The slow descent into a Twitter addiction

I can’t believe I just opened a Twitter account. This is so dumb.

What are you even supposed to say in 140 characters? Maybe–nope, how about–still too long–GAH!

Whatever. I don’t have anything witty to say anyway. I’ll just link to my blog.

What’s with all the cat pictures?

OK, OK, I’ll tweet, but I’m NOT using hashtags. I don’t even get how those work.

All these other writers are using the #amwriting hashtag…I guess that one’s harmless enough. I’ll try it.

HOLY CRAP, like ten people just followed me! That, like, tripled my followers!

…aaand most of them are spam bots.

Why do people even like looking at Twitter? All I see are the same self-promoting tweets sent out about five times a day.

Wait, you can mute people who don’t do anything but scream “BUY MY BOOK”?

Heyyyy… That’s better. Some of these people are actually kinda fun to follow.

Wait–one of my favorite authors just followed me back! Eee! Must–control–fangirling…

Favorite author just REPLIED TO MY TWEET! Stay calm… Don’t blow it… Say something cool… In less than 140 characters… Is it OK to abbreviate when tweeting an author? Is she going to judge me? How else do you get under 140 characters? There’s not enough room to reply to her comment AND tell her how many times I’ve reread her books. Should I tweet her twice? Is that annoying?

Dude. I’m totally Twitter buddies with a super awesome author.

Actually, there are a lot of awesome authors on here. Follow… Follow… Follow…

And agents! Look at all the agents!

And #MSWL! Whaaaat?! Coolest thing EVER!



WordPressiversary Nostalgia

Every year, on January 6, I get a notification on WordPress that another year has passed since I first registered here. And without fail, I get all nostalgic about the reason why I joined WordPress.

It was for a class I took my final semester at the university. A class I didn’t need according to my academic advisor, but a class that I needed with all my soul according to my writerly ambitions. It was the class that changed my life possibly more than any other class I took during those four years.

I met Brandon Mull and Dan Wells and other amazing authors.

Even better, I met Jennifer Nielsen and got a signed copy of The False Prince about two days after it was released.

I listened to agents, editors, authors, illustrators, and other publishing gurus talk about their experiences in the world of books.

I pitched a book to a real live agent while I had the flu. Possibly the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done.

Above all, I realized that all those published authors out there are just people. Ordinary people who wrote books. And by golly, I’m as ordinary as any of them, which meant that it was entirely possible for me to get a book published.

And hey. I did.

Happy WordPressiversary!

The Battle of Names and Titles

Covers aren’t usually a huge deciding factor for me. I care more about the words inside than the pictures outside. But there is one thing a cover can do that will instantly have me cringing, screeching, and hiding the offending cover behind other books:

Displaying the author’s name in a font ten times larger and bolder than the title.

Look, I appreciate that some authors are just plain awesome. But there is not a single author on earth whose book I would buy just because that author wrote it. Every book is something new, something different, something unique. Every book has its own identity. Every book has to make a name for itself.

And, for goodness’ sake, how can you expect a person to remember the title of the book when there’s a 1000-pt, extra-extra bold


blaring in your face and drowning it out?

Am I the only one who cares about the relative size of the title and author name? Are there any authors whose books you will buy without hesitation just because it’s written by that author?

It’s launched!

The launch party at Barnes and Noble was amazing! I talked with so many wonderful people. I love how books bring people together! A huge thank you to all who pitched in and made it a success!




20141212_164239Sadly, this was the only photo, blurry as it is, that I got with the wonderful Julia, who took good care of me and was a delight to talk to. Thank you, Julia!

Laughter from a Moribund Writer

The first time I heard the phrase “The author is dead” in an intro to literary theory class, I was completely puzzled. We wouldn’t have many sequels if all authors were dead, now, would we?

But it didn’t take long to realize that the words were figurative. (Figurative language in a literary theory class? Who’da thunk?) Once a book is out in the world, it doesn’t matter what the author meant it to say. The book is open to the interpretation of all who read it.

This was one of the things that I worried about leading up to Demon’s Heart‘s release. Once it was out in the world, in a way, it would no longer be mine. It would be whatever the readers made it out to be based on their own experiences, tastes, opinions, and so forth.

But the day after release, I’ve already had a good laugh over this very concept. I’ve had two very dear people place Demon’s Heart on opposite ends of the romance spectrum. Romance! Do you know where romance falls on my list of things I think about when categorizing Demon’s Heart? Somewhere on level five or six. Sure, there’s a boy and a girl and teenage hormones play a role, but to have romance brought out as a principle sub-genre and critiqued as such in two very different ways . . . it made me smile. I suppose everyone views it through their own eyes.

What do you think? Is the author truly dead? Have you ever had a reader give you a totally unexpected perspective on your book?

If you’re interested, here are a few reviews that have rolled in. Enjoy!

“Whenever you’re stressed, you wear the yellow tie.”

It’s been one of those weeks, folks. I’ve gotten abysmally lost three times on the way to three different libraries. My baby girl decided she only wants to take one nap a day. And it’s been pouring rain all—week—long.

If my name were Russell Morlin Duritz, I would be wearing a yellow tie.

Instead, I’m wearing Christmas socks and sharing exciting news!

On December 12 from 4pm to 8pm, I’ll be at the Woodinville, WA, Barnes and Noble with a stack of freshly-released copies of Demon’s Heart!

I’ll also have a bowl of chocolate and a few other fun things to hand out. Stop by to say hello and to eat my chocolate! I’d love to see any of you that are in the area!

Never say never, whatever you do

What can a mouse and a pigeon teach us about writing? I shall enlighten you.

Did you ever watch An American Tail as a kid? It’s about this family of Russian-Jewish mice who escape to America (because “there are nooooo cats in America!“). The little boy mouse, Fievel, gets separated from his family and meets up with a pigeon (Christopher Plummer), who sings this long song in a French accent about how you should “never say never, whatever you do.


Can I tell you a secret?

There is no recipe for writing.

There is no rule book you can follow to have words come together in combinations that will electrify your reader. Not even the Chicago Manual of Style. (Gasp!)

Listen, there’s “proper” grammar and “proper” syntax and plenty of rules on how to use English “correctly.” I studied all these things in school. I used them in editing. I understand their importance.

But I defy you to find any author with the slightest shimmer of brilliance who hasn’t defied those rules somewhere in her books. Madeleine L’Engle. Charles Dickens. JK Rowling. Neil Gaiman. Louisa May Alcott. Harper Lee. Lois Lowry. They all break rules.

So should we just throw all rules out the window?

Not at all. See, there’s a balance. Write a book following all the rules of standard English, and you have the lamest textbook ever written. Write a book flouting all the rules of standard English, and you have the most unreadable trash ever written.

But follow the rules most of the time—keep your writing in check most of the time—lull your reader into a false sense of security—and then, when something needs to stand out, when you need to draw attention and make a point, you tear that list of rules in two and you drive your words home in the style that’s coming out of your heart.

So next time you start to doubt your writing because some random person in the wide world of the Internet posted a list of arbitrary rules, don’t. Start singing in a Christopher Plummer French accent and go on your merry way, leaving a trail of broken rules behind you.

How do you feel about rules? Are you a die-hard prescriptivist? Are there any “rules” that you think are particularly dumb and useless?

For you are young . . .

I got up before the sun yesterday to talk to a group of bright and aspiring young authors. They asked some great, insightful questions, and I loved seeing their enthusiasm for writing!

It got me thinking about when I was back in middle school, constantly writing and composing stories, but always behind closed doors. I was so terrified to let anyone see what I had written. I was certain that it would be smirked at and patronized. Even with the encouragement of my fabulous parents and an incredible teacher, I wasn’t ready to make the leap into letting my words out of my hands.

Fast forward to today. I’m an adult (so they tell me), and I’m getting a book published. I have a lot more connections in the publishing world, and I’ve obviously gotten over my inability to show my work to people, though it’s still a little terrifying.

And you know what? Young authors are some of my favorite people in the world. I love reading blogs from high school and middle school writers. I love talking to these young adults (yes, they are young adults, not just kids) and seeing the world through their eyes. I love their boldness and their timidity and their talent and their eagerness. There is so much to be learned from them.

You young authors out there, can you do me a favor? Don’t be afraid to let your light shine. Get involved. Talk to authors. Go to conferences. Write a blog. Show off your work. Inspire the world. Be amazing! Because I promise you, you are amazing. If you ever doubt it, come talk to me. I’ll set you straight.

How have young authors inspired you?

It’s Friday I’m in Love

This week, I jumped into round 2 of editing Demon’s Heart, had two truly fabulous books land in my inbox and suck me in, resuscitated a dormant writing group, and got a jolt of inspiration on two separate novels. Then I sat down to write a response to my own writing prompt, realized it revealed far too much about the actual story, and wrote a different one because I felt all guilty and accountable because I’d promised to post my response.

So that got me thinking about my new writing prompt adventure. There will probably be some that I can’t actually post because they reveal too much. And really, what I wanted to do with this was promote interaction and show off other super cool authors. So how do we do that?


So here’s the new deal. (No, not the one from FDR.) I will still post any links to blog post responses, and I will still post some (but likely not all) of my responses. BUT, if you are interested in having your work shown off to a growing crowd of admiring followers (am I right?), send your writing prompt response to bumblesbooks at gmail dot com. I’ll post my favorites at the end of the week.

In short: I post prompt on Monday. You email me responses before Friday. I post my favorites, along with any links to participating bloggers, on Friday.

Got it?

Okay, here’s mine.


Take a minor character from your WIP and write a scene from their past, before your story takes place.


I should have known something was wrong when Dad invited Pax to dinner.

After my grandparents died and Pax moved in with us, Mom was enough of a buffer between Dad and his much-younger brother to keep the explosions under control. But once she was gone, the shouting had spiraled out of control. Pax was gone the day after he graduated high school. He timed his visits carefully for when Dad was on duty at the station–unless my dad ordered him to report for dinner.

It was a mostly silent meal. Heather didn’t eat much, painting with tomato sauce on the arm of her booster seat until Dad gave her a warning glare. The tension in the room triggered phantom pains in the leg I no longer had, destroying my appetite. Pax ate, but it was mechanical. His glazed eyes were fixed on his plate, his mind obviously elsewhere. It wasn’t until Dad cleared his throat that Pax snapped back into focus, and even then he refused to meet Dad’s eyes. Instead, he turned to Heather. “Are you liking kindergarten?”

Heather threw a nervous glance at Dad, whose face grew a little redder, and nodded. Dad leaned forward and posed his own question.

“And how’s school coming along for you, Paxton?”

There was too much weight in Dad’s words for Pax to miss. I looked curiously from Dad’s lowered eyebrows to Pax’s suddenly pale face. Was Pax failing his classes? He’d always done so well in school. He was the one who taught me algebra when I was bored with fourth-grade math last year.

“UC Davis, correct?” Dad pressed.

Pax nodded. “One of your recommendations.”

“Funny thing–they seem to have misplaced your file. There’s no Paxton Jennings in their system. Not even an application.”

Heather hunched down in her booster seat until her nose was level with the table. Young as she was, she knew well enough how to tell when Dad was on the edge of exploding. One look at Pax’s face told me that no file had been misplaced. I snatched up my crutches and left half my dinner behind on my plate.

“Come on, Heather. I’ll read to you before you go to bed.”

Dad was the first to blow, though he had the decency to wait until we had made it to the top of the stairs. Pax soon followed. Before I could usher Heather into her room, she stiffened, her eyes sliding out of focus. My chest tightened in panic. Not again. Not now.

It was a short episode, only a few seconds before she blinked and looked up at me, her eyes filling with tears. I tried to keep my voice steady.

“What did you see this time?”

“It broke,” she whimpered, then ran into her room and shut the door. I threw my crutches down and collapsed to sit on the floor, letting the shouts from below and the sobs from the side wash over me as I stared out the window at the empty street.

 Mom, why did you have to go?