Tuesday, March 30

Food: One Year with the Big D

A year ago last week, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and holy cow was that a SHOCKER. I wrote about it here and, in more detail, here. In that year, my relationship with food has grown more complicated than ever in some ways, and in other ways pretty darn simple. The simple part is: don't eat foods that raise my blood sugar into unacceptable levels. The complicated part is: almost everything that is yummy raises my blood sugar into unacceptable levels. As a lifelong food lover---okay, beyond loving food I have struggled with compulsive eating disorder (like the main character in Sweethearts)---this has been REALLY EFFING HARD IN SO MANY WAYS!

The spontaneous summer ice cream cone, the rainy spring weekends spent baking, stress-free celebratory meals...these are all things of the past for me. Not that I don't ever indulge, but when I do the moment is accompanied by anxiety and guilt and fear and a host of other such lovely emotions. And when I smell my husband's bowl of pasta next to me, or see someone tearing into a fresh baguette, or read another blog post about cupcakes...well, sometimes? I want to scream. And possibly hit people. In fact, just writing about it right now is kind of priming the old tear ducts. I start thinking about how I'll live the rest of my life without the kind of freedom other people seem to have about food.

But the honest, honest truth? The spontaneous summer ice cream cone, the rainy spring weekends spent baking, stress-free celebratory meals were NEVER part of my life. I've had a disordered relationship with food since childhood, and a spontaneous summer ice cream cone almost always led to the secret pint. The rainy spring weekend baking wound up with me wondering why my cookie recipe didn't yield the promised three dozen...or did it, and I ate more than I thought? The celebratory meal always involved an ongoing silent narrative: will people notice if I get up for another serving of this or that, how can I get that last scoop of macaroni and cheese before my cousin does, I wonder if one of those brownies will fit into the pocket of my cardigan. Et. Cet. Era.

So, on my better days, I see diabetes as this incredible gift. It puts a clear and serious boundary around food that can't be rationalized away. Eat food A, test blood sugar, see level X, and I've got indisputable evidence that it's negatively affecting my body. When faced with food choices, now I don't have to think about it that hard or weigh all the pros and cons. I can usually just say to myself, I don't eat that. I don't want my feet to fall of or to drop dead of a stroke at 45, thanks. Other days another voice talks back and says SCREW IT, ZARR, but the slippery slope isn't very steep anymore. I can't go too far down without feeling what it's doing to me and that motivates me to go back to doing what's going to make me feel best.

I don't want to put a damper on food week! I'm all for people with healthy pancreases having a joyful and free relationship with food, eating intuitively, and having treats. Yay, treats! And I still have treats that I get to enjoy regularly without guilt or consequences: 77% cocoa chocolate in reasonable quantities (my favorite is this Chocolove bar), expensive fancy cheeses, roasted nuts, a glass of yummy red wine every night. And, I've been experimenting more with weirdo low carb recipes like biscuits made with coconut flour and rice made out of cauliflower. (Better than it sounds. But, let's face it, not as good as rice.)

That's where I'm at with food right now. What are your food issues? Issues, anyone? Issues?

Monday, March 29

Road Trip? That Means Fritos!

Generally, I'm pretty healthy about what I eat. I snack on 1/2 avocados or grapefruits, I always ask for brown rice instead of white, and my milk? It's skim.

But here's the thing: When I'm on a road trip, all bets are off. Gas stations, McDonald's, Krispy Kreme -- I load up at each of these spots. I love a 20 oz. Coke, glazed donuts, Slim Jims, the two-cheeseburger meal.... I'm starting to salivate right now.

But the real prize of my road trip splurges is a bag of Honey BBQ Fritos. Have you guys had these? They are delicious and golden-orange and crunchy and spicy-sweet. The twisted shape of them lets them hold more of the flavor-salt, I believe. I cannot resist their siren song.

So tell me: Am I the only one with this all's-fair-in-road-tripping-snacks theory? And if not, what's your favorite on-the-go, all-bets-are-off travel food?

Thursday, March 25

Vacationing at Home

My daughter's been on vacation for nearly two weeks now. It would be nice to go away but we did a fairly big trip in December and my mom's current situation is one that makes being away at this time a less than great idea. So what have we been occupying ourselves with during our at-home vacation?

The usual stuff. Having friends over, going to friends' houses. Wii tournaments (I love Swordplay Showdown from Sports Resorts - I'm on the 13th level! The game gave me a medal!). Catching up on our pizza inhalation - my daughter has discovered shrimp and I have discovered shrimp pizza. Writing - Jackie is 14,000 words into the first book of a projected series - have I mentioned lately that she's 10???

Earlier this week, though, we got to do one of my favorite at-home vacation activities of all time. We...

...went to the movies.

Yes, yes, I know, people go to the movies all the time. But I never see anyone else go to the movies like we do. None of the other schools in the area are off right now so the theatres are pretty empty. Plus, we go during an off-peak time - in this case, first show of the day. Since almost no one else is there - only four other people were scattered throughout the theatre on Tuesday morning - we take over three seats per person in the back row. We put all the armrests up and then stretch out on our sides across all those seats, head to head. It's insanely comfortable and fun.

Yes, we are simple people. But if you've never watched a movie like that before, you should try it some time.

Oh, what movie did we see? you ask. "The Bounty Hunter." If you love Jennifer Aniston like I do - yea, Team Jennifer! - then that's reason enough to go. But other than that...


OK, I need to get out of here and go play some Wii. I want to get to the 14th level today.

Be well. Don't forget to write.

Tuesday, March 23

Professional Rock 'n' Roll Vacation Planner?

What perfect timing to be talking about travel and vacations on TFC! On April 1, I will be leaving on my annual trip to Seattle and I just got done mapping out our itinerary. Yep, I make itineraries for my vacations. It's funny with my writing, I generally plunge, just diving into whatever scene, meeting my character there and following them on their journey. Eventually I stop to plot, but normally I just fly by the seat of my pants.... Well that is what I did with my first two novels, lately that approach isn't working as well. Normally I am very organized (well, I try to be) in terms of scheduling my day, etc and that bleeds into vacation planning.

It all started with my first trip to Seattle in 2004. I went there to remember Kurt Cobain on the ten year anniversary of his suicide. I wrote an essay about the trip here in case you're curious about the details. My friend Eryn and I planned that trip together. We were both huge Nirvana fans who'd been impacted by the band and Kurt's suicide in our early teens and we'd never been to Seattle. We were also major music nerds. We wanted to track things down like the location of the original Sub Pop Records offices, the site of Nirvana's first show, and the recording studio where they made their first album Bleach. So we combed books and articles about Nirvana and other Seattle music history and plotted out what we wanted to see. There was lots and it was spread out all over Seattle and beyond into Olympia and Aberdeen. We needed to make a plan to fit it all in. Conveniently about a week or so before our trip, I came down with a cold and stayed home from work. While I lazed on the couch, I plotted out our first itinerary.

I did not expect to fall in love with the city of Seattle the way I did. I was just going to check out the music history, but from the moment I arrived and took in the lush greens (all that rain = beautiful vegetation) and big bodies of water (I'm a Cancer girl, I love water), I was head over heels. Seattle is the rare kind of city where nature and urban environment co-exist. Plus the people were so laid back and cool and the food was amazing for a vegan like me. I've wanted to move there ever since, but sadly, I'm a starving artist who can't afford a cross-country move at this point. So until I can I've made a point to go back every year. With the exception of one year when my Seattle visit was part of my makeshift book tour, Eryn has been my partner in crime. See, we are the Leopard twins as someone dubbed us because of our similar coats (that's me on the left when I used to be a blonde):

Eryn lives in Denver and I live in Chicago so it's nice to get to see her on a yearly basis and hang out in our mutual fave city. Even though our first trip was 10 days long, we didn't see everything we wanted to see and in the meantime we read about more places we wanted to visit, plus we have our favorite spots, so we've continued making itineraries. It's convenient (we are reliant on public transportation so it's good to know what buses we need to take) and it also allows us to make the most out of our trips, fitting in the old favorites and new spots. Plus, as a vegan, I like having places where I know I can eat something other than a crappy salad plotted out. Yeah, okay, it's kind of anal and controlling. It bugs my husband a little bit when we travel together that I want to plan everything out. So I'm trying to create a happy medium. I think I did for this Seattle trip, basically just by planning a neighborhood or area per day to go to, listing out the bus routes and potential sightseeing, shopping, and restaurants/bars to check out, as opposed to putting us on a serious schedule with a ton crammed in. This works out because it's just Eryn and me this year along with our friend Jenny who has been to Seattle with us before. We know what we like and have a couple new places to check out, but we don't have to cram a ton in.

Last year, Eryn and I acted as tour guides (or camp counselors as became the running joke) and took our other friend Jenny and our friends Lynn and Jade none of whom had ever been to Seattle. They were also big grunge fanatics, so we made sure to map out all of the important sites (like the building where the movie Singles was film, natch). They throughly enjoyed our guided tours and the way we researched all of the stuff for them to see according to their tastes. So, I think if this whole author thing doesn't work out, I might have another career opportunity-- researching and planning out rock 'n' roll themed sight-seeing for various cities! I'd really make an excellent tour guide/travel agent! I could either plot out your trip for you or of course, if you want a personally guided tour especially in Seattle, you could pay my way and bring me along :)

Here are our first satisfied customers from left to right Jenny, Jade, Lynn and of course loyal tour guides me and Eryn. We are standing on a piece of rock n roll history, the bridge that Kurt Cobain supposedly lived under (but more likely just hung out under when he was an angry teen) and wrote the song "Something In The Way" about:

Anyway, what about you? When you go on vacation are you like me, planning stuff out so you make sure to fit in all the sight-seeing and good restaurants, or are you more like my hubby, who would rather play things by ear since it is vacation after all? And what do you think, should I be a rock n roll vacation planner?

Monday, March 22


Here in Utah, we're starting to get glimpses of spring, and many of us are looking forward to vacations. I feel especially lucky this year because I get to travel quite a bit starting next month.

1. First, we are going to Maui, Hawaii. This is where my husband and I went on our honeymoon many moons ago and we're looking forward to bringing our boys. I'm not sure how things will work out (we're going with my husband's family--8 adults and 7 kids) but I'd love to scuba dive if at all possible. If not, snorkeling is fun too.

2. Then, with summer comes weddings and I have two big ones coming up in June. First, my cousin is getting hitched in Carlsbad, NM. I've never been there and I hear great things about the Carlsbad Caverns. We'll be driving from Denver and stopping in one of my favorite places, Santa Fe, en route.

3. Next, my dad is getting married the very next weekend. The only thing is, they can't decide exactly where (Texoma? Kansas? Texas?), so I'm on hold.

4. Come July, my mom, husband, 3 boys, and I are all heading up to Alaska. I've been lucky enough to go a few times, but my sons and Mom haven't been, so I'm looking forward to showing the beautiful state to them.

5. After a quick trip to Idaho with some friends from Colorado, I'll head to Nashville, Tennessee for the RWA National Conference. I'm really excited because I've never been there.

I haven't organized my book tour quite yet, but since Lifted comes out June 8, I'm sure I'll have some little side trips wedged in there, too. So! Enough about me! Do you have any fun travel plans coming up? If so, we'd love to hear about them. And if not, what are some of your favorite vacation destinations?

Friday, March 19

Normal service has resumed......

So............... we've had the most amazing two weeks celebrating our 3rd anniversary, so much so I reckon we should celebrate every week.... okay maybe every three years..... hope you all had as much fun as we all did.

Anyway, I almost forgot that it's my turn to post this week, what with the party here and getting ready for my holiday (2 more sleeps, not that I'm counting).

Which got me thinking. I get very excited about going away, or anything coming up in the future... it's sort of what keeps me going, knowing what the next exciting thing is going to be (like, after our holiday, there's the writing conference in Australia, and then after that putting our motel on the market, and after that moving to Australia.... see it's all so exciting).

My husband is totally the opposite, he doesn't look forward to anything because he doesn't want to be disappointed... WTF!!! Seriously, even if things don't turn out as expected who cares.... you still have all the time you spent enjoying it as you looked forward to it, you can't take that away.

So, I thought I'd ask you what you're like. Do you look forward to things, or do you try not to think about them?

Monday, March 15

TFC Anniversary Party Prize Winners!

We at the TFC want to thank all our loyal and newest readers for helping us celebrate our 3 year anniversary. If you were one of the commenters listed below, contact your specific author at the listed email address or web-site with:
  • your full name
  • mailing address
  • prize choice if applicable

Congratulations to our big winners!

Caitlin G, you've won either I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone or Ballads of Suburbia. Contact Stephanie at Stephanie (At) Stephaniekuehnert (Dot) com and don't forget to include your book choice!

Elie, you've won Crazy Beautiful, Angel's Choice, and Secrets of My Suburban Life. Lauren would like you to email her at GLogsted (At) Aol (Dot) com.

AuroraM, you've won Zombie Queen of Newbury High! Just contact Amanda Ashby at amanda (At) amandaashby (Dot) com

Congratulations to you, Kristen, for winning your choice of 1 of Linda Gerber's gems: Now and Zen, The Finnish Line, Death by Bikini, Death by Latte, or Death by Denim. And Kelly, you've won the hot-off-the-press galley of Trance! Both of you can send your info to Gerb through her website, http://www.lindagerber.com/.

A copy of Lovestruck Summer now belongs to MsFairyFreak. Head on over to Melissa Walker's website, http://www.melissawalker.com/ to contact her.

Bee, you won Rock My World. And O.W.L., Demon Baby chose you as the winner of Magickeepers! If you two would please email Erica at Erica (At) Ericaorloff (Dot) com, that would be great.

Maree Anderson, you won Sara Hantz's The Second Virginity of Suzy Green! Just contact Sara through her website, http://www.sarahantz.com/ with your mailing info and it'll be on its merry way from NZ!

Laurena, great news for you too! You've won Kay Cassidy's Cinderella Society glass slipper bookmark. Contact her at www.kaycassidy.com/contact.

Cherie J, congrat's! You've won The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren purple bangles. Contact Wendy through http://www.wendytoliver.com/.

Guess, what, Suzette? You get to choose Graffiti Girl or Invisible Touch! You can contact Kelly Parra at http://www.kellyparra.com/411.html.

And last but not least, Missy Love is the winner of Alyson Noel's Shadowland and "eternity" bracelet. Please email her at Alyson (At) Alysonnoel (Dot) com.

Thanks again to everyone for helping us celebrate! Here's to another 3 years of Teen Fiction Cafe!

Saturday, March 13

Lucky last

Can you believe it's the last day of our third anniversary celebration? I know, crazy right! Anyway, before I start my own little ramble (and trust me, ramble I will) I'd just like to say a big thank you to everyone who has joined us - you guys rock and it's your enthusiasm that helps make our genre so awesome! I'd also like to thank all of my fellow TFCers for your wonderful, insightful, honest and witty posts. I know I'm not the only one who has found them incredibly inspiring!!!!

Now, the theme this week has been about what we were all doing three years ago when Teen Fiction Café first started, and while I don’t always own the best memory in the world, I actually do know the answer to this one.

In March 2007 I was living in England getting ready to move back to New Zealand the following month (and by move, I mean that I was trying to sort my way through the acres of toys that my children had somehow managed to accumulate). As well as packing, I was also waiting for my debut book YOU HAD ME AT HALO to hit the shelves in August.

Halo had actually started life as a young adult book but my editor wanted me to rewrite it as woman’s fiction (which I did, and let’s just say that brains and explosion pretty much summed up that experience). However, the thing is that despite how happy I was to have a book coming out, I still really wanted to write a YA book and so I pitched an idea of a zombie novel to my agent in March 2007.

Back then it was all about vampires and quite honestly the only reason I chose zombies was because I thought that the word was funny. Thankfully my agent loved the idea and so I (rather ambitiously) decided to write the book before I moved. Which meant that yup, I spent three weeks in March 2007 writing Zombie Queen of Newbury High. Thankfully it was worth the effort and a couple of months after I arrived in New Zealand, and just before Halo came out, my agent sold it to Puffin.

Now, like all of my fellow TFCers have mentioned, being an author definitely has its highs and lows and my journey since then has definitely had a collection of both. Despite getting some really great reviews and being nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice award, my first book tanked and was remaindered a year later. Zombie fared a bit better and as well as going into a third print run, I’ve also just found out that it’s been selected by the New York Public Library for their Stuff for the Teen Age 2010 list (which, let me tell you, had me doing some very undignified dancing in front of my highly embarrassed children).

Thankfully the good news definitely makes it easier on the hard days when the doubt monkeys sit on my shoulder and scream so loudly in my ear that I can’t imagine how I could ever write another word again. I’m still working on how to get rid of those doubt monkeys (you know like send them to a lovely farm where they can live a long and happy life because honestly the thought of poking them in their beady little eyes with a sharp pencil had never even crossed my sweet little mind. Honest!!!!!).

So that’s me. The last three years have seen me move country, get to see my books in print and meet some really wonderful YA authors and readers. As for what the next three years hold, well I’ve also got another YA book called Fairy Bad Day coming out in Spring next year as well as a midgrade series about an eleven year old girl who accidently gets turned into a djinn the day before she starts sixth grade and then has to learn how to handle her powers while hiding it all from her mom.

And because no party would be complete without prizes I’m going to give away a copy of ZOMBIE QUEEN OF NEWBURY HIGH (what? You didn’t think I was going to share my snacks did you?). To be in with a chance to win all you need to do is leave a comment. Go on, you know you want to!

Friday, March 12


It's been fun to look back on the past three years with the other TFCers to see how much has changed. So that's the theme of my post today - changes.

Back when I sold my first book - SASS: NOW AND ZEN, a friend told me, "This will change your life forever." At the time I thought the statement was pretty dramatic. I mean, yes, I'd been chasing the publishing dream for years and yes, I'd just achieved that goal, but even then I was smart (wise? savvy? jaded?) enough to know that one publishing contract didn't mean I'd "made it".

But you know what? She was right. Things changed. Not the 'now you're a rock star" kind of change, but for sure, definitely, absolutely that little fork in the road set me on a different path.

One of the cool changes that came from being a published author was 'joining the club' so to speak. I'm still a total fangirl who doesn't even think I'm in the same universe as my favorite authors, let alone the same league, but whereas before I was a wannabe writer, when my first book was published, I became an author, just like them! And as an author, I got to be included in things that were previously beyond my grasp - such as group signings, school visits, contributing to anthologies, and being invited to participate with a group of completely cool authors on this blog. That, to me, was one of the most exciting, life-changing moments of all. It's been an honor and a joy to get to know my TFC sisters over these three years. *sniff*

The years have brought about other huge changes for me as well. When we first started TFC, I was in transition. I'd just left my first agent and signed with Elaine Spencer at the Knight Agency. I think that's the first time I really felt "legitimate" as an author.

My family was still living in Japan at the time, and I was busily researching for my next book, SASS: THE FINNISH LINE. That's when I discovered that women ski jumpers weren't (and still aren't) allowed to compete in the Olympics and I joined the fight for their inclusion. (You can read about it and sign the petition at the Womens Ski Jump USA website.) THE FINNISH LINE was released in the fall of '07, and earned a blurb from Olympian Gold Medalist Nikki Stone and a 'recommended read' nod from the Women's Sports Foundation.

I was busily writing my next book, DEATH BY BIKINI when my family and I made the move back to the States. That was a fun change because unlike the SASS series, which was written by a bunch of different authors, this was my own series. All me! Scary and fun at the same time. DBB presales were strong and it went to a second printing before the pub date. And then Scholastic Book Club picked it up to be included in the school book fairs. By the time it was released in May of '08, I was flying pretty high. That continued as DEATH BY LATTE was released in the fall and DEATH BY DENIM the following spring. (Side note: This spring the books will be re-released in a bind-up edition with all three under the title "THE DEATH BY BIKINI MYSTERIES".)

Meanwhile, like everyone else, the three years brought a lot of downs to go with all those ups. My publisher decided we should 'end strong' and not do a fourth DEATH BY book - even though they had asked me to leave the ending of book three totally open for one. (So now I get a ton of letters from readers wanting to know when the fourth book is coming and I have to sadly tell them... it's not.) I proposed a bunch of ideas that didn't go anywhere. I banged my head against countless walls.

BUT the frustrations all seem worth it when the good stuff happens. In the summer of 2008, I sold my first YA paranormal. It evolved into what is now TRANCE and will be released this fall. Fast forward another year (and countless proposals later) and I sold a four-book MG series about the international adventures of Cassidy Barnett. Those books will come out one per season starting in 2011.

For me, a former mom-wannabe-writer, these were some pretty huge changes in just three years. There's been good and there's been bad, but you know what? It's all been worth it.

How about you? What kinds of changes have you been through recently? Comment below to win your choice of one of the above mentioned (published) books. I will randomly draw a winner to be announced Monday, March 15.

BONUS: I just learned from my editor that I should have my TRANCE ARCs by the end of the month. In addition to the book-choice winner, I will draw one winner of the very first TRANCE ARC to anyone who blogs, tweets or posts about the TFC party today or tomorrow. (Post link in comments.) Ready? GO!


Thursday, March 11

More anniversary fun!

As the newest member of the Teen Fiction Cafe (and the only one still waiting for her debut!), this was a funny thing to go back and look at. Especially after reading everyone else's posts!

Three years ago, in March of 2007, I was an unagented, unpublished writer wondering if I would ever actually sell a book. I was still trying to find my voice, putting off writing a book called The Cinderella Society because I was afraid I didn't have the skills to pull off a book bigger than I'd ever tried before.

Every published author I know has been at that point. Wondering, worrying, comparing themselves to other authors and fearing they'll never measure up. That was me three years ago.

But it was the summer of 2007 when I finally decided that worrying was never going to get me where I wanted to go. And when I acknowledged that my writing improvements were coming more incrementally than in the huge leaps they'd come in at the beginning, I knew it was now or never. It was time for me to write The Cinderella Society.

So I did. I shredded everything I'd written on it up to that point, made the idea as big as I could, and started over with my fears banished to the closet while I hammered out a first draft. I finished the book in fall 2007 and entered it in the Golden Heart. And then came the agent search. I queried the amazing/funny/talented woman who would become my agent at the end of January 2008 and signed with her in early March. Three weeks later, I found out The Cinderella Society was a finalist in the Golden Heart.

Fast forward a few months... MANY revisions to The Cinderella Society (including the famous "Do you think you can make the climax of the book the midpoint?" which nearly made me faint but made the book TONS better)... and it went out on submission in June 2008. The summer was crazy and then on August 2, 2008, The Cinderella Society won the Golden Heart. I remember standing on the stage at the awards ceremony in San Francisco thinking I couldn't believe this was happening.

Flying high from the win, I went home and regrouped with my agent. Three houses still had the book, including one that had been championing it for two solid months in-house trying to buy it. Everything was fabulous...

And then I got an email from my agent saying the editor who had been such a supporter of it had to pass. It was a Monday, two weeks after getting home from San Francisco, and I was devasted. If she couldn't sell her publisher on it after two months, what were the odds *anyone* was going to want it? I spent Monday in deep despair, thinking for sure this was the end of the road.

And then Tuesday arrived.

With an offer from one of the remaining two publishers.

And then Friday arrived with an offer from the other remaining publisher.

It's truly amazing how your writing life can completely change in a span of just four days. I never would've imagined on Monday that things would turn around so completely. I signed with Egmont in August 2008 and never looked back.

It hasn't been easy, by any means. There have been many days I've fallen apart, swearing that I'm a terrible writer and this was all somehow a fluke. But it's made me stronger as a person and I'm grateful for that. And it's helped me remember what's really important in life too - my health, my family, my friends. Those are the things that make life really spectacular. :-)

So, fast forward 18 months and we arrive... here! Today! Celebrating three years of TFC goodness! The Cinderella Society hits shelves next month (April 13th - the same day Glee returns!) and the second book of the series, Cindy on a Mission, is slated for Spring 2011.

I feel so incredibly blessed. I get paid to make stuff up in my pajamas and get to hang out in the Cafe with some amazing, wonderful, funny authors. If this is a dream, please don't wake me! I'm going to sleep in a while longer. :-)


To celebrate our 3-year blogoversary, I'm giving away a Cinderella Society "glass slipper" bookmark! Simply comment below for your chance to win. It's open to US/Canada residents and the winner will be announced in our grand finale on March 15th.

Happy anniversary, Teen Fiction Cafe!

Wednesday, March 10

Three Years: The Good, The Hard and the Totally Elating

Three years ago, I was finishing up the second book in the Violet trilogy and anxiously awaiting the release of my first book, Violet on the Runway. Here's a quick rundown of the roller-coaster ride:

The Good
Holding the first copies of Violet on the Runway in my hands was like holding a new baby. Okay, I don't have kids yet, so I can't say that with authority, but I was pretty ecstatic and excited. I did lots of silly things with the books in an afternoon photo shoot, including making this Gargoyle shelter.

The Hard
Not long after my book did come out in 2007, I learned that no one cares about your book as much as you care about your book. Like my TFC pals have been saying, it ain't all wine and roses post-publication. I basically made it my part-time job to get press for my books -- I emailed other authors, editors, any publication the world has ever heard of (I had an angle for why each of them should write about me or my books). And while I'm not sure it sold copies, I know that it helped raise my profile among editors and other writers, which is valuable in itself. Authors I respected seemed to know my name, generally, and to have heard of the books. That made me happy, even though I was tired (and a little bit sheepish) after all the self-promoting. It did get me a killer press page though -- here's a favorite little snippet from NYLON.

The Totally Elating
Here's the thing about writing YA novels: My 15-year-old self would be over-the-moon ecstatic to hear that this is my 32-year-old self's job. That someone pays me to put words on a page and create characters and dream up stories. So all the rough drafts and the false starts and the revisions and the "Am I good enough?" moments (also known as the "What if I suck?" moments, of which there are many) is totally worth it because this writing life is a dream come true. I don't know how long I'll get to do it -- we all worry about when the next contract will come and if anyone will want another book from us -- but I'm going to enjoy every minute while I'm in the game. And I hope to be in it for a long time!

PS-What really makes it all worthwhile? The readers. A fan recently emailed me about my latest novel, Lovestruck Summer, and she said, "I want to be Quinn! I want to dye my hair blue and live in headphones and fall in love this summer." And that is why we do this thing.

♥ So what was/is your 15-year-old dream? Comment below and one random commenter will win a signed copy of Lovestruck Summer!

Monday, March 8

"Three years ago…"

Hey TFC friends!!

I can’t believe Teen Fiction Café has hit its 3-year anniversary. I couldn’t be more thrilled for TFC and to be part of such an awesome group of authors. So three years ago, where was I?

Three years ago…

~ Of course, I joined up with the cool ladies at TFC to talk book gossip and good times!

YA Authors

~ Tina Ferraro, author of The ABC’s of Kissing Boys, partnered with me on YA Fresh to talk books and all that’s fresh.

~ I jumped on the Gilmore Girls fan wagon and had a serious GG marathon, followed by a totally awesome Veronica Mars series-fest.

~ Blog Memes were hot! (haha!)

~ I was a blogging mad woman, blogging here, YA Fresh, just starting with MTV Books, and keeping it real at my own personal blog. (I’ve so mellowed out a bit on the blogging craze!)

On a personal note, three years ago…

~ Graffiti Girl had hit shelves in May 2007.

~ I was crazy mad with nerves.

~ I had my first book signing with tons of friends and family supporting me.

Borders Book Signing

~ I discovered that adults and teens would somehow find a connection with Angel and her dream.

~ And that the written word can touch a young teen’s heart.

What I’ve learned in these three years…

~ That you can’t please everyone with your stories, but the ones you do please makes it all worth it.

~ That even though publishing is not the easiest profession, I love being a storyteller.

~ And it’s people like you, the readers and writers I interact with, who make me feel a part of something good and real.


So thank you for reading and for being a part of TFC’s Anniversary!! I’ll be giving away one book to an interested TFC reader, Graffiti Girl or Invisible Touch (winner’s choice!). Just leave a comment…about something positive that happened to you three years ago.

Good luck! :) :)

Sunday, March 7

Three years….. Wow!!!

Reading the posts so far has given me the warm and fuzzies. When Wendy and I started the blog we had no idea how successful it would be and how everyone’s careers would take off.

Looking back on the last three years, for me it’s been a mix of excitement and despair. Though I’d been published in non-fiction, nothing could beat the thrill of holding my first fiction book in my hand. And I’ve had some amazing emails from readers who’ve loved Suzy, even as recently as a few weeks ago. Yet, like many of the other TFCers there have been times when I’ve been so frustrated by what’s happened. After selling The Second Virginity of Suzy Green I thought, yay, this is it. I’ll sell my next book and the one after that and have the writing career I’d dreamed of.

Not so!! Through a number of circumstances (which I won’t bore you with here) I’m still waiting. I now have another agent who, as we speak, is submitting my latest manuscript, and though it’s early days we’re feeling really positive.

Anyway, aside from that, being a member of TFC these last three years has been an incredible experience. We help and support each other not only with our writing but all other aspects of our lives. And it was awesome when a few of us met up at RWA San Francisco a couple of years ago – when I went over from New Zealand with Amanda.

Here's Wendy and me (back right) at San Fran!

And here I am front left, next to Kelly and Amanda's top right.

So, here’s to another three years of Teen Fiction Café and to all of our careers soaring in the direction we want.

If you’d like the chance to win a copy of The Second Virginity of Suzy Green, please leave a comment and the winners name will be announced on Monday.

Saturday, March 6

The call I didn't get three years ago today

TFC is three years old! Definitely very exciting as I loved this group blog even before I was a part of it. But like my fellow bloggers have been doing throughout this celebration, I want to tell you a little bit about where I was at three years ago today.

Three years ago, I was in the long and torturous waiting phase of my writing career that so many authors know so well. I'd lucked out in the agent department and skipped that whole part of the waiting game. I'd met my agent in March of 2005 while I was still in grad school. My school (Columbia College Chicago) had an annual festival called Story Week that all of us students eagerly looked forward to because they brought in some of the best authors and we got a chance to hear them read, ask questions of them and meet them to get our books signed. They also brought in people in other areas of the publishing industry to give us a well-rounded view of how it all worked. They had panels with editors, agents, publicists, all kinds of folks. And sometimes some of those people generously offered to meet with students. I'd been selected by my teachers to meet with Story Week guests in the past and had gotten some valuable critiques. When they told me I was going to meet with an agent, I expected the same thing. But when I walked into that room to meet Caren Johnson, who'd read the first chapter of a book I was working on about a rock n roll girl and her missing mother which I was calling the Black Notebooks at the time, she said, "I love this. I want it. When can you finish it?"

Like I said, LUCKY. Big time. I spent that summer finishing and polishing my manuscript and sent it off to Caren. She asked me to do some revisions. I did. We signed a contract. I did some more revisions and by January of 2006 my manuscript was being shopped....

And by March of 2007, I was pretty sure that it would never sell. I'd finished grad school, had a crappy administrative assistant job that I told myself I could handle because ANY DAY NOW my publishing dreams would come true. I was polishing up a second manuscript because I was sure that All Roads Lead to Rock 'n' Roll as the book was newly titled would never sell. In fact I was getting so jaded, I figured my second book would probably never sell either and Caren would drop me and oh my god, I cannot even express how much I hated my job, so I'd started to look into library science school because I figured that was the only thing besides writing that might make me happy career-wise. My agent, however, was not giving up and exactly three years ago today we got our first major ray of hope!

After nothing but polite rejections (great writing, but the story is too small/too midwestern/too punk/too we have no idea where to put it), my agent forwarded me an email from an excited editor who'd read my manuscript in one night and wanted to take it to her higher-ups. I was on cloud nine. I thought this was really it. I was going to get The Call. My agent told me when this editor was meeting with the other editors and... it fell on the day I had jury duty! ARGH! Jury duty meant a whole day of sitting in a room where I was not allowed to have my cell phone on! I never even got called for a case, which I meant I spent my entire day trying to read and running to the bathroom where I would sneakily turn my phone on and check my voicemail. But there was no news....

We didn't hear for another month and when we finally did, the answer was no. Another 'no' rolled in behind it and I replied to my agent, "I guess we don't have much hope left for this one. But since they liked my writing maybe we can pitch them the next one?" I sounded hopeful in that email, but I was honestly more dejected than ever. I felt like I wasn't cut out for this publishing thing and I'd wasted so much time and money going to school for creative writing. At least I was working at a university though, hopefully I could get into their library science program and put up with my awful job long enough to get my tuition paid for...

Then two weeks later an email from my agent that said "Call me and let's talk" with an offer from MTV Books copied and pasted below it. So I ran into a private office at work (since I worked in a cubicle, yuck!) and called in disbelief. I wasn't sure if this was an actual offer or another "maybe, depending on what the higher-ups say" like last time, which I figured would ultimately end in more disappointment. When I asked my agent exactly what this meant, she said, "Call your mother, you're officially going to be a published author."

So on April 17, 2007, as Teen Fiction Cafe was taking its baby steps, I sold a book called "All Roads Lead to Rock 'n' Roll," which would later come to be called I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE.

I wish I could say it was all wine and roses after that and speak about how incredibly far I've come, but as other authors have mentioned quite honestly on this blog (and I love my TFC sisters for their honesty), my fears and self doubts haven't disappeared. Right now I'm playing the waiting game yet again as my agent prepares her final notes on my latest partial manuscript, which I will then revise (hopefully quite quickly) and she will begin to shop. I hope it won't take over a year to sell this time, but I've learned it's often just as hard to stay published as to get published in the first place.

I quit the no-good, soul-sucking office job soon after I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone came out and went back to the far more enjoyable job that I held during grad school--bartending--because it gives me a lot more time to write. But I still go through phases where I feel like it's all too much, that I'll be stuck bartending forever and never really make it as a writer and I can barely make ends meet bartending as is, and I begin to think seriously about library science school again. But I keep writing for the same reason I always have: there are these characters in my head who really need their stories told and they are terribly insistent. Not to mention, if I'm not writing I'm miserable and don't know what to do with myself; I've been that way since I was a kid.

And now I have the additional motivation of the readers who loved my first two books. I honestly can't express how much every email, tweet or message from readers means to me. Sometimes it is what gets me past my fears and able to put my butt in the chair and write.

I can't honestly say what the next three years will bring, I've learned how unpredictable the publishing world can be, but I will keep fighting to get my stories out there and no matter what happens, I have some really amazing memories. Like the one of this girl, who missed her bus and literally ran all the way to the bookstore in Seattle to hear me read and meet me:

Like some of my biggest blogger fans who sent me tons of messages of encouragement and I think I was as excited to meet them as they were to meet me:

Like doing a signing with TFC's Kelly Parra:

And a reading with with TFC's Alyson Noel at Virgin Megastore on Hollywood Boulevard:

That reading above was actually on my 29th birthday! And in honor of TFC's birthday, I'll be giving out a signed copy of one of my books. You can choose which one you want, I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE or BALLADS OF SUBURBIA. Just leave a comment to enter, tell me about the dream you have that you will fight for like we writers fight to get our stories out there to the world, and mention which book you'd like in your comment. I always like to give out extra chances to win, so you can get an extra entry for each time you blog, link to, or tweet about the TFC celebration, just note your extra entries in the comment as well. I will draw a winner via random number generator on March 15!

Friday, March 5

The TFC Anniversary party continues even more...

Today I'm giving away signed copies of Alyson Noel's books!

Actually, I'm not. But after all the fun here this week, I felt like I had to say something attention-grabbing. There will in fact be a book giveaway here at TFC today, but before you get to that, first you need to wade through me blathering on for a bit.

Now, let's see, where was I three years ago, when things were first getting started here at TFC...

Oh, right. It was March 2007. Three months prior to that, after having a string of adult novels published, my first YA debuted, Angel's Choice.

Well, this is annoying. I just tried to upload an image of Angel's Choice and for some reason Blogger was all stall-y on it. Am I the only one this stuff happens to here? Yeah, pretty much.

Back to March 2007. The month before, I'd been offered a contract to write The Sisters 8 series for young readers. (More on that latter.) It was pretty exciting stuff.

And TFC was just getting started: me and my TFC sisters blogging together, a nice addition to my life since a writer's life can be a mostly solitary one.

What's changed in the last three years?

Well, my family's all in on the writing act now. My husband Greg Logsted has had one YA published, Something Happened, and one middle grade novel, Alibi Junior High. Our daughter Jackie, now 10 years old, is one of the three creative minds behind The Sisters 8 series, along with Greg and myself.

One thing that hasn't changed is TFC: It's still as much fun as when I first started here.

So what have I learned in the last three years? Like some of my TFC sisters have indicated, it's not always easy being a writer. Believe me, it's not the hardest job in the world. You'll never hear me say I have it worse than some poor guy laying tar in Texas in August. But it's not easy. It seems each book has its own opportunities for disappointment and joy. And if you're like me and have several books published a year - I'm not complaining! - those opportunities are exponential. After a while you realize that what was true in the beginning of your writing journey goes on being true: the most important thing is to keep putting one writing foot in front of the other, ignoring all the sound and fury of triumph and disaster, and that the only person who can ever really take you out of the game is you.

What lies ahead for me in 2010? A lot! Book 5 of The Sisters 8, Marcia's Madness, comes out on May 3; and Book 6, Petal's Problems, comes out in October. Oh, and I have two YA novels coming out this year: The Education of Bet, on July 12; and The Twin's Daughter, on August 31.

And what lies ahead for you here at TFC today? A big honking contest! No, I'm afraid I'm not giving away a signed copy of one of Alyson's books - I'd like one of those myself! - but I am giving away a Starter Pack of Lauren Baratz-Logsted YA books. That's right. One lucky commenter will received signed copies of all three of my YA books published thus far: Angel's Choice, Secrets of My Suburban Life, and Crazy Beautiful. To be entered, all you need to do is leave a comment below. The winner will be picked at random and announced on March 15.

So comment away and thanks for three great years at TFC!

Thursday, March 4

The TFC Anniversary party continues . . .

Wow, I can’t believe it’s actually been 3 years since I first started blogging here—it just flew by! And yet after reviewing my old 2007 date book (yep, I actually did that!) I was amazed at just how much was going on back then.

In short:

Fly Me to the Moon, Kiss & Blog, and Saving Zoë were all published that year, and I did book signings, library talks, school visits, gave a keynote speech, took part on a few different panels at various events, and continued to take classes, and learn as much as I could about this ever-changing industry.

I also continued writing Evermore on the side (I started it in 2006), and was heavily involved in researching Ever & Damen’s world—getting hypnotized, taking psychic development classes, reading lots and lots of books about ghosts, spirits, reincarnation, etc. But, since I was actually contracted to write Cruel Summer, and not Evermore, it was a while before I found the time to finish it.

And as good as this writing career has turned out to be, with 10 published novels, 2 anthologies, 2 novels in various stages of production, 9 more under contract—and hitting bestseller lists in a way I never imagined—I don’t want to give the impression that it’s been non-stop tulips and champagne swilling—because it hasn’t.

This business is tough. And the truth is, it’s just as tough to stay published, as it is to get published—maybe tougher! And all the challenges that come along have an uncanny way of feeling really personal, even when they aren't.

Since signing my first book contract back in 2004, I’ve had 3 agents (third one is the absolute charm!), 3 editors, 1 publishing house, and countless meltdowns.

There were days when I cried, threw things, threatened to give up, and thought for sure I was just days away from having no choice but to squeeze back into the fugly, navy blue, polyester dress and bunion-inducing heels of my former light attendant career because I just wasn’t made of the right stuff.

Luckily, my husband was there to talk me off the ledge and convince me to keep on keeping on.

And while I absolutely love what I do, and wouldn’t change it for the world, writing is a very solitary business, which is why being part of this awesome group of writers and readers here at The Café has definitely served as one of the bright spots!

So, as a way to say Thanks to all of you awesome readers, I am giving away a signed copy of Shadowland along with an “eternity” bracelet (pictured at the top) from one of my favorite places to indulge, Dogeared.

All you have to do is leave a comment, and a winner will be chosen at random and announced on March 15th!!

Thanks for 3 awesome years everyone!



Wednesday, March 3

Relativity? Three Years Ago . . .

I love Albert Einstein. But more on him later. First . . . the last three years.

Three years ago, we started the Teen Fiction Cafe. I don't know about you, but I think I age in dog years. It feels like Forever Ago. But then again, I tend to measure life by my kids (I have four). So three years ago, my Demon Baby looked like . . . well . . . a baby.

Three years and a LOT of gray hair later, along with balls thrown in the house, worms put in my wine glass (and on my pillow) and one diamond ring fed to the dogs . . . he looks like a little boy. THREE years.

Now, I didn't ONLY sit around and eat bon-bons, age exponentially, and act as mom to four kids. I also wrote books. I've always written books. Or maybe it just seems that way!

But I had an idea for a middle grade book, and about four years ago, I got a three-book contract and the Magickeepers were born. Except I still had to write it. But that was OK. And the first one came out last year in hardcover. Next month (!) it comes out in trade paperback.

Followed, in May, by the hardcover release of the next book in the series.

When I write it like that, it really does sound like it was a "snap." But trust me . . . I aged exponentially. 'Cause I just can't figure out where the time went. Do you suppose this is what Albert Einstein mean by "relativity." What's something that "seems like yesterday"? Is time relative? Does it drag sometimes? And go by in a snap at others?

Leave a comment between now and the end of our blog party and one random winner will get a hardcover copy of the first Magickeepers book! And another will win a copy of ROCK MY WORLD, one of my YA titles from . . . gosh . . . five years ago. Don't even get me started on how long ago THAT seems.

Tuesday, March 2

TFC's 3rd Anniversary Celebration: Day 2!

I am so excited about Teen Fiction Cafe's 3rd anniversary! Almost exactly three years ago, my friend and fellow author Sara Hantz and I noticed our first YA novels were launching at about the same time, and we decided to put together a group blog featuring YA authors from all over the world. Not only do we have fun posting about various topics, we've all grown to be friends with each other as well as with our readers. We'll be celebrating our anniversary every day through March 13, so drop by often for chances to win prizes and to learn how far each of us has come in the past 3 years.

Three years ago, I was anxiously waiting to see my first YA novel, The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren, which came out in December of 2007. Though I'd had some nonfiction books published, this was my first work of fiction, and I was beyond excited. My fabulous husband threw me a huge book launch bash at the Eccles Art Center in Ogden, Utah, and though the weather was less than ideal, it meant so much to me that so many friends and relatives braved the snow to come. Siren went into its second printing only a few months after its launch, which I thought was pretty cool. Also, my second YA manuscript, then called Cupid Girl, was a finalist in the YA category for the 2007 Romance Writers of the World's Golden Heart contest. It was so much fun to go to Dallas for the parties and ceremony (see photo of my DH and me all decked out). My publisher, Simon Pulse, liked this story and just over a year after Siren, my 2nd YA novel came out with a new title: Miss Match. Both Siren and Miss Match are romantic comedies, part of the Simon Pulse Ro-Coms . While I enjoyed writing these very much, I wanted to challenge myself by taking my writing in a whole new direction. For over 2 years, I wrote and worked on on a story about a girl who gets in too deep with a pair of shoplifters, and I was so excited (and relieved) when in November of 2009, my publisher bought Lifted. It's coming out in 94 days--that's June 8!

So, to summarize my authorly journey these past 3 years: 1 publisher, 2 fabulous agents (Christina Hogrebe, pictured below in the pretty black leaf-print dress, and Annelise Robey of Jane Rotrosen Agency), 3 YA books, 5 different editors (!), 1 TV appearance, several newspaper articles, lots of school visits and book signings, 1 key-note speech, 1 writers' conference put on with a writer friend, several presentations for other writers' conferences, and one marriage proposal from a 14 year-old boy. :)
As part of Teen Fiction Cafe's 3rd anniversary celebration, I'm giving away a set of 3 wooden bangles. They're purple like The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren--the little purple book that came out 3 years ago. For a chance to win, just leave a comment between now and March 13 (we'll announce all the winners on March 15). My middle son will draw the winner out of a hat. Good luck, and thanks for stopping by to help us celebrate!