Wednesday, April 15, 2015

16 Things I Learned from Mexcio

1. Spanish is a beautiful language even if you don't understand what people are saying

2. Humidity makes it really hard to dry your clothes on a hanger overnight.

3. Feeling soft sand between your toes is better than a dish of ice cream.

4.  Finding and collecting shells is fun no matter how old you are.

5.  People who are playing in the waves of the ocean laugh a lot.  It's hard to be in a bad mood when you're playing in the ocean.

6.  It's hard to walk on the shore of the beach for very long.

7.  I will sit through a time share sales pitch to get a good deal on a couple of excursions.

8.  I will not buy a time share no matter how may sales people you make me sit in a room with.

9.  Spotting fish and sea creatures is almost as much fun as playing in the waves.

10.  People take a lot of selfies on the beach.

11.  Bodies come in many shapes and sizes. When everyone is wearing one, no one really cares how you look in your bathing suit.

12.  Buffets get old pretty quickly.

13.  Sunscreen really does work.

14.  If you break it, you really do buy it.

15.  Bartering is something that not everyone is good at.

16.  In the end, there's no place like home.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Truth About Us Winner and Reviews!

Hello hello. I am back from Mexico.

Wow. That's almost like a poem. Right?

SO...I put the numbers into random number generator for the YASH extra draw for my blog and the number was 68, so GRACIE was the winner. I have replied and hope to be sending off her prize soon.

In other news....The Truth About Us is officially on the shelves and available for order online. I hope that you can pick up a copy for your YA contemporary collection. Or ask for it at your local library.

And hey, if you read it and you like it, give it a good review on the bookstore website. Or like a good review on Goodreads. These are easy things to do to help a book's shelf life and keep authors writing more books!!

I'm super excited that reviews in from professional reviewers are great so far! Here's a sample!
"Touching on all kinds of topics, from homelessness, absent parents, and girls and boys clamoring for attention for all the wrong reasons to the ever-present theme of the haves-vs.-the have nots, The Truth About Us shows many different truths and calls readers to examine themselves, as well as root for Jess and Flynn." - VOYA Magazine
"Gurtler has created a thought-provoking YA about class divides and prejudices and how appearances can be far from the truth. Readers will easily empathize with the main characters, while some of the secondary cast
have compelling stories of their own. " - RT Book Reviews, 4 1/2 Stars

"Flynn comes from a different economic class, and as the couple learns to overcome the challenges that are brought about by the gap in their relative statuses, Jess becomes a more developed and well-rounded character. Other subplots, such as her family recovering from an accident, add depth. This title will pair well with Simon Elkeles's Perfect Chemistry (Walker, 2008), another story dealing with building strong emotional relationships with people who come from vastly different backgrounds. VERDICT A tender, layered romance.—School Library Journal

Thanks for entering the YASH and my own contest and let me know if you spot THE TRUTH ABOUT US out in the wild!!!



Thursday, April 2, 2015


HELLO AND WELCOME to the Spring 2015 YA Scavenger Hunt!

Add up clues, and enter for our prize--one lucky winner will receive one signed book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are SIX contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the TEAL TEAM--but there is also a red team, a gold team, an orange team, a blue team, and an indie team for a chance to win a whole different set of signed books!
Directions: Below, you'll notice that I've listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the teal team, and then add them up (don't worry, you can use a calculator!). 

Entry Form: Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.


I am lucky enough to be hosting
 Amelia Kahaney
on my website!

Amelia Kahaney grew up an easily sunburnt child in San Diego, CA and Hilo, HI. At age 12, self-exiled from surf camp due to lack of coordination, Amelia sought refuge in her local library and spent the rest of her summer filling up yellow legal pads with her first attempts at fiction. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in English, she lived in Portland, Oregon and Quetzaltenango, Guatemala before landing in New York City, where she worked a hundred jobs and lived in a dozen apartments before studying fiction writing at Brooklyn College. Amelia's short stories have appeared in Best American Nonrequired ReadingOne Story, Crazyhorse, and other literary magazines. The Brokenhearted, her novel for teens, was published by HarperTeen in 2013 and is now being translated into French, Turkish, Korean and Japanese. It has also been optioned for film by New Line. The book's sequel, The Invisible, will be published in October. Amelia lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and son.

The Brokenhearted Series: THE INVISIBLE     
In the riveting sequel to the reimagined superhero story The Brokenhearted, Anthem Fleet takes on a powerful new villain and makes some startling discoveries about her family and her past that will forever change her.

Taking up where The Brokenhearted ended, the sequel finds Anthem Fleet attempting to return to a normal life after an experimental surgery that left her with a bionic hummingbird heart and a terrifying new strength. But she can’t shake her suspicions about her father’s connection to the Syndicate and she can’t ignore the cries of help in the crime-ridden city of Bedlam. She finds new promise in her relationship with Ford, but after his lifesaving surgery, the Ford Anthem knew slips away.

When a mysterious new group called “The Invisible” starts attacking the privileged North Siders, Anthem has to step up and be the New Hope that Bedlam needs, or Bedlam will fall…once and for all.

Buy the Book Here!


How Rose Broke Bad: A Brokenhearted Prequel

 Author’s note: This is an ode to THE BROKENHEARTED's sultriest villain, a woman named Rosie. I had so much fun writing her that I wanted to pick up her story at an earlier point in her messed-up life, specifically the moment where she leaves her conscience behind and takes a step toward who she will later become.

You don’t need to have read THE BROKENHEARTED to enjoy the story, but if you like what you read, check out the book and its sequel, THE INVISIBLE, for more mayhem and madness in Bedlam City. 
     The date they’d picked for her robbery was Rose’s fourteenth birthday, but she kept this to herself as she trudged across the Bridge of Brotherhood with two Syndicate boys she’d just met and her cousin Yvette, four years older and Rose’s last remaining family member. With her father dead, Rose’s birthday only hurt. And if she said something, Yvette might try to make a big deal of it, which would be horrible. Or she might do nothing at all, which would be even worse. It was better not to take the risk.
     “Stop brooding,” Yvette muttered, bumping shoulders with Rose as they skirted a police checkpoint on the north end of the bridge. “It’ll be easy. I’ll be right there the whole time.”
     Rose nodded and tried not to be terrified. Yvette had gone to the Syndicate at sixteen and was an old hand at it now, cocky and sure of herself, her hair dyed a lurid orange and styled always in two low, tight knots at the back of her head, proudly displaying a SYN tattoo at the nape of her neck.
     It was Yvette that came to get Rose after her father died, sticking her head inside the moldy living room and calling her name just after Rose had opened the last can of beans left from her father’s store downstairs, looters having run off with most everything else. The damp from the flood had worked its way deep into Rose’s lungs by then, and her cough was bad enough to shake her awake at night. So when the cousin she hadn’t seen in years ordered her to pack a bag, Rose did. By then, she was too beaten down to do anything else.
     “This way,” one of the boys grunted. The foursome turned on Hemlock and headed west along the Midland River. Rose’s face prickled in the October air and she tried to make her mind go blank and hard like she imagined the Syndicate pros did, to prepare somehow for what she was expected to do.
     The shop was sweet and tidy, situated at one end of a quiet, curving street in the kind of nice neighborhood that didn’t exist anymore south of the river. It had a red awning that said GREENGROCER and was the kind of place Rose’s father, Brill, would have admired. He often talked about moving north as soon as business picked up in the little store attached to their tumbledown house in the Lowlands, a place now so empty and decrepit after the floods and riots that people had started calling it the Deadlands.
     “You sure this is it?” Rose stalled. The shop was a small business, not a giant Megamart like Yvette had told her to expect. Her confidence that she could do this had never been high, but standing in front of the place, she was suddenly certain she couldn’t go through with it.
     The two boys, meant to act as witnesses and lookouts, both nodded. One of them—Rose thought his name might be Ray, or was it Jay?—spat on the sidewalk. The other one stifled a yawn.
      “Moe changed it this morning,” Yvette shrugged, referring to the pimply kid in charge of new recruits back at the squat. When he’d handed out Rose’s assignment, she’d stared at the floor. This was her go-to stance since moving to the squat in the old mall a month before. Look at the floor and nobody will notice how scared you are. Look at the floor and nobody will hurt you. Look at the floor and it’s almost like you’re not really here at all.
      “Too many guards at the big stores now,” Ray/Jay cut in. Bedlam City had been plagued by food and medicine shortages after the floods, and the larger chain stores had begun to hire barely-trained guards with Uzis to act as guards. The smaller shops couldn’t pay for such luxuries.
     Rose peeked through the immaculately clean shop window at the woman behind the counter. Her greying hair was tucked under a kerchief, her veined hands busy snapping beans and putting them into plastic bags. The woman looked as if she worked night and day to keep the produce nicely stacked, to dust the small packets of medicine and toiletries kept behind the counter, to place with care the loaves of bread, the lettuces, the boxes of cookies. Everything was arranged in a soothing order. Rose had been raised by Brill to appreciate the sanctity of items on shelves, the near-holiness of a clean shop, the rightness of exchanging money for goods.
     She shot a pleading look at Yvette. There’s no way I can do this, the look said.
     As if understanding her, Yvette grabbed her hand, jerked her toward the entrance. “Just like we talked about. Use your blade. They won’t hurt you. It looks bad, killing a girl.”
      “Easiest assignment ever,” one of the boys muttered. “You’re so lucky.”
      Rose snorted. She used to think of herself as lucky. She was a South Side girl with stability, which was rare. She had a dad, and he had an income. But the floods got rid of the income and the riots had gotten rid of her dad. She wasn’t lucky anymore. Her mind flashed on the day the flood hit their house, she and Brill bailing out the freezing water from the store, two of her stuffed animals she hadn’t seen in years floating incongruously in the scummy green water, knee-high, then waist-high, sloshing all the way past the counter. She still smelled mold in her clothes, in her hair. Still heard Brill’s hacking cough in the weeks following, while the neighborhood emptied out and he insisted they stay and try to fix the store. 
     They stayed through the food shortages, through their neighbors—their customers—fleeing the neighborhood by the truckload. But still, Rose remained lucky. Until the riots, Rose had been a lucky girl indeed.
      Rose moved from the window to the doorway of the store, Yvette at her side.
     “Get your blade ready,” Yvette hissed in her ear, moving behind her toward the shop. “And stop thinking about Brill.”
      Rose clutched the blade in her pocket and walked in, her eyes glued to the old woman, who was beautiful, who had made the store beautiful. Brill would have appreciated the seamless way the produce led to the dry goods, the abundance of produce piled neatly in the straw baskets.
      But Rose wasn’t here to admire the shop. Her job was to get the contents of the register. If she did it, she was in. The Syndicate would make sure she was taken care of, fed, and trained. There was a clear trajectory to it, Yvette had explained. You started as a runner and moved up from there, always paid enough so you could eat, always given opportunities to earn more. And most importantly, once she joined, Yvette emphasized, she would always have what Yvette called “a family.”
     This was what Rose needed most of all. After Brill died, she’d stayed on, alone in their moldering house with no electricity, no phone, eating from cans, petrified and lost. She might still be sitting in rotting living room right now if Yvette hadn’t come to take her away.
      Rose moved closer to the register where the woman sat, her heart thudding, the blade sweaty in her palm. Rows upon rows of chewing gum and candies lined the shelf in front of the counter, Rose’s vision blurred with panic so that the colors of the packages bled together. A store should be orderly, like the way we want the world to be, her father often said. That’s how this store was. Orderly, maintained with love.
      “Can I help you?” the woman asked. There was kindness in her voice, the question itself something Rose had been trained to say from age seven, when she was first allowed to mind the store if Brill had to do inventory in the back.
       Rose began to shake. This wasn’t her at all. She thought about turning around and leaving, sailing out into the October afternoon. It wasn’t too late to be a good person.
      But then a young man in the back looked up from the frozen foods he was cataloging. His eyes narrowed with suspicion as he assessed the girls. “You all want something?”
     I’m a good person, Rose thought, perversely indignant though she had no right to be. After all, she was here to rob him. I’m a shopkeeper’s daughter. But how was he supposed to know that?
     “Say it,” Yvette ordered her, teeth clenched in a tight smile. “Go to the counter and do it. Has to be you.”
     The woman’s eyes traveled from Rose’s face to her worn shirt with its ragged collar, her sweater coated in a thin layer of grime. The marks of poverty were on her now, Rose realized. The woman had something in her hand below the counter. She might already be pushing buttons on a phone, summoning the police. And this was how it would be forever now for Rose, a torrent of realizations clicking together now. She was poor, from the flooded side of town, the stench of mold impossible to get out of her clothes, off her skin. It didn’t matter whose daughter she was, because her father was dead. She was a nobody who had nothing. And even though it wasn’t fair, even thought she’d been a good daughter, had done everything right, nothing would change these facts. The house in the Lowlands was worth nothing now, after the floods. She’d used up what money she could scrape together on Brill’s burial. There were only two options for her survival--the Syndicate or the South Side Home for Orphaned Youth, rumored to keep kids locked in with an electric fence. There was no way Rose was going there.  
     The man moved closer to them, a heavy glass bottle in one of his hands, a broom handle clutched in the other.
     “Drop the phone,” Rose blurted out, shocked that she’d actually said it. She moved toward the woman with her blade out, waving it, jabbing it wildly over the counter. “Open the register.”
      And then it was like Yvette told her it would be. The woman nodded and swallowed, placing her phone on the counter and pushing the NO SALE button Rose had pushed a million times herself to get to the till. Yvette threw a canvas duffel bag onto the counter as the man ran toward them, the bottle raised in his fist.
      “Gonna have to do better than that,” Rose heard Yvette say behind her. Then there was the distinct click of a gun being cocked.
      “Fill it,” Rose barked, not recognizing her own voice, not daring to turn around and see Yvette’s gun, terrified it would go off. The woman’s beautiful hands gathered up the bag, moving far too slowly. “Faster!”
     To her right, Rose saw the man back up a step, his nostrils flared with fury.
    “They’ll be here any second,” he growled. “Best leave now before it escalates.”
     Rose understood this to mean leave before the cops kill you. Wasn’t that exactly what happened to her father, who’d only gone downstairs to lock up the store when the mob of angry South Siders filled the street? Who, encountering Uzis aimed at innocent people, had tried to reason with helmeted riot police and wound up paying for that mistake with his life?
     Rose had watched from the window, ordered by Brill to stay inside.
     She’d screamed at him to back away, but Brill thought he could reason with the police. Because her father believed in the law above all else, and that unshakeable belief brought a cop’s metal baton down upon her father’s tender head with the hideous, indelible sound of a watermelon dropping from the back of a truck.
     Yvette’s reply came just as the sound of distant sirens reached them. “We’ll be gone before they get here.”
     “Zip it up,” Rose yelled at the woman, seeing only her father’s open eyes staring up at her from the street. The sirens penetrated her senses enough so that she took the bag and slung it over her shoulder, backing out of the store with the blade in front of her, Yvette at her side.
     Outside the shop, the two boys perked up, no longer bored. “Nice and clean,” they grinned.
     “You did good,” Yvette said, slapping Rose on the back and sticking the gun back in her jacket pocket. “Now we run.”
     Legs pumping, lungs on fire, Rose ran. A few blocks away, a white van idled, SYN spray-painted on the bumper. When they piled in, Rose realized she was smiling. For the first time in a while, she felt something other than dread.
    "Told you you’d like it,” Yvette said once they were in the van.
 Rose wasn’t sure if she liked it, but suddenly it didn’t matter. Because she’d won. She was protected now.
      “You’ll get good at it, take to it like a duck takes to water,” Yvette had promised her a week ago. Rose blushed, hearing this. Yeah right, she’d thought. But now, speeding over the flooded river back toward the ruined half of the city she was unlucky enough to call home, Rose believed that she might.
       The date Moe had chosen at random was perfect, she saw. Because her life would forever cleave at the moment in the little shop when she stopped being Brill’s grieving, helpless daughter and started to become someone else entirely. Someone brave and mean and strong.
     “Want to hear something funny?” Rose clutched the bag of cash and leaned toward Yvette, who nodded in the back of the van. “Today’s my birthday.”

Awesome! Now don't forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of signed books by me, Amelia Kahaney, and more! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 5. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the teal team and you'll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!


To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author! SARAH STOMP


Leave a comment on this blog and I'll make a random number draw for a signed THE TRUTH ABOUT US and a BRAVE MONKEY keychain!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

When Your Character Does something the reader doesn't like...


One of the interesting (sometimes scary) things about being an author is seeing how people react so differently to the same book -the same work.  So full disclosure, yes, I do see reviews. The bad and the good. Sometimes with the bad my feelings are hurt. Sometimes I want to explain myself. Sometimes a bad review hits hard because there’s grains of truth in it. And sometimes I have to shrug and know that people come to stories with their own likes, dislikes prejudices etc. and there’s nothing wrong with their personal reaction to something I’ve written.

When I do classroom presentations to students I show them different reactions to the same book. For example, these are all pulled quotes from THE TRUTH ABOUT US.

This book is wonderful and is guaranteed to make you smile at least 10 times and probably make you cry at least twice. Highly recommended.” (Hurray! I’m not a hack. I make readers smile!)
“Thankfully I'll be burning this one from my memory pretty quickly.” (Damn I suck. I knew I should have stuck to sales)

“Very gripping and well written. Loved the characters.” (Wow! I can write after all!)
“Pretty much everything was lacking in this book: the storyline was cliché and the writing was weak”
(Man. I wonder if Starbucks is hiring)

“What could be a trite tale, in Gurtler's capable hands becomes a wholly believable, sensitive story sure to please fans of contemporary YA.”
I’ll stop at a good review, because EGO but trust, there’s always going to be another indifferent or bad one after a review that makes my heart sing!

Anyhow, it’s interesting to watch the reaction of the kids when I share a bad and a good review back to back like this. The kids usually get really defensive about the bad reviews and try to stick up for me. Mainly I think it’s because I’m right there. I’m talking to them (hopefully) we’re connecting on some level so I’m a real person and they want to defend my feelings.  But I tell them my point is not to make them feel sorry for me (but of course I appreciate their support and concern) but to show them that story effects people in different ways and that’s okay. When you put yourself out there, you have to take the good with the bad.
And sometimes as an author you make decisions that you kind of suspect are going to be unpopular, but it’s the right choice for that character or that storyline.  I’m sure Veronica Roth and Stephanie Myers could attest to this much better than I can for some of the unpopular reactions to their final books in their series.

But this is about Flynn.  And a little bit of explaining myself.
And this post is for people who have already read THE TRUTH ABOUT US.  If you haven’t read it yet, you might want to wait before you read the following. I’ve tried to be non-spoilery…but just in case, you have been warned!

I want to explain that I understand why people are upset. Without spoilers, Flynn  does something in this book that makes some readers unhappy. I didn’t like what he did either but here’s my take on it.  Flynn is not a perfect guy. I hope I kind of allude to that throughout the story. I love Flynn. I see his good and his potential much like Tess does.  Tess is presented to the reader as very flawed, but we get to see her positive changes as she grows in the story because it’s told from her point of view. 

But in the end, Flynn does something that he KNOWS is wrong too. To me, he’s acting much like Tess, he’s turning to self-destructive behavior to cope. And it’s how he’s coped with life hardships in the past so it’s familiar. But he knows it’s wrong. He’s not a bad person, he regresses and he makes a mistake. And realizes he wants to change.
And that’s kind of what I think the story is about. We all make mistakes. Can we be forgiven for those?

That’s kind of what I hope the reader can think about when they hate what Flynn does.  Do mistakes always make us bad people, or do they make us good people who do bad things, and can these mistakes be something we can learn, grow and change from. 

For some people the answer might be NO.  And that’s okay. His behavior might be unforgiveable to them. And that’s okay.  People come to stories and situations with their own experience, beliefs and feelings.  Maybe it’s something I didn’t do well enough as an author to change their view, maybe it’s something else.
But I’d like explain how it worked for ME.  I forgave Flynn. I understood why he did what he did, and it was to hurt or punish himself.  Being caught made him realize that he was also hurting others. And he cared enough to realize that he was being a jerk and that he cared enough to try and work past it and to try and see if he could ask for forgiveness.

And the reader gets to decide whether or not they can forgive him.  But I hope you can think about it a little and understand it wasn’t thrown in there to disrespect girls or their trust.

I guess I do care enough about Flynn and Jess to know why you’re mad.  But I also know why he did what he did. And to me there was a reason for it. And I believed that Jess was right to forgive him, because she believed in him too.
And in my mind, he will be true to Jess from now on. ;)