Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Box of Books

I had a surprise box on my doorstep when I returned home from my holiday visit with the family...a whole box of new books!

The paperback edition of SHOT is now listed as in stock at Amazon. If your local bookstore doesn't have a copy, they can order it for you at no extra charge.  Of course, it's also available as an eBook if you scored a Kindle or Nook for the holidays.  

But now I have this box of books I wasn't expecting...

So, if you're a book blogger/reviewer, and would like a copy, shoot me an e-mail at niki AT nikiburnham dot com.  I will give them to reviewers until they're all claimed.  

Friday, December 16, 2011

Nook Lovers

I recently featured a website that helps readers find great books for the Kindle.  Today, I want to highlight a new website that points you to great books for your Nook.  If you have a Nook (or have seen those Jane Lynch commercials and put one on your holiday wish list!), consider bookmarking this website:

The site will feature a Daily Cheap Read, book recommendations, deals at, and other info.  It's definitely worth checking out.

Have you found a great site for Nook fans?  How are you finding books for your Nook?  Share your insights here!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Morning Funny

If you're on the hunt for humor in your YA reading, take a look at this new blog:

I was recently asked to join several other authors, all of whom write humor for teens, in a group blog.  We'll be chatting about what we're writing, things we find funny, and keeping track of humorous books as they hit the market.  Guest bloggers will be making appearances to discuss what they're writing and the humorous books they've discovered.  While you're there, feel free to suggest titles for our Funny List, which will help other readers find YA humor when they're in the mood for a lighter read.

You can also follow Read It and Laugh on Twitter or "like" us on Facebook for updates and to chat about what you're reading.

All of us love the darker reads, but sometimes you want light and happy for a change of pace and it can be tough to find.  We hope this will be a great resource!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I Am A Reader, Not A Writer

Well, I *am* a writer, but I was interviewed today on the popular blog I Am A Reader, Not A Writer, where I discussed my favorite writing tips, quotes, and even my pet peeves.  Check it out here:

I Am A Reader, Not A Writer

Let me know how you'd answer some of the interview questions.  Where would you go in a time machine?  What would you take to a desert island? (And...Coke or Pepsi?)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Kindle Resources

If you've recently purchased a Kindle (congratulations!) there's a great website you might wish to visit if you'd like to find book recommendations, read tips for making the most of your Kindle, or chat with other Kindle owners.  It's called Kindle Lovers, and you can visit by clicking the link below:

Once you've visited, let me know your thoughts.  Did you find books you might not otherwise have discovered?  Were the forums easy for you to navigate?  

AND...have you discovered other great sites that Kindle or Nook users might enjoy?  Let me know!  With the holidays coming soon, many of you are likely to receive/give e-readers, so the more resources we can share, the better.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Five Things About...

Today I'm featured on author Elizabeth Boyle's blog as part of her popular "Five Things About..." series of author interviews. Find out my dreaded childhood nickname, favorite romantic city, and more.

While you're there, be sure to check out the excerpts of Elizabeth's fantastic romance novels.  Her witty heroes and heroines have put her books at the top of my Must Buy list for years.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

TONIGHT: Live Chat!

Quickie post to announce that I'll be doing a live chat TONIGHT, November 15, at the fantastic YA Bound website from 7 - 8 pm, ET, to discuss my new romantic comedy, Shot Through the Heart.  For more info and to enter the chat room (it's easy, I promise!), visit this link:

Niki Burnham Chat - YA Bound

Feel free to ask questions about any of my books, writing, my recent Amazing Race casting call, or even about my dog.  I'll answer anything!  Looking forward to seeing many of you there!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Be Prepared

Yesterday I blogged about my experience at The Amazing Race casting call, and discussed the fact that--as with writing--even if the odds of making it are slim, if you enjoy the process, it's all worthwhile.

Today, an addendum:  Be Prepared.

The "process" isn't simply about writing a book willy nilly; it's about working toward your goal in a planned way, one that increases your odds of ultimate success.  One that challenges you.

When my dad and I studied the people in the line at the casting call, we knew our odds of success were better than most.  If you're a contestant on The Amazing Race, you can bet you'll be required to climb, swim, run, and carry heavy loads.  You need endurance.  My dad is fit enough to participate in 500+ bike rides through the Colorado mountains each summer.  I exercise 4-5x a week, doing a combination of weights, cardio, and boot-camp style drills.  We watch the show regularly, so we have an idea of what to expect.  We know we'd need to be scrappy, both physically and mentally, in order to win.  We'd need to challenge ourselves.  As I studied the people in line, I knew a number of them would be incapable of going the distance in their current state of fitness.  If they tried to run a mile, they'd be frustrated and angry.  It also was quickly obvious that many of them weren't fans of the show.  They may have seen an episode or two, but they didn't know the ins and outs of the Race, so even if they were fit, they were at a big disadvantage.

With writing, it's no different.  If you expect to write professionally, you need to be able to craft coherent sentences, plot well, and create characters who speak to a reader.  Just as athletes train, working their muscles in order to strengthen them, so must writers.  Take workshops, develop a critical editorial eye for your own work, and most important of all, get your tail in a chair and write in order to build your writing muscles.  You need to challenge yourself.  You also need to read broadly, study the market and know what's being published and by whom so you know what to expect.  If you don't, you can expect the process to be a frustrating one.

Preparation may or may not score you a publishing contract, just as being fit doesn't guarantee you'll win The Amazing Race.  However, being prepared sure increases your odds of success, and challenging yourself will help you grow and bring an immense amount of satisfaction, regardless of whether you reach your goal.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Do What You Love, It's Never A Waste

I've often heard writers lament the fact they spend months or years on a project, yet it doesn't sell.  Even if the chances of publishing with a major publishing house are slim--and they know that going in--they feel that if the effort didn't result in that publishing contract they coveted, they've wasted their time.

I've always believed that if your time is spent doing what you love, it's never a waste.

When I've mentioned this to frustrated writers, emphasizing that if you want to write, you need to love the process as much as the contract, I hear, "Well, that's easy for you to say.  You're published."

Well, today I pursued something I've long dreamed of doing, even though I know the chances of nabbing that ultimate prize are slim:  I went to an open casting call for The Amazing Race.

My dad flew in from Colorado to join me at the audition.  We followed the directions and showed up at 8:30 am, and the line was already all the way around Bernie & Phyl's, the furniture store hosting the event.  The sight of the line in itself deterred a few people, but we expected it.  The Amazing Race is a phenomenal show, and as with publishing a book, appearing as a contestant is a dream shared by many.  We waited outdoors in line nearly four hours before we were seen.  We were asked to stand in front of a camera were told we had one minute to talk about why we wanted to be on the Race, and boom...done.

Realistically, our odds of making the show are slim.  There were easily a thousand people at the Boston casting call, and I imagine the show's producers are seeing audition tapes from all over the country.  But  the people both directly in front of us and behind us were so interesting that the four hours flew by.  We had a blast talking about past contestants, what strategies worked and didn't, how we'd race, and about all the different locations where the show's been filmed.  Better yet, my dad and I got to know the friendly mother and son behind us (she's a nurse and hypnotist, while he's spent time as a ski instructor in Breckenridge) and the witty couple in front of us (women who married as soon as it became legal for them to do so in Massachusetts.)  While we heard other teams exiting the audition mumbling that they'd probably wasted their time, the minute my dad and I walked out, our first words were, "I'd do that again!" Not because we did anything spectacular in our video, but because we enjoyed the process.

If you're a writer, think of the hours spent in front of your computer the same way.  You may or may not get a publishing contract.  But if you find joy in the process, in the sheer intellectual stimulation of what you're doing, the time spent is never a waste.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Book Club Discussion Questions: Royally Crushed

Since the release of Royally Crushed, which includes all three books in the Valerie Winslow trilogy, I've received a number of e-mails asking me to post discussion questions for book clubs and reading groups who've selected the book.  I've also received several e-mails asking for ideas for book report topics.

First, I want to say THANK YOU for choosing Royally Crushed for your book club or book report!  Second, here are the promised questions.  Feel free to add your own in the comments.  I'd love to see what topics have captured your interest.

Book Club Discussion Questions:  Royally Crushed
1)  In an early scene in Royally Jacked, Valerie and her friends are smoking behind Wendy's.  Cigarettes come up again later in the story.  While we often see characters smoking in fiction, it's not usually in a romantic comedy meant for teens. Is it ever appropriate for teens to smoke in fiction?  Does the fact that Royally Crushed is comedy change your answer?

2)  The entire series (Royally Jacked, Spin Control, and Do-Over) is told in Valerie's point of view.  How might the story have changed if some scenes were written in Georg's point of view?

3)  It's clear in the early chapters of Royally Jacked that Val thinks of herself as open-minded; she even states that she doesn't care whether a person is gay or straight.  However, Val has obvious issues with her mother's sexuality.  Is Val as open-minded as she thinks?  Do her issues stem more from the divorce itself than from the fact her mother is gay?  Would her distrust of her mother have been any different if her mother left her father for a man?

4)  Schwerinborg is a fictional German-speaking country.  Did it seem real to you?  What about the descriptions made it seem that way?

5)  Who is the better match for Valerie in the long run, David or Georg?  Is she better off alone?  What makes you feel that way?

6)  In Spin Control, Valerie's mother and Gabrielle drop her off at a PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) meeting without telling her about it first.  Was this appropriate?  Was it a valuable meeting for Valerie?  Were the situations and reactions of the others attending the meeting reflective of the real world?

7)  Royally Crushed is a lighthearted romantic comedy, yet the characters deal with some serious issues in the story (divorce, relationships, sexuality, politics, media.)  Is it appropriate for such issues to appear in a romantic comedy, or should these issues always be addressed in a serious manner?

8)  How does the media change the nature of Valerie and Georg's relationship?  Do you think they should be more open with their friends at school?

9)  How does Valerie's relationship with each of her parents grow and change over the three books?  There are times where she's confused about each of their actions, times when she's angry, and times when she appreciates them.  Are her reactions appropriate?

10)  Some of the communication between Valerie and her friends is via e-mail.  Many YA books have e-mail exchanges between characters.  Does it change the nature of the story when some interaction between characters is in person and some is online, and they can't see each other's faces?  What do you think of e-mail exchanges in fiction?

11)  The author wrote a bonus short story, Reality Check, for readers of Royally Crushed who wanted to see more of popular character Jules Jackson.  What do you think of "bonus" chapters in books?  What about the new trend of publishers posting prequels to popular series?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Good Editing = Dog Insurance

This is why I must give everything one last read before I hit send.  Abandon the laptop for even a second and THIS happens:

Tipper is the extra character queen.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Video Blog: Forgive My Fins Series, And Then Things Fall Apart

In today's video blog, I recommend two books from author Tera Lynn Childs, Forgive My Fins and Fins Are Forever. I also recommend Arlaina Tibensky's debut YA novel And Then Things Fall Apart.

Bonus:  I'll give away copies of all three books on October 31.  Simply leave a comment about what you're reading or what you'd like me to address in my upcoming blogs, and you'll automatically be entered to win.  Good luck!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Video Blog: On My Desk, What I'm Reading Now

Presenting episode number one of my new video blog, where I answer readers' questions. In this video: "What do you keep on your desk for inspiration/good luck?" and "What are you reading right now?"

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New Video Blog Series

For those of you who are YouTube addicts, today I'm launching a new series of video blogs to answer readers' most frequently asked questions and to discuss what I'm reading. These will be quick videos I simply film at my desk during writing breaks.

If you have a question you'd like to see addressed on the video blog, please go to the Contact page on my website and send me your question. Simply put "blog question" or "video blog question" in the subject line. 

Here's the intro to the series.  The next video will be posted shortly.  Thanks in advance for sending in your questions!

Monday, August 29, 2011

E-Book Shopping Bonanza

My TBB ("to be bought") list of books is lengthy, so this morning I went online to do damage to the ol' credit card. On a friend's recommendation, I grabbed Ernest Cline's READY PLAYER ONE. My friend--a big reader--says it's one of the most original books she's read in some time, so I'm anxious to dive in. (If you've read it, what did you think?)

After picking up Cline's book, I went to buy Anna Godbersen's BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS. To my happy surprise, Amazon currently has Godbersen's book FREE for the Kindle, with bonus material. Not sure how long the special will last, but I urge you to give it a try if you like historical-set YA. (And if you don't have a Kindle, no can download the reader app for your smartphone or computer from the Amazon website.)

While you're shopping, don't forget to swing over to Smashwords or to grab your free copy of REALITY CHECK, a 37-page bonus story featuring Jules Jackson, a popular character in the Valerie Winslow/Royally Crushed series. It was written especially for those fans of the series who've asked for more about Jules. REALITY CHECK can be read on any e-reader, smartphone, or computer screen, and it's also downloadable as a PDF at Smashwords.

In the meantime, let me know your thoughts on e-books here. Do you read e-books or prefer paper, and why? If you read e-books, do you read on an e-reader, a smartphone, or on another device?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Major New York Booksigning Next Week

This coming Tuesday, June 28, I'll be in New York City signing copies of Royally Crushed and chatting with readers alongside a few hundred other romance and YA authors (yes, you read that right...a few hundred!) This is a great opportunity to get an autographed copy of a book you've been dying to grab--maybe the latest by Nora Roberts or Meg Cabot?--or to buy a special gift for a friend. Best of all, proceeds from the event support literacy charities in New York as well as ProLiteracy Worldwide.

The event takes place in the Broadway Ballroom of the Marriott Marquis hotel on Times Square. It runs from 5:30 - 7:30 PM, and there is no admission charge. The only cost is the cover price of whatever books you decide to purchase.

For a complete list of participating authors, visit the Romance Writers of America Literacy Signing information on the RWA website.

This event is an annual one (in a different city each year) and it's a TON of fun. Please come and say hello. Bring a camera, bring your friends, and be ready for a great time!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Trip of a Lifetime

If you could plan out a trip of a lifetime, where would you go?

Last summer, I was able to take such a trip, which I covered in a series of blogs in October, November, and December 2010. On that vacation, I visited Lisbon, Barcelona, Malta, Tunis, several cities in Italy, Corsica, and Nice.

However...I've always dreamed of jumping in my car for a few weeks and driving around the country visiting as many ballparks as possible. I love planning out road trips, so this would be right up my alley. Once I visited 27 bookstores in 24 hours to sign copies of my books, driving around both Tampa and Orlando, Florida (and managed a visit to a Tampa TV studio to film an interview in the middle.) I had as much fun planning out my route as I did at the book signings! I figure a visit to ballparks would be much the same--you plot out all the ballparks you want to visit on a map, then figure out the most efficient route given the MLB game schedule.

Apparently, I'm not the first to want to do this (shocker, I know.) Ben Blatt, an Applied Mathematics student at Harvard University, figured out how to visit all 30 ballparks in 35 days.

(Bit of trivia...I attended the game photographed in the MSNBC article in the previous link. It was a "turn back the clock" day to 1918, which was the last time the Red Sox played the Cubs at Fenway prior to the photographed game. Players wore old school uniforms, Babe Ruth's daughter threw out the first pitch, and there was a "silent inning" where the public address system was muted and batters were announced via megaphone.)

Of course, I am bookmarking the entry to Ben Blatt's blog. Not that I could make the trip this summer, since his itinerary starts today and I have a book deadline approaching (funny thing, those book deadlines!), but it's a great starting point to plan a future summer road trip.

What about you? Where would you go? Prefer to fly, drive, or take other transportation? Let me know about your dream trip!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Royal Wedding Watch Party

Tomorrow, I'll be on Twitter early in the morning, posting my thoughts about the royal wedding. If you're on Twitter, please join in! I'll be using the hashtag #royalwed and will be joined by several other authors. Expect--among others!--Harlequin Mills & Boon author Kate Hewitt, who's written royal romance for Presents/Modern, as well as Christina Dodd, whose current release is the bestselling book Taken By The Prince.

We'll be chatting about everything from Kate's gown to the processional to who's wearing what. Of course, as a writer, I'm always fascinated with what's going on beneath the will Kate's parents feel? What would it be like for you if one of your friends married into the royal family? Watching the faces in the crowd should prove interesting!

And then there are the souvenirs. I've already blogged about some of them, but tomorrow I'll be highlighting a few more. Please join in with your discoveries. The more offbeat and fun, the better!

If you're in the US and want to watch the royal wedding along with us, here are some options I've discovered:

BBC America: BBC America will be simulcasting BBC One's reports beginning at 3 AM. If you want the British perspective on the royal wedding, this is the channel to watch.

ABC News: Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters will begin reporting at 4 AM Eastern time. There are also iPad and iPhone apps available from ABC online that will allow you to follow along.

CBS News: Katie Couric begins her reporting at 5 AM Eastern.

NBC/ITN: Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira, and Brian Williams will begin at 4 AM Eastern.

MSNBC: If you're up REALLY early, MSNBC starts their reporting from London at 3 AM Eastern, with reporter Martin Bashir.

CNN: Coverage starts at 4 AM Eastern with Anderson Cooper, Piers Morgan, and the always funny Richard Quest.

Fox News: Fox is partnering with the UK's Sky News for coverage beginning at 4 AM Eastern.

If you'd like a different perspective than the news stations offer, The Weather Channel will be covering the event. There's also a pajama party on E!, hosted by Guiliana Rancic.

While the truly British at heart would have a cup of tea to stay awake at that hour, I heartily recommend coffee. I'll have a mug of Green Mountain Mocha Java in hand, but I just might treat myself to a Walker's Shortbread to make up for my lack-of-Britishness.

See you then!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Romantic Comedy News

I receive several e-mails a week asking about future books in Simon Pulse's romantic comedy line.  Over the last few years, the line has featured some fantasic authors, such as Jamie Ponti, Erin Downing, Aimee Friedman, Nancy Krulik, and Micol Ostow (and that's just a start!)  To date, I've contributed four titles to the line (Royally JackedSpin ControlDo-Over, and Scary Beautiful.)  However, in the last few years, I've been busy with other projects, which means I usually answer those "when will you write...? e-mails with some variation on "Someday."

I'm happy to announce that "someday" is now here!  I just agreed to write a fifth romantic comedy for Simon Pulse. The book is tentatively titled NOT MY BOYFRIEND--tentative, because titles often change while a book is in production--and it's the story of a teenage boy who asks his best friend's younger sister, a talented athlete, to pretend to be his girlfriend. The pair think the charade will be simple, but find it forces both of them to question their offbeat views on romance.

The book is slated for a December 2011 or Spring 2012 e-book release, and I couldn't be happier.  As more detailed release info becomes available, I'll post it here and to my bulletin board.

Bonus book news:  If you're a fan of Jennifer Echols, then you'll be thrilled to hear that she's also agreed to write another romantic comedy.  Her story, DOUBLE DATE, will also be released in Spring 2012.  It's about two best friends who can't figure out which of the guys flirting with them is interested in which girl.  Worse, the girls don't want to admit to each other that they're interested in the same guy.  Jennifer will also be posting updates on the story to her blog, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, thanks so much for all your e-mails requesting more romantic comedies.  I'm happy to oblige!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Royal Wedding: The E-Book Version

Nothing like a royal wedding to start a deluge of royal-themed books.  You just knew the minute Wills and Kate entered that press conference to announce their engagement that a slew of royal biographies, wedding photo books, and wedding etiquette guides would follow.

However, here's one title you might not have expected:

Hyperion Books just released A Modern Fairy Tale from popular British author Jane Green.  Not only does it discuss (as promised by its subtitle) three generations of royal love, this e-book has additional audio and video content.  There's footage from ABC's video archives and a video introduction by Barbara Walters.  It will also include a free downloadable update after the wedding showing footage from the big event.

For those of you with e-readers/iPads, is this something you'd anticipated when you bought your device?  Do you like the idea of having videos and audio to enhance your books?  What do you think of the promised post-wedding updates?  

Don't forget:  If you're watching the royal wedding on April 29th, you can join me on Twitter where I'll be live-tweeting the royal wedding.  I'd love to share the event with you and hear your thoughts on everything from the gown to the guests to the much-anticipated balcony kiss at Buckingham Palace.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Great Company

Royally Crushed is now available in bookstores everywhere!  Not only do I have the photographic evidence, the book is keeping very good company:

That's Royally Crushed in the dead center of the Bellingham, MA, Barnes & Noble New Teen Fiction section.  (See the princess holding the frog?)  A couple books to the right of Royally Crushed is the newest from one of my favorite authors, Jennifer Echols.  (Tip:  Forget You is phenomenal.  Grab it if you haven't already!)  Above my Royally Crushed and to the right is Lauren Oliver's Delirium (check out the way the cover reflects in the photo.)  Also on display are Clarity, The Vespertine, Anna and the French Kiss, Matched, Vixen, and a bunch of other great reads.  Needless to say, several of these titles went home with me.  I also signed all the store copies of both Royally Crushed and one of my earlier titles, Sticky Fingers.  So if you want an autographed copy, the Bellingham Barnes & Noble is your spot.  I visit the store frequently, so I'll continue to sign books as they arrive.  (Thank you, Bellingham B&N!)

If you have a sighting of Royally Crushed, send your photos my way--I'd love to see them!  In the meantime, don't forget that there is a FREE bonus story called Reality Check for fans of Val Winslow, the main character in Royally Crushed.  You can get your free read right here.  It's my way of saying thank you to those of you who take the time to visit your local bookstores and libraries.  Without your love of books, it wouldn't be possible for so many great stories to end up on the shelves.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Fishbowl of Royalty

Great stories start with great characters.  Whether those characters are good or bad, street smart or innocent, ordinary or superhuman, they all make for fascinating reading when we experience the world through their eyes.  As a writer, I constantly ask myself what elements in their backgrounds or psyches make them react as they do in any given situation, and what forces in their lives drive their decisions.  I love getting to play with these aspects of character to drive the plots of my books.

To that end, I've always been fascinated, from a writing standpoint, with royalty.  Their lives are unique; they're celebrities from the day they're born.  Most celebrities have the option of walking away from the spotlight.  At the very least, they can choose where to live and what profession they wish to pursue.  A professional athlete could quit playing ball and teach school.  The children of mega-celebrity Hollywood stars can move far away from their parents when they reach adulthood.

On the other hand, royalty are royalty for life.  They have extremely limited choices in where they'll live, where they'll attend school, who they'll see socially, or what professional they'll pursue.  Their world view is dramatically affected by their birthright, as is the way other people view them.  I've found that this unique background makes for intriguing storytelling; no doubt you've guessed this about me, as I've written seven books about royal families (one four-book series of romance novels about the siblings in the diTalora royal family, and a young adult trilogy told from the point of view of Valerie Winslow, an American teen who falls in love with a European prince.)  I love to sit down at my computer, envision what life must be like for a modern-day royal, and then ask myself, "What if?"

Needless to say, I've been watching London with interest lately.  On April 29, I'll be live-tweeting the royal wedding.  (That would be the London wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William, if you've been away from TV, radio, and the internet for the last year.)  Please join me.  I'd love to hear your comments on the usual aspects of a wedding-- the gown, the flowers, and the guests--as well as your thoughts on the nitty-gritty of personalities.  What might Kate feel as she walks through Westminster Abbey?  What will she be saying to those sitting with her on the parade route?  What's going through her parents' heads as they watch their daughter say her vows to Prince William?  What does Prince Charles think of his son's marriage?  To me, this is the stuff of great stories.

Between now and then, check out the souvenirs filling store shelves in advance of the event.  How surreal would it be to have such items commemorating your wedding?  Post your picks and misses here, on Twitter, or on my Facebook page.  Here are my picks:

Coolest Souvenirs:

-- Knit Your Own Royal Wedding : A hilarious do-it-yourself knitted royal balcony lineup (the article has a ton of photos that are to die for, with the knit dolls in various settings...even the corgis make an appearance!)

-- Mills & Boon Royal Wedding Collection Mug & Books : A nifty mug and a collection of royalty-themed romance novels (my favorite kind!)

Souvenir Most Unlike The Actual Couple:

-- Official Wedding Commemorative Coin : The Royal Mint says the design was approved by the couple, which makes me wonder what their alternatives must have been.  He looks drugged and she looks like she's asking him to check her teeth for lettuce.

Most Appalling Souvenir:

 -- The Crown Jewels :  Royal wedding condoms. (Did you cringe?  I did.  Could you imagine getting ready for your wedding, walking into a store to grab a last-minute item, and seeing your face on a box of these?)

Most Hilarious Souvenir:

-- Throne Up Bags : For those who are utterly sick of hearing about the royal wedding.

What are your picks?  What would your reaction be if it were you getting married under these circumstances?  Weigh in!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Royal Wedding, Royally Crushed, and a FREE Read

This morning's broadcast of Good Morning America had not one, but two full-length segments on the upcoming royal wedding (who's designing Kate Middleton's dress? who will be the high bidder when they auction off the lingerie she modeled at a charity event back in 2002...and caught Prince William's eye?)  I can only imagine the coverage of the upcoming wedding in the UK, given that it's all the rage right now here in the US.  Just in the past week, I was e-mailed a link showing the official commemorative coin for the wedding (I think it's will be discussed in the next blog!), and saw that an official British royal wedding website was launched to provide royal-watchers with up-to-the minute news, photos, and videos in the run-up to the event on Friday, April 29.

If you need a dose of royal romance and don't want to wait for the London wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, mark your calendars for March 22.  Simon Pulse is releasing Royally Crushed, a 3-in-1 edition of my Valerie Winslow series (the entire trilogy is Royally JackedSpin Control, and Do-Over.)

To celebrate the upcoming release of Royally Crushed, I've written a bonus short story called Reality Check about Val's combat-boot wearing, Frosty- and Ho Ho-addicted friend Jules Jackson.

Many of you have written to me since reading the very first Valerie book, Royally Jacked, asking if there would ever be a story for Jules.  Now there is!  It's written completely in e-mail format and tells the story of what happens when Jules finds herself falling for a guy.

Reality Check is now available as a free read, right here, on the Smashwords website, and can be downloaded in a number of formats that will work on your computer, Kindle, Nook, Sony reader, or even as a PDF file so that you can print and read at your convenience.  I hope you enjoy it!

In the meantime, feel free to post your thoughts on the royal wedding to comments.  Will you watch?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Oscar Recap

Since I posted my Oscar picks here in the blog, you know how I fared.  The bad news?  This year was my worst ever.  Sixteen right out of a potential 24.  (My previous worst was 17, I believe.)  However...the good news is that I still ended up taking second place in my pool.  Clearly, it was an odd year at the Oscars!

Not so odd:  the fashions.  There were surprisingly few misses this year.  I was hoping the music from Burlesque would be nominated simply so we could see Cher on the red carpet, but no dice.  Without Cher, I often must rely Celine Dion to wear a wacky outfit (like the backward tuxedo she wore several years ago.)  But no dice there, either.  Celine was one of my best-dressed women this time.  She wore a tasteful, white gown with a not-too-low and not-too-high v-neck that emphasized her statuesque figure.

My worst-dressed woman ended up being--the surprise of the night--Scarlett Johanssen.  From the back, her burgundy lace gown looked transparent.  That happens, and it's unfortunate (and nope, I will not post a tranparency photo.  It's NOT pretty. But you can guess.)  Worse than the gown, however, was the hair.  It looked like she rolled out of bed.  While there are any number of men who would love to see Johansson with bedhead, I don't think that's how she intended to appear at the Oscars.  Scarlett has a fabulous figure.  Surely a stylist somewhere in LA could have made her look better? Or run a comb through her hair?

My night was made when Penelope Cruz made an appearance. I was afraid she wouldn't, despite the fact hubby Javier Bardem was nominated for Best Actor for his role in Biutiful; she just had a baby, and post-baby bodies aren't usually gown-worthy, especially when cameras are everywhere.  Cruz proved me wrong.  She wore a stunning wine-colored beaded gown that emphasized her curves and hid what little leftover baby tummy she may have (hard to tell in her gown...kudos to her on her choice!)

Helena Bonham Carter didn't wear a peacock-colored gown, as I predicted.  She went black. wasn't dour. It was as HBC-loopy as ever.  She carried a fan, wore her round-rimmed sunglasses when the cameras weren't snapping away, and once or twice while walking the carpet she stopped to raise the hem and show off a Union Jack temporary tattoo that had been applied to her leg.  Sounds wacky, but I loved it.  I know she'll end up on many fashionistas' worst dressed lists, but not mine.  The woman is true to herself, and that rates high with me.

My best and worst dressed of the night were (drumroll) Scarlett Johansson as Worst-Dressed Woman, with Cate Blanchett a close runner-up in her pink, strong-shouldered number, which looked like something Mr. Bubble would wear into battle.

Jennifer Lawrence, who was nominated for Best Actress for her role in Winter's Bone, is my Best-Dressed Woman.  Her red gown had clean lines, a classy cut and color, and it fit her well.  Better still, she didn't go for heavy makeup or over-foofed other words, a home run.  Future nominees, take note! I hope Lawrence is back next year, because I'd love to see how she tops this.

What were your hits and misses?  Post to comments if you'd like!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oscar Time: It's On!

I just finished making my picks for this year's Academy Awards pool.  *rubbing hands together in anticipation of tonight's event*

One of my husband's former co-workers has been running this pool for several years, and this year she's gotten fancy enough to e-mail PDF ballots to everyone so we can fill them out and return our picks via e-mail.  The pool is for bragging rights alone, but I still feel pressure.  Even though I'm the only writer in the group, last year I whiffed the WRITING awards.  I know.  Humiliating!  

Despite making bad picks in the screenplay categories in 2010, I ended up second place, and I won it all in 2007.  The key is to make well-educated picks in the categories that don't get as much attention, such as live action short film, animated short film, sound editing, and art direction. If you're flailing in your own pool, feel free to copy my picks.  I won't tell.

  Best Picture:  The King's Speech 
  Best Director: Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
NOTE:  The buzz is that David Fincher will receive it for The Social Network, but I'm going with Hooper.
  Best Actor:  Colin Firth, The King's Speech
NOTE:  Closest thing to a lock there is tonight.  If you haven't seen this movie, go.
  Best Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan
  Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter
  Best Supporting Actress: Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
NOTE:  Melissa Leo is the favorite and will probably win for her work in The Fighter.  But I'm picking Steinfeld.  Copycats, make a note of it.
  Best Animated Feature Film:  Toy Story 3
  Best Foreign Film: Incendies, Canada
  Best Original Screenplay: The King's Speech, by David Seidler
NOTE:  Even though I'm a writer and am usually quick to make my picks for the writing categories, this one gave me a lot of angst.  Inception could win this.  Still, I'm going with The King's Speech.
AND ANOTHER NOTE:  If you're a fan of The King's Speech and want some good behind-the-scenes info, ABC News did an interesting story on Seidler and his own stutter.  You can read it by clicking here.  And writers, if you'd like to see an innovative plot breakdown for the movie, check out one of my favorite writer's websites, Save The Cat.  The website also has a great analysis of another Best Picture contender, Winter's Bone.
  Best Adapted Screenplay: The Social Network, by Aaron Sorkin
NOTE:  For purposes of winning your pool, this is one of the safest picks of the night. Sorkin may also give one of the most interesting acceptance speeches of the night (Christian Bale would be his main competition in the "interesting speech" category, if there were one.)
  Best Art Direction: Alice in Wonderland
  Best Costume Design: The King's Speech
  Best Original Song: If I Rise, 127 Hours
  Best Original Score: The Social Network, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
  Best Documentary: Inside Job
NOTE:  Most seem to think that Exit Through The Gift Shop will win, with Restrepo another likely winner.  If you copy my picks, be warned.
  Best Film Editing: The Social Network
  Best Cinematography: True Grit
  Best Makeup: The Wolfman
NOTE:   I think this is another safe bet for Oscar pools
  Best Sound Editing: Inception
  Best Sound Mixing: Inception
  Best Visual Effects: Inception
  Best Documentary (Short Subject): Poster Girl
  Best Visual Short Film (Animated): Day & Night
  Best Short Film (Live Action): Na Wewe

If we don't have guests (which we often do), I usually catch the awards show arrivals from my perch on the elliptical machine.  Watching super-fit Giuliana Rancic interview actresses in cut-to-there gowns drives me to work out harder (a peek at George Clooney in his tux doesn't hurt, either.)  Then I manage a quickie shower as the last arrivals head into the Kodak Theater before I hit the sofa to watch the main event.

I promise to post my best and worst fashion picks later this week.  I predict an incredible showing by Hailee Steinfeld, whom I LOVED in True Grit, and a fun, multicolored gown on Helena Bonham Carter, who wore two different-colored shoes to the Golden Globes.  Maybe she'll go for a peacock-type look this time?  Whatever it is, it won't be boring.  Melissa Leo, host Anne Hathaway, and Michelle Williams are likely to have great gowns, too.  They've made good style choices in the past.  The real question (for me) is whether Penelope Cruz will come to support hubby Javier Bardem, who's nominated for Best Actor, and if so, how good she'll look in a gown as a brand new mom.  My guess is that she'll look phenomenal.  She's perpetually one of picks for best dressed.

What do you think?  Who will take home Oscar?  And what are your fashion predictions?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Book Report Time

You probably came across today's blog because you did a Google search using the term "Book Report" and then either "Niki Burnham" or the title of one of my books.  Since I can only assume you typed in those phrases because you're actually writing a book report, I hope you find today's blog useful.

I decided to write about book reports because I can pretty much guess what time of year it is by the subject lines that pop into my e-mail inbox.  If I'm getting e-mails with headers such as, "Help! Book Report on YOU!" or "Royally Jacked Questions" or "Sticky Fingers--Very Important!" I know that it's the week before Thanksgiving (when many book reports seem to be due), one of the last two weeks in February (ditto) or the week before April break.  Such is the cycle of the school year and projects.

While I am truly flattered that you chose one of my books for a report (I'm going to assume you chose it, because if you were assigned the book and didn't want to read it, I don't want to know), and I am glad you took the time to find my website and e-mail me, it's not the best way for you to get information for a book report. 

First off, book reports usually have a due date.  My inbox doesn't, so when I'm traveling or on deadline, it's easy for me to get a few weeks behind on reading and responding to e-mail.  By the time I see your e-mail, it's quite possible your deadline will be long past.  Second, if I answer one person's book report questions I'd feel obliged to answer them all, and I don't have time to write, eat, AND answer book report questions.  (I'll admit it, it's mostly because I like to eat.)  Finally, there are a lot of questions I can't answer, even if I want to answer them.  "What's the theme of Goddess Games?" is a question only you, as a reader, can answer.  And I couldn't begin to tell you about symbolism.  Again, these are for the reader to interpret.

That being said, I don't want to leave you frustrated!  There are a few things you can do to help with your reports:
   1)  If you're writing about a specific book, go the main page of my website and click on the link for that book.  There is an excerpt (which you should have already read, since you have the book and read the whole thing) and a section called Behind The Scenes.  The Behind The Scenes might be helpful to you. 
   2)  You can go to the About Niki page of the website to find out more about me.  Anything that you see there is fine to use in your report.  There is more biographical info on the Press Kit page, but that requires downloading a PDF file.
   3)  There is a page on the site called FAQ with answers to common questions about each book, about my writing process, and about where I get my ideas. 
   4)  You can always search this blog by clicking on the keywords at the bottom of posts.  That will bring up all the other posts on that topic.  To help you, I put the titles of all my books in the keywords at the end of this post.  Click the one you want, and it will bring up every blog about that book.

Hope you find that helpful!  Again, as much as I wish I could explain themes and motifs, if I took the time to answer every e-mail I receive about book reports, it would mean that no more books of mine would be published, because I wouldn't have the time I need to write them and would miss my own deadlines.  Which, in turn, means I would not eat.  (Did I mention that I like to eat?)  I work hard to meet or beat my deadlines, just as I know you work hard to turn in your book reports when they're due.

However, if you think this is rather uncool of me and that an author should simply write your book report for you (because admit it, some of you who have e-mailed me in the past were hoping for this!)  I urge you to check out author Pete Hautman's website.  He's the author of several phenomenal books you may have already read, such as Godless, Blank Confession, and Hole In The Sky.  Pete has an entire page of book reports ready to go, right here.  I think you'll get a better grade if you follow my suggestions, rather than going for Pete Hautman's reports, but that's your call.  Good luck!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Royally Crushed

Happy news this week:  my publisher, Simon Pulse, has decided to re-release all three books in the Valerie Winslow series (which includes Royally JackedSpin Control, and Do-Over) in a single volume with the new title Royally Crushed.

Royally Jacked, the kick-off book to the trilogy, was an ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers and was named to the New York Public Library's list of Books for the Teen Age.  As you can imagine, I'm thrilled to see these books released as one volume (especially in time for the royal wedding in fun is that?)

Best of all, the book also has a gorgeous new cover.  What do you think?

If you've had a hard time finding any of the books in the series, or were waiting to get one until you could get all three to read at once, this is the volume to grab.  It will hit store shelves on March 22.  In the meantime, if you'd rather pre-order online, here are links to booksellers now offering the book:

•  Barnes & Noble
•  Books-A-Million
•  Borders
•  IndieBound

Note:  Some booksellers have the wrong cover art displayed...if you click on on one of these links and it displays a cover that says Take A Chance on Me, that's still Royally Crushed.  Some websites are still updating to show the new cover (which I adore!)