Hi All,

Did you all get a chance to see the exquisite Carey Mulligan on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last night? She’s plays the main character, Maude, in the film Suffragette and spoke with Stephen about suffrage and how hard women fought for the vote.  They showed a clip of Maude telling a man why they have to fight so hard, and it brought tears to my eyes.  I cannot wait to see this film, and I wish I could round up all of of you to see it with me.  Because I can’t do that, I thought I’d have a little giveaway instead.  Leave a comment for me about what you’re looking forward to seeing in the film or whatever moves you to say.  I’ll randomly choose a winner (or two) to receive a copy of A MAD, WICKED FOLLY and some swag.


I had the great fortune of meeting with my friend Helen Pankhurst (Sylvia Pankhurst’s granddaughter) when I was in England in July (she’s an extra as well as one of the expert sources) and she told me all about filming the movie and seeing her family come to life on the set.

Me and Helen Pankhurst in Pimlico, London

Helen Pankhurst and Sharon in Pimlico, London

So leave me a comment below and I’ll choose a winner on October 27th, which also happens to be my birthday!

Here’s a clip from the movie.  I def you not to cry through the entire thing!


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Hi all!  Lots of fun stuff happening this summer.  I just got back from England and I will have some neato things to post in the upcoming months.  In the meantime you can see some photos in my Instagram and Twitter feed, including one with Helen Pankhurst, granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst and such an amazing person.  It was incredible to be able to sit and chat with her about her grandmother, women’s rights, and life in general.

But…the big news is that my publisher, Viking, has given me the go-ahead to reveal the cover for my next book, THE FORBIDDEN ORCHID, which pubs in February.  My friends over at The Reading Nook very kindly did the reveal for me and they are running a giveaway.  Enter to win an ARC of ORCHID here: ORCHID cover reveal.

Isn’t it beautiful?


“I felt as though the doors to a new world were creaking open. I would set my feet on the path I had only dreamed of. I would help Papa, and I would see those orchids blooming in the forest.”

Staid, responsible Elodie Buchanan is the eldest of ten sisters growing up in a small English market town in 1861. The girls barely know their father, a plant hunter usually off adventuring through China, more myth than man. Then disaster strikes: Mr. Buchanan reneges on his contract to collect an extremely rare and valuable orchid. He will be thrown into debtors’ prison while his daughters are sent to the orphanage and the workhouse.

Elodie can’t stand by and see her family destroyed, so she persuades her father to return to China once more to try to hunt down the flower—only this time, despite everything she knows about her place in society, Elodie goes with him. She has never before left her village, but what starts as fear turns to wonder as she adapts to seafaring life aboard the tea clipper The Osprey, and later to the new sights, dangers, and romance of China. She comes to find that both the world and her place in it are so much bigger than she’d ever dreamed. But now, even if she can find the orchid, how can she ever go back to being the staid, responsible Elodie that everybody needs?

You can pre-order here:

Barnes & Noble  The Book Depository  Amazon 

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Today is the day! A MAD, WICKED FOLLY hits the shelves in its new cover and in paperback form. There is some additional content including a Q & A by me and some book club discussion questions.

Many people have wondered why the cover change. Often the publisher chooses to make a change to appeal to a wider audience. My paperback publisher, Speak, chose a more literal cover, and I love it! The model is amazing and she reminds me of Vicky and her fiery personality.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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My book is a year old today and I thought I would chat a bit about what I learned about publishing during this year.  Also there’s a little advice mixed in.  Feel free to ask me questions in the comment section.

1. Publishing a book is an enormous endeavor and there’s really nothing to prepare you for what’s to come aside from experience.  Many of my friends and family thought my job was over once I signed the contract, but I knew from publishing three non-fiction books that my work was just beginning. Fiction edits, however, are much, much harder.  It’s more personal, for one.  After all the characters are created from the deepest part of you. You will go through many edits that will feel as though someone is pointing out personal flaws. You will feel freaked out and vulnerable. Copy edits, in particular, are excruciating.  Nits will be picked, plot holes will be poked, and characters called into question.  It’s normal to feel defensive and embarrassed, but really the editors are on your side and they are trying to help you create the best book you can.  Take their queries graciously and always thank them because the education you will receive is priceless. At the end of my editorial process I had learned so much about my writing and I grew into the author I wanted to be.

2. The months leading up to your pub date and after are going to be filled with anxiety and elation.  This is normal.  ARCs will be sent out, reviews will come in, and your Twitter followers will grow.  You’ll go to bed unable to sleep because you’re too excited.  You’ll go to bed unable to sleep because you’re too depressed.  Don’t worry. You are not going crazy.

3. You are now a public figure.  (I’ll wait while that soaks in a bit.) It matters not how well your book sells because you, my darling, are now in the public eye.  Anyone can say whatever they want to say about you.  They will take offense at something in your book, despise your characters, adore your characters, and maybe, if you’re lucky, do the fangirl thing (this is the best).  These are all wonderful things, even the yucky bits. My agent told me that the wider your audience, the more haters you will attract.  Also, people from your past may pop up and say crummy things about you or want something from you.  These are the costs of being published.  Take it or leave it.

4. Don’t expect to make a ton of money this first year.  In fact, do not crawl under the covers and refuse to come out when your first royalty statement comes in.  People (usually non-writer people) often think a book contract is lucrative.  This is because most of the authors they know of live in really cool mansions (read: Stephen King, JK Rowling, James Patterson) and live awesome lifestyles.  The truth is, most of us make about what a first year teacher makes (including yours truly). People don’t understand that your advance may be the only money your book earns, and that it might not even earn out.  They don’t understand that you only get paid twice a year, and you have no idea what that amount will be.  A slim to none royalty statement does not mean your book was a failure.  You wrote a book, got an agent, had it published.  All things that are nigh on impossible for the average Joe to accomplish.  Your job is to get back in your chair and write another book.  That well of creativity is deep and you know it.

5. Don’t expect your publisher’s publicist to do everything for you. I have a fabulous publicist at Viking but there was nothing in the budget for swag.  No biggie, I made my own.  I hired a local graphic art company who used the original art for my cover (ask your editor for this).  He made beautiful bookmarks for me.  I created a tie-in to my story, which is a Tennyson poem from a book that Will gives Vicky.  My father, an artist, recreated the illustration on the front and I copied the poem for the back.  I also made t-shirts with the illustration to sell and for giveaways on my site.  Jen Parrish, an amazing jewelry designer, made a custom necklace for me, which I gave away on my site.  Just a side note: Have your bookmarks printed on matte paper. It’s easier to sign them and the ink doesn’t smear.

A gift for you!



Jen’s beautiful necklace

6. You are a debut author and you will not be sent on a whirlwind book tour.  Those are expensive and reserved for authors who sell many, many books.  Besides, your time is best spent writing that second novel.  (Read this awesome post by Shannon Hale about appearances and signings.)

7. Book signings can be nerve-wracking so be prepared. Have a few standard messages ready.  If you’re signing for young adults, ask them what they do or what they like, etc., and try to wrap that into your message. Buy yourself some ultra-fine sharpies, color coordinated is nice.  FYI, traditionally the page you sign is the title page.

8. Treat all bloggers equally.  I don’t care how popular a blogger is or how many followers they have.  If someone wants to interview me, I’m thrilled and honored.  So give every blogger who reaches out to you a consideration.  You don’t have to say yes to everyone but I did and I don’t regret it.  I’ve had nothing but fun and was treated with nothing but respect.  Bloggers are your friends, by the way. This is largely a hobby for them and they spend a lot of time promoting and discussing books.  They are also some of the nicest people I’ve ever met and I’ve made some very good friends.

9. Throw yourself a book party, dammit.  Don’t be shy.  You are a debutante only once, so go for it.  Spend some of that advance and do it up right.  Here is what I did: I rented a few hours in a train station turned party space, bought wine, beer, and sodas, canapés and cupcakes from Costco, and recorded music on CDs that reflected my book’s theme. I invited the local newspapers and pinned up flyers.   I rented costumes from a theatre store and had two young friends dress as suffragettes.  They handed out bookmarks, temporary tattoos and other swag. My brother and husband tended bar and my mom and sister laid out the food. Barnes & Noble did my book sales and I even had t-shirts printed up to sell.  Most of all, I bought a really beautiful 50s style dress with a big poofy skirt—you gotta look nice, people.  I signed books all night long, chatted with friends, and danced a little with my husband. I was really nervous about signing books so I had people sign a journal while I signed their book, just to take a little of the pressure off.  They wrote so many sweet things and I have a nice memento of that evening and a record of who was there.  I wanted to do a reading but I truly did not have time. I didn’t expect it but there were presents, too.  My aunt sent me a lovely bunch of flowers, my writer friends gave me little trinkets, and my family bought me mermaid themed gifts.

Art by Aunt Shirley

Art by Aunt Shirley

My dad and a couple of suffragettes

My dad and a couple of suffragettes

2014-01-26 12.15.46

10. Do not obsessively check GoodReads and Amazon, or Google your book.  Most mean, troll-y reviews come out just before your book is published and about two months after, so avoid, avoid.  There are GoodReads reviewers that have gained a huge following from writing snarky reviews complete with GIFs.  These will hurt if you let them.  These will carve deep groves in your sensitive writer-ly soul, if you let them.  Do not heed the advice about growing thick skin.  Thick skin is for rhinos and elephants.  You need a thin skin if you’re going to be a writer.  If you’re not sensitive how will you be able to write?  So get out that sunscreen, protect yourself from the harmful rays of negative reviews. DO NOT READ THEM.  I repeat.  DO NOT READ THEM.  No good can come of it. Your psyche has no understanding of trolls and will take their words seriously.

For your reading pleasure, the following is a collection of real GoodReads reviews written about bestselling authors:

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling

I’m not going to comment on the literary shortcomings of this book, the clichés, the painfully long narrative, the fact that the characters will not think about an issue for months, but then suddenly it becomes important again. Smarter people than me have already said all this.

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

Those of us who don’t relate to Holden see in him a self-absorbed whiner, and in Salinger, a one-trick-pony who lucked into performing his trick at a time when some large fraction of America happened to be in the right collective frame of mind to perceive this boring twaddle as subversive and meaningful.

And one of my own:

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

Oh, what was that? I’m sorry. Did your clothes accidentally fall off by themselves? Were you wearing the emperor’s new clothes? Oh, wait, no. You took off your clothes to prove that you’re the equal of all the male artists despite the fact that the thought of stripping naked makes you want to run away in terror. If they jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?… Despite the book’s premise of feminism and freeing oneself from society’s boundaries, this book failed to execute the message. I did not like it, and I absolutely hated the main character.

11. DO NOT.  I repeat. DO NOT RESPOND to mean reviews.  Do not have your posse respond either.  Everyone has a right to say or think what they want about your book.  It’s their right.  Refer to item 3 above.  You are now a public figure.  Do not engage, stalk, or contact reviewers to try to change their minds.  You can, however, talk to other writers, your family, editor and agent about it, if you have to. Just don’t make your gripes public.

12. Do respond to good reviews on Twitter with a thank you, or at least a favorite, especially if they tweet at you.  That’s just good manners, after all.

13. Engage with your readers that reach out to you.  Especially now when you’re building a readership. It doesn’t take long to reply and let them know how much you appreciate their words.  This, to me, is most important to young adults who often look up to writers and may have writing aspirations of their own.  I adore my readers and it means so much to me when they write.  I mean, after all, these are teenagers and young adults.  They have better things to do but instead they sat down and wrote an email or letter to tell me how much the story meant to them.  Nothing can compare with how happy that makes me.  This is why I write.  As an added bonus, many of these readers are now my friends. I truly, truly care about them.

14. Be thankful and humble.  You are on an amazing journey. You get to tell stories and touch people’s lives.  What an honor.  What an absolute honor. Oh, and congratulations!

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Although I will not be doing a formal signing at ALA at the end of the month, I will be there, ready and willing to sign books if you have them.  If not, I will be packing bookmarks, which I will happily sign for you.  I plan on wandering the halls, hanging out with friends, and searching the crowd for Twitter pals I’ve always wanted to meet in real life.  I would LOVE to meet you so if you want a signed bookmark or want to hang out for a wee bit or just want to say hi, tweet at me and I’ll let you know where in the vastness that is the McCormick Place I am.  (If there’s cake, chances are I’m there.).  Please don’t feel shy about saying hello or asking me questions.  I really would love to meet you.  And if we’ve chatted on Twitter or met before please remind me who you are. I have the memory of a sieve, especially while I’m in revisions, which I am at the moment.  Also I am kind of shy and large crowds overwhelm me sometimes so I might have a slightly freaked out look on my face.  Also I don’t get out much so I may remind you of an overzealous puppy.

So…can’t wait to see you all at ALA!

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Hi All,

Rachel Silberman, one of the hosts of the awesome YouTube channel RayKayBooks, is doing the neatest author scavenger hunt. There are four different hunts, and I’m in the contemporary/historical segment, which is the third one.  There are so many, many neat prizes and you won’t want to miss it. I’m giving away a hardback copy of A MAD, WICKED FOLLY and a 30 minute Skype visit!  I will show you around the farm (if I can keep the goats from eating my phone) and we can chat about whatever you’d like.  It ends on January 7th so get going.  All the deets are here: RayKayBooks.

Also I am still giving away signed bookmarks and a page from Will’s book with original art from my father.  The giveaway ends on the 15th so if you want one send me your address through the contact me form and I’ll send it out to you!

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Barnes and Noble is selling loads of signed books today so I thought I would do a little virtual signing of my own.  Contact me through this link  with your mailing address and I will send you a signed bookmark made out to whomever you like and a page from the book Will gave Vicky, which includes original art from my father and the Tennyson poem, The Mermaid.  I’m happy to sign as many as you need while supplies last.  Offer expires on the 15th of December and is open to domestic and international readers. Happy Holidays!

A gift for you!

A gift for you!

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I will never forget the first time I saw a field of poppies in full bloom.  I was living in England at the time and I was on my way to Bath with a friend.  We took the scenic route through to Stonehenge and as we crested a hill the view opened up and there it was: a massive field of red poppies.


The poppy (Papaver rhoeas), or corn poppy, as most people know, is the memorial flower of veterans.  In many countries, especially in England, the flower is given out or sold by charities to be worn on Veterans Day (called Remembrance Sunday in Great Britain).  Farmers consider the corn poppy, however beautiful, a weed.  Possessed of a pepper pot shaped seedpod, the corn poppy only needs a little breeze to shake its millions of tiny seeds everywhere.  The seeds can lie dormant for years, just waiting for the right conditions.  In World War I the soil disturbances—trenching and bombing—provided this, bringing long-buried seeds to the surface, and soon the poppies covered the barren soil with beauty—a place of death had sprung to life.

The corn poppy became a remembrance symbol when Canadian Colonel John McCrae wrote a poem that described the poppies shortly after his friend and former student, Alexis Helmer, was buried.

McCrae threw the poem away, but an officer dug it out and sent it to the press in England where it was published by Punch magazine in December 1915.

In Flanders Fields by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1818)

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.


We are the Dead.  Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.


Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.


In 1918 Moina Michael, an American YWCA worker read McCrae’s poem in a Ladies Home Journal and was inspired by the last part of the poem: ‘if you break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders Fields.’ She decided to always wear a poppy.  The notion spread, and today paper poppies are made and sold, raising funds for veterans every year.


When I saw the field in full bloom that day, I remembered Colonel McCrae’s poem, and I thought about the power of writing and how it can help us deal with our emotions through terrible times.  I thought about how our words can continue to touch people long after we’re dead.  McCrae found beauty, humanity, and meaning after the horrible aftermath of Ypres through this astonishing poem. The Flanders Field poem still makes me cry each time I read it.  And I can’t look at a red poppy without thinking of our veterans and how much they’ve given us, and what we owe them.  What we will always owe them. Such is the power of words.

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I’m so thrilled to be able to share the new paperback cover to A MAD, WICKED FOLLY, which will be released June 2, 2015, complete with some extra content. There’s something really magical about seeing your cover for the first time, and it’s equally exciting to see what the designers come up with for the paperback.  Penguin’s art department is incredibly talented and so I knew the artists at my paperback publisher, Speak, would do an amazing job.  Dana Bergman, my pb editor, wanted to make sure to remain authentic to the book, hence the Edwardian-era details on the girl’s clothing. I absolutely love this cover.  It reminds of Vicky, standing defiantly, unwilling to abandon her dream of becoming an artist.  So what do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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