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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

SHELTER ME is almost here…

by Alex McAulay

So my fourth novel, Shelter Me, is coming out in a week, on January 6. To my knowledge, it's the first historical thriller that MTV Books has ever released (but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, anyone!) It's the best book I've written so far, but it's also a little unusual. It's a thriller about a teenage girl during WWII who escapes from boarding school with her friends and embarks on a journey across a war-torn landscape to get back home. Although it's set in the past, I think savvy readers will probably see some parallels to present-day situations. The book goes to some pretty dark, scary places and it's probably closest in tone to my first novel, Bad Girls. I'm really looking forward to reader reactions on this one, so feel free to let me know what you think (you can email me directly at info@alexmcaulay.com and I will try to respond and not be lazy).

At the same time that I'm getting ready to go out and promote Shelter Me, I also just wrapped up my first screenplay, Demonica, which I wrote with a friend from college. It's about a championship fencer who gets stalked by a death cult bent on resurrecting ancient demons. It's inspired by the great early Sam Raimi films, as well as the works of Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper, and Clive Barker. So far, people are liking it, and I'm talking to managers, agents, directors, etc. The good thing about living in Hollywood is that I get to go around and meet people in the film industry all the time (including some childhood heroes) which is always a total blast, because I'm an obsessive movie geek. In fact, the film rights to Bad Girls just got picked up again last month, and things are moving ahead on that front (hopefully I can post more details here soon).

And in addition to all of the above, my wife Lisa is pregnant with our first child. That is, of course, the best and most exciting news of all!! We don't know yet whether it's a boy or a girl, but we are thrilled (and a little scared) either way. We've already been hitting up all our friends who have kids for advice, because we don't really know what we're doing. But we do know that we're probably right at the start of a very big, crazy adventure…

Anyway, so that's what I've been up to recently. I hope all of you out there have a great New Year's! And if you're bored, come check out my redesigned website www.alexmcaulay.com, which features a new FAQ section.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Upside Down

Hope you all had a great holiday. Ours was low key, just the 4 of us (and a new Wii - which I'm not all that into yet).

Since it was just us we didn't go nuts for Christmas dinner (surprise!). Just cooked an oven stuffer roaster, the kind with the pop up button so you can't screw it up.

Only we couldn't find the button. The top of the chicken was looking delish, all golden and yummy. But no button.

Damn those Purdue people! They forgot the pop up button on our chicken!

Um, nope. Turns out we had the bird in upside down. So the button was on the bottom. So that lovely crispy top, all seasoned with butter and rosemary and salt and pepper and onions? No meat there people, just bone.

The other side? The one face down for 2 hours with not a seasoning or crispy brown to be found? That's where the meat is. And that's what we had to eat.

Figures. Turns out you can screw up an oven stuffer roaster with a pop up button after all.

In any case, Christmas is over (sadly, I love Christmas). And I promise, pinky swear, that I will finish the freaking first chapter of my new book now that I have character names resolved.

I'm not a big believer in New Year's resolutions, but if I was I'd resolve to finish the book before summer instead of just thinking about it.

Instead I'll just wish you all a happy new year, because that's so much easier!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2009, HERE I COME!

This is the year I’ve been waiting for, striving for, on my road to publication. Since receiving my contract for Shrinking Violet, I have cyberally met so many amazing authors, editors, reviewers, bloggers and book lovers. You can be as involved in the process as you desire without leaving your computer.

I started out by setting up a MySpace page. There I friended tons of cool authors, found a few old pals and avoided a handful of cyber weirdos. From there I opened up a LiveJournal account. I love reading what is going on in the lives of fellow writers. There is so much to learn from how others work. Writing can be such a solitary profession so this has been a great way to stay in contact with real people/colleagues.

After that I breathed life into my one-dimensional Facebook account that my cousin had urged me to set up a couple of years back. It’s like insta-friends on there! I especially like the status updates where you can track people’s everyday happenings. Shortly after that I wrote my first entry for this fab MTV Books Blog. I really enjoyed all the insight into the revision process provided by such a warm, funny and savvy group of fellow authors.

In the meantime, I also banded with two groups of fellow 2009 debut authors. In the Class of 2K9, www.classof2K9.com, we discuss marketing, promotions and everything in between that has to do with publishing and not. Then there’s the wonderfully supportive group of debutantes that blog on LiveJournal and share daily writing experiences, swap music and even gifts. You can visit us at www.feastofawesome.com and become a watcher of the community.

Let me tell you, 2K9 is going to be a rockin’ year for books from debut and established authors. I’ve had the privilege of reading a few arcs and devoured all of them! I can’t wait to get my hands on more new reads! And the fun does not stop there, Cynthea Liu has created an amazing site, www.authorsnow.com which is the largest internet collaboration of debut children’s and teen book authors and illustrators!

So as I continue on my journey, I hope you’ll stop by some of my cyber hangouts and say hi or check out my website, www.daniellejoseph.com and shoot me an email.

Happy holidays to all and may all your wishes come true in 2009!

Friday, December 19, 2008

How I'm Spending My Holidays

This is how I'm spending the holidays. Imagine it's a postcard. On the bottom it would say Greetings From Revision Land!

A couple weeks ago, I received the revision letter from my lovely MTV Books editor Jen Heddle for my forthcoming novel BALLADS OF SUBURBIA. Deadline January 7th. No holiday break for me. Other than working three nights a week, my life is devoted to revising and writing and making this book freakin' perfect. Right now I'm pretty thankful that I work at a bar because it feels a little bit social and it gives me an opportunity to see some of my friends. (I have no idea how I did this with my 9 to 5 job last time. I think I've blocked out how crazy I felt.) The friends who don't come and visit me at work out of luck until January. I feel bad about this. I miss them. I also feel bad for my boyfriend and my cats all of whom are missing out on cuddle time. I'm also sure Scott wishes I could hold conversations without stopping mid-sentence and staring into space, then going, "Oh sorry... I was thinking about the book." But this is what I do. Scott understands. The cats not so much.

So let me tell you about this picture and walk you through what my routine now.

The photo is taken in my dining room. I relocate to the dining room when doing revisions because I need more space to spread out than the desk in my office provides. Also when spending such long hours writing, I need more window than my office provides. I say window and not sun because it's winter in Chicago. There is no sun. I must say the up side to working on revisions in December instead of October like last time, is I don't long to be outside at all. I look at that snow and am very content to be in front of my computer. There are a few plants in my dining room brightening up the place and that's all I need.

After the first week of working uncomfortably in one of the dining room chairs, Scott was kind enough to bring my office chair down for me. You can see one of the dining room chairs positioned nearby though. That's for Sid, my eldest cat. He never used to be a lap cat but now that he's 13 and it's cold out, he wants to be on my lap. Unlike Lars, my kitten-sized two year old cat, Sid is too big to comfortably type over. I try to accomodate him, get frustrated and put him on the chair. He glares at me and hops up onto the pile of papers at my left.

"Please get down."

He edges toward my lap.

I sigh and place him back on his chair. "This is your chair. Right next to me. You should be fine there."

He glares at me and hops up onto the pile of papers... This process repeats with me raising my voice and feeling guilty about it until eventually Sid settles in or moves onto the living room couch.

He is better behaved than the other two cats. For some reason when I work in my office and am not on urgent deadline, they sleep all day in the bedroom. Now that I'm downstairs, they feel the need to run around, cause a distracting ruckus or hop up onto my stuff. Not pictured is the purple spray bottle that I squirt them with. If I attempt to eat and work, Kaspar is all over the table. He runs from the squirt bottle though. Lars likes to jump on the table just to be annoying. He doesn't care about being squirted until he's really wet. This results in my papers getting wet. Sigh.

Lets talk about all that paper. The manuscript to the left of the computer has my notes scrawled all over it. Mostly I just transcribed the things that my editor put in her revision letter (that's the smaller stack of papers above the manuscript to the left, you can't really see it) and made quick notes about changes I wanted to make. I spent the first day of revisions doing that. It's a process that involves different colored pens and highlighters for different things ie. places where I need to be more descriptive, places where my phrasing is awkward, places where the flow of time is confusing.

There are two manuscripts to the right of the computer. Those are from my lovely critique partners, Jenny and Aaron. They live nearby and we have a writer's group every week (they are the only other people besides Scott, my mom, and people who come to the bar who see me right now), so that is why I have actual printed copies with handwritten notes from them. My other lovely critique partner Vanessa lives in Australia, so she sends her notes back in the Word document. I keep that open on my computer screen and flip back forth between it and my working document. When I make major changes to a draft, I save it as a new document. So I'm on BALLADS draft 6 at this point (IWBYJR had 8 drafts). Though I am calling this Ballads Final Revision... in hopes that it is (Editor will kill me if it is not!).

The stack of paper behind the computer is mail. It's there so that hopefully I will remember to pay the bills. Sigh.

Then there are the notes I make as I go. You'll notice sticky notes along the top of the computer screen. Those are the things I need to remind myself to do throughout, such as "Describe Kara, Cass, and everyone through out" and "Describe places throughout and how they change." This picture was taken a couple days ago and those sticky notes have since multiplied.

To the right of my mouse pad (which you can't see but it's a Nirvana mouse pad, I'm such a fangirl dork) are some notepads and sheets of paper where I wrote random notes when I wasn't by the computer. The pink notepad on top of the stack is the notepad I keep by my bed. I'm an insomniac and I tend to figure things out when I'm supposed to be sleeping, so I sit up and write in that or take it to the bathroom and jot things down so as not to disturb Scott. There is also blue paper beneath the pad. That's from work. I managed to figure out some things while bartending last week. There are some more scraps of paper from when I figured things out while cleaning the house a two weeks ago (and the house has not been cleaned properly since. Thank god there will be no guests besides the Writers Group who understands that words take priority over clean floors and countertops. Soon I really will need to do laundry again though...).

Lastly, we have my supplies. There are the essential books: Dictionary, Synonym Finder (which I prefer to the thesaurus), and Baby Name Book (usually I wouldn't rename characters so late in the game, but a couple of them just weren't right.) There is also a date book. I've broken down my revising time by the day. My book is in four sections (I like breaking books into different acts, I'm not sure why, the inner theater geek?), so I broke the calendar into five section. Equal parts for each of the four sections and then one last week where I read the whole book aloud at least once and make sure each word is perfect and necessary. Basically that's how I do my line edits. Also I send the lovely critique partners the revised MS as I finish each section and they will give me final notes on where something is still lacking or where things can be cut (which is what I really need cause this sucker is getting long!)

I also have nourishment. This picture was taken in the morning so you see my tea cup (I try not to drink much caffienated tea due to the insomnia, but during revisions I drink whatever kind of tea I want), my yogurt (Silk cause I'm vegan) and breakfast bar. There is also the water glass that advertises my favorite sports team (I don't really like sports except I'm a die-hard Chicago White Sox fan). The kitchen is a few steps away (you can see the cabinets in the background of the photo) for when I need more nourishment.

My routine is basically this: Wake up around 9 or 9:30, quickly blog or respond to email, workout on my elliptical in the basement for 30 min (during which I catch up on my guilty pleasure TV, the soap opera One Life to Live. When I'm not revising, I take a "lunch break" and watch it, but there is no time for lunch breaks now), shower, chant, sit down to write with breakfast by 11:30 or so. If I have to work that night (I work from 7:30 pm to 2 am or 3 am on Saturdays), I stop writing around 6 to cook dinner and get ready for work. If not, I write until I'm hungry. Then eat, then possibly write more. Around 10 pm, I'll finally stop and veg with Scott. We watch TV shows together from Netflix. We've watched Californication and now are getting into Weeds. Since Weeds is about the seedy side of suburby and so is my book, it's been working out well. And I'm so in love with Californication, I may just subscribe to Showtime before the next season starts. I've never paid for premium cable in my life so this shows a very serious devotion.

Anyway, those shows and bartending are pretty much my only break. I'm constantly thinking about the book and to keep in that mindset when I do manage to cook and clean, I listen to the 30 song playlist I created for BALLADS.

And while part of me misses having a life and wishes this wasn't happening over the holidays, part of me totally thrives on it. I do my best work under these sorts of intense conditions. At least I hope it's my best. In the midst of it all, I can't really tell. I have days where everything clicks and I think I've never written better and I have days where it feels like total crap and I'm convinced no one will ever pay me to write a book again. This book means more to me in some ways than IWBYJR. I kinda feel like it's the story I've wanted to tell the world since I was 16 and writing short stories about kids sitting in diners. So the pressure is really on and it mostly comes from me.

That's my life right now. What about you? Tell me about your fabulous holiday break plans so I can be jealous. And writers, share your revision strategies and routines. I might tweak mine if yours sound better!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Makin' a list and checkin' it twice

Why not, right? It's the end of the year (almost) or at least, my last post of the year here.

So let's see, this year I:

Severed ties with my old agent (Made me very sad)

Found a new agent (Yay)

Began work on a new adult project (Yay)

Had a young adult book contract canceled (Sucks. A lot.)

Suffered the usual round of rejections and "great writing but not quite right for us" (Eh, part of the game, right?)

Had Adiós nominated for a YALSA list (whee! The librarians like me!)

Had Accent recognized by the Oklahoma Romance Writers in their Reader's Choice Awards (Aw, my second baby got noticed.)

Watched publishing implode under the weight of the economy and its own insanity. (Scary but probably needed in the long run.)

Suffered a major crisis of confidence. (Boo! Hiss!)

Participated in Nano and used it to jump start my writing and attempt to put the demons in a dark hole where they belong. (Begone foul beastie demons!)

Basically, 2008 saw me go from published to unpublished and starting over. It saw me wonder why on earth I still did this and remember exactly why. (Yeah, yanno, I have to. I'd also l ike to earn a living at it, but I kind of have to write for me. I'm good with that.)

While professionally, I'd like to dropkick 2008 straight into oblivion, personally, it hasn't been bad at all. My family-- they're happy and healthy. Got to watch my son start middle school (oy) and last night, I was able to watch his progress in band. Dude-- my boy's a musician! Spent a week in New York with my daughter and discovered that she's a load of fun to travel with. We adopted a rescue dog who fits into our family as if she's always been here. I have two other great dogs who never fail to make me smile. I have a husband, who, while he'll tell me if he thinks something isn't working in a story, also has every faith in the world that I can fix it and has every faith in the world that I'll continue to succeed as a writer, since, as he puts it, "It's not often you get to actually observe someone who's so crazy passionate about what they do. Emphasis on the crazy."

Yeah, I smacked him.

I have a great, amazing network of friends who get the writing crazy. I have a home and plenty and the freedom to pursue my dreams.

Got to see Australia. What? Nothing wrong with a healthy dose of Hugh Jackman.

So NYAH, 2008. You didn't win. I did.

Whatever your celebration, I hope it's safe, happy, and sees you well into 2009.

See y'all on the flip side.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

How to take an author photo

STEP 1. Consult other authors. You have seen beautiful professional photographs of your friends.

Niki Burnham

Christy Reece

Victoria Dahl

Victoria in particular has gotten a lot of mileage out of blogging about her Magical Glowing Left Arm.

You know from talking to your published friends that you will not get any warning from the publisher that your photograph is needed. You will not have time to schedule a photography session then. Your editor will e-mail you out of the blue that she needs your photograph YESTERDAY. When that happens, you’d better be prepared.

STEP 2. Schedule a professional photography session. You like several of the photographs. Send the results to your family and friends to let them choose the best. They hate all of them.

Mother: “You look like you’re posing.”

You: Duh!

STEP 3. Take your own photo. Isn’t this what people do in the age of MySpace and Facebook? Won’t this look young and hip on the back of your book about teens?

You are so proud.

Send to your family and friends. Everyone hates this one too but they don’t say why. Examining it again, you suppose you DO look a bit unbalanced, but no crazier than a chick who blogs about herself in the second person.

STEP 4. Take your own photo. Set this shot up very carefully by lying down on your stomach on the living room floor, where the morning light is good.

Everyone hates this one too. Get frustrated and say to hell with this for a year and a half.

STEP 5. Take your own photo. Actually you are still jaded from the previous sessions. However, it is a beautiful fall day. It is the first day in a long time that hasn’t been humid, so your hair looks pretty good. You are wearing makeup for once. You are wearing your lucky praying mantis T-shirt. You are going to the park to write anyway. Why not take a few photos with your camera phone while you’re there?

You love this photo. You do not ask for anyone’s opinion this time. However, you do admit to your husband where your new author photo came from.

Husband: “OMG you were taking pictures of yourself in the park?!? Did anyone see you?”

STEP 6. Smile smugly when your editor asks for your author photo for the back of GOING TOO FAR and says she needs it yesterday. Send her this new photo immediately.

Editor: “The resolution is too low.”

Damn camera phone!

STEP 7. Consider not sending a photo. Your editor has said it is not required. But you think it will help. Readers want to know you are a real person, not a Novel-Writing Collective. And the photo doesn’t have to be beautiful. It will be very very tiny on the back of the book. How hard can this be? Resolve to give it one more shot.

STEP 8. Enlist help of husband and son. They do not want to take pictures of you. They want to play football. Tell them when this book makes a million dollars, you are not giving them any. Also you are not making them any Hamburger Helper tonight. You slave away in front of the computer all day, creating literary brilliance, and this is the thanks you get? If THEY needed an author photo, YOU would take one of them, and you would not complain this much. God!

STEP 9. Pose and smile while husband takes a hundred photos and son offers unhelpful commentary.

STEP 10. Examine photos. You are older than you thought.

STEP 11. Change clothes. Pose and smile while husband takes a hundred more photos and son suggests you hold his stuffed dog.

STEP 12. Examine photos. Maybe the first batch was not so bad. Show husband your choice.

Husband: “Maybe you could Photoshop it.”

STEP 13. Photoshop picture. It looks much better. Wonder whether the MTV Books art department will notice that you Photoshopped it and laugh at you. Is it better to look vain or wrinkly? Undo the Photoshopping and send. Voila!

The face that sold a hundred thousand books.

Editor: “What’s the photo credit?”

You: “Photo by exasperated husband.”

Editor does not laugh.

The Big Purge

I read something recently about an organizational expert who asked his clients three questions about every item in their closet. Do you love it? Is it flattering? Is it you? If an item of clothing didn't meet all three qualifications, it got tossed.

Now, I went ahead and took a peek at my closet. If I followed his rules I wouldn't have a whole lot to wear. Frankly, it'd be hard to get dressed more than once a week. But I am in the midst of a huge revision of a big book and there is a lot of purging to do. So much is up in the air about the concept and plot right now that I need some guidelines and I am wondering whether I can apply those three questions to every character, plot, subplot, chapter, setting, more.

Do I love it? Like really really love each sentence or character or idea? Does that sentence or scene or character "flatter" or WORK FOR THE BOOK? And is every aspect of the story reflecting who I am and want to be as a writer as I move forward? Maybe these questions will help me figure out what to keep and what to toss as I struggle with this second draft.

How do you decide what stays or goes? In books and in life?


Friday, December 5, 2008

And I'm Supposed to Write, Too?

Being relatively new to the writing biz, it's taken me a while to catch onto the irony that every other writer knows--the more writing success I achieve (modest though mine is), the less time I have to write.

Recently I agreed to teach two writing classes: the first for middle and high school students this winter, the second next spring for the 55-and-older crowd. At heart I'm still that kid who started her term paper the day it was assigned rather than pulling an all-nighter and printing it ten minutes before class. So I'm already writing and rewriting the curriculums and deciding the format to use for my lessons.

In the past I've put everything on transparencies, a holdover from my years of teaching middle school. But the PowerPoint icon has been winking at me from the dock of my Mac for months. Last week I clicked on that little orange sucker and took a stab at the tutorial. There's a learning curve--for me, at least--but forty minutes here, an hour there, two hours wherever I can eke them out, and I'll be able to dazzle my students with technology that everyone else has been using for a decade. 

Speaking of technology, scrounging an overhead projector and screen for school visits is often an adventure. Unearthing an LCD projector could rival the Quest for the Golden Fleece. Maybe I should have my own. But a few hours of searching the Web left me shell-shocked. As if the prices weren't enough to put me off, there are hundreds of brands and models, not to mention terms like "throw ratio" and "native XGA resolution." And lumens--don't get me started!

And it wouldn't be right to leave out my time-sucking buddy, Facebook. In October I blogged about the fun of reconnecting with my friends and former students. And great fun it is. So is updating my status, checking my news feed, writing on walls, and adding birthdays to my social calendar. It's easy to let an hour or two be gobbled up by the pure enjoyment of it all.

This morning I switched it off--the curriculum planning, PowerPoint learning, LCD projector searching, Facebook socializing--and pulled up my YA work-in-progress. At first my characters didn't recognize me, and I had to reintroduce myself. By after we'd dispensed with the niceties, we got down to the business of putting a story together.

Until two minutes later when the dogs let me know they couldn't wait another second to go outside.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Blue or Pink?

EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING A GIRL I LEARNED FROM JUDY BLUME is coming out in trade paperback in April. And when books go from hardcover to paperback they sometimes change the cover. So I was wondering what they'd do. And the other day I received an email from my editor and saw - they changed the cover! Not a lot, as you can tell. They just went from pink to blue.
Hmm. I didn't know what to think. Did I like it? And why just change the background to blue? I often wonder what the designers are thinking when designing covers. I've received many a hateful cover in my writing life - and was lucky enough to have three changed to more palatable artwork that better reflected the content of the books.
Getting the cover is one of the things I always look forward to - it's like your book is real because people can see it, not just read it. And when it's right you're SO excited. And when it's wrong you want to cry, but instead you call your agent and discuss. And then she calls your editor to discuss. And hopefully all that discussing results in a new cover you love.
Out of the 10 books I've written there is one cover I hate. I hate, hate, hate it. Would change it tomorrow if I had the chance. I hate even looking at the book or having anyone else look at it. And that sucks. But I love the other 9, and 9 out of 10 isn't bad, I guess.
So what do you think? Pink or blue?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Say, what's your name?

Parents can agonize for months over what to name their child. Picking a name for a new pet can be stressful too, especially when fighting kids are involved. Selecting names for characters in your book is not much different. A friend of mine said she can’t even start a book until she has all the names down pat. Many scour baby name books or sites, looking for the “perfect” moniker. Me, I take a less scientific approach. I just let the name come to me. And no, I don’t sit there for days waiting to see it written on a coffee mug or flashed across the six o’clock news.
In Shrinking Violet, I actually thought of my main character’s radio name first—Sweet T. That came about because she is sweet and innocent. By doing this, I had easily narrowed down the first letter of her name to a T. I wanted her to have a nickname, Tere, that she goes by and a more formal name that only her mother calls her—Teresa. Much like picking a name for a baby, you actually have to sometimes see your character first before you settle on a name. Tere’s love interest is Gavin and it was not until I visualized him sitting next to her in English class that his name came to be.
I am often tempted to name the “villains” in my books after people that were jerks during my school years. But then I would have to live with their names forever. So actually none of my books so far have characters that are fashioned after people that I know in real life. That’s probably a good thing too!
Do you have any rituals or rules for picking names for characters, children, pets or otherwise?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Going to the Punk Rock Show

Last night I went to see Rise Against and Alkaline Trio in concert and I'm still buzzing from the experience. Especially the Rise Against part because I'd never managed to see them live. Both are Chicago punk bands who are relatively successful (um, I hear them on the radio a lot at least and that's my gauge), and seeing hometown band play always makes for the best concert IMHO because the crowd is extra pumped. Actually part of the crowd was kinda lame, but I'll get to that in a minute.

Concerts have always been a huge part of my life. They were pretty much the highlight of my teenage years. Back then I went to one a week, sometimes more. Seriously. I managed to do this because there was a great punk venue in Chicago called the Fireside Bowl, that had shows almost every day of the week and they were like 5$ or so, affordable even though I only made 4.75/hr bagging groceries at the time. You've probably heard me talk about the Fireside before because my author photo is taken in front of it (an outtake from that photo session is to the left, now it is just a regular bowling alley, but back in the 90s band names would have been on that marquee). It was part of my inspiration for River's Edge in I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone and my characters from my next book Ballads of Suburbia (which is available for pre-order on Amazon now, woo hoo!) go to shows there a lot too. In fact, instead of telling you about it, I will let Kara, my main character from Ballads, tell you about it:

We could usually find parking a block or so from the Fireside. That first night, we parked just around the corner, across from the scraggly grass of a small park. The show was already going on, so we wouldn't have to wait in line outside amongst a bunch of other dirty punks with Mohawks and liberty spikes and every color of hair. You didn't get advance tickets to Fireside shows, you just showed up, and if the band was one you knew everyone was going to be excited about, you showed up really early, claiming your spot on the grubby concrete, which you would trade in for your place right in front of the band. If you got there early enough, you would probably see the band loading their equipment in. There was no stage entrance, no backstage, not even a real stage, absolutely no border between audience and band and no implication that they were somehow better than you, just louder and sometimes more talented. Just people. It was totally the way a show should be.

We saw all kinds of bands there over the next year. Punk bands and hardcore bands and ska bands and grindcore bands and grrrl bands. The first show was a bunch of local bands, some who would go on to be in bands that would be something in the punk sense at least and some who probably grew up and got real jobs, but that was how it went. And honestly, I was so overwhelmed by the experience itself that the music that night was just background noise.

The Fireside itself is rather surreal, especially when you approach it for the first time while stoned. The side of building looks like it’s covered in giant, red and white tiles from someone’s scuffed, tacky kitchen floor. A large, red bowling pin looms above the doorway, stating redundantly, “Bowling,” and, though I’m sure the sign is secured well, due to the worn state of the establishment, the threat of it crashing down seems eminent.

We passed beneath it, paid our five bucks, got our hands marked so that supposedly we couldn’t drink—Adrian had a beer in his mitts within minutes—and emerged into the bowling alley. It seriously was still a bowling alley. The bands played right by the first two lanes and sometimes people bowled at the other end while the show went on.

So that was the Fireside (and a sneak preview of my book, I guess). I saw Slapstick, a band that would go on to spawn Alkaline Trio and a bunch of other bands (the Chicago punk scene is prolific and kind of incestuous, all the bands seem to be related somehow as you can see here in the Slapstick family tree) at the Fireside on a few occasions (and whenever I hear Alkaline Trio on Q101, I laugh a little bit remembering Slapstick's song "Alternative Radio," which has some pretty choice words for that station) and I've seen Alkaline Trio a few times over the past couple years. I never saw Rise Against in their early years which makes me sad because I imagine their live shows were probably much more intense and fun than the one I saw last night.

The reason I put concerts at such a high priority is because back in 1993 when I was 14 years old, I asked my parents if I could see my favorite band Nirvana. They said I'd already spent too much money on concert tickets that season (I think I was going to see Smashing Pumpkins and Urge Overkill as well), so I could see Nirvana when they toured in the summer. Well, Kurt Cobain killed himself six months later so I never got to see my favorite band. I never let my parents say no to a concert again. Bands are volatile. They break up. Tragedies happen. I don't want to miss out on another experience of a lifetime.

Since then I've managed to see every band I wanted to except the Distillers (I missed one show because I had tickets to see REM that night and then the Distillers canceled the show I had tickets to) and up until this point I kept missing Rise Against for one reason or another. So I was hyped for this show. Unbelievably hyped. I complained that the opening bands were taking too long and so were the set changes (if you've read my book, you know I have no patience for those) and when lights went down and the banner dropped that said Rise, I rose, screaming and cheering..... And I was one of three people on the balcony in the Congress Theatre who did so.

Uh yeah. I'm 29 and I spent my teenage years getting crushed in the front row and bruising myself up in the pit and crowd-surfing and all that jazz, so now I go in the balcony where I can see and breathe and sit until the main band comes up. I saw Social Distortion (who is a band I see religiously every time they come to town) at the Congress with my fellow old-and-lame balcony-sitting friends and when Social D came on, everyone including us stood up and we danced in the aisles and it was all good. And let me tell you, the Social D audience was much older than the Rise Against audience, but this time I watched in horror as some dude a few rows behind one of the other girls who stood up actually walked down and yelled at her for standing up and blocking his view. What???!!!! It's a concert! Get off your lazy butt and dance! Sickened by this I took my phone out of my pocket and shoved it in my purse along with the necklace I would die if I lost. I told my confused boyfriend, "I'm going down on the floor because these people are freakin' lame. You coming?"

He shook his head so I left my coat and purse with him, went downstairs and started weaving my way through the audience up toward the front where people were moving and dancing and sweating and pumping their fists and shouting their hearts out along with Tim, the singer of Rise Against. I found a spot and jumped up and down and screamed and sweated and danced in the middle of the chaos like I used too. It wasn't nearly as chaotic as it was back at the tiny Fireside Bowl and while I seriously considered crowd-surfing and/or moshing I decided against it since I haven't done either thing in nearly 10 years. Eventually I went back upstairs and retrieved my boyfriend and insisted he come have a real concert experience too.

It was beautiful though I definitely wished I was at a smaller club to intensify the experience, but I get to see my new favorite band, Civet, at a tiny club in two weeks. I'm looking forward to it like I did as a teen. I mean now it is rare for me to see a concert once a month, so to go again so soon is going to be a treat.

What about you? Do you go to a lot of concerts? Any favorites? (Mine was Hole, Veruca Salt and the Geraldine Fibbers at the Metro in October 1994.) Any bands you are dying to see live?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Writing to the beat of my own drummer

I can easily say that this has been one of the oddest years for me, with respect to writing, I've ever had. It's the first year, since I started pursuing the craft seriously, that I haven't completed a manuscript. I started an adult MS back in January, but had to keep putting it aside for revisions on a young adult manuscript that was scheduled for release next summer and now isn't going to be released at all. And in the meantime, here was this other manuscript, sitting and gathering dust and the occasional few words when I felt inspired, which, unfortunately, wasn't often.

Yeah, I know-- it's confusing to me too. Needless to say, it's been a Year O'Drama, one to which I'll be relieved to say goodbye, if only for that whole fresh start thing. But I figured I'd at least kick start myself into gear by participating in NaNo. Four years ago, I did NaNo and "won" (i.e. put down 50K in the thirty days allotted) but timing and other deadlines conspired to keep me from participating since. And it just wasn't necessary, really. For a long stretch there, I was writing steadily, whether it was on contracted works or proposals for submission or whatever. But the sheer FUBARness that has been this year not only threw a wrench into my typical writing schedules, it also wreaked havoc with my confidence.

So NaNo-- basically, an excuse to write crap as long as you write-- seemed like a pretty good place to start. However, being me, I thought it was silly to try to start something new. I'd just pull out the project I started last January and get back to work on that. And as I got back into it, I found myself writing a lot of new words (15K so far, so I'm a little "behind" but still, a nice word count for two weeks) and even better, I found myself interested in the words that had come before. I was tweaking and playing with phrases and just enjoying the feel of the words rolling around in my mind. And I even had the plot take a slight left turn to Albuquerque even as I was shaking my wee fist and yelling at the screen, "Nooooooooo!! You cannot do this to meeee!!!"

In other words, I was back in my particular groove. I'd rediscovered my joy in writing, when I was so frightened I'd lost it, being so concerned with what the amorphous "they" were going to think about it. You know what I mean, right? The "I hope they like it," or "I wonder what they are going to think about it." Whoever "they" might be in your psyche.

And therein lies the real gift of NaNo. It's really not in the actual word count or the nifty badges and word meters or the coffeehouse write-ins. I mean, it can be—I'm not dismissing that at all. But what I'm trying to say, rather inelegantly, is that the real gift of NaNo is what you take from it. In all likelihood, I'm not going to make word count and that's okay with me. For me, this year, has been about rediscovering who I am as I writer. Rediscovering why I do this and the joy I get from it.

It's been about rediscovering how to write to the beat of my own, eccentric drummer.

So for all of you doing NaNo, good luck in finding what you most want this month.

Friday, November 14, 2008

How to wait

From the author of How to React When You See Your Cover for the First Time and How to Let Go of a Manuscript comes the latest in Jennifer Echols’s acclaimed series of how-to blogs for authors slowly driving themselves insane.

So you’ve finally gotten your cover, but your new novel doesn’t come out until March 17? No worries. There are plenty of things you can do with just a cover until then.

1. Print out your cover and tape it to another book. Pretend that your book has already come out.

2. Remember those stickers from the middle of I Am America and So Can You for The Stephen T. Colbert Nominee for The Literary Excellence? Stick one to your cover and pretend you have won the National Book Award. Wait--what’s this? The MTV Books art department did not leave room anywhere on the cover for your National Book Award! Award John’s chin.

3. Make an LOLcat.

4. Make a countdown calendar.

I am not satisfied with this one, but the other choices involved Care Bears and/or Pamela Anderson.

5. Get over yourself and write something new. NaNoWriMo helps tremendously.

6. Receive your cover for your next book, The Ex Games, coming out in October 2009, but you are not allowed to show it to anyone because it hasn’t been finalized! See step 1.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Lull

I'm in one of those weird writerly quiet periods, while I wait to see when and how my next book will be published. I know I'm supposed to be relaxing, resting on my laurels and such, but what I really want to do is get back to work. I want to write! I just don't know what to work on next.

I came up with this idea to write a sequel to "The Pursuit of Happiness," called "Life, Liberty, Liza." I think it could be fun to go back to the Morrissville Historical Village for another summer and tell Liza's story. But I also wonder, Are sequels inherently lame? Do writers return to old settings and characters because it's comforting? Is there ever REALLY a need for a sequel to a book that was written to stand entirely on its own? Can't I think of anything NEW and EXCITING?

Probably. So after spending a few hours on an outline for the sequel, I set it aside. I'm still trying to get my home office up and running and have some painting to do. It's as good a distraction as any from fretting over the fate of the manuscript that I just sent out into the world, and I can certainly try to think up new ideas while painting. But I wish I could just RELAX and ENJOY this downtime instead of feeling like I want it to just be over already! For the other writers out there, how do you handle this sort of downtime? I envision you all out getting massages or reading poetry in hammocks or going out to rock shows every night and sleeping late every day. All of which sounds like a heck of a lot more fun than painting!

Thoughts on sequels appreciated.


Friday, November 7, 2008

There's Nothing Like a Challenge

November 2008 has already been a month like no other. The history-making election of Barack Obama has engendered a worldwide spirit of exuberance and optimism. But, while the beginning of a new era is on everyone's minds, the months of turbulent Presidential campaigning have led me to another topic: Goal-setting.
As I watched the exhausted candidates crisscrossing the country, giving speech after speech, exposing themselves to criticism and ridicule, I wondered why. Why do people voluntarily run 100 miles through Death Valley, climb Mount Everest, swim the English Channel, or run for President? Why do we feel the need to test ourselves?
I'm one of those people. Three decades ago I declared myself out of shape and took up running. In the beginning, jogging a block was a challenge, but I soon reached my goal of running two miles without stopping. While that would have been enough for some people, it wasn't for me. A year later I ran my first marathon, all 26.2 miles of it, after weeks of training during which my friends and family shook their heads at my pig-headed determination. While I was still training for marathons I took up bodybuilding, working out with weights for two to three hours a day. Then I went for power lifting, even though I weighed less than 115 pounds.
And when people asked me why, the best answer I could give was, "To see if I can."
November is also National Novel Writing Month, when thousands of foolhardy writers pledge to complete a 50,000-word novel in thirty days. While I applaud their resolve, I wonder how they'll manage to get it done--and why.
So I'm asking for your thoughts. What unusual, thrilling, or daredevil challenges are in your past, present, or future? Is the concept of goal setting uniquely human, or are those squirrels darting in front of our cars trying for a personal best?
Tell me. What drives you to stretch beyond your comfort zone?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A New Dawn

I am jubilant this morning, my friends. Filled with a kind of hope and vigor that I have not felt in a very long time. Hope prevailed over hate and ignorance last night, and my sons stayed up to watch it. Nicholas is 14 and has an Obama poster hanging on his wall, and he and I were both near tears during the speech. He had to get up at 6am, but he wasn't going to bed until Obama spoke, and I let him stay up. Daniel, who is 12, had to get up at 7am, but likewise did not want to go to bed. I let him stay up so that he could see it live, and have this piece of history to remember for the rest of his life. After the speech he looked up at me and said "Barack Obama is now officially my hero."

We've elected someone our children can look up to, who can be a guiding light in so many ways. I feared those days were behind us, and though I know there are hard years to come, I also know, now, that there are better days ahead.

America has sent the world a signal. We've been derelict in our duties, to use the power of ideas for the greater good, but we've remembered, now, what it was all for.

We're back, and we're ready to work again.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

When my friend and author Laura Caldwell wrote an essay for a collection I edited (EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING A GIRL I LEARNED FROM JUDY BLUME), she didn't write about one of Judy's well-known kids' books. Instead she chose to write about one of Judy's adult - very adult - books, WIFEY. Laura wrote about reading WIFEY in middle school and being a little freaked out. There's a great line in her essay where she writes, "Do all adults do that? Does Judy Blume do that?" That idea almost did her in.

I think that's something a lot of readers wonder when reading a book - how much of it is based on the author? It's hard not to assume that some of what the author writes about is based on her life. I mean, really, can you honestly make up an entire book?

Here's where I admit how truly unimaginative I am. I use a lot of my own experiences in my stories, as well as my friends. They're all over the place. Not until I wrote LOCAL GIRLS and RICH BOYS, my ninth and tenth books, did any of my characters have a sister. I mean, I never had a sister. I never wanted a sister or asked my parents for one (why would I want to have to share clothes or anything else?). I had a brother. So my characters had brothers. I like chocolate ice cream, so do my characters. I liked school, so do my characters. And the guys in my books are always the guys I wish I'd met in high school.

My friend, and fellow author, Jessica Brody recently sent me an email from LA saying she hadn't known I'd gotten remarried (I'd mentioned my husband in an email we were sending back and forth). I replied that I'd been married for 14 years, but I knew why she'd thought I wasn't. I'd co-written a book about divorce with my friend (who in fact was divorced). Jessica replied, "Oh, I'm so glad to find that out. I always pictured your husband as the husband in BACHELORETTE NUMBER ONE," which was my first book. I told her that the husband in the book was absolutely based on my husband, from the way he looks to the guitar he plays.
Of course there are lots of things in my books that I make up, but there are just as many things, little details, that are absolutely based on real life. And I like that readers might wonder which things really did happen and what was just a figment of my imagination.
What about you? Do you wonder if what you're reading might have some shade of reality to it? And if you write, how much of your own experiences do you use?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Which book character would you like to be?

All this Halloween talk (and a few pumpkin spice lattes) has got me thinking about some of my favorite costumes over the years. When I was eight years old I dressed up as the fiery Swedish girl, Pippi Longstockings from the Astrid Lindgren books. I thought she was the coolest girl ever--smart, sassy, super strong and she lived alone with her pet monkey and horse. I loved that costume, especially since my mom got my hair to stand up on end by inserting wire into my braids.

So now the teen in me thinks Norah from Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan is pretty funky. But of course, the fact that I have already seen the movie and loved Kat Denning, I am even more intrigued by Norah's character. She too is cool, fun, smart and sassy. And since I write mostly young adult novels and am eternally a teen, that is where I will end...

So, if you could be any character from a book, who would you be?

SOULLESS Hits the Shelves

SOULLESS hit bookstores earlier this week, and I am totally psyched. The book looks great (and smells great, too--don't you love the smell of new books?), and so far the reviews and buzz have been excellent. Even cooler, from my POV, is that my 14 year old son snatched one from my office and read it last week and really liked it. Now one of his friends took his copy and is reading it. They usually don't pay that much attention to what I do, so this is a nice surprise, and perhaps it bodes well.

I'm also psyched because Halloween is my favorite day of the year, and fall my favorite season. Sweatshirt weather, the smell of wood-burning stoves, fall foliage...what I really want to do is go for a long walk and then come home and have a horror movie marathon, although I doubt I'll have the time.

SOULLESS, if I may say so, is perfect Halloween reading. Zombies, ghosts, communicating with the dead. Perfect for this time of year. Beyond that, it's also perfect for this election season, because it's about having faith in young America. But I'll leave politics out of it for now.

Here are some of the things being said about SOULLESS right now.

“SOULLESS grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go until the very last page. This is sharp, spiky horror by a master of the genre. Read it with the lights on...”
--Alex McAulay, author of Bad Girls and Oblivion Road

“Buckle up, horror fans! Soulless is a seriously freaky, creepy, gross-you-out, irresistible read. Pitting fierce spirits against wavering souls and unleashing ravenous zombies on their one-time loved ones, this tale of unlikely and imperfect heroes—running from and into the heart of apocalypse—had me in its grasp from start to 2a.m. finish. Then I checked outside my windows and left the lights on.”
--Cynthia Leitich-Smith, author of Tantalize

“This. Book. Is. Awesome. The best thing about SOULLESS, besides it's amazing characters, great dialogue, and superb writing, is the actual premise. I can honestly say that I have NEVER run across this plot line in any other book that I've ever read. That point right there makes picking up a copy of the book imperative. A wild ride through New York with an unforgettable cast of characters. This is one story that you won't soon forget. Needless to say, I loved SOULLESS. Even if you're not a typical zombie lover, you won't be able to resist this story - although you might stay up a bit late with the lights on.”

“Not content to pen just another zombie apocalypse story, Golden goes for the throat by offering something completely new and singularly horrific. Golden has written a knockout with Soulless. His teenage heroes are conflicted, anxious, angry and scared by turns. Each of them makes moral choices and learn to live with them, as the fight to survive narrows their options. The story clicks along at racehorse speed, culminating in a surprising climax with some shattering repercussions. Christopher Golden's many readers and fans of zombie apocalypse survival horror will enjoy this novel without a doubt, but fans of character-driven adventure (with some horrific imagery) may want to give this a try as well. Recommended.”

Mmmm. Halloween candy. Costumes. Parties. The only thing I don't like is that in my town trick or treating is done the Saturday night before Halloween, as a way to make it easier on parents who commute for work, I believe. In a sense it prolongs the holiday, which I appreciate. But to me it doesn't FEEL like Halloween. It isn't the night when the spooks REALLY come out, like they do October 31st. :) Still, I carve the jack o'lanterns and put the candles in, and my kids love it. (All right, the 14 and 12 year olds like it, but the six year old LOVES it.)

Also, it means we can go to my sister-in-law's house and trick or treat a second time, which is a bonus, especially because my kids are so picky about what candy they like that I get TONS of chocolate. It's a win-win.

All right. I've gone on long enough. Last thing--signings. I haven't been doing many this year, but if you're in the New England area, both Joe Hill (author of Heart-Shaped Box) and I will be signing at the Portsmouth Comic Book Show in Portsmouth, NH on November 16th. The gentleman who runs the show, Ralph DiBernardo, is a friend and puts on an excellent event. I'm very much looking forward to it, and I hope you'll drop by if you're in the area.

And, finally, if you're sufficiently intrigued by SOULLESS to go out and pick up a copy, please do e-mail me and let me know what you think.

PS: A little news break...MTV Books and I have just agreed on a deal for my second novel with them, but more on that later.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Conjuring Up the Halloween Spirit

I loooooooove Halloween. There's a Halloween scene in both of my books and I foresee writing one for the third book, too. It just seems natural because I adore the holiday so much. And yet, here we are, a little less than two weeks away from Halloween, my favorite holiday of all time, and I'm ashamed to say I'm not feeling it. Again. Three years ago, I went to a pumpkin patch with a Corn Maze and it was the best Halloween thing I'd done in quite some time, but when I tried to go again this year, it turned out they weren't open yet. And it was the only weekend I could go. I bought a pumpkin a couple of weeks ago when I was in Michigan, but I'm hoping I can convince my boyfriend to do the actual carving because as much as I want to do it myself (even though I am so unskilled), I have a feeling that getting pumpkin guts all over my hands will make my eczema act up and it's just starting to get better. I know I totally sound like an old lady. Believe me, it's upsetting me horribly.

Last year I didn't celebrate Halloween at all because I was knee-deep in IWBYJR revisions. This year I thought I'd make up for my total lameness by throwing a Halloween party. But I've been encountering the same overcommitment time suck issues as Barb blogged about in the post before this one. Since I'm in a mad scramble for writing time as it is, I couldn't cram in party-planning. Sigh. Maybe next year. If I'm still bartending then, Halloween will fall on the day I work and I could throw a huge bash at work and actually make money to boot. If I'm not still bartending that means I'll have more time for party-planning. It seems like a win-win.

So this year the party's out, I haven't had time to go to the local haunted house like I wanted, and I only made it to one of two cemetary tours I planned on doing (though the one I went too was seriously soooo cool! I'm writing a newspaper column about it which I promise to link to and expound upon in my blog next week), but I still need to get into the Halloween spirit somehow. I refuse to be lame two year in a row. I made a promise to myself at sixteen that I would always celebrate Halloween with as much panache as possible. That was the year I trick-or-treated for the last time. I know sixteen sounds a little old to be trick-or-treating, but I had a good excuse. My friends had some French foreign exchange students visiting and we needed to show them how much fun Halloween in the USA was (it is not celebrated in other countries to the degree it is here and I feel so bad for everyone else!). We decided to do it at the last minute, so I dressed up as Sid Vicious's ill-fated girlfriend Nancy Spungen. It didn't take much effort on my part because I already had the torn fishnets, leopard print skirt and the rest of the punk rock clothing, I just had to buy a blond curly wig. Honestly it felt a little half-assed because in grade school I was always the kid who had to come up with the most unique costume idea. One year I was a Queen of Hearts playing card, another time I was a TV set, and another time I was a dye (as in dice, but singular). Not to say my costumes always looked the best because they were always homemade (mostly out of boxes or posterboard), but I definitely got an A+ for effort. That was grade school though and admittedly it went downhill after that. I promised to do better after Nancy Spungen, but the Ice Queen costume from when I was 21 was probably the only time I really put major effort into a Halloween costume.

This year was going to be different. I planned to be a roller derby girl because derby girls kick ass and I could totally roller skate around my basement all night, it would be fun. But now it's looking like I may be going to a concert on Halloween so roller skates are kind of out and I'm at a loss for costume ideas. I've always wanted to dress up as Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks, but like dead Laura Palmer, all wrapped up in plastic the way she was when they found her body on the pilot. I'm not entirely sure that is the best costume for a concert either. So any ideas? Something fun, but not entirely complicated? Because otherwise I have a bad feeling that I'll end up deciding to nix the concert too because sitting on the couch watching cheesy horror movies (like maybe finally break down and rent the Lost Boys 2 and watch it and the original???) is sounding pretty appealing to my tired self. So give me some inspiration, tell me all about your costumes and favorite Halloween activites to get me in the spirit! And like I said costume ideas for me would definitely help!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Being a selfish writer

I've always been pretty good about managing my writing time. Way I see it, it's my job, so I treat it as such. (We won't get into the part where I'm a bit of a workaholic...) But lately, because of Various and Sundry, those little pests, the writing time has been whittled away. I help out with a contest or agree to speak on a panel and that's around the normal everyday stuff like homework and cooking and laundry and making sure the dogs get fed because if I don't make sure, then we know what happens.

Admittedly, these distractions have been a bit of a welcome relief this summer when things were beyond rough on the writing front. However, I've found myself getting increasingly annoyed by the distractions. I allowed the distractions to take over to the point where they eroded a great deal of my writing time. Time that's always been sacred to me. When I get into a writing groove, I don't like—actually, don't allow—anything to get in my way. Problem is, I haven't been able to get into a groove. And every time it seems like the groove's within my reach, something implodes.

This stops now.

The kids? Are old enough to cope with their homework and hey, isn't that your dad over there in front of his computer? Ask him. He has answers too. The laundry doesn't really need to be folded. Cooking is actually relaxing so that can stay on the list, but I'm teaching the kids how to make simple stuff. The dogs? Okay, well, they're my dogs, so they can stay near the top of the list.

Now-- we get to volunteering. Heh. Riiiiiiiiiight.

As another writer friend of mine said, "Welcome to my year of saying 'no.'"

I'm all for paying it forward. I'm all for helping out. I'm not necessarily going to say no right off the bat. But if it's not convenient for me, then guess what? No. I'm a writer. I want to write. And let's face it, I have a temperament that's ideally suited for writing since I like hunkering down in my cave and spending long stretches of time in my own head.

I think it's important for us, especially those of us who are women, because we find it very difficult to delegate responsibilities or again, as my very wise writer friend says, "We have trouble not being Superwoman." Let's face it—most writers I know, are control freaks to a certain degree. We have this attitude of "You know, it'll just get done faster and right if I just do it myself. Not to mention, many of us are of a generation that's had the notion drummed into us that we can have it all. And we can. But— we have to prioritize and that's where so many of us tend to falter, because we put everyone else at the top before us. We've been taught to be self-sacrificing, that we come last, that selfishness or self-indulgence is bad. (I think this is also a very American thing—what with that whole Puritanical origins and all.) Thing is, about most artistic pursuits, they're inherently selfish. You have to live in your own head and shut out the rest of the world, or at least that part of it that doesn't contribute to the process.

Frankly, I miss that. I miss that late night sensation where it's just me and the story and the characters and we're having our conversations and I'm having to wrangle them back into the story before they take a left turn to Albuquerque. Believe it or not, I miss emerging from that fog to find everything around me covered in a thin layer of dust, faintly surprised that the world has continued to revolve, that the sun has continued to rise, and that the kids can get their own breakfast.

So that's my goal—I'm going to do my best to recapture that.

Welcome to my year of saying no.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Coming soon!


by Alex McAulay

A teenage girl discovers that evil comes in many forms, when she and a group of friends run away from boarding school in this stunning novel of suspense and survival from the author of BAD GIRLS.

Maggie Leigh just wants to be a normal teenager, but when German bombs tear apart London during World War II, her ultra-religious mother sees the destruction as divine punishment. She sends Maggie to a remote boarding school in coastal Wales, supposedly to keep her safe, but also to keep her in line. The school is creepy, the headmistress is a lunatic, and the students range from spoiled rich girls to speechless trauma victims. But when a tragic accident happens on the beach, Maggie and three friends are forced to flee the school, plunging into the nightmarish world of Europe during wartime. Now every decision Maggie makes is fraught with danger, and living to see another day depends on how quickly she can think and act... and how far she's willing to go.



by Jennifer Echols

You can try to run away from your past--but not your heart. . .

All Meg has ever wanted is to get away. Away from high school. Away from her backwater town. Away from her parents who seem determined to keep her imprisoned in their dead-end lives. But one crazy evening involving a dare and forbidden railroad tracks, she goes way too far. . .and almost doesn’t make it back.

John made a choice to stay. To enforce the rules. To serve and protect. He has nothing but contempt for what he sees as childish rebellion, and he wants to teach Meg a lesson she won’t soon forget. But Meg pushes him to the edge by questioning everything he learned at the police academy. And when he pushes back, demanding to know why she won’t be tied down, they will drive each other to the edge--and over. . .



by Jan Blazanin

Oribella Bettencourt is living a teenage girl’s dream. At fifteen, she’s a beauty queen, a model, and a breath away from her life-long goal of being a movie actress. She and her mother are more than partners; they’re best friends. When Oribella is diagnosed with alopecia, she believes that losing her hair means the end of her career.

While she struggles to cope with that loss, the strain shatters the special bond she and her mother share. Without friends, family, or direction, Ori feels like a discarded doll until an unexpected ally helps her learn to value friendship and teamwork. And, in time, she and her mother form a new relationship based on love and trust.


by Danielle Joseph

High school senior, Tere Adams, has one dream—to be a dj. By day she is paralyzed when she has to talk to people, but at night, she rocks, doing mock broadcasts in her bedroom. Her confidence is further eroded by her mom, who still sees Tere as the chubby, pale kid, the other children called Snowball. Mom thinks that Tere’s dreams are just silly fantasies, but her new husband, Rob, offers Tere an internship as his top-forty radio station. Her best friend, Audrey, the only person truly aware of Tere’s vast music knowledge, encourages her to take the job. From there Tere must learn to come out from behind her mask. In doing so she confronts the bullies in her life, stands up for herself and falls in love.

Gotta have now!

by Kelly Parra

Do you believe in fate?

Kara Martinez has been trying to be "normal" ever since the accident that took her father's life when she was eleven years old. She's buried the caliente side of her Mexican heritage with her father and tried to be the girl her rigid mother wants her to be--compliant and dressed in pink, and certainly not acting out like her older brother Jason. Not even Danielle, her best friend at Valdez High, has seen the real Kara; only those who read her anonymous blog know the deepest secrets of the sign seer.

Because Kara has a gift--one that often feels like a curse. She sees signs, visions that are clues to a person's fate, if she can put together the pieces of the puzzle in time. So far, she's been able to solve the clues and avert disaster for those she's been warned about--until she sees the flash of a gun on a fellow classmate, and the stakes are raised higher than ever before. Kara does her best to follow the signs, but it's her heart that wanders into new territory when she falls for a mysterious guy from the wrong side of town, taking her closer to answers she may not be able to handle. Will her forbidden romance help her solve the deadly puzzle before it's too late...or lead her even further into danger?

by Christopher Golden

Times Square, New York City: The first ever mass séance is broadcasting live on the Sunrise morning show. If it works, all the spirits of the departed on the other side will have a brief window—just a few minutes—to send a final message to their grieving loved ones.

Clasping hands in an impenetrable grip, three mediums call to their spirit guides as the audience looks on in breathless anticipation. Then the mediums slump over, slack-jawed—catatonic. And in cemeteries surrounding Manhattan, fragments of old corpses dig themselves out of the ground. . . .

The spirits have returned. The dead are walking. They will seek out those who loved them in life, those they left behind . . . but they are savage and they are hungry. They are no longer your mother or father, your brother or sister, your best friend or lover.

They are soulless.

The horror spreads quickly, droves of the ravenous dead seeking out those they left behind—shredding flesh from bone, feeding. But a disparate group of unlikely heroes—two headstrong college rivals, a troubled gang member, a teenage pop star and her bodyguard—is making its way to the center of the nightmare, fighting to protect their loved ones, fighting for their lives, and fighting to end the madness.

by Sabrina Bryan and Julia DeVillers

Who knows better than Sabrina Bryan of The Cheetah Girls what it’s really like to be famous? In this addictive new novel, Sabrina teams up with popular author Julia DeVillers to tell the story of an ordinary girl with an extraordinary secret. . . .

Life in southern California is not at all like Avery expected. She feels invisible at her new high school, her parents are always working, and her only friends are on MySpace. If only her life was like the celebrities she reads about online. . . .

When she’s mistaken on MySpace for a rising pop star’s assistant, Avery scores an invite to a glamorous Hollywood party and snaps a photo of a young starlet with her secret new beau. Eager to share her juicy scoop, Avery starts a blog, the Princess of Gossip, and the next thing she knows, she’s the new gossip girl to watch. Suddenly she’s getting the inside scoop on celebrity sightings, and designers are sending her their hottest clothes and accessories in the hopes of scoring a mention on her blog. When Avery shows up at school in her exclusive fashion swag, even Cecilia, the most popular girl in their class, takes notice.

Then celebutante playboy Beckett Howard sees Avery wearing one of his father’s designs and asks her out. The Princess of Gossip’s true identity is still a secret, but when the paparazzi catch Avery and Beckett on a date, Cecilia gets jealous. There’s only room for one it girl at school. Can the Princess of Gossip hold onto her crown?

by Stephanie Kuehnert

A raw, edgy, emotional novel about growing up punk and living to tell.

The Clash. Social Distortion. Dead Kennedys. Patti Smith. The Ramones. Punk rock is in Emily Black’s blood. Her mother, Louisa, hit the road to follow the incendiary music scene when Emily was four months old and never came back.

Now Emily’s all grown up with a punk band of her own, determined to find the tune that will bring her mother home. Because if Louisa really is following the music, shouldn’t it lead her right back to Emily?

by Jenny O'Connell

Kendra and Mona are best friends, local girls who spend their summers catering to rich tourists and the rest of the year chafing against small-town life. Then Mona's mom marries one of the island's rich summer visitors, and Mona joins the world of the Boston elite, leaving Kendra and Martha's Vineyard behind. When Mona returns the following summer, everything is different. Now Mona spends her days sunbathing with her private school friends, while Kendra works at The Willow Inn--a job she and Mona once hoped to do together.

Unlike his sister, Mona's twin brother Henry hasn't changed. He's spending his summer the way he always has: with long, quiet hours fishing. Early mornings before work become special for Kendra as she starts sharing them with Henry, hoping he can help her figure Mona out. Then Kendra hatches a plan to prove she's Mona's one true friend: uncover the identity of the twins' birth father, a question that has always obsessed Mona. And so she begins to unravel the seventeen-year-old mystery of the summer boy who charmed Mona's mother. But it may prove to be a puzzle better left unsolved--as what she is about to discover will change their lives forever...

by Jenny O'Connell

For seventeen-year-old Winnie, summer can't arrive fast enough--anything to get out of the house and escape the cold war brewing between her parents. With her older sister Shelby spending the summer in Boston, Winnie's left to deal with the situation all by herself. Which is why she's happy to spend all day away from home at a cushy job--camp counselor at the prestigious Oceanview Inn.

When the Barclays, a wealthy summer family, offer Winnie an additional babysitting job in the evenings after work, she jumps at the opportunity. Little Cassie Barclay is fun to take care of, and hanging out in the gorgeous Barclay mansion overlooking the harbor is far more pleasant than being on the front lines of the battle between her parents.

Then Cassie's older and devastatingly attractive stepbrother Jay arrives on the island after a disastrous first year at college, and he seems to want nothing more than to wreak havoc for his stepmother and the rest of his family. Winnie soon discovers that life in the Barclay home isn't so perfect after all, and what was supposed to be a carefree summer escapade is quickly becoming more complicated than she ever thought possible...

by Tara Altebrando

We were going to see the world together, Lindsay and I. We were going to eat it up, whole. But it didn't happen that way.It didn't happen that way at all...

When Chloe's parents decide to take her to Europe the summer before senior year of high school, she’s ecstatic... she only wishes her best friend, Lindsay, could come too. Living in Las Vegas, they have long imagined the world through casinos inspired by great cities and have vowed to travel the globe together someday. Unfortunately, Lindsay’s parents won't agree to send her along.

So Chloe goes to Europe and sends postcards to Lindsay every day. But when she comes home, she must cope with shocking news that rips her family—and Lindsay's—apart. And as she tries to uncover the truth about what happened, Chloe soon begins to feel that Lindsay's brother, Noah, is the one person alive for whom she'd go to the ends of the earth...

From the acclaimed author of The Pursuit of Happiness this is a stunning new novel of friendship, love, and loss set against the dazzling dual backdrops of Europe and Las Vegas.

by Cara Lockwood

The third book in the Bard Academy series, which centers around teens at a boarding school where the teachers are ghosts of literary heroes. This book picks up where THE SCARLET LETTERMAN left off.

Home for the summer, Miranda is blamed when her sister Lindsay takes a bad turn to get attention from her neglectful parents and is sent off to Bard Academy for her freshman year. Miranda not only has to deal with the embarrassment of having a geeky younger sister trailing her around while she tries to fit in at her junior year at Bard, she also has to figure out how to keep the mysteries of the school a secret from her nosey sis. To make matters worse, Miranda's nemesis Parker takes an unusual interest in Lindsay, and takes her under her wing for a “make-over” converting her sister to a Parker clone.

When Lindsay goes missing after Parker sends her into the woods to search for Whale Cove, which is rumored to be the hiding place of a sunken pirate’s ship, Miranda, Ryan and Heathcliff search for her. While exploring the island, they find an old native American Indian shrine that hints that the island and the purgatory has been there a lot longer than they first imagined. People from their group start disappearing one by one, they get the feeling that they’re not alone in the woods.

It turns out that Whale Cove isn’t the home of a pirate ship at all, but of the Peaquod the ship from Moby Dick, and the kidnapper is none other than Ahab, the ship’s peg-legged and revenge-obsessed captain, who has been kidnapping Miranda’s friends and other students from the school, in order to get his ship in sailing condition and once again hunt for Moby Dick.

by Laura Wiess

Blair and Ardith are best friends who have committed an unforgivable act in the name of love and justice. But in order to understand what could drive two young women to such extreme measures, first you'll have to understand why. You'll have to listen as they describe parents who are alternately absent and smothering, classmates who mock and shun anyone different, and young men who are allowed to hurt and dominate without consequence.

You will have to learn what it's like to be a teenage girl who locks her bedroom door at night, who has been written off by the adults around her as damaged goods. A girl who has no one to trust except the one person she's forbidden to see.

You'll have to understand what it's really like to be forgotten and abandoned in America today.

Are you ready?

Oblivion Road
by Alex McAulay

Five stranded teenagers must battle for their lives against a group of escaped convicts, and each other, in this shocking survival thriller from the author of Bad Girls and Lost Summer.

Courtney Stanton thinks she's on just another ski trip with her friends -- until a horrific car accident strands them all on an isolated Colorado road during a blizzard. Frightened but alive, Courtney and her companions discover an abandoned vehicle nearby, and seek help. But the vehicle turns out to be a prison van, with the inmates missing, and the guard's dead body in the front seat.

Soon after, a stumbling figure emerges from the snow, a handcuffed refugee from the van. He says he's been in prison for selling meth, but that he once served in the army. Dare they trust him? He pleads innocence about the guard's murder, warns them about the other fugitives, and promises he will help guide them out of the wilderness. But as the group begins a nightmare trek across the frozen landscape, they start to get the feeling he hasn't told them the entire truth, and someone -- or something -- is secretly watching their every move.

by Justine Musk

Kelly Ruland's world fell apart when her brother Jasper walked away the sole survivor of a car accident...and kept walking right out of town. She doesn't want to believe that Jasper was at fault - but then why did he run away? How could he abandon Kelly and her parents? Now, former star student and athlete Kelly struggles to care about anything anymore, sleepwalking through school and experimenting with dangerous behavior as she tries to fill the void inside her.

Then one night, Jaspers returns...but he's not alone. Someone has followed him home. Someone who hides in the space behind the truth, who hovers in the shadows between the known and the unknown. His name is Archie, and he is the stranger they never asked to know, the guest they never invited . And he's about to challenge Kelly and Jasper to a game that demands a price they may not be willing to pay...

It's Not About the Accent
by Caridad Ferrer

Sporting a new name and an exotic new Latina flair, she's ready for her college debut. But is the luscious Carolina really better than plain-Jane Caroline?

Sick and tired of her life in small-town Ohio -- completely boring with a side of dull -- college-bound Caroline Darcy is determined to start fresh...as a new person. And that means following in the footsteps of her late Nana Ellie -- her witty and vibrant Cuban great-grandmother with a glamorous, well-traveled past. Donning a seriously caliente new wardrobe and a vivacious persona to match, she becomes Carolina, a half-Cuban aspiring actress ready for adventure.

Once at school, everything goes according to plan. Putting her primo acting skills to use, she flirts up Erik, a smooth-talking frat guy with gorgeous baby blues -- who can't get enough of her "exotic" charm. The only person who doesn't seem impressed by her Latina facade is Peter, a quiet, sweet Cuban guy from Miami. But when "Carolina" gets in over her head and finds herself in a dangerous situation, it's Peter who comes to her rescue -- and leads her on a real adventure to discover the truth about Nana Ellie and her family. It turns out that being boring old Caroline is way more exciting than she ever could have imagined.

by Gena Showalter

Alien hunting can get a girl killed. It can also get her a date.

High school senior Camille Robins and her best friend are determined to snag the attention of their crushes before graduation next month. Armed with red-hot outfits and killer hair, they sneak into the hottest nightclub in town -- which caters to the rich and famous, both human and alien. They end up following Erik (who is human) and Silver (who isn't) through a guarded door and are soon separated and under attack...and not the good kind.

Bad boy Erik spares Camille's life, but the two are soon being chased by gun-toting Alien Investigation and Removal agents. Camille's more confused than ever because Erik's finally showing real interest in her, but the agents are accusing him of dealing Onadyn -- a drug that ruins human lives. Suddenly, with the heat of his kiss lingering on her lips, Camille has to decide whose side she's on...and whether she's willing to put her life on the line to save Erik's.

Red Handed
by Gena Showalter

Phoenix Germaine has been trying to earn back her mother's trust after going into rehab and kicking Onadyn -- the drug of choice for New Chicago teens. But when a party in the woods turns into an all-out battle with the most ferocious aliens Phoenix has never seen, she's brought home in what appears to be an Onadyn-induced state. Hello, reform school.

Except, what her mother doesn't know is that Phoenix has just been recruited to join the elite Alien Investigation and Removal agency, where she'll learn to fight dirty, track hard, and destroy the enemy. Her professional training will be rigorous and dangerous, and the fact that one of her instructors is Ryan Stone -- the drop-dead gorgeous, nineteen-year-old agent she met in the woods that night -- doesn't make things any easier. Especially when dating him is totally against the rules....

Wildly imaginative, action-packed, and thrilling, Red Handed launches Gena Showalter's stunning new alien huntress series.

Graffiti Girl
by Kelly Parra

Graffiti art. It's bold. It's thrilling. And it can get a girl into serious trouble...

Raised by her single mom (who's always dating the wrong kind of man) in a struggling California neighborhood, Angel Rodriguez is a headstrong, independent young woman who channels her hopes and dreams for the future into her painting. But when her entry for a community mural doesn't rate, she's heartbroken. Even with winning artist Nathan Ramos -- a senior track star and Angel's secret crush -- taking a sudden interest in Angel and her art, she's angry and hurt. She's determined to find her own place in the art world, her own way.

That's when Miguel Badalin -- from the notorious graffiti crew Reyes Del Norte -- opens her eyes to an underground world of graf tags and turf wars. She's blown away by this bad boy's fantastic work and finds herself drawn to his dangerous charm. Soon she's running with Miguel's crew, pushing her skills to the limit and beginning to emerge as the artist she always dreamed she could be. But Nathan and Miguel are bitter enemies with a shared past, and choosing between them and their wildly different approaches to life and art means that Angel must decide what matters most before the artist inside of her can truly break free.

The Book of Luke
by Jenny O'Connell

From the bestselling author of Plan B comes a funny and touching new novel about a girl, a boy, and a notebook that could ruin everything.

Emily Abbott has always been considered the Girl Most Likely to Be Nice -- but lately being nice hasn't done her any good. Her parents have decided to move the family from Chicago back to their hometown of Boston in the middle of Emily's senior year. Only Emily's first real boyfriend, Sean, is in Chicago, and so is her shot at class valedictorian and early admission to the Ivy League. What's a nice girl to do?

Then Sean dumps Emily on moving day and her father announces he's staying behind in Chicago "to tie up loose ends," and Emily decides that what a nice girl needs to do is to stop being nice.

She reconnects with her best friends in Boston, Josie and Lucy, only to discover that they too have been on the receiving end of some glaring Guy Don'ts. So when the girls have to come up with something to put in the senior class time capsule, they know exactly what to do. They'll create a not-so-nice reference guide for future generations of guys -- an instruction book that teaches them the right way to treat girls.

But when her friends draft Emily to test out their tips on Luke Preston -- the hottest, most popular guy in school, who just broke up with Josie by email -- Emily soon finds that Luke is the trickiest of test subjects . . . and that even a nice girl like Emily has a few things to learn about love.

Boy Trouble
by Beth Killian

Beth Killian's 310 series heats up as rising "It girl" Eva Cordes lands her first starring role -- and a notorious Hollywood bad boy!

What do you get when you mix broken hearts and superstar egos? Drama, drama, and more drama. With her family in chaos, her roommates at each other's throats, and her ex-boyfriend Danny refusing to return her calls, good girl Eva Cordes is desperate for her luck to turn around. So when she snags a role in Westchester County, TV's hottest new primetime hit, she's thrilled. But the casting directors must have made a mistake -- she's been cast as a vampy vixen? Talk about playing against type.

Being the star of the show is more than Eva bargained for -- she has kissing scenes with both her aunt's actor boyfriend (ick!) and smoldering Aussie heartthrob Teague Archer, plus the show is filming on the UCLA campus -- home to the ex-boyfriend she hasn't quite gotten over. And when she's not dealing with boy trouble on the set, she's trying to get to know the older brother she just found out she had (nice going, Mom!). Eva is ready to give up on boys forever, but Teague Archer -- the guy every girl wants -- has decided he wants Eva. This good girl is no match for his bad boy ways...or is she? Eva just might surprise everyone -- including herself.

Such a Pretty Girl
by Laura Wiess

They promised Meredith nine years of safety, but only gave her three.

Her father was supposed to be locked up until Meredith turned eighteen. She thought she had time to grow up, get out, and start a new life. But Meredith is only fifteen, and today her father is coming home from prison.

Today her time has run out.

The Scarlet Letterman
by Cara Lockwood

Miranda Tate and her closest friends have been let in on a powerful secret: their teachers are famous dead writers.

After a heroic first semester, Miranda's got Bard Academy's ghost faculty in her debt, a new boyfriend in hot basketball player Ryan Kent, and she's just turned in a paper about The Scarlet Letter that she's sure is A material. But when the Bard Queen Bee, Parker Rodham, claims she's attacked in the woods, Ryan is all too happy to play bodyguard. Then teachers start disappearing and the campus is abuzz with news of the Hooded Sweatshirt Stalker -- not to mention sightings of a monster in the woods. But it's Miranda who feels like a moving target when she is accused not only of plagiarism but of suspicious involvement in the attacks!

Meanwhile, rumors are flying about what it really means that Miranda's wearing Ryan's varsity letterman jacket. And she just can't shake her nagging feelings for Heathcliff, who entrusted her with the locket that keeps him in the "real" world even though every one else thinks he's back where he belongs, in the pages of Wuthering Heights. Is he the campus stalker? Does she like him more than she likes Ryan? And how is that possible if he's only a character from a book?

Beautiful Disaster
by Kylie Adams

Senior year is cooling down, student scandals are heating up, and in sexy South Beach, one teen's wicked dirty trouble is another teen's good clean fun. Until the last killer party becomes exactly that -- a party that kills.

Everyone wants to be just like them: Vanity, the gorgeous celebutante; Dante, the hip-hop dreamer; Max, the second-generation Hollywood bad boy; Christina, the just-out-of-the-closet Latina; and Pippa, the British hottie. They're the fabulous five of the Miami Academy for Performing Arts, and they've got everything and more. But for the unluckiest one of all, that includes a violent death at seventeen...on the night before graduation.

Hot romance, dangerous games, platinum dreams, and deadly choices. For some people, it's an impossible life. For Miami's most infamous clique, it's just another day at the beach...and for one of them, it's going to be the last.

Lost Summer
by Alex McAulay

When Caitlin Ross's mother takes her and her brother to an island in the remote Outer Banks for the summer, Caitlin is furious. She was planning on spending the summer hanging out by the pool, partying, shopping, and singing backup in her boyfriend's band, Box of Flowers. North Carolina isn't anything like California, and Caitlin doesn't fit in. But her troubled mother is too busy popping pills and trying to win back her creepy ex-boyfriend to care.

At first, the only friend Caitlin makes on the desolate island is a local misfit named Danielle. but things start to improve when she meets a bunch of visiting prep school boys and gets swept up in their exciting world. Then, one dark night, she witnesses a murder and begins to suspect that her new friends aren't really her friends at all. With a powerful hurricane approaching, and the island cut off from the outside world, Caitlin has no one to turn to but herself...and whether she'll live to see another summer is the biggest mystery of all.

Everything She Wants
by Beth Killian

In the second book of Beth Killian's juicy 310 series, Hollywood newcomer Eva Cordes starts to unravel her family's dark secrets -- and creates some scandals of her own.

Aspiring actress Eva feels like she's finally on her way to the big time -- she's got new friends, a new life, and a starring role in a hot new commercial. And with Valentine's Day fast approaching, she's determined to finally "seal the deal" with her new boyfriend, Danny. But all her plans turn inside out when someone from her past shows up at her doorstep -- with an engagement ring!?!

Eva swears the only guy she wants to be with is Danny, but he's starting to have doubts. So when she finds out the shocking truth about her father's identity, she has no one to turn to -- the guys are at each other's throats and her roommates are having a major catfight of their own.

Eva is about to make some tough choices...and if she's not careful, she may make the biggest mistake of her life.

Bling Addiction
by Kylie Adams

After a hot summer of partying in sexy South Beach, the fabulous five of the Miami Academy for Creative and Performing Arts are back in school but no less scandalous!

You met them in Cruel Summer: Vanity, the gorgeous celebutante; Dante, the hip-hop dreamer; Max, the second-generation Hollywood bad boy; Christina, the anime-obsessed Latina; and Pippa, the British hottie. Now, with a sex tape looming overhead and a very adult career happening in secret, you're about to get to know them better than ever.

But as out-of-control parties rage and dangerous connections form, the cool kids who thought they'd be friends forever are about to face the cold hard fact that they won't...because one of them will be dead by graduation day.

Wuthering High
by Cara Lockwood

Welcome to Bard Academy, where a group of supposedly troubled teens are about to get scared straight.

When Miranda, a slightly spoiled but spirited fifteen-year-old from Chicago, smashes up her father's car and goes to town with her stepmother's credit cards, she's shipped off to Bard Academy, a boarding school where she's supposed to learn to behave. Gothic and boring and strict, it's everything you'd expect of a reform school. But all is not what it seems at Bard....

For starters, Miranda's having horrific nightmares and the nearby woods are eerily impossible to navigate. The students' lives also start to mirror the classics they're reading -- tragic novels like Dracula, Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre. So Miranda begins to suspect that Bard is haunted -- by famous writers who took their own lives -- and she senses that not all of them are happy. Complicating things even more is the fact that Ryan Kent -- a cute, smart, funny basketball player who went to Miranda's old high school -- landed himself in Bard, too. And the attention he's showing Miranda is making some of the other girls white as ghosts. Something ghoulish is definitely brewing at Bard, and Miranda seems to be at the center of ominous events, but whether it's typical high school b.s. or otherworldly danger remains to be seen.

Adios to My Old Life
by Caridad Ferrer

Does a seventeen-year-old from Miami have what it takes to be the next big Latin superstar? And does she really want it?

As a talented singer-guitarist with a dream of going pro, Alegría Montero is getting fed up with the endless, boring parade of quinceañeras and other family party gigs. She's longing for something bigger. And Oye Mi Canto -- a new reality TV show that's searching for the next Latin superstar -- is definitely that. Ali figures she'll never make the cut, but auditioning seems like a good way to get her overprotective father to take her ambitions seriously.

To Ali's complete shock, she passes her audition. Next thing she knows, she's dealing with wardrobe fittings, cameras, reporters, vocal coaches, and websites designed by lovestruck fanboys. She's also dealing with jealousy, malice, and sabotage among the contestants, all of which has her wondering: Is it really time to shoot for the stars and try to win the whole competition, or is it time to say "Cut!" and become a normal teenager again?

Oh My Goth
by Gena Showalter

A fiercely individualist Goth girl wakes up to discover that the whole world has gone Goth and she's actually -- gag -- popular.

Jade Leigh is a nonconformist who values individuality above all else. She has a small group of like-minded Goth friends who wear black, dabble in the dark arts, and thrive outside the norm. They're considered the "freaks" of their high school. But when Jade's smart mouth lands her in trouble -- again -- her principal decides to teach her a lesson she'll never forget.

Taken to a remote location where she is strapped down and sedated, Jade wakes up in an alternate universe where she rules the school. But her best friends won't talk to her, and the people she used to hate are all Goth. Only Clarik, the mysterious new boy in town, operates outside all the cliques. And only Mercedes, the Barbie clone Jade loathes, believes that Jade's stuck in a virtual reality game -- because she's stuck there, too, now living the life of a "freak." Together, they realize they might never get back to reality...and that even if they do, things might never be the same.

The Pursuit of Happiness
by Tara Altebrando

These are the real five stages of grief: agitation, intoxication, experimentation, resignation, and reinvigoration.

Betsy knows that her summer job at a colonial village is going to ruin whatever slim chance she has of ever being popular. To make matters worse, Liza Henske, only the biggest freak from school -- piercings, tattoos, you name it -- works at the village, too. But when Betsy's mother dies, playing farm girl starts to feel like a great escape...from her shattered family, from the boyfriend who dumps her, from the friend group that goes poof.

Fortunately, Liza turns out not to be such a freak after all. And James -- a lanky surfer who works at the village -- has started carving Betsy things out of wood. Being with him is the only thing that makes her feel normal these days. That, and cutting images out of black paper like colonial silhouette artists did, which she knows must seem strange, but life seems very black and white lately...except for things with James, which are a million shades of gray.

Plan B
by Jenny O'Connell

Coast through senior year. Graduate. Travel around Europe. Join boyfriend out East for college.

That's the plan. Then the phone rings.

Vanessa has the next year of her life pretty much figured out. Sure, there's some parental convincing to do but she and her celebrity-obsessed gal pal Taylor pretty much think their plan is airtight.

Then Vanessa's parents get a mysterious phone call and drop a bombshell on her that she never could have imagined. She has a half brother. And he's coming to live with them.

If that wasn't bad enough, this half brother is none other than Hollywood bad boy Reed Vaughn. He's famous. He's going to be a senior, too. And he's going to ruin Vanessa's life for sure....

Life as a Poser
by Beth Killian

A new cell with the right area code. A sky's-the-limit credit card. A chance at becoming a Hollywood It Girl. What else could Eva possibly want?

Caught in the middle of senior year's juiciest scandal, Eva Cordes graduates early and moves to L.A. to live with her aunt -- the top talent agent for teens -- who plans to make her a star.

Eva has another reason for heading to Hollywood: it's time for her to get to know her mother -- a once-famous model who left Eva to be raised by her grandparents.

But when she gets stuck rooming with a bunch of outrageous teen starlets, and her mom doesn't want to admit she even has a daughter, Eva's life is one big tabloid story after another.

Smoking-hot Hollywood insider Danny wants to be her leading man, but he's officially off-limits. With all these complications, how can Eva ever make it down the red carpet without falling flat on her face?

Cruel Summer
by Kylie Adams

One gorgeous celebutante. One hip-hop dreamer. One second-generation Hollywood badboy. One anime-obsessed Latina. One British hottie....

They're five friends living the highlife in sexy South Beach, Miami. And one of them won't make it to graduation alive.

Life is fast and furious for these A-listers and their friends: the hottest bars, the hippest clubs, the coolest, most exclusive parties.

But not everybody loves this fabulous five from the Miami Academy for Creative and Performing Arts...and if they think they're untouchable, they're about to find out that they're wrong.

Dead wrong.

Bad Girls
by Alex McAulay

Thick with suspense and simmering with adolescent turmoil, Bad Girls is an action-adventure survival story that pits a group of troubled teens against a forbidding tropical landscape, an elusive enemy, and, worst of all, each other. It's Mean Girls meets Lord of the Flies, and it marks the debut of an innovative new voice in fiction.

Anna Wheeler's parents have had it up to here. They can't seem to control their daughter anymore and so, one night, Anna's yanked from her bed and carted off to Camp Archstone — bootcamp for troubled teen girls. There, on a vast, remote, sparsely populated island, Anna will be expected to change her ways and repent for the sins her religious father just can't seem to forgive. Here's a hint: There's a boy involved. No, a man.

Life at Camp Archstone is Anna's worst nightmare. Every minute of the day is scheduled, the counselors are hardcore, and one girl is crueler than the next. But when a grueling hike into the forest goes horribly wrong, things go from bad to worse. Stalked by an unknown foe and left to fend for themselves, the girls band together to try to find their way back to civilization — and that's when the real trouble begins.