Tuesday, March 30, 2010


If I'm posting less often of late it's because I'm consumed by BLOODROSE (Nightshade #3). This story has captured my heart and mind, leaving me useless for pretty much all other tasks.

An example: when I took a shower the other day, amid musings about the plot, I got into the shower and pretty much just got out again. It wasn't until I was dressed and writing again that I realized hadn't done ANYTHING. My hair wasn't washed, I really hadn't gotten clean. I had just stepped in, stood in the water for a minute, and stepped out again. No conscious thinking here - it just happened.

This point at writing is when I throw dirty clothes into the trash, pour orange juice on my cereal, lose track of everything that isn't the story.

But it's hands down my favorite part of writing. I step out of this world to sojourn in another.

It may be frustrating to everyone around me (sorry hubby, I love you!), but for me it's utter bliss. Even if I have to munch on orange juice flavored cereal once in a while.

Since I'm in and out with the posts till the first draft is done, here's the BLOODROSE theme song that kicks off this novel's playlist.

Monday, March 29, 2010


My awesome editor, Jill, sent me a surprise package in the mail. The REAL ACTUAL WILL-BE-ON-THE-HARDCOVER jackets for NIGHTSHADE!

Here is the front:
Here is the jacket on a real (though not NIGHTSHADE, obviously) hardcover book. I hadn't given much thought to all the different shapes and sizes books come in until I tried to find a book that was the right size for this jacket. It took at least half a dozen tries 'til I got the right fit!!
Here is the back jacket on a real book:I'm so thrilled! They are beautiful. I keep holding them up to different light to see the way the colors change.

Can't wait until October!!!!

Remember still two days left to enter the Paranormal Haiku contest and win a signed ARC!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Can't Wait Contest!

My ARCs arrived and I couldn't share them...

I thought I would have to wait until April to start giving away ARCs in blog contests.

It will be spring
, I thought.

It's a new month, I thought.
But the fabulous reaction to Nightshade's cover and book trailer have pushed my already impatient self over the edge.
So the first contest begins NOW.
You can win the first signed Nightshade ARC giveaway by entering my first Annual PARANORMAL HAIKU CONTEST!

What is a paranormal haiku?

Haiku is a Japanese poem form which follows a 5 syllable, 7 syllable, 5 syllable format
Making it paranormal is just a matter of adding the appropriate content.

For example:

Vampire angst erodes
the moment love trumps bloodlust;
how long can it last?


Can mummies find love?
Passion knows no bounds, but still

dust is a turnoff.

Entries accepted until Wednesday, March 31! And to answer Dani's question - yes, I will accept multiple entries - send all the haiku your heart desires!

Monday, March 22, 2010


There's no sporting event I anticipate like the annual NCAA tournament. March Madness baby! Woo-hoo!
Not only does liven up what is generally a drab month in Minnesota, but it is simply awesome competition. My family always fills out brackets and enjoys trash talking each other as our respective standings shift.

If you haven't been following it, this year's tournament has been off the wall. So many upsets. My bracket was pretty much ruined when Georgetown and Louisville were knocked out. But then the entire world's bracket was ruined when Northern Iowa took down Goliath Kansas, a team which even President Obama had picked to win the entire tourney!

This post is actually about writing.


Yep. Writing.

There are two key lessons for writers to be learn from the phenomenon that is the NCAA tournament.

1) Pacing

March Madness has unbelievable pace. It's heart in throat, pulse pounding action from the first buzzer. The pace is swift and unrelenting. In the space of 100th of a sec, fates are sealed. Teams go on, teams go home.

While I love college ball, I'm not a fan of the NBA. Why? Pacing. The NBA is bogged down. It's slow. It's boring. Come on - 7 game series? 7 games? In July??

The NBA playoffs are akin to an editor saying, hey just tack on another 100 pages or so - that way we can jack up the cover price of your book.

Yuck. No editor would ever say that. There's a reason writing advice is always telling you to cut, cut, cut and kill your darlings. Spareness of word count is mostly about pace. To succeed in your writing you need a killer pace.

2) Upsets

March Madness draws so many fans because it is full of surprises. Every year an underdog manages to take down one of the big teams. This year, with Northern Iowa's victory over Kansas, may have been the biggest upset for a long, long time. And it was thrilling.

Readers must be kept on their toes. If they think they know what's coming, and it does, they might have a smug sense of satisfaction, but they won't be screaming or breathless.

Always have the potential for upsest - big "I CANNOT BELIEVE THAT JUST HAPPENED!" upsets - in your story. Call them twists, surprises, whatever. If your characters and plot are predictable, you've already lost the battle.

Friday, March 19, 2010

AAW: Fantasy

Thanks to everyone for all the cover and trailer love. I'm over the moon about it!Now to continue from Monday's thread - it's still Author Appreciation Week. On Monday I talked about honesty in Laurie Halse Anderson's novels. Today I'd like to talk about fantasy. Fantasy is my favorite genre. High, urban, paranormal, epic - all of it I love. There have been many fantasy authors whose work profoundly influenced my own writing: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, David Eddings, Susan Cooper, Piers Anthony, J.K. Rowling...these names are only the beginning of a long, long list.

But one writer stands out in turn of the mark she left on my life: Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Bradley's novels highlight two key features that are important to me: 1) Strong female protagonists 2)Weaving fantasy into history

History has a long, er, history of letting women down. Or more often beating them down with a stick (know where the phrase 'rule of thumb' comes from? Look it up. I dare you.) - Marion Zimmer Bradley rights such wrongs with unbelievable skill.

Wondering what Morgan Le Fay really thought about King Arthur? Check out:(When I saw this cover on the shelf as a tween, it was love at first sight.)

Think Achilles was just a big jerk? Yeah, pretty much.

Bradley also wrote wonderful high fantasy and science fiction.
My appreciation for this brilliant author's work runs deep and I am thankful for the lasting legacy she's offered to a new generation of writers.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Author Appreciation Week

The lovely and brilliant Heidi Kling is hosting Author Appreciation Week, inviting us to share thoughts on those authors who've made a lasting impression on our lives and work.
It's also spring break, so I'll be galavanting around and not at home; thus, my Author Appreciation Week will instead by Author Appreciation Monday and Friday!
The two authors I'd like to honor represent two aspects of my own writing: the hope that 1) I'll convey honest, hard realities through the lives of my characters and 2) that the myth and world I build transports readers into the story.

Today: Honesty

Laurie Halse Anderson is one of the contemporary authors I admire most. She unapologetically takes on difficult subjects and weaves beautiful tales with them.
In my lifetime, which has not been that long, I've had two friends institutionalized because of anorexia.
I've had friends and students traumatized by sexual assault.

My research and teaching focuses on the history of slavery,

violence and identity.
Laurie Halse Anderson sheds light on topics that are too often swept under the rug. She garners empathy for characters too often stigmatized and stereotyped.

She speaks out against book censorship and knows her readers are intelligent enough to engage with the harsh realities of life, that offering books as a safe space in which to encounter trauma is vital for young people. Her blog offers amazing advice and instructor to aspiring authors.

Thank you Laurie, for the amazing work you do!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Part III

Of Shaun Hutchinson's post on YA and sexuality is up! Go check it out and see the inspiring, talented authors he's discussing.

As for me, I'm helping* Penguin finish up the Nightshade trailer and web site.

*By helping I mean I look at the nice pages they send me and say 'ooh' and 'ahh' and sometimes I contribute ideas, but they are doing just fine without me. Amazing work Team Penguin!!!

Time for music:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Welcome Thunder

I woke this morning to the rumble of thunder above my house.

Big deal? For many folks, probably not.

But in Minnesota - in MARCH, this is phenomenal...and in my mind, wonderful!

Spring is here!!!

I'm a huge fan of thunderstorms. I love their sound, their color. I love the wild scent of rain carried on the wind, clouds that are constantly changing shape, and the flash of lightning against an ink-dark canvas.

I'm busy with cool, secret projects today, but I'll be able to share soon!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Awesome Authors

Entering the writing world introduced me to a set of brilliant authors who have enriched my life considerably. The Tenners are a particularly fantastic set - offering support, advice, and cheer through the debut publishing process.

I'd like to direct your attention to the blog posts of one Tenner: Shaun Hutchinson, whose Deathday Letter (Simon Pulse) will be on shelves June 15. Shaun's offered up an amazing set of posts on YA and sexuality. I can't emphasize enough how important I believe this line of discussion is and Shaun's posts are insightful and compelling.

Read Part I: Here

And Part II: Here

Part III coming soon!

Thanks, Shaun!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


It's a mixed front today: on the one hand, exciting news that I'll get a sneak peek at the book-trailer-in-progress from the amazing team at Penguin, on the other that pesky cold I thought I'd sent packing has come back with a vengeance. Headache, sniffles, fever - you are not making my happy.

Since we're waiting to see the Nightshade cover, I thought it might be fun to take a look at another cover story. This video is so cool:

What are some of your favorite covers? What makes a good book cover?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Answers: March Edition!

Great questions all around and thanks so much for your well wishes about the new book deal! I'm still incredibly giddy :) Questions left in today's comments will be added and the post updated with answers through the day!!

Now for answers:

Lisa left a legacy of questions - some of the more philosophical I'll save for full posts at a later date! (Heaven or Hell - yeah, that deserves its own post!) Until then, she asks: Chocolate or vanilla!


Rachel asks: Ren or Shay?

Rachel scored an ARC, so she's had a chance to meet Ren and Shay - the competing love interests in Nightshade. She's Team Ren all the way. Since I have a firm no spoilers policy on the blog I'm afraid I have to keep my lips sealed on this question. However, I will say that I love them both soooooo much and it wouldn't really matter what team I'm on because it's Calla's choice, not mine!

Tricia asks: What deal did you make with the Universe?

None that I know of. Now I'm nervous.

Amy asks: When can you reveal the Nightshade cover?

Soon! I promise! The ARCs are going out later this month and will be coordinated with the debut of the official Nightshade web site: www.nightshadebook.com At that time the cover will also go public!

Katarinasmama of Mundie Moms asks: Do you have a Nightshade playlist?

I do! Playlists are essential to my writing process. I have a partial playlist posted here. But a full playlist with chapter cues will go up after Nightshade is published.

Rachel asks: What is your favorite book of 2010 so far (no pre-pubbed stuff)?

Hmmm. That's tough. I'm going to pick two because they are so different:
Josh Berk's The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin. Which is so smart, so funny, and just wonderful all around.
Rachel Hawkins' Hex Hall, which is also smart and fun but has absolutely delicious romance + fantastic twists I didn't see coming.

Lisa asks: Peanut butter or jelly?

I don't want them separate. Together or nothing. Okay, that's a lie. I like peanut butter with apples.

Amy asks: So there will be four Nightshade books altogether?

Nightshade is a trilogy (Nightshade, Wolfsbane, Bloodrose). The fourth book is a companion novel.

Katarina's mama asks: Outside of your own characters, who is the one fictional character you'd love to have a conversation with?

Hmmmm. That's tough. I think I'll go with Finnick from Catching Fire. Or Cinna.

Speaking of that, Lisa asks: Peeta or Gale?

I can't decide, so I'm team Cinna. Or Finnick. Man I love those two.

And still following those lines, Amy asks what's your favorite dystopian novel so far:

Hunger Games!

And paranormal?

The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.

Lisa asks: Future or past?

Past - I'm a historian after all.

Rachel asks: What is your worst fear?

Irrational: Being attacked by a crocodile. Seriously. I have major crocodile phobia.

Rational: Letting myself and my loved ones down.

Lisa asks: Here or there?

Both - I love traveling, but there's nothing quite like the joy of coming home again.

Thanks for all the great questions!!!

Friday, March 5, 2010

March (Q&A) Madness!

It's March! Time for Q&A!

But first - the Madness!

It's totally awesome madness in the form of incredible news.

I just signed on for two more Nightshade books with Jill Santopolo and Michael Green at Philomel! *shrieking* *dancing* *glee* *fainting*

I'm beyond thrilled that I'll continue to work with such a wonderful editor and publisher and the brilliant team at Penguin. Thanks so much to Penguin and I'm throwing roses to my amazing agents Richard Pine and Charlie Olsen at InkWell.

Okay, deep breaths. Restoring calm. (Yeah right).

Now onto Q&A - post your questions in the comments and I'll sling out the answers in Monday's blog.

Happy Weekend! I'll celebrating the new book deal with something like this:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Crossover Continued...

Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks crossover is a good thing.

And Tim Burton just claimed the film rights! What a show that will be!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


When Nightshade hits the stores this October, I hope it finds it way into that lovely land called "Crossover," meaning it will appeal to young adults and adult adults. Crossover lit has been hitting the big time of late. I was shopping at the Red Balloon Bookshop yesterday and found several of my favorite "adult" books, The Mists of Avalon for one, now shelved in YA. So the currents of crossover are flowing both ways, YA into Adult and Adult into YA. I say hurrah to this trend!

I've recently happened upon another serendipitous crossover: history and my fiction writing. I've always been interested in the ways pop culture depicts and recreates history. When I lectured on the influence of Freud on historical analysis I used The Wolfman as an illustration. I use Buffy Season 4 "Pangs" to talk about the problems of Thanksgiving and historical misinformation and Firefly's "Jaynestown" to discuss public history, memory, and commemoration. Pop culture is fertile ground for historical excavation.

So I was thrilled to write a chapter in the upcoming anthology: Twilight and History.
(Isn't the cover cool?!)

My essay uses Jasper's character to examine ideologies of violence, American masculinity and the Civil War. Having the chance to wear my history and YA hats at the same time was so much fun!

Crossover is good thing - for history and pop culture; for adult and young adult literature. In this case crossing the streams is not very bad - it's so, so good.

Let's hope lots more happens in the future!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hexy Time

2010 is a great year for debuts, but today in particular is a book birthday for a novel I've been early awaiting:

Rachel Hawkins' Hex Hall
For those of you who've followed Rachel (@LadyHawkins) and I on Twitter you're familiar with our realization that we are star-crossed BFFs whose friendship is marred by our battle for the hand of one Ben Barnes.Admittedly Rachel goes for Ben as Prince Caspian
while I'm swooning for his portrayal of Dorian Gray
When at last we clash over our boy Ben, it will be epic: Titan style.
I'm fortunate to have such a worth adversary as Rachel. Her book is fantastic - a great mix of spine-tingling chills and laughing out loud - and I'd recommend you run out and snap it up. Time to get Hexy! Congrats, Rachel!!!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Spring Dreams

Did anyone else have to memorize and recite the prologue to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales as part of the English major requirements in college?
It was one of my favorite requirements and had a lasting impression; when the snow begins to melt and sunlight overcomes darkness, I walk around with Chaucer's Middle English echoing in my mind.
Whan that aprill with his shoures soote The droghte of march hath perced to the roote, And bathed every veyne in swich licour Of which vertu engendred is the flour; Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth Inspired hath in every holt and heeth Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne, And smale foweles maken melodye, That slepen al the nyght with open ye (so priketh hem nature in hir corages); Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages, And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes, To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes; And specially from every shires ende Of engelond to caunterbury they wende, The hooly blisful martir for to seke, That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

I know it's March first, and not April. But any hints of spring fling me into Chaucer's world. I love Chaucer - the courses I took on his work opened my eyes to so much about the evolution of language (Old and Middle English are amazing!) and how wrapped up the medieval world was in ancient lore and magic - each physical description, each tiny reference was a secret code revealing both plot and character in his tales. That mixture of history, myth, and magic stayed with me, finding a new home in Nightshade.

Now that February is behind us and March, though tempestuous, flings open the door to spring I can't help but be excited. Spring is coming at last.