Lately, I've been acting as my nephew's secretary, typing his stories as he dictates. He's eight, and the stories are full of action, danger, aliens, outlaws, and time-travel. One of the characters in the story he wrote today is a criminal named Rotten Cookie. I asked him if he wanted to be a writer when he grows up. He said, "That's crazy. Writers don't make any money."

I've been obsessed with typographic book covers, and I love the design above by Jessica Tapolcai and Elizabeth Bradley for a Penguin edition of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. I think the design reflects Jane's own character -- look beyond the governess's severe and plain exterior and you'll discover a rich, intricate inner life.

I recently contributed a piece to the International Association of Reading on gender disparities in book awards and critical recognition:
One could get angry and rail about the disingenuous claims by men that the disparity of critical recognition is due to women’s lack of skill and also how very yucky girls are. I love a good tirade and have a special fondness for spitting-mad outrage and bickering, particularly when it includes irrelevant personal swipes. (Is it really a coincidence that kerfuffle rhymes with truffle?) As much fun as that is, fuming about the literary glass ceiling distracts us from one of the marvels happening now in the world of books.
While I was working on this, my youngest brother was crawling around the attic doing an electrical repair for me. He yelled down to ask what I was writing, and I told him, "It's an opinion piece about how terrible men are."

He said, "Oh, you libbers," and I offered to make him breakfast.

I finally had the chance to meet Patricia Fructuoso, my Audible audiobooks narrator, when she visited Berkeley. She's stunning, bright, and so nice that I immediately wanted to listen to her voice-over work again.

I have been waiting and waiting for the official announcement of my next novel so that I can share the title and fab cover art. It's a return to comedy.. I think galleys will be out next week. I'll try to wrangle a few to give away in contests.

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Free E-Read - Your Chance to read THE SHADOW GIRL OF BIRCH GROVE

Happy New Year! I will spend the next six months writing 2012 on all my correspondence. I haven't made any resolutions, because the only one I've ever followed is: never buy cut flowers again. That was fairly easy, because I can always find something blooming in my garden. Even now, my antique tea roses are about to open.

To celebrate the New Year, for a limited time, I'm offering a free read of The Shadow Girl of Birch Grove at its original home on Scribd, where you can read it or download it in your preferred format.  When my agents were unable to sell my YA gothic, I posted it as a free read; it quickly became Scribd's number one YA novel. Many thanks go to Amanda of Love Vampires, who liked the story so much that she surprised me with wonderful cover art.

Please do not embed this free read on any other sites.
It is an exclusive to Scribd.

The Shadow Girl's success at Scribd led to Tor Teen's interest. I worked with Susan Chang, my fantastic editor, to revise and develop the story, which was recently published as Dark Companion.

Working with a skilled editor is such a joy. Susan understood that I was writing a contemporary gothic and that I wanted to use classic tropes to tell the story of Jane Williams, a broken young woman who begins to heal herself. She coached me through plot structure and character motivation. She gave wonderful suggestions for chapter headings that celebrated gothic literature. The finished novel has entirely new chapters, scenes, and characters. There are different plot points and...more scenes with Mary Violet, Jane's lovely and hilarious poetry-spouting friend.

I hope you'll take this chance to meet the world of Birch Grove Academy and then want to go on to read Dark Companion!

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