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

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Day of Writing and a New Vado HD Video Cam

Three authors...
A brand new project...
A pure Austin coffee shop...

This is what you get!

P.S. Won the Vado on the awesome blog of Mizfit. Check it out!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Yes, we did get snow

And within 10 minutes we'd thrown snowballs, built a snowman, and made snow angels. And then I went in for a nice hot cup of coffee.

Yes, we built him very quickly

Tuesday at 11:00 am

Wednesday at 3:00 pm

Except for the remains of poor, little Frosty on our deck, you'd never know it really happened.
Happy Thursday!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Month Ahead

Happy Monday! Does everyone take time to think about what they're looking forward to in the time ahead? So here's a secret...

Doing this is really fun!

So the Texas Sweethearts decided to talk about it in front of the camera. For your viewing pleasure, here we are:


In other news, we saw THE LIGHTNING THIEF on Sunday. Thoughts? There's the obvious it's nowhere near as good as the book, but movies rarely are. Overall, I enjoyed it. And did Uma Thurman seriously take the cake as Medusa? She alone was worth seeing the movie for.


Final note because a few people have asked: The airplane/IRS building thing is only a couple miles from my house. We drive by every day. Traffic is still pretty slow from people slowing down, and across the street, people are stopping to get out and look. So sad and eerie.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bricks on a Friday

Happy Friday!

So a while back (last summer) I posted about my trip to Osceola Mills, Pennsylvania, and about my new found love of antique brick collecting. I posted a picture of my brick collection and talked about the fun of finding them in the most unusual places.

For reference, here is a picture of my "Osceola" brick.

Okay, here is why I love the Internet. A few months later I got an email from a gal in Canada. She, too, has a love of antique brick collecting, and while walking her dog in Canada, she'd come across a brick with the name Osceola printed on it. She'd googled "Osceola brick" and guess which blog post came up. Yep! You got it. So she emailed me and asked me about the brick. I emailed her back and asked her to send a picture, and we are now officially brick friends in two different countries!

For comparison here is her "Osceola" brick.

A similar thing happened even a longer time ago (2008). I'd posted about an unfortunate incident involving my then 3 year old, multiple pair of craft scissors, and my favorite childhood stuffed animal, Gagloo Greenplatt. If you're looking for some humor, take a minute to read the post.
Anyway, someone in Britain happened to google "Gagloo Greenplatt" and, yes, guess which post they found. They emailed me, mentioned their sister had a stuffed animal of the same name growing up, and wondered if it could be the same model. I emailed back a picture, and yes, it was confirmed that I had a Gagloo Greenplatt friend across the Atlantic Ocean.

Gagloo with his clipped tag

Anyway, those are my fun stories. Anyone have any they want to share?

And have a great weekend!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Teens Read Too Interview today!

Hey! I hope everyone had a great weekend!

I'm over on Teens Read Too today, so if you're curious which character from fiction I'd want to spend a day with, head over and take a peek (hint: think mythology).

Also, there's a giveaway, so please comment ( over there).

Thanks, and Happy Monday!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Five on a Friday

Happy Friday! I hope everyone had a great week!

Here are my five for the week:

1) I love that I organized all my fancy adult fantasy hardbacks this past weekend. Don't they look gorgeous?

2) I'm reading BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE by Kate DiCamillo in preparation (hope) of attending our Austin SCBWI meeting this weekend. The awesome Bethany Hegedus will be presenting on scene and structure and using the book as an example.

3) Thank you, Miriam, for reviewing both THE EMERALD TABLET and THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD! My favorite line from the review:
"Perfect for sci-fi lovers, fans of classical myth, and anyone who's ever wanted to teleport."

4) In case you don't read Becky Levine's awesome blog (and you should), she interviewed me this week. You can read it here. Thanks, Becky!

5) Okay, three day weekend here. I've been on a roll organizing stuff around the house. I've even found room for a whole new bookshelf. Now to order it!

Have a great weekend! Happy Valentine's Day!

Telepathy, Telekinesis, and a Giveaway

We're giving away a signed TEXAS SWEETHEART book (of your choice) and a $20 Powell's giftcard on The Texas Sweethearts blog. All you have to do is follow the blog and comment here.

And speaking of The Texas Sweethearts, our featured sweetheart this week is Chuck Sambuchino. And last week it was Jen Robinson. Head over and check out what makes them both so awesome!

And finally, if you've ever thought about which is better: TELEPATHY or TELEKINESIS, head over to The Spectacle to weigh in!

Have a great rest of the week!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Fabulous KERI MIKULSKI - Interview & Giveaway!

I'm so excited today to feature the super cool Keri Mikulski. Why is Keri cool you might ask? Well, I'll give you five reasons why I think she rocks:

1) She is all about sports. And even if I was the gal in the outfield during 7th grade softball, I still know sports are cool.

2) She has an amazing blog where she features gals in sports each Saturday.

3) She writes fantastic books!

4) She considers me a friend. And I consider her one right back!

5) She's going to be on an author panel with me at the upcoming Virginia Festival of the Book, March 20th, in Charlottesville, VA. (Come see us if you're in the area.)

Keri is the author of SCREWBALL and CHANGE UP, and also has a four-book deal with Razorbill/Penguin with the first cook coming out in 2011. And check it out below: Keri is giving away CHANGE UP for FREE! Yes, you read that right. FREE!

Without further ado, here is Keri!


PJH: So why softball as a backdrop? Did you play? Were you awesome (don’t be shy)? And what are some of your other favorite sports?

KM: Yup, that’s me.. Bottom row, second from the right. :)

I LOVE sports. Yes, I did play softball for over twenty years

In my micro-sized town (I graduated with one hundred and thirty classmates), I won MVP awards and dominated at times because I threw five different pitches windmill and fastpitch softball was still brand new (yikes, I’m really dating myself here), but I was just a small grain in a large beach when I went off to play in college. I LOVED soccer and basketball too and played both in high school, earning ten varsity letters by my senior year. Right now, I still enjoy softball, soccer, basketball, golf, surfing, swimming running, and playing sports with my daughter and hubby.

PJH: Tell us five things you collect.

1. Handbags
2. Books
3. Flip flops
4. Sporty tees
5. Office supplies :)

PJH: How closely do you relate to Ashley? Did you do the dedicated-to-sports thing when you were young? Did you pitch?

KM: Ashley and I are a lot alike, but Ashley is a bit more brazen than I ever was. I was definitely dedicated to sports like Ashley, but when I played softball, the balls were still white and ASA travel ball was brand new in New Jersey. Yes, I did pitch. :) But, Ashley is way better than I ever was.

PJH: What are three books you are looking forward to the release of in the next year (not including mine)?

KM: I have so many… Yours, of course. :) Alyson Noel’s Immortals series, Cyn Balog’s Sleepless, Megan McCafferty’s Bumped, Suzanne Young’s The Naughty List, Lauren Baratz-Longsted’s Crazy Beautiful, Jennifer Brown’s Hate List, and anything by Meg Cabot, E. Lockhart, and Lauren Myracle.

PJH: If an apocalypse came, would you still find a way to write (even if this meant paper and pen)? And if yes, then how and why?

KM: Yes, I HAVE to write. Writing keeps me sane and allows me to express my creativity. Writing centers me. If I don’t write, I feel anxious and weird. :)


OK, now the fun, fast part. Keep your answers as short as possible!

PJH: Fantasy Island or Love Boat?
KM: Love Boat—Love the storylines. :)

PJH: Guilty Pleasure?
KM: Expensive handbags.
PJH: Okay, I never saw that one coming.

PJH: Favorite Scooby Doo character?
KM: Scooby Doo.

PJH: Computer or hand written?
KM: Computer

PJH: First Draft: Revise as you go or just get it down?
KM: Both

PJH: Favorite natural wonder?
KM: The ocean. :)

PJH: Favorite myth?
KM: Hmm… I’m not really up on my mythology, but I remember one in high school I really liked about a strong female Goddess. Let me look it up – Urgh, I can’t find it.. Any ideas?? :)
PJH: Athena was super strong. How about the myth where she comes out of Zeus' head?

KM: Thanks so much, PJ!! :) You rock.
PJH: Thank you, Keri! I loved it!

A special note from Keri:

"The entire book CHANGE UP (SCREWBALL 2) is now available on my website – http://www.kerimikulski.com. Just click ‘Books’ and scroll down to CHANGE UP. And please keep an eye out for my new series – PRETTY TOUGH (Penguin/Razorbill) – on sale (the regular way) Winter 2011. :) "

Thursday, February 04, 2010

In Which I Inspire Myself

Having trouble believing you'll ever reach your goals? Here's a new trick to try!

Now off to write my ten pages...

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Thoughts on Conferences

(I'm not sure I've typed this many words since my last novel. And not a single picture to boot.)

Thank you all for the awesome comments on my conference wrap-up from Monday! My post along with seeing all the other posts about the Austin SCBWI conference for some reason really made me remember when I first joined SCBWI.

It was only five years ago though it seems like forever. I joined Austin SCBWI and signed up for the conference which was only a few weeks later. I didn't know a soul. I knew almost nothing about the publishing business. All I had was a completed manuscript and a new-found love of writing kids' books.

So the first thing I did after scouring the Austin SCBWI website for hours on end was decide I needed to join a critique group. Our site has a page with contact information for those interested in critique groups. I cold emailed the first person on the list, Carla Birnberg, who offered to meet me at B&N for a coffee and a chat. I met her, told her all about my book, and she offered to read my first chapter. She wasn't interested in a formal critique group at the time, but she gave me great feedback and has to this day remained one of my very close friends.
So I cold emailed the next person on the list and found someone who also wanted to join a critique group. We decided to form our own group and advertise at the upcoming conference.

So, yay! I now had a critique group contact, and I knew TWO whole people who were going to be at the conference.

Let's skip to that, shall we?

First I saw a call for chairs from the RA at the time, Julie Lake. I sent her an email offering to bring some chairs and felt completely floored when she actually spoke to me. She was a published author which was just amazing in my eyes.
And if that wasn't enough, when Cynthia Leitich Smith entered the conference, and I thought of her in almost a goddess light. She was the queen of Austin. Untouchable. So successful. Would she seriously ever talk to me?

For those of you who actually know Cyn and Julie, you can stop laughing now. I was beyond nervous. I was so green. I was intimidated beyond belief. OMG. But I was there. That was something.

At lunch the two peeps I knew ate elsewhere so I sat at a table and introduced myself to three other people at the table. I emailed all three afterward and two never responded, but the third, Erin Edwards, responded and is a gem. I'm always so thrilled to see Erin and catch up with her. Was she as nervous as I was? I have no idea. I certainly didn't think so at the time, so you'd have to ask her.

Did I talk to an editor or an agent at the conference? Heck no. After all, what would I have said?*

So the conference ended, I now had three people I knew in SCBWI, and a couple more contacted me from the critique group fliers I had at the registration table. I now had a critique group.

Okay, am I the only one who's gone through this kind of conference experience? I can't imagine so.

Let's fast forward a bit, shall we? What's changed?

Well, for starters, I went to the monthly meetings. I introduced myself to people. I randomly mentioned I'd love to go the the National conference. I went (along with someone else from Austin). And there I met my editor.

I went to book signings. I bought the books. I introduced myself to the authors. And here I'll insert for those that don't know Cyn she's about the nicest person in the whole of children's publishing. As soon as I introduced myself at her TANTALIZE book signing, she recommended lunch which of course I took her up on.

I went to workshops. I met the awesome Carmen Oliver who from the very start had the most gorgeous smile. It lit up the room every time I walked into a meeting and saw it.

I went up and talked to Jo Whittemore** who at the time had a fantasy trilogy coming out. She was the bomb as far as I was concerned and I was a total fan girl. (She's now a fellow Texas Sweetheart.) Yikes I was scared, but I made myself go up and talk to her. We chuckled about this at the conference this past weekend.

Okay, so look at any of these things. What if I hadn't sent emails about the critique groups? What if I hadn't introduced myself at book signings? What if I hadn't gone to meetings because I didn't know anyone?

Do you get what I'm trying to say?

Reaching out is huge in becoming a part of any community. This is your responsibility. This is something totally within your power. No one will do it for you. And the best part is there is little to nothing to lose. It's scary but it's huge for helping you and your network grow.


* WAIT - So you're going to a conference and you don't know what to say to authors or agents or editors. Yes, I've been here!!!! Am I still here sometimes? Yes! But here are some strategies to make approaching anyone so much easier.
  • Read their books (or their clients' books or books they've edited). Go up and tell them how much you liked their book. Be sincere. Don't fake it.
  • Ask about the marketing of specific books they've worked on.
  • Talk about the publishing business.
  • Ask what good books they've read recently.
  • Read their blogs and mention specific things from their blog posts.
  • Mention something you both have in common.
The key thing is finding common ground and making the personal connection. After all, everyone is just a person. We all want to form relationships and communicate. It's what life is all about.

** Jo Whittemore is giving away candy on her blog! Just tell her what your favorite candy bar is here.