DRAWN Haunt – Definitely Not Normal

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…a wonderfully spooky tale of romance and discovery. It’s a magical exploration of the unconquerable power of love. Highly recommended!
— Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestseller

DRAWN Haunt month continues today with a post about some truly ghostly occurrences, but first – here’s a special limited-time deal! ***Get the Kindle version of my award-winning time-travel novel DRAWN for just 99 cents by clicking here!  Note: Sale is ONLY today 10/9 through this Wednesday 10/11 at 8 p.m. The regular price is $3.99, so grab this 99-cent-deal fast before it disappears into the dark and spooky night.***

The DRAWN Haunt is the month-long celebration I’m having here in honor of DRAWN‘s 5th anniversary. To catch all the spooky posts check back often or subscribe to this blog (see bottom of this post for how).  And for more about DRAWN, click here.

Now for today’s DRAWN Haunt post…

DEFINITELY NOT NORMAL

…my eyes again stray to the drawing of that guy. In the sketch I can now see the very edge of his cheek. It’s as if he’s just turned ever so slightly toward me.

But that’s crazy.

In my novel Drawn, young teen artist Michelle De Freccio moves with her dad to England hoping for a more normal life. In England, no one will know that back in New Jersey everyone calls her family the De Freakos. They won’t know about her supposedly psychic mother (A.K.A. Madame Florabunda) or her mentally ill brother.  But when Michelle starts drawing a medieval ghost, and then she meets him and falls for him, well clearly nothing is going to be normal again.

The thing is, while Michelle is looking so hard for normal, I find I’m actually doing the opposite.  I can’t say I’m a believer in ghosts or the paranormal, but I’d really REALLY like to be. Show me, I think. Prove it.

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Christopher from DRAWN. Illustration by Marie Lamba (copyrighted material)

Like Michelle in my novel, I’m an artist too. Maybe that’s why a particular guest speaker I heard way back in high school made such an impression on me.  It was a woman who created colorful oil paintings of the Hermitage, a Colonial-era mansion in Hohokus, NJ.  She pointed to the shadows in one painting, the stairway in another, the roof tiles in still another.  “See?” she’d said.  “See the figures?”

I drew in my breath. I did see. In one painting dappled shadows revealed a Colonial soldier in military regalia. In another, a bride seemed to materialize on the stairway, her image woven into the wall texture.  In an exterior painting, a few roof tiles were shaped into a face, the expression leering, malevolent.  The artist claimed she never intended to paint any of this, that she didn’t see these figures until the painting was completed. That she was clearly channeling spirits through her art.

My first thought was: Cool!  I want to do that.  I want to go there and pull out my charcoal and find these spirits materializing in the shadows of my own sketches. But of course my next instinct was to narrow my eyes and scrutinize the painter. She seemed sweet, grandmotherly, but was she nutty?  Well of course she was, I thought.

Hey, even Elijah Rosencrantz, a resident of the Hermitage in the early 1800s, thought ghosts were a lot of phooey. According to the website thehermitage.org, he wrote a statement titled “If the Hangings Flutter,” saying supernatural beliefs were “absurdities,” something to only be believed by “persons of the lower classes and from poor early education.”  Hm, then again, what if Elijah became a ghost himself?  I bet he’d be beyond pissed.  Maybe that explains that angry spirit leering from the roof tile…

I guess the question I want to ask everyone is: Is it normal to hope, yet disbelieve?

tombphotoIs it normal to travel the world exploring graveyards? Because I’ve done that. I’ve sketched tombs throughout England and visited crypts in Italy and wandered through ancient cenotaphs in India, fascinated by the culture of death, the promise of the supernatural. The cold breeze on my neck could have been a ghostly breath, right? The orbs in photos might have been dust, but what if they weren’t?  A few years ago my daughter visited Greece and sent me this picture.  Take a good close look. You see the orbs, right?  And the FACES IN THE ORBS?  I pointed this out to my daughter who wrote back freaked out saying, “THIS IS A TOMB!”

But is this proof? I’m still not completely convinced myself.

Wouldn’t you give anything to have some undeniable proof? Do you dream of going on a ghost tour in a castle? Do you watch ghost-hunting shows hoping that it won’t be silly? Do you get lost in novels laced with the supernatural?  The Woman in White, Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Gray, even The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman?

Well, I do. But of course artists are a little out there, anyway.  Writers too.  Especially writers. We spend all day hearing voices that aren’t there. Writing things that haven’t happened as if they did.

So, yeah, maybe that’s partly why I wrote Drawn.  Why I have my main character meet a ghost and step into his world. Why the final scenes are in a castle dungeon during a ghost tour.  Because I’m a little out there.  And because, unlike my main character Michelle, I’m not looking for normal. I’m hoping for the weird, the strange, the haunting.

Aren’t you?

***Remember, the 99 cent sale of DRAWN only runs today through this Wednesday, 10/11 at 8 p.m. Click here!

*Marie is a Literary Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site.

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Liar Liar Audiobook…and an embarassing trailer to go with!

“They’re real, and they’re spectacular,” lies author Kelly Simmons.  Click on the video link below and you’ll see members of the Liars Club, including myself, tell a range of shocking whoppers.  And you’ll find out why I won the award for “best facial expressions.” Yikes!

The video is our bizarre version of a book trailer for our new audio version of our short story anthology LIAR LIAR (Blackstone Audio), which has just been released TODAY. Yeah, fitting to have a LIAR LIAR book release on April Fool’s Day, no?

In the anthology is my story “What I Did…,” along with stories by Simmons, Merry Jones, Jon McGoran, Jonathan Maberry, Don Lafferty, Gregory Frost, Keith Strunk, Solomon Jones, Keith DeCandido, Dennis Tafoya, Stephen Susco, Chuck Wendig, Ed Pettit and William Lashner. If you love audio and you lie, then you need this…honest!

Check out more details about the audio book by clicking here. So happy to say that a portion of all proceeds from sales of LIAR LIAR are donated by my group the Liars Club to literacy causes.

Hope you enjoy the trailer below…

Write in a Different Genre: Guest Post by Donna Galanti

Today I’m thrilled to host a stop for the blog tour celebrating the launch of Donna Galanti’s debut paranormal suspense novel A Human Element (Echelon Press). Here’s a quick synopsis:

One by one, Laura Armstrong’s friends and adoptive family members are being murdered, and despite her unique healing powers, she can do nothing to stop it. The savage killer haunts her dreams, tormenting her with the promise that she is next. With the killer closing in, and terrifying secrets revealed, Laura discovers her destiny is linked to his and she has two choices–redeem him or kill him.

Readers who devour paranormal books with a smidge of horror and steam will enjoy A Human Element. To purchase A Human Element click here. And you can read my positive review by clicking here.

Now onto Donna’s guest post.  Welcome, Donna!

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Challenge Yourself to Write in a Different Genre
by Donna Galanti

If you are a writer have you challenged yourself to write in a different genre? I tried it in my Write a YA Novel in 9 Months class. I like to write dark fiction for adults and this class forced me to find my own natural young adult voice. My teacher and NY Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry said he never backs down from an offer to write something new. He promotes that as writers we should not be bound to any one genre or point of view, but as writers we should write anything. I agree.

In researching how to write a young adult novel, I realized that I had already written young  voices in my adult novel as I propelled two characters into adulthood. But I took it a step further. I challenged myself to also write in a different point of view – the first person, rather than my comfortable third person. I found out how difficult it is to stay in the mind and view of one person through an entire book. And that of a twelve year old boy!

Here’s an excerpt from seven year old Laura in A HUMAN ELEMENT, contemplating what her real mother looks like:

All she knew about her real mother was she had been a runaway who showed up one day. Laura dreamed up many scenarios about where her mother hailed from. Once her mother was a trapeze artist from a traveling circus who got left behind on a tour, another time a royal princess who ran away to escape marrying an evil prince. And one time she was even an alien transported to Earth on a secret mission to see how humans lived.

Wesley often told Laura it was good luck to have two mommies. Fanny watched over her as her “Earth mommy” while Sarah was her “angel mommy” looking down from Heaven.

Laura was afraid some days that her “Earth mommy” would be taken from her too. 

Today felt like one of those days.

And here’s Laura at eleven spending time at her favorite spot to write, the lake:

She spread out her blanket on the grass and sat cross-legged facing the lake with her notebook and pen in hand waiting for the sun to hit the water. She wanted to capture in words the beauty of the summer morning all around her. The sun burst out of the treetops and shot shimmering jewels across the water. Laura shielded her eyes and her heart leaped with a thrill. She had made it just in time. The cool morning air blew off the water and embraced her. She closed her eyes for just a second to feel the warmth of the sun on her face, but instead a slobbery snout nudged her cheeks and hair.

“Hey,” she shouted in surprise and scrambled up to find an old, chocolate Labrador sniffing her legs. He had white whiskers around his jaw and a pleading, sad look. He became her friend instantly. She fell back down on her knees and wiggled his ears.

“Where’d you come from?” Laura scratched his head “You’re so cute!”

She laughed as he tickled her with his nose.

“Scooter,” a gruff voice called. “Come here, boy.”

Laura looked up to see a trim, old man whacking through the brush in the woods. She knew it had to be the hermit people talked about. She had seen him from afar, with his gray cap, but never up close. The old man twitched, startled to see her there with his dog. He stopped a few feet away from her. He didn’t look like a hermit but a nice, normal grandpa dressed in jeans and a green plaid shirt. He leaned on a crooked, black walking stick. He looked in good shape for an old geezer.

It was fun to realize I already had found my natural young voice in my adult book, and fun to “grow” with Laura as she grew up in A HUMAN ELEMENT. I also know I get bored with an author once a formula has been applied to their books, over and over. This happened with a favorite author, Dean Koontz. After some time I could pick up his book, read the beginning, and know how it would go about and end. That greatly disappointed me (I even wrote him a letter to that effect, but he didn’t respond :)). Sometimes we read an author because we know what they’ll give us, but sometimes we read an author because we want to be surprised.

John Grisham surprised me with two books that I fell in love with. THE LAST JUROR, written in first person, and THE TESTAMENT, written in third person. Both tell a story from the deep perspective of one person different from Grisham’s legal-thriller styles novels.  However, his try at non-fiction, THE INNOCENT MAN, did not work for me. Too dry and dull. But his book, THE PAINTED HOUSE, a coming of age book did draw me in. Again, a book in a different voice and point of view. Whether I liked it or not, bravo to him for trying new styles!

So do you like it when authors please their loyal-fans and continue to write in the same vein? Or do you want them to try new voices, new genres, new points of view? It’s exciting to be an author today as it’s become more acceptable to write across genres and in different points of view. It also gains you a crossover wider audience. John Grisham, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, James Patterson. They’ve all done it. As for me. I’m game for trying something new. What about you?

LIKE Donna’s Author Facebook  page for news and updates! Her tour runs through April 11th with book giveaways, more guest posts, and interview fun, and a chance to win the big prize giveaway! So pop over to her blog to see the full tour schedule.

Donna Galanti is the author of the dark novel A Human Element (Echelon Press). She won first place for Words on the Wall Fiction at the 2011 Philadelphia Writer’s Conference. Donna has a B.A. in English and a background in marketing. She is a member of International Thriller Writers, The Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group and Pennwriters. She lives with her family in an old farmhouse in PA with lots of nooks, fireplaces, and stinkbugs. Visit her at: www.donnagalanti.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/DonnaGalanti
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DonnaGalantiAuthor
Blog: http://blog.donnagalanti.com/wp/

Blog Tour Tips!: On Planning Your Journey

Running a blog tour to promote a new novel is an amazing way to connect with a wider audience, to get a concentrated bunch of reviews, and to get your name out there!  If you are a subscriber to my blog, you know that I ran my very first blog tour to help launch my new novel Drawn.  It was a great experience, and I’m kicking myself for not doing this sort of thing sooner.

So why didn’t I do a blog tour sooner?  Well, truthfully this is a fairly new thing in the world of book promotion…something that wasn’t around when I was a Book Promotion Manager for a publisher years ago, or even when my first novel What I Meant… came out through Random House.  It felt mysterious, plus I knew authors who paid a ton of money to do a tour where they appeared on just 5 or 6 sites.  Surely I must be missing something here… Surely I didn’t understand the nuances of setting up and running such a tour…

So, of course, I decided to go for it on my own!  On The Drawn Blog Ghost Tour I made 22 stops in 5 weeks.  On tour I did 10 guest posts, 10 interviews, 4 giveaways, and got 9 reviews.  Was it a lot of work? Not more than writing a novel. Was it worth it? Oh yeah. Did I make any missteps? Absolutely.

And so, dear author, here are Marie Lamba’s Blog Tour Tips, which I humbly offer to you in the hopes that you can run your own blog tour, and kick some promo butt of your own…

MAKE CONTACT:

Make up a list of the best book blog review sites for your genre, the authors you have relationships with who can feature you, and send out a request for tour stops on writing-related sites you belong to.  Then start emailing and planning!

And expect decent results… When I was contacting book bloggers this summer about reviewing my YA novel OVER MY HEAD I got spotty results.  Many didn’t respond, others responded but weren’t interested (indie pubbed, right?), and still others DID take it on, giving it a nice review, BUT many of those reviews were slow in coming, some as much as 6 months later.  BUT when I contacted reviewers about a DRAWN blog tour, the response was dramatically different.

MOST bloggers that I got in touch with got back to me immediately (knowing that a deadline was involved), and signed on for the tour! Something about the word “tour” makes them respond very positively. The bloggers were eager to take a spot (I gave them a 2 month lead time) on my month-long tour. As I’ve mentioned, I planned for a mix of  reviews, interviews, guest blogs from me, and a bunch  combined this with book giveaways. I took about a day’s total time to contact everyone and to set up my calendar.

BE ORGANIZED

I kept a folder with a chart so I could track who needed what, what the deadlines were, what the blog stop dates were, and this list included all contact names and emails.

Send out ebook ARC’s and cover images immediately to the ones who want to do reviews.  Also turn around any interview questions  sent to you quickly (I did this within 24 hours of receiving)  just to stay on top of things. And record all actions in your blog chart (you’ll go nuts otherwise wondering what is and isn’t done).

The biggest challenge? Of course those guest posts. You think you’ll have enough to write about but then you find you have to dig deep to do them all and make them high quality.  Be careful you don’t over commit on that part.

I worked hard to make sure no two stops were the same. Original interviews or guest posts on every stop, so if someone were following the entire tour, they’d be rewarded with new stuff. No cut and paste answers! I also tried to create guest posts that would fit with a particular blogger’s audience.  Like a post about ghosts for Jonathan Maberry’s paranormal crowd, or one about medievel romance in history for The Elliot Review, which is run by a librarian, that sort of thing.  The idea is for you to meet that audience on its own terms and make it interesting.  Trying not to repeat yourself can be a challenge!

You can check out my tour stops to get a feel for the sort of varied posts, etc. I did by clicking here.

With each stop, make sure they have a cover image, an author image, and that each interview or post includes your bio and book blurb.

BE NICE!

The most important components involve keeping the good vibe going.  Be courteous to your blog stops.  Thank them.  Buzz them well so they benefit from traffic too.  I created a page on my website dedicated to the tour, with links updated…and also I created blog tour graphics and widgets that every stop can use and sent them that.  I blogged each week about the week’s tour stops, and send out daily updates on my FB and twitter, which were retweeted a bunch. There was a lot to do, but it was all good stuff.  Now here, for you, are…

SOME LESSONS LEARNED

1. DOUBLE CHECK: I ran into some nearly missed tour dates. Why? I sent the material well in advance of the date, and assumed it was received.  Yes, assume. Ass-u-me.  I learned to ask for confirmation that material was sent…and if I didn’t hear back, to email the blogger.  And two days before each post, I learned to “check in” with the blogger just to make sure things were on track and to ask if anything were needed.  People have busy lives, stuff happens, and so a friendly nudge can really help.  *Also, I recommend you don’t have inter-related blog stops where people have to gather clues or anything interconnected like that.  That way if one post doesn’t happen, the world will surely go on.

2. INCLUDE LINKS:  Put the link to your book sales page in whatever you send to folks.  I’d assumed they’d naturally link to the purchase spot and admittedly felt a little obnoxious about typing it into any post I’d sent, but some sites won’t automatically do links for you. Lesson learned!

3. INCLUDE SEARCHABLE MATERIAL:  This is a lesson I learned too late. In your guest posts for the tour, etc., be sure to mention within your post those huge popular authors/books most like your own title…And/or an “if you enjoy (fabulous popular title or author), then you will like (your book)…”  That’s the sort of searchable material you want to have so that folks will find you online.

4. GIVE THE TOUR A LANDING PAGE on your website, which shows ALL the stops and links to those stops. Set this up before the tour starts, so you can send the bloggers on the tour the link to this page, along with your widgets. Update that page as final details trickle in, such as the actual title/subject of your guest post, and on the day of, replace the general blog link with the actual post’s link so future readers will find you there.

5. CREATE A WIDGET that is simple and legible even as a small button (include your book cover), and then put it up on your own website in a post so that other folks can “grab” it and use it on their pages.  I made 3…one banner sized, one half-banner sized, and one button sized.

6.  BUILD EXCITEMENT: Once a week, do a post on your website highlighting that week’s stops to build excitement. To give you an idea of how I tried to keep the energy and interest up, you can read an example of one of these posts here.

7.  BUZZ IT: Take advantage of what’s popping up each day by buzzing it on your facebook and twitter pages… If there’s a particular theme to your post, highlight that…if you’ve gotten a great review, paraphrase it on your FB and in Tweets…  Make those great reviews go the extra mile by either asking the blogger if they will kindly put their review on goodreads/amazon… or if it’s a hot review, put it on your Barnes&Noble.com and Amazon pages under editorial reviews.  I was able to add a bunch to these sites, plus some of my tour bloggers posted on Goodreads…and one beautiful 5 star review was posted as a comment on DRAWN‘s Amazon page.

8.  HIGHLIGHT ON-GOING STUFF: If you have on-going giveaways going on, then continue to buzz them on your FB and twitter so that people will be reminded there is still time to enter.

9. COMMENT! Visit your tour stops to comment back where appropriate to folks who put in replies. The personal touch really makes a difference.

10. DON’T BE A SHMO: Try to somehow balance your tweets and posts with other news and other people’s news so you won’t be a steady stream of book P.R…. I found this to be a little tough because with jam-packed weeks of booktouring there is SO much news coming at me each day…all different, but all about my book!   I made an effort to retweet others in between, and to now and then put up a post on my blog page that wasn’t tour related.  You don’t want to weary people with your news…  Twitter is nice because you can vary your hashtags (#) to reach different people, but also put keywords within your tweet.

11. SAY THANK YOU!  After each stop, take a moment to send a personal note of thanks to your tour stop host. They have used their valuable time to help you, and you want them to know that this matters to you.
Hosting a blog tour is a phenomenal way to build up a quick stable of reviews and buzz about your book.  And you can use these reviews as a stepping stone to even more blogger reviews.  For example, I made a point of contacting bloggers who listed TwilightMoms.com as one of their favorite blogs they follow, and asked if they’d review DRAWN.  Of course I included the rave review from TwilightMoms, and guess what? Those bloggers were eager to give my book a look!

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So is it work? Some. Is it worth it? YES!  You want more readers to find your book, don’t you? Can YOU do this?  You can.

SO GO FOR IT and start mapping out your own book tour.

Marie

This Week on the DRAWN Blog Ghost Tour!

This is it!  The kick-off date for the DRAWN Blog Ghost Tour!!!!  And it begins with a serious ka-pow as a line-up of fabulous book bloggers feature interviews, guest posts and giveaways…all in celebration of the release of my new paranormal novel Drawn.

So here’s this week’s line up:

January 17th: Kicking off the tour TODAY at Jonathan Maberry’s Big Scary Blog, I guest post about ghosts and ghostly sitings in “Definitely Not Normal.” The post includes a never before seen authentic ghost photo. NOT KIDDING.

January 18th: At the Stories. Read ‘em. Write ‘em blog, Author Stephanie Theban hosts a probing interview with me about Drawn and about life.

January 19th: At The Elliot Review, I guest post on “Why it’s Positively Medieval” where I talk about knights in shining armor, those great boots, and whether or not chivalry is indeed dead. Plus there’s a Drawn BOOK GIVEAWAY! Check it out for your chance to win a signed paperback of Drawn 🙂

January 20th: At the blog of Author Shana Norris there’s a fun and personal interview with me.

And that’s just week one!  There’s so much more action on the way, and more giveaways too.  To keep up with it all, just click on the Drawn Blog Ghost Tour tab at the top of this site, or click here.

Got Books?

How many books do you have on your night table? On your bookshelf? Chances are pretty good that the total is more than 20.  Did you know that in the middle ages people used to travel for days to a library with a major holding of 20 books?

It’s crazy to think of that, but back when the monks did the “publishing” it took one monk 20 years to create one Bible.  If you think about each book taking that long, well, you can understand how exciting 20 different books in one location could be.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of presenting yet another one of my girl scout  “So What’s the Story?” workshops to a group of teens.  This time our group met in Hellertown, PA and had 79 participants. I shared the history of the book, my massive pile of rejection letters, and read from my novel WHAT I MEANT… And at the end of it all I signed copies of my novel for each girl that was there.  But, most importantly, each girl there also donated books from their own collections and together we designed inspirational bookmarks that would go in those volumes.

And the really great thing about all this is that now I get to give those books to my local shelters!  Through these workshops over the past 2 years, the teens I’ve met with and I have probably put more than 2,000 books in the hands of children who are homeless.  The gratitude I’ve gotten from the shelters is phenomenal, and I’ve been told that for many of these kids, these books have been the only ones they have ever owned.

I can’t think of a more simple way to help someone, and I’m so touched that our book drives have continued to make such a difference to children and teens throughout our area.  So I’m putting out this challenge to everyone in cyberspace.  Got books, whether for adults or kids?  Ones you’ve outgrown or that you don’t plan on rereading?  Then why not donate them to your own local shelters?  Google the shelters in your area and find out what their hours are for donations, and then you too can pass on the knowledge and joy and hope that every book can represent.

Next week I’m looking forward to visiting Frankford High School in Philadelphia with fellow authors Jonathan Maberry, Solomon Jones, Don Lafferty and Keith Strunk.  We’ll be chatting with students and also bringing the school district a tremendous stash of donated books from ourselves and from our fellow authors in The Liars Club. It’s a part of the school district’s Read for your Life literacy drive, and it creates yet another opportunity for you…if you live in the Philadelphia area, you too can donate books to these needy classrooms.  Check out this link for what they’re looking for and where to send your books.

Right now I’m looking at boxes and boxes of donated books filling my family room. Picture books and early readers and novels and non-fiction. Beautiful titles. And I know that by the end of this week, scores of kids who really need them will have these books in their own hands to treasure.

I can’t imagine having a library with only 20 books.  And I certainly never want to think of what it’d be like to never own a book of my own.  So spread the joy, folks, donate your books, and because of YOU  many other people will be proud book owners too.

Great Day for Books at Collingswood Fest

Last Saturday, after several days of biblical deluge, the sun burst out and the crisp fall weather created the perfect setting for a book fair.  I was fortunate to be a guest at the Collingswood Book Festival in Collingswood, NJ, signing copies of WHAT I MEANT… and chatting with passersby.  Sold lots of books, which is always a thrill, and met lots of great authors and readers.

Gregory Frost, Marie Lamba and Jonathan Maberry

I also did a panel talk to a full house with fellow Liars Club authors Gregory Frost (Shadowbridge and Lord Tophet, Del Rey) and Jonathan Maberry (Rot and Ruin, Simon and Schuster). Our main subject was YA books.  We talked about what makes a YA book different from an adult novel (the age of the protagonist, but the level of sophistication is the same or higher), what are some of the trends (sci fi is in, zombies are hot, vampires never die (!), but great and powerful stories are forever), and if it’s easier to sell YA than other fiction (ho boy, define EASY!).

Author Tony Abbott

While we were there, I was thrilled to meet Secrets of Droon series author Tony Abbott.  His series was really huge in my house when the kids were smaller.

And I was also delighted to finally meet author Heidi Durrow face to face.  Heidi lives on the opposite coast, and we first became friendly a few years back when she invited me to be a guest on her podcast Mixed Chicks Chat.  The main protagonist in WHAT I MEANT… is biracial, so we had a lot to talk about. She still runs the podcast with actress/producer Fanshen Cox, and it’s the only live weekly show that covers the mixed-race experience. These

Marie Lamba and Heidi Durrow

days, Heidi also is a published author.  Her novel The Girl Who Fell from the Sky (Algonquin) also features a protagonist who is biracial.  I’m reading her novel now, and it’s phenomenal.

Kudos to the organizers of the Collingswood Book Festival!  Everything there was just right.