Monday, December 21, 2009

Hard Cover Christmas

My home state is now under a blanket of snow, and I have to admit--I'm a little jealous of their winter wonderland. Sometimes I long for the comforts of familiarity. Living on a semi-tropical island over the past two years, there are a few things I’m slowly getting used to. Like last year, we spent part of Christmas Day on the beach. One ex-pat tradition is to hit the shores in celebration of the season.

And it was kinda strange (but very cool) getting so close to royalty during Queen Elizabeth’s visit last month. Security is totally not what it would be if I were home in the States or visiting the UK. I joined the crowd of school children and office workers lining the streets for a glimpse of the queen’s motorcade.

Speaking of uncommon sightings, on book shelves here American books are integrated with those published in the UK. Yes, American books sit side by side with British ro-coms that go on and on about “snogging” (read: kissing). And sometimes there are US/UK hybrids resulting in something very cool. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across a Simon Pulse Ro-Com in hard cover! Check out this US-produced, UK-published gem:

Here’s to a joyous holiday season with uncommon and common delights wherever on the map you are! :-)

Friday, December 18, 2009

We've got the scoop!

Look for these new Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies in 2010! ♥


Hard to Get
By Emma Carlson Berne

Val Rushford has it all: The boyfriend, the looks, the grades, the friends--she's perfect. But when she dumps her cheating boyfriend, Dave, she's bombarded with all types of advances from boys all over school! Totally overwhelmed, Val decides to swear off boys until the end of the year. She buries herself in her school work and spends all her time on a class project that has her paired up with the artsy and intellectual Adam--the unlikliest candidate to ever win Val's heart...or so she thinks.

Val soon finds a connection in Adam she has never experienced before, but she's so dedicated to her promise and so unsure of her feelings that she keeps him at an awkward distance. If Val can't figure out what she truly wants, she may just lose her one chance at real love!


At First Sight
By Catherine Hapka


Language of Love
By Deborah Reber


Endless Summer
By Jennifer Echols

The sequel to The Boys Next Door

Lori should have known better than to date a pirate.

After finally getting together and going out on their first real date, only Lori and Adam could manage to fall asleep—and wake up seven hours past Lori’s curfew. Their parents forbid them to see each other. So Lori takes it upon herself to date boys scarier than Adam until her dad gives in.

But Adam won’t play along. He’s afraid Lori might fall for these scary boys. And when she goes out with the scariest boy of all—Adam’s own brother and her ex-crush—even the threat of being sent away to military school can’t keep Adam from swashbuckling his way back into Lori’s heart.

Can this forbidden love stay afloat, or will it sink in the watery deep?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Merry Book Event & Places I Write

On December 12, one of my favorite indie bookstores, Wisebird Bookery of Ogden, Utah,
hosted a holiday event featuring the book Christmas Miracles by Marley Gibson and Cecil Murphy. Drienie Hattingh, a local writer and one of my favorite people (pictured in purple, right in front of the tree), came to sign her miraculous story that's inlcuded in the book.

Santa and his elves were there, and with hot cocoa, old-fashioned peppermint sticks, a warm fire, and good friends, it was a wonderful way to get out of the cold and shopping frenzy and get excited about the upcoming holidays. My oldest and youngest son came along, and as you can see, enjoyed themselves. And, as luck would have it, someone bought a copy of my ro-com, Miss Match while I was there, and I got to sign it for her. (That happened about a week ago at Hastings, and I swear my son thinks I'm famous or something! LOL.)
Okay, so on to the question of the month: what kind of setting do I need to be in to write? I would love to write in a quaint little bookstore like Wisebird. However, since I come with kids attatched to my legs, I usually just write at home. I have a laptop so I can move freely from room to room if need be, but when I'm really serious about writing, I go into my home office. I guess I've learned to adapt and can write anywhere, from quiet hotel rooms and libraries to noisy places like McDonald's. I also write at all times: early morning, middle of the night, and all throughout the day. Just whenever I can fit it in!
Thanks for reading, and warm wishes for a happy holiday season and new year!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


This is my first blog post as a Simon Pulse Ro-Com writer and my first blog post. . .ever. Actually, this is my first time writing anything significant online, ever. It's even my first time using a computer. (Just kidding on that last one.) But since my first Ro-Com, Hard to Get, is coming out on February 23rd, it's time I stop being such a Luddite and officially enter the blogosphere.

So, the statistics. I'm thirty years old, married, have a baby son and a hairy black dog. Before I wrote romance novels, I wrote biographies and also educational books on health topics. So if you ever want to know some facts about Christopher Columbus or methamphetamine, I'm your woman. And before I was a writer, I taught horseback riding. So if you ever need to know how to get that horse to pick up its right lead, I'm also your woman.

I wrote Hard to Get right after I had my first baby. (I was actually talking to my agent about the deal as I lay in my hospital bed.) The juxtaposition of the two worlds was exactly what I needed during that particularly stressful time in my life. Here I had just given up my most of my independence and all of my free time, and for two hours a day, I could go into my study, shut the door (ah! blissful silence!), and dive into the world of high school, where there are no sodden diapers. If someone had a problem in that world, they could just say what it was, using actual words, unlike the newest member of my family.

I worked on the novel for nine months--all through the fall, winter, spring and into the middle of summer. By the time I wrote the last sentence, my son had transformed from a blob wrapped in a blanket to an actual crawling, laughing, babbling human being. Val and Adam, the main characters in the book, had also grown up to a certain extent. I think they ended the story as stronger people--at least that was my intention. And I ended that nine months having grown up a little too. Poop explosions no longer made me cry. I could easily function on four hours of sleep per night. And I was ridiculously proud of having raised up two babies in just one year--my son and my novel.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The question authors are asked most often at booksignings

For my next trick, I will speak on a panel of authors at the Southern Magic meeting in Birmingham in February. Looking way ahead, I'll be signing my novels at the enormous "Readers for Life" Literacy Autographing in Nashville on July 28. And you should definitely make plans to meet me in person, because I am the epitome of scholarship and professionalism. Here, bask in my glory. My friend Carla filmed this at a booksigning last Saturday. That's bestselling author Christy Reece telling me that I have chocolate on my teeth.

After this, I asked Carla to stop filming me while I had chocolate in my mouth and to take at least one picture of me where I look like a Serious Author. That's superauthor Debra Webb looking at me and thinking, "I cannot believe I am signing books next to this person."

Morals of this story:

1. Do not invite good friends to your booksignings.

2. Do not allow them to bring cameras.

3. Do not place a big bowl of chocolate on your table in front of your books to entice readers, because you will eat it.

4. Do place a large sign on your table that says BATHROOM: THAT WAY, with an arrow.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

How Many Days Until Christmas?

I know not everyone celebrates Christmas, but I suspect most people enjoy certain aspects of the festivities, if only as a distraction from the waning daylight and snow (we're due to get 6-10 inches today). Except the Australians, who are in full summer. [Let me pause a moment to get over my intense jealousy.]

My family does the whole thing -- tree, gifts, big meal, big gathering. I even write cards (which still need to be done, tick tock tick tock). The only thing we don't do are outside lights. However, that does not stop us from enjoying other people's outside lights.

But my real favorite thing is my advent calendar. My everyday habit is to cross off the day on my monthly calendar as it happens (or a whole week's worth when I unbury my calendar from a pile of work after a crunch time). My advent calendar is like crossing off the days on crack ...without being illegal.

I gave up on the chocolate calendars, because they only last one year (and the chocolate is not so good). Three years ago, at Sams, I found the perfect permanent advent calendar. It's wooden, and the base holds Holiday cards. Each numbered square is a door, and inside is a cute little ornament. A trumpet, a star, an angel, and so on. For 25 days.

After that, just six more days until 2010. And the days will be getting longer instead of shorter.

Enjoy the festivities in whatever way suits you. Because anything that gets you through the shortening days is good (unless you live in which case, please don't talk to me for at least 15 more days).


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

PERFECT SHOT is out today!!

Today is the release day for Perfect Shot!

I can’t believe the day is here. I’m officially a Simon Pulse Ro-Com author now. Yet thanks to the warm welcome I’ve received here, it feels like I’ve been part of the Simon Pulse Ro-Com blog family for a long while. So thanks for all the love, Ro-Com authors and readers!

Tuesday has always been my favorite day of the week. The look and sound of the word just feels friendly. And it turns out I was born on a Tuesday. So, I’m hoping Good Vibes Tuesday brings just as warm a welcome to Perfect Shot.

Check out the book trailer my 15-year-old niece Ana whipped up for me. The trailer is a total family affair. It also features the song “Butterfly” which is performed by Ana and written by both Ana and my cousin 13-year-old cousin Maeva. Also look out for my goddaughter Amanda, who makes a cameo as the beret-wearing “model.” And playing the role of the heartthrob is my cutie cousin Junior. Isn’t he a cutie?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Two, Two, Two Questions in One

Since I’m kind of straddling November and December here, I figured I’d answer both months’ questions, starting with my favorite books as a teen…

I couldn’t watch horror movies when I was younger. Even Ghostbusters gave me nightmares. But there was something about reading teen “horror” stories that I couldn’t get enough of. It all started with a book called Eyes of the Tarot by Bruce Coville. It was the ninth book of a series of fifteen books released by Bantam called the “Dark Forces” series. In a way, it was the horror equivalent of what we’re all doing with the Ro Coms in that it was a group of unrelated books written by different authors all under a single theme.

Eyes of the Tarot was the first book that I can remember being totally unable to put down. It was one of those “have to read it in one sitting” books. I still remember lying on my grandparents couch on a sunny afternoon devouring the book. I don’t know why I picked it up in the first place. The only horror title I’d ever read previously was Bunnicula. But the book had me in its clutches and would not let go. With each new allowance, I immediately went to the bookstore to buy every other book in the series, in much the same way that my friends were tearing through Sweet Valley High. I'm pretty sure I've blocked out the tragic sadness of the day I finished book number fifteen only to realize that there weren’t going to be any more.

I still have all the Dark Forces books on a shelf in my office. I know that I’ll never read them again, because they will never stand up to my childhood memory of them. But I will also never let them go. It was those (let’s face it) totally cheesy light-horror tales that inspired me to write for teens.

Now, switching subjects…

As for the setting I need to be in to write, that’s actually changed for me recently. Used to be that I needed absolute silence to write. No music. No people. No nothing. Just me holed up in my office ignoring the rest of the world. Then they opened a small Starbucks literally down the street from me and it quickly became my writing destination. Yes. I’m one of those people hunched over a laptop, sipping my latte that always looks so pretentious. But when I’m there, I don’t mind the music. Or the people. It’s become my office. A necessary office because when I’m in the throes of a deadline, it’s almost impossible to get me to leave the house. This way, I do get out and breathe the coffee-laden air for a welcome change of pace.

Just a reminder...

Next Saturday, December 5, I'll be signing books in the Birmingham area along with authors of adult romance Christy Reece, Debra Webb, and Peggy Webb, so these would be terrific events to drag your mom to. We'll be at the Books-A-Million in Fultondale from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the Books-A-Million at Brookwood Mall in Mountain Brook/Homewood from 3 to 5 p.m. I realized belatedly that the latter signing is during the #2 Alabama vs. #1 Florida SEC Championship slugfest. If you're not a football fan, come out and see us. If you are a football fan, come see us during halftime and tell us the score.

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Moon

Had I not been given the opportunity to go to an early showing (6:30 PM on Nov. 19) as a fundraiser for charity, I probably would have waited a little while to see New Moon. But as luck would have it, I was on the list. So my husband, who'd come straight from a trip to Maryland to the theater, friends, and I all stood in line with our tickets in our stamped hands, surrounded by chants of "Team Edward" and "Team Jacob." Some people wore shirts with Twilight-inspired themes emblazened on them, others wore whatever they had on for work or school, and one person wore a long back cape. I didn't see any fangs or bushy tails, though.

What I loved about going to this movie with this particular crowd was the excitement and anticipation before, the enthusiasm during, and the varied opinions after. If you'd like to know my opinion of the movie, read on. I won't give any spoilers.

There is no denying that Jacob (the gorgeous Taylor Lautner) is my favorite character, followed closely by Jessica Stanley (Bella's funny friend). I thought Jacob was sweet and engaging and had some very memorable moments. And some of Jessica's comments had even my husband laughing out loud. As did Jasper Hale's (Jackson Rathbone) face during a particulary intense moment, the ghostly appearances of Edward whenever Bella does something reckless, and the computer-generated wolves (though unintentially funny on all counts, I'm sure). I remember when I first read New Moon feeling like Bella should go for Jacob (in lieu of Edward) because it seems like she has more fun when she's with him--like she can let loose a little and be a (recently turned) 18 year-old girl. And again, the movie left me feeling this way. Only this time, not only is Jacob more endearing and warm (literally) than Edward, he's freakin' hot. (Yes, I know I'm old enough to be his .... WAY older sister, but still. You kind of get caught up in it when you're surrounded by squealing girls.) Oh, and that reminds me. When Jacob first appears shirtless, the girls shouted "Rewind!" and when the camera pauses on his muscle-ripped chest, they shouted "Pause!" So cute!

So ... you're probably wanting me to get to the point already. Okay. Here it is. I found that the movie did a good job portraying the book. It was entertaining. Jacob was fun to watch, as were other characters like Alice and Victoria (though I wished there were more of Victoria.) The vampires in Italy (including Dakota Fanning who makes an adorable vampire in her red contacts and white tights) were kind of weird and that part of the story seemed rushed. (Whereas I'd just gotten used to the slower pace of the majority of the preceeding scenes.) A lot of my opinion is based on things that are spoilers, so I'll just skip over them and say I give it 3 stars out of 5.

Have any of you seen New Moon, and if so, what did you think? (And please warn us if you're going to include spoilers so those who haven't read or watched it can choose not to read your comment.) Thanks!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Halloween Candy Overload

I was not on top of things enough to post a favorite Halloween story (no surprise there). However, I can relate a post-Halloween story. It is a sad tale of sugar excess and costume-less moments. In short, it is a story of a mom who no longer has trick-or-treaters in the house.

I loved to trick-or-treat when I was a kid. All that free candy? Yum. Even if my mom did confiscate it and only dole it out in reasonable amounts. As an older sister, I went out past the traditional age, little sisters in tow. Of course I wore a costume, usually one of my father's moth eaten flannel shirts and a pair of old jeans (as a bum, the perennial favorite costume of lazy trick-or-treaters everywhere).

And then my daughter came along, and I stopped worrying about my costume and started putting all my energy into her costumes. One year I was very proud of, she was three or four, I turned a pair of pink footie pajamas and a pair of bunny ears into a pink bunny costume by the simple application of a cute little bunny tail (it was cold that year, and she didn't even have to put a coat over her costume). We drew on whiskers, naturally (those dollar store masks aren't a good idea when you're navigating uneven sidewalks at dusk).

Through the years I've been spottily inspired. There was the year I made a princess costume, complete with pointed cap with veil (which fell off every time my daughter turned her head). And then there were the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle years for my sons. And, of course, Harry Potter (my youngest looked just like him, including the scar, when he was 11). I was very proud of that golden snitch we put in a cage and carried on the hilt of the broom.

But those years are gone. And this year no one came to trick or treat at our house (the cycle of growth is such that there are no small children in our immediate neighborhood, and we live out of the way of regular traffic -- one of dh's colleagues had over a hundred trick-or-treaters, so it isn't that the tradition is dying by any means). Which meant...I got to keep all the candy I bought just in case we did have visitors.

All the candy you want sounds great when you're a kid. But for me? I'm thinking next year I'm going to have to advertise to get kids to the house. Or maybe move to a more popular trick-or-treating neighborhood. Or buy less candy?...nah. It wouldn't be Halloween without the candy.

(1/3 of the candy stash down, 2/3 to go)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New cover!

I know all the authors here sang our artist Amy Saidens' praises a few months ago when we talked about how we loved our covers. However, I'd like to beat a dead horse for a moment by saying: YAY LOOK AT MY NEW COVER! Endless Summer is the sequel to The Boys Next Door, and it's coming out on August 3.

I love getting a new cover. Like the Christmas decorations installed in the mall on November 1 start my countdown to the holiday, getting a new cover starts the countdown to a new book. After the cover, the book gets its little baby ISBN-13 number (978-1442406599, isn't it cute?), and then you can pre-order it on Amazon.

That's the part you the reader can see. Behind the scenes, the countdown continues. I get a revision letter from my lovely editor, Emilia (check). I easily revise the novel and turn it in (uhhhh...). I receive the copyedited manuscript and die twice because the copyeditor has incorrectly corrected my already correct prose (I am a copyeditor myself). I have a little battle with this copyeditor, which to me feels like the fiercest fighting you would ever see on X-Men, but in reality probably looks like a chick with furrowed brow sitting at a desk, scribbling and erasing, and muttering, "Oh no you di'nt!"

If you'd like to join my countdown, feel free! Click "share" to get the code for the countdown clock below.

Friday, November 06, 2009

What were some of your favorite books when you were a teen?

I had so many. My mom always enjoys telling people at all my book signings that I used to love to read O'Henry. It's true. I loved the twists many of his stories took, similar to a Hitchcock movie.
In middle school I collected and read every single Nancy Drew novel ever created. Some of the novels were handed down from relatives and were old and valuable. Sadly, I lost the entire collection when my parents house burned down in the Witch Fires in 2007. I also loved Sunfire historical romance novels. That collection perished as well. Loved Mark Twain, and Jack London. To this day Call of the Wild is one of all time favorite novels.
It's so nice to see that the young adult genre has grown so much, especially with the Simon Pulse ro com series. The books for young adults now address such relevant issues and are easily relatable. We didn't have as many options for high school aged teens when I was growing up. In high school, I read a lot of the same things my parents and grandparents where reading. Stephen King, Pet Sematary and The Shining probably being my favorite. I also loved Dean Koontz. I was addicted to horror movies and novels, thus explaining my fear of the dark and need for a night light in my thirties. I also used to read these steamy, scandalous Sidney Sheldon novels that my grandmother of all people gave me.
I usually never read a book twice but it would be kind of fun to revisit some of my old favorites. I wonder if I would still like them.

Monday, November 02, 2009


Erin Downing here, coming to you with a post that seems appropriate given that we're in Day 2 of NaNoWriMo and many people will be thinking about this sort of thing with their fabulously fleshed-out and revised NaNoWriMo novels in the next year or so....

An overactive imagination and a tendency to worry are bad traits to have as an author - you face a lot of rejection, a lot of bad reviews, and a lot of self-doubt every single day. Of course, overactive imagination is what makes an author thrive and a tendency to worry helps when it's time to write those tense scenes that make for a good piece of plotting...but these two qualities also lead someone like me down slippery slopes of despair, doom, and dread when I'm at a certain stage in the writing process:


And, even more daunting:


I've been working on a big, new YA project proposal for almost six months now. It has taken me a little longer than it usually would to put a package together, since I've been conducting an agent hunt as part of the process, but I've put so much energy and time and ME into this project that it's taken over a big, fat chunk of my brain during every waking moment. I finally - FINALLY - am *this close* to finishing the proposal and a bunch of chapters, and - fingers crossed - my shiny new agent (who is suffering through my nerves and psychoses in a very noble fashion) is going to send it out this week.

I am literally crippled with nerves and what-ifs.

Partly because this is how I get at this stage, but mostly because this project is something really new for me and it all feels like crawling into a creepy cave without knowing what's inside. I know it's a good proposal, and I am feeling great about it - so why so scared? This is the first time I've had an agent to represent me (which is great, but just different), this is the first time I've written anything like this that I feel SO sure of before the book is even done, and this is the first time I've been THIS worked up about a book I'm writing.

I know I'm not unique in feeling this way - so why does it all feel so lonely?

That: is the life of an author.

(PS: I also added this post to my own blog, because both this blog and my own have been a little neglected as of late, and I only have the mental capacity to write one thing...nerves are SERIOUSLY attacking.)


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Truly Scary Halloween Story

Growing up, I loved to come up with creative, homemade costumes for Halloween. Mainly because most store bought costumes were junky, paper-thin jumpsuits with molded plastic facemasks held on by a rubber band. They were nothing compared to the full-on outfits you can buy at Target these days. But I also wanted to be unique. Not one of the mass-produced looks that was strolling the streets. I wanted to stand out.

One of my favorite costume ideas turned out to be my worst costume disasters. It was the year I decided to go for some international intrigue and be a spy. Not one of those black leather and spandex-clad spies you see in the movies and on TV these days. This was the 80s after all. I was going old school with the overcoat and the fedora. I even wore my sunglasses at night. My intention was for something like the art for Love Undercover.

But without the flowing blond hair.

I borrowed my mom’s raincoat, popped on an old hat, added sunglasses, and an eyebrow-penciled mustache and voila!

I was a spy! And see what a good spy I was? Smart enough to hide behind Superman. Because he’s bullet proof. The scarecrow and the bunny wouldn’t have protected me from enemies remotely as well as Superman.

I loved my spy outfit. I thought it was original and cool. I grabbed my pillowcase (none of those tiny, plastic jack-o-lantern buckets for me) and hit the streets. I was the baddest spy to ever walk my neighborhood.

Except that I got the same question at every door I knocked on: “Are you a flasher?”

Yep. People thought I was an eleven-year-old FLASHER!


Now, allow me to turn my story of a failed costume into a useful piece of writing advice. Because NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) starts the day after Halloween, you know.

One of the things I’ve learned from having a few books published is that not everything you write will come across the way you intend it. I once wrote a playfully innocent line of dialogue that was meant to be cute and sweet. Maybe even bring a smile to the readers’ faces. What I didn’t realize was that the sweet little line of dialogue could easily be misinterpreted as something very, very rude.

I never noticed it. My editor never questioned it. The copyeditor didn’t raise a flag. But the readers? Oh, yeah. They picked up on it. One person even said that she wanted to throw the book across the room upon reading that line. (I’ve always thought that was a wonderfully descriptive criticism and have used it several times myself when talking about other things.)

In hindsight, I can understand why people misunderstood the line. Although I think it speaks more to their messed up minds than to mine. But still it’s something you’ve got to be aware of. Readers grow up in different parts of the country. In different parts of the world. Places where soda is known as pop or cola or coke. Their experiences will be very different from yours.

Certainly, writers can’t go into the minds of every single person that will read our books and guess what they are thinking. But keep in mind that there is an audience out there that might not always get the joke. They may misinterpret your innocent line. There’s really little you can do to avoid it because people are going to think what they think. But as you’re editing your work, remember that many words have dual meanings. Which is why it’s helpful to have critique partners read your writing and catch something that you might have missed.

If only to minimize the amount of people who will later want to fling your book against a wall.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Which character in your book most reminds you of yourself, and which character can you least relate to?"

I’m not sure if this is human nature, or if I’m just a narcissist, but London Abrams first came to mind as a representative of girls like me. I bonded with London over the things we have in common—particularly, our awkwardly long, lanky limbs. My original intention was to create a world in which gangly girls dream big. Call it pay back for all of those times people called me “no bigger than a minute” or obnoxiously asked me if I’m anorexic. Whatever the motivation, a character was born. But, in the writing process, London became her own person.

In all her volleyball glory, she’s a lot braver than I am. I shy away from conflict. (Okay, more like cower in the face of conflict, but that’s neither here nor there.) For London, conflict is just another word for competition, and she’s one lovingly competitive chica.

As it turns out, London is most like me when she is least like herself—impulsive. A creature of habit, London strays from her script when she falls for Brent St. James. As suddenly as Cupid’s arrow strikes the poor girl, London finds herself doing wacky, uncharacteristic things in the name of a crush—namely, signing up for a local modeling contest. Crush-attack is the new temporary insanity and London’s plays the part big time, just as I would (and have!).

I can most relate to London’s best friend Pam. Pam has a bit of flair for the dramatic like my Haitian family. (Dramatic quote of the summer: “I feel like…throwing myself on the floor.” —my sister Judy, upon first seeing the detested new haircut worn by the weatherman on her TV set.) My husband likes to joke about all the “oh no!” moments my sisters and I have…in one afternoon! Put too much salt in the rice you’re cooking? "Oh NO!" Missed the bus? “Oh NO!” Grab the cell phone and whine about it to whichever sister is available. Be sure to add in how tired and achy your feet are as you stand at the bus stop. And, oh, the extra morsels of misfortune you can sprinkle into your story if it’s starts to rain. Hoo—don’t get me started!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Relating to My Characters

With which of my ro-com characters do I best relate? That's a good question. None of my characters are the real me disguised as a fictional character. That would be much too boring for a whole book. However, Sasha Finnegan's greatest talent is match-making and I have to say that I, too, love fixing people up and watching the sparks fly. Both Sasha and I like to shoot hoops. Also, I have a really close relationship with my sister, even though we are very different, much like Sasha and Maddie in Miss Match.

Which of my ro-com characters is a far cry from me? Well, that would have to be Roxy Zimmerman from The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren. Sure, there are some characteristics we share, such as having reddish hair (mine was strawberry blonde in high school), an engineer for a dad (though mine drove a van when I was in high school--not a Porsche!), playing the flute, and living in the Denver 'burbs. However, I have not and do not have ANY power whatsoever over men. Hang on.

Nope. I tried to get my 9 year-old son to clean his room and he's not budging. So it's true: I don't have siren powers, dang it.

In other news, one way I do get male heads to turn is by cooking, and one of my all-time favorite (and easy!) recipes is on Readergirlz diva/YA author Holly Cupula's blog today if you want to check it out. Click HERE.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Casting Call...Who Would You Choose?

Getting letters from readers is one of the best parts of being a writer. I'll admit, I love the actual writing part the best, but I've had thirteen books and two novellas published, and I still never fail to have a "squee!" moment when I open a letter or e-mail from a reader. It's validation that doesn't come with a lot of other jobs. (For instance, I never got a single letter from a client telling me I was "awesome!" when I was a lawyer.)

Lately, however, a huge percentage of my mail has contained various forms of the same question: Will there be a movie or tv show based on the Royally Jacked romantic comedies?

The answer is: I don't know. While I have an agent who handles those things, seeing any book make it to the screen is a long shot. Still, it's awfully fun to think about. I know a lot of writers--including some on this blog--who have mentally "cast" their own books. And readers definitely have ideas for casting!

Judging from your e-mails, the number one pick for Valerie is Miley Cyrus. I can see that--she has that clean cut, yet edgy vibe you get with Val. And, of course, there's the whole relationship with her dad (which is a huge part of the Royally Jacked series.) So that gives Billy Ray a role, too.

Miley's not the only name to hit my in-box, however. Here, some of the suggestions that have been made recently:

Valerie Winslow: Ashley Tisdale, Taylor Swift, Shailene Woodley, and Jennette McCurdy (quite a range there!)

Prince Georg: Joe Jonas (LOTS of e-mails for Joe), Daniel Radcliffe, Daren Kagasoff

David Anderson: Chace Crawford (the top suggestion), Jesse McCartney, Jason Earles

Christie Toleski: Taylor Swift (nearly as many e-mails for Taylor to play Christie as for Miley to play Val!), Emily Osment, Dakota Fanning

Jules Jackson: Kristin Stewart, Selena Gomez, Taylor Momsen

Natalie Monschroeder: Demi Lovato, Emma Roberts, Vanessa Hudgens, Miranda Cosgrove

Ulrike: Abigail Breslin, Dakota Fanning

Steffi: Minka Kelly, Nikki Reed

Fun, huh? But the one that made me call my husband to the computer with a "Watch this!" was a YouTube video trailer. Apparently, it's been posted to YouTube for several months, but I only heard about it recently:

(If that's not working, check it out right here.)

So what do you think? Who would you cast? And what about other romantic comedy books--any you're dying to see on-screen? I've mentally cast Hayley Erin (who currently plays Abby Carlton on The Young & The Restless) as Jo O' Connor in Cameron Dokey's HOW NOT TO SPEND YOUR SENIOR YEAR. And Erin Downing's Olivia from DANCING QUEEN is definitely Olesya Rulin (at least in my head!)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Which character in your book most reminds you of yourself, and which character can you least relate to?

The last half of this question confuses me. I just don't think about characters this way. The easy answer would be that it's hard for me to relate to the villains in my stories: the Evil Twins in Major Crush, Sean in The Boys Next Door, and Gavin in The Ex Games. But the truth is that my villains aren't all that villainous--they've just set things in motion to make life difficult for my heroines. The Evil Twins have a right to be angry, even though their anger at Virginia is misplaced. Sean is just...Sean, and Gavin is just being Gavin. In another situation, Sean and Gavin would be the heroes of their stories instead of the villains.

Which brings me to my point: in order to write a villain, I have to understand the villain, embrace the villain, BE the villain. I have to know what the villain would do and why, so that I can write a story that makes sense to readers. This is true of all my characters. I go out of my way to relate to them. And if there's a character I can least relate to, I have some work to do.

Which character reminds me of myself? That's easy: Lori from The Boys Next Door. As I've said before, when I sent that book to my critique partners for review, Vicki texted me: "OMG you've written yourself!!!" Not that Lori and I are exactly alike. I'm not that pretty, that athletic, or that selfless. But a lot of things about us are exactly the same. The general cluelessness: check. The faulty sense of fashion coupled with an inability to care: check. The tomboyish interests as a result of idolizing an older brother: check. The tendency to blurt out inappropriate comments, just because they are funny (to us, anyway): check check.

Lori is on my mind this morning because yesterday I finished writing the sequel to The Boys Next Door, called Endless Summer. Today and tomorrow I'm re-reading both books back-to-back to make sure they're bulletproof. I have a lot of fear regarding this novel. Readers have been asking me for this sequel for a long time, and I can't let them down. The sequel needs to be as good or better than the first. I have tried my best to write the book I want to read (my rule, always) AND to give you what you want (just wait until you get to the tree house scene!), but you can decide for yourself when book comes out next June!

Friday, October 09, 2009

I am a reader.

The title of this post may seem a little weird. I mean, I clearly love books so much that I choose to write them, so of course I read, right? Um...not always. Here's the thing: When I'm deep in the clutches of writing a book, I usually CAN'T read - because I tend to get so engrossed in the stories I'm reading that I can't shake them out of my head when I'm writing my own novel later that night or the next day.

But things changed while I was writing the book I just finished (it's called KISS IT and will be published by Simon Pulse next summer, but not as part of the Romantic Comedy line): I became a reader again. And an obsessive reader, at that. I found that the more I read, the more I wrote, and it became downright impossible to extract me from either the worlds of the books I was reading or the one I was writing. I was like a character for a few months, living in fictional scenes that had nothing to do with my real life.

To put the obsession in very boring list form, here's what just the last month looked like for me - and keep in mind I have a full-time day job, kids, and am working on writing a new novel. Sleep time is suffering, obviously. I finally read Looking for Alaska (John Green), dug into The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman), just finished the incredible Dani Noir (Nova Ren Suma), have gotten myself sucked into the world of The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod (Heather Brewer), devoured the latest Jennifer Weiner novel (Best Friends Forever), sped through a manuscript-copy of a hilarious novel called Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood (Eileen Cook), and am now in the middle of Wake (Lisa McMann), Need (Carrie Jones), Twenty Boy Summer (Sarah Ockler), and a novel by my friend Kirstin Cronn-Mills entitled The Sky Always Hears Me (and the Hills Don't Mind). I'm also snacking on Rampant (Diana Peterfreund), can't wait to start Once Was Lost (Sara Zarr), and have been eagerly-anticipating The Ex Games (Jennifer Echols)!

I told you it was an obsession. What else?! What else should I read?!

Friday, October 02, 2009

New question of the month! "Which character in your book most reminds you of yourself, and which character can you least relate to?"

As a writer I can relate to many characters in my books. My main characters are always the easiest for me to relate to. I spend so much time with them I have to find things in common with them, and I have to like them a lot. Believe it or not sometimes I even understand the bad ones a little bit too. None of us are perfect and we all learn from our mistakes. I like to see my characters evolve. So it's fun to throw in some bad ones that readers might end up liking in the end. That's what makes life interesting.
If I had to pick just one character I would say I most relate to my heroine, Natalie, in LOVE OFF-LIMITS. I'm not saying I can relate to her dilemma of being in love with her boyfriend's best friend. Happily married here. But I think Natalie and I definitely share a few characteristics.
1. She is a night owl, and so not a morning person. I have always loved to stay up late and sleep in. I miss those days!
2. Her passion for writing. I've never been a person who minds solitude, so I can understand burrowing up in my little space when I'm stressed and writing.
3. She can keep a secret. I'm a pretty private person, and a good friend to confide in as well.
On the flip side, who can I least relate to? Probably Dakota London in PARTY GAMES. The biggest diva of all time. Dakota is the spoiled girl who has everything yet is never happy.
1. Dakota loves to be the center of attention. One of her biggest desires is to make this stunning grand entrance on a pair of dolphins at her super sweet sixteen party. Maybe it's because I'm a middle child, but I hate being in the spotlight. I do everything I can to avoid it. I'm much more comfortable safely tucked behind my computer.
2. Dakota is just downright mean. Among many mean things she does, she invites the main character Sara to a party and then ignores her all night just so she can have a shot with the guy Sara likes. I could never do something like that.
3. She's really high maintenance. She's obsessed with all the petty details of her party, and wants everything to be a certain way. I think everyone believes they're easygoing, but I think my mom can testify that I was really laid back when we planned my wedding. I didn't care about the small things, or even most of the big things for that matter! I just wanted to have fun that day.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What I love about my Simon Pulse Ro Com Cover

What I like most about the cover of Love, Hollywood Style is what I love about all the covers: Walk into a bookstore, any bookstore, and you instantly recognize the books from the series. This is especially important since many different authors, with many different last names, write these books so they are shelved all over the young adult section.

The deceptively simple, classic designs from Amy Saidens and the Simon Pulse production team stand out against a sea of covers that, in many cases, are simply trying too hard. The Ro Com covers may seem modest in design, but as the other authors have already pointed out, they are filled with brilliant little touches from the stories. Don’t underestimate the value of a book cover that actually reflects the story inside. That doesn’t always happen in the publishing world (as seen recently with Justine Larbalestier’s Liar cover, where they initially used a model that looked very different from the narrator … to put it mildly.)

The colors pop off the shelf, but not because they are flashy. No angry streaks of red across a black background. No shiny, reflective foil embossing. All the covers are warm, inviting, and just a shade brighter than you might expect from the color choices. The covers work with the editorial tone of the Ro Com line perfectly. They’re fun and youthful and make for just the kind of book you want to curl up with in a comfy chair like in the cover of Aimee Friedman’s A Novel Idea.

In short, what I like about my Ro Com cover is pretty much everything.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What I love about my Simon Pulse Ro-Com Cover

Yay! I like this month’s go-around question. It’s the perfect opportunity to give a shout out to Amy Saidens and to thank her for her awesome work.

The cover of Perfect Shot is, well—perfect. When I first saw it, I was super excited. How very cool to come face to face with the characters in my mind’s eye. It’s also a thrill to see a cover that highlights African-American teens! Amy portrays my main character London in all her volleyball-worshiping glory—rocking a VB jersey with a sporty insignia at the hip. And London's photography intern crush Brent is working that unassuming-cute-boy charm.

There’s definitely some excitement building over the cover. The feedback I’m getting from everyone is positive. Of course, there’s also a bit of confusion. My niece and nephew took one look at the cover and said, “It’s Aunt Debbie!” Funny enough, that’s the same issue that I had with the cover of my anthology Hallway Diaries, which brought on the “Is that you?” questions. (If only they knew that my image was actually once featured on the cover of a novel. Long story.)

Yup. It’s great to know that when it comes to generating Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies buzz, our gurl Amy’s got it covered.

Friday, September 18, 2009

what I love about my Simon Pulse Ro-Com covers

If you're a fan of the Simon Pulse Ro-Coms, you've undoubtedly noticed the cute covers. Artist Amy Saidens and the Simon Pulse team put a lot of thought into the artwork, capturing the essence of each individual book.

I absolutely love the cover of The Secret Life of A Teenage Siren, my first Ro-Com. First of all, it's purple. Second of all, Amy truly captured the appearance of the main character, Roxy Zimmerman, from her bright green siren eyes to her luxurious, long, reddish hair. It also gives a hint of what the story is about, with the flute and the hot guys in the background, drooling over Roxy. I've had so many compliments from teens and adults about this cover, and I'll always have a special place in my heart for it because it was my first YA novel ever.My second Ro-Com, Miss Match, also has a great cover. Sasha Finnegan is not a fashionista, nor is she super skinny or drop-dead gorgeous. In other words, she's an everyday girl who happens to get herself into some pretty crazy situations. Now, as you can probably tell from the title, she's a matchmaker and she loves getting teens together with their crushes. I think all of these elements are captured nicely in the cover, from her appearance to her talent and love of making matches.

What are some of your favorite Simon Pulse Ro-Com covers?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Favorite Writers

I'm often asked about my favorite writers. I've always put Larry Gelbart near the top of the list, so I was sad to see that he passed away this weekend.

Even if you haven't heard of Larry, you've no doubt seen his work performed on screen or stage. M*A*S*H. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Oh, God! City of Angels. Tootsie. The man possessed an immeasurable wit.

If you want to learn about writing, watch a few episodes of M*A*S*H. Study how Gelbart develops his characters, making you love them, flaws and all. Learn from his brevity. Every word moves his stories forward; nothing is extraneous. I still watch M*A*S*H with an eye to learning the craft from the best in the business.

Thank you, Larry. You'll be missed.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"What do you love about your Simon Pulse Ro-Com covers?"

Like Whitney, I’ve felt so gratified that Amy included my characters’ signature jewelry on my covers. First there was Virginia’s diamond nose stud on the cover of Major Crush. This was my first book, and my editor made it feel even more special by calling me and giggling to say she had a surprise for me--look really closely at the cover! I mean, really, really closely! You'll have to go squint at a copy, because it's so small that I can't make it show up on the computer.

On the cover, Drew and Virginia are doing the dance move for their drum major salute that they are forced into and that causes them so much trouble. Oooh, check out how he’s looking at her! Imho this cover could not be more perfect.

As Analyn pointed out in the comments on Whitney’s post, Amy also included Adam’s skull-and-crossbones necklace on the cover of The Boys Next Door so you can tell him apart from Sean, since they look alike (which causes Lori all sorts of trouble). The inclusion of a little detail like this made me feel that my editor loved Adam as much as I did. Plus, the lake looks exactly like the lake where I grew up, and Lori looks as un-self-consciously pretty as I’d pictured her in my head (and less windblown, and cleaner). Imho this cover could not be more perfect.

Now, if the cover of The Ex Games were to follow this pattern, Hayden would be showing her lucky four-leaf-clover earring. However, I respect the decision not to put this on the cover. Nothing says “hilarious teen romance novel” like a HUGE EAR! LOOK AT MY EAR! Instead, it was Editor Mike’s idea to have Hayden and Nick standing back-to-back before their snowboarding competition against each other. Nick is so handsome--I expect him to flick his hair out of his eyes with his pinkie any second--and Hayden’s outfit is as cute as anything sold by Roxy. They look excited and happy, and thrilled to be on the slopes together. Imho this cover could not be more perfect.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

“What do you love about your Simon Pulse Ro-Com covers?”

I heard that this is the question of the month for the Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies blog, which sounds great to me. The only other thing I can think about right now would be the obnoxious heatwave we're having in San Diego. 102 today, and I live 15 min from the beach!! Anyway, what do I love most about my covers? There are lots of things. I think my favorite part about every single one of my book covers is seeing them for the first time. I love to see what the artists come up with and it's almost always consistent with my vision. I have a bunch of covers framed in my office, and I love seeing the foreign titles for some of my adult books. My agent, Elise Capron, always tells me I look like Natalie on the Love Off-Limits cover. I wish. If I had Natalie's figure I would give away my elliptical machine tomorrow. I love the colors Amy Saidens came up with for Love Off-Limits also. There is something about fall colors that are so alluring and comforting. The cover of Party Games captures so many elements from the book. Sara's blue necklace is small but significant in the story and I was so pleased to see the necklace included on the cover. Not to mention that Ian looks pretty cute and is someone I would've had a crush on. So I can't wait to see what is in store for the next book! I'll let everyone know as soon as I find out.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Where do ideas come from?

This is one of the questions I get a lot - from readers, my coworkers, even my mom - and it's one of my favorite questions to answer. The answer: I get my ideas from really weird places. Take the proposal I'm working on now...I was driving one day, and heard a crazy cool story on NPR's Science Friday that got me thinking about things and BAM! that night I had a concept in mind. Of course, it's morphed a lot since then and is not even polished yet, but NPR was my muse.

Other places where I get stories:

1) Eavesdropping (a lot...especially listening to people gossip in dressing rooms or bar restrooms or other creepy/lurky places like that where I shouldn't admit to snooping on people).

2) The library - browsing around among the books and, yes, okay, snooping on people. As you may imagine, I've read Harriet the Spy many times.

3) Other peoples' book covers that make me think about something totally different than the book they're covering.

4) Ideas that I've stolen from my husband - I'm not ashamed to admit it.

5) Memories and imagined memories of old (especially rotten) boyfriends and crushes.

Idea-gathering is my favorite part of being a writer. Since I started writing books, I've noticed that I'm always sponging up everything around me, stealing little snippets and dialogue and character traits from everyone around me. (So LOOK OUT people who hang out with me!)

What inspires you?

Thursday, August 27, 2009


The Ex Games isn’t due out until September 8, but Barnes and says it’s ready to ship in 2 to 3 days. You know what that means. Barnes and heard a rumor that their shipment is in the stockroom somewhere. So it’s time for us to start looking for the book in stores, too! Either that or there has been some horrible mistake and Barnes and will take the “usually ships in 2 to 3 days” phrase off their web site in a few hours! Either one.

Well, whatever. I’m so excited, I’m starting this contest anyway, to get us in the winter spirit. It’s


1. If you are a youngling, first get permission for this from your Responsible Old Person.

2. Find a copy of The Ex Games. Library copies are fine. Take a photo of the book in snow or ice. No, it doesn’t have to be snow on the ground that fell from the sky. That would not be fair to my fellow Alabamians. We will not get snow until March, if then. Be creative. Take a picture of it in your sno-cone machine, or the freezer. Prop it up against your little brother’s Star Wars Ice Planet Hoth play set. I probably won’t know the difference.


Take a photo or draw a picture of a Winter Scene of Teen Love. (No book required.)

3. E-mail me the photo or picture at echolsjenn at yahoo dot com. To make this fair, I won't count any entries I receive before 8 p.m. Central on September 8, and I'll count them in the order I find them in my inbox.

4. The first seven entries before September 30 win a free signed copy of The Boys Next Door, Major Crush, or Going Too Far—your choice! (BTW, if you haven’t read The Boys Next Door, you need to do that before the sequel comes out next June. I’m just sayin.’)

5. Void where prohibited. Only residents of U.S. states may enter.

Update Sept 31: I just read a new article that says book giveaways requiring a purchase may be illegal in some places. I just want to give away some books IS THAT SO WRONG? *sniffle* Anyhoo, I have tweaked the contest rules a bit: a purchase is not required, and only residents of U.S. states may enter. I’m sorry, Finland.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Here, Kitty Kitty!

I've always been a cat person. When my husband and I bought our first house, it didn't take long for us to get a kitten. She was very sickly and tiny at first, but she grew into the most beautiful, spunky, crazy cat I've ever had. That's Moxie, prowling behind me in the photo. Now she's very old and after several visits to the vet, it's evident she won't live much longer. But don't get sad; something great has happened!

You see, last week, my family was on a walk and as we passed a bush by the highway, I heard a kitten mew. The tiniest ball of gray fur came bounding out and instantly cozied up to us. After playing with her for a little while, my youngest son looked up at his dad with those big blue eyes and said, "Can I have the kitty for my birthday?" (Yes, it was the day before his third birthday. Smart kid, eh?) So we knocked on doors but no one had any info on the kitten. We took her home and introduced her to Moxie and fed her and played with her. The next morning, she'd left a dead mouse on our doorstep. (I'd rather a box of chocolate or a flower or something, but maybe she's trainable.)

I could go on and on about how fun little Zoey is, and how she's the friendliest cat I've ever known. But back to Moxie, our geriatric kitty. Bringing home the new kitten has breathed new life into her. She's out and about more, kind of showing the kitten the lay of the land. They eat together, sleep together, go on strolls together. It's really something! So I'm confident that if Moxie passes away sometime soon, her last days will have been improved because of the little kitten who chose to live with us.

Friday, August 14, 2009

You either love the thrift store, or you don't.

My husband loves the thrift store. I am not sure whether this is because he grew up without a lot of money, or because he now works as a salesman and loves the idea of making an advantageous trade. All I know is that he haunts the thrift store. He has ascertained that they put out new merchandise on Tuesday, and Thursday is two for one day. Several times he has almost bought pants there, then realized that they were his own pants that he gave away to the thrift store last year.

Lucky for him, we live not far from Unclaimed Baggage, which is even better than the thrift store (if you are into this sort of thing). This store buys lost luggage from the airlines and sells the suitcases and everything in them. It is a gold mine for the thrift store lover, and you are much less likely to buy your own pants. Many a time my husband has called me from Unclaimed Baggage to ask my advice on buying a table, or a bomber jacket, or clothes for our child. I always say


because I do not love the thrift store. The economy is bad and we need to tighten our belts like everybody else, but I am just sorry. I draw the line at the thrift store. You have no idea what the previous owner has done in, to, or with that stuff. It could be sprinkled with anthrax. It could be laced with marijuana residue, and the drug dogs will hunt you down. You know what you will say to the police? "But these are not my pants! There was a previous owner of these pants!" And you will sound like every other criminal on COPS.

I think a lot of my fear stems from a Nancy Drew book--not part of the newfangled series, but the original series that remains in your library only because the librarian is nostalgic about these books since she read them when she was a tween herself, back in 1805 or so. You know, the series in which Nancy has titian hair (whatever that is) and drives a sedan and wears smart outfits, and her father Carson Drew wears trousers, and her friend George (a girl with a boy's name--edgy!!!) has cropped hair and a boyish figure, and her friend Bess is pleasingly plump.

I want to say the book in question is The Spider Sapphire Mystery. Nancy and her boyfriend Ned (and probably George, Bess, Burt, and Dave, maybe even the motherly housekeeper Hannah--I don't know) take an overseas flight. They leave their suitcases unattended for a moment (DON'T DO IT NANCY AND NED YOU FOOLS) and when they pick the suitcases up again, their hands itch and burn! Is it psoriasis? Is it anthrax? NO IT'S ACID! While they had their backs turned, THE VILLAIN PAINTED THEIR SUITCASE HANDLES WITH ACID!!!!!!!!

You can see why a have a particular problem with Unclaimed Baggage.

In light of all this, imagine my dismay when I came home yesterday and found the following:

Me: Oh God, you've been to the thrift store again.

Husband: Who, me?

Me: How much did you pay for this?

Husband: Thirty dollars.

(I can tell he is lying. His trips to the thrift store are a veritable web of deceit.)

Me: It's ripped.

Husband: It's supposed to be that way, because it's a recliner.

Me: Recliners are not supposed to be ripped.

Husband: Okay, maybe I ripped it trying to get it up the stairs. It wasn't ripped when I bought it.

Me: Was it white originally?

Husband: No, it's supposed to be brown.

Me: Then why is it lighter brown on the top than it is on the bottom?

Husband: It isn't. I cleaned it.

Me: It smells.

Husband: That's the cleaner.

Me: (A) What I smell does not smell like cleaner and (B) YOU SHOULD NEVER BUY FURNITURE THAT NEEDS TO BE CLEANED!!!

Husband: Help me get it upstairs.

Me: No!

If I am lucky, this chair will soon be for sale again at our local thrift store. If I am unlucky, it will find a home in our den, where it will grace the atmosphere with its peculiar odor. Who needs Glade? And if I am very unlucky, my whole family is about to be hospitalized for anthrax. Or acid.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Nine Pounds

Most writers I know reward themselves after finishing a book, mailing out a proposal, or working through a particularly tricky part of their work-in-progress. It's a great incentive to keep going when the writing isn't easy.

Some writers buy themselves a gift (jewelry, shoes, and handbags seem to be popular amongst my friends.) Others go get a manicure or a massage. Some take a day (or a week) away from the computer to get fresh air and/or travel before diving into the next project. I think rewarding yourself for a job well done is always a good idea, whether you're a writer or not.

Since I wrapped up a new proposal last week, I went to Holliston, Massachusetts (one of the towns featured in Sticky Fingers) to go blueberry picking.

Ever wonder what nine pounds of blueberries looks like? Me, too. Mostly because I picked nine, but only seven and a half made it to the counter for this photo by the end of the day. I was eating them like one might nosh on a bowl of popcorn. and a half pounds of blueberries:

Think this isn't a great writing reward? Three words for you: Homemade blueberry cobbler.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Hotel Wi-Fi is as Flaky as I Feel!

One of the things I both fear and dread is summer travel. For various reasons, we have done very little this actual summer (did quite a bit in the spring). Seeing family is fun, but stressful, and going South means hot weather. I'm a little melt-y in hot weather, given that I've lived in Maine for 21 years (!?!). We knew we'd have to take at least one trip (part business for DH and part family), and we'd planned it in our minds for mid-August.

One week ago yesterday, DH told me our timetable had changed and we'd be going to Ohio...on Saturday. And then on to Delaware. So I frantically tried to catch up on everything I had to do (and the four unexpected things that dropped into my lap last week...sheesh!). I almost succeeded. I was pretty pleased. Everything I had left to do could be done in a hotel room with Wi-Fi. Or so I thought (cue ominous music).

What I can do: write; listen to my i-Pod; exercise in the fitness room; swim in the pool; check e-mail sporadically; send e-mail -- if there are no attachments (hence no pictures of Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls -- gorgeous!). Now, some of the work I needed to do requires me to send files, so this is actually a big problem. I've attempted sending the e-mail with files at various times of the day (and night). No luck.

All I can say is thank goodness for Starbucks. I know there is one in Delaware with nice, reliable Wi-Fi. I should be able to send out my files on Friday.

I'm trying to take lessons from the annoying obstacles in my life. From this one, I'm taking the lesson that I should enjoy the pool and fitness room when I can, and forgive the hotel its flaky Wi-Fi. After all, life is short, and there is a maid to clean my room!

P.S. I have updated my website after a long hiatus (ds1, aka my webmaster, was busy, but he finally figured out how to take my high maintenance DreamWeaver site and turn it into a low-maintenance Wordpress site). No fancy bells and whistles yet, but one day soon (when I am back with my lovely high speed internet access at home).

(going to stretch out, turn on my i-Pod and write guilt free for the rest of the no-housework day)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Love Off Limits hits shelves!

I think the last time I posted on the Simon Pulse ro com blog was when I had just finished writing Love Off Limits, and now it's available to purchase! Yes, time has totally escaped me. You're probably wondering why I've been a ghost around here. Well, I had another baby girl late last year. When you have two children under the age of three time moves differently. It flies. And two little ones are plenty enough to keep anyone away from their favorite blog let alone a hair salon, the grocery store -- even my own front yard most days. It has been a whirlwind and I can hardly believe that Love Off Limits is in bookstores!
I'm really proud of this book. It's full of irony and a little scandal too -- juicy. Natalie Dean, the heroine of my story, is leading a double life. By day, she is a secret columnist for the romance section of her school newspaper, dishing out sound advice for the romantically wounded and conflicted on campus. By night, she seeks help for her own love life on a popular love advice website. Why is she seeking advice? Because she has a whopper of a crush on her boyfriend's best friend, and doesn't know how to handle this impossible situation. I don't want to give away too much more, but I hope you all enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Okay, I should really go help my husband. I think he might be using the dust buster to remove food from my child's hair.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Models wanted

It seems like only yesterday that my father-in-law found an adorable kitten abandoned under his house.

I took Kitty in, because he needed me, and because I thought I could exploit him to publicize my books.

However, it was NOT only yesterday. It was more than a year and countless cans of Friskies Meaty Bits ago. Now Kitty is wearing his Meaty Bits on his hips, but he continues to live in the fast lane as if he were still three months old.

The saddest part is, he genuinely does not seem to realize his career as a model is over.

Like so many child stars who don’t age well, he is no longer an effective spokescat for my books. We here at Jennifer Echols LLC try to portray an upbeat image to the teens, and we feel that Kitty would be more comfortable hawking another product, such as denture cream or protective undergarments.

This means I am in the market for a new spokesperson for The Ex Games, due in stores on September 8. If you know any talking babies or Chihuahuas, please send them my way.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

New Book Trailer & FREE book giveawy!

Hello! It's always so exciting to see which Ro-Coms are coming out. Congrat's to those authors who have summer releases.

I'm way behind on my blogging because I'm busy traveling and getting a new book whipped into shape. But I have some pretty exciting news to share. Check out the book trailer for Miss Match

I hope you enjoy it! To celebrate, I'm giving away a FREE signed copy of Miss Match. Just contact me via my website and write "enter me" in your message to be entered into a random drawing on Monday, Aug. 3.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Your Half-Year's Resolution

I usually give myself two fresh starts a year—one on New Year’s Day and the other on my birthday. I was born in March, the month when most people (especially moi) are loosening their grip on their New Year’s resolutions. So by the time March 19th rolls around, I quietly rededicate myself to those personal promises I made back in January. But in 2009, I’m giving myself a third opportunity to stay on course.

July 1st marked the start of the year’s second half. Sounds like a good time as any to throw out what hasn’t worked and pick up better habits. So, call me Cap’n, because I’m setting sail and charting a new and improved course.

Yep, that’s me and our house guest (my groom’s best man) on a hobikat (read: a raft with a sail attached). Nevermind that seconds after this photo was taken, the sail whipped around and knocked that brand new cap right off my head and into the water (never to be seen again). And so what we had to be rescued two hours later after difficulty navigating back to shore? Living close to the ocean has inspired me. It’s all about staying afloat, navigating through rough waves, letting the wind catch your sail…and any other maritime-born cliché you can think of.

My half-year checkup showed that I’ve been feeling easily overwhelmed (editing and writing deadlines, traveling, hosting a parade of house guests, etc.). Time to pick up the slack and get back on board. My half-year’s resolution is to read and write more hours in the day, stay disciplined, and dedicate myself to regular exercise and better eating habits (I recently purchased my first yoga mat!).

This calls for a little inspiration.
Here I am standing tall next to the tall ships visiting from all over the world.

Anyone with me? What’s your half-year’s resolution?

Chicks ahoy! :-)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Great news! least, if you're ready for a ro-com set in a winter wonderland! The publication date of The Ex Games has been moved up to September 8. You can see the description here, or listen to the soundtrack and read the first chapter here. Then leave a comment in my guestbook and tell me what you think!

However, as it is 90 degrees here in Alabama (and we think that's nice and cool for July), I am having a little difficulty getting into the winter spirit. I just spent a terrific 4th of July down at the 44,000-acre lake where I grew up, which is also the basis for the setting of Major Crush and The Boys Next Door. There was a boat parade in the morning--here's an example with somebody dressed up like a hot dog, and in the background you can see one of the bridges that inspired Lori and Adam's bridge in The Boys Next Door.

That night we watched the fireworks over the lake. After using the "fireworks" setting on my camera, I am no longer impressed by this feature, but at the bottom right you can see the lights of hundreds of boats that watch the show from the lake (I have done that too, when I was a teenager, and it was awesome). Under the fireworks you can see the smoke from burning bushes. It is not a party in Alabama until something catches fire.

The 4th is over, but next week I'm going on the trip I look forward to every summer: the Romance Writers of America National Convention, where I see all my writer friends. If you live in the Washington D.C. area, you should definitely come to the charity booksigning next Wednesday night. I'll be signing Going Too Far, and you can meet other YA authors including Rosemary Clement-Moore, Melissa Marr, and our own Niki Burnham. Bring your mom, because Nora Roberts, Jennifer Crusie, Linda Howard, Allison Brennan, and my critique partner Victoria Dahl are always there, along with hundreds of others. If you miss me Wednesday night, you can come to the Pocket signing from 9:45 to 11:15 Friday morning (Going Too Far is published by MTV Books, which is a division of Pocket Books, which is a division of Simon & Schuster = the publishing industry is hopelessly complicated). And if D.C. is a world away from you, keep in mind that next July the convention will be held in Nashville.

After the convention, I have one more beach trip to go, and then my son goes back to school on August 10. So I guess the summer really is drawing to a close for me. How about your summer? What have you been up to? Do you feel like your glass of summery goodness is half-full or half-empty?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Non-required reading

Question: When is a Ro Com author not a Ro Com author?

Nah, it's not really a riddle! 
Survey says: when she's authoring her own fancy new hardcover novel, which, in the case of Aimee Friedman, is the upcoming Sea Change from Scholastic Point!

Aimee's book is the story of a girl who finds a magical kind of love at the beach over the course of one mysterious summer--the perfect book to toss in your tote on your way to your own fun-in-the-sun afternoon. This past Wednesday, Aimee hosted a book party at the beautiful Boat Basin Cafe . The weather co-operated, and it was the ideal balmy night to fete a book that celebrates the steamy, sexy atmosphere of a summer romance. That's Aimee on the left up there--isn't she purty?--next to me, and authors Lynn Weingarten and Claudia Gabel. Fun was had by all, and we talked books in between fruity cocktails and stories about boys. All in all, a perfect book party!

Summer is a great time to catch up on our easy, breezy, escapist reading (hence my copy of LA Candy sitting beside me on the desk AS WE SPEAK). OBVS, the Simon Pulse Ro Coms make for great beach reads, but what you might not know is that your fave Ro Com authors also write original stories that are one hundred percent vacation-tested, Micol-approved. 

Some suggestions (keep in mind that this list is in no way exhaustive):

1. Goddess Games by Niki Burnham: One summer at a spa that changes everything. Personally, I don't even care about the dramz--summer at a SPA? I'm there!
2. The Drama series by Paul Ruditis: because you know you need your HSM fix. 
3. Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols: edgy + hot = sign me up!

Oh--and of course, don't forget Sea Change!

So, what are YOU reading this summer? 

*and PS: not to be too self-serving, but I'd probably be remiss if I didn't mention a certain other project out just in time for summer...