In February, I told you I’m representing Wisconsin in the upcoming spooky anthology THE HAUNTED STATES OF AMERICA. I’m thrilled to tell you that the book is now AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER! Here’s a look at the cover, illustrated by by Solomon Hughes.
Friends, there is simply no better way to support an author and their work than to preorder their books. Even if you think you won’t read the book for months or years, preorders count in the crucial first week of publication and can determine a book’s entire trajectory. So please do order a copy, either here or through your favorite bookstore. And trust me, by the time you get the book in July, you’ll be facing spooky season again and you’ll be ready to embrace some spine-tingling tales.
To remind you, this creepy collection features 52 twisted short stories, one from each state plus D.C. and Puerto Rico. My Wisconsin tale is personal and oh-sooooo-haunting. I spent countless hours at the Seven Bridges in my youth, so when I learned about this upcoming anthology, I knew I had to set a story there. My terrifying tale includes scenes from the archway, bridge, and trail shown below.
Thank you so much for your preorder and overall support. May Halloween 2024 be frightening fun,
Yaaaay! I am so glad to be back blogging. I’ve spent the past month recovering from elbow surgery, which kept one hand in a support brace, so I’ve refrained from too much typing, except for the ineffective, one-handed variety, haha. But now I’ve been cleared to type with two whole hands again (huzzah!), which is incredibly important in most aspects of my life, so yay! I’m back! 🙂
During my convalescence, I did (and am doing) quite a lot of reading. It’s also summer, and I always say I want to spend more time reading in the summer. Here are some of the gems I’ve hit upon.
UNDER THE BLANKET SKY by Tim Fischer (picture book, May 2023, DoubleDay). A lonely boy is visited by a mysterious owl (perhaps imaginary?) who spends summer with him enjoying playful adventures before it must eventually move on.
This quiet, gentle book feels like a hug to lonely kids everywhere, or maybe to kids who find themselves alone at important moments and wish they had a forever friend to share them with. I was touched by the unspoken themes of time, friendship, and bittersweet goodbyes, leaving me a little breathless afterward. The illustrations are soft, ephemeral, luminescent. And another thing I loved about it: the boy wears glasses. I know it seems small, but there aren’t enough books with kids who wear glasses, and it is so affirming for kids to read about others like them. This picture book is simply lovely. An Amazon Editors’ Pick. A new classic. Recommended.
RESTART by Gordon Korman (middle grade, March 2018, Scholastic). A boy suffers amnesia after falling off a roof and gets a rare second-chance to reset his life’s trajectory.
I’m a bit late to reading this considering it came out five years ago and is published by Scholastic, where I recently worked. But hey, definitely better late than never! This Amazon Teacher’s Pick hits so many themes I can’t resist: unreliable narration due to memory loss, discovering who you are compared to what others expect, restarting yourself after new experiences, joy, regret, processing an emotional renaissance. It’s all there. I can see why this book is a teacher’s favorite, and I can see why any kid who feels stuck might cling to it like a lifeline. You can change. You can start anew. You can reset your life. It’s never too late. Recommended.
TWERP by Mark Goldblatt (middle grade, May 2014, Yearling). A 6th-grade boy in 1969’s New York City is given a choice by his teacher to either keep a journal and write about what got him and his friends suspended or write a report on Shakespeare, which the boy is sure he’d flunk.
Again, I was late to the party on this one, but I’m so glad I discovered it. TWERP feels to me like a (lower stakes, gentler) middle grade CATCHER IN THE RYE. We see the world through the eyes of a genuinely likable boy who knows he made a bad choice — well, several, most of which he’s willing to admit, except for the story his teacher most wants to hear. The protagonist has a good heart, though, and cares about his friends and family. You can’t help but root for him and you’re so glad when he comes to terms with it all. I’m about to start the sequel, FINDING THE WORM. TWERP is good stuff. Another Amazon Teacher’s Pick. Recommended.
THE DEVIL PARTICLE by Kristin A. Oakley (young adult dystopian, June 2023, self-published). A 17-year-old boy living in a post-apocalyptic world competes to save humanity by becoming the single vessel containing all the world’s evil.
Whew, that’s some heavy stuff, isn’t it? And who would want to do such a thing? It turns out there are plenty of altruistic, caring youth who vie for the chance to change the world, to better the planet, to save others. But first the candidates must compete in The Trials, with its cruel and deadly challenges. There’s plenty to chew on in this book. Who’s to blame for evil — and evil acts? How can we as a society and world curtail it? Would we be willing to sacrifice one innocent for all people when that innocent is someone we know and love? And are The Trials what they appear to be? Fans of THE HUNGER GAMES and a good race to the finish will enjoy sinking their teeth into THE DEVIL PARTICLE. Recommended.
THE HEAT WILL KILL YOU FIRST: LIFE AND DEATH ON A SCORCHED PLANET by Jeff Goodell (adult nonfiction, July 2023, Little, Brown and Company). The planet’s temperature is rising, the reality of climate change is hitting home, and heat is already becoming the world’s first-order threat.
I am up to the minute on this read! The book came out 15 days ago as one of the most anticipated books of the season and is already an Amazon #1 Bestseller and a New York Times bestseller. This fascinating, fast-paced, well-researched book looks into and explains the many climate-related terrors we’ve been experiencing the past few years, from deadly heat patterns to apocalyptic, orange skies laden with wildfire ash. Guggenheim fellow and bestselling author Goodell shows how even the privileged few among us will grapple to escape the cascading catastrophes of global warming. And he notes what’s impossible to ignore on the horizon (blistering, deadly heat; rising seas; crop failures; social unrest; mass starvation; large migrations) if action isn’t taken immediately. I’m not finished reading it, but so far it’s an incredible read. Highly, highly recommended.
I’ve listened to a few audiobooks lately too, and there’s one I’m really enjoying so far, so I’ll talk about those soon. I find it lovely to have stories read to me.
Hope you’re also enjoying some good reads this summer. 🙂
(The above are Amazon Affiliate links, meaning I make a few pennies off the sale of each book, at no cost to you.)
Oh, how wonderful it is to get positive feedback! How reassuring that you’re hitting the right notes, piquing reader interest, and traveling the right path. I’m sooo happy to have gotten positive feedback today at an agent roundtable, and I’m genuinely hopeful for the future of this piece.
You may have noticed that I have been quiet on this blog lately, and that’s because I’ve been hard at work on my current manuscript. I signed up for SCBWI‘s annual New York City conference and spent a good part of January completing homework for the revision workshop. The timing was perfect, which doesn’t always happen when you attend a conference. But here I was with a manuscript ready to revise, and I was eager to hear from great authors on how they do it. I took the homework seriously, and thus it proved very useful.
The workshop had me silently shouting Eureka! in my head and prompted me to write a whole new first chapter which garnered the positive feedback mentioned above. And the entire event was a joy. I got to see former publishing colleagues and friends old and new, from around the world. It was a fun return to NYC, and warmish for early February. I even got to see my first Broadway play. Here are a few pics for you to enjoy.
Expect me to remain, at least for a few weeks, on cloud nine from the agent’s feedback. And I’ll keep working on this piece. It’s almost ready. Nearly there. 🙂
I spent all of November and more than half of December toiling away at my Work in Progress. I say toiling because it’s the first draft of a complete rewrite, and oy are first drafts rough. So, when I thought I’d finished the first draft, I took a break to enjoy the holidays and some just-for-fun reading. I’d heard good things about The Clackity by Lora Senf and decided to give it a go.
It is now one of my favorite middle grade books and at the top of my list in the spooky/horror category. In it, a young girl lives with her aunt in a town overrun with hauntings, some mild, some humorous, most harmless. However, Evie is told to follow one rule: stay out of the old slaughterhouse at the edge of town. When her aunt senses trouble there and disappears within its walls, Evie decides to go after her. The new world she discovers — and its dangers within — challenge any hope she has to rescue the only remaining member of her beloved family.
Inventive and spooky. I highly recommend The Clackity for lovers of fright.
In January, I started reading (actually, re-reading) Save the Cat! Writes a novel: The Last Book on Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need by Jessica Brody. I bought this in 2018 when it came out, thanks to great reviews by people whom I respect. When I first tried reading it, though, I wasn’t in the right place with my writing and so I had a hard time getting out of it what others had. I knew I had to wait until the information would hit me more directly. I’m glad I did. With the first draft completed (so I thought) and heading into revision, I was in the mood for reading about story structure. This time, the info hit right. I see I have more to add to my first draft, but the book’s story beats will help guide those additions and future revisions. I’m so glad I revisited it.
Save the Cat! is a solid and fun guide to story structure, fundamentals, and spark. Recommended for readers who want to know how stories tick.
I’ve also been listening to more and more audiobooks the past few years. I haven’t really posted much about them, but let me say, it’s a joy to relax and have a story read to you.
I wish you happy reading in 2023.
(The above are Amazon Affiliate links, meaning I make a few pennies off the sale of each book, at no cost to you.)
Well, wowee zowee and SHAZAM! I am AMAZED. Wanna know why? Because NaNoWriMo works, baby! It really, really works! I did it this year for the first time ever, and I am thrilled with the results.
In case you don’t know already, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, and it’s basically an impetus to get writers crackin’. The idea is to hunker down in November with a goal of putting 50-thousand words toward a new novel. The non-profit org that runs it has all sorts of tools and methods to help writers achieve that goal. But many writers come up with their own rules/methods to meet their liking.
For example, I didn’t start a new novel. I used the movement to work on an existing project that has been laaaaaanguishing. Oy, this project is a whole other story for another day. *hides face in shame* To be clear, I didn’t finish the novel nor reach the 50k word-count goal. An event mid-month killed my progress for, like, a week. But that’s not what matters. What matters is that I GOT BACK INTO THE WRITING HABIT.
***RING THE BELLS! CUE THE CHORUS! GATHER THE PEOPLES! IT’S A PARTY IN HERE!****
The habit of writing creates the urge to write. Now, nine days into December, I’m still writing, and I’m nearly done with the novel. Importantly, it’s a far better story thanks in part to thinking about and actively working on it so intensely for so long. I’m really happy with it so far. What more could I ask for from an artificial deadline?
I’ll tell you what else. Community.
My good friend and fellow author Valerie Biel mentioned to me ahead of November that she was doing NaNoWriMo with another friend, author Mary Behan, and I told her I was going to do it as well. We joined forces. In this pact, we had accountability, camaraderie, and a sounding board. Keep reading because you’ll want to know what we did that worked out so great.
Valerie, who is an organizational goddess and also provides author services (check out her website), set up our communications: a shared calendar where we could enter our daily word count (accountability); weekly Zooms to discuss progress and whatever else (camaraderie); and a Facebook chat group to share spur-of-the-moment thoughts and gripes (a sounding board). This kept us in constant communication but never demandingly so. Perfection. Copy this method.
And one of the odd things we talked about? We all noticed during this month-long immersion into creativity that our nighttime dreams became more frequent and vivid, and we could better remember them in the morning. Isn’t that fascinating?
I’m so grateful to these ladies for providing encouragement then and still. And, hey, I’m thankful we decided to turn a totally-not-real deadline into a real one for ourselves. It really worked to get us out of our malaise. I hope you’ll try it someday if you too need the kick to get crackin’.
A weekend away can seem like an extravagance, but sometimes it’s worth every penny.
I’ve been in a bit of a creative rut. I allowed myself time this summer to read, but as September rolled around, I felt a bit stymied with my writing. Months ago, I suspected I’d appreciate an in-person writing event come October, and wow, was I right. This weekend was g.l.o.r.i.o.u.s in so many ways.
Sunday was the SCBWI-Wisconsin Fall Luncheon, an event just a few hours long, in which writers meet up, enjoy a lunch, and hear a single speaker. Sara Schonfeld, editor at HarperCollins imprint Katherine Tegen Books proved to be an excellent speaker. More on this later.
Backing up, I decided to make a whole weekend of it. I booked a three-day stay at the hotel. The drive north was wonderful, all by itself. I think this is one of the most colorful Wisconsin autumns I’ve ever seen. Does that correlate with today’s early, first snowfall of the season? I have no idea, but the drive to Door County was stunning. Feast your eyes.
When I got to the hotel, my room was ready early, thank goodness, and I quickly settled in to write. Wow! I wrote like a person possessed. A change of scenery can induce that? You betcha. Mission accomplished by Day One.
Add, that my room was beautiful. Add, that I got a few hours socializing with great friends before the event even started. Add, that I learned to play pickle ball and, omg, it was so much fun! And add, our group’s first in-person event in three years. It was heavenly, this weekend. Truly.
Sara gave a well-presented, insightful talk on revising like an editor. No one could walk away without at least one (but likely many) new tactics to try when they get to that stage. I thoroughly enjoyed both her talk and getting to know her. She’s a delight.
Here are a few more photos of the luncheon. Special thanks to Deb Buschman and all SCBWI volunteers for putting on an outstanding event.
If you’re thinking that your creative endeavors could use a change a scenery, you may be right. I recommend giving it a try. I’m so grateful I did. 🙂