Friday, September 4, 2020

Quarantine Update

Whew! What a crazy year, am I right? I know I'm not the only one who didn't expect it to turn out this way. Like with many others, 2020 has managed to mess with all my carefully laid plans.

First, the release of the third book in my trilogy, WARREN THE 13TH AND THE THIRTEEN-YEAR CURSE. The book's publication had already been delayed due to production issues, so I was so excited for it to finally come out on March 24th! I was also looking forward to going on another 3 week book tour with illustrator Will Staehle to promote it.

Here I am at the beginning of the year with all my book-babies, together at last! So guileless. So happy. I had no idea what was coming.

As you probably recall, March is when all the Covid-19 stuff began ramping up and Stay-at-Home orders were announced. Almost overnight all our planned events were cancelled. Bookstores and schools were shut down. 

Not only that, but my husband lost an entire year's worth of work as a touring sound engineer too! Talk about stress. 

Granted, it's been a struggle for everyone, especially those who have actually dealt with the virus and illness firsthand. Thankfully my loved ones and I have managed to stay healthy through all this, knock on wood.

But on a purely professional level I have to say it really sucks to release a new book at the start of an unprecedented quarantine. I tried my best to rally and I took part in a lot of virtual promo events and zoom panels and such. just wasn't the same. More events were cancelled, including the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, where I was supposed to be a panelist. That one stung - it's always been one of my favorite events, and to take part was an honor I was really looking forward to.

Oh, yeah. And during this time we also learned that a major studio that had been developing a Warren TV series decided to not renew the option. Absolutely heartbreaking, especially after getting a glimpse of what was in the works.

Soooo....I fell into a bit of a funk for a while.  But the quarantine turned out to be a bit of a blessing in disguise. During the initial lockdown when I wasn't able to go to my day job, I found myself with a lot more time on my hands than usual. Which meant I got to write more. (And play World of Warcraft, but we won't talk about that.)

I even joined a few zoom writing sessions, which was so motivating, even though I was just quietly tapping away on my computer alongside other people quietly-tapping on theirs. Before I knew it, I was making great progress on my WIP, a Latinx middle grade fantasy novel that I've been struggling with for the past five years or so.

After writing and scrapping and re-writing several drafts over the years, I finally hit the draft I was aiming for. The synopsis snapped into place. The words flowed. It was glorious! And before I knew it, I was typing "The End"!

Of course, that didn't mean I was done. I did another fairly extensive revision and sent it out to a couple trusted readers. Then I revised some more and sent it out to more people, including some of my Spooky Middle Grade colleagues who were so kind to read and give me additional notes and suggestions. 

And now, after even more tinkering and revising, I think it's finally ready to query! 

Just to dip my toe into the water, I decided to take part in #PitMad earlier this week, just to see if I got any interest. I really set my expectations low. I know a lot of people who have participated without much success, so I wasn't getting my hopes up at all. If anything, it was just a way to practice my elevator pitch and put myself out there after being in writer-recluse mode for so long. 

Here's my pitch:

I was stunned when, by the end of the day, my pitch had received 200 retweets and 82 likes, 20 or so of which were interested agents! 

Holy cow! I can't tell you how much my heart is bursting over this. I just feel so incredibly grateful for all the kind and supportive tweets I've received, and for all the boosts. Now my Labor Day weekend will be spent looking into these agents and sending out my first round of queries - I can't think of a better way to spend it!

This book is the book my heart. That's why it was so hard to find the right way to write it. I wrote it for my 10 year old self who craved a story with Latina heroines, magical animals, sparkling snow, golden pyramids, mouth-watering food, and ride-or-die friendships. Now I have hope that it's a story other people will want to read as well.

Of course I know the road ahead is long. Just because an agent liked my tweet doesn't mean they'll like my book. Rejection is part of the game, and it will likely be years before my story ever hits shelves, if at all. But right now, I'm just hanging onto the glowy feelings. They come so rarely! I just hope my little book finds a home one day!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019


I'm so excited to share the cover for the third book in the WARREN THE 13TH trilogy, WARREN THE 13TH AND THE THIRTEEN-YEAR CURSE. During my last school tour with illustrator Will Staehle, there was a lot of speculation among the students over what color the final book would be. So if you guessed blue, you win a virtual pudding cookie!

The book comes out on March 24th, 2020 and the description is as follows...

**(mild spoilers for those who haven't read the first two books!)**

At the end of the second book in the Warren the 13th series, the Warren Hotel had transformed into a giant ship and set sail for the open seas! When Warren the 13th and the 13-Year Curse opens, Warren is adjusting to the demands of running a floating hotel and is planning his 13th birthday party when disaster strikes--the hotel is shipwrecked on a strange island. To make matters worse, his octopus-like friend Sketchy is kidnapped by a traveling circus! Warren and his friends must solve a series of riddles to find the next location of the circus and rescue their friend before it's too late. Along the way, they meet a delightful new cast of characters, including elderly pirates, a sea witch, a talking clam, and a giant sea monster. As Warren pursues Sketchy's kidnappers, he will learn the truth of his friend's mysterious origins--as well as one final secret of the Warren Hotel.

You can preorder the book now via:

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods, and Other Scary Things!

My second book, WARREN THE 13TH AND THE WHISPERING WOODS comes out in FIVE days, which, in addition to giving me the exciting and nerve-wracking feelings that come with an impending release, also reminds me that I'm long overdue for a blog post.

I mean, waaaay overdue. I didn't even write a post in 2016. Sorry... I'm just a really bad blogger. 

But a lot has been going on in the past year... such as writing the aforementioned book. 

I assumed that writing a sequel would be easier than writing the first book... but it was actually a lot more challenging. I had to find a way to reintroduce the characters and background in a way that would catch new readers up to speed, but not bore readers of the first book.

Also, the initial draft clocked in at 70k words, and it needed a LOT of revising. Like, a lot a lot. Several plot lines were eliminated, characters were merged, and the entire finale was changed drastically. However, after the dust settled, I felt that the end result was a tighter, and hopefully better manuscript at half the length.

Despite the challenges, this one was a lot of fun to write. There's more adventure in Book 2, as well as a whole new setting for Warren to explore. I'm really happy with how it turned out and I'm excited for you all to read it when it comes out on March 21st! (EEEEK!)

After finishing WHISPERING WOODS, I went through a bit of a writing slump where I struggled to write anything at all for several months. I vaguely recall this happening after Book 1 too, but it's scary every time it happens: I'll find myself wondering if I'll ever get my inspiration back, or if this is it... The Last Thing I'll Ever Write. The Last of My Creative Juice. The Death of My Muse (and other dramatic fears).

I'm happy to say that I'm now writing again, and I've been chipping away at not one, but two new MG projects. Ok, they're not quite going as fast as I'd hoped, but every day I aim to write at least 500 words. (Which is harder than it sounds, especially since I have a full-time day job).

I've started keeping track of my progress using Victoria Schwab's awesome calendar and star reward system. There's nothing that brings you back to kindergarden-level pride like earning a star for a small achievement. Even if that small achievement is only 500 words. Baby steps, people. One word at a time.

Other highlights from last year were getting to take part on a San Diego Comic Con panel with some authors I really admire. I had to pinch myself to make sure I was really on the panel and not sitting in the audience dreaming about being on the panel, like I have for so many years.

Another cool thing was that Will Staehle and I got to go on our first book tour in October. We spent a week visiting schools in several states and got to meet a lot of awesome kids.

Speaking of book tours, we're about to head out again - this time for TWO weeks! I've got the pre-tour jitters. I'm not sure why, because it will be great, just like the first one. Honestly, I think I'm more scared about having to fly in so many airplanes than anything. I used to have a severe phobia of flying. Over the years, I've managed to overcome the worst of it... but there's still a part of me that threatens to have a panic attack every time I fly.

I feel bad even mentioning it, because I'm so lucky to even get to go on a book tour. But I always appreciate it when other authors talk about their anxiety, because it makes me feel less like a crazy person. So hopefully someone reading this can relate to my fear of flying, and feel the virtual fist bump of solidarity that I'm offering.

Anyway, I do intend to blog more once I get back from the tour, and I actually want to start creating some useful content that will help or inspire aspring writers. So if there's anything specific you'd like to see me write about, let me know!

In the meantime, here are my methods for coping with plane anxiety.

1. Listen to music

I always start listening to music as soon as I get on the plane. I used to do this surreptitiously even back in the day when you weren't supposed to have your phone on at all during taxiing and takeoff. (I wrestled with my need for calming music and my fear that having a phone turned on would interfere with the plane's controls and make it crash). Now I'm glad you're allowed to have your phone on at all times, as long as it's in airplane mode. I made a special playlist of my favorite music that calms me and gives me happy feels. Also, I figure if the plane goes down, at least I'll be listening to my favorite music in my last moments. (Too morbid??)


In addition to calming music, I practice slow and steady breathing. Especially during takeoff when my heart is racing like a drum. I learned to breathe deeply and mindfully by taking yoga classes, and it really does work to calm the mind and body. I also do this during turbulence, and try my best to unclench my muscles, and sort of let my body "jiggle" with the bumps. Also, during turbulence, I close my eyes and pretend I'm riding a city bus. Suddenly the bumps don't feel so big.

3. Educate yourself

I don't just mean about the physics of flight. (Because I have done that, and I'm still convinced it's some kind of dark magic that allows a giant metal tube to climb into the air and stay there). I'm talking about the little things... like how the wings are supposed to shake like they're about to snap off, and that turbulence is a "comfort issue not a safety issue" (a mantra I once heard somewhere). Also, learn about all the little sounds you hear and what they all mean. THIS SITE explains them really well.

I hope that helps some of you. I'll be using all of these tips while on my tour. Wish me luck!

Friday, January 8, 2016

2015 Recap and Looking Forward!

It's a new year and time for a new post!

The end of 2015 was so crazy I didn't have a chance to write about everything that was going on, so here's my official recap. It's going to be an honest post, and I'm going to reveal a glimpse at my writer-neuroses that I think most writers will relate to.

So, the biggest thing to happen was that WARREN THE 13TH AND THE ALL-SEEING EYE was released on November 24th, right before Thanksgiving.

It was such a whirlwind - and pretty surreal. I think I was walking around in a haze for the first week after its release. Actually seeing it in stores for the first time felt like a dream. Like, How did this get here?

We got some amazing recognition: Amazon featured it as one of their Best Books of November, and it was the #5 pick on the Top Ten Kids' Indie Next List for Winter 2015.

Despite these accolades, realizing that the book was finally out there for people to buy and read was more than a little intimidating. Many authors have warned against the perils of reading reviews because it's a slippery slope - you read some good ones that boost your ego and make you feel great... and then comes your first negative review. And suddenly it doesn't matter how many awesome reviews you have. All you can think about is that one awful review where some random stranger ripped apart your work.

It's almost laughable how easy it is to read one bad review and make the leap to feeling like you're the worst writer to ever walk the planet. I felt myself going down that rabbit hole, so I did my very best to avoid reading reviews after a few initial peeks after the book was released. I really do appreciate readers sharing their opinions the book, and I'm thrilled that so many people have given it good ratings on Goodreads and Amazon... but I've learned my lesson about opening that Pandora's box!

I'll still read professional reviews posted by certain places, such as Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and the New York Times (all who gave positive reviews to the book! AHHHHH!!). Not only that, but WARREN has just received a STARRED review from the School Library Journal!!

The main thing is, the book is out there. It can't be changed. People will either love it or not and I can't control it either way. There is a serenity that comes with letting go of the outcome... but that's easier said than done.

I also had an amazing launch party with Will Staehle at Vroman's book store in Pasadena on November 30th. We set up a snack table with a Warren the 13th standee cut-out and had a Keynote presentation and live reading planned, as well as a raffle with lots of prizes.

The event started at 6pm on a Monday which, as anyone familiar with Los Angeles traffic will tell you, is the WORST time to have an event. Not to mention that Pasadena is pretty far east for a lot of people living in L.A. Needless to say, at 6pm the room was virtually empty. I've heard many a horror story about authors showing up to book events where no one was in attendance, and I began to fear this might be the case. We waited until about 6:20, but only a few people had trickled in by then.

We had to get started anyway, so we did. We went through our slide show introducing the book concept and the characters and then I began reading a section from the book with the assistance of my actor friend, Mat Lageman (who provided some hilarious character voices!).

And something amazing happened. As soon as I finished the reading, I glanced up to realize that the room was completely full! In fact, all the seats were filled and some people were even forced to stand in the back!

Will followed with a funny look at the torturous process of designing the cover, and then we had a Q&A with some great questions from the audience.

Afterwards, we began the signing and raffle. And guess what? We sold out of all 50 copies of the book that Vroman's had ordered. The signing line stretched to the back of the room. It was incredible - especially since I got to see so many old friends who showed up to show their support.

I never felt so much warm, glowing gratitude as I did that night. I felt like the luckiest person alive, supported by friends and strangers alike to celebrate the result of a dream that I've harbored for years - to write a novel and have it published and widely available.

I was still riding my high as the holidays approached in rapid succession - Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and New Year's Eve. And with it, traveling to see family while also trying to finish revisions on Book 2 (which is currently almost twice as long as the first book!).

And now here I am on the other side of 2016. Things have died down a bit. My book's been out for a little over a month. My second book revisions are with my editor, awaiting notes.

 ...And I think I'm fighting a case of the post-publication blues.

I know. I know. How is that even a thing? Before I was published, I would read accounts from other authors going through this very thing, and I remember thinking, "I WISH I had that problem. At least they HAVE a book on shelves, which is more than most people ever get."

And it's true... it's a very first-world problem. One that I honestly didn't think I would allow to affect me.

Shortly before my book's release, I went to an event where I mingled with some local authors. One of them kindly told me to enjoy it, but warned me not to get my hopes up too much. She said that a book release is like a wedding where you're marrying yourself. There's all this anticipation and buildup leading up to the big day where YOU'RE the star... and then... it's over. The book is out. New books will be out the following week. And more books the week after that. She said it was easy to pin too much onto your book and feel adrift with despair when the buzz dies down and your book doesn't do as well as you'd hoped.

I listened to her advice and thanked her for it... but I admit, it didn't really sink in. Because I was still in the anticipatory stage of my pre-release, that magic time where anything was still possible. There have been so many people, both strangers and friends alike, who have said, "this could be big" in relation to WARREN that I really believed it.

In fact, I still do.

Because I do believe in what Will and I have created. I'm incredibly proud of it. I think it IS special and still holds a lot of potential.

The thing is... how do we reach all the people who have yet to discover it? One of the struggles that we've had is in reaching our intended audience: middle school kids. They're simply not online as much as older kids are, in part due to the strict COPA laws that exist to protect kids on the internet.

I'm not sure I know the solution, other than Will and I trying to set up school and library visits where we might be able to interact with kids one-on-one. On the plus side, I have been having fun chatting with young readers on the COPA-compliant site, DOGObooks, which is a start!

So, yes, my buzz has worn off. I'm realizing the book isn't an instant best-seller the way I envisioned it might be. New books are coming out and everyone's looking forward to what's next for 2016. (On that note, I'm anticipating the release of my friend Paul Krueger's wonderful book, LAST CALL AT THE NIGHTSHADE LOUNGE, which comes out in June!)

So... how to fight through this self-manufactured doubt? The main piece of advice I've heard repeated is to KEEP WRITING. No matter what.

Querying a project that's not going anywhere?

Keep writing.

On submission for months on end?

Keep writing.

Awaiting notes from an agent or editor?

Keep writing.

Book's out on shelves?

Keep writing and writing and writing.

So that's what I'm doing. I'm writing new stuff. I have a couple projects I've started recently... one is a YA fantasy that's been percolating in my mind for some time and I feel like it needs to come out. Another is a MG adventure for girls that I've been excited to write too. I'm also wrapping up a horror short that's pretty weird, but a fun departure from what I normally do.

I'll share more about all these as I get further along, and I'll update you with anything new regarding the Warren series.

In the meantime... I'm going to keep doing the only thing I can do:

Keep writing.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

End of Summer Update

Things have been quite busy since my last post, and I'm long overdue for an update!

I had a fun and productive summer overall. In fact, it went by so fast, I can't believe it's already almost October! (Seriously, what happened?)

In June I went to the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco, which happens to be one of my favorite cities to visit.

I was also pretty stoked about the very official looking badge I got to wear.

Being a veteran of comic conventions, it was weird going to a conference where almost no-one was cosplaying, but it was also a really pleasant experience because everyone was polite, orderly, and, dare I say it, smelled nice (remember -good hygiene is important at cons, people!)

Have you ever seen so many librarians in one place before?

And because it was a book convention, practically every booth on the exhibit floor had free ARCs to hand out. I was in heaven! This is pretty much how I looked walking down the aisles.

I tried to contain myself because I only had one carry-on bag, not to mention a huge TBR pile already waiting for me at home. So... how did I do?

But, back to Warren the 13th, which is the whole reason I was there in the first place. Check out this sweet ad that Quirk put in the daily ALA program. Woo hoo!

During my time at the conference, I had the opportunity to speak on a gender and diversity panel as well as meet with dozens of librarians during an "author speed dating" event where I went from table to table pitching my book.

Much like real speed-dating, it was a little awkward and nerve-wracking at first, but everyone seemed to really like the concept and by my 10th table or so, I had my elevator pitch down pat. Here's a pic of me in action taken by Quirk publicity/marketing extraordinaire, Nicole.

Can I just say again how much I love librarians? Sometimes I feel down when I read depressing articles about how print is dying, or how no-one reads anymore. But being surrounded by so many passionate people who care so much about books and their readers really made my week. As long as we have people like that around, I don't think our society will ever abandon books. Librarians truly are the stewards of literacy. (And they're all really nice too).

After the conference I even had a little time to do some sight-seeing and enjoy some oysters on the wharf! Yummm.

In July I went to San Diego Comic Con where I got to meet up with Quirk publisher Jason and president Brett as well as a group from Penguin Random House for a terrifying night of escaping zombies at The Walking Dead Escape at Petco Park.

I have to say I was doing pretty well until a clown zombie jumped out at me. I AM NOT OKAY WITH CLOWNS.

I was too busy running for my life to grab a pic during the action, but here's a great photo of everyone at the end of the run. We survived!

During my time at SDCC I also got to see my Archie family, including Bill Galvan who illustrated Diary of a Girl Next Door: Betty, which I wrote last year. Here we are, along with Bill's daughter, who is also a big fan of our book and an aspiring writer, herself!

And just because, here is a rad biker dog that I spotted outside the convention center. Every year I see at least one amazing dog in costume, and this was one my my favorite sightings yet.

In August it was back to work. After completing an outline for the 2nd book in the Warren series (the name of which I can't yet reveal!), I moved onto the fun part - actually writing it! 

I was also very busy packing and getting ready to move. For the last 8 years I've lived in Venice Beach, but it was time for a change of scenery (and my landlords were selling my place, so I had to leave my cozy nest one way or another). 

I am now a resident of Pasadena, California! It's only about 45 minutes away from Venice (without traffic... which, let's face it, is almost never), but it feels like a whole new city. The sad thing is being so far away from Dunkin' Donuts. If you need to know one thing about me, it's that I am a Dunkin' Donuts fanatic. 

Don't believe me? I was selected as Dunkin's September fan of the month. BEHOLD!

I waited patiently for years for Dunkin' to open in L.A, and when it finally did, I waited patiently for hours to get my first coffee there. It's become a daily habit for me, getting a medium hot coffee with cream and sugar to help me face the world.

Of course I would be awarded fan of the month ON THE DAY that I move away from Dunkin' Donuts. It's tragic. 

But, on the plus side, Pasadena has a lot of other great things to offer and I've been having fun exploring my new neighborhood. The BEST part about being in Pasadena is living near two of my favorite places. The first is one of the best indie booksellers in LA, Vroman's! The other is the Huntington Library Botanical Gardens where I love to go and write.

So, if you need to find me, that's where I'll be.

Speaking of - If you're local to Los Angeles, mark the date November 30th for my Warren the 13th launch party! I'll post more details as we get closer to the date. 

You can also sign up for my new newsletter which will go directly to your inbox once a month with news, giveaways and other fun goodies. 

Now it's back to work for me... I've got a book to finish!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cover Reveal for Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye!

It's here! The final cover for WARREN THE 13TH AND THE ALL-SEEING EYE is finally out in the open! Will designed a ton of fantastic cover possibilities over the last couple months (as he does), but this is the one that everyone loved best. I think it's beautiful - it captures both the elegant Victorian aesthetic as well as the creepy, fun, and adventurous side of the book. It will look even better in person - word on the street is that there will be foil on the cover! Click the image for a larger view.

I also got a chance to see all the final art for the interior and Will did a knockout job on everything! With every step this book feels more more real...and more surreal. Check out this sample spread:

It reminds me of a tarot card. Hmm... Warren the 13th tarot... there's an idea! Seriously though, Will and I keep brainstorming all kinds of crazy and fun things to promote Warren with. Hopefully we'll be able to make some of them a reality.

In other news, I'm getting ready to attend the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco this weekend. I'll be participating on a GraphicCon diversity panel on gender and comics (Friday at 12:15 at the Moscone Convention Center 3010 W), so if you're at the conference, I hope to see you there!

I'll also be taking part in an author speed-dating event where I'll be pitching Warren to a bunch of librarians. I wanted to come up with something special to leave behind with each librarian I speak to (and woo them with), so I've been constructing little "invitations" to the Warren Hotel, complete with a room key, hotel newsletter, and bookmarks.  I even bought a "W" wax seal to seal the envelopes with. I'm not gonna lie, I've always wanted a wax seal, I just never had a real reason to own one. But now I do and I can get all Game of Thrones up in here!

Well, that's it for now. I'll post an update after the conference and let you all know how it went! :)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

My Fantabulous Philly Visit!

A couple weeks ago I went to the beautiful city of Philadelphia to attend Wizard World and visit my family. But the best part about being in Philly was getting to visit the Quirk headquarters for an afternoon. It's very serendipitous that my trip brought me to the city where my publisher is, so naturally I was excited to see it for myself and meet all the awesome people who work there.

I was fresh off a red-eye flight (a turbulent red eye flight, so I wasn't able to sleep for gripping my armrests so hard), and I may have appeared slightly zombiefied. Luckily Quirk books is no stranger to zombies, so I think things went well, overall!

Me in front of the Quirk Building
I got to meet my editor and publisher, Jason Rekulak, and he gave me a tour of the place, introducing me to everyone as he led me through the labyrinthine Quirk Books building (so many stairs!-including a vertigo-inducing spiral staircase - not for the faint of heart. Incidentally, I couldn't help but be reminded of the Warren hotel with all its narrow, twisting corridors!)

It made me really happy how excited everyone seemed to be about Warren the 13th - it feels so good knowing that everyone at Quirk is a fan and is supporting it 100%. It was also really nice to meet the marketing team in person, especially after so many faceless emails exchanged back and forth over the last few months.

I then had an excellent lunch with Jason, Rick (another editor at Quirk), and Nicole (associate director of marketing), followed by a meeting with Jason and Rick to discuss Warren Book 2 (and beyond??). We brainstormed some great ideas, and I'm now working on a chapter-by-chapter synopsis of the next book. I'm really looking forward to writing this one - I wish I could give you a hint about what it's about, but the first book isn't even out yet, so you'll just have to wait! ;)

Anyway, my entire trip to the east coast was worth it just for getting to visit Quirk alone. I left there feeling so invigorated and excited about Warren (even more so, if that's possible).

OH! And the BEST thing was that I got a copy of the Warren the 13th ARC! Look at it! It's gorgeous!  I wish I had more than just one, because I'd totally host a giveaway, but I think they're saving most of the ARCs for Book Expo America, which is coming up this weekend. (So if you want one, stop by the Quirk booth! I believe there will be a little game you can play to earn one.)

My preciousssss

After my Quirk visit, I headed over to my table at Wizard World where I handed out Warren bookmarks to the kids. I was pleased to see how many people seemed curious and intrigued by the project! 

 But I realized later that the bookmarks have a tiny typo. Can you spot it? (Hint: it's on the front).

How annoying! Well, I also forgot to put the ISBN on the bookmarks so maybe this is a sign I just need to have new ones printed...

But in happier news the Warren the 13th website is now live if you want to take a peek! 

Anyway, that's all the news for now. I should be having more updates soon about my upcoming appearances to promote the book, so check back!