Three Fabulous YA Reads

Three Fabulous YA Reads

In my last post I told you about the local Author Panel for the finalists of the Colorado Book Award. Three authors formed the panel and presented a short talk about the genesis of their book idea, their process and research, and their thoughts and advice for writers. It was fabulous!

What was most fun for me was that I was unfamiliar with two of the books, and so I had no idea what to expect. Let me tell you, I CAN NOT wait to read them!

First up was Donna Cooner, and her book SKINNY. She told us about Ever, the protagonist, who deals with obesity and hears this voice in her head, called Skinny, who speaks all the evil things Ever’s classmates think about her. Hopeless. Freak. Elephant. Pitiful.

What struck me about this book is that is it based on the author’s experience with gastric bypass surgery and explores Ever’s decision to undergo this procedure in order to combat her obesity. Donna read an excerpt from the book describing an embarrassing scene that takes place at Ever’s school. It was excruciating to imagine this happening. Learning that it actually did happen to the author made it all so very real and absolutely heart-wrenching. A glimpse into the life of someone who just wants to be thin and the demons that go along with being unhappy in your skin, no matter what you see in the mirror.

Links to buy SKINNY 

Hopeless. Freak. Elephant. Pitiful. These are the words of Skinny, the vicious voice that lives inside fifteen-year-old Ever Davies’s head. Skinny tells Ever all the dark thoughts her classmates have about her. Ever knows she weighs over three hundred pounds, knows she’ll probably never be loved, and Skinny makes sure she never forgets it.

But there is another voice. Ever’s singing voice, which is beautiful but has always been silenced by Skinny. Partly in hopes of trying out for the school musical—and partly to try and save her own life—Ever decides to undergo a risky surgery that may help her lose weight and start over.

With the support of her best friend, Ever begins the uphill battle toward change. But demons, she finds, are not so easy to shake, not even as she sheds pounds. Because Skinny is still around. And Ever will have to confront that voice before she can truly find her own.

Cooner explained that SKINNY was met with controversy over whether or not gastric bypass should be available to teens. She said SKINNY isn’t a statement about whether or not the surgery is right or wrong for teens, it explores a possible outcome in Ever’s world, where it is an option that she takes.

Next, Denise Vega shared ROCK ON: A Story of Guitars, Gigs, Girls, and a Brother (not necessarily in that order) and explained how much she loves loooong subtitles for her books. :)

Denise shared several versions of her opening pages and described how they moved from one to the next before she and her editor decided which one was the right one.  It was interesting to get a peek at that process.  What are the odds that all of these books would have fabulous covers?

Links to buy ROCK ON.

Denise also shared her love of music as she grew up in a very musical family, though she is not at all gifted musically. The book sounds like a lot of fun. Here is the blurb from the back:

I stroke my sleek Les Paul, then slam into a killer riff that sends every girl in the front row screaming for a piece of me. I look out on the crowd, my voice hitting all the notes. I –“Ori?” –look back at my best friend and drummer, Nick “Call Me the Brew Man: Brewster, and –“Ori. Dude. You’ve got to come out now. We’re going on soon.” I blinked once. Twice. The stage dissolved. I wasn’t a rock star. I was a sixteen-year-old dork at the FX Lounge for Mic Night Monday. And I was hiding in the bathroom.

Sounds fun, right?

And finally, we have Pamela Mingle’s KISSING SHAKESPEARE, which was the winner of the Colorado Book Award. So, I have to tell you that I brought home my stack of signed copies and my friend totally snatched up my copy of this one. Doesn’t it have a terrific cover?


Miranda has Shakespeare in her blood: she hopes one day to become a Shakespearean actor like her famous parents. At least, she does until her disastrous performance in her school’s staging of The Taming of the Shrew. Humiliated, Miranda skips the opening-night party. All she wants to do is hide. 

Fellow cast member, Stephen Langford, has other plans for Miranda. When he steps out of the backstage shadows and asks if she’d like to meet Shakespeare, Miranda thinks he’s a total nutcase. But before she can object, Stephen whisks her back to 16th century England–the world Stephen’s really from. He wants Miranda to use her acting talents and modern-day charms on the young Will Shakespeare. Without her help, Stephen claims, the world will lose its greatest playwright. 

Miranda isn’t convinced she’s the girl for the job. Why would Shakespeare care about her? And just who is this infuriating time traveler, Stephen Langford? Reluctantly, she agrees to help, knowing that it’s her only chance of getting back to the present and her “real” life. What Miranda doesn’t bargain for is finding true love . . . with no acting required.

Time travel? Romance? THE William Shakespeare?!  Sign me up!

Pam had to do a ton of research in order to get this book right. So many specific time period facets, and a lot of historical places come into the book. She shared the huge stack of research reading she did, trips to the UK, and photos of a castle where Shakespeare is thought to have worked, she surmises, in order to gain access to a vast library that would have only been available to the wealthy.

The authors held a Q&A after their presentations and we had a great discussion about all sorts of writerly things.

Three tidbits that I took away from this panel:

It is never too late to realize your dream to be a published author.

Write the book that’s in YOU… not the book you think the world wants.

Honor yourself and schedule your writing time – if you don’t, how can you expect anyone else to?

Thanks for reading!

Local Author Panel and BTW: It’s Tuesday

Local Author Panel and BTW: It’s Tuesday

I thought today was Monday and was so excited to be on schedule for blogging this week, yahoo!  And, well… Happy Tuesday everyone!  Thanks for taking a break from the Royal Baby Name Watch to peek at my happenings. By the way, why is it so fascinating to keep tabs on the royals? I still recall the day Diana got married. *sigh*


Tonight I’m eager to attend a local Author Chat at the library. Super fabulous, Denise Vega, author of Rock On and chair of our local SCBWI Rocky Mountain chapter, will be one of this year’s panelists. She along with other finalists for the Colorado Book Awards: Donna Cooner, author of Skinny; and Pamela Mingle author of Kissing Shakespeare will discuss their inspirations and writing process.

I’ve read a bunch of Denise’s books, as have my kids, which is such a bonus!  I’ll have to pick up the other author’s new reads tonight and have them signed.

But, most anticipated for me is hearing about other author’s process. As I wallow in this crazy summer schedule that has kept me from writing as much as I would like, I am thinking about how to manage my time better and get into the writing time more readily.

I don’t seem to have the automatic gene that allows me to sit for stolen minutes here and there and write. I am working on it. Any tips?

I’ll let you know if I hear any nuggets of wisdom tonight.

I’m listening to: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton  Almost done and OMG OMG so good.  Love this narrator, Caroline Lee

Have a fabulous day!

Thursday #Haiku – All for a Girl

Thursday #Haiku – All for a Girl

On this day in history, in 1533, King Henry VIII was excommunicated from the Catholic Church by Pope Clement VII for defying the church and divorcing his wife, Catherine of Aragon. These things simply did not happen in the church, you know. We know how that went for unfortunate Anne, and Jane, and Anne, and Catherine and Catherine… the poor dears.

There are so many wonderful novels written about this King and his treachery and his women. It’s difficult to separate their almost mythic story from the horrible facts of the history. They remain favorites of mine. :)  Do you have a favorite novel about King Henry VIII and his ladies?

Anne Boleyn, vixen?

wiled from aragon
faith’s defender, ole king hal
all for anne plus four

Blog Tour: COLLATERAL DAMAGE by Frederick Lee Brooke

Blog Tour: COLLATERAL DAMAGE by Frederick Lee Brooke

Today I’m excited to be a part of a fun blog tour to help promote my bestselling author friend, Frederick Lee Brooke’s new novel in his Annie Ogden series, COLLATERAL DAMAGE. Fred’s designed an interesting blog tour (with a contest for you!) that involves sharing 26 chapters of Collateral Damage across 26 days and 26 different blogs.

Buy on Amazon

He’s giving away signed copies of his three books, and some cash! I’ve got Chapter 15 below.

I took part in the fun release party for Fred’s 2nd book, ZOMBIE CANDY by writing a little poem that you can read here. You can pick up copies of all of Fred’s books on Amazon: Doing Max Vinyl, Zombie Candy, and Collateral Damage. Links for all three are at the bottom of this post.

Get in on the Giveaway: Win a $25 Amazon gift card AND a signed paperback edition of any book by Frederick Lee Brooke! To win, all you have to do is visit every blog on the 26-day Collateral Damage Excerpt Tour (note the dates so you can find that blog’s chapter!) and leave a comment showing that you read the excerpt. That’s it!

Monday, June 24 – Shannon Mayer Ch. 1
Tuesday, June 25 – Scott Bury Ch. 2
Wednesday, June 26 – Raine Thomas Ch. 3
Thursday, June 27 – Emily Walker Ch. 4
Friday, June 28 – Simon Jenner Ch. 5
Saturday, June 29 – Amberr Meadows Ch. 6
Sunday, June 30 – Anne Chaconas Ch. 7
Monday, July 1 – BestsellingReads Ch. 8
Tuesday, July 2 – Tyler-Rose Neath Ch. 9
Wednesday, July 3 – Naomi Leadbeater Ch. 10
Thursday, July 4 – Mohana Rajakumar Ch. 11
Friday, July 5 – Helen Hanson Ch. 12
Saturday, July 6 – Marilou George Ch. 13
Sunday, July 7 – J.C. Martin Ch. 14
Monday, July 8 – Corinne O’Flynn Ch. 15  Chapter below in this post.
Tuesday, July 9 – Tawdra Kandle Ch. 16
Wednesday, July 10 – Martha Bourke Ch. 17
Thursday, July 11 Connie M. Chyle Ch. 18
Friday, July 12 – Cyndi Ch. 19 
Saturday, July 13 – Kenneth Hoss Ch. 20
Sunday, July 14 – Andrea Kurian  Ch. 21
Monday, July 15 Andy Holloman Ch. 22
Tuesday, July 16 Marilyn Diekman Ch. 23
Wednesday, July 17 Christine Nolfi Ch. 24
Thursday, July 18 Jennifer Chase Ch. 25
Friday, July 19 Patricia Sands Ch. 26

Frederick Lee Brooke is the author of the widely-acclaimed Annie Ogden mystery series, which includes Doing Max Vinyl, Zombie Candy, and Collateral Damage. The books do not have to be read in order.

Having lived in Switzerland for the past two decades, Brooke has taught English, run a business, and learned French, German, and Italian.

You can find him online at Sign up for his newsletter and read all about his travels, recipes, and upcoming works!

Follow Fred on Twitter – Facebook – Blog

CONTEST: Be sure to go back to the links above to find Chapter 1 (and comment on each something that shows you’ve read that chapter) and read on from there!

Chapter 15—Annie

The two men worked something out while I was in the ladies’ room. Michael was afraid there would be no place for me to rest in the small house he shared with Husker. People coming and going all day with supplies and friends arriving from all over would make the house chaotic.
That was how I ended up in Todd’s Mustang when we left the restaurant. My road trip with Michael was officially over. Todd drove us to a Motel 6 we had passed a few miles back. I hardly looked at him on the short trip. We got separate rooms, paid with separate credit cards, and I let myself into my room without saying good-bye.
I was so exhausted I went to sleep on top of my bed without undressing. I lay there for a while, the sun finding cracks in the curtains, the AC droning noisily, my head buzzing with worry. The specter of that lost ring had worked its way into the depths of my mind. I imagined Salvatore’s fury, his disappointment, his pity.
When I woke up, my phone said it was four in the afternoon. My brain was buzzing. My mouth tasted like salt. I went in the bathroom and rinsed, realizing I didn’t have toothpaste. My hair was a mess of tangles, my eyes puffy. Sticking my key card in my jeans pocket, I left the room and headed for the lobby.
The older gentleman behind the desk pointed me in the direction of a Wal-Mart across the road. The walk over revived me. The air was cool but the sun intense and by the time I entered the refrigerated Wal-Mart, I was sweating.
I threw items into my cart as I walked down the endless aisles. A new pair of shorts and a couple of tops, underwear and a bra, a pair of sandals, sunblock, a swimsuit, and a full complement of toiletries found their way into my cart. In my wallet, I had two credit cards, a couple hundred in cash, and two blank checks I kept for emergencies. Armed with my new wardrobe, I hiked back across the road to the Motel 6. A long shower and a hair wash later, I emerged feeling better.
My phone vibrated as I pulled the door closed. I could see Todd waiting at the end of the hall. A picture of Salvatore showed on my display.
“Hey, how’re you doing?” I offered.
“I’m good,” Salvatore said. “Missing you a little.”
“Just a little?”
“Well,” he said.
“I miss you too,” I said, filling the gap. “I just woke up. We drove all night, straight through, so I slept all day. Sorry I didn’t call this morning.”
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “So tonight’s the big party?”
“Yeah. Don’t even know who all I’m going to see. I really wish you were here with me.”
“Yeah,” I said. “They’re all going to be looking at me. I’m going to be saying, you know, I’m engaged to this guy, left him back home in Chicago. He thought he was a homosexual, but just for me he went straight again.”
“You’re a real comedian tonight,” Salvatore said.
“What’re you up to?”
“Probably going to watch a movie.” There was a little pause. It sounded like something he made up on the spur of the moment. I wasn’t going to put him on the spot and ask which movie. “Hey, have you talked to your sister? I talked to her yesterday. She was freaking out.”
“Why? I did see she left a few messages, but you know what?”
“Don’t tell me. You get tired of messages from Alison?”
“You guessed it. Why was she freaking out?”
“I don’t know. Something about Garcia entering without knocking. She seemed kind of bothered about that.”
“He always does crazy stuff,” I said.
“Well, you say hi to all your friends from me,” Salvatore said. “I’ll meet them some other time.”
“They’ll see your ring,” he said. “They’ll see you’re engaged. Tell ’em all about my abs, you know?”
His comment about the ring filled me with panic. I went from smiling to cringing, standing there in the motel corridor. Todd was walking toward me now, impatient to go.
“Of course,” I said. “Guess who else showed up, all the way from Chicago.”
“My sister’s no-good husband Todd,” I said. I said it especially loud and clear, although Todd was close enough to get every word. It didn’t diminish his smug look.
“Who’re you talking to?” Todd said.
“What’s he doing there?” Salvatore said.
“He claims to be working on a Tribune article,” I said. “Michael was dumb enough to invite him.”
I didn’t feel like continuing the conversation with Todd listening to every word, so I told Salvatore I would call him later. Todd looked like he’d had a rest and a shower as well.
“Michael gave me the address,” he said. “We might as well head over. It’s close to the restaurant where we had breakfast. Hey, Annie.”
I looked up. Todd was pointing at my hand as we walked through the motel lobby and out the door.
“Still no ring? What did Salvatore say?”
His tone was thick with sarcasm. He hadn’t reacted to my insults directly. Now he showed the form of his attack.
“Why are you always sticking your nose in other people’s business? Do you enjoy doing that?”
“Actually I do,” he said. “Hey, relax.”
He tried to hold the door, going out of the motel. I hung back and opened it for myself. It can get ugly when people tell me to relax. It was bad enough that I had to drive around with the man who had dumped my sister. As I got in his car, I felt my phone vibrating again. Fittingly, it was Alison.
“Hey Al,” I said.
“Finally you pick up. What’s the matter, girl? Are you avoiding me? Don’t you know I’ve been worried sick? Where are you?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
Todd smiled as he drove out of the motel parking lot. Alison’s voice probably carried right out the windows of the car to the orange-vested street workers waving us on. I was sure Todd heard every word. “You’re in Tampa, right? Did you get there okay with that maniac?”
“We drove straight through. I checked into a motel and slept all day. Now we’re on our way over to the party.”
“You and Michael? He was in the motel with you?”
“He’s back at the house.”
“Who’s we?”
I looked at Todd. What the hell was I supposed to say? “I’m in your husband’s car right now, actually.”
“Todd? Todd is there?” The volume went up as Alison expressed her surprise. “What is that clown doing in Florida?”
“He thinks there’s a feature story to be had out of this party. Michael told him about it.”
“Why do I feel like I’m missing something?” Alison said. “Since when does the Tribune pay stringers to go on trips to Florida for a feature that’ll never see the light of day?”
“I’m not a stringer,” Todd said. “Bitch.”
Alison talked in such a shrill voice, Todd heard every word from the driver’s seat. “Exactly what I wondered. He followed us.”
“He followed you to Florida?”
“All night long.”
“He always was a kook,” my sister said. “Let me get this straight. You and Todd are driving to the party. So you’re staying in the same motel? Next thing you’re going to tell me, you’re sharing a room with my husband?”
“Right,” I said.
“What I would give,” Todd said.
“What did he say?” Alison said. I was just staring at him. I couldn’t believe he said what he just said.
“You don’t want to know,” I said. “Let’s just say he’s changed.”
“And not for the better,” Alison said. “That would’ve been too much to hope for. Well, I’m glad to know you got there in one piece.”
After we disconnected, I stared out the window on my side the rest of the way. I couldn’t believe Todd’s innuendo. He hadn’t even started drinking. She was my sister, for God’s sake. Did he have no propriety? No decency?
I covered my ears with my hands when Todd started talking. He wanted to say something but I refused to listen. He finally pulled over and demanded that I listen. Instead, I opened the door.
“I’ll get out and walk,” I said. “I’d really prefer it rather than listening to whatever garbage is coming out of your brain.”
Todd set his teeth. “Shut the door,” he said.
We drove the rest of the way in silence. When we got there I jumped out and ditched him. Cars were parked all up and down the street in front of Michael and Husker’s house. Todd took off, looking for a place to park the Mustang. Hopefully I wouldn’t see him again the whole night.
The house was quite a sight, all lit up with a splatter movie of leftover Christmas displays that instantly made your eyes ache. Eight brilliantly lit reindeer pranced around on the roof, attached to Santa’s sleigh, with Santa in the back. Happy Holidays was spelled out in one place, Merry Christmas in another, everything blinking. My brain made calculations as I looked at all the bulbs. Say fifty lights per animal and another 250 for Santa, the sleigh, and the reins, you were looking at 650 bulbs for this part alone.
Christmas trees decorated with additional lights dotted the roof, along with green-suited elves and a gingerbread house. No spot remained undecorated. They were sucking more power for this display than the rest of the neighborhood put together.
As I traversed the front yard, I saw what looked to be an AGM 45A Shrike air-to-surface missile hanging in midair about ten feet over Santa’s sleigh. You can tell a Shrike by the prominent stabilizing fins halfway along the narrow ten-foot shaft. It pointed downward at an angle. It looked like the whole Christmas display as well as the house underneath was about to be obliterated. I saw, attached to the roof, a supporting structure of thin pipes leading up to the missile. A painted banner stretched all the way across the front of the house, covering part of the sleigh. The words painted in red and blue read:

Read all the Annie Ogden Mysteries:



Simple World-Building Advice (that blew my mind!)

Ever received a bit of advice from someone that totally clicked and made so much sense that you couldn’t believe you hadn’t ever thought about it yourself or heard it anywhere before? This happened to me just the other day and my writing mind was blown wide open. I had to share!

Forgive me if this is one of those gems that you all have known forever and I’m just having a case of the-last-to-knows. But here it goes. Ready?
Your similes and metaphors should carry two buckets of water. 
OMG, right? Right? 
You’re not rolling your computer eyes at me, are you?
The two-bucket concept urges you, when writing description in your story and comparing it to something in order to make it relatable to the reader and more visceral as an experience, to use things that are already in your setting. 
In my novel, THE EXPATRIATES, the story begins in a carnival, in a fairgrounds on flat ground with gravel and weeds and not much else. When describing a sound, I had likened it to the rustle of leaves. My friend cried foul. “There are no leaves here.” He argued that the simile should carry two buckets of water and use something that would be found in the scene that could describe the sound, thereby building the world while expressing the relatable experience to the reader.  I took his suggestion and replaced the leaves with a fluttering tent flap and hopefully added a tiny bit of my story’s world-related visual and audio that enhances the sensory experience I’m trying to convey to the reader.
Talk about an aha moment for me. So simple, and yet something I have never given an ounce of thought.
Have you ever received writing advice that felt like the skies opened and the gods were shining their light upon you?  I’d love to know what it was. 

images: google images