News Flash: Updates from the Debs, past and present

We send our thanks to Lori Rader-Day for being our guest yesterday on The Debutante Ball. If you haven’t already, pick up a copy of THE DAY I DIED this Tuesday or enter to win a copy by sharing our post on Facebook and/or retweeting the following tweet: RT to Enter! Interview w/ @LoriRaderDay + #DebBallGiveaway of…
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News Flash: Signings, 4-Star Reviews, and LitChats

Congrats to Rhonda, who won a copy of GRACE UNDER PRESSURE by guest author Julie Hyzy! From the 2014 Debs… Heather Webb had a wonderful local signing event and celebration at the UConn Co-op Bookstore in CT, then jetted out of town the next day for another at Quail Ridge Books & Music in North…
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News Flash: Publicists, Retreats, and Broken Arms

From the 2014 Debs… Heather Webb had a great (and long) chat with her publicist for the first time! She’s totally psyched to be working with the Plume team for the launch of Becoming Josephine. Lisa Alber is so excited about her book cover that she’s giving away a $50 Amazon gift certificate to a…
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Deb Tawna goes out kicking and screaming

For our final posts here at The Debutante Ball, we’re supposed to talk about what’s next and say goodbye.

But really, what are they going to do if I fail to do either of those things? Drag me out by the hair?

What I’d rather do is tell you what I love best about the incoming Debutante Ball class, and why they rock so hard they make me seasick. Here’s a rundown:

2012 Debutante Joanne LevyJoanne Levy’s debut middle-grade novel, Small Medium at Large hits shelves next June. I loved the idea of a middle-grade Deb, since reading at that age played a big part in why I became a writer in the first place. I especially adored Joanne’s description of the book in her application:

Lilah Bloom is just an average twelve year old. She’s looking forward to starting a band with her best friend, tries for decent grades and is dreaming of finding the perfect guy. That is, until her regular life becomes not-so-regular when she gets hit by lightning and can suddenly hear dead people.

I love the “her regular life becomes not-so-regular” angle (as you might have gathered from the “normal may be nice, but weird is wonderful” tagline on the cover of Making Waves) so I already know this book is going to totally roll my socks up. I also love that she’s a longtime Debutante Ball reader.

Erika Marks had me hooked from the very first line of her Debutante Ball application:Erika Marks

I wrote my first Harlequin-hopeful novel at 18, printed it on dot-matrix, sent it out and was hooked for life on writing thanks in part to several editors and agents who were far too gracious to tell me I had no business writing about sex when I’d never so much as kissed a boy (Do you think it was that obvious? Er, yes.)

Her book, Little Gale Gumbo, is not a Harlequin romance, but rather a women’s fiction title being published by NAL in October. I know I’m going to love it based not only on the description, but on Erica’s voice throughout her Debutante Ball application, including her response to our question about whether there was anything else she wanted to share:

 Well…I prefer a gin martini to a vodka one, I can’t let my hand hang over the side of the bed when I sleep, and my favorite Golden Girl is Dorothy, although perennial-Deb Blanche is a close second. I think that about covers it!

2012 Debutante Linda GrimesThen there’s Linda Grimes. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to confess that Linda is not only my beloved agency sistah (we’re both represented by the amazing Michelle Wolfson) but also one of my critique partners. Worried it might look like I was throwing my Deb weight around on behalf of a friend, I deliberately stepped back a bit and waited for the other Debs to weigh in before I offered my two cents. It turned out I had nothing to worry about, since all the Debs adored Linda’s humor, wit, and frequent, friendly comments on our posts (as one of the Debs put it, “I feel like she’s already an honorary Deb.”)

I’ve already been lucky enough to read her light urban fantasy debut, In a Fix, which will be released by Tor in July 2012. As a comment on her release date, Linda noted:

I’ve always pictured it as summer read. On a beach. With umbrella drinks. Maybe the kind that come in coconuts, and are delivered by cabana boys. (Not that I’ve over-thought it or anything…)

If you don’t fall out of your chair laughing over this book, you seriously need to check your butt or your chair for Superglue.

2012 Debutante Rachel BertscheThen there’s the nonfiction Deb, Rachel Bertsche. It’s not like we sat down and specifically said, “there simply must be a nonfiction Deb!” but it was wonderful to get an application from someone in that genre that made us all say, “she simply must be a Deb!”

Her debut memoir, MWF Seeking BFF is due in January 2012 from Ballantine Books, and the premise is so clever and unique, I think we all ran out and clicked the preorder button on Amazon the second we read about it:

MWF SEEKING BFF is a memoir of my yearlong search for a new best friend after moving to Chicago for love. Sort of I Love You, Man meets The Happiness Project meets AJ Jacobs, it looks at how difficult – and hilariously awkward!–it is to make new friends as an adult. I went on 52 “friend-dates” over the course of the year, and I interweave the stories of those dates with the latest research about the science of friendship.

Yeah, she had me at “hilariously awkward.”

2012 Debutante Molly BackesAnd finally, there’s M. Molly Backes. Her debut young adult novel, The Princesses of Iowa, will be published by Candlewick Press in May 2012.

Before I began blogging with our own Deb Elise Allen and read her amazing book, Populazzi, I’ll admit I wasn’t a huge fan of YA. Deb Elise changed all that for me, to the point that I’m seriously looking forward to Molly’s hysterical sounding story:

The Princesses of Iowa, set in suburban Iowa, is a reverse-Cinderella story in which an It-girl who seems to have it all – the gorgeous boyfriend, the perfect best friends, and a spot on the Homecoming Court – starts to wonder if there’s more to life than being popular. (I stole that from Publisher’s Marketplace.) There’s also a gay creative writing teacher, a fake car accident, a real car accident, some jokes about Muttnik, a sexy nerd, an angry alternateen who changes her name from Miranda to Mirror, a disastrous homecoming parade, and an airbrushed rainbow T-shirt that says “I love my Iowa Grandma.” I’m told it all hangs together, somehow. 

I not only want this book, I want to take Molly out for drinks and a pillow fight and then tickle her until she tells me more about all those little details.

So that’s it for the new Deb roundup. Not that I’m going anywhere. Ever. I’m staying right here. For good. Hey, wait a minute. What are you doing? Ow! Dammit….


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, 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,, and posting all kinds of cool lifestyle tidbits on  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 Tawna wants you to love her man (just keep your hands off!)

One of the strangest things about having my book hit shelves is the way people discuss my characters.

A lot of reviewers have named Cookie – the former NFL player turned cross-dressing gourmet chef – as their favorite character. A few have referred to him as gay, which is fascinating, since I never made reference to his sexual orientation.

For the record, he wasn’t gay in my mind. However, neither of us care if he happens to be gay in your mind.

Many women seem to connect with Juli’s plucky, quirky nature or the different levels of social awkwardness displayed by her or by secondary character, Phyllis.

I can relate.

Then there’s Alex. I have to admit, there’s something different about having people discuss the hero in a romance novel I’ve written. The closest I can come to explaining this peculiar sensation is that it’s sort of like introducing a new guy you’re dating to friends and family. You sit back and bite your nails and hope they get him. That they pick up on all his sweet little quirks and adore him the way you do instead of suggesting he might be a good candidate for a straightjacket and a padded room.

And then when they do get him? When they praise some aspect of his character or appearance or that funny little trait you weren’t sure anyone else would notice? That’s the best feeling in the world.

OK, maybe not the best feeling in the world. But it’s close.

Can you identify with what I’m describing, either as a writer or as someone who’s introduced a new paramour to friends and family? If you’ve read Making Waves, did you happen to identify with one character more than the others? Please share!

Oh, and please keep your hands off Alex. He’s mine.


Wanderlust is Deb Tawna’s second favorite form of lust

The thing I enjoy most of all in the world is travel.

Riding a camel into the Sahara Desert at sunset.

OK, that’s a lie. Travel is a close second to something else I love more, but this is a family-friendly blog and nookie doesn’t happen to be this week’s Debutante Ball topic.

I’ve been profoundly lucky to travel the world over the past decade of hoarding frequent flyer miles, having jobs with generous time off, and not having kids. I’ve visited Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, Hawaii, Jamaica, Barbados, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Germany, Switzerland, France, Italy, Slovenia, Greece, Spain, Morocco, Gibraltar, and probably a few places I’m forgetting but surely enjoyed anyway.

I tend to fall more into the “grungy backpacker” crowd than the “luxury travel” set, though I’ll willingly take the luxury if I can get a good deal.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned in my years of travel is that the things I think will be most memorable seldom turn out to be. Almost always, it’s the funny little unexpected oddities that make the best travel memories.

Take the month I spent trekking around the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. I saw ancient ruins and gorgeous beaches, lovely old churches and quaint little villages.

But the thing I remember most is the trip I took on a third-class bus headed to a tiny town called Valladolid.

I’m mostly fluent in Spanish, which made me privy to the details of conversations between the bus driver and his buddy riding along serving no discernable purpose in the operation of the vehicle.

Bus driver: We should pick up Juan.

Buddy: You remember where he lives?

Bus driver: No, but if we drive around awhile, we’ll find him.

So we drove around for awhile looking for Juan. We made a few pit stops along the way to buy comic books and fruit, which the men took turns enjoying when they weren’t busy ignoring traffic signals and terrifying livestock with horn-blasts.

Cuddling a Koala in Australia.

Eventually, we found Juan and headed out of town. We had just hit the highway when the bus driver smacked himself on the forehead.

Bus driver: I forgot my shirt.

Juan: You’re wearing a shirt.

Bus driver: No, my uniform shirt. I got in trouble for that last week. I’ve gotta go home and get it.

So we spun a u-turn in the middle of the highway – narrowly missing a large truck packed with chickens – and headed back to town. All 35 passengers aboard were treated to a lovely tour of the barrio, complete with a colorful lecture from the bus driver’s wife who shared her immense displeasure at his failure to return home the previous night.

Eventually, we set out again on a journey that lasted nearly four hours and included a rousing game of “let’s hit pedestrians with fruit pits while traveling 50 mph in a vehicle held together by duct tape.” When the bus driver emerged victorious, he celebrated by taking a nap on the floor while his buddy took over driving duties.

Eventually, we made it to Valladolid. The bus driver was kind enough to weave his way through the narrow city streets in search of a hotel I pointed out in the guidebook. As the busload of weary passengers waved at us from the grime-streaked windows, I’ll admit I was a little sad to see the journey end.

It’s stories like that I tend to remember more fondly than the monuments and museums I pack into any vacation like a dutiful traveler.

What kind of traveler are you? What’s your fondest travel memory? Do you tend to catalogue the big things, or the funny little unexpected quirks? Please share!

And if you’ve got some extra frequent flyer miles lying around, can you share those as well? I promise to put them to good use.


Deb Tawna has release week brain freeze

For nearly twelve months, I’ve come here every Friday with a pretty good idea what I wanted to write. Sometimes it didn’t even involve dirty jokes.

Today – at the end of a week devoted entirely to discussing the release of my debut novel, Making Waves – I have to confess that I’m totally, utterly, completely stumped.

Part of it is the way I’ve always approached social media. I’ve never wanted to beat people over the head with my novel until they run away sobbing with a promise to buy a copy. My philosophy has always been that if I can make you giggle with a blog post completely unrelated to Making Waves, you might enjoy the sample of my “voice” enough that you’ll feel like picking up the book when the time comes.

If not, at least I’ve made you laugh. No hard feelings.

So now that I’m supposed to be here talking about me – well, I’m sort of frozen.

It’s also possible my possible that has nothing to do with it, and my brain freeze is a product of too many dirty martinis at my book launch party the other night. That seems likely, too.

I’m dizzy from all the wonderful things people have been saying about Making Waves. My fellow Debs made me cry every day this week with their touching words about the book. Writer’s Digest magazine praised Making Waves as one of ten “notable debuts,” and RT Book Reviews gave the book 4.5 stars and wrote, “This delightfully witty debut will have readers laughing out loud.” A recent review in Booklist magazine stated, “Fenske’s off-the-wall plotting is reminiscent of a tame Carl Hiaasen on Cupid juice.”

Incidentally, “Cupid juice” sounds deliciously filthy.

My cat expressed his fondness for the book by napping on a big pile of copies. If that’s not flattering, I don’t know what is.

I guess all I can really think of to say right now is thank you. Thank you for buying the book or saying nice things about it or just showing up here to occasionally read my posts. It makes me feel wonderful.

So do those dirty martinis. Anyone want to join me for another round?


Bon Voyeurage! Set Sail with Tawna Fenske’s Making Waves!

See that horrible romance sex pun in the headline? That is why Kim is NOT the romance Debutante for 2011.  Or ever!  After all, the romance genre has to be all about swollen members (I did read that term once while a kid perusing my aunt’s books in her guest room in Miami circa 1974 or so. It scarred me for life.)   And heaving bosoms. And throbby things. Romance is set in elegant and serious settings with red flocked wallpaper where the women submit and the men overpower with their animal magnetism.

You’ll walk the plank if that’s what you think of romance circa 2011. The genre is often maligned – or faintly praised with, “Well, I’m really NOT a romance reader, but that last forty-two romance books I read….”   If you’ve ever sat down to write romance, you know it’s not easy to get the cadence, storyline, character and the romance part neatly lined up.  It only looks easy, since romances are often quick reads that entertain so much, you hardly notice the effort from the author.  I’ll take a romance that whisks me away within ten pages over a critically acclaimed lit fic book that is about as interesting as a door stop, and likely to become one in my house!

Tawna Fenske’s Making Waves turns the genre on its elbow (what, you thought I was going to name some puffy body part?) and Moby Dick (there you go, one sex joke) she MAKES YOU LAUGH!  For those of us who have had sex (we do have younger readers at The Deb Ball, so I choose my words with care) we know that laughter (with not at) is a big part of the enjoyment of visiting your favorite port of call, so to speak. (I though about a port hole pun but then changed my mind so I was not naughty.) 

Making Waves is like your favorite romantic comedy on the big screen come to life on the pages (or e-book screen) in front of you. Sure Tawna weaves in the elements of a good romance – but she adds so many twists and genuinely engaging characters that you’ll develop feelings for them (good and angry) from the opening pages. Characters are critical to me as a reader. If I don’t care about your characters you can’t hook me with your story.

Tawna hooked me then reeled me right into her world of Making Waves.   I suggest you catch your own copy today! Visit Tawna to learn more!


Love, Lust, and Deb Tawna’s MAKING WAVES! (Giveaway!)

I was raised by romance novels.

Not literally. I mean I do have actual parents.

But I grew up reading them.

I started out with the Sweet Dreams series, which had covers like this one (and according to the Wikipedia article, models included Diane Lane and Courteney Cox – don’t you love Wikipedia?), and gave me a very skewed view of teen romance. Or maybe I was just choosing my boyfriends poorly. By the way, click the image for a review of that particular title, which happens to be about computer dating, though it was written in 1980-something.

Then I moved on to Silhouette Special Edition (don’t even get me started on the example pictured), which had actual sex in them – kind of -, and were produced at a rate almost as fast as I could read them.



I even wrote my master’s thesis on romance novels, which was actually a terrible idea, because I was so sick of them and had pulled them apart in such detail that I couldn’t even stand to read one for years. Until I discovered Lori Foster. Who led me to Janelle Denison. Tawna would be very disappointed in me, as I only just now, while I was uploading that picture, got the symbolism of the champagne bottle.

In any case, I like my romance novels to have: smart heroines (and heroes), lots of sexual tension, and a plot that’s strong enough to keep them apart exactly when they most want to be together.

Enter Deb Tawna’s Making Waves, which not only has all three of the above, in spades, but also has a sense of humor. If you’ve been reading her posts all year, none of this will surprise you.

In fact, I wasn’t surprised at all that I loved Making Waves the way I did. The heroine, Juli, is smart as a whip, and her hero, Alex, is absolutely worthy of her.

The plot is fun – how much do you love that there are actual pirates in this book? – and there’s even a secondary romance, in addition to Juli and Alex’s. Having tried once to write a romance myself, I know how hard it is to keep two people who love and lust after each other apart, and I was never disappointed by the way Juli and Alex kept running into obstacles to keep them apart.

Is it steamy? And how.

Is it funny? Have you been reading Tawna’s posts all year? I mentioned that the characters were smart, so they’re forever making good quips, but they’re also just funny in who they are – the way all of us are. Because we all are, no matter how suave we try to be, pretty darn silly at the core of it.

Tawna recently mentioned that when she was writing Making Waves, she really wanted to make it a light, fun beach read. And that it is. I read it in one sitting, and though Colorado is short on beaches, the Caribbean adventures in Making Waves absolutely made me feel like I was there.

Tawna, I know you’ve had a long road to publication, and I’m so happy for you. And for those of you who haven’t yet read Making Waves, you’re in for a treat!

What’s your history with romance novels? Love ’em? Hate ’em? Never met ’em?

Congrats to Coleen, who won Tawna Fenske’s Making Waves!