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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Favorite Reads of 2010!

I love reading other people's "best of" lists at the end of each year, especially for books (and okay, ESPECIALLY when Losing Faith is listed - LOL).

My list is a big one, but I make no apologies. First of all, because there was just so much awesomeness out there to read this year. But secondly because I read A LOT. More than ever before. Keep in mind, I am a slow reader, and I did not grow up as a reader or writer. In my teen and early adult years, I'd have been lucky to get through about three books in a year. During 2010, I read 82 books! And there are a few I'm still working on, but they will make it onto next year's tally.

Here is a list of some of my favorite reads from this year, in no particular order...

YOU WISH by Mandy Hubbard
TELL ME A SECRET by Holly Cupala
THE DEATHDAY LETTER by Shaun David Hutchinson
BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott
NOTHING LIKE YOU by Lauren Strasnick
BAD APPLE by Laura Ruby
FREEFALL by Mindi Scott
IF I STAY by Gayle Forman
BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver
WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED by Judy Blundell
STUPID CUPID by Rhonda Stapleton
TEEN IDOL by Meg Cabot
TORTILLA SUN by Jennifer Cervantes
THE RED UMBRELLA by Christina Gonzales

If you haven't read any of these ones, I encourage you...go out and buy a copy. Support these authors so they can continue producing awesome books! And if you have read and loved any of these, which ones make YOUR favorite list?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I haven't been around much, and to tell you the truth, it's not because of the hustle and bustle of the season. I've been deep in my revision cave, only popping out for the odd silly thing like tweeting the odd tweet, giving away some copies of LOSING FAITH, and you know, feeding my family and such.

Our house is a disaster, I'm in way over my head on my revisions (the hardest set I've done), but it's all okay because I have a good excuse to put it all aside and just bask in the company of family for the next couple of days. Well, that, and eat some really yummy food. My mom makes great mince tarts, so you better believe I will be raiding her fridge and cupboards this weekend. Plus, my dad makes a mean cappuccino.

It's been a great week of reading, too. I've really been enjoying reading people's "best of the year" lists, (Losing Faith has even been on a couple, which totally made my year!) and so I hope to be back next week mentioning some of my favorite books I've read this year.

Until then, I wish you all a happy, healthy, and safe holiday! From our house to yours...Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

12 Days of Christmas (YA Author Version)

In between Christmas parties and shaking my bootie (aka professional gigs with my Polynesian dance troupe), I've been spending most of my waking hours deep inside my revision cave. But the brain needs a break once in a while, just a bit of a detour to get the creative juices flowing again.

That is my only excuse for this piece of silliness. (By the way, I got this idea from the fabulous agent/author/ Girlfriend, Lucienne Diver, who recently posted her Twelve Days for Publishing Professionals)

The Twelve Days of Christmas (The YA Author Version)

On the first day of Christmas, my Good Muse gave to me
a bright idea and an M.C.
On the second day of Christmas, my Good Muse gave to me
Two hot boys, and a bright idea and an M.C.
On the third day of Christmas, my Good Muse gave to me
Three school friends, two hot boys, and a bright idea and an M.C.
On the fourth day of Christmas, my Good Muse gave to me
Four motivations, three school friends, two hot boys, and a bright idea and an M.C.
On the fifth day of Christmas, my Good Muse gave to me
Five lines with zing! 
Four motivations, three school friends, two hot boys, and a bright idea and an M.C.
On the sixth day of Christmas, my Good Muse gave to me
Six hours of writer's block 
Five lines with zing! 
Four motivations, three school friends, two hot boys, and a bright idea and an M.C.
On the seventh day of Christmas, my Good Muse gave to me
Seven procrastination techniques 
Six hours of writer's block
 Five lines with zing!
 Four motivations, three school friends, two hot boys, and a bright idea and an M.C.
On the eighth day of Christmas, my Good Muse gave to me
Eight descriptive passages
 Seven procrastination techniques, Six hours of writer's block 
Five lines with zing! 
Four motivations, three school friends, two hot boys, and a bright idea and an M.C.
On the ninth day of Christmas, my Good Muse gave to me
Nine new sub-plots, Eight descriptive passages, Seven procrastination techniques, Six hours of writer's block 
Five lines with zing! 
Four motivations, three school friends, two hot boys, and a bright idea and an M.C.
On the tenth day of Christmas, my Good Muse gave to me
Ten detailed settings
Nine new sub-plots, Eight descriptive passages, Seven procrastination techniques
Six hours of writer's block
 Five lines with zing!
 Four motivations, three school friends, two hot boys, and a bright idea and an M.C.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, my Good Muse gave to me
Eleven obstacles
Ten detailed settings
Nine new sub-plots, Eight descriptive passages, Seven procrastination techniques, Six hours of writer's block 
Five lines with zing! 
Four motivations, three school friends, two hot boys, and a bright idea and an M.C.
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my Good Muse gave to me
Twelve steps of climatic tension
Eleven obstacles
Ten detailed settings
Nine new sub-plots, Eight descriptive passages, Seven procrastination techniques, Six hours of writer's block
 Five lines with zing! 
Four motivations, three school friends, two hot boys, and a bright idea and an M.C.

I offer up signed swag (and a big Merry Christmas wish!) to anyone who's brave enough to post a YouTube video of themselves singing this!

Friday, December 17, 2010

The One About My Office

I just realized I hadn't posted this yet. While recording a few vlogs last week, I did this one of my new (not-that-glamorous) office! Enjoy!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

SLJ Review!

It always seems to be the days that I'm down in the U.S. (where my iPhone costs an absolute fortune, so I don't use it) when "News!" comes in.

Yesterday I was finishing a bit of Christmas shopping in Bellingham, WA, when a fantastic review came in from School Library Journal! Many of you probably know I've been a little, um, eager to hear from trade reviewers on LOSING FAITH, and School Library Journal? Well, let's just say I'm *thrilled* to have their backing and approval.

I don't think I'm allowed to post the entire review here, but here's a couple of my favorite lines (and if you'd like to read the whole thing, feel free to email me at d(at)denisejaden(dot)com )

“This thoughtful first novel explores early grief and shows how it can tear at the structure of a family that cannot mourn together…. Brie does not want to mourn alone; she feels angry, guilty, and confused, and she wants answers. Once Brie uncovers the breakaway Christian study group that her sister belonged to, the story becomes a mystery thriller... [R]eaders are taken on a ride through a secret world of religious zeal gone haywire….  The fault lies not in the religion–an earnest Christianity–but in the fanaticism that can happen when people follow a charismatic leader with a personality disorder.With pitch-perfect portrayals of high school social life and a nuanced view into a variety of Christian experiences of faith, this first novel gives readers much to think about.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tenners Library Giveaway


To celebrate the end of our debut year, The Tenners will be holding a special giveaway just for librarians. One public or school library will be selected to receive a set of 54 books by 2010 MG and YA debut authors.

How do you enter this massive giveaway? So easy. All you have to do is capture one of our books in the wild.* Take a photo of yourself, another librarian, a patron, or even an adorable library pet posing with one of our 2010 debut novels. Send it to us at from your institutional email address. Tell us your name, your library's name and mailing address, and who's in the picture.

Again, only librarians are eligible for this giveaway. Not a librarian? Encourage your friendly neighborhood librarian to enter! The contest will be open until February 15th and the lucky winning library will be chosen and announced on February 16th. Until then, we'll be periodically posting your pictures.

The Tenners would like to thank you all SO VERY MUCH for your support this year. It's been an amazing adventure and we're looking forward to sharing more books with you in 2011 and beyond.

Books included in the giveaway are:

The Absolute Value of -1 by Steve Brezenoff
All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien
Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
The Body Finder and Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting
Change of Heart by Shari Maurer
The Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy
The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk
The Dark Divine and The Lost Saint by Bree Despain
The Deathday Letter by Shaun David Hutchinson
Dirty Little Secrets by Cynthia Jaynes Omololu
Eighth-Grade Superzero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Everlasting by Angie Frazier
Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount-White
The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston
Freefall by Mindi Scott
The Ghost & The Goth by Stacey Kade
Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey
Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly
Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler
Hush, Hush and Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick
Inconvenient by Margaret Gelbwasser
Iron King and Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa
Kids vs. Squid by Greg van Eekhout
Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham
The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz by Laura Toffler-Corrie
The Line by Teri Hall
Losing Faith by Denise Jaden
Magic Under Glass by Jackie Dolamore
The Mark by Jen Nadol
Mistwood by Leah Cypess
Nice & Mean by Jessica Leader
Other by Karen Kincy
Palace Beautiful by Sarah DeFord Williams
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt
Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl
Prophecy of Days by Christy Raedeke
The Red Umbrella by Christina Gonzalez
The Reinvention of Edison Thomas by Jacqueline Houtman
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea Campbell
Sea by Heidi Kling
The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard
Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai
The Snowball Effect by Holly Nicole Hoxter
Three Rivers Rising by Jame Richards
Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes
Wildfire Run by Dee Garretson

*No purchase necessary, so posing with a photo or artistic interpretation of a book's cover is just fine too.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Best I've Read 2010 - Losing Faith!

I'm THRILLED about this: Losing Faith was named as a favorite book of 2010 by a group of bloggers. They're running an event right now called "The Best I've Read in 2010!" and it is awesomesauce!

And here are some blogs that are a part of this event and have been celebrating with either a giveaway of LOSING FAITH (plus many other amazing books!) or an interview with me. Or both!

I'm so incredibly thankful that my book has been able to connect with people! I hope you'll stop by some of these blogs:

Fire and Ice (Giveaway!)
Mundie Moms (Giveaway!)
Books Complete Me (Giveaway!)
I'm a Reader Not a Writer (Interview and Giveaway!)
Once Upon a Twilight (Interview and Giveaway!)
A Reader's Ramblings (Giveaway!)
Late Bloomer Online (Giveaway!)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bookscan: My One and a Half Cents

Most of you have probably heard about the latest news: Authors can now see their bookscan sales figures for free. I tweeted yesterday about not needing another reason to obsess/procrastinate, but trust me, I'm not any stronger of mind than any of the other authors who haven't navigated away from their Amazon page in the last twenty-four hours. In fact, in full disclosure, I did go to Amazon to check it out and see what all the fuss was about.

But while waiting for the little tutorial tour about reading sales figures to complete, a little voice in the back of my head whispered, "Remember GoodReads?" And yes, I do remember GoodReads. Very well. GoodReads and I have a very close love/hate relationship. It's not that I mind finding mixed reviews of my book. What bothers me is that checking GoodReads has become such a habit, harder to break than a crack habit (or so I imagine), and it really can affect my day/mood/writing.

So I walked away. I decided not to learn how to open and read the Bookscan section of Amazon. I need another bad habit like I need a hole in the head.

This is not to say I disagree with Bookscan numbers being available. Well, not completely. But if an author is on there out of fear that their book is not selling well enough, that's not a good reason, in my opinion.That's just one big recipe for crazy-making.

Authors are encouraged to put a lot of their time and effort into marketing and promoting our own books, and it only makes sense that we should be able to track whether or not various promotions are working. And that sounds great. And it probably would be great if we were created part-machine. But as novelists we are emotional people. We NEED those emotions to make our books great. The last thing we want to do is allow ourselves to become jaded and apathetic, or worse, heartbroken and only able to write about mopey, depressed characters.

While I agree that we are adults and professionals who should have all necessary information regarding our careers, I return again to the crack addict analogy. Is this simply a bad habit we will pick up that won't really help us at all? 

So how many of us can be detached enough to look at the return on work/investment of marketing and promotion without allowing ourselves to feel like failures or having those numbers make us more weary for the road ahead? I know I can't. And so I will be steering clear of checking my own sales numbers.

I say leave the study of "the numbers" to those who are clear-headed enough to interpret them properly, and without a trigger effect to the rest of their lives.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wondering Wednesday - Favorite Recent Reads

Quick! Tell me three books you've really enjoyed recently - the ones that come to the top of your head first. This doesn't have to be favorite books of all time, or even this year. Just whatever you would consider "recent".

Here are mine:
TELL ME A SECRET by Holly Cupala
YOU WISH by Mandy Hubbard
FREEFALL by Mindi Scott

Your turn! Ready, set, go...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Bottom Ten: Movies of All Time (That I've Seen)

I think you can tell more about a person from their least favorites than their fave favorites. I could never do this with books (but I will be back soon with my BEST books of 2010!). Being an author, I know how much it hurts when someone doesn't connect with my book for one reason or another. But since I highly doubt Steven Spielberg will be reading my blog (not that any of HIS movies are on my list, actually, but you get what I'm saying) I'm going to stick with my 10 least favorite movies.

Please don't throw things at me if I'm insulting one of your favorites. It's just an opinion. (And if any of these ARE your absolute favorites, let's just agree right now to never go to the movies together, okay?)

Daddy Day Camp
Grease 2
Dumb and Dumberer
Waiting To Exhale
Mars Attacks
Rambo (the newest one)
From Justin to Kelly (okay, I didn't actually see this one, but I have no doubt it belongs on this list)

Okay, and just for fun, here are a few of my all-time favorites:

The Princess Bride
The Matrix (1st one)
With Honors
When Harry Met Sally
Say Anything

Okay, your turn!

Busy, Busy!

So many things to blog about, so little time!

Seriously, I keep thinking of things I'd love to write about, but I'm in the thick or revisions (you know the point where you think there's no possible way you'll be able to make all the threads come together?) and I'm using all my very limited time and energy on that at the moment.

But soon I will be back with some exciting vlogs new current projects. Well, okay, maybe exciting isn't the correct word. But I will be back. I promise.

In the meantime, if you haven't yet heard about my Have a Little Faith Contest, make sure to check that out, and help spread the word. Also, there MAY be some more fun LOSING FAITH swag in the mail to me at this very moment, and I MAY decide to add a few extra prizes! I've already given away two signed copies, an ARC, and a T-shirt, and it's only December 7th! Lots more fun to come!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Friday Four - The Video Edition

I didn't have time to blog today, but I just recorded a quick vlog if you're interested in what I've been up to this week!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Four - The Video Edition

I didn't have a chance to blog today, or even really collect my thoughts, so I made a quick vlog in case you're interested in what I've been up to!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thankful Thursday: Give back where you can!

LitWorld’s annual Holiday Book Drive is running 
Dec 1 to Dec 31

The idea is simple: people donate children’s picture books, mailing or bringing them to one of three drop-off points in New York. LitWorld, in partnership with The International Book Bank, will fill a 20ft container with the books (around 3,000 are needed) and ship them to Liberia and Sierra Leone. There, the books will be put straight into the hands of children. Some of these children will never have seen a picture book before; the majority are used to sharing what they do have: one book is shared among 75 children, on average.

Below you’ll find the addresses where books can be brought or sent, as well as more information about LitWorld, The International Book Bank and about the situation in Liberia.I'll be mailing a box of picture books this week. I hope you will too!


LitWorld is a non-profit organisation that advocates for global literacy. LitWorld believes stories are life-changing and sharing stories will create connections that have the power to change the world. LitWorld works closely with teachers all over Liberia, providing professional development around reading and writing. We also provide schools with much needed books, supplies and school materials. Currently the ratio of children to books is 75:1. Our dream is to change that to 1:1!
About The International Book Bank: An organisation that has been delivering free books and educational materials to developing countries since 1987, with the goal of increasing literacy and advancing education.

About Liberia: As you may know, thousands of people were killed in Liberia's 16-year civil war, leaving the nation in economic ruin. Many places are still without electricity and running water. Unemployment and illiteracy continue to be endemic. The country is attempting to rebuild and recover from this long and arduous war. A large part of this effort is rebuilding the educational system. In order for that to be successful they need an increased supply of books and materials.
About Sierra Leone: Though Sierra Leone is well known for its diamond industry, it was ranked as the poorest country in the world in 1998. The dispute over the control of the diamond mines erupted in an 11-year civil war, which began in 1991 and ended in 2002. Sierra Leone faces the intense challenges of reconstruction, with poverty and unemployment leading the major issues. The Civil War deconstructed 1,270 schools, leaving 67% of children in 2001 without an education. Today, two thirds of the adult population in Sierra Leone are illiterate.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wondering Wednesday...

I've had some questions lately, you know, just general life questions, and I thought I'd share some of them. Some are kinda silly, and they're really all over the map, but I still do wonder.

If you have answers, or even just guesses, I'd love to hear it!

1. It's the start of Hanukkah tonight, and I'm interested to know what people do to celebrate, and what the significance is behind it all. Is it a traditional practice for you, or a deeply spiritual one? I'm just curious how different people express different faiths.

2. What percentage of Americans do you think go shopping on Black Friday?

3. What percentage of writers do you think have participated in NaNoWriMo at least once?

4. How's the best way to cook a turkey? I've heard that low temperatures for longer helps keep it moist, and just browning it at the end. Any other suggestions? And what do you use for spices?

5.I'm in the market for a small video camera. What should I look for/what's most important to you? Any model recommendations?

I'll leave it at five for today, but believe me, my overactive brain could go on for days. I wonder about EVERYTHING! So if you have a moment, drop me a note about one or all of these enormously important life questions!

Inquiring minds want to know!

Wondering Wednesday...

I've had some questions lately, you know, just general life questions, and I thought I'd share some of them. Some are kinda silly, but I still do wonder. If you have answers, or even just guesses, I'd love to hear them!

1. It's the start of Hanukkah tonight, and I'm interested to know what people do to celebrate, and what the significance is behind it all. Is it a traditional practice for you, or a deeply spiritual one? I'm just curious how different people express different faiths.

2. What percentage of Americans do you think go shopping on Black Friday?

3. What percentage of writers do you think have participated in NaNoWriMo at least once?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Reflections on NaNo

As usual, it is November 30th and I'm finally glad I took part in NaNoWriMo. I was not glad on November 1st. Or on the fourth. Also, I think I was regretting it around the sixteenth. The entire last act of my book felt like a waste of time, but...I did it. I completed, and am glad that I did.

I've written a few notes about my progress, and written posts in past years about what NaNo meant to me, did for me, or so forth. This year I'd mostly like to just like to reflect on what was different about this year for me, what worked, what didn't, and especially what I'd like to keep in mind for next year.

1. Success - I wrote every day, even while out of town. This year I broke my writing time into two separate chunks during the day, though, rather than trying to fit it in all at once. Why did this work better for me? Because a thousand words at a shot is much more manageable. I only really need to have one scene in mind to get through a thousand words, and then I have a few hours to think about where the next scene might take me.

2. Success - I backed up my work every day. Although I've never had a catastrophic event involving my computer and loss of precious work (knock on an entire lumber yard), I think it goes without saying why I consider this a success. In past years, I've been so relieved to be done my 2k for the day that I've slapped my laptop shut without a second thought. Bad Denise.

3. Fail - I didn't have a clear ending for my book in mind. I should have worked harder on this before November the first, but I admit, I was lazy and busy and full of lame excuses. Because of this, the last section of my book does need A LOT of work. Heck, the whole thing probably does. But at least I won't be staring at a blank screen now. So I consider it at least a partial success.

4. Success - The Post-NaNo Outline. This is the first year I've attempted anything like this, but this year, as soon as I finished my 50k novel, I jumped right back in and condensed the whole thing to outline form. Now, while I wander over to my next writing project, I have something to send my critique partner. Because I am plot-challenged (and my CP is not) at this stage in the game I know I will need some major changes, most of which should be able to be picked out from an outline, rather than reading an entire messy draft of my poor early writing.

5. Fail - I've been more anti-social this November than ever before. My friends and family have been gracious, but I owe them big time. For a number of reasons, this has been my busiest NaNo season yet. But I did it. I completed. And I'm looking back with a smile on my face.

I'd love to hear your reflections on this years' NaNoWriMo. Did you do anything different? Any specifics you would consider successes or failures?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Five!

1. If you haven't yet seen the EPIC contest I'm having through the holidays, make sure to stop by here. Or if you don't have time for that, just tweet this line and you're golden:

"I want a copy of the YA novel, LOSING FAITH by @denisejaden for Christmas! RT to enter to win!"

2. And one more way to win! My critique partner, Shana Silver, has generously donated another signed copy Losing Faith to the prize haul. She'll give it away as soon as she has 25 new followers on Twitter! You can find her under @shanasilver .

3. My review squee moment of the week: Ashley at The Book Labyrinth included this beautiful line in her review: I can’t believe this is Denise Jaden’s first novel, because the writing flowed so beautifully and the main character, Brie, was so engaging.

Wow. Seriously. Wow. Thank you, Ashley! Read the full review here.

4. As I mentioned in earlier weeks, I've been studying up a little on writing screenplays. I'd like to take one of my older novels and convert it to screenplay form for practice. I'm having a heck of a time setting tab stops, which seem to be essential for this venture, in Word. Can somebody out there give me a tutorial? Very frustrated.

5. Oh, yes, and I finished NaNo!!! I'll be back with a reflective blog post about it...soon. I actually completed my word count on the 21st, but I'm not happy with the whole end section, so I've been working on condensing it into an outline so my plot guru (aka Shana Silver) can look it over for me. The one thing I've found interesting? Going back through this book, I already like it much better than I thought I would. While trying to come up with 2500 words per day, I was sure that most of them were complete crap and would have to go on the first revision, but it really is much better than expected - even after only a few days of finishing! The whole process makes me think I should go back and look at The Novel We Don't Speak Of from NaNoWriMo 2008. What do you think? Should I? LOL.

Congratulations to all my friends who are also completing NaNo this week! There's plenty of wine andd chocolate for everybody!!!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

An Exttra Thankful Thursday: Acknowledgments Exposed!

I'm Canadian, so we celebrated Thanksgiving just over a month ago. But I'm of the opinion that you can never be too thankful, and extra days throughout the year to highlight that are always welcome! Happiest of Thanksgivings to all of my American friends, and really, to all of my friends!

The great and awesome Hannah Moskowitz did a cool thing on her blog a while ago, where she took her acknowledgments from one of her books and expanded on them for her readers. I thought that would be terribly fun--it's like expanding on the thankfulness! So here are my acknowledgments for LOSING FAITH, with expansion/explanation in red.


To Shana,
My ever-present sounding board and friend.
In case no one has told you this yet today, Shana, you are brilliant.
 If you've been around for ANY amount of time, you know that my main critique partner, the girl I always go to first with ideas and questions, or when I'm second-guessing myself, is Shana Silver. And she really is brilliant. And no, you can't have her.


Many writers say they couldn’t do it alone, but WOW, I really could not. There are so many people who have helped me, mentored me, encouraged me, even kicked me in the butt, and this book wouldn’t have been possible without them. Completely true. Maybe some writers are one-man/woman shows, but I am not.

First, thank you to my best friend, Shelly Shelly's been one of my closest friends for many, MANY years. Twenty? She has been nothing but supportive, from reading really lousy writing to helping me plan every aspect of my launch party. I hang out with Shelly and her husband Harry every Saturday night, and they are the funnest people in the whole world! I’ll always remember that you read the first (ie. really bad) stuff, and kept loving me anyway. (How many times did you read Trev again?) Without your support, I would never have found the confidence to get here. And to go along with that, thank you to my awesome home group Our home group is really just Harry, Shelly, Duane, Ginny, and absentee Kim (living in Alberta). And we really are nothing like Reena's group. In fact, mostly we just play a lot of cards. (nothing like Reena’s home group, I swear!) for giving up so many nights to talk about my writing struggles.

Thank you to my wonderful agent, Michelle Humphrey. Agent awesome has been so supportive and knowledgeable every step of the way. Plus, she loves to talk about yummy food. She's working at ICM Talent and IS open to queries (look back through my blog for details). I couldn’t ask for a better advocate, advisor, cheerleader, and friend. I hope whatever’s on the lunch menu today is extra special!

Thank you to Anica Rissi I'm seriously in awe of this woman's editing skills. I never once wondered why she said something or what she meant or how to make suggested changes. A true Rock Star of her profession. and the team at Simon Pulse I met a few of these ultra-cool people while in New York last year, including Annette Pollert, Venessa Williams, and fab-publicist Bernadette Cruz. for putting so much thought and care into my book, and offering stellar suggestions to make it shine. Many thanks to Cara Petrus for creating the beautiful cover for this book. I can't even count the amount of people who agree with me here. Cara Petrus is amazingly talented, and I hope, hope, hope that she will work on my next book's cover!

To my incomparable critique partners and friends: Extra special thanks to Sharon Knauer, who gave me the perfect mix of encouragement and brilliant suggestions in my early writing days. Enormous thanks to Shana Silver I already told you about her - we first met on Critique Circle, Elle Strauss Long time friend from long before either of us were writers, Craig Pirrall Another ongoing critque friend from Critique Circle, Jennifer Hoffine-Hoffman And yet another ongoing critique-friend from Critique Circle, Amy Brecount White Fellow Tenner and all-around awesome lady, Tara Kelly Another Tenner friend, so incredibly insightful!, Caroline Starr Rose Caroline and I share the same agent and have become great friends through swapping work, and Pendred Noyce Another Critique Circle writer-friend for your boatloads of help with multiple manuscripts. Thanks to Maria, Rick, Lorrie, Pam, Liz & Brandy These are all friends I've met and mostly kept in touch with from Critique Circle, and the rest of the cool people at Critique Circle whose advice can be seen in the pages of this book.

A big thank you to The Tenners - over 90 awesome authors and Class of 2k10 an awesome group of 23 authors whom I would not have wanted to do this journey without! , not only for their co-promotion efforts and support, but also for being just plain fun to be around. A great big shout out to all my Blueboarder, LiveJournal, Twitter, and Blogger friends. And YA Book Bloggers WAY too many awesome people to name! – you ROCK!

Thanks to a few of my early readers for great advice and confidence-building: Mom, Dad self-explanatory, I think?, Jody sister-in-law, Kathryn friend and client of my husband's, Kim home group member (the one from Alberta above), Harry Saturday night bartender, Norm Elle Strauss's rockin' husband, Duane Saturday night cohort, Natasha, Mandy, Michelle all three of these are my good friends from Polynesian dancing, and all others I’m probably forgetting (feel free to make me feel guilty – I deserve it!) Also thanks to Jason Goertzen Haven't talked to this friend in several years, so I doubt he even knows he's in here.  who gave me the book Kane & Abel by Jeffrey Archer that sparked my love for reading, and to Paul Latta Polynesian dance guru and friend of over thirty years who continues to inspire me creatively.

A few great websites I need to mention and thank the proprietors of: I think you can tell why from above!– this is where I met most of my amazing critique partners; Just finished my fourth year of NaNo - Wahoo! – Losing Faith was a “Nano” novel, and I completed the first draft in 21 days during Nanowrimo 2007; With a different novel, I actually won the first Secret Agent contest. I still have no idea who anonymous Authoress who runs the website is... – wonderful educational contests where I learned about the art of hooking a reader.

This book would not have been possible without the amazing support of my friends and family. Thank you all, especially Ted hunky husband and Teddy the cutest 7 year old in the world, for giving me the time and space to find my stories.

And most of all, thank you to The Great Author and Perfecter of faith These are not just words. I know at the Academy Awards, your supposed to thank God, it's kind of expected, but I truly am thankful to Him every single day., for making me who I am, surrounding me with such awesome people, and quickening my mind to so many stories to tell. I can’t wait to find out what the next one will be about!

That's it! I hope you enjoyed that little inner-look. I fear the acknowledgments in my next book may be even longer... But I am truly blessed to have so many people to be thankful for!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

#CONTEST! This Holiday Season...Have a Little FAITH!

Just to clarify - if you use @denisejaden in your tweet, it will be counted! You don't HAVE to come back here and comment (though I'm always happy to have visitors drop by :-)

I don't love the cold, but I admit, I'm a real sucker for the holidays. In fact, I have been known to leave my Christmas tree up for well over two years and listen to Jingle Bell Rock in July.

This time of year makes me feel not only a little giddy, but also kinda generous. I'm looking around my house for some things to give away, and I think I've found a few. More than a few, actually.

First of all, if one or more of these describes you, read on to find out about THE LOOT.

1. Are you an avid reader who has been wanting to read LOSING FAITH, but for one reason or another you have not been able to pick up a copy yet?

2. Did you read and love LOSING FAITH, and now you can think of someone you'd REALLY like to give a copy to for Christmas?

3. Do you love special and rare memorabilia that NOBODY else can get their hands on?

4. Is having a variety of bookmarks and other book swag on hand a staple in your household?

5. Are you interested in knowing little secrets about LOSING FAITH that you can't find anywhere else on the Internet?

If one or more of these statements describes you, I have a fun (and easy!) contest for you. These are a few of the things I'll be giving away:

- Bundles of bookmarks by various author friends!

- A rare advance reader copy of LOSING FAITH (including a signed bookmark!

- A LOSING FAITH T-shirt! (I'll even autograph it if you like!)

- Finished autographed copies of LOSING FAITH (the more entries, the more copies I will give away!)
- One annotated finished copy of LOSING FAITH, including butterflies marking some of my favorite scenes, notes about which excerpts I use for public readings, notes of scenes that have not changed from draft one, and some that were only added in the last draft! All very PRIVATE information, only for one very special winner!

Interested? All you have to do to enter to win is Tweet something similar to this:

"I want a copy of the YA novel, LOSING FAITH by @denisejaden for Christmas! 
RT to enter to win!"

If you don't celebrate Christmas, feel free to substitute with "the holidays" or some such. If you're not on Twitter, feel free to Facebook, Blog, or otherwise share this with your friends - just make sure to mention it in the comments so I can count your entry. You can enter up to once per day between now and December 23rd, and I'll be drawing names and contacting winners throughout the month. Remember, the more entries, the more prizes!

Some of these prizes I will offer up for international entries (I may have to cut that off if I get TOO many international winners), so enter away starting right now, and...

HAVE FAITH that you'll be one of the winners!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

GCC Presents Caridad Ferrar!

A dancer driven to succeed.

A musical prodigy attempting to escape his past.

The summer they share.

And the moment it all goes wrong.

Dance is Soledad Reyes’s life. About to graduate from Miami’s Biscayne High School for the Performing Arts, she plans on spending her last summer at home teaching in a dance studio, saving money, and eventually auditioning for dance companies. That is, until fate intervenes in the form of fellow student Jonathan Crandall who has what sounds like an outrageous proposition: Forget teaching. Why not spend the summer performing in the intense environment of the competitive drum and bugle corps? The corps is going to be performing Carmen, and the opportunity to portray the character of the sultry gypsy proves too tempting for Soledad to pass up, as well as the opportunity to spend more time with Jonathan, who intrigues her in a way no boy ever has before.   
But in an uncanny echo of the story they perform every evening, an unexpected competitor for Soledad's affections appears: Taz, a member of an all-star Spanish soccer team. One explosive encounter later Soledad finds not only her relationship with Jonathan threatened, but her entire future as a professional dancer.

About the Author:
Caridad Ferrer is a first generation, bilingual Cuban-American, whose young adult debut, AdiĆ³s to My Old Life won the Romance Writers of America’s 2007 RITA® for Best Contemporary Single Title Romance as well as being named to the 2009 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults list, awarded by the ALA. Her second novel, It’s Not About the Accent was released in 2007 with Publisher’s Weekly stating, “…this twisting book amply rewards readers.”

She has also contributed to the anthology, Fifteen Candles: 15 Tales of Taffeta, Hairspray, Drunk Uncles, and Other QuinceaƱera Stories. Her newest young adult novel, When the Stars Go Blue, is a contemporary retelling of Bizet’s Carmen, and will be released by Thomas Dunne Books in November 2010. Booklist calls it, “Beautifully written, with contemporary characters and an engaging story line.”

And a quick interview with Caridad:

Can you tell me about your book in seven words or less?
Dance, music, intensity, passion, and betrayal.

Other than your main character, who's a favorite character of yours in your novel and why?
Oh boy, it's kind of a toss-up between Mamacita, Soledad's Tarot card-reading grandmother and Raj, who becomes Soledad's best friend over the course of the story. In their own way, they're both perceptive, outrageous, and tell it like it is.

What's one piece of writing advice you would give to aspiring authors?
Don't believe that selling "fixes" everything. New challenges present themselves along the route and there's always something new to learn.

What did you write when you were a teen? Did you journal? Write poetry? Write overly literary or emotional stories? Or avoid writing altogether?
I wrote stories in my journal and also told myself stories in my head during long bus rides or car rides. I always had a very romantic streak, so there was always some deep vein of emotion/romantic entanglement, usually involving the girl who never gets noticed finally getting the guy of her dreams. Not that this was based in any sort of personal day dreaming on MY part, no... not at all. *g*

What's the last book you read that you really loved?
I'm almost done with Armistead Maupin's latest, MARYANN IN AUTUMN, which is a lovely coda to his original Tale of the City series. I absolutely LOVE that series, especially the first three books, and he really seems to have returned to form-- it's so lovely to pick back up with these characters, some thirty years after they were first introduced (although I didn't read TALES until about fifteen years ago). What's great and so unique about it, is that the characters have aged in "real time" as it were, so they still feel very fresh and contemporary. They're just old friends with whom you're catching up.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Debut Author on Tour

I've just completed a whole string of book signings. This past Saturday was the last of about seven or eight, and it was an interesting experience that I thought I'd share a little about.

To be quite honest, I went into this "tour" not expecting much, and in fact I didn't refer to it as a tour, even in my own head, for that reason. I'm a debut author, which means if you haven't heard about me online through blog reviews or interviews, you probably haven't heard of me. That, coupled with the many stories I've heard of even well-established authors, who have had very poor showings at book signings, helped to keep my expectations low.

My first experience with signing was at my launch party on September 19th. Prior to that, I'd just done a few drive-by signings at bookstores. I've done about a million of those now, and gotten quite comfortable with it. My launch party was filled with friends and family, which is a great way to break yourself into things. It was hard to think of individual things to sign in everyone's books, and I admit, I didn't do very well in that department. I had a long line up of people waiting to get books signed and I was just too nervous to be creative.

My next signing was in Oklahoma, part of the Encyclo-Media conference, and there I had an opportunity to sign (and speak) with four of my Class of 2k9/2k10 classmates. It's always fun to sign books with other people--you don't notice any lulls because you spend that time chatting. So even if you're not constantly busy signing, the time doesn't drag at all.

I also had one other group signing--a group of five Tenners in Snohomish, Washington. Again, it was so much fun to hang with my author-friends, and this was another speaking event with questions from the audience, and doing it as a group really took the pressure off.

Aside from that, I've done a string of solo signings in different cities within B.C. The bookstore in my hometown reviewed my book for the local paper prior to my signing, which helped get the word out. Also, my made-of-awesome publicist has been sending bag stuffers and posters about my visit in advance to each of the bookstores.

Still, even with great advertising, at one of my signings I didn't sell or sign a single book. It happens. And to be honest, it didn't feel nearly as bad as I thought it would. Thankfully I had a great conversation with the store owner and I'd also brought a friend along with me (this particular signing was quite a drive for me) so the time passed fairly quickly.

This past weekend was a great way to end this little string of signings though. I wasn't expecting much from the tiny town of Mission, B.C., but honestly, it was awesome! First, the manager offered (pretty much insisted) to bring me a gingerbread latte from Starbucks. Yum! I met all the staff, who were super-friendly, and some had already read my book and loved it. My first "customers" at my signing table were some good friends from Romania--yes, I said Romania--and I had no idea they were in town. They heard about my signing through a mutual friend and showed up to surprise me!

After that, there was a steady stream of customers, some who had heard about the signing and came specifically to see me, and some who noticed the sign that said "local author" and decided to give my book a try for that reason.

And if that all wasn't enough? The store manager brought out a stack of advance reader copies of books she had in the back so I had something to thumb through during the dead times--and she even let me snag one at the end!

So all in all it was a great time! To be honest, before Saturday's signing I was feeling a little tired. But the day really rejuvenated me. I really feel fortunate to have experienced such a variety of events early on. I'm sure every event will be different, even from here on in, but I really didn't have much idea of what to expect, so I thought this post might be interesting or useful for others.

I'd love to hear from other authors about their experiences with signings too. Good? Bad? Ugly?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Not Much New Here...

I haven't had the brainpower to blog much this week, but also, there hasn't been a heck of a lot to say. Here are the few things that have been rattling around in my brain:

1. I had a great time getting away and visiting friends this past weekend. I was terribly proud of myself for writing every day, even while I was away from home.

2. I just passed the 43k mark on my NaNo novel. I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and hope to finish up by the end of the weekend.

3. Losing Faith has been named a Best Book of 2010 and be will featured on a number of blogs through December! I'll have more details on this soon, but let me just say I'm flabbergasted and honored I feel to be among many of the other picks.

4. I'm a total fangirl of Elizabeth Scott, so just imagine how thrilled I am to be featured on her blog this week! And there's also a copy of Losing Faith up for grabs there.

5. And I haven't mentioned reviews lately, but Losing Faith has been getting a ton of great reviews (I'm still pinching myself!) Here's one of the latest at Book Labyrinth.

Happy weekend, everybody!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Why Backstory is The Bomb

You hear it from agents, you hear it from editors: Cut the backstory. Cut, cut, cut! And okay, that might be true for the first fifty pages of your manuscript, or most certainly for the first twenty-five, and here’s why: We want to bring the readers into the midst of our stories and get them immediately involved. We don’t want them watching from the sidelines as we meander around looking for what our stories actually are.

But here’s the thing. Just because we don’t want that backstory up front, doesn’t mean we don’t need it at all. It doesn’t mean that we can vaguely imagine a few scenarios of what could have been the history of our characters. We have to know. And for that, in most cases, we have to write it. We really have to nail it down, and for each character, not just our main ones.

I’m finding more and more when I read a great book, this is what I love about it. I can feel each character’s history, even if it isn’t spelled out before me. I’m still learning on how to make this happen, but now I think that the less screen time you want a character to have, the more you need to know their backstory. Why? Because they have very few words and scenes to convey their worldview. And it’s not that we need to know their entire worldview, but we at least have to sense what kind of person they are. We need to *get* every single character, otherwise, why have them in the book at all?

There’s an ongoing discussion about parents in YA. Many editors don’t want a lot of scene time with the parents because teens may not be as drawn to reading about them. Some people suggest that killing the parents off, or removing them completely from the picture somehow can be lazy writing. I don’t have a fixed opinion on those things either way, but I will say this: if you have a good handle on the parents’ backstory—if you know exactly how they’ve spent their lives, what their high school existence was like, why they have the ticks they do—that can come across and be meaningful to your plot without actually seeing these things play out in scenes.

My biggest problem lately in my NaNoWriMo manuscript has been with the parents. I kept feeling the need to bring them into the story more and more, because their story really does affect the plot. But what I’m beginning to see is that I’m really just bumbling around with them and still trying to find out their story for myself. The more background I can find out about them, the less I actually have to show in the foreground. But it has to be done really well and exactly to keep them concise. And at this stage it can take a lot of bumbling to get to the stuff I need!

So this is the lesson I’ve been learning this last week: don’t hate the backstory. Enjoy exploring it. Write plenty of it down, and then convey weeks or months or years of a character’s experience in one simple sentence of dialogue. It really is an art, but an art that I’m excited to keep learning!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thursday Stuff

You know I'm getting burnt out when I can't come up with a better blog title than that!

1. Today is Remembrance Day in Canada. Veteran's Day in the U.S., I believe. This is also the day after my son's birthday, which usually means Party Day at our house, while kids are out of school. It's easy to forget the significance of the day with everything going on, but I'm taking a few minutes right now (or right after I finish this blog post) to be thankful for the freedom I enjoy in Canada.

2. I'm off to Penticton and Kelowna this weekend. I'll be signing books at Hooked on Books in Penticton this Saturday from 1-3, and then I'll be driving an hour or so to hang out with some good friends I don't get a chance to see very often, including my critique partner and long time friend, Elle Strauss. I'm very excited!

3. I have been making steady progress with my NaNoWriMo novel and hit the halfway mark of 25,000 words yesterday. Then I had lots of chocolate birthday cake to celebrate. I know this novel will need a lot of work, but I'm really excited about a scene I just wrote the other day. One of my favorite scenes ever. And it involves kissing. That's all I can tell you ;)

4. Oh, and if I haven't been doing enough this month, between NaNo and birthday parties, and homeschool end of term reports...I decided to learn how to write a screenplay this month too. I've been wanting to do this for a long time, and one evening when I had a sudden unexpected block of free time, I just started reading up on it and attempting to convert one of my novels to screenplay. I'm having a lot of fun with this, but who knows when my next block of free time will be.

That's about it for me for this week. I'm off to stuff goody-bags for a party full of seven-year-olds and pack for Penticton! Happy weekend, everyone!

Monday, November 8, 2010

In Vancouver? A Celebration of New Works!

It seems I never remember to mention things until they're right upon me. Tomorrow I will be at this:

I'm really looking forward to it! KidsBooks will have copies of Losing Faith for sale and I'll be there happily signing copies for whoever wishes. I'll also have bookmarks, discussion guides, and other goodies. Plus Sarah Ellis will be speaking! And...I didn't miss the word delectables in there, did you? 

Hope to see you there!

#Nanowrimo Update: Beginnings, Middles, and Endings

One thing I'm finding while writing through Nanowrimo is that all the major structural flaws are suddenly very obvious.

Beginnings: I know through my first six chapters that I have not nailed the beginning. I've heard one suggestion before: to flip the first and second chapter, or at least to put the second chapter first and build chapter one in as backstory later. And this would probably help. But that will be a problem to solve during revisions. I think my "right" beginning is in those first six chapters somewhere, so that is good news. But I'm amazed at how obvious it is when you write quickly that what you have probably is not quite "right". But you do it anyway.

Middles: Have you ever heard the term "The Sagging Middle"? I'd like to find one Nanowrimo writer who does not know what I'm talking about. Just one. But writing through that sagging middle, pushing ourselves to keep going even when it feels like it's one monotonous, never-ending death sentence for our books...and eventually finding the excitement again: that's what makes us real champions.

Endings: Do you ever feel like ALL you can think about is the damn ending? When will I get there? It's going to be great, right? It HAS to be great after all this.

Yes, I'm not even 20k into my story and all I can think about is the ending. Pretty sad, isn't it? But that's just today. Tomorrow will be better. How's Nano going for everyone else?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

#NaNoWriMo Update: Expletives Galore!

First of all, I have to apologize to friends and family. One thing I did not get around to before midnight on October 31st was emailing all of you and warning you that I would be pretty much falling off the face of the earth for a month. Again. But I'm hoping most of you know me well enough to expect this yearly snub and forgive me for it. I hope. Pretty please.

As for NaNo, things are going swimmingly. They didn't start out that way however. On the 31st, just before bed I went online to quickly check my email, and what did I find? My email program wasn't working! Not only that, but apparently ALL of my office programs were due to expire at midnight.


So I spent a few hours into the night trying to figure things out, to no avail. In the morning, I woke up early, pretty much sleepless, and very, very frustrated. I started to work on my brand new novel Notepad. Ugh. Have you ever tried to use Notepad for more than a paragraph? I say it again. Ugh.

So you won't blame me, I'm sure, for starting my manuscript with a word starting with "F". (I'm serious). But the funny thing is, aside from my anger, frustration, and generally just plain pissy attitude, soon I was sailing into my new manuscript and actually having fun with it. Because the character whose point of view I'm writing in this time is very different from all the others I've written (Tessa from Losing Faith, in case you're interested) I've found that using an expletive or two (or eight or nine) helps break my pattern and get me into the voice of Tessa right away. I don't talk like this in real life. I mean, I"m not Hannah Moskowitz (LOL, kidding, Hannah!), so it breaks me away from what feels like my default writing voice.  I think (or hope) many of these will be removed in later drafts. But who knows!

For now, I'm starting each day's writing with a &%$#* or a #&@*! and it seems to be working well! But Tessa is more that just a head full of swear words and I'm slowly finding more and more about her.

Any interesting tricks you've learned to get your head into your character?

FYI - I did get my Office programs up and running again (Thanks, Duane) and I'm feeling much less like I need to use that vocabulary - now it's purely Tessa! Oh, and check out my fancy new NaNoWriMo widget on the right sidebar of my Blogger blog! I'm very excited to pass the 10k mark, hopefully today!!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

GCC Presents Daisy Whitney and The Mockingbirds!

Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way--the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.

In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone--especially yourself--you fight for it.

Author Daisy Whitney is touring the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit this week, and I'm thrilled to have her here to answer a few questions. The Mockingbirds comes out in stores this month!

Welcome, Daisy! Can you tell me about your book in seven words or less.
THE MOCKINGBIRDS — underground, student-run justice system.

Other than your main character, who's a favorite character of yours in your novel and why?
I love Martin! He’s one of the Mockingbirds and a love interest in the story. I love him because I think he is everything a guy could be - funny, honest, brave, strong.

What's one piece of writing advice you would give to aspiring authors?
Write every day and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it because with hard work and talent dreams have a funny way of coming true.

What did you write when you were a teen? Did you journal? Write poetry? Write overly literary or emotional stories? Or avoid writing altogether?
I wrote very bad journals all of which I have destroyed!

What's the last book you read that you really loved?
I just read WHERE SHE WENT by Gayle Forman (April 2011) and it’s amazing. I am also crazy about ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Steph Perkins (December 2).

Great! Thanks for stopping by, Daisy!

If you'd like to find out more about The Mockingbirds, coming from Little Brown in November, 2010, check out these links:

Some schools have honor codes. Others have handbooks. Themis Academy has THE MOCKINGBIRDS.

THE MOCKINGBIRDS | A young adult novel by Daisy Whitney | November 2010 | Little, Brown

Monday, November 1, 2010


I got my sorry butt out of bed early today to start on NaNo. One day down, twenty-nine to go!

I don't want to forget to mention that my book is touring again. I didn't mean to have the GCC tours so close together, but that's just the way it worked out. So I really hope you're not getting sick of me! Here's some more tour stops where you can find out more about me and Losing Faith:

Monday, November 1: Angela at Reading Angel (Review)
Tuesday, November 2: Angela at Reading Angel (Playlist)

Wednesday, November 3: Corrine at Lost for Words (Review)
Thursday, November 4: Corrine at Lost for Words (Interview)

Friday, November 5: Sam at Read Sam Read (Review)
Saturday, November 6: Sam at Read Sam Read
(Guest Post)

Sunday, November 7: Anne at Potter, Percy and I (Review)
Monday, November 8: Anne at Potter, Percy and I (Guest Post)

Tuesday, November 9: Kelsey at The Book Scout (Review)
Wednesday, November 10: Kelsey at The Book Scout (Interview & Giveaway)

Thanks so much for the Teen Book Scene for hosting me! 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

NaNo Prep!

As I've mentioned, I will be writing for NaNoWriMo again this year, my fourth year in a row. I'm very excited, but also a little terrified (I get this way every year, and try to keep telling myself how normal it is.) If you want to track me down on the NaNo site ( I'm on there under denisej

Tuesday I received a pretty cool email from a reporter at They wanted to interview me about NaNo and my successes and process. Well, I did the interview, and now I'm feeling extra-committed (which means...extra-terrified!)

I've been working on a loose outline for this book, and as I've been brainstorming, I've come up with a few preparation tips that have helped me and I hope they'll help you too. Feel free to take these and share them around if you like any of them. After all, we're in this together, right?

1. Brainstorm story ideas. You may have already done this. Or you may be thinking that a brilliant idea will just come to you on November first. I'm of the opinion that you should at least start with a seed of an idea. If you don't have any ideas yet, think of some of your favorite moments of conflict in some of your favorite movies or books. What did you love about that conflict? Was it romantic tension? A power struggle? A loud screaming match of a climax? Or a smart character that talks their way out of a situation with smart-talk? There are a zillion other things it could be too, but the plan is to think of what you like and why you like it. You don't want to be stuck writing fifty thousand words about something you don't even like!

When you read the paper or watch a movie, or even when you're just talking to a friend, allow your mind to ask "what if" questions. Start with what you hear or see or read, and let your mind go to..."what if it went this way..." Those can make great story ideas.

2. Brainstorm character names. This, for me, is the fun part. Pick up a baby name book from the library and look up the meanings of some names. That can help you if you just don't know where to start with characters.

3. Once you've settled on one or two characters, try journaling as them, just to get their voice. This will (probably) not be anything that will make it to the novel, but just fun stuff to get to know them.  Here's some thoughts to get you started:

As your character -

- Write five statements starting with, "I remember..."
- Write five statements that start with, "I want..."
- Write five statements that start with, "I cant wait until..."

Think you know your characters now? Great! Here's a little character interview I do with my characters when I'm so sure I know them (and I'm usually totally wrong!)

Character Interview:

The Basics

Full Name:
Male or Female:


Strong or weak:
Outgoing or shy:
Short or tall:
Detailed physical description:

Go a little deeper:

How does my character feel about him or herself? Will this be different at the beginning of my book than at the end?

How does my character feel about their father?
Their mother?

Does my character have any pets?
How do they feel about their pets?

What does my character want most in the world?

What do they hope to avoid, above all else?

What are five adjectives that would describe my character?

What does my character do with their spare time?
Do they have any hobbies?

Does my character have special talents?

Where does my character fall on the intelligence scale?
Where do they think they fall on the intelligence scale?

What was my character’s most embarrassing moment?
Most proud moment?
Most hurtful moment?

What is my character’s favorite movie?
What’s their favorite music?

Does my character have any bad habits?
Any habits that annoy others?

Who’s their best friend?
Their worst enemy?

What’s their dream job?
Their dream vacation?

Not so hard, right? Well, it is for me. Every time. But it's good to spend time thinking about our characters. I'm definitely more driven by my characters and knowledge of them (as you can probably tell) while I know others are driven more by plot. I'd be interested to see if anyone has more plot-based jump-starting tips for NaNo.

I'll leave you with one more character/voice exercise that I love to do:
Come up with a wise-ass/or smart/or unique reply in your character's voice to these statements:

Someone tells them, "You don't belong here."
Or someone tells them to, "Get a life."

And finally, figure out how your character would take a compliment. Say someone tells them, "Wow, you're gorgeous." or "Wow, you're so talented!" or "Wow, you're so smart." Don't just let them be shy - make them speak to these things!

I'd love to hear if any of these things work for you or don't, or if you have other favorite tips to get into your stories and characters' heads! 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Meet FIVE of @TheTenners This Weekend!

Don't know who The Tenners are? We are a force of 2010 debut authors, over ninety of us in all! Five of us will be coming together at:

Snohomish, Washington
Saturday, October 30th, for a 3:00 p.m. signing

The five 2010 debut authors are: 
Karen Kincy, author of OTHER
Mindi Scott, author of FREEFALL
Kimberley Derting, author of THE BODY FINDER
Chelsea Campbell, author of THE RISE OF RENEGADE X
and me, Denise Jaden, author of LOSING FAITH

There really is something for everyone! If you're in the Washington area, I hope you'll come out and say hello. It's rare that authors are organized enough to set up group signings like this (thanks Karen!) and I'm sure it will be a ton of fun.

I'm still working on putting together some Nano Prep Tips, and I should be back with those either tomorrow or Friday.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Teen Author Tuesday Presents Cindy Callaghan and Just Add Magic Giveaway!

Read to the bottom to find out how you can win a copy of Cindy Callaghan's JUST ADD MAGIC!

Today I get the pleasure of welcoming another fellow Tenner, Cindy Callaghan! Cindy's debut novel, JUST ADD MAGIC was just released on October 10th from Simon & Schuster’s Aladdin Mix. It's middle-grade fiction, for ages 8-13.

Welcome, Cindy. Can you tell me about your book in seven words or less.
Cookbooks, annoying little brothers, mean girls, good friends, magic!, soccer, chili, recipes, cute boys…Sorry, eight words, but I couldn’t leave out the cute boys.

Sounds great! Other than your main character, who's a favorite character of yours in your debut novel and why?
Darbie is a wonderful secondary character who upon first-glimpse is the most immature of her gang because she is mis-matched, clumsy, hungry, ignorant to boys, and just plain silly. But, the more I got to know her and the more I think about her, I actually think she is the most self-confident. She doesn’t have to put on “shows” for anyone. She just likes being herself!

Can you tell my readers a little about yourself?
I could talk about myself all day…I won’t, but I’m just saying. First I am a mom. Being with my kids is and the most important thing to me. Luckily they like my writing, so it’s a great second-job (I say “second” job because I have a regular corporate job too) because they can be involved in it, and they really enjoy it. I am also the busiest person in the world. I have to be extremely well-organized and multi-task a lot to get everything done. And because I am so frantically busy most of the time, I am also the sleepiest person you’ll ever meet. I can sleep anywhere, anytime. 

What's been the most surprising thing about your path to publication so far?
How much everyone cares about it. I’m touched by how interested people are in by writing and publication. People have so many questions and they’re so excited. Everyone is willing to help from friends delivering bookmarks to another jazzing up my school presentation for me. 

What's one piece of writing advice you would give to aspiring authors?
On this I quote the great Greco-Roman philosopher, Nike. JUST DO IT!

Are you swept up with promotion for your debut book right now or can you give us a sentence or two about something new you're working on?
Promotion has been huge, you’re right. But, I am excited about my newest project: THE HAUNTING OF SYDNEY MCKENZIE. Like JUST ADD MAGIC, it’s a middle-grade fiction. In seven words, it’s California-Delaware, spooky, hot-chocolate, ghosts, not-fitting-in, Ouija-boards, and cute boys. I’d love to say more, but I don’t want to jinx anything. 

Gotta have them cute boys! It sounds great, Cindy. What did you write when you were a teen? Did you journal? Write poetry? Write overly literary or emotional stories? Or avoid writing altogether?
All of the above.

What's the last book you read that you really loved?
I loved Lindsay Leavitt’s Princess For Hire.

If readers want to find out more about you and your writing, where should they look?

Thanks so much for visiting today, Cindy, and all the very best with your debut novel!

And for my readers, since I'm so enamored by Cindy's abundance of cute boys in her novels, let's do this... if you'd like to win a copy of JUST ADD MAGIC tell me the name and book of one swoon-worthy cute fictional boy. Open to U.S. and Canada only, ages 13 and older.

Good luck!

Monday, October 25, 2010

#SIWC2010 Notes - 3

This is my third and final set of notes from the Surrey International Writer's Conference. All my other notes I took by hand, and don't have time to transcribe at the moment. But I must say, these are some of the best notes from the conference anyway.

I don't recall what this workshop was called, but it was by the fabulous James Scott Bell and basically outlined his revision process. If you're looking for a good book on craft, specifically on plot and structure, James Scott Bell is your guy. He has a real gift in teaching this area, and I know he has at least a couple of books out on craft.

Here are a few interesting points from his workshop:

Push limits in your first draft.
Revise previous days pages and then move forward.
At the 25k mark, check – are all the elements in the plot engine working? Are all those things solid, because need to be ready to push on for rest of novel.

First Read Through:
First – cool off. Put it away, don’t think about it for at least two weeks.
Print out a hard copy.
Intention is to come back to it as a reader.
He prepares a cover for his book. He wants it to be like a real reading experience.
He has fun – gives himself a blurb on the cover - LOL.
Read like a reader – resist the inclination of stopping to take notes – minimal notes.
James uses 4 main symbols:
Check mark – story is dragging
Parenthesis – incomprehensible sentences
Circle – when stuff needs to be expanded. (fill in the circle)
? – why did I write that? Why is this character doing that? Whatever questions arise.

Systematic Revision Process:
Does the story make sense?
Do the characters act like real people? Would someone really act like that?
Consciously look at story from every character’s POV and get them to make the best decisions that they can for them. Every character must have an agenda.
Are the stakes high enough?
Can the problem have a higher reach?
Does the main character jump off the page?  Needs to be different when they first appear. Plots have all been done, but characters haven't.
Ray Bradbury likes to give every character an obsession.
No wimps! We want active characters.
Use the voice journal – write as fast as you can, trying to get the subconscious mind going.
Inner conflict is one of the great keys. No one should be absolutely sure about what they’re doing.
Hitchcock’s Axiom – a great story is life with the dull parts taken out.
Where is there no conflict, tension, or worry in the characters. Every scene needs to have that feeling.
Is there enough of a worry factor?
At what point could an editor put my book aside and decide not to come back to it? Consider cutting that part.
Raymond Chandler’s advice – bring in a guy with a gun.

Write a summary – 2000-3000 words about your story, not of what it is, but of what it could be.
Do this more than once. Keep working on it over a couple of weeks or more. Keep making the premise and structure stronger.
Change what you need in order to make the story more compelling. Next draft gets done according to the new summary.

Major areas to watch for;
Weak opposition – does you opposition have the power to kill your lead? Crush your lead’s professional pursuits? Crush your lead’s spirit? Opposition needs to be stronger than your lead character.
Slow openings – happy people in happy land. Need some kind of disturbance or ripple. That’s when your story begins.
Too much backstory – you think the reader needs to understand. But readers will wait a long time to understand as long as the disturbance is engaging. Pepper in a little bit of backstory to help bond the reader with the main character. Koontz and King do this well.
Don’t open with weather and dreams.
Characters alone with their feelings. Need to see characters interacting, something happening. (ex. A woman’s husband has just left. Don’t care because we don’t know her. Even if it's just her being served divorce paper’s, at least it’s interaction so we can feel more for her.) Need to see a character doing something and talking. Dialogue helps us know the character quicker. This also forces you to write a more active scene.
So much dialogue is not done well, so show early on that you can do it well.

Chapter 2 switcheroo. Start with second chapter instead, because that’s often where things kick in a bit more. Withhold info from chapter one and pepper it in.
Start deeper. Can you start your scene further in? Check this with every scene.
Action scene – viewpoint character has an agenda and is being opposed. Action or reaction?
What each character wants in every scene, and how are they being opposed? At least one character in every scene must have this.
If the character’s not worried about something, the reader won’t be either.
Action/ Emotion mirror – impending doom – lots of emotion there.
Dialogue – fastest way to improve a manuscript. A compression or extension of action. If characters are saying something, it’s because they want something or are resisting something. Flows from one character to another without extra explanation. Cut boring dialogue. Need tension always.
Great dialogue begins with orchestration – are they all different so there’s potential for conflict? Do they all sound different?
3 acts – 1 memorable line of dialogue in each to elevate it for the reader.
Write out a vanilla line and then play with it.
Use silence and action responses, not always dialogue.

End of revision process – what is a possible theme? – how to find – imagine character 20 years later. Why did they have to go through the story – ask them. What would character say. Have the character make an argument about that very lesson early in the story.
Wizard of Oz – says to Toto she wants to get away from home. Ends with no place like home.
Polish – concentrate on scene openings and endings. Sometimes you can turn around the descriptive passages at beginning – move description later.
Chapter endings – try cutting last paragraph, see if it works. Don’t write scenes to their full logical completion.
Compress dialogue. Final pass through dialogue, cut entire lines, words within, put in silences. Gives a real sense of tightening.
Dial up or down 25% - try to overwrite emotion, you can always bring it down later.

See, amazing, right? The more I learn, the more I realize I need to learn. I hope you got something out of this, and if so, I'd love to hear what you find most interesting/enlightening here.

I'll be back tomorrow with Teen Author Tuesday, and then later in the week with some NaNo Prep Tips!