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

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Do Something Nice for Someone

It seems I took a blog vacation! I'm back, but posting may be sporadic for the next week.

First, an amazing thank you to Shelf Elf for the fantastic review of The Emerald Tablet. My favorite line (this is hard because I love the whole review so much):
"I finished this book yesterday, and it made me wish I had a whole list of ten-year olds to find Christmas presents for, because this book is going to make a lot of ten-year-old bookworms very, very happy."

And super thank you to everyone who told me they bought The Emerald Tablet for someone for the holidays! This makes me so happy!

Also, if you are looking to spend a bit more time surfing the internet this holiday season, you can buzz over to Teens Read Too for an interview with me!


So in the spirit of doing good to others, make a plan to do something totally random for no other purpose than to make someone else happy. Make someone's day.
Case in point:
One of my friends (who came to my book release party, BTW) got this in the mail the other day. His fellow magic club member, Richard Garriott, went to space as a tourist (yes, lifestyles of the rich and famous) and sent postcards from the space station, postmarked with the big Russian postmark no less.
When he sent me the email, he phrased it as the coolest thing he's ever gotten in his life (aside from the birth of his kid). Think this postcard made his day?

Can you think of something you can do to make someone's day? I know I'm thinking.


Reading update:
Finished Graceling by Kristin Cashore.
Started The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

And one of my goals for 2009 is to read 50 books. (Yes, I know many people read many more than this, but in all fairness, War and Peace and Crime and Punishment are on the list. Thanks to Kelly Herold for the War and Peace version recommendation.)

So who's up for the 50 book challenge? How about the War and Peace challenge? Moral support? Anyone?

Hope you're all having a great end to 2008!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Score at the Library!

Thanks to everyone who listened to me on Blog Talk Radio! And if you want to read a quick interview with me, head over to The First Book for five short questions and answers!

On Wednesdays I volunteer at our elementary school library. I joke that the job is a bit Sisyphean (google that one, OK).
  • Check in the books.
  • Shelve the books.
  • Check out the books.
  • Check in the books.
  • Shelve the books.
  • Check out the books.
When a class comes in I grab their books and try to check them in and get them shelved before it's time for them to check out new books. Why? Because kids will run to check out what their friend had checked out the week before. They see their friend with a book that looks cool and want their turn with it this week.

Which is kind of a statement on marketing, right. Word of Mouth. Cover exposure. Read what your friends are reading. That's what it's all about.

Another reason for trying to shelve all the books as fast as I can is that I spend any extra time I have reading. I grab a book each week off the shelves (or bring one from home if I'm way excited about reading it) and sit reading until they're ready to check out more books.

This week, while shelving a graphic novel (maybe The Hardy Boys or something like that) I spotted a brand new copy of Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, Illustrated by Nathan Hale beckoning me from the shelf. I grabbed it and immediately checked it out under my son's account.
You might think it's bad that I grabbed the book before the kids could, but it brings us to the whole new books topic. What would make a kid grab a brand new book, maybe one they've never heard of, off the shelf?
The answer...I'm not sure. They don't have a bunch of time to look for books. So how cool the cover is would be the main factor if they've never heard of the book.

So when my son came up to check out his books, I showed him Rapunzel's Revenge. Immediately I had twenty eyes on me and the book - them asking me what it was about, them commenting on how cool the title was, them seeing the inside was a graphic novel and getting excited.
My guess is once I check it in, one of his classmates will clamber to check it out next.
The message: Talk about books to kids/adults. Recommend books to kids/adults.
(Oh, and if you're looking for something to recommend, don't forget about The Emerald Tablet.)

I'm actually getting to be a bit more useful at the library. When the kids came over to get shelf markers, I suggested they go check out the books on monsters and mummies, and even showed them where they were (I'd just shelved some the class before). Ten kids followed me over, and sure enough plenty of monster books were checked out.
BTW, shelving those books with the Dewey Decimal numbers on them is totally tedious and amusing at the same time. Because 599.4 is not the same as 599.42 and is definitely not the same as just 599. And don't forget to keep them in alphabetical order within the thousandths digit.

I shelved a darling book which I really had to mention.
The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron.
I've never read it, but I will. Why? Because I love this cover.
BTW, this is the cover the library had. The book looked like it had been there since 1954.


And here's a couple more recent covers.





Makes you want to order it right now, doesn't it! It would make a nice addition to my library (if I could get an original cover).

Have a great Thursday! We have the energy efficiency people coming tomorrow to caulk our house and save us tons on our electric bill each month. The company we're using, Green Collar Operations, is great (in case you live in Austin and have been contemplating getting this done). And the owner is also co-owner of a winery. I swapped a copy of The Emerald Tablet signed to his daughters for a couple bottles of wine!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Check me out on Blog Talk Radio

Aside from an overly-loud first response, I think the interview sounds pretty OK. It's a half hour long, but you know, when I was being interviewed, it totally flew by.
You can listen to the whole interview here.

So has everyone been thinking about New Year's Resolutions. I have! It's important to think about solid goals which require many steps to achieve, but do yourself a favor and make a few one-step goals. Like "Read War and Peace". One step. Read the book. I can do it and check it off the list.
(Also on my list is Crime and Punishment and Pride and Prejudice. No, I have no idea why.)

My signing in Burnet was fun. Windy but fun. And tonight I hear we may even get freezing rain here in Austin. Which, if it does happen, means the town will basically try to shut down.

Did I mention I finished City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare. I loved it personally, and can't wait for the third book. Too often recently I've been a bit disappointed in sequels, so it was a nice treat for me.
And speaking of sequels, one of these days I will learn I shouldn't listen to series on audiobook. It seems by about the middle of the second book I'm making sarcastic remarks to the characters and rolling my eyes every time backstory is mentioned.
Enough on that.

Final note. A huge shout out to my eighth-grade best friend (the same one who recognized my Geometry teacher's name in The Emerald Tablet). She showed up at her son's class as the mystery reader, read the first two chapters of The Emerald Tablet, and then forwarded the Amazon link to all the parents. Thanks, SMC!

Have a great week!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Five on a Friday

So who else is looking forward to some relaxation over the holidays?

1) For your viewing pleasure, I give you my Christmas tree, complete with all my Star Trek ornaments. If you look closely, you can see the Borg cube, The Trouble With Tribbles, Deep Space Nine, The Wrath of Khan, The Guardian of Forever, a transporter room.


And speaking of the transporter room ornament, oddly enough, just as I took this photo and was emailing it to my computer, my 4-year-old daughter comes into the kitchen with kind of a horrified look on her face and says "something broke", puts something in my hand, and kind of starts to dash out of the room. I look down in my hand only to find Captain Kirk there with no feet. She'd broken him off (accidentally) leaving his feet back in the transporter room.
Thank you Super Glue.

2) It's December 12th. 12/12. I'm opting to go with New Year's cards this year.

3) Thank you, Kim and Enchanting Reviews for an awesome review for The Emerald Tablet. My favorite line:
"A must read for fans of fantasy, especially with a boy hero. This book will not disappoint."

4) Thank you to Emily at BookPeople for the shout out on the BookKids blog today!

5) Don't forget:

I'll be featured this Friday on Blog Talk Radio - Book Bites for Kids! The interview is noon central time, but will be available thereafter on the site.

If you live in the Austin area and have no other plans for Saturday, head up to Burnet, TX for the Christmas on the Square Festival. I'll be signing copies of The Emerald Tablet outside the library from 11-3. Bring the kids, and see you there!


I hope everyone has a great weekend! Snap a fun picture, relax a bit, and write!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nuggets from a Day with an Editor

Couple side notes first:

Thank you, Beth for the fabulous review of The Emerald Tablet! I totally appreciate it! I especially like her comments on Jack the Nogical - "His appearances were rare, but gold every time."

I'll be featured this Friday on Blog Talk Radio - Book Bites for Kids! The interview is noon central time, but will be available thereafter on the site.

If you live in the Austin area and have no other plans for Saturday, head up to Burnet, TX for the Christmas on the Square Festival. I'll be signing copies of The Emerald Tablet outside the library from 11-3. Bring the kids, and see you there!

---

So I mentioned this past weekend I went to a fab workshop featuring Jill Santopolo, editor at the Balzer and Bray imprint of Harper/Collins, and Cynthia Leitich Smith, super great Austin-based author and faculty member at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

The format was this: Each participant had submitted the first three pages of a WIP for public critique. All participants had read the submissions ahead of time. And for ten minutes Jill and Cynthia discussed each piece. What worked. What didn't.

They were encouraging. They were helpful. They were very honest. It was amazing, and I'd be totally lying if I said I wasn't the least bit nervous waiting for my piece to come up. Let's face it. I was very nervous. There's always that fear your precious baby will be slandered in front of thirty other people and everyone will turn to you with looks of pity in their eyes.
Thankfully, that didn't happen at all. I was totally pleased with my critique and actually kept enough focus to gleam some nuggets of gold from the day.

In the first three pages, here are some key things to keep in mind:

  • Emotional Plot and Action Plot - stories with both are nice.
  • The plot hinted at in the first three pages should be a good showing of the plot for the overall book.
  • Will the plot be enough to sustain the whole novel? Maybe it will, but the editor needs to feel confident by reading the first three pages that the plot suggested at will be enough. So the point here is if your book is about three guys hunting grizzly bears in on the Appalachian Trail, don't have the first three pages be about there indecision to get a haircut.
  • Voice of the main character should match the MC's age.
  • Read Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King
  • Minimize backstory
My advice - anytime you can get this type of critiquing, take it.
Jill critiqued as a Harper editor: what they are looking for, why they'd immediately say no to some pieces. She mentioned being aware what is already out there, especially at a house you are considering. She mentioned how the drive is to really find pieces that will stand out among the crowd. They receive a lot of great writing, and when she reads submissions, she is looking for a reason to say no.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Things to Make me Happy on a Monday

Seeing as how I was going to be at an all-day writing workshop (I'll post on that tomorrow - it was fab!) on Saturday, I kept my daughter home from preschool on Friday. We decided to head to IKEA, but missed the exit on the highway. So we took the next exit, and pulled into the outlet mall parking lot to turn around.
Does it surprise anyone we never made it out of that parking lot?
Five stores later, we busted a move out of there to make it to the grocery in time to still pick my son up from school.

The best thing we got: matching red and white checked VANS. I'd planned on getting black and white checked, but my 4-year-old daughter wanted the red AND she wanted us to match.


A second note on what makes me happy. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, my son left two sweatshirts at school. The following Monday we found one, but the other was nowhere to be seen. It was his favorite - Pirates of the Caribbean hooded. (This kind of explains the outlets drawing me in from above as the first place we went was the Disney outlet to look for a replacement sweatshirt - no dice, BTW).
I was sad. He was sad. There were none on eBay. I'd pretty much given up (I know - never give up).
Friday when I picked him up from school, he held his sweatshirt high in the air. I almost cried I was so happy! Some fifth graders had found it and delivered it to his classroom!!!!!


Third happiness. One of the best things about Christmas for me is getting out my Star Trek ornament collection and putting them on the tree. Love the ornaments and so do my kids. But this year my son is totally into it, talking about the kinds of ships there are, comparing them, asking about captains.
So imagine my delight when exercising in the garage on the elliptical machine yesterday and I looked up at a bookshelf full of my books and found this awesome Star Trek book!
He got so excited and has been looking at it ever since. He even took it to school today for his DEAR (drop everything and read) time.


So what's made you happy recently?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Fun Friday

Rather than my normal Five on a Friday, I'll interrupt with a library story I wrote for the Class of 2k8 blog. It got lost in the madness, so here is it.

Question:

What is your best memory from the library as a child? (And please feel free to write your own and post it - what a fun topic!)

Answer:

Remember in college when the library would stay open 24/7 during exam week? Some of my best library memories were at the Virginia Tech library, fifth floor, at around three in the morning during this time.


So I majored in Computer Engineering. And of the 40 students in Computer Engineering, only two were girls, and both were named Tricia. Yep, me and my friend. Tricia and Tricia. What are the odds?

We gals had to stick together, so we headed off to pull an all-nighter studying for some random subject like Electromagnetic Theory or something like that. But really, the mind can only take so much Electromagnetic Theory. So around three o'clock we got a bit punchy.
Emptying our pockets of every bit of change we had, we headed to the copier and made as many photocopies of our feet as dimes we had. But instead of normal size, we shrank them so they looked like tiny little feet. Baby feet.


Then we hung them from the card catalogs in all their black and white, shrunken glory, for the new round of students coming in the morning to study to see.
We laughed so hard, we almost peed our pants. And I hope we caused at least one other person to smile when they saw them, too.

(And yes, I did scan my foot in just for this blog post.)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Facebook for Middle Agers

Last night the husband and I talked about the phenomenon which is Facebook. He's recently joined, and faster than lightning, has found many of his old high school friends (and acquaintances).
We talked about how it's perfect for us middle-age, 20-years out of high school people. It's a cool way to catch up with our past without reliving it :)

In my Facebook friends, I have my 8th grade best friend. It's been ages since I've talked with her, but seeing as how she has a son in the perfect target range of The Emerald Tablet, she bought my book (Thanks, SMC!).

I laughed out loud when she wrote on my wall:
"Did you intentionally name the science teacher after our geometry teacher? That would explain a lot if Mr. Burton was not human."

The joy of connecting with people from long ago is they will pick up on things like this! Nobody since high school would have had a clue of making this association in The Emerald Tablet - not even the husband.
And I love this!

So in addition to spending time on Facebook updating my status, I've pretty much finished revisions on The Navel of the World (Forgotten Worlds Book 2). I sent it to a trusted critique partner to read through, the benefit of which is comments like:
  • Page 50 - Maybe you need to explain the Alliance bond the first time you mention it.
  • Page 220 - This is the first time you've mentioned their telekinesis teacher by name.
  • And so many others.
Keep in mind a couple things.
  • This is the second book in a series.
  • It's gone from 100,000 words to just around 66,000. I've cut tons, added tons, reduces backstory to a thumbprint which is all good. But I need to add a couple clarifying connections here and there to tie things up.


Reading update:
I started City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare (finally). I've read a couple manuscripts of others recently and slacked on my other reading. So far so good. It seems to be leading me on a path I'm happy to follow.

Holiday shopping suggestion for those with kids in the house...
(You thought I was going to say The Emerald Tablet but amazingly I'm not. Not to say it wouldn't be a great gift. Anyway...)

Check out Barbarian Battles.
Their foam swords and stuff are awesome. We got some at the Renaissance Festival, and I'm ordering the mace and hammer for Christmas gifts for my kids.
And the best part - They're made in the US!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Making Thanksgiving Productive

It all started with the attempt to get the Christmas decorations out of the garage. I've been letting boxes pile up out there, so of course I had to break down the boxes first. Then, I decided the inflatable innertubes for the swimming pool don't need to be inflated all year. So I undid those and got the air out. But then the giant recycling bin cried out for a new spot, so I cleared some room and moved it next to the trashcan.
By now the floor was well exposed showing years of leaves and dirt. So of course I needed to vacuum.
Once the garage was sparkling, I looked at the living room - the destination of our tree. But the floor needed vacuumed and mopped. So I had to do that first. And if I'm doing the living room, why not the whole downstairs.

So this may seem like it's spiraling out of control, but it feels great to get so much done and be so productive. It's the kind of things I don't get done on a normal weekend.

Note: I have not fixed the toilet yet. The downstairs took precedence this weekend. The toilet is, however, on the list.

In addition to some hard-working days around the house, we watched a few great movies this weekend. At my 4-year-old daughter's request, the first movie we watched was Ironman.
One word: Amazing!
I loved this movie, and if I didn't already love it while I was watching it, the last line of the movie is priceless and perfect. Go out and watch it.
Also we took in Journey to the Center of the Earth (the newest version which I've seen before and I love) and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Personally, I like this. Yes, it was cliche and knockoff, but there's something to be said for entering that relaxation comfort zone.
My kids also watched a few Land Before Time movies, giving me time to clean the garage (see above) and wrestle the tree up.

Feel like pushing yourself out of your comfort zone?
The correct answer to this question is yes. We should all strive to push out of our comfort zones.
Our friends did this on Saturday by hosting a play in their backyard. The parents and a neighbor got up on stage and acted out a skit. They'd practiced for a few weeks, and it was hilarious! For their second skit they got all the kids up there, too.
Hilarious to me was when a princess was supposed to be running through a field of flowers, and when asked what kind of flowers they were, my son said Lantana. Yes, it's good to live in Texas.

Here we have a brave knight fighting a bad knight to rescue a princess.

A reminder on why you should buy books this holiday season instead of cheap imports.


And finally, what I love hearing when I walk into Kung Fu is a dad I know walking up to me and saying, "My daughter loved your book!"
If you ever think authors don't want to hear this or think they've heard it too much, think again!

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend! We've got one month until the New Year. Let's see what we can get accomplished!