Behind the Scenes: Camp Christmas

Happy Holidays, friends!! Welcome to our last blog of 2013. It seems funny to say that 8403262-poinsettia-floweron “Scene 13,” a blog full of authors with debut releases in 2013. When we first heard about this group, we couldn’t wait to be a part of it and share our first YA stories with readers. Now, at the end of 2013, we’ve been fortunate enough to have two novellas and a novel out this year in our new “Camp Boyfriend” series. We’re calling the year a huge success, but even better… it’s been a lot of fun.

Camp Xmas cover 2Our new novella, Camp Christmas, released a week and a half ago. If you haven’t grabbed the FREE download at the Spencer Hill Contemporary website, we hope you’ll go snag a copy now! We had such fun writing a snowy holiday adventure for some of the Camp Juniper Point characters. We thought, just this once, it might be fun to follow the characters away from camp and see what their lives are like back home over Winter Break.

Today, we thought we’d give you some background on the setting for Camp Christmas whiteface02and share our personal ties to the geographic area where it’s set. Karen and I live near the Adirondack region where the story is set on Whiteface Mountain. The characters attend a private boarding school near the mountain and are taking a ski club trip.  It’s been awhile since I’ve skied Whiteface personally, but for several years, I’ve driven one or two of my sons to the mountain on winter weekends to ski or snowboard “the greatest vertical drop east of the Rockies.”

whiteface1There is a lot to do at the mountain. I’m partial to sipping hot chocolate by a fire in the lodge, but most people prefer to hit the slopes, the slides or the terrain park for a day of adventure and fun. My sons like to scare me by texting photos from the top of the mountain, especially when the conditions are iffy. They didn’t nickname the mountain “Iceface” for nothing. The snow can turn icy at the end of the day or when the temperature shifts from warm to cold.

During Camp Christmas, the characters get into some trouble because they don’t follow Telemarker on Cloudspinthe park rules and they ski a section of the mountain that is closed to the public. My sons would never do this—truly, it’s dangerous—but plenty of people have attempted to do so on this mountain and others in the area. Conditions can change fast when snow storms roll in or the temperature takes a bit dip. Even a warming trend can be dangerous because it causes a mist off the snow and makes visibility difficult. See why I prefer the cocoa in the lodge?

Although, if I had a cute guy to ski with, I suppose I could be enticed to step out into the snow. Our characters sure had a good time.

***How do you like to spend a cold, snowy day? Chat with us on the boards today and we’ll send one random poster an I ❤ my Camp Boyfriend tee, Camp Boyfriend mini flashlight and friendship bracelets!


To Pasta- With Love by Karen Rock/JK Rock

I celebrated jkrock3 tree picmy birthday last week doing what I love the most: spending time with my family.  It was a low key affair with maximum meaning. My husband, daughter and I shared a quiet day with a meal out, cake, presents, and a trip to see Richard Curtis’ (writer/director of Love Actually) latest film About Time. I’ve always loved his films, such as Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral, for their emotional intelligence and sensitivity. Yet About Time offered more than a beautiful love story and intriguing characters. It contained a message that stayed with me past the end credits. To quote the main character, Tim, “Live life as if there are no second chances.”

In this time-traveler tale, Tim, along with the other males in his family, can go back in time to correct their mistakes.  Yet this beautiful story of unconditional love showed thaabout timet some things cannot be changed, however much we might wish it so. I completely identified with Tim’s longing to see a deceased relative. There are many moments in my life I wish I had a second chance to relive. Times when I let every day stresses and worries keep me from fully enjoying my life and those I loved.

If I could pick one day to revisit, it would be the day my nonna taught me how to make homemade pasta. As her health was failing, the need to learn our family’s Italian recipes became urgent. I’d already learned how to make her gravy (sauce as it is normally called), focaccia bread, eggplant parmesan and other recipes. Yet, as a busy college student, I hadn’t found the time needed to learn how to make pasta from scratch. I phoned my grandmother and planned a Columbus Day weekend visit. NonnaHowever, when the time neared, I regretted making that commitment. My boyfriend was acting strange and distant, I had a paper due, and my roommates hadn’t chipped in to pay the electric bill. When I called to cancel, my Aunt Pam lectured me. She said Nonna had been preparing all week for my visit and had spoken of little else in her excitement. Nonna had insisted, despite her arthritis, on scrubbing her entire apartment and having my aunt take her grocery shopping so that she could personally pick out the ingredients. It would crush her if I didn’t follow through. Resigned and resentful, I agreed to make the trip.

Nonna wasn’t one to show affection. She dished out her love through her food. When I arrived, she handed me a plate of my favorite cookies, her almond biscotti. It was her way of saying, “I’m glad you came, and I love you.” Yet I was too upset about my troubles back in Albany to notice. I listened with half and ear as she prattled in her broken English. Whenever she was excited, her speech was mostly in Italian, and I didn’t try translating it this time. Instead, I let the words wash over me as I thought about my soon-to-be ex-boyfriend, Michael. I went to bed early, knowing she’d wake me up as she always did- at five am- by poking me with a broom’s bristles, followed by her booming belly laugh. But my restless night made me cranky in the morning. Instead of giving in and getting up, I refused to leave my bed until seven. When I finally showered and dressed, she’d been sitting at the kitchen table, ingredients at the ready, for almost two hours. Ungrateful person that I was, I barely apologized and we set to work, my hands following hers as we went through the steps and set the pasta out to dry.

orecchietteAlthough I went through the motions of making Orecchiette (pasta sometimes called ‘little ears’), my heart wasn’t in it. Nonna grew quieter as the day went on, sensing, I’m sure, my lack of enthusiasm. I spent the evening arguing on the phone with my boyfriend instead of watching television with her. In the past, we’d always poked fun at game show contestants, ranted about the evils of the world while watching the news, or clucked in sympathy with talk show guests. But this time, she sat alone, hunched on the sofa, silent, as I had what I thought was a crucial exchange with Michael. The next morning, I did get up at five a.m. But my early rise was motivated by my need to leave quickly. I wanted to get home and continue my fight with Michael, finish my paper, and round up my roommates’ share of the electric bill.

Well, I did get the money for the electric bill, I earned an A on the paper, and Michael and I made up- for the time being. Yet all of that pales in comparison to what I’d lost: the chance to fully appreciate the last time I’d see Nonna alive.  She died a month later, and all I have from our last day together is a hastily scrawled recipe. I would give anything to have a second chance to redo that time. To linger over coffee and almond biscotti with her, to pay close attention to what she said, to jump out of bed and help her set up for pasta-making, to patiently learn our family recipe rather than rushing through it, to sit beside her as we watched TV, her hand slapping my knee as she laughed, my head on her shoulder as I inhaled her favorite scent- gardenia.

italian thanksgivingAbout Time was a great reminder that life doesn’t give us do-overs. We shouldn’t let the stresses and worries of our everyday lives keep us from appreciating those we love and the wonderful blessings we’ve been given. The message couldn’t come at a better time given the Thanksgiving Season. Being thankful isn’t enough. It’s important to take action as well- to be engaged- to pay attention to the things that matter most. The normal moments I take for granted are the ones I will want back someday. Better to appreciate them now, than wish I had another chance to enjoy them. So my wish for this Thanksgiving is for us all to be thankful and to be giving. To commit our hearts and minds to those we love instead of allowing other, less important things, to steal that time from us.

campcoverwithquoteIf you could have a second chance, and go back in time, which moment would you relive? I’d love hear your thoughts! Answer in the comment section below, and be entered to win a copy of Camp Boyfriend, print/Kindle/Nook version- your choice. I will announce the winner on tomorrow. Thank you so much for commenting! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving full of family, laughter, and unconditional love. Oh- and pasta too 🙂

Gratitude Giveaway!

One thing all the writers at Scene13 agree on is that we are so thankful to our readers. And to prove how thankful we are, we’re having a giveaway! Just in time for the holidays! All you have to do to enter is click the image of the Rafflecopter form below (which will take you to the actual Rafflecopter form) and follow the entry directions. Check out all the cool books you can win. Amazing, right? Enter, and then spread the word!

And once again, THANK YOU!!!


Access Your Creativity

“Life isn’t about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.” — George Bernard Shaw

Whenever I teach freshman composition courses, I like to start the class with a quote on the board. Sometimes we talk about it, sometimes we write about it, and sometimes it’s just there. I think it’s a good way to get fledgling writers thinking because before you can write anything, you have to engage your brain. We think first, then we write.

writingAs a writer, I always struggle with the thinking more than the writing. Some writers come to the page full of ideas and struggle to figure out how to write them. I come to the page ready to write, but often wonder who and what to write about next. I think it’s because I’ve already developed a lot of stories. I’m at the point in my career where I need to continually recharge my creativity.

If you’re new to writing, you’ll be surprised how soon this happens! You think you’ve got enough story ideas for a lifetime, but each book requires so many characters, so much conflict and so many layers of backstory. You tap a ton of creative resources each time you put you pen to paper. It’s important to recharge your ideas early and often before you turn to the blank screen and realize—“ack! I’ve got nothing!”

flowerNot that this has ever happened to me. Cough, cough. But I was fortunate enough to attend a fabulous workshop on maintaining creativity early in my writing journey and I’ve revisited the tips from my old mentor Dewanna Pace many times over the years. She advised a lot of practical things, really breaking down how to experience the world around you in a new way. There are the more obvious things like checking out the newspaper, or different news/magazines than you normally would and visiting new places. But she also helped me to see how to experience the world around me in a different way.

Rowan AtkinsonFor example, turn off the television and watch the actors. Learn about their moods and feelings through their gestures. Or explore the world through the five senses, really focusing on sounds or smells. Describe them. Write about them. Think about how your character would experience those same things. What smells have strong memory associations for them and why? What sounds would scare them and why?

eavesdropWriters learn early on in their journeys that as chroniclers of human drama, we must be keen observers. That means staring conversations with strangers. Eavesdropping whenever possible. Searching for subtext within the smallest of gestures. Make it a game and you’ll feel more creative. Try the exercises when you’re not on deadline and you can really have fun with them. – Joanne

wishme***What do you do to kick start creativity? I have a copy of Karen’s debut adult romance novel, WISH ME TOMORROW for one random commenter! If you haven’t read the reviews of her fantastic book for Harlequin’s Heartwarming series, please take a moment to visit her at today!

The Best Kind of Busy


Mayday! Mayday! Yes, Karen and I have both shouted it a few times this month as deadlines attack from all sides. As debut YA authors with a book coming to the shelves in July, we are crazy-busy. There are a lot of blog posts to write for the upcoming Camping Out Blog Tour. There are three books in this series, so there are obviously more stories to work on. There are novellas between the books, so we’ve got some writing to do there as well. 

Writing, of course, doesn’t mean plopping words on the page and calling it a day, either. We start by brainstorming. Spend a lot of time drafting. Work on revisions. Edit those revisions. Send it to critiquers and eventually to editors, all of whom weigh in with ideas and suggestions for changes that Karen and I debate over, think about, and make changes accordingly. The creative process is long and multi-layered.

J.K. Rock NewsletterThrough it all, when a book nears its release date, there is a lot of promotional business to attend. We are packing for BEA and are so excited to meet some fellow Scene13ers (pictures coming soon!). We have websites and newsletters to update, booksignings to schedule and promote, social media outlets to keep current, swag to choose and purchase, friends to contact for support… it’s busy.

But you know what? It’s the Best Thing. As writers, this is what we strive for during long months (YEARS for some of us!) of creating and hoping we know what we are doing on this journey. The road to publication is difficult and I (Joanne for J.K. today- you’ll hear lots from both of us on the blog!) slipped on it plenty of times. Before I started writing YA with Karen, I struggled to sell a book under my own name for years before I sold my first adult romance. There was a great deal of rejection. I wrote book after book though, determined that one day, I’d sell one. One day, someone besides my best friend would read my words! That hope and faith (okay, and stubbornness) kept me going   as I worked toward that goal of a first sale.

cb shirt swag 002So I never mind the busy. Sometimes I get stressed and overwhelmed… of course! But one of the great blessings of being in this business for awhile is being able to take the long view on things. Even if it feels like everything in the world depends on this one book, one review, or this one promotion- it doesn’t. I will never forget that, in my darkest months of feeling like I’d never sell a book, I would have given my right arm for the opportunity to be busy with deadlines. So even when my To Do list spirals out of control and I’m fielding two email accounts, managing multiple websites, monitoring tons of social media accounts and hoping, hoping, hoping I find time to work on my chapter, I can guarantee you that I’m smiling, too. I worked really hard to have this chance. And I couldn’t be happier to be busy. I wish the same for all of you ;-).

17371981***Some kinds of “busy” are better than others, I’ll admit. What’s your favorite kind of work in your day to day job? Your least? Chat with me today on the boards and I’ll send one commenter a fun, Camp Boyfriend Swag Pack (pictured above).

Interested in the Camp world? You can download our prequel novella, Camp Kiss for FREE now.

March Releases and A GIVEAWAY!!!

We’ve got some great books releasing this month!

First up is Cole Gibsen’s Senshi (Katana #2) – Coming from Flux March 8th:

Senshipaperback - CopyAfter learning she is a reincarnated samurai, nearly getting killed (several times), and reuniting with a past-life soul mate, Rileigh Martin decides to put her warrior life on hold to focus on her senior year of high school. But a reincarnated kunoichi (female ninja) has other plans–including destroying the world if Rileigh doesn’t stop her! When evil ninja assailants nearly kill Rileigh and kidnap her best friend Quentin, she must choose between saving the world and saving him. Rileigh’s only ally in this impossible quest: the spirit of a man who killed her in a past life.


Sandra Ulbrich Almazan’s Twinned Universes releases March 17th:

Twinned Universes E-bookPaul Harrison always wanted to play Hamlet, but he never expected he’d live the role first.

In the aftermath of a family tragedy on 21st century Earth, Paul discovers he’s the clone of Sean Lyon, his great-great-grandfather and a famous TwenCen musician. Suspecting his mother’s death was no accident, Paul comes up with a plan to trick the answers out of the great-uncle who had him cloned. But in order to make his plan work, Paul needs help from Sean himself—and Sean’s time is running out in the TwenCen universe next door. Although Paul’s family lives on the spaceship that travels between the universes, he’s never been allowed on TwenCen Earth. Now, with the help of his friends, his disguise-creating holoprojectors, and a quantum quirk, Paul must make his way to Sean while evading other time travelers who fear he’ll change the history of the TwenCen universe. If Paul is to achieve justice, he must not only risk his own life, but the wormhole connecting the universes. “To be or not to be” was a simple question in comparison….

~~~~ Michelle McLean’s A Bandit’s Stolen Heart (the first book in the Blood Blade Sisters series) is releasing from Entangled’s Scandalous imprint on March 18th:

Under the persona of the bandit Blood Blade, Cilla Richardson robs from the corrupt and gives to the poor. An accidental kidnapping during a routine robbery leaves her with a handsome captive named Leo Forrester. But Cilla and her sisters need an ally in their fight against the town’s corrupt sheriff, and Leo is their best bet.

Leo reluctantly agrees to help by marrying Cilla’s older sister –just so they can keep their land. But the more time he spends with Cilla, the more determined Leo is to steal her stubborn bandit’s heart. However, Cilla is just as determined to keep her heart to herself. Then innocent people are murdered, and the sheriff blames Blood Blade. With their allies now their enemies, Leo and Cilla must convince the town of her innocence before she ends up on the wrong end of a hangman’s noose.

And Sherry Ficklin’s Grave Secrets: Palmetto Moon book 2 releases March 24, 2013:

Grave Secrets cover large frontNo pulse? No problem.
Sophie D’Angelo is good with weird, but her latest investigation takes the cake. A young pregnant woman goes missing and the only witness is a hundred year old ghost. Sophie reluctantly agrees to play host to the specter who seems more interested in Caleb then in solving the case. As her personal life falls apart around her, Sophie will have to decide how far she’s willing to go for justice, and what she’s willing to risk to make things right with Caleb again.
But how is she supposed to do iany of that with the charismatic Rayne Blackwood vying for her help, her time, and ultimately, her heart?


And now…..Giveaway time!


As you know, all twenty-nine (29!) of us contributors have works coming out in 2013; a few workaholics here have several projects that will be released into the world.

To thank you for accompanying us on our publishing journeys, we’re proud to host our first giveaway!

The rules are simple: one random FB follower will be chosen as the winner. If you haven’t followed us yet, just CLICK HERE.

If you’re already a follower, then you are covered. Starting next week, we’ll draw a new winner each Friday in March, so you have four chances to win!

And now… the prizes!

Week One Prize Pack:
Kelly Hashway – ebook of Love All
Michelle Mclean – ebook and swag of To Trust a Thief
Ellen Booraem – paperback of Small Persons With Wings

Week Two Prize Pack:
Lena Goldfinch – ebook of Aire
Christine Fonseca – ebook of Transcend
Tyler Jolley – paperback of Neto Lexan and the Impox Secret

Week Three Prize Pack:
Kimberly Ann Miller – query critique
Hilari Bell – first three Knight and Rogue books
Sherry Ficklin – Extracted swag

Week Four Prize Pack:
Lisa Amowitz – ARC of Breaking Glass
Sandra Ulbrich – Lyon’s Legacy (ebook or paperback)
Jennifer Allis Provost – Copper Girl swag

(NOTE: swag and paperbacks will only be shipped in the US, but ebooks and crits are open internationally)