Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye, 2013! And a great Booklist review!

I'm a little nostalgic about saying goodbye to 2013. It's been a good one for me, in many ways. As a writer, I got to announce my first book deal, see that book come to life with a fabulous cover, and have some exciting new experiences like signing ARCs at BEA in May. I got to see my book translated and published in Spain. And I wrote a second book, both an accomplishment and a huge learning experience. Hey kids, writing books is hard!

On a personal level, it was a rewarding if somewhat stressful year. In April my husband and I moved to a new home, and while we're still just renting for now, it was a great change to go from the tourist-packed Venice boardwalk to a clean, quiet neighborhood just a mile down the road. We took two big trips, one to Israel and Turkey to visit friends and family, and one vacation driving from Budapest to Rome with friends. We just closed out the year with a weeklong stay in Wisconsin and Michigan, visiting my family and getting our fill of snow for the coming year or two...or five.

2014 is going to be a big year. Big. Huge. For one, it's my debut year! I know I only get one of these, so I hope to enjoy it as much as possible. I'll be announcing my launch party shortly, along with some tour info. But besides writing, there are some potential big changes brewing on the horizon, hinting that 2014 might be one heck of a year. I'm excited (and not a little nervous) to see what all happens in the next twelve months.

And now I'm thrilled to close out the year on a happy note, as THE LOST PLANET just got a wonderful Booklist review, calling it "perfect for younger teen sci-fi fans." I'll post the full review below. Have a safe and happy New Year's Eve, and all best in 2014!

The Lost Planet.
Searles, Rachel (Author)
Jan 2014. 384 p. Feiwel and Friends, hardcover. (9781250038791).
Terrifying monsters, cold androids, and intriguing mysteries abound in Searles’ first novel. Chase Garrety awakens on a planet he doesn’t know and with a face he doesn’t recognize, his life up to now a complete blank. But his amnesia is far from his biggest problem: the only thing he can remember is a secret message, but what does it mean? Who is it for? His adventure across the planets of the Federation garners him new friends, old enemies, and more problems than he knows what to do with. Even though Chase is confused from the second he wakes up, his need to find out his history makes him easy to cheer on. Comparisons to Star Wars are not out of bounds, as this intergalactic escapade races on at an exciting pace. This fun, adrenaline-filled story is perfect for younger teen sci-fi fans. There could certainly be another installment to this story since Chase’s exploits aren’t easily put to bed, but The Lost Planet has a solid, satisfying conclusion. Let’s hope Searles has more up her sleeve.
— Stacey Comfort

Friday, December 20, 2013

2013 Rewind: My Top 10 YA/MG Reads

As the year winds down, the YA Buccaneers are taking a look at our favorite YA and MG reads of 2013, both new releases and old. You can see everyone's #1 pick listed here: http://www.yabuccaneers.com/blog/2013/12/19/2013-rewind-our-top-reads

I read 30 YA and MG books in 2013, along with a handful of adult books like Gone Girl, The Twelve, and several of the Song of Ice & Fire books. My top ten YA/MG list for 2013 is:

1. SIX INNINGS - As I said over on the YA Bucs, I was not expecting a MG baseball story to take top billing, but this lovely story about a Little League team and the championship game really stole my heart.
2. DAYS OF BLOOD & STARLIGHT - Laini Taylor. Do I need to say anything else? She weaves magic. 
3. MORE THAN THIS - I wrote a post on this book back on YA Buccaneers a while back--a very unique story that kept me guessing. 
4. WONDER - If you haven't read this one yet, do so. My nephew sent it to me and said it was one of his favorites. 
5. THE DREAM THIEVES - I have to admit, this book left me a little unfulfilled--I had that "I want the whole series NOW" feeling at the end. But the writing was absolutely lovely and I'm looking forward to the rest of the books. 
6. THESE BROKEN STARS - Thriller, romantic, space, done. For me, it was worth reading for the spaceship crash scene alone. I love huge action scenes!
7. TTHE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS - This one sat at the top of my TBR pile for a long time, and I finally got to it this fall--a wonderfully creepy and atmospheric MG read. 
8. THE PLANET THIEVES - I may have a weakness for space adventure, and this book is the real deal. Breathtaking action, inventive descriptions, and bold heroics--loved it!
9. WINGER - Andrew Smith is another favorite, and this book is a standout. Loved the voice so much.
10. UNDER THE NEVER SKY - I started out not sure what to think of this one--dystopian burnout, maybe? But the story grabbed me, and the characters were terrific, and by the end I was a fan. Looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Some Updates of a LOST PLANET Variety

We're about two and a half months away from the publication date of THE LOST PLANET--it's going to be a real book soon! Everything has gone so quickly that I can't believe it's almost here. The awesome people at Macmillan are cooking up some exciting plans for promotion, and while we're busy getting ready and finalizing details, I'm sure January is going to sneak up on us like a ninja.

Today I have some fun news to share. First, Publisher's Weekly put up their review of THE LOST PLANET, and it's a good one!


Secondly, THE LOST PLANET is coming out in Spain next Monday, the 18th. Yes, next Monday! I'll be toasting that day with some good Codorniu cava. Here's the cover of EL PLANETA PERDIDO (I just love saying that):

Finally, if you can't wait to get a peek inside THE LOST PLANET, you're in luck! Macmillan will be releasing a free excerpt of the first five chapters next month. You can find information for pre-ordering here

That's all my news for now! Happy Monday!

Monday, October 21, 2013

A NaNoWriMo Tip Treasure Hunt!

The time for National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo, is nearly upon us once again! This year, we lady pirates of YA Buccaneers have put our scurvy heads together to come up with a treasure hunt of advice for all you brave NaNo participants. And we have a prize drawing for you at the end of the journey! To learn more and get to the start of the treasure hunt, go here:


Now, for my tip. Writing is solitary work, but one of the best parts of it is meeting other writers and sharing mutual support for the joys and the difficulties of the craft. NaNoWriMo is a prime example of how that support can help people accomplish amazing feats of writing! So take advantage of this time, and use the forums and Twitter to make new friends and participate in that group energy.

And now you must head on to the next leg of your adventure with our smiling pirate Curly McGee! Don't forget to comment below and enter the Rafflecopter to get your prize entry. I leave you now with this very NaNo-relevant quote from Jane Smiley, one that you may have seen me use before. I repeat it to myself regularly:
"Every first draft is perfect, because all a first draft has to do is exist."

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What's Up Wednesday: The Where I've Been Edition (With Cat Photos)

Well, hellooooooo there, strangers! If it looks like I'm blinking a lot in the bright sunlight, it's because I've just crawled out of the deadline cave. And I survived! Because I cannot word anymore, I'm easing back into blogging with a What's Up Wednesday (the weekly meme started by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funke, go sign up on either of their blogs!):

What I'm reading:

Not much since early August, but I'm commencing a major reading binge, starting with these lovelies:

What I'm writing:

The sequel to THE LOST PLANET! I turned in my completed draft to my editor Sunday night, and I'm feeling about a million pounds lighter. I had fun writing it, but it's no joke what people say about the first book under contract being a completely different animal than a book you write in your own free time. I learned a lot about what it takes, particularly energy- and focus-wise, to produce a book in a year, and I plan to use what I learned to make writing the next book go a little more smoothly. Because I'm not going to lie, there were some panic moments and maybe even an epic meltdown in there somewhere. Whew! I can laugh now because I'm on the other side.

What inspires me right now:

Having free time for the first time in six weeks where I don't feel the constant pressure of a deadline. I haven't entirely lost that feeling of productive churn, and I'm trying to harness it to pick away at some new projects. More sequel ideas, and one Shiny New Idea that hit me like a hurricane while I was revising and has been vying for my attention ever since.

What else I've been up to:

Um, besides my day job, that's about it. I've been a serious house rat for the past month, swearing off the gym, turning down social invitations, and ordering delivery when my refrigerator ran out of food. Luckily for my productivity, my husband has been out of town for most of the past month.

One thing I did keep up on was my Instagram account (which is all cats and food, because what else?), so I'm going to paste in some shots of from this time period. As you can see, I was not entirely alone. I had my two house goblins, Jack and Simon:

Nothing to see here. 
I don't function without breakfast. Every day.
My desk weasel.
I ate a lot of kale. What can I say? I live in California. And kale is delicious. I pretended I was a vegan for part of the month.
Until my husband came home for Labor Day, and cooked up this 9-lb rib roast.
We took our cat out on the patio on a leash. He loves his leash. Or at least the outdoor time that it brings. The leash is more like a hobble.
My cats are there for me when I'm writing.
There when I'm revising.
There with me burning the candle on those long, late nights.
And finally, a shot from the final stretch. Husband sent flowers and a sweet note of encouragement. Awwwww.
And that's where I've been! What have you been up to?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Quickie Update

I haven't been blogging much as there's a deadline looming in my near future, but this week I'm up in the Bay Area on a work trip for my day job. Sitting alone in my hotel room at night is making me stir crazy, so I thought I'd hop online for some quick updates.

First and most exciting--we've sold translation rights for THE LOST PLANET in Spain! This is my first foreign sale and I'm so thankful to New Leaf's incredibly awesome subsidiary rights director, Kathleen Ortiz. I'm super excited to share my book with Spanish readers!

Last weekend was the summer SCBWI conference in Los Angeles, which was a blast as always. This was my fourth year attending, and I couldn't help but marvel at the changes that have happened since that first conference:

Year 1: clueless writer with a completed mess of a manuscript and no friends
Year 2: aspiring writer with a manuscript in revisions who'd started to make a few new friends
Year 3: querying writer who had just received an offer of representation the day before the conference
Year 4: soon-to-be-published author with a two-book deal!

These days I don't attend the conference so much for the content being offered as for the chance to spend time with "old" writer friends and make new ones. I also hosted the always-delightful Ghenet Myrthil at my home and had a ton of fun getting to know her better. And as an added bonus, my agent was on the faculty this year and I got to spend a bunch of time with her, which was so awesome. I seriously still have to pinch myself some days because I can't believe I get to work with her. She's the best!

I'm spending the weekend in beautiful San Francisco with my husband, but starting next week I'm going to be on a mega-tight schedule and will probably not be blogging for a while. So enjoy the rest of your summers, and I'll see you on the other side!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Congratulations Jessica!

If you live on the moon, maybe you haven't heard the news yet. Jessica Love has announced her book deal with St. Martin's Press--she's co-writing a YA novel with Chelsie Hill from the Sundance Channel's PUSH GIRLS!!


Jessica is one of the funniest and most hard-working people I know. She works long, hard hours in her job as a middle school English eacher, on top of which she is working on her MFA, fits in all this writing, and yet she still has a fun social life! I just get tired thinking about it--I don't know how she does it. Go read more about the fortuitous timing of her incredible book deal and give her a virtual high five here: http://www.jessica-love.net/2013/07/in-which-i-shock-you-all-with-surprise.html

Monday, July 1, 2013

Introducing the YA Buccaneers!

Greetings from Istanbul! I'm jumping online mid-vacation to share something new and fun! Some fantastic writers have been working on a secret project for a while now, and just recently I was thrilled to accept an invitation to join their merry crew.

And now the big day is here!!! We are so excited to announce the launch of our new group blog:

 The YA Buccaneers!

A combined effort by ten amazing ladies, we've put together some pretty awesome content that we hope you'll come on by to check out!

Today's the official day of launch -- over the next two weeks we'll be introducing you to each member of the crew, not to mention, hosting a pretty incredible giveaway for all those that would like to join us on our journey!

Adventure awaits and we can't wait to set sail with you!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What's Up Wednesday

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme, started by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk, that helps readers and writers touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up. If you'd like to join in, you can find the link widget on Jaime's and Erin's blog posts. 

What I'm Reading

I've had to fit my reading in between the cracks lately, so I'm not reading anything very quickly, but at the moment I'm really enjoying the copy of The Fifth Wave I picked up at BEA. I'm also gradually slogging my way through A Clash Of Kings. I'd like to finish all the Ice & Fire books before the next season of the show starts, but holy LONG. It's kind of painful when you read and read and don't even advance 1% on the progress bar. I do have some binge reading time coming up because I'm leaving tomorrow for a 17-day vacation. I've got some fun ARCs, but I don't like to bring physical books on vacation with me, so I'll be hitting the backlog of awesomeness on my e-reader.

What I'm Writing

I'm racing for the finish line right now in the first draft of the sequel to THE LOST PLANET--hoping to get it done before take-off at 7pm tomorrow! I may treat myself to a little champagne on the flight if that happens, because writing a sequel on deadline is to writing the first book like motocross racing on a mudslide is to taking a two-week bike tour of Provence. This is a draft that's for my eyes only--I was figuring it out as I went, so right now the front end doesn't match the back end...at all. But at least the hard part's done!

What Else I'm Doing

As I mentioned, I'm leaving tomorrow for a vacation, aka the European wedding tour. We're going to an old friend's wedding in Bonn, Germany this weekend, and then joining a group from the wedding party to vacation in Israel for a week. I've never been to Israel before, and I'm so excited to see it! Afterwards we're flying up to Istanbul for the wedding of one of my husband's best childhood friends and to spend time with family--including my husband's brand new nephew! I love Istanbul so much and I can't wait for sunny, tea-filled mornings and warm Bosphorus evenings. (And don't worry, we'll be perfectly safe there.)

What Inspires Me Right Now

I can't listen to music while I'm writing, but I do keep a playlist of music for getting into the mood of each book. If you're curious about these kinds of things, here are two of the main songs from the playlist for the book I'm drafting:

(Note: Apparently you need to have Spotify installed for these buttons to work...blerg. Embedded YouTube videos of these songs don't play on Blogger, but if you really want to listen to these tunes, you can check them out on YouTube: Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, and Allegretto from Palladio.)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Imogen Howson interview over at OneFourKidlit

Hey all! I just wanted to let you know that today over on OneFourKidlit I'm interviewing Imogen Howson, author of the breathtaking YA space thriller LINKED, which comes out tomorrow from Simon & Schuster!! Imogen was super fun to interview and kind enough to send me her very last ARC all the way from sunny England.

LINKED has it all--page-turning action, beautiful writing, crazy twists, and a romantic lead so swoony that even I (who am NOT a romance reader) had a huge crush on him. I highly recommend you check this book out.

To learn more about how Imogen wrote LINKED and what she used as inspiration for describing foreign planets and spaceships, go read the interview here!

Friday, June 7, 2013

BEA recap!

I'm a little late with my BEA recap, but sweet Moses was I exhausted when I got home. I slept on the entire six-hour flight back to L.A., came home, went to bed and slept for five hours, woke up totally disoriented, ate a sandwich and watched Mad Men with my husband, and went back to bed. SO TIRED. (Maybe going to Vegas the weekend before BEA wasn't the best plan...)

Anyhow, I'm caught up on sleep and feeling human again and here to tell you that BEA was excellent! I didn't spend a ton of time on the trade show floor, but how inspiring is it to be surrounded by thousands of book lovers? I got to meet fellow OneFourKidlit authors Susan Adrian and Erica Cameron (who came to my signing and got my very first ever signed ARC!), and lots of other awesome online writer friends. Hooray for meeting IRL!

One of the big highlights of the trip for me was that I finally got to meet and spend some time with my editor, Liz Szabla, who is utterly gracious and cool and reinforced my belief that I am working with the very best people. She also introduced me to fellow Feiwel author James Preller who is the nicest guy ever and has a new MG horror series coming out. Perfect Halloween gifts for my nephews, yes?

My ARC signing was on Friday, and it went splendidly. So bizarre and wonderful to meet people who are excited for my book! Here is photographic evidence of how I grinned like a maniac the entire time, with the delightful Anna Roberto of Macmillan looking on.

(Side note: Yes, I am aware that I hold my pen funny. I've always held it this way, except for a few years in elementary school where I was made to hold it the "right" way with a pencil grip. As soon as I was able to take the pencil grip off, I tried out this old way again, thought Yes this feels better, and never looked back. Sorry, most excellent Bruce Township Elementary teachers--you did your best.)

The whole experience went by so quickly, and I'm very grateful I had the opportunity to be there, meet so many incredible people, and learn so much. Now I'm settling in for the long haul (235 days to go!), and putting nose to the grindstone on book 2. It's definitely a different experience than writing the first book, but I'm learning a lot about myself as a writer (sloppy first draft! revisions are my friend!) and it's going pretty well.

A final word of BEA advice: If you're going to go, go with a friend. The fantabulous Liz Briggs flew out with me, and it was so nice so have someone to touch base with during the day and decompress with in the evening. Also, did you know that she has mad ninja skillz when it comes to getting highly coveted ARCs? I gave her my little wishlist, which included The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater and Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, and wouldn't you know:

Ninja! <3

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


I'm so excited to finally be able to help share my good friend Kathryn Rose's exciting book deal news--she sold her steampunk Camelot YA in a two-book deal to Flux!

HOORAY KAT!!! I first met Kat almost exactly a year ago at a writing retreat, and now I cannot imagine the writing world without her witty humor and delicious brownies. Head over to her blog to read more and give her your congrats!


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

New digs!

My new website is live! Come on in and take a gander: www.rachelsearles.com. I'm so happy with the way it turned out, which is thanks to the very talented Mark Figlozzi at Bizango. I'm also happy to move away from my Awkward Girl blog title. Don't worry, I'm still just as awkward as ever, but I've moved on from those early what-the-heck-am-I-doing days (to a slightly more self-aware what-the-heck-am-I-doing phase).

My reading nook
In other news, BEA is next week! Ack! I can't wait, even if the idea of having ARCs out in the wild makes me want to simultaneously dance a jig and pull the covers over my head. I'm still drafting the sequel, and a couple of weeks ago I finally got that nice big CLICK of important pieces dropping into place. That feeling is the best, no? I spent last weekend up in the mountains at Lake Arrowhead with my local writer pals on our annual retreat, which was so much fun and so inspiring. I wish we could do these once a month instead of once a year!

As for books, my reading time has been pretty tight lately, so to remedy that I did something dumb with a heavy propane tank that resulted in several days of bedrest. When I wasn't zonked out I read GONE GIRL and ELEANOR & PARK, both of which caught my eye due to massive word of mouth. I think I was too overhyped on GG by the time I read it, but E&P was unexpected and lovely and the kind of story where you rush through the obligations of your day so you can get back to reading it. I also read an ARC of LINKED by Imogen Howson, and WOW! Such an intense ride! I'll be interviewing Imogen on the OneFourKidlit blog next month on her publication date, June 11th, so keep an eye out for that!

Friday, April 26, 2013

In which I get to show you...MY COVER!!!

Today I am absolutely hyperactively excited to share with the world the cover for my debut THE LOST PLANET!

Here it is!!!!

Isn't it FABULOUS?!! The gorgeous artwork was done by the very talented Jason Chan, and I have to say, the first time I saw it, it completely blew my mind. Actually, the first time I saw it, I was at an eye appointment without my glasses, peering at my phone with my -9.5 vision, and it still BLEW MY MIND.  I had no idea what to expect with my cover, and I'm so very, very happy that the artist and the brilliant people at Feiwel and Friends came up with something that captures the spirit of the book so perfectly!! Tell me what you think in the comments, I'd love to hear!

In other news, I also received these lovelies in the mail yesterday:

Real live ARCs!! (ARC = advance reader copy, for those who may not know...an uncorrected early version, not the final hardcover!) I may have spent a little time yesterday staring at them...and may even have taken a whiff or two of the pages. Book smell! My signing time at BEA is Friday the 31st from 11-12, so if you're going to be there, do come by and be sure to introduce yourself!!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Tidbits

Happy Friday! I've got a few things to share with you all today:
My well-traveled elephant bush at its new home

First off--check it out! My book is available for pre-order on Amazon! This is very surreal to me.

Second, the BEA autographing authors list is out, and if you scroll down far enough you'll see my little name! Yes, I will be signing ARCs of THE LOST PLANET at BEA this spring! Right now this is kind of terrifying to me, but I'm sure it will be fun. I just feel bad for whoever the poor soul is that ends up first in line, because I can't promise I'll sign much more than a line of shaky chicken scratch on that first copy.

Third, it's not ready quite yet, but soon I will be launching my new website! I've been working with a very talented web designer who specializes in author's sites, and I'm very excited about what he's come up with. I can't wait to share it, so keep an eye out for changes ahead.

The move went smoothly and we're finally settled in our new home, although the garage is still full of unopened boxes. I've been made to promise that I will sort through my books and give all the inessential ones away before our next move. As I slowly put them all back on their shelves, I have to admit that this seems like a reasonable demand. But today is not for unpacking--today is for celebrating because some of my very favorite writers are on their way over as I type for a Friday mini-retreat. Huzzah! *scampers away to fire up the coffee pot*

Monday, March 25, 2013

Interview and some updates

Hey all, my intro interview is up over at the OneFour Kidlit blog:


Pop over and check it out, and then stick around and read all the other intro posts of my fellow 2014 debut kidlit authors. But be prepared to get very excited, because there are some amazing books coming out next year!

Other infobites:

  • My book is up on Goodreads! If you add it to your shelves, I will feel all happy and loved. 
  • Something fun to read: my publisher, Feiwel and Friends, has been running a weekly feature on their Facebook page highlighting different members of their staff. Lots of fun facts and pictures--even a photo of a Newfoundland getting acupuncture. I wonder if they do that for anxious cats...
  • After reaching 3,000 likes on the Grisha Facebook page, the powers that be have made the second chapter of Leigh Bardugo's Siege and Storm available here! As if your appetites needed any more whetting for the June 4th release date. 

As for me, right now I'm preparing for some upheaval since we're moving house in about a week. I've been stressing about how to keep packing, unpacking, and all the accompanying address-change paperwork from overtaking my daily allotment of writing time. But certain adjustments in have been made to accomodate this, and as long as I keep some degree of discipline, I'll have more writing time than ever. This may be the point where I draw up a daily time management chart. Have any of you ever used one? Did it work?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Five Random Updates

For the sake of expeditiousness, I give you a quick Friday Thursday Five:
  • The 100-year-old house my husband and I have been renting in Venice Beach for a year and a half just sold, so it looks like we'll be moving within the next two months. Joy. I'm looking forward to a change of scenery, but moving is something I have recurring nightmares about. One bizarre thing that happened: yesterday while the realtor was giving someone a tour, I stepped out of my office to see Rosario Dawson strolling down the hall. For the record, she was very friendly, but she did not buy the house.
  • I'm not blogging much these days because I'm deep in thrall to Book Two. Right now I'm putting together the painfully tiny pieces of the puzzle, and it's kind of torture. A satisfying, wonderful torture, to be sure, but...I do wonder if other authors beat their heads against the wall as much as I do, or if it comes more naturally to some. I started to write a "writing sequels is hard" blog post, and then I figured it would be more useful to me to just work on writing the sequel with that time instead.
  • I watched the Oscars last weekend, and...meh. The show was alright. I wasn't too offended by Seth McFarlane's jokes, but most of the presenters were kind of zzzzzz. The singers were great though, and I liked that the awards were almost impossible to predict. For me, at least. And thank you to everyone on Twitter who jumped to answer my question, "Is Wreck-It Ralph really that good?" Apparently it is. It has been queued for viewing.
  • Something I am greatly looking forward to: this weekend I am getting together with some of my local writer besties for a writing day/celebratory dinner. What/who are we celebrating?? That's for us to know, mwahahaha! 
  • And finally, because you know I love me some rockets, I have to point out that my husband's company is once again sending a Dragon capsule to the International Space Station, with launch taking place early tomorrow morning. If you're curious about watching the launch--and it's heart-pounding, I promise--check here: http://www.spacex.com/. It's scheduled to lift off at 9:30am ET.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Next Big Thing

I've been tagged by Alexis Bass to take part in the Next Big Thing blog hop!

Some of you may remember that I already participated in this blog hop back in September, when I was tagged by Caitlin Lane. At that time, however, my book was out on sub, and so out of caution I wrote a very vague post about an MG fantasy idea I was mulling. Yeah, sorry 'bout that. But now that my title and pitch is out in the world, I think I can share a few details!

What is the working title of your book?

My book is being published under the title THE LOST PLANET, but it's gone through a series of working titles. I wrote the first draft under the title FAIRWEATHER, which means absolutely nothing, and when I started querying I was calling it FULCRUM, which has meaning, but is also a terrible title for a children's book. Title-writing, not my forte...

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I've been asked this question before, and I wish I had a pithy answer, but the honest truth is: This book is the product of much, much revision. The only real idea I had going into it was that I wanted to write an epic space adventure for kids, and the story grew organically over a long time. My original goal was more like a set of technical specifications: I wanted it to fast-paced and cliffhangery, I wanted it to have a rich backstory that emerges gradually in tiny reveals, I wanted it have depth and some degree of subtle moral reflection, but MOST IMPORTANTLY, and I cannot stress this enough, I wanted it to be a FUN read--I wanted it to be a sci-fi book that would be enjoyable for people who claim to not like sci-fi.

What genre does your book fall under?

It dances a fine line right between MG and YA, so I'm going to call it upper MG science fiction.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

My preference is for actors who act, and not actors who are celebrities that moonlight in acting.

HOWEVER, and I can't believe I'm telling you this because it's totally embarrassing, but when I was drafting back in the day and I got stuck at one point, I made this awesome photo collage of very famous actors to help me "envision my characters" (i.e. procrastinate), and so I will share it, cheeks aflame. The few of you out there who've read my book will find this hilarious, I'm sure. As this was made during my first draft, at least three of these characters have either been cut or changed species.

My characters, circa 2010. Oh, the silly things we do on that first draft.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

I'll use an adapted version of the PM announcement: After 13-year-old Chase wakes up with no memory of who he is or how he received a terrible wound to the head, he and two unlikely allies are hunted through the galaxy while trying to discover the truth about his past.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I am extremely fortunate to be represented by the brilliant Joanna Volpe, and my book is being published by the wonderful people at Feiwel and Friends.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The first time I took a stab at this story, the only thing it had in common with the final version is the names of the three main characters. I wrote about thirty pages and torched it. On a business trip in 2008,  I had a little breakthrough moment on how I could make the story work, but I guess I wasn't in much of a rush because by the end of 2009, I only had about 30,000 words down. And most of these were scenes that would later be cut.

I don't know why I couldn't get serious about writing. Well, no, I do. It's hard. It's easier to go to the gym and go to the movies and hang out with friends and do just about anything else. I wanted to write the book, I wanted to finish, but I didn't know where it was going or how to get there. And then sometime in December 2009, I got sick and spent a day on the sofa reading Stephen King's On Writing, and that made me think, Well I can write 1,000 words a day, can't I? So that became my New Year's resolution, and it came with the happy timing of my husband's being out in Cape Canaveral to build a rocket for months on end. I set goals for myself and logged my daily word count in Google Calendar, and as you can see below, I finished on April 28, 2010. You will also see that I missed my completion date by about a month, and that my goal was to write a 100,000-word book. Oh, the things I've learned since then...

Started at 33,274 words! Of garbage!
Finished at 94,795! Time to kill some darlings!
What other books would you compare this to within your genre?

Um, I don't know. This is a bad question. It's nothing like the Chaos Walking trilogy, but I loved the crap out of those books, so go read them. They're great.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I love the endless possibilities of space. I love that my mind can't even begin to fathom how huge or old the universe is. And although I haven't read a ton of classic science fiction, I do love almost any space movie or show, and you might recognize the influence of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Battlestar Galactica in my book. I love them all equally.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

My breakthrough moment on that business trip in 2008 was that my story needed to start in the aftermath of some terrible catalyst (hence the title FULCRUM, yes? yes? okay, no). And then I spend the rest of the book trying desperately hard to kill all my characters. You'll have to read the book to find out whether I succeed or not...

Wow, so just about everyone has done this one already...I dug through my feed and found a few writer friends who look like they possibly haven't yet, so I'm tagging Dana Elmendorf, Karen Akins, Cortney Pearson and Morgan Shamy. Ladies, feel free to participate--or not participate--at your leisure! 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Socially networking

I'm on Facebook, who are you?
Are you on Facebook too?
Then there's a pair of us
Go share--with everyone you know!

How vexing to be on Tumblr!
How befuddling--like a maze--
I search for friends but hit dead ends,
and tear my hair out in a craze!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


I want to take a second here to say a huge, huge thank you to everyone who commented, tweeted, emailed, DM'ed, liked, followed, and was just generally awesomely nice to me in response to my book deal news. Every year at the SCBWI Summer Conference, Lin Oliver calls kidlit people "the tribe," and to me that's the perfect expression for all of the wonderful and supportive people I've met in the book world. This also marked the first time I shared my writerly side with a lot of other people (Hello, old friends clicking over from Facebook!), which took some guts and about half a day of dithering. Since I took up creative writing again a few years ago, I've felt more like "me" than I've felt in a long time, and I'm really looking forward to the coming year, even the hairy scary parts. I've worked so hard on this and I'm so excited to share Chase and THE LOST PLANET with everyone.

Anyway, enough with the emoting. In other news, I got my bionic vision installed yesterday and everything went great. Although I'm pretty sure lying tightly swaddled on a table with your head taped down and your eyelids taped open has got to be someone else's nightmare, at least it went quickly. I'm pretty sure I'll still be reaching for the saline solution every night for a while still, but I'm not complaining!

Thursday, January 24, 2013


If you happen to subscribe to the Publisher's Weekly Children's Bookshelf newsletter, you might have seen this little tidbit earlier today:

AHHHHHHHHHH I AM SO EXCITED TO BE ABLE TO SHARE THIS!!!!! My book is going to be published by Macmillan!!!!!

We got our first offer about two weeks after we went on sub, so I've been sitting on this news for a few months. Remember my post about flying to Turkey for a family emergency? Yeah, that's when the auction was going down, a testament to Why You Want To Have An Agent, because while I was a jetlagged, dazed, rambling mess, my fabulous agent was handling everything like the amazing pro she is. I am SO grateful to her and the awesome New Leaf team for giving me great support and advice on a really big decision. Since then everything has been going really fast--like, greased lightning fast--and I've been having a great ride with the excellent people at Feiwel & Friends. I'm SO happy to be there!

My friend Jack is going to help me sum up my feelings on everything:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Good morning, my coffee-bearing friend!
I know I did this meme a few months ago, but I just saw that the delightful Katy Upperman recycled it, and so I'm blatantly copying her (thanks for the idea, Katy!):

It's film awards season, which I know is not everyone's cup of tea, but I love both the glamour of the shows and the awkwardness of actors trying to act funny in front of a room of their peers. Jodie Foster's Cecil B DeMille speech, anyone? I'm sure she knew what she was trying to say--too bad the rest of us didn't. Still, the babbling seemed very heartfelt. This year my husband and I have been trying to see more of the nominated movies, and last Sunday we fit in a Silver Linings Playbook matinee and an Argo late showing. Both were excellent.

I'm multi-booking it right now. Just about finished with Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi--I wasn't pulled in immediately, but once things got going (about the time Roar hit the scene, I'd say) I really got into this one. Rossi's got talent fo sho. Also reading Victoria Forester's The Girl Who Could Fly, a very fun middle grade read that I want to share with my nephew. He mailed me his copy of Wonder on loan a few weeks ago, and I want to pay back the favor with a book of my own. And finally, I'm also reading The Barbarous Years, an excellent history of the brutal settling of North American by the Europeans. That one's more for research purposes, but I'm enjoying it a lot.

My husband and I have been sick the past couple of weekends, and we used that time to tear through every episode of The Walking Dead. It. Is. Awesome.

Thinking about:
My WIP, every day, always. I've started writing it, and I'm hoping for a quiet, solitary MLK day next week to make some serious butt-kicking progress. Which would be so much fun. I know you know what I mean.

Flying out to NYC in about two weeks for the SCBWI Winter conference! Who's with me?

Listening to:
I've been putting together a "getting me in the right place" playlist for my new WIP, which so far consists of mostly Skrillex (don't ask why, it just works for this one...). Also enjoying this catchy song (profanity warning for the young or delicate):

For more time, as usual. Who isn't? Or maybe I just need better time-management skills. Anybody have any tips?

Making Me Happy:
So after 28 years of being a spectacle-wearer (well, 23 years of being a contact lens-wearer, but yes I was one of those little kids in thick glasses), I've finally decided to pull the trigger on getting corrective vision surgery. This was something I promised myself a few years back if I ever hit a personal milestone, which I did, huzzah. I can't get Lasik though, because once your eyes hit -9.0 or thereabouts, your cornea is stretched too thin to start scraping it away. So instead I'm getting ICL, implantable contact lenses that will be permanently inserted in my eye. I've had to wear my glasses for the last week or so to prepare--you may have seen me griping about this on Twitter, but when your vision is that borked, going from full-time contact wear to full-time glasses is a rough adjustment. The surgery is in two weeks, and people, I am SO HAPPY to think of a life without corrective lenses. YAY SCIENCE!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Happy New Year!

Puerta del Sol, panorama-style
I'm a few days late with this post, but I just got back from holiday travels and my brain is finally catching up to the local hour. The trip was great--first we spent a few days in NYC being shown the sights by some friends who used to live there, eating great food (the pastrami, omg) and walking until my legs declared mutiny. I even got the chance to swing by the New Leaf office to meet Joanna, who was delightful and enthusiastic and made me all the more excited about working together. After New York we flew to Paris for Christmas, and I am now making a concerted effort to convince my husband that that city should be our next home. Love. I could totally see myself strolling in the Tuileries and eating lemon macarons every day, because that's what everyone there does, right? We finished up our trip by flying to Madrid for New Year's, which we celebrated in the freezing rain in Puerta del Sol, jamming a dozen grapes into our mouths at midnight per tradition (only they had all these tiny seeds and there was no time to spit them out, so I don't think I actually choked down my grapes until about 12:03).

Overall it was a fun vacation, but you may have noticed that all the cities I mentioned are in the colder climates, and since we are soft little Anglenos, of course we got sick--my husband considerably moreso than I. So it's with several levels of gratitude that we returned home to rest up and snuggle with our warm furry cats. And now it's 2013, hooray! I've been reading everyone's New Year posts and getting inspired by all your resolutions and words of the year. I've got my own resolutions lined up too--some boring and ordinary, others scary and for my eyes only. I'm writing a new book, and that's going to be the focus of early 2013 for me. Looking forward to a quiet January full of hard work, and the reward at the end will be that I'm flying out to NYC with my critique partner Liz for the SCBWI Winter conference! Will I see you there? Let me know!