My Writing Process (Blog Tour)

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I was invited by YA author Page Morgan to participate in the My Writing Process Blog Tour. I recently had the pleasure of meeting Page at the Tucson Festival of Books, and she is lovely. She is the author of  The Beautiful and the Cursed, and The Lovely and the Lost. Click here to read about her writing process.

The way this works is I answer four questions about my writing process, and then I introduce you to the authors who will be the next stops on this tour.


Question #1: What am I working on?

I am revising the follow-up novel to Now That You’re Here. The title is While You Were Gone, and it  is slated for publication in 2015.

Question #2: How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My first two novels are young adult science fiction, which I think is sometimes a love it or hate it genre. I’m trying to write Now That You’re Here and While You Were Gone in such a way that readers will feel solidly grounded in the “real” world, while taking on some heavy hitting science. I try never to clobber readers over the head with the science, but rather walk them alongside the characters as they explore and discover and learn. My goal is to write true and compelling characters whose stories affect how they see and interact with their world. My hope is my readers will come away from my books doing the same.

Question #3: Why do I write what I do?

The short answer is: the ideas come to me and I write them. The longer answer is: I’m curious about the world around me. I spend a lot of time thinking about situations and places and people. Sometimes those situations and people trigger ideas, but usually it’s a voice that starts speaking or an opening line that forms in my mind. Inevitably, the story that grows from that voice or line will take a turn toward the strange or mysterious. I’ve never been able to stick with writing straight contemporary or literary fiction. Everything I write tends to find its home in either the science fiction or fantastical realm. I think I gravitate toward those genres because they make a good mirror for society and issues and people and places and all those things that get me thinking in the first place.

Question #4: How does my writing process work?

Some aspects of my writing process have changed since working with my agent and editor, mostly those parts that deal with deadlines. *grin* But the nuts and bolts of it is this: an idea or a voice will form in my mind. With that idea or voice comes a feeling, which sounds a bit woo woo, but I get a sense of how the book should feel. I let that idea or voice brew for a while before I do any actual writing. Sometimes I’ll do a little research if the story involves something I don’t know enough about to write. I don’t get bogged down in research, though. As the idea cooks, I’ll start taking notes (sometimes mental, but usually written down) about certain scenes I’ve seen played out in my head. As I do this, the characters start to come more into focus. I’ll usually write a couple of chapters at this point, and start getting those noted scenes down on paper. Then, because I’m mostly a plotter, I’ll start sketching an outline for the story. I need a roadmap, or I’ll end up driving off the edge of the world. I’m never married to the outline, though. If the story wants to go another direction, I’ll follow it, and adjust my roadmap. Then it’s just a matter of plugging along, getting the words down, discovering the story with the characters, and figuring out how it all wraps up. When the draft is finished, I celebrate…for about ten minutes…which is when I realize how much work I have ahead of me,revising. And revising is a different process entirely.

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I’ve asked a couple of authors to join me on this blog tour. They’ll be posting next week about their own writing processes, so be sure to check them out!

hollyschindlerHolly Schindler’s debut novel, A Blue So Dark, received a starred review in Booklist, was named one of Booklist’s Top 10 First Novels for Youth, and won both a silver medal from ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year and a gold medal in the IPPY Awards. She is also the author of Playing Hurt (YA romance), The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky (contemporary MG), and the forthcoming Feral (YA psychological thriller). Visit her online at

shonnaslaytonSHONNA SLAYTON is the author of the YA novel Cinderella’s Dress, out June 3, 2014 with Entangled Teen. She finds inspiration in reading vintage diaries written by teens, who despite using different slang, sound a lot like teenagers today. While writing Cinderella’s Dress she reflected on her days as a high-school senior in British Columbia when she convinced her supervisors at a sportswear store to let her design a few windows—it was glorious fun while it lasted. When not writing, Shonna enjoys amaretto lattes and spending time with her husband and children in Arizona. Visit her online at


Hello, my name is Amy, and I am a shmoopy book blubberer

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While at the Tucson Festival of Books, I participated in “A Book I Love”, a segment of Mark McLemore’s Arizona Spotlight. Basically, you choose a book you love and talk about it for a couple of minutes. Pretty cool, right?

I chose The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, one of my all time favorite books EVER.

The only thing is, I’m a weepy goober who can’t actually talk about The Book Thief without crying.

I should have known better. I mean, I could have talked about any number of books. There are so many incredible books out there. But whenever someone asks me, “What’s the best book you’ve read lately?” I always return to The Book Thief. So during my two minutes, I talked about The Book Thief…and I cried like a shmoopy blubberer.


Those who know me well are nodding their heads. They’re used to me getting verklempt.

There is an upside. When I played the segment for my daughter, she buried her face in her hands and said, “You are so embarrassing.” There are few things in life as satisfying as embarrassing your tween daughter.

Maybe there’s another upside as well. Perhaps my genuine, emotional reaction to this wonderful book will cause others out there to read it. I just hope they have their tissues ready. Especially if they’re weepy book goobers, too.

Click here to listen to A Book I Love (and me, blubbering). I’m the last speaker on the audio segment, located below the first video.

Saying Goodbye to My Sweet Girl

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Pretty girl
Pretty girl

It’s been a difficult couple of days around the Nichols’ household. On Tuesday, Hannah, our 9.5 year old McNab (and Holly’s younger sister), suddenly got very sick. Despite medications, tests, and emergency supportive care, she was too far gone and we had to say goodbye. The vets weren’t sure what caused her illness, but based on her lab results we wonder if she had sudden and severe  pancreatitis complicated by her Addison’s disease that resulted in multiple system failure.

The pain of losing her, and so quickly…it’s hard to put into words. The kids have so many questions. Hobbes, our 2-year old bordernese, is confused.

I wanted to post some pics of Hannah and share a few things about her.

She really was the sweetest dog, with big brown eyes that would melt your heart. She had this funny bark she’d make when she was excited. Imagine Scooby-Doo saying, “Bow-roo?!” Made us laugh every time. She always had a puppy-like quality about her, and loved prancing around the back yard. She obsessed on the lizards who live in the cracks in our yard walls and the ground squirrels who tunneled in our bushes. She was neurotic in a totally hilarious way. She hated the ice maker, the salad spinner, counting, singing, dancing. All of our videos from birthday parties, singing happy birthday, feature Hannah barking along. And counting…when we taught our kids how to count, we’d get to three or four, and she’d bark like crazy. Every morning she greeted me at my bedroom door. She would sit in front of me, put her paws up on my legs and bow her head down so I could scratch her neck. My husband would joke that she looked like she was worshipping me. “Oh great mom…” Every night I’d fluff up her blanket and tuck her in. She’d snuggle her head in my hands and I’d tell her, “Good night, sweet girl. Mama loves you.” The same words I said when she passed away.

It’s going to be difficult getting used to not having her around. Even as I type this, we’re trying to figure out the new morning routine. Hobbes keeps going in and out the back door, looking for her, I think. This is hard. I know time will help, but I miss my girl.

Last night at bedtime, my daughter was crying and questioning and angry. I told her the story about the fortune cookie I got after Holly died. It was good to remember, and I do believe we’ll see them again.

I finally made it to the Tucson Festival of Books! And it was awesome.

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For years I’ve heard my friends rave about the Tucson Festival of Books, but always had something else booked (ha) for the weekend.

Until this year. I finally made it. And all I can say is, wow.

Much like San Diego Comic-con, my friends had warned me how big an event it was; but until I got there and saw it with my own eyes, I really had no idea.

It was huge.

And they brought in a whole bunch of incredible authors to talk about books, writing, publishing, promoting…all kinds of good stuff.

While there I met a ton of awesome authors. Chuck Wendig. Anne Perry. Cornelia Funke. Lois Lowry. Nicole McInnes. Page Morgan. Matt de la Peña. Suzanne Young. Sam Sykes. Kevin Hearne. Kristen Lamb.

I also got to meet fellow Class of 2k14 member Christine Kohler. How cool is that?!

Don’t even ask how much money I spent on books.

One of my favorite moments was getting to hear  Rebecca Eaton talk about producing Masterpiece. Let me start by saying: Rebecca Eaton is a class act. So knowledgeable, well-spoken and gracious. The audience was full of Downtown Abbey fans. When she mentioned Sherlock, I was the only one who clapped. Okay, it was actually more of a squeal. *cringe* I couldn’t help it–it’s like a reflex. The audience laughed when I squealed, and then laughed again when Rebecca pointed at me and said, “Oh! A Cumberbunny!” She then told everyone what Benedict Cumberbatch fans call themselves (if you don’t know, google it) which, of course, led to more laughter.

Still, I think I did the Cumber Collective proud when, during the Q&A portion, I thanked her for bringing Sherlock to the US and for shortening the time between the UK and US airing dates. I then asked her if she could talk about how that timing works and if she had any information about Sherlock season 4.

She said there’s a lot of thought and planning behind when the seasons air. If they go with a September air date in the US, they get trounced by the network shows starting up at the same time. This is why there’s been that long delay in the past: they were trying to find the right spot for Sherlock (and Downton) to get good attention here in the states. She said she thinks they’ve found the sweet spot with the January airings, with Sherlock following Downton. She agreed it is frustrating and that she’s aware of the piracy problems, adding that piracy always gives lousy quality. Finally, she said she’d love to tell me when series 4 would start but that she doesn’t know yet. It will depend on Benedict’s schedule, as well as Steven Moffat’s.

At the end I shook her hand and thanked her. It was one of the best sessions I went to during the festival. Her book, Making Masterpiece, looks really interesting.

Here are some pics from the festival. If you ever have the chance to attend, go! It is an incredible event. Best of all, it’s free.


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Today the Class of 2k14 celebrates another book birthday! If you want to read up on all of the books from the Class of 2k14, head on over to our official site. Lots of good stuff going on over there.

Congratulations to Liz Czukas on the debut of ASK AGAIN LATER !


About the book:

Sliding Doors meets Sixteen Candles in this irresistibly romantic debut.

Despite what her name might suggest, Heart has zero interest in complicated romance. So when her brilliant plan to go to prom with a group of friends is disrupted by two surprise invites, Heart knows there’s only one drama-free solution: flip a coin.

Heads: The jock. He might spend all night staring at his ex or throw up in the limo, but how bad can her brother’s best friend really be?

Tails: The theater geek…with a secret. What could be better than a guy who shares all Heart’s interests–even if he wants to share all his feelings?

Heart’s simple coin flip has somehow given her the chance to live out both dates. But where her prom night ends up might be the most surprising thing of all.

Ask Again Later is published by HarperCollins.


About Liz:

Visit Liz at Czukas is a freelance writer living outside Milwaukee, WI.  Ask Again Later is her first novel.  In high school, Liz did go to two proms but not at the same time.

Where to buy the book:

Barnes & Noble