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

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On to the First Day of ALA

At first I thought the fact that the exhibits didn't open until later in the day was a problem. But then I realized that gave me and Jessica Lee Anderson a day to hang around DC without the kids doing things the kids may not find too exciting.

We started the day with a walk at Fort Hunt Park (a don't miss in my opinion). And yes, I did bring the kids along for this one. They'd never forgive me otherwise.

An old dungeon?

But then Jessica and I headed over to the city where we managed to cram in...

The Library of Congress

Outside the Library, me and Jessica


Love the Kidlit Poster in the Underground tunnel to the Capitol

The Capitol

Me and Jessica Lee Anderson doing the self photo

The Botanical Gardens


Me in the Gardens

The Smithsonian Gallery of Art

"I'm thinking. I'm thinking."

Then it was on to the exhibits. They were only open for a couple hours and it wasn't crowded a bit. Plenty of other authors and editors to talk to, all very excited about books (imagine that). I only fangirled it once Friday night when I talked with Libba Bray who is such a darling.

Getting ready to head in. The crowd kept growing.

My high school friend Curry Rose Hoskey who I haven't seen in 23 years (and her darling baby boy). Curry is now a fab librarian and a great supporter of kid lit!

After the exhibits we headed to the Kidlit Drink night organized by Sara Lewis Holmes and Amy Brecount White. I love that the drink nights are so welcoming and fun!

A. R. Rotruck, Jessica Lee Anderson, Me, and Sara Lewis Holmes

Me and Fellow Austinite and Caldecott Honor Winner Liz Garton Scanlon (yay for Austin!)

Sara Lewis Holmes and Amy Brecount White

Then it was home on the Metro and ready for an early start the next day!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Showing off DC

Since I grew up outside DC, I have a great place to stay when I come to the area. And ALA being in DC this year was a perfect opportunity. Fellow Texas Sweetheart Jessica Lee Anderson flew up and stayed with us, and since ALA didn't start until Friday, we had some time to tool around the city and check things out. Thankfully, Jessica's the kind that didn't mind me dragging my kids along for the sights.
As writers, we obsess about everything we can relate to writing. Everything can be correlated; it's like that one degree of separation thing. Are you guys that way, too? Anyway...

At the Natural History Museum I took a picture of what my husband considers me to be when I nag.

The Egyptians considered writing the best possible profession.

And here's a picture my son took in front of one of our favorite exhibits in the museum: the giant ground sloth (who is related to the armadillo crazily enough).

My favorite bench in the museum. I want one like this for my house! But until then, I take a picture of it every time I go.

Taking time to dip our feet in the fountain. On Friday evenings, they have a live Jazz band.

Poor Pluto. He's been removed. And forget about Charon his moon.

After the museums, I showed Jessica the pure pleasure in playing a game of croquet. There's nothing like whacking a ball around the yard to relieve the frustrations of life. Sadly I didn't get a picture of Jessica playing croquet, but I'm sure to play more and will report.

Okay, next day coming soon. In the meantime, I've been away from my computer for a while and am so behind on blogs. Must catch up! ALA is over and it's back to the real world.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Soon to come is my ALA wrap up. It was a blast, and I can't wait to report all about it! In the meantime, I'm looking forward to a summer full of spreading ARC love, and I'm kicking it off by giving away:


I'm a huge fan of the MORTAL INSTRUMENTS series, and I've started this one and am loving it.

So the rules are the same. All you need to do to for your chance to win this amazing ARC is:

1) Follow this blog
2) Follow The Texas Sweethearts blog
3) Comment on this blog post

For extra entries:

1) Blog about this contest and leave a comment telling me
2) Tweet about this contest and leave a comment telling me

And make sure you leave me a way to get in contact with you when you win!

Oh, yeah, the contest will run through midnight on Friday July 9, 2010!

(and in case you haven't already, there are a couple more days to enter to win DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver and THE ETERNAL ONES by Kirsten Miller. Check here for details.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Awesome Featured Sweetheart!

Head over to THE TEXAS SWEETHEARTS blog when you get a chance and check out our awesome featured sweetheart this week, the very cool Fuse #8—Betsy Bird!

Monday, June 21, 2010

All about First Drafts

Happy Monday, all! I'm over on the wonderful blog of Tabitha Olson today talking about what a first draft means to me. So if you're curious why I've included a picture of my tortoises here, head over and check it out!

(Nefertorti and King Tort say "hello")

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Off to Virginia

I leave today for a month in Virginia. I loved growing up there and always can't wait to visit each year. This year the highlights will be:

  • ALA! Yes. ALA happens to be in DC this year, and fellow TEXAS SWEETHEART Jessica Lee Anderson will be joining me for it! Look for us there! We're planning to hit The Library of Congress along with lunch in Chinatown, too.
  • The annual trip to Osceola Mills, PA! Nothing like ATV rides, relatives, and marshmallow roasting to make the Fourth of July special. And I'm hoping to find some new antique bricks for my collection.
  • The beach and seashell collecting.
  • Revising. I will write while I'm away.
  • Blogging! Yes, I'm going to be blogging and continuing to give away awesome ARCs as I read them. So don't go away!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Contest Winner and Featured Sweetheart

We have the most amazing Featured Sweetheart today over on THE TEXAS SWEEHEARTS blog. It's Lexie Ziolkowski who is 11 years old and has a goal to collect 4000 books for the Kyle Busch Foundation which supports children's homes across the United States. If you have a chance and want to show her some love, please stop by!

And I'm thrilled to announce the winner of LINGER by Maggie Stiefvater and MATCHED by Ally Condie is...

Please email me so I can get your books out to you.
And a huge thank you to everyone who entered!

For those of you who didn't win, don't forget I have two more awesome books up for grabs:

DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver and
THE ETERNAL ONES by Kirsten Miller

Enter here!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Write your own Editorial Letter

One of my biggest summer writing goals is to get my WIP in good enough shape to send to critique partners. At this point I have a solid first draft, so now it's time to move on to revisions.
Here's the thing: I write my first drafts fast. As fast as I possibly can. This is great for me as it gives me that wonderful sense of accomplishment, but it also means the drafts need plenty of revisions.

Sometimes Always revisions can seem a bit daunting. So this time around, I'm trying something different. Rather than a bunch of little notes of everything I want need to change, I'm collecting all those thoughts and writing myself my own editorial letter. In the letter, I'm addressing each character, each setting, etc, and making sure they are all at least noted as needing revisions. I'm listing all those unanswered questions I try to sweep under the carpet and making sure they have answers. Getting these questions answered ahead of time hugely helps in revisions.

In my experience, these questions are the ones that make the biggest difference in the manuscript. Really digging deep and asking what character's motivations are. Questioning the believability of plot twists or revelations. Making sure key plot points are enough.
Try to find ahead of time what a critique partner will point out to you and call you on. This saves time on both your part and your critique partner's part.

So how do you go about that very first revision? Any tips I can use?

And have a great week!

*and thanks to Christine Marciniak for the very cool picture!

Monday, June 14, 2010


For everyone looking for some great summer reading, you don't want to miss these two fantastic, yet-to-be-released books:

DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver (of BEFORE I FALL best-selling fame) (it's a dystopic Romeo and Juliet)
THE ETERNAL ONES by Kirsten Miller (of KIKI STRIKE fame) (great YA romance with that awesome supernatural twist)

To enter is easy. Just do the following (all are required):

1) Follow this blog
2) Follow The Texas Sweethearts blog
3) Comment on this blog post

For extra entries:

1) Blog about this contest and leave a comment telling me
2) Tweet about this contest and leave a comment telling me

And make sure you leave me a way to get in contact with you when you win!

Oh, yeah, the contest will run through midnight on June 30, 2010!

(and in case you haven't already, there are a couple more days to enter to win LINGER by Maggie Stiefvater and MATCHED by Ally Condie. Check here for details.)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Video to Finish my Most Productive Day Ever

Don't you love those days? When you start moving and don't stop until bedtime. And yes, even then, I finally put together the video I promised the kids I would make. Enjoy!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Five on a Friday

Happy Friday! Hope everyone had a great week. Next week is sure to be super for writing as both kids will be in camp (so looking forward to it!). It's Kung Fu camp which is inside and all day and fun.
BTW, if you haven't tried a martial arts, I so think you should go out and do it today. Kicking, punching, katas. It's awesome! And that's not even mentioning the cute gi you get to wear.

Here are my five for the week:

1) I keep forgetting to mention and thank Adventures in Children's Publishing for THE EMERALD TABLET being voted as a winner in their Underappreciated YA Poll. Yay for THE EMERALD TABLET!

2) For anyone into way cool 3D game art, my Kung Fu friend, Erik McKenney, is a finalist in the Unearthly Challenge 2009. I love looking at all the entries, but of course I'm partial in thinking his is the best!

3) Huge thank you to everyone who has entered the contest to win MATCHED and LINGER! I'm planning on a new contest starting Monday to give away DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver and THE ETERNAL ONES by Kirsten Miller, so make sure to come back by.

4) In a week, I'm off to Virginia for a week! Awesome Jessica Lee Anderson will be joining me for ALA (so excited!). I plan to make sure to see The Library of Congress this time around (have never done this). More Virginia vacation plans next week!

5) I have a writing day today, so I'm off to write!

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Have I mentioned Summer is Here: Part 2

Okay, so I've got the ideas on how to distract the kids and sneak in a little writing time. In addition to popsicles, I've added Jell-O to the mix, because seriously who doesn't like Jell-O? (no, don't really tell me if you don't.) But there are those times when the kids will not be ignored. When they want to be within one cubic yard of you. So what should the dedicated writer do then?

Here are five writerly things you can do when your kids are hanging on your lap:

1) Clean your office. There's nothing like making kids feel useful, and having them run each and every scrap of paper you clean out of your files to the recycling bin while doing a thorough cleaning works well. When they finish that, give them a washcloth and have them get the crumbs off the floor.

2) Patch all those holes in your walls. You know the ones. They're above your computer monitor. They symbolize all the things that used to give you inspiration for a given manuscript. But now you're left with only holes. Get out the DAP and a spatula, and get the kids to patch them for you.

3) Watch movies. We all have those movies we consider "research." Yeah, well now's the perfect time to pull out that excuse for sitting in front of the tube. I find LORD OF THE RINGS the perfect inspiration for my writing, and we're talking ten hours when you factor in the extended versions.
(And could we get THE HOBBIT filmed already? Seriously, people.)

4) Set up scenes in using the dollhouse. Fight the talking heads syndrome and give the dolls something to do while they chat. Read your dialogue aloud using appropriate voices for the dolls. Of course, make sure it sounds realistic. Throw the Wicked Stepmother figurine in for fun because every story needs an antagonist. If you get really inspired, film the scene with your VADO and upload it to YouTube. This gets your blog post out of the way, too.

5) Instead of answering an endless stream of questions originating from the kids (most of them Harry Potter related), turn the question asking around. Ask their opinion on what makes a scene scary. Ask what one kid would really say to another. Ask them to tell you a joke. Ask them the most embarrassing thing that happened to them recently. Ask... yeah, the list goes on. And who knows? Maybe they'll even tire of the questions and revisit the Wii.

Got any more to add to the mix?

Summer and Sci-fi

Couple links to help you procrastinate:

First, over on The Spectacle, I pose the question of whether a sci-fi background is a requirement for writing a (good) dystopic novel.

And second, here's our weekly Texas Sweethearts vlog.

Hope the week is perfect all the way around!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Have I mentioned Summer is Here: Part 1

Here in Texas, school is out. Actually, it's been out for over a week now. And as a "full-time" writer, what this means is I've got a summer ahead filled with kids, kids, and more kids. Now don't get me wrong. I adore my kids. They are fun and energetic and mine, all mine. But they need attention. And food. And watering (or is that the plants?).
The list goes on. Suffice it to say, as a full-time writer, summer gives me the opportunity to become much more creative with my time.

That said, I'm going to examine my summer this week. And I'll kick it off today with five creative ways I can squeeze extra time out of the day:

1) The pool. After a three hour trip to the pool, the kids deserve some down time. They are beat. The sun wipes it out of people, and 9 and 5 year-olds are no exception. So I'm aiming to wear the kids out as much as possible when I am "on" such that when we get home, they are ready to chill.

2) Popsicles. There is nothing more fun for a kid than being sent outside to eat a popsicle. I can check blogs in the five minutes said popsicle takes to eat. And when they knock on the door and ask for another, you guessed it: I get five more minutes.

3) In the spirit of snatching tiny amounts of time, I'm keeping my laptop downstairs during the day. I removes the isolated feeling, and I can work at the same table my kids are painting at.

4) Foster independence. It's got to help the kids to have them get their own milk and candy and paint supplies. It makes them feel grown up. Now if only I could figure out a way to get them to do the grocery shopping and the house repairs.

5) We didn't spend $275 on a Wii for nothing. Yes, I am not beyond the "Wii as stimulation" for the children. In fact, a week into summer and I've convinced myself that at least one hour of Wii is good for the kids each day. It helps with eye-hand coordination or something like that. I'm pretty sure my parents thought the same thing when I was young.

Anyone else in the same boat as me? How are you getting those extra hours?

Friday, June 04, 2010

Five (Books) on a Friday

In light of awesome ARCs and great upcoming books, here are five I want to mention:

1) Currently reading DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver. I may be the only person on the planet who has yet to read BEFORE I FALL (it's on my TBR shelf at home), so I have nothing to compare this book to, but DELIRIUM has me hooked and wanting to stay up late into the night to read. I finally put it down at 1:00 last night only because I knew I wanted to write today and I'd be too tired if I stayed up to finish it. The writing is beautiful and the plot is gripping!
(and I may be giving away my ARC when I'm done, so hang around.)
(and thank you to Traveling ARC Tours who I took the picture from.)

2) Loved THE MARBURY LENS by Andrew Smith. Again, I've read nothing else written by him so far, but THE MARBURY LENS is by far the best book I've read this year. It's dark and intricate and so compelling. Of course there's also the fact that we have the same agent (Does anyone else notice they like other books their agent has agented also as a general pattern?)
(the only way I've giving away this ARC is if I pick up another at ALA. I'll try.)

3) I'm so looking forward to BRAINS FOR LUNCH by K. A. Holt. Okay, so Kari is a personal friend, but she's also a super talented writer (anyone else read MIKE STELLAR: NERVES OF STEEL? It rocked!) Anyway, BRAINS FOR LUNCH is a zombie haiku book with an ARC sitting on my shelf tempting me!

4) Another Austin writer with a new book coming out this fall is Brian Yansky. I haven't read any of Brian's other books, but ALIEN INVASION AND OTHER INCONVENIENCES totally sounds like it's up my alley. After all, one of my near term goals is to visit Roswell though Aurora, TX may have to do in the short term.

5) As a final ARC I have I'm looking forward to, I'll go with KING OF ITHAKA by Tracy Barrett. It's the story of the Odyssey as seen through the eyes of his son Telemachus. As seeing as how I love all things mythology, I'm hooked. (and this one also, it turns out if from my agent. I think she has good taste.)
(I can't find a cover image, and I think the ARC cover is not final.)

Hope you guys have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Critter is our Featured Sweetheart!

For all you Critter lovers, head over to The Texas Sweethearts blog where Critter is our featured Sweetheart this week!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


So I want the spread the awesomeness that is getting ARCs, so I have a set of two up for grabs.

LINGER by Maggie Stiefvater (the sequel to best-selling SHIVER)
MATCHED by Ally Condie (pitched as the dystopic TWILIGHT)

To enter is simple. Just do the following (all are required):

1) Follow this blog
2) Follow The Texas Sweethearts blog
3) Comment on this blog post

For extra entries:

1) Blog about this contest and leave a comment telling me
2) Tweet about this contest and leave a comment telling me

And make sure you leave me a way to get in contact with you when you win!

Oh, yeah, the contest will run through midnight on June 16, 2010!

Happy Tuesday!