Friday, April 30, 2010


For the launch of my debut novel, FAITHFUL, I will be running a month-long contest (that's right, the entire month of May!). Everyone who comments on any of my posts this month will be eligible to win one of my few remaining ARCs of FAITHFUL, plus two cameo charms (in honor of the cameo worn by Maggie.)

Come by, comment, and I will faithfully (!) keep a log...and the winner will be announced on June 1.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fabulous New Fiction: 2k10 Debut Author Leah Cypess

Here's another interview with one of my classmates - meet Leah Cypess (that's right, there's no "r"!), debut author of MISTWOOD. MISTWOOD is a book I'm dying to get my hands on...and now it's out!

Congratulations on the publication of your novel, MISTWOOD. Every time I see the cover, I can't wait to read it. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

I'll start with what inspired it: I had a scene in my mind of a girl in a magical forest being hunted by men on horseback.

And now the story: Turns out, that girl is actually an immortal shapeshifter, bound by an ancient spell to protect the dynasty of the king who bound her. One of the men hunting her is the current prince of that dynasty, who wants her help. Trouble is, she doesn't remember any of this, she doesn't believe half of what he says, and she has lost her ability to change her shape. She'll have to figure out who she is and what happened to her while at the same time protecting the prince and figuring out what he really wants.

Oo - I love that inspiring scene and your summary! How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?

I have been writing since at least fourth grade, when I wrote a long sprawling saga about a girl and her heroic collie who got shipwrecked on a deserted island. (I was very into both the Lassie movies and the Black Stallion books at the time.) That book still exists somewhere on a wide-lined school notebook...

The Black Stallion books were some of my favs, too. Can you describe your path to the publication of MISTWOOD?

I published MISTWOOD by submitting a query directly to my current editor at Greenwillow Books. She had read a previous submission of mine, and liked it enough to send me a kind and detailed rejection letter explaining why she wasn't going to acquire it and inviting me to send her my next book. Which, needless to say, I did. That book was MISTWOOD.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

At the VERY beginning, I would advise you to just write for the fun of it, and not be too focused on publication. In other words, don't submit your sprawling saga about a girl and her dog shipwrecked on a desert island! It really takes a while to develop your own voice and style. When you feel like you're ready to submit your writing to other people's judgment, I would suggest going to a critique group first, and only afterword to start submitting to agents and editors. At which point, my major point of advice would be to not give up.

Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?

My inspirations come mainly from nature and history. I love nature --hiking and biking are two of my favorite activities -- and I do most of my best writing when I'm outdoors. I also love reading history, and I often get ideas when reading about the politics and dramas of the distant past.

I have two kids, and my main goal in life is to balance raising them with what I hope will be a successful writing career. Both of these things -- having children and being a published writer -- are dreams come true for me, and I'm sometimes taken aback by (and incredibly thankful for) how fortunate I am.

Do you have any new writing ventures underway?

Many -- I'm the kind of writer who is always working on a number of projects at once. There is a companion book planned for MISTWOOD, which is currently in the revisions stage, and one of my projects is another book set in that same world. Another is something...completely different, and still too unformed to talk about. :)

Do you have a website where readers can learn more about MISTWOOD?

Thanks for interviewing me!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Voices You Should Hear: Chris Cheng

I have the pleasure of hosting Chris Cheng today, a voice from Down Under. In addition reading about to his work, when you scroll to the bottom, you can view the trailer Chris made for a group of authors out of the goodness of his heart.

Congratulations, Chris, on your many publishing successes! Please tell us about some of your books, especially the most recent and upcoming.

I write historical fiction, picture books and non-fiction titles as well. My books are mostly trade titles and are generally for the young through to about age 14.
My most recent title was a collection of Australian poems that we would consider as 'classics' they are the ones that I grew up with so I compiled that title.
My historical fiction titles focus thus far on the Chinese Diaspora and settling into Australia ... but next year I have the most amazing picture book coming out (not amazing because I wrote it but amazing because of the illustrations and what we are going to do with it ... watch this space!!!) that we are calling (at the moment) Night Noises! I wrote the manuscript and then gave it to my publisher with an illustration form Sarah that completely turned the book upside down and inside out!!!! My illustrator is Sarah Davis who won the Crichton Award for new illustrators last year. Her artwork is AMAZING! Bits and pieces you can spy on my blog!!!
At the moment I am just enjoying writing picture book manuscripts in between writing talks for a number of conferences in that I am presenting at, but later this year will be reworking other fiction manuscripts that are with my publisher, one was a manuscript I wrote for my university thesis. But at the moment picture book are heaps of fun!

You live in Australia (a place I long to visit.) What is the publishing community like down under?

The pub community here is amazing ... it is very strong and survived the GFC! MOST of our major houses are attached to international houses but we also have a few very solid independent publishers producing high quality Australian books. Our picture books are very strong and often sell well overseas too. We also have a number of very small boutique publishers who do just a few titles each year but they are great titles and the publishers are mostly great too.
And it really is a community here for teh book creators - there is much collegiality here and yes we talk a lot - we talk about each other, the books we create, our publihsers, our agents, the schols we visit - and heaps more! Sarah, who is illustrating my picture book is due over here soon so that we can go haunted house hunting (and there are lots of spooky type places in my neighbourhood). It is not unheard of for quite a few book creators to turn up at weddings when we get married.

How long have you been writing for children? Can you describe your path to publication?

Writing for kids -- for ever so it seems -- actually for about 20 years. My first title (non-fiction) was published in 1990 when I was working at Taronga Zoo - yes it was about ANIMALS (no points for guessing that one). I was also writing when I was a primary (elementary) teacher in schools here but that was more because I wanted the children I taught to see that I valued the writing process - we even set up our own publishing company in teh school and sold copies of teh books to parents, the school library and anyone else who wanted to buy them! Then of course I was writing while I was working at Taronga in Education - and I haven't stopped. My publisher then had seen some of my articles that I had written for magazines and asked me to write a book about animals, and then I came up with ideas for another and another and another and .... so it goes. Sometimes I am asked to write a title, other times I come up with ideas! I am privileged enough to come up with ideas and then eventually a publisher will probably/possibly/might say yes (Night Noises I wrote quite a while back) - and if it gets rejected I put it in the lower drawer of the desk and pull it out again later and rework it if needed!!!
Now I write full time - and that includes the BUSINESS of being a writer (school visits, communication, publicity etc) and of course I do have to say that I DO have the BEST job in the world!!! And I am also the Co-Regional Advisor for SCBWI here ... and that covers all of Australia and New Zealand. And that I consider part of my writing too ... it really is a privilege to be able to share what I have learnt!

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

OH yes! I am sure it has been said many times by many other creators but ....

Write write and write ... and then
read lots too and then
write some more.
Also, write for yourself ... don't write because you want to publish a book, just write and see where it takes you! AND be very observant! I love watching people - hence why I always carry a note book with me!!!!

Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?

I am married to my wonderful wife who lets me 'play with words' for a job! The rest of my family continue to wonder when I will get a real job!!!
AND I also love the house so the kitchen is MY domain!
I wrote the libretto for a kids musical (based on my unpublished manuscript) Pa's Christmas Star - and that is going to be live in the next few months. the composer lives in Texas and she took my words and created great songs! People will be able to download the complete package.
I am writing more picture books and then after all the conferences this year will put my head around a new junior novel that has been tapping away at my grey matter for ages and then ....

Do you have a website where readers can learn more about you and your books?

My website is for general info but for the up-to-date right to this microsecond info the blog is the best place to look!!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fabulous New Fiction: 2k10 Debut Author Rhonda Hayter

I'm so pleased to introduce yet another debut novel - this one middle grade, funny, quirky - a must-read for teen girls. It's THE WITCHY WORRIES OF ABBIE ADAMS by Rhonda Hayter, and she's here to talk about the novel.

Congratulations on the publication of your novel, THE WITCHY WORRIES OF ABBIE ADAMS! I loved it - so kid-friendly and fun that I know it will be a hit. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

Why thank you Janet. (And from your mouth to God’s ears about my Abbie being a hit.) I really got the idea for the book from my younger son when he was little. He was the most sweet-natured, adorable little cherub you ever saw, golden curls, rose petal lips, chubby dimpled arms, the whole bit...but ya see, he had a little problem with um, shall we say, processing big feelings. So on those occasions when he got upset...the roof would come crashing down and there’d be terrible, hour-long screaming meltdowns. When we were in the midst of one once, I sweatily turned to my stressed-out husband and whispered, “My God, it’s like he turns into a werewolf or something.” And that gave me the idea for a little boy who might really turn into a werewolf when he got mad...and for a big sister who might have to cope with it. That’s what the Abbie Adams family grew out of. (Incidentally, we’re all through the meltdown stage now. Whew.)

I have to laugh - having lived through the same experience. Good for you for turning it into a novel! How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?

I’ve been writing for kids ever since my own kids gave me a bunch of ideas and then got old enough to give me five minutes to myself. And this is the first book I’ve had published.

Can you describe your path to the publication of THE WITCHY WORRIES OF ABBIE ADAMS?

In a word, torturous. Ah heck, let’s spend another word...endless. After more than a year of trying to get an agent I finally got one and she sold the book to a Canadian publisher (I’m Canadian by birth). Then just as it was going to the copy editor...they went out of business. Picture me devastated. It took some time, but she sold it again, to Harcourt here in the States...and then we started reading the business news saying Harcourt was lookin’ kinda peaked as well at the time. Picture me eaten alive with anxiety. Then my editor informed us she was leaving Harcourt...(don’t even try to picture me, it’s too scary) but she took me with her to Dial. Unless something terrible happens in the next two weeks...and you never know...Abbie should finally hit the bookstores on April 1.

And she has - yay! Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Yup. Tell yourself it’s brilliant and then get a few people you love to read it and tell you it’s brilliant too...until it’s all finished. Then you can take notes on it without breaking your tiny tender heart and derailing your courage to invent. That’s how I do it anyway. My husband knows a thousand and one ways to tell me what a genius I am.

That kind of support is so important. Can you tell us something else about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?

How nice of you to ask. I have two boys, now 15 and 12, a very nice supportive husband and a mop-headed little dog. By the way, my 12-year old has implemented a lot of the organizational tools he learned from an awfully helpful book, Get Organized Without Losing It. Ever heard of it? For my day job, I read for a movie producer here in Los Angeles, and since I’ve put my own writing out there I feel a lot better about picking apart other people’s writing all day. My major goal right now is to someday develop a decent discipline about writing every day.

Wow! I'm really touched that you used "GO" - thank you! And I'm delighted it helped. So, do you have any new writing ventures underway?

I’m toiling heroically on the fourth revision of Abbie 2. That girl’s a lot of trouble.

I'm sure it'll be a hit! Do you have a website where readers can learn more about THE WITCHY WORRIES OF ABBIE ADAMS?

I most certainly do. Thanks so much for talking to me Janet.

Thank you, Rhonda!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

TBD Follow-up

My teen son Kevin Rocked the Drop on my behalf, and left a copy of my novel Faithful on a table at a crowded Starbucks on Thursday morning. Here's the pic he snapped...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Teen Book Drop 2010

readergirlz, GuysLitWire, YALSA and If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything have once again teamed up for Operation Teen Book Drop. I love this project, and this year their focus is dear to my heart: much of the benefit will go to Native American teens, thanks to participating publishers.

You can join this worthy cause by clicking on the link to GuysLitWire's post on the options for donating to Native libraries.

I'm rocking the drop long distance - I'm at the Texas Library Association meeting, so I asked my teen son to leave an ARC of my novel Faithful a a local hangout. If he snaps a pic, I'll post it later.

Thank you, Kevin, and thanks to everyone who works hard to make this worthwhile cause happen!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fabulous New Fiction: 2k10 Debut Author Jame Richards

Jame Richards' debut novel THREE RIVERS RISING is, well, just plain gorgeous. I read it in one sitting - unable to put down this lyrical yet tension-filled novel. I'm delighted to share Jame and her novel with you.

Congratulations on the publication of your novel, THREE RIVERS RISING. The verse form you chose is challenging! Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

Thanks, Janet. THREE RIVERS RISING has three different storylines all intersecting at the point of the Johnstown Flood in Pennsylvania, 1889. The main storyline is forbidden love like Romeo and Juliet.

I was inspired by a documentary about the flood. The wealthy industrialists had a resort in the mountains with a dammed-up reservoir and the movie put the image in my head of the debutantes all in white, strolling on the boardwalks with their parasols, and lounging on the porch of the clubhouse. Meanwhile, a few miles away in the valley, millworkers were facing the heat and grime of creating steel. This image stayed with me for years—I just knew a Romeo and Juliet story was meant to spring from it, one that would appeal to the heart of a rebel—but I didn’t attempt to write it until I felt confident enough as a writer to control the story.

How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?

Three Rivers Rising is my first book for any market, my first complete, happy, publish-worthy manuscript. That’s not to say that I don’t have odds and ends from many years of learning the craft. I think (hope) I’ve finally found my niche—I’ve been writing YA historical fiction in verse for about five years.

It does take years, doesn't it. Can you describe your complete path to the publication of THREE RIVERS RISING?

Everything changed for me and writing when I held Patricia Reilly Giff’s MAGGIE'S DOOR in my hand: imagine me practically jumping up and down, “This is it! This is what I want to do!” A little Internet stalking revealed that she lives nearby and teaches workshops. I had to bring something to the class, so I sat down and wrote a few pages of Untitled re: the Flood. (Yeah, it was a hard one to title!) She really liked it and that’s when things started to click for me. I can’t say it happened overnight, but the right things fell into place.

I revised several times with Pat, then signed with my agent and did another big BIG revision. While we were waiting to hear from editors, the book won an award for unpublished writers (PEN New England Children’s Book Caucus 2008 Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award). When I called my agent to tell him, he said he had a few leads to follow up on—I don’t really have a “Getting the Call” story, more like lots of little phone calls and emails. When all was said and done, I got to work with a dream editor who has the uncanny ability to see inside my brain and make the words on the page match the story in my head.

What a great story. And I love your title, by the way. Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

1. Write the book you want to read.
2. You don’t have to start at the beginning, but you do have to start. (What you start with as the beginning will probably change anyway.)
3. Learn restraint. The most effective writing is concise.
4. Revising is a whole other art form. This is where heaps of talented writers get left along the roadside.
5. Read. Every day. You learn the craft by reading works you admire, and you fill the well of inspiration, which you need for your own work.

Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?

Most of my plans usually involve French fries and diet cola, hmmm…but I still dream of going to Ireland someday, maybe even renting a place for a while, and visiting the Aran Islands to research a far-in-the-future project. Do you think they have fries there now, you know, with the whole potato thing?

I have no idea, but please come back and let me know! Do you have any new writing ventures underway?

My next manuscript is about one of the many young Irish women who came to the U.S. in the wave of immigration to work as domestics, known as Bridgets. There’s talk of fairies and visions, witches vs. wise women, and tea leaves and typhoid.

Ah - the Irish connection! Do you have a website where readers can learn more about THREE RIVERS RISING?

Check out, blog included.

Thanks for having me, Janet! This was a lot of fun. Great questions!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Voices You Should Hear: Sydney Salter

I've known Sydney Salter for a few years through SCBWI. She's charming and self-effacing - and talented. Her third novel in two years arrives in bookstores this month. I loved her first two and I'm really looking forward to SWOON AT YOUR OWN RISK. Here's more about both Sydney and SWOON....

Your newest book, SWOON AT YOUR OWN RISK, looks like it has your trademark humor and teen-sensitive content. Can you tell us a bit about the novel?

In SWOON AT YOUR OWN RISK, I combined a cute neighbor (who just begged to be a romantic interest when he skateboarded down my street), a bad boating experience, and having my mother move in with me for six months. But I also wanted to write about a girl who let the boys in her life dictate her interests. I’ve known far too many women and girls who’ve done that.

Here’s a quick blurb: After a junior year of dating disasters, Polly Martin has sworn off boys. Now she's just trying to survive her summer job at Wild Waves Water Park (under the supervision of ex number three, Sawyer Holmes) and focus on herself for once.

You’ve managed to publish three books, all of which are garnering great reviews and an audience, in the short span of one year! Can you share some secrets of your success?

The secret to my success is failure. I never waited for a book to sell before starting the next one, and I think that taught me a lot about writing. Plus, I learned to appreciate the revision process. As a newbie, I thought I could skip that part. Ha-ha-ha. I was SO wrong.

My fourth manuscript, MY BIG NOSE AND OTHER NATURAL DISASTERS, sold first, followed by my much-revised first one, JUNGLE CROSSING. I submitted SWOON AT YOUR OWN RISK as a synopsis—it’s story number seven.

Next I’ll be starting my 9th novel. I’m grateful for all the manuscripts I’ve written because I have enough experience to know that I can finish and eventually make the story work. Hurray for revision! I’ll have tough days and doubt myself a million different ways, but I’ve learned how to push through all of those negative feelings and finish the first draft.

What is your working day like – are you a morning person or middle-of-the-nighter? Do you have some special habits (like listening to music? Or eating chocolate?)

First I drive morning carpool (a duty I share with my neighbor, picture book author Kristyn Crow). I race back home, start a pot of tea, and answer a few emails. Most days I’ll do a quick writing exercise to get my creativity flowing.

Listening to music makes me feel less alone while I write. Sometimes I’ll pick an album for my WIP, but lately I’ve just set my ipod on shuffle—and let me just say that I need to remove the holiday music, because listening to Bing Crosby croon “White Christmas” in April is just wrong!

I write, taking short breaks to play with my kitten, pet my dogs, or peek at my daughter’s tortoises (they look so cute with broccoli on their lips). I brew more tea—something about holding a hot mug in my hands helps me think.

At lunchtime I make a sandwich and catch up on celebrity gossip by watching Hot Topics on The View. And then I’m back to work until my 4th and 8th grade daughters get home from school. I do treat myself to a square or two of dark chocolate after I finish writing for the day, but before my girls get home—I’m terrible about sharing my chocolate.

Unless I’m on deadline or really close to finishing a revision, I try not to work in the late afternoon or evenings so I can pay attention to my daughters and my very sweet, supportive husband.

Are you working on something new? Can you tell us something about it?

I just sent my agent a YA about an art prodigy who wants to keep her painting private, but her dad hangs her artwork in his new museum exhibit for the whole world to see. And I’m researching manuscript number nine, but I’m not ready to talk about that one yet.

Please share any contact information with us.

Book Trailer:

Congratulations on such great success, Sydney! And thanks.

Much thanks to you, Janet. And congratulations on your fiction debut!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Fabulous New Fiction: 2k10 Debut Author Judith Graves

I have a terrific debut author and novel to introduce to you today - Judith Graves, and her intriguing paranormal UNDER MY SKIN. I have a special fondness for Judith after watching her on a vlog post when she fed her yellow lab (I love labs) a carrot as a treat (we've always fed our dogs carrots!) Here's Judith on her writing:

Congratulations on the publication of your debut novel, UNDER MY SKIN. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

Thanks, Janet! Congrats to your own fine self. ;)

Eryn, the main character in UMS, is forced to follow orders of an organization her father rejected. The same organization that disapproved of him—a human hunter—marrying a wolven—a paranorm with the ability to shift from human to wolf form—a species the Council trained Eryn’s father to track and kill. Now they’re promising Eryn some answers about her missing (possibly dead) parents. All she has to do is lay low in Redgrave. But following orders isn’t easy. Especially after Eryn gets involved with a group of teen hunters battling a paranorm invasion. Eryn is torn: Is knowing her parents’ fate worth standing idly by while paranorms destroy the town of Redgrave (and the humans in it)?

I was inspired to write UMS to explore the idea of mythological creatures from different parts of the world having to duke it out over the last bit of unclaimed territory. I wanted characters who would be forced to choose sides. I wanted the lines between those sides to be very blurred and the characters to be conflicted. Hopefully UMS does a good job of laying this foundation for the SKINNED series.

How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?

UMS is my first novel to be published and it’s also the first novel I ever wrote. It’s changed so much since the initial draft. While I didn’t start off consciously writing for teens, most of my fiction features main characters of college age or younger.

Can you describe your path to the publication of UNDER MY SKIN?

I’ve always had two artsy-fartsy loves in my life. Music and writing. For a long time performing as a singer/songwriter was my main focus, but eventually the urge to write longer works of fiction demanded more and more of my time. Since I also had a full time day job, something had to give. I decided to take the plunge and give writing the focus and attention I had been giving music. Within a few months of doing so, I had sold UMS. For me, the road to publication came down to some heavy-duty decisions. What was I prepared to do to improve my writing and what was I willing to give up?

So we need to search for your music! Hopefully you didn't give it up completely. Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

I can’t stress how important critique groups are for a newbie writer. Whether an online group or a few loyal writer friends who aren’t afraid to tell you when something sucks the big one. Get other eyes on your work. Read other newbie writing. You soon see where you’re making similar mistakes. You’ll learn to write as you learn to constructively critique.

Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?

Right now my life revolves around work, writing, my husband and our two nutbar dogs (a chocolate and yellow lab). We’re on the lookout for a black lab pup. I have her name picked out: Raven. Soon we’ll have all the flavours! (Can you tell we don’t have kids? lol….)

Oh, but dogs. :) Do you have any new writing ventures underway?

I have a few projects in the works - the rest of the SKINNED series, another paranormal series I’m co-writing with fellow Class of 2k10 author, Kitty Keswick, and an edgy contemporary. All are young adult novels.

Do you have a website where readers can learn more about UNDER MY SKIN?

Yup, my website: or at Leap Books:

Thanks for coming!

Thanks for having me on your super cool blog, Janet!