I’ve always considered myself a Seeker, but I have an ongoing debate with myself about whether or not it’s a good thing. For a long time, I assumed everyone pondered life constantly, that everyone spent a large amount of time contemplating the universe, their place in it, whether or not there is a creator force, etc., etc., etc. It wasn’t until I married my second husband that I realized that isn’t true. I’d say, “Do you ever think about XYZ?” And he’d shrug and say, “No.” It was a shock to me. How can you not WONDER? Don’t you CARE?
But over time I also realized that those kinds of people seemed happier. Honestly, my ex just didn’t think that much about stuff. He took life as it came and adjusted as necessary. I envied him and others like him. Spared the angst of pondering life’s great questions, they seemed free to just BE. At the same time, I can’t imagine living absent the rich inner life that keep my mind occupied even in the most mundane of circumstances. I recognize that having this kind of heart and mind is what makes me who I am, and now that I’m older and I actually like myself, I wouldn’t want that to change. Still, I’m always trying to strike that elusive balance between letting my mind go where it will and not making myself crazy (which is probably why meditation has been such a lifesaver for me).
What about you? Are you a Seeker? Do you think it makes you happier or less happy? Would you change it if you could?
Time for this week’s movie update for all you fellow cinefiles.
Saw BOYHOOD for our Friday matinee and it was every bit as wonderful and emotional and moving as I expected it to be. Filmed over twelve years using the same cast, the movie speaks to the universal struggle of growing up and growing older, and somehow you leave the theater feeling a little less alone on the journey. The film is in limited release (we had quite a few showings last week, only two this week, and I suspect it will be gone by next week), so jump at the chance to see it if you can.
Friday night we watched SWINGERS, a 90s movie featuring a young Vince Vaughn and John Favreaux. I’d seen it before, but it had been awhile and I’m glad I got to watch it with the kids. How else can we say, “You’re so money, and you don’t even know it,” to each other and get the reference? Streaming on Netflix.
Saturday the littlest Z and I watched DRINKING BUDDIES while everyone else was out. It was an entertaining look at the complexity of male/female friendships, although a bit slow on the pacing side. That said, it’s streaming on Netflix, and there’s something to be said for free movies.
We continued our late night Saturday tradition by watching the horror movie OCULUS. I was surprised by how good this one was. It was extremely well-written, with little of the gore that characterizes a lot of scary movies. Instead the film relies on psychological terror (my favorite!) and a tense round of flashbacks to the incident that shaped events in the modern day timeline. I was on the edge of my seat through most of the movie, and we all agreed that it was a win in terms of horror films. I think we might have streamed this one from Amazon for $2.99.
Happy Movie Watching, guys, and Happy Weekend!!
Two weeks ago, I gave away two advance copies of LIES I TOLD here on my blog. It’s kind of a big deal, because as of now, the vast majority of ARCs are being given to reviewers in advance of the book’s publication.
I’ve managed to secure a few more from my publisher for giveaway on Goodreads. Because I can be persuasive like that.
There are two copies up for grabs on Goodreads right now, but this giveaway only lasts a week, so hurry! Entering is one click away!
Since we watch so many movies in our house, I thought I’d start giving you guys a heads up on the ones we like, especially streaming since that’s a nice, low-cost form of entertainment, and I think we’re all familiar with the agony of wading through the thousands of available movie on five different streaming services.
Last weekend we got lucky with FOUR movies that are good bets all around. Following are the trailers and a brief rundown on each.
Deeply unsettling, especially since it’s based on a true story. I couldn’t help wondering not only how much we’ve all been brainwashed into complying with any kind of authority figure, but how many young women would feel powerless in this kind of situation. Terrifying.
A political thriller that explores the complex nature of our relationship with oil and the lengths governments across the globe — our own included — will go to secure it. I love movieswith intersecting story lines like this one (a la TRAFFIC).
We were looking for a horror movie and ended up with this Tribeca film about a guy who holes up with his best friend in the middle of nowhere to help him get clean. It was really disturbing, and there was tons of symbolism that I didn’t fully grasp until we read the analysis. One of those gems you feel fortunate to stumble upon.
And if you’re looking to go to the theater, WISH I WAS HERE was a fun romp through Zac Braff’s brain. It wasn’t technically perfect, but it was moving and real and I really enjoyed it. Plus, it has a an awesome soundtrack.
Have you added LIES I TOLD to your Goodreads bookshelf? I’d love it if you would! And stay tuned for upcoming ARC giveaways on Goodreads, too.
Big congrats to Hazehra D. and Lori C. who won the LIES I TOLD ARC giveaway. Check your email, guys!
Thanks so much to everyone who participated and helped to spread the word about the book. Your support means the world to me. I’ll be doing tons more giveaways in the future, so stay tuned!
Last week I revealed the awesome cover for my next book, LIES I TOLD (HarperCollins April 2015). There are precious few advance copies of this baby in the world right now, but to celebrate, I’m going to give out TWO of them here. Also, the ending has been tweaked slightly in the finished version, so you’ll be getting my first ending, pre-tweak.
There are tons of ways to gain entries — from adding the book to your Goodreads TBR list to tweeting a link to this contest to following me on Facebook. The list goes on! Do as many or as few things as you like. Winner will be chosen by Random Number Generator after contest ends on July 28th. Contest open to US and Canadian residents or anyone with a US or Canadian mailing address.
So excited to share it with you!
What if, after spending a lifetime deceiving everyone around you, you discovered the biggest lies were the ones you’ve told yourself?
Grace Fontaine has everything: beauty, money, confidence, and the perfect family.
But it’s all a lie.
Grace has been adopted into a family of thieves who con affluent people out of money, jewelry, art, and anything else of value. Grace has never had any difficulty pulling off a job, but when things start to go wrong on the Fontaines’ biggest heist yet, Grace finds herself breaking more and more of the rules designed to keep her from getting caught…including the most important one of all: never fall for your mark.
Perfect for fans of Ally Carter, Cecily von Ziegesar, and Gail Carriger, this thrilling, high-stakes novel deftly explores the roles of identity and loyalty while offering a window into the world of the rich and fabulous.
Ann is a friend of mine. She also happens to be a great writer. Her book BROKEN has been optioned for TV by ABC Family. TAINTED, the sequel to BROKEN, was recently released and I want to help her celebrate. If you love paranormal romance with an especially dark (and sometimes grisly) edge, these are the books for you!
Here’s a summary of TAINTED;
Alex Franks believes the madness is behind them. With Ascension Labs under his direction and the forces threatening Emma’s life overcome, they have a chance at a normal life, and keeping his secrets safely buried. But a shadow rises from Alex’s past, and she wants him back. Criminally brilliant, Hailey Westmore will stop at nothing to claim the boy she was meant to be with.
Without warning, Emma Gentry finds she cannot trust anything. Not her mind, her memory, not even herself. Tragic events and unexpected deaths stalk Alex and Emma, testing them in ways they would never imagine, and may not survive. Alex carries a new secret, and a horrifying guilt that Hailey uses to her advantage.
Emma’s life and sanity hang in the balance, and Alex may have created a monster…
Sounds awesome, amIright?
To help spread the word. Ann and I are offering up two AH-mazing prize packs featuring signed books, Victoria’s Secret Love Spell perfume, a Starbucks gift card, and a handmade, one-of-a-kind voodoo bracelet.
First Prize includes signed copies of Broken and Tainted (plus a bookmark) as well as a signed copy of THIS WICKED GAME (plus bookmark and magnet). As if that isn’t awesome enough, I’m throwing in a handmade voodoo bracelet, a bottle of Love Spell perfume by Victoria’s Secret, and a $10 Starbucks gift card.
The second prize winner will receive signed copies of all three books, both sets of bookmarks, a THIS WICKED GAME magnet, and a voodoo bracelet (it will be slightly different than the one pictured here).
Entering is easy! You can earn entries by following us on Twitter, tweeting links to the giveaway, and posting a comment here with your favorite creepy book.
Contest goes through March 19th and is open to entrants in the continental US.
We’re rooting for you!
It’s been a year-and-a-half since the release of my last book. I hope you’ll help me celebrate the release of This Wicked Game by spreading the word, adding the book to your Goodreads lists, buying the book, and posting a review.
And I have things planned for you, too. You can still enter to win a $250 gift card plus tons of other prizes like Starbucks gift cards, Victoria’s secret perfume and body spray, one-of-a-kind handmade bracelets and more in the massive This WIcked Game Launch Giveaway.
In addition, several bloggers are running giveaways for This Wicked Game prize packs along with interviews with and guest posts by moi. You can enter two of them now at Another Novel Read and Beauty and the Bookshelf. Stay tuned here for more blog tour stops and more chances to win This Wicked Game goodies. Those of you who have been following me for awhile know that I give good swag.
Thanks so much for helping me celebrate, and for your support and loyalty over the years. It’s because of you that I get to do the thing I love most every single day, and that is an immeasurable gift.
Since tomorrow is release day for This Wicked Game, I’m giving you a bonus sneak peek of the book. Woo-hoo for sneak peeks!
Also, don’t forget to enter for the $250 gift card and assorted awesome prizes in my launch giveway. You can also win prize packs with bloggers on the This Wicked Game blog tour. Read my interview with Another Novel Read, and my guest post, The Truth About Voodoo Dolls, (open to US and Canadian residents) on Beauty and the Bookshelf’s tour stop and enter for chances to win a signed hardcover, one of those gorgeous one-of-a-kind bohemian Voodoo bracelets, and more.
Here’s your peek!
There were five rooms on the second floor, two of them with closed doors. Claire was willing to bet they were empty. The air was too still, the atmosphere devoid of life. She stepped toward the open doors first, peeking inside each before she lost her nerve.
No one was there, and she breathed a sigh of relief as she took in the two standard issue bedrooms, each of them holding a bed, bureau, desk, and chair.
The third open door was a bathroom. She left it alone. No one hid anything important in the bathroom.
She looked at Xander, raising her eyebrows in silent question and pointing to one of the closed doors.
He nodded, and she stepped toward the first room.
She eased the door open carefully, wincing when it creaked. Despite her belief that no one was in the house, she was relieved when an empty room was revealed.
This was where Eugenia slept, Claire was sure of it. The ghost of a heavy, classical perfume hung in the air; a set of elegant luggage stood against the wall. An iron banister was visible through a pair of French doors. Claire guessed it was the balcony at the back of the house.
Just to be safe, she turned and pushed open the door to the final room. Empty.
“No one’s home,” she said to Xander, tipping her head to the room that had been behind the first closed door. “I’m going to check out this one. Want to take the first two?”
He nodded. “We’ll do the last one together since it fronts the street. That way, one of us can keep watch.”
He disappeared through one of the doorways and Claire stepped into Eugenia’s room, her eyes coming to rest on a desk near the glass doors.
Something was tacked to the wall in front of it.
Stepping toward it, she stopped when she saw what was on its surface. She leaned in to get a better look at the photograph staring back at her.
It was a picture of Xander, walking one of the city’s streets, his hands shoved carelessly in his pockets. Claire recognized the blur of storefronts behind him. Probably somewhere near her house, though she couldn’t be sure. Xander, obviously the target of the photograph, took up almost the whole frame.
Claire’s heart thudded in her chest as her eyes surveyed the wall around Xander’s picture.
His wasn’t the only one. There was a photo of Charlie and William Valcour, sitting side by side at an outdoor café.
But this one was different; a red X was drawn through it.
The next picture was of Allegra St. Martin. Even through the red X, Claire could tell Allegra was in her car. Her black hair was shiny and full, her arm resting on the open window frame as she sat in the driver’s seat, probably stopped at a red light or something.
She thought of Allegra at the ball, how unexpectedly nice she’d been, and a chill ran up Claire’s spine.
“What the . . .” Xander said behind her, leaning over her shoulder. “What is all this?”
Claire was both mesmerized and horrified by the images in front of her. “I don’t know.”
The next picture was of Laura, a lock of curly hair falling forward as she bent her head to a book. The photo was crossed through with a red X just like the others.
Next to Laura’s picture was a photograph of little Daniel, walking next to someone much taller as he ate a dripping ice-cream cone. His picture had an X, too.
There was only one more image, tacked next to Daniel’s. Claire’s heart almost stopped when she saw Sasha’s smile, brilliant even in the black-and-white photo, the strap of her yoga mat just visible on one shoulder. Claire didn’t know whether to be relieved or scared that Sasha’s photo, like Xander’s, lacked the red X.
Her eyes roved the photographs, trying to figure out why the woman named Eugenia would have photographs of all of the young Guild members.
No. Not all.
All of the oldest children of the Guild’s most prominent families were represented on the wall—except for Claire.
“I don’t know what this is,” Xander said, “but we should hurry if we’re going to check out the other room. We’ve been inside for almost half an hour, and we have no idea how long they’ve already been gone and when they’ll be back.”
Claire nodded, pulling out her phone and taking a quick picture. The sight of the wall covered with photos—photos of people she knew and loved—was undeniably disturbing.
She glanced around, wanting to make sure they weren’t missing anything obvious, as they headed for the hall.
As soon as they entered the final room, Claire guessed it was Maximilian’s. The furnishings were just as generically antique as everywhere else in the house. A leather valise sat on top of the desk under the window and the heavy draperies were pulled shut as if to block out the modern world.
But it was more than that. The air was heavy with something bleak and dangerous. A palpable darkness, an ominous vibration she could feel under her skin. She had to fight the urge to run from the room. Fight the need to escape the feeling that something evil was wrapping its fingers around her heart and soul.
I’ve been a big advocate of bloggers since I first sold Prophecy of the Sisters in 2007. The book blogging community supported the series (and me) through several cover changes (and a non-existent rebranding campaign for the final covers), and I know the series wouldn’t have been as successful without them. I’ve gotten to know quite a few of them over the years and have enjoyed talking shop — and life — on Twitter, Facebook and at conferences and festivals.
Which is why I’m really excited to work closely with a handful of carefully chosen bloggers to celebrate the release of This Wicked Game on November 14th. There will be interviews and guest posts and secrets revealed, plus each blogger will give away a This Wicked Game prize pack donated by moi (and as with all of my prize packs, it’s the bomb). So do me a favor and show them so love, now and on their designated tour date. There might be something in it for you!
Except for a few possible late additions, here’s the schedule;
November 6th – Another Novel Read
November 11th – Beauty and the Bookshelf
November 18th – Falling for YA
November 20th – Escaping ONe Book at a Time
November 22nd – Word To Dreams
November 25th – Lost in Ever After
November 27th – Booksellers Without Borders
Less than three weeks until the release! I’m ridiculously excited to share this book with you guys. I had so much fun working with all the elements — voodoo, New Orleans, secrets, revenge… What’s not to love?! I hope you will join me in spreading the word. As always, your support means the world to me.
Last week I finished my thirteenth complete novel. The breakdown — for anyone who’s wondering — is five published books (counting THIS WICKED GAME which comes out next month), two complete under-contract books (one will come out in 2014 and one in 2015) and six unpublished books. Four of the unpublished ones were written before I sold Prophecy of the Sisters and two of them were written since then.
Yes, it is still possible for published writers to NOT sell a project. It was a rude awakening.
Anyway, I had to take a minute to pat myself on the back. I’m not good at celebrating my accomplishments. I guess you could say I’m a nose-to-the-grindstone kind of girl. No time for champagne, I have another book to write. But I have begun to recognize the fallacy in that way of thinking. Publishing a book is a book deal. So is writing one. And we aren’t guaranteed an endless number of either.
So I’ve made a promise to celebrate more, and to give myself a little credit. But that’s another blog post.
Anyway, I sold this particular book on proposal in July (detailed synopsis and about sixty-five pages). The deadline for the first draft was October 1st, but because I was in the middle of another project, I didn’t actually start working on it again until August 15th. I spent about two weeks planning and re-reading and then started writing again in earnest September 1st. I realized when I was done that I’d written 50,000 words in a month (my sample was about 25,000 words, bringing the total word count of the book near 75,000 words).
And really, that’s no big deal for me. But what IS a big deal is that it felt… leisurely. I enjoyed it. I didn’t feel stressed out or worried about the deadline. I didn’t have to pull any all-nighters. I still had time for Friday night movies on the sofa with the kids and Saturdays spent with my daughter who attends college a half hour away.
More importantly, I am PROUD of those words. I think this draft is the strongest I’ve ever written, and while some of the credit must go to my new editor, whose notes on my sample pages informed the rest of the book in every good way, I realized I’d done a few things differently this time.
Those of you who have been following me for a long time know that I’m big on finding things that work, on being diligent about a writing schedule and actively managing my time. All things that have been vital to being prolific while single-mothering four children and bearing every cent of the financial responsibility for doing so.
But I’m also learning that those rules are fluid. What works at one point in my life might not work at another. Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and ask if there might be a better way. In this case, there was. And since I know writers are always looking for tips, I thought I’d share what worked for me this time.
1. Schedule is still king.
I’ve always had a writing schedule. Before I sold Prophecy I wrote every night from 11pm to 3am because it was the only time the house was quiet and my children (young at the time) didn’t need me. I still had to get up at 6am to get them to school, but I learned to go back to bed and sleep because I wrote best in those late night hours. Some of those days are a blur now, but it worked at the time.
After I sold Prophecy, I became a word count dictator. I forced myself to write a certain number of words in scheduled segments of time (usually 9am to 11am, 3pm to 5pm, and 7pm to 9pm six days a week).
But that system had begun to wear on me. I was paying more attention to the counter at the bottom of the page than to the quality of my writing. I was more prolific than ever, but I wasn’t enjoying it like I used to and I couldn’t help wondering if the words I was writing were good ones.
This time, I tried something different. I stuck to my scheduled writing blocks by forcing myself up to my office and — this is important — activating Freedom (a program that locks you out of the internet for set periods of time) on my computer. But other than the fact that I had to be in my office with Freedom on (because otherwise I’d be social networking and online shopping), there were no rules. Strangely enough, I still managed to write an average of 2,000 words a day. And they were GOOD words. Sometimes I’d lay in my bed (my bedroom is adjacent to my office and both rooms are cut off from the rest of the house) and rest my eyes. Sometimes I’d actually nap. Sometimes I’d clean my bathroom. But I was trapped in my office with no internet for four to six hours a day with my book open on my computer. I’m a writer. Inevitably, I would write.
2. I took time to think.
I know. This seems like a no brainer. But usually, I’d be in such a hurry to get the words down that I’d push myself through even the scenes I wasn’t sure about. Sometimes I’d think, “I can fix it later.” But I’m not sure I always did fix them later. By the time I finished a book, everything seemed to fit the way it was, and it was a lot harder to go back and pull it apart without the help of my editor.
With this book I spent a lot of time staring out the window, eating Newman’s Own Sour Cherry licorice and pondering the next scene, looking at my white board of notes while everything stewed in my brain. And it’s funny, because a lot of the time I’d be staring out the window or laying in my bed in the dark, the last scene I’d written rolling around my head like a handful of pebbles, and something would come to me. Something I hadn’t thought about before. Something small and nuanced that contributed to plot or character development or added another layer of complexity to the story.
3. A sequence of events is helpful
I’ve never been a big outline person. I like to give a story some breathing room to see where it goes, and because of my personality, if I have an outline, I write to it. Usually I start a book with a synopsis and then just feel my way through the rest. I was on a panel once with author Libba Bray in which we discussed our writing processes, and we both agreed that it was kind of like planning a road trip knowing only the beginning, ending, and a few major stops for gas in the middle.
I still didn’t want to outline, but this time, I felt like I needed a little bit… more. The book I was writing had a lot of complexity. A lot of psychology and also a lot of tiny plot elements that would come into play later in the book and in the sequel. So I wrote a quick and dirty list of events; big things that needed to happen for all the plot points and character development to play out. And it helped a lot, so much so that I’m already creating one for my next book. Sometimes I would have to come up with three or four chapters in between big events, but having the sequence in front of me helped me ask the question, “How would this story naturally unfold to get me from point A to point B? How about from point S to point T?” It also helped me avoid unnecessary detail, because the goal became to get from one big event to the next as cleanly and quickly as possible, since those events were what drove the plot forward.
4. Using my white board
Most of the time, my white board is used to remind myself of character traits and physical characteristics in my main characters and as a repository for funny notes from Caroline, my fourteen-year-old. But I really used it this time, writing down notes from my editor, reminders about the tone and feel and atmosphere I was working toward, minor plot elements I was afraid I might drop and themes I wanted to explore. In the past, I’d done that kind of thing on my computer, but it was such a pain to flip back and forth from my draft to the “inspirational” documents that I wouldn’t always do it. A lot of the time, I’d just forget they were there.
Some of you use Scrivener, and maybe it’s kind of the same thing, but seeing everything up close and personal on the white board really kept me on track. Whenever I got stuck, I’d lean back in my chair and look at that board, and it would pull me back to my original vision for the project.
5. What we do isn’t like what other people do.
This is a transformative admission for me. I’ve already told you I’m a nose-to-the-grindstone kind of person. My former boss called me a “driver”, someone who drove growth and change through constant effort and vision. I always thought that was a compliment, and while it might have been in the world of technology consulting, it has not always been an asset in the creative field of writing.
I mean, work ethic… I’ve got that nailed. I am never in any danger of being lazy. I think it was Phillip Pullman who was quoted as saying (I’m paraphrasing) that plumbers don’t get to skip work when they’re not “feeling it” and writers shouldn’t, either. That belief has seen me through my career as a writer. It allowed me to write five books in two-and-a-half years before I was published. It’s allowed me to sell eight books in the last five years. It’s allowed me to write an average of three full novels a year.
But it has also done me a disservice. Because I will work and work and work long past the point when I desperately need a break. I will not allow myself excuses or sick days. And as I’ve said in the past, I feel so damn lucky every day to do something I love for a living that I feel OBLIGATED to work my hardest.
But we are not plumbers. We are not accountants. What we do is different. It requires different processes and allowances to be done well. It requires time and mental space and energy that isn’t always required of people in other occupations. It’s been difficult for me to accept that sometimes I need to take a walk. Sometimes I need to take a nap. Sometimes I need a day (or a few days) away from the story. I have always told myself that other people work eight hours a day, and I have pushed myself to do the same.
But I think I’m finally ready to let myself off the hook. With this last book (I’ll be able to tell you the title as soon as the announcement it made), I probably wrote an average of three hours a day. I sometimes spent additional time blogging or social networking or answering work-related emails, but I probably only wrote about three hours a day. It felt positively luxurious. And sometimes it left me positively guilt ridden. Why should I be so lucky to work at something I love passionately, something I can’t live without, and to only do it for three hours a day when other people are getting up at five am, commuting many miles, sitting at cubicles for eight hours in jobs they despise?
But the truth is, I wrote better. I was happier and more relaxed. I finished the project ahead of deadline and am prouder of this draft than any I’ve ever completed.
And so maybe it’s true; what we do is a mysterious kind of alchemy. A strange mixture of discipline and freedom. Of process and flexibility. It isn’t a mathematical formula, a set of boxes to be checked off at the end of each day, a timecard to punch.
It feels a little embarrassing to admit it, but the proof is in the pudding as they say. And I’m pretty happy with this batch.
So a few months ago the paperback edition of A TEMPTATION OF ANGELS came out. And I’m embarrassed to admit that I hardly noticed. I guess this is what happens after you’ve published a few books; you get busy — writing more books, meeting deadlines, thinking about the next project — and things like a paperback release can slip right by.
So not cool, because my paperback baby deserves at least some of the love of its hardcover predecessor. And you guys — some of you have been with me since Prophecy of the Sisters came out in 2009 — deserve a little something for all the support you give me, too.
With that in mind, I’m offering up a super awesome giveaway reminiscent of my past super awesome giveaways. But this one’s even more special, because I just so happen to have some copies of the newly released SCHOOLED IN REVENGE, the new companion novel to the REVENGE TV show (which I’m totally addicted to). I’ve had the opportunity to read it, and it’s so much fun! Besides, what could be better than angels and revenge?
There is a first, second and third prize, plus five — yes, FIVE — additional prizes of both books. You can win entries by commenting, tweeting a link to the contest (up to once a day for the duration of the contest) and adding the TEMPTATION cover to your Pinterest board.
Contest open to US residents (or those with a US mailing address) and runs from today through 9/15 at midnight.
After that, it’ll be time to kickoff a huge round of fun and giveaways leading up to the THIS WICKED GAME release November 14th!
Note: If the Rafflecopter entry box does not appear on your screen, try refreshing the page.