Oh what a season

December 3, 2012
Hello readers! Rather than explain away my absence this past couple of months, I thought I would just show you what I’ve been up to. It’s been a fantastic fall with lots of fun events and travel, although whew, I’m so glad to have the chilly winter (65 in Vegas today, brrr) dedicated to more days like today: 2:30, jammies still on, house a disaster, but 1,250 words written. And this blog post. So let’s begin. (please excuse weirdo formatting, don’t have patience right now to fix!)

September

On a Thursday night, I spoke to the Las Vegas Writer’s group in the back room of a sports bar. I stood on the stage for the band with a nice disco ball overhead and a tip jar to my right. The writers were warm and smart and wonderful, and it was a delight to meet like-minded folks who are geographically close. The next morning, I flew to Denver for an author tea with sixty some booksellers from the Mountain/Plains region and signed books for the whole lot. Every speaking gig or signing is so different as an author. Love it.
Had to throw this pic in there. September seems to be fancy auction time in Vegas, and this year I made some baskets for THE PUBLIC EDUCATION FOUNDATION and SPREAD THE WORD NEVADA, both great local charities promoting literacy here in Nevada. We also made a book basket filled with teen reads, all donated from over 15 YA authors. Reminded me what an awesome community I’m in, both here in Vegas and online with writers.
Fun SCBWI workshop in Cedar City with authors Emily Wing Smith and Brodi Ashton. We stayed in the suite of a charming bed-and-breakfast. Our room was Asian inspired, so naturally we strapped on the kimonos and took this picture. We did a first-pages reading and I was struck by the amount of talent in that room. So many authors are so close, think it’s just a matter of time, place, and persistence. 

October

Obviously, the highlight of fall./the year/my life was my trip to Italy. Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, Tuscany… I can not even tell you how amazing the whole experience was. I came away with a larger world view and a notebook filled with book ideas. 
This should be it’s own blog post because it’s a big deal. 
BUT INSTEAD I’LL JUST WRITE IN ALL CAPS.
PLEASE DON’T BE ANNOYED WITH ME.
FINE. I’ll stop.
I was very fortunate to have a short story published in the anthology, WISH YOU WERE HERE, published by Stephen’s press. This was my first a. published short story for b. adults and was c. a satire, so it was fun to stretch my creative muscles a bit. Each other was given a vintage Las Vegas postcard as inspiration. I choose the wedding chapel above, and from there wrote A UNION OF HIPSTERS. You can buy your copy here, and I really hope you do because it’s so interesting to see what sort of essay’s and stories came from the cards. I got to meet the authors at a panel sponsored by the Vegas Valley Book Festival in October. You can also hear me read from my story in this 

November
Vegas Valley Book Festival is my favorite event of the year because it’s on my home turf and over thirty YA authors come into town to do panels and sign books and play. Here I am at the Bellagio with fabulous ladies Abby McDonald, Elizabeth Eulberg, and Marissa Meyer.

NCTE was in Las Vegas this year!!! That’s me with Editor Caroline in front of that beautiful picture of my book! This picture was taken by my mother, who also wore a yellow sweater, so we walked around the convention hall talking books in all our mother/daughter glory.
Met so many wonderful educators and had the chance to hop onto a panel with author Kate Messner, who is just a star in every way. Also got to meet many members of the Nerdy Book Club, a bunch of teachers who have started a blog that is catching on huge.
AND I spent some quality time with one of my writing beffies, Irene Latham, including a trip to Red Rock Mountains near my home. Her recently released book, DON’T FEED THE BOY, is so charming, I’m reading it with my daughter right now and even my six-year-old will sneak into bed with us because she loves the illustrations so much.
Here we are with teacher Colby Sharp at Nerdy Book Club party. I want to move to Michigan next year just so he can by my daughter’s fourth grade teacher!

December:

Learned some fabulous news that I will share, I promise, promise, promise just as soon as I can. No, not share. Proclaim. Shout. Exclaim. Roar!!
Otherwise, I’m spending the rest of the month writing my 2014 release novel, about… stuff and called… something. It’s going very well, thanks for caring.
And we are less than four months away from the release of GOING VINTAGE. So excited about this novel, feels like my first boyfriend and gingerbread cookies and schnitzel with noodles all rolled into one catchy song.

On Knowing When to Start Again

August 15, 2012
Summer, where did you go? We had a good time, didn’t we? Spontaneity, lake trips, quick weekend getaways, a book release, sleeping in, eating whatever and whenever we wanted. In short, this summer will go down in the books as one of the best the Leavitt family has seen perhaps since Mr. Leavitt and I fell in love in the glory days of ’97.
But this summer was also interesting for me as it was the first summer in quite a few years that I didn’t have an intense, end-of-summer deadline. I have a contemporary book due this fall, hopefully to be released in 2014. I have a mid-grade book I’ve been fiddling with that isn’t contracted. So I thought, writing-wise, this summer would be a breeze. In some ways, it was. I had a sitter for just a couple hours a week, a day or two to daydream, outline, get a couple of chapters in when I felt inspired. But the problem was, I didn’t feel very inspired, especially on this contemporary I was working on.
Oh, I certainly liked the story. There were some characters and dynamics that I could discuss for hours (and did with some poor, unfortunate writing friend). There were characters I wanted to meet, themes I wanted to explore, and a romantic dynamic that I’d been thinking about for years. Notice there is no mention of a plot. A hook. A POINT. And because of this, because there were no high stakes or drive in the story, I would often sit down and write these fun descriptions and back story without any idea why the scene mattered or where I was going next.
This isn’t my first rodeo. I knew I was doing something wrong. But I didn’t know how to fix it, how to suddenly infuse conflict into all these other elements. This was something that had never happened to me before, something I hope doesn’t happen again. Finally, I finished the first couple of chapters and sent it to my editor. We scheduled a phone call and she very nicely pointed out THERE WAS NO PLOT.
Sometimes you don’t know the plot when you start a story. Sometimes you follow a character along until you realize the rest. Plot is even a dirty word in some literary circles. But you still need conflict, an inciting incident. There has to be a reason to root for that character. At this point, this story was lacking in all those areas.
During this phone call, my editor made a comment about another story I’d sent her years ago set in Las Vegas with a paranormal twist. She mentioned how much she liked the Vegas setting in that story and I said, yeah, yeah, maybe I’ll dig that up after I finish this book I’ve been working on for three months. But once I got over those three months–three months paying a sitter, three months away from my kids–I realized the Las Vegas story I should have been working on all along. I went to LA for SCBWI conference and to sign with Lisa Schroeder, and Lisa said exactly what I’d been feeling, “Maybe you should shelf that hard novel and work on the one your editor mentioned.” Boom. I told her about the idea. She asked some questions, I got going, and within thirty minutes I’d ditched the paranormal element, made the story a straight contemporary, found my conflict, my character, my love interest, my story timeline.
Sometimes you have to flounder through the wrong book before you find the right one.
I’m not giving up on the first story, but that one still needs to marinate for awhile. Sometimes you can’t force it, deadline or not. A story doesn’t need to come fast for it to work, but I have found that once I get that A-HA moment where that one line hook happens, then I can move on with a story at a solid pace. So now, end of summer*, I start again, with a nice tan and fresh story idea. Bring it on, fall.
*Meanwhile, to celebrate the end of this crazy summer, I’m giving away a copy of GOING VINTAGE on goodreads. You can enter here! 

ALA & Release week recap

July 2, 2012
As mentioned roughly 29498 times, A FAREWELL TO CHARMS released last week, and as such I was temporarily released from the writing cave and allowed to enter society. And some of the very best folks in society are librarians, which is why I was so excited to attend ALA aka American Library Association last weekend.
My daughter bathed my I-phone a few weeks ago, and as such it randomly refuses to take pictures, especially during important moments like when I’m stalking, run into Sharon Creech. So these pictures are yanked from unsuspecting sources.

 I met up with two of my favorite authors/people, Lisa Schroeder (The Day Before) and Jessi Kirby (In Honor) for lunch and catch up, after which I waited in line at their signings and told all the librarians what they already knew–these girls can write. Just read Lisa’s upcoming book, FALLING FOR YOU, and it was surprising and beautiful. Jessi’s MOONGLASS was also one of my favorite contemporary books last year, so much so that my family spent a morning looking for sea glass at the beach from the book, Crystal Cove in CA
We also ran into Corey Whaley, Mr. Printz Award himself. He is such a great guy, so happy for all his success. I took my shoes off out of respect in this picture, because otherwise he just looked like my teenage son.
Great signing at the Disney booth and chance to catch up with publishing peeps there. Also met some online friends and the librarian who nominated SEAN GRISWOLD’S HEAD for the Utah Beehive book award, which was so surprising and cool. You never know who is reading your book, and it’s so amazing when someone connects with it enough to take the time and nominate it.
Afterwards, I met up with some authors and librarians for a little meet and great, put together with Librarian extraodinaire, Sarah Thompson, who I met at ALA two years ago and ended up sitting by her on a plane. She’s so smart, passionate and with her pink hair, would make a great agent for the FACADE agency from Princess for Hire! 

Here we are an the Newbery banquet. The speeches were as inspiring as ever, and I got to mingle with the team at Bloomsbury, who are just some of the nicest publishing people around. We discussed GOING VINTAGE, and I’m very excited to do some creative marketing for the release, starting with giving away ARCS very soon. LIke, I have them in my clutches. Just need to figure out how to share.

I didn’t pick up that many ARCs, but two I did get that I’m very excited about are…

THE ARCHIVED by Victoria Schwab. This is one of my most anticipated books of 2013. Can’t wait to read. From goodreads: 
Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books. 
Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.
I loved A TALE DARK AND GRIM by Adam Gidwitz, and was bummed that he was signing his upcoming book, IN A GLASS GRIMMLY, at the same time as me. I mentioned to this to sweet blogger, who surprised me by getting an ARC signed for me! And after she told him what kind of books I write, I got the best inscription ever:

ALA happened to fall during our family vacation, so release day was spent at Knott’s Berry Farms. My stomach is not a fan of rides, so I was happy touring Ghost Town musuem and the old Iowa Schoolhouse. My children’s enthusiasm did not quite match my own.

Friday was release party day, which began with flowers from my charming husband. Crystal Perkins at my local Barnes and Noble puts on the BEST events, and she totally outdid herself this time. I almost cried when I walked into the store. Not only did she have a fabulous wall display, but she added pictures of various princesses to the balloons aka bubbles. Best of all, she made a huge charm bracelet with pictures from my Facebook of previous events. It’s in my office now, because nothing says professional writer like a giant charm bracelet. Was really fun to have family and friends come together for this last book and see those books on the wall disappear. Thanks for everyone who came, really was a magical night.

With the fabulous Crstyal. Why yes, that is the same dress I wore to the Newberys.  I splurged and got it at Anthropolgie, so I  have to get my money’s worth out of that frock

Me with my fifth grade teacher, Miss Dean, who is also my favorite teacher and a huge reason I’m a writer. She had the best reading curriculum, and fifth grade was the year I discovered Roald Dahl and Katherine Patterson and all sorts of books. Love her!

That time I wrote a book series

June 28, 2012
Tuesday saw the release of A FAREWELL TO CHARMS, the last Princess for Hire book. Yes, the last book. I’m still not sure how I feel about that, to be honest. When I started the first book, the main thing I knew was how I wanted the book to end. But then when Disney offered me a three-book-deal, I tweaked that ending and saved that scene for the third book. I started Princess for Hire in summer of ’05, so really, it’s been a seven year build up. SEVEN YEARS. I can’t believe I even typed that. There is a part of me that feels like these books were an inevitability, that this idea was a gift. Another part still can not, CAN NOT, believe that I wrote these 3 sparkly books and someone wanted to publish them.
This series has been called a romp, a breeze, fluff, fun, silly, sweet. I hope it is all these things. I hope that the readers are entertained, that they are able to relax and let their imaginations go. But as the author, these books were not always a breeze. Far from fun. Sometimes, I wanted to punch these books in the spine because they were HARD.
Each book had its own challenges. Book one was my debut, the first time I’d gone through the editorial processs, the first time my work was reviewed. The Royal Treatment, well, that one I actually wrote then completely rewrote from scratch. No lie. A romp it was not. The challenge with A FAREWELL TO CHARMS was tying everything up and letting go. There were times when writing this final book that I started to think there was no way I could finish. That I would have to write another book, and another, and spend the rest of my life on this series because there was no end in sight. There were other times when I couldn’t possibly get my brain to conjure up a new idea, when I stared at the screen screaming the word princess like it was a swear word. But there was also that moment when I wrote the last scene, the scene I was always writing towards, and the tape snapped as I crossed the victorious finish line. I can’t even express what that moment was like.
This series is always going to be special to me because it launched my career, a career I hope will include many more books, more series even. Thanks for following along with Desi as she grew from a slightly self-absorbed, timid teen to a girl who is able to take on the most powerful organization in the world (it is! Just because you haven’t heard of FACADE, doesn’t mean it’s not real, kids)
Come help me celebrate the release of A FAREWELL TO CHARMS at the following events:
Friday, June 29: Release party! Las Vegas. Rainbow Barnes and Noble. 5-7. Come dressed as your favorite princess. Treats and fun and all books on sale!
Wednesday, July 18: Provo City Library. Reading, signing, questions, mayhem. 7 pm Books for sale
Thursday, July 19: Salt Lake City, UT. The King’s English Bookshop. My favorite bookstore in the world, a charming place for the charms book. 7pm.
Tentative events in August as well. Check events page next month for more information

Ta Ta,

Book Club(s)

June 19, 2012
Time for a post of pictures! I’m in two book clubs, one for adults, one that we just started for mother/kids. I’ll write more about what we’re doing in our mother/kid club once we’ve met a couple of times and we know what we’re doing. My oldest daughter is not a huge reader by choice (another discussion), but she’s really taken to the book club.
Book club means food and talking and sometimes dressing up. AND BOOKS. I could join ten more.
AUSTENLAND by Shannon Hale
Oh, how I love Shannon Hale’s writing. I read THE PRINCESS ACADEMY when it won the Newbery honor. I loved that book (and look forward to the sequel, PALACE OF STONE). But Austenland, Austenland I picked up at the library, not sure how an author who writes such lyrical, deep and convincing fantasy could do a funny adult contemporary.
But she did. Oh she did. 
I first read Austenland whilst prego sick with one of my kids, and it had me laughing and smiling throughout. The story was just as enjoyable the second read, and it was so fun to research the regency era (Hair–from BBC version of Northanger Abbey, because I didn’t want to curly cue my bangs. Dress–seventies prairie from online vintage store. I had to change into jeans and a t-shirt halfway through the night because those puff sleeves cut of my circulation).
Fun night with book club ladies for an English tea/marathon of Jane Austen movies/discussion of men in wet white shirts. BTW, I got to leave with the Mr. Darcy photo. He’s in my office. Waiting for me.
With the hostess, Mrs. Scriber, a lovely woman with a fine eye for detail
The spread
Homemade scones, cucumber sandwiches, fruit tarts and chocolate (in Austenland, there is no chocolate, but in Lindsey Land, ALWAYS)

Quotes. Pictures. Fun

Ignore that man in the background. Rootbeer is the American beverage in Austenland, so we included this with my tea. That lovely lass to the left is my sister. I’ll let you guess who is older.
TALES FROM A VERY PICKY EATER by Josh Schneider
When we started this club this spring, I thought book selection would be tricky. We have soon-to-be second and third graders in the mix at all different reading levels. But the child can read alone, with a parent, or be read to by the parent, so we’re reading everything from beginning chapter books to series to heartier middle grade. For the first month, I wanted a “chapter” book that the child could read and feel accomplished, and I also wanted to get a feel for the group. Easy Reader TALES FROM A VERY PICK EATER was a good starting point–it’s funny, there’s good word play, and there were plenty of activities and creativity inside those pages.
We made all the “picky” foods from the book, and had each reader bring a food they didn’t like.

Used this oatmeal to make oatmeal men. Total mess. Mom’s loved me after this one.

One of the suggested foods for the picky eater in the book is dirty, chewing gum, and a smelly sock. My daughter had the idea to bring this as our food. I found her sniff socks in the dirty clothes
No kid pics, as I don’t have parent permission as of yet. But I’ll update how the club goes once it really gets going. Again, best resource I’ve found online is www.motherdaughterbookclub.com