The MTV Books Blog will close on October 31. Follow us to our new home at YA Outside the Lines on November 1!

Saturday, January 31, 2009


Are you as bored as our two pathetic cats? Do you want to read a free book on your cellphone? Then visit:
to check out a novel called FLYTRAP that I wrote in 2004, a year before MTV Books published my first official novel, BAD GIRLS. I'm a huge fan of the textnovel.com concept, and I kind of hope cellphone novels catch on here like they have in Japan and plenty of other countries...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Another interruption to the blogging schedule- ADIÓS named to a YALSA list!

It would appear that Adiós simply refuses to give up being the Little Book That Could.

I just found out that it was named to the final list of the 2009 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults by YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association), announced at the ALA (American Library Association) Midwinter Meeting.

It's under "Fame and Fortune" and OMG-- I'm on the same list with Meg Cabot and J.K. Rowling!

The librarians like me. Or at least, they like Adiós.

Monday, January 26, 2009

SHELTER ME.... an update by Alex McAulay

So Shelter Me has now been officially out in the world for almost three weeks. I'm excited that it's getting the best reviews from readers online of any of my books so far. Writing the book was always a bit of a risk, as people (myself included) probably don't associate MTV with anything historical! But I'm glad most readers are enjoying it. I'm about to set up a links section on my website to link to all the reviews. I also want to thank the reviewers who took the time to read and share their thoughts online. For whatever reason (possibly the twist at the end?) Shelter Me has already generated more emails and MySpace messages than my previous two books combined. Keep them coming! :)

I also thought it'd be fun to post a random photo of myself. This one was taken in La Jolla, CA a little while back by my wife Lisa. I'd just taken a dip in the unbelievably freezing ocean, which is why my hair looks so weird. It was also right before Lisa and I learned that she was pregnant (we suspected, but we didn't know for sure). We just decided to take a jaunt down south to La Jolla for a weekend, to escape the intensity of Los Angeles. The funny thing is, we ran into some friends from LA who were there doing the exact same thing. Anyway, if you are ever in Southern California, swing through La Jolla, because it's a great beach town. (And Lisa wanted me to add that she took the photo using a cool, cheap fisheye "Lomography" camera she got at Urban Outfitters).

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Power of Music

It’s no surprise that music is a big part of my book Shrinking Violet because I couldn’t live with out it! My main character Tere literally uses her iPod as an IV, pumping fresh tunes into her blood. I feel much the same way. No, I don’t walk around with my iPod all day but rather I listen to the radio whenever I’m in my car, am a big fan of YouTube when I’m seated at my computer, love catching music videos on my TV and even listen to the Musak while I’m shopping or at a restaurant. And of course, every chance I get, there’s nothing like going to see a band play live!

Depending on what type of scene I’m writing will determine what type of music I will listen to. Alternative and rock usually suit me well for deeper scenes while pop or reggae permeates my sound system when love is in the air.

Tere’s idol in Shrinking Violet is Helen Keller who overcame so many odds to become such a strong female role model. Even Helen found a way to enjoy music by feeling the vibrations of sound. She was able place her hand on a musical instrument while it was being played and guess the composer. She learned to dance much the same way. Truly remarkable!

Another great thing about music is that there is something for everyone and can definitely bring people together who share the same tastes. Tere, who is painfully shy, finds herself opening up to her love interest Gavin because he wears a shirt of a band that she likes.

So does music rock your world? And when is your favorite time or place to blast those tunes?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Obama!

President Obama, it has such a nice ring to it, wouldn't you say? I was really excited when I realized that my MTV Books blog day fell on Inauguration Day. Sure I have some exciting news of my own to share. Like I finished revisions on my second MTV book, Ballads of Suburbia, but you can read all about that over on my blog here. And I got engaged over the holidays, but I squeed and showed off the ring here. But today is so much bigger than that. This morning I sat in my basement with my fiance and my father and watched our new president be sworn in. And our new Commander in Chief is a Chicago White Sox fan. It doesn't get much better than that.

But seriously, it is a monumental day for our country that will go down in the history books for all the right reasons.

I'm 29 years old and before Obama was elected the only day in my life where I thought "This is it, I've lived through something that kids will be reading about in history books centuries from now" was September 11th. And it made me so sad to think that horrible day might be the historical event that stands out most in my life. But now there is a moment in history that makes me smile and glow with pride: I helped elect the first African American as President of the United States. Even if you didn't vote for Obama, I'm sure you will agree that breaking down this racial barrier is momentous and incredibly positive. I have to say I'm tearing up again just thinking about it.

The thing that has excited me about Barack Obama all along is the way he inspires so many people, young and old. I think that the only way change will come to this country is if we work together and Obama is the kind of leader who can motivate us to do that. He seems realistic about the challenges our country is facing and we need to be, too. Things are not going to be all better in a year or four or eight, but we can begin the process of building roads to a better tomorrow. Yeah, that was kind of a cheesy phrase. I can't write those great Obama style speeches.

I really loved his inaugural address. It's a nice change of pace from watching former president Bush (oh it felt good to say "former"!). Seriously, I think my customers at the bar have better oratory skills than that guy. Sorry, I just like having a president that is well-spoken and smarter than me. Obama definitely is. His speech today got me teary-eyed and also really keyed up and excited. I've been very cynical about the state of the world since I was a teenager, but today I felt hopeful.

One of my favorite things that Obama said today was: "Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage."

That reminded me not to be cynical. To dream big and believe that change can come to our country and our world.

Another fave quote: "Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America. "

Over the last eight years, I watched in fear as we became embroiled in war and were stripped of our civil liberties. It angered me to see big business profit so greatly while so many hardworking Americans lost their jobs and homes. But those words replaced fear and anger with hope and hope is a far more productive emotion.

To bring it back to writing somehow, doing revisions on Ballads of Suburbia was a really rough process. I had a few nervous breakdowns where I was scared I couldn't meet the challenge and angry at myself for not getting it right, but then I remembered that I was writing this story because I hoped it would help people. That hope is what forced me to see it through.

So I have hope for our country. I'm excited about "remaking America" and want to be actively involved. I know I'll continue to speak out about issues that are important to me via my fiction and my blog, but watching Obama's address today reminded me that I need to be a more active member of my community, so I'm going to start hunting for local volunteer opportunities.

What about you? How has President Obama's message of change inspired you? Any favorite lines from the speech? The full transcript is here if you need a reference point. Where'd you watch it and who'd you watch it with? Had you ever watched an inauguration before? I never had. Even my dad said the only one he ever remembered seeing was Kennedy's which they watched on TV in grade school.

Honestly I wish I'd been capable of writing a better blog about how I felt today, but it was all so exciting and overwhelming. And I think the best part of this day has been basking in the excitement with people via text message and email and facebook and twitter. So please indulge me and share your feelings about today.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Seriously, only me

I am a giant clod.

Kind of like Po in Kung Fu Panda. Doesn't go looking for accidents-- they just sort of find him.

My husband is mystified by me. He says I'm the clumsiest person he's ever met who was once an athlete and who has never once been seriously injured *knocks on wood-- a lot*.

Seriously-- I grew up playing baseball and as a competitive figure skater. No injuries there other than the expected bumps and bruises. I spent the majority of my time from age fifteen until about age twenty-two in marching band and drum and bugle corps. Believe me, there's opportunity for injury there, but no. Nothing.

Walking seems to be my issue. Standing also. My history includes:

My brother slamming the door of our big, horkin' 1972 Dodge Polara on my hand when I was five. Lots of bruises and swelling. Remarkable especially when you consider how heavy doors were on those land barges disguised as 1970s-era cars. (Perhaps this one shouldn't count. Totally the fault of The Prince of Darkness.)

Falling backwards from a crouch. This was my worst injury. I suffered a hairline crack in my ankle that the ER physician could barely see.

Falling through rotted wood bleachers. Deep bruise and a few light scratches.

Getting my thumb wrenched by a bowling ball. Sprain.

My cat rebelling against being administered some meds. He backed off the counter and when he felt himself falling, clamped onto the nearest thing with his mouth. Which happened to be my hand. Yeah, the puncture wounds weren't pretty, but nothing that couldn't be fixed with an I.V. of antibiotics.

Falling ten feet down through the ceiling of a garage (I was in the attic space and found the one spot that hadn't been floored) and landing on a concrete floor inches away from weight training equipment. Mildly sprained ankle. Oh, and a sore back.

My daughter hugging me and nearly pulling me out of my chair. My leg went the wrong way and my hip didn't enjoy it. The doctor diagnosed it as a hip pointer but nothing major.

Trying to put ear drops in the Labrador's ears and having her... object, shall we say. She backed me into the counter where my ankle had an unfortunate meeting with the corner of the dishwasher. It was swollen and bruised and everyone suspected a chipped bone. With my history, I said, "Nah," but I was overruled and made to go to the urgent care. Diagnosis: swollen and bruised. Imagine that.

And my latest, I was walking into my pantry and the door jamb and my toes had an unfortunate meeting. For once, I actually thought it was broken, which, of course, would have been a first for me, but nope. Bruised, mildly sprained, and looking like a tiny Vienna sausage, but nothing more than that.

Why am I going through this litany of stupid injuries? Because, I'm starting to wonder if it's not my subconscious finding a way-- any way it possibly can-- to slow me down. Oftentimes, these little injuries, while not completely debilitating, often require that I put my leg (or hand or whatever up, and just slow down. And if I'm medicated, I'm slowed that much more, if you catch my drift.

In a way, it allows for me to remember what it's like to just drift. To not feel the urgent sense of "have to." Because even if I'm not under contract, I always give myself a self-imposed deadline and I'm such a workaholic, I feel guilty if I don't meet my "deadlines." Yeah, I'm bent that way.

So I can't tell you how many books have gone unread and movies gone unwatched because I'm always working in some way shape or form. And the downside of this is, I'm so darned stubborn, I will fight with a chapter or scene and attempt to wrestle it into submission rather than just walk away, let it sit, and go read a book or watch a movie. So I suppose it really shouldn't have come as any surprise last night, as I was sitting with my poor little Vienna sausaged toe propped up on a pillow and I was beginning to thumb through a book I'd just bought and wasn't sure when I was going to read (The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee if anyone's interested) that I wound up having an epiphany. For weeks, I've been wrestling with the latest chapter of the WIP-- just an old-fashioned snarling, spitting, scratching, pulling hair girlfight-- and I'd been determined to win. But last night, I had to give. The throbbing of the toe made it impossible to concentrate on anything.

So of course, perversely, this is when I realized I'd been fighting in vain. That all this time, all this effort expended on this stupid chapter and the reason it had been balking like a virgin being led to the sacrificial volcano was because it was the wrong chapter. I couldn't get in the flow because that chapter was all wrong for that section.

And I wouldn't have realized it if I hadn't had to stop, my waking mind occupied with something else.

Or I could just be using it as rationale for being a terrible clod.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

How to look forward to a book

Going Too Far, which will be released on March 17, is my third book. By now I am an old hand at eagerly anticipating a book’s release. Here’s a fun activity: pick a book coming out soon that you can’t wait to read, then live the glamorous life of an author vicariously by marking the following milestones along the road to the book’s release.

1. Announcement of the book’s sale on Publisher’s Marketplace. On July 11, 2007, my sale was announced this way:

Jennifer Echols's BOY IN BLUE, about a 17-year-old who avoids prosecution for a high school stunt by spending her spring break on night patrol with the 19-year-old rookie cop who arrested her, to Jennifer Heddle at MTV Books, by Caren Johnson at Caren Johnson Literary Agency (world English).

This announcement was posted while I was at a writers’ conference, which was really nice. Other writers obviously had checked Publisher’s Marketplace on their laptops up in their hotel rooms (nice to know that yes, there are more obsessive writers than me!). They congratulated me on my sale as they passed me in the conference center. I felt like the captain of the football team had asked me to the prom and everyone around school had found out. *blush*

And then on September 27, 2007, it was announced this way:

Author of The Boys Next Door, Jennifer Echols' BOY IN BLUE, in which a high school senior arrested for a misdemeanor is sentenced to ride along with a rookie cop on the night shift and finds herself falling, to Jennifer Heddle at MTV Books, in a nice deal, by Caren Johnson at Caren Johnson Literary Agency.

I am not sure why it was announced twice. Someone must have missed the first announcement and started typing the second announcement, and then the phone rang, and my heroine was left hanging.

2. Changing the title. It is disappointing when an editor e-mails you to say she doesn’t like your title, but it’s a little exciting too, because it means your book has made it off the floor and now occupies a corner of her desk. Other rejected titles of this book, through which you can probably surmise the entire plot of the book:

To Protect and Serve
Protect and Serve
No Trespassing
What I Want You to See
See What I’ve Seen
See for Yourself
Ever After
Happily Ever After
John After
John, After
This Side of Midnight
The Ghost of You
Midnight Shift
The Meg Special
Meg, After
The Hereafter
Guarding Meg
Guard Your Heart
The Great Escape
Midnight Run
Blue Alabama
Blue, Alabama
Alabama Dark
The Alabama Dark
Blue South
The Blue South
Dark South
The Dark South
Five Points South
The Cure
You Are the Cure
After the Cure
The Elvis Table
Guard Your Heart
Protect Your Heart
Move Off the Devil
Come Down from the Devil
Use of Force
Using Force
Use Force
The View from the Bridge
View from the Bridge
Blue Sky at Night
After You
Breaking Blue
Run to You
The Blue Hereafter
Blue Love
One Hand on the Devil
The Other Side of Midnight
Prince of Darkness
Come Down off the Devil
In Pursuit
Open All Night
The Meg Special
Night Beat
True Blue
Meg, After
Blue Heat
Meg and After
Out of the Blue
After Dark
See Meg Run
Life After Dark
All Night Long
Night Life
All Night
The Way It Ended
How It Ended
Blue as Night
Dark Blue
Missing Break
No Break
Night Shift

Or maybe not.

This book finally strutted around as Running to Stand Still for a few months before I came up with Too Far, and my critique partner Vicki suggested I change it to Going Too Far because the readers, they like verbs.

3. Getting the cover. I think I have covered this, har har.

4. Getting the little baby ISBN number: 1416571736. Aw, it’s a bouncing baby ISBN! Isn’t it cute?

5. Appearance of the book listing in online bookstores. This is actually a mixed blessing. On the one hand, you want people to know about your book and have the convenience of pre-ordering it if they choose. On the other hand, anybody can log on to these sites without ever reading your book and post for the world to see,

This is the best book I have ever read! I love it!!! Two stars out of five.

*blank stare*

You have to be particularly careful with Amazon. It’s great when avid readers add your book to lists of upcoming novels they can’t wait to read. But Amazon also has features such as,

“Other readers bought this book together with...”

When my first book, Major Crush, was available for pre-order, I ordered some copies, plus a book for my brother for his birthday. For a long time after that, the listing for Major Crush said,

“Other readers bought this book together with Bloody Ridge: The Battle That Saved Guadalcanal!”

6. Reviews! I am in this stage now. I feel very fortunate to have gotten excellent reviews from Teens Read Too and Young Adult Romance Writers. I am so appreciative that bloggers take the time and make the effort to read my book and share their opinion about it--though I do admit that I hate to get that e-mail saying someone has posted a new review of my book. I always cringe when I hit that link, because not everybody is going to like your book, and whatever they say about it (again, for the whole world to see) and however you feel after reading the review, you still have six chapters of your fourth book to revise today. You can’t put the pin back in that grenade.

One thing that’s different for me this time around is that so many more readers have their own independent book review blogs. A couple of these reviewers have asked me for advance reading copies of Going Too Far. I actually have a few left, so if you are a reviewer and you’d like a copy, please e-mail me at echolsjenn@yahoo.com and I’ll send it right out. I ask only that you promise to review the book on your blog. And if your review is negative, just don’t send me the link. What I don’t know won’t hurt me.

7. Big box o’books! Authors get a few free copies of their own books. They have no idea when the box will show up. They only know that the postal carrier will leave it on the front porch, and that it will be raining.

Coming soon!


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.


by Stephanie Kuehnert

There are so many ballads. Achy breaky country songs. Mournful pop songs. Then there’s the rare punk ballad, the ballad of suburbia: louder, faster, angrier . . . till it drowns out the silence.

Kara hasn’t been back to Oak Park since the end of junior year, when a heroin overdose nearly killed her and sirens heralded her exit. Four years later, she returns to face the music. Her life changed forever back in high school: her family disintegrated, she ran around with a whole new crowd of friends, she partied a little too hard, and she fell in love with gorgeous bad boy Adrian, who left her to die that day in Scoville Park. . . .

Amidst the music, the booze, the drugs, and the drama, her friends filled a notebook with heartbreakingly honest confessions of the moments that defined and shattered their young lives. Now, finally, Kara is ready to write her own.


by Laura Wiess

Gotta have now!

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 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.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Who knew?

A surprising thing happened to me last week. Well, actually a lot of surprising things happened last week—three separate family members ended up in the ER for separate ailments, for starters! Everyone's fine now, thankfully. But somehow, in the midst of it all, I discovered that I actually truly love OUTLINING!

I've long told aspiring writers to outline, though I'd never really done it myself. Rather, whenever I tried, my outlines were just LAME and WRONG. But this time around things played out differently. I think it's because I was outlining a revision, not outlining a book I haven't started yet. I'd found myself spinning my wheels for too long, wondering what I was keeping, what had to go. I'd also heard my husband tell me a gazillion times: "You need to stop and outline."

I gave in. And the outlining process brought everything into focus. Even more surprisingly, I ENJOYED doing it. So tomorrow, I will get back to the business of the actual writing/revising of the book, but with a handy outline at my side!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

We interrupt your regular blogging schedule...

And I hope that Jenn won't shoot me, but since this is tangentially related to MTV Books, hopefully, she won't mind. (And I forgot to send it to you for the upcoming events. My bad.)

Every few months, a group of Latina bloggers get together to share stories and excerpts and give away prizes in what we affectionately refer to as a "blog tour." One is going on right now and today happens to be my day. So over at my Live Journal blog I'm sharing an excerpt from a work in progress. What does this have to do with MTV Books? Well, my prize, of course-- answer the question at the end of the excerpt and you're eligible to win this:

A signed copy of each of my MTV Books releases and a nifty little carry bag. It's insulated, so it has a multitude of uses. So please, come visit and play along and remember, you don't have to be a registered LJ user to post in the comments-- just make sure to sign your name so I have some idea who you are!


(And sorry Jenn!)

Monday, January 5, 2009

What's Up With Slang?

Not long ago I was eavesdropping on the conversation of two college-age girls, hoping to catch a phrase or two to sprinkle into the dialogue of my wip. Although exact details escape me, the conversation went something like this:

So, she like told me to get out of her face and like mind my own business. And I like said she couldn't tell me what to do and that like pissed her off. So she like....

Seriously? I thought that Valley Girl patter choked on a wad of bubble gum and keeled over a dozen years ago.

Not long after overhearing that unenlightening conversation, I read an article in which a publisher of YA books cautioned authors not to use slang in their writing. Not use slang? The only person I know of who doesn't use slang is Alex Trebek. And who knows what the guy says off camera?

I concluded that the publisher was warning authors not to overuse slang or throw in slang that's "here today/gone tomorrow." But that left me wondering what's the right slang, how much is too much, and who can prophesy which slang will be around next week? In a TV interview with the Heisman Trophy candidates, one of them said he "had a blast" at one of the events. I'm almost positive that expression came into being when I was in high school. Who could predict college students would be using it several...years later?

A writer friend of mine who claims to spend hours googling slang Web sites swears by urbandictionary.com. When my MC was telling her friend not to snitch, I decided to see if snitch is still in teens' vocabulary. Or would rat, tattle, fink, or narc be more hip, now, or happening? I typed snitch in Urban Dictionary's search screen and found plenty of options. Punk, informer, backstabber, and squealer weren't quite right. Curtis and grass left me shaking my head. And most of the other synonyms were too raw for my writing.

What did I learn from my reflections on slang? First, use slang sparingly. Second, double-check meanings before using unfamiliar slang. Third, flash-in-the-pan slang may be gone before your book hits the shelves. Fourth, when in doubt, swallow your pride and ask a teen.

Just use slang that feels right--kickass, awesome, gnarly--for your characters and chillax. It's all good.