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.)