Sunday, October 6, 2013

Love Affair

I'm sorry YA lit, I've been cheating on you. It's been going on for awhile now. Almost six months. You know I love you, but then I spent a few nights with this book:

The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
And it blew my socks off. I can think of few other books that have rocked me as much as this did--a book that's so unique you are immediately inspired to think and write in a new way, to tell new kinds of stories. It's historical fiction, but it's based around a heart-rending romance, without descending quite into the 'historical romance' genre of bodice ripping and so forth. It was a romance that felt real instead of idealized and the author let bad things happen to the characters and the ending feels fought for (it's a trilogy, so it takes awhile to get there, but it's there all the same!).

Which then led me to dally with another series I heard was awesome in similar ways and I'm shocked that I never read until now:

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
More giantly epic romance, and horrible things happening to the characters, and intense struggles and love that both surprises and redeems. I'm so stoked to hear this is being made into a TV series, because, YES. Seeing Jaime Fraser for hours and hours on the small screen spells out a whole lot of YAY. Cannot wait. So then after I read a few of these books I was in the mood to just devour absolutely every amazing book like this I could find.
Which led me to the fabulous Jennifer Donnelly and the trilogy below. I'd read her YA books, but I really enjoyed these.


And then I couldn't find any more perfect books like these melding historical struggle, love stories (the kind that may involve tragedy but don't leave you there), and realism. I'm still looking. Please, if you know any, send them my way because I WANT MORE. Which of course leads to the next logical decision, well, if you're a writer anyway--to write my own epic historical saga. I'm about halfway through an ugly first draft right now

People ask me where inspiration for stories comes from, and here it is--the question that starts my process:

What am I currently absolutely obsessed with?

Sometimes it's been the storytelling of Doctor Who. Or Jane Eyre. Usually it's books or TV shows that I can't stop thinking about, that get me obsessive, that make me feel intensely. And then I take that buzzing bug of inspiration as a catalyst and start plot, plot, plotting away. Halfway through the draft, I'm still obsessed with the story, which is always a good sign. It takes over like a fever. I'm thinking about the story almost non-stop all throughout the day and it keeps me up a night. Sometimes I think the key to writing (at least the kind of writing you love) is obsession.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Year of Obsessive Reading

My son was reading some Guinness book world records to me from a book he got at the library (complete with showing disgusting pictures of the guy who can pull his eyelids out the furthest and the woman who has grown her nails so long they curl over and over).

And I think: I totally get weird personal obsessions like that. Other people look at you and go, dude, that’s weird to be so committed to something so random, and wow-ee, look at you getting recognition for your weird random sh**. But to the person with the weird random sh**, it feels very significant. For me this year, it’s been books. Okay, books and obsessive amounts of writing.

I’ve read over 200 books this year so far since January. This month, September, I’ve read a book every single day of the month. I realized I was doing it by about September 15th, and the I was like, well hell, why don’t I keep it up and read a book every day for the whole month. I chart it all on an excel spreadsheet. I get excited when I pass big barriers like 100, 150, 200. Nobody in the world could care less about my weird obsessive reading compulsion, but it brings me an inordinate amount of glee, on top of the usual book loving glee I get by reading the actual book ;)

It takes me about 4-5 hours to read a 300-400 page book. I've read NA, Christian Fiction, Historical Romance, Historical Fiction, research books about Romania, lol, basically everything except YA. And I’ve written about a thousand pages this year (on 7 different projects). Both of these weird obsessions this year are highly unusual (most years I read about 60-80 bks and write only one 300 pager). Basically, lately all I do is write, read books, and binge on Project Runway. Oh and eat dinner with my family. That’s it. I hear other people talk about, you know, the things they do in their lives, and I'm, I read this really good book and am learning how to better control narrative distance better in my own writing...

This probably all makes more sense if I put it in context—I’ve been basically couch-bound all year because of my chronic illness. Nobody does sedentary busy-body like me. I should hold the Guinness world record for best couch-bound overachiever ;) Mainly I just feel like this year has been weird, really, really weird. I've actually been really happy throughout it, but yeah. Weird! I doubt I'll ever read this many books in a year ever again, but since I'm in it, like the lady with the crazy unwieldly nails, I'm committed. Lets see how many books I can break before December 31st!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

LETTERS TO NOWHERE by Julie Cross - Review & Excerpt!

Author: Julie Cross
Title: Letters To Nowhere
Pages: 360
Publication Date: August 1st 2013
Publisher: Julie Cross
Genre: Mature Young Adult Contemporary
Her family may be shattered, but her dreams aren't...
From the International Bestselling Author of the Tempest series
A Mature YA contemporary set in the tough world of Elite Gymnastics. Grief, love and pursuing dreams are at the forefront of this emotionally powerful coming-of-age story.
Seventeen year old Karen Campbell has just lost both her parents in a tragic car accident. Grief stricken and alone, her gymnastics coach opens his home to Karen, providing her a place to live while she continues to train, working toward a spot on the world championship team.
Coach Bentley’s only child, seventeen year old Jordan is good-looking and charming enough to scare away a girl like Karen—someone who has spent ten times more hours on balance beams and uneven bars than talking or even thinking about boys. But the two teens share a special connection almost immediately. It turns out Jordan has a tragic past of his own, grief buried for years.
As Karen’s gymnastics career soars, her nightmares and visions of the horrible accident grow in strength. She can only avoid facing her grief for so long before it begins to surface and ultimately spin out of control in a very dangerous way. Can discovering love and lust (simultaneously) help with the grieving process or will it only provide a temporary distraction while waiting for reality to hit full force.
Karen’s world has just collapsed with her parents’ sudden death in a car crash. Left reeling and attempting to pick up the pieces, Karen moves into her gymnastic coach’s house since, other than an absentee grandmother, he’s the closest thing to family Karen has left. Everything Karen though was important—training with complete discipline, competing as an elite gymnast, getting into the college she wants—suddenly all pales into comparison of the realities a fickle world where some people live and other people die.
And then Karen meets Jordan, Coach Bennet’s son. Jordan is the complete opposite of Karen—formerly an elite gymnast himself, he’s left the sport. He’s rebellious, gets into trouble, and shockingly, he understands Karen at this vulnerable point in her life in a way that no one else does.
Living under the same roof creates some hilarious situations as the two get to know each other and spend more and more time in each other’s company. In a world that no longer makes sense, suddenly something doesJordan, and what Karen feels when she’s with him.
The characters are all so perfectly drawn. Jordan feels like such a teenage guy. Karen’s path through the cycles of grief are pitch perfect. The backdrop of the world of gymnastics is absolutely fascinating, and I just loved everything about this book.
Sweepingly romantic, raw, and completely real, Letters to Nowhere is a must read of 2013.

“So,” one of the girls said to me, “you must be a freshman, right? I thought you looked familiar.
I downed about two-thirds of my drink and placed it on a table. That would be just enough alcohol to loosen my tongue, but not enough to tip off Bentley when we got back home.
“How do you know Jordan?” the other girl asked.
“Well . . . we’re . . . uh,” I stammered.
They both nodded, looking impressed. “That’s so great you guys are together,” one girl said, holding her hand to her heart as if Jordan was a close relative or something. “I’ve been telling Jordan forever that he needed to get a girlfriend and quit messing around.”
I coughed loudly, nearly choking on the alcohol still burning my throat from thirty seconds ago.
“Right . . . well, it’s only been two dates. It’s not like we’re living together.”
“Two dates is progress for him,” the girl on my left said, rolling her eyes. “Trust me on that.”
“Thanks, guys,” I heard Jordan say. He moved right behind me, resting his hands lightly on my shoulders. “Why don’t you just tell Karen everything you know about me?”
“Whatever,” they said together.
Jordan steered me in the other direction, where Tony and a couple other guys were standing. “Sorry about that.”
“This is our second date, by the way.”
“So our first date was buying tampons? That kind
of sucks.”



I live in central Illinois with my wonderful husband and three kids currently between the ages of 7 and 12 (the kids not the husband). My writing journey began in May, 2009 with a short story in a notebook.
 Within a year, I had written seven (some good some God-awful) young adult novels. Not being a college graduate and having spent the previous fifteen years teaching gymnastics and working as a YMCA Program Director for Recreational Gymnastics, professional writing wasn't in my plans. Not even close. But ever since the day I started that short story, I haven't been able to stop. It was love at first sight.
 After about a year of writing, I had a three book deal with St. Martin's Press, and a film option with Summit Entertainment. Crazy, right? I know. It wasn't until August of 2011 that I quit working full time in order to be at home with my kids more and of course, write more. My young adult time travel debut novel, Tempest, released on January 17, 2012. The rest of my personal story remains unwritten.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Video Q&A From the Shutdown Release Party!

Want so see what I'm like IRL? Wish you could come to a signing but don't live in Minneapolis? Voila, problem solved: at my most recent signing, I had the hubby tape the Q&A session, for your viewing pleasure extraordinaire!

Monday, July 8, 2013

What Will You Do With This One Wild and Precious Life?

I just finished reading Golden by Jessi Kirby (which is holy crap amazing, everybody stop what you are doing and go get your hands on this book!) and a teacher writes this question on the board as a journal prompt for the seniors in his class from a poem by Mary Oliver:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

It's a question that drives the characters in the novels to really reflect on what they want for their lives, and as the reader, you also can't help asking it of yourself. In the book, the teacher holds onto the senior's journals for ten years and then mails it to the people, kind of like a time capsule but better because you get to read the journal with all the straight up thoughts from your teenage self.

I just turned 31. I'm at the age where I'd be on the receiving end of the journal. So, curious, I pulled out my old journals that I've kept since high-school. They were not as revelatory as I’d hoped. Then again, I was a quiet kind of nerdy religious girl. There were no epic romances, or even making out in the back seats of cars. But I did feel things largely. I had epic moments, or at least they felt like it to me at the time, even if it was only because I snuck out of the library when I was supposed to be studying, but only so I could go walk alone in the park by the river. But I always had big plans for myself. I was going to travel all over the world and be a missionary and go sky-diving and climb mountains.

But then, part of the process of growing up is going through bitter disappointments, failure, and disillusionment. Those are kind of the things that actually force you to grow. There's good stuff too. Like finding a life partner and understand commitment and raising up little tiny humans to be full grown humans. But there is also illness and constraints and a need to pay the bills. There have been lean years where I couldn't manage more than getting by--physically, financially, and emotionally. And there have been fat years where my health was better and I would go tubing down the river and out for drinks with friends and got tattoos and drank gallons of coffee while I sat in chic coffeeshops writing books.

So part of me looks at this question about the one wild and precious life and thinks it's sentimental, unrealistic, and written by someone healthy. But the rest of me wants to sing and shout it from the rooftops. Because yes. Even with limitations, all we have is this one wild and precious life. It should be wild--unpredictable, spontaneous, changeable, not letting ourselves get caught in the rut of simply existing in the pattern of wake up, work, eat dinner with family, watch TV or read, then sleep. Where is the wildness? Even if I can't be wild in body by jumping out of planes like I wanted, I can still be wild in mind. Like those years I was in grad school where I could barely sleep at night because of all the ideas I was learning about in class. Like the times when a new story plot or characters take over my brain and all I want to do is write, write, write. And it should be precious, because oh Lord do not let us forget that this is all we have on this earth. This is life. Here, today. Like the rest of the poem says,

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

When we reach the end of our days we will lament giving up any single day to the mundane of simply 'getting by', marking the day off on the calendar with relief because all we want to do is sleep or get to the weekend or to that vacation. In the end, won't we want every precious day back that we wasted by sleep-walking through?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

An Open Letter To Christian Fiction

Dear Christian Fiction,

I really, really like you. In fact, after neglecting your genre for about a decade, I've been reading you like crazy, discovering all the books and authors I missed in the meantime. Seriously, I've read more than sixty books in your genre this year already. And tons more a decade ago when it was all I read. As someone who's been both inside and outside the Christian camp, let's chat.

First off, some of your books are really, really, like crazy good. Mainly any book by Laura Frantz (oh my gosh I'm obsessed with her books lately, pardon my fangirl) or Deeanne Gist, Tamera Alexander, Lisa Tawn Bergren, Melanie Dickerson, and Julie Klassen. Thoughtful books where the writer's aren't afraid to let bad things happen to their characters. Where there are good and bad people alike, and those lines aren't always determined by whether they are Christians or not. These writers are doing it right.

But here's my problem with you, Christian Fiction. When others writers among you paint the world as made up of THEM, ie, non-Christian heathens who are evil and immoral and driven only by darkness vs. US, the Christians who maybe make mistakes but always choose the right thing in the end, it makes me kind of sick to my stomach. It's not how the world works and oh my goodness I sure hope you know that.

And here's the other big thing that ticks me off: when you have God speaking to the characters all the time. Like literally a voice in their heads, in pretty italic letters on the page. Do you not get how painful it is to pretend that's the way the world, and God, work? Do you know how upset I was as a teenager because God never 'spoke' to me like he did in all the books I read and how I thought that meant I must be doing it wrong? And in such plots, God always steps in at the last moment so nothing bad ever happens to the characters. And I want to pull my hair out because BAD THINGS HAPPEN to people. And painting a world like this, where the Christians are always good and do the right thing and hear God's voice... it's just plain wrong and hurtful and destructive, to all parties. I mean it's not just you, it's Christian subculture too. Either way, I was so shocked and unprepared when real life hit in my early twenties. I was unprepared for life's squalls and storms because it didn't fit this picture I'd been fed of how the Christian life worked. I was shattered.

I get it, Christian Fiction, I do. You have your tropes the same way other genres like Romance or Mystery or even YA do. I don't even mind all the preachy bits because I understand, the point of this genre is you get to talk about God and have your characters talk about God. And I'm generally fine with a little wish-fulfillment fiction. I like happy endings as much as the next girl. I just have a problem when you ascribe it all to God and pretend this is how the real world works.

In the meantime, I'll keep on reading you, and just avoid the authors who trigger my gag reflex. Because I still enjoy you, Christian Fiction. I like that your characters have depth and go through big emotional character arcs, and I like the way you do your love stories in historical settings, and I like that I can read you without worrying about being assaulted by graphic sexy times every other chapter (which I still like on occasion, but not every single book where it seems like that's all the scenes are just wishy-washy character-wise, all driving toward the sexy times scenes!). And yeah. Like YA, I like that your books seem to have more time and attention spent editing them than a lot of mainstream genre books. Sometimes I even like it when you talk about God.

Still, please be on notice Christian Fiction. It's hard enough having faith in God in this world. Please don't muddy the waters with your wish-fulfillment on how you WANT God to act and give us a little more of how he DOES act, which more often than not, is silence, requiring faith.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Giveaway! 2 Signed Copies of BOTH Override & Shutdown!

To celebrate Shutdown only being two weeks away from releasing and Glitch being on sale for just $2.99 for Kindle and Nook, I decided it's time for a giveaway! Giving away 2 copies of BOTH Override and Shutdown, you can enter once every day!

I'm going to paste the rafflecopter code, but if that doesn't work, you can always click this link to it on Facebook:

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Write Through Anything

I’ve heard people say writing saved their life, and while I can’t go that far, I can say that writing has provided stability and sanity in a very unstable world.

Writing helps me feel grounded, even in a strange week like this one where everything else feels all strange and weird. My husband and son are out of town and it’s just me up in this thirteenth story apartment, too ill to really go anywhere, feeling like Rupunzel locked in her tower—though maybe without the glorious golden locks, or does mid-shoulder black and pink hair count? Nevertheless, I feel very locked-away-in-a-tower-ish.

But then, when I write, even on days like today where I’m distracted by All The Internet Things, if I manage to hit my word count, I feel this nice calm settle over me. I did the work that needed to be done today, even if everything else seems out of sync and off schedule.

It’s kind of the magic of developing a discipline of writing. Like any muscle, it’ll get flimsy and out of shape if you don’t exercise it. I’ve mostly gotten to the place where writing isn’t something I get up and decide to do everyday. It’s something I take for granted that I WILL do, come hell or high-water or, you know, Twitter and Facebook addiction and my normal internal whining about I-don’t-wanna! ;)

So tonight, all alone in this empty apartment up in the sky, I’ve got a smile on my face because I did my second writing session and hit the 2k word count I try to do every day. Officially my required word count each day is 1k. It’s one of the tricks I use on myself, so that if I only get 1k or only do one writing session instead of two, I still get to count the day as a win. When you’ve got this weird amorphous job of being a writer, it’s the little things that count to make you feel productive.

The trick is to write through anything. Write through depression. Write through success. Write through heart break. Especially write through failure. Write through sickness, at least as much as able. Write through books being sold. Write through waiting on submission to see if more books will sell. Write through failed books that didn’t end up going anywhere and sit as half-done hundred page documents that will lay forgotten in some random folder on my computer.

It’s when I stop writing that I get into trouble. I feel like I can be happy and contented through anything life throws at me, as long as I can hit that daily word count. Now, none of this is to say that the writing will be particularly good, especially if there’s something bad or stressful going on in my life. The idea of the tortured or depressed artist putting out masterpieces might be all good well in theory, but it certainly never worked for me. I write best when I’m stable and happy and my family is in a good place. But you still gotta write, because that way lies sanity and mental health. Come to think of it, I bet it’s how Rapunzel stayed sane too. She was probably stuck up there with thousands of sheets of paper and a magical unending inkpot ;)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

You Don't Always Have to Love It

Sometimes being a writer, you will be super in the groove, excited about every scene that comes next, wake up the in morning and can't wait to get to your computer. You can't stop thinking about your characters so much that you can't sleep at night and you keep getting out of bed to write another scene. The book I wrote last December was like that.

And then there are books like the one I'm writing now... where I know the idea and characters are solid, and interesting-ish things are happening, but my passion for the story is only at a low simmer. I sit down each afternoon to write... and then go check twitter again. And Facebook. And maybe watch yet another John Green vlogbrothers video because that guy is so entertaining and compulsively watchable! And then, oh yeah, I'll click back to my Word document and type maybe another hundred words.

Here is the thing: there is this myth out there that a book will be no good if you don't just loooooove it while you're writing it. That somehow your lack of passion will translate into lack of reader passion because you just can't capture the magic mojo. But this is not true. I know this first hand, since the book that was THE HARDEST THING I'VE EVER WRITTEN has gotten the best reviews. I'm referring of course, to Override, which long-time blog followers will know was the bane of my existence for over a year. I wrote it once. And then wrote it over from scratch again. And then AGAIN. I did not love that book when I was writing that last draft. I'm pretty sure that the word 'hate' even got tossed around for awhile there. But I knew that I did have a deadline in a month so the dang thing had better get written.

And the thing was (and believe me it shocked me more than anyone!), all of the time and attention that book had gotten both plot-wise and character wise had turned it into a really good book.

Maybe some people in magical candy author land love every single part of every single book they write. But then there's the rest of us, slogging through unending middles, muddling through murky characterization, spending a whole week trying to get one friggin' scene right and then skipping it in the end to figure out later so I can at least avoid stalling completely on the whole project... oh, ahem, that might have veered into describing my own past week a little bit ;)

Suffice it to say, I may not love this book I'm in the middle of drafting. I think there's lots of work ahead reshaping and crafting it, but like I said, sometimes that can make it an even better book than ones that have slipped out easily the first time around. That's what I'm holding on to as I muddle through the middle! What are you guys working on? What's your process like? Do you give up and move on to another project when the passion dries up, or keep barreling on through?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Upside of Impatience... At Least In My Writing!

I admire books that have that easy kind of narration where you go along for the ride for the character’s entire day, even the boring daily stuff. Little mini-scenes talking to parents or friends in the hallway.

Because the thing as, in my own writing, I’m horrible at this. I skip all kinds of little mundane details like, you know, setting, in my first drafts. Also I tend to skip over transitions. I’m light on descriptions. I forget what my characters supposedly look like, what color their hair is, or their eyes. I forget their last names.

And a lot of this boils down to a personality trait that is probably one of my most dominant: impatience. Okay, that and my horrible memory, lol. But basically, I want to skip over all the stuff that I, well, skip over sometimes when I read. With a lot of books I read, especially if they’re just meh-okay, I’m a skimmer. I’ll read every bit of dialogue, but long descriptions of the room or even internal thought if it goes on for more than a couple paragraphs—I want to skip to the action, to where things start happening again! Which is probably a little evil of me. After all, I know what a pain it is to make sure all those setting details are there in the first place (since I have to go in and painstakingly add them in later drafts!).

At the same time, there are some upsides to this impatience in my writing. It's nice to find the positives in a trait usually considered a negative. The upsides:
  • My novels will always be a little shorter
  • I get you to the action and the central tension of the book FAST
  • Every chapter is accomplishing some work (plot work, that is). Basically, every chapter is pushing the plot forward. My character’s generally don’t hang out just for the heck of it. I’m trying to accomplish something in every scene. If I’m really on my game, I’m doing two things at once: building the character’s emotional arc while also pushing the external plot of the story forward)
  • This ideally should make for a tight novel, where something's always happening and you have to keep flipping the pages to find out what comes next
  • I write drafts fast, because I dig into the story like a speed demon till I get it out
  • Because of my skimming habit, I consume a LOT of books each year, which, I don’t know, just seems like a good idea in general if you’re a writer ;)
As far as impatience in my real life, well… I’m working on it. That’s what’s up with me talking about Zen and meditation all the time ;) And in the meantime, I'm glad at least the impatience serves me well in my writing. What about you? Any negative traits you've turned into positives in your life?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Identity Crisis & Lust for Life

Because of some debilitating chronic health problems, two months ago, this was my daily routine: I would wake up, check email for five minutes because that’s all I could handle of looking at the computer screen, then turn on an audiobook, put a cloth over my eyes, and just lay there listening for hours. For days on end. For weeks. Just me laying in bed, listening. Unable to work at all or write or even watch TV. I listened to 26 audiobooks in the month of February, almost one a day, no lie.

Even though it was just a month and a half ago (I’ve been gaining more and more strength back ever since), it doesn’t seem real. The time had a dreamlike quality, even when I was living it.

It’s kind of throwing me into a weird identity crisis now that I’m feeling better. Which I guess happens to most people during periods of great change. Like culture shock, or when you went away to college or lived on your own for the first time, or get married. Suddenly you’re in all these new circumstances, surrounded by new people, and the patterns of identity that used to characterize you are suddenly all in flux.

The Buddhists would say this is probably an accurate picture of how life is, constantly changing, ever moving. That periods of stability in our life are really only an illusion, an attempt by us to wrestle control from an unsteady world.

And the past two years have been full of dramatic changes like that, often because of the ups and downs of my health. Two years ago I was the healthiest I’d been since I got sick a decade ago. I was able to drive, stay out all day, and come home and take a twenty minute walk. Then last year I crashed so hard I couldn’t get out of bed for weeks at a time. It’s enough to make a person screwy in the head, because sick-Heather is a different person than well-Heather. Healthy-Heather is a confident bad-ass with tattoos and pink hair. Sick-Heather is reclusive, meditative, and very, very quiet.

So, in spite of the Buddhists, I would really love for things to be stable and placid. I would like a period of rest where I continue feeling healthy and am able to work without interruption, and I would like to know that I can plan something a couple months from now and rely on the fact that I’ll be feeling well enough to do it. I would like to figure out faith and what I think about the world and have it remain stable. I’m tired of feeling like the floor can drop out from under me at any moment.

I want so many things. All these zinging firecracker desires.  I feel like the world of wants has suddenly opened back up to me, now that I’m feeling better and am able to do more things. I feel almost frenetic, I want to do ALL the things, ALL AT ONCE! The name of that movie about Van Gogh keeps pinging around my head: Lust for Life. Yes, I think, that is exactly what I’m feeling right now. Lust for life.

Desire strikes me as this deeply human and beautiful impulse. The Buddha might say desire is the cause of suffering, and that’s true to a point, but there’s also something explosive and beautiful-unto-weeping about wanting to gulp in the whole world and savor it on your tongue.

So that’s me lately: gulping it all in. And writing a ton, as if I’m making up for those months where I couldn’t write a thing by writing like a speed demon now.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Review of DARE YOU TO by Katie McGarry

This is a book I've been dying to get my hands on from the second I finished PUSHING THE LIMITS (which was one of my favorite reads last year). Sometimes when I anticipate a book this much, it can't live up to all the hype. Yeah. Not the case with DARE YOU TO! I loved it just as much as the first book.

Summary from Goodreads:
If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom's freedom and her own happiness. That's how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn't want her and going to a school that doesn't understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does....

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him.

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all....

There’s so much to love about this book. I loved Beth, with her dyed black hair and no-b.s. attitude. Her hard life has made her both street-wise and world-weary, but that doesn’t mean that that she can’t be so much more if she just lets herself. Then there’s Ryan, seemingly Beth’s opposite with his jock status and boy-next-door good lucks. Watching the sparks fly between them as they go round after round was so much fun. This is just a fabulous opposites-attract story where the person you can’t imagine falling for might just become the one person you can’t live without.

Make sure to pick this one up when it hits shelves next month, May 28th!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

YA Scavenger Hunt!

Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This tri-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors...and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize--one lucky winner will receive one signed book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours.

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are TWO contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the RED TEAM--but there is also a blue team for a chance to win a whole different set of signed books!

If you'd like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt homepage.

Directions: Below, you'll notice that I've listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the red team, and then add them up (don't worry, you can use a calculator!).

Entry Form: Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian's permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by August 5, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

I am hosting the fabulous Aprilynne Pike for the YA Scavenger Hunt!
Critically acclaimed, #1 New York Times best-selling author Aprilynne Pike has been spinning tales since she was a child with a hyper-active imagination. At the age of twenty she received her BA in Creative Writing from Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. When not writing, Aprilynne can usually be found out running; she also enjoys singing, acting, reading, and working with pregnant moms as a childbirth educator and doula. Aprilynne lives in Arizona with her husband and four kids; she is enjoying the sunshine.

About Life After Theft:

Moving to a new high school sucks. Especially a rich-kid private school. With uniforms. But nothing is worse than finding out the first girl you meet is dead. And a klepto. No one can see or hear Kimberlee except Jeff, so--in hopes of bringing an end to the snarkiest haunting in history--he agrees to help her complete her "unfinished business." But when the enmity between Kimberlee and Jeff's new crush, Sera, manages to continue posthumously, Jeff wonders if he's made the right choice.

It sounds amazing! I loved her Wings series, can't wait to get my hands on this one!
Go preorder Life After Theft Today!

And don't forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of signed books by me, Aprilynne Pike, and more! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 10. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the red team and you'll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

Also, while you're here don't forget to enter the bonus contest for a signed ARC of SHUTDOWN along with a signed copy of Override. I am running exclusively during the YA Scavenger Hunt. Click here to go to my Rafflecopter giveaway on Facebook!

To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author! Click here!

A Question About Faith, and then an Answer

I wonder, now that I am feeling better, if faith is easier when I am sick. When I was so ill, I was constantly reminded of my need and there were few other distractions from lying quiet with God.

I’m not dumb like when I was younger to pray that God make me sick or bring hard times if it will make my faith stronger. We used to toss around so cavalierly prayers like ‘break me, God!’ Instead I pray that somehow God teach me faith through wellness. I pray he teach me faith through gentle and good and happy days. Sure the Israelites were always at their most earnest when they were being oppressed, but please God, can there be a faith that blossoms too in prosperity and joy? I would like for that season to stay awhile.

Then really, I wonder again if prayers matter at all, if they change anything. Good and bad times will come on me either way, no matter what I pray. And even if tomorrow manages to be a happy one where I remember God all through the hours, it doesn’t mean hard times will disappear. They’ll come back, the unfortunate side effect of being human. Old age at least will make sure of it, and probably a thousand other beat-downs from life before then.

Instead, I should remember my Buddhism. Tomorrow might be good or it might be bad. It does not matter if I want it one way or the other. In fact, the wanting might just make me miserable in the here and now.

But still, my initial worry is this: I don’t want to be faithless in the good times. I forget so easily. I’m like the Israelites Moses led out of Egypt, seeing all those signs and wonders, and then a few weeks later complaining that all I have to eat is the same old boring bread and for God’s sake could we just get some quail up in here?! I can still do so little, but I fill my time and energy and mind with all the things I’ve been wanting to do to the exclusion of all else. I forget God for half a day at a time, a day, two days, and do not think once of prayer. I worry it will stretch to weeks and then months.

I wonder, what does God want from me? What does being faithful mean? Is ‘pray without ceasing’ literal? Is it humanly possible? Because I want to count the day as pass or fail.

Oh Heather, silly girl, listen again to the wise men. That is all to do with ‘me’. My twisty squirrel mind obsessing about this ‘self.’ The Buddhists say to live now in this moment, and God too says do not worry about tomorrow. My worry over my future faithlessness seems valid to me, but maybe all it does is separate me from God now.

God here right now fulfilling his promise that he is with me. Here on these couch cushions that are bent around my shape, the low vibration of trucks on the highway below, the ache of my bruised tired eyes, the empty sensation in my stomach, the biting of the underwire in my bra, this moment in the dark, typing with my eyes closed, the gentle tension of fingers pressing memorized laptop keys, the moment of pausing with each of my senses and wondering what else there is to discover here while simultaneously mediating the moment through words. And smiling at myself, because right now the two are so close, which is rare, that my mediating the moment is still actually the moment.

And here I stop and pause, because for a moment I’ve managed to catch the hummingbird answer and hold it still. Now. Here. Being still. With God. It’s everything. It’s all that matters.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Meditations on Illness & Zach Sobiech

It’s hard to read about sad things. I’ve been sick for twelve years, and lately, life has ground to a halt as the illness hits a new all-time low. Yet while I lie here struggling so much with being too sick to even be on the computer or watch TV, spending weeks doing nothing else except lying quietly in bed listening to audiobooks in the dark or simply lying still without anything to distract me for hours, I think often of my friend’s daughter’s best friend, Zach Sobiech, who is dying of cancer with only a few months left to live (his amazing song Clouds has gone viral in recent months).

I’ve never met Zach personally, so maybe it’s not my place to talk about him, but I’ll say a little anyway. When I’m this sick, it’s all a little groggy and the days pass in a kind of fog, which feels like a blessing. Then I think, these months which I want to pass quickly so I can start feeling better again, Zach must want so badly to pass slowly.

Through this protracted downturn in my own illness, I’ve come back to God after half a decade away. It’s a fairly quiet affair, coming back to faith. I’m tender-stepped and unsure. I’m not sure if I can believe that there is purpose in this, in my being bedbound or Zach dying. I’m sure there will be lots of people trying to come up with suggestions of how there is God’s purpose in it all. I have no clue if there is purpose in suffering or if that it is simply the way life works—some prospering and others sick and dying, apparently with no direction or design. I get mad at least when people talk confidently about God’s purpose in situations of suffering not their own.

So being with God in these long months of enforced quietness and solitude is less about finding any purpose in it all, and more about feeling the blanket of peace that comes occasionally in spite of all the hurt and anger and pain. Over and over in the Bible, God promises that, “I am with you.” I also like that Jesus’ path on earth was one of great suffering. It makes him more relatable. It makes me think that even down here in the shadows and depths, there is hope. For me at least, being with God is that joy that comes sometimes in the silence. Seemingly out of nowhere, when by all accounts I should be miserable, comes peace and even more strange, a strong sense of thanksgiving. No clear voice or sense of divine interaction or direction, just peace and joy where, according to circumstances, there should be none.

In Buddhism, there is a practice where, instead of breathing in peace and breathing out all the negative feelings to cleanse yourself, you do the opposite. You breathe in all the pain and suffering, both your own and that of others, holding it in for a moment, and then breathing out peace and loving-kindness to all who are connected by suffering. Sometimes when you hold it all inside, it’s such an overwhelming flood of hurt you think you can’t bear it. But then breathing out grace and peace and loving-kindness to the afflicted, to others and myself, feels like it changes something. Even if it’s only me that’s transformed. It’s where compassion is born.

I think this is the same principle when praying for others. I don’t know if prayers for others do anything other than help us grow in compassion and connect to God. I don’t know if they change anything externally, or actually affect the person we are praying for. Still, I think of Zach and everyone who loves him and I pray for them. I pray they have long moments of peace amid everything else in the upcoming months, and afterwards.

I think of the angels supposedly in heaven who do nothing but pray and praise God all day long without ceasing. I think of the centuries of monks and nuns from many faiths spending their lives in silence and prayer, and then I think, maybe that is the purpose of my own sickness— so that I can live a life of prayer and meditation. I remember I used to think that sounded terribly BORING, but now it begins to make more sense to me. Because as much as I might get angry of other people trying to deduce God’s purpose in suffering, I guess deep inside, I still want there to be one.

Anyway, listen to this amazing song by Zach and my friend’s daughter, Sammy. Every time I watch it, compassion wells up and spills over into tears.

Sometimes the video doesn't show up, so here's the link directly to YouTube:
You can find more about Zach here:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Override Releases Today!

Yay, happy birthday to Override! I'm so excited for it to be out in the world so you can all find out what happens next for Adrien and Zoe!

Book release days are weird as the author, at least I say that with the little experience I've had with Glitch and Override. The big day doesn't feel as big or momentous as you think they should. Or maybe it's just me. I worry sometimes that I don't react like other people to big life events. For example, when the nurses handed me my son after he was born I just kind of stared at him and was like, ok, wow, this is weird. I hear all these stories about moms going on and on about that first moment of overwhelming love and joy when they finally meet their child, and I was just like, all right little alien creature, let's try to figure out how to feed you.

I feel similarly about my book releases. I've heard other authors cry with a sense of joy and accomplishment when they get their author copies in the mail, and I've just been like, oh look, it's that book I wrote and isn't it weird to see it all type set in pages instead of in my Word document. I've been a little out of it this week since my fam and I've all been sick, and realized at eight o clock yesterday that, whoa, my book comes out tomorrow! *blinks in surprise a few times*

So um. Yeah. Weird baby syndrome strikes again. Being an author sorta feels real when I go into bookstores and see my book on the shelf, and when I see a bunch of the other books that are written by friends and acquaintances. So I think, well, maybe I'll feel like a real author when I've written ten books, or some other arbitrary number. Or maybe not. Motherhood still doesn't feel like any of those stories I heard about how it would feel, so maybe being an author won't either!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Playlist for Override

Music is a SUPER important part of my writing process. I listen to music as I’m writing, and I usually try to match the album I’m listening to, to the type of scene I’m working on or the character I’m trying to figure out. Adding music to my creative process has helped SO MUCH with accessing the emotional core of a certain scene.

Zoe’s lonely and isolated in the beginning of Override, so I’d listen to Portishead’s album Dummy when I wrote those scenes, to get a mellow, lonely vibe.

When I was writing a scene with Adrien, I’d often listen to the Blue October album, Foiled for the Last Time, but only to the second disk that was recorded live. There’s so much anguished passion in the lead singer’s voice—and that exactly fits what Adrien’s going through for part of Override. That kind of raspy, screaming fury about things he’s afraid of.

For action scenes, I’d often listen to System of a Down’s album Toxicity. The driving, almost angry, metal beat gets my heart pumping. Perfect for writing pounding action scenes.

Zoe’s album would be Florence and the Machine’s Lungs, especially “The Dog Days Are Over.” In Override, we get to see her start her new life outside of the Community, as she works to get control of her powers and figure out what kind of person she wants to be. A lot of this is thrilling, but a lot of it’s scary too. That’s why I would temper the Florence and the Machine album with Sia’s Colour the Small One, especially the song “Breathe Me.” There’s a vulnerability to Sia’s voice that fits Zoe perfectly as she tries to navigate her world.

By the end, Zoe’s anthem for all the action at the end of the book would definitely be Adele’s “I Set Fire To The Rain”!!!

Also check out the on-going blog tour for Override and get a chance to win some great prizes!  Override's Tour Page at Rockstar Book tours

Monday, February 4, 2013

Override BLOG TOUR!

It's that time again! Override comes out next Tuesday, the 12th! Check out my stops on the blog tour over the next couple weeks to enter to win signed copies of both Override and Shutdown, read interviews with me, and check out reviews!

Tour Schedule:

Week One

Feb. 4th - Burning Impossibly Bright - Guest Post

Feb. 5th - Shortie Says - Interview

Feb. 6th - Bengal Reads - Review

Feb. 7th - WinterHaven Books - Character POV - Adrien

Feb. 8th - The Girl in a Cafe - Interview

Week Two

Feb. 11th - Paranormal Reads - Review

Feb. 12th - Books of Amber - Guest Post

Feb. 13th - Paulette's Papers - Review

Feb. 14th - The Book Belles - Guest Post

Feb. 15th - IB Book Blogging - Interview

You can also find the schedule on: Override's Tour Page at Rockstar Book tours

Monday, January 14, 2013

On Writing What You Know

I’ve been thinking about the kinds of stories I want to write lately – both because I wrote my first book outside the Glitch world in December and am looking towards my next few projects, and because I’m editing Shutdown, the last Glitch book (a book that I was really able to sink into and take the characters some intense and cool places, emotionally).

I guess that’s what I’ve really been thinking about: how to write stories that emotionally, readers can relate to or think, ‘hey, I’ve felt like that,’ even if I’m writing impossible and outlandish plots.

I often think the best books are ones where you can almost feel authors struggling with something on the page, whether it be a big question about life (see Gabrielle Zevin’s Elsewhere), or teenagers with cancer (John Green’s TFIOS), or grief (Nelson’s The Sky is Everywhere, McNamara’s Lovely Dark and Deep, Courtney Summers’ Fall For Anything), or an experience of being the mean girl (Summers’ Some Girls Are), or thinking about temptation and good and evil (like the ring in LOTR), or exploring an existential crisis about what it means to be human (Marion’s Warm Bodies), etc.

So because I’m trying to write emotionally resonating characters, and one way to do that is to write what you know, like Flannery O’Conner, my stories are often going to have physically broken people. People with the wooden legs or deadly allergies or other health problems that neither medicine nor magic can fix.

Any resolutions to these problems are going to be hard fought for, and will most likely leave the character very different than when they first started out, sometimes very battered. This is certainly true of Shutdown, when one character veered off in ways I didn’t expect. I had an idea of where the character would end up back when I wrote the synopsis two years ago, but the journey getting there was far more arduous than I first expected. The character dramatically changed as I wrote them, because I realized there was no way these circumstances wouldn’t change the person. I’ve experienced the way that life can dump things on you that you can’t escape, whether you see them coming or not. You can’t run away and you can’t pretend your entire life hasn’t changed. So you find ways to cope with it, both good and bad.

In the book I just wrote and the one I’m thinking of writing next, I’m tackling—in a very sideways manner—the way that circumstances and physical disability can intrude on your plans and dreams. And then letting it fly and watching how my characters react. In one book, the main character reacts by being furious about his situation, in the other, the MC is so accepting of her bad circumstances at first that she doesn’t fight back against them at all. In both cases, the illnesses are somewhat supernatural, but I’m exploring some things that very much resonate with me in real life, with the debilitating chronic illness I’ve fought with for eleven years. Anger and acceptance are kind of constant warring states in my head. I can write these characters so easily, because I know how it feels.

But these obviously aren’t just stories for sick people alone—in fact, I don’t think most people will even see this as a subplot when they read the books. Still, the question I most want to explore through my writing (and my life really) is: how do we find peace and joy through difficult life circumstances? Because this at least is universal—you will have difficult circumstances in your life, no matter if you are fifteen or fifty. You will encounter conflict and sometimes, you will suffer.

This is all the inside track though, the things going on in my head as I wrote. As I mentioned a moment ago, I don’t think any of this is explicit, you might not pick up on these underlying themes in these books unless you’ve read this blog post and remember it. After all, in addition to wrestling with these problems that create internal conflict for my characters, they are also all falling in love. Because well, in addition to wanting to explore some meaty life questions for myself, I’m also just a sucker for romance J

Anyway, all of this is a tool I’ve used to help me dig deeper with my characters. Too often we think that ‘write what you know’ just means we should write about external experiences we’ve had in our lives. Um yeah, if I stuck to that, I'd be writing stories no one wants to read about sitting on a couch for hours on end! But I’m learning that using ‘write what you know’ can really ratchet up your characters by infusing them with the emotional and mental dilemmas you yourself have wrestled with.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Looking Back & Looking Ahead

So New Year’s is a time of looking both back and forward. Back on the year that past, forward to what’s coming next.
Looking back: 2012 was a wicked f’ing crap-ton of a hard year, physically, emotionally, and work-wise. I experienced more health problems than ever before in my life, but I also wrote two books and took them through most of the editing stages, then for fun wrote another book entirely in December. I lost my love for writing, then powered through and eventually gained it back again. I faced deadlines and met each one. I’ve learned SO FREAKING MUCH about writing this year. It was a crash course, a dump-you-in-the-deep-end-and-hope-you-don’t-drown course, but I finally figured out how to swim (though there were a couple of times I was sure I was gonna drown). Btw, if you know a debut author, give them a hug, because the debut year all on it's own is a crazy intense and stressful thing.

Let’s see, what else? My eating habits have changed entirely due to the Meniere’s disease, so I consume only trace amounts of salt every day, drink no coffee, and drink no alcohol. I live pretty much like a little nun, sans the headdress and plus pink hair.

And best of all, I’m happy.

Looking forward: Lots of uncertainties that will make me crazy if I let them. The second and third book of the Glitch trilogy will be out this year (Override in Feb, Shutdown in July). But will they all sell well? Will readers like them? Will my agent like the new book I just wrote, and will my editor want to acquire it? Will this one exciting thing happen or won’t it, and will I be okay if it doesn’t?

My response to most of these is to limit my expectations and expect the worst. I know that sounds bad. I’m not actually a pessimist, but I prefer to expect the worst rather than hope for something so hard and then have the hope stomped on (especially after a year of lots of stompage!) Then if the good thing happens, I’m happily surprised. And when good things come, they feel more like grace, like things I didn’t deserve but was given anyway, and I feel a deep and profound gratitude. And when bad things come, I do lots of meditation and try to turn my sights back only on the day in front of me, which is the only thing I can control, and let the future worry about itself.

Up directly ahead on the docket is editing the book I just finished today, all the way up until edits for Shutdown come back from my editor. Then I’ll hand off New Book to agent man to see what he thinks, and lose myself in Shutdown edits for several weeks. Then turn those in, and go back to editing New Book with whatever thoughts and critiques agent man gives.

At least this is how I envision it working, but I’m certainly familiar enough with how life likes to intervene in our nicely laid little plans.

Either way, 2013 ought to be a far less stressful year than 2012, and I’m looking forward to good times ahead.

What are you looking forward to this year?