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Friday, September 28, 2012

How Fast Do You Read?

I just took this test, which I found incredibly interesting (Thanks to I'm a Reader Not a Writer blog for pointing me there!)

It's a tool from Staples to test how fast you read. I've known for a long time that I'm not a particularly fast reader, but I honestly thought that with all the reading I've done in the past few years, I probably had at least improved. Alas, I'm still below the national average. Here is my report:

As you can see, I read about 250 words per minute. That's not skimming. I did get the following three comprehension questions correct, so I obviously took in some of what I read, even though it didn't interest me.

People ask me often how I set crazy goals like reading a hundred books per year, if I'm not a fast reader. My only answer to this is audiobooks. Well, that and Kindle, since my Kindle has a text to speech capability that allows me to listen to books (even my own works in progress, which is really cool.)

I don't get a lot of uninterrupted time to read (and it would take a lot at my reading rate) but I do spend time driving and at the gym, at my son's judo practices, etc, and these allow me time to listen to books, if not to read them.

Are you interested in finding out how you fare against the national average? There's a link to the test below. I hope you'll come back and tell me how it went for you!

ereader test

 Source: Staples eReader Department

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Teachers, Librarians, and Book Clubs...

I just wanted to let you know that there is a reader/discussion guide available for both LOSING FAITH and NEVER ENOUGH.

You can find them both on my website under resources.

Also, I mentioned on Twitter before NEVER ENOUGH's release, but I figure I should mention it here as well. If you have a group that is reading NEVER ENOUGH, I'd be happy to do a free Skype visit with your group when you're done. This is available worldwide, but I warn you, I live on the West Coast. I'm not bilingual, and I'm unwilling to get up in the middle of the night to do it! (Nor would you get any coherent answers out of me at that time).

Contact me through the contact form on my website if you're interested!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Guest Post on a New Writing Program by Cindy Callaghan

Since I've been thinking a lot about writing instruction books with my new one coming out next week, I've invited Cindy Callaghan, author of Just Add Magic, to stop by and tell me about a new writing program she's been putting together. Take it away, Cindy!

Do you have an idea for a book, but you don’t know how to start? 
Check out Your Words on PaperTM, new interactive on-line writing program for beginners.

Thanks for the invite to guest blog on your site.  I’m excited to tell everyone about my new on-line program Your Words on PaperTM.  They might be wondering why I created this program.  Well, I was the type to read with my kids and think, “I can do this.”  Soon it became, “I want to do this.”  Write, that is. 
Maybe you know the feeling…a tingling sensation of what could be when someone mentions writing a book? Or maybe a pang of melancholy? You have a great idea for a book…it’s just waiting to burst out of you, right? You feel compelled to write it, but…you don’t. Maybe you’ve drafted a paragraph or even a chapter, but most of your words are still locked inside, gathering dust, or worse, buried under mounds of cobwebs in your head. I understand. That was me. With three young children, a husband, pets, a full-time career, and little writing experience, how could I take on a project so huge? And learning the ins-and-outs of publishing? No way!
Fast forward several years, after studying lots of writing books, taking classes, attending conferences and workshops, I have a book on the market, one on the way, and several more in the works. 
People ask me all the time: “How’d you do it?” or they say, “I wish I could write, but I just don’t have the talent or the time.” So, I created the Your Words on PaperTM interactive online workshop to help you get rid of the cobwebs and get to writing. I learned a lot, made a lot of mistakes, before getting published.  The YWOPTM program is my writing process that I personally walk people through in a fun, easy-to-follow step-by-step system that helps them jump you over the learning curve.
My goal is to help people get their awesome idea onto paper so they can achieve the results they want.
I hope your readers will join me for the YWOPTM program.  They can register at
All you need is a little ‘can do’ attitude and a computer (or a pen and paper or typewriter, if you still do things the hard way.)  Go to www.cindycallaghan/ to get for more information about the program.  

Denise, people who read your blog, can get a 25% discount if they use the discount code “Writer.”  

Interview and Links!

I recently did a phone interview with a teen that was writing for YouThink Magazine - A Canadian magazine for teens.

The interview just went up, and I wanted to share it with you. I guess I really polish my words when I'm answering interviews on my computer, because this one truly shows my - ahem - casual nature. (I can't believe how much I say "like"!)

Also, I've been keeping my eye out for where WRITING WITH A HEAVY HEART is available. It's now up on Amazon in paperback and ebook. The paperback is also available at Create Space. The ebook has just shown up on Kobo and also on Diesel this week.

Monday is the official release day, so I'll be back with the full description, praise from other authors, and the full list of links where it's available.

The offer still stands...if you'd like to promote it to other writers for me, I'd be happy to give you a free copy of the e-book.

Monday, September 24, 2012

GCC Presents Gretchen McNeil and TEN!

I'm excited to welcome another Girlfriend from the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit, Gretchen McNeil, as she celebrates her new release, TEN.

 TEN Synopsis

And their doom comes swiftly.

It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives – three days on Henry Island at an exclusive house party. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their own reasons for wanting to be there, both of which involve Kamiak High’s most eligible bachelor, T.J. Fletcher. But what starts out as a fun-filled weekend turns dark and twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine.

Suddenly, people are dying and the teens are cut off from the outside world. No electricity, no phones, no internet, and a ferry that isn’t scheduled to return for two days. As the deaths become more violent and the teens turn on each other, can Meg find the killer before more people die? Or is the killer closer to her than she could ever imagine?
 Gretchen stopped by for a short interview:

Welcome, Gretchen. Can you tell me about your book in seven words or less?
Ten teens.  Three days.  One killer.

Other than your main character, who's a favorite character of yours in your novel and why?
Gunner, best friend of the love interest T.J. Fletcher.  Gunner isn't really the brightest bulb, but his straight forward observations are sometimes exactly what main character Meg needs to hear.

What's one piece of writing advice you would give to aspiring authors? 
You have to barrel through the crappy times.  We all hit a point in our novels where we're convinced we are writing the biggest steaming pile of crap this side of a cattle ranch.  But you can't stop.  Can't give up.  You have to remind yourself that you can fix it later, but you have to finish it first.

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 never wrote anything until about 5 years ago.  ;)

What's the last book you read that you really loved? 
Scott Tracey's DEMON EYES!


"TEN is a real page turner! Gretchen McNeil knows how to plot a thriller: Her setup is flawless and the suspense kept me on the edge of my seat." – Christopher Pike, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the THIRST series and REMEMBER ME

"Gretchen McNeil's TEN is my new number one! I jumped at every creaking floorboard in my house and on the page. This is sure to be a teen thriller classic!" –  Nancy Holder, Bram Stoker Award winning author of THE SCREAMING SEASON

"You want to read this book. McNeil incorporates all the thrills and chills of a horror movie into this fast-paced, gripping tale. With its quippy dialogue, it’s like reading Scream. This reviewer got the willies while reading Ten on a sunny afternoon." – Top Pick in Romantic Times, September 2012

"A scary gorefest of murder and mayhem, not for the faint of heart [...] a breathless read." – Kirkus

"Agatha Christie meets Gossip Girl [...] in McNeil’s (Possess) throwback to old-school thrillers [...] has all the hallmarks of a traditional slasher flick, including imprudent sex, gory slayings, and dramatic revelations." – Publisher's Weekly

Gretchen McNeil is an opera singer, writer and clown.  Her YA horror POSSESS debuted with Balzer + Bray for HarperCollins in 2011.  Her follow up TEN – YA horror/suspense about ten teens trapped on a remote island with a serial killer – will be released September 18, 2012, and her third novel 3:59, sci fi doppelganger horror is scheduled for Fall 2013.  Gretchen's new YA contemporary series Don't Get Mad (Revenge meets The Breakfast Club) begins Fall 2014 with GET EVEN, followed by the sequel GET DIRTY in 2015, also with Bazler + Bray.

Gretchen is a former coloratura soprano, the voice of Mary on G4's Code Monkeys and she sings with the LA-based circus troupe Cirque Berzerk.  Gretchen blogs with The Enchanted Inkpot and is a founding member of the vlog group the YARebels where she can be seen as "Monday."

Congratulations, Gretchen!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Get A New Writing Book For FREE!

I told you I'd let you know if as soon as I have links to buy WRITING WITH A HEAVY HEART: Using Grief and Loss to Stretch Your Fiction

Well, I'm excited to let you know that it's time! I just got my proof copies in the mail yesterday, and they are gorgeous. I'm taking a moment away from petting them to type this.

Before I get to the links, just for you guys, I have a special offer...Want to read this writing resource for free? If you do, here is all you have to do:

Figure out how you can spread the word to other writers who might be interested in this book (I'm open to creative ideas).

If you have a blog that targets writers, I'd love for you to share it with them. If you have a writing group or you're planning to attend an upcoming writing conference where you can spread the word, I'd be happy to send you some bookmarks so you can pass those along to people who you think might be interested in this book.

Email me at d(at)denisejaden(dot)com and tell me how you plan to spread the word. Request bookmarks if you could use them, and I'd be happy to send you those, plus a coupon code so you can get an e-copy (readable on computer or any reading device) totally for FREE.

If that seems like too much work, or if you don't really have any sphere of influence in the writing world, no problem. It's only $2.99 for the e-book and $6.99 for the beautiful paperback (I admit, I'm a bit partial to the paperback version at the moment). Here are the links where you can find it:

Get the paperback version at Create Space (It should also be up on Amazon and other retailers shortly.

Get the E-version at Amazon, Smashwords, and soon to come on Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Sony.

I'll be having a celebratory glass of wine tonight. I hope you'll join me...

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Five

1. Whew, it's been a crazy couple of weeks! I'm happy to report, though, that I'm slowly catching up on all of my responsibilities, school-wise, house-wise, and writing-wise.

2. I'm waiting for a hard proof copy of WRITING WITH A HEAVY HEART. It should be in my mailbox any day now, and all I have left to do is flip through it and make sure I haven't made any glaring errors, and then upload it to the various online bookstores. If you're planning to purchase a copy, let me give you a little more information, now that I have it.

The paperback copy of the book will be $6.99 and will definitely be available from Amazon. I don't know for sure where else you will be able to get a copy of the paperback version yet, but definitely Amazon. If you don't have a preference, this is the version I would recommend. It's formatted nicely, plus it has exercises that you can fill in right on the pages.

If you have an e-reader or prefer to read on your computer, the e-version will be $2.99. I recommend purchasing this from either Amazon or Kobo, as I was able to upload directly to their sites and most of the formatting stayed in tact and works really well on most ereaders (epub from Kobo and mobi from Amazon). I also uploaded to Smashwords, which will distribute to all the other various channels, but I wasn't able to keep much of the pretty formatting in this version. If you don't care what it looks like and just want the information, of course this version will work just fine for you. Also, both the e-version and the paperback version contain a link where you can print off extra copies of the exercises, so not to worry if you can't complete those on your e-reader.

As soon as I have links to WRITING WITH A HEAVY HEART on sale, I'll make sure to drop by and list them here. Thanks for all who have been giving me so much encouragement on this book already!

3. You know how I love to be a tease? Yeah, well, I'm at it again. I have some possible good news waiting in the wings, but I can't officially say anything until it's officially official. But I'll tell you this...I've always thought it would be the coolest thing ever to see one of my books printed in another language.

4. 'Tis the season to be plotting. For NaNoWriMo, that is. NaNo is just over a month and a half away, and to be honest, this is a little late for me to be thinking about my NaNo project. But I got some renewed inspiration last night, and now I'm feeling like I'm raring to go. I'll be filling in the details of my outline over the next couple of weeks and then letting the idea simmer through October. I don't like to talk about my projects until I've at least written a first draft, but I can tell you that in many ways this one will have some similarity to LOSING FAITH.  

5. I'm off to the zoo today with my son and his cousins. I LOVE the zoo. I'm a huge animal person. While my son will likely want to spend most of his time in the spider and snake enclosure, I'll be looking for the big cats. They're my favorite. It's days like these that remind me of how cool it is to be able to homeschool and enjoy stuff like this when it's not super-busy. Not to mention, the nice weather seems to be sticking around.

I'm hoping to go for a wine tour/tasting this weekend, and then kicking back and continuing to plot. What are you up to? Hope everyone has a peaceful and enjoyable weekend!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Winners of Rare Signed Copies of NEVER ENOUGH STORIES!

So sorry it took me so long to get to this! Believe me, it is not because I'm lazy. I've been super-busy with tying up loose ends on manuscripts for my agent, formatting and uploading WRITING WITH A HEAVY HEART (which should be available very soon), as well as kicking back into the school year (which is quite a process when you're homeschooling).

Anyway, all of my excuses aside, I'm thrilled to be able to send a hard copy of NEVER ENOUGH STORIES to the following people.

Joli at Actin Up With Books



Please send me your mailing address at d(at)denisejaden(dot)com and I'll send your copy out as soon as possible.

Even if you didn't win, I hope you'll stop by and download a free e-copy from Smashwords. Thanks SO MUCH to all who have been spreading the word about NEVER ENOUGH and NEVER ENOUGH STORIES! I hope all of you enjoy it!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Traditional Publishing to Self-Publishing and Everything In Between

In the last few months, I've been asked quite a lot if I'm switching to self-publishing. The answer is no. There's no switching involved. I am, however, putting some stuff in print (and ebook) myself, and I thought I'd take a minute to explain why and talk a little bit about my experience.

First of all, I <3<3<3 Simon Pulse and Simon & Schuster. They have been very good to me, and I couldn't ask for a better publishing experience, or for books that I could be prouder of.

My first experience of putting on my own publisher hat was when I came up with a group of companion stories to go with NEVER ENOUGH.

Because I've been so happy with Simon Pulse, I first offered these stories to them, and they wanted to take the first two and publish them on a private forum of theirs that would reach thousands and thousands of teens. I was thrilled with this, but because the stories wouldn't be available to everyone, I asked if I could put them out myself as well. The stories were only about 3000 words combined, so I added a few deleted scenes and then put them out for free as a small anthology. I created a cover, had the stories edited, learned how to format...basically learned the ropes of self-publishing.

Fast forward a couple of months, and I have a book about writing grief in fiction ready to publish. Again, my agent sent it to my editor at Simon Pulse first, because, really, I would love for Simon Pulse to publish and promote anything of mine. This is a non-fiction book, and so Simon Pulse didn't have any real place for it in their publishing roster. My agent suggested that if I lengthened it and made "grief" one section in a bigger book on writing with emotion, that she would be happy to try to sell it to a non-fiction publisher. I didn't really have any desire to do that, though. The idea of writing about grief came from a very personal place in my life, and I had only taken on the task because of that.

So I've kept WRITING WITH A HEAVY HEART as a short book, which comes out in just a couple of weeks, but I think it includes lots of meaty advice, examples, and exercises. I'm super proud of this book and I'm so glad I've put in the time and effort to publish it. I should also mention that formatting a non-fiction book, at least for me, was a much greater learning curve than formatting my stories had been. But I'm slowly figuring it all out. And I guess the nice thing about self-publishing is that if I've made any huge formatting errors, as soon as I find out about them, I can go back and correct them.

So what's ahead for me? Will I continue to sell my work to traditional publishers or jump in full speed with self-publishing? For me, I'm still thrilled to stick with the traditional route for my regular YA novels. I'm happy with the amount of publicity that has given to me and my books, and to be honest, at this stage in my life while I'm homeschooling my young son, I don't have the time to do it all, even if I wanted to. I have a renewed respect for people who are undertaking a writing and publishing career all on their own though. It's a lot to be responsible for!

And I don't doubt that I'll have other unusual projects (or brain farts, as I fondly like to call them) that won't fit into the traditional publishing model. I may have books that don't sell to a traditional publisher within a short span of time (I'm not interested in having my books held up in the submission process for years). I'm glad that there's freedom to choose to publish in as many ways as we want to, and so I guess I plan to continue to use all of them.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Monday Stuff!

I haven't had much time to blog lately, and I really miss it. The good news for you is that because I haven't had time to choose winners for copies of my NEVER ENOUGH STORIES anthology, there's still time for you to enter!

I should be back to choose some winner later this week, but in the meantime, I had a couple of things to tell you about:

I got a couple of trade reviews for Never Enough this week. One was from School Library Journal, and to be honest, that one was the one I hoped the most would be a stellar review, because I'd love to see Never Enough in plenty of school libraries. Sadly, it wasn't. I had to remind myself that it was only one person's opinion, and that there are lots of people who are really loving the book.

So The Bulletin review couldn't have come at a better time! They ended up loving it, and one of my favorite quotes is this:

"With well-developed complications and the convincing realism of daily life...this novel ably leads readers through a rocky terrain of contemporary teen problems."

Yeah, I was pretty stoked about that.

Aside from this, I've been very busily getting my writing/grief book ready to release at the end of the month. I've overcome lots of hurdles in the last week as well as learned plenty of new things about formatting and design. 

Here's a snapshot of my new wrap-around cover:

I'm really excited to have the whole thing done and out there, and I've been hearing from others who are excited about it too, which is nice. I plan to be back later this week and tell you a bit more about the process of writing and publishing this book, because it's really been quite a journey!

See you soon with some NEVER ENOUGH STORIES winners...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

And The Winner of @Mindi_Scott's LIVE THROUGH THIS ARC is...

As I mentioned, the contest for my ARC of LIVE THROUGH THIS was a subjective contest. I didn't draw names or numbers, I just looked through your responses. And while it was hard to decide, I finally decided that someone singing and dancing about the book to all of their friends (in addition to reviewing/tweeting/suggesting/ordering/etc.) could be quite fun.

So my winner of the LIVE THROUGH THIS well-traveled ARC goes to...

Jen McConnel!

Congratulations, Jen! Email me your mailing address and I'll get it out to you ASAP (d(at)denisejaden(dot)com)

Thanks everyone for entering! If you didn't win and you're interested in a swag pack, including a bookmark of LIVE THROUGH THIS, send me your mailing address and I'll get one in the mail to you.

Also, there's still time to win a rare signed print copy of NEVER ENOUGH STORIES... Just sayin.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Inspiration, High School, and Saying Goodbye

With school starting up for many this week, I thought I'd share a short post about my old high school. Don't forget that I'll be drawing winners this week for the advance copy of Mindi Scott's LIVE THROUGH THIS, as well as for a rare print copy of my story anthology NEVER ENOUGH STORIES. Follow the links to enter!

One question I don't think I've ever been asked in an interview is this: Since you write about high school life, do you base any of your settings on your own high school experience.

The answer is yes. Since publishing, I've had the opportunity to visit a number of high schools, and it has certainly given me a wider view of what's out there, at least in the region I live in, and there's a possibility that some of those high schools will flavor my thinking in my future writing. But in the books that are already out on the shelves--yes, in most of the high school scenes, I visualized my own high school. (One of my recent, yet-to-be-published novels is very specifically set in my junior high school--before they changed the grades and started calling them middle schools.)

I recently had a chance to visit my old high school to pass along a copy of my books to my favorite teacher, who was this year retiring. A friend of mine took some pictures, and I just wanted to share a few with you, so you know what I'm picturing when I write some of my characters' school scenes.

This is the view from the main entrance. There's a panther's head painted on the building because that was our team name.

The lockers were not this ugly pink when I attended. I think--in my long-term memory--they were bright yellow (much better, right?)

The cafeteria,
exactly as I remember it.

This was my favorite location. The windows overlook the front parking lot, and there were almost always students hanging out on these sills (I'm not sure how my friend snapped a picture without any!)

Sadly, I drove past my high school, and this is how it looks today...

I understand that things get old and need rebuilding, especially after so many years. But it's still sad to say goodbye to my old high school. I guess the one bright side is that it will always live on, both in my memory and in my fiction.