Friday, May 30, 2014


One of the coolest parts of releasing a book is hearing fellow authors talk about your work--especially when that author is one you have great admiration for. 

Jody Casella recently had this to say about FERAL (out from HarperTeen August 26, 2014):

"In the town of Peculiar, the cats aren't the only ones keeping secrets...A dark and creepy psychological who-done-it that will keep you guessing until the very end."

Jody Casella is the author of THIN SPACE, a YA read that will haul you in and won't let you go (once you hit the last half, you'll be crawling into a nobody'll-find-me-here spot that you won't wnat to crawl back out of until you turn the last page).

More on THIN SPACE (and Casella) here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


I remember (this was YEARS ago, long before I'd sold my first book) reading an article about writers promoting themselves online and getting sick to my stomach.  A website?  A blog?  I didn't want any of that; I wanted to write books.  The me I was years ago couldn't fathom how doing anything online could possibly help me.

After I'd sold my first book (at the encouragement of my editor), I headed out there, finally setting up an online presence.  In the beginning, I thought I'd only advertise my own work; as time went on, I entered into the conversation about books, finding new authors to adore, as well as other literature enthusiasts just like myself.  I connected with other readers in a way I never thought I would.

I've gotten increasingly more comfortable with blogging over the years; I've expanded into vlogging (in this short clip, below, I explain why I chose Peculiar as the setting for my forthcoming YA, FERAL):

I've also taken advantage of blog tours, and I've become one of those (masochistic?) authors who reads her reviews.  I read them during those blog tours; I read them on Goodreads and Amazon; I have Google Alerts set on my name and title and read everything that comes through my inbox.  I read those reviews (good and bad) to find patterns, to understand in broad strokes why those who liked a book connected with it, why those who didn't like it just couldn't get into it.  I read those reviews to understand who my readership is--who's on the other end of the conversation I'm having as a writer (I've said it before, but the best books really are a conversation between author and reader). 

That connection (to other lit nuts, to my own readers) has truly been a game-changer.  I approach my work in ways I never would have, had I not been part of the online network.  And I can't wait to find out where that network will take me, in the years to come...

Monday, May 26, 2014


I'm delighted to participate this year in Armchair BEA!  I'm even participating in a giveaway (a signed FERAL ARC and a signed hardcover of THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY).  More on the giveaway here.

Without further ado, my introduction:

Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging? Where in the world are you blogging from?

I'm the author of two previously-published YAs (A BLUE SO DARK and PLAYING HURT), as well as the MG THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY and the forthcoming YA FERAL (August 26, 2014).  I started blogging as I geared up for the release of my debut (at the suggestion of my publisher).  I was hesitant to get out there; at the time I sold my first book, I honestly didn't know that the book blogging community existed.  I'm so glad I discovered it, though; I can't imagine writing and not participating in the smart, fun world of book blogging.

Describe your blog in just one sentence. Then, list your social details -- Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. -- so we can connect more online.

Updates on my own releases, book recommendations, thoughts on the writing life.


What genre do you read the most? I love to read because ___________________ .

My reading interests are as varied as my writing interests (I've published a literary YA, a teen romance, a contemporary middle grade, and my next YA will also be my first mystery / thriller).  Each time I read a new book, it makes me a better writer.

What is your favorite blogging resource?

I find most new bloggers / blog posts through Twitter.

Spread the love by naming your favorite blogs/bloggers (doesn’t necessarily have to be book blogs/bloggers).

Some of my favorite bloggers are those who have been with me since my first book released in 2010 (the feel like old friends at this point): Gabrielle at Mod Podge Bookshelf, for instance, or Susan at Bloggin' 'bout Books.

Friday, May 23, 2014


This review for FERAL recently went live on Goodreads, and I had to repost.  I'm incredibly grateful I get to be an author during an era when I get to be a fly on the wall, listening to discussions of my work.  (And nothing is more satisfying, to an author, than reading intelligent, thoughtful reviews.)  One of the most important things I'm learning from blog reviews is who my readers are. (For my YA work, it's older teens and adults who enjoy the YA genre, as well as readers who tend to enjoy or gravitate toward character-driven books.)  Understanding both what works and who is at the other end of the "conversation" I'm having with each novel (that's what a book is, I think: a conversation between author and reader) continues to make me a better writer.  

From Jenuine Cupcakes:

This book is creepy.

You should read it.

With the lights on.

Holly Schindler warned me before I started reading FERAL that it wasn't like any of her other books and she was right. It's fast-paced, mind-twisty with engaging story-telling, compelling characters, and descriptions that draw you in and make you feel as if they are happening to you. *shudders*

Like any good mystery, each time I assumed I knew what was going to happen next, something else would happen to throw me off. And there were quite a few moments where I was on the edge of my seat wondering, "WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?!"

Okay, so maybe hiding under the covers is more like it, but whatever. Don't judge.

The ending left me satisfied and the mystery itself was something that could have easily been pulled from today's headlines.

I generally shy away from books with a high creep factor, they tend to give me nightmares, but I'm glad I gave this one a chance! You should too.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


In honor of Indies First Storytime Day, I'm posting a first-ever sneak peek reading of FERAL!  Watch the video below to hear the opening pages of my next YA (and first mystery / thriller):

Now that you've whet your appetites, be sure to pre-order FERAL, in order to ensure that your copy will arrive as soon as possible!  (In honor of the spirit of Indies First Storytime Day, I would of course encourage you to order through your own local indie bookstore, which can be located through IndieBound.)  To order from any major or indie retailer, or to locate your local indie stores through IndieBound, click here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


I'm delighted to spread the word: fellow YA Outside the Lines blogger Joy Preble is celebrating the release of her latest book, THE A-WORD!

Joy Preble
Soho Press

Jenna Samuels and her guardian angel brother battle heavenly head-honchos and earthbound bullies in this Texas-set hilarious follow up to The Sweet Dead Life. 

It's been almost a year since Jenna Samuel’s stoner brother, Casey, bit the dust and returned as her guardian angel. A year since Casey and his “angel boss,” Amber Velasco, saved Jenna’s life and helped her foil the bad guys—more or less. A year in which Jenna has solved the true mystery of the universe: how to get one Ryan Sloboda to ask her out.

Jenna’s feeling mighty cheery about life and love. But Casey, whose doomed relationship with Lanie Phelps (who has no idea her boyfriend is, well, dead) isn’t doing much to distract him, has his own big question: Why is he still hanging around?

Bo Shivers, a heavenly head honcho Jenna and Casey didn't even know existed, might have the answer.  Bo knows something big is coming. Something that might just change everything for Jenna Samuels, who once again finds herself up to her non-winged shoulders in heavenly secrets of global proportions—just as she’s finally found the perfect Homecoming Dance dress.

Praise for The A-Word: A Sweet Dead Life Novel

“Light, snarky, and heartfelt... The A-Word rolls along cheerfully through Halloween pranks, high school football, investigative reporting, angel-powered action, and a very realistic amount of aimless driving around.”
—School Library Journal

“Sassy, smart-mouthed, cowboy-boot fan Jenna Samuels is back once again, fighting evildoers with the aid of her angelic cohorts..... has many of the elements that made its predecessor, [The Sweet Dead Life], so much fun.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“The earthbound angels are as authentic as the down-to-earth people in The A-Word, but where the book really spreads its wings is in the interaction between the two. Resourceful teens and heavenly beings team up to get to the roots of a very modern mystery, and the big questions of the universe share space with first dates and football games. The result: a smart, original (and slightly celestial) mystery with a distinctly Texan flavor.”
Michael Northrop, author of Trapped and Surrounded by Sharks

"Joy Preble gives it all! Humor, wit, emotion, and romance! Fabulous fun!"
—New York Times bestselling author Sophie Jordan

“Romance, sassy humor, and a pain-in-the-rear brother … Who knew having a guardian angel could be so hard and so much fun to read?”
New York Times Bestselling Author C.C. Hunter

The book is officially in the world today.  Grab your copy!

Saturday, May 10, 2014


I got excited when I found #100HappyDays.  Really.  It reminded me of Catherine Ryan Hyde’s #DailyGratitude.  It sounded so simple: Take a pic of something that makes you happy each day and post it online.  I’ve often tried to keep gratitude journals, but I’m terrible at journals—any kind of journal.  I thought this would keep me honest.  

Right off the bat, though, I started cheating.  I wasn’t posting photos.  Instead, I was posting a tweet describing what had made me happy that day.  But after about a week, my #100Happy tweets died.  Here’s why:

They died, in part, for the same reason my photos never quite got off the ground: because I do not do tech on my off-time.  I have a disposo-cell phone (no smartphone).  It doesn’t take pictures.  It doesn’t connect to the Internet.  It makes calls.  It has a flashlight.  The end.  I don’t carry a camera with me most times, either.  I feel incredibly fortunate to being doing what I love.  I respect my industry, which means I work hard.  I keep long hours.  But when I’m done, I’m done.  At the end of the day, I don’t want to think about Twitter or blogs or promos.  I want to enjoy a meal and good company and play with my dog and watch the sun set and laugh and unwind with some yoga and not be taken out of the moment by having to take a picture of it all and think about posting it online.  

#100HappyDays also died because bad things happened.  Okay, it wasn’t like I had to endure anything tragic, but there were definitely down moments.  For example, I broke a tooth.  I had to have a root canal.  I never got completely numb, which meant the two hours of drilling were painful.  When I returned for my permanent crown, it didn’t fit (the temp didn’t fit well, either, and had torn up my gums).  I felt it was just plain silly to find some sort of superficial happiness (why, this dental office has lovely wallpaper!) in the midst of a situation that was expensive and painful and frustrating and never ending (I’m still waiting for a new permanent crown).  Instead, I recognized the suck-factor of the situation while it was happening, and then I put the bad situation aside, and focused on the current task at hand: drafting new work, meeting bloggers, organizing a new tour—all cool stuff.  

As far as Twitter is concerned, I’m a big fat #100HappyDays failure.  But don’t my reasons for failing show that I actually succeeded?  Isn’t #100HappyDays a gateway toward the enjoyment of life?  Isn’t that what I’ve been doing all along?  Doesn’t my enjoyment show that I maybe failed at #100HappyDays because I didn’t need it to begin with?

Maybe I’m giving myself too much credit, patting myself on the back a little too hard.  Could be.  But instead of dwelling on it, I’m going to turn off this computer and dance barefoot to Will Hoge.  Because that makes me happy.

Friday, May 2, 2014


TO BE SUNG UNDERWATER is exactly the kind of book I absolutely relish: heavy on character development, rich with beautiful writing, a narrative voice brimming with observations (mostly, in this book, about relationships) that are so incredibly true to life.

Cover by Lindsey Andrews, who also designed the cover for The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky

I adored the story of the summer that Judith and Willy share.  And I was on edge, anxious to find out what would happen when a now-married Judith reaches out to Willy, twenty-seven years after their romance—so much so, I was back to my girlhood habit of reading under the covers with a flashlight.  But I’ll admit, the ending wasn’t at all what I’d anticipated.  In fact, if I were writing the ending myself, I would have plotted something far different.  

What I mean: The book opens as an unidentified character looks through a scope at a woman, and as it progresses, repeatedly depicts episodes with Willy and guns: target practice, a violent episode when Willy and Judith are shot at and Willy viciously protects Judith.  In all honesty, I thought the text was telling me to anticipate Willy shooting Judith at the end, after becoming enraged at her for popping up out of nowhere, stirring up old feelings when she should have left well enough alone.  (McNeal assigns heavy weight to objects throughout—including a bedroom set.  If something as innocuous as a bedroom set can hold such significant meaning, I felt the presence of guns, which are already off-putting objects, should hold weight, too…far greater weight than mere furniture.)

I was so sure that the ending I imagined would come to be, I actually felt a bit cheated when it didn’t…Until I flipped back through the story, and realized that there were plenty of cues leading up to the ending the author chose.  In the end, I accepted the ending—the book sits on my shelf of favorites, among other titles I love dearly.

Tom McNeal is such a good author.  I mean it: Tom McNeal is a good author.  So good that I wind up, as a reader, respecting the choices he makes—even if I would have made different choices as the author.

How about you: Do you ever find yourself disagreeing with the turn a book takes, but loving it just the same?

(*Time's running out: Don't forget to enter my giveaway for a signed ARC of FERAL.)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...