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

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Are you ready for the Apocalypse?

I've been reading a slew of post-apocalyptic stuff these days it seems, the most recent two being Life as We Knew It and the dead & the gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer. And let me tell you: reading stuff like this really makes you want to stock up on canned goods and water. So I told the husband I was going to start buying extra canned food to have in reserve (maybe 2 cans each time we visit the store), thinking he'd think I was cracked.
His response? "I think that's a good idea."

At least if I'm cracked, so is he, which works out well. Of course then he started saying nuts were the best thing to buy while I argued nutrient-packed foods like spinach and carrots were. And then it seemed odd that we were arguing about the best food to buy should the apocalypse come, and we both agreed on water. So then we started arguing about the best place in the house to keep it. He suggested outside in the shed while I thought it should be in a closet. Anyway, you get the idea.
How you started stock-piling for an emergency? Thought about it?

All that said, read both books. They were awesome (especially Life as We Knew It). Which brings up my next point. I've read 27 books so far this year, and I had all these good intentions to list my top five...until I started looking at my list. Of the 27 books, I'd recommend 19 in a heartbeat. So how am I supposed to pick five out of those 19? I'm not sure it could be done. So just read them all, okay?

I will say this: the number one book I'd recommend this year thus far of the 27 titles listed in my sidebar is The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. So many books were great, but this is the one most suited to my reading tastes which had me hanging on the edge of my seat.

Can you name your top book? Your top five?

***

Revising here on my nice new computer! Productivity has doubled. I hope you all have a great week!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

That Special Day

As it turns out, today (Monday) is my 39th birthday! So the question is, will I stop the aging process at this moment in time or continue the graceful path past the big 40 next year?
If I was in Virginia with my parents, or if my mom was visiting me here, this is the cake I would be having.


For the birthday? I brought home a glorious, beautiful, brand new computer (laptop) and a giant monitor (23" which is way giant and nice and cheap at only $199). Productivity has already increased twentyfold. So I'm spending the birthday staring at my wonderful computer, revising on my wonderful computer, blogging on my wonderful computer. Maybe getting a piece of cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory, and rounding off the evening with taking the kids to swimming.
Life is good.

I did treat myself to a few great books on Friday including Life as we Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Love this book so far. Seriously. It's hooked me from word one. Of course the entire concept is awesome, so it had the deck stacked in its favor. But still. As soon as I finish typing this, I'm reading some more.

For those of you who've read The Emerald Tablet, you know it's set in the world of Lemuria, the giant continent which sank to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Thank you to author Stacy Nyikos for taking this fun, fun picture straight from Oklahoma.
Priceless.



So I've read 25 books so far this year. Some good. Some great. And on Wednesday I'm going to come up with my top five. Oh, the decisions! Want to join me? So many great books!

Happy Monday!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

CafePress and Photoshop: What I do when I'm not writing

So my conclusion on revisions and drafts is that no authors work the same and think the same. So the revisions question is always an interesting question for an author to answer, but never one which should be used as a comparison between two authors.

*****

Inspirational tees to inspire me:

Sometimes I write. And sometimes I play around with Photoshop. And I have such fun with it, I've even opened a CafePress store.

It all started when I decided I wanted another Rubik's Cube t-shirt since mine is looking a bit raggedy.

To the store, I've loaded, of course, my The Emerald Tablet t-shirts. (These are printed on both sides with Lemurian lettering awesomely on the back.) My genius idea on these is to have 5 each printed for our whole family and wear these babies at Disney (actually, I may just design one with nothing but a giant cover on the front and back for Disney :) ). It's all about self-promotion. And think of the tens of thousands of people who will be seeing my book cover each and every day. Of course, I'll have to make sure to have business cards on me, too, just in case anyone asks.


Anyway, next is my Rubik's Cube design. It says:

SUCCESS
It may be only a couple twists away.

(so don't give up now)


My Physics equation for Power design. It says:

P=(m*a*d)/t
Get in gear.

Go the distance.

Do the time.



My Scantron design. It says:

GET IT RIGHT.
There is no partial credit.


So whaddya think? All of course in a variety of styles (and if you just love them and want to request a different style, let me know!).

Check them out here!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What is a Revision?

Yes, this has nothing to do with the post, but I love this site.


One of the most interesting things to me in author interviews is how many drafts or revisions an author has done for their book. Some fess up to 50 or more revisions. Others 3 or 4.
Which, let's face it, is a huge discrepancy.
Not to mention it makes me wonder.

My thoughts are this (and please correct me if I'm wrong):
There is no strict way to define a revision or a draft. I plunk out the first draft of something, and that's pretty straightforward.
One draft.
But then revisions start. My writing process goes something like this:

1) First draft - no editing allowed.
2) Revisions straight through to eliminate general inconsistencies, add in new scenes of import.
3) Go through again to clarify in places I may have slacked on.
3) Generally, at this point, I'll read through (while making changes) one more time, and fix things as I go.
4) Couple beta readers read for me, because I'm so excited to share.
5) With this feedback, I go through steps (2), (3), and (4) again.
6) Read through MS at least 2 more times after that.

All the while, I'll submit to my critique group and incorporate feedback I get on my partial submissions. And all this time, I have yet to send it to my agent. But when I do, I know (or hope) there will be even more revisions.

So how many drafts is it at this point?

My question is this?
Does a revision (or draft) consist of multiple readings by myself? Is it defined by a period of time during which the manuscript is in flux and which no one else sees it?
And even still, if someone has only done 3 revisions, does this mean they
  • wrote a first draft
  • revised it
  • sent to agent
  • revised it again
  • sent it to editor
  • revised it a final time
And that was that?

I always amaze kids when I tell them I've probably read The Emerald Tablet 100 times. Actually, I amaze myself. But I've been over that book so many times, I could probably quote entire chapters. Thankfully, I refrain from doing this.

My questions for you:
1) How do you define a revision or a draft?
2) How many do you normally do (for a published book), and if the book is yet to be published, how many have you done thus far?

Hope everyone is having a great week!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Did they want the kiss?????

Okay, the big moment you've all been waiting for. After my big presentation to the 2nd graders (who are reading The Emerald Tablet aloud in class), I asked the question:
Do you want Iva and Andy to kiss in The Navel of the World (Book 2)?

Their answer...

A resounded, hooting, hollering YES, from boys and girls alike.
22 second graders, half boys and half girls, and they ALL wanted the kiss!!!!!
Ah, young love :)



***

For the first time since I was maybe 5, I flew a kite. It took the Cub Scouts to get me out there, and we all had a blast. What I learned:
1) The kite cannot be to heavy.
2) The tail makes a huge difference. Do not take off the tail to make it lighter.
Once our kite got airborne, it rocked! A giant dragon floating in the air. It even took down another kite a la The Kite Runner (which I have not read but I hear details these types of battles).

***

So in addition to a cover, I have an Amazon page for The Navel of the World! It's one thing to sign a book contract. But when your book actually gets a page on Amazon where real live human beings can order it, then it becomes so much more real. (Mom, can you go ahead and order it?)
And in addition to an Amazon page, I'm also going to have a joint book release party on October 10th, 2009 at BookPeople with Jessica Lee Anderson, author of Trudy and the upcoming Border Crossing!

Michelle at The Innocent Flower (who won The Emerald Tablet at The Book Roast last month) posted an awesome review/interview today! If you get a chance, pop over and check it out. She says the nicest things like:
"My husband and I can't wait for the next book, The Navel of the World, to come out this Fall."
Thanks, Michelle!

And speaking of nice things, Beth Revis is being interviewed over at Putting Pen to Paper today, and she also says some nice things about yours truly.
Thanks Beth and Robyn!

These things...they make me happy.

****

For you New Age fans out there, The Emerald Tablet has a rocking review in the latest issue of New Age Retailer (click on CURRENT ISSUE / CONTENT / FINE PRINT). Did you know the Emerald Tablet is a real object from the roots of alchemy?
Okay, you probably did, but I just thought I'd put that out there.
Love this line from the review:
"The childlike wonder this tale inspires is far from childish, as it encourages children to read, fosters an interest in New Age topics, and can be enjoyed by parents and children reading together."
Thanks, New Age Retailer!

****

My very fit buddy, Mizfit is on Yahoo!Shine. Go read all about how meditation can make you less maniacal. I could use some serious meditation time. I've been meaning to incorporate it into my routine for ages. But it hasn't quite hit the surface yet. Soon.

***

On the reading front, if you read my blog this weekend, you know I finished Life of Pi by Yann Martel. The husband started it on my recommendation :) Read this book! Enough said.

In addition, to pump myself up even more for the Star Trek movie, I've been reading I am Spock by (oooh, can you guess this one...) Leonard Nimoy.
It's great and keeping my attention, but it's not a fast read, so I'm going to take a small break and read Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go by Dale E. Basye. Why? It looks darling, and the title rocks.

Happy Monday all the way around!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Five on a Friday

Okay, I admit it. I am getting so psyched for the upcoming Star Trek movie. I'm trying to decide if I should see it in IMAX or a regular theater. Any recommendations?

Hope you guys had a great week! Here in Austin, I've been a bit silent as I've been hard at work revising. And so here are my five for the week:

1) There is no place like home. Except for the library. I've been there all week (except holiday Monday) cranking out some serious revisions. I turn off the wireless connection and focus on the words. It's all about the words. And I'm loving my story (which I take as a good sign).

2) In honor of the upcoming Star Trek movie, I bought this cereal...um...for the kids.


3) ABBA rocks. And Michelle at The Innocent Flower rocks. Check out this fabulous video she made. I can't get the song out of my head.
* Sidenote - Listening to music can turn a mood around faster than just about anything. It even makes the kids happy. In addition to ABBA, we've been cranking up some serious Phantom of the Opera.

4) Thank you to Sherrie at Write About Now for the award bestowal! I'm horrible (by choice) about passing these on, but I truly appreciate it!

5) On a fun note, I read aloud the first chapter of The Navel of the World to my son's class. They laughed at all the funny parts, seemed hooked on every word, and even got upset when I didn't read the "spoiler" paragraph.
* Sidenote - When I asked them if Andy and Iva should kiss in The Navel of the World, what do you think a group of second graders would say?

Edited to say I'll answer this question on Monday!

Hope everyone has a GREAT weekend!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Interview with Elizabeth C. Bunce


If you get a spare few minutes, check out my interview with Elizabeth C. Bunce, author of the fabulous A Curse Dark as Gold over on The Enchanted Inkpot!
She's answering questions about Haunted Houses, Botticelli gowns, and Fantasy Island!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Confetti Eggs and Book Parties

If you think the apocalypse is cool, head over and check out my post on The Spectacle. And please weigh in (over there) if you have a fun though on how the apocalypse might occur, and how you plan to be one of the 1% of humanity to survive.
(Hmmm...can the words "fun" and "apocalypse" really be used in the same sentence?)

Anyway, the weekend here consisted of the following:

1) 10 dozen cascarones
2) Early church
3) An 8-hour long playdate (which may sound long but actually provided the opportunity for adult conversation and beverages. The time actually flew)
4) Revisions
5) Some Kung Fu
6) The first half of Return of the King
7) Finding out I get a new roof, new gutters, and a new skylight
8) And last but not least, the joint author event featuring Kathi Appelt and Cynthia Leitich Smith.


I do love these author events. I even dragged my kids along, and the authors were kind enough to provide delicious iced cookies c/o Anne Bustard. The kids had at least three a piece. Okay, and I admit I had a couple, also. But I needed to see if the cats tasted different than the bats.
Verdict: No. After sampling, I can safely say they tasted the same.


Anyway, you can head over here to Cynthia's blog to read the full report, but I leave you with a few pictures I took plus one I snagged from her blog.

Shana Burg, Erin Edwards, Meredith Davis, and Liz Garton Scanlon

As for the week ahead, I'm basically moving into the library for the next week, cranking on some revisions. Summer is so not far away, and I need to soak up as many daylight hours writing as I can.

Have a great week!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Five on a Friday

Happy Friday all around! We're off to the park to color eggs in the afternoon. I figure it's a good place to make the mess and let the kids run around amidst there peeps (and not the marshmallow ones either).

This Easter Bunny needs to get to the store before Sunday morning. This is my top priority (I mean the Easter Bunny's top priority) for the next two days.

Thanks for all the great feedback on plot vs. character. Personally I found it pretty darned informative. It's neat to see where people fall and where people think they fall.

OK, my five:

1) I spoke to my son's class today. Gave them my Hero's Journey speech. They seemed to enjoy it, and I even sported my The Emerald Tablet t-shirt. Thanks, Laurel Mountain Elementary!

2) Awesome critique partner, Christine Marciniak, author of the upcoming When Mike Kissed Emma, came up with this fun inspirational poster. This I may have to borrow for author presentations. Because revisions are always a fun topic kids ask about.


3) I hit the library today (after the author visit this morning) and spent the rest of the day revising. It is ASTOUNDING how much more I get done there as compared to home. And I had the pleasure of running into awesome Austin author Shana Burg, author of A Thousand Never Evers and her darling son.

4) The speech at the Juvenile Center didn't happen. It accidentally got scheduled for TAKS (standardized tests) day, so we rescheduled for May. This gives me even more time to fine tune my speech.

5) I loved this series of posts on voice over on R. L. LaFevers blog. Buzz on over and check them out here and here!

6) OK, and a bonus extra. I have a working cover for The Forgotten Worlds Book 2: The Navel of the World. Me? I think it's pretty awesome.


Have a great weekend!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Plot vs. Character: Where do you fall?

Did anyone else go see Monsters vs. Aliens this weekend (or last for that matter)?
I laughed out loud at this movie. For me, all it takes are some good one-liners, a bunch of action, and nerd humor.
So yes, I recommend it.

***

It came to my attention on something I recently read that I cared way more about the characters than the actual plot. Sure, it was a series book (not the first), and it's a great thing that I really wanted to know what was going to happen to the characters. But how does the problem get solved of the (action) plot?
I've been in the reverse situation many times, where the plot was forefront in the book and the characters came second. And in these cases, of the reviews I've seen, the main comment has always been to not read the book if characters are your main concern. And as writers we take this to mean we need to beef up and develop our characters that much more.

But how about this reverse case. Where plot takes a backseat in an action novel. I've been thinking some about this and realize in a case like this when the relationships between the characters matter so much, that puts more pressure on the plot. It needs to measure up in kind.

So right back at you, you writers who do such a great job on your characters. We plot people aren't the only ones who need to work :)

Anyway, all that rambling above comes down to my question:
Do you think you focus more on the plot or characters when you're writing?
Because it seems like for the most part, writers tend to skew one way or the other.

***

Writing update:
I'm re-reading a WIP before I start revising it. It's been five months since I've read it, so I'm fresh and ready to go. Yay for time between revisions. There is no better cure for objectivity than as large an amount of time as you can possibly stand. And at this point, five months is about as much as I can stand.
BTW, I LOVE this stage of revisions! When I have bunches of ideas of what to incorporate!

Reading Update:
I read Running With the Demon by Terry Brooks recently. It's been years since I read any Terry Brooks, and quite a while since I read adult fantasy.
Thoughts in a nutshell:
I love the complications of the plot.
I love that this is a prequel to all the Shannara books
There are lots and lots and lots of extra words, description, and the sort that would have a really hard time making it into a kid's book (unless of course you're Terry Brooks in which case you can write whatever you want).
I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Audio reading update:
Listening to Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I cringed when the zebra was being eaten.

And a huge thanks to Becky Levine for saying some super nice things about me in this blog post. Thanks, Becky (who's great book The Writing and Critique Group Survival Guide is now available for pre-order on Amazon)!
Go order it now!!!!!

OK, hope everyone has a great week! I'll post on my visit to the Juvenile Center later this week!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

NJ, The Hero's Journey, and Internet Friends

First off, a huge thank you to Christine Marciniak and the Woodbridge, NJ G&T program for sponsoring me for a school visit. I had the awesome opportunity to give a Hero's Journey workshop to the kids in the program on Tuesday evening.

I gave a brief overview of myself, of why I write, of where I get my ideas; and then I talked a bit about the Hero's Journey and worked through an example showing how the various pieces fit together. And of course I gave them seven good reasons they should read The Emerald Tablet.


The kids were great. Asked tons of questions. Wanted to know if I would ever like a movie to be made of The Emerald Tablet.
(I went on to note how this is on the "you know you've made it" list for most authors.)

I'm amazed (and pleased) at how many of the kids would like to write. They seemed super interested in the writing and publishing process, and were astounded by the length of time it takes to get a book published (but weren't we all when we found out).

The highlight of my trip?
Meeting super, awesome, critique partner extraordinaire, Christine Marciniak, author of the upcoming When Mike Kissed Emma (August, 2009).

So what's it like to meet someone you have known for two years over the internet via critique group?
It's like you've known them all along. Because, let's face it, you have.
When I saw Chris, there was none of that getting-to-know-you stage. She was as awesome in person as she is in the group, and we immediately fell into conversation. She cooked for me. Made brownies. Hosted me overnight. Enjoyed a beer with me after the presentation. And of course we talked writing.
The only downside was the trip was not long enough. Next time I'm thinking we need to dedicate a day to writing. Now that sounds like bliss!


You can also read about my trip on Christine's blogs here and here.

***

Side notes:

Did you check out my post on Speculative Spoofs over at The Spectacle?

And have you made your way over to The Enchanted Inkpot yet?

***

Now off to finish up my speech for the Williamson County Juvenile Academy coming up this coming Tuesday!