Monday, December 31, 2012

Favorite Reads of 2012

In keeping with tradition (2011), I wanted to list my best reads for this year.  I was lucky enough to discover some great great book, and I'd love to share them with you!

My favorite reads (in no particular order):

Wonder (R.J. Palacio): 
I can't gush enough about this book.  I've already bought numerous copies for people I know and have lent mine out so much that it's started to wear and tear.  This book has so much heart and love, and Auggie is one of my favorite literary characters now.  I have a feeling this book is going to win the Newbury this year.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home (Carol Rifka Brunt):
I tried to read this book as slow as possible, because I didn't want it to end.  It's set in the 80s and narrated by a girl who reminded me a lot of myself when I was young.  The social times and topics were ones that concerned me growing up, and Brunt writes beautifully.  I cried numerous times during this novel and had to sit and quietly think about it for a long time when I finished.  I read it a few months ago, and it's still present in my mind.

What Happens Next (Colleen Clayton):
This is a book that is so much grounded in setting that you can't help but want to live in Syd's world (which I kind of do, because it takes place in the setting where I grew up!).  This is also an important book for teenagers to read because it deals with some tough issues that aren't always talked about.  It's a very powerful read, the writing is beautiful, and sid is one of the characters I've met in a long time.

Dare Me (Megan Abbott):
This is a bad girl book about cheerleaders gone very very bad!  I was drawn in by Abbot's dark, noir-like writing and the book moved at a fast pace that kept me turning the pages.  I wanted to find out what happened and Abbott didn't hold back.  It's a wild ride.

Infinite Sky (C.J. Flood):
This book is cheating a bit, because it's an ARC and you can't read it yet (but you can soon!).  This is Flood's first novel and everything about this book is gorgeous.  The world that Flood creates is so vivid and heartbreaking.  It's a stunning debut and a book that I know I'll read more than once.

The Fault in Our Stars (John Green):
Do I even need to explain why I picked this one?  Just go back to my past posts and watch me turn all fan-girl over John Green.  How to sum up this book...I cried, and then cried, and then cried some more.

Butter (Erin Jade Lange):
Oh goodness, BUTTER is just so great.  I had read the premise of the book over a year ago and instantly knew I wanted to read it.  You fall in love with the main character "Butter" right from the start and cheer for him the entire book.  My students love this book.

Cracked (K.M. Walton):
This book wowed me because of Walton's ability to show bullying from both sides...the victim and the bully, and you end up connecting to both of the characters.  This is another book that I push into the hands of my students and they all come back to me telling me how incredible it was.

I know there are books I've forgotten, but these are some of the ones that have stuck with me.  What about you?  What have some of your favorite reads of 2012 been?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Debut Author Challenge 2013

You only have a few more days to sign up for the Debut Author Challenge at Hobbitsies' blog!

Right now there are over 250 people who are up to the challenge.

It should be a lot of fun, and CANARY has been appearing on many people's lists (yay!).

If you've added to CANARY to your challenge list, add the link to your post in the comment box or e-mail it to me (  I'll contact you, so I can mail you a swag pack of CANARY goodies!

2013 is going to have some great books!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Snowy in Cleveland

We're covered in about six inches of snow here in Cleveland right now, but it's all good.  I've got lots of coffee, lots of writing, and the first season of Homeland.  Have you watched it?  It's addicting!

Radley is loving herself some snow!

Hope it's warmer where you are!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

Great Gatsby Movie Posters

I honestly don't think I can wait until May 10th.  I might explode from excitement!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Written As A High School Teacher

It hurts my heart that my students now have to learn to practice lockdowns in the way that I once practiced fire drills in school.

My students know exactly what to do in any area of the school if we go into lockdown.  They know the words to distinguish between the real thing and a drill and how to hide.  They know how to make the classroom look completely empty of any student.  They know where to put their bookbags, what to do with their computer monitors, what to do if they are in a hallway or bathroom, and what signal to look for to know that it is all clear.

Two years ago, it would have been next to impossible to get my students to stay quiet during one of these drills and take it seriously.


Now they practice the drill in complete silence and ask me if they did it right when it's all over because of the reality of our world today.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Found! The Perfect Christmas Gift!

Christmas is only two weeks away (two weeks...what!?!).  Do you have all your Christmas shopping done?

If not, I'd like to suggest this wonderful book I know called CANARY (and I hear the author is pretty swell too!).

CANARY doesn't come out until August 1, 2013, but you can pre-order it here!  And so you have something to give to the lucky gift giver, I'll send you a pre-order Christmas pack...woo-hoo!

What it includes:

*A CANARY bookmark (one for you and one for the person you're giving it to, because everyone should get a treat at Christmas!)

*A CANARY postcard with the cover on the front and summary on the back

(back of postcard)
*A CANARY notecard with a message from me about receiving the book in August

*A set of recycled sweater hand warmers so you have something little to wrap up (they are jasmine scented and you just have to put them in the microwave to heat up and keep your hands warm)

All you need to do is e-mail me ( your pre-order receipt, your address, and the name of the person getting the gift.  I'll send it all out ASAP, so it's ready to give on Christmas.

IMPORTANT: I am only offering this until Monday, December 17th, so I can make sure everything is shipped out in time.

And you can give a little gift to me by clicking the "Like" button on the top of CANARY's Amazon page to let me know you think the book is the bomb diggity!  (you have to be logged in to click "like")

Monday, December 3, 2012

In the Wild

I just found out some ARCs of CANARY have been sent out!  It's in the wild!  

Book bloggers, librarians, and teachers...if you're interested in requesting an ARC for review, please fill out the form at the bottom of the tab at the bottom of the page that says REQUEST A REVIEW COPY.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Conversation With My Husband

The news just showed a story about a school that is banning THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER b/c of the sexuality and suicide in it.  My conversation with my hubs, Jason, about what the school was doing went as such:

Me:  That is ridiculous!  How much do you want to bet that the kids read ROMEO AND JULIET there in English class?

Jason:  What does that have to do with it?

Me:  In ROMEO AND JULIET the kids get married so they can have sex and then kill themselves right after because they can't be together.  Why don't they ban that?

Jason:  Because no one can understand what the heck is going on in that play.  Shakespeare doesn't make any sense.

Me:  Fair enough.

*Although I still think it's ludicrous that the school is banning books...especially this one.  Ugh!  Censorship sucks!

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Good Day

You know it's a good day when you find a honey bunch this big! Hot diggity dog! Hope your day is starting off as good as mine!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fall Photo Dump

This little old blog hasn't been to active lately, and I apologize.  Here's what's been keeping me busy:

Celebrating a good friend's wedding with my main squeeze...

Clambakes with my family...

Making sure my super important Ohio vote counts!

Watching sunsets from my writing office...

Hanging with the world's best dog, Radley:

Meeting my new "best friend"...

Writing and sipping...

Decorating my living room (aka...the new reading room!)...

Sneaking into my theater to watch Straight No Chaser rehearse for their holiday tour...

Good reading:

What about you?  What have you been up to?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Happy Birthday!

The life of a writer is far from rich and glamorous! As evidenced by the recent birthday of my 9 1/2 year old car!

Happy birthday, little Civic! I still love you even in your old age!

Friday, November 23, 2012


You guys! It snowed today! At first it was just a little but then it covered the ground. Yay! Bring on the holidays and cozy days inside with snow falling outside!

This means it's time to pull out one of my favorite cold weather staples...tights!

What are your favorite things about the winter?

Monday, November 19, 2012

CANARY On Amazon

A few weeks ago my marketing department told me that CANARY was listed in their spring/summer catalog, and I'd find it listed on the bookseller sites soon.

I proceeded to stalk Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  The stalking was bad.  As in, restraining order bad...I was checking the sites all the time.

Then one day I typed in my name, and my book popped up on Amazon!

Take a look!  If you're as excited about it as I am, can you take a minute to click the "like" button?  It's similar to "liking" something on Facebook, and it would let me know you care!  ; )

There are a lot of steps in this publishing process that are monumental, and this was one of them.  It was incredible to see CANARY listed and ready for pre-order!

It even has a fancy new summary that my marketing department wrote:

In this debut novel, a high school girl faces the pain, shame, and uncertainty that come with sexual abuse. With the passing of her mother, Kate Franklin’s life unravels at the seams as she loses the only emotional mooring in her family. Her dad shuts down completely, and her brother enlists in the army. Things start looking better when her dad is hired to coach at Beacon Prep, home of one of the best basketball teams in the state. In a blog of prose and poetry, Kate chronicles her new world—dating a basketball player, being caught up in a world of idolatry and entitlement, and discovering the perks the inner circle enjoys. Then Kate’s fragile life shatters once again when one of her boyfriend’s teammates assaults her at a party. Although she knows she should speak out, her dad’s vehemently against it and so, like a canary sent into a mine to test toxicity levels and protect miners, Kate alone breathes the poisonous secrets to protect her dad and the team. The once welcoming community has betrayed Kate, her family is disintegrating, and she’s on her own to grapple with whether to stay quiet or speak out and expose a town’s hero and destroy her father’s career.

And you can visit my Amazon Author Page too, if you'd like to stick around for awhile longer!

Monday, November 12, 2012

KidLit Cares: Auction for Hurricane Sandy

The writing community is amazing.  They organized a huge auction to help victims of Hurricane Sandy just days after she hit.  The auction was such a success, that they've added another round.  And up for bid?  A 30 page manuscript critique by me!

You should check it out and all the other great items you can bid on!

I love the blog Cup of Jo, and on her Facebook page, she posted this incredible picture her brother took from the top of the Empire State Building after Sandy had hit.  Half of the city had power, the other half was without.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Little Bit About Me

The wonderful Allison from Allison Writes interviewed me yesterday!  Check out her interview here and then stay for awhile...her blog rocks!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Character Names

How do you come up with your characters' names?

Do you have a secret method?  Or does the name just come to you?

My husband is the driving force behind all of my characters names.


I have a bunch of names that I love, love, love, but my husband's love, not so much.  So all of the names that he's vetoed for future kids' names, have become the names of my main characters!

Such as:

Haddie (Operation Pucker Up)

Rhylee  (Back to the Start)

Jack (Canary)

Tessa  (Back to the Start)

Beck  (Operation Pucker Up)

Don't husband and my taste in names clash a lot, so I have a bunch more names saved up for future characters!

I'd love to hear where you get your names from!

Friday, November 2, 2012


The bookmarks are here!  The bookmarks are here!

And they are so so pretty!

So who wants one?  I'm giving five prize packs away (each will include a few for you, and some to give away to friends!).

All you need to do is fill out the form below.  The contest runs until midnight on Wednesday.  So what are you waiting for!?!  Go enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Stay Safe

If you're in the course of Hurricane Sandy, please stay safe!

We're supposed to get very high winds, flooding rains, and super high waves up here in Cleveland.   I'm hoping the power doesn't go out (which I don't think is the same wish as my students!).

Weather like this translates into cozying up with some hot coffee, a fire, a snuggly pup, and a good book!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Literary Tattoos

There is a rumor that seems to have been going around my school for the last two years.  Once it gets cold outside, I wear tights pretty often.  As in, almost every day.  I think it's the private school education in me...I'm used to uniform skirts with tights!  Whatever the reason is, my students seem to think that I wear tights because I'm trying to cover up all my tattoos.

No really.  A bunch of them "got up the nerve" and asked me about it last year.  And now that I've brought them out again this year, the rumors are swirling again.  Never mind the fact that I do come to school with bare legs in August/September.  The kids claim this isn't true and everyone loves a good rumor, so the next time they asked me I told them I did have tattoos.

Five to be exact:

*A stack of books on my leg

*A heart on my bicep that has the word "books" in the middle of it

*A tattoo on my lower back that says, "I love to read"

*A tattoo that goes down my side that says, "Too many books, so little time"

*And my personal favorite, a big huge spine of a book going all the way down my spine.  The book is then open across either side of my entire back

I tell them about these tattoos with a straight face whenever they ask.

The truth is, I'm too much of a wimp with needles to get a tattoo, but if I ever did, I'd totally get the last lines of The Great Gatsby somewhere on me or CANARY's ISBN number.

What about you?  Do you have any tattoos?  Are there any you would want?

Here's a site of some good literary tattoos.

And a site of some crazy Twillight tattos!

Monday, October 22, 2012

2013 Debut Author Challenge

I know we still have a few months before 2013 starts, but the 2013 Debut Author Challenge is ready to go!

Have you ever done it before?  It's a great way to discover some new books and challenge yourself!  And there are some great books on the list (cough, cough...CANARY!).

Sign-up and read about it here.

You can check out some of them here and here!  I'd love to know...what 2013 debut books are you looking forward to?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Repost: Companions for Heroes and a Critique

*I'm posting this one more time because today is the last day to enter, and I really think Cassandra is doing a great thing helping both servicemen and shelter dogs (and writers...with a critique!).  Visit her blog right now and make sure you enter!*

As many of you know, I, okay, I am obsessed with dogs!

The wonderful Cassandra Marshall is having a contest where she will donate up to $1,000 dollars to a program called Companions for Heroes.  The organization rescues shelter dogs, trains, and then pairs them up with veterans suffering from PTSD.  How amazing is that?

But she's not just donating to that organization, she's also giving away a critique.  I've been a fan of her blog for over a year...she offers great writing advice.

If you have a moment, check it out!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Week 19: The Next Big Thing

I was asked by fellow Lucky 13s member, Liz Coley, to participate in The Next Big Thing.  

The rules are simple...I talk about my WIP progress and then tag five (or a few more in my case) people who will talk about their WIP next week!  Sounds fun, right?

Let's get started, shall we?

What is the working title of your book?


Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea started from a short story that I wrote for my MFA program.  It was about 30 pages long and it pretty much wrote itself.  I was seriously a woman on fire when I was writing!  I workshopped it with my class, but I couldn't get the characters out of my head.  That's when I realized that this short story wasn't a short story at all, but a novel waiting to be told.
What genre does your book fall under?

Contemporary YA (my favorite!) with a few touches of magical realism

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I always have a hard time with questions like this, because I never have actors in my mind when I'm writing.  I kind of just "see" my characters.  Ugh!  Next question, please!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Okay, I'm cheating here...I stink at the one sentence elevator pitch.  How about a few more?

When Rhylee’s sister goes missing, Rhylee sees the loss as a way to step outside of her old life-one overshadowed by her big sister- and begin anew.  A life, she tells herself, she’s living to keep her sister’s memory alive.  But as she starts to change, Rhylee questions whether she wants to remember her sister or become her.   

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I'm represented by John Rudolph at Dystel and Goderich.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

It took about a year to have a pretty strong first draft.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?


Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I have a certain setlist of songs that I write to when working on this book.  They are my biggest inspiration right now:
Coldplay "Back to the Start"
Mumford and Sons "Below My Feet"
Snow Patrol  "Chasing Cars"
Snow Patrol  "Run"
The Swell Season  "In These Arms"

I have these five songs on a playlist and just run it over and over again while I write.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The book starts with the first line, "The first time I betrayed my sister was two weeks before she disappeared."

I can't wait to share this book with all of you; I'm very much in love with it (fingers crossed it gets sold!). 

You can read all about Liz Coley's WIP here and make sure to visit the following blogs next Wednesday to see what other people are working on:
Amber June
Beth Pond

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Pup In The Mirror

"She's looking at the pup in the mirror.  She's asking if she'll change her ways..."

Hope you're having a great weekend!  It's cold here, so I've been snuggling with this fur ball!

Remember...there is still time to enter Cassandra Marshall's critique giveaway.  She's donating a dollar for every entry to an amazing program that pairs pound dogs with veterans.  Love it!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

DFTBA: Nerds Rule!

My new glasses have arrived and they are even bigger and clunkier than before!  Woo-hoo!  

I totally believe that when I put them on, magic writing superpowers ensue!  

Nerds Rule!  DFTBA!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Happy Book Birthday! Colleen Clayton's WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!

Today, fellow NEOMFA alum, Colleen Clayton's amazing book, What Happens Next, hits the book shelves!  I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of this book, and I'm so excited that she gets to finally share it with all of you today.

Here's the Goodreads' summary:

How can you talk about something you can’t remember?

Before the ski trip, sixteen-year-old Cassidy “Sid” Murphy was a cheerleader (at the bottom of the pyramid, but still...), a straight-A student, and a member of a solid trio of best friends. When she ends up on a ski lift next to handsome local college boy, Dax Windsor, she’s thrilled; but Dax takes everything from Sid—including a lock of her perfect red curls—and she can’t remember any of it.

Back home and unable to relate to her old friends, Sid drops her college prep classes and takes up residence in the A/V room with only Corey “The Living Stoner” Livingston for company. But as she gets to know Corey (slacker, baker, total dreamboat), Sid finds someone who truly makes her happy. Now, if she can just shake the nightmares and those few extra pounds, everything will be perfect... or so she thinks.

And the review I wrote for it on Goodreads:

I was lucky enough to get an ARC of WHAT HAPPENS NEXT as part of an interview I’ll do of Colleen and the book for The Lucky 13s Debut 2013 Author blog. I am so excited that I got to read this book now instead of waiting until October (but trust me, it’s worth the wait). It’s one of my favorite reads in a long time, and I read a lot as a high school English teacher. A real lot! I pretty much eat, sleep and breath YA literature. It takes a lot for a book not only to grab my attention but for me to want to flag it as a multiple order for my school and classroom library. This is one of those books. It’s a book that I’ll make a point of pushing it into the hands of as many of my students as I can. The book is powerful, the writing is beautiful and Sid is one of the best characters I’ve met in a long time. It is a story that is important for teenagers to read, and one that I think will speak to them.

One of my favorite things about this book is the character of Sid. Because the thing is, unlike a lot of characters facing tragic events in YA literature, Sid is broken by a rape she doesn’t remember, but she doesn’t let it break her. She’s such a strong character and you understand why she’s dealing with the rape the way she is (even though I wanted to shout at her many many times to tell someone, I understood why she didn’t…why she couldn’t). I also love love love that she comes from a family that loves her. Her mom is a part of her life, her little brother adores her and Sid feels the same way back toward the two of them. It’s good to see a book with a strong family relationship, because it shows readers that bad things can happen to anyone, and even if you come from a family who loves and supports you, it still isn’t always easy to tell the truth. The story also has a sweet love story, Colleen Clayton’s sense of place transports you right to this town, and the antagonists are real. Oh…the antagonists. I totally bought how Sid fell prey to her Dax and the cheerleaders in this book are so so awful. But again, it speaks so truthful to high school and I think it’s in that honesty that teens will relate and connect to Sid’s journey.

There are novels out there that as a teacher, I MUST get into the hands of students. This is one of those important books.

And if you still can't get interview I did of Colleen for The Lucky 13s on our blog!

What are you waiting for?????  Go buy What Happens'll love it!