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

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Five on a Friday

For the last two days, I've been thinking about my groove for the summer. I have vacation to DC planned, volunteering for a week of Cub Scout camp (yes, wish me luck), lots of kid time, and...well...less writing time. And this is not bad. I simply need to develop my groove for the summer months, go with it, and enjoy it. And anyway, I did used to work a full time job also, didn't I?

I'm ready. Are you???

Here are my five for the week:

1) Headed to BookPeople today and bought a ton of books including:
Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner
Grip of the Shadow Plague (Fablehaven) by Brandon Mull
Rise of the Evening Star (Fablehaven) by Brandon Mull
Soul Enchilada by David Macinnis Gill
The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

Also I looked for The Chosen one by Carol Lynch Williams but they were sold out.

2) For my son, I bought:
The Five Ancestors Book 5: Eagle by Jeff Stone

Two notes here:
(a) I kinda forced him into starting to read "longer" books by making him read 39 Clues. He read all three of those so I made him read Tiger next which he devoured. He couldn't wait to get back to reading it and totally loved it. So yeah, sometimes you have to push the issue or kids will stick with Super Diaper Baby forever.
(b) When Jeff Stone lived in Austin, he took Kung Fu at the same place I take it.

3) Okay, my daughter was at BookPeople with me. She really just wanted to play in the theater, but they conveniently have the 8x8 books situated right next to it. So she picked herself out an 8x8 book on Night at the Museum 2 (which we saw on Monday, plot holes and all).

4) I've officially made my first movie with iMovie. What fun! I can see where this would become addictive (just like everything else related to computers). I'm not posting the video as it was a DisneyWorld vacation video and I'm pretty sure you guys don't want to see 138 photos of my kids. But trust me. It is awesome!

5) My agent has a book coming out this fall.
Buying, Training, and Caring for Your Dinosaur by Laura Joy Rennert
Looks pretty cool, huh?
You can check out her brand new website here and even take a quiz to find out what kind of dinosaur you are here.
I'm a triceratops. You?

Okay, I'll throw in an extra:

6) Palm Pre anyone???

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Big Thunder Vacation

So the good news is we had a great time in DisneyWorld. Sure, it poured pretty much the entire time.
One thing I always remind myself in writing is to look for the lemonade. There is always lemonade. Sometimes it's hard to find when all seems for naught, but let's just talk about Disney and not the hairy world which is writing.
So my lemonade from a week filled with rain and rain and even more rain:

1) Virtually no lines the entire time. Seriously. I think the longest we waited was 20 minutes for Big Thunder Mountain one time. And we went on this ride at least eight times.

2) Mastery of putting on rain ponchos and taking them off. This is a skill which gets much easier when practiced at least ten times per day.

3) Appreciation of Keens. Wet sneakers and socks are no fun.

4) Sunscreen not required for which I couldn't be happier. Putting this on me and the kids gets old really quick.


I have a new favorite Disney ride. Okay, before this, my favorite was the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, but it was closed (along with Space Mountain) for renovations. My new favorite ride:

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

OMG. Loved. This. Ride.
It was awesome and perfect, and even my 42" tall daughter could go on it.

But what made the ride so cool? I'm not normally one for free falls and dark places. What it was was the whole story behind the ride. The episode of Twilight Zone virtually designed for the ride. The showing of the video. The amazing ambiance. It was all the little details which worked together to make the perfect experience. So perfect I went on it three times straight. (Did I mention there were virtually no lines?)

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Aside from taking in Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion as many times as I possibly could, I managed to read three books on vacation:

1) Border Crossing by Jessica Lee Anderson (which comes out in October and who I will be having a joint release party with, BTW). This book rocked and you totally have to read it when it comes out! Hey, remind me and I'll do a signed giveaway when the time comes.

2) Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr (On my list for a while; Not my normal genre; Really engaging and so well written).

3) Fablehaven by Brandon Mull. I've got to say I totally enjoyed this book. Sure, it reminded me a ton of Magic Kingdom for Sale—SOLD by Terry Brooks, but it was so great I'm off to BookPeople to buy the next in the series tomorrow.

So in short, I recommend them all! And wow that I'm up to 32 books read so far this year!

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Today happened to be my daughter's last day of preschool for the summer. Which means it was my last day of daylight hours writing for a while. (insert lots of coffee and late nights here).
I spent the day working on my outline for a new project and made excellent progress—at least in my mind. I need ten pages by June 15th for submission to a writing workshop. This I can do and am excited to do. It's always so much fun to start something fresh, especially once a plot starts to form. Sure I had ideas for the basic world, but it's the plot which really needs to click for me before I can get started. Next? Character worksheets.

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Hope I didn't miss too much! I wiped the blog reader clean and am ready to start back into the world of commenting again. So post away!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Five on a Friday (the proactive version)

So here's Five on a Friday a day early! How's that for being proactive? As it turns out, I'm going on a blog vacation starting Saturday for a week. If you post something and want me to read it, please leave me a comment! I don't want to miss anything, but I also can't swear I'll read every post when The Haunted Mansion is calling me name.

1) I have neglected to mention I'm the luckiest person on Earth. Just ask Heather at The Secret Adventures of WriterGirl. I won any book I want (under $50). So cool! So cool in fact I think I'll do a similar contest this summer to celebrate my winning. Anyway, my book?

Dante's Inferno

I asked Heather to pick a version out for me. And thanks, Heather!

2) I did a school visit on Tuesday. Chatty group! I think it's because it's the end of the year. It was 2nd and 3rd graders this time (quite a difference from the Juvenile Center), but equally as awesome. Kids are so much fun.
Thanks Forest North Elementary!

3) Reading update:
I finished Nation by Terry Pratchett this week (on audio). Not your typical Terry Pratchett, but still a great book. There definitely were a few laugh out loud moments, but it's way more serious than the discworld books.

Also read The Black Book of Secrets by F. E. Higgins. I have to say: this book has one of the best first chapters I've yet to read. It's what made me continue on with the whole book during my library reading time.

4) My non-spoiler thought on the Star Trek movie:

NOT JUST FOR STAR TREK FANS

I think this sums it up nicely.

5) I'm off to DisneyWorld! Will I write while there?
No.
But I do plan on brainstorming a new story idea, making some good notes, working on trying to come up with a plot—all that good stuff!

Hope you guys have a great week!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Tears

What moves you to tears?

I've been thinking about this a ton. In my list of goals as a writer (come on, we all have one, and if we don't, we should), someday I want my writing to move someone to tears. I want to make a reader cry. And cry from the words touching their emotions, not any of the other many sarcastic remarks which could be interjected at this point.

So now I have new sensors up when I read.
  • What is it that makes me cry?
  • Which specific words or sentences brings the tears to my eyes?
  • Can I pinpoint these occurrences and learn from them?
  • Is it necessary to care about the characters? (I have my own opinion on this, but I'm curious what others think)

I cry at lots of silly things. More so since I have kids. Commercials get me. Movies big time. Seriously, I needed a box of tissues next to me for the entire LORD OF THE RINGS viewing (Especially at the end when Aragorn bowed to the Hobbits). And yes, I KNOW I will be wiping tears during STAR TREK probably from the first scene on (but on this one it's the nostalgia of it all).
And I did cry when Tasha Yar died.

Books I've read this year which have resulted in tears in my eyes:


Wow, in listing them it seems like there should be more. And though these aren't in this year, two books I have to mention are:

So help me out here. What brings you to tears? What books have done it for you? Give me all your deep down thoughts on tears. MG vs. YA? Fantasy vs. Reality. Etc. Etc. Don't hold back!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Five on a Friday

Thanks so much to everyone for all the awesome comments on my Juvenile Center visit. It really was a way cool experience!

Here are my five for the week:

1) Stardate 05.08.09

2) I keep forgetting to post this pic of a coffee mug I painted. My daughter and I hit the Paint-your-own-pottery a couple weeks ago. It has almost replaced my pirate mug as my favorite coffee cup. Almost.


3) I got a great thank you note from the Juvenile Center including:
"The kids have all been asking to check out your book!! It means to much to them when they see people from our community willing to share and give to them. Your words were inspirational to many of them. Many of them are ready to become authors!! Your dynamic personality made an impact on many of them."

4) I've had my head buried in revisions for a while now, and the good news is I still love my ms.

5) Stardate 05.08.09

Hope you all have a great weekend!

* And no, I am not seeing the movie on opening day. I am going to wait so I don't have to make the kids suffer through long lines waiting for awesome seats (which is truly me saving myself from suffering while dealing with the kids suffering through long lines). We're heading there next week. Maybe Stardate 05.13.09.
Sans kids, I'd be there right at this very moment.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Juvenile Center Author Visit

So yesterday I had to privilege of speaking at the Williamson County Juvenile Center just outside of Austin. I gave two presentations, about an hour each, to kids ranging from 10 to 18.

The first group was about 20 kids (all guys). This group was made of up the kids who had done something wrong but were awaiting a decision from the judge as to whether they would be staying on or not. When they came into the room, many of them carried books. I asked if they liked to read, and the response I got was that it was all they were allowed to do.
Not a bad response, I think. After all, there's no better way to develop a love of reading than to be exposed to it.
Anyway, the kids in this group were great. They asked lots of questions, and seemed a bit more willing to open up. I think it may have been the smaller group dynamic.
Overall, the main thing I noticed in this group, was the varying age difference. The youngest kid was 10, just 2 years older than my son. He, by far, asked the most questions, though as the speech went on, others loosened up, too. One kid even mentioned he wanted to write down stories and actually already had already started.

The second group was about 70 kids in full uniform (camouflage) who had been assigned to stay at the Juvenile center. The guys had their heads shaved and the girls all wore theirs up. They were polite, listened while I was talking, and then during Q&A some even mentioned SFF books and authors they liked to read. Stephen King, J.R.R. Tolkien, R. A. Salvatore.
And let's not forget Stephanie Meyer. I think every kid in the room had read her books. One guy said no matter what she wrote next, he'd buy it.

I love the interaction with the kids; I love asking questions while I speaking and having them actually respond. Some admitted to being able to solve the Rubik's Cube. One kid asked me who my favorite Tolkien character was. To date, nobody has guessed my favorite Mario Kart character.

***

So it's been under a year since I've really been doing a lot of public speaking, and here's my discovery:

I love it.

Whether it's 30 2nd graders, 150 librarians, or a group of 70 troubled teens, I've enjoyed it each and every time.
And keep in mind as I say this that a year ago I was terrified of the thought of getting up in front of a group and speaking. It seemed horrible. The first time I shook. The second time, ditto, though not nearly as much. Each time it's gotten better. And yesterday, I wasn't nervous at all. I realize I can do this. And it's fun.

I'm big on PowerPoint and pictures, which I used to think was a crutch—that I was unable to give a "real" speech. But yesterday I realized my PowerPoint is more of a tool. It allows me to be chatty and approachable and not feel like I have a script. It lets me be myself. And I think this is the part I truly enjoy. I can get up and connect in some way to a group as myself and hope that I make a positive impact on at least one person out there.

Happy Wednesday!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Book Recs, Blog Posts, and Speeches

First up, thank you to Dan at The Writing Greek for saying such nice things about The Emerald Tablet!

***

The next two weeks are shaping up to be super busy. Not a bad thing considering I have school visits, a trip to Disney to get ready for, and revisions to work on. Did I mention I'm loving my revisions?

Anyway, for the deeper blogging subjects:
So head over if you have a second and weigh in!

In light of the fact that I have blogged all my deeper matter over on the group blogs, I figured I'd highlight some of the books I've bought as presents recently and books I've bought for myself.

Presents (Eight-year-old girl)
(and here I want to point out the importance of getting to know your bookseller. I went to BookPeople to buy these. I knew I'd get The Lightning Thief, but since my daughter is only 4, I'm not up on 8-year-old girl. So I asked one of the booksellers, Emily, at BookPeople what I should get, and she immediately pointed to Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth):



Present (17-year-old boy)
(I know there are lots of good guy novels out there, but he's not a big reader.):



Presents (8-year-old boy)
(He's kind of at that in-between reading stage. I'm working to get him reading longer books):




Books for me (I've been meaning to read these Fablehaven books for a while, and it's like every day I hear more and more about them):



So what have you been buying for presents recently? How about for yourself?

And happy Monday! Hope you have a great week!