Friday, December 30, 2011

Thank you, 2011!

I'm incredibly grateful for what happened to me in 2011. A few weeks ago I blogged about my long, grueling writing road, so if you read that post you already know this past year marked the end of my seemingly impossible journey to a publishing deal. In the Shadow of Blackbirds is now on Goodreads, and it's extremely satisfying to see people already taking an interest in my literary baby.  I'm so excited about all the behind-the-scenes preparations I'll be going through with this book in the coming year, and I can't wait to eventually share my characters with all of you.

To my agent, Barbara Poelle, and my editor, Maggie Lehrman: thank you from the bottom of my heart for making 2011 a year I'll never forget! I'll always remember the morning my daughter called to me out in the garage, "Mom, there's someone named Barbara calling. Isn't that your agent?" And Barbara's words, "Amulet put in an offer," were some of the five most magical words I've heard in my entire life.

I'm also grateful for meeting my fellow Lucky 13s authors, who'll also be debuting in 2013, and my fellow Amulet/Abrams authors. You guys are so talented and amazing, and I can't wait to have your books on my shelf! And, of course, I'm so thankful for all my friends and family who've been standing by me and cheering me on for literally decades.

The past year wasn't without its dark spots. I lost a very dear uncle who battled Alzheimer's for five years, and I witnessed my fourteen-year-old dog get attacked by a dog three times his size (our dog survived, but he took almost two months to recover from the bite wounds). The sweet seems to always come with the bitter.

I hope 2011 treated you well and you experienced more highs than lows. Let's now take a deep breath, gather our courage, and plunge straight into the awaiting adventures of 2012!


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sprucing Up the Place with Photos

Balboa Park, San Diego (Photo © Cat Winters)
In my last post I teased readers with a distorted photo of a San Diego landmark that plays a role in my novel. The building is part of the city's beautiful, historic Balboa Park, but that's all I'm going to say about that particular setting for now. How the locale relates to In the Shadow of Blackbirds will need to remain top secret.

I decided to build upon that last post and add a few more of my San Diego photos to the sidebar to spruce up the site. I've aged the pictures to try to make them appear to be straight from my novel, and I'm hoping they do the job of making the website a little more visually interesting. I'll be adding many more goodies once I can reveal more info about the plot, but for now I'll leave you with three aged photos that could have come from one of my characters' personal collections.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Winter Greetings from Winters

My mascot, Winifred, enjoying the holidays.
I'll be taking a break from blogging and the computer in general over the weekend. I hope the holidays find everyone happy, safe, and healthy.

Below is a virtual holiday greeting I created last year. I distorted one of my photographs of a San Diego landmark that appears in In the Shadow of Blackbirds to give the picture a supernatural feel. If you're familiar with that particular region of California, see if you can guess where it is.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Scary Ghost Stories at Christmastime

I've always been fascinated with our tendency to be drawn to dark subject matters during the holidays. Think about our most cherished Christmas moviesthe films watched over and over and imitated countless timesand the dark themes they entail:

A Sinister Old Man Who Sees Ghosts
A Christmas Carol

A Sinister Old Man Who Provokes Suicide Attempts
It's a Wonderful Life

A Sinister Old Monster Who Steals Christmas
How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Why do we frequently veer toward the scary when it comes to our most cherished holiday?

Have you ever heard the Andy Williams song "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," which includes the line “There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago”? Or read Susan Hill's The Woman in Black, which starts with the telling of ghost stories on Christmas Eve?

Victorians in England made a tradition out of sitting around the fire and spinning ghost tales on December 24. In fact, the winter solstice, the lengthiest night of the year, has long been considered one of the best times for paranormal activity. The veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is said to be thinnest when the old sun dies and the new sun waits to be born. Such a belief probably led to the spreading of spine-tingling stories during December's dimmest hours.

So, if you're wondering why you're craving a glimpse of Marley's ghost when winter awakens after midnight tonight, or if Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas wins out over The Santa Clause in your house, keep in mind you're just following a long-standing December tradition of dark, supernatural tales. 

Happy winter!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My Long, Grueling Writing Road and the 21 JUMP STREET Writer Who Gave Me Advice

Once upon a time, when I was a teenager and some good-looking guy named Johnny Depp starred in a TV series called 21 Jump Street, I met a writer of that series at my friend's house. The writer knew my friend's parents, and I remember him sitting on their couch and telling me, "The best writing advice I can give you is to never give up." I believe I responded, "I won't," for I knew deep in my gut that I wouldn't and couldn't.

Decades passed, hairstyles dramatically improved, a recession came and went and then returned with a vengeance, people started needing to take off their shoes and half their clothes just to make it through airport security. Yet one thing stayed the same: I remained a struggling writer.

Recently, I got back in touch with my high school friend and asked her, "Didn't your parents know a screenwriter who wrote for shows like 21 Jump Street? Do you remember his name? I'm not totally imagining that incident, am I?" She wrote back, saying, "I am glad you did not give up. His name is Gary Hall."

Mr. Gary Hall: Thank you, thank you, thank you for planting that "never give up" advice inside my head. Since that day I met you, I've written countless manuscripts geared toward adult audiences, won several writing awards, received dozens and dozens of rejections, signed with two different agents, married my college sweetheart, given birth to two remarkable children, and pulled at my hair, wondering why, why my books are considered too risky and too unmarketable for publishers. Several times I considered giving up. I didn't understand why my brain was telling me to write when no one wanted to publish my words.

But...I also flew to a Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators conference in January 2010. Over dinner, I told my agent an idea for a young adult novel involving a teenage girl and the dark, bizarre world of early-twentieth-century spiritualism. I saw the excitement in my agent's eyes and dove back into the new manuscript as soon as I returned home. I shared the book with critique partners, revised, showed the book to my agent, revised again, and just this past fall sold that book to Amulet Books/Abrams. I did not give up. As recently as this past September, I cried on the phone while telling one of my best friends I felt like I was wasting my life by chasing this agonizing dream, but I still kept going.

Richard Bach wrote, "A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit." We writers hear quotes like that all the time and absorb the words of wisdom into our souls, but sometimes we want to shout out, "Wait a minute. I'm not giving up, but I'm still not getting anywhere!" You know what? The advice is true. I'm proof that determination, time, blood, sweat, tears, and the pure, incomparable joy of spinning tales can indeed eventually lead to a deal with an amazing publishing company.

In celebration of Gary Hall and his advice that never left my brain, I'm sharing the 21 Jump Street opening credits below. Thank you again, Mr. Hall! To the other struggling writers out there: if writing feels as essential as breathing, keep plugging away.

Oh, and enjoy the Johnny Depp clips. I wonder whatever happened to that kid. ;)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Best Reads of 2011

It's the 13th day of the month, which means there's another 13th-Day Question for us 2013 debuts over at The Lucky 13s. This month's question: "What is your favorite book of 2011?"

I had a hard time picking just one book, and I certainly didn't get a chance to read everything I wanted to read in 2011. You can find my selection over at the Lucky 13s post, but I'm also sharing a quick rundown of my top three favorite YA novels right here.

Myracle has it all in this gripping YA novel: characters you get to know deep down to their bones, a rural North Carolina setting so real you can see and smell it, and a plot that twists and turns until the the lead character solves the mystery behind a heinous act of violence.

I was blown away by the beauty of Mitchell's writing. The love story at the center is just as supernatural as anything you'd find in other paranormal romances, but the characters' otherworldy abilities are highly unique. Mitchell's Victorian world pulsates with life. I can't wait to dive into the sequel, The Springsweet.

Not only has Taylor's boundless imagination conjured up fantastical characters and settings that frighten and entertain, but she has grounded her story with enough reality and honest human emotions to make us believe her unique tale could have actually occurred. Following her lonely, blue-haired, art-student protagonist, Karou, on her teeth-collecting expeditions thought the darkest alleys of the world is a gripping, enjoyable ride.

My top three favorite books from past years 
that I finally discovered in 2011:

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (I majored in English in college; I'm such a phony, as Holden Caulfield would say, for not reading this book sooner.)

What were the best books (YA or otherwise) that you read in 2013?

Monday, December 5, 2011

YA Bliss's Ubercool Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

It's no secret that I strongly believe historical fiction rocks (see some of my previous posts on this subject: Five Reasons Why Historical Fiction Rocks, You Know You're a Historical Fiction-Writing Geek When..., History, Sexypants-Style).

Thankfully, I'm by no means the only person who shares this opinion about the genre. The amazing Sab H. over at YA Bliss runs an annual Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, and she's just posted info about the 2012 challenge: 

Her rules are simple:
  • All historical fiction books must be YA or MG.
  • Books don't have to be 2012 releases.
  • Anyone can join. 
  • You can join at anytime. The challenge runs from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012.
She offers her own Amazon and Goodreads lists as examples of where to find historical fiction reads, plus you can check out 2012 YA and MG historical debuts over at The Apocalypsies

Thanks so much for celebrating historical fiction, Sab!!!

I'm heading over to sign up for the challenge right now...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December Question of the Month: Have You Ever Captured a Ghostly Image?

One of my ghostly Maine photos.
I'm launching a new feature today: The Question of the Month. Unless I'm bogged down with revisions, I'll try to launch a reading, movie, or ghost-related question on the first day of every month.

Here's the December question:

Spirit communication, especially spirit photography, plays a huge role in the plot of In the Shadow of Blackbirds. In the future I'll be sharing some highly entertaining spirit photos from the heyday of the Spiritualist movement, but for now let's talk about YOUR experiences with capturing ghosts. Have you ever come across a misty figure that wasn't noticeable when you first took a picture? Do you tend to get mysterious orbs or weird traces of light when you snap photos in certain locations?

I'm attaching my own spooky photos, which I took in Maine during a vacation in the late nineties. Professional photographers have explained what probably occurred to my film (yes, this was back when I still used film), but I prefer thinking of the images as a running ghost (the photo above) and a phantom couple (the photo below).

If you have a ghost photo of your own you'd like to share, feel free to add a link in the comments section of this post.

Monday, November 28, 2011


I've heard legends about a Goodreads Fairy who enters recently acquired books onto the Goodreads site. Well, I just discovered In the Shadow of Blackbirds is one of her recent additions (click here to go to the novel's Goodreads page). Thank you, Goodreads Fairy!

If you have a Goodreads account, I would be honored, humbled, and grateful if you added In the Shadow of Blackbirds to your bookshelf to help me start spreading the news about the book. I'm working on getting myself added as a Goodreads author so you won't have to see that sad little "No Photo" face with the question mark on it.

In other news, I did indeed watch Hugo over the weekend, as I mentioned I would in last Friday's post. In that same post, I also bemoaned the lack of movies set during WWI, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that the First World War played a large role in Hugomore so than in the book, if I remember correctly. Martin Scorsese even wove actual WWI footage into the film.

Even if WWI hadn't been involved, Hugo was excellent. Read the novel first (it's a fast read), and then run out and treat yourself to the magic of the film.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Kickin' off the Holiday Season...and My WAR HORSE Obsession

I didn't get a chance to pop on here and say "Happy Thanksgiving" earlier this week, so a belated Happy Turkey Day to all you Americans and anyone else who decided to feast yesterday. I'm thankful for so many things this year: my kidlets and husband, the fact that my dog survived an attack by another dog, my family (far away as you all are), my friends, my writing buddies, my blogosphere pals, and all the wonderful and amazing people in New York who are helping me bring my writing to the world.

In our house, the big movie-watching plan for the weekend is to head out to see Hugo. We've all read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and I'm still in awe that a tale about the magic of silent films has become such a hit. So many times I've heard that historical stories are risky and undesirable to modern audiences, so I'm thrilled every time an author can spin enough magic out of the past to enchant today's readers. That's one of my own goals with writing a historical, and writers like Brian Selznick are an inspiration to me.

I'm also dying to see War Horse, because—lo and behold—it's actually a WWI movie. WWI! Not WWII!! In case you haven't yet read the Publishers Marketplace announcement about my upcoming novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds is set during the First World War, and I rarely get to see that time period portrayed on the big screen.

Unfortunately, my husband isn't a fan of horse films and isn't all that enthusiastic about running out to the theater to watch War Horse with me. My twelve-year-old daughter doesn't like horse films or war films, but she may accompany me to get me to stop pining for a War Horse companion (although I don't want to traumatize her). So, if you go to a theater and see a woman sitting by herself, munching M&Ms and weeping over that poor, brave horse running across the battlefield, that may be me.

Happy early holiday season to you all!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Book Soundtracks & Music for a Haunted World

This week at The Lucky 13s, we're sharing book soundtracks for our 2013 releases.

If it seems a little early to be discussing such a thing for novels you won't be reading for at least another year, keep in mind that author soundtracks usually consist of songs that inspire writers during the actual writing process. Sometimes a single song can trigger an idea for an entire novel. As we revise our upcoming releases and prepare to launch them into the world, it often helps to go back to the music that influenced us in the first place.

Without revealing anything about the plot that wasn't mentioned in last week's Publishers Marketplace announcement, I've included my In the Shadow of Blackbird soundtrack as my debut Lucky 13s post:

Even though the novel is set in 1918, I'm featuring songs that span from 1914 to 2010, and I'm explaining how they helped me dig into my characters' emotional depths.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Lucky 13s

I joined The Lucky 13s, a group of children's and young adult fiction authors debuting in 2013. That year might seem eons away right now, but 2013 books will have cover reveals, advance review copy giveaways, and other fun treats during the next twelve-plus months. Furthermore, all year long we'll be interviewing The Apocalypsies, kid-lit authors with debuts in 2012.

In honor of the 13th day of the month today, we Lucky 13s are offering 13-word summaries of our books. If you want a glimpse into your reading future, head on over for a taste of 2013 releases:

Yes, there's also a group for 2011 releases: The Elevensies.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My HUGE News: IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS Found a Publisher!!!

I'm thrilled beyond belief to announce the sale of my young adult novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, to Amulet Books (the folks behind the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Lauren Myracle's Shine, and other amazing books for kids and teens).

Here's the official announcement from Publishers Marketplace:

Cat Winters's IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS, the story of a teen girl mourning the loss of her first love in 1918 California, where a flu has turned deadlier than a world war, and spirit communication has become a dark and dangerous obsession, illustrated with early-twentieth-century photographs, to Maggie Lehrman at Amulet, by Barbara Poelle of Irene Goodman Agency (World English).
Foreign rights: Heather Shapiro at Baror International

My journey to this point in my writing career has been a long, long, LONNNNNNNNNG one, so even though I've known about this news for a little while now, I'm still in awe and pinching myself to make sure it's real.

I'll be chronicling my journey into print right here at, as well as at and I'll also be sending out updates (the book's Goodreads debut, cover art reveals, events, giveaways, etc.) through my mailing list.

Thank you Mrs. Martin of Crown Valley Elementary for making my writing feel special back in the second grade and planting this dream inside me. Thank you Ms. Deily for featuring my poems on the wall at Back to School Night in sixth grade. Thank you family and friends for encouraging me throughout the years. Thank you Barbara Poelle and my brand-new Amulet family. And welcome future readers! I can't wait to share this novel with you. I'm so proud of it.

My celebratory blackbird balloon.
They really do make such things!  

Monday, October 31, 2011

My Halloween Chat with a Ghost Hunter

Happy Halloween! I hope you're enjoying the deliciously dark holiday and have the opportunity to dress up in a costume, if you so desire.

To celebrate, I interviewed the Paranormal Investigation Society of Central Alabama over at Suburban Vampire. If you've ever wondered which types of locations produce the most paranormal activity—or how ghost hunters spend Halloween—check out the interview here.

To further celebrate, here's one of my favorite ghost songs:


Monday, October 24, 2011

My Interview with Musician Kristen Lawrence, Creator of HALLOWEEN CAROLS

Head over to Suburban Vampire to check out my chat with Kristen Lawrence.  Kristen is a highly talented writer/musician/composer who decided Halloween needed more music to call its own.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My New Mascot

Meet Winifred, my new mascot.

I've been collecting blackbird, crow, and raven items ever since I started working on In the Shadow of  Blackbirds, and my daughter found this new little friend for me at our grocery store tonight.  Winifred is eerily realistic for a cheap find in the Halloween discount section, but I'll keep her by my side during my journey with this book.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Poster for THE RAVEN & One Literary Geek's Feelings about Messing with Poe

As hesitant as I am about seeing the new John Cusack movie, The Raven, I have to say I love the artwork on the poster.  The freaky dark bird/spilled ink motif, along with the use of black and red, pretty much matches the look of my website, so I suppose it's not surprising I'm drawn to the image.

In case you're unfamiliar with this new movie, The Raven is a fictionalized account of the last days of Edgar Allan Poe's life, in which the poet pursues a serial killer whose murders mirror those in the writer's stories.

In August, I offered my two cents on the movie (as well as three other Poe films in the works) over at Suburban Vampire in a post called "Here Come the Poes." In a nutshell, I said, "I'm happy Poe is having his moment in the modern cinematic spotlight, but the guy married his thirteen-year-old cousin, made a huge impact on the horror genre, invented the modern detective story, and struggled with drinking and depression. Do we really need a fictionalized version of him? Isn't he interesting enough as is?"

Maybe this is another moment for me to add a line to my "You Know You're A Historical Fiction-Writing Geek When..." list:

You know you're a historical fiction-writing geek when you feel pangs of guilt about your attraction to the splashy new, historically inaccurate Edgar Allan Poe thriller coming to your theater. 

In case you're also experiencing that curious attraction, here's the newest trailer for The Raven. (Sorry about the ad at the beginning, but the trailer is too new to show up on YouTube.)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Have You Seen the Ghost of John?

During the last week of October, I'll be interviewing Kristen Lawrence, creator of the Halloween Carols, over at Suburban Vampire.  One of the things I love about Kristen is that she revived the classic Halloween song "Ghost of John."  I have fond memories of sitting in my elementary school singing about that poor, eerie ghost with the "long, white bones and the rest all gone," which is probably one of the many explanations behind my ghost and Halloween obsession.  What's creepier than a classroom full of children singing, "Wouldn't it be chilly with no skin on"?

Here's Kristen Lawrence's customized rendition of the traditional American song. If you're looking for music other than "The Monster Mash" this Halloween, make sure you check out her website:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Hanging of the Pumpkin Clock

I typically wait until October 1 to hang up my first Halloween decoration—the pumpkin clock shown here—but I figured it's already officially fall, and September only has two remaining days before it merges into my beloved Halloween month. Why not go ahead and enjoy autumn? So what if my thermometer is expected to jump above 80 today?

Fall tends to be one of my most productive writing seasons.  If you haven't noticed, I tend to gravitate toward dark, eerie, and out-of-the ordinary stories, and I find myself producing some of my best work when I'm surrounded with atmospheric inspiration, from the Halloween music playing on my computer to the blackening, moody skies outside my window.

Here are my goals for this particular October:

My backyard, October 2009.
1. Hope for the best for my novel In the Shadow of Blackbirds.  It's out with editors right now, and it could use all the crossed fingers and good luck charms anyone can spare.  I love this book.

2. Dive into research for a new writing project.  After a few false starts these past few weeks, I think I've settled upon a deliciously bizarre subject matter I'd like to tackle for a new novel.  I spent yesterday ordering research material from Amazon and libraries and plan to lose myself inside their pages as the weather cools down. 

3. Host a parade of entertaining Halloween-ish guests over at my Suburban Vampire blog.  Currently, K.A. Corlett, author of Ever Your Servant, is my featured writer, and in the coming weeks I'll be chatting with novelists such as Christine Cody and musician Kristen Lawrence, creator of the Halloween Carols™.

4. Prepare my son's Halloween-themed seventh birthday party.  Yes, I love Halloween so much, I even gave birth to one of my kids during the season (his birth wasn't specifically planned that way, but it was pretty cool to tell everyone I had a Halloween due date).  Every year we throw a kiddie costume party, and this time around we're having a mad scientist emphasis.  I'll be digging my lab coat costume out of the closet and preparing easy science experiments in our garage.

5. Convince my husband to watch terrifying movies and ghost-hunter shows with me. My viewing tastes tend to freak out my family (my daughter claims she's still having nightmares from when I showed her The Watcher in the Woods two years ago), so I sometimes have to sneak in my favorite eerie films late at night after everyone else goes to bed.

Farewell, September! I love the fact that both my sister and I celebrate our birthdays in the ninth month of the year, but I'm ready to plunge headfirst into October.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The R.I.P. Reading Challenge

Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting its sixth annual R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge.

Here's a brief overview of what the event entails, as described by the site's owner, Carl V.:

Regardless of what my thermometer tells me, my heart tells me that autumn is here and that it is once again time to revel in things ghostly and ghastly, in stories of things that go bump in the night. It is time to trail our favorite detectives as they relentlessly chase down their prey, to go down that dark path into the woods, to follow flights of fantasy and fairy tale that have a darker heart than their spring time brethren. To confront gothic, creepy, horror stories in all their chilling delight.

There are two simple goals for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VI Challenge:

1. Have fun reading.
2. Share that fun with others.

Are you up for some dark reading as we head into the Halloween season? I always have my nose planted in books that fall under the dark and ghostly category, so I'll be partaking in the challenge myself. I just finished reading Victoria Schwab's wonderful dark YA fairy tale, The Near Witch, and I'm now deep in the middle of Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, a tale of late-19th-century magicians/lovers who are no mere illusionists.

If you'd like to join R.I.P. VI, head to  There's also a section for individuals who prefer dark tales on a screen.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

You Know You're a Historical Fiction-Writing Geek When . . .

The other week I posted the following tweet:

You know you're a historical fiction-writing geek when the words "in the public domain" have you doing air punches of joy.

Today at lunch, I realized I could probably write daily tweets that complete that same sentence opener. Therefore, here's an expanded version:


You curl up with your historical slang dictionaries as often as you snuggle up with your loved ones.

Costumes aren't costumes. They're business attire.

You spend hours obsessively trying to find the historically accurate type of cheese knife your character should be using in a scene that lasts only two pages.

You find yourself yelling Eiffel Tower elevator history out the window at your husband as he's trying to walk the dog. (Yes, this really happened.)

You shake your head at anachronisms in movies and wonder why the filmmakers aren't also snuggling up with their slang dictionaries.

You use the words "history" and "sexy" in the same sentence. Often. 

Your favorite scene from the original Twilight movie involves the vampires running around in historical caps and trousers.

The random, royalty-free history images you inserted on your website make you smile.

Experts in your particular era become your best email buddies.

You consider people who dress up for sci-fi conventions a little out there, but you envy historical reenactors.

Those brown historical site markers along the side of the road have you hanging your head out the window, drooling like a dog in August.

And most importantly, you know you're a historical fiction-writing geek when...

You're dancing on air when you read about other historical fiction-writing geeks signing books deals and hitting bestseller listsbecause you know they're just as wonderfully obsessed with the past as you are.

Here's to everyone who writes historical fiction!

Feel free to add to my list. It's far from being complete.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Little Extra Something for BLACKBIRDS (P.S. Check out My New Bird Socks)

My new bird socks from Sock it to Me.
I've been hard at work putting together a little extra something for In the Shadow of Blackbirds, which I'm hoping will give the manuscript an added oomph. I won't get into any details just yet, but it's a story-telling element that goes along perfectly with the subject matter of the novel. I'm not sure why I didn't think of it sooner.

I know... that's pretty much useless info if I'm not going to share any details, but I wanted to point out that even after working tirelessly on a manuscript for months and years, something new and spectacular can always be added to it. I've said it before: a relationship with with a manuscript is like a marriage. You go through honeymoon stages, bickering stages, and "We're going to get through this" stages. Sometimes you also need a spicing-things-up stage, which is what I'm completing now.

I truly hope I can eventually share In the Shadow of Blackbirds with the world. I'm madly in love with this novel and my characters, and I've now received so much help and input from various people, from my early readers to wonderfully hard-working museum staff members.  Thanks to everyone who's been journeying along on this ride with me!  Fingers crossed, we'll get this book out there.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Leaving the Safety of Home Base to Mingle with Other Writers

Me heading up to the podium to accept
my award. Sadly, the front-view shots turned
out too blurry to share. 

Last night I attended the awards banquet for the Willamette Writers Conference here in Portland, OR, to pick up my Kay Snow Award for my novel-in-progress.  I've attended numerous writer events throughout the years, including the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators winter conference in New York, and I always love the vibes at those places.

We writers tend to spend solitary lives behind the keyboard, so it's often a little strange to congregate in conference and banquet rooms brimming with other individuals working at the same profession. If you're a writer and you've never ventured out to workshops and other events geared toward inspiring and bettering our careers, I highly encourage you to give it a try. I don't consider myself to be the most outgoing person in the world, but the encouragement, support, and empathy found at such events is heaven.

I also got to see filmmaker Gus Van Sant accept his award for Distinguished Northwest Writer last night. That's another benefit of writers' conferences: you often get to hear words of wisdom from the highly talented people you admire.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Kay Snow Writing Award

I was just informed that an excerpt from my young adult, fairy tale-inspired manuscript, tentatively titled The Drowning Lake, received third place in the Willamette Writers' Kay Snow Writing Awards for the category of Adults Writing for Juveniles. I'm thrilled to bits!

Equally exciting is the bonus that I've been invited to attend an awards banquet featuring filmmaker Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, Milk).  He's the Willamette Writers Conference's winner of the Distinguished NW Writer Award.  I actually just spotlighted Van Sant's newest film, Restless, over at Suburban Vampire.

Thanks so much, Willamette Writers!

And, yes, I just revealed my newest book's title for the first time. :-)

Monday, July 4, 2011

More Pacific Northwestern Fairy Tale Inspiration

For our 4th of July morning activity, my family and I hiked on one of our nature trails in the middle of a Pacific Northwestern forest. I've taken a two-month break from my contemporary bedtime tale manuscript, so I grabbed my camera and took more woodsy photos to give me fresh inspiration for diving back into my Oregon story.

I'm not yet saying much about the plot, but I will reveal that water is involved.
I love this shot because you can't quite tell what's beneath the creek's surface.

Our woods swallow up everything in the
summer, which is perfect for a dark tale.

Trees shrouded in mossnot just for Southern Gothic fiction.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bring on the Movie Adaptations

Summer is only eight days old, and I'm already back from my big family vacation. My sister got married in Southern California last weekend, so I took a break from my novels' fantasy worlds to visit Orange County's Fantasylands. Now I'm back to my own version of reality—and back to squeezing in work time between hanging out with my kids for the summer.

One of my goals for the season was to make sure I read Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret before the movie comes out this fall. The book initially looked daunting because of its enormous size, but I didn't realize hundreds of gorgeously hand-drawn illustrations accompany the novel. Not only did I sit down and rapidly devour Hugo's story of movie magic and automatons, but I immediately afterward read it out loud to my six-year-old son. Now we're ready for November's movie adaptation (which stars Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Jude Law, and Chloe Moretz).  I can't wait!

Continuing with the tradition of seeing movies after we've read the books, my eleven-year-old and I will be heading to the last [sniff] Harry Potter film in July, and my husband and I will need to check out the movie version of Kathryn Stockett's The Help.  My husband tends to read whatever I read, so we've formed our own mini book club that includes theater field trips, although he didn't get as geekily excited as I did when I discovered that the movie poster for The Help matches the colors of the book's cover:

So, when I'm not juggling kids and book revisions this summer, I'll be ducking into theaters and contemplating the age-old question: Can a movie be as good as the book on which it's based?

Happy reading, and happy movie watching.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Vacationing from the Blogosphere

My school-year work days without kids in the house are seriously numbered, so I'm spending my remaining weeks before summer vacation writing during every spare moment I can. What I'm working on is extremely exciting, and I hope to be able to share more about it eventually.  Yet there's a clock ticking away my time to get it done. I love my kids to bits, but school-day writing time is so precious and beautiful.

In other words, I won't be blogging much here or at Suburban Vampire until at least July. I hope everyone is doing well and writer friends are able to throw themselves into their own writing projects. 

More later...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Finished the Rough Draft!!

So, I was just over on Twitter, checking to see when I started writing my current work-in-progress. Here's what I found:

I'm happy to announce that I finished the rough draft tonight, just five and a half weeks after I wrote that first tweet about the book on March 17!

I have never, NEVER in my entire life written a book in such a short amount of time. How in the world did I do it?  Here's what's changed compared to past manuscripts:

1. Both my kids are now in school full time. This factor alone has made a huge difference in my workday. My son skipped ahead from kindergarten to first grade in January, so suddenly I found myself with longer blocks of writing time than I've ever experienced. (He's loving first grade, by the way—and he's tall for his age, so there's no need to envision a scared little six-year-old.)

2. This is the shortest book I've ever written. It currently stands at just over 47,000 words, which is somewhat on the small side, even for young adult fiction.  I'm guessing it will bulk up a little when I go through and edit, but it's a story that doesn't need to be overly long.  As I said in a recent tweet, my manuscript that's currently out with publishers feels like my big-budget movie, while this work-in-progress in my little indie drama.  It could easily be scored to an acoustic guitar.

3. The story is a contemporary tale, set in areas right around where I currently live.  Typically, I write historical fiction, which obviously requires a great deal of research.  Or else I set my books in places where I formerly lived, which requires double-checking info to make sure I've gotten things like street names and tree varieties straight.  This time around I made it pretty easy on myself.  If I needed to feel some inspiration for my setting, all I had to do was walk my dog.

Now I need to revise, polish, and edit before sending the book out to my wonderful critique partners.  But the skeleton has been created.  I can't wait to share more about it.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Photos of the Inspiration for My Novel-in-Progress

I'm now over 12,000 words into my new novel—a contemporary young adult bedtime tale—and I can't wait to eventually share more details. For now, here are some photographs my daughter and I took in our local woods, the inspiration for the story.

Monday, March 21, 2011

New Book!

As I wait to learn the fate of In the Shadow of Blackbirds, I've been trying to figure out what my next writing project should be.  I call this "The First Chapter Stage."  Ideas float around in my head, characters start to come alive, first chapters spill out of me, but the urge to move beyond the opening pages often fizzles.  It takes me a while before I fall in love with a new story after I leave a beloved manuscript behind.   

Well... I'm thrilled to announce that passion has finally struck.  I started a new book last week and just reached the third chapter and 3,450 words.  My characters are growing and deepening in my mind, the plot is almost fully formed, and, most importantly, I can't stop thinking about it!! 

I won't divulge too many details at this point.  Let's just say I've been wanting to write a contemporary fairy tale for a long, long while, and I've finally found my story.  Inspired by the woods near my house, I've come up with a young adult bedtime story I can't wait to share.

More info to follow...  If you need me, I'll be writing.