Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holiday Giving x3

The holidays are upon us and I've decided to participate in three fundraisers I feel very passionate about. I invite you to join me.

The first one is being hosted by Nathan Bransford, who is holding his fourth annual fundraiser for Heifer International.  Nathan is an awesome writer who also keeps the publishing community inspired and informed on everything going on in the industry on a very regular basis.

Click here to find out more about Heifer International.  If you want to join the fundraiser, leave a comment on this blog post and for every comment I get, I will donate $1 to Heifer International, up to $100.

Second, if you haven't already heard, OneRepublic is raising money to help the families of shooting victims from Sandy Hook School recover from their tragedy.  You can help their effort by donating on  Third, on the same site (, I was overwhelmed when I saw Elyse Bogacz raising money for art supplies so kids can use their creativity to heal from the tragedy and feel safe again in school.  You can donate here and contribute to her efforts as well.

'Tis the season for giving and I appreciate you helping me reach out to help people all around the world in need.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Release Day for Free Souls by Susan Kaye Quinn

One of the best things about being a novelist is celebrating release day with  other authors. Today I'm thrilled to spread the good news about Susan Kaye Quinn's third book in her Mindjack Trilogy, Free Souls.  Keep reading to find out more about her latest novel and the whole series.  And the best part is at the bottom of this post, where you can sign up to be entered in her Rafflecopter giveaway. It just doesn't get better than this.

Congrats Susan!

Oh, and did I mention these are awesome stories, with awesome characters?  Yep, they are.  Trust me.  You have to check these books out!

 Free Souls by Susan Kaye Quinn
                                 (Book Three of the Mindjack Trilogy) Now Available!
When your mind is a weapon, freedom comes at a price.
Four months have passed since Kira left home to join Julian’s Jacker Freedom Alliance, but the hole in her heart still whistles empty where her boyfriend Raf used to be. She fills it with weapons training, JFA patrols, and an obsessive hunt for FBI agent Kestrel, ignoring Julian’s worries about her safety and repeated attempts to recruit her for his revolutionary chat-casts. When anti-jacker politician Vellus surrounds Jackertown with the National Guard, Kira discovers there’s more to Julian’s concerns than she knew, but she’s forced to take on a mission that neither want and that might be her last: assassinating Senator Vellus before he can snuff out Julian’s revolution and the jackers she’s come to love.
All Mindjack stories available on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and iTunes (Note Free Souls is not yet available on iTunes)
Early Praise for Free Souls
“Quinn paints a picture of a not-too-distant America where politicians inflame the hatred of one section of the populace for another—all for their own gain—and you worry that her world is not so far off from our own.”
Dianne Salerni, author of We Hear the Dead, The Caged Graves, and the forthcoming The Eighth Day
"Free Souls starts with a bang and doesn't let up. Like a mash-up of all your favorite science-fiction adventures from Star Wars to The Legend of Korra, it blends nonstop action, nail-biting escapes, and great romance. I absolutely loved it! A great series conclusion—a must-read."
Leigh Talbert Moore, author of Rouge and The Truth About Faking
“Susan did it again. Free Souls was WOW! I expected Kira to step up to her role as heroine but not like this. Surprises kept coming until the very end which tied up more loose ends than I knew existed. Warning: Don't start reading until you have time to finish. I didn't want to put Free Souls down for a second. It's that kind of book.”
Sher A. Hart, Goodreads Review
Interview Susan's over at Amy Saunder's blog today (12.14.12), answering questions about how she came up with the mages' abilities, what kind of mage she would be, and all about her future works. Digital Box Set Since Free Souls is out, there is now a Digital Box Set of the Mindjack Trilogy for those of you who want the whole series!
Available on AmazonBarnes&Noble
Mindjack Origins Collection Want more Julian? Wondering how Sasha's ability really works? Looking for EXCLUSIVE DELETED SCENES from Free Souls? This collection of novellas, scenes, and other goodies is for those craving a bit more of the characters and drama of the Mindjack series.
Includes: Mindjack Novellas Mind Games (Raf's story) The Handler (Julian's story) The Scribe (Sasha's story) TWO EXCLUSIVE DELETED SCENES from Free Souls (published nowhere else!) PLUS Mindjack flash fiction, an (imaginary) conversation between Raf and Julian, and other goodies for readers who want just a little bit more of Kira, Julian, Raf, and the Mindjack crew.
Available on AmazonBarnes&Noble
ENTER TO WIN one of FIVE ecopies of the Mindjack Origins Collection
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Another Award & Big Things on the Way!

Okay, November is totally gone and December is upon us.  It's been a month since my last post so I want to get you all caught up on what's happening in my little corner of the world.

First of all, last week I was notified Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye earned two awards in the Royal Dragonfly Book Award Contest (scroll down the page to see results).  The book took second place in the Newbie Fiction category and third place (honorable mention) in the Young Adult category.  Not only am I completely thrilled and excited, but like the Moonbeam, it gives me recognition and honor within the writing community and among educators and librarians.  Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye is also being pitched to (and accepted by some) Chicago area high schools as mandatory or summer reading and I have been booked to do some speaking engagements within high schools and other organizations as well.

Second, I've made the decision to do a series with my next book (All the World's a Stage). I'm so excited to work on multiple books with these characters. They are hysterically quirky, and have so much to offer.  I think they will bring a breath of fresh air into the young adult market with their stories and their passion for the arts.  To put it into an extremely simple concept, think of Fame meets Glee: Four teens in performance based high school try to navigate real life issues such as a love triangle, friendships, parents, extended family, family economic get the idea.  All this while feeling the pressures of needing to always be on the top of their game.  The working title for the series is called My Shakespearean Life.  Obviously (or not), the series title will be decided before All the World is released (Spring, 2013).

Third (and totally exciting) news.  All the World's a Stage has already been edited by my editor (in New York) who I am so over the top thrilled to work with, I can't even tell you.  So for the next two months, I'll be in my "writer's lair" completely immersed in edits/revisions to get this puppy spit shined and ready for the world to see.  Spring is my target release date, and there will be more to come on all that fun stuff later.

Stay happy, stay sane and thanks so much for your support.
'Till next time,

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Today marks the first day of November, which means writers all over the world are participating in the National Write a Novel in a Month challenge.  Personally, I have not tried to slay the dragon (also known as the novel) in this manner, but many writers love to challenge themselves in this way, much like a runner entering a marathon or other types of physically grueling endeavors.  I can guarantee you won't pull any hamstrings and you won't have any side aches, but your brain might really hurt on December 1st. And while I don't believe a truly awesome piece of work comes out of penning 50,000 words in a month, I do believe a writer can walk away with a solid foundation for a novel.  I don't know the statistics, but I know a lot of novels are the result of  NaNoWriMo.

If this sounds like a challenge you're interested in, you can find out everything you need to know at

And for the younger writer, sponsors a kid and teen version (17 and under), meaning the word count requirement is much lower than adults.  I encourage any young writer to join in on the fun.  Last year, 2000 classrooms and 60,000 young writers stepped up to the challenge.  Love to write?  Give it a try. You never know what you might come up with in thirty days. Click here to find out more.

Happy NaNoWriMo!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Red Ribbon Week and Honoring "Kiki" Camerena

October 20-28 marks this year's Red Ribbon Week, which means schools throughout the country sponsor activities and presentations to commemorate living a drug free life.  But every year, I wonder if the meaning behind Red Ribbon Week loses its impact because it has become so routine for kids.  I also wonder how many people know or remember the story behind how Red Ribbon Week started.

Every year during Red Ribbon Week, I take this opportunity to talk with my family about Red Ribbon Week and who it is we are honoring.  "Kiki" Camerena was an example of a real-life modern day hero, as are all the DEA agents, police officers, fire fighters, soldiers and basically all the people who dedicate and sacrifice their life so that we can be safe.

I like to use Red Ribbon Week as a time to celebrate living a healthy life while remembering the modern day heros who, like "Kiki" Camerena, are the ultimate example of bravery as they put their life on the line and are willing to risk death for their passion.

If you're interested in knowing more about "Kiki", his complete story is on the Enrique S. Camarena Foundation website.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye Wins an Award

The official press release went out today! I'm thrilled to announce Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye was awarded a silver medal in the Moonbeam Children's Award contest.  Here's some information about the award and what this stands for in the world of children's literature.

"The Moonbeam Children's Book Awards exist to bring increased recognition to these kinds of exemplary children's books that inspire and delight children of all ages.  Judging panels of librarians, teachers, students and book reviewers chose medalists in 39 categories, and winning books came from a diverse group of long-established publishers, small presses, associations, and self-publishers.  This year's contest attracted over 900 entries from throughout North America and the English-speaking world, and medals will go to books representing 35 U.S. states, 7 Canadian provinces, and 3 countries overseas."

     You can see the entire list of winners here, along with more information about the awards.

I'm honored to be chosen to stand among these gifted authors and will continue to produce books that entertain, inspire and empower readers of all ages.  

Thank you judges and readers for keeping me inspired!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thursday's Children Blog Hop - How I Stay Inspired

One of the most common challenges faced by fiction writers is keeping the inspiration going.  Writers are asked constantly how they stay inspired or how they were inspired to write a particular story. Here's my theories on inspiration and what inspires me.

Fiction writing is a long process, especially getting the first book out into the universe.  Most everyone who knows me, knows I threw my first three novels in the trash.  My first stab at fiction writing spanned ninety-five thousand words, the second book, about seventy-five thousand and by the time I got to the third one, I threw in the towel, realizing at around forty thousand words I had nothing close to a compelling piece of work.

I printed big chunks of these books out as I re-worked and edited them, which serves me well when my kids complain about having to re-write an assignment for school.  I simply point to my four reams of paper stacked up in the corner of my office and say, "You're upset about re-writing how many paragraphs?" (It's an awesome tool. It totally works every time).

Anyhow, I know you're asking what inspired me to start again the fourth time around?  What kept me from getting discouraged (and going completely insane)?  Passion.  The same passion every person has within them to achieve a huge goal in life.  My theory is this:  People who have a true passion for something work quietly, in secret and they don't complain.  They don't publicly announce how hard they're working, how many times they started a small business and failed, how many hours they spent in classrooms or working as an intern for little to no money. They keep at it, over and over and over again, until they get it right, until they succeed.

I think we all (myself included) walk around with this notion that success is what inspires people, when in fact, the most successful people in the world failed - a lot - and somehow found inspiration in their failures, seeing failure as part of the process, the journey towards success. To me, each book wasn't a failure, it was part of my apprenticeship, a step in the right direction.  Did I feel ticked off and frustrated?  Yep.  Did I want to take my computer and throw it against the wall and scream and yell?  Um, yeah.  But I also knew I wasn't going to stop until I got it right.  So, I got some rest, got up the next day, poured a big cup of coffee and went back in.

I also read alot of books on writing and I'm still reading books on how to write fiction (I think I'm on my sixteenth or so, can't remember, lost track). Most all fiction writers struggle with the first novel because fiction writing is as individual as the voice of the author.  No two writers have the exact same system and the first novel helps establish some sort of systematic approach to putting all the pieces of the puzzle together.  Books on how to write fiction always give me new ways of looking at the craft, kind of like re-arranging the furniture in my house.

And, if what I just said here doesn't inspire you this will:  This morning, I was listening to NPR while  packing up my kids' lunches (my normal 6 am routine).  J.K. Rowling was being interviewed about her newest book, The Casual Vacancy.  She said it took her five years to write the book. See?  Feel better?  I certainly do.  How validating and inspiring is that?

So now that I've completed and published my first book, what keeps me pushing the words out each week?  What inspires me to sit down and write?  My characters. They inspire me.  I love writing them and spending time with them.  They are real to me, and I know this sounds like the people in the white coats should come knocking at my door, but honestly, I think writers have to love their characters, otherwise the reader won't.  Books have the power to change people's lives for the better and I'm inspired by characters who can help us figure out how to do that.

I'm also inspired by other writers.  I strive to be as good as my idols, Pat Conroy, Augusten Burroughs, Laurie Halse Anderson, Ellen Hopkins, Sara Zarr, Carolyn Mackler, I could go on and on.  I read other writers' work and their words inspire me to keep working and keep growing as an artist.

And finally, here's the not so exciting news on how I stay inspired to write:  I set goals for my writing (as I should for my exercising, but that's another topic altogether).  And if I don't make my writing goal for the week, I don't beat myself up.  I forge ahead.  Next week will be better, it usually is.  And some days the words don't come as quickly, so I find myself checking my word count a little more often than other days, but I don't stop writing for the day until I reach my goal.

So there's my theory on inspiration.  Hope I've inspired you as much as so many writers have inspired me.  And don't forget to hop on over to the awesome Kristina Perez's blog where you'll find a whole slew of inspiration!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Suicide Prevention Fundraiser and Giveaway

If you're a writer or a reader, here's a chance to win some really cool stuff and do something positive to help raise awareness about suicide, the fourth leading cause of death among teenagers and adults.  According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, studies indicate the best way to prevent suicide is through early recognition and treatment of depression and psychiatric illnesses.

In order to raise awareness and funds for this very important cause, fabulous writers, Justine Dell (Adult Romance) and Sarah Fine (Young Adult) have teamed up to give away tons of books and goodies, donated by authors (moi included), bloggers and agents.  For writers, you could win an agent critique, manuscript critique or an awesome book on writing.  For readers, there are tons of free signed books and even a gift card from Amazon.  But don't wait.  The raffle ends on Friday! And of course, if you'd simply like to make a donation, you can do that too. See the entire list of giveaways and all the details here.  Thanks in advance for participating, and good luck!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Final Day

On the final day of my blog tour, two bloggers post reviews and I'm thrilled with both of them.  Dalene posts about her hesitation to read my book and is now so glad she did at A Date with a Book.

And I didn't plan on saving the best for last, but it just worked out that way.  I am thrilled to share a review from Books Down My Pillow, where Camila from Chile posts about her love of the book and how the story moved her to tears.

It is overwhelming as a writer to know a reader has been touched by your words and moved by your characters.  It makes every sacrifice and effort for our art worth it.  This first tour has been fun and rewarding in so many ways.  I'd like to thank all the tour hosts for reading my book and featuring me on their blogs.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Writerly Wednesday

Many people are curious about what writers go through to learn their craft, so I thought I would periodically share some of the things I've learned here.

I think story analysis is a huge part of learning the craft of writing, and I think it's a great tool for students to use, as they are constantly asked to analyze what they are reading. Analysis also helps when having to formulate ideas for stories as well.

So as a writer of character driven stories, I naturally look to the characters within the story to analyze it first. By always looking at character first, I dissect the story, using the characters as the foundation and building up from there.

For example, we know the character arch is an illustration of how the character changes within the story, but how do they change, and why do they change?  To answer these questions, we need to ask ourselves, what does the character want? The main character will risk it all at some point for what?  What is that one thing that means everything to the character? And finally, do they get what wanted at the beginning of the story or did they figure out by the end of the story, they really didn't want what they thought they wanted?  Or, did they have what they wanted all along, but didn't realize it until the end of the story (when they're done learning their character lesson)?

For example, in the very beginning of the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy wants out.  She wants to be in a better place.  And by the end of the story, she realizes she was in a good place, she had everything she ever wanted at home, she just didn't realize it.  So her want really was about feeling at home within herself, which became her character arch, her lesson.

Any writing questions you're dying to ask, from story analysis to the mechanics of writing to the life of a writer?  Drop me note in the comments section or send me a message on my Facebook page (click on my photo at the right).

And be sure to check out a few corner stops on the tour: My Cozie Corner and Kaisy Daisy's Corner.

Thanks for dropping by!


Monday, September 10, 2012

Manic Monday - One Inspiring Quote and Three Reviews

Anyone who knows me, is aware of my lack of gross motor coordination and therefore, lack of knowledge concerning sports and sports figures.  But over the weekend, while perusing the internet for some quotes, I ran across this one from Arnold Palmer, who just happens to share my mother's birthday and birth year.  Happy Birthday to everyone born today!

"The road to success is always under construction."  - Arnold Palmer

And check out three interesting blog stops for today:  Reading with ABC, A Case of Reading Insomni and A Chick Who Reads.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Ann Brashares and day #8 on the tour

Part of becoming a fiction writer requires reading a lot of fiction within your genre and specifically authors who you love, who write the kind of stories you wish you could write.  And when I say I read a lot, I mean a lot.  As in a book a week.  So while writing several novels over the last decade, I've read a lot of books too, and all exclusively on the craft of writing and in the young adult genre.

I thought each week, I'd highlight one of these books I've read over the years, as a few of them are still selling, and still being talked about, even years after their release. I'll also post a review of new books on the scene, some of them published by traditional publishers, others by indie authors.

Today I'm going to talk about a book from an author who impacted me very early on in my journey and confirmed in my mind who I wanted to become as a writer.

I read Ann Brashares, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants in 2005 (it was released in 2001).  The Sisterhood portrays four teen girls with four separate lives and character arcs, and the way Ann got into their heads, I was mesmerized by them and their story.  And while reading her book, I realized how much I wanted to write character-driven stories grounded in reality. I wanted to tackle real-life issues and entertain my readers at the same time, just like Ann.

I loved how each girl over one summer, faces real life challenges, challenges teens are faced with everyday. I won't go into much more detail, as the book is a little old, but I love how Lena, Tibby, Bridget and Carmen all learn separate lessons, but all of them tie into our (sometimes desperate) need for love and companionship.  I'm so thankful for Ann for her words and her style and for continuing to inspire me to write from the heart.

And finally, stop by Window on the World where Teressa posted a very nice, honest review of Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Raising Awareness + A Review

Friday August 31, was International Overdose Awareness Day.  In coordination with that effort, a vigil was held last Thursday night where hundreds of people gathered on Roosevelt University's Schaumburg campus to participate in a candlelight vigil to remember those affected by drugs.  The vigil marked the first big event and gathering in Illinois in an effort to raise awareness and try to put an end to the sudden epidemic of teen drug use and overdoses in suburban Chicago. Read The Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald and The Beacon-News reports here.

Also, Senator Matt Murphy is sponsoring an awareness presentation on Heroin tonight, September 5th from 7pm -8:30 at Hersey High School and on Thursday, September 6th at Fremd High School.  More information on these events here.

And finally, the big blog tour continues.  Check out a review on Stressed Rach's Blog.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Days Five and Six

I'm going to start combing my stops and will now only post on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays.   Today, I'm featured on two blogs.  The first stop is at the Reviewing Shelf, and the second one is at Kristy Centeno's blog where I write a guest post on the subject of fear.

Thanks again for joining me and have a great day!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Day #4

Today I'm guest blogging on YA Beyond.  This is an awesome blog, filled with great YA stuff and the best YA authors out there.  Fridays are devoted to healthy teen tips, and today I'm talking about addiction.  Stop by and check it out.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Blog Tour Day #3 - Three Stops

Day three and three stops.  Check out reviews at All Things WritingPrincess of Pages and my guest post on Simply Infatuated.  Thanks again for joining me on tour. Have a great day!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Monday, August 27, 2012

Blog Tour: Day #1

Today I begin my first blog tour for Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye!  For the next three weeks, I'll be featured on twenty-three blogs and lots of fun things are happening.  I'll be guest blogging, you'll be able to read a review of the book, and some blogs will be posting an interview with me.  So not only will you be my very first blog tour guests, you'll be getting to know more about me and my writing and winning some cool stuff too.

And there's more:  I'm giving away one FREE PRINT book to whoever posts the most comments at the end of the blog tour.  I'm also throwing in a surprise best commenter--ever award (because who doesn't love surprises)!

The best part:  If you click the button on the right and sign up to follow me via e-mail, you won't miss any stops on the blog tour and you'll get my posts in your in-box.  Wha-la.

Today, I'm guest blogging on The Bunny's Review, the first chapter is posted as well, and (wait for it) there's a Giveaway!  So please stop by, leave a comment, enter a chance to win and have fun.

Thanks for joining me on tour and subscribing to my blog.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Susan Kaye Quinn Interview

Today I'm excited to interview another awesome young adult author from the Chicago area, Susan Kaye Quinn. Her series the Mindjack Triology is a must read. The characters are true and compelling and the theme of the book is extremely timely (I won't say more, you just have to read it for yourself!).

The second book in the series was released last spring, shortly before her first book, Open Minds was chosen as a finalist in the Kindle Book Reviews Best of Indie Books, 2012.  And, in the next weeks or two she's releasing two novellas, The Handler and The Scribe.

Here's a little bit about the first book in the triology, Open Minds and my interview with her:

When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep.

Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can't read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can't be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf's mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she's dragged deep into a hidden underworld of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her.

What inspired you to write the Mindjack Triology?
The idea for the story came to me as I was dozing off to sleep, thinking up an idea for a 1st paragraph contest. The image of a girl sitting in a classroom filled with mindreaders popped into my head, only the girl couldn’t read minds and was painfully isolated. I was compelled to write her story.
How did you decide to write a series?
Once Open Minds was finished, I knew that it had to be a series – Kira’s story wasn’t finished. By the time she gets through Closed Hearts and Free Souls, however, I believe that most of her story will have been told.

Who or what inspired the main character and theme of the series?
My very first image (the girl in the classroom) was Kira (the main character) and her theme of isolation carries through the entire trilogy.

What advice can you give to young aspiring writers?
The most important thing is to write. A LOT. (Thinking about writing, talking about writing, attending classes on writing – these don’t count. You have to do the actual writing itself.) The second most important thing is to network with other writers so that you can be continually seeking out new critique partners to give you feedback on your work. Offer to critique in exchange – that will teach you as much as critiques of your own work, and help you improve. Most of all, remember this is a long journey, and you have to take it one step at a time.

You grew up in California and now live in the Chicago area.  I must ask, do you miss the beach?
Yes. J I was a serious beach bunny as a teen, probably caught way too may UVA/UVB rays. But I love living in the Midwest – it’s the friendliest place I’ve ever put down roots.

Next California question (got to ask):  Do you surf?
Unless you count body surfing and doing face-plants into the sand, the answer to that would be “no.” J

It is so cool you are a Rocket Scientist.  Do you love saying to people, "It's not rocket science, you know."
It kinda cracks me up. Because there are many things that are just as complicated as rocket science, maybe even more so today, with advancements in science and technology: the study of genetics, the origin of the universe, dark matter, multi-dimensional string theory. I think we should start a new-for-the-times saying: “It’s not string theory, you know.” Except no one would know what you’re talking about. J

One last question:  What do you love the most about your main character, Kira?
That she has an almost unconscious goodness about her. She instinctively chooses the right thing, even when she’s not sure what she should do (and she has a lot of hard choices).

Susan Kaye Quinn, Author

Susan Kaye Quinn grew up in California, where she wrote snippets of stories and passed them to her friends during class. She pursued a bunch of engineering degrees and worked a lot of geeky jobs, including turns at GE Aircraft Engines, NASA, and NCAR. Now that she writes novels, her business card says "Author and Rocket Scientist" and she doesn't have to sneak her notes anymore. All that engineering comes in handy when dreaming up paranormal powers in future worlds or mixing science with fantasy to conjure slightly plausible inventions. Susan writes from the Chicago suburbs with her three boys, two cats, and one husband. Which, it turns out, is exactly as much as she can handle.

You can find Susan on her blog, facebook, and twitter and if you'd like to know about any future releases of hers, subscribe to her newsletter.

Where to find Susan's Books: Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and iTunes.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Celebrate the Olympics - Win a Freebie

As I watch the Olympians compete, my writer's mind goes crazy.  I keep thinking about the stories behind each competitor, and the force of passion and motivation that runs deep through their veins. Who are they as people?  What is their backstory? What would their character arch look like if they sat and told me their life story? And what would Mello and Anna be doing if they were watching the games?  Anna, the total jock would be rooting for the US Women's Volleyball team big time.  I can hear her yelling at the TV every night the US volleys balls across the net.  Mello would probably be a little more like me, thinking about the stories behind the athetes and doing some philosphizing.

But seriously, are we not all completely blown away by it all? These people are truly are an illustration of how to follow your passion, pursue your dreams and push yourself to the limit each and every day. And to be honest, I will never complain about having a bad day at the computer, not able to pound out my 2000 words for whatever reason ever again, thanks to Oscar Pistorius inspiring me with his accomplishment of running in the Olympics with two prosthetic legs. So as we come into the final days of the games, I'd like to pay tribute to Oscar and all the athletes by giving away a print copy of my book.  All you have to do is enter below and wha-lah.  One lucky person will get a signed printed copy of my book in the mail.  Good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Molly Backes Interview

Last summer I took a writing class taught by the super awesome Molly Backes at the Story Studio in Chicago.  Besides being a great writing teacher, Molly is also a super-talented author.  Her voice will draw you into her stories right away, and you will be in awe of her totally flawed, compelling characters. Her newest book Princesses of Iowa was released last May and is a must read.  So enough rambling.  Here's my interview with the fab Molly Backes:

What inspired you to write The Princesses of Iowa?

MB:  I can't point to one particular moment or thought that inspired the book - as I always tell my students, the subconscious mind is like a crockpot:  you dump a lot of ingredients in, let it simmer for a while, and come back to find a mean (or sometimes just a mess).  I was teaching 7th and 8th grade English in rural New Mexico when I started the book, so the Princessess crockpot has a lot of middle school angst and thoughts about conformity, identity, and girlhood, as well as a healthy does of homesickness for the Midwest.

The characters are so real and riddled with compelling imperfections.  Are any of the characters based on real people you know?

MB:  Thank you!  I stold some of Mr. Tremont's best lines (and lesson plans) from writing teachers I've had, and filled in the rest with my own teaching voice - one reader told me she thought "Hey, he stole that from Molly!"  as she was reading - but the rest of the characters are totally fictional.  I did work intentionally to give them all flaws, so thank you for noticing!

Your main character lives in Paris for a summer and works as an au pair before the story starts.  Have you ever been to Paris or were you an au pair in Paris and if not, would you totally kill to go there?

MB:  I spent a few days there when I was seventeen, but most of it was spent either mooning around Shakespeare's Books or curled up with my journal in the Jardin du Luxembourg, alternately writing about the people around me and obsessing about my college application essays.  No babysitting involved!

What made you decide to be a fiction writer?

MB:  Wether or not to be a writer was never a decision - I've never felt I had much choice in the matter.  I did, however, consciously shift my focus from writing poetry to writing fiction about ten years ago, in part because I'd heard it was tough to make a living as a poet (and writing fiction is so lucrative, haha).

You are such an awesome writing teacher.  What do you think is the most important thing young writers should know about the craft of fiction writing?

MB:  Thank you! I read something years ago about a writer's apprenticeship being a million words on the page, and I still think about that a lot.  You have to write a lot.  We're a very impatient culture, and we're a culture that celebrates youth and prodigy and early success, and it's easy to get wrapped up in the rush to publish.  I have met so many young writers who tell me they MUST be published before they turn 25, and high school students who ask me about how to get an agent.  Publishing is fine, but publishing isn't the point.  The point is writing.  The writing is what matters.  Focus on the writing, and the rest will come in time.

Finally, are you teaching any classes for young writers over at the Story Studio in Winnetka or Chicago this summer or in the fall?

MB:  I'll be teaching my Advanced Young Adult and Children's Writing Workshop, as well as an Intro to the YA Novel and a class called "Start your Novel Now" in the fall, all classes for adults.  I'm not personally teaching classes for young folks these days, but Story Studio is running some week-long writing camps as well as some single-session classes for kids in grads 6-10 at our Winnetka location.

Oh, and how is your best-ever dog?

MB:  She's the best.  As ever. :-)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Indie Interview

Last week, a group of fabulous indie authors who call themselves The Indelibles celebrated Independence Day by interviewing various authors on their blog.  I had the great honor of being interviewed by the fantastical Megg Jensen.  Yeah!

We talked about my new novel, a little bit about what my writing process is, some of my favorite things and finally (here's the best part) I had to ask the magic 8 ball a question.  Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Since Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye is out there in the world, Carmella D'Agostino has become very real to people and her story has sparked so many questions from readers wanting to know more about her - and me.  Is she real?  Is she me?  Is she someone I know or did I make her up?  Is she parts of real people?  Readers also want to know if I lost a sister or someone close to me.

First of all, Carmella is a completely made up character, and you probably already know, the characters we love the most are almost always fabricated in the mind of the writer.  One thing about Carmella (and all of my characters) is they find strength in finding humor in their life.  This is one trait that definitely comes from me and who I am.  Humor is how I deal with life, and it is how I cope.

Second, I did lose my older sister, so I know first hand what it feels like to lose someone you love.  Writing is what got me through the toughest days of adjusting to my life without a big sister.  It was the darkest time in my life. I was lucky to have family and friends who really worked hard to help me cope with my loss. I think losing people we love is the hardest thing in life to deal with, which is why I wanted to write a book about it.

So now what about you?  Did Carmella seem like someone you know?  Did you worry about her? Did you want to see her continue on with her life and her story after the book ended?  What other things do you want to know about me and my writing. Drop me a comment, let me know.  I'd love to hear from you.

Till next time...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Happy Summer Solstice and Official Launch Day!

It's official!  
Today's Summer Solstice and also official release day for my debut novel, Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye. 
You can purchase a copy from (print and Kindle)
and Barnes & Noble (print and Nook).

(Soon to be at Barnes and Noble in print and other e-book formats too!)

Thanks in advance for taking a look at my work and spreading the word. Also feel free to leave a review on Amazon. And...stay tuned for more exciting things happening around here.  In the weeks ahead there will be author interviews, posts about the craft of fiction writing, give-aways and much, much more!

Back of the Book
Before my older sister Francesca died, I worked at the bakery and wrote songs, but now I write lists.  Lists like ten reasons why it's my fault Francesca's dead, or five reasons why I should try and win Howie back, or one reason why I need to stop lying to everyone, including myself.

Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye is an extraordinary novel about one family's struggle to make sense of their world after losing a family member to addiction. Through sixteen-year-old Carmella's eyes, we witness the courage and strength it takes to overcome the consequences of grief, guilt and co-dependency.  With conviction and determination, Carmella shows us what can happen when we're open to love, feel the pain of our loss, and find the courage to accept the truth of our lives.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye Sneak Peek!

On June 20th, Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye will officially be launched. And since June 20th seems like kind of a long time to wait, here's a little glimpse into the life and story of Carmella D'Agostino.

(Drum roll, please)

Back of the Book
Before my older sister Francesca died, I worked at the bakery and wrote songs, but now I write lists.  Lists like ten reasons why it's my fault Francesca's dead, or five reasons why I should try and win Howie back, or one reason why I need to stop lying to everyone, including myself.

Wish I Could Have Said Goodbye is an extraordinary novel about one family's struggle to make sense of their world after losing a family member to addiction. Through sixteen-year-old Carmella's eyes, we witness the courage and strength it takes to overcome the consequences of grief, guilt and co-dependency.  With conviction and determination, Carmella shows us what can happen when we're open to love, feel the pain of our loss, and find the courage to accept the truth of our lives.

Chapter 1
I hug Francesca’s purse tight against my chest and rest my head against the corner of my closet. This is me since my big sister died four weeks ago. Francesca was six years older than me, and at twenty-three she became one of those people you read about in the tabloids, only she wasn’t an actor in Hollywood. She was my big sister who accidentally overdosed at her own party and now she’s not here to help me get over the fact I let her down, or to give me one reason why I should keep on living since my universe exploded and turned to dust.
I close my eyes and make a list, the kind Francesca and I would make when the lights were out and we were supposed to be sleeping.
 Why I should live the rest of my life in my closet
1.     I don’t have to talk to anyone.
2.     I don’t have to listen to Mom and Dad fight.
3.     I don’t have to face the rest of my life without my big sister.

Francesca and I had a pact to keep the lists just between us and we swore each other to secrecy before we made our first one. When Francesca went to college and was home for a break or a visit, we didn’t make many lists.  And then when she graduated, the lists stopped. I forgot about the lists until I found one in her purse the night she died. It was her Monday to do list.
“Carmella?” My mother taps on the door. “Could you—?”
I slide the closet door open and squint up at my mother.
“We need you to come out. Your father’s got his coat on. He’s waiting.”
“I’m not going.”
“Carmella, don’t do this.” She pushes up the sleeves of her burnt orange pullover and folds her arms in front of her. “We need you.”
I want to tell Mom I can’t reduce my big sister’s life to twelve boxes and stuff them underneath the steps of my parents’ basement. But I won’t say what I’m thinking. I don’t want to make things worse for her and Dad.
My mother’s eyes are a million miles away. They’ve been like that ever since we got the news. “I know this is hard, Carmella, but Father Carlucci says packing up her things and moving her out of the apartment will help us start to heal.”
“What if I don’t want to move her things out of there? I want everything to stay the same.”
“Please, I don’t have the energy to fight.” Mom’s hair is tucked behind her ears, all messy, and her make up is rubbed off of her puffy eyes.
“Fine.” I set Francesca’s purse down on top of my red Converse shoes and drag myself towards the steps.
When I get into the kitchen, Mom hands me my coat.
My father’s pacing in front of the sink, crunching on corn chips. The veins in the side of his head pop out while he chews.
Mom grabs her purse from the scratched up kitchen table they always keep talking about replacing, but never do. “The owners from Lincoln Distributors sent flowers to the office Friday. How did they find out?” she asks.
My father stops in front of the door and rubs his forehead with his left hand. “I don’t know. Obviously, someone at the office told them. We never should have let the truth get past the family.”
“What are you talking about?” Mom squeezes the strap of her black leather purse tight.
“Yesterday, Mary at Davenport Motor Works asked what happened to Francesca. I told her she died of a fatal arrhythmia. From here on in, if anyone asks, that’s the story. And when you go back to school, you tell everyone the same thing.” He points to me.
“But most of them know what happened.” I zip my jacket.
“Not all of them. Tell Anna and your other friends to keep quiet too.”
Dad doesn’t know I haven’t spoken to anyone but Anna in the last year. My only friends lately were Francesca and Donny. Mom and Dad don’t know much about me at all now. When Francesca started having problems in middle school, it's like I disappeared.
“You lied? You told a customer our daughter died from a fatal heart condition?” Mom swipes her hair behind her ear.
“Gina, our daughter died at a party where kids were doing drugs. People see that as a reflection on us. Since my father passed away and I took over the business two years ago, I’ve been working my ass off. I don’t want anything to jeopardize our reputation and I don’t want all my hard work to go to hell.”
My mother’s eyes glass over, her face drops like all her muscles turned into water and poured out. “Joe, this is our daughter. How can you talk like this? People will understand. It was an accident.”
“This type of shit only happens to kids who are on drugs. Francesca was in the wrong place at the wrong time, that’s all. If she didn’t move in with that asshole Donny, she’d be alive right now.” My father stabs his finger in the air.
“I don’t believe this. So when I talk to people at work, I’m supposed to lie about how my daughter died?” My mother’s eyes glass over.
“Say it was a heart thing and you don’t want to talk about it. People won’t push. And that goes for you too.” My dad plucks his keys out of his coat pocket. “Let’s go.”
The three of us head up the creaky steps to Donny and Francesca’s third floor apartment. We had to walk two blocks struggling to hold onto the flattened boxes and packing tape. Parking on city streets is always a pain, especially on Saturdays when everyone is home from work. Most people work Monday through Friday in this neighborhood, except for Francesca and Donny.
Donny works weekends at the bar down the street. That’s how they got this apartment. A year ago, Donny met a guy who was transferred to China for a four-year assignment and needed to rent out his top floor condo in a cool brownstone building. Francesca was so excited; she thought they got lucky. The place was only a few blocks from the famous Second City Theatre in Chicago. Francesca thought she was going to move in here and get her life back on track.
Francesca worked at different restaurants for a while, but last summer she didn’t work at all. Around middle of August, she stopped returning my calls. When she finally called me back it was the first week in September to ask me to go to an AA meeting with her. It was a week before she died and the last time I ever heard her voice.
Dad sets his stack of boxes down and knocks. Mom starts to cry. She pulls a tissue out of her purse. She hands one to me, but I’m not gonna cry. I’m gonna be strong for Mom and Dad because that’s what families do for each other.
Donny opens the door and we get a whiff of rotten food like moldy cheese. We haven’t seen him since the funeral.
“Hi,” Donny says. He combs his messy dishwater blond hair with his fingers, like he just woke up. His green T-shirt is all wrinkled.
“C’mon in.” He steps back and holds out his hand. “Hey, sis.” He smiles.
“Hi.” I almost walk towards the kitchen, but I stop myself. Francesca loved to cook. I kept her company in the kitchen while she made stuff. They were always broke, so she cooked a lot of pasta.
Everywhere I look I see Francesca. Like her favorite fake painting of a sunrise on the beach she bought from a guy on the street for ten bucks when she first moved in with Donny. Francesca and I dreamed of living near the ocean, where the air is always warm and people are more relaxed. She was sure the painting meant good luck for her. I run my finger along the tacky gold frame.
“We were supposed to be awesome career women, get married, have kids and live next door to each other, two blocks from the beach,” I whisper. “That was our plan.”
I remember thinking how much I liked Donny and was so happy for Francesca. We were both sure her life was going to finally get better.
Donny leads us into the bedroom.
He points to the closet. “I boxed up her shoes, just the hanging stuff needs to be done.”
I think I might puke. I push past my parents, who are stiff like statues. I run straight to the bathroom where Francesca and I hung out when we wanted to talk in secret. I close and lock the door, taking my usual seat on the side of the tub, staring at the toilet where Francesca parked her foot as she blew cigarette smoke out the tiny frosted paned window. I rock back and forth and howl into my sleeve.
I bend down and run my fingers across the tiny tiles on the floor. I imagine her lying here, taking her last breaths, all alone. I grab my chest. I wish she hadn’t died in here alone. I wish I could have been with her, to hold her hand or to hug her. I wish I could have said goodbye.
“Carmella.” My mother knocks on the door. “Are you okay?”
I stand up and turn the cold water on full blast. “I’m fine,” my voice cracks. I clear my throat. “I’ll be right out.”
I open the door, and I hear Dad shout. “How can you live with yourself? This is all your fault.”
“Don’t go blaming me. All I did was try and love her,” Donny stomps out of the apartment, the door slamming behind him.
I walk into the bedroom. My father is mumbling over the high-pitched scream of the packing tape as he seals the top of a box.
Mom sniffles as she takes Francesca’s clothes off the hangers, folds them and puts them carefully in the box on the floor next to her.
Dad stands in the middle of the room, staring at the dresser, the tape dispenser dangling from his right hand.
“Where’s Donny?” I ask.
Mom turns towards me. “He left. He shouldn’t be here.” She folds Francesca’s blue and white plaid shirt.
“Wait,” I say. “Can I have that one?”
Mom clutches the shirt. “This old thing? Why would you want this?”
“Because. It was her favorite.”
Mom passes me the shirt. “Okay.” She shakes her head.
Holding it up to my nose, I smell Francesca and for a tiny fraction of a second, I get her back.
I put the shirt down next to my purse on the bed. “What should I do?”
Dad hands me a small box. “Donny says there’s a few things out there.”
I take the box from him and walk into the kitchen, pretending she’ll be standing at the sink, excited to see me as usual, throwing her arms around me in one of her over-the-top hugs.
I turn my head. There’s a small magnet on the side of the fridge in the shape of an old potbelly stove with red letters that say “Francesca’s Kitchen” across the belly. Donny bought it for her and she loved the stupid thing. I shove the magnet into my pocket.
I stretch my red and white tiny-flowered comforter over my crossed legs and try not to look over at Francesca’s empty bed, still made up with the matching bedspread. My guitar sits in the stand and stares at me like an abandoned dog. I haven’t been able to go near it since we got the call. Francesca talked my parents into giving me the guitar for my eighth grade graduation, a gift from all three of them. It’s the same style of acoustic guitar John Lennon had. She knew I’d go ballistic over it. I used a black Sharpie marker to copy his famous character sketch, just like the one he had on the guitar he used during the Bed-In for Peace. My parents had a fit when they saw the drawing. They thought I’d ruined the guitar.
I tried to explain how much I admired John Lennon, how I want to be an artist who changes the world like he did. In the middle of my explanation, the phone rang. The office called with an emergency. We were supposed to finish talking later, but never did.
I was playing “Imagine” when my mother stormed through the door screaming that Francesca was dead. Then she fainted.
I glance over at Francesca’s empty bed and turn out the light. Staring at the moon outside my window, missing Francesca so bad I want to curl up and die, I wonder how Donny’s surviving.
I close my eyes. A replay of the day flashes through my head. I start to drift into the still black waters of the night.
Then I smell cigarette smoke.
I see Francesca in her bathroom, standing with her foot on the toilet, blowing smoke out the window, making fun of all our goofy distant relatives that were at her wake and funeral.
I’m sitting on the side of the tub, laughing.
Francesca smiles at me, taking a long drag from her cigarette. Then she tells me she’s okay.
My eyes fly open.
I sit up.
My heart jumps into my throat. I grab for the lamp and miss. My water glass falls onto the carpet. I reach for the lamp again and turn it on. I stare at the end of my bed. No Francesca. I fly out of bed. I blink, rub my sweaty forehead and look around the room. My legs shake as I crawl back into bed.
The cigarette smoke chokes me.
I scream but nothing comes out.