sucker for reading about ladies donning their gowns for “the season”, let alone girls who can mutter a few phrases and have magic shoot from their fingertips. Awesome.

I also read The Tear Collector by Patrick Jones – a fascinating re-imagining of the vampire legend. The main character is rather cold, distant, inhuman; a challenge to write and so interesting to read. I also read (finally) the first book in The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black – I love how tough and troubled these kids are; they seem like REAL KIDS.

Now I’m reading Evolution, Me, & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande, and I am utterly in love with it. I like to read a wide range of stuff, but I’ll admit that contemporary realistic fiction isn’t my “go-to” type of book. But when the writing is this good and the story this engaging, I’ll read whatever the author gives me. And there are puppies, people! Delightful puppies! And a most appealing guy friend whom the main character is trying not to like in “that way”. LOVE IT.

Other stuff I’m looking forward to reading: A Natural History of Dragons & Unicorns by Paul and Karin Johnsgard and Charity Girl by Michael Lowenthal. And about a million other things. And by the end of the month, when all of the dust of this conferencing has settled and I have some time off from work – back to my manuscript! I honestly can’t imagine what I will find.

Published in: on May 8, 2010 at 6:41 pm  Comments (1)  

musing on the muse

This weekend was the Muse & Marketplace conference at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. My session on Saturday went well – low attendance (so many amazing sessions with incredible authors…) but my small audience made up for it with great, insightful questions. On Sunday I went to a bunch of craft-related sessions, which are always my favorites at conferences. The highlight of the weekend – aside from meeting great people and signing some books – was author Ann Hood’s session “The Joys of Revision”, in which she detailed her own revision techniques, which involved “going out on a date with your book.” Her enthusiasm was so wonderful and infectious, she managed to make revision sound like so much fun, even if it is a lot of work.

I also took a walk around town during a break on Saturday…and, low and behold, there was a carousel in Boston Common, which was unusual. I also strolled around Copley Square, past boys videotaping their friends doing skateboarding tricks, and found a group of teenagers huddled upstairs in a hidden nook in Trinity Church. Made me reminisce about my days lounging around an old castle in Holland. I wanted to yell up at them “I will probably write about you.”

I haven’t managed to read through the copious notes and new ideas generated at the conference…but I did manage to watch the first two episodes of the new season of The Tudors today: King Henry has introduced his newest wife, the young Catherine Howard, to court. And she’ll have fun fun fun…for a few more episodes.

Published in: on May 4, 2010 at 2:50 am  Leave a Comment