Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sisters Eight Interview and Giveaway!

As promised, here's Child's* interview with Jackie Logsted about  her part in writing the fabulous Sisters Eight series. Jackie's 10, and Child is 8 (excuse me: 8 and a HALF!). Child loves to read the series, but I think she's also inspired by the idea that Jackie helps write it--she's started writing plays with her classmates at school. She also acts, just like Jackie!

*I promised I would reiterate that her real name is not Child. Child is her secret identity. :) 

Here's the blurb about the Sisters Eight series:

It’s a good old-fashioned mystery with missing (or dead) parents, nosy neighbors, talking refrigerators, foul-smelling fruitcake (is there any other kind?), and even a little magic. Eight little girls, eight cats, and one big mystery—let the fun begin!

Stay tuned to the end of the interview to find out how you can win a hardback copy of Annie's Adventures!

Child: What part do you help with when you're writing the books?

Jackie: Well, me and my dad give tons of ideas, and the way I help is, I try to think of good ideas for my mom to write into the story, I tell her the ideas, and hope for the best.

Child: It's hard to pick because I like all of them, but I think my favorite sister is Durinda, because she's nice. What's your favorite character?

Jackie: It's really hard to pick, but if I had to choose, I think I'd choose Zinnia because, if you think about it, she doesn't lie, she's nice and she sticks to who she is. She's unique, and I like it.

Child: In the books, Jackie is funny and fast (like fast-as-a-train fast!). Are you like Jackie?

Jackie: Yes and no. Of course, I am Jackie, but I'm not fast. I'd even have to say that I'm one of the worst at anything sports-related in my class. I'm not sure if I'm funny or not. I'd have to say that I'm half like Jackie Huit. Everything else is all me. (Jackie's mom would just like to say that Jackie is very funny, whether she knows it or not.)

Child: So far my favorite adventure is Jackie's Jokes. What's your favorite?

Jackie: My favorite book would have to be Petal's Problems. It comes out in October 2010 and at the moment I'm writing this, it hasn't come out yet, so I can't tell you why I like it. I'll just say, I like it.

Child: If you could have anything from the Huit's house (like seasonal rooms or talking refrigerators), what would you have?

Jackie: I would have to say the Seasonal Rooms because if it was cold and I wanted to get warm, I could! If it was warm and I wanted to cool off, I could! I just think it would be fun and would come in handy.

Child: The sisters each have a cat. I have a dog named Daisy. Do you have a pet?

Jackie: I technically have a pet. In the past, I had two fish: Drink and Goldy. They both died. But a few weeks ago, I was with my friends Lawerence and Andrew and we found a newt! We keep it at their house, but it's technically both of ours, so I technically have a pet.

Child: (We had fish and they died too. That's just like me!)  I want to be an artist when I grow up. What do you want to be?

Jackie: Up until recently, I had no idea what I wanted to be, but about three weeks ago I finally decided. When I grow up, I want to be an actress. I just love to act! It's one of my favorite things to do. Thanks for interviewing me!

Thanks for joining us, Jackie!! And as she mentioned, Petal's Problems will be out in a few days. I know we'll be lining up to see what happens when it's Petal's month.

In honor of Jackie's Jokes, we're going to have a little joke contest here on the blog.

To enter to win a copy of Annie's Adventures (read it yourself, pass it on to your favorite middle grader, or donate it to your local library or school library!)--or just to join in--share your favorite knock-knock joke in the comments below. Just make sure to say if you want to be entered to win the book or are just playing! (to clarify: I'll assume you want to be entered to win unless you say different. Thanks!)

Contest will be closed midnight on Thursday. We'll do a random draw on Friday, October 1, for the lucky winner!

What's your best knock-knock joke?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Another interview and giveaway! This one's for the MG-lovers.

I know I usually talk about--and give away--YA books. Even grown-up books every once in a while. Tomorrow I'm talking middle-grade, with a special guest star.

Child absolutely LOVES the Sisters Eight series. She begs to read them at bedtime, during bath...whenever she can. She's also fascinated by the fact that while Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the primary author, one of the co-authors is her daughter Jackie. Just two years older than Child, and already a published author.

What's not to be fascinated with?

So I had the idea...what if instead of ME interviewing Lauren (so DONE), Child interviewed Jackie?

Much more interesting.

We've got the questions and answers ready for tomorrow, AND we'll be giving away a hardback copy of the first book in the series, Annie's Adventures. You can read it yourself or pass it on to that fabulous middle grader in your life.

Please stop by tomorrow to read and comment on Child's first interview, and have a chance to win!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Inspired by Scott's short fiction today, I thought I'd post a little something something from my files. This was a piece I was just playing around with a couple years ago, for fun. Let me know if you post a snip too!

She stepped light down the road, this mother, her feet pat-patting on the soft, red dirt. The weight of the one child pulled on her back, a sweet, sleepy weight. The other walked beside, proud at being so big. The mother shaded her eyes against the morning sun to judge the land, to know how far until they should stop to drink, eat some of their hard-saved beans.

The land was wide here, a stretch of red and brown dust, rock, and scraggle-tooth trees far into the sky. Only this road brave enough to go through it, this road and this mother.

Another two days, she decided, to the grandmother's house. They could make it that long on the beans. The water was closer—with the little one still sucking milk, the mother's mouth got dried up sometimes. Not dry like the deer bones next to the road, but almost.

"See that rock pile there, way down if you squint?" she said to the big one. Ahadi, her strong boy. Skin the color of embers at night, dark with glints of fire. Cheekbones and eyes just like his daddy. She cringed from that thought, back to the boy before her. Here. Alive. "We stop there to rest. You make it that far?"

"Yes, Mama." He gave her a smile, slow and small. He was quiet since his daddy gone. No telling if he'd seen it. She didn't want to know.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Why I haven't talked about writing lately

Well. It's been a tough summer, writing-wise.

In June I sent off my manuscript with great optimism, thinking it was ready for the big show.

It wasn't. When I looked at it with all honesty, I hadn't given myself enough of a break between end of draft and revision (1 week) or end of incorporating revisions from crit partners and sending it out there (1 week). I was so dang excited about the concept and the book I didn't give it enough time, or room to grow and deepen. I didn't give myself enough time in any sense.

So that's what this summer has been about. On the writing front I was drained, and a little bit broken. So I took about a month and just filled the well. Read without guilt, spent time outdoors and on vacation with my family, watched movies, watched Buffy, all that good stuff. In the background, occasionally, I thought about the book--but not much. I let it be.

Then I took a month and went back and did research. I needed to add a lot more worldbuilding (in a contemp book!), so I read nonfiction stuff on the topic, first-person accounts, histories, newspaper articles, videos. When I finally felt stuffed with knowledge and restless to get started, I re-crafted the plot to reflect the research and my thoughts, and realized how very much of the book I wanted to change.

But you know...when you haven't really written in two months? It is HARD to get back in the saddle. Especially for a substantial rewrite. Your routines are gone. Your discipline is flabby. Your confidence--my confidence--was very, very wobbly. Is.

I'm finally getting it back, if still more unsteadily than I'd like. Along the way somehow I seem to have changed tense. (!) But I have a good, solid plan for how to make the book stronger, by far. The voice is still in my head. I am going to make this book work.

And if I make it work the way I see it in my head, I sincerely hope y'all will get to see this one someday. This book? It could be a kicker. Will be, I hope.

THANK YOU to Agent Sparkle Shark and Team Sparkle--Courtney, Emily, Linder, Scottopher, Tiffany, Victoria--for seeing me through this difficult summer. If y'all don't have a Team Sparkle to help you through the rough times (and in this business, I can guarantee there will be rough times), GET ONE. Writing friends are invaluable. They send you virtual cupcakes for the highs, but they also send you virtual whatever-you-needs for the lows. Encouragement. Confidence boosts. Chocolate.

I do keep whininess and personal disclosures to a minimum here, but I thought it was important that other writers see that there are struggles in every step, and you just have to keep going. So that's where I've been, and where I am. I'm ready to start climbing again.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

DUFF contest winner!

Wow, this was fun. Thanks so much for playing, you guys! I loved reading your entries.

(and sorry for taking so long to get this up--I haven't even been near a computer.)

 Best twist on the phrase DUFF: Lori W. I love "Damn Unexpected Fine Female Attention"!

Best owning of the term with attitude: Linda G. "Screw you, skinny friends. Enjoy your celery."

Best OUCH moments (and we've all known those, especially in high school): Mairead S., squinto, and Latoya Alloway. They all made me cringe.

Saddest by far: Deb. You're killing me, Deb! :)

LadyGenette, I loved "spaghetti-thin arms". Perfect!

Mandy: Day-am. Those are some mean girls!

And the winner, because it made me laugh out loud and I loved the twist:

Samantha Verant!!

Samantha, please email your mailing address to susan (dot) adrian (at) yahoo.com, and we'll get your copy sent off!!

Hope y'all had fun. I did!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

THE DUFF: Interview with Kody Keplinger and giveaway!

THANKS, guys!! Contest is closed. I'm swamped right now, but I'll get to this and announce the winner as soon as I can! 

(Also, I looked up international shipping rates from Amazon, and yep I can swing that. So all entries will be considered.)

Y'all. Without any ado, may I introduce to the stage the fabulous, talented...Kody KEPLINGER, author of THE DUFF!

(also, you can enter to win a copy of THE DUFF here! Details at the bottom!)

Obligatory question: Tell me about THE DUFF and Bianca. 

THE DUFF is, in my opinion, an edgy, sexy romance for teens. It’s about Bianca, a girl in her senior year of high school, who is informed that she’s the “designated ugly fat friend” of her group of friends. The word haunts her, but its not her biggest issue. She’s also dealing with a family that’s falling apart, and the only “escape” she finds is in a purely physical relationship with the school’s biggest womanizer. The same guy who called her the DUFF, in fact. But even cynical Bianca has to eventually admit that her feelings for the guy have gone farther than just the physical, but how could he ever feel the same about her when she’s the “DUFF”? 

I understand you first heard the term "The Duff" in high school. What was your reaction to it? How did your reaction compare with Bianca's?
Luckily, I wasn’t in Bianca’s shoes. No one told me that *I* was the DUFF. I thought I was, and when I heard the word I remember telling my friends “Wow, I’m so the DUFF of this group.” But had someone actually called me that to my face the way Wesley does Bianca? Well, let’s just say Bianca takes it better than I ever could have. 

Lucky for B, she’s smart, cynical, and pretty level headed. I think her cynicism is really what saves her from being completely crushed by this. If she was the romantic type, I think being called a “DUFF” would hurt much worse.

In the book Bianca comes to the conclusion that everyone feels like a Duff in some way. Do you think that's really true? (I know I feel like a Duff in publishing sometimes…) :)

Oh, I definitely think it’s true. There are so many incarnations of “DUFF.” You can be the DUFF at work, the DUFF of your friends, the DUFF in a classroom. DUFF doesn’t always have to mean the actually meaning, it can also just mean feeling like the least adequate. We’ve all felt that way, both physically and intellectually, I think. Insecurity is like the great unifier for women and maybe men, too. We all feel insecure sometimes. We’ve all been DUFFs. 

I was impressed with the realism of your dialogue. Bianca and her friends sound like actual, smart teens. Did you read it aloud to make sure it sounded realistic? Did you give it to friends to vet?
I read almost everything out loud, or have someone read it to me, just to make sure it sounds all right. With the dialogue, it was my favorite part to write. I always find the things my friends say funny and clever, and I wanted to capture that with Bianca and Casey and Jessica. Some lines of their dialogue are right out of convos I’ve had with real life friends. Others just kind of felt natural for the character. With dialogue, I just try to remember – these are the girls *i* know. Not adults. Not geniuses. Just normal teen girls. I know them, so what would they say? Its’ actually really fun! 

I think especially at high school age, we tend to set up ideals for ourselves—what "the perfect guy" should look like (as well as what we should look like as "the perfect girl"). I liked that Bianca didn't want to play into that romance ideal and yet she clearly had firm ideas of who she should and shouldn't be with (Toby and Wesley) and had to open her mind to different possibilities. Can you talk about fantasy vs. reality when it comes to guys?
I knew going in to this book that Wesley, though he was hot and clever and sexy as hell, would not be Bianca’s “type.” So I asked myself “Who would this girl crush on?” That’s how I got Toby. For those who haven’t read the book, Toby is Bianca’s long time crush. He’s basically this insanely smart, cute little political buff. To be fair, I think I’d have a crush on him, too.
I don’t have a lot of dating experience myself, but one thing I have found is that when it comes to guys, expectations and ideals are usually never as they seem. I once had a crush on a boy for MONTHS only to discover that, while we were great friends, he could really drive me up the wall and it was probably better that we never dated. Bianca doesn’t have that kind of realization with Toby or Wesley, but she does have to come to realize that boys can take you by surprise. The right guy can be the wrong guy for you.  It’s not always fun to learn, but Bianca’s journey to figuring out who is “right” for her, or if anyone is really, was fun to write for sure. 

And speaking of that (ahem), tell us about Wesley.
Oooooh, Wesley. *sigh* I had the most fun in the world writing about Wesley Benjamin Rush.  He was one of those characters that took me by surprise. He was intended to be a very different character and, instead, ended up in a very different and much better place.
Wesley is a hottie, and he knows it. He’s a charmer and a seducer. A “man-whore” as Bianca calls him. But he’s also unexpectedly smart – the boy has a taste for classic literature – and he has issues of his own. He’s not what Bianca expects, and writing him was fun because, as Bianca discovered who he really was, so did I. 

I was intrigued in looking at some reviews of THE DUFF that the only major criticism some people had was that Bianca was "too bitchy". I've been accused of that myself with my main characters, but have always felt it's important to not make a character too mellow in an attempt to please everybody. Can you talk about the fine line of "bitchy" vs. "too bitchy"?
I want to say upfront that, in my opinion, Bianca isn’t so much “bitchy” as . . . “negative.”  And while some people have had issues with that, others have approached me and said, “I WAS this girl in high school.” The fact is that one character can’t appeal to all readers. And that’s the beauty of fiction – it’s a different experience for everyone.
That said, there is a fine line to walk. The trick, I think, is to let the reader see the deeper core of the character. If the reader can see the reasons WHY the character is so negative, then they are more likely to sympathize. Bianca has a lot to be bitter about – she’s dealing with family issues, she’s still a little scarred from a first love gone wrong, and now someone is telling her she’s a “DUFF.” Who wouldn’t be a little bitter?
But, to be fair, I love cynical, sarcastic girls in YA. Even completely unlikeable ones. Because lets be honest, not all of us are always likeable as teens. 

After all that, a little bit of fluff. What's your favorite food? What would you hoard if you could only have one thing for a month?
Oh my God . . . favorite food is spaghetti, but if I had to, I could live – and live happily – on pepperoni pizza Lean Pockets. YUM!


So I was right--you want this, don't ya?

To win a brand-spanking new copy of THE DUFF, we're going to have a little flash fiction contest. Write me a story in 100 words or less, including the following elements, and post it in the comments to this blog post:

cherry coke
the DUFF
red Converse shoes

Contest will be open until Friday, September 10, at 8 am mountain time. Then I'll do a judgy-thing (enlisting additional help if necessary) and choose my favorite entry. Also, bonus points for tweeting/blogging/facebooking about Kody, The Duff, or this contest.

Got it? DO IT!

And thanks so much, Kody. I loved THE DUFF.

(and if you happen to not win? Go buy a copy. Really.)

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Duff

Guys!! Did you hear that Kody Keplinger's THE DUFF was released into the wild today?

I love Kody. She's YOUNG, a good mumble-mumble younger than me, but she's a smart cookie, and the girl can write a damn good story.

A while back I asked Kody if she'd be willing to do an interview with me, and she of course was a rock star about it and complied. So heads up: I'll be posting the interview tomorrow. And...

giving away a copy of THE DUFF!!

You know you want it.

Come back tomorrow to play!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Disney


I am still refusing to accept the end of summer. Even though Child is back at school, even though the light is less and less each day, even though the mountains had snow on them again this week. No. Summer whipped by, and I'm not ready to let go of it yet.

One of the highlights of our summer was our epic, week-long trip to Disneyland at the end of August. We'd taken a few days out of a San Diego trip earlier this year to re-visit Disneyland, for the first time since hubby and I were kids, and WOW. It still held the magic. So this time we committed: we stayed just down the street, in a room with a balcony overlooking the fireworks. We bought a 5-day park hopper pass. We planned a few extra activities--a day at the Knott's splash park, a trip to the American Girl store for Child and doll pampering--but most of it was all about the mouse.

And you know what? Even though it was unexpectedly hot (94 degrees several of the days) and even though there were always crowds and bustle, it STILL held up. We had a blast on the traditional rides (Space Mountain and Matterhorn FTW!) and the more daring California Adventure rides. We zipped through Mr. Toad's Wild Adventure and Peter Pan. We all love Indiana Jones (I think it's my favorite). The World of Color light/water show was fan-freaking-tastic. Every day was fun.

But the best day by far was Monday. It was Child's half-birthday, and she'd kept asking if we could celebrate at Disneyland. She'd seen the birthday buttons and hoopla. I was skeptical. Half-birthdays didn't really "count", right? But we dutifully went to Town Hall first and asked.

"Absolutely!" the Disney guy said. "We count whatever you want! We count UN-birthdays even." He turned to the co-worker next to him. "It's my Un-Birthday!" he said. "Wish me Happy Un-Birthday!" and shook her hand. "It's your Un-Birthday?" she gasped. "Mine too!"

They grinned at Child, who giggled back. He made a "Happy Birthday" button for her, with her name decorated with Mickey Mouse ears (of course her name's not really Child, but we'll use Child for this post). He gave her a special phone, and she listened to a greeting from Mickey.

And thus the magical, Princess day began.

Nearly every Disney employee we passed or interacted with that whole day said "Happy Birthday, Child!" They said it as they buckled her in rides. They said it as they checked tickets. As they gave her food. They announced it over loudspeakers, and everybody on the ride clapped for her 8-and-a-half birthday. She BEAMED. About halfway through the day we started laughing at each mention, because it was everywhere. It made her feel royal.

In the evening, we headed over to make sure we got good seats for the Aladdin show at California Adventure. It's an hour-long, real Broadway-type musical production. We'd seen it the first day from a top row in the balcony, but we wanted to see it up close. We made it into the 4th row, right near the action.

It was wonderful. This time we could see EVERYTHING, right there. It was even cooler when they came to the "Prince Ali" song, and acrobats and entertainers started dancing and flipping around us, weaving through the orchestra section, leading Aladdin back to the stage on a huge (not real) elephant.

And then Aladdin was right in front of us, smiling, waving at all the kids. "Wave!" I said to Child, and she did, looking up at him.

He looked right at her, smiled, and mouthed "Happy Birthday, Child."

I SWEAR. In the middle of a show. In the middle of a SONG.

We all saw it--we all looked at each other, and burst out laughing. It was so amazingly COOL. She was giddy. We were giddy.

She told everybody she met the next day about how Aladdin said Happy Birthday to her ("From an ELEPHANT in the middle of a SONG"). I think she will remember that always.

Disney, thank you. That little thing--asking employees to notice and remark on celebrations--it seals the deal. You really do it right.