My oldest girlie started first grade today. First grade! I can hardly believe it, but there you have it. Where does the time go? The biggest plus of her starting first grade is that now there is a definite shape to the routine of our weeks, and that means more effective writing time. I'm just one of those structured people who thrive on have defined times for my activities, especially writing. For me, the most difficult part of writing is actually sitting down to get it done. But once I have that time carved out, it flows so much easier.

On the downside to school resuming, there won't be as much time for totally fun, frivolous activities like my cute husband spending an afternoon making bows out of PVC pipe and arrows out of wooden dowels and foam for my kiddos. But that's what precious weekend time will be for.

My newest manuscript is still with my beta readers, and I should have that feedback by the end of the month. In the meanwhile, I'm working on the second book in the series. Yes, it will be a trilogy, and I'm really enjoying writing all of it.
 
 
I've spent the past two and a half weeks traversing Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and just a blip of Nevada on our drive home. We visited the Grand Canyon (yes, I'd lived in Arizona for seven years and never seen it) and it was immense. The first view I had gave me a few seconds of vertigo--it's not often you can look straight down for a mile. And I fully admit to being a nervous wreck every time my little girlies got close to the edge of the canyon. I think I spent most of the time trying to instill a fear of cliff edges into them.

We drove a ways more and spent a day in Yellowstone, and I love the beauty of that area of the country. My girls' favorite part of the Dragon Mouth geyser and the mud volcano. Hot, bubbly mud that used to spew up into the treetops? Yup, a little kid's dream.

And of course we spent lots of wonderful time with family.

But it's good to be back and back into a writing routine. I've missed it while I was away. Oh, and something cool to share: Goodreads now has an "ask the author" feature. So if there's a question you've been burning to ask but haven't summoned up the courage to email me, you can also click on over to my author page on Goodreads and ask there. Have fun!
 
 
So yesterday was a milestone in the life of a manuscript...I passed my latest off to my fabulous beta readers! You know what that means? It should be released by the end of the year! I've had a lot of fun with this one, and I'm excited to share it with you after it's been polished a bit more. Cover creation starts in September, and then it's only a matter of time...

But what's it about, you say? What are the juicy details? How about this:

What would you do if you were a senior in high school and your mother told you she had a certain skill for raising the dead and, oh by the way, you do too. It's suburban paranormal, and it's been a big departure from the other books I've written, and I've loved every minute of it.
 
 
Thank you to the lovely Milda Harris for tagging me on this fun blog hop about how YA authors do what they do. Check out her website to see her answer these questions as well. And check out her books! She writes fun chick lit stuff. So on to the questions:

What am I working on?

Ha! You'd all like to know this, wouldn't you? You'd like to know when my next book will be released? Well, I'm not going to share those details with you (because deadlines are a very tricky thing when you have three adorable, mischievous girls), but I will tell you what it is I'm working on. I decided not too long ago that I haven't written anything contemporary. I've done fantasy, high fantasy, and dystopian. So now I'm working on a contemporary paranormal novel. It's about a senior in high school who's at the bottom of the social food chain and then finds out she has some pretty freaky powers, which make her feel like, well, even more of a freak. But then she finds out the popular girl has some pretty nasty plans in the works to make this the best homecoming ever, and Constance has to embrace those powers to save the day. It's been a lot of fun.


How does my work differ from others of its genre?

There is so much inappropriate material out there for tweens and teenagers. I've read quite a few books that the language was atrocious or there was a lot of sex. Why does it even have to be there? Not every teenager out there has a potty mouth of feels the need to be sexually active. So I write clean reads--books that when my girls are teenagers, I won't think twice about having them read it.

Why do I write what I do?

I write whatever strikes me at the moment. I hadn't intended for The Burn trilogy to be dystopian, but a wise beta reader told me after reading a draft that Terra's underwater world was so much more interesting than the land, and so after rewrites, the corrupt government--and thus the next two volumes in the series--was born. I just write the kind of stories I'd like to read.

How does your writing process work?
I didn't use an outline for Dragon Sister or The Burn, and I thought from those experiences that I'm not an outliner. Boy, have I changed my story. Writing sequels has of necessity made me an outliner, and that skill has spilled over into my other books as well. I don't necessarily hold the outline sacred--I make changes all the time--but it's really nice to know where I'm going and the basic structure of how I'm going to get there.

And that's the basic gist of how I write. And now check out another fabulous YA author to see how she writes:

Mari Mancusi always wanted a dragon as a pet. Unfortunately the fire insurance premiums proved a bit too large and her house a bit too small--so she chose to write about them instead. Today she works as an award-winning young adult author and freelance television producer, for which she has won two Emmys. When not writing about fanciful creatures of myth and legend, Mari enjoys goth clubbing, cosplay, snowboarding, watching cheesy (and scary) horror movies, and her favorite guilty pleasure—playing videogames. A graduate of Boston University, she lives in Austin, Texas with her husband Jacob, daughter Avalon, and their dog Mesquite.
 
 
And I mean you guys. Seriously. I recently had a young man named Ethan contact me because he wanted to do a book report on The Burn for school. You know, because it's one of his favorite books. This made me smile on so many levels. 1) One of the books I wrote is one of his favorites. For reals? For reals. 2) He liked my book well enough that he wanted to do a book report on it. I remember doing book reports in school, and book reports were done on real books. I sometimes find I have to remind myself that I do have real books out there. 3) His teacher didn't think I would respond to his message. Take that, teacher! (Unless of course, Teacher of Ethan, you are also one of my readers, in which case I will gladly say thank you for being a great teacher!) 4) Readers spread the word.

I'm not sure how Ethan found The Burn, but I love that he loves it. And because he chose to do a book report on The Burn, there's a teacher and a class who now know about it too. Readers who spread the word about books--and not just my books; ANY books--are wonderful people.

Things like this just make me love what I do. I love reaching out with my stories and know they touch people. So thank you, Dear Reader. And have a grand day.
 
 
And since spring is here, we've been busy planting outside. We planted two orange trees and a grapefruit tree in our backyard, and I'm positively babying those things. Yes, they are my three extra children, and if they don't do well, it won't be for lack of trying. And yes, I have named them. Octavius, Shirley, and Gertrude. You know, it just makes it easier for when I'm telling my husband about them. So instead of saying, "I gave the orange tree in the back right corner a little extra water today," I can just say "I gave Gertrude a bigger drink." Easier, right?

We also planted some corn and watermelons, then covered them with bird netting so the sprouts would be safe. But guess what? A few industrious birds outsmarted the bird net and gobbled up every single one of the sprouts. Boo. Now we're going to plant again and see if we can't be smarter than the birds. Wish us luck.

And I've been busy writing. I'm really getting into it and enjoying my story so far. I love that I'm writing a story with some fantasy again--it's always been my favorite to read as well. Speaking of which, I'm rereading Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Days of Blood and Starlight because Dreams of Gods and Monsters comes out in only a few days. I can't wait to see the way Laini Taylor ends this one. I'm sure lots of you have read it. If you have, what did you think and what are you expecting? If you haven't read it--do it! You won't regret it.
 
 
I hope you're all having a great year so far. I've been busy around here. I've decided that my house needs an internal facelift, and so my husband and I have started painting. I've always wanted a cute house, but I never quite cared enough to get it done. New Year's Resolution--I need to start caring. My talents definitely do not lie in the visual arts area, but I'm putting that qualm aside. And painting definitely takes longer when you're limited to a few hours every night after the little ones are in bed. I suppose we could paint during the day, but that would result in cute little hand prints all over the house. We'll stick to evenings.

In the writing arena, I've decided to change the novel I'm working on from first person point of view to third person. The Burn trilogy was written in first person, but I feel like I want a change from that, so now I'm switching it. Tedious? Maybe a little, but I'm also going through and editing and filling in the bones of this story as I do it, so I'm having a lot of fun with it. I'm not sure when it will be done, but I'll keep you posted.
 
 
I hope you have a very merry Christmas with your friends and family. Enjoy the spirit of the season and be safe! And Happy New Year!
 
 
It's 12 am on the east coast, which means it's now officially December 2nd! I declare it Reaping Day! Here are the links to buy:

Buy the ebook: Amazon | Apple | B&N  | Smashwords
Buy the paperback: Amazon | CreateSpace

Please keep any spoilers to yourselves for the first few weeks to give people a chance to read it. Spreading the word about the trilogy, though, is definitely allowed :)

Thank you everyone, for being awesome readers and seeing this journey through to the end with me. You're amazing!
 
 
Only one more week until The Reaping comes out. I'm so excited and nervous at the same time. This will be the end of a trilogy that I've poured so much time, work, and so much of myself into. I hope you are all as anxious as I am for December 2nd!

This week I hope you take the time to recognize the things you're grateful for. I'm grateful for family and friends and all the blessings my Heavenly Father has given me. I've been given so much and I see all these tiny miracles around me every day. I'm so glad that we have a day set aside to give thanks.

I hope you all are safe and have a good holiday, wherever you may be.