Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy Birthday, Dear Teen Me!

Today my life will change. Not in a huge "nothing will ever be the same again" kind of way, but maybe sort of that way. Today I feel more justified in this path that I've chosen, more validated. Today my first ever published piece is making it way around the country to booksellers and libraries and lovely friends who have been so gracious to buy it in the form of a book called Dear Teen Me. Today, I am a published author. Today, I am a mix of emotions.

I've known for months that this blog post was going to be written. I've written it many times in my head, but never actually typed anything. Never scribbled thoughts down on paper or in notebooks or on bits of napkins. Each time I wrote it differently. Some times I'd write about how insecure I felt as a teen. Some days I'd write about how I'd grow up to marry my high school sweetheart. Other days I'd talk about the time I got my skirt stuck in my panties at church and walked all the way to my pew before anyone told me (long story).

Most days I didn't form my thoughts into words, though. I felt things. The rush of excitement about being published for the first time. The queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach when I remember that I'm the only previously unpublished, unagented person in the book. What if this is my only chance? Gratitude toward my husband for not only putting up with my craziness, but letting me live my dream even when it doesn't make sense sometimes. And also gratitude for every single person in my life that has supported me. People sometimes talk about how writing is a job you do alone, but I disagree; writing is something that I could not do alone. And I don't think it makes me a lesser writer for having said that.

It's funny that even though I've aged on the outside, on the inside I still feel exactly the same as I did when I was 16. I still have those same insecurities and doubtful thoughts about myself that I did then. I find that as an adult I do handle them a bit better. I've come to grips with what it means to be the person I am and whether I like it or not, I have to just be myself. Nobody can do that for me.

So if you're out and about this week, pick up a copy of Dear Teen Me. Inside you'll find over 70 letters of love, loss, depression, eating disorders, anxiety, and many, many more (there's happy ones too, I swear!). When you're done reading it, give it to your daughter, your son, your next door neighbor, donate it to your local library. Or, you know, keeping it for yourself isn't a bad idea either. ;)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Fired Up Friday

If y'all will remember last week's post, I'm still obsessed with this table. I've thought about it off and on all week. What I'd need to make one similar, if I even could make one similar (because I'm not going to lie and pretend that I know anything about woodwork). I was out thrifting with Andrea yesterday and we ran across this table.

I fell in love immediately. It was perfect. No it's not refurbished barn wood, but I loved it anyway. And the chairs! I wouldn't even need to recover them. I ended up leaving without the table because I wanted to think about it and talk to my husband to see what he thought. He didn't care, so I made plans to be at the thrift store as soon as they opened today. I thought about the table all night. What if it's already sold? What if someone is looking at it when I get there? After a restless night's sleep, I stood outside their door waiting for them to open at 10AM. I peeked in the window and there was my table! Without a sold sign! I quickly purchased it (after talking the store manager into knocking $20 off the price!) and then realized... I own a Beetle. How am I supposed to get this thing home? Well, you'd be surprised how much you can fit in the hatchback of a Beetle if you're creative. ;)

It's home now and I love it. It could use a fresh coat of white paint, but I think I can handle that. I can't wait to have dinner at it tonight!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

It's alive!

I've had a terribly rough go of it emotionally lately. Just terrible. We've all been there.

"My writing isn't good enough."
"It'll never be good enough."
"I'll never write a book like "
"What if this doesn't work out? What if I can't make a career out of this?"
"I don't want to work retail for the rest of my life!"
"What if I can't even get a retail job?"
"What? I wrote this? What was I thinking?" 

The list goes on and on. Like I said, just a rough go of it. So to check the mail today and find this?
(ignore the three day unwashed ponytailed hair)

I squeed quite a bit. More than I'm willing to say, actually. I open the book and find my name in it. MY NAME. It's such an honor to be included in this anthology with so many amazing people. To say this was exactly what I needed today is an understatement. In the end I'm doing what I love and following a lifelong dream. Few people get to do that and I know I'm blessed beyond measure.

I'll be blogging more about Dear Teen Me leading up to its release in October, so be on the look out!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Fired Up Friday

I was thinking the other day about how I haven't done a Fired Up Friday post in, well, ages. I'm not sure why I stopped doing them (probably because EFFORT) but I wanted to do one this week.

For those who haven't been following my blog too long, Fired Up Friday is a post where I talk about things that inspired me in some way or the other this week. It could be pictures, song lyrics, videos, etc. We moved into a new apartment about six months ago so now that we're (mostly) unpacked I've been trying to decide how exactly I want to decorate things. This week my Fired Up Friday is about all things rustic and home-y.

I am obsessed with this dining room table. OBSESSED. Like, it's probably unhealthy how obsessed with it I am. The old barn wood on top in contrast with the white frame and legs is stunning. Anything made with reclaimed wood gets my heart pumping. I love the idea of taking something old and worn and making into something beautiful that will be cherished and used for years to come. 

Same with this guy, but he's made with recycled pallet boards. I love the different colors and grains of wood and the little streaks of that sea foam color really pop. 

Can we talk about how amazing this dining room is? What I really love is the mismatched chairs around the dining table. They're all different but they're painted the same sea foam green color. Beautiful. 

I'm really into using things differently from the way they were intended, like with this china cabinet that's been repurposed into a linen cabinet. The way the sheets and towels are so neatly folded on the shelves makes me giddy. 

I'm all about decorating on the cheap, and when I saw my mom pin this on Pinterest this week, I knew I had to do it. I actually already had pine cones being used as decor in our guest bathroom, but I had them in a basket and never really liked it. Glass was 50% off at Hobby Lobby this week so today I went in search for the perfect jar for my pine cones. And I think I found it! 

I wanted to keep the pine cones their natural color. It's silly, but they're particularly special to me. I picked them up from at parent's on my list visit before the tornado hit their house. The trees they came from aren't there anymore, but I can now properly remember them every time I see this little jar. 

That's it for me this week! I found a lot of this stuff on Pinterest, so be sure to follow me there if you aren't already. Also be sure to let me know what's inspired YOU this week! I'd love to see. :) 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hurricane Katrina, Seven Years Later

As Hurricane Isaac makes landfall in rural Louisiana today, I'm reminded of this day seven years ago. August 29, 2005. Katrina day. I will never forget that date. Ever.

We had close calls with storms already that hurricane season. Tropical Storm Arlene hit near Pensacola, Florida on June 11th. Hurricane Cindy made landfall near Grand Isle, Louisiana/Waveland, Mississippi on July 5th. Hurricane Dennis hit Pensacola again on July 10th. I think by the time Katrina rolled around on August 29th people were kind of numb to it all. And skeptical. Our local authorities had told us each time, "This is it! The big one! Be prepared!" People prepared and at the last minute the storms turned or it wasn't as strong as predicted. Most everyone was unprepared.

My mom, dad, and I volunteered for the local chapter of the American Red Cross. All three of us had run shelters in the past so when my dad came home from a meeting to say, "We're in charge of a shelter again." it wasn't a big deal to me. Our church had a huge Family Life Center (like a big gym) that the Red Cross had used before, so that was to be our shelter. The shelter wasn't for people in our home town, after all. It was for people that lived on the coast or in the path of the storm. It wasn't for us.

On Saturday August 27th we packed our bags and left for the shelter. My sister stayed behind to watch after the house and the dogs. We didn't think anything of it because this wasn't going to be a big deal.

The word "Camille" kept being thrown around. Camille is a sacred word, a word not often spoken. Being from the Gulf Coast region hurricanes and weather in general doesn't scare me much, but all the talk of Camille made me uneasy.

People trickled in slowly at first from all over the Gulf Coast. Biloxi. Pass Christian. New Orleans. Waveland. Houma. What was just a small hurricane was now a category 3. Over the next nine hours we'd watch it intensify to a category 5, the strongest there is. I remember the Mississippi governor, Haley Barbour, urging people to not stop. Keep going north, as far north as you can. The storm is too big. The realization that we weren't far north enough hit me. A mandatory evacuation was finally given and then everyone seemed to arrive at once. Elderly. Children. An insulin-dependent diabetic. A woman eight months pregnant with twins. Even people from our own town were coming in because they didn't feel safe. We were set up for 80 people, and only had about 40 cots. Mom kept turning people away, urging them to keep driving. Keep driving anywhere. But at some point on early Sunday morning it was too late for that, we had to take anyone who stopped because there was no more time. Nowhere else to go. Suddenly we had 130 eyes staring at us, waiting for help. For food.

The day of the 29th and the days following are a bit of a blur. I'm not sure if it's because it's been seven years or because I've made myself forget. Memories are slippery things. Even the moments you think you'll remember forever become cloudy and strained. Even so, there are some memories that will forever being engraved in my mind.

Losing power and realizing that without power and water the toilets won't flush. Eight non working toilets for 130 people. 

Multiple tornado warnings. Having to get all 130 evacuees from the Family Life Center over to a more secure part of the church that was underground. Which meant no air circulation with people who hadn't showered in days. 

Not being able to get in touch with my sister or boyfriend (now husband). I was sick with worry and fear. 

The Family Life Center had taken structural damage at some point, but we couldn't go outside to see. One of the corners of the room was cracked. I could hear the wind sucking at the roof and the side of the building. I could see the angry sky outside through the crack.

A squirrel that had taken refuge underneath the edge of the roof outside on top of a brick column. He was there for two days. 

Trapped. The storm was over, but we had nowhere to go. Destruction was all around us. My dad left to try to go check on my sister but didn't make it a quarter mile before having to turn back around.

Hunger. Hunger was everywhere. I was hungry and so was everyone else. Before the storm hit a local food company in town had donated some frozen dinners. We lit the gas stove in the kitchen with a match and over the course of about two hours cooked hot meals for all our evacuees. It was the only hot meal we had. My clothes stuck to my body with sweat.

At one point we thought we were going to run out of food and water. We sat everyone down to share the news. That night an employee of the Red Cross showed up on a four wheeler with food and supplies. I locked myself in a Sunday School room and cried.  

A member of our church somehow managed to get through all the debris and show up for help. We caught him stealing food out of the kitchen. "We had to have hot dogs last night and I was only able to eat two." he said to me. I didn't tell him about the three saltine crackers with peanut butter that had been my dinner the night before. I lost all respect for him that day and was never able to look at him the same. Even today when I picture his face in my mind anger rushes through my veins.

Heat. We had record breaking temperatures in the days following the storm, which made life without electricity that much more unbearable.  

Love bugs. They were everywhere. Seriously, hundreds of them. You couldn't even talk without bugs getting in your mouth. And because we had to keep the windows open they came inside and died there. When I moved out in 2007 I was still finding dead love bug carcasses in my room. I imagine some are still there.

On Wednesday the 30th the roads had finally been semi-cleared enough for some traffic to get by. We had our first look at the outside world only to find devastation was there, too. The bridal shop where I worked seemed utterly destroyed. My mind went to the girls who were supposed to get married that weekend and how worried they must be about their dresses.

A Red Cross employee came by and said they were combining all the shelters in the county into one big shelter. We gathered everyone up and sent them on their way to the new shelter, but we didn't join them. We went home. We had been away from home for five days and longed for our own beds instead of the hard gym floor.

Miraculously enough there was no damage to our house. Not even a shingle came off. We lost tons of trees in the yard, but that was it. It would be five more days before FEMA would get to our town to deliver water and supplies, and we would have sixteen more without power.

 The first band coming in. The only picture I got of the storm itself.

The church parking lot

 The bridal shop where I worked. Believe it or not it was all outside structural damage and not a single dress was lost.

Two huge trees blocking our driveway, our house is back there, barely visible in the picture.

 This tree came so eerily close to hitting the house

 On the way back from checking on my grandparents we came across this. I have no idea either.

 Neighbors helping neighbors.

My sister sitting on a tree stump

 Me posing with the root system of one of my favorite trees

My mom with one of the fallen trees in our yard

I know everyone has their own Katrina story, but this is mine. It was a long time before I looked at life the same again. Even today sentences are often started with, "Well before Katrina..." It was a life changing event for a lot of people. I know it was for me.

Monday, August 27, 2012

When to Stop

I have a problem with letting thing go. Letting go means moving on and moving on means change and change is BIG and SCARY and DIFFERENT and is often times VOMIT INDUCING. (No? Just me? Well okay then.)

I would like to say I handle change well. I don't. But does anyone? The past few years of my life have been full of change. I got married, I moved 600 miles from my family, I've lost friends and made new ones. I've been through multiple jobs before deciding to take the chance and write full time. I'll be the first to tell you I'm not an overly talented writer, but I love what I do. While writing often makes me queasy (lots of vomit in this post, obviously), it's a constant for me. If I've had a terrible day I know my characters are there waiting for me. (Bad days for me usually mean torture for my characters, so I'm not sure why they're so supportive.) All that being said, I've been neglecting it lately.

I've been working on a middle grade manuscript for the better part of a year. I wrote the initial 55K draft in 19 days (DON'T DO THIS) and I've lost count of how many times I've rewritten it (I stopped counting at five). I've watched it evolve into something I never thought it could be. And while it's not the greatest or the best... it's mine. I created it. No, this isn't my first book, but it's the book I've spent the most time on. It's a book that has brought me great joy but great pain and frustration as well. I cannot tell you how many times I've cried over this book. Actual sobbing, ugly tears and all. My poor husband doesn't know what to do with me most days except pat my head and bring me a cup of tea, which is about all the spouse of a writer can do. It's the book I'm most proud of.

So when I say I haven't worked on it in weeks, I mean that. Haven't even opened the document, but I think about it every day. I look at it on my desktop and hover my mouse cursor over it. The bile churns in my stomach (again with the vomit) and I quickly scurry off to do something else. Anything else. Cook. Clean. Make up errands that I need to run so I can go to Target. Check the mail five times. Wash my hair. Anything.

Why is this? Why do I keep doing this? This book is my pride and joy. What's wrong with me that I simply don't want to work on it anymore? Have I been working on it too long? Have I put too much into it? Have I lost the "spark" that made the book special to me?

Today while working on a craft project (anything so I don't have to look at the book!) it clicked: I haven't worked on it because there is NOTHING ELSE I CAN DO WITH IT. This bothers me. A lot. I know there are things, obvious things, I need to fix. The thing is, I could work on this book for the rest of my life. Literally. To me it'll never be perfect. To me it'll never be done. To me I'll read it and it'll make me want to lose my lunch (...).

I can't work on it forever. Eventually I have to LET IT GO. Whether or not I query with this book and whether or not it ever sells is a mute point. I'm done. Finished. I wrote a book from beginning to end and edited it until I was blue in the face. I've worked on it until I can't anymore. I don't know that I think of it as my book anymore. Yes it's a book I wrote and will always be mine, but it needs to be someone else's too. It needs legs to walk into the hands of a reluctant eleven year old reader who will pick it up because they they think it's silly. It needs to crawl into the lap of a nine year old reader who is obsessed with the written word. It needs wings to sprout from its spine and to live a life of its own. And that's something I can't give it.

So, little book, go sprout your wings. You've been a great journey this past year, and I'm forever grateful for the wild ride we've been on together. I need to sprout my own wings and find my next path. Dear little book I hope you find your own journey and your own path, because I've already got exciting ideas for my next adventure. And I can't wait.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I'm a Geek Girl, Live With It! A guest post from Joy Preble

People often ask what my inspiration was for the DREAMING ANASTASIA series. And part of the answer, of course, is my fascination with the tragedy writ large that is the Romanovs. Like so many people, I have always wanted to believe that there was more to it than political assassination and a girl who died before she could be what she could be. 

But then there’s the other part of the answer. The part of me that wrote Anne because I’d grown up with a love of genre fiction and then cut my writerly teeth on the work of Joss Whedon.  That girl is an unrepentant geek. A nerd. And so of course I’d end up writing a book with witches and mermaids and soul jar trope dudes who can’t be killed and a romantic hero who’s handsome and blue-eyed but really kind of a doofus at heart. We geek girls write stuff like that. It’s in our DNA or something. We memorize the titles of Buffy episodes and we go with our friends to the opening day of Serenity and when Adam Baldwin guest stars on Castle with Captain Mal himself, Nathan Fillion, we squeal with geeker joy. And we Tweet that our husband just quipped, “Hey. I hope they run into the Rievers.” And the other million geeks who follow us on Twitter tweet back that this is the greatest line they ever heard.

And stuff like that.

So I present to you: You Know You’re A Geek Girl When. With geeky bullet points and everything.  And yeah, it’s all true. Get over it, folks. This is the real me.

You Know You’re a Geek Girl When:

  • You agree to appear at Comic Con in Austin with your fellow geek authors. In a mermaid costume. For two days.
  • Your favorite moment of the above is meeting James Marsters who played Spike on Buffy. And getting a picture. Signed. (Which you babble about for two days, at least when you can get a word in over Tricia (PJ) Hoover’s rambling about her photo op with Kevin Sorbo.)
  • Did I mention the seaweed boa?
  • You put physics and economics jokes in your manuscript and your agent tells you that maybe this is not as funny as you think it is. But you believe that giving a character a t-shirt that reads ‘Fission Chips’ is hysterical. And that the joke “Two protons walk into a black hole… that’s the joke” is also the funniest thing ever. Really.
  • You Google ‘nerd t shirts’ while you’re eating your lunch. More than one day a week.
  • You still know the titles of every BTVS episode. And can still quote lines. And if someone says anything close to ‘dance of joy’ your first thought is of Season 2 of Angel when the gang went to Pylea.
  • When you realized that you now knew and worked with the blogger who used to blog as Moonrat, you were happy for like a million days. Maybe more.
  • You saw The Avengers on opening weekend.  And you knew that you had to stay seated when the final credits rolled because it wasn’t really over.
  • You also saw The Cabin the Woods. And chatted with your fellow geeks about how it was a meta-horror genre movie. Possibly too meta. But whatever.
  • You played viola in the high school orchestra. And were first chair. And dated the 1st chair bassoon player. 
  • You own a full collection of the paperback novelizations of the original Star Trek series.
  • You used to write Star Trek fan fiction. Before there was the Internet. Yes, you and your geek friends exchanged yellow legal pads of manuscripts. Mostly about Mr. Spock’s love life. You now believe that if only you had titled it Fifty Shades of Spock, you would be on easy street now.
  • You continue to believe that there is such a thing as a tesseract.
  • You wish there were more people who would get excited about the Baba Yaga episode on Lost Girl.
  • You screamed in horrified delight at the end of this season’s Vampire Diaries.
  • You have worn socks with Birkenstocks. In public. But maybe only once.
  • You could continue this list for another thousand pages.

Thank you so much for your guest post, Joy! From one geek girl to another, stay Shiny! For more information about Joy and her DREAMING ANASTASIA series, visit her on her website, Facebook, and Twitter

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Deleted Scene from Haunted

I have a special treat for you guys today in the way of a deleted scene from Joy Preble's Haunted, the second book in the Dreaming Anastasia series. Can't wait to see what you guys think!

Here's a little bit of background information from Joy about the scene:

“The Haunted scene takes place after the Cub's game. Anne and Ethan go to eat and then see Viktor but before then I had envisioned this sexual tension/comic but serious scene where Anne is angry at Ethan for having turned her life upside down but she doesn't want to say it and he doesn't want to say he loves her since he's come back to find Ben in the picture. So instead, Anne eats. And eats. And it wasn't really working for me, but it's funny.”

Thursday, 4:30 PM, Ethan
                “Are you going to finish that?” I point to the remains of the enormous pile of onion rings that Anne has consumed along with the cheese and sausage pizza we just split at the little hole in the wall pizza place so close to the El that you can feel the trains rumbling by overhead as you eat. We’re in Evanston where I’ve rented an apartment. But taking Anne there felt like a mistake. A restaurant seemed safer. Pizza seemed safer.
I just had no idea that she ate like this.
                “Well, yeah. You need to try some, Ethan.” She plucks one off the plate, shoves it into my hand, then passes me the bowl of ranch dressing. “And dip them in this. It’s killer.”
                I try it. It’s not half bad.
                We both chew some more, both pretending that this isn’t awkward and that we don’t both remember being chased by Baba Yaga and Viktor and Dimitri to these very El tracks not that long ago. Or that it was on one of those trains that Anne figured out how to work the magic lacquer box that let us access Baba Yaga’s forest and open the door to her hut so we could save Anastasia. It doesn’t take much for me to remember how Anne looked when Viktor almost killed her that day.
Or how I felt realizing what a fool I’d been to trust him.
                It’s easier to eat pizza and onion rings and talk about what I’m going to study now that I’m back. Of course we both know that’s not really why I’m back. But neither of us has worked up to the truth.
                “See. I knew you’d like it.” She dips another ring in the bowl of ranch, opens her mouth, pops it in, then closes and chews.
                “Remember when you made me tea? You still do that? The whole loose tea, tea pot thing?” she asks me around her mouth of onion ring.
                “Well that’s good to know.”
                “We need to talk, Anne.”
                “We are talking, Ethan.”
                I frown at her.
                “I’m being difficult, right? That’s what you’re thinking. Anne’s being difficult.”
                “That’s what Tess keeps telling me, too. Well, maybe she doesn’t use that specific word. But that’s what she means.”
                I signal the waitress for a check. This is going nowhere. I need to find out what’s really been going on with her. I need to tell her what I’ve seen. What I suspect. Everything I’ve kept from her in hopes that maybe I could keep it from coming. I am, it seems, no less foolish than ever.
                “You know they make great cannoli here,” Anne says as she stabs her fork into the last onion ring and dunks it in the bowl of dressing.
                I fish some bills from my pocket and hand them to the waitress who’s returned with the check.  “You’re all set,” I tell her. I stand, pull Anne from her chair while she’s still chewing and guide her from the restaurant. Another train barrels by overhead.
                “Let’s go out by the lake,” I say. “We’ll walk. I’ll talk. You’ll listen. And we’re going to figure this out, okay. Really. We are.”
                “Ben loves me, Ethan. Did you know that?”
                Her face is suddenly serious. Somewhere all this onion ring eating has been about this.
                “Does he?”
                “Yeah, he does.”
                She pauses, clearly on the verge of saying something more. It occurs to me, certainly not for the first time, how very young she still is.
                “I’m sorry that he’s been dragged into this, Anne.”
                “He has, hasn’t he?” She swallows. I catch a glimpse of the Anne I really know – as much as I can say I know her. The one who’s smart and funny and brave. The one I kissed a number of times before I left for Europe and who is now seeing a boy named Ben she says loves her.
                “Sucks to be him, huh?” she adds.
                Actually, I think, it doesn’t.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Desserted Reads

Ideas are funny things. One person says something, then another adds something on to it, growing the idea. Before you know it you've got a Full Blown Good Idea on your hands. And what do you do with Full Bowl Good Ideas? Well you blog about them, of course!

I was had a recent conversation with Jenny Martin and P.J. Hoover about cake. Yes cake. Authors talk about cake a lot. Well, we talk about any sort of sweets a lot, it's like our weakness. Our kryptonite. Before you know it you're swapping recipes and foaming at the mouth at your keyboard because so OMG HAWNGRY. Well, Jenny, PJ, and I got to thinking... what if we turned this into a THING? No, we have no idea how often we'll do this THING, or if we'll do it again. But the idea is to blog about a sweet treat of our choice (Cake, pie, cookies, who cares?  Does it have sugar in it? Does it contain butter? Good enough!) as well as a little mini spotlight on a book. We decided to use the name Desserted Reads and talk about a book that is, well, deserted. Not deserted in the sense that it's a terrible book and no one reads it anymore, just deserted in the sense that it's an older book. Sometimes in all the fluff and fuss of newer books coming out, the older ones get left behind, struggling to keep up. So today, we're helping out the strugglers. Oh and talking about cake.

First, my book. I chose Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin. This is particularly ironic to me because Zevin's newest book, All These Things I've Done, chocolate and coffee are banned. Can you IMAGINE? Check out the cover and synopsis of Elsewhere below.

 Welcome to Elsewhere. It is warm, with a breeze, and the beaches are marvelous. It’s quiet and peaceful. You can’t get sick or any older. Curious to see new paintings by Picasso? Swing by one of Elsewhere’s museums. Need to talk to someone about your problems? Stop by Marilyn Monroe’s psychiatric practice
Elsewhere is where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth. But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen again. She wants to get her driver’s license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. And now that she’s dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn’t want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well. How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward?
This moving, often funny book about grief, death, and loss will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.

Elsewhere was first published from Macmillan in 2005. I'd seen it on the shelf for years and always admired the pretty snowglobe on the cover, but had no idea what the book was about. One day while shelving books in the YA section during my shift at Borders (RIP), I saw the book and thought, why the heck not? I picked it up without even reading the synopsis and began to read it on my lunch break. The first sentence in the book (from the prologue) intrigued me almost immediately. "The end came quickly, and there wasn't any pain." I think I read about half the book in my hour lunch break and couldn't wait to get home to devour the rest. And devour I did. I can remember lying on the couch while my husband was playing a video game when I reached the final chapters of the book, and I wept. No, I didn't tear up, I didn't cry, I actually wept. (Yes, my husband thought I was nuts. He kept asking me what was wrong, but I couldn't find the words to answer him through the huge lump of tears lodged in my throat.) I wept for the characters and the loss that they suffered, but I also wept for selfish reasons. I wept because it was hard to tell these characters goodbye. And as weird as this is to say,  I hope one day I can make people weep. I hope that the words that I put down on paper are so emotional, so moving, that it causes people to weep. (Writers are mean like that, we enjoy watching you cry.) If you haven't read this book yet, go out and pick it up ASAP. I promise it won't disappoint.

And now... THE CAKE. Just as Liz eventually finds her way back home (though through an odd means), this recipe reminds me of home. In a lot of ways it is the southern cake. No, I'm not talking about red velvet or coconut (though both delicious), I'm talking about the Coca-Cola cake.

Coca-Cola Cake
Mix the following ingredients and set aside:
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. cinnamon

In a saucepan, mix the following ingredients: 
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup coca-cola
1/2 cup buttermilk*

Take off heat and add to flour mixture. Then add 2 eggs and 1t. vanilla. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (it always takes me a little longer than 30 minutes)

When the cake is almost done, start to work on the icing.
In a saucepan, combine:
1 stick butter
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup cocoa cola
slowly whisk in 4 cups powdered sugar

Once boiling, remove from heat and add about a cup of chopped pecans (optional, of course). Pour directly on top of cake as soon as you pull it out of the oven. As hard as it may be, it is better if you let the cake set for at least an hour before diving in. That way the icing has had time to harden and settle. 

*I never have buttermilk on hand. Mix 1 tablespoon vinegar per 1/2 cup of regular milk and let sit for 5 minutes and viola! Buttermilk!

I've had people ask me before if this cake can be made with Diet Coke. And my answer to that is a resounding NO, the artificial sweeteners aren't conducive to baking. Plus, really, come on guys. The cake has two cups of sugar and 3 STICKS of butter. If you're really trying to watch your calories, I just wouldn't make the cake. It can, however, be made with any regular cola of your choice: Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, RC Cola, etc. Though I prefer just regular old Coke. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Anastasia Forever Trailer and Teaser!

Thanks to the lovely folks over at Sourcebooks, today I will be sharing with you a few teasers from Joy Preble's upcoming book, Forever Anastasia! If you haven't read Dreaming Anastasia or Haunted or just want a quick recap, keep reading!

In DREAMING ANASTASIA, Anne Michaelson begins to have unusual dreams and discovers that she is the only one who can save the daughter of the last tsar of Russia, Anastasia Romanov.  Believed to be dead by the world, Anastasia has been kept captive all these years by the Russian witch Baba Yaga, and only Ethan, a handsome and mysterious 18-year-old, can help Anne free Anastasia. 
Anne once again leaves behind her ordinary life in HAUNTED to join forces with the mysterious and gorgeous Ethan as the journey with the Romanov continues.  This time she is haunted by classic figures from Russian mythology, a rusalka, , a Russian folklore mermaid with a malevolent streak –  and a particular interest in Anne,  who tells her that Anastasia is still alive.  As she and Ethan team up, Anne’s search for the rusalka’s identity reveals deep and startling secrets - including the true source of Anne’s powers.
Now in ANASTASIA FOREVER, having survived Baba Yaga and the Rusalka, Anne finds herself bound by the witch to undertake a journey into past, present, and future that will determine her destiny - and that of everyone she loves. 
For those of you who can't wait to read Anastasia Forever, I have a little surprise for you! I just so happen to have the first three chapters for you! CLICK HERE to check them out!  

And if you want even more awesomeness, watch the Anastasia Forever book trailer below!

Anastasia Forever be out on August 7th. To find out more about Joy and Anastasia's world, be sure to check out Joy's website and follow her on Twitter!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Writing Retreat Recap

This weekend I experienced my first ever writing retreat. And I say "experience" because let me tell you, it was an experience! I was nervous, like ridiculously nervous, about going. I mean, I was excited to have the opportunity to go as well, but I knew I'd be spending the weekend with amazing authors. Authors that have a talent for the written word that I only dream of having! 

I arrived mid-morning on Friday and got settled in for the weekend. On my bed was an awesome bag of goodies (courtesy of the lovely Jo Whittemore) and our schedule for the weekend.

And once I got used to all the... amenities that the lodge had to offer, I was okay.

I've been in a rut with the MG I've been working on for the past forty years month. While I love my characters, being with them for this long has been exhausting. However, all that changed last week! I did some thinking and plotting and after reading Save the Cat, I found myself rejuvenated with my story and excited about it again. I was excited to dive back into my story and spent all of Friday rewriting or editing. I got through the first 10,000 words!

Friday evening after dinner we all read the first chapter of the story we were working on. For the most part I don't have stage fright or anything, but I was so nervous I was shaking. I'm so insecure about my writing, it's something I always keep close to my chest. What if I show it to someone and they don't like it? Or what if I'm not even good? I don't want someone to tell me I'm a good writer just to pacify me, but I don't want to feel like I've wasted the last nearly two years of my life writing full time either.

As I sat and listened to everyone's excerpt, I got even more nervous, if that's possible. Every single person that came on this retreat was so talented, I was blown away. We had MG authors and  YA authors and picture book authors and illustrators. Where did I fit in? I'm not even agented and most everyone else has at least two books under their belt! Talk about intimidating.

It came my turn to read all too quickly. I forced myself to read slow and clear. Why was my chapter taking longer than everyone else's? Once I was finally finished I cringed internally, preparing for my worst fear. Much to my surprise, everyone loved it and was very encouraging. Whew! For the first time in a long time I went to bed feeling proud of myself. Proud of the decisions I've made in life to go down this crazy path I've chosen, and proud that I conquered my fear of sharing my writing with others.

Saturday was much the same. I spent the entire day working and managed to rewrite or edit around 7,000 words. While I still have a long way to go on this book, I can't believe I managed to get 17,000 words edited this weekend. That's roughly a third of the entire book! Why can't I work like this every day? Oh right. A little distraction called The Internet. ;)

We sat down to dinner that night and I said a prayer of thanks for every single person in that room. Had I not had this weekend away to be inspired again, I'm sad to say this book may have died a horrible, sad death. So thank you Jessica, PJ, Kari, Joy, Christine, Jenny, Cory, Bethany, Salima, Jo, Emma, and Nikki. Thank you for your laughter, and for sharing your beautiful words. And thank you all for encouraging me and being such an inspiration to me as a writer.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Congratulations to Jessica who won the A Temptation of Angels prize pack and Hannah who won a copy of A Temptation of Angels! You both should have an email from me waiting in your inbox. Thank you to all who entered, and if you didn't win, make sure you pick up your copy this week! It's a fantastic book, you'll thank me. ;)

Also be sure to join Michelle and her son Kenneth on Twitter tonight from 9-11PM EST for the official Twitter release party. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink

It's no secret that I greatly look up to and admire the lovely Michelle Zink. Not only is she an amazingly talented writer, she's also a pretty amazingly talented friend. Her new book, A Temptation of Angels, comes out on March 20th. That's right, in FIVE days. Exciting, no?

When her parents are murdered before her eyes, sixteen-year-old Helen Cartwright finds herself launched into an underground London where a mysterious organization called the Dictata controls the balance of good and evil. Helen learns that she is one of three remaining angelic descendants charged with protecting the world's past, present, and future. Unbeknownst to her, she has been trained her whole life to accept this responsibility. Now, as she finds herself torn between the angelic brothers protecting her and the devastatingly handsome childhood friend who wants to destroy her, she must prepare to be brave, to be hunted, and above all to be strong, because temptation will be hard to resist, even for an angel.


Seriously, guys. I can't wait for you to read this book. It's hauntingly and beautifully written, a rich romance that will leave you wanting more. 

But don't take my word for it! Why don't you read it for yourself? And how does a free copy sound to you? Hmm? How about a free signed copy, plus Temptation swag? I have two prize packs to give away! Prize Pack A is a signed copy of A Temptation of Angels, a mini angel frame, an Are You Tempted? candy tin, bookmark, and body spray. Prize Pack B is a copy of A Temptation of Angels.   To enter, simply fill out the form below. But first, some housekeeping:

*You do NOT have to be a follower (though following makes me happy)
*Sorry, no extra points for tweeting, etc (though tweeting makes me happy too)
*One entry per person
*Winner will be picked using random.org 

*You must be 13 years old or older to enter
*Contest will run from now until March 19th at midnight CST
*Winner will be announced on March 20th and contacted via email
*You have 48 hours to respond to the email, otherwise a new winner will be drawn
* Contest IS international :)

(Michelle is also having quite a few giveaways on her blog including a giveaway for an iPad! You can also preorder the book from Amazon, B&N, or Indiebound.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dear Teen Me

I got the news a few months back but am just now officially able to share with everyone. I am lucky enough to say that I will be in the upcoming Dear Teen Me anthology! This may not be big news to anyone else, but I'm tickled pink. It's my first published piece! Ever! I'm in a book! Something I wrote is actually in a book.

The official title is Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves and is slated for publication on October 31st, 2012 from Zest Books. The book is edited by Miranda Kenneally and E. Kristin Anderson.

Miranda Kenneally is the author of Catching Jordan, a contemporary YA novel about football and femininity (December 2011). Other books include Playing Parker (Fall 2012) and Bad, Bad Thing (Spring 2013). Miranda is also the co-creator, with E. Kristin Anderson, of the Dear Teen Me  blog and book (Zest Books, November 2012). @MirandaKennealy 

E. Kristin Anderson is the co-editor of the upcoming Dear Teen Me anthology (Zest Books, November 2012), based on the website of the same name. As a poet she has been published worldwide in around two dozen literary journals, from the indie-queen Fuselit, to the prestigious Cimarron Review. She is also an assistant editor at Hunger Mountain for their YA and Children's section. @ek_anderson

Below is the cover, as well as the list of contributing authors and the titles of our letters:

1. E. Kristin Anderson—Want. Take. Have
2. Jessica LeeAnderson—Contents Under Pressure
3. Tom Angleberger—Shhhhhh!
4. Sean Beaudoin—Frame Me and Nail Me to the Wall
5. CharlesBenoit—Reinventing Me
6. Robin Benway—9 Things You Need to Know
7. Ilsa J. Bick—The Knife
8. Marke Bieschke—Dance Dance Revolution
9. Joseph Bruchac—First Kiss . . .ish
10. Jessica Burkhart—Trust Is as Important as Love
11. Josh A. Cagan—Thank You, Oily Pizza
12. Riley Carney—Nothing’s Impossible
13. Tera Lynn Childs—The Future Isn’t Everything
14. Jessica Corra—The Principal’s Office
15. Heather Davis—Raising Me
16. Daniel Ehrenhaft—Getting Stood Up
17. Laura EllenLosing Your Sight Shouldn’t Mean Losing Your Rights
18. Beth Fantaskey—I Hope You Dance—to the Theme from Bonanza
19. Caridad Ferrer—Jekyll & Hyde
20. Michael Griffo—Be Honest with Yourself
21. Janet Gurtler—The Skinny Girl
22. Kersten Hamilton—It’s About to Get Worse
23. Bethany Hegedus—Going All the Way
24. Geoff Herbach—You Are the Electric Boogaloo
25. Faith Erin Hicks—No Calls from Spielberg Yet
26. Nancy Holder—When Dance Was Your World
27. K. A. Holt—Lois Lowry and the Space-Time Continuum vs. Boys
28. P. J. Hoover—Seeping Through the Cracks
29. Ellen Hopkins—Finding Your Voice
30. Stacey Jay—Who Needs Luck?
31. Carrie Jones—Seizures
32. Mike Jung—Regarding Your Commendable Decision to Live
33. Stasia WardKehoe—Getting Past the Fear
34. Tara Kelly—Bad Girl
35. Miranda Kenneally—Pick Up the Phone and Call Him Back. Right. Now.
36. Stephanie Kuehnert—He Broke More Than Your Heart
37. Mary Lindsey—Hope Until the Last Second
38. Nikki Loftin—The Ramifications of Mouthing Off to Cute Boys
39. Katherine Longshore—The Best Days of Our Lives? Really?
40. Ken Lowery—Winging It
41. Kekla Magoon—The Balancing Act
42. Mari Mancusi—What the Bully Stole
43. Gretchen McNeil—All the World’s a Stage
44. Jodi Meadows—The Pursuit of (Moments of) Happiness
45. Saundra Mitchell—This Is Not Your Story
46. Hannah Moskowitz—Get Better
47. Jenny Moss—What I Really Want
48. Sarah Ockler—Dancing with the Dead
49. Lauren Oliver & Elizabeth Miles—Best Friends Forever (for Real)
50. Stephanie Pellegrin—Just Be Yourself
51. Mitali Perkins—First Kiss
52. Cheryl Rainfield—Keep Hold of Your Strength
53. Dave Roman—Special Delivery from Your Excellent Future
54. Jess Rothenberg—Stop Obsessing, Kiss That Guy, and Party Like It’s 1999
55. Jennifer Rush—All Roads Lead Somewhere
56. Amy Kathleen Ryan—Smile!
57. Tom Ryan—Sing It Out
58. Leila Sales—I’m Not Going to Give You Any Good Advice
59. Cynthia Leitich Smith— Friends in Dark Places
60. JessicaSpotswood—Finding Him
61. Erika Stalder—Boys, Boys, Boys…
62. Rhonda Stapleton—Chunky
63. Mariko Tamaki—Keeping Quiet
64. Don Tate—Stolen Jeans, Smoke Rings, and Self-Esteem
65. Melissa Walker—You’re So Right But So Wrong
66. Tracy White—100% True, Guaranteed
67. Jo Whittemore—All Kinds of Sexy
68. Sara Zarr—What Is a Friend?
69. Jennifer Ziegler—Facing Facts: Makeovers Don’t Change a Thing

You can currently preorder the book from Amazon or Books A Million and you can follow Zest Books on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Goodreads.

It seems a little weird to see my name listed up there. (I mean, I'm next to Lauren Oliver!) I've looked up to some of my fellow authors for years, so to be included in a project like this is truly an amazing experience.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

World Book Night, April 23, 2012

World Book Night is exactly what it sounds like: a night to give out free books to the world. One million books, in fact. Last year WBN was England only, and they had a great success. Due to their success, we here in the US (along with Germany) will be participating with them this year in their goal to give out one million books to needy readers.

What does this have to do with you? Well, Jen and I, along with all Literary Lonestars, were asked to be a part of the Central Texas WBN chapter via BookPeople. Us, along with some other literary organizations around Austin, will be banning together on the night of April 23rd to give out books to the needy. And we could use your help! Jen and I will organize volunteers to hand out books, and by volunteers we mean you! We already have a few ideas where the books will go (some organizations we've worked with in the past), but if you have any recommendations, let us know! We're concentrating strictly on the MG/YA titles so we're looking for places like shelters, children's hospitals, underprivileged schools, etc. If you chose to volunteer, you receive one box of books, then meet up with us at our predetermined destinations to hand out the books, this is something Jen and I would really love for all of us to do together as a group.

If either you aren't in the Austin area or simply would like to participate on your own, you have until February 6th to sign up. You must be at least 16 years of age and a legal US resident to participate. Again, this is a country wide project! You don't have to be in Austin or Texas to participate. (If you're participating with our group, there is no need for you to sign up online, only if you're doing it individually.)

If you'd like to help our Literary Lonestar group out, please email me (StephanieNPellegrin@gmail.com) or Jen (JenBigheart@gmail.com) or both of us. We need to know ASAP so we can get the ball rolling, so please get back to us as quickly as you can. Fill out the following form in your email with the subject World Book Nigh Volunteer:

Availability on 4/23:
Are you bringing a helper? (if so, include name and age):
Will you need transportation:
Suggest a donation site:

(Jen is currently out of town on vacation and I'm in the process of moving, so it may be a day or two before we can return your email.)

We'll have more information soon, as things start to roll in, and we'll share it with you. If you're able to help us spread the word, we'd appreciate it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year! (a few days late)

Hello all! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and a great start to 2012. Mine has gotten off to a bit of a slow start. My husband has been off work for about two weeks, and while I enjoy having him home with me, it's thrown me off my routine a bit. He went back to work today, and I'm going back to work today as well. ;)

I wrote last year about new year's resolutions and how I don't like them. I feel exactly the same now as I did then. I'm just not a big fan of resolutions, and I doubt I ever will be. Answer me honestly, how many new year's resolutions have you made that you actually kept? I've only made a few in my life, and never kept a one. I'm a firm believer that if you want to make a change in your life, you'll make a change in your life. Period. Not tomorrow, not January 1st, not at some point this year. But literally right now. Want to write a book? Start on it. Want to run a marathon? Stop wasting time reading my blog and get to training! I could go on all day, but y'all are smart people. You get the idea.

2011 was a pretty good year. Not the best, no, but definitely not the worst. I think more than anything it was a year of learning for me. I quit my job to write full time in November of 2010, but because of the holidays I wasn't able to take advantage of my stay-at-home time until January. People think that working from home is amazing, and it is! And it's also not. To be honest it can be pretty stressful. It's funny because growing up I wasn't the neatest of persons. My room was rarely clean (meaning you often couldn't even see the floor), but now that I have my own house -er- apartment, I find myself being a cleaning fanatic. For me it's hard to work when I can see all the clutter sitting around. I take a break and walk by the overflowing laundry hamper. I walk in the kitchen for a snack and see the pile of dirty dishes in the sink, the clean ones in the dishwasher. I work in my office and all I can see are piles of unorganized books on the floor. One of my goals for 2011 was to clean less, and it did last for a while. Well, like a month, maybe. Ha! I think one of my goals for when I'm Rich and Famous is to have an office space that's not in my house. Or maybe I could just rent a table at a coffee shop or something. People think that being a full time stay at home writer is so romantic, but I promise it's not all it's cracked up to be.

I also had to tell a lot of people "no" in 2011, and I don't like doing that. I'm a big doer, a helper. If you need something I'm your girl. I quickly realized that I was doing so much for other people that I wasn't able to do things for myself. For the most part it wasn't anything big that people wanted me to do: meet for coffee, go to a movie, etc. But I'm a creature of habit, I need routine, and while I love meeting friends for a quick cup of coffee, that means leaving the house and leaving my work (also putting pants on). About halfway through the year I realized this and started saying no. I even lost one friend over it, but in my opinion if you can't respect that I still work an 8-5 job, just at a different pace and place than you, then you aren't my friend in the first place. I hope I continue to say "no" in 2012.

I pushed myself harder than ever in 2011. Now that I look back on it, I pushed myself too hard. I took a lot of risks with my writing, most of which scared me. I wrote my first contemporary YA, did my first NaNoWriMo, wrote my first middle grade, wrote my first third person POV. It's good to be scared, and it's good to push yourself, but I think it's important to not lose sight of who you really are and in the process. In 2011 I wrote three books, read over 100, won NaNoWriMo, went to two lovely library conferences, organized and donated over 700 books to various charities in the Austin area, and barely had time for anything else. This year I'm taking it down a notch, I don't plan on writing any books (famous last words, right?), instead I'm going to pick one of the manuscripts I wrote last year, edit the snot out of it, and start querying agents. It's time, it's well past time for me. I don't think I was doing it purposefully, but looking back I can see how I've been putting it off.  Writing a book is hard, but not nearly as hard as editing it and sending it to people to ACTUALLY READ. It's funny, I write because I want to get published, yet I'm scared to death for people to read what I wrote. I don't have a very thick skin (hopefully that will change), so the thought of putting my work out there terrifies me, but it's what I want, right? To be published? I hope in the end all this is worth it.

2012 will be a stressful year for me. We're moving (no worries, just three miles up the road) in February, then I have to have reconstructive jaw surgery during the summer and will be MIA for about two months in order to recover. As I type this I can feel the stress starting in the pit of my stomach and roaring upwards, making my head fuzzy. I don't deal well with stress. I'm going to try to take a step back from everything when I'm feeling stressed. Take a deep breath, take a break. I'm relying on you all to keep me accountable for this.

So long story short, my only goal for this year is to EDIT EDIT EDIT then QUERY QUERY QUERY.  No, I'm not making goals like "I'm going to get an agent/get published this year!" I don't like to make goals about something I, literally, have no control over. I can't make an agent sign me, I can't make a publisher buy my book. I can, however, do all that I can to get my book out there. And I plan on doing just that.

I knew going into this journey that it wouldn't be an easy one, I just didn't expect it to be one of the hardest things I've ever done. I hope I never lose sight of how much work goes into a novel. I hope I never lose sight of how much I love doing it, no matter how hard.