Friday, March 4, 2011


Hey guys.  My blog has a new home as part of my author website.  Same crazy ranting, slightly different look. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wear Books, Not Tomatoes

So I had my first official speaking engagement as an author.  This was the last thing I saw before I blacked out.

No it wasn't!  Nobody threw fruit at me!  I didn't even black out. (I don't think?  Hmmm.)

I spoke at a local middle school's literacy night about what inspired me to read/write when I was younger.  Actually, that was just the suggested topic.  I also waxed poetic about such television masterpieces as "Wipeout" and "Hole in the Wall," as well as my own childhood game show experience.  I know, you're all wondering what on earth that has to do with literacy, but that's between me and the fine students of Westridge Middle.  

I was a little bit scared of being heckled, but I used to teach high school, so I'm familiar with the perils.  Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you.  MUCH scarier was the fact that my parents were in the audience.  They just happened to be visiting from Canada and asked if they could come along, so I said sure!  Of course!  I even insisted they wouldn't make me nervous!  All lies.  

I did really want them to come, though--I just didn't want them to see me flop.  It was all very teenagery of me.  Does anyone else remember feeling like their social failures were only tolerable if their parents didn't know about them?  Back then, I didn't want them to feel sorry for me or think they'd produced loser offspring.  (For the record, I wasn't a loser, and if any of my brothers are reading this, shut up in advance.)  Anyway, I think the literacy night kids had a good time and I certainly did, so I didn't even have to have a teenage freak out on the way home.

One of the fun parts of speaking for me was getting to show a big blown-up cover of Virtuosity.  They all oooh-ed and aaaah-ed like good little captive audience members, which made me want to cart the mounted poster around all day.  I'm actually wearing it around my neck right now.  Shoot, that image is WAY funnier if you've actually seen the cover, which you have not.  You know those t-shirts that have the body of some curvy bikini-clad girl on them, so the person wearing the shirt looks like that's their body?  It would be like that.  Except the Virtuosity girl is wearing a fabulous gown, not a skimpy bikini.  Never mind.  I'll get to show you soon and everything will make perfect sense.  Oh, and I'm not really wearing my book cover right now.

Unless that isn't the dorkiest thing in the world, in which case, I might be.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hello 2011!

Blog, don’t hate me for my neglecting you over Christmas.  Just get over it.  Move on.  I’m singing that Chicago song right now, the one that starts “Everybody needs a little time away…”

This is what I was doing while I was not blogging.  Going to Gatorland with visiting relatives.  For reals.

Like the tan?  The other day someone told me I looked like a vampire, but they started with "No offense, but ..." so I didn't really mind.  No, I really didn't.  It takes a lot of sunscreen to stay this color. (In case you were wondering, the other option is lobster red.)

I haven't just been wrestling gators for the last month, though.  I was also working on the first pass pages of Virtuosity.  It was fun to see it looking like the inside of a real novel, but scary to know it was my last chance to get things right.  Because my kids were out of school for Christmas break, I ended up doing more than a little bit of it at Chuck E. Cheese's.  Also, for reals. 
If it looks like this shot (and many of the shots on this blog) were taken by a five-year-old it's because they were.  And in case you were wondering, the soundtrack at this fine venue for the entire month of December is Chuck E. himself singing Feliz Navidad and Dradle, Dradle, Dradle back to back, over and over again. 

Okay, so I’ve got a list for y’all, but I need to preface it with this announcement:


Really, I'm not, and I’m not just saying that to convince myself.  I’m much more likely to feel guilty about stuff I’ve already screwed up (hmm, retroactive worrying?)  than to flip out about the stuff I haven’t screwed up yet. With that said, I give you the following list.

Things That Might Be Killing Me
1.    Power lines going up right behind my house
2.    Antiperspirant
3.    Whatever the pesticide guy was hosing my house down with yesterday
4.    The dye in the red velvet fro-yo I’m addicted to
5.    The 6000 dental x-rays taken of my cranium last year alone
6.    Insomnia
7.    Ibuprofin.  A lot of Ibuprofin
8.    Millionaire Matchmaker, one brain-cell at a time
9.    Too much sun
10.  Not enough sun
11.  The smell of Chuck E. Cheese’s
12.  My water bottle (either the chemicals being leeched from the plastic or the high-fructose corn syrup I’ve been pouring in there every morning)
13.  Killer bees
14.  Aliens

Crazy, crazy world.   I’d like to point out that worrying about any of the above would cause raised cortisol levels, which are probably more harmful than any of those things in the first place.  Right?  I mean, worrying only helps if it inspires change, and I’m way too busy for behavior modification right now.  So screw you, Dr. Oz.  I’m chugging  this BPA leeching Evian bottle and then  I’m refilling it with straight corn syrup.  Again.  (Sidenote: any show with doctors wearing scrubs and lab coats that isn’t General Hospital or Grey’s Anatomy earns a huge eye roll from me.  Seriously, are you planning on performing an impromptu appendectomy on a lucky audience member?  Or do you think we’re too stupid to understand that you’re doctors unless you’re in your “doctor costume”?)

So here’s my goal for 2011 and the book launch: No worrying.  Just enjoying.  Virtuosity is coming out and there are more than a few things I could agonize over, but I’m not even going to start listing them.  If I freak out about every little thing, this year will be like a really long first-day-at-a-new-job and I’ll miss out on all the fun.

(Sidenote #2: I have a bunch of really horrific “first day” stories, which would make a ruling future blog entry.  Stories so terrible you’d swear I was lying, so embarassing I haven’t even told my husband the details and they’re close to a decade old.  I just threw up a little in my mouth thinking about one of them.)

Writing news: VIRTUOSITY sold to the UK/Commonwealth!!!  Being Canadian, and having lived in London for a year, there has always been a special place in my heart for the motherland.  As evidence, I taught my children the “real” words to My Country Tis of Thee (God Save the Queen) just to mess with my American husband, and I also have a wee bit of a crush on Prince Harry.  I know, I know, he’s kind of the nutso one, but I have a thing for crazies, and yes I know he’s 5 years younger than me.  So what.  Anyway, now I get to love England even more. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010


This was my week for posting A Day in the Writing Life on the Elevensies website.

Here's the link: 

(Elevensies, by the way, are a group of YA/middle grade authors I'm part of who have their debut novels coming out in 2011.  Amazing people.  Smart people.  People who remind me my marketing plan should be more than just forcing my siblings to buy lots of copies of Virtuosity for Christmas presents next year.)

Anyway, I stewed over the Elevensies post because I like to keep things separate: Jessica the writer on one side of the room, Jessica the mom on the other side of the room.  In real life they aren't, and I wholeheartedly believe the two have to co-exist for me to be happy, but nobody wants them jumbled them up.  My family doesn't deserve to have me so pre-occupied with writing that I can't go jump on the trampoline or practice the piano or clean up barf.  And in the writing community I'd rather be defined by my personality and my writing than the fact that I do those other three activities regularly. 

None of that explains why my entire post A Day in the Writing Life is about juggling little kids and writing.  Truthfully, I tried to come up with one that didn't include my kids and it didn't work.  It was garbage and totally untrue.  So, while I generally don't talk about being a mom on this blog, I think the elevensies assignment warranted an exception and figured that while I was at it, I'd just confess to a whole bunch of other things.  Here we go:

1.  Virtuosity was written during nights and naptimes when my youngest was a baby.  "Sleep when they sleep" is only good advice if you aren't writing a book.

2.   Now my kids are old enough (5 and 3) that I can sometimes write when they're up, but when they call me I'm there.  No matter what.  Oh wait, that's a lie--if it's needless tattling ie. "He looked at me weird" I'm as deaf as a doorknob.

3.  I no longer confuse being a good mother with any of the following: gourmet meals, perfectly decorated house, made beds, folded laundry (clean is clean, who cares about wrinkles?), being on the PTA.  I think I'm a pretty good mom, but since I started really writing, I suck at that other stuff.  And because I love being a writer more than I love aforementioned other stuff, I give myself permission to not feel bad about it.

4.  I have to regularly sit down and make sure writing isn't encroaching on mothering, and other less important stuff isn't encroaching on writing.  I'd say almost weekly.  It's not as easy as just making the decision once.

5.  The smile on my son's face when I showed him the cover of Virtuosity and explained that we were going to be able to walk into B&N and see it there on the shelf was worth every second of sleep I lost writing it.  It was like fireworks went off in his brain.  He asks me questions about how I come up with my stories and who the people are all the time.  And then when he comes up with stories of his own to write down, it makes me so happy I could cry.  I guess that sums up the juggling act in all its glory.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Home Again

Meet the girls!  This is my favorite vacation picture.   

From left to right: my sister, my two sisters-in-law, my mom, and then me in the hat.  These are the women that remind me it’s NOT OKAY to go a week without showering, or to wear my electric orange University of Tenessee pajama pants all day long, or to cut my own hair.  Just because I live a whole country away, it’s still NOT OKAY.  I don’t know where I got my less-than-classy tendencies from, but without this bunch, I’d probably be digging through a dumpster right now looking for furniture or lunch or both.  

So vacay was a success.  I bought jeggings, I got my fill of cold for the decade, I ate a lot of chocolate and remarked that it would be fun to go for run if there wasn’t several feet of snow on the ground, and I saw a bull moose close up.  Mostly, it was fun just to talk to the people that understand me best.  Favorite conversations: 1. Plastic surgery (Lift or tuck or both? Botox--yay or nay or forehead only so you don't look like one of the Housewives of Beverly Hills?) 2. How much you'd pay to punch a Kardashian 3.  Whose husband is the most troll-like.  Just kidding, there was surprisingly little man-bashing to be had.  Maybe next time.

And now I’m battling post-vacation blues.  My four and half hour dentist appointment didn’t help any—for the first time in my life I actually cried in the chair.  Don’t judge me.  It was bad.  You would have cried too.  The good news is I only have one more appointment to go, and then I’m done until the next major catastrophe.  I should be back on solid foods in no time at all.

Writing news. 
I’ve SEEN the cover photo of Virtuosity!  It exists.  It’s beautiful.  I’m dying show it to everyone and their dog, even strangers who don’t give a crap and their dogs too, but it’s still top secret so all I can do is be annoying and brag about having a secret.

It’s kind of bizarre that I even have something top secret to allude to.  I mean, it’s me.  Top secret refers to Christmas presents, or that mirror I broke when I was thirteen and then hid under the bed because I knew my mom was going to freak out about it (genius move, I know).   I know my book cover is not a matter of national security.  Probably nobody getting water-boarded if it gets leaked (at least I don’t think so, but really, who knows what they’re up to at Simon & Schuster?), and yet I can’t tell.  So…na-na na-na boo boo?  That doesn't seem like top secret protocol.  Clearly, they should have given me better instructions.

Lastly, the WIP is making me really happy right now.  I’m in that place where I daydream about my characters like they’re real people.  I love the way the story is unfolding, I love the direction the characters are moving, and all that’s a relief because it would be a shame if I had to kill everybody off.  Deep down I kind of like unsettling endings, but not that unsettling.  Besides, I have a feeling my editor/agent/every reader in the world might object to that kind of thing, so I guess it’s good I don’t feel the need to actually kill them.  Anybody else like a good bad ending?  What’s the matter with me?  Feel free to answer either of those questions, either in the comments or just to yourself while you’re shaking your head with disgust.    

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Copyedits, Book 2, Twitter, and MY TEETH

Yay, I’m going on vacation!  All the girls are meeting in Montana next weekend, and by all the girls I mean my mom, sister, sisters-in-law, and NO kids.  Here's what I've got lined up: 

1.  Pedicures
2.  Running with my sister
3.  Teasing my mom until she breaks down and swears at me
4.  Convincing my sisters-in-law that they married morons
5.  Team Edward vs. Team Jacob wrestling match.  Losers get thrown in the lake.

That last one is a whole lot funnier if you know the participants and can picture the hair pulling.  I’m just going to save myself the hassle of getting disowned and clarify now that MY MOM NEVER SWEARS, and MY BROTHERS ARE NOT MORONS.  Oh, and also there is a Santa Clause, and Edward isn’t a jerk. 

Writing News:
I got the green light for Book 2!!!  I sent the first three chapters and synopsis to my editor a couple of weeks ago, and got the good news last week.  Sweet relief!  This means I don’t have to hurl my computer off a building, buy a new computer, and then start writing a new novel.  I’ve put way too much time and love into this new book to be zen about a rejection, so yay!  I feel like I can finally take a deep breath.  By the way, this book (and I hope “this book” isn’t my final title) will be out in fall of 2012.

On an awesome note, looky here at what Anica-the-nicest-editor-in-the-world sent me? 

I call this face the half-blinky.  Tyra doesn't teach it on America's Next Top Model because you're either born with it or you're not.  Anyway, Anica felt bad for me because I’ve had a horrific two-week run of dental trauma (crown, crown, root canal, molar extraction,dry socket, bridge, and probably more coming up).  Or quite possibly she just wanted me to shut up already about my teeth on Twitter.  

But for real, what else am I going to tweet about?  Forgetting to pick up my kid at the bus stop? Check.  What I’m eating? Check.  Sister Wives wanting to make my head explode? Check.  I’ve tweeted about all of those things, because whatever I feel passionately about at the moment is what ends up in that little box.  I have great respect for writers who are able to use Twitter as a marketing tool and come off cool (there are lots who do it well), but I really feel like spewing randomness is more my style.  Especially when my oral surgery comes along with a fancy prescription.  Maybe someday I’ll grow up enough to tweet significantly, but until then it will continue to be my ranting receptacle.  I must say, it feels like good therapy.  If you haven't tried, give it a whirl.

So just when I was about to sit down and enjoy my new books, this arrived:

VIRTUOSITY, fresh from copyedit land, ready for me to work my way through!  I felt like a starving five-year-old who’d been given broccoli and a candy bar, and told do the right thing. 

Quite the dilemma.  On the one hand I had pretty new books to escape into, and on the other hand I had the manuscript I’ve already read a gazillion times to mull over.  Hmm…

Since I was the loser kid who ate the broccoli first just in case someone was watching, I forced myself to go through the entire copyedited manuscript in one sitting last night.  SURPRISE: not at all painful!  It was kind of fun actually, mulling over commas and semicolons into the wee hours of the night.  The only lame part was discovering that I have no idea  how to use lay/lie/layed/lied/laid/lode/liederhosen properly, and now a whole string of people at Simon Pulse know that too.  I am ashamed (but not too ashamed to admit it here, apparently) that I looked it up every time I used it, so I actually thought I was using it correctly.  Thanks for nothing, Google and my English degree.  Just kidding kids, stay in school.

So now I can read my books guilt free, as soon as I write the acknowledgments and dedication.  Easy.  I’m acknowledging my dentist, my endodontist,  and my oral surgeon.  And the dedication…um, actually I’m putting that on ebay.  Bidding starts at $5.  Don’t be stingy.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sweet Revenge

The other day I got sassed by a Walmart employee wearing a name tag, and I immediately thought two things:

1)      What is this, Miami all over again? 
2)      I am going to name a character after you, and he’s going to be stupid and have body odor issues.  And you will never know it because you probably don’t even know how to read, you cranky jerk you, but I’ll know it, and I’ll smile every time I think about the fact that I’ve slandered your name in my own petty and permanent way.
So after thinking for a while about how awesome that was going to be, I started imagining how I could expand that concept to punish everyone who has ever annoyed me.  Like that kid in junior high who teased me for being a goody-goody and then ended up in juvie for stealing a car in eleventh grade—I’m changing one of the names in my WIP to his name.  Yeah!  How ya like them apples, Paul?

Just to clarify, I’m not obsessed with revenge across the board, I just really enjoy naming characters.  It’s like naming babies, but better because I don’t have to convince my husband of anything, or try to figure out how the other kids are going to twist it to mock them.  Sometimes I switch up the names several times during the writing of a story, just for fun.  I look at nationality, age and popularity, meaning, all sorts of stuff, but often it just comes down getting to use one of the names I wanted for my children but got veto-ed.   I have a long list of those.  It’s not because my husband is picky, but because I like old lady names.  I’ll admit it.  I’m not ashamed.  And should I ever have another girl, she just might be Penelope, or Josephine, or Georgianna, if I can convince him that his opinion doesn’t actually matter. 

Right now I’ve got a very likable character with the same name as one of my nieces.   I may end up changing it, but for now it’s a little “thank you” to her parents who helped me out with my research for the story.   I asked my brother and sister-in-law for some experiences from their childhoods (the aforementioned Paul was right, I was a goody-goody so I’ve got nothing but lameness to draw on), and they provided me with pure gold—long lists of their delinquent teenage activity.  I don’t know if I can even believe half the stuff, but it's very entertaining.  Based on my niece’s gene pool, it’s kind of miraculous she isn’t building a pipe bomb in the basement right now, but she’s only eighteen months old.

Anyway, the moral of this story is don’t cross me people.  And if you buy me something really nice for Christmas you just might end up a main character.
On a less psychotic note, my agent, Mandy Hubbard, has some VIRTUOSITY stuff up on her blog!   She shows the query I sent her, then the pitch she sent out to publishers, and finally what's being printed on the book jacket. 

Parting thought:  See the “follow” button to the right?  When I originally set up the blog I took that off thinking now why would I want to advertise the fact that nobody actually reads this blog?  I have since had it explained that people "follow" blogs so they get email updates when I post (I know, I’m an idiot for not knowing this.)  Anyway, I just want you all to know that it freaks me right out, having it up there.  And if the number never climbs out of  the single digits, I'm going to be indiscriminately hating everyone I know.  That's all.