So by now you already know that I got my advance reader copies of HEXED because I’ve shouted about it on every social media outlet known to man. But I didn’t get to shout about it on here yet, and that’s a big problem, obvi, so here I am now to rectify that.




And here they are, in all their glory, from multiple different angles and in different flattering lights. Aren’t they glorious?






Many people have asked how it felt to see the ARCs for the first time. (Actually that’s a lie, but I just want to tell you about it, okay? Humor me.)


I didn’t scream when I first opened the box, like I thought I might. I just quietly picked out the top book on the pile and flipped through the pages, turning it back to front, inspecting it with a goofy grin on my face while my husband awkwardly filmed me on his cellphone, probably wondering why I wasn’t reacting like he thought I would. I was just too overwhelmed to feel much of anything in the moment. And then I found this letter from my amazing editor on the top of the box:



And I started to cry.


There’s so much hard work and frustration that goes into the long, long process of writing a book that it’s sometimes too easy to forget how amazing it is that something I wrote is going to be a real book, on real bookshelves in real, live bookstores. And then every once in a while something will come along and it will hit me (usually rather violently), how incredibly fortunate I am to be in this position. That so many people came together to give me this opportunity to hold a book I wrote in my hands.


So to answer the question I was never really asked: I felt proud and humbled and grateful and fortunate and big and small. Basically, I had all the feelings.


But the absolute best part of getting these ARCs? I finally got to give my sister a copy. Let me explain:


I’m a really bad secret-keeper. I tell my twin sister Brandy EVERYTHING, whether it’s interesting or she wants to hear it or not. So it was incredibly, incredibly difficult for me not to blurt out this particular secret to her. In fact, I almost did on multiple occasions. But in the end I was really glad I didn’t when Brandy finally opened up her copy and saw this:




Her reaction? Priceless, and completely worth over a year of waiting to show her. Of course, like any normal human, I was there with a camera to snap pictures of her crying to post publicly on the internet.




Is that not the best? Like, ever? Unless of course those are legit-upset tears. And Scarlett is consoling her. “Don’t worry, Mommy. Probably no one will read it anyway.”


Posted in Uncategorized 26 Comments

I was tagged by the lovely Susan Adrian to participate in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop, which is a chance for authors to tell the world about the book they’re working on.  The author answers 10 questions about their next book, and then tags another author to do the same. So here I go!




Ok I’m going to cheat and talk about my upcoming novel HEXED because I’m not working on anything I can share at the moment. So yeah. The title of my book is HEXED.




Three years ago, my sister, who is also a writer, told me about an adult historical novel she wanted to write, which she planned to call THE WITCH HUNTER’S BIBLE. I love love loved that title, and after she decided to ditch it in favor of another I asked her if I could steal it for a YA novel that had been rapidly forming in my head. Thankfully, she agreed, and without me having to resort to begging or violence too. BONUS.




Urban fantasy? Paranormal romance?




Tough question! I (surprisingly) have never thought of this. If they curled her hair Diana Agron could probably be a pretty wicked Indie. A platinum-haired Emma Roberts would be a great Bianca. A dark-haired Dakota Fanning could play Paige. Devon could be played by Alex Pettyfer. Bishop is a tough one . . . Kyle Loza? He did inspire the character. Except he’s a motocross rider and not an actor.




A snarky sixteen-year-old cheerleader is forced into a centuries-old battle between witches and sorcerers only to uncover the first of many dark truths about her life.




Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books (WOO!)




About four months. Of course there were many rounds of edits that followed and the book hardly resembles what it did on first draft (which is a good thing!).




Hard to compare your book to others without sort of sounding like an asshat but . . . HEX HALL by Rachel Hawkins and PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White for the combination of romance, magic, action and humor.




See #2 :)




Sexy boys. And kissing. And MAGIC!


And now on to the next writer! I’m going to tag the brilliantly talented Lori M. Lee. Take it away, Lori!


Posted in Uncategorized 6 Comments



Exciting times, y’all–the Xmas in July Pitch contest has had another success! This time it’s Charlotte Huang, author of entry #13, WEIRD TRAVELS FAST. Charlotte is such a sweetheart and so so talented–I couldn’t be happier for her, or for her amazing agent, for that matter ;) Once you’re done reading Charlotte’s success story, make sure you head on over to twitter and tumblr to give her a follow. Take it away, Charlotte!


I got an agent the old fashioned way—through an online pitch contest. Seriously, if you want to stop reading here, just know that Xmas In July, hosted by Michelle and Ruth L. Stevens, was a total game changer for me and that my only real words of wisdom are to get your entry ready for next year.


For those of you who want the back story, read on!


I spent about a year working on my YA contemporary novel, WEIRD TRAVELS FAST. The first six months of that were less than inspiring. I banged out a first draft. When that was finished, I opened a new document, cut and paste the parts that weren’t completely cringe-inducing into it and wrote some more. I repeated that process. I probably would have kept repeating it but a couple things happened to get me out of that cycle.


First, I won a critique with author Jo Knowles in a charity auction. I took my sweet time getting pages to her but it was always in the back of my mind—“Jo Knowles is waiting for my pages. I better get my act together ASAP and send her the damn pages.” I mean, really I’m sure she wasn’t sitting around wondering when she’d get the chance to read my work but the fear motivated me nonetheless. Her comments gave me the confidence I needed to finish revising and helped me believe that I could put something out into the world without completely embarrassing myself.


Secondly, I found an amazing critique partner—the talented, insightful and highly motivated Chandler Baker. Our practice of setting daily goals gave me the crazy idea of setting a deadline to start querying. I told us both that I would have my manuscript ready to query in June.


This was not an easy task. I remember spending at least one entire day writing first sentences. I tried different opening scenes. I asked friends to beta read. I cut back story and unfortunately, I love to write back story. (Seriously, look how long this post is.)


When I got to a point where I needed a break from the manuscript, I turned my attention to writing my query letter. I read dozens of queries on Absolutewrite and Queryshark. I wrote up a few versions and Chandler very kindly critiqued.


I sent out my first batch of query letters in late May. I got mostly form rejections, with one request for the full manuscript. I kept sending out queries through June with pretty much the same results. I believe I described the query trenches to one friend as, “soul sucking.” Then, Chandler suggested I submit to Xmas In July. I didn’t know much about the world of contests but figured I had nothing to lose. For my own sanity, I had already begun working on my next project and was trying to feel less attached to the fate of WEIRD TRAVELS FAST.


When Michelle tweeted that they had announced the selected entries, I went to her blog and was completely floored to see my name on the list. I tried not to get too giddy but for the two days the contest was live, I was pretty much a disaster. When it ended, I responded to the requests I received and forced myself to get back to my WIP, all while being cautiously optimistic.


About ten days later, I received an email from the first agent who requested, asking to discuss my novel. I could hardly believe it! I emailed back and we set a time for the following Monday. Luckily, the weekend was insane which meant that I didn’t have time to obsess over our call.


Monday arrived and our call went well, considering that I was having an out of body experience. Luckily, she overlooked any nervous rambling on my part and did offer me representation! She gave me time to contact the other agents who had my manuscript. I received another offer from another great agent, but ended up going with the first agent. So now, I’m thrilled to announce that I am represented by Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary Services!


I just want to say, things can change in an instant and even though you may be tempted to many times during the process of trying to find an agent, don’t give up!


If you’d like to see me signing my agency agreement, click here:


Unlike Michelle’s lovely signing picture, mine is totally staged.




Posted in Christmas in July, Xmas in July 5 Comments
  • Writers are instinctively creative people. I can’t tell you the number of people who have told me they would write a book, if only they were creative. Fully formed plot ideas don’t regularly smack writers in the face. Bits and pieces of the puzzle might occasionally come on in a flash of brilliance, but most of the time, plotting a book is hard work. Like Jack London says, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” Pay attention to the world around you. Ask yourself ‘What if?’ questions. Brainstorm with willing and unwilling family members, friends and random passerby. Anyone can be creative if they really try.


  • You need to write what you know–literally. Were writers to interpret this advice at face value, there would be a whole lot of books out there about boring office meetings, Web MD-ing vague medical symptoms for hours on end, and playing bedtime whack-a-mole with your kids (which, if you haven’t had the pleasure of playing, isn’t nearly as fun as it sounds). That’s not to say there isn’t any truth to the literal interpretation: Writing about Paris is obviously going to be easier and more authentic if you’ve been there, writing about an artist will be easier if you’ve studied art, writing a main character who struggles with depression is going to be easier if you’ve experienced depression in the past, etc., etc. But if we limited our writing to our personal experiences, whole genres wouldn’t exist. I, for one, don’t have firsthand knowledge of witches and sorcerers. Or even cheerleading, for that matter. As Kaye Dacus explains, fiction writers should “use everything you’ve experienced in your life to imagine other possibilities, other worlds, other outcomes.” Suzanne Collins famously came up with the idea for THE HUNGER GAMES while flipping between a news broadcast on the war and a reality TV show. Lissa Price came up with the idea for STARTERS after she tried and failed to get a flu shot during a shortage. Use your life experiences as a jumping off point for your imagination.


  • Your idea is completely original. This is going to hurt right in the heart-place, but if you’ve had a book idea, no matter how unique you think that idea is, chances are pretty good that someone, somewhere has had a similar one. And that’s okay. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to write a great book. You could tell five people to write a heartfelt romantic comedy about two kids who meet and fall in love in a cancer support group and you wouldn’t end up with five THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. It’s all about execution, and writing characters readers can connect with. And other complicated things. And science . . .


  • You need to start your book with action. The problem with this one is that we won’t care if your protagonist is being chased by a fire-breathing dragon while being shot at from snipers on the rooftops if we haven’t spent any time with her first. Plus, a high-intensity action scene is bound to be confusing if you haven’t established who your character is and done some basic scene-setting first. I’m not suggesting you start your book years or even months before the drama unfolds—just that you give the reader an opportunity to get their bearings before thrusting them into danger. Take a few steps back from the action and start there. Here’s an excellent article on this topic from Kristen Lamb that’s definitely worth the read.


  • Writing is fun. After all, it is your passion, right? Well yeah, it is fun. But sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I rend garments and consider drastic haircuts. Sometimes I eat too much queso and gain 6 pounds in one week and smell bad. Which leads me to:


  • It will get easier. I wish this were true, but it’s not. Writing books is hard. It was hard the day I started writing and it’s still hard today and I imagine it will probably be hard forever and ever. But (Lame cliché alert!), nothing worth having comes easy.


  • Once you’re in the Published Author Club, you’re in for life. Nope. Unless you’re some household-name-mega-bestseller-Oprah’s-Book-Club author (and probably not even then), each and every one of your books is going to be judged based on its own merit. Getting a major book deal with Random Penguin (As I will stubbornly continue to call them) doesn’t mean they’ll automatically want your next novel. This is true even if your books have sold well in the past. This is true if you’re a New York Times Bestseller. Don’t believe me? Check out this oldie-but-goodie blog post from Aprilynne Pike, wherein she discusses rejection after becoming a #1 NYT bestseller.


  • You will make enough money to quit your job. Not likely. Let’s say you get a book deal (WOOOO!) Even getting something as awesome as a six-figure deal may not be enough to quit your day job. The way most contracts work, your advance will be doled out to you in 3-5 separate checks at various points in the publication process (E.g., when you sign the contract, when you deliver the revised manuscript, when the book is actually published). And if you got a 2 or 3 book deal, that may mean you won’t see the last of that six figures until after the 2-4 years it takes to see your books on shelves. Write because you love it, not because you want to get rich fast.


  • The New York Times Bestseller List is a list of the bestselling books across America the previous week. Not so. Well, not exactly. It’s complicated, and you should probably just watch this informative video. Miss Jackson explains it so much better than me.


  • Once you learn how The New York Times Bestseller List really works, you will stop daydreaming of one-day hitting the list.  
Posted in writing advice 3 Comments

Guys, the cover reveal for my debut YA novel HEXED is up over at! Check it out and enter to win one for 4 signed ARCs (Advance Reader Copies)!


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Posted in Hexed | Tagged Comment

As many of you may already know (because I won’t shut up about it already, seriously), this year’s Christmas in July pitch contest was a huge success. The 30 winning entries featured on our blogs, chosen from over 200 submissions, amassed a hella impressive 81 agent requests. Crazy, right? I’m so proud of these authors it’s disgusting, and I can’t wait for success stories to start rolling in.


But maybe some of you are wondering what made Ruth and I choose our winners over the many other wonderful entries we received (Or maybe I’m just imagining that. Maybe no one cares. Maybe I’m just speaking into a void. MAYBE NO ONE LOVES ME.)


*Ahem* Sorry about that.


So, here I am to shed a little light on this topic.


Great concept + tightly crafted query and pages + Voice= Automatic ‘Yes’.


But this seems obvious, right? And not particularly helpful? So maybe instead of focusing on why we picked on an entry, let’s discuss the reasons we passed.


*Disclaimer* I’m not an agent (Duh). These are my personal opinions.


*Disclaimer #2* No offense is meant to hard-working writers. I know only too well the sting of rejection, having amassed, oh, 90+ agent rejections for Hexed. It sucks. It hurts right in the heart-place. This list is meant to be helpful to those who might be wondering why their manuscript didn’t make the cut and how their entries might be improved. I love you. Muah!



Various reasons entries were rejected



  • The query letter was too long (e.g., well over 350 words, sometimes as long as 600). There isn’t a book in history that couldn’t be presented in a one-page query. If you can’t tell us what your story is about in one page, it’s a bit concerning for the type of writing that can be expected in the novel. Show us you can write a focused story!


  • On the other hand, vagueness is rarely intriguing either. Example? (That I made up, of course!). ‘Julia is thrust into a dangerous world she never could have seen coming…she embarks on an incredible journey…she’ll have to overcome outstanding odds…” You get the idea. None of these phrases tell us anything about the plot, really. Which brings us to:


  • No clear sense of plot and stakes. A query letter shouldn’t begin with a long description of past events leading up to the present dilemma and it’s not the time to show off your flowery prose. We (and agents!) want to know what happens in your book. Start where the story starts, and be clear about what your character wants, what stands in her way, and what she has to do to succeed.


  • This point isn’t particularly helpful, but it’s probably the #1 reason an entry was rejected: It just failed to excite. There was nothing wrong with the entry, per se; it just didn’t leave us feeling hungry for more. I think this probably relates mostly to a lack of voice. Without voice, writing can appear bland and non-engaging. The entries with personality really stood out in the massive slush pile.


  • The concept didn’t differentiate itself from what’s already on the market. In other words, it felt ‘familiar’, done before. Which leads us to:


  • Vampires.


  • Numerous grammatical and spelling errors. One small error could be an oversight, but many are concerning.


  • Failure to follow the submission guidelines. (For example, you were asked to submit a query letter and the first 500 words and you opted not to include a query and sent 2000 words of your manuscript.)



All that said…don’t give up! The book world is filled with rejection. It’s not a death knell. If you work hard, write a great book with market appeal, and keep pushing forward in the face of rejection, someone is bound to take notice.

Posted in Christmas in July, query letter, rejection, writing advice, Xmas in July 2 Comments



It’s happening!


Below are fifteen of the thirty winning entries for the second annual Xmas in July Pitch Contest! (The other fifteen winners can be found over at Ruth Lauren Steven’s blog).


Agents will be dropping by to make requests over the next two days (July 18th and 19th). We respectfully ask that no one else comment on the entries during this time.


Agents, there is no limit to the number of requests each manuscript can receive. So if you see that an entry already has a request for a full, please feel free to make a similar request of your own. Really, we won’t mind. Requests can be made directly in the comment box for that entry.


We’ll be tweeting about the contest using the hashtag #XmasinJuly if you want to follow our progress or join in on the fun.


As a reminder, the participating agents are:


Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary Services


Tracey and Josh Adams of Adams Literary


Becky Vinter of Fine Print Literary Management


Diana Fox of Fox Literary


Molly Jaffa of Folio Literary Management


Lucy Carson of Friedrich Literary Agency


Lara Perkins of Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc.


Logan Garrison of The Gernert Company


Sarah LaPolla of Bradford Literary Agency


Tamar Rydzinski of Laura Dail Literary Agency


Monika Verma of Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, Inc.


Brianne Johnson of Writers House


Carly Watters of P.S. Literary Agency


Stefanie Lieberman of Janklow & Nesbit


Jessica Sinsheimer of Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency


Katie Shea of Donald Maass Literary Agency



And so it begins!



Posted in Christmas in July, Xmas in July Comment

Nobody ever died of embarrassment. So Viola has heard, but she’s certain she’ll be the first. Fifteen-year-old, size sixteen Vi is devastated after Ethan, her first love, dumps her for a skinny popular girl. Just as her broken heart begins to mend, a sex tape featuring Vi and her ex goes viral.


In the course of a day, Vi transforms from a quiet honors student to the school’s biggest joke. Mortified that her most private moments are now public and crushed by Ethan’s betrayal, she’s torn between striking back and hiding in her room until graduation.


Branded a grade-A slut, she endures weeks of taunts and bullying. Pushed to her breaking point, Vi stands up for a fellow outcast. The outburst gets her suspended from school and solidifies her as the ultimate pariah.


Things start looking up when she falls for Oliver, a boy from a neighboring school who doesn’t know her reputation. With him, she gets to be Vi instead of Sex Tape Girl, but she can’t help worrying he’ll be another Ethan. She’s wary of trusting anyone with her heart—not with the video just a click away.


RANDOM ACTS OF NUDITY is a 63,000-word contemporary young adult novel. As a semifinalist for the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, Publisher’s Weekly called it “…an emotionally rewarding novel about one young girl’s discovery of confidence and her true self.”


First 500:


Phil Burke is leering at me. That never leads to anything good. Even after taking my seat I feel his eyes boring into the back of my head. Phil staring at me isn’t that unusual—he’s always on the lookout for new ways to torment me. What is unusual is he’s not the only one. On the bus to school I noticed a couple of freshman girls watching me. It was a little odd; I don’t normally attract a lot of attention. I’m not sure what’s earned me their scrutiny, but it’s making me nervous.


Phil is not my favorite person. He was the first to call me fat when I started putting on weight in the third grade. He sat behind me in Science, and every time I raised my hand he let out a barely audible oink. I stopped raising my hand. What’s infuriating is he’s got at least fifty pounds on me.


As soon as homeroom ends, I make a beeline to the girl’s bathroom. Do I have a huge zit? Did I grow a unicorn horn overnight?


I examine my reflection, looking for the cause of the staring. I’m five feet tall and a hundred and sixty pounds. Other than my hair, which is a rich dark red, I’m no one’s idea of a great beauty. I’ve been overweight for most of my life. I don’t think it’s possible for me to be anything else. I’m pretty sure it’s down to genetics. My whole family is fat. Except my little sister, a freak of nature who eats more junk than all of us put together but looks like a stick insect.


Nothing jumps out at me in the mirror. No food on my shirt, or in my teeth. No signs taped to my back. I didn’t forget to wear pants, or suddenly turn into Leonard Nimoy (I’ve had dreams where both happened). I must be imagining it.


I head to my next class. I’m not imagining it. Kids I’ve never spoken to in my entire life follow me with their eyes. I get to Chem and slide into my seat next to Lily. Lily has been my best friend by default since Ethan, my first boyfriend and former best friend, dumped me. I rarely see her outside of school, but we’re in most of the same classes and usually eat lunch together.


“Oh my God, you’re here!” she exclaims.


That’s not her normal greeting.


“Vi, are you okay?”


“I guess. Why wouldn’t I be?” I shrug.


“You don’t know.” Lily grimaces.


“Know what? What’s going on?”


“All right, everybody, put away your lab books, it’s a pop quiz!” Dr. Collins announces.


“What is it?” I whisper to Lily.


“Enough chatter, people. That means you, Viola,” Dr. Collins snaps. We can’t talk for the rest of the class.

Posted in Christmas in July, Xmas in July 3 Comments

Sixteen-year-old Taylor Amare thinks she’s already living her happily-ever-after in 1960s Texas. So when her longtime boyfriend Lawrence Douglas starts hearing voices in his head, she’ll give anything to get her fairytale back.


Diagnosed with rapidly progressing paranoid schizophrenia, Law experiences difficulty distinguishing between reality and fantasy, leaving Taylor somewhere in the middle. The small, misinformed town turns against them, thanks to a zealous family with a vendetta, but Taylor does everything she can to protect Law from their cruelty and violence. She finds herself longing for days of roller coasters and midnight rendezvous at the custard stand, instead of fighting to hold onto her life and a boyfriend who forgets her name.


Law’s hallucinations progress into delusions that everyone’s trying to kill him, a notion that doesn’t seem so far off to Taylor. He says she makes the bad things go away, but she knows all the love in the world can’t pull him out of his twisted reveries. With the town pastor threatening an exorcism and imaginary people telling Law to kill himself in increasingly convincing terms, Taylor’s tempted to escape into her own delusion: that things will get better.


Because if he chooses the voices instead of Taylor, he’ll be as dead as her dreams.


MAD WORLD, a YA historical romance complete at 55k, will appeal to fans of Nicholas Sparks’s THE NOTEBOOK.


First 500:


My daddy used to say there were two kinds of love: the kind that makes your heart race, and the kind that stops it. I said he was going funny, that there was no difference.


But ever since I fell in love with Lawrence Douglas, I knew he was right.

When Law is around, my breath catches. Butterflies—violent, deranged butterflies—attack my stomach in such an overwhelming swarm that I lose my train of thought. Words regularly escape me under his gaze, those gray eyes I swear God worked overtime making. But my impending heart failure usually takes precedence. My chest stills as I look into his eyes, the most colorful gray I’ve ever seen.


This isn’t your typical high school, sex under the bleachers, lust-filled, quote-unquote romance. This is as real as the sun in the sky.


I stare out my window, waiting for something to happen. Crimson streaks the sky like a bloodstain, a splattering of red on a navy blue canvas. Across the street, most of the uniform homes have their lights turned off and curtains drawn. Doors still open, though. This is Texas. Tales of crooks and thieves get told alongside Snow White.


No cars move. No people walk by. Still, I hold out hope. Because in the distance, just before the line of trees, a giant Ferris wheel stands erect. The Zipper, shorter but more terrifying, sits next to it.


And Law said he’d take me.


Never mind we’d both be skinned alive on account of our parents thinking we’d done the dirty. Never mind my mom, better known as That-Taylor-Amare-Girl’s-Real-Mean-Mom-Whose-Desserts-Taste-Like-Jesus, would turn redder than the cherries in her pies. Never mind Law could count on his dad forcing him to put in extra overtime at the store. We wanted one escape. One night to be together, alone in a crowd, intertwined, entangled, inseparable. And we were willing to risk anything for that.


I’m about ready to sleep and call Law in the morning to chew him out when a Chevy comes roaring out of Forklanding, and I thank God Above. He was two minutes away from a good, long cold shoulder treatment, and not talking to Law ranks pretty high on the List Of Things I Dread.


He puts the truck in neutral a few mailboxes from my own, opens the door, and kicks it the rest of the way. He steps out and waves up at my window. I wave back and open it.


“You fixin’ to go to the carnival?” he asks, the velvet drawl he got from his father like honeycomb to my lips.


“Lawrence Douglas, why don’t you say that louder? I don’t think they heard you over in Nashville.” But I’m grinning.


I open the window all the way, and he saunters on over to the ground below me.


“Fall.” He smiles up at me, a grin that makes his eyes crinkle in the corners. “I’ll catch ya.”


So I do.

Posted in Christmas in July, Xmas in July 9 Comments

Fifteen-year old Talia Vogel is what you’d call “drama adverse.” But when her average day includes convincing her mom to wear a bra in public, acting as her older brother’s muscle at school, and getting blackmailed by her seven year-old half sister, drama’s hard to escape.


Unfortunately, her old coping strategy—praying for invisibility—just got a lot harder. Her best friend, Avery, armed with Extreme Makeover plans and a new attitude, is determined to take sophomore year by storm. Soon Talia feels like she’s being jettisoned off Avery’s busy dance card like a suitor with a bowl-cut and bad acne. But things only get worse when the wealthiest family in town, reeling from financial ruin, moves in next door. Bitchy alpha girl Brooke is so angry about her family’s fall from grace that she zeros in on the Vogels, spotlighting their weird antics and forcing Talia into damage control mode.


The only thing keeping Talia from feeling like a complete reject is the unlikely spark she has with Matt, Brooke’s older brother. If Talia ever had a reason to believe that life gets better, Matt would be it. But Matt is so far out of Talia’s league that just being his friend fuels Brooke’s hate fire for Talia. Before Talia’s only crime was proximity, but now she’s threatening popularity. She genuinely believes that keeping a low profile is her safest option, but her fear of taking risks will cost her Avery’s friendship and the chance to be with Matt.


WEIRD TRAVELS FAST is a YA contemporary novel, complete at 60,000 words.


First 500:


Apparently even the prospect of meeting our new next-door neighbors wasn’t a good enough reason for my mom to put on a bra. I’d only seen the movers so far, but still. When she joined me on the porch with her mug of instant coffee, I gave her a look, hoping she’d take the hint and go inside or at least put on a jacket. Wishful thinking.


“Look at all that crap! What do they think this is? The Palace of Versailles?” My mom almost snorted out her coffee; she cracked herself up that much. She made this observation while surrounded by her own boxes that had yet to be moved inside from her flea market raid two weeks ago, but this didn’t strike her as hypocritical.


“Maybe you’ll get lucky and it’ll all end up in the Goodwill shop. Bonanza!” I said.


“Don’t be a smart-ass, Talia.” She glowered at me but we both knew was excited by the possibility of new “treasures.”


The house next door was as small as ours but its fresh coat of paint, actual lawn and level porch made it look more respectable. More items paraded out of the truck, including lots of designer logo’d luggage and an enormous television that looked like it was made for a private screening room. Whoever the new tenants were, it seemed like they were in for one hell of a reality check.


That house had sat empty for well over a year and I had mixed feelings about people moving in. It had been nice having a buffer on at least one side of our house because the fewer people that had to deal with us the better. At the same time, I wouldn’t be opposed to someone cool moving in. My block was filled with retirees who had lived here for over forty years. Not that they weren’t cool in their own meddling, judge-y, old people way.


Like this time a couple years ago when my mom decided to proactively kill the grass in our yard. Neglect just wasn’t doing the job fast enough. She groused about the time it took to mow and water the lawn even though she rarely did either of those things. Our dirt yard did not go unnoticed by the neighbors. Mr. Abrams, who had to be pushing seventy at the time, stopped by to ask if we needed help.


“We want a dirt yard,” my mom had told him. “All that water waste and chemical fertilizer is bad for the environment. You should consider letting your grass die too.” She’d smiled into his bewildered face and gently closed the door.


My mom now drained the last of her coffee. “Can you check on your brother and sister? Make sure they’re ready?”


“Can you remember to put on a bra?”


She sighed. “I’ve only forgotten one time since school started.” With that statement of accomplishment, she waltzed into the house.

Posted in Christmas in July, Xmas in July 8 Comments

Keely just wants senior year to go according to the Plan but when her stepmom spends her college savings, she’s forced to get a job taking care of a beastly old woman. Enter Bryce, an unlikely suitor who challenges Keely to have fun, loosen up and try out an alternate plan.


Grace wants nothing more than to go to prom with the gorgeous Selena Prinze. Cue the dramatic music as her real life romcom gets threatened by more than a ruined dress, an evil stepmother and a midnight deadline.


Fiona wants it all – cheerleading championships, the prom queen crown, some hot arm candy for serious makeoutage – but her craptastic stepmom gets her put on academic probation and kicked off the squad. So she turns to a misfit team of dorks for a quick fix but could it be that the fairest one of all has a little dork in her too?


Complete at 78,000 words, THE EVIL STEPMOTHER CLUB is a contemporary twist on three entwining fairy tales, alternately narrated by three high school heroines. It will appeal to fans of Robin Palmer’s YA novelsand the different points of view in both Maureen Johnson’s The Bermudez Triangle and Ann Brasheres’ Traveling Pants series.


First 500:


My life has come to a screeching halt exactly twice. The first time was the day my mom died. The second was today when my dreams of the future, a Yale education and a prestigious med school, came crashing down around me like a demolished Las Vegas hotel.

“This wasn’t part of the Plan, Dad,” I say to him from across the table. Carol, my wide-hipped and broad-shouldered stepmom, pats him on the back. This is her fault, as far as I can see. I won’t even look at her.


He nods and apologizes for the hundredth time. I know he didn’t have a lot of options; his store has been in trouble for years. But if he hadn’t opened the store in the first place, if he hadn’t listened to this new wife, if he hadn’t quit his well-paying managerial position, if he hadn’t taken out a second mortgage, if he hadn’t, if he hadn’t…But he did.


“The Plan can still happen, Keels.” His eyes are wet and his forehead more creased than ever. He’s just as stressed over this as I am. I’m trying my best not to cry.


Everyone knows about my Plan. My older sisters always kind of mocked my Plan, laughing when I laminated and hung it on my bedroom wall in the 6th grade. 4.0 GPA, top SAT and AP scores and Valedictorian at West Beaches High. Undergrad at Yale (done in 3 years). Med school – Johns Hopkins or Harvard. Residency at Johns Hopkins or Mayo Clinic in MN. Open my own practice in a big city (anywhere but Florida).


The Plan meant using the money my parents had started saving when I was born to pay for an Ivy League education. The Plan allowed for me to volunteer at the children’s hospital, so I could get a special community service scholarship and ample experience for my resumé. The Plan would let me enter med school debt free. It did not include me getting a job, ruining the last six weeks of my senior year and destroying any chance I had of going to my mother’s alma mater.


“Plans change, dear,” Carol says nodding, her fake blonde curls bobbing around her face. “That’s what these are for.” She points at a stack of job applications.


Fast food joints. Retail stores. An after school tutoring facility. Childcare provider at the YMCA. Are you kidding me? None of these say future doctor, none of these even pay more than seven dollars an hour.


Carol sees the look on my face and cocks her head. “There’s always one more option. The Gulfview Senior Center has been trying to find a, um, caretaker for one of our special residents and we haven’t found a good match yet. You don’t need any training. The position pays more than double what any of these jobs will.”


Of course, Carol wants me to work at her stupid job, and the tone of her voice suggests that the reason they haven’t been able to find someone for the position is because the resident is less than special. But I don’t have a choice. I need a job.

Posted in Christmas in July, Xmas in July 6 Comments

Thirteen-year-old Asher would do anything to see his father just one more time, but he knows that won’t happen. His dad died three years ago and it’s been nothing but memories ever since. But when a sword-wielding wall of pecs named Gareth shows up and saves Asher from a creature right out of a midnight monster movie, the moppy-haired seventh grader gets handed some news that’s better than a hundred free rolls of tokens at the arcade.


Asher’s dad is alive, and being held captive by Lord Balor – a slimy dad-nabber who’s hiding in Eden Worn, a magical world hidden behind the middle school’s boiler room.


Asher can’t understand why anyone would steal his father, but he’s determined to find out. That is if he can make it through the horde of Grimhounds, army of bloodthirsty Troglins, and ten thousand miles of death in his way. Along with Gareth and two loony enchanters, Asher launches a rescue mission as epic as it is insane. If he fails, he can kiss ever seeing his dad – and returning to his own world – goodbye.


ASHER LOCKE AND THE KNIGHTS OF ARCADIA is a 54,000-word MG Fantasy Adventure.


First 500:


The straight razor made a whispery snikt as Asher freed the shiny edge from its metal handle.


He used to enjoy that sound.


Just holding his dad’s old blade was a kick in the gut. He loved how his dad would set him on the sink and let him pretend-shave with a spoon. But three years of living off nothing but memories still hurt.


No need to start boo-hooing about it now, though. Today was Asher’s birthday. Big 13. Officially a teenager. And if what Em told him was true, a thick mask of facial hair was just a few shaves away.


Asher adjusted his little finger on the curvy end of the handle and glanced up at the foam-covered face staring back at him in the mirror. He let out a long breath, sending a small wad of froth flying out of his nostril.


He pressed the blade against his face and a white-hot pinch seared his chin. Asher sucked in a quick breath, dropping the razor in the sink. A tiny bead of blood stained the shaving cream under his lower lip a pale pink.


“Seriously?” Round one with the razor and he nearly sliced his head in half. This was pointless. He washed off his face, hating the idea that he’d spend the first day of his teenage career looking just like he did when he was a kid: hairless and unmanly. And now reeking of his mom’s Pink Mango-Splosion Lady Lather.




Asher stuck the razor back on the shelf behind his mom’s stash of bunion pads and followed the smell of breakfast into the kitchen, tiptoeing across the cool linoleum floor toward the counter.


“Morning, birthday boy!” his mom said, pushing a pile of scrambled eggs around in a pan. She had her waitress uniform on with her apron slung over a shoulder. Asher could barely make out the diner’s logo hidden in the folds. Her eyes landed on his chin. “What happened?”


Asher touched the cut. “Oh, it’s—I just, um—”


She cocked an eyebrow. “Were you shaving?” There was a hint of Aw, how cute! in her voice. Something no teenager ever wanted to hear.


“Mom, stop.” Asher lifted his hand to hide the evidence. “Em said if I shaved it’d grow back even darker. She said when she turned 13 she shaved her legs and now they look like black pipe cleaners.”


His mom laughed. “Well, when you get to school you can tell her I’m making you hold off ’til you actually have something to shave, okay, kiddo?”


Asher mumbled the most pitiful okay he could manage and walked to the table. He pulled his chair out, stopping as his eyes caught the small wooden box, no bigger than his phone, sitting in the seat. He picked it up and turned it over in his hands. “What’s this?”


His mom glanced over her shoulder, with her mouth fixed in a surprised O. “What—I have no idea. Where’d you find it?”

Posted in Christmas in July, Xmas in July 4 Comments

Sixteen-year-old Alex Martin lives in a perpetual state of almost-dead. Frequent electromagnetic therapy from her scientist uncle is the only thing keeping her alive—until it stops working.


Alex doesn’t expect the cure for her failing heart to come in the form of a cute boy nicknamed The Grim Reaper. Eli Owens makes battered birds fly, gives Alex once-dead flowers, and claims he’s her childhood friend. Alex overlooks Eli’s absurd theory about her past, focusing instead on coaxing him to revive the sick—namely, her. It’s a good distraction from the grief over her sister’s death that threatens to tear her apart. But each time Eli heals, he becomes sicker.


When mention of Eli appears in her dead sister’s journal, Alex is forced to consider his theory about their shared history.  But why can’t she remember? And what else has she forgotten? Records from her childhood heart treatments point to a man Alex believes is the elusive scientist responsible for Eli’s ability. He may be crazy or dangerous or both. But with the boy Alex likes on the verge of death, confronting the scientist is worth the risk. Especially since Eli’s the only one who can fix Alex’s heart.


Complete at 76,000 words, ALIVE is a young adult sci-fi novel that will appeal to fans of Mary Pearson’s THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX and Cat Patrick’s FORGOTTEN.



First 500:


It is always cold down here. Even now, as the summer sun bakes the already sweltering air outside, my uncle’s basement is in perpetual winter. Colder still is the metal table I lie on, steel chilling the bare skin of my arms and legs. I’m only wearing a thin tank top and shorts, but it’s intentional. When the machine gets going, everything becomes hot. Too hot.


Henry swabs my arm with alcohol, raising goosebumps with each swipe. My teeth chatter. “Oh it’s not that bad,” he says, fiddling with a dark bottle. I don’t tell him that I welcome the cold, that I prefer it to the burning. He already knows.


“You want to switch places?” It’s been a year since my last treatment, but time hasn’t dulled the memory of the pain. My uncle mumbles and runs his hands through his thinning gray hair until it sticks out on each side of his head. He adjusts the glaring overhead light. I squint to see his slender figure.


“It’s like riding a bicycle. You’ll see how familiar it feels once we get going.” Henry colors my skin rusty orange with iodine. I shake out my arms. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been through this countless times. The thought of electricity ripping through my body makes my hands tremble.


Henry wraps a tourniquet around my left bicep and I clench my fist. My arm warms and tingles. He slides a catheter into the vein on the inside of my elbow. I watch the blood slip out the plastic end as he removes the needle. “The very fact that you can sustain high-voltage electricity for more so long is remarkable, really.”


“Right. It’s my greatest accomplishment,” I say, rolling my eyes so he won’t notice the quiver in my voice. “Remind me to add it to my college applications next year.” He huffs then secures the catheter to my skin. The tape itches.


A swipe of alcohol on my right hand, cold. A deep pinch. Henry slides a needle into the vein at the base of my fingers and attaches a long tube that connects to a clear bag filled with orange liquid. Frenitine. Next to the six EKG electrodes already dotting my upper body, he pats four round disks, two on each side of the ugly scar that splits my chest in half. A forever-reminder of the damaged heart that forced Henry to think up this treatment.


As painful as this process is, I can’t hate it. It’s keeping me alive. Even at seven, when my heart first faltered and the doctors gave up, I knew that my parents were right: Henry wasn’t hurting me. He was saving my life.


“You’ll need to go higher this time since you’ve neglected our appointments for a year,” Henry says. Neither of us mentions my parents, whose ceaseless fretting over my heart stopped as soon as my sister died. I’m not surprised that neither have offered to drive me the hour to Henry’s house for treatment.

Posted in Christmas in July, Xmas in July 6 Comments

Cassidy Jordan knows she’ll die a few weeks after her eighteenth birthday, and she can’t wait. This is her second time here, and she knows what’s waiting for her in the life-after (the place most mistakenly call “the afterlife”). Getting back there is supposed to be easy: she just has to find nineteen-year-old Riley Davis and help him get his life on track. But doing that isn’t easy at all.


Cassidy has less than two months to help Riley. He’ll die too young if she fails, and she’ll never see the life-after or have another chance at life again. But no one told her helping Riley would mean dating him; she hasn’t dated anyone since the love of her first life caused her death the last time she turned eighteen. And no one warned her she’d cross paths with Selena Jensen, her ex-best-friend who hasn’t forgotten why their friendship ended and is protective of Riley. Then there’s Cassidy’s family, who thinks she’s a normal girl headed to Harvard in the fall. When her aunt discovers that’s not the plan, she shows up to try and drag Cassidy from L.A. to Boston.


Helping Riley is already hard with her aunt and Selena in the way. It’s almost impossible when Cassidy realizes she’s falling for him and is faced with a choice: give Riley the life he’s meant for and leave when it’s time, or give up eternity for the true love she’s never had, knowing Riley will die the same way she did in her first life.


BEFORE AND AFTER is a 64,000-word YA romance.


First 500:


I know how I die. I know when, too.


It’s going to happen less than two months from now, a few weeks after my eighteenth birthday and right before my family thinks I’m supposed to start college. My aunt will be devastated. Not because of the death thing, but because she hates wearing black. Plus, me dying means she won’t get to host The Event of the Year to impress all of her friends before sending me off to Harvard. She’s been counting on outdoing Mrs. Jensen, my ex-best-friend Selena’s mother, since my sophomore year. That’s when the Jensens had their big moving-to-L.A. party that robbed my aunt of her Best-Hostess-on-the-Cul-de-Sac title, or so she thinks. I’m pretty sure no one else cares. It was the same night that Selena had it out with me.


My uncle might be sad for a while, but he’ll get over it. He’s a surgeon. I’ve never seen him cry.


I’m not sick or anything, and I’m not planning my end. I just know what’s going to happen. Just like I knew my parents wouldn’t be coming home that afternoon when I was six, and that the days of Disneyland and ice cream floats would end the second my aunt got ahold of me. And just like I know right now that if the concert I’m at is the last one I get to see before my life is over, I’m going to be mega-pissed. I can’t see anything. Typical.


I’m certain there’s some universal law that if you’re under five-foot-four and standing close to the stage at an outdoor concert, some insanely tall person will come stand right in front of you. It rarely ever fails. Tonight’s answer to the law is blond and around six feet tall, give or take an inch. He looks to be about my age, which means he should have the decency to at least pretend to be a gentleman and not stand in front of a girl. L.A. boys are the worst, I swear, even though I once thought that no boys could be worse than the brats I went to school with in Boston. I changed my mind last week when some clown at the LAX baggage claim stepped on my foot before pushing me out of the way. And I mean that literally, since he was actually dressed as a clown. Welcome to L.A. and the start of my summer vacation.


The guy in front of me now is cute and all — hot, actually, in that way where I can just tell that most girls would let him get away with almost anything — but I’m not most girls and he’s still in my way. I’d much rather be watching the stage than studying his dumb ironic t-shirt and the back of his sandy-blond head, both of which are annoying me to no end. Buddy, move over.


He’s glued to his phone, though, completely oblivious and texting away. I think for a second, blowing a strand of my chestnut brown hair out from in front of my face.

Posted in Christmas in July, Xmas in July 3 Comments

Seventeen-year-old Emily Carlisle isn’t crazy. She’s just a normal teenager. A normal teenager who has just kidnapped an eighty-two year old man from an active home for seniors, and is now driving him across the country to an abandoned amusement park known for gang violence and drug raids.


Okay, so maybe that is the definition of crazy.


Nobody in Broad Ripple, Indiana likes the grumpy old man named Mr. Henry who lives in the yellow house on Delaware street. Well, nobody except for Emily. Because according to her, what’s not to like about a man who still uses film in his camera and looks like he could be the fourth member of ZZ Top? This is when Emily gets an idea. A brilliant havoc-wreaking idea that causes her to do what any “non-crazy” teenager would do during their summer vacation: she kidnaps Mr. Henry and takes him on an eight hundred and thirty-three mile road trip to Louisiana. A road trip that Henry began thirty years ago before he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. A road trip complete with seventies rock music, breaking into abandoned buildings, and an eighteen-year-old guy named Flat who seems convinced that the racist ghost of Abraham Lincoln haunts him. A road trip that teaches Mr. Henry, some things in life are worth waking up for.


WAKING MR. HENRY is a fast-paced, 60,000 word young adult contemporary novel. It will appeal to fans of John Green’s, PAPER TOWNS, and LOOKING FOR ALASKA, with a road trip full of witty, coming-of-age emotional honesty, as well as the realization that people don’t change, they just become more of who they really are.


First 500:


I’m not crazy. I swear. I’m just bored. And sometimes, when I’m bored, I do crazy things.


Like right now.


I’m standing in the middle of a ninety-four year old abandoned church with a row of broken pews on my left and two Chicago PD cops on my right. My three best friends bolt the second the cops walk in but forget to take the alcohol with them. I’m still taking pictures on the second floor so I’m oblivious to their betrayal, or the fact that they have just inherited “ex” to their friendship title.


Cop number one begins this well rehearsed speech that breaking and entering, regardless of the fact the building is unoccupied, is frowned upon in the state of Illinois. Cop number two questions whether or not I’m aware that consuming alcohol under the age of twenty-one is illegal. I tell him I may have heard this somewhere before but I thought it was more of a suggestion than a rule. He doesn’t find this funny. Apparently, neither will the state of Illinois.

“Do you have an ID on you?” cop number two asks.


I lie and tell him I don’t. And I don’t lie for reasons a normal seventeen year old would lie about this sort of thing. I mean, they already know I am not of legal drinking age, so lying about it does me no good. I lie because I don’t want them to know my name. I don’t want them to figure out that they know me. I don’t want them to figure out how they know me.


“Wait a second,” cop number one says. There’s a long pause. He turns to cop number two and says something I can’t hear. Cop number two nods. He then looks back at me and says something I can hear. Something that is the worst thing imaginable… “Aren’t you Emily Carlisle?”



Five days later I’m riding shotgun in my sister Sarah’s white minivan, which smells like an equal combination of spoiled milk and melted crayon. She tells me stuff like this is normal when you have a kid. I can’t decide if she means the smell is normal or the not bothering to clean up after your kid part. Either way, it makes me not want to have kids…or drive a minivan.


“How was jail?” Sarah asks as she pulls onto the exit ramp.


“Pretty much what I expect college to be like,” I tell her, “except less athleticism.”


“Sorry I missed it.”


I shrug. “There’s always next time.”


Sarah idles at a three way stop and waves the car beside her on even though it’s clearly her turn. I roll my eyes. My older sister is the worst kind of driver imaginable. She stops at every yellow light, always stays in the slow lane, refuses to listen to the radio over a ‘respectable’ volume, and never goes two miles above the speed limit. It annoys the shit out of me.

Posted in Christmas in July, Xmas in July 9 Comments


When rule-breaker Luca Grable drowns at seven years old, she doesn’t go to heaven. Instead she becomes an imaginary friend. But when her best-friend-from-life Katie Tayloe is unable to get over her death, the Council of Imaginaries breaks its own rule and assigns Luca to Katie. And the girls spend the next decade growing up almost like nothing ever happened.


But now the council is considering a new rule that will terminate their friendship on Katie’s eighteenth birthday. If they move forward with The Grable Clause, Luca only has a month left before she never sees Katie again. And with her crush Wes Burnley suddenly able to see her after she saves his life—and the chance at a once-in-an-afterlife romance within her grasp—Luca is too caught up in trying to have a normal life to notice that the Imaginary world is breaking apart around her. Or that it’s all her fault.


Luca must learn what it means to be a true friend, or risk the lives of everyone she loves.


THE ART OF BREAKING is a completed 86,000-word young adult paranormal romance. It will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall and Gabrielle Zevin’s Elsewhere.


First 500:


The rules of summer were simple—only one ice cream sandwich per day, no swimming without appropriate supervision, and always be home before dark. On the day Luca Grable died, she broke all three. The first two were acts of seven-year old rebellion. The third was an unintentional side effect of drowning in her best friend’s pool.


But even dying couldn’t keep Luca from growing up. It was one of the perks of becoming an Imaginary friend instead of going to heaven. She got to keep aging along with her best friend as long as Katie needed her. And there was nothing her mentor Math could do about it, no matter how late she was for their weekly meeting.


He could, however, put her on bathroom duty. Again.


Luca checked her watch as she hauled ass the last few feet to the entrance of Imaginary House. Ten more minutes and not even being a few months shy of legal age could save her from scrubbing toilets and bleaching tile grout every Saturday night for the next month.


She flung herself through the front gates, gripping the smooth metal bars for balance, and shot up the sidewalk. The house cast crooked shadows on the lawn from the various additions that jutted out at odd angles from the main building. A few younger Imaginaries chased each other around the half-acre of thick grass, using the shadows as safe zones. Their laughter pierced the air. Their knees were stained with grass and dirt and remnants of melted chocolate. They all skidded to a stop when she raced by them. Mouths open, they stared as if hypnotized by the mass of dark hair that whipped out behind her.


She didn’t look back after she’d passed them. She’d long since given up on being friends with any of them anyway.


Inside, the foyer was packed with other Imaginaries, their chirpy, childish voices ringing off of the stone walls and marble staircase. One boy, who couldn’t have been more than five or six saw her and looked away quickly. His mop of orange hair and pasty skin made it impossible for him to blend into the group around him.


Luca hung back, hoping they’d move along so she didn’t have to deal with them. He peeked around at her again, his eyes wide with the curiosity of a new Imaginary. “Is that one of the Friendlies who works undercover outside the house?” the boy asked.


A girl a step ahead of him looked back over her shoulder.


Luca hadn’t talked to Melissa in years, but she looked the same. Same swinging black hair, same rounded cheeks and pinched lips. They had been, if not friends exactly, at least friendly once. Melissa wrinkled her nose before she turned back around. “She wishes. That’s Luca. She’s an Imaginary,” she informed him.


He stepped out of the pack, not bothering to hide the fact that he was watching Luca now. “But she’s so old!” His voice was a mix of confusion and wonder.

Posted in Christmas in July, Xmas in July 3 Comments