Friday, July 29, 2016

Amazon Giveaway!

I'm doing an Amazon Giveway. Enter HERE for your chance to win a free print copy of my book, Pictures of You.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

My Favorite Young Adult Books on Death and Grieving

When you're going through something, there's nothing quite like a song, a movie, a book, something out there that lets you know someone else knows a little (or a lot) about how you're feeling. I can't tell you how many times a good story or a song on the radio was exactly what I needed in a dark chapter of my life. As someone who has suffered from a lot of loss, I love a good book about death and grieving. Listed below are my favorites on the subject.

 I read Say Goodnight Gracie by Julie Reece Deaver as a teenager. I loved it so much, I read it three times. I rarely read a book more than once. This story about a girl who loses her best friend really tugs at your heart.
 One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones: The title of this book drew me to it. A good read about grief and how unfair life can be when you're uprooted from the life you know and have to start over from scratch.
 The beautifully written Willow by Julia Hoban was enthralling, but hard to read. Willow, who feels responsible for her parents' death, turns to cutting to numb the pain.
I also read Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume, a story of a girl whose father is killed during a hold-up at a convenience store when I was a teen and read it again as an adult. I enjoyed it both times. I also liked the movie. This heart-wrenching tale really resonated with me.
 I really enjoyed Hold Still by Nina LaCour, which is about a girl whose friend commits suicide. The story is memorable and haunting, the writing gorgeous and honest.
I'm shamelessly adding my own book Pictures of You to the list, based loosely on my story of losing my very best friend, mixed with my grandma's story of loss, with dashes of fiction throughout. I can't promise you'll like it, but I secretly love this story and the fictional characters that are roughly based off people I used to know.

Monday, July 13, 2015

What I'm Working On


I was super flattered when a girl sent me an email and told me how much she loved Pictures of You and said she can't wait for my next novel. That inspired this post. Soooooo if you're a sad little monkey and are yearning to know what I'm up to (I know--doubtful): I am currently working on two novels, although I have adrenal fatigue and not only am I super tired all the time, but my brain is mush, which puts a bit of a damper on things, particularly writing. But in case you were wondering, I have finished writing and am now revising a book about a girl who runs away from home and starts a new life, in a new state, lives in a secret, hidden room at her new high school, falls in love with her hot art teacher and dates the school's bad boy.

And book number two: I am about 80 pages into one about a girl who has severe OCD and is bullied at school. She is painfully obsessed with a cute boy on the high school swim team who barely knows she exists and she makes a friend with a weird Australian guy.

I'm hoping I'll have the runaway book available to the public by the end of the year, but I make no promises. In the meantime, read some Sara Zarr (my favorite author) to hold you off.

Me, totally star-struck, meeting my favorite author, Sara Zarr, who is a far superior writer. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Pictures of You: Author Q&A

Q: Is there more truth (ie inspiration from your own life) in the details or in the story's themes? -Zach, Henderson, NV
A: The story's themes. The details are mainly fictional, but the themes were inspired by many of my own personal emotional journeys. Writing this book was therapeutic for me. Like September, I also lost my very best friend, although not to a car accident, but to a drug addiction (while that friend has not passed away her addiction permanently altered our relationship and it took me ten years to get over it). I did lose a good friend to a car accident. Perhaps my biggest inspiration for the plot was my Grandma Pat's experience. She lost her closest friend in a car accident. She was in the car when the accident took place. She saw graphic details she could never shake from her memory, which haunted her for her entire life. She was a teenager when the accident occurred. She chose to never drive a car again. I was in several car accidents (I only caused one of them) and became fearful of driving for years, myself. Car accidents have always disturbed me. Attacking a difficult theme like that was somewhat liberating. The inspiration for Adrien's story was also somewhat autobiographical. I struggled for many years with crippling depression. While I didn't have to deal with the kind of guilt he did (thankfully!), I relate so much to his suffering. I thought it would be interesting to explore the theme of forgiveness. I had to do a lot of forgiving over the years. I've also had to ask for forgiveness. I've learned forgiveness is a critical key to happiness.

Q: How did you choose the characters' names? -Amanda, Troutdale, OR
A: September, Adrien, Abby and Chris were names I would've given my own children. I thought it would be funny to give Mary, who is the quirkiest character in the book, a typical name. Some families give their kids names that fit into a theme (nature, names that start with J, etc). September's parents are so average and unoriginal they decided to simplify things by naming their kids after the months they were born in.

Q: Where did you get inspiration for September's character? -Kirkham, Provo, UT
A: September is me in disguise. She and I share many of the same personal experiences, interests and character traits. I made a few tweaks to keep it from being too obvious: September is a photographer and I'm a painter (although I dabble in photography). September is actually more resilient than me. I had to make her grieving process move forward quickly for the sake of pacing. If she took a whole ten years to move forward and forgive, the book wouldn't have qualified for the YA category. I don't think a teen wants their protagonist to be 28 at the end of the story. I wanted to keep it relatable for my target audience.

Q: What's with Adrien's head to toe green outfits? -Anonymous
A: I knew a cool boy in high school who one day showed up to school dressed that way, in clashing variations of green. I admired his courage to do something different and ended up trying it myself. I thought it would be a funny trait for Adrien to have. There is no meaning behind it beyond that.

Q: What character do you feel like is most similar to your own personality? Did you base any characters off people you know? -Stephen, Woodland Hills, UT
A: As mentioned above, September was based off of me. I also feel Adrien was somewhat inspired by me and my own demons, combined with what I thought was the ideal guy back in my teen years--moody, troubled, artistic, sensitive and handsome. Chris was inspired by a guy I dated. Abby was a combination of my two closest friends--my childhood best friend, Anne, and my sister, Rachel. Mary represented my goth friends in high school and their (sometimes comical) fascination with death. Most of those friends were quite offbeat and sweet, too. I'm not sure how I came up with John. I confess I used to daydream about dating a hot Native American guy. I thought it would be interesting to make him September's polar opposite. September's family is actually quite different from my own. I'm very close to my family and they are much more interesting and silly and down to earth than September's.

Q: You mention a lot of music in the book. How has/does music influence your life? What would you say to someone struggling with depression or who knows someone with it? What can people do to help their friends/family with depression? -Heather, Bellevue, NE
A: Music has been (and still is) a lifesaver for me. It got me through so many years of grief and depression. I turned to the same bands September did in my teen years. I LOVED '80s stuff, although I was not a teen during that decade. The Smiths/Morrissey was a huge blessing in my life. It was comforting knowing someone out there was more lonely, sad and pathetic than I was. The Cure got me through some dark days. Although I no longer suffer from depression (thanks to God and years of therapy), music, of the past and today, still brings me a great deal of joy and comfort. The depression part is tricky. It is so common these days, yet still so misunderstood. A wise man recently compared depression to cancer. You wouldn't tell someone with cancer to snap out of it. A person simply can't help it--it can take months or even years to overcome the illness, if you are so lucky. The worst things you could say are, "Just be happy." "Smile! It's all in your head." Depression affects one's brain chemistry. It is often genetic. Many times it comes from trauma or loss. Most people cannot climb out of that dark hole alone. Encourage them to get professional help. Be compassionate and nonjudgmental. Share with them the local or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline if necessary. (1-800-273-8255)

Q: What are you working on now? -Anonymous
A: I am working on two projects. I'm putting a final gloss on a novel about a teen runaway who leaves her abusive step-father to start a new life. She finds a long forgotten, hidden room in a high school to live in and hopes to not only survive physically and emotionally, but to thrive. She has a dream of becoming a professional artist and there is, of course, a juicy love triangle. I am also writing a book about a girl who is severely misunderstood and bullied at school. She has a pretty bad case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and happens to be obsessed with a gorgeous and unobtainable boy who sits in front of her in her AP English class. She hesitantly befriends a weird Australian guy--it's hard for her to trust anyone after her dad ditches her and her mom.

Thanks for the questions and interest in my book! If you have any more, please leave them in the comments, along with your name and location. I will happily answer them and add them here or to a later post. And thank you for supporting indie authors!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Meet My Novel

I've wanted to write a novel since I was twelve. I would start writing something, usually three to five handwritten pages, and then think, "This sucks!" and give up. Months later I would try again. I think my record was twenty pages. And then one day, while I was attending college, I read a famous quote by Ernest Hemingway that changed everything: "The first draft of anything is sh*t." I thought, "Wow, really?" It gave me a big dose of courage. It gave me permission to write a WHOLE crappy book--and then I could polish it and shine it and make it pretty later.

About six years ago I wrote my first novel. A whole, 200+ pages of novel. A few months later I wrote a second one. About a year later I wrote a third one. I am now working on a fourth. Reading that quote was a turning point for me.

But it took some time to have the courage to share my books with friends, with family, with literary agents. It took some time before I was ready to release one of my babies to the world. And now I finally have. And I am scared. Really, really scared. But I am also excited. I've wanted this for more than half of my life, after all.

Pictures of You is my first published novel, but the second one I wrote. I know it's not perfect--I'm no Virginia Woolf--but I love it. Writing it was so fun, so therapeutic. I laughed, I cried. I feel like September, Adrien, Chris, Abby and Mary are some of my closest friends. I hope you will like it, too.

Here is the synopsis:

In a moment, September Jones’s life is changed forever. Shortly after high school graduation her best friend, Abby, is killed in a hit-and-run accident. Devastated, September struggles to face each day. She turns to junk food, bad TV and journaling to cope. When September meets handsome, mysterious Adrien, who’s given himself two weeks to write the perfect suicide note, and nice guy Chris, her new coworker who has some troubles of his own, she realizes she’s not the only one dealing with personal demons. Pictures of You reminds us of our human capacity for resilience, forgiveness and hope.

Buy your copy HERE

Introducing: An ABC Book for the Despairing, Disheartened and Depressed


I've been wanting to write and illustrate a children's book since I was a child myself. Actually, I did do just that when I was nine or ten, but needless to say nothing ever came of it. Sooooo, my brother and I, who both love dark humor, were in a somber mood one day and started thinking of funny and depressing alliterations to cheer ourselves up. We ended up with a big old ugly list and then thought, "Hey! Let's turn this into a book!" And so we did. It's not technically a children's book--adults will probably appreciate it more. In fact, it might give smaller kids bad dreams.

An ABC Book for the Despairing, Disheartened and Depressed is a darkly humorous book about some of the crappy things in life that happen to perfectly nice people. From the severe (Atrocious atomic annihilation) to the trivial (Zealous zits), this children's book for adults is full of witty alliterations, and somber and silly illustrations. The authors' goal is to bring some cheer to those who are down in the dumps. They believe it is, in part, through humor they have been able to survive some pretty bleak times of their own.

Buy your copy HERE