My interview with Jonathan Maberry

Jonathan_Maberry_and_RosieI’m not too great about keeping my own blog updated, but I have been blogging for the Dallas Fort Worth Writer’s Conference.

At the conference, I taught a class on interviewing experts for research, and since then, the lovely people in the DFW Writer’s Workshop have been sending some truly fascinating interviews my way with everyone from newly agented authors to New York Times bestselling authors like Jonathan Maberry.

You can check out my interview with him here.

Thanks for stopping by!

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

I’m on your radio, talking about giraffes

1920px-Giraffes_-_Copenhagen_Zoo_-_DSC09012I recently appeared on WAMU 88.5′s Animal House, a weekly radio program that explores the latest in animal science, pet behavior, and wildlife conservation. I discussed an article I wrote about why some zoos euthanize healthy animals.

The question of euthanasia versus birth control is at the center of a serious disagreement about the welfare of various species of domestic and wild animals. Recent events involving giraffes and lions in a Danish zoo introduced another level of complexity and emotion to this ongoing debate. Laura Moss, an editor and writer for Mother Nature Network who has done a substantial amount of reporting on this issue, joins us to offer insight.

Although it’s always a bit cringe-y to hear my own voice (I loathe leaving voicemails), you can listen here.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

I went on dates with 5 fictional Japanese men. Here’s what happened

I recently came across a Japanese app called “PlusBoys” that was created to provide single women with a doting fictional boyfriend to dine with (I was doing research for a story on the culture of dining alone). Seeing as the English version of the app is free, I couldn’t resist going on a “dinner date” with every single one of these eligible Asian bachelors.

Here’s the low-down on the five men you can date with just a few swipes of your iPhone screen.


First impression: He’s got adorable glasses and he loves to read. Of course he was my first pick.

The date: Oh, heeey, Makoto! Good morning to you, too. Wait…you said good morning, but we’re having dinner?

Um, you’re asking a lot of questions about my health. I have a cold and a “broken” stomach? Am I dying?


If my stomach is broken, should I really be eating? And why do you have a watch on the table? Why do you keep glancing at it? Do I have only seconds left to live?

Makoto, that’s the second book that’s appeared on the table beside you. If we’re having a romantic meal, why are you reading multiple books during our dinner? And why do you insist on discussing my apparent IBS?


Also, you keep looking up at me. Am I a giant? I’m only 5′ 8″. How tall are you again?

You’re cute and all Mak. Can I call you Mak? But you come on a little strong with all the worrying. I just…I don’t think things are going to work out.

Verdict: Overprotective


First impression: Not my type. He’s got this whole I’m-wearing-a-suit-so-I-must-be-important vibe going on, and his profile even reads “He’s a little selfish, but very good at his work. So he’s an important person in his company.”

The date: He greets me with a charming story about “an old man that threw up on the train.” Clearly, this guy is quite the conversationalist.

He then proceeds to remove his blazer and then starts on his tie.

photo 2

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Uh, Shota, I thought I was here for dinner? Let’s save dessert for later, all right?

Luckily, he keeps his pants on and mentions that he brought back a good meal today. That works. You don’t have to make me dinner every day. Takeout is a nice change.

photo 4

Wait. Why are you smoking a cigarette, Shota? I thought it was dinnertime. I’m hungry! I didn’t eat a thing at Makoto’s, and I don’t even see any food here.


Now you’re making business calls? And you haven’t asked one question about me. Do you realize I’ve been sick? I have a cold and a broken stomach and you don’t even seem to care!

Verdict: Douche


First impression: He’s not much to look at, but maybe he has a great personality.

The date: Right off the bat he asks about my day and starts cooking pasta, so I can overlook the fact that he’s sporting Abercrombie & Fitch.

But then, this move happens.

photo 5

I don’t know, Tatsuya. That was a pretty Shota gesture there. And what’s with these glasses with the hearts on them? And the teddybear?

And wait…what are you doing now? Stop touching my food!

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You made a heart in my pasta. Um…This is just…moving a little fast for me. You’re great though, really. It’s just that I recently got out of a relationship with this total workaholic and I’m not used to being shown this much attention. So if you could just wrap up the leftovers…

Verdict: Will likely stay up all night watching me sleep


First impression: He seems…sporty. I hope he doesn’t expect me to attend all his soccer games. I do think it’s very cool that he “loves [me] very much,” but I’ll admit I’m turned off by the fact that he’s “usually just thinking about food and soccer.”

The date: You’re making me fried rice? Excellent. I’ll get the chopsticks.


photo 1

Yeah, I’m hungry too. I’ve tried and failed to eat dinner like three times today.

photo 2

Yeah, the food does look really nice. Thanks for making it.

photo 2

Yes, Kazuma. The fried rice is freaking amazing. Let’s just shut up about it, OK?

photo 3

You know what? You should be a chef. Why don’t you go be a chef right now. You’d probably be a much better chef than boyfriend. So just go to culinary school and make your freaking fried rice and talk about how awesome it is with someone who cares.

Verdict: Dude makes delicious fried rice.


First impression: Graphic designer? Bedroom eyes? I can dig it.

The date: (Unlike with the previous boys, the free download entitles me to get the full Yuji experience — 13 whole “stories”)

Welcome home? Why, thank you, Yuji. Sooo are you in my house, or did I move in with you? Because if this is my apartment, I’m gonna have to ask you to lose the cigarette.


You made me curry? I love curry!

photo 4

And you…love me. Huh.

That’s sweet, I guess. How long have we been together? Oh, three months now. Guess we can say the L-word.

Please pour me a beer too. Never mind. I guess you’re the only one who gets beer. That’s cool. I’m on cold meds anyway. Also, my stomach is broken.

Hey, you look pretty stern all of a sudden. What’s up?

photo 5

I should eat three meals a day? Even when my stomach is broken?

photo 2

You’re really insistent about this. OK, fine.

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Well, that was patronizing.

Um…why do you keep talking about the size of your potatoes and carrot? Is this conversation really about vegetables?


That’s super sweet. What should we do? A trip to the seaside, you say? Sounds great!

photo 1

Wait. Why would we go to the seaside if you don’t like to swim?

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Uh…Yuji, I gotta be honest. That makes me a little uncomfortable.

And are you seriously reading a book right now? Who are you, freaking Makoto? We’re eating dinner! And if you knew I was coming over, why didn’t you make the bed and do a little housework?

photo 2

Seriously? Yes, I said something.

photo 5

Where is this even coming from? How many beers have you had? And my forelock? Am I a horse?

Aaand now you want to be with me forever? That’s sweet, but let’s not talk in terms of forever quite yet.

I don’t mean to brag, but do you know how many fictional Japanese men have asked me to dinner recently? I’m just not at a point in my life where I’m ready to settle down with just one guy’s series of stock photos.

photo 4

OK, fine. I’ll see you later. But you are not watching me bathe.

Verdict: You could do worse.

screen480x480Final thoughts: Unfortunately, to get the full dining experience with all of these guys, by my calculations, it’s going to cost you more than $40. There’s some bizarre pay-per-story system that eventually unlocks the mysterious “Charlie” boyfriend, but it hardly seems worth it as Charlie is likely also a creeper and, despite his American name, his English probably isn’t any better.

Also, there’s no way I can’t explain $40 worth of dates with fictional Japanese men to my real-life husband.


Join me for a Google Hangout on National Pet Day

tumblr_n3occ0L8i31qd4vugo1_1280Come “hang out” with me on Friday to celebrate National Pet Day with a Google Hangout powered by the ASPCA, Google and Yahoo.

I’ll be there representing the Mother Nature Network, and there will also be some much more exciting people like Jackson Galaxy, Lil Bub and Randall, the voice of the honey badger.

We’ll be featuring adoptable cats and dogs from shelters across the country — and you can adopt one! If you’re interested in participating in the hangout and adopting a shelter pet, fill out this form.

Learn more about the event here.


Quick update: DFWcon and class notes

DFWConOver the weekend, I sent my PowerPoint presentation, notes and handouts from the DFW Writers’ Conference‘s “Art of the Interview” class to those who’d requested them. If I forgot to include you on that email (sorry!) or if you missed my class and would like notes, let me know.

Also, I’m now contributing to the DFWcon website, so you can find my posts there throughout the year. I’ll be writing about…well, writing…as well as the conference, querying, publishing and maybe even cats. (OK, I lied. I probably won’t be writing about cats.)

My first post will be about an exciting DFWcon success story from the 2013 conference. I’m talking to the agent and newly signed writer and will share their story soon. It’s a unique one — the agent actually offered representation during the writer’s pitch session — so be sure to check it out!

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend, everyone!

Photo: courtesy of DFWcon

Twitterbloc’s first writers’ retreat

485918_10101349782382207_992160150_nAt this time last week, I was at the beach with a group of incredibly talented writers, cranking out words, brainstorming story ideas and eating an impressive amount of pad thai and curry. (I was also fighting off a serious cold aka “the death rattle,” but I’ll save that story for another time.)

The very first Twitterbloc Writers’ Retreat, which we named ILM13 because we held it in Wilmington, N.C., was four days of writing bliss. I got to spend time with some of my favorite people in the world, and I wrote thousands of words in two different manuscripts.

Yes, two. You see, I had a bit of an affair with New WIP. I hated to cheat on WL, but New WIP was looking mighty fine at the beach and I just gave in to temptation. Luckily, WL forgave me and I’m back on track with revisions now.

ILM13 was exactly what I needed to remind me why I love writing and re-inspire me about the project I’ve been slugging through. At one point, I declared WL on hold while I started New WIP, and one of my crit partners sat down next to me and said “Well, if you’re not going to finish WL yet, can you tell me how it ends?” I agreed and ended up laying out my entire plot before her, and I saw her excitement about the story and it reminded me why I wanted to write WL in the first place. Thirty minutes later, New WIP was on hold and I was back to writing WL.

733855_10101349782621727_1320906909_nThis is what crit partners are for. I’m SO lucky to have such amazing people in my life.

In addition to morning walks on the beach, daily critique sessions and thousands and thousands of words written among us, we also had dinner (not Thai food this time) with author Rebecca Petruck. I met Rebecca at Yallfest last year and was thrilled when she agreed to meet with us and answer the millions of questions we hurled at her about writing and publishing.

71942_10101349782477017_2135792573_nRebecca’s debut novel, “A Weird Kind of Normal” will be released by Abrams/Amulet next spring, so she took us through her journey to publication — from writing and querying to submissions and signing her contract. Hearing about the details of her contract and her editing process was absolutely fascinating to those of us on the outside, and she gave us each such great advice. Talking to her about agents and querying was especially helpful to me, and I feel a whole lot more confident about the process now.

735220_10101349782566837_1322178608_nClearly, I’m still glowing from my experience at ILM13. I’m re-commited to my story and I’m excited about it again. Plus, I have a whole new book under way (Oh, New WIP. You temptress, you!). In short, a writers’ retreat was exactly what I needed.

Thinking of planning your own writers’ retreat? Here are some tips:

1. Get someone organized and awesome like Deb to handle all the difficult stuff like booking the perfect beach condo, negotiating security deposits, etc. (If you have a Deb in your group, count yourself lucky!)

2. Set up committees to spread the work around and get everyone involved. We had people in charge of food and menus, scheduling, and transportation, and we set up several Google Hangouts so we could talk through the finer details like dietary restrictions, airport rides and who was bringing the blender. (We love to blend!)

3. Make a schedule. When we all get together, it’s easy to wile away hours catching up and talking about books and cute fictional boys, so we had a schedule to keep us (mostly) on track. If you’d like to see the rough schedule I made for ILM13, I’ve pasted it below.

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Dark Days Tour: New books, fried Oreos and chapter 62

bookI woke up this morning with one thought running through my mind: I must read chapter 62 of “Unravel Me.”

If you’ve seen Tahereh Mafi’s spoiler video, which I’ve embedded below, then you already have an idea of what happens in this chapter. And if you haven’t heard the final sentence she utters at the end of the video, then you might have at least seen all the tweets and book reviews about how *hot* this chapter is.

Here’s how Erin Callahan of Kirkus put it:

Swoonworthy Scale: The Chart Has Exploded
Bonus Factors: 50 Shades

Wait, wait, I should clarify. This book is NOT like “50 Shades of Grey.” Because this book is actually hot. If “50 Shades of Grey” is the book for ladies who think that sex is a little frightening, then this book is for ladies who think sex is awesome, and who are going to call up their boyfriend, girlfriend, significant other or total stranger immediately after reading a couple of the more steamy scenes.

If this doesn’t make you want to read “Unravel Me,” then at least check it out for the beautiful prose. (Also, what is wrong with you?)

mainDark Days Tour
Last night I attended the Dark Days tour at Little Shop of Stories and heard Tahereh Mafi, Veronica Rossi, Brodi Ashton and Cynthia Hand talk about their new books. The authors also discussed why they love YA literature and why they enjoy writing it. Here are two things they said that stuck in my mind:

“I was a reader my whole life, but I’d forgotten what it was like to read for fun and get excited about a book and share that with friends. But I found that YA books are a place to do that. Readers of YA are open to much more. They’re creative and not set in their ways.” -Tahereh

“When you’re a teenager you feel everything so strongly and it’s all-consuming, and that’s what I love about YA.” -Brodi

oreoAfter the book signing, we grabbed dinner with the authors, Alison Lisnow — a book publicist from Harper Collins who has one of the coolest jobs ever — and some amazing YA readers and writers from Atlanta. The dinner conversation centered on haunted houses, body part-strewn prison farms, derelict asylums and Beetlejuice shaking me inside a Porta-Potty, so I was tempted to sleep with the light on last night. (Alli has a terrifying photo of a ghost face on her phone and it totally haunted my dreams.)

We also celebrated Tahereh’s book birthday with fried Oreos, which weren’t nearly as bad as I expected — they were actually pretty decent. (I need to do some serious cardio today.)

On a side note, we hear again and again that parts of a first draft hardly ever make it to publication, but last night Tahereh said that the first few pages of “Shatter Me” are exactly the way she wrote them in her first draft. They’re completely unchanged. Pretty awesome.

Anyway, if you need me, I’ll be devouring the rest of Veronica Rossi’s “Through The Ever Night,” and then I’ll be moving on to the infamous chapter 62!

Check out Tahereh’s chapter 62 spoiler video below.

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DFWcon: I’m coming back! And this year I’m speaking.

DFWConI’m super excited to tell you that I’ll be teaching a few classes at the Dallas/Fort Worth Writer’s Conference in May!

I went to DFWcon last year and had an amazing time, met incredible people and learned so much, and I’m grateful for this opportunity to give back to other attendees.

This year I’ll be teaching sessions on networking effectively and how to interview experts for research, as well as serving on a panel about writing collaboratively. I really hope to see some familiar faces in my classes, so please let me know if you’re going to be there!

DFWcon is a great way for writers to hone their craft, network with fellow writers and meet literary agents, authors and other industry professionals, so I highly recommend checking it out. You won’t regret it!

Register for DFWcon here.

Photo: courtesy of DFWcon

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Yallfest: Why you should be there next year

stageI spent the previous weekend in Charleston, S.C. for Yallfest and it was amazing.

If you’re not familiar with it, Yallfest is the annual Charleston Young Adult Book Festival, and it’s the largest festival in the South devoted to young-adult literature. This year was the second time the festival was held, and it brought together 47 authors (25 of them New York bestsellers) and more than 3,000 YA readers.

Margaret Stohl (co-author of the “Beautiful Creatures” series), Melissa de la Cruz (the “Blue Bloods” series) and Pseudonymous Bosch (the “Secret” series) helped organize this year’s event, which included 18 panel discussions and book signings by all the authors in attendance.

Here’s why you should put Yallfest on your calendar for 2013:

  • SO MANY AUTHORS. If you enjoy fan-girling and signed books as much as I do, you need to be here.
  • Charleston. Never been? You’re missing out. Beautiful place, gorgeous weather, great eats. (Don’t miss the desserts at Kaminsky’s.)
  • The fans. You may have been to your share of book festivals, but have you ever been to one where the streets were crawling with children, teens and adults all clutching YA books and debating whether they’re Gryffindors or Ravenclaws, Dauntless or Amity, Team Peeta or Team Gale? These are my people. And they were everywhere.
  • YA Smackdown. All your favorite authors on stage with props — and pies. Insanity ensues and many pies are thrown.
  • Oh, the things you’ll hear. My two favorite quotes from Yallfest 2012:
  1. book“Whenever I’m out to dinner with author friends we’re always the loudest, drunkest, most obscene people.” -Cassandra Clare, bestselling author of “The Mortal Instruments”
  2. When asked for advice on how to get an agent’s or editor’s attention, David Levithan, young-adult fiction editor and award-winning author replied, “Have a fucking kick-ass opening page.”

For more on Yallfest, check out this write-up in Publisher’s Weekly.

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Have you seen this writer?

I’m alive! It’s been a while, I know. But I’m still here, breathing and writing.

<——– Here’s some photographic evidence. Yes, that’s me dressed as Tonks posing with a man in a Sirius Black costume at DragonCon.

I wish I could say that while I’ve been absent I’ve done something amazing like started my first term at Hogwarts or finished revising my novel, but those would be lies. However, I do finally have a solid first few chapters, which means I’ll be sending agents requested materials soon! *cue nausea*

The revision process is going well; however, I’m rewriting a lot more than I’d planned. But this experience has taught me the importance of doing a little plotting before starting the frenzied first draft. (More on that in another post)

Speaking of first drafts, I’m ridiculously excited for NaNoWriMo this year. I have a wonderfully shiny new idea rattling around in my brain. It’s all mental sunshine and brain glitter in my head right now, but while I’d like to bask in new WIP awesomeness, the cloud of revisions is still hovering over me… Must. Finish. Water Lily. First.

At least this new idea gives me something to be excited about — and something to distract me from constantly checking my email for rejections. But it’s not just the new idea that’s keeping me motivated — it’s also my amazing crit partners and beta readers. If it weren’t for them, I’d just be wandering the streets of Atlanta and feeding stray cats or watching k-dramas all day.

I’m blessed to have such talented writers to share my work with, but I consider myself even more lucky because I get to read their writing. I’m completely obsessed with their stories, and I get ridiculously excited whenever the next installment arrives in my inbox. There’s so much romance and mystery and intrigue. There’s an invisible girl, a cyborg, a time traveler, a demon with a conscience, an adorable boy with suspenders who I’m totally fiction-crushing on. My fellow writers keep me motivated, and their talent makes me strive to work harder.

So, Corey, China, Kayla, Liza, Nicole, Lina, Sara, Geoff, Melissa, Deb and Cally: Thank you, thank you for all your help with Water Lily, and thanks for sharing your writing with me as well!


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