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Today I officially signed my second contract with Twilight Times Books.  I am excited to announce that the sequel to The Coal Elf will be tentatively released on April 15, 2016. 

I cannot wait to unleash The Rise of Sturd unto the universe!


It’s about time!  J


This is my first official sequel, and I have to say, writing a sequel is much more difficult than you would think.  There’s a lot more preparation that goes into it.  All your ducks have to be in a row, every detail has to be spot on, characters have to act within their scope and sequence, and if something is off by a smidge it can throw everything off kilter.  With any book, there is an amount of research to be done, but with a sequel, there’s research, re-reading, more research, and more re-reading.  It’s practically double-time to write another installment in a series.  But I loved every grueling minute of it!


Without giving away too much, here’s what I can say about the book…


~It picks up a little bit after the first novel.  The Coal-less Night has been all sussed out and everything seems to be going well, but nothing can stay too good for too long, as a new threat rears its ugly head.


~New characters are introduced.  Old characters get more “life”. 


~The Coal Elf was YA Dark Fantasy.  The Rise of Sturd most likely will be considered Dark Fantasy.  The second go-around is grittier and darker.  It kinda has to be.  I mean, this is STURD’S story, after all…



~Expect the same level of familiarity to the beloved Christmas mythology.  Expect the same level of DeVivo warping that same mythology.


Get prepared for the next installment of The Coal Elf universe...  Get prepared for Sturd!  Click the pic to watch the Sturd teaser!



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I’m baaaaaaaack….


I know, I know, it’s been quite some time since I’ve been at this blogging thing.  To be quite honest, I’m still not the “champ” I would like to be in this department.  Something about “blogging” in general feels strange to me.  I probably just need more practice at it.

This winter has been quite a doozy to say the least.  Thanksgiving to about yesterday has been nothing short of a non-stop whirlwind.  My life in Florida pretty much mirrored the weather up north – a constant swirling storm of the physical “go-go-go” and the mental tsunamis that accompany.  Sometimes, life just gets in the way.  Sometimes, life screams at you to pay attention to it. Sometimes, life has to take the front seat.   And now, as I breathe in some pre-spring air, I can sort out my mind with an eye on the next few months ahead. 

So… what’s been doing….?

It’s no secret that I parted ways with The Carolyn Jenks Agency.  It was an amicable parting, and I have nothing but much love and respect for every person over there as they are team of fabulous and talented people.  But, as we all know, my brand of “normal” is a very hard pill to swallow: I’m quirky and unconventional. I’m strange and twisted. I’m unapologetically me. And I’m a tough sell.  When I started my writing journey, I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy road.  I knew that whatever was going to come out of my brain was going to be 100% me – craziness and all. That might not jive with market trends and audience preference, but I refuse to give up.  I’ve accomplished many goals and milestones in my writing career, and I will continue to move forward. Patience is a virtue, right?  Trying to find representation is a quest in and of itself.  It’s going to take the right person who’s willing and confident to take me and my bag of macabre characters on…. Fingers crossed…..

Spring break is quickly descending upon us (I seriously can’t believe that!), and soon I will be back to researching, editing, and ultimately writing.  My writing schedule is pretty much set, and I am looking forward to immersing myself in a world of angels and demons.  This will be manuscript  #6 under my belt. 

Spring time is usually the “lull” time for The Coal Elf.  Which is understandable, given the nature of the novel.  Not sure many people are interested in reading about elves and the North Pole when the spring birds are chirping!  J I’ll start getting into promo-mode around June when I’ll be doing an interview for Cheryl Carpinello’s Blog.

Lots of unknowns ahead, but I’ve come this far and I know there’s so much more to tackle and accomplish.    Thank you all so much for all your time, energy, and support. 


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Let me start by saying this:  I love Barbie.  Yes.  Barbie.  As in: Barbara Millicent Roberts.  As in: the absolute fashion icon in American history since 1959.  As in: Barbie – the doll.  Yep.  That one. 

I love her.




I’ve loved Barbie since I was a little girl.  My mother retells the story of when I was barely two years old – I would play in my playpen and say to my mom, “Bobby!  Bobby!”  Well, like all good mothers, she gave me what I wanted:  a bottle!  But one day, a commercial for a Barbie doll came on TV and I started shouting, “Bobby!  Bobby!” it clicked for her - I wasn’t hungry, I wanted to PLAY!



                                                            (My favorite Barbies.  Yes, I had them all!)


My fascination grew from there.  I delighted in the cast of characters of Barbie and Ken and Midge and Skipper and the whole lot of them.  I saved my own allowance to buy the different playsets.  I even attempted to make my own Barbie clothes.  My childhood friend (ironically named, Barbara) also enjoyed playing with the dolls, and we would have weekend marathons of staying at each other’s houses and playing all day and into the night.  I enjoyed playing with Barbies so much, that I have to admit, the very last time I actually played, I was 13 years old.  By that time, I resigned to tucking them under my bed and focused on high school and my first long-term boyfriend (ironically named, Ken).



                                                          (my Barbie collection the summer of 1998.                                                                                                          doesn't even cover the tip of the iceberg today!)


 What I loved most about playing with Barbies was the possibility of what I could make them say and how I could make them act.  There were no rules.  No scripts.  Barbie had a lot of friends, family, furniture and fashion styles – she didn’t have a TV show, or a movie.  It opened the door for me to be as simple or as creative as I wanted to be.  I often concocted crazy soap-opera-esque storylines of people with amnesia returning from the dead, or a down-on-her-luck call-girl meeting Mr. Right only to find out he was her long-lost brother.  If I could dream it, I could play it.  There was no right or wrong.


But things have since changed. 


My daughter, Morgan, is five years old.  I swear she is the reincarnation of some genius artiste.  She spends a lot of her time creating her own stories, drawing, singing, and lots of imaginative and independent play.  I consider myself lucky that she likes Doc McStuffins, Lalaloopsy, Sofia the First, Disney Princesses, etc., but she can take them or leave them.  She asked the Easter Bunny for Scotch tape and a ream of paper over Frozen toys, so if that says anything… 

Anyway, Morgan recently asked me to play with her and her Lalaloopsy dolls.  We set up the house and playsets and all the stuff that goes with them.  I was the character Jewel Sparkle, and she was Dot Starlight.  Whenever I made my character talk, Morgan would say, “but Mommy, Jewel doesn’t say that,” or “Mommy, you can’t do that cause that doesn’t happen.”

This was shocking to me!  Telling someone who used to make up the most elaborate scenarios that they can’t do or say something is heresy!

Wait?  What do you mean I can’t do something?

We moved on to play with her Sofia the First toys, and again, “Mommy, don’t make Amber say that because she wouldn’t say that.” Or “Mommy, we can’t have a pet unicorn in the castle because Sofia doesn’t really have a pet unicorn.”

I tried explaining to her that you don’t always have to follow what the “show does” and that it’s okay to be creative and add in different things if you want to, but she wasn’t hearing it.  She felt compelled and bounded by the script - the confines of a predetermined play world that essentially removes all free thought and creativity. 

Every show has a toy and every toy has a show.  When these two come together, how can that leave any door open for imaginative play?  How can a child learn expressive play when they are playing with toys that tell them HOW to play?



                                              (Watch the 10 second opening, and you'll understand...)


Unfortunately, Barbie has jumped ship, too.  Over the years, we’ve seen Barbie in different specials like “Barbie and the Christmas Carol” or the various butterfly princess personas that they’ve given her, but nothing takes the cake like the show “Life in the Dream House.” It is an animated youtube series depicting Barbie and her friends and family as vapid, materialistic, twits.  It broke my heart to see Barbie being shoved into a role like that.  For me, this was like the final nail in the coffin of imagination.  Playtime is being replaced with “Re-enact” time.  Where’s the fun in that? Is imaginative play dead?  Is it dying?   I consider my “Barbie stories” to be the first seeds planted in my literary/writer’s garden.    


 Morgan has watched the Barbie show, but was not a giant fan.  Thank God, ‘cause the other night, we had her Barbie dolls rocking and rolling in a carnival made out of cowboy hats and shoeboxes!   

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     We all got problems.  No denying - it’s just a plain, straight-up, hardcore fact.  I often hear my students lament, “Oh, you wouldn’t understand, that’s a teenage problem.”  Or the women in my neighborhood will say “We got (insert your master-planned community name here) problems."  Baby cutting teeth and won’t sleep at night?  That’s a Mommy Problem.  Just spent five hundred dollars to repair the air conditioner when the water heater decides to conk out?  That’s a Home Owner’s Problem.  It got me thinking about how we as the human race identify with each other.  There are so many pockets of common ground, so many ways in which we as a people relate, empathize, and coexist.  I thought about all the various “categories” with which I identify myself, and how my identity is shaped through family, friends, colleagues, and yes, community… the writing community. 

                Last summer I devised my “Author Problems” list (and if you know me, you know my obsession with lists) that’s specifically directed at my writing community. 

            And stay tuned for THIS summer’s list, where I will tackle a whole other side of writing… ;)


“Author Problems”

(In no particular order)

1.       Characters who won’t shut up in your head.





2.      Condensing a 250+ page novel into the dreaded 1-2 page synopsis.
3.      Choosing that perfect name for your character! It's probably more difficult than naming your own flesh and blood child!
4.      The QUERY letter.  ‘Nuff said.
5.      Chapter titles or no chapter titles? – that is the question.

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