Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I order a signed copy, or get a signed bookplate?

You can order a signed copies of my books from The Children’s Bookstore in Baltimore, MD, or you can order a signed bookplate here.

Where did you get the idea for Sword and Verse?

I have always been fascinated with libraries and their history. In the early 2000s, I was reading about ancient libraries, particularly the library of Alexandria, and I came across a mention of an ancient library composed entirely of letters. And I thought, “What if there was a library full of letters written to the gods?” That was the seed of the story. In fact, the original title was “The Library of the Gods”. And then I thought about how this culture would have a special script used only for communicating with the gods, and how that would impact everything else in the society. The world developed from there.

Is Sword and Verse a standalone?

Sword and Verse functions as a standalone, though I am working on a sequel from another character’s point of view.  I promise that there is no cliffhanger ending!

Is there a love triangle in Sword and Verse?

This is probably the question I get asked most often when people learn that romance plays a part in the story.  No, there is no love triangle (although at least one character wishes there were – you’ll find out who in book two).

What’s the next book about?

The second book will pick up not long after the first book ends, and will be from Soraya’s point of view. There are still plenty of challenges left for the council to face, not least of which is learning to trust each other.  The consequences of decisions made in Sword and Verse come back to haunt them as well.

How do you pronounce _______?

You can find a detailed pronunciation guide to Sword and Verse here.  I also recommend the audiobook, beautifully narrated by Emily Rankin.

Why isn’t there a map in Sword and Verse?

Because decisions about things like maps and illustrations and endpapers are made by the publisher, not the author.  I am planning to post a map on this site in the near future, and maybe even make some map bookplates available in giveaways.  Stay tuned!

Will you post extras and deleted scenes?

Yes! I already have posted some, and plan to post more every month or so.  Check out the Sword and Verse extras page to find them.

How did you start writing?

When I was young, I loved to imagine and create new worlds, and I loved to write – but it didn’t occur to me until much, much later that those things made me a writer.  Back in the days before the internet (yes, I am that old!), my cousin and I would write actual letters to one another.  Only our letters were not simple missives, oh no – we did a lot of what I now know is called world-building.  That’s because, even though we were best friends, we only really got to spend one week a year together, when she would come with my family to Ocean City, MD for a week each summer.   And every year, we would create a new pretend game, with new characters.  One year we were international beauty pageant contestants.  Another year she was the princess of a small European country and I was her lady-in-waiting.  (That one actually inspired a novel – maybe that’ll get published someday!)  And in the seemingly interminable months from September to July, we would write to one another, letters upon letters: letters from each of us to the other, but also letters from our characters to each other.  And we’d include supporting documents too: menus from banquets our characters attended, application forms they had filled out, catalog pages showing clothes they would wear…you get the idea.

In the early 2000s, I was active in the Harry Potter fandom as one of the administrators of the Sugar Quill. I also wrote a LOT of fanfiction. Writing fanfiction gradually morphed into writing original fiction.

Along the way, I also published several resource books for educators, librarians, and parents.

Did you really invent the scripts in Sword and Verse?

I really did! Developing the different types of writing was one of the most enjoyable parts of building Raisa’s world.  Here are some samples of the different types of script in the story:

Samples of the lower order symbols.

Samples of the lower order symbols.

This is a sentence in the higher order script. Laiyonea uses it as an example when teaching Raisa.

This is a sentence in the higher order script. Laiyonea uses it as an example when teaching Raisa.

And this is Raisa's heart-verse, which is written in the Arnath script.

And this is Raisa’s heart-verse, which is written in the Arnath script.

How long did it take to get Sword and Verse published?

Over 10 years! I wrote the first draft in the early 2000s, started shopping it around to agents in 2005, and finally obtained representation in 2009.  My agent and I spent four years working on revisions (I am a tortoise when it comes to revision) and got the deal in 2013.  Then of course came more revisions with my editor, and the book was published in 2016.

Are any of the characters in Sword and Verse based on real people?

There are bits and pieces of people I know in all of my characters, but only two I can specifically identify as being inspired by real people.  Raisa was very much inspired by my mother.  My mom is one of those people who may seem meek and quiet and agreeable on the surface, but has a will of iron underneath.  I knew I wanted to explore that kind of strength in Raisa.  We see so many female characters in YA who exhibit physical strength, and that’s great, but there is more than one way to be strong.

The other character is a minor one, but she means a lot to me.  It’s Anet, the woman Raisa meets in the tombs.  She is based on my friend Annette, who passed away a few years ago (and to whom the book is dedicated).  Annette was an early reader of the book, and I tried to work that character in over multiple drafts in tribute to her.  It wasn’t until the final draft that that scene came together, and anyone who knew Annette will recognize her in the description of Anet’s laugh!

Why do you write Young Adult books?

I have always been interested in telling stories about characters figuring out who they are and how they relate to other people while holding on to their own sense of self.  And that’s pretty much the main concern of YA, so it’s a good fit!

What is your writing process like?

I usually start out doing a lot of research and world building, making tons of notes, and focusing on the characters and their backstories. I make an outline of sorts, but it’s not so detailed that I consider myself a true plotter. Usually when I start a first draft, I have a good idea of the emotional beats of the story, but not of the plot itself. The first draft, for me, is all about figuring out the characters and how they relate to each other. Plot is something to be cleaned up later. As I write, there are many turns that come up that I don’t anticipate. In fact, there is a moment near the end of Sword and Verse that several readers have cited as their favorite moment in the book, when Raisa does something that surprises everyone around her. While I was writing it, I was just as surprised as the characters in that scene, because I’d had no idea she was going to do that either!

I do a LOT of side-writing too – when I get stuck, I go back and write scenes from another character’s point of view, and it always clarifies the main story for me.  It’s a time-intensive way to work, but it’s the only way I know how.  And it gives me lots of extras to share on my website!

How did you find your agent?

Here’s a post that tells the whole story.

Are you a full-time writer?

Nope.  I am an American Sign Language interpreter, storyteller, and librarian in addition to being a writer.  If you’re interested in learning more about how my day job inspires my writing, check out this interview.

Do you write longhand or on a computer?

I write my notes longhand, but I have awful handwriting. (I am aware of the irony in the fact that Sword and Verse is all about beautiful scripts…)  I do all my drafting and revision on my laptop.

Which Hogwarts House would you be Sorted into?

Hufflepuff all the way.  Badger pride!

What’s your favorite color?

Yellow

Favorite book?

I can’t pick just one!  Some of my very favorites are The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Watership Down by Richard Adams, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner, Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steivfater, and A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro.

Favorite Movie?

It’s a tie between The Muppet Movie and Becoming Jane.

Favorite TV show?

A 3-way tie this time: Fraggle Rock, Game of Thrones, and Sherlock.