Paradise ARC cover


Looking for PARADISE? Well, it's finally here and available from your favorite independent book store, Amazon, and if it's not on the shelves at your local B&N, they'll order it for you.

I'm very thankful to the bloggers with Literary Lonestars and Teen Book Scene for their great reviews and interviews. You can find the full list for Teen Book Scene here: Be sure to check those out!

Also, I'll be out and about signing and presenting in the next few months. Please find me and say hello if you're at one of these particular events.

August 5 Los Angeles, CA Signing at the SCBWI Conference
August 20 Austin, TX The official PARADISE launch party at BookPeople (more to come on this)
January12-15 Jefferson, TX The Pulpwood Queen's Book Club Girlfriend Weekend

Links to some reviews from a few awesome bloggers:

Danielle @There's A Book

Ginger @ GReads

Yani @ The Secret Life of an Avid Reader

Jess @ Gone With the Word
Sweetheart paperback cover


Narrative voice. You know it when you hear it. From the first line of a story, narrative voice speaks like a best friend to a reader and says "Come with me on this journey. You know me. You can trust me, or maybe you can't but you're too seduced to let go."

Much seminaring at writers' conferences is spent on voice. Personally, I've got pages of notes on what is voice, how to find voice, and how to keep voice. I've had fellow writers look at me and say, "I hear you have voice, what exactly is it?" In the past, I've given my best English teacher answer: "Voice is the writing style which conveys the character and personality of a story's narrator." Clear as mud, right?

Well, thanks to some awesome teens in my home state of Texas I have a brand new definition of voice. Over the past several months, I've been contacted by teachers, librarians, and teens who have selected THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY as their reading for our state's UIL Prose Interpretation. I am so humbled and honored by this. I mean, real teens reading my words aloud for a competition! Even better, they are reading from all parts of the book, not just the opening -- some are even reading the dialogue of characters like Lafitte Boudreaux and Lewis Fortenberry. Also, the selection must "come alive" when read aloud.

So here's my new definition: Voice is the writing style which allows for competitive interpretive prose reading.

I've always read my books aloud during the writing process. I believe a writer should honor what he or she puts on the page by giving it audible voice. And folks, when you're reading aloud and the writing goes flat, you'll hear it. You'll know it. And you'll change it thus making the narrative stronger. Furthermore, I can't imagine writing a scene with dialogue and not reading it aloud.

Voice matters. If you're wondering what voice is or how you find it, give your words the sound they deserve and ask the question: Would this narrative voice (or dialogue) stand out in competitive prose interpretation?

Best wishes to all the teens, teachers, and librarians as you head into UIL competition. SWEETHEART represent!
Paradise ARC cover


Happy Valentine's Day!

With love in the air, I'm giving away a rare ARC of PARADISE (July 2011). The cover sizzles, and I hope readers find that the story does too. It's a story of loves -- not only first romantic love, but love of family and place and the passions we pursue. My wise agent remarked, "As readers dig in, they'll find there is more than meets the eye." Indeed!

So I'm sharing the love by sharing an ARC of PARADISE. You can enter to win by simply commenting here, retweeting the announcement, or liking the fb status. You can also text, drive by and honk, etc. Just let me know you're interested, and I'll add your name to the collection in the Stetson. (You may remember from previous giveaways, I use the sophisticated method of determining a winner by placing names in a hat . . . literally.)

I'll announce the winner on Tuesday, February 15th.

Best of luck and love to you all!
Paradise ARC cover


The ARCs for my next novel PARADISE (JULY 2011) have arrived! Double SQEEEEEE!!! Truly, I'm still so thrilled with having one novel published that I have to keep pinching myself that this whole author thing is real. And so is Book 2.

The fabulous Anna at Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan -- my publisher (still get excited every time I say "my publisher")-- forwarded the Macmillan Spring 2011 Catalogue to me. I love LOVE the write-up for PARADISE. Since it is the best way to introduce you to the book, I'm sharing below. Truly, I share it with anyone I see. As a matter of fact, the catalogue will be on view tonight in the concession stand before my son's basketball game. Yes, my other job is opening the concession stand. A glamorous life I know. Got your popcorn. Got your nachos. Got your novels.

So here's the awesome blurb for PARADISE:

We're in love.

And not just with the dreamy musician/cowboy nicknamed Paradise. We're in love with this story which even caused our copyeditor to "give up a few meals" so she could keep reading. It's deep and deeply romantic. Swoon.

Paisley Tillery is the drummer for a country rock band. If they can make it to the stage at the Texapalooza music fest, then Paisley will be closer to her dream of a career in music and a ticket out of her small Texas town.

Drumming and music are what Paisley has always wanted. Until the band gets a new lead singer, the boy from Paradise, Texas. With Paradise in her life, what Paisley wants, and what she needs, complicate her dreams coming true.

Paradise ARC cover


One of the traditions I love about baseball is the player's selection of a walk-up song -- the song that blares throughout the park as a he walks to the plate with nothing on his mind but a home run. Much goes into picking the perfect walk-up song. It must be reflective of the personality of the player and at the same time stir a fire, inspire the swing.

With ARCs shipped for my next novel PARADISE (July 2011) and the cover (see pic) everyone is talking about, I'm getting in the zone. Game-time ready. I want a walk-up song. Baseball doesn't have them on lock.

Since PARADISE is the story of drummer in a country rock band whose sweet romance with the band's lead singer creates tension between what she wants and what she needs, I'm going with something southern and sexy. (Ok, you probably figured I was making that selection anyway.) PARADISE is just that: country-fried with pasture parties, jacked-up trucks, and strong families; sexy in a boots and jeans and pearl-snap shirt kind of way.

So here's my pick for a walk-up song for PARADISE. Um, yes, @Jason_Aldean

Jill diner 2


I'm looking forward to driving to my old college stomping grounds this week -- Waco, Texas. I'll be presenting to the Central Texas area librarians and giving away the very first ARC of my next novel PARADISE. And it is smokin' hot. I may have to roll the car windows down. Check out all the Library Jubilee Conference info here:

And since my presentation topic is hope and optimism in YA fiction, I have a special signed ARC of my friend Kristin O'Donnell Tubb's novel SELLING HOPE to giveaway. The book is in stores now and it's truly special. Set in 1910 when worries of Halley's Comet had folks in a tizzy, Hope McDaniels and her vaudeville troupe bud Buster Keaton form a one-two punch con team selling Hope's Anti-Comet Pills. From the Pullman Palace Sleeping Car to 1910 Chicago to the Orpheum Palace Theatre, SELLING HOPE drew me to a time and place I'd never imagined and held me there -- much in the same way Fitzgerald's GATSBY reads for me. Captivating. The sensory detail in the setting, the language -- both narrative and dialogue -- create an undeniable sense of place. And Hope's longing for a normal family and home are topics near and dear to me. I just loved it. So I'm sharing my ARC. Be sure and look for a Feiwel & Friends sticky note underneath your chair Tuesday. :)

I'll also be at the North Texas SCBWI meeting this Saturday, November 20 in Arlington. If you're in the Dallas area and you're a writer, stop by. Such a great group and organization!

See you around the state!
Jill diner 2


Tomorrow marks the end of my dad's cancer treatment. He has been radiated, chemo-ed, and cut on. Pops has, in great Hemingway style, endured. And he has held up when the rest of us broke down.

The cancer center has a grand brass bell which patients ring at the end of their treatment. After his next to last treatment and although his vocal chords were badly damaged in surgery and seared from radiation, he mustered a mighty whisper, "I've got corn to put out for the deer, and these folks are going to need a new bell." At 10 tomorrow morning, don't be surprised if you hear the clang-clang-clang-clang-clang. For him, the bell doesn't signify an end; it rings in a new beginning.

I inherited his optimism, his ability to let go of yesterday's worries and enjoy the moment. I think you can look at autumn and see dead leaves falling and summer ending, or you can look at it and live in the rising burst of color. In that spirit, I've got other beginnings to celebrate.

First, my second novel is finished -- the ARCs will be out soon. I rang the sounding bell for PARADISE on my publisher's blog with The Sexy Truth About The Accordion. Read all about it here:

Next, I'm kicking of my fall signing tour this Saturday at 1:00p.m. at the Barnes & Noble Educator's Event in Plano, Texas. They'll have lots of SWEETHEART paperbacks on hand. Hope to see you there!

Finally, I've been hosting this Little Critter (see pic below). Little Critter is the angelic, somewhat bovine appearing, creation of artist Ian Sands. My wonderful SCBWI friend, Christy Evers discovered Critter. In keeping with the Ian Sands' goal of interactive art, Christy has sent Critter into the world. He's made stops to authors and bloggers around the country, and I'm excited that he could come and visit me. Since I'm working on a new novel, Critter has spent much of his time near my favorite writing chair (pic). He heads out tomorrow for Washington D.C. then on to his final stop in Canada where he will be signed by the Naturalist painter Robert Bateman.

Christy, because she is loaded with awesomesauce, will then auction Little Critter off with the proceeds going to St. Jude's Children's Hospital. Ring those bells! Christy is also giving away a signed hardback copy of THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY on her blog. Please check her out and watch for Little Critter.

I hope y'all are blessed this fall with the bells of new beginnings.


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Sweetheart paperback cover


I'm kicking off Banned Books Week this Saturday, September 25, at the East Texas Book Festival. If you're in the area, drop on by. At 11:30, Heather Hepler (author of THE CUPCAKE QUEEN) and I will be presenting; Barnes & Noble will be selling books, and we'll be signing from 10-3. Check out the full schedule and other authors here:

In honor of banned books week, I'll be giving away some of my favorites -- seedy classics like TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD. And I'm giving away a copy of Laurie Halse Anderson's SPEAK. I believe the best response to some nut-job's attempt at banning books is to gift those books to readers. #SPEAKLOUDLY

If you want to read more about censorship and banning books, I encourage you to visit the blog of the Goddess of YA Literature, Terri Lesesne. Her response to the attempt at banning books in Missouri is nothing short of brilliant. Check this out:

See you at the festival!
Sweetheart paperback cover


THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY hits stores today in paperback -- one year almost to the day of her hardback debut. She's all gussied up with a glossy -- and I do mean GLOSSY -- new cover, and bonus materials including a fun interview with me and an excerpt from my next novel, PARADISE.

As excited as I am about the paperback launch, I'm overwhelmed with gratitude for having been blessed with a fantastic debut year. Many thanks to the talented and supportive publishing team at Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, the loaded-with-awesome-sauce folks at the Society of Children's Books Writers & Illustrators, librarians and booksellers across the country, bloggers, reviewers, and especially the readers. Thank you all.

In the spirit of keepin' it real, here's a link to my guest post on the Macmillan blog. A little about the start of a new school year, bullying, and THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY.
Sweetheart paperback cover


Lawsy! Lawsy! We are less than one week away from the official release of THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY in paperback. I'm still gushing over the new cover. I smile every time I see Austin rockin' the straw hat. LOVE IT!

If you want your copy signed, here's a few places I'll be this fall. Show up in your hat and/or boots and I'll have Sweetheart swag for you! Let's get this party started. ;)

The East Texas Book Fest September 25 Tyler, Texas

Barnes & Noble's Educator Event October 9, 1:00 Plano, Texas

Teen Read Week, Manchara Road Library October 17, 2:30 Austin, Texas

Waco Librarian Conference November 16 Waco, Texas

I have a few more dates pending confirmation. I'll post those as soon as I get them.