Sunday, May 30, 2010

Just for Fun - New York and Class of 2k10

Last post of May...which means your last chance to win my last ARC of FAITHFUL and two cameo charms! All you need to do is comment on this (or any other post in May - I'll go back and collect all commenters) before midnight May 31.

What a great time the Class of 2k10 had in New York during BEA week! Just for fun I'm uploading some photos of the events and people...starting with our first night dinner pic in our classy class t-shirts.

Here's the New Title shelf of our books at BEA...

And a group of us at the New York Public Library branch at Mulberry Street with the sweet librarian...

And the wonderful display at The Voracious Reader, an indy in Larchmont, New York...

I want to thank the NYPL, The Voracious Reader and the fabulous Books of Wonder in New York for hosting such terrific readings. And thanks to Barry Eva, who showed up at The Voracious Reader armed with great questions! And to my classmates (especially Shari Maurer and Shannon Delany) who made the week so memorable.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

More Blog Tour Thanks and BEA Excitement

(Don't forget to comment on any of my May posts to qualify to win my last ARC! Contest ends midnight, May 31. I will be off at BEA all next week...)

On Monday I'm heading to New York for BEA and much Class of 2k10 fun! Thanks to the efforts of several of my classmates, a number of us have events scheduled in and around the city. If you are there, please come see us!

On Tuesday from 6 to 8 PM a big group of us (Alexandra Diaz, Bonnie Doerr, Irene Latham, Jame Richards, Jenn Hubbard, Jeri Smith-Ready, Judith Graves, Kitty Keswick. Leah Cypess, Rhonda Hayer, Shannon Delany, Shari Maurer, Swati Avasthi, and I) will be signing at Books of Wonder bookstore in Manhattan.

On Wednesday from 10 AM to 12 noon some of us will be at the Mulberry Street Branch of the New York Public Library (I'll be there.)

Wednesday from 4 to 6 PM we all troop out to Larchmont for a signing at The Voracious Reader bookstore.

I have to leave Thursday, but another group of of our 2k10 authors will be at the Agnes Branch of the NYPL between 4 and 5 PM.

Last week on my blog tour I had wonderful visits and reviews with The Story Siren, In Bed With Books, Rebecca's Book Blog, and Tempting Persephone, and a fun podcast interview with the charming Barry Eva on A Book and a Chat. Chuck Sambuchino also featured my guest post on "How I Got My Agent."

And my dear friend Denise Jaden hosted me on her Teen Author Tuesday blog this week, too!

Next week my tour concludes with an entire week with YA Roundup.

Again, I'm so appreciative to all these bloggers for featuring me and FAITHFUL. Thank you!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Voices You Should Hear: Andrew Xia Fukuda

This is one of those wonderful "finds" - a novel that I might never have read if I didn't write a blog. Andrew Xia Fukuda has an unforgettable voice, and CROSSING is a novel that deserves to be found. He graciously answered a few questions for me:

Congratulations on the publication of your novel, CROSSING. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

What if you were the only Asian student in an all-white high school in upstate New York? Worse yet: what if classmates suddenly start to inexplicably disappear . . . and suspicion begins to fall on you? This is the crisis Xing Xu, a teenager from China, faces. As the mystery of the abductions rattles his adopted hometown, Xing’s position on the outskirts of the community actually puts him at an advantage. Local police are baffled by the crimes, but Xing, so easily ignored by those around him, sees and hears the things others do not. The immigrant story that is Xing's – his desperate bid for acceptance in white America, the devastating sting of rejection – not only serves as the backdrop to this psychologically rich tale, but propels the action toward a chilling climax. Xing's struggle to unravel the mystery is a journey of discovery: of himself, of his relationship to his estranged mother, of racism, and, finally, of a murderer.

I worked for a few years with immigrant teens in Manhattan's Chinatown. What really struck me was how acutely they felt isolated from society at-large. Shoved out of the way, really. And they shared a real disenchantment with America. One Sunday, a group of us - we were traveling in upstate New York - decided to attend church. It turned out to be an all-white church and I still remember the cold looks of suspicion and icy stares cast our way throughout the service. Just because we were Chinese, just because we looked different. Those cold stares haunted me for a long time afterward. It got me thinking: what if an immigrant teen had to grow up all alone in this kind of community? And what if something terribly, mysteriously awful started to happen in that community?

The 2007 Virginia Tech massacre at the hands of Seung-Hui Cho added urgency to my writing. I feel that Asian American males have often been dealt an unfair hand by the media, and I was afraid of a backlash, afraid that we might get typecast as raging, hate-filled, gun-toting campus killers. For weeks after, I attacked the manuscript with renewed fervor and purpose, determined to add more dimensionality to Xing's character. Realistic complexity and nuance in characters, after all, kill stereotypes.

What a perceptive analysis, and how sad but how true. How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?

This was my first novel and it took a decade to write. Truth is, the novel was more rewritten than "written" - the first draft was a bloated, gargantuan mess of both nothingness and everythingness. It took a long time for the novel and its characters to find direction and for myself to mature as a writer before CROSSING reached a level of artistry.

CROSSING was never meant to be specifically for teens. I knew that my protagonist was a teen, and that much of the setting was in the teen world. But the themes of the book and the style of writing was perhaps a better fit for an older readership. This didn't bother me when I was writing the novel, but it did present some challenges later on when it came to trying to find a home for it with the publishers. It wasn't a neat fit, and many editors blanched at this. Crossover YA has recently become a more accepted niche market, but early on it was a tougher sell for this very reason.

I'm glad you mentioned the revision aspect of publication! Can you describe your path to the publication of CROSSING?

Unlike most budding authors, I never joined a writing group and so lacked the traditional feedback/support system most have. For over a decade, I spent many a lonely night working on the manuscript, driven by a desire to get Xing's story completed. I felt I'd hit upon something worthwhile and that it was a story that needed to be told. But there were many moments of doubt, times when I questioned whether what I had was something or just dreck. And then came the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Out of over six thousand entries, CROSSING continued to make its way through the process until only a few books remained in contention. When Terry Goodman, Senior Acquisitions Editor at AmazonEncore, called with an offer to publish CROSSING, which was immensely validating. Best phone call ever. If I ever get a dog, I'm going to name him Terry.

That is a terrific story, and many congratulations on making such a break-through. Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Writing a novel begins with a vision and ends only after dogged persistence. Talent fills in the rest. Without those three - vision, persistence, talent - you'll never finish a worthy novel.

Do you have any new writing ventures underway?

At the moment, I have the opposite of writer’s block: two stories have tumbled into my head and heart, and both, apparently, are jostling to be written before the other. They are completely different genres involving drastically different writing styles: one is literary romance (this caught me by surprise) and the other is a YA novel with a neat spin on the dystopian genre. It’s a bizarre experience; if I spend too much time on the one, I feel unfaithful to the other. Both are flowing so well that I dare not put either aside out of fear that that might somehow dry up the creative stream.

Do you have a website where readers can learn more about CROSSING?

Yes! It's Thanks for visiting.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Blogger Love

First, I have to say...FAITHFUL is out!

Once again this past week, I've been privileged to join a number of bloggers for my debut book tour. On Monday, My Friend Amy had me over for a guest post and a sweet review. I visited Ticket to Anywhere on Tuesday and the Teenreads blog on Wednesday. On launch day, my dear (so far just virtual) friend Holly Cupala hosted me on her blog - and I can't wait to meet her at BEA! And On Friday, the Book Butterfly had me in for a guest post.

Next week the tour continues - with stops at The Story Siren, In Bed With Books, Rebecca's Book Blog and Tempting Persephone. And the earlier posts can be viewed via my post of May 7.

And tomorrow at 11 AM Eastern I'll be appearing on Blogtalk Radio for "A Book and a Chat" with the delightful Barry Eva.

This is an exciting time for me. Thank you for letting me share it with you.

Oh - don't forget! Any comments on any of my blog posts this month will make you eligible to win my last ARC of FAITHFUL plus two cameo charms!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Fabulous New Fiction: 2k10 Debut Author Kristina McBride

(Don't forget - all comments this month are being collected - you'll be eligible to win a copy of FAITHFUL and two cameo charms.)

I feel like I'm introducing my sister in this post...Kristina McBride and I share our agent, the wonderful Alyssa Eisner Henkin. I'm happy to say I think Alyssa knows how to pick 'em - that's my conviction after reading Kristina's remarkable debut THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES. This is a compelling new book, and Kristina is a rising star.

Congratulations on the publication of your novel, THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES. It's a fabulous story. Can you tell us a bit about it and what inspired it?

Thank you! And congratulations to you on the publication of FAITHFUL! THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES is the story of 16-year-old Tessa McMullen, whose best friend was kidnapped two years ago. The book begins when Tessa learns that her friend has been found – ALIVE – and is coming home. Tessa struggles to regain her friendship with the girl who returns, as she is so very different from the friend Tessa remembers. Tessa is also learning how to live her life again after letting go of her deep-rooted survivor’s guilt, which has kept her from enjoying the typical life most teens would lead – you know, friends, boyfriends, etc. There’s a really hot guy named Max who tries to help her along the way. But Tessa is distant, and not sure she’s ready for a relationship.

How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?

I have been writing for teens for several years now. THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES is my third novel, but the first to make it to publication.

We share our wonderful agent, Alyssa Eisner Henkin (yay!) Can you describe your path to the publication of THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES, including how you met Alyssa?

We’re so very lucky to be working with Alyssa, aren’t we? She is wonderfully talented! I wrote the manuscript in 2007 and submitted queries to several agents. This, mind you, was after two years of rejections on the other manuscripts I previously mentioned. After Alyssa offered me representation (holy shmoly I was so excited!), I got to work on revisions. Eleven months later (yes, you read that right, ELEVEN months later), Alyssa finally said the book was ready to submit to publishers. And she was right – she’s brilliant, I tell you. Three weeks after her pitch went out, I had three offers on the table.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Write, write, and write some more. Read everything you can get your hands on in your chosen genre. Research agents (check, and perfect your query letter (guidelines also on Query tirelessly. Don’t let rejection get you down – at least not for longer than 24 hours. But above all, keep writing.

Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?
I was a high school English teacher for eight years before quitting my job to stay home with my first child. It was at this point that I finally had time to focus on my dream of becoming a published author. While I don’t desire to go back to the classroom full-time, I miss the interaction I had with students. A goal that I have is to be able to connect with teens again by making author visits to classrooms. I can’t tell you how much I’m craving a really cool classroom discussion!

Do you have any new writing ventures underway?

I am currently working on book 2 of my 2-book deal with Egmont USA. That’s about all I can say for now.

Do you have a website where readers can learn more about THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES?

Anyone interested can learn more about me and my novel at

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother's Day

I want to dedicate this post to moms. Most especially, I want to dedicate it to my mother and to my mother-in-law and my stepmom.

I would not be a writer if it were not for my mother, Barbara George Stroup. She hounded me about writing. Told me I had talent. Told me it was what I should be doing. Told me all my young life that writing was what I was placed on earth to do. So what did I do?

Anything but. I got a master's degree in science; I went to sea. Got married, tried not to write.

It wasn't until she passed away, unexpectedly and too young, that I uncovered her children's stories, the ones she’d written, and in finding them I found myself. I returned to writing and everything I write now I write with her in mind. She is the angel on my shoulder, the muse in my heart.

My mother-in-law, June Dings Fox, stepped in when Mom died. Actually, I should say, she cozied in. She never butted in. Never lectured me, never scolded me. She just wrapped her arms around me and encouraged me to be myself. She let me read to her the early versions of Faithful, when I was still trying. She follows my success today. We were and are and always will be dear friends.

And my stepmom, BettyJean Anderson Stroup, who became the second love of my dad's life, is a deeply warm and loving woman who has also become a dear friend, support, confidant, shoulder, and who has brought me a huge loving new family that I cherish. I am so lucky my dad found her. I am so blessed to have her, too.

I love my moms. I thank my moms. Happy Mother’s Day, with all my heart.

Friday, May 7, 2010


I am feeling very grateful right now. I’m grateful that, after years of hard work, my debut novel FAITHFUL was represented by my wonderful agent Alyssa Eisner Henkin and bought by my talented editor Jen Bonnell and will be published next Thursday, May 13.

I’m grateful that I’m being supported by a blog tour – and especially grateful to the bloggers who are hosting me on the tour, taking their time and energy to let my voice be heard. On April 27 and 28, I was hosted in a lovely interview on Poisoned Rationality. On the 29th, Lauren gave me a long stretch of space on Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf. And on the 30th, Reading Rocks 4 Me did a great interview, too.

This week, Chick Loves Lit hosted me on May 3, Cindy at Princess Bookie gave me a wonderful review along with my interview on May 4, Book Lovers Inc. interviewed me on May 5 along with Jan on Bookseedstudio and the Undercover Book Lover on May 6, and on May 7 and 8 I’m on Windowpane Memoirs with an interview and another lovely review.

To all of these bloggers – thank you so much.

Next week I’ll be visiting My Friend Amy, Ticket to Anywhere, Teenreads, Holly Cupala, and the Book Butterfly. Again – my warm thanks for letting me spend time with you all.

And to my cover designer, Jeanine Henderson, all I can say is, you are the best.

And as a reminder – this entire month, if you comment on any post – any one at all – I’ll put your name in the hat to receive a copy of FAITHFUL along with two cameo charms (see my April 30 post.) This is only one way I can say thanks to all of you, too.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Voices You Should Hear: Jennifer Cervantes

Some of my all-time favorite books are middle-grade novels that have a magical touch. Jennifer Cervantes has written just such a novel: lovely, intriguing, heart-warming, and tinged with just enough magic to feel right. Here, with more about her debut TORTILLA SUN, is Jennifer Cervantes.

Congratulations on the publication of your novel, TORTILLA SUN. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

TORTILLA SUN is a touching story about Izzy Roybal who discovers a beat-up baseball marked with the words “because…magic.” She is determined to figure out what these words mean. What secrets does this ball have to tell? Her mom isn’t sharing any answers, especially when it comes to Izzy’s father who died before she was born. But when she spends the summer in her nana’s remote New Mexico village, Izzy discovers long buried secrets that come alive in an enchanted landscape of watermelon mountains, whispering winds, and tortilla suns.

My youngest daughter really inspired my writing when she asked me to write her a story. After I got hooked on writing, I knew I wanted to create a book where my daughters and other Hispanic children saw themselves reflected in the pages. Additionally, my love for New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment, is the perfect backdrop and served as further inspiration for this story.

The Land of Enchantment is indeed perfect! How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?

TORTILLA SUN is my first book.

Can you describe your path to the publication of TORTILLA SUN?

Long and sometimes quiet. I didn’t set out to write a novel, (I’d never written a word of fiction), but my youngest daughter, Juliana asked me to write her a story one day. I picked up a pen and was hooked! As I got to know the characters one idea lead to the next and I had to see what happened to them, so I wrote until I finished it. After, joining a critique group and editing over and over, I sent out queries to agents and was lucky to sign with Laurie McLean. It took over a year for TS to find a home with the right publisher, so the waiting was sometimes hard.

That's a fantastic story, especially given such a lovely debut. Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

I know this sounds simplistic, but read, read, read. Study the style, plotting, word choice, and literary elements used by authors you like and admire. And then join a supportive writing group who can share the journey with you. I think that kind of support is invaluable!

Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?

I am so grateful to be part of the children’s literature conversation and stay focused on that in whatever work I am pursuing, whether it be teaching children’s literature at the university, giving presentations at conferences, writing a new book, or just conversing with literary friends. I am ultimately inspired by sharing stories with children and touching their lives, even if in some small way.

Do you have any new writing ventures underway?

I am working on my third manuscript titled, BLESSING NEMA.

Do you have a website where readers can learn more about TORTILLA SUN?