Friday, May 30, 2008

A Fine Balance

I'm a person of extremes. I love winter's fierce cold, and summer's fierce heat, shunning the middling temperance of spring and fall. When I'm excited, or happy, very little can bring me down. But when I am down, I am deep blue, and want nothing more than to crawl under the covers and watch SEX AND THE CITY reruns (and yes, I'm seeing the movie tonight! Opening night of other extreme will do...). I love passionately and wildly, and I can be unforgiving in anger. If I'm exercising, I'm going to the gym every night. If I'm not, then it's pizza and ice cream and lazy naps. Sigh.

The thing is this: I don't think extremes are healthy. Moderation, balance, even-ness is the key to a sane, calm life. But then do you risk losing some of the passion? I've been thinking about this more than ever now as I'm working on my new novel, SEA CHANGE. For all the whole time I've been a published writer, I have also worked a full-time job as an editor. This balancing act has always been tricky--trying to get enough sleep for the workday, trying to leave work early so that I'll have the energy to write in the evenings. But lately this juggling act has been ever harder to achieve. Maybe it's because people grow-- my career has advanced, and my expectations of my writing have advanced, and both demand more of me. I feel stretched thin, and exhausted most of the time. But I don't want to let go of either. I love my day job, and I love writing, and they are both inextricable pieces of my identity.

And of course there isn't just work, but there is life. There is my lovely boyfriend, and my wonderful friends, and my family. There is my darling nephew with whom I would gladly spend a lifetime playing, and there are sun-soaked days that beg to spent in parks and on beaches. There is food to be sampled, and TV shows to enjoy, and books to be read for pleasure. And though all this "life," when I am in the writing trenches, feels like distractions, like trivialities, it is in fact what is most important, most dear--and without it, there would be nothing to write at all.

So how does one do it? I know every writer has her or her own method, own "trick" for making the right sacrifices, achieving the right balance. I guess as I continue to grow, I'll hit upon mine. In the meantime, I'll be living and writing and working, and most of all, trying to get more sleep.



Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Name Game

Last time I wrote about my favorite book covers so I think it’s only fitting to discuss my favorite book titles this time around.

I prefer titles that are a play on words or some kind of twist on everyday phrases (particularly if the book is a comedy). I especially love it if the title not only comments on the story, but on the subtext as well. Over the years, I’ve written books with titles I’ve loved, titles I’ve merely been fond of, and maybe a few with titles that were kind of meh. Often, coming up with the right title is the hardest part of the book. (LOVE, HOLLYWOOD STYLE was a particularly difficult title to come up with. It was inspired by a TV show from the seventies that I’ve never actually seen.) On the flipside, the idea file on my computer is filled with really awesome titles that I have yet to figure out the plots that go with them. I have two whole mystery series planned out based on the titles alone. Hopefully, someday they’ll have stories to go with them.

Until then, these are some of my favorite YA titles…

I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU, BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU by Ally Carter (One of my favorite titles ever!)
THE SALEM WITCH TRYOUTS by our very own Kelly McClymer
SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT by Derek Landy (It’s both a title AND a character name. Très exciting!)
THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS by E. Lockhart (Any YA title with the word “Disreputable” in it has my vote.)

What are some of your favorite titles?

P.S. If any of you are going to be at BEA in Los Angeles this weekend, I’ll be signing DRAMA! SHOW, DON’T TELL (one of my personal favorite titles) on Friday at 3:00 at table 15 in the autographing area. Bop on by if you can.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Unofficial Start of Summer

I always get a little antsy this time of year.  It seems like we're on the verge of something wonderful, and just struggling through the next few weeks so we can get there.  It stems from back when we were in school--by this point in the year, we were all itching to be able to qote Alice Cooper's classic song: School's Out For Summer.  But  I don't think you ever outgrow that desire for summer to start, even if you're work life doesn't change all that much when it does.  

When you're a kid, summer is a magical time--no school, no responsibilities, just fun all day long and late into the daylight savings time night.  For adults, it's not quite the same, because deadlines still loom, and bills still have to be paid.  Yet, there's something wonderful about the sun being out til 8 or 9, and the weather being warm no matter what your age or situation.  And here in New York, summer is really special, because the streets empty out as people stream toward the Hamptons.  You can always get a reservation at the restaurant you want, and there are no lines at the movies.  Best of all, there are those concerts in the park, and the free Shakespeare performances as well.

I'll be writing plenty this summer--with three series there's always something to be done--and I I have my new rocom PUPPY LOVE, which I really adore, coming out in August.  But you can bet I'll be playing plenty too.   It's summer after all!

On a more serious note, this memorial day I hope we'll all take a minute to think about the fallen soldiers and their families., and thank them for their sacrifice.  In their honor, let's bring our troops safely home now!

to quote one of my personal heroes, John Lennon,




Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Let's get the party started

To get you in the mood for the upcoming par-tay, Simon Pulse has posted an excerpt from Whitney's new book, Party Games, which will be on sale June 3. Check it out here!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Happy anniversary Lori!

Memorial Day weekend is coming up, and you know what that means. This Friday marks the beginning of the action in The Boys Next Door!

To celebrate, I’m giving away five copies of my books. You choose whether you’d like a copy of The Boys Next Door or Major Crush. All you have to do is be one of the first five people to e-mail me at with the correct answer to ONE of the following questions:

1. What’s the piece of jewelry that appears on the cover of Major Crush, who is wearing it, and why is it important to the story?


2. What’s the piece of jewelry that appears on the cover of The Boys Next Door, who is wearing it, and why is it important to the story?

No, the question you answer doesn't have to be about the book you want. Yes, I have taught English before. Why do you ask?

And, oh--if you live in L.A. (Lower Alabama) and you’re a teen interested in writing, come see me at the Autauga-Prattville Public Library from 1 to 3 p.m. on June 18 for a creative writing workshop, courtesy of my friend Barbara the Awesome YA Librarian.
Update June 13, 2008: The contest is over. Congratulations to the winners, and thanks for playing! Be sure to visit my website at for lots more giveaways when my next book comes out in March 2009.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Surf's up, sort of

This week, I'm part of a book cyber-launch party. Very fitting, seeing as my new book series, THE BRADFORD BLOGS, is toId entirely in blog format (as you may have guessed), and incorporates a big online component. It's so cutting edge! And this from a girl who seriously hasn't quite learned how to program her TiVo yet.

The party is in honor of Linda Gerber's book, DEATH BY BIKINI, which I cannot wait to tear into. Many different, most excellent authors will be posting on her blog:, including moi. It's like a virtual beach party! The best part? I TOTALLY don't even have to wear a bathing suit to participate. No self-consciousness, no three-way mirrors, no department store dressing room fluorescent lights.

In other words, my kind of bikini party!

For all that I joke about my new sedentary freelance lifestyle (or, what I lovingly refer to as "writer's butt"), I actually was once a very active person (for serious. Check out my website:, for photos of me running the NYC marathon. Madness). Believe it or not, bikini season didn't fill me with dread. Body image issues aside, the beach was kind of an ideal locale for me: sun (I know, I know, it's not PC or good for you, but I'm Latina--I thrive on sunshine and can't resist a good sunbathe), sand, surf...and time to read a book from cover to cover.

Today is the opposite of beach weather in NYC--I'm huddled in a coffee shop in sweats that are really only one step up from pajamas, wishing the waitresses would collectively decide to close the door against the dreary drizzle outside. I doubt I would even have gotten out of bed if it weren't for the mother lode of revisions hanging over my head.

So what's keeping me going? The promise of a beach vacation, of course.

My boyfriend, a fancy-schmancy big-time film producer, is off in Cannes right now at the film festival. Since he has work to do, I chose to stay behind, but next week I'll be meeting up with him for a tour of the beaches of the French riviera: Nice, St. Tropez, and Monaco (that lovely pic you see is us on last year's riviera jaunt).

Yes, I'll have to squeeze my writer's butt back into a bikini. That's the "bad news." The good new is, I've got my reading list all planned out:

1. Audrey, Wait!, by Robin Benway
2. The Show: Pilot Episode, by Jordan Cooke
3. Fly On The Wall: How One Girl Saw Everything, by E. Lockhart
4. I Am The Messenger, by Markus Zusak
and, of course:
5. DEATH BY BIKINI, by Linda Gerber!

That should tide me over for at least an afternoon.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

When I'm Not Writing

This time of year, here's where you'll find me working:

(Abigail Adams azaleas)

(Donald Wyman crabapple tree)

(andromeda bush, perennial candytuft, peonies)

(bleeding heart)

Yep, all those pics were shot just this morning in my yard.

I never in a million years would've predicted it, but I love gardening. This time of year, I'm bringing bouquet after bouquet of daffodils into the house. In the coming months, I'll have peonies, iris, hosta, hydrangea, daylilies, catmint, daisies, and aster.

As a kid, I always viewed the garden as a chore (probably because weeding my parents' garden interfered with my social life, such as it was.) However, now that I've gotten all my own gardening areas into shape, I spend a couple days each summer weeding (and occasionally dividing overgrown perennials), and I'm rewarded with fresh flowers on a near-daily basis. Doing something that's so opposite of writing keeps me invigorated and helps to clear my mind. It also means that I can take my writing out-of-doors; in the summer, I frequently park out back (under a huge umbrella) to enjoy the breeze and the scent of all those flowers as I work on my laptop.

It's what I'm most grateful for today.

Monday, May 12, 2008


On Saturday, May 10th, 16 authors and illustrators gathered at the Orem, Utah Barnes & Noble for a huge children's and teen's author/illustrator event. Since most of my author friends live out East, it was really cool to mingle with authors who live right here in Utah. And what a talented group! Pictured here, back row left to right, is Rick Walton, Guy Francis, Brandon Sanderson and James Dashner. Front row: Mette Ivie Harrison, Julie Orton, Sherry Meidell, Jessica Day George, Wendy Toliver (me!), Kristyn Crow, and Will Terry.

We ate lunch at Mimi's and then walked into the store. Tables were scattered throughout the store, and there were people already lined up with their purchases, waiting to get their favorite author or illustrator's autographs. Fantasy authors Brandon Mull (Fablehaven, pictured in snazzy striped shirt), Jessica Day George (Dragon Slippers), James Dashner (13th Reality Series and Jimmy Fincher Saga, pictured giving thumbs up), and Brandon Sanderson (Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians, Mistborn ..., pictured on far right) had 'em lined up around the store and out the door. I wondered if they were getting writer's cramp after the first hour of constant signing. And I wondered if they thought it was weird when I said, "Hey, Fantasy Guys!" to get their attention for this picture. Hmm.

The picture book authors and illustrators had people of all ages standing in the aisles, flipping through their books and laughing or sighing out loud. Sara Zarr (Story of a Girl and Sweethearts, pictured here in the chic specs) and I hung out in the back, chatting, gulping water, and making eyes at any teens who happened to come by. This was a fabulous experience, and I hope we get to do another Authorpalooza sometime!

Friday, May 09, 2008

A Reading Success!

Fellow Rom-Com-er Suzanne Weyn (she's the lovely blonde in pink), acclaimed debut novelist Siobhan Vivian (she's the lovely lady in the orange cardigan), and I (in an orange dress--not planned in advance with Siobhan) had a great time at our reading last night in the Park Slope, Brooklyn Barnes & Noble.

As you can see from the photos, we had a very nice turnout, comprised of friends, family, and fans. Suzanne read from her novel, REINCARNATION, which sounds amazing--a love story that travels through time! Siobhan read from A LITTLE FRIENDLY ADVICE, which is fantastic and has received deservedly wonderful reviews. I read from THE YEAR MY SISTER GOT LUCKY, and then we all answered questions, and talked about what's coming next from each of us. Always exciting/inspiring to hear what other authors are working on.
One of the best parts of the night was that Siobhan had invited a surprise guest to the reading--it turned out that one of her friends was a very dear friend of mine from high school with whom I had lost touch in recent years. My friend's name is Nora, and she grew up in Park Slope, and she was, in many ways, the inspiration for Norah in A NOVEL IDEA! When I saw Nora (and her hubby) in the audience, I choked up. It was the best surprise guest ever. Having her there made it extra-meaningful when I spoke a little about how my own high school experiences influenced my writing. Nora and I went through it all together in high school: crushes, fights, crying, bad grades, bad boys, triumphs, sleepovers, shopping, stress. There's a kind of closeness, an intensity, to high school friendships that almost cannot be duplicated with friendships later in life. In your teen years, so much feels new and raw and fresh, and the people with whom you weather these storms become precious to you.
I hope that my reverence for high school friendships comes across in the books I write--in this very "Mean Girls" culture, it helps to remember that girls can still be kind to each other, can help each other through tough times, and, at the end of the day, show up to support each other at the very best times--like a reading at a bookstore.
Here's to more successful gatherings involving books, laughter, and old friends...

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Stacy and Clinton, come and get me!

If you've read The Boys Next Door, you know how I love the TV show What Not to Wear. I watch it every single day at lunch. My husband Joey actually got me hooked on it. Pre-Joey, I never cared what I wore. You were likely to find me in my glasses, a T-shirt, ratty jeans, and Birkenstocks. You still are, when Joey is out of town. But Joey is a salesman. He knows better than anyone that first impressions are everything, and clothes are a big part of first impressions.

So, at his behest, I have studied What Not to Wear. I have bought myself some fitted jackets with nipped waistlines. But I will always have a soft spot for the poor folks on the show who just can't bring themselves to throw that Mickey Mouse T-shirt in the trash, no matter how hard Stacy and Clinton pull on it. I know the feeling. Here are just a few of the well-loved pieces my wardrobe would be better off without.

The cropped cargo pants. These are only a year old. Trouble is, I have worn them every day since I bought them. They are getting holey. I keep sewing them up, like I am Laura Ingalls Wilder and I have to make do mending my old clothes until Pa brings in the harvest and takes me to town to trade the grain for broadcloth.

The praying mantis shirt. It's not old, either, but I've worn it so much that it has faded from black to gray. I don't care. I love this shirt. I love it so much that I wore it when I took a picture of myself with my camera phone sat for my Fancy Professional Author Portrait, see?

How often do you come across a comfy T-shirt with a praying mantis embroidered on it? Once in a lifetime, I tell you. If it weren't for the praying mantis, I wouldn't have bought it, because I hate to wear shirts with foreign languages on them. I am scared of what it might say. Probably the Chinese characters stand for, "Praying mantis!" but for all I know, they might say, "Americans undervalue foreign language education!"

The sleep shorts. No, I do not wear these out. Joey wants me to get rid of them anyway, just on principle, because they are 20 years old. My friend Amy made them for me when we were in college at Auburn.

The T-shirt from 1987. This one speaks for itself, doesn't it? And finally...

The T-shirt from 1984. In case you cannot read funky disco lettering, it says "BRHS JAZZ," and wearing this T-shirt when I was a high school freshman meant I played saxophone in the COOL band with the SENIORS. I ran with the big dogs, yo.

How about you? Is your closet up to date, or would Stacy and Clinton run away screaming?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

This Thursday, Come See Me Read (and Sign)!

Many thanks to the divine Ms. Echols for already posting news of this event in the handy right-hand corner of this blog.

I wanted to call out the fun fact that THIS Thursday, May 8th, at 6 p.m., I will be reading from my newest book, THE YEAR MY SISTER GOT LUCKY, and signing copies of all my other books (including, of course, A NOVEL IDEA) at the Park Slope Barnes & Noble: on the corner of 7th Avenue and 6th street in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I will be reading and signing alongside the fantastic teen authors Siobhan Vivian and Suzanne Weyn.

This is the same Barnes & Noble where several of us Romantic Comedy authors convened last February for our Valentine's reading. We got a lovely turnout then, so I hope this reading will garner a similarly big and attentive audience. If you are in the NY area, bring a couple friends along and stop by for what will surely be a fabulous evening.


Monday, May 05, 2008


One more thing...

In celebration of prom season (and Emily's adventures in PROM CRASHERS!), I am posting a little bonus material this month. For your eyes only: a picture from my prom.

Sparkly! Off-the-shoulder! Ooooh. This is so embarrassing.

In the interest of privacy, I've cropped my date down to just a sliver of face and tux.

Heh heh.


Motivate Me

I am pooped. Wiped. Exhausted from writing. In fact, I have about four seconds to write this blog post and then I better get back to it. "It" is the book I'm working on finishing up right now - Juicy Gossip, which is a novel for slightly younger folk that will be published by Scholastic in 2009. I have one chapter left, and am simply pooped. I can't wrap it up! It's been a marathon writing session every weekend before real life sets in again in the form of a desk job on Monday morning, and I am having the hardest time just finishing already.

As soon as I finish up Juicy Gossip, I'm moving my next Romantic Comedy! (which is still untitled). It will also be coming out in 2009, which means I need to get a move on. I have written an outline and no more. So I'm begging you...please motivate me to finish one book and get cracking on the next. Who has motivational tips?

PS: Don't tell me that milkshakes help, because I already know that - too well.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

Love is in the air...

Crazy stuff dude! Authors are making YouTube videos to promote their Ro Coms! The first one I watched, I have to admit, I was not particularly impressed, did bite me and now my co-author and I are thinking of ways to make our acting debut. Not so sure if this is a good idea, I wonder just how many people are interested in seeing live-action mini-movies of their fav. authors and their books. Maybe we should shoot for animation instead. It certainly is an interesting way to get peoples' attention.

In the meantime, before we arrive on the big, well, ok, little screen, we're working on some new books. Of course. Did you think otherwise? Our heads are always spinning with ideas for something new, something different, something borrowed, something blue - hey wait a minute, where did that wedding stuff come from? Maybe I've got love and romance on the brain. It certainly is fun to spin off thinking up someone else's love life and situations and friends.

My co-author and I are looking forward to visiting with other authors, publishers, editors, and our dear readers at BEA (Book Expo America) which is the end of May/ beginning of June in Los Angeles. Hey, isn't Hollywood close by...maybe we WILL be making our acting debut!!

check out our RoCom at or take a look at our other books at

See ya riding the electron waves...