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

Sunday, November 29, 2009


I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! We did plenty of relaxing and cleaning and decorating, and not a whole lot of blogging. Sometimes it's nice to get away from the Internet!

So maybe you've been curious about the icon in my upper right hand corner...

I wanted to let you guys know about a great groups of authors I'm part of, The Texas Sweethearts. The group is made up of three kids' authors from Austin: PJ Hoover (me), Jessica Lee Anderson, and Jo Whittemore. Our aim is to reach out to lovers of reading of all ages.

To read more about us, please head over and check out:
The Texas Sweethearts website
The Texas Sweethearts blog
(btw, please follow us on our blog! No, there are no prizes or contests, but you'd have our gratitude forever.)

Here's a video (designed by yours truly, no less), trying to give an idea of what The Texas Sweethearts are all about.

You can also become a fan of The Texas Sweethearts on Facebook (please!).

A couple times a month, we're going to be featuring sweethearts from the kidlit world—people who have made a true difference for others. We're taking nominations for these featured sweethearts, so if you know of someone, maybe a favorite librarian or blogger who truly makes a difference, please email us and let us know. We'll round them up each Friday and feature an interview every other week.
So don't be shy! Nominate someone today!

And a final note: We have available a critique by all three TEXAS SWEETHEARTS authors up for auction in the newest Bridget Zinn auction. Three sets of eyes. Three separate opinions. Bid until Dec. 11, 2009.
(auction id: bridget, pw: rules)

Thank you huge amounts for all your support! I hope everyone has a great week!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Five on a Friday

Happy Friday! I hope everyone had a great week! The knee is recovering well. I'm not quite back to Kung Fu yet, but I can make it up the steps pretty easily. Baby steps.

1) On a reading front, I'm finishing up SAPPHIQUE by Catherine Fisher. It's the second in a series, a British import. The first book in the series, INCARCERON, will be out in January 2010. It's got me hooked, though I find the YA marketing of the series an interesting choice. Though it has an older teen as the main character, it has a definitely adult fantasy feel to it.
Has anyone else read it?

2) YA Fantasy author Gretchen McNeil interviewed me over on The Enchanted Inkpot. So if you're curious which Star Trek episode helped inspire THE EMERALD TABLET, head over and check it out.

3) We're giving away two books over at The Spectacle. So for your chance to win MIKE STELLAR: NERVES OF STEEL by K. A. Holt and THE COMPOUND by S. A. Bodeen, head over and leave a quick comment.

4) So is a sleepover party for boys called a slumber party? Or is this reserved for girls only?

5) I'm so excited I'm going to be on a kidlit author panel at the VA Festival of the Book! Look for me March 20th, 2010 in Charlottesville, VA!

I hope everyone has a great weekend! We're looking at Kung Fu (for the kids), Legos, and Cub Scouts.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Minimum number of brush strokes

Okay, maybe this is just an excuse to post my kid's artwork, but my 5yo daughter drew an amazing picture this past week. Here she is playing with her older brother's Legos. And, as you can see by the look on his face, he isn't the least bit happy*.

I put this up in my office to remind me that it doesn't take a lot of words to convey emotions in my writing. It just takes the right words. That's what counts.

Hope everyone is having a great week!

* Love the open mouth, the closed eyes, and the hand to the forehead. I think it's brilliant.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pretty Books

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a great weekend!
I'm happy to report knee surgery went very well. I'm walking somewhat, though I have a bandage on my knee the size of a cantaloupe and I can't shower until Wednesday. Yikes! Yes, I'll be at home alone much of the time between now and then. My family has to love me no matter what I smell like.

So in my recovery time this weekend, I finished up THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner and read two more awesome books: BLUE PLATE SPECIAL by Michelle D. Kwasney and LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES by Laini Taylor. I so recommend all three books for various reasons, but especially the last two. They were beautiful, and I savored both.

Of course, while sitting with my knee up, I studied the books in full. Do you ever take the cover off a book and look at what's underneath? Look at all the beauty that went into the actual design and layout of the book? I love looking at how the hard cover is made. Is there gold foil lettering on the spine? Is the inside paper special? Patterned? Is the font unique? Are there symbols used throughout with special meaning to the story? Is there art?

The THEODOSIA books by R. L. LaFevers are some of my favorite naked books. Each and every detail was taken into account in the book design, down to the maps covering the front and back, the Egyptian symbols on each chapter, the old lettering of the title on the spine, and the fun cover art. As a kid, I would have wanted to read these books simply because I picked them up and looked at them.

BLUE PLATE SPECIAL stood out in that the paper cover was almost exactly mimicked on the hard cover. I say almost exactly because the plate is cracked on the outside paper cover but not cracked on the hard cover itself. Such a sweet detail that might not be noticed on first glance but makes the book and design that much more special.

Okay, and then there is LIPS TOUCH: THREE TIMES. I feel like I bought a piece of fine art when I bought this book. It is exquisite. The illustrations are so meaningful and beautiful yet simple in their colors. And once you read the stories, you'll go back and look at the drawings over and over again and get more out of them each and every time. The font color choices are unique in that page numbers and chapter titles are in red while the regular text is in a more standard dark grey. Normal blank pages have beautiful scroll work design, and of course the stories are magical.

These are the kind of books that make me treasure owning copies myself. What book designs do you love? And why?

And have a great week!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Five on a Friday

Hey! I hope everyone is ready for a great weekend!

This weekend I'm looking forward to:

1) Recovering from knee surgery. Yes, I have surgery on Friday the 13th. (torn meniscus...send me happy thoughts please!)

2) Finishing up THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner.
Reading BLUE PLATE SPECIAL by Michelle D. Kwasney.

BTW, over on THE SPECTACLE, we're going to do a book discussion on THE MAZE RUNNER next month in case you want to read it and join in.

3) Presenting at the Hill Country Book Festival on Saturday at 1:00 and signing afterward. If you live in the central Texas area, please come by!

With said knee surgery, I won't be driving, but luckily I've secured transportation with the Jenny Ziegler chauffeur service. If you haven't read Jenny's HOW NOT TO BE POPULAR, you must! And Jenny will be presenting right after me in case I'm not encouragement enough.

4) Hoping to fit in a little Mario Kart.

5) Finishing up season 3 of Star Trek: The Next Generation with the family. Picard is about to be turned into a Borg. And then the show really picks up.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Feeling the Fear

Normally in my presentations to kids, I try to touch on the subject of fear.
Fear to try new things.
Fear to do things that make us nervous.
Fear of failure.

Fear is one of those things so many of us struggle with. But there is the thought that if we're scared to do something, that's all the more reason we should.

Last week during my presentation at the Red Dirt Book Festival, I touched on fear and put up one of my favorite fear slides, one of General Grievous holding four light sabers.

Have you seen REVENGE OF THE SITH?

I use the quote:
"Feel the fear, and do it anyway."

Afterward, one man in the audience came up to me afterward and gave me his card with his own quote on the back, care of John Wayne:
"Courage is when you know what to expect and saddle up anyway."

I love the quote!

So what have you done recently that pushed your fear limit?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Loving it, Hating it, Round up, and Red Dirt

I got an email from a friend recently talking about how she did not love her current manuscript. And funny enough, this is exactly how I felt on the first draft of my current WIP. But a great thing has been happening during revisions. I like it. I really, really like it.
Did it write itself? No.
The not-loving-state of the first draft made me feel like each word I wrote had to be clawed out of some dark place. But I forced myself to sit there and get them out, thinking it stunk the whole time.
The good news besides the fact that I now like said manuscript is I don't think it stinks. Sure, it needs tons of work, but isn't that the whole point of revisions?

So that said, I hope all is going great with you first draft NaNo people out there!


In other news, I am now available to Skype! I'll Skype into your classroom for a Q&A session, so if you're interested, let me know!


A couple interviews with me:

From the November 2009 issue of The Houston Banner.

From The Not So Closet Geeks


A fantastic review of THE EMERALD TABLET from Jeannie at The Not So Closet Geeks! My favorite line from the review:
"The book, The Emerald Tablet, is one of the best books I have ever read."
Thanks, Jeannie!


On availability, my publisher told me Amazon just placed a huge order for both THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD and THE EMERALD TABLET, so if you've noticed they've been out of stock, books should be on the way!


And finally, The Red Dirt Book Festival was an utter blast! I met so many great people including my panel members Mel Odom and K. D. Wentworth (I already knew Stacy Nyikos). Those Oklahomans really know how to throw a festival!

Mel and Stacy

I sat next to screenwriter Andy Horton while signing books who I found has a love of THE ODYSSEY just like me. He told me about the poem ITHACA by C.P Cavafy that every Greek has memorized. I may have to add it to my collection of memorized poems including KUBLA KHAN by Samuel Coleridge.

Stacy, Me, Cindy Stevens, Mel

Me and Stacy


I managed to get out of the house and attend the Austin SCBWI meeting on Saturday where I heard the awesome Liz Garton Scanlon talk about Writing from the Gut, which she said she did for her brand new picture book, ALL THE WORLD. Did you know ALL THE WORLD is going to be distributed in Cheerios boxes in 2010.
You know you've made it when...
Anyway, her book was also chosen by both NY Times and PW as one of the best books of 2009. And the best part about is, it couldn't be happening to a nicer person!

Liz presenting


And finally, if you're in Austin or the surrounding area, I'll be presenting at the Hill Country Book Festival this Saturday at the Georgetown Library from 1:00-1:45 and signing books thereafter. Come see me, please!

Hope everyone has a great week!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Red Dirt - See you there!

I'm off to the Red Dirt Book Festival in Shawnee, OK! If you happen to be in the area, I'll be on a panel on Friday from 11:15 - 12:15 in Room 2 of the Heart of Oklahoma Expo Center. I'll also be signing afterward from from 2 - 3:15 in the Exhibit Hall. Please come see me!
I'll post pics when I get back, but I leave you with this.

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Playing with Electricity

Okay, so you know the whole "don't play with electricity thing" and all that? Well, it takes some courage to put your hand on the giant electrical conductor and make your hair do this. You know, it's actually kind of hard to get yourself to do something you've been encouraged your entire life not to do.

Huge thank you to Russell at Austin Energy for coming to our house and letting ten 8-year-olds play with electricity.


Forgot to mention this interview with me by Casey at Literary Rambles. Casey's blog is amazing. If you don't already follow it, you should. She does cool things like research tips, agent spotlights, and interviews with...people like me :)
Thanks, Casey!


We went to a high school football game Friday night. Love this picture I took of a kid at the game. Reading is not dead! (I think it's ERAGON he's reading.)


For a handful of books I'm looking forward to, head over to The Spectacle and check them out. What are you looking forward to? I'd love to know!


My Jack-o-lantern.

Any my gravestones. Love that my daughter wrote "kill" on the ones she drew.

Why is it we can be so busy but still find time to come home and whip together the headstones in a few hours because we promised our kids we would?


Happy Monday! Hope everyone has a great week.