ARC Winner, Great News, & Sinister Sweetness ARC Raffle

First off, congratulations to Katie! She won the ARC of The False Prince. Thank to everyone who commented! (If you’re curious, Katie would have stolen “anything from the Dear America” series from her mom. Wow, Katie. You would STEAL from your MOM?! The False Prince has a main character who’s a thief in it, so it’ll be perfect for you. 🙂

The False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy, #1)

Next, I want to say a HUGE (and belated) congratulations to my dear friend and critique bud, Lindsey Scheibe, who had this Publisher’s Marketplace tidbit to share two weeks ago:

Debut author Lindsey Scheibe’s RIPTIDE, pitched as Jennifer Echols/Simone Elkeles meets the movie BLUE CRUSH, in which a seventeen-year-old is training for a big surf competition — her ticket out of an abusive household — and trying desperately to keep from falling in love with her best friend, to Brian Farrey at Flux, in a two-book deal, for publication in 2013, by Mandy Hubbard at D4EO Literary Agency (World English).

I had the delight of reading and critiquing some of the earliest drafts of this book – and I’m so thankful I did! The world is going to love this book. Wait… did I say book? I meant BOOKS, Ms. Two-Book Deal!  Squee for Lindsey!

And last but NOT least, you have two days to RACE over to the Authors for Henryville website, hosted by the lovely YA author and all-around wonderful human, Julia Karr, to donate to help rebuild the public libraries in Henryville, Indiana devastated by the recent storms… with the chance of winning one of my ARCs!


One last note: The launch party for a new middle grade novel that I heartily recommend is coming up this weekend, on Saturday, at Bookpeople in Austin, 2 p.m. The book is The Chronal Engine by Greg Leitich Smith, and it’s amazing. Dinosaurs plus time travel plus a great family dynamic plus bad guys? Total fun. I’d love to see you at the launch, but you should buy the book even if you can’t get to Austin.

Dear Teen Me: Cool at Last

It’s happened. I’m finally cool enough to sit at the cheerleader table.

That is, if the “cheerleaders” are Ellen Hopkins, Tom Angleberger, Tera Lynn Childs, Ilsa Bick, Sara Zarr, and Kersten Hamilton, to name a VERY few.

And, of course, the “table” is the Dear Teen Me anthology, a book of letters from 70 YA authors to their teenage selves, coming from Zest Books on October 31, 2012.



Oh my gosh, this is so cool! Do you recognize Jennifer Ziegler on the cover, looking coy and cute with her corded phone? And Mike Jung, looking like the Eternal Band Geek of Awesomeness?And Jessica Lee Anderson, showing her mom the exact spot she wanted to get her tongue pierced? (Kidding, Jessica! I think…)

Here’s the official description:

Edited by Dear Teen Me blog founders Miranda Kenneally and E. Kristin Anderson, the letters in Dear Teen Me cover a range of topics, including physical abuse, body issues, bullying, friendship, love, and enough insecurities to fill an auditorium. Your favorite YA authors dissect critical moments from their own young lives, and offer advice and guidance to their teenage selves.

Totally inspiring.

I’m so excited to be included in this. And my letter – like all the others — will be a totally new one. But I promise mine will be as awkward and painfully funny (now, not then) as THIS ONE and THIS ONE.

So, why not pre-order one of these fabulous, cheerleader-worthy anthologies?

Excuse me, I have to go hot-roller my hair now, and look through my old high school albums while listening to Duran Duran.


The False Prince ARC Giveaway!

A few weeks back, I went to ALA Midwinter and picked up (as one does) a bunch of Advance Reader Copies for books that are coming out in the next few months. Some of them I delivered, unread, to the local librarians who couldn’t attend. Some I read quickly and passed on to teachers and friends who might be able to use the book in their classrooms or book clubs this year.

And some of them were STOLEN by my sneaky SON, taken to the middle school, and traded back and forth by him and all his friends because Certain Books are amazingly irresistible.

The False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy #1)

One of the very best of this last batch was The False Prince, by Jennifer Nielsen. I LOVED this book. And I am a terrible book reviewer, so I’m just going to say this is the exact sort of book I would have devoured as a kid – much like my son and his friends did this month. (Until I sneaked the ARC back out of one of his friend’s backpacks at a sleepover. You see? I can be sneaky, too! Apple, meet tree.)

Here’s the description, taken from Goodreads:

THE FALSE PRINCE is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword’s point — he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage’s rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.

The book is coming out any day now*, and I will be buying at  least one copy for me, and possibly one for the boys’ school libraries, so I don’t need the ARC. But YOU DO, dear readers.

So, here’s the deal. All you have to do is leave a comment below telling me what book you’ve read (recently, or as a kid) that you would have STOLEN FROM YOUR MOTHER, if that had been the only way to get a copy.

That’s it. No blog follows, or any of that stuff. Although, if you wanted to follow my blog, that would be nice, too.

One entry per person, must leave a comment AND your emails address, U.S. only please (this time around). Contest will end on FRIDAY, March 16, at noon CST. Winner will have 72 hours to respond to my email, or I’ll pick another name from the hat. (Literally. My larcenous son is going to be pulling the name from an actual hat.)



Best Worst Book Review Ever

I’m been trying to host a giveaway of an AWESOME ARC, but my kid’s friends keep stealing it to read and taking it to school. Argh! What is it with these authors and their amazing writing that kids cannot resist??? I’m talking to you, Jennifer A. Nielsen.

When I lay hands on it again, I’ll post the giveaway details here… until then, I must share this very awesome video with you. I’ve been getting some reviews of Sinister Sweetness, and so far they’ve been good. But if I ever get a real stinker? I’m totally going to put together a band and do something like this. Totally.

Black Metal Book Review

Sinister Snoring: A Guest Blog Post

Howdy, Friends! Allow me to re-direct your attention to another blog this week — one you might already follow. And if you don’t, and you’re a kid lit writer — what are you waiting for? This is one of the best! All sorts of information on just about every aspect of writing and publishing for the under-18 set. I am completely honored to have my contribution on today’s Adventures in YA and Children’s Publishing WOW Wednesday feature.

What did I write about, you ask? Well, I’m not going to tell you, but I’ll give you a hint: it’s a true story about my upcoming book, The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, and a room full of snoring children.

And it’s sort of embarrassing to think about.

Go check it out! And a huge thank you to Martina at Adventures in YA and Children’s Publishing for allowing me to air my dirty literary laundry on her amazing site.


Austin SCBWI Conference Pictures!

When I was a brand-new writer, I went to writing conferences hoping to gain knowledge (both craft and industry-related), rub elbows with editors and agents, and — possibly last on the list — meet other writers.

These days? It is ALL about the other writers. Just think of it- spending DAYS with other people who care passionately about the same things you do, who can talk about them, who speak the language of writing and publishing, who write sweet picture books but swear worse than any sailor… you get the idea.

And that’s what I got to do last weekend!I know, lucky me. Wait until you hear the rest.

The Austin SCBWI Annual Conference was by all accounts a resounding success, thanks to our capable and dedicated leadership, including Austin’s Debbie Gonzales.

Debbie is the BEST!

But we also had all SORTS of awesome SCBWI folks, from all over, in town! Like fellow Apocalypsie Lynne Kelly, the author of the Middle Grade soon-to-be-a-classic Chained. This book is so gorgeous, a love story about a deeply compassionate little boy and his… elephant. Touching, hopeful, and painfully real. It’s going to be one of those books that lasts.

Her shirt says "Peace, Love, and Elephants."

Also from Houston, the amazing Vonna Carter, writer and blogger extraordinaire.

Vonna looks great! I look like I have on All The Makeup in Texas. Thanks, makeup counter lady at Nordstrom's.

And, of course, we had the Extremely Famous and Talented People, including keynote speaker Lisa Yee, who was hilarious and heart-breaking and amazing in every way a keynote speaker can be.

Author Lisa Yee and Peepy in a UT cheerleader uniform. Perfect!

Some of us were lucky enough to go to a full-day intensive on Sunday with Lisa Yee, where we learned to write Better Bad Guys. This much fun, and a tax-deduction? I love this job.

Writer Lindsey Schiebe makes villainous magic on her laptop!

And then there was the raffle. I won!! For the, like, the first time ever, I actually won things! Like, gift certificates to Bookpeople, and books, and wine! It was my lucky day.

We're ALL Winners! But only I won wine. *fist pump*

Lucky me, for sure. I hope you strike it rich this year, too — and I hope your riches are the kind that last… and the kind that listen to you blab on about writing stuff without complaint!

Of course, to find those “riches” you might have to register for a conference or two. 🙂


The Balancing Act of Life and Writing

One of the things non-writers ask writers (after the inevitable “where do your ideas come from?” to which I invariably answer “my brain, I think, but it could be the devil since I write deeply disturbing stories for small children.”), is how we manage to balance it all.

By “all,” I think they mean writing, book publicity/marketing, day job, housework, kids, family concerns, volunteering, and social life.

The short answer is this: we don’t. Or at least I don’t. If you plan to add something substantially time-consuming like writing a freaking BOOK into your life, you’re going to have to pick something to let go. (I chose housework, television, some of my volunteering, and most of my personal hygiene regimen. The kids are still being taken care of, marginally, but that may change when edits come back for the next novel. Then I may just hand them bows and arrows, sleeping bags, shove them out the door, and tell them it’s time for them to become men. Is nine years old too young for that?)

What they don’t remember to put into that equation is one of the things a writer cannot give up. (And no, I’m not talking about showers: those are optional, and the resulting smell keeps people away, freeing up even more writing time.)

I mean reading. I don’t think a writer can sustain a career unless s/he is reading, constantly, in and out of the genre s/he’s writing.

Me, I’ve been reading a lot recently. I’ve read some amazing middle grade books – truly amazing, as in “I’m going to dedicate some blog posts soon to these books” amazing. (Which books? Okay, I’ll give titles here: Remarkable  by Lizzie Foley, The Chronal Engine by Greg Leitich Smith, and We’ve Got a Job, by Cynthia Levinson. These three books blew me away, all for different reasons, but all in the same week. LOVE them. More later.)

I could go on and on about balance for writers, and I will… this Thursday night, with the Writer’s League of Texas at Bookpeople in Austin.

Please join me and the other panelists (here are the bios), at 7 p.m. for a funny and honest look at how an author balances his/her life. I’ll be on the panel, but folks? I’ll probably be taking notes, too!

Here are the details! See you there!

Sinister Sweetness has a Cover!!!

Oh, friends, I’ve been waiting a LONG time to share this one with you!

There aren’t enough words for how much I love this cover. It’s… just look at it.

Sinister Sweetness Cover

It’s by the amazing artist, Alexander Jansson. You should check out his website!

Now I have to go finish another book, that someday also will have a cover… but probably not one this gorgeous, since this is the Most Amazing Cover in the World.

Happy Bookish Things

So last week was hard, and my last post was sad. Let’s brighten the blog up!

Check this out, my favorite thing on the Internet last week – and an Academy Award-nominated short animated film!

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.

Lovely, isn’t it?

Oh, and in Nikki News, I placed two pieces so far this month! I will have the great pleasure of seeing another one of my short stories in Pockets magazine this June, and (how’s this for a long lead time?) another short essay in the Bylines 2013 Calendar!

Now, back to the Revising Cave. Thank goodness I’ve put by enough chocolate to last the winter.


A Casserole Week

It’s been a long week, friends, and I’ve been cooking. But not the “writing like crazy” kind of cooking. The “dirty dishes and grocery shopping” kind.

A few days ago, one of my friends had her daughter — two months early, but doing well for a preemie. My next-door neighbor died in an accident the same day.

A long week.

I may have mentioned before that I worked in churches long enough to qualify as a Professional Church Lady. One of the quirks of Church Ladies is that, when faced with great celebration or great tragedy, our response is universally the same: Casseroles.

To the Church Lady, there is something almost holy about the combination of pasta, meat, cheese, and vegetables, a deep ritual in the preparation of meatloaves and lasagnas. The mixing of salt and pepper, chopped onions and garlic brings a calm, taking over the hands with sacred routine, like speaking the Lord’s Prayer, or the Twenty-Third Psalm.

A casserole takes work, but it’s a very forgiving dish. If you mix too hard, angry at the chance that took away a friend, or cry with joy at the thought of a new life, a new baby — the casserole will come out pretty much the same. And if you really goof up, you can always grate cheese on the top, even add some crumbled Ritz crackers if you want to get fancy. Nobody will notice the tumbled layers underneath.

So many times in life, I don’t know what to say to mark the great events that occur, to comfort, or cheer. But thanks to all those years in church, I know exactly what to do: brown the meat, cook the pasta, stir the sauce, mix it together, grate the cheese, and pray for one hour at 350 degrees.