Friday, December 26, 2014

I WISH question - what was my favorite parts of writing about Lacey and Grant?

What was my favorite part of writing about Lacey? About Grant?

Lacey’s story allowed me to write about so many different kinds of relationships. She doted on her brother. She mourned the loss of one friendship and enjoyed the renewal of another. She found warmth with her friend Eli and something more with Grant. Mostly, though, she gave me the chance to explore the pain, exasperation, and love that can exist between mother and daughter.

Grant’s job, as a supernatural being, is to try to understand humans. He is so logical—almost Spock-like—that it became really fun to see human emotions through his eyes.

[I often get questions about writing.  I'll answer each of the most commonly asked questions in a separate blog post. You can navigate to them from my website, too.]

Thursday, December 25, 2014

I WISH question - is there a playlist for I WISH?

Is there a playlist for I WISH?

I didn’t really create a playlist while I was writing I WISH. I like silence when I’m writing. But, as I talked and brainstormed with my daughter about the characters in the book, she would suggest theme songs for Lacey and her relationships. So here they are.

Lacey and Henry
Lacey is a doting big sister for eight-year-old Henry. Her major focus is to keep his home life as worry-free and comfortable as possible (even though that is actually quite hard for their family). Henry adores her back.
“Rather Be” by Clean Bandit

Lacey and Crystal
Lacey’s relationship with her mom is complicated. Crystal’s depression and her seeming lack of interest in getting better are wearing Lacey down. But through all the anger and frustration, they still want to care.
“Shake It Out” by Florence + the Machine

Lacey and Eli
Lacey has known Eli throughout high school, and they’ve always been friendly. But now that he is coaching her brother in soccer, they have the opportunity to spend more time together. And friendly changes to friends.
“Lean on Me” with Glee cast

Lacey and Grant
I’m not going to describe their relationship. It unfolds and changes throughout the book. But I think "Break In" is just perfect for their theme song.
“Break In” by Halestorm


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

I WISH question - what was the hardest part to write I WISH?

What was the hardest part to write about I WISH?

Lacey’s mother, Crystal, is mentally ill. I would’ve liked to let our genie Grant wave a magic wand and make her all better. But that wasn’t realistic. So I had to let her suffer, stumble, succeed, and relapse. And in her pain, Crystal was often casually cruel to Lacey. That was hard to write, but necessary.

[I often get questions about writing.  I'll answer each of the most commonly asked questions in a separate blog post. You can navigate to them from my website, too.]


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I Wish question - where did the title come from?

Where did the title for I WISH come from?

This is a genie book. The word “WISH” just had to be in the title. Since the story has a major subplot about a daughter caring for her depressed mom, the title had to be wistful, not cute or fun. I tried several ideas. “I Wished” had too much attitude. “Wishful Thinking” was too light-hearted. I went with “I Wish” because it felt just right.


Monday, December 22, 2014

I Wish question - what inspired the story?

What was the inspiration for I WISH?

I Wish came about when two ideas intersected.

I knew someone who was paralyzed by mental illness while her children fumbled around, trying to support her. I wanted to write that story—and the idea grew into a major subplot for I Wish. This book is about a depressed woman who wants to be a good parent but just can’t—while her daughter, Lacey, steps into the void to take care of the family.

The intersecting idea was about giving a heroine two guys in her life who were both amazing—but in very different ways. She could pick either guy or decide to say no to both—and all three choices would make sense. The story is not really a love triangle, although too many good options create a huge conflict for Lacey. She has no time for dating—and yet there are two hot guys who might be interested. What does she do with that?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Writing question - what is magical realism?

What is magical realism?

The first two series that I have published are YA magical realism.  In the magical realism subgenre, the main story is realistic in every way except one. There is always one magical element.

In the Whisper Falls series, the magical element is the ability to travel between present-day and a different year in the past. Mark and Susanna (the main characters of Whisper Falls series) encounter a waterfall who permits them to travel between Mark's world (now) and Susanna's life (turn of the 19th century). Otherwise, their stories are realistic for the time in which they ordinarily live. (Some readers might assume that this supernatural element makes this a time-travel book. I think it is better to consider this series to be magical realism with time-travel elements.)

For the I WISH series, the magical element is the presence of Grant, a supernatural being. Like a "genie", he can fulfill wishes, only they must be humanly possible. Grant is the magical element; everything else is realistic.  Part of the conflict in the I WISH series comes from Grant's desire to use his magic, even though it's not part of the rules.

So, in both series, the point of magical realism is not the supernatural element. It is about how the characters react to, live with, or hide that extraordinary circumstance.

[I often get questions about writing.  I'll answer each of the most commonly asked questions in a separate blog post. You can navigate to them from my website, too.]

Writing question - what I know about teens

What do you know about teens? What qualifies you to write Young Adult (YA)?

I have two kids in college, so I’ve lived through the process of parenting teens. I do recognize, however, that my daughters and their friends might not be typical of American teens in every region of the US, so I’m grateful to have an editorial staff that brings different perspectives to both my books as well as the dozens of other YA books they edit. 

My junior editor is in her twenties (recent college graduate and former teen). My senior editor at Spencer Hill Press teaches social studies to eighth-graders, so he’s surrounded by teens throughout the school year. Even my younger daughter reads all of my books multiple times to ensure that I’m keeping things realistic. I also have a set of teens (mostly male, since I don't have sons) who are willing to answer my questions about dialogue and plausibility.

I’m lucky to have such a solid team of people to find and point out my mistakes.
[I often get questions about writing.  I'll answer each of the most commonly asked questions in a separate blog post and include them in the FAQ on my website too.]

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Mega holiday giveaway

I'm published through Spencer Hill Press. Many of the SHP authors have banded together to create 3 huge prize "stockings" for the holiday season, with books (e-book and paperback), candy, swag, gift cards to varied retailers, and critiques of varied types/lengths.

In this post are 3 photos of the prize stockings, a brief look at their contents, and then the rafflecopter widget.  If you already follow me on twitter--that's a free entry for you!

Grand Prize: 18 books, $50 in gift cards, swag, candy, and (for the aspiring authors among you) a critique of query letter & synopsis. [This stocking has a signed copy of Whisper Falls !]

Second Prize: 11 books, $35 in gift cards, swag, candy, and (for the aspiring authors among you) 5 critiques

Third Prize: 8 books, 2 critiques, $15 worth of gift-cards, swag, candy, and (for the aspiring authors among you) 2 critiques. This stocking has a signed copy of I WISH!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, December 4, 2014

I WISH giveaway, Prince Charming, and a chair

Here’s an I WISH interview, with a giveaway for an e-copy or paperback copy. So find out about where I came up with the idea and what I think about Prince Charming. (Okay, so I just included that one here.)
  • Does Prince Charming exist?
Thousands of Prince Charmings exist. They sit next to you in class, smile at your ideas in meetings, hold the door for you at the store. They are good and kind and flawed and true—and when they love you and you love them back, there is nothing hotter in the world.

I'll be involved in a huge holiday giveaway with other authors from Spencer Hill Press. We'll be giving away books (paperback and e-book), gift cards, swag, candy, and more. It goes live this weekend--so check it out.

a SPENCER HILL PRESS / Rafflecopter giveaway

Finally, a wooden chair. From Williamsburg. Just because I think it’s pretty and I had no other place to post it.

Friday, November 28, 2014

giveaway ends soon and tweetchat

I'm holding a tweet chat on Sunday at 7pm Eastern. Join me and ask your questions about I WISH...or anything else.

The giveaway ends on December 1st--so enter for a chance to win.

Here are guest posts and reviews for I WISH.

Reese's Reviews Review
Beauty and the Bookshelf Guest Post: The School of Now
Letters in the Sand Review
Shersinghzn Fun With Names
Books Complete Me Review
The Cover Contessa Guest Post: If I had a genie...
Believing in Books Interview
Branwrites Interview
Bumbles and FairyTales Guest Post: The I Wish Playlist (Almost!)
SOS Aloha Book blitz
RubySlipperedSisterhood Guest Post: The Journey to Publishing I WISH
Books As You Know It Interview

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Book signings are so much fun

I signed books today at Quail Ridge Books, an independent book store in Raleigh. It was fun to see friends come by to support me, and I loved meeting readers who came because they loved the Whisper Falls series and wanted more.

There are a few more stops left on the book tour; the links are below.

Shersinghzn Fun With Names
Books Complete Me Review
The Cover Contessa Guest Post: If I had a genie...
Believing in Books Interview
Branwrites Interview
Bumbles and FairyTales Guest Post: The I Wish Playlist (Almost!)
SOS Aloha Book blitz
RubySlipperedSisterhood Guest Post: The Journey to Publishing I WISH
Books As You Know It Interview

And don't forget the giveaway!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I WISH launch week continues!

I Wish launched this week. I'm visiting blogs for interviews, reviews, and guest posts. I've listed them below; please join me.

Books Complete Me Review
The Cover Contessa Guest Post: If I had a genie...
Believing in Books Interview
Branwrites Interview
Bumbles and FairyTales Guest Post: The I Wish Playlist (Almost!)
SOS Aloha Book blitz
RubySlipperedSisterhood Guest Post: The Journey to Publishing I WISH
Books As You Know It Interview

And don't forget the giveaway!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I Wish launches today!

It's finally arrived. I WISH is now available!

There are plenty of ways to celebrate with me.

I have a big giveaway going, now through December 1st. And there are plenty of ways to participate:

In honor of I WISH's book birthday, I thought about making a cake but decided that pie would be more fun.  So, yes, the photo above is the yummy (and marginally healthy) way I will be splurging!

If you're curious to learn more about the book...

Thanks for dropping by.

  Amazon    B&N


Monday, November 17, 2014

1 day until I WISH releases

I WISH releases tomorrow.  I'll be dropping by blogs with interviews, excerpts, and giveaways. Join me!

Nov 17: Books As You Know It

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I WISH for more ways to win

I Wish releases November 18th. Tell us what you wish for...and you'll be entered to win prizes.

  • I Wish...there were no calories in ice cream.
  • I house could clean itself.
  • I Wish...(you fill in the blank and post to twitter with hashtag #IWishSHP)

There are a lot of prizes: 3 big prizes and 30 smaller ones. (See the rafflecopter widget below.)

You could win:

 a copper heart bracelet

a temporary tattoo

and more!

The Grand Prize and 2nd prizes are open to US and Canada residents.

The 3rd prizes are open internationally.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Are you curious why we picked heart tattoos or bracelets?  It's because they're important to the story.  So I'll leave you with a paragraph from I Wish where Grant (the genie) draws a henna tattoo on the wrist of Lacey (his master). 

  "Hold out your left wrist and close  your eyes."
  I did as he said and waited. A touch like the flutter of a butterfly's wing tickled my wrist. It wove in and out, tracing curves and circles. I remained still long after the fluttering stopped.
  "Done," he said.
  I opened my eyes and gasped. "It's gorgeous, Grant."
  "Thank you."
  I studied the design. It had tiny, overlapping leaves. Or were they hearts? The tattoo glowed against my skin, crisp and intricate in a beautiful coppery-brown.

Monday, November 3, 2014

I Wish giveaway

I Wish releases in 2 weeks!

To begin the countdown, I'm giving away the last 2 ARCs (advanced reading copy.)  Sign up on Goodreads.

Note: I will be moving my blog to tumblr soon. Please check there  in the future.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

I Wish by Elizabeth Langston

I Wish

by Elizabeth Langston

Giveaway ends November 13, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Monday, October 27, 2014

Giveaway winners

We have winners in the Whispers from the Past giveaway! Congratulations to Victoria, De'Anne, and Ana. They have all been emailed to notify them of their prizes.

Thanks to everyone who entered.

Stay tuned in the next three weeks; I Wish is almost here!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dream cast for Whispers from the Past

( Reposted from a guest post I wrote on Live to Read )

If I were the casting director for a film adaptation of the Whisper Falls series, I’d start the casting process with Mark. That actor has to be hot, athletic, and charming in a really nice, boy-next-door way. I’d want Brenton Thwaites.  (And his amber eyes are gorgeous!)

Susanna would be much harder to cast. She needs to have amazing chemistry with Mark—but still convey how quiet and repressed she is. The right actor would have to communicate so much emotion with just her eyes.  I visualize Susanna as having an ordinary appearance until she smiles—and then she’s beautiful.  I’m thinking Sarah Hyland (who is probably too pretty but that’s why we have makeup artists.)

I'd also like to mention my reasoning for the casting of Benita and Jesse.  They’re a biracial couple where the girl is taller than the guy. She needs to exude “musician” while he needs to be an adorable geek. I did find two actors who could be great, although probably not quite enough difference in height. But then, she could just wear heels!

So, here is my dream cast:

Mark Lewis = Brenton Thwaites
Susanna Marsh = Sarah Hyland

Jethro Pratt = Karl Urban
Dorcas Pratt = Sierra McCormick

Benita Adams = Taylor Swift
Jesse = Tequan Richmond

Gabrielle Stone = Victoria Justice
Marissa Lewis = Sasha Spielberg
Isaac Saunders = Seth Numrich

Did I leave out any characters that should also be cast?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

tweet chat Thursday evening

I'll be available to answer questions tonight, 8:00 pm Eastern time, on twitter.  Join me and my author-friends Jennifer Murgia and Lisa Amowitz as we discuss our new books, writing, life, etc.

See you there.

Awesome Author Chat tonight on Twitter 8PM EST with


Thursday, October 9, 2014

traveling around the blogosphere

To celebrate the release of Whispers from the Past, I'll be visiting with several bloggers over the next two weeks, talking about books and film stars and such.

I'll update this post whenever there is a new stop on the tour! So check back...

  1. Interview with Mark and Susanna (with fellow YA author Amanda)
  2. Interview with me (with fellow veteran Kim at SOS Aloha)
  3. My top 10 recommendations for YA historical/time-travel books*  (with KellyVision)
  4. The Dream Cast for the Whisper Falls series (with Live to Read)

Don't forget that I have a giveaway running through October 18.

The Whisper Falls series is available from many online retailers, such as Amazon and Barnes&Noble .

* If you have not read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, read it now. It is beautiful, heart-breaking, glorious, tragic, and unforgettable. The climax of that book has to be one of the most amazing pages of literature ever written. The story is a tough read, but worth it. And that is my humble recommendation.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Book birthday

When I was a little girl, I didn't have all that much fun on my birthday.  It was a few days after Christmas. I grew up in a large family, and my parents had always spent all of their budget on Christmas presents. There was rarely anything left afterwards for my birthday.

Whatever was on sale, that's what I got. One year it was socks. Another year, a nightgown. After a particularly expensive holiday season, the gift was a matching towel and washcloth.

The other kicker was the cake. My parents had a good friend (and my choir director at the high school) who shared a birthday with me. We celebrated together, and he got to pick the cake. So he didn't pick cake; he picked banana pudding. Now, I like banana pudding, but not on my BIRTHDAY!

Today is the book birthday for Whispers from the Past. It is also the day that the story of Mark and Susanna comes to a conclusion.  To celebrate, I bought myself a cupcake. A red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting!

If you want to hear from Mark and Susanna, they're interviewed at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood blog.

Details about giveaways are on my blog yesterday.

But today, all you get here is the cupcake that I will be enjoying tonight!

Monday, October 6, 2014

1 more day until Whispers from the Past releases

Tomorrow is the big day. Whispers from the Past, the 3rd and final book of the Whisper Falls series, will release.

I'll be on a blog tour, so check back to see what's happening.

And the big giveaway is live! Enter to win!

Here is a teaser*, in Susanna's words, as well as an excerpt (that is a metaphor for the relationship between Mark and Susanna):

The Whisper Falls series is available from many online retailers, such as Amazon and Barnes&Noble .

* I took this photo in Norway in August 2013.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

repost cover and enter to win

October 7 is release day for Whispers from the Past.

There will be two giveaways.

The first contest is running now through October 18th. Repost or retweet the book cover and you'll be entered to win a $25 gift card to a bookstore. Follow the instructions on this Facebook page to get started!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

9 days until Whispers from the Past

Whispers from the Past, the third and final book of the Whisper Falls series, releases in 9 days.  Here's a teaser:

Whispers from the Past is available through most online retailers in paperback and e-book.
[ Amazon  B&N]

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Contest winners and countdown to Whispers from the Past

October 7th is the book birthday for Whispers from the Past. That's only 2 weeks!

This is the third and final book of the Whisper Falls series. (And I cried when I wrote The End. I love Mark and Susanna, and hated to say goodbye to them.)

I'll be visiting other blogs, giving away prizes, and dropping in the occasional excerpt or teaser. So stay tuned.

About the Whisper Falls series... Each book contains a complete and distinct part of Mark and Susanna's story. There are no cliffhangers at the end of any book. However, it really is best to read them in order, because each book builds on its predecessor.

  • Whisper Falls (book 1) is on sale for $0.99 (e-book) at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Kobo through September.
  • Today, I gave away 2 ARCs of A Whisper in Time (book 2).  The two print books are on their way to Molly and Shirley. I had an international winner, Rachel, and she'll be receiving a gift card from Amazon.
  • I'm giving away 2 ARCs of Whispers from the Past on goodreads. Contest ends October 1.
  • If you have access to netgalley, Whispers from the Past is available there for a brief time.

Here's a teaser (taken from this excerpt):

image with quote from excerpt

Photo of Emerald Isle, NC—courtesy of my friend Chris!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Trip #6 to New York

I'm going to New York this weekend.  This is my sixth trip to NYC ever, and three of them have been in 2014.

The first two times, I played tourist and took my family.  We visited museums, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Fifth Avenue, Central Park.  DD1 and I went to see Les Miz on Broadway. I contacted the actor portraying Jean Valjean in advance (to get his autograph on a CD), and he invited us backstage.  My daughter got to meet all the leads and had a long conversation with Young Cosette. Oh, yeah!

The rest of my visits have been all about writing, just as this one will be.  I'm attending the Chapter by Chapter Book Rave.  It'll be a lot of fun meeting readers, but there will be no time for touristy stuff in the Big Apple. Again.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Giving away 2 ARCs of A Whisper In Time

The final book of the Whisper Falls series is almost here!

Whispers from the Past releases on October 7th. To celebrate:

  • I'm giving away 2 signed ARCs of A Whisper In Time (US only.) Enter below!
  • International readers, if your name is selected, I will send you an Amazon e-gift-card for Whisper Falls or A Whisper in Time.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Through the end of September, Whisper Falls (book 1) is on sale (e-book version) at online retailers like Amazon.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Writing question - will you read my manuscript and tell me what you think?

Will you read my manuscript and tell me what you think?

Aspiring authors ask me this question and the simple answer is: No, I can't.

I used to give feedback, before I was published. But it isn't realistic anymore for two reasons:
  1. I can't spare the minutes. I want to devote all of my free time writing my next book.
  2. America has a litigious society, and there have been too many instances where generously-offered feedback turned into a legal nightmare for an author.

Don't despair, though. There are ways to get honest feedback. You can join a critique group, submit your manuscript to a writing contest, and connect with a beta-reading club. Be persistent and you'll find a way.

[I often get questions about what it's like to be an author. I'll answer each of the most commonly asked questions in a separate blog post. You can also navigate to them through the faq on my website too.]

Friday, September 5, 2014

Free astronomy book that is accessible to all!

A good friend of mine, Willie the Seeing Eye Dog, has written a great blog post about a cool new textbook on astronomy. This e-book, Reach for the Stars, is *free* from Apple iStore and bristles with gorgeous images from the Hubble telescope (enhanced by amazing new digital technologies).

Want to know what's even better? The scientific content is completely accessible to children of all abilities. Visually impaired students can love this book as much as their classmates.

Here are the types of people that I think will enjoy this book.

  • Students who are visually impaired
  • Kids of all abilities, especially in grades 4-6, who enjoy astronomy
  • Science teachers
  • Anyone with a fascination for the stars!
  • Authors who are curious about the amazing technologies that can enhance a digital book

Please share the link to Willie's blog with students, science enthusiasts (of all ages), as well as families and teachers of the visually impaired. (You must have an iPad to download this free book.)

And check out this video. (Willie has it embedded in his blog too.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Whisper Falls is on sale!

Only 99 cents! Whisper Falls (e-book version) is on sale at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Kobo. If you haven't had a chance to try this series, now is a great time to discover it.

The final book in the Whisper Falls series, Whispers from the Past, releases in October!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Writing question - how do you plot a story?

How do you plot a story?

I'll do my best to explain this, with two caveats:
  1. The writing process is unique to each author. So my explanation only applies to me.
  2. The art of creating a story is both complex and evolutionary. I'll give you a glimpse into how I write, but my description will be far simpler than the actual process can ever be. Also, by the time you read this, my process will doubtless have evolved as I continue my never-ending quest to write better.
I loosely call my process connecting the dots.
  • Before I begin to write a story, I've thought about it and gathered research on it for months. I take an idea and throw a lot of What-if's at it. 
  • I have four clear "dots" in the story: the beginning, the middle, the climax, and the end.
  • I get a rough idea of the type of characters it would take to bind those four plot points together.
  • And then I jump in, connecting the dots, adding more dots, erasing a few, and learning more about the personalities of my characters as I go along. Eventually, the characters take over, and then it becomes my job as an author to get out of the way.
[I often get questions about what it's like to be an author. I'll answer each of the most commonly asked questions in a separate blog post. You can navigate to them faq on my website too.]

Friday, August 29, 2014

Reposting What the Hale!

My friend Lisa and I are guest-blogging at Adventures in YA Publishing today (Friday, 29 Aug).

We're chatting about the fun and challenges that we are having while co-writing our YA historical / paranormal / romance. One of the protagonists is Nathan Hale, an American hero who sacrificed his life during the American War for Independence.

So, yeah, that part is sad. He was captured and executed for being a spy. We'll follow his story as faithfully as possible based on historical records.

Look for us at What the Hale!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Writing question - where do you get your ideas?

Where do you get your ideas?

Ideas are everywhere. I can get them from reading in the newspaper, watching TV shows, or listening to people talk. Ideas can also come from my own experiences or those of the people around me, but I never make a precise copy. Each glimmer of an idea from real life must always be followed by multiple what-ifs.

  • What if I pawn something at the flea market to help pay the bills?
  • What if the booth owner throws in an old music box?
  • What if the music box has a resident genie?

The first what-if makes it interesting. The next what-ifs makes it a story.

[I often get questions about what it's like to be an author. I'll answer each of the most commonly asked questions in a separate blog post. You can navigate to them in the faq on my website too.]

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Co-writing part two: Finding a match

[My author-friend Lisa Amowitz and I are co-authoring a book. We'll be alternately blogging about the book and our process as we write.]

When Lisa Amowitz proposed a co-writing project—a YA historical/ paranormal novel about Nathan Hale—my gut reaction was heck, yeah. But after the initial giddiness faded, cooler thoughts prevailed. Yes, I was still interested, but only if we did it right. Could we be good writing partners?

It’s been a while since I had to find the perfect match in life, love, or career. I’ve been married a long time, I’ve worked for the same software company even longer, and I’ve lived in the southern US for most of my life. How was I going to figure out whether a match between me and Lisa would succeed?

My books are like my children. They take energy, emotion, and effort to produce. I’m obsessive about their care. I don’t want just anybody messing with my babies.

I needed to approach this match like a dating process. How were Lisa and I compatible—and how were we not? Could we tolerate a long-distance relationship? Between the two of us, did we have the correct set of strengths to create something wonderful? Would our flaws drive each other insane?

Because, ultimately, the book is the important thing. Nathan Hale was an amazing guy, living in a crazy time. Colonial Americans had a radical dream and pulled it off against incredible odds. If Lisa and I were to write that book, it had to be good. No, really—it had to be breathtakingly great. We were honor-bound to do the story justice.

So what would it take to make our “relationship” great?

Ideas. Yeah, no problem there. Lisa had been thinking about this for so many years, she had lots of ideas. The hard part would be to pare them down—and to get my ideas added. Would she listen to me? (‘Cause let me tell you; the girl can talk.)

History. Historical research was a strength that I could supply. I love the history of 18th century America, and I’ve been immersing myself in it for years: the food, clothing, politics, religion, transportation, housing, education, treatment of women, and plight of the working class/ laborers. From that research came my YA time travel series, Whisper Falls. But my attention had been focused on the southern colonies, like North Carolina and Virginia. Could I rely on Lisa to represent the eccentricities of colonial New York / New England?

Voice. Our writing styles—our author’s voice—worried me the most. Lisa’s Breaking Glass is YA Horror, and it has this dark, biting, twisty edge. My books are magical realism, and so the tone (naturally) is more magical and realistic—but definitely lighter. Could we make both voices work for the same story?

Personality. Lisa is extroverted. I am not. Lisa is high-energy. I am not. Lisa thrives on the vibe in NYC. I live far away (on so many levels) in the slower-paced south. Lisa likes to plan out her entire fabulous project and then bulldoze through it in sequential order. I like to bounce around, creating little islands of goodness—and I worry about building bridges between them later. Were we going to be an example of “The Odd Couple” or “Opposites Attract?”

Passion. And there, my friends, is where we hit the jackpot. When it comes to things we care about, we are both deeply passionate. (I understand her obsession over Benedict Cumberbatch, really I do. I think he’s pretty amazing too. Perhaps not as amazing as Michael Fassbender— but to each, her own.) Whatever Lisa and Elizabeth created together, we would do it full-steam, all-out, bleeding-our-hearts-onto-the-page. But would passion be enough to make up for the distance between us?

It was time to start answering these questions. Could we make co-writing work?

Adventures in Co-writing with Lisa Amowitz and Elizabeth Langston
Part One: Genesis of an idea
Part Two: Finding a match

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Whisper Falls question - Why 2016?

Why did you set the book in 2016?

In the Whisper Falls series, the waterfall requires that the calendar date must be the same in either century. When Mark and Susanna meet, it is May 30th in Susanna's world and in Mark's world. Over the course of the series, Whisper Falls allows the year to change in the past, but the date must always be the same.

The day of the week is also important, especially in Susanna's world. Her weekly schedule was fairly rigid. Wednesday is baking day. Sunday is the Sabbath. As I wrote the first book, I had to stay aware of the weekday, for Susanna's sake.

Because I had to remain conscious of dates and weekdays, I decided it would just be easier if Mark had the same calendar as Susanna. I looked in wikipedia for a modern year whose calendar matched 1796.

As it turns out, 1796 was a leap-year that started on a Friday. That leap-year part narrowed the options dramatically. For the 21st century, my choices were 2016 or 2044. So, 2016 won!

Setting the modern-year of the book ahead did require some additional care as I wrote. Technology is changing constantly. Would we still have "smart-phones" in 2016? Would the NC legislature make new laws for how schools operated? Might a fire or catastrophic weather event alter Raleigh or Umstead Park?

I was willing to take those risks.

Now that I've written the other two books, I'm really glad I made the decision to have a matched calendar for book one.  For the later two books, I had many years to juggle. Book 2 is still in 2016, but the past includes 1796 through 1801. Book 3 takes place in 2017 while the past includes 1801 through 1805. It was difficult to keep up with multiple sets of weekdays/calendars for Books 2 & 3.

For instance, in book three, I had to rewrite a large portion of the middle of the book when I realized that I'd set Mark's prom on a major religious holiday in 2017--all because I was paying attention to the weekday in the past and not the weekday in the present.

So there you go. The simple answer is: it made book one easier to write.

[I often get questions about the Whisper Falls series.  I'll answer each of the most commonly asked questions in a separate blog post. You can navigate to them in the faq on my website too.]

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Co-authoring part one: genesis of an idea

Co-authoring Part One: The Genesis of an Idea
[My author-friend Lisa Amowitz and I are co-authoring a book. We'll be alternately blogging about the book and our process as we write. Here, reposted from her blog, is the first article.] 


There’s a lot of background to my collaboration with fellow Spencer Hill Press author, Elizabeth Langston.

We’d first bonded when I worked as the cover designer for three of her books: A Whisper in Time, Whispers from the Past, and I Wish.

I found that I enjoyed working with Elizabeth and really appreciated her ability to “get” my ideas and communicate her own quite coherently. When it came to visualizing, Elizabeth was a natural. And not to diss others I’ve worked with in publishing, but that’s not as common a trait as you might think.

A friendship was formed through our professional contact, that later moved on to some serious fangirling (okay—I’m going to admit it—she is bonkers over the hottie Irish actor Michael Fassbender and I am almost psychotically obsessed with uber-adorable and brilliant Brit actor Benedict Cumberbatch.)

Elizabeth:Michael sang lead vocals with his movie band on The Colbert Report this week. Top that, Bennie.

But lest you all think that our celeb crushes are ALL we talked about—we quickly moved on to our nerdish ways and our enjoyment of the historic TV show that launched this past spring on the AMC channel. It’s called TURN and it features a ring of Revolutionary War spies located on the eastern tip of Long Island.

Elizabeth was already aware of this show because of her Whisper Falls series. Since half of the series takes place in 18th century North Carolina, she’d already done mounds of research. I was aware of TURN because my mother told me about it.

Now, you may be wondering why my dear astute mother knew, without a doubt that I would be interested in a show like TURN when I generally write twisted paranormal mysteries, like Breaking Glass and Vision. (note: In Breaking Glass, Jeremy Glass is an uber-history geek, so there’s a bit of a clue)?

My dear mother knew, because three years ago, in the summer of 2011, I totally bent her ear about the Revolutionary War hero, Nathan Hale, nearly to the level that I am currently obsessed with Mr. Cumberbatch. And being the good mother she is, Mom took an interest in Nathan, even learning that a nearby town had a plaque to mark his landing on Huntington, Long Island at the start of his ill-fated mission to be Washington’s first spy.

Weird thing to fixate on, you think? Well, in my case, weird and obsessive often gets put to use at some point.

BUT WHY NATHAN HALE? What’s wrong with you, woman?

Well, I guess I owe some explanation, even though large swaths of the (male—jealous much?) population think Mr. Cumberbatch looks like an otter or an alien. But Nathan Hale? No one really has much of an opinion on him.

Elizabeth: Go to Nathan’s wikipedia page and check out the photo of his statue. Fix that image in your mind.

It all started back in, oh, I think 2007, when my daughter was in seventh grade. She had a rather detail-oriented taskmaster of a History teacher (who I really liked, even though she might have felt otherwise, lol--*waves at Mr. Colin Welch*). Mr. Welch was a real detail oriented guy and gave very elaborate study handouts. And being the devoted mother that I am, I used to sit on the floor and help my dear, not so terribly studious daughter to study. So, one evening, pouring over the handouts on the Revolutionary War with her, I read the small paragraph that Mr. Welch had written about Nathan, and his famous quote, as it is most frequently paraphrased. “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” Yeah, heard that. BORING. BORING old guy who died for his country.

But wait—what? Nathan Hale was a kid of twenty-one who snuck behind the British lines and was hanged as a spy? How did I not know that Nathan was only twenty-one? And he was a spy? Hmmmm. Wheels turning. Wonder what the heck he was doing behind the enemy lines. This guy is interesting!

Okay. So that went into my cobweb file. And sat there for years. But occasionally I’d think about poor Nathan and wondered—why does nobody really not know anything about him? Was he handsome? Dumb? Smart? At twenty-one he’s just a little older than the age of YA characters. He could have connected with teen “rebels” when he was behind enemy lines, couldn’t he?

Fast forward to an evening in 2011 with my BFF, Joanne, a collector of every kind of trivia imaginable, who tells me there is a plaque on 61street and Third Avenue in Manhattan, at the location of what used to be a restaurant called the Sign of the Dove, and that it marks the place where Nathan Hale was hanged. Wheels really turning, now. Obsession engaged.

Yeah. That was going places. When I brought this up to my then agent that summer, she was like—umm, huh? Excuse me for yawning in your face?

But that did not deter me. By 2011, somehow, this preposterous idea about doing a young adult paranormal history about Nathan Hale and what he did when he’d spent a week behind enemy lines took root. I read, probably ten to fifteen books about him and his real life. Learned he’d gone to Yale, became a schoolteacher and left a string of swooning broken-hearted young ladies all over Connecticut back in the late 1770s. I learned that he was a progressive young man who believed that women should be educated. And that in the summer of 1775, he dropped everything and joined the Continental Army. And that two months after the signing of the Declaration of Independence and a little over three months past his twenty-first birthday, Nathan was hanged from an apple tree by the British and left there to rot, a disgraceful death at the time.

I also learned that Nathan’s great, great, great something or other grandfather was John Hale, one of the accusers in the Salem Witch Trials. And that Nathan was born with a mark on his neck called a witch’s mark, which he’d grown up believing foretold that he would die by hanging.

I also dragged my kids to visit the Hale homestead in Coventry, Connecticut. I’d become, in a word—really obsessed. Because the more I learned about Nathan, the more I liked him. Nathan Hale was not some fusty, musty forgotten figure from history. Nathan Hale was not a QUOTE. Nathan was a good-looking, charming, brilliant, super-educated colonial hottie who was willing to basically throw his life away for his ideals. Now how hot is that?

And so, I was pumped. I was going to write this thing. Hells, yes.

But I hit a wall.

What did I know about writing historical fiction?

Writing historical fiction, I soon found out, involved a lot more than simply researching the background of the character you wished to write about.

It entailed understanding social moirés, dress styles, customs, style of language, etc. I had no idea where to begin with that.

So, sadly, I let the entire idea fizzle out and went on to other projects. Like Breaking Glass, and Vision, and Until Beth, and The Garden of the Lost.

Fast forward to 2014, TURN and Elizabeth Langston.

In our talks, Elizabeth and I had decided that we’d watch TURN together and live chat about it. In one of our chats, I bemoaned the fact that Washington's Spies, the book that the show is based on, had a first chapter that was not even mentioned in the show. And that first chapter was about Benjamin Talmadge (who is a big character in TURN) and his very dead best friend, young Nathan Hale.

How, I whined to Elizabeth, could they have not at least MENTIONED Nathan, America’s very first spy? I mean, the CIA headquarters has a statue of him. How could they not have at least dropped the poor guy’s name even once?

That got us talking. And Elizabeth mentioned that she had also found Nathan Hale to be an intriguing figure.

Elizabeth: Nathan would be an amazing hero in any YA or NA story. He was hot, smart, charming, athletic, and visionary. When he loved--whether it was his family, a woman, or his country--he was fierce. About the only flaw he had (and it was a fatal flaw) was being too impulsive. What author wouldn’t want to get her hands on that character?!

So, that’s when the wheels started turning inside my Squirrel-on-Crack brain. Elizabeth may remember this differently, but the voice in my head said this.

Lisa: Elizabeth is a GREAT writer. Elizabeth knows her historical stuff. Elizabeth is cool. We worked really well together on those three covers we did. Like we almost read each other’s minds. Elizabeth is logical and analytical whereas I am—BONKERS. Hmmmm…”

“So, I said—would you—what do you think about if we, like, wrote something together about Nathan Hale?”

Okay—let me tell you—I was totally ready for that giant yawn, I was so used to getting. But no—instead I got a different response. And if I had the to patience to scroll back through eight months of furious Facebook messaging, I’d even be able to pull up the actual discussion…but it doesn’t really matter.

Elizabeth: What I said was--I’m in. When do we start?

And the rest is, yeah—you guessed it. The rest is history.

Find out how, we started the ball rolling in Part 2 of Co-Authoring:

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Cover reveal - Unspeakable by Michelle K. Pickett

Cover Reveal
by Michelle K. Pickett

Genre: Mature Young Adult Contemporary Romance (Realistic Fiction)
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Release Date: February 10, 2015

“Breathe. No one will break me. I’m strong. Breathe. Just breathe.”

On the outside, Willow appears to have it all. She’s beautiful, smart, from an influential family, and she dates the most popular guy in school—Jaden. But she would walk away from it all in a second. Willow is tormented by lies and suffocating guilt, not the hearts and flowers people believe her life is full of.

She carries a dark secret. Plagued by nightmares and pain, the secret dominates her life. If she hadn’t walked away. If she had just…but she didn’t. And now she has to live with her choice. But when someone uncovers her family’s past, they use it against her, crushing her spirit little by little. She tells herself she just has to make it to graduation. Then she can leave Middleton, and her secret, far behind.

When Brody transfers to Cassidy High, he turns Willow’s life upside down. He shows her what it feels like to live again, really live. And suddenly, she isn’t satisfied with just surviving until graduation. She wants a normal life—with Brody—and he wants her. But the closer they become, the more it threatens to unravel the secret she’s worked so hard to hide.

Willow finds true love with Brody. Will she let his love save her, or walk away from him to keep her secret safe?

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Michelle is the bestselling author of the young adult novel “PODs.” She was born and raised in Flint, Michigan, but now lives in a sleepy suburb outside Houston with her extremely supportive husband, three school-aged children, a 125 pound “lap dog,” and a very snooty cat.
Red Bull or Monster Khaos are her coffee of choice, and she can’t write without peanut butter M&Ms and a hoodie. A hopeful romantic; she loves a swoon-worthy ending that will give her butterflies for days. She writes across genres in the young adult and new adult age groups. She loves to hear from her readers.
Michelle signed her new young adult contemporary novel— Unspeakable, with Clean Teen Publishing in 2014. 
Keep up-to-date on her current and future projects at

Monday, August 4, 2014

Google alerts

I get google alerts, to let me know when my books are being mentioned in cyberspace.

Sometimes the news is good. Sometimes not. A lot of the time, I learn about piracy sites. Those book pirates are clever people. Creepy, but clever.

Worth noting: Whispers from the Past is not available. It releases October 7th. Unless you get an ARC from me (and I don't have any), you cannot read it yet. Piracy sites don't have copies. Don't click on their links. (Well, you shouldn't anyway--'cause it's illegal, unethical, and you'll get malware.)

This past week, I have a nice review from a youth services librarian in West Virginia.  I also had an author-friend, Hope Ramsay, mention Whisper Falls as a good summer read.

Those two alerts are the kind I like best!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Giveaway for Chapter By Chapter Rave

In September, I'll be participating in a book signing near New York City.  The Chapter By Chapter Book Rave has an amazing set of authors who plan to attend.

Here's a giveaway to celebrate the countdown! Enter to win books, a bookshelf, or a gift card (for our international friends.)  ​

a Rafflecopter giveaway