Thursday, August 30, 2007

Book Ninjas Extraordinaire

I want to take this opportunity to send out a huge thank you to all the Book Ninjas Extraordinaire out there. What?!? You don't know what Book Ninjas Extraordinaire are! Well, Book Ninjas Extraordinaire are great heroes. Book Ninjas Extraordinaire are loyal friends. Book Ninjas Extraordinaire are sneaky, stealthly, brave, brilliant, and quite good looking! Book Ninjas Extraordinaire are the kind souls who volunteered back in June and July to help me distribute stacks of INTO THE WILD promotional bookmarks to bookstores, libraries, and schools in their hometowns. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! You guys are the best!

If any of you are interested in joining the ranks of the Book Ninjas Extraordinaire, or if you're already a Book Ninja Extraordinaire and just want to show off, I would love your help. I recently received another big box of bookmarks in the mail, and I'd love to distribute these to bookstores and libraries around the country, so they can make them available to their customers. If you would be willing to drop some bookmarks off at your local bookstore or library and ask if they'd be willing to make them available, please email me your mailing address and I'll be very happy to send you a stack. Doing so will earn my eternal gratitude as well as the very honorable title of Book Ninja Extraordinaire!


Monday, August 27, 2007

Guest Blogger: Cinderella

Those of you who enjoyed our visit from Goldilocks, a couple weeks back, will be happy to know that we have another guest blogger in the "studio" with us today: Cindy, one of the supporting characters from INTO THE WILD and the title character from the fairy tale "Cinderella." Thanks so much for joining us, Cindy. It's a pleasure to have you here on Sarah's Journal.

CINDY: Thanks, Sarah. Um, you did clear this with Zel, right? It's okay that we do this?

SARAH: Absolutely. Rapunzel will be appearing here herself at a later date.

CINDY: Okay, I guess that's okay. Do I look all right?

SARAH: It's a blog. No one can see you.

CINDY: The taffeta isn't too much?

SARAH: How could taffeta ever be too much?

CINDY: True! You so should have seen some of the looks I got on my way here. I swear, like, every guy who saw me had to take a second look.

SARAH: I'm sure they did.

CINDY: You're so funny! Goldie said you didn't have a sense of humor. She said... Oh, I'm not supposed to tell you that.

SARAH: Tell me what?

CINDY: It's a secret.

SARAH: My lips are sealed.

CINDY: Well, so long as you aren't going to tell... She lied to you. She told you a fake story. I know you believed her, but she didn't really watch "American Idol" with the three bears. I know she wouldn't want me telling you this, but they actually ran her off. When they found her in Baby Bear's bed, they chased her into the forest.

SARAH: I'd heard something like that.

CINDY: Frankly, I think it's appalling. They didn't call 9-1-1. They didn't tell anyone. They chased her away. She was a little girl, alone in the woods. She could have died, and they didn't care. At least my stepmother and stepsisters didn't turn me out of the house. I had a home.

SARAH: Not a very nice home.

CINDY: Well, yeah. But that was a long time ago. Things are different now. Last year, I even hired someone to clean my house.

SARAH: That must have been a nice change of pace for you.

CINDY: True. But I had to fire her. She was scared of my birds.

SARAH: You have scary birds?

CINDY: Well, not exactly, but you see, she tried to put on a pair of my shoes... which is, ick, by the way. What if she had athlete's foot? Or even just odor? What was she doing putting on my shoes? Anyway, the birds went a little nuts about it. She threatened to call animal control. It wasn't pretty. Can we talk about something else?

SARAH: Can you tell our readers about your fairy tale in your own words?

CINDY: Oh, there's not much to say. It's just your average Cinderella-story.

SARAH: Okay then... I guess that does sum it up. Well, thanks for joining us. I hope you'll come back again.

CINDY: Of course, darling. Tootles!


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Why I Write

This made my day and reminded me why I write...

From an Amazon Customer Review of Into the Wild posted yesterday:

Me and my dad had a great time reading this book. Although I'm only eight, my dad is REALLY old, so he qualifies to help me with this review! I love stories about mysteries, and I thought Puss 'n Boots was really funny.

My dad and I read this over a couple of weeks, a little bit every night. My favorite part was when Julie was a princess, and they had the test. That was really funny.

I think you did a great job, this being your first book and all. I also liked the part when the wild escaped. Another part is when she met her dad. I liked when her bike came alive, too.

We live in Shrewsbury, next to Northboro. I liked when Spag's was the wizard's house, the ogre's castle was Higgins Armory. I liked it when you used places that I knew in your book. Keep up the good work!

Pam and her Dad

Thank you so much, Pam. (And your dad too!) You made me so happy and inspired me to get lots of great writing done last night. I was still going strong at 3am when my husband reminded me that we had to get up in four hours and finally dragged me to bed.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

English Major Heaven

Let's get it right out in the open: ever since this book thing happened, I have been googling my name. A lot. My husband googles my name a lot. I think my cat has even done it once or twice, but she really prefers Technorati. Anyway, I found the Coolest Thing Ever while googling myself the other day: a critical analysis of Into the Wild.


Someone spent the time to think about and analyze the themes in Into the Wild.

How awesome is that?!?

I was an English major in college, which means that I was required to use the phrase "very Brechtian" in casual conversation at least twice a semester. I was also required to write a lot of critical essays -- you know, analyses of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Lewis Carroll, etc. So I have a healthy respect for anyone who writes critical essays because I know how much work they are. I certainly never expected anyone to write a critical essay about something I wrote.

And the extra cool thing about this is that the essay is really, really good. She totally gets the book! Snoopy Dance of Joy!

If you're interested in reading the essay (or more accurately, multiple essays), here are the links.

Part 1: Mothers and Daughters
Part 2: The Power of Myth

Wow. I'm totally blown away by this. Thank you, Mickle!

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Moondance in the Sun

Yay for sunshine! Yay for books! Yay for summer fairs and ice cream trucks and boys who look up from their Game Boy and say, "I can't wait to read your book!" and girls who turn to their moms and say, "I want to read this book! Can I get it, Mom? Please, please, please!" (Okay, I admit there were also kids who said, "No, Mom, don't make me get a book! Can I have a hot dog instead!?!" But I'm perfectly happy for my memories to be selective... :) )

I had the loveliest day on Saturday. I did a signing for Moondance Gifts (a fabulous gift shop in Eastport, NY) at the East Quogue Hamlet Fair. It was absolutely perfect weather -- you know, the kind of weather that makes you say, "Wow, it's so gorgeous out," so ofte
n that you begin to annoy yourself. Sarah, the store owner, was super-nice, and I signed many books and talked to many people.

My Day at the Fair

Such a lovely way to end my summer book tour-a-poloosa.

Yep, I said "end." But have no fear, I'm just taking a couple weeks off from book events. If you look on my Appearances page or back in this blog, you'll see that I have had a book event every single week starting even before my pub date. It's been very cool and very exhausting. But now I actually have some time before my next event (which will be the Princeton Children's Book Festival on September 15th). And I have grand plans:

1) Buy socks. I match socks based on how many holes they have in the toes. I'm pretty sure that's not how most grown-ups fold their laundry. I'm really not very good at this whole grown-up thing.

2) Ask husband to call Roto-rooter. This morning, I trooped down to the basement intending to wash my hole-y socks and discovered that our washing machine was half full of water. I'm no plumber, but I'm betting this is NOT a good sign.

3) Read Harry Potter 7. Yes, I bought it at midnight after my book signing at Eight Cousins, but between revisions and book events, I haven't had time to read it. I also haven't seen the HP 5 movie, but I don't want to get too nuts with this whole free-time thing.

Oh, and I plan to work on my Super-Secret-Special Writing Project. Shh, don't tell anyone.

What are your end-of-summer plans?

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Friday, August 17, 2007


[Edited to reflect last minute change of venue!]

Any of you New Yorkers headed out to the Hamptons this weekend? If so, stop by East Quogue, NY, on Saturday afternoon and say hi to me! I'll be signing copies of INTO THE WILD at the Moondance Gifts booth at the East Quogue Hamlet Fair. The fair takes place at Hamlet Green on Montauk Highway in East Quogue, just west of Southhampton, where the south fork of Long Island starts, well, forking. Here's the info:

Saturday, August 18th from 1-3pm
Moondance Gifts Booth, East Quogue Hamlet Fair
Hamlet Green, Montauk Hwy, East Quogue, NY

It's supposed to be a beautiful day and the fair sounds like a lot of fun. Hope to see you there!

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Guest Blogger: Goldilocks

I'd like to introduce today's guest blogger: Goldie, one of the minor characters from INTO THE WILD, best known for her role in the well-known fairy tale "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." She's joining us today from her home in Northboro, Massachusetts. Welcome, Goldie!

GOLDIE: Minor? Minor!?! Of all the... Is this mic on? Can you hear me? Hello? La-la-la-la-la, me-me-me-me-me!

SARAH: We can hear you, Goldie. I'm transcribing your words as you speak.

GOLDIE: Oh. Splendid. Hello, my beautiful public! Kisses to you all! I'm... Are you sure there's anyone out there? I don't hear anyone but you, and I have better things to do with my time than talk to you, Ms. Writer Fancy-Pants Who Left My Important Scenes On the Cutting Room Floor.

SARAH: Just go ahead, Goldie. Introduce yourself.

GOLDIE: Very well. I am Goldie, short for Goldilocks. I am the star of INTO THE WILD... Okay, I am one of the stars... I play a vital role! Vital! I am not in any way, shape, or form minor!

SARAH: Actually, you do look young.

GOLDIE: Thank you. It's the dimples. And the liberal application of nightly facial creams.

SARAH: Even so, you are over five hundred years...

GOLDIE: Shush! A lady never reveals her age. But yes, I have honed my wisdom, wit, and keen fashion sense over the past several centuries. One of the things that you will notice about me immediately is that I have exquisite taste. Perhaps in a future guest spot I can give you a tour of my house? Do you think your readers would be interested in that? Of course they would. They are clearly people of fine taste. I'll hire Snow to clean. Oh, and Ursa can prepare her cinnamon porridge... You haven't lived until you've tasted her porridge. It's just right.

SARAH: That would be nice. But now, please tell us about yourself. I'm sure people would like to hear your fairy tale in your own words.

GOLDIE: Why don't you ask me something else? Don't you want to know my favorite color? Pink. It looks lovely with my golden curls. Favorite TV show? American Idol. (If it weren't for the age limit -- and the need to keep my existence a secret -- I would be the star of every season.) Favorite food? Steak. Hah! I'm such a wit. Of course my signature dish is porridge. Everyone needs a signature dish...

SARAH: Your story, please, Goldie.

[long pause]

GOLDIE: Once upon a time, a beautiful, smart, funny, kind, perfect little girl with golden ringlets went for a walk in the woods. She came upon a picturesque cottage with a sign on it that said, "Welcome, Goldilocks!" so she went inside. In the kitchen, she found four bowls of porridge. Each bowl had a name on it: Papa Bear, Mama Bear, Baby Bear, and Goldilocks. She ate the porridge in the bowl with her name on it. After eating, she felt tired so she went into the bedroom where she found four beds. The fourth bed had extra pillows and a note that said, "Sleep tight, Goldilocks!" So she climbed into the bed and fell asleep. When she woke, the bears were home. They greeted her warmly, popped some popcorn, and invited her to join them in watching that night's episode of "American Idol."

SARAH: Did the cottage really have a sign on the door?

GOLDIE: No. No, it didn't.

SARAH: And were there really four bowls?

GOLDIE: No. There were only three. One for each bear. I ate Baby Bear's porridge.

SARAH: And the beds?

GOLDIE: Three. Just three. I slept in Baby Bear's bed.

SARAH: And what happened when the bears came home?

GOLDIE: They... they... I have to go. I left my curling iron on at home. I have to... I... I don't want to talk about this. I should never have agreed to this interview. You tricked me. We're supposed to talk about how I'm the star! I'm supposed to be the star!

[loud footsteps and a door slam]

SARAH: Um... Goldie?


Sunday, August 12, 2007

SFSNNJ Trip Report

I really, really like microphones. Give me a microphone, and I can talk for hours. Who would have ever guessed this about me? I certainly never knew. I was that kid who wouldn't sleep the night before she had to make an announcement in middle school assembly. (And we won't even talk about the time my high school chem teacher made us wear our lab goggles and sing that Elements song by Tom Lehrer in front of the ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL. Cruel. Just cruel. I still twitch when I think about it.) Point is that I'm not a naturally brave person. I'm not the kind of person that you'd think would like being put in front of an audience and given a microphone. Ask my husband -- I still make him call to order pizza. (What if they start yelling at me? What if I accidentally order extra cheese? Seriously, extra cheese throws the whole sauce-to-cheese ratio off. And don't get me started on white pizza. I'm sorry, but that's just pizza where someone forgot a key ingredient.)

But I digress. What I'd started to tell you was that on Saturday night, the lovely people at the Borders in the Garden State Plaza Mall in Paramus, NJ, trusted me with a microphone as I was standing in the middle of their store reading from Into the Wild. Mwah-ha-ha-ha...

The power, the awesome power!

Maybe I should explain the setting a little better... I was the guest speaker at the Science Fiction Society of Northern New Jersey's "Face the Fiction" series, held at Borders Books & Music inside the largest mall I've ever been to.

Seriously. This was a BIG mall. We had to park in Pennsylvania and take an airplane to reach the mall entrance. From there, a Sherpa helped carry our bags across the six miles of Abercrombe stores...

Okay, I'm exaggerating. There were only three miles of Abercrombe stores. The rest were Abercrombe & Fitch.

Oh, another thing that was particularly cool about this mall (aside from the fact that it was large enough to have an entire Borders store inside it!) was that in the Food Court, they had this iridescent tile wall. It was the prettiest mall wall I'd ever seen. I told my husband that it looked like mermaid scales. We then proceeded to calcuate how many mermaids had gone into this wall. This then led to several "tastes like chicken" jokes as we finished our dinner...

But back to the event.

It was held smack-dab in the center of the store. Chairs were set up audience-style, and then at 8pm, the people from SFSNNJ introduced me, and I read the first scene of Into the Wild.

I did not have the microphone at this point. And my voice was not happy about that. If you read my prior post about Eduardo, you'd know that I've been burning the candle at both ends (not literally -- my mother told me not to play with fire) and so of course I've been sick for the last week and a half. Hearing this, the super-nice people at SFSNNJ coordinated with the super-nice Borders manager Robin to set up a microphone for me.

Hee, hee, hee.

I didn't sing, not even the Tom Lehrer song, but boy, was it tempting. I did, however, talk for a while, read another scene, and talk for a while more.

And you know what the best part is? People laughed. Really. They laughed at my jokes.

Whenever this sort of thing happens, I always have to fight the urge to ask, "Are you laughing with me or at me? Or is there a giant chicken mooning you directly behind me?"

Seriously, though, they gave me that mic, and it was like something clicked inside me. I felt like I clicked on the second that mic clicked on. And I had such a tremendously good time. Unlike singing the Elements song in lab goggles, it was really, really fun. I loved every second.

As I talked, more and more people kept coming over to listen, filling the chairs and the aisles. And then after I finished and after I'd signed books and such... the lovely people at SFSNNJ asked me to read and talk MORE. How cool is that? Okay, maybe they do that for everyone, but still, if I'd been awful, I don't think they would have asked, right?

So I read another scene and talked some more. At 10pm, it was time for the store to close. And I spent the whole way home discussing the awesomeness of the evening with my husband and debating the number of mermaids that went into that tile wall.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Readergirlz, Baker and Taylor, and SFSNNJ

Okay, I think I'm done running around like a crazy troll. And now I have some cool Into the Wild news to report:


Into the Wild is listed as a Recommended Read in the August 2007 issue of Readergirlz. YAY!!!

Click here to see the issue.

And click here to discuss Into the Wild and the other recommended reads on the Readergirlz MySpace forum.

Baker and Taylor

Into the Wild is the featured review for teens in the August 2007 issue of Baker and Taylor's CATS Meow, a public library newsletter for children's and teen services. Also, YAY!!!

Click here to see the full newsletter.

And here's the review:

"There have been many fairy tale related books lately, but don't overlook this one. The personalities of the characters are fresh and fun and the story is original. The characters have escaped from the Wild and are enjoying their lives beyond their stories: Zel (Rapunzel) runs a hair salon, Cindy (Cinderella) dresses in bright clothes and speeds around in an orange car, the wicked witch runs the Wishing Well Motel, and Snow's seven are grumpy, sexist old men. However, the Wild is again growing strong and the characters may be doomed to forget their lives of free will and be trapped reenacting their stories forever. There are references to familiar old tales as well as some more obscure ones. The story is fast moving and fun as the characters pull together to defeat the Wild while trying not to get trapped in any of its stories." -- Alyson Del Vecchio, Baker and Taylor's CATS Meow


This Saturday at 8pm, I will be in Paramus, New Jersey as the guest speaker at Face the Fiction, a monthly event hosted by the Science Fiction Society of Northern New Jersey (SFSNNJ). (Have I exceeded my YAY quota for this post, or can I go for one more? I gonna go for it...) YAY!!! I think this will be really fun. Here are the details:

Saturday, August 11 at 8pm
Face the Fiction - SFSNNJ
Borders Books & Music, 230 Garden State Plaza, Paramus, NJ

I'm planning to read a couple scenes from Into the Wild and then talk about my writing process and road to publication and why I think all novels can be improved by the addition of a talking cat. If you're in New Jersey on Saturday, I hope you'll stop by.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Me and Eduardo

Just handed in the revised manuscript for my next book.


I am very excited about this book. In fact, I think it kicks some serious butt. But the act of hitting "send"... of saying "I'm done"... of taking my hands off the keyboard and stacking the pages of the manuscript in a nice, neat pile on my file cabinet... No matter how excited I am about the book itself, sending it in to my editors kind of seriously freaks me out.

I sort of feel like I've just been force-fed twelve cups of coffee and then released into a very tiny room with a large hungry trollish creature who looks something like Eduardo from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends but not as nice... and then I discover that the very tiny room actually has a mirror for a wall, and the large hungry trollish creature is actually me because I haven't gone to bed before 2am, eaten anything other than Raisinets, or washed my socks in an appalling number of days (don't tell my mother)... and so I run around in very small circles because the room is very small and because I don't really know what else to do and because I've had far too much caffeine and because I need a bathroom, since twelve cups of coffee is a LOT of liquid...

Or, as my mother would say, I feel a bit at sixes and sevens.

Me, just after submitting my manuscript

But it's in. And I love it. And I hope everyone else loves it too.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Review in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

I recently found out that INTO THE WILD received a nice review in The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (try saying that 10 times fast!), another one of the big trade journals that publishes book reviews. Here are links to html and pdf versions of the review, and the full text is copied below, minus a spoiler that I removed.

From the July/August 2007 issue:

"Twelve-year-old Julie has a "tangled mass of green," known as the Wild, living under her bed, which is somehow connected to her mother's secret past. In fact, the Wild encompasses the pure essence of all fairy tales, and it daily makes attempts to return the world to a time when plot, scenery, and characters were all laid out along strictly traditional lines. Julie's mother, Rapunzel (aka Zel), faced off against the Wild centuries earlier, risking and ultimately losing Julie's father in a battle that eventually forced the grasping thing into its present shape. Unfortunately, it only takes a wish to set the force free, and someone gets past the three bears guarding the Wishing Well and gives the Wild the fuel to begin its conquest of present day Northboro, Massachusetts, and the world. Julie's mother, grandmother, and a whole lot of civilians are sucked back into the Woods, and Julie follows them in an effort to turn Tradition upon itself and free princesses, heroes, and witches from a fate worse than the end of a story. The author takes readers on a grand adventure involving candy houses and ogres, providing plenty of opportunities to watch for favorite fairy-tale characters and chances to spy traditional story traps before Julie becomes caught up in them. Durst has her tongue firmly in cheek when it comes to occupations (Rapunzel owns a hair salon), adopted names (Mary Hadda--accompanied by her lamb), and even the source of the wish that sets new fairy tales in motion. Young readers may not catch all the allusions and humor, but Julie's imaginative quest and the presence of some mainstream names (Cinderella, Snow White) will be enough to keep their attention and, perhaps, send them back to the shelves in search of additional stories, or those they may have forgotten they knew and loved once upon a time." -- The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Once Upon an Interview: Janni Lee Simner

I've been doing way too much talking about myself lately. Even I'm sick of hearing about me. So today, I'm going to talk about someone else for a change. Welcome to the latest installment of Once Upon an Interview, a recurring segment on Sarah's Journal in which I ask other writers about my favorite obsession: fairy tales.

Today's author interview is with Janni Lee Simner. Janni's fourth children's book, Secret of the Three Treasures, was recently published by Holiday House. She's also published more than 30 short stories, and her first young adult novel, Bones of Faerie, will be published by Random House in 2009.


What is your favorite fairy tale?
Do the ballads count? I find both Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer deeply compelling.

Among act
ual fairy tales (rather than tales of Faerie), I'm intrigued by The Twelve Dancing Princesses. I mean, if your father locked you and your sisters into your bedroom every night, wouldn't you sneak out to dance, too? I imagine one of the princesses explaining to the reader, "The wonder isn't that we left at night; it's that we ever came home, at all."

Do you (either consciously or subconsciously) use fairy-tale themes or motifs in your writing?

More and more often, it seems. Last October I had a story in Cricket ("Heart's Desire") about a bookish Cinderella who'd rather stay home and read than go to the ball. (And who can blame her?) I don't know that I've used fairy tales that directly anywhere else, but when I wrote my story for Gothic! Ten Original Dark Tales ("Stone Tower"), my editor pointed out that it had Rapunzel-like elements. Which is funny, because I wasn't thinking about that when I wrote the story, but looking back, it's pretty obvious. I mean, the story begins with a girl locked in a tower!

I probably use Faerie (in the sense of those ballads) a lot more--the folks who steal children and work magic by moonlight and report to the Queen of Air and Darkness and such. I can't seem to get enough of them, and I recently sold a young adult novel that deals with them.

My current children's book, Secret of the Three Treasures, draws on a different tradition, though--that of the artifact-recovering, ruins-exploring, tomb-raiding Indiana Jones-style pulp adventurer. But that's a sort of fairy tale, too. :-)

If the protagonist of your most recent novel met Cinderella’s fairy godmother, what would he or she do/say?

Whip out her list of demands, of course! Tiernay West (the protagonist of Secret of the Three Treasures) has her three wishes all lined up:

- Transport to someplace more interesting than her ordinary Connecticut hometown. (Marrakesh, perhaps. Or Vladivostok. Or--since surely distance means nothing to a fairy godmother--Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.)

- A mysterious stranger looking to hire an adventurer of her considerable skills.

- And (since fairy godmothers are into the whole clothing thing), proper outfitting for her adventure: sturdy boots, khaki jeans, vest with many pockets, GPS, magical pocketk
nife, the works. She'll bring her own hat, though. An adventurer always brings her own hat.

But if that fairy godmother started in with the whole business about glass slippers and fancy dresses and getting to the ball? Tiernay would look at her through narrowed eyes and ask, "Did my Mom send you?"

What would your protagonist do/say if he or she met Little Red Riding Hood's wolf?

"Tiernay West, professional adventurer, at your service! Grandmothers to be found? Dark woods to be explored? I'm on it!"

What would you do/say if you met a fairy godmother or talking wolf?
To the fairy godmother: "You leave that Cinderella alone. She's just fine the way she is!"

To the wolf (from a safe distance): "Okay, I'm listening. Tell me your side of the story."

If you could be
any fairy-tale character, which one would you want to be?

The old woman at the fork in the road. Because she knows everything, she gets to be part of more than one story, and no one messes with her and gets away with it.

What does your (or your protagonist's) happily-ever-after look like?

After kicking back with a few root beers in her favorite smoky cafe, Tiernay heads off on her next adventure.

Because there will always be a next adventure, forever and ever and ever.


For more information about Janni Lee Simner, please visit her website at:

For more about the Secret of the Three Treasures, please visit:

Thanks so much for joining us here, Janni!