What’s Up Wednesday

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“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to.And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

First, congratulations to… Jaime Morrow, who was randomly selected as the winner of a signed copy of Meredith McCardle’s soon-to-be-released debut, The Eighth Guardian! I think you’ll love this one, Jaime. I’ll have your book in the mail ASAP! 

What I’m Reading: I’m slowly making my way through Huntley Fitzpatrick’s What I Thought Was True. It’s a lovely story, but I’ve not had a lot of time to sit down and read lately — see “What Else I’ve Been Up To” below. I’m very much looking forward to settling in and getting lost in Gwen’s island world.

What I’m Writing: I’m trying to work out the plot of the WiP I started playing with, the follow-up to one of my other projects. I know what I want to happen, but getting there isn’t as easy as I’d hoped — surprise, surprise. That’s okay, though, because I’m still feeling super inspired by these characters and all of the new conflict I’m planning to throw at them. Yay for SNIs!

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Lots of stuff! It’s been a busy week…

    
I got a lot done around my house. I filled some pots and decorated my front porch (finally), and spent hours helping my girlie sort out her mess of a bedroom. When we moved in, we didn’t give much thought to furniture placement or functionality, so we did some rearranging and reorganizing and the space is so much neater and prettier now.

  
On Saturday, my girl had a tea party to attend for her friend’s birthday, and then we went to Pensacola for a minor league baseball game. We ate hotdogs and cheered for the Blue Wahoos and had an awesome time.

  
On Sunday we went to the beach, my very favorite thing to do. I could happily spend every afternoon with my toes in the sugar sand, watching my girl pretend to be a mermaid in the waves. My happy place. 🙂


Yesterday I tried a new recipe, Flourless Chocolate Cookies. Yum. They’re sort of fudge-y and super rich, and also very easy to make. Recommend!

What’s Inspiring Me Now: Gossip Girl! I’m nearly done with the second season and I’m loving it. It’s fluffy and soap-opera-esque, but the writing is a lesson in creative conflict, amped up pacing, and pushing the envelope. The characters — even the most evil characters — have backstories and redeeming qualities that make them fascinating. Plus, the fashion… it’s glorious. In other news, I had lots of fun reading YA Highway‘s recent License to Drive post, all about road trips and first cars. The WiP I’ve been toying with has a road trip element, so I’m eating up everything I can find about teens on the road. Got any extraordinary road trip stories to recommend?

What’s up with you today? 

What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to.And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I’m halfway through Lauren Oliver’s Panic. I’m moving slowly, but not because I’m not enjoying it — I am! It’s just been a busy (and crazy) week and I haven’t had much time for reading. Boo. Panic‘s a trip, though, and I’m very anxious to see how it all plays out. This one’s quite a departure from Before I Fall and the Delirium trilogy, but Lauren Oliver’s prose is predictably beautiful. So far, so good.

What I’m Writing: Another revision round’s nearly in the bag. CP and beta notes are helping me so much (it’s amazing what people who aren’t neck-deep in the story pick up on!), and I’m excited about how this draft of Good Girls is turning out. It’s much more layered and cohesive and interesting, and its ending is a thousand times stronger. I’m so happy with my revision progress, in fact, that I decided to go to Disney World.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: No, really — I went to Disney World! My girlie and I took a rather impromptu road trip to Orlando to meet up with some of our favorite friends for a few days and we had an incredible time! I love all things Disney so much. The parks and the magic just never get old…


Obligatory Mickey shot. 🙂

   
These girls had so much fun together! It’s been nearly a year since they’ve seen each other, yet they picked up right where they left off.

PhotoPossibly my new favorite photo. ❤

{There are more on Instagram. Check them out if you’re so inclined.}

What’s Inspiring Me Now: First, an awesome post from my agent, Victoria Marini, entitled On Bones and Knowing Your Characters. It’s about digging deeper and making sure your readers know your characters as well as you do. Also, a post by Corey Ann Haydu called How to Relationship (for Stacked), which talks about all of that crazy-awkward stuff that happens in the shadows between kissing and sex in YA, and how it’s pretty awesome when authors get brave and explore those shadows in authentic ways. (Obviously Corey says it way better than I do.) Highly recommend both of these articles!

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

What’s Up Wednesday

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“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to.And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: Over the weekend I read Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn, which isn’t a book I normally would have picked up because there’s much talk of wolves in the summary. But it is so, so good, guys. The plotting — WOW. And the writing… it’s beautiful. The entire story is visceral and haunting, one of those where you’re never quite sure what’s real and what’s not. The other day it  was named the William C. Morris YA Debut Award winner– well deserved! I highly recommend it. (Also, can we talk about Stephanie’s next release, Complicit? It’s one of my most anticipated 2014 books!). Now, I’m reading Leap of Faith by Jamie Blair, which came highly recommended by Tracey Neithercott, a book bestie who has yet to fail me. I’ve only just started, but so far it’s lovely.

  

What I’m Writing: I’ve been making great strides in my revision. Funny how after several weeks away it is VERY easy to see what’s awesome and what’s embarrassingly cheesy and needs to go. I’ve also made some important decisions regarding my characters’ motivations and the challenges I need to present them with, so I think I’m moving in the right direction. Guess what else I wrote this week? A RESUME! Which was really challenging, considering I haven’t worked outside my home in seven years. Big thanks to my husband for all his help!

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Mostly, I’ve been trying to remain motivated and in my revision zone. I’ve been also spending tons of time with my husband and my girl. We’ve been watching a lot of Modern Family, a show we’ve only recently discovered. As a rule, I hate sitcoms, but this one is laugh-out-loud funny (I love Phil so much!), plus it’s full of heartfelt moments that aren’t totally gag-inducing. Cam cracks my girl up, which in turn cracks my husband and me up.


My daughter has been studying landforms at school and had a take-home volcano project to complete last week. She had a blast (see what I did there?) mixing and molding and painting, and was thrilled when the chemical reaction actually worked. Watching your child get excited about learning is hands-down one of the best parts of parenting.


Sometimes I participate in Photo A Day challenges via Instagram. At the end of each day, Fat Mum Slim (aka Australian blogger Chantelle) chooses a “Fab Four” group out of thousands of entrants. Imagine my surprise when my photo of Daisy on the front porch (for the prompt “My Space”) was selected. It totally made my day to have my simple little image featured with three incredibly lovely photographs. Daisy was also flattered.  ♥


We’ve been having a stretch of crappy weather (I’m not impressed with Florida so far) and my daughter’s school has been closed for the last two days. Yesterday we baked Homemade Yeast Bread together and it was so much fun. My girl learned how to knead dough, and then we ate warm bread with butter for a snack. Yum!

What’s Inspiring Me Now: I love author Erin Bowman‘s recent Pub(lishing) Crawl post entitled Making the Most of Social Networks as a Writer. It is everything you need to know about the various social media platforms available today, as well as advice for how to make the most of them as a writer. Definitely check it out. My WiP’s Pinterest board has also been inspiring me lately. Every time I get stuck, I turn to it for a creative boost, and it’s totally working. 

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to.And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: Oh, gosh. I wish I’d had more time to read so far this month. December was a great reading month (I recapped HERE), but my book time in January has been pretty sporadic, what with all the unpacking and settling in. I did read Butter, by Erin Jade Lange, a book with a unique and compelling concept, and now I’m reading Rebecca Behren‘s middle grade debut When Audrey Met Alice, which is out next month and absolutely adorable. I’m also beta reading a fabulously unique manuscript by my friend Liz Parker. I see such greatness in this story’s future!

What I’m Writing: *sigh* I’ve had to put my WiP revision on hold over the past few weeks, but now that we’re happy in our new house and my girl’s back in school, I’m looking forward to diving back in and polishing this story until it’s shiny. I’m hoping to finish mid-February so I can send it out for feedback.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Traveling. Settling. Exploring our new town. Want to see pictures from the last few weeks?

   
My husband graduated with a master’s degree from the Naval Postgraduate School mid-December. We left Monterey the same afternoon.


First stop: San Diego’s SeaWorld, where we visited Shamu and Santa.

   
An Arizona sunset and an unbelievably blue New Mexico sky.


New Mexico’s Carlsbad Cavern, which was much cooler than I’d expected.


Christmas Day in San Antonio, a town  we absolutely loved. That said, what we saw of The Alamo was slightly underwhelming.


My favorite activity of all… Trail riding in Austin!

   
Our first visit to New Orleans. Even though it poured rain most of the day, I kind of loved this city. Also, the beignets… Yum!


We got to celebrate New Year’s Eve in our new house, though we were all exhausted after spending the day moving in.

   
Scenes from our new area. The beaches are indescribably gorgeous.


We adopted a new family member… Meet Daphne Upperman!

What’s Inspiring Me Now: I’m sort of late to the party on this incredible blog post, but 2013: A Learning Year: Managing Expectations by author Jessica Spotswood is too good not to share. It’s a must-read for published and pre-published writers alike. If you’ve yet to check it out, please do! Also, the Goodreads 2014 Debut Author Challenge (YA/MG/NA) list has me all kinds of inspired. It’s so fun to see the names and books of my writing friends officially on Goodreads. Be sure to peruse this list and add the debuts that interest you to your To-Read list!

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

2013 YA Superlatives Blogfest :: Head of the Class

The Class of 2013: YA Superlative Blogfest (hosted by Jessica LoveTracey NeithercottAlison Miller, and me) runs Monday, December 16th through Thursday, December 19th. All of our fantastic participants will highlight favorite books published in 2013 using a variety of fun superlative categories. The Class of 2013: YA Superlative Blogfest is all about promoting the extraordinary young adult books published this year, so if you haven’t already, draft a post and sign up to participate at the end of this post. We can’t wait to see your favorite reads of 2013!

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My Books Pubbed in 2013 Reading List (starred books are 2013 debut novels): Shades of Earth, *The Tragedy Paper, Just One Day, *If You Find Me, *Nobody But Us, *Taken, Through the Ever Night, Eleanor & Park, Requiem, *Pretty Girl-13, *Uses For Boys, This is What Happy Looks Like, Quintana of Charyn, *The S-Word, The 5th Wave, *Nantucket Blue, *The Sea of Tranquility, Golden, *Strands of Bronze and Gold, Where the Stars Still Shine, Dare You To, All I Need, Out of the Easy, *OCD Love Story, The Dream Thieves, *Canary, The Truth About You and Me, Fangirl, *My Life After Now, September Girls, *Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, Dead Silence, Invisibility, Just One Year, *Fault Line, Allegiant, *How to Love, The Beginning of Everything, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, *Unteachable, Dangerous Girls, and *Reclaimed (Covers link to Goodreads pages!)

Today’s Categories for Best in Show…

Favorite Dystopian

   
I couldn’t narrow this category down to one. Both Through the Ever Night and Taken have amazing worldbuilding and beautiful prose. Love them both.

Favorite Science Fiction

The end of this book almost killed me, but… phew! I thought it was a fitting and fantastic conclusion to a trilogy I’ve followed since its release.

Favorite Fantasy

I read this trilogy over the course of a few weeks last spring, and I’m still in awe. I’ve never cared so much for such a huge cast of characters. Brilliant high fantasy.

Favorite Contemporary

   
Because this is actually one story, right? Allyson and Willem really did give me all the feels, not to mention a wicked case of wanderlust.

Favorite Action/Adventure

This one’s sci-fi as well, and it’s intense. Expertly plotted and full of action and twists. I couldn’t put it down!

Favorite Historical Fiction

I adore this gritty but beautiful glimpse into life in a 1950s New Orleans brothel. Protagonist Josie is one of my favorites of the year.

Favorite Comedy

This is a stretch, but I don’t read traditional comedies, and Fangirl actually does have several funny moments. It’s also deep and thoughtful and romantic. Love.

Favorite Mystery

This book kept me guessing until its final pages. It’s raw and twisty and bold, a scary look at foreign legal systems and the ruthlessness of friendship and love.

Favorite Romance

   
I couldn’t pick just one! How to Love and Eleanor & Park are stories of challenged but genuine devotion, and they both gave me all the first love tingles.

Favorite Paranormal

This book is surreal and atmospheric and totally weird, but I dig it. The writing is lovely and the symbolism is fascinating. Plus, look at that cover!

Favorite Family Drama

    
Two heartbreaking but hopeful stories with similar themes of love and devotion and healing. Both protagonists have exceptional fathers, too.

Favorite Genre Bender 

This book is a trip, and I could not put it down. I’m such a Gansey fan… I’d read a story about him grocery shopping if Maggie Stiefvater published it.

Tell us about your favorites, and make sure to link your post with all of the other Class of 2013: YA Superlative Blogfest posts…

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November is… Picture Book Month


Picture Book Month is an international literacy initiative celebrating print picture books during the month of November. Founder Dianne de Las Casas (author & storyteller) and Co-Founders Katie Davis (author/illustrator), Elizabeth O. Dulemba (author/illustrator), Tara Lazar (author), and Wendy Martin (author/illustrator) have pulled  their worldwide connections to make this book celebration happen.

As a former elementary school teacher and current mama, I am a huge fan of picture books. Even though my girlie is capable of reading on her own now, we still love to snuggle up on the couch with a stack of colorfully illustrated stories. Our collection is pretty extensive — I’m sure you’re shocked :). Here are a few of our favorites… (Summaries from Goodreads. Covers lead to Goodreads pages.)

The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler – One tiny snail longs to see the world and hitches a lift on the tail of a whale. They go on an amazing journey, past icebergs and volcanoes, sharks and penguins, and the little snail feels so small in the vastness of the world. But when disaster strikes and the whale is beached in a bay, it’s the tiny snail who saves the day.

Bear Snores On written by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman – A whole host of different animals and birds find their way out of the cold and into Bear’s cave to warm up. But even after the tea has been brewed and the corn has been popped, Bear snores on! See what happens when he finally wakes up and finds his cave full of uninvited guests — all of them having a party without him!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – One sunny Sunday, the little caterpillar was hatched out of a tiny egg. He was very hungry. On Monday, he ate through one apple; on Tuesday, he ate through two pears; on Wednesday, he ate through three plums–and he was still hungry. Strikingly bold, colorful pictures and a simple text in large, clear type tell the story of the hungry little caterpillar’s progress through an amazing variety and quantity of foods. Full at last, he made a cocoon around himself and went to sleep, to wake up a few weeks later wonderfully transformed into a butterfly!

Edward the Emu written by Sheena Knowles, illustrated by Rod Clement – Edward is tired of being an emu, so he decides to try being something else for a change. First he spends some time swimming with the seals. Next, he lounges with the lions. He even slithers with the snakes. But Edward soon discovers that being an emu may not be so bad after all. So he heads back to his pen, only to find a big surprise awaiting him . . .Sheena Knowles’ upbeat, rhyming text and Rod Clement’s deliciously droll illustrations are sure to make readers laugh out loud in this whimsical picture book.

Corduroy by Don Freeman – When all the shoppers have gone home for the night, Corduroy climbs down from the shelf to look for his missing button. It’s a brave new world! He accidentally gets on an elevator that he thinks must be a mountain and sees the furniture section that he thinks must be a palace. He tries to pull a button off the mattress, but he ends up falling off the bed and knocking over a lamp. The night watchman hears the crash, finds Corduroy, and puts him back on the shelf downstairs. The next morning, a little girl buys him with money she saved in her piggy bank and takes him home to her room. Corduroy decides that this must be home and that Lisa must be his friend.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans – Set in picturesque Paris, this tale of a brave little girl’s trip to the hospital was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1940 and has as much appeal today as it did then. The combination of a spirited heroine, timelessly appealing art, cheerful humor, and rhythmic text makes Madeline a perennial favorite with children of all ages.

Tell me: What’s your favorite picture book?

On Book Nerdiness…

Last week, I wrote a Four Book Friday guest post for Mackenzi Lee‘s blog. In it, I discussed four books that have greatly impacted me. It was fun to reflect on all the books I’ve read and loved, and to dissect what it was about each one that affected me so deeply. Please do check the post if you’re so inclined…

Two of the books I chose for Four Book Friday (Blubber and The Face on the Milk Carton) are books I first read and fell in love with when I was (technically) a child. You see, I’ve always been an avid reader, an enthusiast of stories, and a collector of books. I recall being very young, using the slice of light cast into my bedroom from the hallway to page though tattered copies of Ramona and The Babysitters Club. I recall family visits to Waldenbooks (remember it?), turning squeaky racks packed with Sweet Valley High books, searching for the perfect paperback. I recall high school, disappearing into the library during lunch hour, where I devoured books instead of food.

Even now, I sneak bits of reading into my day. While on the elliptical at the gym. Blow drying my hair. Sitting in the spectator section during my daughter’s swim lessons. And I always read before I go to sleep at night. A good book is the perfect conclusion to any sort of day.

I am such a Book Nerd.

The other night I went into my girlie’s room to tuck her in and found her already asleep, snuggling her favorite doll and a book.

I can’t tell you how happy this sight makes me. It’s as if my life has made a full and complete circle… My baby is an emerging Book Nerd. I am so proud.

Are you a lifelong reader?
What kinds of books did you read when you were young?

What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you.

{Please make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, other participants can visit your blog and check out what you’ve been up to. In that same spirit, I urge you to visit as many new blogs as you can every Wednesday. The most awesome aspect of What’s Up Wednesday and Ready. Set. Write is that they include a built-in support system. Let’s make sure we’re rooting each other on and offering as much encouragement as we can. Who knows… You might make an awesome new writing buddy, or a find a fantastic beta reader, or hook up with an amazing critique partner!}

And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake and felt sort of eh about it. I didn’t hate it, but I was unsatisfied with the ending. Still, the writing is beautiful, so it’s worth checking if you like literary fiction. I also finished Where the Stars Still Shine, which I absolutely LOVED. I’ll tell you more about it in a future Bookanista post, but I will say that I adored main character Callie, and I’m head-over-heels for Alex. *swoon* Now, I’m reading Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood. I’ve yet to find a witch (or caster) story I really like, but so far I’m very much enjoying this one. Jessica’s writing is gorgeous, the alternate history is fascinating, and I’m digging spunky main character Cate. Can’t wait till I get to those steamy kisses I keep hearing about.

What I’m Writing: Still plugging away on my WiP! I’ve managed to keep up my 500-ish words-a-day average with a total of 3,084 words this week, just barely meeting my goal. I’ve surpassed the 16K word mark, which is exciting, and I’m starting to find a real groove with my characters. Knowing what they’d do and how they’d feel in a given situation is becoming more instinctual, and now that I’ve nailed down their backstories and motivations, their interactions are flowing quicker, and much more smoothly. I’m an edit-as-I-go first drafter and that’s slowing me down a bit, but I think that by the time I finish this sucker, it’ll be something I can work with. That’s about all we can ask of our first drafts, right?

I’m going to adjust my word count goal for this week. Instead of 3000 words, I’m going to shoot for a slightly more manageable 2000. We have family visiting and a busy weekend ahead, so my writing time is going to be limited. Still, I vow to hold on to the momentum I’ve found since starting Ready. Set. Write!

What Else I’ve Been Up To: As usual, things have been crazy around here…


I’ve been baking — surprise, surprise. I bought a package of Snickerdoodles for my daughter and her friend the other day. Of course I had to taste one, and it was so unsatisfying I decided to try my hand at baking some from scratch. I found a recipe at my favorite baking blog and whipped up a double batch. Oh my goodness… So yummy. And so much better than the store-bought variety!


Over the weekend, I took my cutie for a hair cut. When I asked her if she wanted her usual trim, she said, “Nope. I want my hair cut like Kit Kittredge‘s.” So that’s what we went for. While I think my girlie looks absolutely adorable, the mama in me is kind of freaking out. She also looks so much older. *sniffle*

  
On Sunday we went hiking deep in The Los Padres National Forest, which is so scenic. After our hike and a picnic, we searched for some hot springs we’d heard about and, after a treacherous sixty-minute drive down an isolated one-lane dirt road, we came across the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, a Buddhist monastery that has turned the hot springs into Japanese baths and welcomes both practicing Buddhists and paying guests. Rather than strip down and hop into the baths with a bunch of very rustic-looking strangers, we skipped the hot springs and toured the grounds instead. The monastery is beautiful, and so peaceful. I wouldn’t mind spending a few days there with my manuscript and my yoga mat.


We have family visiting! My husband’s sister, her husband, and their three kiddos drove all the way from Washington to Central California to see us, and we’re so happy! We’ve been having lots of fun checking out the sights (the other day we went to the Winchester Mystery House — totally bizarre), and just hanging out. My girlie is thrilled to spend so much time with her cousins!

What’s Inspiring Me Now: Lots. My fellow Ready. Set. Write! participants and their stellar progress. The Twitter writing parties I’ve been participating in. The gorgeous summer scenery in our part of the country. I’m also feeling incredibly inspired by my recent read, Where the Stars Still Shine. It’s just the sort of book I long to write. Reading it made me want to work harder so one day, hopefully I can.

What’s up with you today?

What’s Up Wednesday

Today I’m jumping in on “What’s Up Wednesday,” a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you.

Awesome, right? Here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. It is FANTASTIC. I’m not a big sci-fi gal, but I’m finding this book to be very accessible. It’s also very scary in its feasibility. And it’s a total pageturner. The twists! The unknowns! Zombie! Loving this one. In addition to published fiction, I’m beta reading a fantastic contemporary manuscript. I’m lucky to have such talented friends!

What I’m Writing: Um… blog posts? Book reviews? Grocery shopping lists? Kidding! Now that my revision is done-done, I’m back to working on my shiny new WiP. I still love it, and I also love that I get to use Scrivener to draft it — a first for me. Want to read a bit?

He was going to step inside, Jenna realized with a start. He was going to step into the elevator with her and the enormous TV cart, and then the doors would seal up tight. She would be trapped with him, breathing his air, smelling his smell, avoiding eye contact like it was her job. She’d been confined to a tight space with a boy once before, and the experience had scarred her. 

Jenna’s palms were suddenly clammy, and her heart hammered with such force she thought it might burst from her chest.

But this boy—the boy with the midnight eyes and the uncooperative hair—was not that boy, she reminded affected psyche. And she was at school, a safe place. She was not drunk. She was not incoherent. She was not vulnerable.

What Else I’ve Been Up To:

  

Hanging  with my hubby and my girlie. Lately we’ve spent some time at Carmel Beach, and we’ve gone on a few Big Sur hikes. Both spots are incredibly scenic and lots of fun. We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the country (I mean, come on… that’s a waterfall cascading down onto the sand) and we’re trying to take full advantage before the Army makes us pick up and move again.

I’ve also been baking up a storm. I’m currently out of butter, flour, and brown sugar, and low on eggs. Over the weekend I made a favorite, Peanut Butter Cake, which is rich and comforting and always a crowd pleaser. And the other day I made classic Chocolate Chip Cookies to take to a barbecue. They went so fast!

And, finally, I’ve been doing lots of running, as usual. I’m trying to drop my five-mile pace to eight minute miles, which my husband tells me is the Ranger Standard. I’m getting closer and closer!  I’ve also surpassed 800 miles for 2013. Basically, I could have run from where we live now (the Monterey Bay area) to my hometown in Western Washington. No problem, right? 😉

What Inspires Me Right Now:

Wear Blue: Run to Remember, an organization with the goal of building a running community that honors the service and sacrifice of the American military. One of my good friends organized a Wear Blue Memorial Day run here in our town and the turn out was fantastic. More than fifty people showed up to run in remembrance of fallen soldiers. It was inspiring and moving to hear their names spoken aloud before we began our run.

And, on a lighter note, I’m finding the A Beautiful Mess iPhone app quite inspiring. I could play with it all day. In fact, I have to refrain from adding text and borders and doodles to ALL of my photos. So much fun!

Tell me… What’s up with you?

*sad face*

Last week I read and fell head-over-heels in love with Sara Zarr’s How to Save a Life. Its themes of loss,  grief, and starting anew resonated deeply, and I’ve found myself thinking often about the story and its wonderfully flawed characters and how profoundly they’ve affected me over the last several days.

I’ve thought, too, about the other contemporaries I’ve read and adored over the last few months: Amy McNamara’s Lovely, Dark and Deep, Hannah Harrington’s Saving June, and Kristin Halbrook’s Nobody But Us. Just like How to Save a Life, these novels are centered around tragedy. Their protagonists deal with death and guilt and unimaginable sadness, and they must learn to find their way through whatever dark burdens life has thrown at them.

Turns out, almost all of my favorite young adult contemporaries are similar in this way: Jandy Nelson’s The Sky is Everywhere, Melina Marchetta’s Jellicoe Road, Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall, John Green’s Looking For Alaska, Gayle Forman’s If I Stay, and Sarah Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer.

I’m not sure what my penchant for literary sorrow says about me, but it’s a fairly safe bet that if a novel is steeped in heart-wrenching sadness, has a strong romantic element, a mature narrative voice, and a conclusion that rings with at least a hint of hopefulness, I’ll probably be a fan.

Tell Me: Do your favorite books have a consistent theme? 

{Oh, and a few links to share: First, today at YA Confidential we’re accepting first page submissions of YA manuscripts for critique by our teen spies. Click HERE for more information. And, via Rebecca Behrens, a fascinating essay by a former Sweet Valley High ghostwriter — how I adored those books growing up! Finally, there’s a March selection for YA Book Club (hosted by Tracey Neithercott). Click HERE to find out what we’re reading. You should most definitely join us!}