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Ramblings from a Fledgling Novelist Reading, Writing and Life in a Small Town
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1. Total Eclipse of the Moon

redmoonTax day approaches – everyone's favorite day of the year. Tonight I plan to stay up past midnight and watch the day arrive. Not because I waited until the last minute to do my taxes (although there's that) but because tonight there will be a total lunar eclipse.

Most of North America will be able to see the eclipse and since the moon is close to full it should be pretty dramatic. Because of the timing of the eclipse, sunsets and sunrises in other parts of the world will make the moon look blood red. Kinda cool! If you have cloudy skies or too many city lights to see it, The Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles will broadcast the eclipse live starting at 9:45 p.m. PST.

This is also the last week of the blog tour for WISH YOU WEREN'T. Here are the planned stops.  

The Book Cellar: Erica posts an interview about my reading and writing habits.  
Books and Needlepoint: Kristi will post her review of Wish You Weren't.  

Book Loving Mom: Amy will post her review of Wish You Weren't.

I want to thank all of the bloggers who hosted me during this tour. Book bloggers are seriously the coolest people. They don't make money from this. They do it because they love books and I'm totally honored to have been part of so many awesome blogs.

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2. Review: The Eighth Day

It's a long drive from where I live in California to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, twenty-two hours to be exact. But I made good use of my time. During the trip I was able to start and finish an ARC that I won of THE EIGHTH DAY by Dianne K. Salerni. Five pages in and I was lost to the world. Stopping for dinner was a huge inconvenience. And did my family really need to interrupt to point out the snow / lake / mountains / wild animals we were passing? I think not. In fact, I was so engrossed in the book that I failed in my role as navigator and we ended up more than twenty miles off course before I looked up and realized what had happened. Needless to say, hubby might not be as big a fan of Dianne as I am :P

So what did I love about this book? For starters, the concept is cool: an extra day stuck in the middle of the week that only a few people know about. The problem lies with what certain people decide to do with all that extra time on their hands. By blending modern day situations with Arthurian legends and throwing in a few Dr. Who and Ancient Aliens references, Dianne has created something completely original. Filled with heart-pounding action and wonderful characters–people who grow on you even when you start out thinking you won't like them–this is the type of book that I finish reading and hand off immediately to my kids. If you have a chance to get an ARC, jump on it. Otherwise, look for it when it releases next month. You'll definitely want to add this to your TBR list.

As for the WISH YOU WEREN'T blog tour, there's plenty of fun stuff happening this week. Reviews, deleted scenes, 25 things you might not know about me, and of course, plenty of give aways. Here's where you'll find me around the blogs this week:

Book Dreaming: Shannon O'Donnell reviews Wish You Weren't.
Read This Instead: Kathy will be sharing a deleted scene from Wish You Weren't.
Me, My Shelf & I: 25 Things you may or may not know about me :)
Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile: Jessica will post a review of Wish You Weren't.

All of these sites will be giving away prize packs as well (printed copy of Wish You Weren't, astronaut ice cream and a wish token), so stop by and enter your name to win!

Of course, you can always get your very own copy of WISH YOU WEREN'T from these magnificent retailers. And when you buy the print version from Amazon, you get a free e-book download, too -- bonus!

Amazon   |  Kobo  |  B&N  |   Smashwords  |   Solvang Book Loft

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3. Cover Reveal: Prom Impossible

I'm so excited to be part of the cover reveal for Laura Pauling's newest book. I've known Laura for a while and as soon as I read the synopsis, I knew I wanted to read the book. Check it out:

1 girl. 1 prom. 3 guys.

Cassidy decides her senior year, including prom, will be about Michael Greenwood, the boy destined to be her soul mate. One problem. He hasn’t figured that out yet.

But certain events like exploding smoke bombs—that weren’t completely her fault—introduce her to Zeke, the reformed bad boy. And cutting deals in the boys’ bathroom with Jasper, the hottest guy in school, lands her in a complicated web of half-truths that spirals out of control.

At the end of the year, she’s dateless the day before the big night but risks a lot more than her pride if she can’t find a way to fix her mistakes.

PROM IMPOSSIBLE is a modern-day Shakespearean romantic comedy in the world of teens, true love, and life.

Coming May 2014!
Prom Impossible by Laura Pauling
Genres: Comedy, Romance, Young Adult

Sounds good, right? Click here to add it to your Goodreads TBR list :)
And now for the big reveal: the beautiful cover!

Isn't it lovely? And you know, with prom season coming up, the timing for this release is perfect! Laura designed this cover with Steven Novak, and I have to say, the more I see from him, the more I'm impressed. The guy does good work! Here's some more info about Laura.

Laura writes young adult romantic suspense and romantic comedy. She’s the author of the exciting Circle of Spies Series, and the time travel mystery, HEIST. She’s a former elementary teacher and currently lives in New England. After spending time reading books to her kids and loving a good plot turn, she put her fingers to the keyboard. Don’t ask her about the unfinished quilts and scrapbooks. Stories are way more exciting.

She writes to entertain and experience a great story…and to be able to work in her jammies and slippers.

PROM IMPOSSIBLE, a modern-day Shakespearean romantic comedy will be released in May 2014.

Author links:   Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter

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4. Celebrating Around the Web

We woke up to rain today – hooray! When you're living through a California drought, every drop is celebrated :) I'm also celebrating the release of WISH YOU WEREN'T with friends around the internet. Here's where you'll find me this week:

  • Laurel's Leaves: I'm sharing some of my favorite research tips and giving away a WISH YOU WEREN'T prize pack.  
  • K. Troutte: I'm chatting with my friend and critique partner about my writing process.  
  • Geo Librarian: MG librarian Heidi Grange will be reviewing WISH YOU WEREN'T and giving away a prize pack. 

And that's just today!

On Wednesday, Tonja Drecker at Bookworm for Kids will be reviewing WISH YOU WEREN'T and giving away a prize pack. (Her blog recently received a Best of the Blogs award from Middle Shelf Magazine -- cool stuff!!) On Thursday, Melanie at Mel's Shelves will post her review and give away a prize pack. And on Friday, I'll be stopping by for an interview with Inspired Kathy at I am a Reader where she'll be giving away a prize pack as well. So many chances to win!

If you don't want to wait, you can always get your very own copy of WISH YOU WEREN'T from these magnificent retailers. And when you buy the print version from Amazon, you get a free e-book download, too -- bonus!

Amazon   |  Kobo  |  B&N  |   Smashwords  |   Solvang Book Loft

Thanks for celebrating with me!

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5. It Begins!

Today starts the blog tour of awesome around the internet. Twelve stops, twelve chance to win a copy of WISH YOU WEREN'T and astronaut ice cream – yum!

Here's where you'll find me this week:

Monday: Mundie Kids (I'm guest posting about -- you guessed it -- wishing on stars!)
Wednesday: Cover2Cover (This time I'm talking about other ways to wish)
Wednesday: The (Mis)Adventures of a Twenty-Something Year Old Girl will be posting a review Friday: Sher A. Hart will have a book review

In addition to the tour, I'm thrilled that the esteemed Middle Grade Ninja will be featuring me this week on his amazing blog. Tuesday he'll do his Book of the Week review of WISH YOU WEREN'T and on Thursday, I'll be answering his famous 7 Questions Interview. If you're a writer and you've never visited the Middle Grade Ninja, do yourself a favor and go now. He's got interviews with agents, editors and writers like Sara Crowe, Tina Wexler, Kendra Levin, Lynne Reid Banks and Ingrid Law. Seriously cool interviews I'll be rubbing shoulders with!

If you're looking for more chances to win, the contest is still open over at Literary Rambles. You can win a copy of the book, a wish token and a pocket watch just like the one Tör uses to manipulate time in WISH YOU WEREN'T. (Although I don't guarantee that this watch will have the same magical properties as Tör's!)

Whew! It's going to be a busy week! I hope I'll see you around the web!

And just in case you forgot, you can always get your very own copy of WISH YOU WEREN'T from these magnificent retailers :)
Amazon   |  Kobo  |  B&N  |   Smashwords  |   Solvang Book Loft

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6. It's Finally Here!!

Pardon me for shouting but I'm SO EXCITED!!!


And yes, I may be a bit biased, but isn't it beautiful?!

Here's what a few AWESOME people have said about WISH YOU WEREN'T:

“If you’re looking for the same old formula middle grade fantasy, this isn’t it. Wish You Weren’t is magically real. You wouldn’t be surprised if you met Marten in “real” life, but what he encounters in this story is pure magic.” ~VALERIE HOBBS, award-winning author of Wolf, Sheep and Minnie McClary Speaks Her Mind

“Wish You Weren’t is a sweet story about the blessings of family contained within the rip-roaring roller coaster of time travel. It is a page turner that kids are going to love!” ~KATIE D. ANDERSON, bestselling author of Kiss & Makeup

I love all the science details mixed with fantasy in Wish You Weren’t — just the kinds of flights-of-science-fancy I wish I had as child!” ~SUSAN KAYE QUINN, bestselling author of the Mindjack Trilogy, Faery Swap and Third Daughter

“Fun and accessible, rich with realism and heart, this magical adventure reminds us of the things truly worth wishing for.” ~CASEY McCORMICK, literary agent intern and blogger at Literary Rambles

And where's where you can get your own fantabulous new copies!

Amazon    Kobo    B&N    Smashwords    Solvang Book Loft

Thursday I'll be guest posting at Susan Quinn's incredible blog.
Friday I'll be guest posting over at Literary Rambles.

There will be prizes of awesome at both sites, including free books! So be sure to visit their blogs. 

And now I'm going back to what I was doing before: caressing the glossy covers and grinning like a fool :D

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7. 5 Quick Things About Faery Swap

March 3rd - March 21st
A little about Faery Swap... KindleNookPrint

5 Quick Things About Faery Swap
  1. Celtic (Irish) legend that says fairies descended from the Tuatha De Danaan (an ancient people driven to another world by a wave of invaders).
  2. Some of the legends say this "Otherworld" (which is what I call it in my story) is called Tir Na Noog (Tír na nÓg ), and that there, time stands still. 
  3. The Faery Magick spell words in Faery Swap are based on the four original cities of the Tuatha De Danaan, which also represent four magical items: Finias (spear), Gorias (sword), Falias (stone), murias (cauldron).
  4. Spriggans (the rock like sprites in Faery Swap) are  real (mythical) creatures from Cornish (English) faery lore. 
  5. The “anam cara” or soul bond in Faery Swap is a real ancient Irish word that means “soul friend” – “When you are blessed with an anam cara, the Irish believe, you have arrived at the most sacred place: home.” – John O’Donahue, poet and priest

Warrior faery princes can be very stubborn. Especially when they possess your body.Fourteen-year-old Finn just wants to keep his little sister out of Child Protective Services--an epic challenge with their parentally-missing-in-action dad moving them to England, near the famous Stonehenge rocks. Warrior faery Prince Zaneyr just wants to escape his father's reckless plan to repair the Rift--a catastrophe that ripped the faery realm from Earth 4,000 years ago and set it adrift in an alternate, timeless dimension. When Zaneyr tricks Finn into swapping places, Finn becomes a bodiless soul stuck in the Otherworld, and Zaneyr uses Finn's body to fight off his father's seekers on Earth. Between them, they have two souls and only one body... and both worlds to save before the dimensional window between them slams shut.
NOTE TO TEACHERS: Check out the Virtual Author visit video and Common-Core-Aligned Teacher's Guide for Faery Swap here.
2 minute book trailer
Blog Tour Giveaway $25 Amazon Gift Card Signed Paperback of Faery Swap Two Faery Wands ENTER TO WIN

Susan Kaye Quinnis the author of the bestselling Mindjack Trilogy, which is young adult science fiction. Faery Swap is her foray into middle grade, which is her first writing love. Her business card says "Author and Rocket Scientist" and she always has more speculative fiction fun in the works. You can subscribe to her newsletter (hint: new subscribers get a free short story!) or stop by her blog to see what she's up to.
Faery Swap
Kindle | Nook | Print
Fourteen-year-old Finn is tricked into swapping places with a warrior faery prince and has to find his way back home before the dimensional window between their worlds slams shut. 

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8. Bruce and Ben are on Call

Today I'm posting over at my new blog: http://sherriepetersenbooks.com/blog/

It's a post about asteroids. And Bruce Willis :)

Come visit!

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9. Mid Grade Madness

Sharon Mayhew is hosting a unique opportunity through her blog: the chance to submit a 7-line pitch for your completed middle grade novel to Terrie Wolf from AKA Literary Management.

The contest starts with a live Q & A this evening in a Google+ Hangout from 5-6:30 p.m. PST. Everyone is welcome to the chat where they'll learn more about the contest, middle grade writing and Terrie. The pitch contest opens on March 6.

Learn more about the entire event on Sharon's blog: http://skmayhew.blogspot.com

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10. Unraveled by Julie Daines

Today I'm participating in a book blast for a new author, Julie Daines. Her novel, UNRAVELED, captured my attention from the moment I saw the cover.

Lovely, isn't it?

Here's a little about the book: When sickness swept through Bronwen’s family, it took the life of her father, brother, and sister, and left her permanently crippled. On the stormy eve of her sixteenth birthday, a faerie-witch gifts her a pair of enchanted shoes. Bronwen slips them on and is healed--but only when the shoes are on her feet. Her grace and beauty catches the eye of the king’s son--Urien, a handsome young man who prides himself on having everything perfect.

When Rhys, an old acquaintance and Captain of the Guard, recognizes Bronwen, he threatens to tell Urien her secret. Desperate to keep her deformity hidden and not to lose the love of handsome Urien, Bronwen quickly finds herself tangled in a web of lies and deceit.

Release date: February 2014
Publisher: Covenant Communications, Inc.
Genre: YA Fantasy/Fairytale
ISBN: 9781621086277

Julie Daines was born in Concord, Massachusetts, and was raised in Utah. She spent eighteen months living in London, where she studied and fell in love with English literature, sticky toffee pudding, and the mysterious guy who ran the kebab store around the corner.

She loves reading, writing, and watching movies—anything that transports her to another world. She picks Captain Wentworth over Mr. Darcy, firmly believes in second breakfast, and never leaves home without her verveine.

But here's the question I know you're dying to have answered: Facebook or Twitter?   
Facebook. Twitter goes too fast for me.
Which doesn't mean you won't find her on Twitter! Here are her links:

Twitter: @juliedaines  
Facebook: Julie Daines Author
Blog: http://www.juliedaines.comhttp://www.juliedaines.com
Book on Goodreads: Unraveled
Author on Goodreads: Julie Daines

Win $50 PayPal cash! This giveaway only lasts during the Book Blast so be sure to enter today!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


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11. The Big Reveal

So, I have some news that I've been sitting on for a while.

Since I've been thinking about it so long, you'd think I'd have a fantastically creative way to announce it. But you'd be wrong. The combination of late nights working on edits and standing in line in the sun in the Magic Kingdom have left me brain dead this week. So instead of talking about it. I'll just show you...

Yep, that's my name on the cover. I can't tell you how excited I am about this! It releases in a month, on March 17, which is coming up much faster than I thought it would! Eeeek!

This is a middle grade novel that is close to my heart, one that has had a long journey from concept to print. If you'd like to read the first chapter, you can find it on the new website I set up at sherriepetersenbooks.com, and since I'm back on Facebook now, I'd also love to have you like my spankin' new Author Page at facebook.com/AuthorSherriePetersen. In a few days a Goodreads giveaway will be opening up and you'll be able to register to win one of five copies. The widget for that is omewhere in the left column of this blog. You'll also find the link to it on my Facebook Author Page and new website.

It's been hard not to talk about it, but now that it's out there, I also promise not to drive everyone crazy by talking about nothing else :) At least not until March!

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12. Judging a Book by its Cover

Please don't try to convince me you don't. We all do. Especially when it comes to books. And as a graphic designer, I find myself analyzing covers more than most.

Two days ago I had the pleasure of browsing the MG/YA shelves of Hastings in Coeur d'Alene. Our whole family loves this store because they seriously have something for everyone: books, music, movies, and used versions of all of that as well as new. I wasn't looking for a specific book, just taking in what was there and picking up books that appealed to me.

Right now my favorite cover has to be this one.

I love the colors, the ethereal beauty of the people, the way her hair and dress are billowing, the way their hands are reaching for each other but not quite making it. And of course the stars. I'm always fascinated by stars. This cover tells a story all on its own. It makes me want to read it.

But I haven't bought it yet. Maybe when it comes out in paperback, but even then I might wait. Know why? It's a series. And I'm done with reading book one of a series and waiting a year or two for the next book to come out. And another year or two for the next. Once they're all available, I'll start. So in the meantime, if you've read it, no spoilers!

This book also intrigued me from the moment I glimpsed the cover.

I love the font choice, the way the title is laid out, the way the girl seems to be staring down the city, the way her yellow dress stands boldly against the elegant buildings. And interestingly, as soon as I realized that this is a historical novel, the fact that her hair is down spoke volumes. This girl is a rebel.

So I bought it. Gorgeous cover, stand alone book, strong heroine. Exactly what I'm looking for. With a school break coming up next week, I'm looking forward to plenty of reading time and this is at the top of my pile.

What draws you into a cover? Did either of these attract you?

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13. Booking Hollywood's It Girl

Is it me, or is Shailene Woodley the most literary actress around?

This year she has two eagerly anticipated movies coming out based on highly successful YA novels. Divergent releases March 21 and The Fault in our Stars comes out three months later. The trailer for TFIOS has been the subject of many discussions at the school where I work, since pretty much everyone has read the book. Freshmen and sophomores had it for assigned reading over the summer. (Yes, our teachers are awesome that way!)

If you haven't seen the trailer, you must watch it. Now. I'll wait.

Isn't it amazing?
*wipes tears*

So, Shailene.

She also has a third film releasing this year, White Bird in a Blizzard, and guess what? You got it. The movie is based on a 1999 novel by Laura Kasischke.

Her IMDB profile is filled with movies based on books. Last year she starred in The Spectacular Now (novel by Tim Tharp) and in 2011 she was in the George Clooney movie, The Descendents (novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings). In 2005 she starred in Once Upon a Mattress (gotta love your fairy tales) and Felicity, an American Girl adventure. (We own this one since my daughter was obsessed with American Girl books, dolls and movies.) In fact, every film she was worked on has been based on a book.

Her next two movies are already predetermined since she's locked into the Divergent trilogy. But I can't help but wonder what book to movie adaptation will be next for this young actress.

Two more MG/YA novels-to-movies this year: The Giver and The Maze Runner.

Jeff Bridges might need to grow a little more facial hair :)

And in 2015, the one I'm anticipating the most -- Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Any book-to-movie adaptations you're looking forward to?

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14. On Becoming a Whovian

  • Take a guy who still obsesses over his original Star Wars action figures...
  • introduce him to a girl who can't seem to stop reading books about faeries, Greek gods or intergalactic travel...
  • throw in two kids who constantly reference Gandalf, Dumbledore or Daleks in everyday conversation...
  • and what do you have?

Right! The Petersen household.

This summer my son turned me into a Whovian. (Thank you Netflix!) While some people may have wasted their summer swimming or getting tans, we watched back-to-back episodes of Dr. Who every weekend, making our way through several seasons before the end of summer. After all, we live in southern California. We can go to the beach any old day ;D

I'd like to point out that I introduced my son to the 10th doctor (David Tennant -- my personal favorite) years ago when I recorded a couple of episodes that we watched together. Apparently, he was too young at the time, but with the seeds planted at a young age, it didn't take much to nurture the curiosity into a full-blown mania.

These days he has become a walking repository of Who trivia. Not only does he know every current episode title and synopsis, he can also name the actors who portrayed the doctor and his companions from the very beginning of the series. And that's just the tip of his extensive knowledge. (His father and I are holding out hope that this somehow proves useful in two years when he starts writing essays for college applications.)

In November I took him down to Universal City to see The Day of the Doctor on the big screen in 3-D, and his father is making plans to build him a walk-in book case that looks like a Tardis. Seriously. If those plans ever get off the ground, trust me, there will be photos.

What are your current obsessions, books, movies or otherwise?

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15. The Year in Books and Numbers

Not sure what this says about me, but according to my husband, it says that I don't spend enough time sleeping :)

Books read last year: 89
Books started but not finished:15
Books reviewed on Goodreads last year: 10

Favorites (in no particular order):

  • Throne of Glass 
  • I'm Not Her
  • Eleanor & Park
  • Shades of Earth
  • The Rosie Project
  • The Promise of Stardust 
Books on my Kindle: 906 (a lot of these are freebies that aren't necessarily high on my TBR list)
Books in my TBR pile: 38

Words written last year: 40,000
Words written so far this year: 30,000

Books read so far this year: 7 (two were re-reads)

Books published last year: 0
Books to be published this year: ???

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16. Resolutions vs. Goals

I've never been a fan of New Year's Resolutions. They just seem to set me up for failure. And this year, I plan to succeed. Really.

Instead of setting resolutions, I made a list of concrete writing goals and pulled out a calendar to set guidelines for when I could reasonably expect to accomplish them. After being in a writing funk last year, I realized that I have several projects that I've abandoned along the way that I'd like to revisit this year. One book is complete, but needs to be totally rewritten. One is 75 percent complete but requires more research. Another one is fully outlined but only written about a third of the way. I set goals for outlining, research, writing and editing, to give myself time to focus on each story and get them finished.

Maybe it's just semantics, but I'm excited about putting these goals into action. I think writing out specific goals on a timeline will help me focus. And hopefully keep me from becoming another resolution statistic.

What about you – do you make resolutions or set writing goals for yourself?

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17. Opening at the Close

A Christmas present from my brilliant hubby
Yesterday was a significant day in our house. I finished reading the entire Harry Potter series (for the second time) out loud for the whole family. And then, of course, we had to watch movies 7 and 8 back to back and discuss theatrical omissions and additions. Because that's how we are :)

We started in the spring, reading together at night. At first I thought it would just be for my 11yo daughter. I had already read the series with my son when he was in 6th grade, and read books 1-4 to my husband when they originally came out. Now it was Jasmine's turn. But my husband and son always managed to be in the room when I was reading and complained bitterly if we started without them. It became a family activity. During our road trip over the summer we finished book four. Since I didn't think we'd get through the whole thing, I hadn't brought book five with us. They insisted I purchase another copy because they couldn't go the rest of the trip without hearing more.

By the time we got to book seven, we slowed down. Not because we'd lost interest, more because we didn't want it to end. Reading together as a family has opened the door to some wonderful discussions and given us a shared reference point for viewing the world. Now when my husband answers telemarketing calls, he can be Stan Shunpike or Vernon Dudley. When we enter a dark room, someone will inevitably say "lumos" as they turn on the light. Next month when the kids have a week long break we're headed to Orlando. Not for the beaches or Disneyworld. We can't wait to revisit Harry Potter World to stock up on butter beer, chocolate frogs and Ollivander's wands.

There are people who have burned Rowling's books, claimed that they encourage kids to experiment with the occult. Obviously, they haven't read the books for themselves. They've missed the whole point. To me, those books are about love. They celebrate the love between parents and children, between friends, between teachers and students. The wonderful messages woven into the fabric of these amazing stories are so much bigger than the books themselves.

Now at the close of this series, I feel like I've opened my kids up to a deeper understanding of so many things: racism (mudbloods), looking past surface actions to deeper motivations (Snape), always standing up for what they know to be right. Rowling is a genius. It's no wonder her books are cherished and adored. And I'm so glad that I've been able to be able to share that with my kids.

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18. Author Spotlight on: Indie Author Susan Kaye Quinn

I interviewed Susan Kaye Quinn three years ago after the release of her first novel, LIFE, LIBERTY & PURSUIT. (You can read that interview here.) So much about her life and her writing has changed since then that I thought it was time for us to have another chat.

First of all can I just say that you're the most intrepid of any writer I know. Releasing two books in two weeks right before Christmas?! Yikes!
Oh… I like that word, intrepid! Most of the publishing choices I make are part of my Grand Evil Plan, but really they fall out of the freedom that comes from being indie. That manifests itself in many ways.

After the huge release party for THIRD DAUGHTER, you kind of flew under the radar with FAERY SWAP. Why'd you decide not to make a big splash with your first MG release?
First off, I consider the releases of both THIRD DAUGHTER and FAERY SWAP to be “soft launches” – meaning release first, market later. This is an indie strategy, and pretty much the polar opposite of trad-pub launches, where there’s a lot of pre-launch buildup and an attempt to squeeze all the sales into that first launch-period. The difference is really a philosophical one, driven on the trad-pub side by physical shelf space – there’s a limited amount of it, and your book will get pulled if you don’t move enough copies in those first few months. There’s also a drive to get on the big bestseller lists by compacting sales in that first week. By contrast, indie titles aren’t on the physical shelves, and the main way indie titles are discovered is word-of-mouth – which takes time. It’s a slow build, but one that can be long-sustaining. Indie authors have forever to promote their books, and the attention span to do so (whereas publishers are necessarily onto the next “new release” title).

So both titles were “soft releases” for me – besides, right before Christmas is a lousy time to market (everyone is busy and lots of books are on sale). And yet it’s a great time to release an indie book (because you can catch that post-Christmas rise in ebook sales that comes with all those new ereaders being opened). The reason THIRD DAUGHTER's launch was bigger (I planned prizes, held a Facebook party, etc.) was because the book was much-anticipated by my readers, and I wanted to throw a party in celebration of it for them. It was more about letting the people who had been waiting for it know and having fun with it, than serious marketing (which will come after the first of the year). With FAERY SWAP, I’m pleasantly surprised with the attention it’s getting, even with minimal announcements, but again, the marketing will come later, and over time.
Ah, of course, the Grand Evil Plan :)

You tend to write pretty fast but this one has been kicking around for a lot longer. Did you go back and revise it after you gained more experience as a writer?
It worked out that way, but that wasn’t my intention. I first drafted FAERY SWAP over two years ago, thinking I would submit it to traditional publishers. Shortly after, I indie published and my understanding of the industry (and the direction of my career) took a sharp turn. It became difficult to justify spending months revising that first draft of a story that I knew I couldn’t publish indie (especially when I had other titles that I knew would sell). After a while, I realized I had to finish for me – and worry about how to publish it afterward. Still, I struggled to find time to do it in between other projects. It was only when a publisher (Skyscape) came along with a nudge (they were interested in several of my works), that I finally did it. My experience as a writer at that point definitely helped with revisions, but it also meant I had to rewrite big chunks of the story. Which was fine – I’m very pleased with how it came out. In the end, Skyscape’s editor loved it but they had to pass on it. I decided the time was finally right for indie middle grade – or at least right enough. I’m savvier about how the market works now, and I’m hoping my readers will take a chance on FAERY SWAP for the kids in their lives.

You've covered just about every age range and a multitude of genres with your writing, including your non-fiction how-to guide on indie publishing, which probably would have been frowned upon by a traditional publisher. What do you think has been your biggest takeaway so far from these experiences? Which age range do you find it easiest to write for?
Indie freedom FTW! :) I love that I can write the stories I want to write and know people will have a chance to read them – whether it’s just a few readers, trickling in over time, or a bunch, only time will tell. And I have time (see above). Indies live in the long tail.

As for the writing itself, I’ve always thought middle grade is the hardest to write for – getting the voice and the humor and the pacing all just right is a challenge. You don’t have the luxury of a lot of interior thoughts, exposition, or plot-driving sexiness and violence. You have to dig deeper – I think of it as a purer form of storytelling. That being said, I think THIRD DAUGHTER was one of my more technically challenging works, because I had to blend two different aesthetics (steampunk and east-indian) as well as two different genres (romance and action-adventure). Then there’s my 9-part serial, DEBT COLLECTOR, which is for adults, but was challenging just because of the format – again very condensed, fast-paced storytelling. I guess I like challenging work! I write across a range of ages primarily because I go where the story takes me.

As I mentioned, intrepid!

You've shared peeks inside that brain of yours and it's brimming with amazing story ideas. How do you select which one you're going to work on next?
This, actually, is one of my biggest challenges. The flip side of the freedom to publish is the agony of deciding which stories to write. DEBT COLLECTOR is a great example of a story that swooped in and forced me to write it – I literally couldn’t get the words out fast enough on that one. For 2014, I’m trying to force myself to be a bit more strategic about which stories I write next, because now I’ve got THREE series going at once (DEBT COLLECTOR, THE DHARIAN AFFAIRS, and a new one… SINGULARITY… that hasn’t published yet). I don’t want readers to have to wait too long between books/seasons.

So when will we see another MG book from you?
My 2014 schedule says I’m supposed to write/release two novels (SECOND DAUGHTER and LEGACY-SINGULARITY#1) as well as a nine-part serial (DEBT COLLECTOR Season Two) as well as three novellas. I tell my schedule that it’s crazy, but it refuses to listen. As for MG… FAERY SWAP is a stand alone, and I don’t expect to publish another middle grade novel in the foreseeable future. I do have another middle grade novel that I’ve shelved – a space opera that I could revise and publish, and maybe I will, if FAERY SWAP really takes off. But my expectation is that won’t happen, at least not right away.

You've challenged yourself by making the Mindjack video, and then writing the serial. I have no doubt you'll be boldly going where no other writers have gone in the near future. How do you plan to challenge yourself in the coming year?
I really only challenge myself in the craft and in productivity – the other things (the video, the serial, translating OPEN MINDS to German) are really more opportunities that I accept as they come along rather than challenges I set for myself. But my 2014 schedule is definitely a challenge! And I’m taking a screenwriting class that is a definite craft challenge. Just last night, I was telling my instructor, “Um, I’m not sure if I can finish this script in the nine months we have for class.” She encouraged me to just rough draft it, get the story out using my strengths as a writer, and worry about coming back and filling in the weaknesses later. Great advice, and exactly why I’m taking the class from her. Because she’ll say, “You can do this, Sue,” and I want to prove her right. I’m really like Hermoine, that girl who lives in the library and always has her hand in the air in class. I need to rein that in a little! :) But my joy has always been in taking on challenges and mastering them… or failing spectacularly and moving on to the next one.

I don't think failure is in the cards for you. Thanks for stopping by, Sue!
Thanks for having me!

Faery Swap by Susan Kaye Quinn
AmazonBarnes and NobleKobo, printGoodreads
Warrior faery princes can be very stubborn.Especially when they possess your body.
Fourteen-year-old Finn just wants to keep his little sister out of Child Protective Services—an epic challenge with their parentally-missing-in-action dad moving them to England, near the famous Stonehenge rocks.
Warrior faery Prince Zaneyr just wants to escape his father’s reckless plan to repair the Rift—a catastrophe that ripped the faery realm from Earth 4,000 years ago and set it adrift in an alternate, timeless dimension.
When Zaneyr tricks Finn into swapping places, Finn becomes bodiless soul stuck in the Otherworld, fighting spriggans with sharp teeth and rival faery Houses. Back on Earth, Zaneyr uses Finn’s body to fight off his father’s seekers and keep the king’s greatest weapon—himself—out of his hands. Between them, they have two souls and only one body… and both worlds to save before the dimensional window between them slams shut. 
Faery Swap is an action and druid-magic filled portal fantasy, told by both a runaway faery prince and the boy he’s tricked into taking his place.
This Prince and the Pauper meets Warrior Faeries tale is suitable for all ages.
Includes 4 interior illustrations.
Click here to read the first chapter.
Full Print Cover

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19. Mayonnaise and Coffee

Sounds yummy, right?

Yeah, not so much. This is actually a parable of sorts that a writer friend sent out last week. I love the story here, especially since I read it the day after having coffee with my friend Casey (skinny latte, hold the mayo, thanks). Rather than tuck it away somewhere, I thought I'd post it here for others to see and as a permanent place for me to find it as well.



A professor stood before his philosophy class with some items in front of him. When the class began, he picked up a very large, empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked
the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “YES.”

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car. The sand is everything else – the small stuff. “If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.

The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children! Take time to get medical checkups. Take your wife/husband/lover/friend out to dinner. Maybe even play another 18. There is always time to clean the house and fix the disposal.

Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled.

“I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there is always room for a couple cups of coffee with a friend.”

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20. Digital vs. Print -- How I Read

I was not one of the first people to run out and buy a Kindle. I resisted it. For a long time.

I've always considered myself lucky to live in a town with a fabulous bookstore run by intelligent people who know books and know their customers. I love being able to go to a store and pick up a book, study the cover, read the back, explore the first few pages. And I never want to lose that.

But I noticed something shocking this week. At least shocking to me. In the last year, the number of ebooks I've read outnumbers paper. By far. I think I've read maybe 15 physical books. By comparison, in the same time frame, I've read (gulp!) 75 ebooks.

How did I make such a drastic shift?

Blame it on the iPad. Being able to download books for Kindle, Nook, PDFs and Bluefire Reader makes it oh so convenient to read anywhere, anytime, any format. And where do I do most of my reading? In bed with the blanket pulled up over my head so I don't disturb my sleeping husband. I feel like a kid with my favorite novel and a flashlight. Only the iPad lights itself, and instead of one book, I've got hundreds. And now that I have an iPhone, I can also read while I wait for my kids, when I'm in line at the grocery store, on my lunch break.

And then there's the price. I read a lot of books from independent authors which tend to be in the $0.99 to 3.99 range. Not to mention the fact that most of these would never be found in a bricks and mortar book store. I do also buy Big Six books (often when they're on sale), and I've also been sucked into a series and shelled over the $8.99-10.99 for a book I just had to read. Even then, the digital book is less than a hard cover.

Even the library has contributed to my digital habit. Borrowing an ebook from the library is easier than a regular book because there's nothing to return. Once the time's up, it just disappears from my reader -- no more late fees! Hooray!

I never thought I'd move away from "real" books. My son still hates electronic reading and while my daughter is more open to it, she still prefers paper. When they pick up the iPad, they tend to open up Doodlejump or Angry Birds, not a book. But I wonder when that will shift for them as well.

What about you -- do you read more paper books or electronic books? How has that changed from how you read a year ago?

8 Comments on Digital vs. Print -- How I Read, last added: 12/2/2012
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21. So, that Romance Novel You're Writing for NaNo...

Every writer knows that November means NaNo, even if they've never participated in the challenge. This year, romance authors have one more reason to finish that book they're working on: Avon Impulse wants to read their new novels. From their news release:

During the month of November, Avon editors will make themselves available to the author community via online forums at www.nanowrimo.org, and by sponsoring “NaRoWriMo,” the publisher hopes to acquire original works of romantic fiction, to be released in 2013 by Avon Impulse. “NaRoWriMo” romance fiction submissions should be submitted by December 10, 2012 to Avon Romance’s online submission portal (www.avonimpulse.com), and tagged “NaRoWriMo.” All novel and novella-length submissions (50,000 words and above) will be reviewed, and will be considered for publication through Avon Impulse, the publisher’s digital-first arm.

I'm not a romance writer, but I know a lot of you out there are. Check it out and let me know if it's worthwhile!

4 Comments on So, that Romance Novel You're Writing for NaNo..., last added: 12/2/2012
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22. Wisdom from Odwalla

Last week, a very special guest came to talk to the seniors at the school where I work: Greg Steltenpohl, the founder of Odwalla. He said a LOT of inspiring things to the seniors, but this really stuck in my mind.

“Being an entrepreneur, you have to kind of put your idea out there and believe in it and then manifest your vision,” he said. “You just keep coming up against things constantly, no matter how long you go along, there’s going to be someone who just says, ‘It isn’t possible.’”

Change "entrepreneur" to "writer" and omigosh, it's totally my truth. And how did he deal with the doubters?

“Nine times out of ten, it’s about manifestation. If you believe it, then other people start to believe it and pretty soon it becomes the reality.”

Kind of how I try to live my life. Believe it into reality. His final pearl of wisdom:

“You never know what's going to happen, just by doing what you love.”

Greg sold Odwalla to Coke in 2001 for $160 million. Not a bad payoff for doing something he loved!

I have no aspirations to make millions. But I do hope that by staying true to what I love, I can find  success.

How do you define success?

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23. Why I'll Never Kill My Parents

I'll probably catch a bit of heat for this, but I have a huge pet peeve when it comes to children's books: I hate dead parents.

Most times, dead parents are used as a device for writers to allow the child character to go off and have adventures that no sane parent would allow. For me, it's a huge problem because most of these literary children never have another thought about their deceased parents.  Granted, a child that was orphaned at 10 is not still going to be moping and crying at 16. But even if that child was adopted by a loving family, the lack of parents will influence them in countless ways.

I should know. I was that child.

Every person reacts differently in a given situation, but even a child that never knew their parents will think about them at different milestones or tuning points in their lives. When I learned to drive, I remembered sitting on my father's lap and steering the car on country roads. I wondered how he would have taught me differently, if I would have even been learning on the same streets, in the same car. When I had my first boyfriend, I wished my mom could have met his mom because I knew they would have been friends. I wondered what advice she would have given me and how it would have differed from my adoptive mother. To this day, every time I bake cookies, or smell fried chicken, or see a violet or a duck, or hear certain songs on the radio, it triggers a memory of my parents. I don't break down and cry, but I think about them, every day, in so many little ways.

Novels are stories about turning points in a character's life. Too often characters don't ring true because writer's don't give them that added depth of reflecting on how their turning point would have been different if their parents were around. J.K. Rowling did this masterfully in the Harry Potter books. His parents were woven into the storyline countless times, in a way that was meaningful and real. When Harry looked in the Mirror of Erised, I desperately desired my own. And the photos where he could see his parents moving about? Priceless. Rowling understood the emotions surrounding the death of a parent, probably because she experienced that loss herself as she was writing the books.

Many things can be imagined in a novel, but false emotions regarding dead parents never sit well with me. It's hard to write a book with realistic, living parents. But it's a challenge more writer's should attempt. Because when we were children, every day was an adventure. And even when our parents were around, we found ways to have those adventure, safe in the knowledge that our parents would be there to bail us out if things got out of hand.

Maybe it's my own fantasy, my way of making my parents come alive in the pages of my stories. Maybe someday I'll be a good enough writer, a brave enough writer to honestly portray the raw emotions of a character without parents. But another part of me fights back. Aren't there are enough dead parents in children's books?

I think I'll keep mine alive.

16 Comments on Why I'll Never Kill My Parents, last added: 12/19/2012
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24. World Read Aloud Day

My daughter has spent the last couple evenings snuggled up under her blanket reading a book. Correction: reading the iPad. Last night at 10 p.m. I finally said sorry, but you need to go to sleep. I promised to wake her up early so she could finish reading before school. Here's hoping she finishes before it's time to leave or we're going to have a real struggle! The book that has captured her attention? Boys are Dogs by Leslie Margolis. I don't know the author, but with such a ringing endorsement from my reluctant reader, I'm going to have to read this one myself!

But not today. Today is World Read Aloud Day, a celebration of shared words, encouraged by LitWorld.

I read aloud a lot with my entire family. (Yes, my hubby likes to listen in, too!) Right now we're in the middle of Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire. My son and husband have heard this entire series before, but it's the first time through with my daughter. It's been hard to keep some of the secrets of the stories from her (darn those evil children who like to spoil endings!) but the books are so wonderful that we've all enjoyed discovering them again. And of course, each time we finish a book, the dvd comes out so we can compare the book with the movie. You can guess which version wins every time :-)

What will you be reading out loud today with a child?

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25. And This is Why I Should Skip the News

My parents warned me about this when I told them my career choice, but yesterday at Forbes.com they confirmed it: writers don't make a lot of money.

Based on a survey conducted by Digital Book World and Writer's Digest, 20 percent of self-published authors report earning no income from their writing and the median income for traditionally published authors isn't much better: $5,000 to $9,999.

Talk about depressing.

And yet, I know there are people out there making enough to quit their day jobs. The question is, will I ever become one of them?

Read the Forbes article here.
See the results of the DBW/WD survey here.

I've never had delusions about getting rich from my writing. I don't expect to become the next J.K. Rowling, or even Darcie Chan. But I did harbor an outlandish hope that I could earn a living from it.

Today I plan to take some advice from Susan Quinn and draft up a five-year plan for my writing life. Maybe having it all out there will help me focus on making this dream a reality. I'd love to add my name to the growing ranks of mid-list authors making a living at doing what they love.

So hey, screw Forbes. They don't have all the answers. And as far as I'm concerned, the people who did the survey were asking the wrong questions. The important thing to figure out is how those top sellers got to where they are. What best practices did they use to help generate sales? That, for me, is the big takeaway. That's how writers can do better, earn more, live happier.

What do you think?

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