Mark a course for 2015. Engage.

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So…here we are.


Every year I choose a word that sums up my intention for the year. Last year, with my first book being published, I chose the word “launch”.

This year, with one book out in the world and another on the way*, my word is…


en·gage (verb) \in-‘gaj, en-\

: to get and keep (someone’s attention, interest, etc.)

: to bring together and interlock <the gears engaged>

JLPOf course ‘engage’ makes me think of Jean-Luc Picard. Which makes me want to drink tea, Earl Grey, hot. And shave my head. No, wait. Not shave my head. But tea, yes. Always tea.

Anyway, my goal this year is to engage readers, both online and in person. Now That You’re Here has received really great reviews, and I’ve been getting emails from readers who have enjoyed it (which, seriously, is an author’s dream come true). Now it’s a matter of spreading the word that there’s a fun new science-y book out there that tweens and teens will enjoy. To do this, I need to engage with my audience. I began by redesigning my website, making it more me, and I’ve been setting up events where I can chat with readers.

First up is YAllapalooza at Changing Hands Tempe on January 24 at 4pm. It’s going to be so much fun! Hope to see you there.

In March, I’ll be down in Tucson for the Tucson Festival of Books, doing panels, signing and workshops. More on that soon.

Online, I’ll be blogging here (duh), as well as at the Parking Lot Confessional and YA Outside the Lines. The PLC is also continuing our geeky writing podcast, Curb Chat, which is so much fun, I can’t even tell you. Definitely check it out.

My other goal this year (and always) is to engage my creativity. My brain is brimming with ideas and my heart is full of hope of seeing more stories published. It’s time to put the pedal to the metal and get the gears turning. Or rather, the fingers typing.

So, without further ado, here’s to a great 2015!


Make it so.

*While You Were Gone, the second book in the Duplexity series, will be published by Knopf on August 4! More news to come!


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.

Keep Moving Forward

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bicycle2I should have titled this blog post: How Not to Start NaNoWriMo. But instead I went with something a little more motivational.

Sigh. My NaNo month is getting off to a slow start. Why?

I looked back.

I didn’t really have a choice. See, I was writing my second book when the copyedits came through for my first book. So I had to put book two down in order to finish book one  (which was an exciting adventure of its own!). Now I’m writing book two again (and using NaNoWriMo as my motivator/deadline/piano hanging over my head). But in order to get my head back into book two, I had to read what I’d already written. And then it was really easy to start fixing what I’d already written. Which means I’ve been doing more editing than creating.


Looking back over what you’re writing, while you’re writing it, presents two potential pitfalls:

1. You realize what you’ve written sucks and you lose motivation.

2. You try to fix what you’ve written and you lose momentum (and time).

Unfortunately, I’m guilty of both.

Last night I groaned to my husband about my first draft. “Ugh!” I said. “This is the such a shitty first draft!” (See how I borrowed Anne Lamott’s phrase there?)

He asked, “Well, is it better than your last first draft?” And then he asked, “Is it better than your first first draft?”

Grudgingly, I said yes.

“Then you’re making progress. Keep going.”

(Let me pause here a moment to say: my husband rocks.)

Jumping from copyedits of the first book — which had already been through a few revisions and was pretty darned polished! — to re-reading a partial first draft set me up for failure and frustration. What was I doing, comparing a polished manuscript to a rough-hewn first draft?! Oh silly, silly me. Even though I had to go back and read what I’d written so I knew where and how to pick up the story again, getting back into the game has been like trying to ride a bicycle uphill. Ugh. Thankfully, I feel like I have a handle on the story again and can start picking up speed. I’m eager to see those NaNo numbers rise.

When it comes to creative work, momentum is a kind of tenuous thing. Once you have it, try not to lose it, especially by going back and rereading what you’ve already wrote.

Whatever you do, keep moving forward!

I’m doing NaNoWriMo…kind of…

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2013-Participant-Facebook-ProfileSo, at the last minute last week, I jumped on the NaNoWriMo wagon…kind of. The manuscript for my second book, While You Were Gone, is due to my editor soon. I’ve already written a huge chunk of it, but still have a long way to go before I can call it done.

So I’m going to use the challenge, camaraderie and accountability of NaNoWriMo to kick the project into high gear. Don’t worry: I’m not counting what I’ve already written in my word count, because that would be uncool.

My goal is to finish before the end of November. Here’s hoping.

I haven’t added any writing buddies to my profile, though I know a bunch of authors participating this year. If you want to add me as a writing buddy, my NaNo name is RedPenOnFire. (Goofy, I know. Don’t judge me. I created the account during a moment of weakness, when anonymity felt less threatening.)

I’m going to blog about the issues I run into as I go, so if you’re doing NaNoWriMo, too, you might find some advice or commiserating in this month’s posts.

To all those doing NaNo, I commend you and I am cheering you on! Now go write!

Are you programmed to self destruct?

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file000663776371I have a friend who is a very talented artist. He comes up with some amazing ideas. And when he pursues his ideas, he jumps in with both feet. Total passion and fearlessness.

Then, inevitably, he blows everything up. Not literally. I mean, just when he’s starting to gain momentum and really make something happen, he trips himself up. Sabotages himself. Sets what he’s doing and what he’s done on fire and walks away. And all of us watching it happen shake our heads and sigh.

It’s like he’s programmed to self destruct.

Artists (writers included) are known to be a temperamental lot. You know the stereotype: the tortured artist. We find community in our angst and court our pain in search of inspiration.

Which is fine, I suppose, if that’s all you want to do. But I have to wonder if at some point that kind of drama becomes our work instead the art we were creating.

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield refers to this kind of behavior as a form of resistance. Julia Cameron refers to it as “the twitch, the flu, the deadly disease” in her book Supplies: A Troubleshooting Guide for Creative Difficulties. It’s that thing you allow to get in your way so you don’t have to accomplish the thing you’re really meant to accomplish.

I used to be this way. I used to unravel my work so I never had to get where I wanted to be. Why? I’ve asked myself that a lot. The best answer I’ve found is that success means change and change can be scary.

Reminds me of that Marianne Williamson poem:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

 Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

Yeah. That.

I wish my artist friend would read The War of Art or Supplies, or Marianne’s poem. But, like a kind of depression, when you’re in a pattern of self-destruction, you don’t really want to hear the answer. You just want to keep being roiled up in the confusion and drama and somedays.

But the answer is pretty easy. (Okay, it’s hard, but also…easy.)

You do the thing you’re scared of doing. You go that extra step. You finish the work. You put away the matches and let the thing live and breathe and shine instead of burning it to the ground.

I think James A. Owen might say it best in his book Drawing Out the Dragons:

“If you really want to do something, no one can stop you. But if you really don’t want to do something, no one can help you.”

Are you programmed to self destruct? Whether you’re able to hear this now, or whether it just sits in your subconscious for a while until you are ready, the truth is this: you don’t have to burn what you’re building.

Just put the matches down.