"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Sunday, June 29, 2008

An Awesome Workshop

So no kidding. For the past three days I attended the Awesome Austin Writers' Workshop (AAWW for short) hosted at Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smiths' house, and moderated by Cynthia.
First off. Cynthia Leitich Smith is amazing. She was born to moderate and speak (and I guess write, also). She'd not only critiqued everyone's piece ahead of time, she'd prepared discussion questions for each manuscript to get the discussion stirring. She knew just the right things to ask, and her amazing knowledge of children's literature would have shone through a closed coffin. (Hmmm. Grim reference I know, but it seems to fit).

Check out Betty X. Davis, Jane Peddicord, Varian Johnson, Anne Bustard, and Mark Mitchell...

And April Lurie...

Aside from the fantastic feedback I got on the first ten pages of my WIP
(my favorite comment was "I didn't know girls could write fight scenes"),
I benefited from being able to listen to how 26 people critiqued manuscripts.

Here's Jennifer Ziegler, Carmen Oliver, and Alison Dellenbaugh...

Saturday night we got to attend a posh catered party at Helen Hemphill's trendy Austin loft. OK, I haven't been to anything this fancy since...since like ever.

Check out the spread.

And the fab view of Austin's own independent bookstore, BookPeople...

Now to digest and revise :)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Five on a Friday Night

I still made it on Friday (with 1.5 hours to spare)!

So here's my five for the week.

1) Today was the first day of a three day workshop. I had about 45 minutes devoted entirely to me! My first ten pages. Can you say "awesome feedback"? It's actually amazing the great stuff I got (from 26 critiquers). Can't wait to incorporate everything. But I will. I'm not (officially) starting another revision until I get back from Virginia.

2) And speaking of Virginia, I leave on Monday with the kids. So excited!

3) Here's my new motto for summer (such a crazy time). Do what you can, and accept what you cannot do. Don't stress yourself out or ruin your life. Take a break from the hectic nature of the crazy schedules and relax!

4) Is anyone else really looking forward to the release of Journey to the Center of The Earth?

5) Speaking of the workshop, it's at a rather famous author's house who happened to have an enormous stack of ARCs she'd finished and was giving away. I came home with tons of new books! The kids were thrilled. I was thrilled. OK, nothing for my husband, but he's reading The Count of Monte Cristo right now which will keep him busy for a while anyway.

Happy weekend all around!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ok, so there are two of them

Over at Bookworms' Reviews, there are two bookworms. We already know I loved the first review. And here's a snippet of the second review.

"Step aside, move down, you unworthy Newberry Award winning books, and such! This book qualifies as the greatest, most AMAZING book in the history of books! I couldn't put it down."

Read the whole review here.

Do you see me smiling?

Word of mouth

You know you've been playing Transformers way too long when you start snapping every time your kid opens his/her mouth. So after two hours on Sunday, I set down Prowl (who was mangled beyond belief) and took a break.
"Mom, you're the very best mommy ever."
The snapping was forgiven. The two hours was worth it. We've played more every night since.
Yeah, I love the Transformers.

Here's my proof on spreading the word. Wherever you go, get in the habit of recommending good books to people. If they have kids the same age as yours, tell them what your kids are reading. Bring it up. After all, it makes for more interesting conversation than talking about whether we'll ever get rain in Central Texas.
Here's how you start:
"So what are your kids reading these days?"

So the phone rings the other day. I check the caller ID.
It's the dentist.
I'm thinking it must be a reminder call for a cleaning my husband has scheduled or something. Or they need me to pay a few more thousand dollars for dental work. After all, why else does the dentist call?
But I pick up the phone and it's my hygenist.
"Hey, Tricia, what was the name of those books you were telling me about?"
(This is from two weeks before)
(Her son is the same age as my son and loved the Captain Underpants books).
"Supernatural Rubber Chicken. By Debbie Garfinkle."
She writes it down and says she's heading to the store to buy them right now.
So it works.

Now to get in the habit of covertly suggesting my own book once it comes out without seeming overly pushy.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My First Review

And it's from the perfect target audience!
Life is good when a review starts like this:
"The Emerald tablet was THE best book I read in a long time!"

Read the whole review here.
Thanks, Bookworms' Reviews!

On a sidenote, I'd like to step back and thank Shrek for a moment.
You know the fun karaoke part at the end of Shrek 1? Love that part! And apparently so do my kids.
My son has been singing "I like big butts and I cannot lie" constantly. Everywhere. Around the house. At the grocery store. At Kung Fu camp.
And I can't get the tune out of my head! Ack! Make it stop.

Now off to work on stuff.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Plan your week now!

Technically, since I quit the day job, summer is one big vacation. But really, with the camps and kids and all that...well, it's just not. I've found summer way busier. It's the varied drop off times at varied locations, coordinating activites, packing lunches, and remembering splash days.

And on a side note - I put water in the inflatable pool yesterday, and the kids played for two hours out there. Right. Two hours. Getting splashed numerous times was a small price to pay.

Since we head to DC (OK, actually Northern Virginia) next Monday, this is my last week to get a ton done. The good news: I finished all workshop critiques I needed to do. So what's on the plate for this week?

1) Get it in gear for my book website content. OK - I need to at least get an outline here of what I want and get some basic planning done so my web designers can start thinking about it.

2) Come up with a first draft for my speech on Goals and Time Management next month for Austin SCBWI. Sure, I know it's summer and tons of people will be on vacation, but I'm still so excited!

3) Three day writing workshop (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). Yay!

4) Plan my three weeks in Virginia.

5) Begin to mail ARCs of The Emerald Tablet out to reviewers.

On the ARC thing, I received the best compliment in the world from one of my critique partners. Her son read the ARC, staying up until 11:00 to finish it, and is ready for the sequel! Talk about making my day!
Kids are the best :)

One final note: Head over and read HipWriterMama's super inspirational quotes for the day! Thanks for the inspiration, HWM!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Almost Summer

Subtitle: Five on a Friday

Our schools have been out since May 30th, it's reached 100 degrees numerous times so far. So what makes tomorrow the first day of summer? Yep, I know - the summer solstice and all, but here in Texas, it's always summer.
And I love it!

Five for the week:

1) Getting away from the house to write is amazing. So productive. I finished a first pass through revisions of T2KOS. Here I had all these ideas for reordering some of the storyline, but when I reread, the current stuff seemed to work. So I added in my critical elements and will reorder as needed on the next pass.
I love revisions - especially given direction.

2) I have a Googleganger. Actually I have two.
So the first one, PJ Hoover, does this amazing artwork and stuff. She travels around the country redoing people's homes, workspaces, play areas and way more. And she has some amazing art. You should check her out.
She emailed me a few days ago after googling her name.

The second one, PJ Hoover, would make a nice lead when The Emerald Tablet is made into a movie.
What? You didn't know about the movie plans? Me neither, but we can dream.

So, do you have a web famous googleganger?

3) I've finishing up copy edits for The Emerald Tablet. They should be done today!

4) Love is driving ten minutes out of the way on the way to camp so your daughter can see the giant candy cane outside Lammes Candy. But I did promise, and it made her smile.

5) Ahead for the weekend/week are 30 critiques for a writing workshop I'm attending. And yay that I get 30 comments on my submission as well. It's the beginning of a sequel, so I'm curious to see if it works on its own, has too much backstory, too little backstory. You know. Basic sequel stuff we all think will be so easy and really is not.

Hope everyone has a great weekend! Get out and enjoy the sun. And pray for rain here in central Texas.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Sidenote: This week I'm a coffee shop writer. My son is at golf camp from 8-11 each day, so I'm parked here at the free wifi coffee shop and getting tons done. Even with the internet available, the lack of home distractions is amazing.

Second sidenote: I changed my icon. No, it's not the final cover yet, but it's much closer. You can see it better here.

Back to Peripherals.

It used to be something I never thought about, but now, looking for creative, peripheral characters has become fun.

Let's face it. So many peripheral characters are cliche. There's no other way to say it. Did you ever read Sol Stein On Writing? He has a great section on making memorable characters who aren't cliche.
(I think it's Sol Stein). I'm not at home right now, so I can't check.

The basic idea is when a very minor character makes an appearance, put just a little more thought into them. Eliminate the first description which comes to your mind. Maybe even eliminate the second. Surprise your reader.

The private investigator
The waitress in the diner
The personal trainer

The mere mention of each of these characters conjures up a common description we expect from them. And, you know, sometimes it's OK to use some elements. But why not twist the characters a little - give them just a hint to make them more memorable.

I'm working on it. So why not give it a try.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Parties, Philosophy, and Pictures

Who knew we'd have a philosophical discussion over breakfast tacos at Rudy's this morning? Yes, it's a BBQ place, so meat was on the mind.
My son asks me, "Mom, if you got shot..."
"...and you were a cow..."
another pause. I look at my husband and bust out laughing.
"...would you want to be just dead or dead and eaten?"

I know my answer. What's yours?

Anyway, Saturday night was the big release party for Shana Burg. Her book A Thousand Never Evers had me almost in tears during the excerpt she read. Must find out what happens to the cat. Kind of scared to find out.
The party was great. Wine. Cheese. Books. People. And I even remembered to get some pictures.
(Yes, they are blurry - I had to macro setting turned on for my camera).

Here's me and my Blooming Tree Press editor, Madeline Smoot, holding the debut book. And wait - hold the presses. I have a new cover (almost). It's getting finalized and then I'll post. But let me just warn you - it rocks!

Here's, let's see, from left to right, Brian Yansky, Greg Leitich Smith, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Francis Hill Yansky, Me, and Jennifer Ziegler.

And here's me with the author of the day, Shana Burg. Does she look excited or what?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Five on the Thirteenth

I didn't realize until last night. It's Friday the Thirteenth.
In my mind, this means good news all around. Not unlucky as Jason (is he the right scary guy) made up think. Oh, wait, wasn't Jason from Halloween.
(Insert quick Google search)...
OK, yep Jason. Check here. Think they're getting a lot of hits today?
These movies were never my thing. But I loved The Shining. Oooh, I get a chill just thinking about it.
Must re-watch.

Here's my five. It's been a fun week.

1) Talk about quality writing time. Loved this week as far as that went. Maybe it was the knowing the kids would be in camp until at least 3:30 each day. No 2:45 pickups. The extra time made a huge mental difference. I wrote over 6000 new words on my WIP and am to page 100 on this first revision.

2) Sad for a second. My son is at Cub Scout camp this week. Last night he came home and asked up about the Iowa Tornado. He's seven, so he's just starting to really understand how sad the mommies and daddies would be.
If you get a chance, and don't mind a few tears, head over and read Kelly's poem for today.

3) Let's scoot it back for a funner note. Met with my editor this week. Had a 3 dollar cup of coffee. Talked about covers. Yes, The Emerald Tablet may get a new cover. Also got some copy edits to review. I've never seen so many little sticky notes on a book.

4) Who's headed to BookPeople tomorrow night for Shana Burg's release party? She'll be having a party at 6:00 for her debut release, A Thousand Never Evers. Wait, you don't live in Austin? Then order her book here.

5) Next on our list of movies to see? Kung Fu Panda. Let's see. We practice Kung Fu. Panda's are cute. Popcorn is yummy. And I have a $25 gift card for the movies.
And while we're on the topic of movies, any see the preview for Beverly Hills Chihuahua? If you told me about this movie, I'd think, "Uh, yeah, right." But the preview was laugh out loud hilarious. We will be going to see it.

So how was your week? Post your five on your own blog, and have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I've officially shifted

Today, amid the 100 degree heat, I met a friend (Mizfit for those of you interested) for coffee. Neither of us had coffee, but really that's beside the point. You know sometimes it's just nice to get out for adult conversation.

We met at noon. When she asked how my day was going, I piped up, "I've written 2000 words already today." Then I laughed and mentioned how that was the third day in a row.

"I've shifted," I said, and I realized it was true.

See the thing is, I just quit the day job back in April. Before that, I never wrote during the day. All writing took place from 9-11 pm, and on the rare opportunity I had a chance to write during the day, I never could/did. I was a nighttime writer, and that was that.

She, being Mizfit, mentioned many people comment on her blog about "the type" of person they are. Comments like "I just can't exercise in the morning," or "I'm not a night person."
Have they tried?
Have they tried for any length of time?
Do they really want to change?

So here's my thought. You can change. You can shift. At first, maybe it won't be easy. Words may not flow. You might plunk out 200 words and call it a day. But the next day push for 100 more and keep pushing. Shift your life around to how you want because you can.

So when do you write? Have you ever shifted? And how about exercise? I used to wake up at 5 am and hop on the elliptical. Looking back, I may have been crazy, but if I wanted to again, I could.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

My lists. Your lists. That's step one.

Sheri asked a funny question earlier today. When I make my list of five goals on a Monday, do I always get everything done?
After I finished laughing, I replied. Not hardly!!!

The truth is I rarely get it all done. So why make the list then? What's the point?

1) Making a list of goals lets me know what I need to/want to accomplish. I actually have to sit and think about what needs to get done.

2) Once I have my list of goals, I can easily see which one(s) are the most important. Some have deadlines set externally, and these are normally the most important. Others have deadlines imposed by me.
Note: All goals should have deadlines. Deadlines can change.

3) When I finish something on the list, I get a huge sense of accomplishment crossing it off. When I don't finish something, I reassess how important it is, and adjust accordingly. I don't beat myself up if something doesn't get done. If it's really important, I do it. Why? Because I know I have to.

So as not to bore everyone to tears, I normally don't put the same goal down over and over. Otherwise you'd all be thinking, "Hasn't she finished that stinking guest bathroom yet?"
OK, you probably are thinking that. And no, I have not finished the guest bathroom yet. But it is getting done - little by little.
But as a note, the item does stay on my personal To Do list here at home.

So here's the question: Do you write down your goals, and if so, how often?

Monday, June 09, 2008

I feel famous

So at the Saturday Austin SCBWI meeting, they handed out these. Wow, that's me! The star on there makes me appear so glamorous I thought.

BTW, I didn't participate in the 48-hour reading challenge, but I did read one book over the weekend: The Adoration of Jenna Fox. Very good read. Totally not what I expected the book would be about. Like not at all. I kept thinking, "hey wait, this is science fiction."
Have you read it? What did you think?

And real fast - I got another 13 hour night out of my daughter. After swimming again. Same thing. Fell asleep on the sofa at 5:30PM. Slept until morning.

Today starts huge revisions on my WIP. I'm so excited. I have clear direction, lots to do, and am looking forward to it. Sometimes revisions can seem so exhausting, but really, it's no different than the start of writing a brand new book. You think "Wow, how many words to I need to write?" But day after day, hour after hour, and the words add up quickly.
Same with revisions. It is a lot to do, but by the end of today, I'll have taken a huge bite out of it.

So instead of five goals for the week, I give you... Oh, OK, I'll go with five. Not for my loyal readers, but to keep myself honest!

1) Work on revisions for WIP - T2:KOS. I won't put a "get through it once" or a "get halfway through" because I have to do what is right. I can't rush it.

2) List out web content I need to come up with and put a date by each item when I'll be done.

3) Go through kids toys (while they are both at camp) and get rid of the Oriental Trading Company stuff and other random c**p. Also go through kid's clothes.

4) Get form notarized about random credit card theft! Seriously, all this person did was sign up for a bunch of clubs (Netflix, Blockbuster) under a fake name. What's the point? Do they then get videos mailed to them, and if so, wouldn't that be totally traceable? People are strange. And not all nice.

5) Find 20 things to give to charity around the house.
Note: Toys will count as 1.

It's a good week to clean out and give stuff away. Make it a goal! Decluttering helps clear the mind and makes everything better! Even revisions, I hope :)

Happy Monday!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Five on a Friday

Yay for Friday. Charcoal is on the grill. Beer in the fridge. Kids quiet (super yay here). And we're ready for the weekend. It's been a muggy day here in Austin, with rain sprinkling on and off throughout the day.

So here's my five for the week:

1) Almost done with outlining/planning revisions for T2-KOS. My goal is to start the actual revisions of it Sunday night.

2) We saw Prince Caspian today. I've already emailed Kelly offline, but I loved the movie. I agree with everything she says in this post, but still - I'd see it again.

3) MY DAUGHTER SLEPT FOR 13 HOURS LAST NIGHT! She's 3. This is so unusual as in never happened before. We got home from swimming lessons yesterday and I was feeling all guilty for being so tired, but then I looked over and she'd zonked on the La-z-Boy chair. She asked to be carried to her room and slept all night.
My conclusion: With all the running around we did this week, I wore all of us out.

4) My family is ready for another Tortoise. We love King Tort and kind of want him to have company for the rest of his 180 year life. We already have a name picked out for his life long companion: Nefertorti.
And can I say, King Tort is already way more potty trained than my 9 year old Yorkie.

5) I finished Rick Riordan's Battle of the Labyrinth last night. Loved it. The ending all tied together nicely, and I'm already waiting for number 5.
And just for note - I'm still listening to that third in a series audiobook. When the kids are home, I don't get much audiobook time.

Happy weekend! Write hard. Play well. And blog about it!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

If you think you should do something...

... then 9 times out of 10, you should.

You know the things I'm talking about. There things that come along in life and put you out of your comfort zone. You wonder whether you should make a phone call, send an email, confront a situation. You think about it. You put it off. You even ask your spouse, almost hoping they'll talk you out of it so you won't be put in that uncomfortable zone.

Well here's the secret. These are exactly the kinds of things you should do. Not only are they normally the right things to do, these are what make you grow as a person and help you become more than you currently are.
And isn't this what we all want? To grow toward reaching our goals?

And because it's nice to tie everything to writing, why not think about this for your characters also? Make your characters go beyond themselves and grow.

On a side note: Is chocolate considered a "natural food"? Because let me tell you, I'm seriously wanting some over here. Must stop at H-E-B tomorrow. I got a coupon in the mail for a free Starbucks Chocolate Sampler, and it's calling my name.

Second sidenote: My daughter fell asleep at 5:30 pm tonight. It's now 10:55 pm. Any guesses on what time she'll wake up?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Compliments and External forces

So yesterday I took the kids for a bike ride. My 7-year-old son on his own bike, and my 3-year-old daughter on the baby seat on the back of my bike. Riding along, my daughter says to me, "Mommy, you have a big bottom."
"Thanks, Sweetheart," I say. "You have a little bottom."
"Thanks, Mommy."
And, really, I think she did mean it as a compliment.

So in my revision planning process, I've added two new line items to each scene. Yes, I do write up each scene before the first draft, and now again in the revision stage. First draft stage it's mainly a "what happens" kind of thing.
But now as I'm going back and refining it, I've added two new line items:

1) Reason for the scene - There has to be a compelling reason to have this scene in the book. Actually there needs to be more than one compelling reason. Don't they say each scene should do at least two things. So for each scene, make sure it has a reason to exist. We've all heard this before, but when you go through and list them out, it definitely makes you think.

2) External conflict - What external forces can be introduced to complicate the scene? These can be things as simple as a thunderstorm outside when two characters are out for a walk to more interesting forces like crazed seagulls attacking girls sunbathing on the beach and trying to steal their Pringles.

I do want to note I've read books where the external forces are way overdone, and mostly these are adult novels or other books I feel are working hard to increase word count. Every time the MC needs to go to the bathroom, they shouldn't have a fight. Seriously, cut them a little bit of slack every once in a while or the external forces will look too forced.

Monday, June 02, 2008

June Ahead - Catch it now!!!!!

School's out. Summer is here (OK, we are talking Texas here. It's been in the 90s for the last couple weeks). I've got weeks with both kids home. Weeks with both kids at camp. Weeks traveling.
So instead of weekly five goals (though they're always good), I'm going with a broader scope this time around. I'm looking at June. I'm dividing up my summer in chunks. June 30th I leave for a few weeks to visit the 'rents in VA, so before then, here are my major goals to accomplish.

1) Plan out a speech on time management and goal setting I'm giving in July at our SCBWI meeting. I'll start like this:
Step 1. Make a list of goals :)

2) Nail down my web content for my trilogy website. Because, you know, middle graders shouldn't be on MySpace, but they should be able to check out a great book website!

3) Read a bunch of submissions for a workshop I'm attending at the end of the month. There are something like 30 submissions I need to read, and, oddly enough, I can't wait! I'm so excited to get such a great peek at so many author's critique submissions.

4) Really bust a move on revisions for T2-KOS. At this point, I don't believe I'll make it through one whole time; there are just way too many changes I want to make. And it seems like the more planning I do, the more planning I need to do.

5) House stuff - Finish my guest bathroom. All I need is a faucet. And hooking it up of course. Oh, and towel racks and toilet paper holder and stuff like that. Plan patio cover. If I write "Make patio cover" would that be way too optimistic?

6) Eat as many natural foods as I can (OK, I admit the irony of this as I sit here drinking a Diet Coke). Soda doesn't count.

So here you go. Divide your summer into chunks, and plan the first one today.
And, as always, have a great week!