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One of the things I like to do when writing a book, is write in different layers.

Sometimes this means that I imply something for a more mature audience that would go over the head of a much younger reader. Often, it means that I’m writing something that can be read two ways. A character that you thought was one type of person (a goodie, say, or a baddy) turns out to be the complete opposite. Or there’s a grand misunderstanding happening, and while two characters think they’re talking about the same thing, they’re most certainly not! Or there may be a double-meaning, or a warning in my chapter title. Or you might assume a character is referencing one thing, when really, she’s meaning something else entirely, hehe.

It talks serious skull-sweat to write this way. Sometimes I have to wrangle for hours over the exact wording of a sentence so that it holds true for both character X (who is talking/thinking/imagining one scenario) AND character Y (who is thinking, fearing, dealing with a whole different set of thoughts, feelings and issues).
I’m aware that many (most?) readers rushing through the book won’t see this and won’t do a reread. But as a reader, I get such a kick of reading a book for a second or twentieth time (looking at you, Harry Potter) and noticing all the hints, double-meanings and multiple layers that I didn’t, or couldn’t, pick up on a first read.

So, if you’re one of those gems who races through a book, and then decides to read it again, more slowly and observantly, to understand and appreciate more fully (now with the benefit of 0-20 hindsight) exactly what was going on in this or that scene, just know that I love you. And that I deliberately write for YOU!

(And if you were to guess that I’d written this post after a day spent of double-meanings and misdirections in my next book, you’d be 100% right!)

Why the pic of Severus Snape? Because he's a character who, for 6 entire books, was written as  and bad, and fans still argue about whether he turned out to be one, the other, or both! (At that Harry Potter conference I described in an earlier post, one of the best-selling items was a T-shirt printed on both sides. On the front, it read: Snape is good! And on the back, it read: Snape is a very bad man!)


Harry Potter turns 20! 

Twenty short years ago, Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone was published. A particular kind of magic was unleashed into the world, and we haven't been the same since!

I'd never been a great reader of fantasy, and when I heard “Dragons, wizards, magic!” I thought ... meh, not for me. How wrong I was!

When I finally came to the books (only after the second movie was released, if I remember correctly), I still wasn't immediately won over. The first book is really written for younger readers and while I thought it was fun, it was only when I started reading through the succeeding books, that I realized how magnificent Rowling's world, her characters and her intricately interconnected plots were. By the release of the fifth book, Goblet of Fire (my second favorite in the series), I was standing in line beside my kids outside the book store, waiting for the midnight release, as keen a fan as ever there was.

I joined the HP fandom, and reveled in it!  My favorite online sites podcasts were The Leaky Cauldron (I still miss Melissa, Sue and Jon) and Pottercast. A highlight was attending 2007's Phoenix Rising fan conference in a post-Katrina New Orleans, and finally finding my tribe. I presented a paper on the psychology of Harry and his world, called Harry on the Couch, (which just last month I delivered again at The Franschhoek Literary Festival in South Africa). Three days of Wizard Rock concerts in Bourbon street, wizard duels in the hotel (beside the accountant delegates and military bigwigs from two other conferences held at the same time), quizzes and competitions, midnights screenings of the movies while snuggled up in squashy purple sleeping bags, and immersing myself deeper in HP - from the perspectives of experts in genetics, politics, feminism, cinematic arts, music, alchemy, botany and literary theory - it was fantastic in every way!

These magical books, their themes and stories, their fans around the globe - have gotten me through some tough times. They still provide me with joy, and with inspiration in my own journey as a writer, because having seen the impact of Harry Potter on my own and others' lives, I will NEVER discount the importance of writing and reading for the purposes of sheer entertainment and escapism. At its best, it's holy, noble work.

So when some or other ignorant asks (as they inevitably do), “Harry Potter? Still? After all this time?” I reply, “Always.”

Of course it has mostly been all in my head, but on earth should that mean it’s not real?




Young Adult Scavenger Hunt #93

Congratulations! You’ve discovered treasure number 93 in the Young Adult Summer Scavenger Hunt :)

Scroll down to find the final word on my treasure map and complete the short story.

But first, how would you like to win a stack of six awesome YA contemporary romance books for some summer binge-reading? Click on the pic to enter! (entry form opens in new window so you won't lose your scavenger hunt spot.)

click on the pic to enter!


And now, in your adventure sailing the seven oceans of the wild internet, you've found another treasure, me hearty. The code is hidden in the pirate's map.


Now you'll want to sail over to author #94, Lindsey Loucks for the next clue.

When you've put all the words together (in order from 1 ~ 140) you'll be able to reconstruct the “Secret Legend". and enter the grand prize here.

If you have any questions, make sure to visit the main post and list of participating authors here.

 Good Luck, me hearty! I hope you win (because you're my special favorite reader)!


 In June, the Alliance of Young Adult Authors is sponsoring a massive young adult scavenger hunt. This is a chance to meet some new authors, grab a bunch of free books, and sign up to win a whole bunch of epic prizes! In addition to the $500 grand prize, each author will be hosting great individual giveaways.


1. Each author will be given a special keyword, which will be bolded and all caps like this: BUTTERFLIES.

2. All you have to do is visit all the author’s sites in the order listed below, write down the special keywords to discover the short story, then enter the giveaway with the completed short story HERE (link will be posted soon).

3. There will be one main giveaway for the main prize, but most of the participating authors will also have smaller giveaways, so make sure you read their post carefully to see what else they’re offering while you’re on their site for the keyword.

4. When the scavenger hunt begins (June 1st) all you have to do is visit each site below in order and write down the special word to reconstruct the story. You can enter any of the giveaways or offers on anybody’s site, or just grab the special word and move on. I’ll add a link soon where you can enter for the grand prize when you have the full story.


  1. Cindy Ray Hale
  2. Katherine Bogle
  3. Melle Amade
  4. David Kudler
  5. A.M. Yates
  6. Alethea Kontis
  7. Stevie Rae Causey
  8. Katlyn Duncan
  9. Debbie Manber Kupfer
  10. Meredith Rose
  11. N.M. Howell
  12. Lara Ann  
  13. K.M. Robinson
  14. J.A. Culican
  15. Heather Karn
  16. Rob L. Slater
  17. Dylan Keefer
  18. Sarah K. Wilson  
  19. L.J. Higgins
  20. Gina Marie Long 
  21. Em Kazmierski
  22. Travis Hall
  23. Heather Young-Nichols
  24. Anna Santos
  25. J.L. Weil  
  26. Jo Schneider 
  27. Logan Keys
  28. Kristin D. Van Risseghem
  29. Martine Lewis 
  30. Tara Benham
  31. Stacy Claflin
  32. Beth Hammond
  33. Erica Cope
  34. Nicole Zoltack
  35. Char Webster
  36. Sabrina Ramoth
  37. T.J. Muir
  38. Raquel Lyon
  39. Beth Rodgers
  40. S.L. Beaumont
  41. Eva Pohler
  42. Melanie McFarlane
  43. Cheryllynn Dyess
  44. Audrey Rich
  45. Amanda Zieba
  46. Sandie Will
  47. Elle Scott
  48. Robert Jones
  49. Ashley Maker 
  50. Mandy Peterson
  51. Audrey Grey
  52. Chanda Stafford
  53. Amy McNulty
  54. Melinda Cordell
  55. Monica Leonelle
  56. Claire Luana
  57. Frost Kay
  58. Preeti C. Sharma
  59. Ginna Moran
  60. Mackenzie Flohr
  61. Lena Mae Hill
  62. Angel Leya
  63. Wendi Wilson
  64. Wendy Knight
  65. Samantha Britt
  66. Tamara Hart Heiner
  67. Norma Hinkens
  68. Patti Larsen
  69. Megan Crewe  
  70. Jamie Thornton
  71. Jessie Renée
  72. T.A. Maclagan  
  73. Lydia Sherrer
  74. K.T. Webb
  75. P.D. Workman
  76. J.A. Armitage
  77. K.N. Lee
  78. Angela Fristoe
  79. Rhonda Sermon
  80. G.K. DeRosa 
  81. Erin Richards
  82. Ali Winters
  83. Larissa C. Hardesty
  84. Kristine Tate
  85. Debra Kristi
  86. Keira Gillet or Bella Rose (alternate)
  87. Cortney Pearson
  88. Jeff Kohanek
  89. Kristal Shaff
  90. Rachel Morgan  
  91. Arwen Paris or Emma Right (alternate)
  92. C.L. Cannon
  93. Joanne Macgregor
  94. Lindsey Loucks
  95. Farah Cook
  96. Erin Hayes
  97. Jesikah Sundin
  98. Dorothy Dreyer
  99. Danielle Annett
  100. C.J. Ethington
  101. L.C. Hibbett 
  102. Madeline Dyer
  103. Katie John
  104. Nicole Schubert  
  105. Rachel Medhurst 
  106. Tee G Ayer  
  107. May Freighter 
  108. Gwynn White
  109. Jen Minkman  
  110. J.L. Gillham
  111. Karen Tomlinson
  112. Kate Haye
  113. Megan Linski
  114. Martina Billings
  115. Jo Ho
  116. Kellie Sheridan or E.E. Isherwood (alternate)
  117. Inna Hardison
  118. Rachel Bateman
  119. Sally Henson  
  120. J.L. Hendricks 
  121. A.L. Knorr  
  122. T.M. Franklin  
  123. Raven Oak
  124. Stephany Wallace or Felisha Antonette (alternate)
  125. Jake Devlin
  126. S.F. Benson
  127. Laurie Treacy
  128. Emily Martha Sorensen 
  129. Leia Stone
  130. T. Rae Mitchell
  131. J. Keller Ford
  132. Kat Stiles
  133. Jessica Hawke
  134. Elyse Reyes
  135. Sophie Davis
  136. Lindsay Mead or Bianca Scardoni (alternate)
  137. Jenetta Penner
  138. David R. Bernstein
  139. Olivia Wildenstein
  140. Derek Murphy
  1.  For rules, updates or trouble-shooting, make sure to check out this main post which will stay updated.



Authors will post the rules and the full list of participating authors sometime in June, and have their post up and visible on their site/blog, with their keyword, by June 1st. Readers just need to go through the list, find the words, and use the story to enter for the grand prize.


Character Names

    "So where do you get your characters' names from?"
That's a question most authors are asked at some time, and I don't think there's a single answer because it varies enormously from writer to writer.
I was once at an author event where crime and thriller writers Mike Nicol and John Connolly were also asked this question. Nicol said he ponders the issue for months, determined to come up with a name that is the perfect fit for a character, while Connolly (looking frankly amazed at this answer) said he opens the phone books and stabs with pen!

    Personally, I'm very careful when it comes to choosing my names. I have a well-thumbed baby names book to stimulate ideas and to research name meanings, and I regularly scan the online baby name and surname sites. I like to leave "Easter eggs" in my books for readers who make an extra effort, and so you'll usually find that the names of my main characters (and villains) have some kind of meaning.
  In my most recent book, Hushed, I named the heroine Romy. This is a contraction of Rosemary, which means 'dew of the sea' - a most appropriate name for a character (loosely) based on The Little Mermaid (who, in the original story, actually dashes herself into the ocean and turns into sea foam!). Her surname is Morgan ('dwells near the sea / of the sea / defender of the sea').
    Her sisters all have sea names, too: Meriel ('bright sea'); Genna ('white wave'); Marina ('of the sea'); Cordelia ('daughter of the sea', also the only daughter in King Lear who was loyal to her father, which fits this character in Hushed). Their father is called Rex ('King' because he's the modern version of Poseidon, the kind of the sea) and the Russian ice-breaker turned anti-whaling ship is called Syrenka - a twist on the Polish Syrena, meaning 'mermaid'. I named the hero Logan mostly because I really liked the name, but also the meaning ('dweller from a little hollow') has significance for something we learn about him during the course of the book.

   In Scarred, my courageous heroine is Sloane ('warrior'), and the hero who helps her accept and forgive herself is Luke ('light-giver', with connotations of healing from the New Testament physician disciple).

    In the Recoil Trilogy, my expert sniper protagonist is called Jinxy ('magic charm', plus she turns out to be a jinx for those who try to exploit her!); and her intel expert and hot braniac love interest is named Quinn ('wisdom, reason, intelligence').

    Nomusa (one of the three main characters in my Eco-warriors series) got her name in an unusual way. I was desperately trying to find accommodation for a long weekend away in the ukhahlamba Drakensberg mountain range (where thew books are set) and everything was booked solid, but then an amazingly sweet and helpful call-center operator lived up to her name, Nomusa (which means 'merciful' in Ndebele) and found me a cabin! I knew at once that I'd found the perfect name for the kind, empathic, compassionate character in the books. In the same books, the headmistress is named Lilith Grieve (a 'female demon and night monster') so you just know she's going to cause you grief and be of no help to the eco-warriors!  

Lilith in Supernatural also isn't very nice, neither was Dr Lilith Sternin-Crane (Frasier's ex-wife)! Liliths, man...
I don't always choose the moniker based on its meaning, though. I ran a contest to name one of my favorite characters in Refuse and Rebel - that's how Miss Tallulah got her name! And sometimes, characters "grow into" their names. When I was writing Scarred, I stuck the name Eileen in as a placeholder for the name of the psychologist Sloan has therapy with. Eileen is the name of a good friend of mine who is also a psychologist in real life, so her name just popped into my head when I was writing. The character isn't based on her, and I fully intended to go back and change it, but gradually the name seemed to fit the character more and more, and so I wound up leaving it in. 
I named Dan in the eco-warrior series because he seemed to be as funny, cute and cheeky as Daniel Radcliffe (who plays Harry Potter in the movies).
   Sometimes family gets a mention - two of the triplets in Scarred (Devon and Keagan) arte named after my nephews, Nicki (Refuse) has the name of one of my sisters, and the generous English couple who donate to Sam's anti-fracking fund in Fault Lines have my other sister's surname.

   I am not above naming characters from a revenge motivation, either! The name of the evil, tormenting science teacher in my eco-warriors series, for example, is a twisted version of the name of the deeply unpleasant science teacher I had at school! (Ah, sweet revenge!). Fair warning - don't annoy a writer unless you want a rotten character named after you, LOL.

    I'm curious to know - do you ever look up the names of the characters in the books you read? If you had to name a hero/ine or a villian, what would you call them?
Sneak peek: The couple in my next book are called (for now anyway)
Peyton and Jay.