Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gone fishing...

...well, not really :)

But we are going on vacation, which my wonderful husband planned, and then surprised me with it. And yes, I know how lucky I am. :)

We're leaving today and won't be back for a week. So, it's going to be a big quiet around here - and I just realized that this month's book giveaway is supposed to end while I'm gone. Since I won't be here to choose a winner, I'm going to extend the deadline to midnight, Sept 2nd. I'll announce the winner on Sept3rd. Then, the following week, I'll be back to my blogging schedule as usual.
In the mean time, happy reading/writing/etc to everyone!!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Discovering and the Revision Process

I’ve been revising a lot lately, so it’s been on my mind. Because of this, I think I’ve been noticing all the revising stuff that have been coming up in the virtual world lately. It’s funny how the brain takes notice when it sees something relevant, isn’t it? :)

Anyway, a lot of writers are asking about the best way to revise. They’re looking for specific ways of doing this, like cutting X number of words from the first draft, skipping over the first few chapters to where the story supposedly starts, or how to spot spelling and grammatical errors. And, really, it’s great that writers are looking for information. It shows a desire for growth. I just think they’re looking in the wrong place...

First of all, not everyone needs to automatically chop off the first three chapters. Some writers are very good at identifying the story’s true beginning. So if they cut out the first three chapters, they’d be cutting out essential pieces of the story. On that same note, some writers are sparse with words in their first drafts, focusing only on the bare bones of the story. Therefore, setting a goal of cutting words in the next draft is going to hurt rather than help. Instead, that writer needs to add flesh to the bones. Because of this, you need to identify what kind of writer you are before you start taking everyone’s advice.

Next, let’s look at what revision is, as well as what it’s not. Revision is looking at the content of your story to see if it’s telling itself in the best way possible. Once you’ve got that down, *then* you look at your choice of words, sentence structure, and spelling and grammatical stuff. In other words, once you’re finished revising, you polish your manuscript. It doesn’t make sense to polish before, or even during, revision.

So, how do you do this? Well, it’s not easy. And to make things even harder, there’s no formula, or exact way of doing it.

Just like your writing process, your revision process is unique to you – it depends greatly on what kind of writer you are. Do you just sit down and let your words take you on a ride? Do you plan meticulously, knowing every detail before you start writing your story? Somewhere in between?

I’m an in-between kind of writer, probably smack in the middle between ultimate exploration and ultimate planning. I need to know where I’m going, but I don’t want to know the details of how I’m going to get there – except for the beginning. Everything flows downhill, so I have to make sure I’m flowing from the right place, and that I have everything I need. I don’t like to be on a journey, constantly checking my pockets for stuff, and then getting mad when I don’t have it. So, I revise the first chapter heavily before I even move on to the second chapter. After that, I don’t revise much (only big stuff) until I’ve finished the entire draft. I guess you could say I’m sort of a revise-as-I-go kind of writer. With some exceptions.

But what if you’re not that kind of writer? That just means you have a different set of parameters when it comes to revision. Those parameters will be determined by how you wrote your first draft, so it’s impossible to create a comprehensive process that will work for everyone. Fortunately, there are parameters that everyone needs to incorporate in some way, shape, or form. Most are in the revision checklist I wrote last year, but here are two more.

All writers need distance from their work. Without it, we can’t obtain the necessary objectivity to see our work for what it is. Is it truly the masterpiece we thought when we wrote the first draft? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth fixing. Putting time and distance between you and your manuscript will let you see the areas that need work, as well as the areas that don’t need much work.

Big stuff before the small stuff.
Once you’ve finished a draft, take a good look at the overall story. Does it flow well? Is everything absolutely necessary? Is there enough tension? Does the story have the appropriate shape? Looking at these big pieces before you agonize over word choice will save you down the road. What if you spend weeks perfecting a scene, only to have to cut it in the end? After you’re happy with how the story fits together, then you can work on the smaller pieces.

There are other things you need, of course, and it depends greatly on what kind of writer you are. That said, no matter what kind of writer you are, your revising process is probably going to vary widely depending on your current project. I’ve written and revised four books so far – though it feels more like six, since I’ve rewritten and revised one of those books three times, basically starting from scratch each time. And, with each book, the writing and revision processes have been different. I imagine the same thing will happen with my next book, and the next, and the next, and so on. And, to me, that’s part of what keeps writing so interesting. :)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell

Plot Summary: Iris is ready for another hot, routine summer in her small Louisiana town, hanging around the Red Stripe grocery with her best friend, Collette, and traipsing through the cemetery telling each other spooky stories and pretending to cast spells. Except this summer, Iris doesn’t have to make up a story. This summer, one falls right in her lap. Years ago, before Iris was born, a local boy named Elijah Landry disappeared. All that remained of him were whispers and hushed gossip in the church pews. Until this summer. A ghost begins to haunt Iris, and she’s certain it’s the ghost of Elijah. What really happened to him? And why, of all people, has he chosen Iris to come back to?

This was another book that I picked up because I’d heard about it from multiple sources. I’m not really a ghost story fan, but I wanted to know why other people were talking about it. So I picked up a copy at my library.

This is a great story. The main character, Iris, is fourteen, and is on the cusp of growing up. She’s still playing at fairies and seeking out ghosts with her friend, Collette, and has no interest in boys. Iris’s journey toward growing up is gradual, believable, and incredibly strong. The author captures her teenage difficulties without over-the-top angst, put the two friends through growth strains without anyone getting too catty, and emerged with an Iris who’s ready to move to the next level in life. The confusion of growing up is captured really well.

The author happened to convey this through a ghost story, which I’ve already said is not what I gravitate toward. But I really liked this one. It had enough suspense without too much crazy ‘haunting’ stuff flying everywhere. Even the climax felt realistic, like it’s really possible for someone to be haunted in this way.

Also, the setting is amazing. It's palpable, and actually feels like a character in the story. The characters respond to it as well, with believable Southern speech and nuances. It’s clear this author has an incredible grasp of reality, and conveys it well to the reader. I’m definitely going to read more of her work.

My only complaint was I thought a couple things were missing from the ending, such as...

As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below.

I never got a clear picture as to why Elijah couldn’t rest. I see why he chose Iris, because of the connection to her father, and because of what was hidden in her room. But why wasn’t he able to rest? Given how he died, that confused me a bit. I know it’s hinted that he rose because of the ‘spell’ that Collette and Iris did in the graveyard, but it still felt like something was missing. Maybe that was just me, though.

Also, there needed to be just a little more about Iris’s arrest. It’s not that we need to know exactly how it’s resolved, but we do need to know more of her reaction to it. Especially her thoughts about how she’ll handle the possible outcomes.

Still, this was a great book with fantastic characters. Definitely recommended.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Interview with Cynthea Liu!

Today, we have an interview with Cynthea Liu, the highly energetic author of PARIS PAN TAKES THE DARE, THE GREAT CALL OF CHINA, and WRITING FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS: A CRASH COURSE. Her novels, PARIS PAN and CHINA, both debuted this year. Definitely a unique situation. And Cynthea is going to tell us all about it!

What was the inspiration behind each book?
PARIS PAN TAKES THE DARE started from a blank page without an outline or character sketch. Nothing. I had no any idea of what I was going to write.
Then a scene appeared in my head--a girl on her first day at a new school. From there, I found myself writing a lot about my own experiences as a child. My family. The dynamics of attending a small school in the middle of nowhere. And all those things a girl goes through - from first crushes to family crises.

THE GREAT CALL OF CHINA was written for an established series. So in many ways, I already knew what the plot was going to be - a romance, an adventure in a foreign land, a girl dealing with a personal struggle. The idea to write about an adopted teen was hinted at in a series concept letter from my publisher. I took it from there: 16-year-old Cece journeys to China in search of answers to her past. The story's theme was inspired by my own feelings about my heritage and Asian-American identity. The characters? Variations of teens I have met along the way.

WRITING FOR CHIDLREN AND TEENS: A CRASH COURSE was inspired by my intense desire to help other people, and help them avoid reinventing the wheel. After being online for some time, I realized how much misinformation there was out there. How confusing it was for a new writer to sort out all of the info that is out there. So I began freely dispensing the lessons I learned on my website ( and now, it's a physical book, too, for those people who can't stand sitting in front of the computer.

Can you tell us how PARIS PAN made it onto the shelves?
The journey to getting my first book published was a tough one! While some writers have the happy joy of whipping off a manuscript and getting it sold in mere weeks, my experience was quite the opposite. For those of you who want to know all the scary, juicy details, you can check out my friend-locked posts on You must be a friend to read them though. I don't just spill my guts to anyone, you know.

But here's the short of it:

PARIS PAN went on three submission rounds with my agent, was rejected 13 times by various editors, was revised FIVE times during the submission process. Rejected twice by the same house that ultimately acquired the book. After all those rejections, I was seriously thinking about getting a different career. But not long after the 5th revision, it went to auction, and I received a two-book-deal. Then THE GREAT CALL OF CHINA sold a couple of weeks after that.

After both books were bought, there was still a lot of work to be done. THE GREAT CALL wasn't finished (it was sold based on three chapters and an outline). Paris Pan still needed more revision. Four rounds, to be exact. And as the book was revised, it grew to 65K words. During the last round, I was asked to cut the manuscript by 20K words with a due date in 10 days. Now I know you all must be thinking, is the editor crazy?! No, I actually like my editor quite a bit and she understood the gravity of what she was asking as well. I saw the need for the cut, too---during the revision rounds, I kept thinking - how are we going to make this shorter? In the end, we worked it out together. And the manuscript came down by 10K. At the same time, I had to cut THE GREAT CALL by 10K. We got it down by 6K.

This isn't the first time I have stories like this from other authors. Large requests. Tight deadlines. So be mentally prepared. Try to keep a positive attitude (though some whining may be justified!)

What's it like to have two books released in the same year? Has it kept you insanely busy with promotion?
Yes, it's total insanity. Before THE GREAT CALL launch was barely over, the PARIS PAN one was about to begin. I don't think most people realize this, but what I do with my books is on the fly and really driven from, "Well, I need to do something! What would I like to do that would be fun?" and then what that turns out to be gets blown to epic proportions. A lot of writers believe what I do is planned way in advance, orchestrated down to the millisecond. But really? I can barely put together a grocery list, much less a promotion plan. Everything I do comes from my heart, not my head. Which is why I can be so passionate (and disorganized) about it!

I think a lot of people call me a marketing genius. Whatever they call it, I say, over and over again, what I do is not about selling books. It's about celebrating my books. Getting them in the hands of the kids they were meant for. Now that's something everyone can be excited about!

How did you get in to writing for kids?
I was working a corporate job in management consulting for about six years. I commuted for long hours. I was getting really snippy at work. To the point I even asked to be laid off when everyone was making cutbacks. They wouldn't lay me off so I quit, knowing that i would never get out of it if I didn't proactively make a change.

I needed to do something different. I had always enjoyed animated films like Toy Story and The Little Mermaid, etc. so I recognized I had a child-like aspect to my personality. I even talked about writing an animal story once when I was in college. After I quit my corporate job, I explored the idea even further and found SCBWI. I picked up a few books on writing, then got to work. I completed my first novel within a month (oh, the joy of not realizing how bad you're writing is!) and read some of it during the SCBWI-LA conference to a critique group (where I knew no one). Based on that experience, I realized that I wasn't as bad as I thought I was. Nor was I the best. And fortunately, for me, I got to know Tammi Sauer, a more senior writer than my sorry newbieness, nd she realized I'm a great critiquer. And I realized that she is great writer. We could learn a thing or two from each other. We became critique partners, and the rest is history!

How often do you write, and how much do you write in one sitting?
When I'm writing, I usually write in 4 hour chunks. After about four hours of really intense writing, everything that comes out after that is usually drivel. Though when I was revising my books for my publisher, I wrote non-stop. Quite frankly, I don't know how I did it - creatively - like how my brain didn't just quit and put up a CLOSED sign. I think adrenaline must have kicked in and taken over for me.

What are you working on now?
Right now I am working on finalizing school visits for this upcoming school year, wrapping up details from my PARIS PAN launch which raised $15,000 for a Title I school in my home state (whoot!). As for books, my next work is a more serious teen novel that I am really excited about!
How much do you read, and what are you reading now?
It's so embarrassing. I haven't even finished reading the final version of my own book yet. There's just no time.

Don't you know what's in your own book?

I do, but not entirely. We made a lot of changes at the end and now I can't remember what we went with. So the book I am reading now is PARIS PAN TAKES THE DARE. How do you like that?
Thanks so much for sharing all this with us!
Thanks for having me, Tabitha!

To see more of what Cynthea is up to, visit her website at She would also love to hear from you at her blog, Or, see what she's doing on No matter where you go, it'll be interesting. She's always doing something fun. :)

For a chance to win PARIS PAN or GREAT CALL OF CHINA, go here and follow the instructions to enter. The contest ends a week from saturday, so good luck!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Chicago Air and Water Show

Like last year, the planes and jets in the Chicago Air and Water Show flew over our house! Last year, my husband got some great photos with a normal-sized camera and lens. This year, he had a huge telephoto, which got these amazing, up-close-and-personal shots.

This was taken over the trees that are taller than our roof. They did some really cool loops, all while staying in formation.

I really like this one. You can see the pilot inside the cockpit, and it looks like it's just releasing that smoke, or steam, or whatever, out the back. Though I think it had been going for quite some time.

This one is my husband's favorite, and I can totally see why. We enlarged this picture on our computer screen at home, and you can see the pilot looking at us! The kids were on the roof waving (and also covering their ears, even though we put cotton in them), so he probably got a kick out of that.

I'm looking forward to next year!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Season by Sarah MacLean

Plot Summary: Seventeen year old Lady Alexandra is strong-willed and sharp-tongued -- in a house full of older brothers and their friends, she had to learn to hold her own. Not the best makings for an aristocratic lady in Regency London. Yet her mother still dreams of marrying Alex off to someone safe, respectable, and wealthy. But between ball gown fittings, dances, and dinner parties, Alex, along with her two best friends, Ella and Vivi, manages to get herself into what may be her biggest scrape yet. When the Earl of Blackmoor is mysteriously killed, Alex decides to help his son, the brooding and devilishly handsome Gavin, uncover the truth. But will Alex's heart be stolen in the process? In an adventure brimming with espionage, murder, and other clandestine affairs, who could possibly have time to worry about finding a husband?

My reading interests are not in historical fiction, especially Regency London, at the moment. I’ve read several that were okay, but the story and characters seemed to be repeating themselves over and over again. So I stopped reading them. Then, I heard about THE SEASON from multiple sources (book reviews, fellow writers, etc). When I hear buzz around a book, I make a point to read it, even if it’s not a story I would ordinarily like – I’m a writer, so I need to know what’s out there. : )

I had low expectations, and thought this story would repeat the other Regency books I’d read. The cover, the description, and the first chapter all supported that expectation.

As I kept reading, I was pleasantly surprised. The characters, though similar, were different enough to hold my interest. The dialog and banter were hilarious, and I even laughed out loud a few times (waking up my husband in the process).

I will say up front that this isn’t a story with a heart-stopping and head-scratching plot. The mystery and resolution are predictable, and the overall story is on the lighter side. But it was still fun.

The author has clearly done her homework on Regency London, and even manages to write in a tone that somewhat reflects that time frame, while keeping it modern enough to hold the reader’s interest. The main characters were a bit too modern, and the story was repetitive at times, but I still enjoyed it.

As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below.

I think the author made a common mistake, which took much of the edge off the plot – she told the reader everything that’s going on by putting us in the murderer’s head. Even though she concealed his identity, his thoughts give away too much of himself and his situation regarding the Blackmoor estate. It was easy to guess who he was, even in the early chapters.

I think that if we never saw those thoughts, it would have made the mystery more interesting, and harder to predict. This would have upped the stakes of the story, especially since the resolution between Gavin and Alex is *very* predictable. Having an unpredictable plotline is an added assurance that the reader will keep reading, and want to keep reading, so he can find out what’s going to happen next. The best way of doing this is to not tell the reader things that the main characters can’t see. Then he will experience the unfolding of details as the characters get them, rather than getting everything ahead of time. Readers are smart, and will figure things out. And then we get frustrated with the characters because we’re way ahead and want them to catch up already. : )

Other than that, this was a good, light, and fun book to read.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Inspiring to Motivate

As some of you know, I’ve been working on a MG novel. And, the week before last, I finished it! Yay!! It’s not done-done, it’s just ready-for-critique-done. But all the big pieces are there, plus a lot of the little ones, and I’d been wondering if I’d ever reach this goal.

This story has a long history – seven years of it. During that time, I’ve had varying degrees of both inspiration and motivation to write it. Sometimes it poured in like a waterfall, and sometimes it was hardly a trickle. A question that’s been buzzing around my head lately is this: what kept me going on this story for so long? I certainly wasn’t inspired for the full seven years, nor was I motivated. I even set it on the shelf for years at a time. So why did I keep coming back to it?

I wasn’t really sure, so I sat down to examine the life of this project. Turns out it was shaped like a regular story.

With all my new ideas, there is no shortage of inspiration or motivation. The words almost come too fast for me to keep up, even when I’m in the planning stages. The same thing happened with my MG project. When the initial idea fell into my head, I got so excited that I wrote and wrote for weeks on end. The more I planned, the bigger the story got. But when I started writing it, it got smaller. So I went back to planning, then back to writing, planning, writing, etc. I kept going in this circle until I was so dizzy I didn’t know what to do. All I knew was something wasn’t right, and I didn’t know how to fix it. It irritated the heck out of me, so I set it aside to work on something else.

After writing my first YA novel, I went back to my MG project to see what I could see. Again, I got really excited about the idea and set to planning. Again, the words flowed freely and I could hardly keep up. Then, I went through the same cycle as before. But I was determined to work through the problem this time. I even wrote separate pieces of the story, out of order, in an attempt to spark a solution. Nothing worked, and I was even more frustrated than the last time. I threw the story back on the shelf, then huffed off to work on something else.

After writing my second YA novel, I didn’t go directly back to my MG project. Instead, I sketched out another YA story. When I had a rough, high level plan, I closed one eye and peeked at my MG project. I don’t know why I was treating it like it was going to jump out and bite me, because it was still in the same state I’d left it. :) This caution turned out to be beneficial, though. Instead of letting the idea carry me away, I took out the high-level plan and spread it out on the floor. And then, something all clicked into place. I had almost everything I needed, but it wasn’t in the right order, and some of the characters were playing the wrong roles. I switched those things around, and then *more* clicked into place. That required some new pieces to the plan, so I added those. Pretty soon, my floor was covered with a plan that made sense, really made sense, for the first time. I sat down to write the story, and the words flowed. It was like a dam bursting. I guess since they’d been stuck in my head for seven years, they just couldn’t wait to finally get out. This is the strongest first draft I’ve ever written...but that’s probably because it’s really the 200th draft. : )

But why did it take so long to get to this point? Quite frankly, the story required writing skills that I didn’t have, and I didn’t know how to go about learning them. It took seven years to first understand how to write it, and then to realize that I didn’t have those particular skills way back when. I still have plenty to learn, but at least I know enough to give this story what it deserves.

I also discovered that, through all this time of varying degrees of inspiration and motivation, these two remained constant:
Inspiration – I love the idea behind this story. Plus, I’m an explorer at heart, and I wanted to see where this idea would take me.
Motivation – The underlying themes are a huge part of myself. Sorting through them allowed me to grow internally, which made me a stronger, more confident person.

In other words, from the day the idea hatched in my head, there was never a question that I wouldn’t finish it. I will. It’s just a matter of time.
What keeps you motivated? What do you do when your motivation goes on a vacation?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Drum Cake...sorta

Yesterday was the birthday party of my best friend's son. This is the boy who was born severely premature, who I made the Fender guitar cake for last year.

This year, he wanted a drum. So I said "Sure! I can make that." But it didn't exactly work out that great.

First off, I made this great, three-layer, chocolate-vanilla-checkerboard cake and slathered frosting over the top. Then, while I was rolling out fondant (like playdoh, but made with sugar) to cover it, the top layer of the cake split down the middle and started sliding off. I fixed it, then tried to roll out the fondant faster since I knew it would hold the cake together. But, in my haste, I hadn't used enough powdered sugar on the counter top. The fondant stuck fast, tearing a hole right in the center. I had to start the mean time, the top layer had completely slid off the cake and a crack was forming in the second layer.

My oldest son was in the kitchen with me, so I bit down on the swear that really wanted to escape, then got to work on the fondant again. I got it rolled out, correctly this time, then got to work trying to put my cake back together. I put the pieces back on the top, washed the frosting off my hands, then reached for the fondant...but the cake was sliding off again, and I swear it was faster than before! And, the middle layer was going with it! I screeched, scaring my poor son, then pushed it back together. I even enlisted his help. But the more I worked, the faster the thing fell apart. In a few short seconds, it was nothing but crumbs and frosting, and I had to toss the whole thing and start over.

I ended up with a two-layer chocolate cake, since I didn't have enough ingredients to make the checkerboard cake again. And the decorating didn't go as well as I'd hoped, either. Some of the supplies I'd gotten didn't have nearly the effect I wanted, and I had to improvise. The final product is a cake that somewhat looks like a drum...then, during transport, one of the drumsticks cracked. All in all, not my best cake. :) But here it is:

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Miles Between by Mary Pearson

Plot Summary: Destiny Faraday makes a point of keeping her distance from her classmates at Hedgebrook Academy. Her number-one rule: Don’t get attached. But one day, unexpectedly finding a car at their disposal, Destiny and three of her classmates embark on an unauthorized road trip. They’re searching for one fair day—a day where the good guy wins and everything adds up to something just and right. Their destination: Langdon, a town that Destiny’s unsuspecting companions hope will hold simply a day of fun. But, as Destiny says, “Things are not always what they seem.” Only she knows that Langdon holds far more than that—a deep secret she has never shared with anyone.

Okay, I know this book isn’t out yet, and some of you may consider this review torture (I know I would). But I just finished an ARC, and I can’t keep my mouth shut one second longer.

THE MILES BETWEEN is an amazing book. As soon as it’s on the shelves, go pick up a copy. You’ll be glad you did.

First off: present tense. I’m not a fan because most authors use it when it’s not needed. But I’m now convinced Pearson is the master of present tense. She used it effectively in JENNA FOX, and she did it again in MILES BETWEEN. In both stories, they needed to be told in present tense. Past tense wouldn’t have had nearly the same impact.

This is partly a story of strange coincidence, and partly a story of how things are not always what they seem. Destiny begins to see this on the road trip with her classmates, and she begins to realize that she doesn’t see as much as she thinks. This sets her on a path toward truth, and the reader sees even more things that aren’t what they seem.

The plot is extremely well-crafted. The balance between coincidence and the deliberate is precarious, but the author walks that line well by making the book all about coincidence. She also subtly suggests that we have the power to create our own coincidence, which is a concept I love. If the book just had this, I’d still love it. But it has even more.

The amount of emotion this story evoked was incredible. Even though I had suspected the Big Reveal at the end, that didn’t stop me from being completely absorbed in Destiny’s turmoil. It was so moving that I cried big, fat tears for her, and I don’t cry for books (because I can’t see through the tears, and therefore can't read). The last time I cried like this was over twenty years ago, when I read the ending of WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS. Incredible.

The ending was a little too good in places, which might turn some people off. However, since this book was about strange coincidence and ‘one fair day,’ I thought it fit the rules of the story. So, I’m okay with it.

As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below. If you haven’t read this book yet, please stop reading this review until you have because I really don’t want to ruin your enjoyment of the book.

Have you read it yet? You sure? Okay...

There was only one thing that I thought needed a bit more, and that was the two students at the end who covered for Destiny and her friends. They pop in and pop out so quickly that I hardly had a chance to form an opinion about them. I didn’t need to know much, just more of a reaction from Destiny and friends, and perhaps some acknowledgement and appreciation – after all, this was a day of fairness, and what’s fairer than giving thanks where it’s due?

But that wasn’t nearly enough to ruin my enjoyment of the book. I’m not usually a fan of unreliable narrators, but I certainly loved this book. It’s going on my favorites shelf right next to the author’s other books. : )

Monday, August 03, 2009

Interview with Mandy Hubbard!

Today, we have an interview with Mandy Hubbard, author of PRADA & PREJUDICE. This is her first book, but I think we can expect many more in the future! And now, here's Mandy!

It's a novel for teens about 15 year old Callie, who buys Prada heels to impress the popular girls--but then trips, hits her head, and wakes up in 1815.

What was the inspiration behind your idea?
I really love the time period, but novels set in that era are a little harder to identify with. A teen in 1815 would be worrying about finding a good husband, not a boyfriend! So I combined my favorite elements in reading: a modern character and a historical setting.

How long did it take to get from the initial idea to a completed novel?
If by "completed novel", you mean the one you read today, 3 years. If you mean the first time I thought it was complete, a couple of months. As it turned out, I was wrong. Very, very wrong.

How long did it take to find your agent?
Surprisingly, the agent was the easy part. I signed my first agent based on a partial of a book called THE JETSETTERS SOCIAL CLUB. We were together nine months when I decided to leave her, and that was a super scary decision, but it wasn't what I thought it would be. I queried immediately, and within three weeks signed a new agent. As it turned out, nothing else would go that quickly or easily-- it took nearly two years and over forty rejections on two novels before I sold my debut.

How often do you write, and how much do you write in one sitting?
This varies tremendously. I generally write at least six days a week, at least a half hour at a time. In a day, I can write 2,000 to 5,000 words (my record is 8,000). I almost never get to carve out three or four hour blocks-- I write during my train commute, during my lunch break, or after 9pm, when my daughter is in bed. Turns out you can write a whole novel in 20-30 minute increments.

How did you get in to writing for young adults?
That first agented novel, THE JETSETTERS SOCIAL CLUB, was originally about four twenty-something girls. My first agent asked me to rework it as a YA. Ever since I did that, everything else has been YA.

What are you working on now?
I'm writing two projects at the same time-- my June 2010 novella for Harlequin (this one is for adults) and my Summer 2010 YA book. I'm SUPER psyched about the YA and I think it'll really appeal to fans of Prada & Prejudice. I can't announce the details yet, but I hope to soon!

Are you a planner, or do you write by the seat of your pants?
Mostly seat of my pants, but this is slowly morphing. My editor is really amazing at piecing together the elements of a good book and making it the best that it can be, so if I provide her with an outline before I start, she can steer me in the right direction and ask the right questions. So I am trying super hard to start planning more!

Are you a paper person, or the computer-only-type?
I kid you not, I don't think I would write another book if I had to hand write it. I hate, hate, hate hand-writing things. Computer only, for sure!

What does your writing space look like?
I have a spare room at home, with hardwood floors and green and tan painted walls. The furniture is all black ikea furniture, except my bright blue rolly chair. I do have a huge blowup of my Prada & Prejudice cover, too! It keeps me motivated.

How much do you read, and what are you reading now?
I seem to average about 75 books a year. The last book I read was FAIRY TALE by Cyn Balog. She's my critique partner, and I hadn't read Fairy Tale since she wrote the first draft, back in 2006. It was so much fun reliving the story and seeing what she'd done with it!

Thanks so much for joining us today!

To see more of what Mandy is up to, check out her website at, or her blog at For a chance to win a copy of this book, go here and follow the instructions to enter!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

August Book Giveaway!

This month, I'll be giving away three books to three people! And these books are from two fabulous, debut authors:


Be sure to read the entry guidelines carefully, so you get all the entries you're entitled to.

To enter:
- Leave a comment on this post.
- For another entry, become a follower of this blog and leave another comment telling me so. If you already are a follower, leave a comment telling me this.
- For another entry, post a link to this contest, then leave a separate comment with the URL. If you post to muliple locations, then leave a separate comment for each URL.

I will announce the winners on August 29th. Also, look for interviews with both authors later in the month!

Good luck!!

Edited to add: My husband surprised me with a fabulous vacation, so this contest has been extended to midnight, Sept 2nd. I'll announce the winner sometime Sept 3rd. Good luck!!