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

Monday, March 30, 2009

Think you know where to start?

When is blogging too much? Not yet? Then starting April 1st head over to the new MG/YA Fantasy blog, The Enchanted Inkpot. It's a group of fantasy novelists, it's just starting, and it's sure to be a great fun place to visit. After all, I'll be posting an interview with the awesome Elizabeth C. Bunce over there in mid-April.

***

So it's recently come to my attention that I need to start one of my WIPs in a different place. Sure, I have a great opening line, and the first scene isn't all bad either. But now, when I think about what the true purpose of the novel is, I realize I need to back up in time. Only a day. But it's an important day. And it needs to come first.

Why?
It's what the novel is about. It sets the stage for the true one sentence description of the story.

My critique group has worked on our one sentence summaries in the past, and I kind of struggled on pinpointing what the one sentence summary would be for this WIP (code name GI). It seemed long and dragged on and had too many elements.
Not the right answer.
The one sentence summary should be short. Concise. Not containing any semicolons (because let's face it—this is cheating). The one sentence summary should be the single most important plot point in the story. It should reflect the character's motivation. It should show conflict. And add in some irony if at all possible to drive the point home.

The the good news is I now know what my one sentence summary needs to focus on. The even better news is I'm flying to NJ for a day (leaving Tuesday, coming back Wednesday) which seems short but will give me time on the airplane to work on my sentence.
And of course my new opening scene.

So think about it:
Do you really have a concise one sentence summary which truly hones in on the main purpose of your novel? Really? Even if you think you do, ask yourself this again and again just to make sure.

***

And like I mentioned, I'm off to NJ for a school visit, so I probably won't blog until Friday. But I have a fun post scheduled over on The Spectacle for April Fool's Day! So hop over there and weigh in if you get a chance!
For humor, I note that I'm currently reading City of Glass by Cassandra Clare which is over 500 pages and hardback, so I'm not hauling it on the plane. So instead I'm bringing Running With The Demon by Terry Brooks for plane reading when I can't look at the computer any longer!

***

And finally, two really fun pictures from lunch last week at Betty X. Davis's house!

The group (who happened to be there when the picture was taken)

Me and Erin Edwards

Have a great week!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Five on a Friday

Happy Friday! We've got a Cub Scout camp out this weekend (rain, rain, go away), really need to watch Return of the King to finish off the series, and I totally should mop the floor.
I build this up in my mind to be way more work than it actually is. It's like my bane. It's always there, calling to me. Taunting me. Mocking me.
What I need to do is change my attitude. Really. Take it by the horns. Look forward to it.

Anyway, back to Five on a Friday.

1) Thank you, Dan, for the Your Blog is Fabulous award. His challenge is to come up with five things I am obsessed with.
I'm finding this hard.
Sure there is writing.
And reading.
And my family.
Maybe I should become obsessed with mopping.
Or at the very least put more effort into something else. Exercise. Jigsaw puzzles. Legos. Mario Kart. I've thought about buying myself one of those fancy Paint-by-Numbers kits, but haven't found a print I like yet. What are you obsessed with?

2) Yesterday Betty X. Davis (Awesome Austin Writer) hosted a fabulous lunch for Austin writers at her house. Thank you so much, Betty! It was fantastic to get together and talk writing during the day. And so great to see so many cool people!

3) And my big question at lunch yesterday was this. My son's elementary school is hosting a reading photo contest. I can turn in ONE photo, either real or Photoshopped, of my son reading in an unusual place. At this point, I'm leaning towards the Photoshop. Any ideas? I have some, and when I finish it, I'll post it for sure!

4) So I'm in the absolutely awesome place of brainstorming for a new WIP. Love this stage. I'm totally excited about the idea, and find myself thinking about it all the time. Which means I think this idea will stick. More as it progresses.

5) I have a preliminary cover for The Navel of the World (The Forgotten Worlds Book 2). I'm not posting quite yet; I'll wait until it's for sure going to stick. But let me just say it's looking way cool! So Bangkok was on the cover of The Emerald Tablet. Any thoughts/guesses as to what's on the cover of The Navel of the World?

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Power of Laughter

So if you're ever having a bad day, think about this video. Normally, I never take the time to watch stuff like this, but the husband insisted. And I laughed until I cried.



***

I've been having a bit of a dilemma on what to work on next. It's been a while since I wrote something new, but though I have a list of (brilliant) ideas, I'm trying to figure out which one I want to devote my energy to next. Each day that comes, inspiration strikes and I know. I mean, just this morning in the car I had another great idea. So I'll brainstorm for a bit and see how it goes. In the meantime, I'm wrapping up a PowerPoint presentation I'll be giving at a juvenile delinquent center in a couple weeks.

***

I read and finished The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. Plan on reading this in one sitting or at the dinner table while the kids are eating or at swimming lessons. You won't be able to put it down! And seeing as how City of Glass by Cassandra Clare came out yesterday, I supported my brick and mortar bookstore by heading on over to buy it. Is it bad that the cashier told me she recognized me?

And I have only one hour left in the (24 hour long) audiobook The Host by Stephanie Meyer. My list of rules for what books to listen to on audio keeps growing, and here's my latest rule:
This book is too long for my audiobook taste. Especially as it's written in first person. Though it's been a great and enjoyable book, in audio this long, I get to the point where I almost can't stand the main character. It's not the narrator; she does a great job. It's not the author; she's told a good story here. It's really just I almost despise the character after spending this much time with her. But once again, I think this is just because it takes me a while to listen to the book.

***

Here's my thought (and goal) for the day.
Do something nice and unexpected for someone.
They will appreciate it and you will feel good!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Everyone Should Try it

A blog vacation.
So nice.
I mean, I love my blog friends, and I totally missed each and every one of you. But it's good to get away. My next blog vacation? Disney in May (World that is, not Land).

Highlight of today was R. L. LaFevers at BookPeople talking about things I LOVE. Namely all things Egyptian. (Yes, here I am in my standard "fan" pose.)


Not only did I get both my Theodosia books signed, my kids tried mummification. (It didn't work so well for them, so once we got home, we had a couple mummification lessons. Toilet paper rips way easier than you would think. Of course we do get the very inexpensive stuff. Maybe the higher the quality, the more useful it is for mummification.) Also, representing the Austin writing community, the fab writing couple Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith were in attendance.



BTW, the Theodosia books are some of the prettiest I've ever seen. Seriously, look at them under the cover. I honestly think they are the nicest "naked" books I own.

In reading news, I finished A Curse Dark as Gold and have the lucky opportunity to interview Elizabeth C. Bunce for an upcoming blog post (on a super exciting new group fantasy blog I'm going to be a part of. Details to come). The twist on Rumpelstiltskin was amazing and creative and totally makes this book worth all its acclaim.

Also, I'm reading (40 pages left to go) The Rule of Won by Stefan Petrucha. It's kind of an interesting twist on The Secret (which I love), and has been a really pleasant surprise. I'm trying to decide what to read next and may have to go ahead and go with The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan because, let's face it, post-apocalytic zombies sound really cool, don't they? Lucky Beth Revis got to go to the release party. Here I keep telling her to move to Austin. Of course next weekend is Laurie Halse Anderson at BookPeople (though I'll be on a Cub Scout campout and won't be able to make it).

I leave you with one thing that makes me happy. My yearly dose of Smurfs. Here are the 2009 models (on the set of The Emerald Tablet movie no doubt).


BTW, I want a Flip. Any recommendations as to which model to get?

Hope you all had a great week! And it's nice to be back!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Five on a Friday

Happy Friday! Here in the land of Austin, TX, we're heading into Spring Break!

1) My mom is in town! That said, I'm declaring a blog vacation for myself. I'll post over on The Spectacle next week, and I may post here once, but other than that, I'm going somewhat quiet. So if I don't comment on your blog, it doesn't mean I don't love you. I do! Really!

2) Read Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Loved it! Sure, it's a bloody story, but there are moments of pure humor which are nothing short of priceless. Love the attitude of the guardian angel (GA for short). So go out and buy this book. And read it. And then recommend it to a friend.

3) Reading A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce. Aside from being a really cool person, Elizabeth makes some super cool costumes. She puts my "sewing for survival" skills to shame.

4) If you've read a good book, why not email the author and let them know. If your kid has read a good book, why not encourage them to email the author (via your email account of course). Nothing it better than knowing someone is enjoying your books!

5) Here's a Spring Break challenge. Set some goals and see how much you can get done. Maybe this is writing. Maybe this is fixing every single thing that's leaking around the house. Whatever it is, make a plan, and go for it!

And have a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Is Anything Adult Anymore?

First off, a few things I can't forget!

1) A huge THANK YOU to everyone who stopped by The Book Roast on Tuesday! I so appreciate it. All your awesome comments made me look super popular.

2) Head over to The Spectacle for our Friday the 13th book giveaway. We're giving away The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and The Farwalker's Quest by our very own Joni Sensel (this is an ARC with an epilogue which never made it to the hardcover).

3) Thank you to S. B. James for the introduction over on her blog!

4) The winner of The Book of Nonsense by David Michael Slater is Casey! Email me your address and I'll send it out! And thanks to everyone who entered!

*****

So I'm in our indie bookstore the other day, and I happened to be glancing at the Teen Fantasy section. My question is this:

Why are there so many "adult" books shelved in the teen fantasy section?

I saw The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, the whole Across the Nightingale Floor series by Lian Hearn, and The Host by Stephanie Meyer just to name a few.

(And just a note: these are ALL fabulous books I truly enjoyed. But they are not teen books—at least they weren't published as teen books).

OK, The Host I can understand given the success on the Twilight series. But has the line simply vanished between teen fantasy and adult fantasy?
I notice this seems to be isolated to fantasy. As if the fact that things are not real justifies younger people reading them. I'm not saying I disagree, but I'm curious what your thoughts are.

(BTW, fans of The Time Traveler's Wife, did you see Audrey Niffenegger's next book, HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY, just sold at auction for 4.5 million and is scheduled for Fall 2009 publication?)

And Happy Wednesday!

Book Roast Today

Hey! I'm being roasted over at Book Roast today! Please drop in over there and comment and I'll owe you big time! Plus it's a chance to win a copy of The Emerald Tablet.

Thanks, and hope everyone has a great day!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Authors Unplugged

Friday lunch was a blast with these three fab writers:

Here we are in our lunch glory. (Jody on left, Jo in center, me on right, Cyn behind the camera).


Can I just say this: Lunch with other writers is a blast. Especially since all three agreed to my mini interview idea. And especially since it was Friday afternoon and wine was totally acceptable.
We each brought questions for the others. I agreed to do the abridged version, though those around us at Z-Tejas on 6th Street definitely got the unabridged version. I think we were getting a few strange looks.

*****

First up: Cyn. She brought the same question for all.

Q from Cyn: What is your condiment of choice: Salsa, Guacamole, or Pico de Gallo?


(With a bit of indecision creeping in, we decided this would be “if you had to have only one for the rest of your life, which would it be?”)

PJ (Me): Salsa but not too hot

Jo: Salsa because you can put it on more things

Jody: Salsa, but guacamole is a very close second
(We think Jody just wants to move to Texas.)

Cyn: Guacamole because it has vegetable like qualities and it’s green

* Insert sidenote here: The avocado most definitely is a fruit.

*****

Next up: Jody Feldman. She brought the same question for all.

Q from Jody: Name one or two of your guilty pleasure movies.

Cyn: (1) Xanadu; (2) The Lost Boys
(insert me exclaiming Lost Boys is in fact one of mine)

PJ (Me): (1) The Lost Boys; (2) Logan’s Run; (3) (added later) Journey to the Center of the Earth – the original version

Jo: (1) The Bird Cage; (2) Hot Fudge (OK, edited to say Jo tells me this is really Hot Fuzz, but Hot Fudge is kind of funny.)

Jody: (1) War Games; (2) 16 Candles

*****

Next up: Jo Whittemore


Q from Jo for Jody: How do you manage to market yourself in an area not very dense with writers? (Jody is from Saint Louis, Missouri)

Jody: She claims nobody knows her in Missouri :) She travels a lot. Texas Bluebonnet Award is awesome! Class of 2k8 was enormous.


Q from Jo for PJ: During the upcoming summer, how do you plan to manage your time to take care of your two kids and write?

PJ (Me): Day camp for 2 weeks! Late nights when kids are home. Naps during day. Maybe even get neighbor girl to watch kids a couple times a week.


Q from Jo for Cyn: Your background is in law. When you write for MG/YA, how do you manage to keep the language simple enough for the readers?

Cyn: Keep it authentic to individual characters. Choose intelligent and mature characters for their age.

*****

Next up: Me (PJ Hoover)

Q from PJ for Jody: Love Boat or Fantasy Island. Any favorite episode?

Jody: Love Boat at the time. Now Fantasy Island. Love romantic comedy. Can’t remember a single favorite episode. All meld together.

Cyn (wanted to answer this one, too): This is a deep personal question for her. She and her husband bonded over Mr. Roarke vs. The Devil. It's how she knew he was "the one".

Jo: Never watched either (she’s too young)


Q from PJ for Jo: What is the most embarrassing this you’ve done in public that you can laugh about now?

Jo: Missing the dinner boat for junior prom. Went alone. No date. Boat had pulled away already. Standing on dock in her prom dress. Everyone is watching. Steamboat had to go all the way out and turn back around to come get her.

Jody: While playing softball on company team and tripped over second base.


Q from PJ for Cyn: What possessed you to throw out your first draft the first time you ever did that, and did you cry?

Cyn: Whole first draft is to psych herself up. She knew going in that she was going to throw it out afterward. Put her whole heart into it. And no tears.

(The rest of us decided we didn’t have the guts to do this).

*****

We then went to Cyn’s house after lunch where her husband, Greg Leitich Smith (of Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo and Tofu an T.Rex acclaim), decided to join us for the fun. So we posed some questions to him.

* Insert brief discussion on Scatalogical humor. We had the hardest time remembering this word.

Greg’s guilty pleasure movies: (1) Ratatouille; (2) Spiderwick; (3) Galaxy Quest; (4) My Cousin Vinnie (though in fairness, he didn't phrase these as guilty pleasures. We think that's a girl thing.)

Greg’s condiment of choice: Pico de Gallo – because you can make salsa out of it.

Greg: Fantasy Island, Mr. Roarke vs. The Devil (he passed the marriage test here with no coaxing from Cyn)

Greg on simplifying language for MG/YA: He doesn’t think he does. Characters would know the words he uses.


Thanks so much, guys, for playing along!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Five (Things that Make Me Happy) on a Friday

Hope everyone has had a great week! This weekend looks like a good one for raking some more leaves. One nice(?) thing about my backyard is I will never run out of leaves to rake.

In the effort to always look for the good things in life, here are five things that make me happy this particular Friday:

1) This stapler which I have owned for 32 years. I won it in 3rd grade, and it's totally the best stapler we own. I'm pretty sure it will last forever.


2) Reading a great book (and staying up until 2:30 in the morning to do so). Loved The Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecilia Galante. (Hardcover on sale on Amazon for $3.99, btw.)


3) Lunch today (Friday) with the authors of these awesome books.



4) This t-shirt I made for my daughter this week. She's got a thing for buttons, and I've got a thing for polka dots. (Can anyone guess the inspiration for her name?)


5) Scooby Doo Crocs.


How about you? What do you have to be happy about this Friday?

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Book Review Club: THE DUST OF 100 DOGS by A. S. King

Welcome to my March contribution to The Book Review Club organized by the fabulous Barrie Summy, author of I So Don't Do Mysteries. Barrie had this great idea to organize a monthly roundup of book reviews posted on the first Wednesday of each month. And seeing as how today happens to be that Wednesday, here you go.

Up this month: THE DUST OF 100 DOGS by A. S. King

SUMMARY:
Saffron is a modern-day teenager. Emer is a dead pirate gal who lived 300 years ago. Yet Emer lives inside Saffron, knows where a butt-load of buried treasure is, and has never forgotten her one true love, Seanie.


WHY I BOUGHT IT:
Awesome cover.
Intriguing title.


ONE INTERESTING CHOICE:
Emer is a bloodthirsty pirate. That's all there is to it. Yes, she had a hard childhood, lost her true love, and was sold into slavery.
But she's still a bloodthirsty pirate.
So how can we root for her? Why do we want her to burn and sink and pillage all the other ships out there on the ocean? Why do we want her to be able to keep all her gems and fortunes? She should be despicable.
But she's not. We like her. She's doing all these unspeakable things, but we want her to win.
Huh. I've heard about writers being able to do this well, but this is the first time I've actually experienced it. Very good job!


ONE INTERESTING OPINION OF MINE (minor spoiler):
Did anyone else who read this book want Emer to end up with David instead of Seanie?


WHAT WORKED SUPERBLY IN THE DUST OF 100 DOGS:
The dual story. I was engaged totally in both. Present day Saffron got the first person POV, but Emer's close third person POV was even stronger. Of the two characters, I felt more for Emer. Wanted more for her. And cared way more for her.
(Not that I didn't care for Saffron. I did. Just more for Emer.)


FINAL THOUGHTS:
Yes, buy this book! Recommend it to a friend. Not for elementary school kids. This is a YA. It's bloody and has some harsh scenes. But I loved it. And it gets bonus points for being such a fresh and unique idea!


And if you're interested in being part of the monthly Book Review Club, contact Barrie Summy!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Spring Book Season Ahead and a Book Giveaway

Check out my post on The Spectacle on Technobabble (yes, inspired by Star Trek like so many other wonderful things in life).

---

It seems Spring is the season when authors begin to creep back out of their houses and get out in the world.

Take me for example. Two events this past Saturday.
The book signing at Blue Marble Java was a blast! (Love that I already got an email from someone who bought The Emerald Tablet, read it in a day, and loved it. Thank you!!!!!)

I also had the joy of being the selected author of the month for the Cedar Park Library Teen Book Club. I must say—these teen gals were super. So much fun. So full of life and energy. And very smart. I can't say enough good things about book clubs for kids. Really, one day I want to start one. Maybe at our elementary school.

Let's see. Fun author stuff coming up:

  • The super-fab Jody Feldman, author of The Gollywhopper Games will be in town this weekend.
  • SCBWI meeting in a couple weeks. Always a good time.
  • I'll be on BookRoast on March 10th! Don't worry—I'll remind the day before and that day so you can stop by.
  • It turns out R. L. LaFevers will be in town at BookPeople on March 22nd! I'm totally bringing my Theodosia books and heading over for a chance to meet her!
  • Of course April brings a joint signing at BookPeople with Kathi Appelt and Cynthia Leitich Smith. The sheer awesomeness of this joint signing speaks for itself.
  • I have four school visits set up for the Spring.

Now take all that awesomeness, mix in
  • a Cub Scout Campout
  • a First Communion
  • a visit from my mom
  • a trip to DisneyWorld (whoo hoo!)
and life is good.

How about you guys? Are fun author things happening for you this Spring?

In honor of the joys of Spring, I've decided to start doing a book giveaway every so often. No, I haven't set a plan of how often. And no, not The Emerald Tablet. At least not this time.

So I'll start today.
Leave a comment in the next week for a chance to win
The Book Of Nonsense by David Michael Slater

It's a fun book about a set of twins, a bookstore filled with awesome books, and of course a book with nonsense letters that change and appear and disappear. If you like fantasy books or know someone who does, this is a perfect book for you!
In David's words:
The book is ancient, ravaged, and full of utter nonsense.

Check out his website:
http://www.davidmichaelslater.com/

Comment before Monday, March 9th at 11:59 pm CT for your chance to win.

And have a great week!