Wordless Wednesday: Jasper Jellybean Jax.

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
~Anatole France

Meet Jasper Jellybean Jax, everyone! Tomorrow marks his two week “bunniversary,” but truly, it feels like he’s been part of the family for so much longer. He’s sweet and snuggly, but also so energetic, goofy, and outgoing (most of the pictures I’ve taken end up as a blur because he’s hopping and twisting so much!). I’m so glad to have adopted him, and I adore watching him explore his new home. What a love he is!




DSCN2227 - Version 2




Guest Post: Fun You Could Be Having NOW.

First up, congratulations to Mary P, the winner of Sarah McCoy’s THE BAKER’S DAUGHTER, as chosen by random.org. I hope you love the book as much as I did!

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 2.37.00 PM

And now, I have a treat for you all today: a wonderful guest post by my super talented, super fun, super creative friend Nikki. She’s a member of my online writing group and has recently signed with a fantastic agent. Be sure to check out her website!

* * *

Recently, I came across this article on using visual content to market your book or blog. It led me to this site on designing images. Which then lead me to straight-up bliss.

Are you the type of writer who also matches her clothes in her spare time? Do you pin scraps of wrapping paper to your walls as art, whipping your friends into a semi-rabid state as they beg you to Do Their Hair, Design Their Kids’ Halloween Costumes, and Look at Their Color Swatches (just, you know, to See What You Think.)

I am not one of those writers.

So obviously, I’m no professional at design, and this article isn’t a How-To. It’s a To-Do. Put Canva.com on your list of fun you could be having right now!

Copy of S H A T T E R

I threw together this mock-up of a cover for my YA mystery in like two hours. TWO HOURS.

(For comparison: I have a brand new version of that same manuscript waiting on my brand new agent’s desk and who knooooows when or if an editor will get to it, let alone a cover-designer. Waiting–waiting is how writing goes.)

So my point is, writing has led me to overestimate the skill and time-commitment I need to surpass Lame-O in other areas, like design.

My other point is that designs and images make your blog or marketing better and it’s worth two hours now and again to make that happen. I base this claim on having read other people’s claims. I think those other people are really on to something.

For example, here I could babble about my blog, which centers lately on writing with diversity, or show you an image.

Soooo much cooler.

Want two more?


Images do a lot of your writing for you. I follow Canva’s little design formulas, which force me to shut the heck up–um, I mean, trim my word-count. An image that uses, say, 10 words, can do as much or more than the paragraph of 100 words I’d need otherwise. Also, these images are digested as informative, rather than pleading or pushy.


PLUS, you can design little reminder signs for children, like I did at my latest backyard party–a Mexican Fiesta with sombreros I wanted to save for next year. Isn’t it adorable?

Okay, that’s my plug for Canva.com. Go! Design! Enjoy!

You deserve it!

Nikki is a mom of “a gaggle of children,” and occasionally escapes them by diving into a YA world of sleuthing and snarking. She blogs at http://www.nikkitrionfo.com.

The Baker’s Daughter.

“The marks on our lives are like music notes on the page–they sing a song.”
~Tobias, via Sarah McCoy in The Baker’s Daughter

The Baker's Daughter

Happy Monday, friends! What do you say we start this week with a book giveaway? The wonderful Sarah McCoy has so graciously offered up a copy of THE BAKER’S DAUGHTER, and I’m thrilled to share this story with one of you guys. I absolutely adored the novel when I read it last spring, as you can see from the recap I originally posted:

You know those books that do more than touch your heart? The ones that slip seamlessly into your soul and take up permanent residence? The ones that make you laugh one moment and grow misty-eyed the next? The ones that strike a lasting chord? That’s what this book did for me. It’s been a long time since I was affected by a story on such a visceral level. From the very first word straight through until the very last, I was just spellbound by the characters and their journeys. When Reba Adams visits Elsie’s German Bakery to interview its owner and write a Christmas piece about her for a local magazine, she has no idea what awaits her. What memories she will hear from both Elsie – who, as a German teenager during WWII, hid Tobias, an escaped Jewish boy, for months – and her daughter Jane. What a deep, life-changing friendship she will form with the women. What inspiration and hope she will see in them and feel reflected on herself. The book flips between present and past, showing us the heart of who Reba and Elsie are, and offers an insightful, educational, inspiring, enlightening view. I found myself thinking about these characters even when I wasn’t reading. I woke up two hours early on more than one occasion to squeeze in extra time with them, I sat on a beach with a windchill in the forties because I only had two chapters left and couldn’t imagine not finishing the story right then, even if it meant my hands turned to ice. This story, it is compelling. Mesmerizing. Fascinating. It left a handprint on my heart, on my thoughts, and will stay with me for a very, very long time to come.

Those words, written back in May, still hold true. It’s been five months now since I read this beautiful book and I still find myself thinking about it, still find the characters dancing their way into my mind and weaving their stories into my thoughts. Books like this remind me why I first wanted to be a writer and inspire me to keep going, keep persevering, keep writing, keep dreaming. Quite simply put, books like this are a gem and make the world a better place.

I’m so excited to give away a copy of this novel! To enter, leave a comment – by Monday, September 29th – telling me: what’s your favorite treat to buy from a bakery? The winner will be chosen by random.org and posted next week. Good luck!


“It doesn’t pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself.”
~ Lucille Ball

Well, well, well … guess who’s finished (for now) with her revisions and actually has the time/lack of bleary eyes/mental energy to blog again? This most recent round of edits took four weeks and involved a lot of adding, deleting, and rewriting, and although I was definitely ready for a break by the time it was done, I am seriously so happy with how the novel evolved in the fourth draft. It’s officially my shortest book now (you’d better believe I did a happy dance when the word count came in nearly a thousand below my goal), but the awesome part was watching the story grow, even as its length shrunk. Best. Feeling. Ever. I have some downtime now, while it’s with the next pair of readers, so I figured it’d be fun to do this ‘currently’ post that I saw over on Brittany’s blog.

Currently watching: The only show I’m watching on a regular basis right now is General Hospital (which has been so good lately!), but I’m really looking forward to the return of Grey’s Anatomy and Shark Tank in two weeks. Oh, and I just recently finished watching the full I Love Lucy/Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour collection. It was a special treat, because although I’ve seen every episode of the half-hour show before, there were some longer ones that were new to me. There’s just nothing like watching an episode for the first time and laughing until you cry. What a timeless classic and priceless treasure that show is, what a vibrant thread woven into entertainment history. No matter how many times I watch, this constantly holds true: I will always love Lucy.

Currently listening to: The soundtrack I made for WATERCOLORS. I’ve always felt that music and writing are so strongly intertwined, and I love to listen to songs that sing my books’ stories. There’s something special about hearing a lyric and instantly being transported into a scene. Now if only I could find someone who’d take the song I wrote for the book (and rewrote … and rewrote … songwriting is hard, you guys!) and turn it into more than lyrics on a page!

Currently thinking about: How fun it was to meet Danielle Fishel (Topanga from Boy Meets World/Girl Meets World) at her book signing last night! She’s kind, witty, and personable, and it was so cool to chat with her after watching Boy Meets World every week when I was growing up. She told us she’s going to narrate the audiobook version of her memoir, and I think that’ll be so fun, to hear it all in her own voice.

Currently trying to figure out: If I’m insane for actually contemplating the idea of querying two novels at the same time. SANDS OF TIME is still out there, and I have no intentions of pulling it back, even though WATERCOLORS will (hopefully) be ready to go within a month or so. Glutton for punishment? Perhaps. But I won’t know if I don’t try, right?

Currently looking forward to: Adopting a bunny! I’ve been in touch with the woman who runs the shelter closest by and am sending off my adoption application today. Just the thought of bringing home one of those sweet bunnies makes me smile. The only problem? There are six that I’m drawn to, and I don’t know how I’m going to choose only one after meeting them. One look at those precious faces and the decision will be even harder … but talk about a great decision to have to make!

Currently reading:I just finished Matthew Dicks’ MEMOIRS OF AN IMAGINARY FRIEND, and oh my gosh, I absolutely adored it! It’s one of the most creative, unique, poignant stories I’ve read in a very long time. From beginning to end, I was completely captivated and couldn’t put it down. I finished the whole book in three days, something I haven’t done in quite awhile. Next on my list is Sarah Jio’s THE VIOLETS OF MARCH.

Currently making me happy: A lovely birthday week that’s been filled with such sweet messages, gifts, and wishes from family and friends. I won’t lie, the thought of turning thirty-one kind of had me in a funk for a bit – somehow it seems so much older than thirty – but you know what? Getting older is a good thing. We are so blessed for every year, every month, every day, and I’m determined to live that gratitude on a daily basis.

Your turn! Answer one – or more – of these in the comments!

Things I’m Loving Lately.

“All the secrets in the world worth knowing are hiding in plain sight.”
~Clay Jannon, via Robin Sloane in Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore

Hi, friends! I’m popping in from Revision Land – started the third round of edits on Watercolors this week and am somehow still enjoying the process immensely! – to say hello and see what everyone’s up to. Can we talk about the fact that it’s already mid-August? I seriously don’t understand how that’s possible. Where has the summer gone? It always seems to fly by, but this year … I don’t know, I feel like it should still be June. I wish we could slow down time, but since that’s not a possibility, I hope you all are taking a moment to enjoy these hazy, lazy (or often not-so-lazy) days and the warm sunshine. Here are a few things I’ve been loving lately:

– A weekend getaway to Lancaster, PA. We went to see the show Ballroom With a Twist, which featured performances from Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, and American Idol finalists. It was such a great combination – featuring one of my favorite SYTYCDers from all the seasons! – and was so fun to see the routines in person.

Ballroom With a Twist

– The duck pond at the hotel where we stayed. There were dozens of ducks in and around the water. How adorable are these babies?

Baby ducks

– The summer scents from Bath & Body Works. Honolulu Sun, Cool Coconut Surf, and Hello Sunshine are my new favorites and will have me dreaming of the beach even when the weather turns cool.

– The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. I don’t watch regularly – I’m usually asleep by the time it comes on – but I had the chance to go to a taping of the show last week and had a blast. It was so cool to see all the behind-the-scenes details and to experience such a unique kind of energy. Helen Mirren was my favorite of the guests. Added bonus: we got off the subway directly below the Simon & Schuster building and got to walk through the lobby on our way outside. This writing and reading fanatic was most excited.

Jimmy Fallon tickets

– Wawa’s banana cream smoothie. They have so many good flavors, but this one just might be the most delicious. It’s fruity and sweet, the perfect summer treat.

– Winning at miniature golf not once, but twice, and getting two holes-in-one in the same game. For someone who almost always loses, this was a pretty awesome triumph. I may or may not have done a victory dance.

Mini golf

– Animal rescue and adoption centers. I’ve been thinking about adopting a bunny for awhile now and have fallen in love with some on the centers’ websites. Hopefully I’ll get to make a furry friend part of the family soon.

– Flowers like this. The world is so pretty when its colors are bold and bright.


– Unique, original stories. I just finished MR. PENUMBRA’S 24 HOUR BOOKSTORE and really enjoyed it. It’s different from the kinds of books I normally read, but different is good sometimes.

– Working on this book baby of mine. I so love seeing it grow with each round of revisions – and shrink, too! The final draft of this will end up being my shortest ever, and for anyone who knows the way I write, you’ll understand why I’m so proud of that.

What are you all loving lately?

No Worries.

“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.”

By nature, I am a worrywart. I check to make sure the oven’s off before going to bed each night. I’ve never flown on an airplane – so many things about it terrify me – and probably never will. I look in my rearview mirror quite frequently while driving and still remember the way, thirteen years ago, my driving teacher actually covered it with her hand so I’d stop. I get concerned when people are late to arrive somewhere. And WebMD? It’s my worst enemy.

Know what doesn’t make me anxious, though? Writing. Editing. Losing myself in the words, in the magic. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, as I query SOT. So many things about the querying process are frustrating, or disappointing, or just plain tough. I have a separate email account for everything writing-related, and I won’t lie, my heart likely skips a beat whenever the number in that inbox updates. Querying is not for the faint of spirit, that’s for sure. I’ve been doing it for a long time now, and I like to think I’ve learned something – lots of things, even. But still, it takes a lot. And maybe it should, because the best things in life, they’re worth fighting for. They’re worth the nerves and the wondering and the worrying.

Sometimes, though, we have to forget about the next step in the journey. About the things out of our control, whether that’s our dreams or our careers or whatever else is waiting out there in the wide, uncertain world. And when I need to do that? I turn to reading, or music, or the outdoors, or, most often, writing. I jump into my characters’ stories and am reminded all over again why I do this. Why I love this. Why I need this. Do I want to be published? Of course. But more than that, I want the joy, the excitement, the invigoration of sitting down at my desk and knowing I’m about to go on a journey with these people who travel from my imagination to the page. Writing lets me explore. It lets me play. It lets me believe in fairy tales and goodness and light. There is truly nothing like it. When I’m writing, it’s like my heart grows wings. It chases away the worries. It lets me be my freest and truest self. When my family went through the excruciating month-long horror of losing Gram? I escaped into my writing. When I was searching for a way to work through the pain of losing all my grandparents? A way to heal? My characters taught me how. And just a few months ago, when I spent a terribly long week waiting for an MRI and worrying about what could be wrong? WATERCOLORS helped me through.

Writing can be difficult. It should be difficult sometimes, because that’s when we find opportunities to push ourselves. But it can also be beautiful. It can also be magical. It can also be a safe place to let go of everything else and just be. In spite of everything else, maybe even because of everything else, I am so grateful for that. When it comes to writing, I have no worries.

And isn’t that the way it should be?

Library Love.

“Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life. Libraries change lives for the better.”
~Sidney Sheldon

Once upon a time, there was a library. Its white facade was plain, having been home to a church before becoming a passport to so many new worlds, and the inside was small. Walking in, the narrow hallway opened into a room where thousands of books were packed tightly into floor-to-ceiling shelves and a handful of employees bustled around behind the cramped check-out desk. Upstairs was a conference room of sorts, where certificates and prizes would be handed out for participants in the summer reading challenge, and downstairs … downstairs was a little slice of heaven, right here on earth. Bookcases surrounding the perimeter, bookcases running the length of the room, bookcases overflowing with stories about animals, about middle schoolers, about mystery, about magic. Hurrying down the wooden steps to the kids’ room, my smile would stretch from ear-to-ear and my heart would beat with an added thump, already doing a pitter-patter for all the journeys just waiting for me.

That library is where I met Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield. Where I went along with the Babysitters Club on all their adventures. Where I learned about guinea pigs before our family welcomed Nibbles, the cutest long haired abyssinian, into our lives. Where I laughed and learned with friends during community nights and the annual carnival. Where I went on a field trip with my fifth grade class to help clean the books before they were transferred to a new, bigger building across the street. Where I fell in love with the sights, sounds, smells, touches – and, most of all, the pure joys – of reading.

It’s been nineteen years now since our local library moved to a new facility. It’s a lovely place, open and airy, calm and relaxing, inspiring and encouraging. When you walk in the front doors now, it’s a wide space. The checkout desk is large and circular, the children’s section is at least twice as big, and there are rows of computers to accompany the shelves of books. There’s a bottom level, where a youth group often meets, and several rooms for events, guest speakers, and more. The ceilings are high, the views from the windows are wonderful, and the chairs are so comfortable you could curl up in one for hours as you get lost in a story. Truly, it’s a fabulous place. But I still miss the old homey one, even after all this time. I miss the arts and crafts days, where we’d make things like makeshift stained glass jars, and sitting in the back while my sister attended story time with the warm, kind librarian whose love for reading emanated clear from her soul. I miss easing books from the shelves and scampering back up the stairs with a towering stack teetering in my arms. And yet, even as I lose myself in nostalgia for what used to be, I’m grateful for what is, for the fact that, even in today’s fast-paced and technology-oriented society, there are still libraries where we can lose ourselves in the worlds. In the words.

Big or small, new or old, the chance to let our imaginations fly free like that is a blessing. I hope we always take advantage of it.

Twelve Days.

“Technology makes it possible for people to gain control over everything, except over technology.”
~John Tudor

Know what’s never a good sign? When you’re working on the computer and the screen suddenly goes blank. Know what’s even worse? When you try to reboot said computer and are met with wavy lines, shrill beeps, and, eventually a vast blue (or sometimes white … or sometimes black … or sometimes gray …) chasm of nothingness. And do you know what’s worse still? When you drop off that computer, that very lifeline of sorts for a writer, and the technician who’s supposed to fix it actually breaks it instead.


Welcome to the last twelve days. What was promised to be a one or two day repair turned into an almost two week saga. A misdiagnosis of the problem … an extra three days for the correct part to be ordered … a check-in phone call on my part during which it was explained that in the process of replacing the display, they broke the airport card … another six days for my computer to be shipped to Tennessee for their error to be fixed … minimal communication and apologies, except from one very kind tech representative … let’s just say I was not a happy camper.

As of yesterday, I FINALLY have Goldie again (please tell me I’m not the only one who gives computers a name!) and I seriously don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved to get back to work. I have a second round of revisions to make on WATERCOLORS, a song to write for it, and queries to send for SANDS OF TIME. I’m always excited to sit down at my writing desk after a break, but after one that was frustratingly extended by all this time? I. AM. JUBILANT.

I did my best to keep up with y’all via my iPod, but holy cow, did my eyes start hurting after awhile, so if I missed anything important – or even anything small – let me know! And does anyone else have any computer repair horror stories to share?!