Heading into August: Deb Ball News Flash

Congratulations to Kim Lynch, winner of our #DebBallGiveaway of STOLEN BEAUTY by Laurie Lico Albanese. Thank you so much to yesterday’s guest, Fiona Davis! If you haven’t already, enter the #DebBallGiveaway to win a copy of THE ADDRESS!! You can enter by sharing our post on Facebook and/or retweeting the following tweet: RT to Enter! Interview…
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NewsFlash! Readings, Reviews, and Rest!

Congratulations to Emmy Neal, winner of our #DebBallGiveaway of Jennifer Latham’s DREAMLAND BURNING. We send our thanks to former Deb Danielle Younge-Ullman for being our guest yesterday on The Debutante Ball. If you haven’t already, pick up a copy of EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IS NOT RUINED or retweet the following tweet to enter to win a hardcover copy! RT to Enter!…
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News Flash: Giveaways, Spines, and Signature Drinks

Congrats to Linda, who won a copy of WAKEWORLD by guest author Kerry Schafer! From the 2014 Debs… Susan Gloss is pleased to announce that her publisher is giving away 20 copies of VINTAGE on Goodreads! Enter here. Lori Rader-Day started receiving copy edits from her publisher this week, and made plans for her visit…
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News Flash: Welcome to the New Debutante Ball!

Welcome to the new Debutante Ball, and to a new class of Debs! We, the 2014 Debs, are so very pleased to meet you and pull back the curtain on our new space. For starters, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll notice we’ve done some remodeling of the old dance floor. Take…
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The Debutante Ball Welcomes Former Deb Sarah Pekkanen!

Sarah PThe Debutante Ball is thrilled to welcome back former Deb Sarah Pekkanen! Sarah is the internationally-bestselling author of four novels, including THE BEST OF US, which won a starred Publishers Weekly review and is the Marie Claire book pick for April. Hailed as a “rising star” by publications including Library Journal, her novels are often compared to those by Jennifer Weiner and Emily Giffin. Her books have won rave reviews from People magazine, Entertainment Weekly, O the Oprah magazine, Booklist, Cosmopolitan, Glamour magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She is an occasional book reviewer for The Washington Post and is the back-page columnist for Bethesda Magazine.

Sarah has been so kind as to share an excerpt with us from her latest book, THE BEST OF US, which has received the following advance praise:

“The perfect book to curl up with on a rainy day.” Maire Claire Magazine

“Fans of Jennifer Weiner and Emily Giffin will strongly appreciate this rising star in women’s fiction.” Library Journal

“A deeply enjoyable page-turner.” Publishers Weekly STARRED review

Please join us in welcoming Sarah and enjoy this sneak peek into her latest novel!

Chapter One

The Invitation

The Best of Us

Tina Antonelli stared at the heavy, cream-colored invitation like it was a loose diamond she’d found in the sandbox at the neighborhood playground. No, it was even more valuable than a diamond, she decided as she leaned against her kitchen counter and felt her nightgown-clad hip squish into something. Grape jelly, she thought absently, recalling her early-morning frenzy of sandwich-making for school lunches. She re-read the first line of calligraphy:

Please join us in celebrating Dwight’s 35th birthday!


Dwight Glass. Her old friend. How could he be turning 35 when she still pictured him at 20: thin and awkward as a praying mantis, with a shock of brown hair always falling into his eyes? Dwight had lived in one of the coveted private rooms that encircled the grassy quad at the University of Virginia. While other students had tossed around Frisbees or footballs on the sprawling lawn, the guys shirtless in the springtime and the girls wearing bright miniskirts or sundresses, Dwight rarely ventured past the little awning in front of his room. He always seemed to be sitting in a straight-backed chair, wearing an oxford shirt with one too many buttons done up, a thick textbook on his lap.

Our plane departs from Dulles International Airport on Sunday, August 18 at 10 a.m. and returns Saturday, August 25 at 5 p.m.

“Our plane,” Tina said, the words as airy and sweet in her mouth as a spoonful of chocolate mousse. She’d heard that Dwight had bought his own Gulfstream a few years ago.

“Mommy?” a hoarse voice called from the living room. “I need you!”

“Just a sec, honey,” she said.

We’ll stay in a villa in Jamaica that comes with a chef who will fulfill all of our culinary requests. You can choose to surf or snorkel, take a helicopter tour of the island – or do absolutely nothing but relax on a private beach and lift a champagne glass for the birthday toast.

A little moan escaped from Tina’s lips. A cook. A private beach. Champagne. She envisioned a whitewashed villa with floor-to-ceiling windows thrown open to reveal a white sand beach; white couches in the living room – and on the beds, crisp white sheets. Everything could be white because she wouldn’t have to worry about four small children and one large dog spilling, shedding, messing and breaking.

“MOMMY!”   Or yelling.

She imagined herself in a new bathing suit, bronzed like the girls in the Ban De Soleil ads, and mentally erased the pouch of her belly and the crow’s feet framing her eyes. Why not? She was being offered the trip of a lifetime, from a guy she’d kissed once in college (alcohol was involved, of course; lots of alcohol and dim lighting and the bittersweet knowledge that graduation was just around the corner) and who had drifted in and out of her life in the decade and a half since then. Anything was possible.


Newsflash: July 15, 2012

Congrats to Mary Rowe, winner of a copy of The Guest Book!

From the 2012 Debs…

Deb Joanne would like to thank everyone who came out to her big Launch Party Extravaganza yesterday. It was an amazing day, which I will remember forever and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and warm-fuzzies. Pictures to come!

Deb Erika will be at Blue Ridge Books in Waynesville, NC, today at 3pm, helping to celebrate their 5th anniversary along with Deb Guest Kimberly Brock! If you’re in the area, she hopes you’ll come by!

Deb Molly has been having the most wonderful weekend at the Iowa City Book Festival, and looks forward to her duties as co-gamemaster of the Hunger Games (with author Wendy Delsol)!

Deb Linda wishes she could have been at Deb Joanne’s big Launch Party Extravaganza last night! I’ll bet it was amazing.

Past Deb News

The editors of Shine at yahoo.com announced their Editors’ Picks this month and they include Deb Eleanor’s THE WEIRD SISTERS! Check it out!

Deb Friends

Check out the trailer for the upcoming movie, The Silver Linings Playbook, based on the book written by Deb Guest (and husband of Deb Alicia!) Matthew Quick. Congratulations, Matthew!

Deb Guest Caroline Starr Rose, author of May B., was picked by Publisher’s Weekly for their Spring 2012 Flying Starts profile. Read it here!

Deb Dish – When you learn your most beloved book is being made into a movie, do you want to see it–or run far, far away?

Deb Joanne – Usually, I want to see it, but I always worry and hope they do a good job. I got so geeked up when they started making the Narnia movies a few years ago and almost cried in the theatre to see a big part of my childhood up on the screen. I think those were done very well and definitely did the books justice. I am not sure if they’re going to do THE HORSE AND HIS BOY, but I sure hope so.

Deb Erika I’m with Joanne–my curiosity ALWAYS gets the best of me. I often think I see the two as inherently different experiences–or maybe that just helps me preserve my love of the book.

Deb Molly I like to see the movie — and then criticize it for all the ways it doesn’t live up to my imagination. 🙂

Deb Linda – Talk about mixed emotions! The excitement, the fear … gaaah. Terrifying, and yet so cool! Of course my curiosity would win out, and I’d be there, with a stomachache, biting my nails, praying it didn’t suck. *grin*


The Debutante Ball Welcomes (back) Joelle Anthony!

 We’re extending a big Deb Welcome (back!) to past Deb Joelle Anthony today. It hasn’t been that long since Joelle was here–she was in the 2010 Deb Class, but in case you’re new in these parts, here’s her official bio:

Joëlle currently lives on a tiny island in British Columbia with her musician husband, Victor Anthony, and two cats, Sophie & Marley. As for the future, their only plan is to avoid real jobs, write and play guitar in front of the woodstove, and live happily ever after. Her debut young adult novel, Restoring Harmony, was published in the spring of 2012, and her latest release, The Right & the Real is available now, both from Putnam.

And about Joelle’s latest book, The Right & the Real:

From the author of “Restoring Harmony.” Kicked out for refusing to join a cult, 17-year-old Jamie must find a way to survive on her own.

Jamie should have known something was off about the church of the Right and the Real from the start, especially when the Teacher claimed he wasn’t just an ordinary spiritual leader, but Jesus Christ, himself. But she was too taken by Josh, the eldest son of one of the church’s disciples, and his all-American good looks. Josh is the most popular boy at school too, and the first boy outside the drama geeks to give Jamie a second look. But getting her Dad involved in a cult was not part of the plan when she started dating Josh. Neither was her dad’s marriage to the fanatic Mira, or getting kicked out, or seeing Josh in secret because the church has deemed her persona non grata.

Jamie’s life has completely fallen apart. Finding her way back won’t be easy, but when her Dad gets himself into serious trouble, will Jamie be ready to rescue him, and maybe even forgive him?

Sounds AMAZING, Joelle!  And now, Joelle talks plotting with us.

Let me just dust off my tiara and I’ll be right with you. Okay…there!

In 2010, when I was part of the Ball, my day was Friday. After reading four stellar posts on whatever topic it was that week, I felt like if I couldn’t add anything just as good, I better be funny, and that’s usually the approach I took to the post. Since this is posting on Saturday, I figure I better be stellar and funny. Ummm…no pressure.

When I first started submitting, the rejections I got often included something like, “Great voice!” or “The voice is strong.” What they never included was, “Excellent plot!” In fact, if they mentioned plot at all, the notes were more likely to be, “Lots of holes in the plot.” “Implausible.” “Convoluted.” They probably could’ve added boring to the mixture, but by then the editor was too sleepy to bother.

So how did I go from boring to “fast pacing” and “page turner” (Publisher’s Weekly for The Right & the Real)? I wish I knew because then I could write a book about it and maybe do a TED talk or reign supreme at the SCBWI-LA conference next summer.

The truth is that I do know. Here’s the secret:

I started paying attention to the plot.

I know. That sounds so simple, but it’s actually true. As an actor, I’d pretty much let the playwright take care of the plot, and I worked on character and voice. And that’s what I was doing in my writing. Except there wasn’t any playwright to save my butt.

I started by reading craft books on plot. While most are useful, I’ve discovered books on mystery writing are often exceptionally helpful, even if you’re not writing a mystery. Essentially, all books to some extent are mysteries anyway. I mean, you don’t give the big climax away until the end, do you?

The next thing I started doing was paying attention to plot and pacing while I read other people’s novels. I’d like to say that after a handful, I got the gist of it, but honestly, I read about 300 books over two years before I really started to get a sense of plot. Also, during that time, I was lucky enough to land a critique group, an agent, and eventually, an editor willing to work on plot with me. I cannot begin to express how much they all helped me with this.

If you’re struggling with plot, the first thing to do is ask yourself, “Have I been giving it its due?” And if the answer is no, then you now know where to start.

Thanks for having me on the Deb Ball.

Oh, and one more thing on plotting. This is my plot to take over the world!

And if that video wasn’t gift enough, Joelle has generously offered up a copy of The Right and the Real to one of our lucky commenters! Just tell us a little about YOUR plot to take over the world and/or what your cult would be like.


The Debutante Ball Welcomes Back Deb Alicia Bessette

This week the Debutante Ball has the distinct pleasure of welcoming back Deb Alicia Bessette, from the Deb Class of 2010. She’s here with us today to celebrate the release of the paperback version of her debut novel.

Alicia Bessette’s first novel, A Pinch Of Love (also published as Simply From Scratch), became an international bestseller immediately upon publication. People magazine dubbed it “tasty” and Library Journal raved, “a strong, richly detailed debut novel, with a truly lovable heroine.” Alicia was born and raised in central Massachusetts. A pianist and freelance writer, she and her husband, novelist Matthew Quick, live in New England. For more information visit http://www.aliciabessette.com

[Wow — husband and wife novelists! Talk about a creative match-up. Stay tuned, because Matthew has agreed to be with us in March to share the release of his next YA novel, BOY21.]

Here’s a little about A Pinch of Love:

Rose-Ellen “Zell” Carmichael Roy doesn’t cook, but she wears her late husband Nick’s camouflage apron every day. That’s her widow style. It’s been more than a year since Nick’s tragic death during a post-Katrina relief mission in New Orleans, but Zell can’t bring herself to move on.

Then, a postman’s error spurs her to enter a baking contest in the hopes of donating the grand prize to the hurricane survivors in Nick’s memory. After Zell’s first attempt at baking goes embarrassingly awry, she meets Ingrid Knox, her motherless nine-year-old neighbor, and the two forge an unlikely friendship that will alter both their lives forever.

Need a little more inducement? How about this:  “Fans of Cecilia Ahearn’s PS, I Love You will find a lot to like here.” —Library Journal  

Alicia took the Deb Ball Interview for us. Must have been fun to be on the other side of the questions this time.

Where do you love to be?

Outside. Especially in the mountains, near rivers and lakes, with trees all around. It’s always been that way for me. When I was little I used to talk to trees. I suppose I still do, in a different way. I feel most myself, most relaxed, most capable, when I’m on a wooded path, or a mountaintop, or a secluded riverbank. I’m all about negative ions, baby! Fresh air and sunshine might not be a cure-all, but they lift my spirits.


Do you have any phobias?

I have so many phobias. A lot of them are weird.

I’m afraid of insects getting tangled in my hair. I’m afraid of very crowded places (such as Versailles palace at the height of tourist season, which I had to leave in order to avoid full-blown panic). I’m afraid of paper near my eyes; if someone comes running at me waving concert tickets or a birthday card or a newspaper all up in my face, I freak out.

If anyone reading along feels like sharing a phobia in the comments section, that would make me feel less alone!


Talk about one thing that’s making you happy right now.

The occasion of this interview. I was a Deb in 2010, the year of release of my debut novel. Now it’s out in paperback. To think I’m writing and making a living from it makes me so happy.


Tell us a secret about the main character in your novel — something that’s not even in your book.

One storyline in A Pinch Of Love that was edited out concerned a mountain lion. The big cat appeared in and around the town of Wippamunk, and some of the main characters — the good friends who support the narrator, Zell, through her grief — caught glimpses of it. If you read the book closely, you’ll find vestiges of this storyline.

I still think about the mountain lion. What her secrets were. What she wanted. Why she was there. I suppose she symbolizes something, both in my book and in my life. I’m not sure what yet. Maybe someday I’ll figure it out.


What is your advice for aspiring writers?

Persist. Stick-to-it-itveness is the most important quality a writer can develop. You might craft phenomenal sentences, you might be adept at self-editing, you might take criticism like a pro. But if you quit after the first disappointment — a rejection, a bad review, poor sales, whatever — none of those skills will amount to anything.

In 2007 I was rejected by eleven creative writing MFA programs. Eleven. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so low. In 2008 I racked up more than one hundred rejections from literary agents for a novel I was pitching. I reached a new low and spent a few months crying. Eventually I scraped myself up off the floor and started working on the novel that would become my debut, and an international bestseller. The moral of the story is, if the world tells you your writing isn’t ready, it might not be. But that doesn’t mean it won’t ever be.

Keep writing. Keep going. Believe. You must! Persist.


Alicia has agreed to give a free copy of A Pinch of Love to some lucky commenter — HOORAY! Now would be a good time to share your phobias. Come on, spill!


Deb Elise Sings Pomp and Circumstance

Tiara PopulazziIs it just that I’m the YA author here, or does everyone else also think each Group Goodbye is high school graduation all over again?

Group Goodbye.  You know what I mean, not like saying goodbye to far-flung relatives after a vacation.  Those people stay tethered to you, and you know you’ll all get together in the same way sometime in the future.

I’m talking about saying goodbye to a group of people who become such a part of your daily life that they’re like limbs… until suddenly they’re not.

Working in TV, I have this experience a lot.  Shows end.  Friends and acquaintances that were a second family for days, weeks, months, or even years poof out of your orbit.  Oh sure, you stay close with some, and Facebook-friends with others, but it’s never the same as when you were a fixture in one another’s days.

Just like high school.

And just like now.

So in the spirit of high school graduation, some Senior Superlatives:

Most Likely to Bibbity Bobbity Boo: Former Deb Katie Alender, whose mother saw me at a computer on the set of The Muppets’ Kitchen with Cat Cora, said, “You’re a writer?  My daughter here is a writer!” and sparked a conversation in which Katie told me how much the Deb Ball had meant to her, and that I should totally apply.  Katie, you’re my Fairy Godmother, and I thank you.

Most Likely to Live in Dagobah: Friend of the Debs Matthew Quick, and his wonderful wife, Former Deb Alicia Bessette.  Q has been my Yoda.  Not only did he blurb Populazzi, but in the madness of debut week, when I was insane as a menopausal banshee, he and Alicia patiently talked me down off the ledge.  I am forever grateful to them both.

Most Likely to Wear Greek Letters: Former Debs Sarah Pekkanen and Eileen Cook.  I was never the sorority type in college, but when it comes to Delta Epsilon Beta (D.E.B.!), Sarah and Eileen have been my big sisters, giving me their friendship and excellent career advice every step of the way.  Eileen also did me the honor of blurbing Populazzi, appeared on Populazzi.com, and has been a major cheerleader for the book.  Huge thanks to both of them.

Most Likely to be Saddled With Me For Life: Eleanor, Kim, Sarah, and Tawna, if you think you’re getting rid of me after this, you’re crazy!  You’ve been there for everything this year, both personal and professional.  You are my confidantes, my support group, and my friends… plus you’re all ridiculously talented!  It has been such a joy to see each of your books launched into the world so successfully, and I know this is just the beginning of huge careers for all of you.

As for what’s next… I don’t know exactly, which is pretty exciting.  Some very cool things are bubbling for Populazzi, plus I’m working on a new manuscript, and some TV projects I love.  Devoted, the second novel in the series I co-write with Hilary Duff, comes out in October.  In the meantime, I’ll keep blogging at my website, www.eliseallen.com, and posting all kinds of cool lifestyle tidbits on www.Populazzi.com.  I’ll also be a regular visitor here — I’ve only begun to get to know the wonderful 2012 Debs; I look forward to discovering more about each of them, and reading all their books.

Finally, I want to thank everyone who visited the Ball this year and joined the conversation with your comments.  Your insight, humor, and support have been invaluable, and I’ve enjoyed sharing this time with you more than I can say.

Nothing to do now except turn the tassel on my tiara from right to left and say so long…

Happy Graduation, Class of 2011!  Class of 2012, Welcome to the Deb Ball!


Deb Elise on Populazzi, and her Least Favorite Aerosmith Song

Populazzi in box

True story.  I came back from an overnight at my daughter’s summer camp, sat down at the computer, wondered, “Hmmm… better write Monday’s Deb Ball post.  Wonder what the topic is?”  Then I clicked on the page and realized…

I’m the topic!!!

Originally, when we realized Tawna and I debuted on the same day, I volunteered to have Populazzi take the week before launch.  Launch week is a big deal, but I’ve always heard that online retailers pay close attention to the week before launch week too, so I was more than happy to take this week at the Ball.

Then a funny thing happened on the way to launch day.

The book launched without me.

It didn’t really — with the exception of tomes with the words “Harry Potter” in the title, books don’t launch like movies.  They ship out from the warehouse when they’re ready, and once they’re at the store, or the online retailer, they’re put on the shelves or sent out to customers.  So on July 20th, Populazzi started arriving on Amazon.com pre-orderers’ doorsteps, and the “Pre-Order” button became simply “Add to Cart.”  Barnes and Noble online followed suit a couple days later, and a day after that, a Twitter friend told me the book was already on the shelves of her local store.

What did I do when I heard the ridiculously exciting news that my very first novel was out there in the world?

I pretty much turned into a Cathy comic.

“AAACK!  I haven’t done enough promotion yet!”

“AAACK!  What if nobody buys it?”

“AAACK!  The next few days will determine the course of my entire career as an author!”


Yeah… it was a lot of that.

Last week I talked about my dysfunctional brain, which flip-flops between delusions of grandeur and self-loathing dreams of doom.  I lived up to that dysfunction by building up all kinds of expectations for what I had to achieve by debut day for me to consider it a success.  When the warehouses prematurely ejaculated Populazzi into the world (sorry — couldn’t help it), I was suddenly smacked in the face with those expectations I hadn’t yet met.  And every time people congratulated me on the book’s release, or said, “You must be so excited!” I’d say yes and mean it, but a little voice would trill in the back of my head, “I’m excited, but…” as the litany of self-erected hurdles (yup, did it again) I hadn’t cleared filled my brain.

Then I took my daughter to the Santa Monica pier.  She just discovered she’s no longer afraid of big-kid rides, and was dying to try the Pacific Park roller coaster.  They pump music all over the place there, and while we were waiting in line, I heard one of my least favorite songs in the world: Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.”

I mean, really — I love Aerosmith like crazy, but that song?  Total cheese fest.

Yet much to my dismay, that load of Limburger triggered an epiphany.

My debut novel is out there in the world.  This is a dream come true, a once-in-a-lifetime experience… and if I let my head stay muddled with neurotic insanity, I’ll miss it.  And cheesy or not… I don’t want to miss a thing.

Since then I’ve been much saner.  I won’t lie — I check the Amazon rankings, I Google “Elise Allen Populazzi,” I study the Google Analytics for my website… but I don’t freak out about the results.

More importantly, I’m letting the great stuff truly sink in, and there’s a lot of great stuff.  The positive feedback I’ve gotten from bloggers, writers I admire, and other early readers makes me jump around the room and dance like a maniac.  Writing a story is wonderful, having it published is exhilarating, but it’s only when other people read the book that it really comes to life.  Every single time I hear from someone who read and loved Populazzi, I get a rush that’s even better than stand-up paddleboarding… and you all know I’m obsessed with stand-up paddleboarding.

This has already been a phenomenal journey, and in the mad rush towards publication I forgot that pub day isn’t the end of the race, it’s just another mile marker in an absolutely incredible marathon.  My head’s in the right place now, which means I can not only enjoy the hell out of every minute, but I can also go back to listening to real Aerosmith songs.

Thanks so much to my fellow Debs and to all of you for your support throughout the year!  And if you haven’t bought a copy of Populazzi and would like to, Barnes and Noble and Amazon are selling it online for just $10.  And at last check on Amazon, “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” Making Waves by Deb Tawna, The Weird Sisters by Deb Eleanor, and Skipping a Beat by former Deb Sarah Pekkanen.  Sharing an Amazon page with those three amazing women?  Now that’s seriously something I would not want to miss.


Deb Elise