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Author of the young-adult thriller Shock Point, as well as five other mysteries and thrillers.
Statistics for So many books, so little time

Number of Readers that added this blog to their MyJacketFlap: 39
1. A tour! A tour! My first tour in 14 years!

This month began with the most amazing thing ever: a book tour for The Girl I Used to Be! The last time I had a tour was in 2002. As the economy crashed, independent bookstores folded, and newspapers cut back, tours faded right along with them.

I was determined to make the most of it. So I said yes to everything. Yes to speaking to kids from four different schools in a day. Yes to doing a bookstore event that same night. Yes to flying to a different city after that.

And I had a great time! But I did pick up some tips I’m going to pass along for the next person who wins the tour lottery.

The last time your clothes fit in your carryon is the day you pack it at home. Don’t overpack! If you’re willing to wear the same black polyester (and thus unwrinkle-able and basically indestructible) top in every city you visit, you can save some space in your suitcase. And you need to leave room, because every school will want to give you a coffee mug, T-shirt, and pen emblazoned with the school’s logo. I have also gotten a tea towel, “genuine sand,” a plaster hand missing fingernails like one of my characters, and reusable grocery bags.

And you’ll also end up with treats: chocolate in the shape of the Alamo, pralines so sweet they make your teeth ache, Kind bars, chocolate covered almonds, a package of Oreos, caramel toasted coconut chips, mini Kitkats, homemade cookies, Lindor balls, and occasionally fruit. Those who follow me on social media often give me potato chips. I actually carried a full bag of chips from Milwaukee to Chicago where I ate them at midnight when I finally checked into my hotel. My advice is to avoid the crab-flavored ones.

In fact, for your waistline, dump all the treats into the nearest garbage can as soon as you are out of eyesight. Otherwise you will end up in your hotel room eating a piece of really bad candy that tastes like chocolate-covered perfume, wincing, and then opening another wrapper.

All the candy did come in handy when Alaska ran out of meals on a flight from Chicago to Seattle. For breakfast, I ate a peanut butter cup that had been rattling around in my backpack. Loose. By the time I found it, half the chocolate was missing. But at least it didn’t have anything stuck to it. And I figured the peanut butter counted as protein.

If you’re ever wondering what to get an author, Starbucks cards are small and endlessly useful. Also those grocery bags, especially if they are emblazoned with something local, are a fun gift and pack flat.

My other tip would be figure out the shower while you are still sort of awake. Do you raise the handle, spin it, press it? Is there a separate piece you need to engage first? Otherwise you’ll end up after four hours sleep phoning the front desk and begging them to reveal the secret. And they in turn will send up a maintenance man, who will turn it on with ease, and look at you in your shortie PJs with barely concealed disgust.

And then after you take your shower you will realize you have no idea how to turn it OFF. Resist the urge to leave it running for four hours until housekeeping shows up.

I also stayed in a hotel hosting the a conference for the White Shrine of Jerusalem, a Masonic organization that seemed to be made up of white ladies over the age of 80 and wearing formal polyester gowns with corsages even for the 6 am breakfast buffet.

I visited more than a dozen schools and talked to over 3,000 kids. One girl who wanted to be a writer was shaking so badly it looked like she would fly apart. I held one of her hands with my left hand while I signed her book with my right. One teacher worried that her pizza lunch wouldn’t be “sophisticated enough” for me. I had a wonderful time, and even though I came down with a weird kind of strep normally only seen in cows, I would do it again in a heartbeat!

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2. Haven't I seen you someplace before? More dueling covers of falling cutouts

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3. Haven't I seen you someplace before? More covers of girls in red coats leaving

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4. Haven't I seen you before? Yet another cover of foggy mountains

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5. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Dueling covers of amusement parks

Hand-drawn fonts, amusement partks - these are way too similiar for my taste, given that both The Beginning of Everything and Whisper to Me are by fairly high-profile authors.

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6. Haven't I seen you someplace before: dueling covers of falling girl cutouts

The cover of The Assistants is a little too similar to The Girl Who Fell From the Sky for my taste.

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7. aprilhenry @ 2016-05-02T12:13:00

Less than two months ago, I got this note:

April, I can't begin to explain how much of a role model you are to me. I love all of your books; especially Girl, Stolen:) Recently, my dad passed away and my house burned down. And I look to your books and you inspire me to finish and accomplish a book I have been working on. I have been writing a kidnapping novel hence you are my favorite. I never thought i would see myself as a writer, and you have showed me that you can do anything and accomplish my dreams. One day I hope to have my book published and I would LOVE to send a copy to you and get your approval. I can't begin to explain again about how much you mean to me and how skilled you are.

Thank you so much
Your #1 fan, Carlie

When I wrote back, I found out that Carlie was only 13, and that just a month earlier her dad had set their house on fire and then killed himself. This girl had lost so much, yet she was sending love to me.

I sent her back a box of all my books, signed. But I wanted to do more. Maybe a Skype visit? But her librarian, Jessie McGaffin, had other plans, as you can read about here:

http://nevadaiowajournal.com/news/bestselling-author-visits-nms.html

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8. Haven't I see you someplace before? Even more dueling nape covers

There is something so alluring about the nape of the neck (just begs to be kissed) and a bun (just begs to be taken down).

Looks like with The Incarnations they decided some rebranding was in order for the paperback.  When I first saw it, I was sure it had to be from the same photo shot as When The Stars go Blue, but it's just similar.




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9. Meet the cover model for The Body in the Woods


Wow! Meet Isabelle Varga, the model pictured on the cover of The Body in the Woods. She recently contacted me to let me know that she is not only on the cover, she is also a fan. So of course I asked her a bunch of questions.

Q. How did you get into modeling?
A. I started modeling right before I turned 15. I was competing for Miss New Jersey Teen USA and a photographer who was doing my headshot for the pageant called an agency and I was signed as a model.

Q. Are you still in school?
A. I go to high school and take off when I get called to work. It was hard at first to balance modeling and school but I learned to do all of my homework in the car or on set at lunch break. I also learned to get ahead of assignments on weekends if I knew I was booked for a job that following week. My time management skills are really good from working.

Q. Do you have to be accompanied by an adult?
A. My mom always came with me to the shoots. Now that I am almost 19 I drive myself to most shoots. I am fortunate to work with the same clients so I know the team very well.

Q. How much did you know about the book before you did the shoot?
A. When I was called to shoot for your book cover I didn't know much until I got to the studio. The photographer, Jonathan Barkat, was shooting several different covers at once. I was told the name of the book at the shoot. I was not allowed to take any pictures since it was not going to be released for several months.

Q. How much of what you see on the cover is real and how much was done in Photoshop?
A. It was an awesome shoot....the dirt and ferns were real and they were piled around me and on me as I lay on the floor. They did several different poses until they found the one they liked best. The eyeshadow was real and it was super cool to see the images on the computer. I did not see the final image until it came out.

Q. How long did it take?
A. The shoot took about 7 hours because several covers for other books were shot simultaneously. Your cover probably took about 2-3 hours. It was a lot of putting the dirt and ferns on me then taking them off to move positions then covering me again.

Q. Do you like modeling? What do you plan to do after you graduate high school?
A. I absolutely love modeling. It has been an amazing experience to work with some of the best photographers and makeup artists in the world. I absolutely loved shooting your cover. The first time I saw it in Barnes and Noble was incredibly fun. All of my friends texted me when it came out. I also loved shooting a Canon commercial which aired in Tokyo. I am very fortunate to have been exposed to different cultures and amazing adults who have helped shaped me into the person I am today. I have a very strong work ethic which started when I began modeling. I was just accepted into college and I will attend Bentley University in MA in Sept. I am going to study Marketing and Media and Culture in college with a minor in management. I hope to work for a major fashion company one day in their marketing department. I also plan to compete in more pageants and hope to be Miss USA one day.

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10. Do you need a round rock?

Do you need a round rock today? I found this one while I was running.

When I was a toddler, my folks were having hard times. My dad was working at an all-news radio station that was going down the tubes (and would soon fire all the reporters and become an all-rock-and-roll station). He had chased jobs across four states, and my parents were so broke they couldn't even afford a stroller.

My grandmother came to visit and later went for a walk. She bounded back into the house, calling, "Nora, guess what?" She was so excited that my mom thought she must have figured out some way to solve their problems. Instead, she handed my mom a rock, exclaiming in amazement over how round it was.

After she left, my mom laughed until she cried (or maybe it was cried until she laughed). She carried that rock in her purse for years, and there were times there was no money in the purse, just the rock. But she always said, if all else failed, she had a round rock.

In my family, it's an honor to go through hard times and earn your round rock. So if you're in need of a round rock today, think of this one as yours.

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11. Fear of Flying

I'm normally fine with flying, which is good, because I do a lot of it. (9-seat planes, helicopters flying over glaciers - now those I'm a tad nervous about).

This week I paid extra to fly in the exit row. It was wonderful! My knees were nowhere near the seat ahead of me. The couple next to me did not seem to be experienced fliers. She tried to put her full size suitcase underneath the seat in front of her.)

As the plane started its descent into Chicago, water started dripping on my pants. I realized it was coming from the emergency exit
door release. It was like it was raining - inside. This did not seem good. I checked out the exit window behind me. No rain. The flight attendants were in their seats, and even if I summoned one, I wasn't sure what they could do. I thought of pointing it out to my neighbors, but decided they should spend their last moments enjoying their crossword. In the end, we landed without incident.

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12. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Yet another dueling cover of girl in red coat leaving


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13. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Dueling covers look up at the trees

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14. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Dueling covers of brooding forested mountains



I was not a big fan of Descent, which I found improbable, and with narrative voices that were interchangeable. But maybe that's just me. 

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15. Is it true you have to write what you know?

Question from a reader
I am an aspiring author (I checked out your FAQ page so don't worry about me asking you to read something of mine). I loved Girl, Stolen! I wanted to ask how you wrote about Cheyenne being blind? I was wondering if you knew someone who was blind, if you did extensive research, or if you just trusted your gut and thought about how you would feel? I was reading something from another author who said you should only write about things you've experienced, but as a pretty sheltered 16 year old there isn't a lot I've experienced. I was wondering if you followed the same rule.

My answer
You don’t have to write only what you know. I’ve heard “write what you want to know” and I think that’s more true.

Years ago, before I was published, I started writing a book from the POV of two middle-aged male Southerners who are identical twins, one of whom is paralyzed. (Not sure I had even been to the South - and I was younger, female, and not paralyzed. Oh, and not a twin.) That wasn’t the best idea. I think I thought it was more “writerly” to write a character I totally had to make up.

I am not blind and at the time I started writing Girl, Stolen, I did not know anyone who was. But I had just seen a news story that was basically the first few minutes of Girl, Stolen (the real girl was let go after 10 minutes) and I knew it would make a great book.

I think if you are going to write about someone who is not like you (especially someone who is in the minority), you should try really hard to get it right. So while I could walk around my house with eyes closed and think about what it would be like to be blind, I knew that wasn’t enough. So:
- I read books by people who had gone blind. (And I was lucky, because there are a LOT! Understandably, it’s a dramatic thing)
- I interviewed blind people and asked them to read the book when it was done.
- I got a white cane and learned basic caning technique.
- I went to the guide dog school for the blind and spent a day there.

And I also trusted my gut and thought about how I would feel.

I think it’s good to experience something yourself if you can. I have fired a gun, I have been handcuffed, and I have learned how to pick my way out of handcuffs with a bobby pin. When a copyeditor questioned whether the killer could really put a body under the kitchen sink, I pulled out everything and climbed in and took a selfie.

So you can combine trusting your gut, thinking about it logically, doing research, interviewing people, and having real life experiences. If you are writing fantasy, it is likely you are never going to experience what it is like to be a were-dragon or cast spells or whatever. So that’s going to be more thinking about it and trusting your gut.

I was a pretty sheltered 16 year old myself. Nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to become a serial killer to write about them (or do you…?). (Nope, pretty sure you don’t.)

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16. Is today ordinary, even boring? Appreciate it

Our only child got sideswiped by a truck on the freeway Saturday night. If you believe in string theory and alternate universes, there are so many where something much worse happened.

Reminds me to appreciate every day where all my family and friends are fine. 

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17. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Dueling covers of empty coats



I loved, loved, loved The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier (his books are like no other books), and the cover of The Girl in the Red Coat reminded me of it.  Interestingly, there seem two be two different covers.  Which do you like better? 

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18. The siege at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge

I'm a native Oregonian.  In the early 1980s, my dad, a county commissioner in Southern Oregon, received death threats from a group called Posse Comitatus. At one point, the police advised my dad to leave town and go into hiding. And my father, who was the most mild mannered man I've ever met, actually thought about whether he should get a gun.

A lot of their philosophy lives on in the armed extremists - pretty much of all of them from out of state - who have taken over Oregon's Malheur Wildlife Refuge. And you can trace the Posse Comitatus back to the Silver Shirts, a group modeled after Hitler's Brown Shirts.

Plus I love the
Malheur Wildlife Refuge.  It's a beautiful spot with a cool little museum.

Ammon Bundy and his crew of armed occupiers who have taken it over the  scare me. A lot.

Learn about historical linkages to earlier groups, like Posse Comitatus.

Learn about how one of the main occupiers believes "slavery never really happened."


Learn about how one of original occupiers, and a close confidant of Bundy, made up his military service - and another one has claimed to have been in the Marines.

Learn about an occupier who is a convicted murderer.

Learn about the occupier and spokesman who has threatened to shoot Hilary Clinton in the vagina.

Learn about the main occupier who makes a living off his foster kids - who he admits were his main source of income.


Now they have their own "jury" that they created to "try" public officials, and it's quite possible they will put liens on public officials' personal property.  It's what the Posse Comitatus did in Southern Oregon.

I am so sick of these folks.  And when I posted something on my Facebook page, I was accused of being a paid goverment shill.

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19. Is it better to have tried and failed then never to have tried at all?

Is it better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all?

My husband and his friend had passes to climb Mt. St. Helens (the volcano) Thursday. But his friend couldn't go. I said, "Well, 2015 is my year of risk. While I'm not a big hiker, I'll do it." Reasons this was a bad idea:
1. I really, really don't like heights. I don't even like to change lightbulbs in our house with 10-foot high ceilings.
2. What I thought a boulder field was (a field with a few boulders that you could hike around) turned out not to be anywhere near reality (incredibly steep piles of boulders you had to climb over, and more importantly, climb back down). We spent at least six hours on it.
3. I just got out of my cast on Monday (although I was cleared to go)
4. I have almost no cartilage in both knees.
5. Did I mention the height thing?

Things I said to myself on the way up:
1. Just look at your feet.
2. You can do it!
3. Psalm 23.
4. Pretend it's WWII and you're fleeing the Nazis over the Alps with your baby on your back.
5. Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Things I said to myself on the way back down:
1. You probably won't die. If you're lucky. Maybe.
2. Sweet Jesus.
3. If someone offered to give you a ride in helicopter right now, how much would you pay? (answer: probably $5,000)
4. That rock just came loose in your hand and now you have nothing to hold onto and will probably die.

Some people (much, much younger people) were happy mountain goats who thought nothing of stepping three feet down onto some tippy, crumbling rock.

Not me.

But hey, I had 25 years on nearly everyone else. And while we didn't summit, I emerged without any major injuries.

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20. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Even more covers of creepy woods

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21. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Endless dueling covers of words in heads

Twain's End looks way way too much like the cover for Jackaby for my comfort.  I think this is one cover trend that has run its course.


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22. The most amazing fall ever

Our first real vacation in 8 years
In November, we went to New Zealand, Fiji (for 24 hours) and Kauai. (I've been travelling so much we were able to do airfare with miles!) New Zealand is truly as beautiful as they say. For me, the two most memorable experiences were spending the night on a boat in Milford Sound (and seeing penguins, seals and even a humpback whale), and taking a helicopter to the top of a glacier.





School visits in Virginia
I've been doing a ton of school visits.  This school year I will spend about six weeks doing visits talking to thousands of kids. So far,  I have been in Washington state, Washington DC, Oregon, Iowa, and Virginia.  The new year will bring more Oregon visits, as well as two trips to Texas, and visits to Illinois, Nebraska and Missouri.  There's even going to be a tour for my new book, The Girl I Used to Be, in May.





On Friday, I got home from spening two weeks in the Virignia area. I gave versions of the same talk 26 times, plus taught eight writers' workshops. The last time I spoke, I think I actually had a mini panic attack.  The mike was heavy and I started worrying that I was repeating myself, then that I would faint, which made me worry even more about fainting, which made me feel fainter....

Near-faint aside, I had an amazing time. I felt like a rock star (which isn't necessarily a good thing). I ate lunch with students at nearly ever school, and one librarian told me that a girl was worried that her lunch wouldn't be "sophisticated enough." Two different times girls broke into tears when they met me, which made me feel honored and also slightly discombobulated. I got asked to sign books, pieces of paper, and phone cases.

I thought of all the years I wrote when only my mom read my books. All the times I worried my career was over. I'm resolved to enjoy this while it lasts.


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23. A single word can guide a year

Instead of coming up with a dozen resolutions for 2015, I decided to have just a single word.

Risk.

Risk turned out to be a great word. It helped nudge me to do some things I wouldn't have normally done, including:
- Attending Urban Escape and Evasion - a slightly crazy three-day class in LA where I learned how to get out of duct tape, rope,and zip ties, how to pick locks, and how to pick and shim handcuffs.  All the books I wrote this year have featured handcuffs. Coincidence?  I think not.

- Taking BJJ classes at strange schools where I was ususally the only woman on the floor and older than everyone else by twenty plys years.

- Telling an instructor I did not know well that I found one of his "funny" voices offensive.  It swooped up and down and included a lisp and a limp wrist.  The conversation went differently than I expected, but I was so scared to speak up - and so glad i did.


- Trying to summit Mt. St. Helens (an active volcano) when my husband's friend couldn't go.  That was the most challenging thing I've ever done. Physically it was exhausting, and mentally I realized I am so AFRAID of heights. We did not summit (although my husband could have).  By the time we finally got off the boulder field (which took hours clambering over extremely steep, sometimes shifting rocks without even a trail), I was on the verge of losing it. But hey, I tried!

- Saying yes to events I was nervous to do - and having the best time.

So what is my word for 2016?

I think it will be:

Flexible

That works for my hips.  That works for my relationships. That works for my approach to my work and my schedule.  (I like schedules a little too much).

What are your resolutions for 2016?

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24. I changed my mind.

I think my word for 2015 will be

Precious

Because it all is.  My time, my energy and attention, my health, my family, my friends.

I want to act like it.  To remember that everying is fleeting.  

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25. Haven't I seen you someplace before? Dueling covers of unusual letter forms

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