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

Monday, September 29, 2008

My Rant, Rare Moments of Bliss, and Book Updates

It's Monday. I've decided to cover the broad spectrum today.

First off, a rant on my part. It's rare I take a stand on much in the world, and if I do, it's normally in the privacy of my home with only my husband to listen. But when chemicals get added to milk products endangering babies lives, it infuriates me. Honestly, how can people do this and live with themselves? This is such a criminal act it astounds me, making me want to boycott everything coming out of China (which I know isn't the right answer either).
Which when it comes right down to it is a near impossible task.

I'm learning to be a smarter consumer. I'm checking labels on every food item I pick up, checking where it is manufactured. And what annoys me even further is when labels do not contain this information. They have something cryptic like "Distributed in Ohio" or something printed on them. I don't want to know where something is distributed. I want to know where it is made. And if it's not printed on the label, then my mind begins to only assume one thing.

But if I go even deeper (and trust me, this doesn't happen very often), we have to look at our society as a whole for part of the blame. We've become a society of excess, needing to buy cheap plastic toys which break within 5 minutes to stuff in goodie bags, buy plastic princesses to top birthday cakes, knowing they'll be pitched in the garbage as soon as they're taken off. It's actually a bit sickening when you stop and think about it. We drive this need for excess and because we throw so much away, we want it to be inexpensive.

OK, enough on that, before I get too annoyed. But please tell me, does anyone agree?

On to rare moments of bliss...
In the past couple weeks I've had 2 moments where I've felt like I've almost become one with nature. Once on the drive back from Oklahoma when I stopped to fill up the car. I looked out over the flat Texas landscape into the setting sun and was overcome with such a feeling of bliss and beauty and joy it brought tears to my eyes.
And then again, while sitting outside my daughter's dance class, reading a book, I looked up across a parking lot to a tree filled with birds singing again in the setting sun.
It's such a beautiful world we live in. I love my family, but find when I'm truly alone, I'm able to appreciate the beauty of our world around me so much better. When worries are lifted from my mind and responsibilities are off taking a hiatus.

Did anyone really think I could be so deep?

To finish the post off, I finished reading The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine by April Lurie. I loved this book. Didn't want to put it down. I highly recommend it (for whatever that's worth).

I also finished Feed by M. T. Anderson. This was different. It's the best word I can use. It made me think and has been doing so since I read it. It's a unique enough book I recommend reading it and it certainly is discussion worthy. Beth K., I'll email you more offline.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Five on a Friday

Happy Friday! It's ACL time here in Austin, which for those not from these part, is a gigantic live music festival. Are we going? No. But this year we are going to an ACL party. So we're getting closer to that rebirth in our lives when we start doing fun stuff like this again.

Here's my five for the week:

1) Read and finished Everlost by Neal Shusterman. Great book. The more I turned the pages, the more I loved it. And I'm happy to learn a sequel is in the works! If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend it.

2) Reading The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine by April Lurie. I didn't want to put this down last night, but seeing as how I knew 6:00am would roll around quickly, I did. It's fantastic, great! Love this book! Totally you should read it.

3) And since we're on the subject of books, I'm headed to the bookstore today for some birthday gifts. And, well, since I'm there, I may as well get myself a few new books, too. I plan to pick up Feed by M. T. Anderson and Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr.

4) I totally did not give Sheri credit for her fabulous photo I posted on Wednesday. I think it's because I nabbed it from her blog so long ago. OK, sometime over the summer. Sheri took the photo of the shadow of the window on the Berber carpet.

5) Yet again, mythology pops up everywhere. In Kung Fu this morning while doing mountain climbers I made a joke about having to go back to the bottom of the hill and push the rock up again to which someone quickly "got" my reference and continued on with the Sisyphus joke. If you don't know who Sisyphus is, he's the guy in Hell who has to push the rock to the top of the hill, watch it roll down, and push it up again. Over and over. Hence never-ending tasks are often referred to as Sisyphean tasks.
And how's that for a mythology lesson for the day?

Have a great, fun, inspiring weekend!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Flashback Showing, and Photos for my Office

Yes, another "show don't tell" example.

OK, without Googling (don't you love using that as a verb), who knows where "Cherry Ice Cream Smile" comes from?

I was reminded of this in a song I listened to the other day. I'm thinking in lyrics it's even more important to "show don't tell". I sang this line a million times growing up, and somewhere in my mind an image was formed based on this description. Lush. Red. Delicious. What does it conjure up for you? And what a great example of something we can incorporate into our writing. It makes me hungry just thinking about it.

As for revisions, I've added in my necessary scenes so far this week. Now to go back and make sure scenes are long enough, descriptions are crisp and sensual enough, and all that other good stuff that is part of the unending phase we call "revisions".
I've cheated this week and written the last two days during the day (as opposed to my normal nighttime writing routine - well, actually, in addition to it). I'm sneaking in another day of writing today though tomorrow will be all marketing. And Friday I'm off somewhere external away from the WiFi to do even more.
At least these are my plans. What are yours?

I nabbed a photo from Beth Kephart the other day, finishing off my three photo spread (interspersed throughout) I plan to put up in my office. But actually when I look at the wall, I see there is room for four photos. Beth takes the most amazing photographs, so I'll be checking her blog daily to see what I can get.
Thanks, Beth!

Fun Emerald Tablet news - my son has been bringing it to class to read before school and during DEAR time (Drop Everything and Read). He was proud it was the longest book anyone was reading in his 2nd grade class, and yesterday while driving he even brought up how Gary can grow back his limbs (yes, you need to read the book to find out). Remember, we're talking an advanced civilization here.

One more note - my editor, Madeline Smoot, is running a fun series on her blog regarding explanations of Science Fiction and Fantasy. If you get a second, pop over and check it out. And ask a question of her in the comments. She loves getting questions.

Hope everyone is having a great week.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Can I just write already?

Don't get me wrong. I love all this marketing stuff. I enjoy spending hours on end making school visit brochures and bookmarks in Adobe Photoshop. I think it's fun filling in interview questions (because, seriously, who doesn't want to be interviewed?). I love playing with PowerPoint.

And a funny side note on the PowerPoint thing: For my presentation in Oklahoma I added a few subliminal messages in the presentation using the ancient Lemurian Alphabet. Things like "Read The Emerald Tablet" and such. The problem is I uploaded the presentation to someone else's machine - someone who doesn't have this nice special font installed. So instead of cryptic letters, my full-on subliminal messages showed up big as day.
On a positive note, it did provide for some humor in the presentation.
And thankfully, there were no messages like "PJ Hoover is awesome" or "Buy 100 copies of my book" hidden in there.
Lesson learned here - create a JPEG and use that next time rather than just using the text. No matter what.

Anyway today I need to write. There's this WIP I have going on, and I need to add a scene (or two). It's part of a larger revisions. There will be many revisions going back focusing on other things. And nothing is pressing that must get finished today. Or if there is, please don't tell me about it until tomorrow.

One final thing.
My book release party is scheduled!!!!! If you live in Austin, please come!
When: Sunday, October 26th, 2008. 4:00pm
Where: BookPeople, Austin, TX

I'll try not to blog ad nausaeum (how do you spell this word) about it until them.
Oh, wait, as Yoda says, "There is no try. Only do."
So does this mean I will blog tons about it or not. Your guess.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday Roundup - Roadtrip, TV, and Thanks!

I'm not sure I can fit everything into a neat, orderly five, so here goes with the randomness.

First off, thanks to both Christy and Carrie for the awesome "I Love this Blog" award. I so appreciate it (even if I'm not so great on the passing it along thing - I love so many blogs!) If you don't read these gal's blogs, you should add them to the list! They're awesome and fantastic and funny.

Next, thanks to Tabitha for the meme tag! One of these days I will get to it!

OK, I'm almost to the Oklahoma stuff, but first, The Emerald Tablet got a review from The Book Muncher. My favorite line from the review:
"The Emerald Tablet was an interesting, unique, and fun story. I loved the originality of the new continents Lemuria and Atlantis besides the seven accepted ones."
Thanks, Book Muncher!

Now, on to the Oklahoma trip!

What a blast. I got to meet awesome fellow 2k8 classmates:
Barrie Summy, author of I So Don't Do Mysteries
Stacy Nyikos, author of Dragon Wishes
Jenny Meyerhoff author of Third Grade Baby

I drove up from Austin. OK, so I took the long way, 35E instead of 35W, because I love driving through Italy, Texas. Why? Because they provide such creative and wonderful views from the highway. It looks like the Starship Pegasus is for sale in case anyone is interested in some awesome interstate property. Not to mention this way I get to go through Waxahachie where they almost built a particle accelerator.

Sidenote: The drive was beautiful. Oklahoma was awesome with really cool sulfur and rock formations along the highway.
Here we are, kicking back after my drive up from Austin.

Now, the speech. They had to turn people away at the door! We spoke to a full house of 150 people, all of whom were wonderful and interested and laughed at our jokes. Not to mention they told us how much they enjoyed our speech and were thrilled to get free advanced readers of The Emerald Tablet afterward!

We signed books from 12-1, and Tammi Sauer, author of Cowboy Camp, who I happen to share an agent (Laura Rennert) with, came by.

Then off to the gorgeous public library where the filming was set up for our interviews.
Here's me getting my makeup "freshened".

And here's me on the set!

You can read about the trip here on Barrie Summy's blog, also.

Then, when it was time to leave, they felt sorry for me that I had to drive the 6.5 hours back to Austin. OK, am I nuts? Am I the only one who looks forward to the idea of driving 6 hours in solitude while listening to a fantastic audio book?

Have a great weekend everyone! The kids are thrilled I'm home, and we're ready to relax!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Off to Oklahoma

I've started typing words mixed up more and more. Like in the title. I typed "ot" instead of "to". Of course in that case it could be the alliteration I was after or maybe I'm just excited about my trip to Oklahoma!

So I'm leaving in about 10 minutes. Are you ready Barrie? From Austin to Oklahoma City where I pick up the fabulous Barrie Summy, author of I So Don't Do Mysteries which comes out this December.
What? You haven't pre-ordered it? It looks darling and would make a great Christmas gift.
Actually, check The Class of 2k8 website for all your Christmas shopping needs. After all, there's no shipping on Amazon when you pass up $25. And books make excellent gifts. Especially, might I add, The Emerald Tablet which will be perfect for that later elementary school and middle school reader or any fans of sci-fi or fantasy.
I digress.
I'll pick up Barrie and we'll drive on over near Tulsa to spend the night with the awesome Stacy Nyikos, author of Dragon Wishes which comes out this October (yes, that is next month). Also joining us is Jenny Meyerhoff whose fab book, Third Grade Baby is already available. I have my copy already in the car for her to sign when I meet her.

Note: Barrie, I vacuumed the car out just for you. I figured if we got hungry we could stop and get something rather than scrounging for goldfish and pretzels under the car seat.

Our panel is tomorrow at 10:45 (just in case you happen to be in the Oklahoma area). Room 5. Then from 12-1 we sign books at Best of Books (I brought ARCs - get them while they're hot). And then it's the TV interview.

The ultimate question. Or answer. Black pants. Brown top.

I'm loaded to the gill with swag. Bookmarks. Postcards. Business cards. Brochures.

OK, enough already.

And for the car ride, I'm listening to The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray on the iPod.

So I'm off. If I don't comment on your blogs, please forgive me! I'll be back on Friday, ready to actually, dare I say, spend some time writing!

See ya!

Monday, September 15, 2008

School Visits - What's my niche?

So I've been trying to put together info on my website and a brochure for school visits, and in doing so, I need to figure out what I can talk about. There are the general ideas. I'll get up and talk about writing, character development, and plot. But isn't this what everyone talks about?

I thought about it, and now I believe I've found my niche - being science-fiction and fantasy, a love of mythology, and the desire to spread the good word of goals and time management to kids as young as they get.

Here's the inside of my brochure.

And if you pop over here, you can check out the same information on my website.

So who's ready to hire me?
And if you have a suggestion, please email me!

Status report on Ike: Not a drop of rain here in Austin. I had to water the plants Saturday night. Not that I'm complaining. We were safe, kept power, and overall had a great weekend.
And I've turned off the A/C here for the first time in months and have the windows open, letting cool air permeate the house!
I love fall! It's my favorite season.

And I'm off to Oklahoma Wednesday morning. I'll post more tomorrow with details, but here's one big thing: I'm going to be on TV!
OK, not just me. All us 2k8ers going are getting interviewed. Still. I'm so excited!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Five on a Friday

In the blink of an eye, or maybe it's the eye of a hurricane, everything changes.
And, no, the hurricane is not supposed to hit Austin. We're supposed to get rain and winds and lots of refugees from the coast, and hence, our city is actually preparing admirably.

But, yeah, this does mean what previously was a jammed packed weekend is now way more on the light side.

My son gets out two hours early today.
My daughter's preschool gets out early.
My all-day Editor's Day with Jill Santopolo and Cynthia Leitich Smith is postponed. Not canceled, only postponed.
One birthday party of two is canceled.

So a much less hectic weekend. And it drives home the lesson that it is better to over-prepare, and we should always be flexible. And look for the positive. Am I bummed the writing thing is not on? Sure. But if I believe my own advice (which I happen to), then this is all for the greater good. It gives me more time to work on revisions beforehand. It lets me go to the other party on Saturday afternoon with the kids. It let's me buy Jill's book Alec Flint, Super Sleuth, The Nina The Pinta, And The Vanishing Treasure before the workshop and get her to sign it for my son!

Anyway, I digress. Can all the above count as (1)?

OK, now the rest:

(2) You know you're learning how to market yourself when you pick your husband up at his office for lunch and on the elevator ride down you have an overwhelming urge to hand postcards and bookmarks out to a group of total strangers all trying to avert their eyes.

(3) You know you're learning how to market yourself when you run in to someone in Wal-mart you used to work with in Chicago 10 years ago and you spout off how you quit engineering in April and promptly pull out a bookmark for their 4-year-old daughter.

(4) I've neglected to mention I finished The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. My recommendation? Go buy this book. I loved it. It meshes so well with me and what I like to read. I didn't want to put it down. Thank you Kim for sending me your ARC! Can I keep it???

(5) The Page Flipper posted a fantastic review for The Emerald Tablet!
My favorite line from the review?
"Creativity is something P.J. must have in plenty."
Thanks so much, Chelsea! I really appreciate it!

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Encyclomedia and Uses for Engineering

So I'm told meade is not all bad. Awesome critique group member and friend Chris says this is so, and, as I trust her, I'm willing to give it another try. After all, her husband makes it! She suggests something fruiter, and sent me the most awesome link to do my own research. So yeah, I need to go buy a bottle.
Got meade?

Next week I'm participating in my first panel as an author at the Oklahoma Encyclomedia Conference. And here's where my past life career of engineering comes in handy. When it comes right down to it, I'm pretty gifted with computers. A lifetime of programming and designing chips will do that.
I maintain the Class of 2k8 website, I maintain my own website, and I can design some fancy PowerPoint slides. So I've been working on my speech and my presentation to go along with it. I have about 12 minutes to talk, and now have plenty of material. Yay for PowerPoint!

And just FYI, who knew there was so much to learn in The Emerald Tablet? The book is packed full of useful classroom information. Just check out this nice slide if you don't believe me.
(Note - If you see a typo, please let me know!)

I'm working on my swag abilities, and have Class of 2k8 fellow member Stacy Nyikos to show me how. Check out these awesome postcards she designed to mail to librarians in the area.
(Note - We know Thursday is not the 20th! It was corrected before mailing!)

On a different, but so darling I couldn't help but mention it, topic my son brought home schoolwork he's done thus far for the year. He's 7-years-old and in the 2nd grade. Here you can see some of his favorite things.

I asked him about it and he got the sweetest look on his face.
Man I love kids!

And, yes, the song "I Want it All" is the one by Queen. While I do my Bohemian Rhapsody karaoke, he'll be right after me ready to do his own Queen tribute!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Attention to Details, Roots in Myth

As mentioned, this past weekend we headed to a Renaissance Faire (very small) and a Dino exhibit here in Austin.

First, the Dino Dig. I guess it's traveling around the country or something. Pretty fun tromping around the woods learning about all sorts of cool species. Not to mention I held a REAL dinosaur bone which was around 165 millions years old. Or something like that. I didn't write it down.
Anyway, one thing I loved (and love in books, movies, etc) is attention to detail. Take for instance this barricade to keep people out:

Make sure to click on the picture to make it bigger so you can read the sign.
Love when creators of things take the time to add details like this.

Another interesting point was the roots in mythology. Special to my heart, given the name of this blog.
For example, there is Quetzalcoatus.

And a Medusa Fern. (*note - I do try to keep the kids' pictures out of the blog, but my daughter refused to cooperate. We compromised here)

The point being mythology is everywhere. We can't escape it!

Final note - There's nothing like a little sword fighting and gnawing on a giant turkey leg to get the creative juices flowing. Lacking was any ale or meade, but it was a kid park, and I took care of that once I got home. Speaking of which, has anyone actually tried meade? My bold boss bought me some once, and it was yucky. Not quite as bad as Saki, but I rank them in the same category. Ugh!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Five on a Friday

It's been a wonderful first-week-of-free-time week here. I've rocked and rolled on getting outstanding interviews done, contacting reviewers, and taking care of business in general. My bookmarks are designed as are generic postcards (generic as in not-release-party specific ones). Off to Kinkos in a bit to get those printed.

* Note - if you'd like some bookmarks to hand out to people you know (your kid's school, your soccer team, whatever) email me, and I'll send you some.

Wow, and that's not even part of my five!

Here goes for the week:

1) My new solution for cooking dinner for the family? The crock pot. I so don't mind throwing something in there in the morning and letting it cook all day. Last time I made a roast in there, EVERYONE ate it.

2) I finished revisions on one WIP yesterday and am ready to start revisions on another WIP today! Must get my mind around the switch from first-person past to first-person present.

3) My critique group, the fab Farflung Writers, has given me great feedback on a one sentence premise for my new WIP. I have motivation for my main character. I see I need more weaknesses for my secondary character. I need to add a couple scenes.
Did I mention I love revisions, especially when I have direction.

4) My husband just finished The Emerald Tablet! His comment - "It was way better than the last time I read it" (first draft, three years ago, chock full of backstory). Also he said, "The ending was really tight. It's nice how everything tied together."
My dad also refinished it for a second time. His comment - "I finished your book and it was a good read. There is a lot of suspense in it and enough surprises to keep the reader off balance."
Do keep in mind, my dad is a man of few words.

Now if I can just get them to buy a copy :)

5) I'm on a panel at the Oklahoma Library Association Conference in a couple weeks, and I totally have my speech (12 minutes) mapped out in my mind. After plenty of time spent wondering what the heck I could talk about, it came to me!
Next week, I'll get it into Powerpoint!

Hope everyone has a great weekend! We're headed to a small Renaissance Festival tomorrow and a dinosaur dig on Sunday.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A Fine Example of Show Don't Tell

The other day I received an email from a friend who was frustrated with someone she was dealing with.
But she didn't just say, "I am so frustrated." Instead, here is what she wrote:

"I'm going to kill them and myself in a fiery show of telekinesis powers a la Carrie."

So let's step back a minute and look at this. Why is it so good?
1) She shows an action of what she plans to do based on her emotions.
2) She uses telekinesis because she is sending the email to me and knows The Emerald Tablet has telekinesis in it.
3) She knows I am in my later 30s and thus the Carrie reference is totally appropriate.

I was awed, and send a response telling her so. This is how I want to write.
*Note - I'm happy to report there were no unexpected injuries as a result of this comment.
**Question - Would Carrie be an appropriate reference to use in YA books today? Has it withstood the test of time?

Are you looking for some great fall reading? Here's what I recently ordered from Amazon in case you want some suggestions!

Ok, so I admit it. These are all Class of 2k8 books. There are a couple more I plan to order which aren't, but they will have to wait until next time.

Here's my positive thought for the day:
Be your own cheerleader. You need to support yourself mentally. Push aside your fears, worries, anger, doubts, and concerns, and free your mind to focus on the positive.
Whenever you have a doubt slip into your mind, repeat over and over, "I can do it!"

Why? Because I can do it!

Monday, September 01, 2008

So what is Motivation?

The question came up in our critique group.
What is motivation?

Is it enough for a character to want things to return to normal? Is that a strong enough motivation for a novel? Or just to survive?
What are your thoughts?
And what about changing motivation? New motivations are introduced at different points throughout the novel. After the call to action, a new motivation may come along. After passing through a doorway of no return there will be a new driving force for the main character. So should the motivation be known from the very start?

This discussion came up because in our group this week, we're doing our exercise - Novel premise, character motivation/desire/weakness/conflict, first page analysis.
So any thoughts you may have will help!

Saturday I had the pleasure of getting signed copies of these two fab books by April Lurie.

April was at the Round Rock Barnes & Noble with her daughter (in picture) for the signing. I got there early, so the only two other people I knew were Greg and Cynthia Leitich Smith. Cynthia mentioned people wanting to move to Austin for the strong writing community. Yes! Please do! Our community rocks!

On a final, fun note for today, want to buy a castle? If you're willing to move to Philipsburg, PA and finish construction, this nice little structure could be yours for the right price. It does look tempting, doesn't it.