Saturday, February 28, 2009

Top 10 Signs that I’m Up Against a Tight Deadline

10. I have not set foot outside all day…
9. Which is fine, because I’m still in my pajamas…
8. And I haven’t showered…
7. And I’m not really sure what day it is anyway.
6. My caffeine intake has tripled.
5. I keep moving from my office to the living room just for a change of scene.
4. I freak when my printer runs out of ink at midnight. (Because I like to edit on actual paper.)
3. I’m already at the computer before The Today Show comes on.
2. I take inexplicable breaks to blog because my mind is mush and I guess it needs to focus on something else.

And the #1 sign that I am on a tight deadline:
I’m all out of Pop-Tarts.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Look, Mike!

It's Finland! We swear!

The contest is still open...

And, coming soon, a cover that will fit in a little better in Tampere...

Thanks to Amy Saidens for another beautiful job.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Personal Stories

Sometimes real life is stranger than fiction. So, when I get the chance, I like to write non-fiction. It started in childhood when I filled up diary after diary with notes about being an introverted ham. And it continues today with blogging (although I should blog with as much frequency). Now I’m pleased to announce that my non-fiction essay “The Heart Does Go On” has been published in the new anthology IT’S ALL LOVE.

I’ve written super personal essays before—like when my editors at seventeen convinced me to contribute to the all-about-boobs feature titled “The A, B, C’s of Bra Sizes.” But this one is about the particularly delicate matter of losing three loved ones back to back. IT’S ALL LOVE is a collection of essays (fiction and non) and poems by African-American authors who are both famous (Gwendolyn Brooks and Nikki Giovanni among them!) and up-and-coming. Proceeds from the book go to benefit the Hurston/Wright Foundation.

And speaking of African-American writers, this Black History Month, I have sooo been getting schooled by The Brown Bookshelf and their fabulous roundup of daily interviews with Black authors and illustrators of YA and children’s books. If you haven’t yet checked it out, do head over. But be prepared. Every time I visit, my reading list just keeps getting longer and longer and longer…

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Another Ro-Com Launched!

As comedienne Chelsea Handler says, "What a whirlwind!" My second Simon Pulse Romantic Comedy, MISS MATCH, came out on Feb. 11 and it's been non-stop excitement ever since. First, Salt Lake City radio station 97.1 ZHT had a crazy Valentine's Day Massacre at Valley Fair Mall. 97 ladies hurled their bodies into a huge cake in search of a diamond ring and other prizes. The deejays invited me to come for an interview. It was a blast! Only next year, I want to sign up to do the cake diving! (BTW, this is a photo of the cake dive, NOT people diving for the last copy of MISS MATCH. Haha.)

Then, on Valentine's Day, I drove to Tooele, Utah for a Kids Love Authors event at the Purple Cow Bookstore. You can check it out here (The Purple Cow's blog) and here (Sara Zarr's blog). Pictured here are (back row: Mike Knudsen, me, Randall Wright, Emily Wing Smith; front row: Kristen Landon, Sara Zarr, Jessica Day George, Anne Bowen)

And finally, we had an open house at my home to welcome MISS MATCH into the world. Even though we got a reported 31 inches of snow that day, had to get two vehicles unstuck, and other exciting mishaps, people actually showed up in their snow gear and 4x4s to snack and hang out with my mom, sis, bro, and cousin who were so kind to fly out here to help celebrate.

All and all, it's been a very exciting and fun week, but I have to admit a long soak in the bathtub sounds really good about now. (Did I mention I got a new snowboard for my birthday--which is coming up March 3--and have been taking full advantage of it with my brother in town?) So I'm going to cut this post short and indulge. Hope you had a great Valentine's Day and thanks for stopping by the Ro-Com blog!

We've got the scoop!

Look for these new Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies coming soon! ♥

***COMING IN MARCH 2009***

Love on Cue
By Catherine Hapka

When you have to sing your heart out, it’s best to know how...

Maggie Tannery is a true theater girl--at least she is now. Back in middle school, she was so self-conscious her parents actually made her try out for her school play, but amazingly, Maggie discovered that when she's on stage her shyness disappears. Everyone knows that Maggie's practically a shoo-in for the lead in this year's production of Romeo & Juliet. But Maggie's got other things on her mind besides playing Juliet--she's hoping fellow drama club member Derek O'Malley will be her Romeo on and off-stage.

But Maggie gets a major case of stage fright when she finds out that her school has decided to stage a musical instead of a play--and Maggie can't sing! Knowing that Derek's still going for the lead male role, she keeps her eyes on the prize and decides to get some voice lessons from Nico Vasquez, a drama club member in charge of mixing background music for their performances. Things get complicated when Nico starts making backstage passes at Maggie. It looks like the music man of Maggie's dreams is not who she thinks it is...

***COMING IN JUNE 2009***

Drive Me Crazy
By Erin Downing

Three friends kick off the summer with an unforgettable road trip. Destination: true love!

Kate’s tote is packed and she’s ready for a road trip! She and her two best friends, Sierra and Alexis, are geared up for a week of fun and freedom on the road to their family lake houses in Love, Wisconsin. Best of all, when Kate reaches Love, she’ll be reunited with Lucas, with whom she shared a steamy end-of-summer kiss last year. Kate can’t wait to see Lucas again and pick things up exactly where they left off.

Then Kate gets some seriously bad news: Alexis’s sarcastic, condescending, hot-but-he-knows-it cousin is crashing the girls’ road trip. Adam bugs Kate in every possible way. Now Kate just wants to get the road trip over with so she can spend the summer in Lucas’s arms. But the road to Love is full of surprises…


Love Off Limits
By Whitney Lyles

Breaking up is hard to do!

Natalie should be the happiest girl in the world, dating Jeremy who is totally hot and perfect by everyone’s standards. But something just isn’t right. The seemingly flawless couple has been dating since freshman year, and now Natalie fears the spark may be fizzling…at least on her end. But she’s not sure if breaking up is the right thing to do.

Being such an expert in love (or so people think), Natalie gets coaxed into writing a romance column for the school newspaper. And soon she finds spending time with her editor, Matt, to be way worth the work. It seems like the answer’s staring her straight in the face. Dump Jeremy and go out with Matt. There’s just one catch; Matt is Jeremy’s best friend, and dumping your boyfriend to date his closest friend is just wrong…right?

Shopping list!

Here’s a complete list of the Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies published so far. They’re all still available in bookstores--if you don’t find them on the shelves, ask the store to order them for you. Happy reading! ♥

How Not to Spend Your Senior Year
By Cameron Dokey

Rule #1: If at all possible, don't pretend to be something you're not. Specifically, don't play dead. Trust me on this one. I did it, so I should know.
Jo O'Connor has spent her whole life moving around. When it comes to new schools, there's not a trick in the book about starting over that Jo doesn't know. But life is about to teach her a new trick: how to disappear entirely.

Rule #2: Always expect the Spanish Inquisition, no matter what anyone else does.

They have to move again. Now. This very night. Jo knows better than to argue. Her dad is the key witness in a major case against a big-time bad guy. But Jo just can't resist one last visit to the school where she's been so happy. All she wants is to say good-bye. That can't cause any problems, can it?

Rule #3: Never assume you can predict the future.

Now Jo's one last visit has landed her smack in the middle of a ghost story. Specifically, her own. By the time it's over, she'll have a whole new set of rules about what's real, what's make-believe, and -- most of all -- what's important.

Royally Jacked
By Niki Burnham

Valerie's life is pretty good. While she's not the most popular girl in school, she does have decent grades, great friends, and a potential boyfriend. All a girl could want.Then her mother announces that (1) she's gay, and (2) she's leaving Valerie's dad for her girlfriend. Not what Valerie envisioned for her future. And just when Valerie is getting over this bombshell, her father tells her he's gotten a new job as protocol chief for the royal family of some obscure European country.

Valerie's world has come unglued. She can either stay in Virginia with her mom and her über-organized, veggie-burger-eating girlfriend, or go with her dad, leaving everything she knows for some place she's never heard of. Valerie opts to go, and quickly discovers that it was a mistake -- until she meets the prince, and all bets are off!

Ripped at the Seams
By Nancy Krulik

There's a new fashion designer in town, and "Fashion Don'ts" have never been more in style!

Sami Granger is fresh off the bus from the Midwest when some crazy person in the bus terminal warns her that life in New York City won't be what she always dreamed of. But Sami's determined to make it in an industry that is notoriously hard to break in to. Nothing she ever learned in her small town can prepare her for her first job working for a hot-shot designer: He steals her designs!

Now the only place that will hire Sami is a trashy lingerie store that she's too embarrassed to tell her old-fashioned father about. Will a visit from her father land Sami on the catwalk, or out on the sidewalk?

South Beach Sizzle
By Suzanne Weyn and Diana Gonzalez

Is Enrique trying to win her over -- or just trying to win?

Road trip! Lula Cruz has her last summer before college all mapped out. She's checking out of NYC and checking in to the sizzling hot "SoBe" scene with her best friend, Jeff.

When their day jobs get to be a drag, they spice things up by entering a local band contest. And spicy it is! Turns out that the hottie Lula keeps running into is also her band's toughest competition! Enrique might seem like the perfect guy, but as things heat up Lula has to wonder: Can she trust her biggest rival with her heart?


By Caroline Goode

Dating in high school is like reality TV. It can get pretty surreal.

Between the strict social ladder (geeks' lockers left, jocks' to the right), and silly, pointless rules (no hand-holding, no kissing, no breathing!), high school is the single worst place to find a boyfriend. And Laura Sweeney is no exception. She hasn't had a date since...well, ever.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. So Laura is calling in the big guns. She needs guidance. A proven "get the guy" strategy.

Luckily she knows exactly the expert to call. He's a matchmaking mastermind who actually has the bow and arrow to prove it. Let's just call him...Cupid.

Spin Control
By Niki Burnham

Valerie Winslow never thought life in the tiny country of Schwerinborg could be so great.

But then she never thought she would be dating the prince of Schwerinborg either! Georg, a real prince, is also her first real boyfriend.

And then everything falls apart. Georg's decided they need to cool off for a while and her dad's sending her back to Virginia to visit her mom.

Valerie's bummed -- until she decides to go out with her old crush, David Anderson. David may not be a prince, but maybe he'll take her mind off of Georg -- or will he?


She’s Got the Beat
By Nancy Krulik


Miranda was the quiet type...until she moved to Austin. Home of the hippest college rock bands, Austin, Texas, is a scene. And Miranda is dying to break out of her small-town shell. So she decides to do something totally un-Miranda: learn to play the drums.

When crashing the cymbals, the girl's a wild child! Plus there's a perk to her new gig: a cute bass player. Unfortunately Mr. Bass Man isn't exactly looking for love. Can this rocker chick change his tune? Or does finding her own rhythm mean sacrificing true love?

30 Guys in 30 Days
By Micol Ostow

Practice makes not-quite-perfect

Claudia Clarkson just cut the cord from her high school love-you-forever boyfriend. Sure, she misses Drew. But with so many eligibles on her new college campus, why study ancient history?

Problem is, Claudia's lived in la-la-loveland for so long that she's completely forgotten how to meet boys -- and how to flirt.

Then her roommate proposes a solution: Meet one new guy every day for thirty days. Consider it "target practice" for when Mr. Perfect comes along. Claudia's game, but she definetely hasn't got game. In fact, Flirting 101 could be her toughest course to pass...

Animal Attraction
By Jamie Ponti

The Season of (No?) Love

Jane's life is one giant Conspiracy, with the whole world plotting to keep any chance of romance far, far away. Her social history (17 years, 0 boyfriends) is proof positive of that. But this summer, she's determined to crank it up.

Jane's snagged a gig at the local theme park as part of the star attraction -- the Mermaid Show. But then the Conspiracy strikes, and she ends up starstruck in a furry beaver costume all day long. Hard to breathe, let alone flirt....Can Jane figure a way out of the beaver suit and into the arms of her summer love?

A Novel Idea
By Aimee Friedman

Required reading has never been so hot.

Once upon a time there was a Brooklyn hipster named Norah. Unlucky in love, and short on extracurriculars for her college apps, Norah decided to start a book group. She knew the perfect locale -- a local indie bookstore with a crush-worthy cutie manning the soy latte counter.

When the first meeting arrives, Norah gets a page-turning surprise. The attendees may be bookish, but there are also a few hotties! Most noteworthy: sweet, literary James. He's like a modern Jane Austen hero.... Only, how to snag him?

Ever the romantic heroine, Norah devises a secret plan. And if it works, Norah may just find her "Happily Ever After" love story. The End.

Scary Beautiful
By Niki Burnham

Chloe Rand's life is great.

She has a serious boyfriend, she's about to start her junior year of high school, and she has a tight group of girlfriends. But when her boyfriend moves across the country and decides the long-distance-relationship thing just isn't for him, Chloe's devastated. Worse, she soon learns that when you're the prettiest girl in school and totally unattached, everyone starts treating you differently. Girls don't trust you, guys aren't sure what to make of you, and everyone assumes you're either spoiled, dumb, or both.

Chloe realizes that she's been living the last few years in a bubble and decides to do something about it. But when she falls for Billy, a total geek, will it make her situation better...or worse?

Getting to Third Date
By Kelly McClymer

Could a forgotten cutie be Katelyn's newest catch?

Katelyn Spears is a firm believer in the two-date rule. First dates are so awkward; every guy deserves a second chance. But a third? Not unless he's got serious Romeo potential.

Enter Tyler. Tyler thinks Katelyn's rule is too harsh. He dares her to go back through her Little Pink Book and grant a third date to all the two-date duds. Oh, and she should report back to the whole school via her newspaper column.

Standing by her policy (and determined to prove Tyler wrong), Katelyn makes a few phone calls. But will any of her old flames rekindle a romance?

Dancing Queen
By Erin Downing

Who needs Prince Charming if you've got a rock star?

It's official. Olivia is a superfreak. Sure, she may have landed the hottest internship at an übercool TV music station. And yes, she's chilling with A-listers in London all summer. But when she meets her very first pop star, she gets caught in a revolving glass door and falls smack down on her bum -- all in one quick motion.

Luckily, Rocker Boy thinks Liv's quirks are adorable. He takes her clubbing at the hippest spots! Liv may be clumsy on solid ground, but on the dance floor she sparkles. The summer's just begun and she's already captured the spotlight -- and a celeb's heart, too. Now if only she was sure he's the right guy...


Major Crush
By Jennifer Echols

Marching to the beat of a different drum...

Tired of the beauty-pageant circuit, Virginia Sauter tosses her tiara, pierces her nose, and auditions for the most unlikely of roles -- drum major of the high school marching band.

Virginia wins, but is forced to share the title with Drew, whose family has held the position for generations. Sure, Drew is hot, but because of his superior attitude, he and Virginia are constantly arguing. That is, until they share more than just their half-time salute...

But as the drum major's heated competition turns to sizzling romance, explosive rumors threaten everything -- including the band's success. Love seemed to be a sure hit, but Virginia and Drew may be marching straight into disaster.

By Niki Burnham

When it comes to love, how many chances do you get?

Girl meets prince. Girl loses prince. Girl gets prince back -- right? Well, that's what Valerie is hoping. She's back in Schwerinborg after spending some time with her mother in the good ol' US of A, and hopes that sparks are still flying between her and Georg. At first it looks like things are going great, until a ski trip to the Alps has Val and Georg's romance hitting some moguls. Could Val's love life be heading for a face-plant?

Love Undercover
by Johanna Edwards

True love needs no disguise.

Kaitlyn Nichols craves a little mystery and mayhem in her life. Having a top-secret agent for a father should do the trick, but unfortunately Dad is no 007, and danger is nowhere on the horizon.

But all that changes when Mr. Nichols brings home Blaine, a seventeen-year-old hottie who’s about to enter the Witness Protection Program. Suddenly Kaitlyn’s in the perilous position of protecting the cutest guy she’s ever met!

When Dad enrolls Blaine in her high school, it’s up to Kait to detect the girls who want him... and the guys who want to kill him. Meanwhile, Kait’s about to discover that there’s one thing she can’t protect--her heart...

Prom Crashers
By Erin Downing

Will you go to the proms with me?

It was love at first sight for Emily and Ethan. But then Em lost his number, and with it, lost all hope of finding a real boyfriend before the end of senior year. All she knows about Ethan is his first name, that he has a super-cute smile, and the fact that he’s going to a prom this month. Which high school? That’s anyone’s guess...

Em enlists the help of her three best friends, who quickly score some formalwear and hail a limo. Together, Emily, Charlie, Max, and Sid vow to find Ethan, to find a cure for senioritis, and most importantly, to find true love--one hilarious prom night at a time.

Gettin' Lucky
By Micol Ostow

Looking for love in Las Vegas...

Cass Parker is a big believer in luck, fate, and all things karmic. So she’s devastated when she walks in on her supposed best friend macking with Jesse, the guy she’s in total "like" with. Talk about bad karma. Vegas is just full of cheaters, she concludes, even the locals.

But Cass refuses to sulk. She finds new friends, and even gets invited to join their weekly poker night--totally casual and not-for-profit, of course. They seem pretty chill, and Cass definitely needs to get out more. So after consulting her horoscope, she gets in the game.

But when Jesse turns up for a final showdown, it turns out that Cass isn’t so good at bluffing--not when it comes to matters of the heart...

The Boys Next Door
by Jennifer Echols

Cute, available, and one cabin over.

Lori lives for summertime at her family's lake house. She spends all season wakeboarding, swimming, and hanging with her friends--including the two hotties in the cabin next door. With the Vader brothers, Lori's always been one of the guys.

But while Lori and the "baby" brother, Adam, are inseparable friends, she can't deny a secret crush on Sean, the older Vader boy. This year Sean's been paying Lori a lot of attention, and not in a brotherly way.

But just as Lori decides to prove to Sean she's girlfriend material, she realizes that her role as girl friend to Adam may be even more important. And by trying so hard for the perfect summer romance, she could be going way overboard...

In the Stars
By Stacia Deutsch & Rhody Cohon

Which do you follow: your head or your heart?

When Sylvie loses the diamond from her late mother’s ring, her best friend Cherise insists it’s a sign that love is about to enter Sylvie’s life. Yeah, right. Sylvie doesn’t believe in signs--she only star gazes through her telescope. But she also knows Cherise won’t drop it, so to humor her Sylvie agrees to date the next boy who asks.Sure enough, a new guy in school appears and Sylvie’s the object of his affection. Maybe Cherise was right after all? But when the sparks don’t fly and Cherise thinks she’s just scared, Sylvie ends up confiding in an old friend. Could finding the perfect guy be as rare as catching a shooting star?


Crush du Jour
By Micol Ostow

When a girl bites off more than she can chew...

Laine barely has enough time for herself, much less for romance. But she's always hungry for more projects--so she decides to start up a cooking class at her local community center. As it turns out, Seth, the guy co-teaching the class with her, is not just cute, but downright delicious!

When Seth offers her a waitress job at his family's restaurant, Hype, Laine can't resist. Just as Seth finally warms up to Laine, Laine finds out that Callie, another waitress at Hype, is cooking up a plan to steal Seth for herself. But tensions really reach their boiling point when Laine's restaurant critic mother writes a scathing review--of Hype! Will Laine have to put love on the back burner again?

The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren
By Wendy Toliver

Geeky to gorgeous in sixty seconds...

Roxy’s about to turn sixteen, but life isn’t so sweet. As a band geek, Roxy can barely get the cute guys to notice her, much less go out with her. Then, on her birthday, Roxy is transformed into a siren: seductively beautiful with the power to control all men. She though sirens were an ancient myth, but suddenly Roxy can get any guy she wants with just a few notes on her flute.

There are only two rules: don’t tell anyone about being a siren, and don’t fall in love. When she starts dating Zach, the guy everybody’s crushing on, Roxy realizes she could get used to this siren thing...but how can she keep herself from falling in love?

Love, Hollywood Style
By P. J. Ruditis

True love doesn't always follow a script...

Tracy Vance’s love life is a total flop. Sure, she has a cool job as a tour guide at a real Hollywood movie studio, but when it comes to her personal life, she can barely get her crush, Connor, to notice her.

Then Tracy gets a brilliant idea: Why not win Connor’s heart with some help from the big screen? Taking her cues from her favorite chick flicks, Tracy puts "Operation Ro Com" into action, and it actuallyseems to work!

But Tracy soon realizes that getting the leading man isn’t the same as keeping him. Maybe things never work out like they do in the movies--or do they?

Something Borrowed
By Catherine Hapka

She’s ready to catch the bouquet, not steal the guy!

When Ava gets dumped by her boyfriend, she’s pretty upset. He wasn’t the love of her life of anything, but with her sister’s wedding--a.k.a. the social event of the season--just two weeks away, Ava’s got to save face by finding someone cute and fun to bring as her date.

With the clock ticking and no dates in sight, Ava asks her best friend if she can "borrow" her boyfriend, Jason, for the night. Ava’s never been a big Jason fan, but he’ll look great in a tux and at least she’ll have someone to dance with. But it doesn’t take long for Ava to realize she’s got him all wrong...

What do you do when Mr. Right is wrapped up in a package that belongs to your best friend?

Party Games
By Whitney Lyles

If only life were one big party...

Sara would be looking forward to her sixteenth birthday, but thanks to her mom’s party planning business, she’s way too wrapped up with someone else’s: spoiled socialite Dakota London‘s. Sara would much rather spend her summer hanging out with Ian, an up-and-coming guitar player and her new crush. But Sara is so busy catering to Dakota’s every wacky whim, she’s got no time to spend with him.

And then, the icing on the cake: Dakota wants Ian to be her date for the big bash! Sara can’t believe the favor she’s been asked, especially because she thinks she’s fallen for Ian. Will this birthday end up more bitter than sweet?


Puppy Love
By Nancy Krulik

Romance can be ruff...

Alana loves her dog-walking job, but it blows her mind to see how pampered these pooches are. Her newest clients actually feed steak to their prized poodle and treat her to massages at a doggie spa! Alana can’t make heads or tails of why anyone would do this--or why she seems to be confiding her frustrations in hunky handyman Connor, and not her own boyfriend, Sammy.

When Sammy starts keeping an awfully tight leash on her, Alana wonders whether Connor might be a better match. But Alana's puppy love comes to a screeching halt when she learns that Connor isn’t who she thought he was. Is Alana barking up the wrong tree with him, too?

The Twelve Dates of Christmas
By Catherine Hapka

Lexi’s feeling a little holidazed this winter...

Lexi Michaels has been with her boyfriend of four years, Cameron Kehoe, way too long. Sure, he's a nice guy, but lately she's felt like there's a spark missing between them. And his plan of staying close to their Christmas-obsessed town of Claus Lake, Wisconsin to attend culinary school just don't mesh with Lexi's big-city dreams. She comes up with the perfect plan--get Cameron to fall for another girl, and she'd be free--guilt-free, too.

But on a chilly December morning, when Lexi sees Cameron looking awfully cozy with new girl Jaylene, she realizes that she's made the stupidest mistake of her life. Will one of Lexi's many schemes get her all she really wants for Christmas--her boyfriend back?

Sea of Love

By Jamie Ponti

When it comes to love, sometimes it’s sink or swim

Like it’s not bad enough that Darby had to leave her longtime boyfriend and NYC life to move to Florida, where her family’s started running a hotel. Now Darby has to help with the hotel’s annual Valentine’s Day "Cupid’s Ball." Things start looking up when local beach hottie Zach takes Darcy surfing and shows her around. Beach life actually starts to grow on this fish out of water.

Then--surprise! A week before the ball, Darby’s NYC ex decides to pay her a visit. Darby’s knee-deep in guilt--because she realizes that she’s head over heels for Zach!

This Valentine’s Day, is Darby ready to dive into a new relationship with the guy who’s captured her heart?

Miss Match
By Wendy Toliver

Want to snag that certain someone? You need Miss Match!

Sasha Finnegan has always had a knack for matchmaking. It all started with Barbie and Ken and grew from there. Now she runs her own match-making business under the disguise of "Miss Match." So far, most of her clients have been strangers...but when Derek Urban hires Sasha to match him up with none other than her gorgeous and popular sister Maddie, she's not sure if she's up for the challenge. Especially since Sasha's crushing on Derek herself.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Entering Storyland (aka: Netflix)

I have finally, finally run out of DVDs, old videotapes, and my backlog of shows on DVR and joined Netflix. Though I am a bona fide movie lover, and there are a TON of movies I'm dying to see, I resisted because I kept thinking things like, "Well, do I really want to spend $8.99 or $13.99 this month when I still have five episodes of LOST to watch?" or "I already spent my TV hour today watching The Young & The Restless. I really ought to work instead of ordering Pineapple Express from Netflix..."

But here's the thing: Watching movies is--for me--a little like work. I get caught up in how the writer(s) crafted the story. I'm in the middle of HBO's Rome right now. Not only am I sooo loving Kevin McKidd (and yes, I did see him in Journeyman, which should NEVER have been cancelled), I'm also loving how the writers brought Rome to life both through the viewpoints of both the haves and the have-nots.

My queue on Netflix is now huge, and it's comprised of TV shows and movies that are (from what I've heard) solidly written. Yes, I did add Pineapple Express. No, I won't stop watching Y&R (Writing tip: if you ever want to know how to make characters interesting over the course of several books, watch soap operas.)

And I'm even doing some of the exercise videos on the "watch instantly" queue (which is work of an entirely different kind.)

So what's in your Netflix queue? What shows or movies have captured your interest with their wonderful storytelling?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I Heart 25 (Bradfordly) Things

Sort of. Actually, I've been tagged by the 25 things note a few times in the last few weeks, but couldn't for the life of me think of 25 things about myself that other people might find interesting. So instead, I've come up with 25 Things about Bradford, aka my new series from Simon Pulse. Perhaps it will even inspire you to swing by our Bradford Blog Bash (, running thru 2/20), to have a peek at the books.
Think of it as a spreading the lurve this Valentine's Day weekend.

Without further ado:

1) Since Spencer Kelly is a distant relative of Princess Grace of Monaco, some of the proposed titles for the books included names of Grace Kelly movies, such as High Society, Rearranged, and The Philadelphia Story, among others.

2) Micol and her FlirtyGirl editor, Liz, have actually been friends and colleagues for many years. In fact, they worked together at Simon Pulse—the imprint that is publishing the Bradford series—back when it was launched.

3) Micol had never heard of Twitter until she began working on the Bradford series.

4) The Bradford Prep website is so realistic-looking that we have received serious queries about how to apply to the school! (And we are working on designing a fake application, just for fun.)

5) Several of the models who portray the main Bradford characters have friended their fictional likenesses on Facebook and MySpace. How many can you find?

6) Jeremy's musical tastes are inspired in part by several people in Micol's life: specifically, her brother and her fiance.

7) The school that CJ White's sister, Alexa, attended in New York City is based on LaGuardia Arts High School, which includes among its famous alums Sarah Michelle Gellar—long live Buffy the Vampire Slayer!

8) Websites that Micol uses for Bradford research include,,, and Daily Candy Philadelphia. She loves that she gets to window shop in the name of her writing career!

9) Spencer doesn't drink coffee...but Micol is addicted to the stuff. Micol's editors frequently have to correct references to Spencer swilling lattes in between classes.

10) The ring that Tyler gives Spencer retails at Tiffany & Co. for over $700,000.

11) Trish Harlowe borrows her last name from Joel Maddon and Nicole Ritchie's daughter, who was born around the time that Micol was working on character profiles for the series.

12) The items listed as up for auction at the Hollywood Ball were strictly fictitious—if they exist, Micol didn't know it at the time.

13) Though she writes about VERY glamorous girls, Micol owns infinite pairs of yoga pants and track suits, and can usually be found wearing one of them while she writes.

14) Micol and her editors are constantly scanning online for interesting spa treatments and other fun, expensive activities for the Bradford girls to try out.

15) Although Micol has both a home office and a share in an NYC writing space, most of GoldenGirl was written in a West Village cafe: Cafe Henri on Bedford Street.

16) Blogger Toni the Tigress was modeled after snark supreme Perez Hilton.

17) Although Spencer's blog is titled All That Glitters, her favorite jewels are Majorca black pearls, which technically don't glitter.

18) Micol learned all about the Main Line area while researching for Bradford, and became hooked on the Pretty Little Liars series (also set on the ML) in the process.

19) Micol wishes fervently that Smooch was an actual shop that she could visit; the Dulce de Leche gelato sounds YUM!

20) Micol has almost as much of a crush on Jeremy as Spencer does.

21) Madison's blog, Prêt-a-Party, was actually named by a GUY!

22) Although it isn't mentioned in the books, Paige's minion Kaylen Turner is totally obsessed with Harley Pasternak's Five Factor Diet.

23) Some of the Bradford-related Philly research has led editors and writers to new hair salons, clothing boutiques, and restaurants! The Philly board of tourism should thank us.

24) Although Spencer takes French in school, Micol is Puerto Rican and studied Spanish. Hence Spencer's sign-off, Besos.

25) Micol and the FlirtyGirls have already plotted out some MAJORLY scandalicious secrets for Bradford Novel #3 . . .
but they're staying secret for now.

Okay, I've shown you mine, now you show me yours--tell me something fun about YOU!
And HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY, Ro Com readers!



Monday, February 09, 2009

I am huge in Malaysia!

A couple of weekends ago I traveled to New York City for a writers’ conference, and I was fortunate enough to have coffee with my new Simon Pulse editor. We chatted about Erin and Wendy and Jamie and P.J., and about Micol’s very cool new Bradford Novels series with lots of online content (today I’m a guest at her blog party here.) And then I happened to mention to my editor that I get a lot of e-mail from readers overseas--Brazil, Finland, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and particularly Malaysia.

My editor was all astonishment. Apparently he had no idea about my books’ popularity in Malaysia. So of course I held up my hands and announced to the coffee shop in general, “I AM HUGE IN MALAYSIA!”

Editor: “Right, like David Hasselhoff is huge in Germany.” I had a sneaking suspicion he did not believe me! I am TOTALLY like David Hasselhoff!

So, dear readers, I have a deal for you.

1. Take a photo of Major Crush or The Boys Next Door next to a sign or a landmark—something that tells us where you are.

2. Post your photo in the comments here OR send it to me at echolsjenn at yahoo dot com, along with the city and country where you took it. (You MUST include the city and country. Do not trust me to figure this out from your photo. Americans are notoriously bad at geography.)

3. The three participants farthest from my home in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, receive a copy of my latest book, Going Too Far, which will be published by MTV Books on March 17. You’ll get it before it goes on sale in the United States, and WAY earlier than it will be available overseas, according to the Australians who have been complaining to me about this.

The fine print: contest ends Saturday, February 28. If you e-mail me your photos, I would love to post them on this blog (thus proving my point to my editor), but I will not unless you give me permission.

And hey, there, Socapatoy, Alabama! Even though you are only 70 miles from me, you should still enter this contest. You never know--Malaysia may not show up.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

I Apologize

Okay, I know, I haven't blogged in a VERY long time.  But I have excuses. Lots of them.  (Hey I'm a writer, creating things is what I do, right?)  And most of them are even true.  For starters, I'm working on four series now and that's a book a month.  Sure, some of them are short (Appleville Elementary is a series for kindergarten and first graders) but I've discovered that it's a lot harder to write a short book with limited vocabulary than to write a novel.  I've also discovered that you have to spend a lot of time creating series bibles if you want to be able to keep all their characters and universes straight).

Also, we have been in college application hell around here.  As many of you know, my daughter Amanda is an actress/model.  In the past few years she's shot a few unaired pilots, (although one is with a big studio right now!) but has discovered that her real passion is writing.  So come the fall she will be going to Pratt Institute in the fall for Creative Writing.  (Yes, private college, hence the four series!)  You would think a child who has spent her entire life hearing her mother say, "As soon as I get paid/get my royalty check, we can go get you the new sneakers (or prom dress, or fall jacket or . . .well you get the picture) would want to go into something more safe (say studying to be a bungee jumping instructor or an alligator wrangler ), but that is not the case.  And the truth be told, she's a better writer than I was at that age.  And she's already had two poems published.  She also plans on writing a one woman show so she can combine her two great passions.  Boy, teens are really ambitious these days.

Anyway, now we've officially got two writers in the family (Ian is only 14 so his ambitions largely center around making starting pitcher on the school baseball team (he made varsity in his freshman year, which I'm told is really great, although I know nothing about sports!),  getting really good tickets to the Metallica concert, and being popular with girls!) And while I'd love to spend hours and hours bragging to all of you about my kids, this writer has to get back to work (on a Sunday, which should tell you just how crunched I am for time).

I promise to post more often.   Really.


Saturday, February 07, 2009

Breakfast with the (Literary) Stars

Hello everyone - Erin Downing here. (*Waving at Jenn Echols* - "I'm back!")

Like Micol, I'm full of excuses, but I swear I have been feeling ever-so-guilty about my lack of blogging here on our very fine blog...BUT I have a (sorta) good excuse. I have been in the middle of a major house renovation, which includes creating an amazing writing office in my this-old-house's third-floor attic. It will be done in a few weeks, and I'll be back to post some pics of my inspiring new (bright GREEN) space!

While I get my desk space in order, I've been spending the last few months tinkering and thinking a lot about what my next project will be, and this morning, I went to the perfect place to get my creative juices flowing...the Children's Literature Network's Book Breakfast. There were more than 35 Minnesota/Wisconsin authors/illustrators and hundreds of educators, teachers, and book fans to cheer us on. It was so inspiring to realize just how many talented and award-winning authors and illustrators live around me in Minneapolis. To prove it, get this - these were just some of my breakfast pals:

Derek Anderson, Stephanie Watson, Susan Marie Swanson (2009 Caldecott winner!!), John Coy, David LaRochelle, Rick Chrustowski, Debra Frasier, Lauren Stringer, Marion Dane Bauer, Lynne Jonell, Mike Wohnoutka, and on and on and on....

I feel so lucky to have moved from New York, which is chock full of publishing people, to another amazing book hub: Freezing Cold Minnesota (where we all have funny accents and everyone is overly polite, but we love it anyway).


Thursday, February 05, 2009

Research...Procrastination...Research...What's the Diff?

Here is a secret about writers: the blank page sometimes scares us (picture Stephen King sized fear). Or maybe I'm just speaking for myself and I like the illusion that other authors share my fear of that pristine white document (though mine is blue, with a white cursor, but I digress), with the patiently blinking cursor. Whatever.

Anyhoo -- my point is that when the blank page is looking particularly ...ahem...menacing to me, I do the prudent thing and run away.

Other people call it research. And I'm happy to jump on the bandwagon. So tonight I came home and pulled up a blank file to write a new bridging scene for the manuscript I am currently in the process of eviscerating and putting together again much in the manner of a Frankenstein monster, and...crickets. Scaaaary crickets.

So. I knew I wanted to use sea glass in the scene. I'd had that insight earlier today when I was unable to write anything because I was helping other people (very nice, sweet people I am lucky to know and tutor) read a little more fluently. I made a note, and even wrote a few longhand sentences on my notepad in between students.

But now comes the terrifying reckoning of the blinking cursor and blank page. And where to run? Maybe the beach, to find some actual, real seaglass? Sure, is dark outside. And 9 degrees. And winter in Maine, which means the sea glass will be frozen to the shore.

So, what is a good me to do? Why, Google. Search for seaglass. And Wikipedia, of all places: here, to be precise.

Who knew? I never do. Sometimes my procrastination...I mean research...yields nothing but more crickets...vampire crickets.

Not this time. This time I got more than I bargained for. Now I know what to do with the scene. And it is something I would likely never have done without Wikipedia. So -- research or procrastination, you decide...I have to go write a scene that takes seaglass to a whole new dimension.