Monday, October 20, 2014


After the whole Hale / Harris Twitter fiasco, I wanted to take a moment to thank bloggers for my own 1-star reviews. 

I'm honestly not being sarcastic.  I mean it: thank you.

I've said it before, but it's true--I read all my reviews.  The good, the mixed, the straight-up negative.  I think blog reviews are every bit as important as trade reviews.  (Editors and publishing insiders offer only one viewpoint.  Readers offer others.)  I comb through blog reviews seeking patterns: what readers thought worked, what they thought missed the mark. FERAL, the YA psychological thriller that released last August, has been utterly eye-opening.  More so than any other book I've published.  A few of the bigger lessons I've learned so far:


I've already blogged about this one a bit, but it's true: FERAL hits just about every item in a checklist for the elements that should be in a classic psychological thriller.  Hitchcockian pace?  Attention to a character's inner workings?  Water as a metaphor for the subconscious?  Check, check, check.  (Even the FERAL cats are a nod to Hitchcock.)  Do modern readers see the term "psychological thriller" and believe that the emphasis should be on "psychological"?  Nope.  The emphasis, for modern readers, should be on "thriller."  Even psychological thrillers should be action-oriented (or move at a faster clip).  Point taken.


I was introduced to this lesson with PLAYING HURT; some readers thought Chelsea was a selfish, unlikable character when she cheated on her boyfriend.  I heard it again with a few FERAL reviews.  I have to admit, I consistently struggle with this one.  I believe part of my job, as an author, is to present a character's unvarnished truth.  A novel is a unique experience because we're actually inside another person's head; that doesn't happen in any form of entertainment--not TV, not a movie, not a play...In a book, we're not just watching a character navigate through a sticky situation; we're actually experiencing the sticky situation, because we're looking through a character's eyes.  I think that means I have to present my characters warts and all.  I have to show all the things they keep inside, the things that they wouldn't want the rest of the world to see.  That can, at times, make them less than admirable (as it does when Claire reveals in FERAL that she blames her best friend, at least in part, for her attack).  I am, though, currently working on an NA manuscript, and this lesson, more than any other, is helping with my revisions.


When I was in college, "genre" was a bad word; it was lesser fiction.  That's baloney.  Readers of genre fiction know the ins and outs of their preferred genre (mystery, romance, etc.), and expect authors to deliver.  Nothing is more challenging for an author than finding a way to be original while meeting the established criteria for a specific genre.  And I'm definitely up for that challenge...

I've long said that I would hate, hate, HATE it if A BLUE SO DARK, my first published book, turned out to be my best book.  I want to get better with each book I write.  But I can't get better in a vacuum.  I have to have feedback in order to do that.  No one provides more honest feedback than book bloggers.  I'm grateful for it, I welcome it, I'm learning from it.

Thank, guys.  Seriously.  Thanks.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Months after a brutally described attack, provoked by her student newspaper exposé of a Chicago drugring, Claire  is still suffering the physical and psychological aftereffects of the beating. Retreating to Peculiar, Missouri, for her father's sabbatical, Claire hopes the slower pace and strangers' lack of awareness of her injuries will give her a fresh start. However, the night they arrive, Serena, a female reporter from the school newspaper, dies in conditions that Claire finds eerily similar to her own near death experience.  Peculiar quickly lives up to its name, as Claire can feel Serena reaching out to her. Does she want Claire's help in solving the mystery of her death? Or is her spirit trying to possess Claire's body, as it seems to have taken up residence in a local feral cat? A heavily gloomy feel pervades this novel that shifts through phases of fantasy, mystery, psychological thriller, and thoughtful realistic fiction dealing with PTSD. Readers captivated by Claire's impassioned spiral out of control will be soothed by the tentatively positive resolution.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


I'm excited to announce that I'm becoming a hybrid author: one who publishes both traditionally and independently.  The video below goes into some of the reasons behind this move, and provides a glimpse into which genre I'll be tackling in my first indie-published work:

Monday, October 13, 2014


I've loved the extensive blog tours I've done for FERAL, but this post, which originally went live last week at Adventures in YA Publishing, goes beyond a mere tour post.  It highlights the most useful tip I can give any author seeking their first "yes" from the publishing world.  Read on, and gear up for my positive reading challenge:

Holly Schindler's Positive Reading Challenge 

I’m not going to lie—I don’t think my writing degree did much for me, in terms of preparing me to become a professional writer. That’s not to discourage anyone currently enrolled in a writing program. I’m only speaking specifically of the writing program I attended in the late ‘90s / early ‘00s. In fact, many of the “truths” that were taught in my creative writing courses did me a disservice—I had to spend a few years unlearning the lessons that had filled my classrooms.

The one lesson that I’m grateful for—the one lesson that actually did help me—came from a literature professor, rather than a writing professor. In fact, he was by far my favorite instructor in the entire department.

I met this particular professor when I signed up for his course in Literary Criticism. The course was a real struggle for me, in the beginning—so much so, I wound up seeking him out after class to try to gain some perspective, some insight into how to better attack the subject matter.

The advice this professor gave me was to forget “good.” It wasn’t my job to determine whether or not a book, poem, story, etc. was worth reading. Other people with far better credentials had, in fact, already determined the work was “good.” It had made its way into the literary canon. It was a classic. My job, as a literature student, was to figure out why. What separated this work from its contemporaries? Why did it survive while others produced in the same vein were forgotten?

When I graduated and was up to my eyeballs in rejections, I returned to that lesson. I checked out piles and piles of contemporary juvenile literature from my local library and attacked each book in the same way I’d once attacked the works I’d read for my lit prof. I went at it thinking, “Okay, somebody—an agent, an editor, a publishing house—has already decided this book is good. Why? What does this book have that made it a work to be acquired? What are this author’s strengths?”

That lesson, more than any other, helped me move toward publication. And I’d like to encourage anyone in pursuit of publication to do the same. For one year, I challenge you to find something good in each new book you read.

It’s easy, when you’re covered in rejection, to fall into a pattern of negative thinking. That negative thinking could be projected inward (“I’m no good. I’ll never be in the company of published authors. I don’t have anything new to offer. Who would read my work when so many other great authors are already out there?”) Or, the negative thinking could be projected outward (“Published books are crap. These published authors are no good. My work is better than this. The reason my work isn’t being accepted is because editors only want crap.”)

Another negative thought pre-published authors fall into is the idea that a rejection means that the editor or agent is telling you that your work isn’t of high enough quality. That’s not it at all. Yet again, I encourage you to forget “good.” A rejection isn’t an editor telling you that you’re not good enough. In fact, I once worked with an editor who told me that she picked books that she felt she could edit in a way no one else could…she picked books she felt she could make a unique kind of editorial thumbprint on. She said she did pass on many books that were well done—it was about finding the right match.

For one year, then, I encourage any would-be authors to ditch the negative thinking—which can really affect your writing, hamper it. Let go of the idea that a rejection is a way to tell you that you’re not good enough. Let go of the idea that you don’t measure up. And while you should always, always, always have faith and pride in your abilities, let go of the notion that the published books you check out are somehow inferior. Decide, every time you pick up a book, that you’re going to learn from it.

For one year, forget good. Look at each read objectively and ask yourself, “Why did this one make it?” You may decide that it was because of the concept, or because of the writer’s ability to handle a plot twist, or because of the author’s voice. You may see value in their character development or humor. Find some positive reason for the book being acquired.

Then challenge yourself. Figure out how to incorporate other authors’ admirable qualities into your work in your own way. I contend it’s far more useful to try to emulate something positive than it is to avoid something negative.

I would bet that by the end of the year, you will have made progress in some way. You’ll have graduated from form rejections to personalized rejections—or maybe even signed with an agent. I would, in fact, love to hear your own stories of how this “Positive Reading Challenge” helped your own publication pursuit. Take the challenge, and at the end of the year, shoot me a message. (I can always be reached through my website or social media). I’d love to know how it impacted you.

I’m grateful every day for my prof’s lesson—it helped me in ways I never could have anticipated, back when I was a literature student trying to navigate through his class. It actually turned out to be the best professional advice I ever received. I’m betting that it’ll help you, too. I can’t wait to hear how.

Friday, October 10, 2014


Comment to enter!

BZRK – 10/10-13/2014 – giveaway is Books #1 and #2 in paperback and Book #3 in hardcover (3 books to one person)
BZRK series by Michael Grant
Ages 14 and up
Trade Paperback
2013 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults
“With simmering pots of sexual tension, near-nonstop action, and the threat of howling madness or brain-melting doom around every corpuscular corner, Grant’s new series is off to a breathless, bombastic start.”—Booklist, starred review
BZRK Reloaded
Trade Paperback
VOYA Best Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror 2013
“The graphic descriptions of what the real and artificial creatures . . . Add in some discussable ideas on the ethics of human experimentation and a smart, simple explanation of the potential in nanotechnology . . . . Round out the experience with realistically unpredictable characters and blockbuster action sequences to complete this thoroughly enjoyable, incredibly disturbing story.”—VOYA, perfect 10 review
BZRK Apocalypse            
On Sale: 10/14/2014      
★ “A great choice for readers with a strong stomach, an interest in the future of biomedical technology and the essential ethical debate, or anyone willing to embark on an unnerving, frighteningly plausible thrill ride all around the globe.”—VOYA, perfect 10 review

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


Joy Preble and I blog together over at YA Outside the Lines, and I'm thrilled to help with the cover reveal for her next book, FINDING PARIS, which sounds like an absolute page-turner: 
FINDING PARIS, by Joy Preble—coming April 21, 2015 from Balzer and Bray/Harper Collins

A page-turning, evocative novel for fans of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY and SPEAK, about a girl who must follow a trail of mysterious clues to discover what happened to her sister.

Sisters Leo and Paris Hollings have only ever had each other to rely on. They can’t trust their mother, who hops from city to city and from guy to guy, or their gambler stepfather, who’s moved them all to Las Vegas. It’s just the two of them: Paris, who’s always been the dreamer, and Leo, who has a real future in mind—going to Stanford, becoming a doctor, falling in love.

But Leo isn’t going anywhere yet… until Paris ditches her at the Heartbreak Hotel Diner, where moments before they had been talking with physics student Max Sullivan. Outside, Leo finds a cryptic note from Paris—a clue. Is it some kind of game? Where is Paris, and why has she disappeared?

When Leo reluctantly accepts Max’s offer of help, the two find themselves following a string of clues through Vegas and beyond. But the search for the truth is a not a straight line. And neither is the path to secrets Leo and Max hold tightly.

“An inspiring story of lost souls, and the hope and compassion that must piece together a family long exiled and devastated by secrets.” – Adele Griffin, author of THE UNFINISHED LIFE OF ADDISON STONE

“FINDING PARIS is a compelling page- turner. It's a road trip story, a mystery, and a romance all in one.  Add to that Preble's pitch perfect descriptions of place and you've got a real winner.  I couldn't put it down.” –Jennifer Mathieu, author of THE TRUTH ABOUT ALICE

Check out last week’s exclusive Barnes and Noble Book Blog cover reveal feature of FINDING PARIS!

Want to know more about Joy Preble? Go to:

Friday, October 3, 2014


Okay, so have you ever gotten to a point in a WIP when you just wanted to beat the thing up?  I mean seriously--just beat the thing into complete and total submission?  Yeah--I'm there with my current WIP.  It's a revision of my next MG, which is a project that's also really close to my heart.  It's a story I've been trying to figure out how to tell for fifteen years.  Not joking.  Fifteen.

Anyway, while I'm hard at work on the MG, you can be sure to enter the giveaway I'm currently holding for a signed copy of my YA, FERAL.

Good luck!  (And wish me luck, too, as I head back to my revision...)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


The #ReadOn chat Saturday was a ton of fun, thanks to Jessica of Crossroad Reviews, as well as Laurie Boyle Crompton (who also blogs with me at YA Outside the Lines) and Mindy McGinnis.  You can view the full show here:

Also, be sure to get in on the giveaway of our books here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Darlene Beck Jacobson is providing a fun sneak peek of her debut MG, WHEELS OF CHANGE.  Instead of providing a straight passage, she's giving us a taste of her writing style by offering us her favorite sentences and descriptions of the book.

(I thoroughly enjoyed WHEELS OF CHANGE; my review can be found here.)

From Darlene -
Five of my favorite sentences from WOC:

1.      Papa rushes past before I can hide, a teetering pile of wood planks on one shoulder, paint cans hung elbow to wrist, like ornaments on a Christmas tree. 

2.      An unexpected visit from a bear would be more welcome than one from Beatrice Peabody.  Better known as Beatrice Busybody or Bea Pea as Charlie likes to call her.  If boasting and gossip were subjects in school, Beatrice would be the star pupil.  She spreads rumors like a mosquito spreads malaria.

3.       Mrs. Peabody dismisses her court of worshippers and waddles to the judges table, settling her plumage right in front of the Reverend and Mrs. Porter.

4.       When I’m feeling my meanest, I sometimes wish all the people who judged folks by their skin color were struck blind.  Then would it matter?  Papa says if I wish for things like that, then I’m no better than the people I’m wishing it on.

5.       Mr. Martin looks at me with his face all frowning and dark, like he sees something he’s not pleased to look at.  Or he ate something disagreeable.  Or he’s been sitting downwind of a pile of fresh manure.   

Five favorite descriptions:

1.      I dance across the sawdust-covered floor past Sam, Papa’s woodworker.  His saw hums like a busy beehive, slicing planks of wood.   I pick up handfuls of the slivers, inhaling their fresh-cut fragrance.  The slivers stick to my sweaty palms; I wipe my hands on my dress to loosen them.  The slivers stick there as well, like they’ve found a home.

2.      Old Mrs. Crabtree – perfectly named to fit her grouchy disposition – nods her greeting to Mama and gives the rest of us the once over.  Her freckled forehead is so full of frown wrinkles, it reminds me of a freshly plowed field. 

Papa says nothing, but his head is high and the air around us seems to sing.  I feel like the wagon might sprout wings and lift us skyward like the fanciful contraption made by the Wright Brothers that Miss Carlisle told us about.  Then again, looking at Papa, I realize you don’t need wings to fly.

This kitchen is smaller than ours, but it’s clean and tidy and as warm as a piece of bread fresh from the oven.  I like how the chairs are all different designs.  Ours at home all match, which seems dull next to the variety here.  Like everyone has a chair of his own.  Special.  I can’t stop a smile when I see a horseshoe hanging over the door, just like the one I got from Henry.

Instead of the usual Naphtha soap, Mama hands me a bar of her special lavender scented soap.  I rub it over my cotton chemise until I get some suds.  Mama helps with the back.  She scrubs my hair until my scalp tingles and I holler in protest.  Then, I slip off the chemise and soak in the suds.  The warm, soapy water slides over my skin like fancy silk.  The smell of lavender makes me wish for summer.  I’d stay in the tub until it got cold, but William has to have his turn.  I wrap myself in a towel and after putting on clean nightclothes, I sit while Mama tortures my hair with a comb, trying to work out the tangles.  When she gets tired of my squirming and hollering, she rubs a little mineral oil on the comb to help it slide through. I go to bed feeling pampered and content, like a spoiled cat.

Monday, September 22, 2014


Egmont's holding a TEMPLE RUN giveaway (US / Canadian residents only).  To get in on it, just comment after the post:

Temple Run – 9/20-23/2014 – giveaway is all 3 books in paperback (3 books to one person)
Temple Run, the fastest-growing mobile game app, is taking its biggest leap yet, jumping into children's books!
Ages 8-12
Temple Run Book One Run for Your Life!: Jungle Trek
Chase Wilder    
On Sale: 09/23/2014      
Trade Paperback
You're a lucky kid--for your birthday, you're having a destination party: a campout and scavenger hunt in an exotic locale. Depending on the choices you make, you will reach safety in time to enjoy your party, or you will be kidnapped and held for ransom, buying Guy and Scarlett time to make off with the treasure. You decide!

Temple Run Book Two Run for Your Life!: Doom Lagoon              
Chase Wilder    
On Sale: 09/23/2014      
Trade Paperback
You are an intern and will be accompanying the curator of an antiquities museum during school vacation on a dive to a newly discovered historic shipwreck. Depending on the choices you make, you will either be stranded at sea, drown, explore the wreck, or discover buried treasure. You decide!

Temple Run Downloaded Apptivity Book
On-Sale: 09/23/2014      
Trade Paperback
Temple Run Downloaded is a cool, fast, addictive mobile game, and fans can relive the excitement with this activity book shaped like a tablet. Race down ancient temple walls, along sheer cliffs, and avoid evil monkeys as you challenge your brain to solve these fun puzzles. Temple Run Downloaded includes mazes, brain teasers, puzzles, 4 gatefold pages, and 4 sticker pages, with exclusive info about this favorite game and characters. Full color illustrations throughout.

Monday, September 15, 2014


I'm making the rounds, doing several online visits in the next coming weeks.  (Online visits are a godsend.  Seriously.  I get to connect directly with readers and work on my next book.  Right now, I'm revising my next MG.)

On September 20, 4 pm EST, you can catch me (and Mindy McGinnis Laurie Boyle Crompton) during Crossroad Reviews' next episode of #ReadOn.  Ask us questions, and enter to win signed books!

If you're in the New Mexico area, I'll be Skyping with the Albuquerque BOOKWORKS on September 27, 1 pm MDT / 2pm CST.

Looking forward to seeing you!

Monday, September 8, 2014


It's no secret I'm a fan of Catherine Ryan Hyde.  I've often said one of my favorite aspects of reading a new book by Catherine is that I always walk away from it having learned a writing lesson.  TAKE ME WITH YOU is no exception.  This time around, though, in addition to a writing lesson, I also got a bit of a life lesson that I'm taking to heart:

As a writer, one of the aspects I found fascinating about this novel was the pace.  There's a discussion in the book about RV travel--and a line about it not being about getting to a destination in a furious rush.  Instead, RV travel is slower, and all about finding a place you enjoy and staying there for a stretch, appreciating where you are until you get the urge to move on again.

In some respects, I felt like the pace of this book mirrored this sentiment.  When August takes off with the two boys, they do have an ultimate destination, but reaching that destination doesn't take over the book.  Instead, the characters explore each other and their surroundings in a way I haven't seen in many contemporary reads.  It made for a different--and lovely--experience.

But doesn't the pace and philosophy of RV travel also make for a great metaphor for life?  How many times, as writers, do we finish one book all in a rush, anxious to meet a deadline, only to rush to the next project?  How often do we see where we are and wish we were somewhere else--at a larger house, or seeing better sales numbers?  How often do we allow ourselves to simply enjoy our current place in life?

I'm in the midst of doing just that--allowing myself to enjoy where I am right now, in this my career and in my life both.  I'm taking the time to enjoy my writing process, to enjoy my family and friends like I never have before.

Thanks, Catherine, for reminding us all how delicious the ride can be.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Releasing two books in two different genres in '14 means I also have my hands in two different worlds: MG and YA.

One of the absolute coolest parts of being an MG author is being able to do classroom Skypes.  If you're a teacher interested and looking for some tips on how to get started, check out my recent guest post on the subject over at Primary Junction.

...And, if you're looking to get your hands on a copy of my YA psychological thriller, you can get in on a giveaway below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Jake and I are thrilled to wish FERAL (one of this week's PW Book Picks) a happy book birthday!

We also want to take the time to thank everyone celebrating with us: the blurbers and reviewers, the blog tour hosts, librarians, and booksellers who have shared their excitement and helped spread word of the book leading up to the release. 

Thank you!

To show my appreciation, I'm giving away a signed copy of FERAL.  The giveaway runs until September 2.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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