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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!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

#SIWC2010 Notes - 2

I chose some great workshops yesterday! Unfortunately, the Internet has been dicey, so it's been difficult to get any notes up and posted. I didn't make it to the social media workshop yesterday, but I heard that they put twitter up on the overhead projector. While exploring hashtags, they looked up #siwc2010 (by the way, if you haven't been watching this hashtag, you should! Lots of interesting little bits from the conference there.) Anyway, while looking up #siwc2010, my blog post happened to have been the latest tweet up on the screen, and KC Dyer clicked on the link to my blog! I'm very sad that I missed out on seeing this, but not completely sad, because I was at another AWESOME workshop.

What’s So Funny?
by Senior vice-president of theatrical production at MGM, Luke Ryan!

Too cool, right? Luke started as a screenwriter, so he had plenty of insight on the writing, and some wonderfully funny things to say about humor. I don't want to give away all of his notes here, but I'll pass along a few highlights. If you ever get the opportunity to hear him speak, I highly recommend it!

Out of the top 50 movies of all time, only 6 were comedies. It costs much less to make comedy than action/fantasy/adventure.

Luke asked the group in the workshop what’s funny to them, and this is what they came up with: the unexpected, slapstick, sarcasm, black humor- making fun of something nobody would normally make fun of. The joke you can feel coming, exaggerated personalities, absurdity.

But Luke brought it down to three main points:
1.    Pain
2.    Awkwardness
3.    Discomfort

Develop character we care about and then beat the snot out of them. (One of my favorite lines of the class!)

It's easy to have a good comedy idea, hard to come up with good comic writing.

Two types of Diminishment
1.    Physical – bathroom humor, bonked on head humor, can’t control himself
2.    Emotional- over-reactive/under-reactive – character responds with more or less emotion than expected. Witty banter/dialogue.

Everybody loves it when a fat guy falls down. Jim Carrey.
Over-reactive – Will Ferrell, Chris Farley.
Under-reactive  - Bob Newhart, Chevy Chase
Bill Murray/Steve Martin – can do both.
2 or more people – usually one over and one under reactive.
Beat - unit of narrative measurement that expresses a specific idea or action
Single beat jokes – no set up, and seldom very effective. Incidental comedy.
Two-beat jokes – set up to prepare jokes, follows with a payoff. The beats can come right next to each other or separated.
Resonance – like two old friends that show a joke over time.
Multi-beat jokes – still starts with a set-up, ends with a payoff but inserts anticipation beats in between to heighten interest and add information. Rule of 3.
The longer of setup and anticipation beats, the greater the payoff.

Make a comedic spine to run over the course of the movie.

Luke also gave us 21 things that are always funny. Here are a few highlights:
1.    I’m not going to… - character swears he won’t do something, cut to where he does.
2.    Physical comedy – head bonks, contorting in impossible way, falling down, impossible physical challenges. He showed a clip/montage from Dumb and Dumber – tongue stuck to pole in winter, carrot on snowman, throwing snowball too hard, tackle girl he likes. Over-reactive comedy.
5.    Gross-out Humor – bodily functions and secretions. Always have to outdo last, but can’t go too far. Comic suspense starts in Dumb and Dumber scene when Lloyd Christmas gives Harry Turbo-Lax. Then we wait for the payoff. Waiting to laugh. We don’t see what’s so gross (that would be too much). Embarrassment sets in when he cracks the window, Invasion of Privacy when Mary knocks.
10.    Doing exactly what he’s told (instead of the implied).
11.    Playing To/ Playing against – well-known stereotypes. Race or gender things work well here.
13.    Comic Reveal – reveals a hidden truth to audience that character doesn’t know.
16.    Defining the Underdog – we find humor in what’s expected and what they’ll actually be able to do. (My Cousin Vinnie – unskilled lawyer, failed Bar 6 times, needs to get them out of jail).
19.    Vulgarity
20.    Comic Repetition – use it until it’s not funny anymore, then digging it up and using it to a greater degree until it’s funny again.
21.    Obsessive Drive – can’t control himself and tries everything to complete goal, may actually bring him further from his goal.

I hope that's helpful! Do you have any favorite types of comedy or favorite comic movies? What about comic novels? I've been reading AUDREY WAIT! by Robin Benway, and it's hilarious! It's a nice change of pace to be reading something funny after a lot of darker reads. I'd love to hear if you have any recommendations!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

#SIWC2010 Notes - 1

I decided to attempt taking my notes in an open blog post today. These are by no means comprehensive, but hopefully will give an overview. I'll be typing quickly, so forgive me for what will likely be many, many typos, and bits that don't make sense. But if you're a write who wishes they could be at a conference learning about craft, you might get something out of this...

Creating Characters That Jump Off the Page by James Scott Bell

Favorite books and movies of class members: Pay it Forward, To Kill a Mockingbird, Tombstone, Matrix, Quiet Man, Crash.

Interaction between two main characters (Quiet Man). So many levels, but all about characters with intersections (Crash).

We connect our stories through characters.

Showed scene from Casablanca. (Characters drawn in subtle tones that have a real meaning in the film). Rick is not intimidated and won't be pushed around. He uses humor as evasion. He was subtlely challenging. Defiant. He had attitude.

Lead characters must have attitude. Memorable. Dynamic. Different.

The key to originality of stories is the characters you put into those stories.

Plot without character is like action without engagement.

Great characters without plot = a relative that overstays their welcome.

Plot = the record of how a character deals with death (physical, professional, or psychological). What event can you bring in that would immediately make your character deal with one of those deaths. Stakes need to matter to the character for a reader to get involved.

True character revealed only in crisis.

Main character - reader must want them to succeed.

Anti-hero - doesn't care about the world around him (Rick in Casablanca). May have been cast out of society. Gets dragged into controversy. By the end, they either must be redeemed or go back into isolation.

Character creation:
Step 1 - Need to know 2 things - Noun of vocation and an adjective of manner. Adjective goes first.
ex. - clumsy waitress

Step 2 - voice journal - write in the character's voice. Prompt with questions. Begin sentences with, "I remember..." Don't be wedded to any one thing as you write. Get their distinctive voice.

You want to get away from the rational to find characters that jump off the page.

Step 3 - need a visual - clip pictures, or in your mind. James uses Google Images. Put the pictures in a circle and then look for relationships between these people.

This is how he sets his cast list.

Deepening your characters:
Great characters who jump off the page start inside YOU. You have to feel the characters to make them memorable.

Step 1 - Make a list of nouns from your past. The smoke. The fire. The carnival. etc.Words that talk to your subconscious. Something you remember that moves you.

Stetp 2 - Make a list of passions - things that make you mad, sad, or glad. Translate them over to your lead characters, not so much in story, but in emotion.

Step 3 - Get physical. When you write about characters, try to find a physical positioning that enables you to feel what the character is feeling. Do this for every character. Move your hands and face so that it's more than just in your head. You want to be emotional when you write your scenes.

Opposite Exercise - think of a scene of high intensity involving your main character. Take that scene and now imagine if your character did the exact opposite of what they're doing now.

Outside the book exercise - imagine a scene not in your book at a social gathering. Someone that person trusts walks up and throws a drink in your character's face. How does that play out?

What would make your character throw a chair out the window.

Find false self vs. true self - from mask to authenticity. Character will have a moment of self-realization (the face of my enemy). 

If a novel doesn't grab a reader, for some reason that lead character introduction doesn't grab them/is not strong enough/motivations are not clear enough.

Let me know what you think! Do you agree with any of these points? Disagree? Find anything really interesting or revelatory?


GCC Tour Stops

I'm having a great time at the Surrey International Writer's Conference! I'll be back next week with an update, but in the meantime, Girlfriend's Cyber Circuit has been touring me, and I'm so excited about all the great girlfriends who have been hosting me the last few days: (interview + giveaway) (interview) (interview + giveaway) (interview) (giveaway) (interview) (interview) (interview) (interview and giveaway) (interview) (interview and giveaway)

If you have the time, there are some very fun and unique questions in some of these interviews. And of course lots of fresh chances to win a copy of Losing Faith! Unless otherwise stated, all contests are for U.S. only, as my publisher is providing the copies.

GCC Tour Stops

I'm having a great time at the Surrey International Writer's Conference! I'll be back next week with an update, but in the meantime, Girlfriend's Cyber Circuit has been touring me, and I'm so excited about all the great girlfriends who have been hosting me the last few days: (interview + giveaway) (interview) (interview + giveaway) (interview)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Girl in the Jean Jacket

Apparently my jean jacket has become somewhat iconic.

Last week when I traveled to Oklahoma, I was lucky enough to meet up with some great authors. There was one author in particular I was excited about meeting because I had followed her online for quite some time. I recognized her right away because of her brilliant smile, but when I went up to introduce myself, she said, “Oh, I know you. You’re the girl in the jean jacket.” Or something to that effect.

"Wh—what? Me! You know me?" I said, like the exceptionally well-spoken person that I am.

What she was referring to was my author photo, which apparently has gone before me!

It’s really, REALLY cool as a debut author whose book has JUST come out, when someone actually recognizes you. For any reason.

Then, just the other day I answered my cell phone to a reporter from a local newspaper. Her first question? “Can you send me that picture of you in the jean jacket?” We went on to have a lovely conversation about writing. But it all started with the jean jacket. And the above picture ended up in a full-page spread of my local newspaper!

So this is what I’m thinking…even if I don’t go on to make a good living with my writing, even if I can't come up with another single story idea or interesting set of characters... if I can get enough buzz going on for this jean jacket, maybe I can make my fortune on eBay! LOL.

All this is to say…I’m off to the Surrey International Writers Conference this weekend, because I actually do want to continue on in this writing business and improve my craft, (so excited!) and even though I may not normally dress down quite this much, I AM planning to bring the famed jean jacket so HOPEFULLY people will recognize me (and it would totally make my weekend if someone did, so please come up and say hi.) Wow, that was an awfully long run-on sentence! Good thing I'm going away to improve my craft! Anyway, I may not wear the jacket all weekend, but I’ll try to keep it on for Friday at least.

And if you spot me but can’t remember my name, or what I write, or anything else about me, just feel free to call out, “hey, you! Girl in the jean jacket!” And I'll know exactly who you mean.

Also, I am HORRIBLE with names. So if we’ve met before, please remind me. I don’t mean to be a dork about this. Honestly. But it happens when your brain gets burnt out from outlining and revising and homeschooling.

I’m so excited! If you’ll be at SIWC, tell me – what iconic piece of clothing might you be wearing???

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Winner of Lauren Strasnick's HER AND ME AND YOU!

A couple of weeks ago, I had Lauren Strasnick as a guest on the blog, and her fabulous publisher (who also happens to be my publisher) kindly offered to give away a copy of HER AND ME AND YOU.

So I have drawn a name, and the person I am most jealous of today is...

Marissa from Adventures in Children's Publishing!

Marissa, if you'd like to send me your mailing address at d (at) denisejaden (dot) com, I'll make sure to get it where it needs to go in order to get you your book!

Congratulations Marissa, and thanks to everyone else who entered!

Also...this is my week being featured on the Girlfriend's Cyber Circuit! There are a few copies of Losing Faith to be won, and also a few fresh interviews popping up with yours truly. Here are the links of the first few stops, and I'll be back as more show up. I hope you'll drop by some of them and comment!

Interview with Debbie Rigaud:

Interview with Daisy Whitney:

Lauren Strasnick’s blog has featured the Losing Faith book trailer and is hosting a giveaway for Losing Faith: 

Interview with Sara Hantz:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Teen Author Tuesday Presents Penny Noyce!

Today I'm thrilled to welcome one of my critique partners who I met through Critique Circle.

Penny Noyce is the author of LOST IN LEXICON: AN ADVENTURE IN WORDS AND NUMBERS, which was just released Oct. 1st from Tumblehome Press. It's a middle grade fantasy for ages 9-12.

Welcome Penny! Can you tell me about your book in seven words or less?

cousins, adventure, magical, quest, friendship, danger, imagination

Great! Other than your main character, who's a favorite character of yours in the novel and why?

Emily the thesaurus is a small alpaca-like creature who whispers needed words to her chosen humans.  She is soft, shy, loyal, and she often seems uncannily perceptive.

Can you tell my readers a little bit about yourself?

Autumn is my favorite season - a burst of color we treasure because it's fleeting.  My most exciting travel experiences have been visiting Machu Picchu, helicopter skiing in the Canadian Rockies, and horseback riding in the Okavango Delta.

Sounds like you've had an exciting life! What's been the most surprising thing about your path to publication so far?

I've been surprised by how much adults enjoy this children's book. They feel an echo of books they loved in their own childhood.

That's great! What's one piece of writing advice you would give to aspiring authors?

Write your book for a specific audience, preferably someone you love.  That way you'll make it the best you possibly can, and you know you'll have an audience that appreciates 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?

I'm finishing up book two in the Lexicon series, which touches on music, and I'm working on a YA book about a young flute player finding the courage to face his sister's abductors, slavery, and his family's past.

They both sound great! What did you write when you were a teen, Penny? Did you journal? Write poetry?
Write overly literary or emotional stories? Or avoid writing altogether?

I got up in the middle of the night to write poetry.  I wrote passionate journals dissecting my life and the occasional story.

What's the last book you read that you really loved?

I loved The Time Traveler's Wife for its portrayal of the mysteries, heartbreaks, unknowns, and shifting currents of love that lasts a lifetime.

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

My book website:

Thanks so much for stopping by, Penny! And let me leave you all with the book trailer for LOST IN LEXICON:

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Weekend of Events!

Before I forget, time has gotten a way on me a little, but I'm still planning on drawing a winner for a copy of HER AND ME AND YOU by Lauren Strasnick! I'll draw the winner on Wednesday, so if you haven't entered yet, make sure to drop by my interview with Lauren and comment. It'll only take a second.

My signing at Hemingway's on the weekend was fun and successful! Remember, if you didn't make it there and still want to pick up a signed copy of Losing Faith, you can order one through Hemingway's (there's a link on my website) or there's also a list of other upcoming signings. The next one will be at the SIWC Book Fair this coming Saturday. 

Here's a couple pictures of my signing at Hemingway's:

This was getting setup before it all started. Didn't they make a lovely display for me?!

And okay, to be honest, this is just me "pretend signing" before it really got going.

Another highlight of my weekend was Mindi Scott's launch party in Seattle! Mindi and I have been author-buddies, sharing the same imprint, publisher, and publicist, and it's been so great to share the journey with her! Her party was awesome, a huge showing of people, and she completely sold out of books before I could get a copy. But it's okay, because I will be signing with her in two weeks, and as long as she doesn't feel the need to sell out again....

Mindi talked about her book, did a short reading, and the whole evening was very enjoyable. But if that wasn't enough, I was fortunate to meet up with a few of my author-friends, and got to hang with a book blogger (Hi, Sarah!) who is reading my book right now.

Once again, I was a total lame-o and didn't bring my camera, but this shot is courtesy of the fabulous Kimberley Derting. From left to right: Holly Cupala, me!, Mindi Scott (isn't her dress beautiful?!), Kimberley Derting, Karen Kincy, and Mandy Hubbard.
It was a great time and I'm so glad I had the opportunity to go. What did you do this weekend?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Upcoming Events

Tomorrow (Saturday, October 16th) from 1-3 PM, I'll be signing copies of Losing Faith at Hemingway's Books in Abbotsford, B.C. Canada.

Okay, I'll admit, I've had plenty of visions of myself sitting in bookstores all alone, staring at a blank wall (or a wall of books) and wondering exactly how long two hours can last. I'm a debut author, my first book only came out a month ago, which means it will probably take some time for people to hear about me and my book. I have realistic expectations. But I still don't want to be sitting all by myself.

So even if you already have a copy of my book, or even if you're not planning to buy it at all, I hope if you're in the Abbotsford area, you'll stop by to say hi. It would mean a lot to me.

And if you're farther west, the closest signing to Vancouver I have set up at this point is at the Sheraton Guildford Hotel in Surrey, B.C. I'll be at the book fair, part of the Surrey International Writers Conference (you do not have to attend the conference to stop by the book fair. The fair is free and open to the public). This will be on Saturday, October 23rd, from 5:30-7 P.M.

I hope you'll be able to stop by one of these events. I'll have bookmarks and stickers there as well. If you're a regular reader of my blog, please make sure to mention it. I love meeting blog readers, other writers, and of course avid readers.

Hope to see you soon!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wandering Wednesday

Today and tomorrow I'm wandering over to The Contemps site to blog.

Today I'm spotlighting one of my favorite YA mysteries, ALL UNQUIET THINGS by Anna Jarzab.

And tomorrow I'll be sharing a little of my own teen story about losing someone young. I hope you'll drop by!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Teen Author Tuesday Presents Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Want to know what's coming up in Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction? Teen Author Tuesday highlights some of the best up and coming authors!

Today I'm excited to welcome another fellow Tenner, Guadalupe Garcia McCall. Her debut novel, UNDER THE MESQUITE, releases in Fall 2010 from Lee & Low Books. It's a Contemporary Multicultural YA novel.

Welcome, Guadalupe! Can you tell me about your book in seven words or less?
Immigrating, Dreams, Family, Friendship, Loss, Faith, Hope

Those are some serious subjects! I look forward to it. Other than your main character, who's a favorite character of yours in your debut novel and why?

Papi, because he doesn't agree with some of the things that Lupita decides to do but he is ultimately supportive of her (even though it hurts him to be supportive), and that's hard to do as a parent.

Can you share a bit about yourself with my readers?

Under the Mesquite was easy to write...the words just poured out of me, but it was also hard to write because some of it was coming from a very deep place, a place that is still raw with emotion. My work in progress, Six Little Sisters, is like that too...easy but hard. So in a strange way, I feel blessed as a writer.

It's always interesting to hear the story behind the story. Thanks for sharing. What's been the most surprising thing about your path to publication so far?
The most surprising thing has been how very much I have in common with other writers. When I go to the Tenners website, meet other writers, and read/write about our journeys, our writer's angst, we are all alike in many ways.

Amen to that! What's one piece of writing advice you would give to aspiring authors?

I heard it somewhere and it's true...Buttocks in's the only way. It's not going to get itself written. Also, we success only at what we work give it your full attention.

Great advice, Guadalupe. 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?

Right now I am in deep revision of Six Little Sisters. It's the story of 6 girls who are on a personal journey to find something that is missing in their lives. It's a story about love, family, and personal/spiritual growth.

Sounds wonderful! 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've always been a poet. So as a teen, I wrote poetry for my friends, flowery/metaphorical love poems to send to their boyfriends..who probably didn't "get it." But I also scribbled emotional love stories to entertain my friends. It's what was "selling" if you know what I mean. I was writing to the market.

That's great. What's the last book you read that you really loved?

OH MY GOD! I loved The Dark Divine. It was such a fun read... I read it in one day! But right now, I am reading The Red Umbrella and it's very, very good, on a deeper, more substantial level. I better finish soon, because Tortilla Sun is calling my name.

All three of those books are winners, in my opinion - and it's great to hear of so much excitement over Tenner books! If readers want to find out more about you and your writing, where should they look?

Great! Thanks so much for visiting, Guadalupe, and all the very best with your upcoming release!

Monday, October 11, 2010

GCC Presents Linda Gerber and TRANCE!

My next guest on the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit is Linda Gerber. Linda is the author of the popular Death by Bikini, Death by Latte, and Death by Denim as well as two books in the S.A.S.S. series.

Almost everyone has wished that they could take a glimpse into the future—but what if such visions came unbidden, and they only foretold danger? Linda Gerber weaves this idea into a chilling and satisfying young adult novel with TRANCE (Speak; 9780142414156; October 14, 2010; Ages 12 up; $7.99). Perfect for fans of Wake, Gerber’s latest paranormal thriller is a dark but addictive tale of one girl’s curse to unwillingly foresee future tragedies, and the debilitating toll that it takes on her present life—until she realizes that her unwanted power may be more of a gift than a curse.

Welcome, Linda!  Can you tell me about your book in seven words or less?
Trance, romance, suspense and a motorcycle-riding musician. (We’re going to pretend that the hyphenated word counts as one, right?)

Other than your main character, who's a favorite character of yours in your novel and why? 
I came to really like Gina, Ashlyn’s tell-it-like-it-is, free-spirit co-worker. I wish I could be more open and honest, like her.

What's one piece of writing advice you would give to aspiring authors?
I love Diana Gabaldon’s simple “Read. Write. Don’t stop.”
Read all the good books you can get your hands on. Soak it in.
Write every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Even if it’s not easy. Especially when it’s not easy.
Don’t stop. Keep repeating steps one and two. And don’t let discouragement or distractions or TV shows or Internet games get in your way.

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 kept a journal, and I wrote short stories and essays that I never let anyone see.

What's the last book you read that you really loved?
WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson. Wow.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Linda, and all the best with your release of TRANCE! To find out more, check out Linda's website at

Friday, October 8, 2010


I really missed blogging and I only left it for a day! But I'm in Oklahoma City and having an absolute blast!

On the way here, I told someone on the plane that I've always wanted to come to Oklahoma. She looked at me funny. Then I mentioned it to a local author here. She also looked at me funny. I guess I'm strange for having wanted to come here, but I really don't understand why! It's beautiful! And very laid-back for a big city. Plus, the first thing I saw when I got into town was this:

Guess what it's called? The CANADIAN River! I knew I was meant to be here. LOL. And then there's the cool accents and the culture. I mean, you would never see something like this in Vancouver:

The real reason I came to Oklahoma, though, was for this:

A panel at the Encyclomedia Oklahoma school librarians conference with my made-of-awesome Class of 2k9/2k10 mates (from left) Fran Cannon Slayton, Joy Preble, Bonnie Doerr, and Janet Fox. They are all far more experienced speakers than I, but they encouraged me and held my hand through the whole thing, and I think it really went pretty well. The room was full at probably close to 200 people (!) and I actually spoke, several times, without choking on my own spit.

After that, we had signing at Best of Books, which also went great. Many people from our session came to find us there and buy our books, and many of our books sold out!

After the panel and the signing, I was ready to stop my perma-grin for a few minutes and chill in the hotel room for a bit. I walked the skybridge to the hotel and waited for the elevator for what felt like forever. When it finally showed up, it was full of these grubby-looking guys and a mound of luggage. I was tired of waiting, so I asked if they thought there was room for me, just to be polite, because I was ready to make room for myself! One of the guys said in a cool British accent, "I suppose you could perch on one of our suitcases," which seemed like a yes to me, so I squeezed my way in.

Now usually I would expect an elevator full of guys to shift a little and make room for a lady. But they didn't budge. That's the first thing I thought was odd. The second was the dead silence as soon as the elevator doors closed. Being at a librarians conference, and still wearing my name badge, I said, "I'm guessing you guys aren't librarians," just to break the tension. They laughed, and then went on to tell me who they were.

Well! I had gotten myself sequestered in an elevator with the members of MUSE, an alternative rock band from the UK! I had never heard of them (though I didn't actually tell them that) which doesn't mean anything - I haven't heard of a lot of bands - but when I mentioned it on Twitter, apparently EVERYBODY else knows who they are.

So, yes, that was my rock star moment of the week! And for the rest of the trip, I joked with all my author-friends, waving at the tour buses and limos and yelling, "hi guys!" All in good fun. And here's the view from the glass elevator in the gorgeous hotel where the fateful meeting took place:

As you can probably tell, I've had an amazing time. The best part of all has been hanging out with other more experience authors and talking shop. Here's last night's dinner:

It's kinda blurry, but from left is Janet Fox, Bonnie Doerr, me, Fran Cannon Slayton, Cynthea Liu, Joy Preble, and Tammi Sauer. We talked and laughed our heads off at everything from bad author moments to dead pets (don't ask!) I want to thank them all for an awesome time and to Stacy Nyikos, who booked the whole event and then couldn't even be there.

It was a blast! And I'd do it again in a second - especially with this great group of ladies!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

GCC Presents Lauren Strasnick and HER AND ME AND YOU!

Read to the end to find out about the fabulous GIVEAWAY of a copy of HER AND ME AND YOU!

Welcome back to the Girlfriend's Cyber Circuit! My next guest, Lauren Strasnick, is also a new member of GCC, she's one of my Simon Pulse Sisters, AND we share the same fabulous editor. If you haven't read NOTHING LIKE YOU, put it on your TBR list right now - trust me. But I'm here today to tell you about her much-anticipated next novel, one I'm REALLY excited to get my hands on!

First love, broken friendships, and heartache all play a part in this evocative, voice-driven novel about Alex, a girl whose world is ripped apart when her father’s affair splits her family in two. Alex moves with her mess of a mother to a new town, where she is befriended by hot, enigmatic Fred–and alternately flirted with and cold-shouldered by Fred’s twin sister, Adina. Others warn Alex to steer clear of the twins, whose sibling relationship is considered abnormal at best, but there’s just something about Fred–and something about Adina–that draws Alex to them and makes her want to be part of their crazy world, no matter the consequences.

“Strasnick’s slim second offering packs a lot into its short chapters: divorce, broken friendships, crushes, the lines between love and sex and more. Characterization, scenes, dialogue and setting are seamlessly distilled into so few sharp, image-rich phrases that the novel reads almost as if it were written in verse. Less is definitely more here, and readers are plunged into Alex’s physical and emotional world within three to four words. Although the plot moves swiftly, the author’s ability to capture Alex’s inner world in so few words give the novel depth and balance. Complex and thought-provoking.” –Kirkus

I had the opportunity to meet Lauren last year in L.A. (she's super-nice!) and more recently I asked her a few quick questions:

Welcome, Lauren! Can you tell me about your book in seven words or less.

Broken friendship! Thwarted love! Twincest!

Other than your main character, who's a favorite character of yours in your novel and why?
Adina Bishop, the girl twin. She’s manipulative, crazy controlling, anorexic, a drunk, super stylish, and a little in love with her brother.

What's one piece of writing advice you would give to aspiring authors?
Read everything. 

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 a bunch of plays and short stories about vampires. So very ahead of my time. ;)

What's the last book you read that you really loved?
Last book that found an immediate spot on my Favorites list? THE BASIC EIGHT by Daniel Handler.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Lauren! If you'd like to find out more about Lauren Strasnick or her books, you can find it all on her website at

And if you'd like to win yourself a copy of HER AND ME AND YOU, leave a comment below telling me about one of your broken friendships...and if it was ever fixed.

Simon Pulse is generously donating the copy for this giveaway. It's open to US residents only, ages 13 and older. Good luck!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Teen Author Tuesday Presents Mindi Scott!

Teen Author Tuesday is a regular feature, bringing you today's hottest and up-and-coming authors who write for teens.

Today I'm excited to welcome my author-friend and Pulse-sister, Mindi Scott. Mindi and I made the trek toward debut publication together and I have LOVED having her company to chat with about the very windy and emotional road.

Mindi's debut novel, FREEFALL, releases October 5th (today!) from Simon Pulse / Simon & Schuster. It is contemporary YA for ages 14 and up. I had an opportunity to read an advance copy of this book, and let me tell you, it is made of awesome!

Welcome, Mindi! Can you tell me about your book in seven words or less?
Loss, communication, love, and overcoming fears

Other than your main character, who's a favorite character of yours in your debut novel and why?
It's hard to choose only one, but Kendall Eckman was definitely a lot of fun to write. She and the main character, Seth, have a long, rocky history and she has more ways of annoying him than anyone!

Great. Can you tell my readers a bit about yourself? 
At age 22, I developed a fear of the dark after watching the movies DISTURBING BEHAVIOR and THE SIXTH SENSE the same day. Somehow, I cured myself about a year later by watching the first 100 episodes of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.

Ha, that's great! What's been the most surprising thing about your path to publication so far?
Revisions were surprising. I thought I was going to be given a list that said: "Fix this stuff like this." Instead, it was more of a soul-searching process on my part. I was given a lot more freedom than I'd expected.

Interesting. What's one piece of writing advice you would give to aspiring authors?
When you get suggestions from critique partners that you absolutely refuse to implement, take a few days (or more) to consider why your reaction is so strong. Sometimes the feedback that makes writers angry is the stuff that they really know deep, deep down needs to change.

Ah, great advice! 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?
I'm pretty much swept up! I am working on something new, though. Another dark, contemporary YA, this one from a girl's POV.

I'll look forward to it! 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 whatever was required for homework and kept journals from ages 13 to 16 (from which I'm posting excerpts at my website). I was also a letter writer. I always wrote notes in class and during the weekends.

What's the last book you read that you really loved?

I totally agree. Hilarious. If readers want to find out more about you and your writing, where should they look?

 Awesome! (And what a great picture!) Thanks so much for dropping by my blog, Mindi, and all the very best with your release!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Monday Mix

1. I'm packing for Oklahoma! This is my first official "business trip" as an author. I will be speaking on a Class of 2k9/2k10 panel about new voices to a room full of school librarians and then signing books at Best of Books.

2. I also have a number of local events coming up. If you'll be in the B.C. or Washington area over the next couple of months, and one of these stops is convenient for you, I hope you'll stop by to say hi. Here's the full list of where I will be for the next few months:

Oklahoma Encyclomedia
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Thursday, October 8th, 10:45 a.m. - New Voices Panel
Thursday, October 8th, 1 p.m. - Signing - Best of Books (Exhibitor Hall)

Hemingway's Books
Abbotsford, B.C., Canada
Saturday, October 16th, 1:00 p.m. - Signing

Surrey International Writers' Conference
Surrey, B.C., Canada
Saturday, October 23rd, 5:30 p.m. - Signing (Book Fair)

Uppercase Books
Snohomish, Washington
Saturday, October 30th, 3:00 p.m. - Signing
Along with four other 2010 debut authors: Karen Kincy, Mindi Scott,
Kimberley Derting, and Chelsea Campbell

Chilliwack, B.C., Canada
Saturday, November 6th, 1:00 p.m. - Signing

Hooked on Books
Penticton, B.C., Canada
Saturday, November 13th, 1:00 p.m. - Signing

Black Bond Books
Mission, B.C., Canada
Saturday, November 20th, 2:00 p.m. - Signing

I update the main page of my website regularly, so check back for more dates and events at (My website also contains links to all the bookstores if you need more information).

3. I'm blogging over on The Tenners Blog today, with my top ten writing conference tips. I hope you'll drop by.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Contemps Post Oct 14

Losing a Loved One

One question I'm asked quite regularly is whether or not Losing Faith, and the loss of a sister, was based at all on real life. Well, no. Not exactly. But it did have some roots in real life.

When I was sixteen, one of my best friends lived halfway across the country from me in Colorado. I've lived just outside Vancouver for all of my life, and we met when this friend of mine lived in Seattle. Our families were friends and camped together regularly for years. We had nicknames for each other - she thought salt and vinegar chips sounded like the most disgusting thing in the world, because they didn't have them in Washington at the time, so she always called me some variation of that. I called her Funyuns, because we didn't have those in Canada.

When their family decided to make the move to Colorado, it was a big change, but my friend and I were determined to keep in touch. This was before the world of email, and so we wrote each other long letters about every detail of our daily lives. Some of our letters would be fifteen pages or longer! But I started to worry when I didn't get a letter from my friend for a long time.

I worried even more when I got a letter from her parents.

My friend had been killed by a drunk driver, and at sixteen, I didn't have much of a grid with how to process the death of a friend. A death of someone who I should have had a lot of years left with. I was angry and confused. I had so many questions, and I felt like all I could do was numb myself to those questions because there were no answers.

A little later in life, in my early twenties, I worked for a church that was made up largely of youth. This was not your average church - it was filled with people who were seriously hurting or had been hurt. Many who had lost someone close. They would come into the service and let all their pain out through singing or dancing or sometimes just by sitting against a wall with their eyes closed.

The thing is, when they left that place, there was so much more peace. I don't know for sure that they were all getting answers, but they weren't leaving there as hurt and they weren't leaving there numb. I always looked back and wondered how I might have processed my friend's death differently if I'd had a place and a way to get it all out. Or if I'd believed in something bigger than myself.

Have you experienced the death of someone close? What helped you deal with it? Did it change your beliefs at all?

A Book and a Chat with Denise Jaden (That's me!)

I'll be appearing on a LIVE radio/blog show tomorrow morning! Yes, I'm very nervous. Here's the deets...

Saturday, Oct 2nd – 11:00am EST (8 am on the West Coast - hope I can get my brain in gear that early!)

And this is an interactive thing, so feel free to call in anytime after 11. The number you need to call is: 347-237-5398 (or there is also a chat area where my awesome host, Barry Eva, will pick up questions from).

Location: (Link to listen live or else via the chat room there).

I hope you'll stop by and say hello!