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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.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A few links of note.

Instead of boring you with the details of the final stages of my home renovation or bemoaning the fact that I have not written a word in two weeks, I'm going to try to FIRE YOU UP! That's right! Get a move on!

For starters, head on over to YA for Obama—a social network started by the fabulous Maureen Johnson, author of "Suite Scarlett" and more—and read about the election from the perspective of a ton of young adult writers. Meg Cabot is there. Gossip Girl is there. I'm there, too. Here is the link to my recent post: My So-Called Republican Life. And be sure to join up if you like what you see there, or even if you don't. The idea is to get young folks involved in the election, even if they're (you're) not old enough to vote. Because they're (you're) old enough to have opinions, right?

Next up: The Cybils! Have you nominated your favorite books this year? The wonderful Sara Zarr was nice enough to nominate "What Happens Here" in the YA category. How excited am I?

That's all for now....

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Yay, I Got Cover!

I was so excited to see the cover of Shrinking Violet because I had been oogling all these beautiful MTV book covers. And I'm pleased to say that I'm really happy with the way mine turned out.

Shrinking Violet is scheduled to be released May, 2009!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Recharging and Reconnecting

My writing imagination is a quirky beast. Some writers moan about having too many story ideas to put on paper. Not me. My ideas flit in after frighteningly long intervals--long enough to bring on the "What if I never have another idea?" night sweats. So when a compelling idea flutters at the edges of my mind, I trap it on paper before it can fly off into the land of Irretrievable Glimmers of Imagination. Luckily for me, this autumn brought two unrelated happenings that have given my touchy creativity a boost of energy.
One happening was the Black Hills vacation Mike and I returned from late Monday night. Although we've been together for nearly three decades (Yeah, it sounds like forever to me, too!), we'd never taken a road trip. Spending a week together in close quarters was iffy. As it turned out, we had no reasons to worry. On the first day, we were caught up in the stark beauty of the Badlands. At dawn the next morning we struggled to run up the long, steep hill to Mount Rushmore and--aided by gravity--dashed back to Keystone. We stood nose-to-nose with mountain goats and burros and watched wild mustangs running free. We rode in an 1880s train and found treasures in a pile of glittering rocks spilling from an abandoned mine. Each day's experiences stimulated my senses and recharged my imagination. What's great for my psyche is even better for my writing.
The other happening came last week as the members of my writing group talked about reconnecting with friends through Facebook. When I mentioned wanting to locate some of my former students, my friend and fellow writer Becky Janni explained how I could use Classmates to find them. Since then I've reconnected with a number of my favorite students. (Any teacher who claims not to have favorites is a dirty liar!) Looking at their pictures is like using a computer-aging program. I squint and turn my head from side to side, trying to superimpose sixth grade faces onto the young women and men smiling out of my computer. Seeing them, I remember the goofy things they said and did and the many times they patiently listened to--and encouraged--my early writing efforts. And, after all these years, they're kind enough to "friend" their former teacher and write a message on my wall.
While many people think of spring as a time of awakening, mine has come this fall. I've recharged and reconnected, and now I'm ready to write.

Monday, October 6, 2008

"Secrets and Giveaways"

Invisible TouchIn just a little over a week, INVISIBLE TOUCH will officially hit book stores. (And its already shipping from Amazon!) I am so excited! This book means a lot to me, but then I think every writer's book means a lot to them. Yet with Kara, I shared in her grief for her father and the difficult time she went through with keeping secrets...

Kara has a secret. She sees signs on individual's--flickers of images--and she must piece the signs together to hopefully stop an unfortunate fate. She can't willingly share this secret without someone thinking she's crazy so she blogs about her experience on an anonymous blog called Secret Fates.

This gave me the idea for a cyber launch for INVISIBLE TOUCH...if I created my own Secret Fates blog...would other authors be willing to share secrets?

I started asking around and 25 cool authors agreed!

So during entire month of October authors are sharing their secrets or a character's and donating a book to a lucky visitor on secretfates.blogspot.com. And because I'm blogging here on the MTV Books blog, I've lined up a few of our cool authors for this week. (I still have one more MTV author coming later this month too!) Here is the schedule for October 6th to 11th...winners to be announced October 12th.

Monday, October 6th: Jenny O'Connell shares about LOCAL GIRLS...

Tuesday, October 7th: Anne Frasier offers PALE IMMORTAL and GARDEN OF DARKNESS ...

Wednesday, October 8th: Alex McAulay gives away OBLIVION ROAD...

Thursday, October 9th: Jana DeLeon shares UNLUCKY...

Friday, October 10th: Jennifer Echols offers up THE BOY NEXT DOOR and MAJOR CRUSH...

Saturday, October 11th: Stephanie Hale gives away REVENGE OF THE HOMECOMING QUEEN and TWISTED SISTERS...

In case you are interested in who else will be sharing secrets during October, check out the promo video below:

So please come by, enjoy some secrets, share some of your own, and maybe win some books!