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  • Awful Titles Authors Almost Gave to their Books

    I love this article because I can totally relate! So often, the first title I give my work usually ends up being the plot presented in a very broad stroke. I think every single one of my books has gone through alternate titles before arriving at the one that stuck. 

    Did you know that my young adult novel, Strays was previously titled, Hothead and the Dog Days of Summer?

    Click here to see more extreme versions (read: REALLY BAD TITLES that were almost given to some great novels! )

    Could you imagine if English classes across the country were talking about Trimalchio in West Egg (F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby) or Something that Happened (John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.)

    The horror. 

    And, Happy Halloween! 

  • Pitch Wars!

    Have you heard of pitch wars?

    Well, it's my first time entering the online battle. Writers submit their finished manuscript's first chapter and a query letter to four participating agents / writers / publishers / editors. If selected, the writer would then work with said professional to buff up their manuscript for two months in anticipation of November's Twitter pitch war, where writers pitch their novel through Twitter and agents and editors are on the prowl for new projects. 

    Last year, more than 50 author participants were offered representation / publication!

    So I figured, why not!

    I brushed up my young adult nanowrimo project from a few years back and sent it off. 

    Thinking of sending something in? There's still time! The window for mentors closes tomorrow, August 6th, but if you miss that, you can always jump right back in in November. 

    Check out this page for more information or search #pitchwars on Twitter. 

    Happy Writing!

  • New York!

    It's been a crazy busy 2016 so far, so excuse the lack of blog posts. 

    I am a little over halfway through my tenure as writer in residence at the Annenberg Community Beach House. It has been a wonderful experience so far and you can read some of my blog entries on the City of Santa Monica's website. I'll be posting them to this blog over the next few weeks. 

    And, I've just returned from New York City where I was nominated for a DWAA Pat Santi Memorial Friends of Rescue Award. I didn't win, but I "won" in so many other ways on this trip!

    The awards ceremony was being held at the Hotel Pennsylvania where all the dogs were gathered for the Westminster Dog Show. There were so many dogs in the lobby! This big cutie was my favorite:

    Best of all, I got to meet Jackie Skole, author of Dogland, who is also published by Ashland Creek Press (my publisher)

    My family took in some fabulous shows:

    We watched the Kings beat the Rangers in a very dramatic hockey game at Madison Square Garden

    And enjoyed some rare snow for this Californian!

    I came home inspired, exhausted and greeted by a very joyful blossoming peach tree!

  • I've been gilded!

    I am thrilled to announce my novel, Strays, was the recipient of both a gold and silver medal from the Literary Classic Book Awards

    Doesn't it look pretty all gilded! 

    Strays received a gold medal for Best in Young Adult Health / Self-Esteem and a silver medal for Best in Young Adult Fiction. 

    I will be signing copies of my novel at the Literary Classic Book Awards booth at the AWP conference in Los Angeles on Saturday, April 2nd from 12:45 - 2:55. If you're at AWP, come say hi!

  • November is the Month I'm Getting it Done

    If I seem like I've disappeared off the face of the earth it's only because I've fallen into the hole that is NanoWriMo

    What did I just say?

    Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which happens to be November. The folks over at NanoWriMo have set up a wonderful universe of novel writing: prompts to get you going, motivational speakers, word count checkers and message boards message boards message boards. 

    I tend to avoid all that and really just focus on writing my seven pages a day. 

    This is my third year participating. Two years ago, I wrote a dystopic young adult novel that I am currently revising. Last year I cheated and wrote a screenplay (the rules are it should be a 60,000 word original novel.) And this year, I'm attempting my first contemporary adult novel. 

    On day two I scrapped my planned structure which changes so much, but that's what happens when the writing is compressed to thirty days. (I realized the first fourteen pages were just back story.)

    So as I was hammering away at the keys I read a tweet from my writer friend, Lael, who mentioned something about PiBoIdMo. What? Another catchy word, not word? What did it mean? Turns out it stands for Picture Book Idea Month and the challenge here is to come up with a picture book idea for every day of the month in November. I revised those rules to include a young adult concept as well. 

    So that is what I will be doing for the month of November, feverishly writing a novel and coming up with other book concepts. 

    Want to join me?

    To sign up and read about NaNoWriMo, click here

    To sign up and read about PiBoIdMo, click here. 

  • California in Literature

    As a California girl, I was interested in this article, "California by the Numbers" that explores representations of California in world literature.  It's a fascinating look at how history and literature collide through various bar graphs.

    Click here to read the article. 

    And happy to add my book to the canon of California literature (Strays takes place in Santa Cruz, California.)

  • what's in it for you at a writing conference?

    Each time I peruse the latest edition of Poets and Writers Magazine I see the endless amount of writing conferences offered across the globe, which got me thinking, why should writers attend writing conferences?

    I've attended a handful of these conferences, (later this week I'll be at the SCBWI - society of children's book writers and illustrators - annual conference in Los Angeles) and I've compiled a list of benefits these conferences have to offer both seasoned writers as well as those just starting out. 

    What you can gain by attending a writing conference:

    1. Networking: Conferences boast hundreds to thousands of attendees depending on the type. Either way, you meet tons of people. You'll find writers working in a similar genre, in a similar city, or perhaps you'll meet your next writing group member!

    2. Access: Most writing conferences have established speakers that are active members in the publishing world. Writers, agents and publishers are all in attendance. Inevitably, one of the questions that is always asked by someone in the audience is, "can I send you my query?"  And I have to say,  many agents and publishers will give you something specific  to write in the subject line of an email to gain direct access to them so that you can forward them a query letter and they'll connect it to your attendance at a specific conference. 

    3. Exposure: Most conferences have a designated time when writers can sell their work to the other conference attendees. If you're a published writer, this is a great time to practice your sales pitch as well as answer questions about the writing process. And if you're just starting out, you can walk around and speak with scores of other writers and ask them questions about their publishing experience and their books. 

    4. They're valuable: The speakers at conferences have all prepared something very specific to talk to you about ranging from character development, how to land an agent, how excel can be used to track your submissions, to how to book gigs at your local library. There is always more to learn and there are always new ways to reach out to readers. I keep all my notes from these various conferences and reference them often.

    5. They're fun! There's plenty of time to socialize with other writers and lots of conferences will have an evening out where you can leave the notebooks at home and just have a night of fun! 

    So, how do you pick a writing conference that's right for you?

    Check out the back pages of Poet's and Writers Magazine.

    Go to New Pages for a list of upcoming conferences by state. 

  • SCBWI is almost here!!

    I am so excited for the SCBWI conference next weekend here in Los Angeles! SCBWI stands for the Society of Book Writers and Illustrators and their annual conference takes place each year in August. This conference is open to members and non-menbers of this amazing organization. I have been a member of SCBWI since 2009 when I attended my first conference. 

    For those of you attending, I will be selling and signing my latest novel, Strays, at the Friday Night reception until 8:30 p.m. 

    Come stop by and say hi!

  • meet Blue!

    Lael Smith is a writer living in Los Angeles. Meet her dog, Blue:

    My husband and I drove out to the Santa Clarita hills one bright late-May morning eleven years ago when the Jacaranda trees were in a purple riot of bloom (I’d never noticed them before but always think of Blue when they bloom now) to a home where Blue was one puppy in a litter of nine.

    We had fallen for a Rhodesian Ridgeback in our neighborhood and wanted one of our own. We thought them to be the most exotic, beautiful and noble of dogs. We thought one would make a good running partner. We were told they didn’t bark, unless they meant business and they didn’t shed.

    We took Big Boy, as he was then named, home when he was eight weeks old. None of us had any idea what we were getting into but I held the little eleven-pound warm lump that smelled like popcorn the whole way home and promised to care for him and so I have.

    He is sweet and silly and loving and stubborn as a mule. He sheds like crazy and refuses to run unless he feels like it, which is not often as he’d rather smell every square inch of ground, but only barks when someone knocks on the front door (which is handy as we have no doorbell).

    You can feel his African roots — his eyes, nose and immense speed made for the safari. I read recently, in one of Alexandra Fuller’s books about growing up in Africa that of her immense pack of dogs, it was only her Ridgeback who could defend himself against the baboons. And I believe it. I’ve never once seen a hint of ferocity from Blue, quite the opposite — I’ve seen other, smaller dogs, abuse him.

    There was one time when I was pregnant and hiking in the Santa Monica mountains and a mountain lion in a bush growled at me and Blue, obliviously smelling some other dog’s pee down the trail, missed his one opportunity to do what his breed was made for, treeing lions, and I had to run for my life. And another time we were hiking in the mountains, he got heat stroke (it was Memorial Day and only 80 degrees) and my husband and our friend and I had to carry him down the mountain, slung between us on a beach blanket. So, maybe he’s not exactly African safari material...

    Blue used to be possessive of me and quite passive-agressive when his pack left him behind. He ate my wedding shoes before I could wear them again. He ate my wedding earrings (diamond studs). He ate a new pair of lovely designer heels before I could wear them at all when I came home once to dump my things and go back out without spending any time with him. He’s eaten my hats and underwear and plenty of meals meant for me. But he’s mellowed in his maturity. Of course this past Christmas he got ahold of the Gingerbread before I could serve it.

    He was hit once, accidentally, with a Chuckit in the park (by the mayor of Santa Monica, no less) and pushed over by a much smaller bulldog (the fall snapped his young leg in half) and Blue avoids both still, more than ten years later. He understands more English than seems possible. I’m quite sure I’ll see him in the afterlife and he’ll have some things to say to me — mostly about his bland, vet-mandated Low-fat GI diet. He has a great party trick too — he likes to unwrap presents delicately with his teeth and paws. It’s pretty remarkable. He dazzled my husband’s entire town with this trick at my first son’s baptism party there. I have no idea how that trick got started; he must have watched us to it and taught himself?

  • Leo

    How cute is Leo??

    Leo's story as told by his owner, Jessica:

    We adopted Leo (then called Squirrel) two years ago from a rescue group that is the nonprofit arm of a dog boarding and daycare in West Los Angeles called Cage Free K9 Camp. In fact, his adoption anniversary is one week from today.

    He was approximately 10 months old at the time and was believed to have been living on the streets of South LA before being picked up. I found him through an online search for a terrier mix.

    When we went to meet him, he immediately curled up in my lap and I knew he had to be part of our family. He is the greatest and clearly has great taste in books.

    Want to be a part of the Meet the Dogs campaign? Shoot me an email and a photo of your dog with my novel, Strays,  at writing (at) caloyeras (dot) com.

  • 5 things about me and Iris Moody

    Want to know why I shared my living space with bats for a summer? Curious about what movie soundtracks I sang in? 

    Today, I'm over at the book rat revealing 5 things you might not know about me. I am also sharing 5 things about my protagonist, Iris Moody. Click here to read. 

    If you're feeling lucky, enter the book rat's book giveaway where you can win a signed copy of my novel, Strays.  

  • novel novice residency

    I was thrilled to be featured all week long on Novel Novice! If you've never visited, this is an amazing site that reviews young adult literature as well as provides a variety of resources and tools for readers, students and teachers. 

    On Monday there was a book review. Click here for the review. 

    On Tuesday I wrote an original blog post on creative Inspiration. Click here to read it. 

    On Wednesday I offered additional classroom material in the form of a writing assignment. Click here to read it. 

    On Thursday I participated in a Q & A. Click here to see it. 

    And Friday was giveaway day! You can win a copy of my book, Strays. This one is open to international readers. The contest will be open until Friday, May 29th. Click here to enter and read more about it. 

    A special thank you to Sara Gundell for having me on her incredible site all week long!

  • Inaugural signing was a success!

    I had a great turnout for my inaugural signing of Strays at Children's Book World! A big thank you to everyone who came out to buy my book! There were a lot of laughs:


    My books looked so pretty all lined up in a row!

    My friends...I  mean... fans let me take photos of them:

    And then they took photos of me:


    I had quite a few children in the audience and when it came time for questions, these kids asked the best questions! What a way to kick off this publication!