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

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Getting our Write on!

It was back to the Lodge o' Death for a writing retreat earlier this month. Sure, we all turn up with thoughts on what we're going to work on, but part of being an author is being flexible. Like getting last minute revision notes and working on that instead of the planned activity. Still, when it comes to writing, there is no where else I'd rather be than off in the woods with some of my favorite writing gals, pouring out the words.

(For my last retreat post, check here.)




 Retreaters without antlers
Bottom (L to R): Jenny Moss, Christine (her daughter), Nikki Loftin, and Bethany Hegedus
Center (L to R): P. J. Hoover (me), Cory Putman Oakes, Kari Anne Holt, Jessica Lee Anderson, and Stephanie Pellegrin
Top (L to R): Sam Clark, Jo Whittemore, Salima Alikhan, Vanessa Lee, and Madeline Smoot

Retreaters with antlers


Highlights from the retreat include...

A gorgeous sunrise on the drive there!





 A great location and perfect weather!



The right people make the retreat what it is!

Fun writer peeps to hang with!
L to R: Madeline Smoot, Jessica Lee Anderson, Stephanie Pellegrin, and Kari Anne Holt


 
And more fun peeps!
L to R: Christine (Jenny's daughter), Nikki Loftin, Jenny Moss


 Food is a completely important part of any retreat!

 Chocolate!


Snacks!

Fruit!


The Lodge o' Death isn't called The Lodge o' Death for nothing. Sorry, baby deer.

 sniff, sniff

Other fun activities include chatting, reading, walking, yoga, and Zumba!

 Evening chatting and readings! with Cory Putman Oakes and Kari

 

After lunch with Jessica, Kari, and Stephanie


The whole crew (minus me) at the giant table


 These were the creepiest cows in the world!


And this sink gives me nightmares. I worry it will come alive.


 A diorama of a deer with sea shells (with Stephanie)


Thanks, Lodge o' Death, for another great retreat!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The NEXT BIG THING Blog Hop!

IT'S THE NEXT BIG THING!

What is?

Well, it's an awesome meme that encourages authors to talk about their next big thing and then pass on the love.

I've been tagged by two awesome authors, both Texas gals:

Joy Preble, author of the DREAMING ANASTASIA books and the upcoming THE SWEET DEAD LIFE (Soho Press, May 14, 2013), and

Jordan Dane, author of a bunch of books (so many I can't even name them) and the brand new, now available, INDIGO AWAKENING (Harlequin Teen, December 18, 2012)

Thank you, guys, for the tags!

*****

Rules for The Next Big Thing Blog Hop if you’re tagged:


1. Use this format for your post


2. Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (work in progress)


3. Tag some other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them. What is your working title of your book?

*****



Where did the idea come from for your book? 

For SOLSTICE, the idea came from mythology. SOLSTICE isn't a myth retelling. It's more a "what happens next." I've always loved the ideas of the gods and goddesses and would love to know more about what they are doing now. So I wrote a book and told my own story!


What genre does your book fall under?

Paranormal/Dystopian/Mythology/Romance Teen Young Adult
(which I realize is not one genre)


Which actors would you choose to portray your characters in the movie version of your book?

Seriously, I have no idea. This is why I'm not a casting person. People get paid lots of money to decide this very question. And anyway, all the actors I like are like a billion years old by now. 


What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

I kind of like how my agent summarized it in the PM deal announcement:

SOLSTICE is a near-future global heating crisis and a Texas teen who uncovers the strange untold ending of the Persephone myth, only to find that she is part of the story -- and that her choices in love, in family, and in friendship will determine the destiny of her world.


Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

SOLSTICE is being published by Tor Teen (editor Susan Chang) and was represented by my agent, Laura Rennert.


How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

18 days! This is crazy short, but the story really flowed well. It was kind of magical.


What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?

SOLSTICE is like what happens when MATCHED meets THE LIGHTNING THIEF.


Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I'm going to go back to sixth grade and say that the book MYTHOLOGY by Edith Hamilton inspired me to write SOLSTICE!


What else about your book might pique reader’s interest?

Well, the official jacket copy is pretty enticing, so I'll go with that:

Piper's world is dying. Each day brings hotter temperatures and heat bubbles that threaten to destroy the earth. Amid this global heating crisis, Piper lives under the oppressive rule of her mother, who suffocates her even more than the weather does. Everything changes on her eighteenth birthday, when her mother is called away on a mysterious errand and Piper seizes her first opportunity for freedom.

Piper discovers a universe she never knew existed—a sphere of gods and monsters—and realizes that her world is not the only one in crisis. While gods battle for control of the Underworld, Piper’s life spirals out of control as she struggles to find the answer to the secret that has been kept from her since birth.


Tag, you’re it, MADELINE SMOOT! Enjoy!



Monday, January 28, 2013

Happy Things

This photo pretty much sums all the happy things! Woot! Woot!

SOLSTICE at ALA Midwinter!


Friday, January 25, 2013

Five on a Friday

Happy Friday! Hope you're all having a lovely week!

Here are my five:

1) Why do I love Texas? Because it's like 70 degrees out right now. I'm wearing a tank top. I think I got a suntan while driving today. I know, you all want to move here, right?

2) I had a blast this week visiting Taylor Middle School! They gave me an incredible welcome and were awesome listeners. You know one thing that makes an author visit a success? Awesome librarians and awesome teachers talking about the books and the author to the kids ahead of time and getting them excited about it! Thank you, Taylor!

 Love the transformation of the white board!


 
 Me with librarian Renee DeHoyos!


3) As it turns out, I am our Girl Scout Troop's cookie coordinator this year. Sounds scary, I know. And it's my first time selling girl scout cookies in some horrible amount of years. After a week and a half in, here's what I've discovered:
  • Girl Scout cookies sell themselves. No hand-selling required. 
  • Thin mints are delicious! How could I have gone so many years without eating them?
  • It's not a difficult job as long as I stay organized and on top of things.
  • You know girl scout cookies are called different things in different parts of the country? Your Do-Si-Dos are our Peanut Butter Sandwiches. Your Samoas? Our Caramel Delights!
  • Nobody wants the new, "healthy" cookie. Bring on the thin mints.

4) This week, I also had the great opportunity to interview A. G. Howard, author of SPLINTERED over on The Enchanted Inkpot! If you get a minute, pop over and check out all the awesome things she had to say. And buy her book because it is so very good!





5) Have I given a Wizard101 update in a while? What, I haven't? Okay, here it is. I am now level 55! Seriously, so cool, right? And look how very awesome I look, too.



That's it for me! Happy weekend!



Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What I'm Reading: FERAL NIGHTS by CYNTHIA LEITICH SMITH

I consider myself a super lucky gal that I got a chance to read the latest book by Austinite Cynthia Leitich Smith early! There is nothing like a book delivery from the UPS guy to make my day!


FERAL NIGHTS by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, February 12, 2013)




Here are Five Things I have to Say About FERAL NIGHTS:

1) The wit and humor that Cynthia manages to pull off each and every time she writes a book amazes me. I find myself laughing out loud in the most unexpected places as a perfectly placed bit of humor slips into her story. What makes it so perfect is the fact that it is never overdone. Just the right amount at just the right time!


2) Character banter.* I've mentioned it before, but this is something I absolutely adore. The right character banter from the right characters to create the perfect tension, be it among friends or potential romantic interests, is something I would love to be able to pull off this well. Cynthia does it will a skill that is enviable.


3) FERAL NIGHTS starts off on one course, and as I was reading, I was sure that was exactly where we were going to stay. But then, right in the middle of everything, right when I think I know what is going to happen, everything changes. We're whisked away to a whole new place to confront entirely new problems. I think the way this switch shows how different the problems are (and which are of the higher concern) is brilliant. It's like revenge switched to basic survival. What's a character to do?


4) So Cynthia manages to pull together all the mythical creatures of her past novels and then some. You're wondering what, aren't you? Like what is there besides were-creatures and vampires and the like?
Seeing as how that would be a complete spoiler, I'm not going to tell you. Suffice it to say, that my initial impression was, "OMG no way," and as I read on and on, I found it completely works. Well done!


5) Overall, FERAL NIGHTS was a highly enjoyable read! Have no worries if you've never read any of Cynthia's books before. This book can be picked up and read at any time, no reading order required. It will appeal to fans of Cynthia's other books, and I also think those paranormal fans looking for a bit of a lighter read will enjoy it, too (due to the fun humor). It's engaging, well-crafted, and a pleasure! Highly recommended!


*Some of my all-time favorite character banter being from THE SCORPION KING 2. Yes, groan all you want to, the the banter in this movie made it great entertainment.


Source of book: From publisher by request




About FERAL NIGHTS:

Fans of the Tantalize quartet will thrill to see werepossum Clyde and other favorite secondary characters — plus all-new ones — take to the fore in book one of an all-new series.

When sexy, free-spirited werecat Yoshi tracks his sister, Ruby, to Austin, he discovers that she is not only MIA, but also the key suspect in a murder investigation. Meanwhile, werepossum Clyde and human Aimee have set out to do a little detective work of their own, sworn to avenge the brutal killing of werearmadillo pal Travis. When all three seekers are snared in an underground kidnapping ring, they end up on a remote island inhabited by an unusual (even by shifter standards) species and its cult of worshippers. Their hosts harbor a grim secret: staging high-profile safaris for wealthy patrons with evil pedigrees, which means that at least one newcomer to the island is about to be hunted. As both wereprey and werepredator fight to stay alive, it’s up to mild-mannered Clyde — a perennial sidekick — to summon the hero within. Can he surprise even himself?


 

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Writer I want to be

I had every intention to blog about the fantastic writing retreat I just went on last weekend until I saw Jordan Dane's awesome post from Friday. And it made me realize that even though I have a bunch of resolutions sitting around in my head, it's been a while since I've truly considered what my writing resolutions are. And it's important to distinguish writing versus publishing resolutions here. These are two very different things.

If you're planning on coming up with a list for yourself, consider the answers to these questions:

What kind of writer do I want to be?
How would I want people to describe me as a writer?
If I could revise my writing life, what would I do?


So, thanks to Jordan, here are my top three WRITING resolutions for 2013!

1) Remember when it was all about the writing? There was no marketing and no publicity and no submissions or queries. It was just me and the pages. I loved seeing them fill up with pretty words. And sure, there is more on my plate now, but that's no excuse to let go of the joy of actually putting the fingers to the keyboard and letting the words flow. So I vow to celebrate the writing, even...

2) ...when it gets hard. The better I get, the worse I get. I find myself criticizing every scowl and nod. I'm sure every piece of dialogue I type out is flat. I hit the middle of the story and get tempted by a new, shiny idea. All these signs point to the same thing. I'm getting better, and therefore I'm getting worse. If writing were easy, everyone would do it. Everyone would have a book. But they don't, and only those that stick to it, day after day, will succeed. Which leads me to...

3) ...the day after day thing. Nothing used to get in the way of my writing. An hour. Maybe two. If I had to miss a night, I got cranky. I saw my schedule slipping. I got even more cranky. That is what I intend to get back to (well, not so much the cranky part, but the writing part). Every day, I vow to make progress in my story, be it first drafting, revisions, or final edits. We've heard it a million times, but perhaps that isn't enough. Write every day.


So in summary (and in haiku)...

I'll write every day,
Even when it gets sucky,
and I'll enjoy it.

(I googled every to check on the syllable count. It is 2.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

WHAT I'M READING: LITTLE BROTHER by Cory Doctorow

You know those books you buy with every intention of reading, and then, for whatever reason, you just never pick them up to read, and then, when you finally do, years later, you're like why the heck did I wait so long to read this book? Yeah, that.

LITTLE BROTHER by Cory Doctorow (Tor Teen, April 29, 2008)



Here are Five Things I have to Say About LITTLE BROTHER:

1) I am kind of awed at how intense the main character, Marcus', emotions are. No matter what his situation, he acts exactly like how I would expect a teen boy to act, from the moments when he is taken by Homeland Security to his interactions with the two girls in his life, it's all real, all teen, all the time.

2) The book is the perfect mix of scary and humorous and intriguing. It's scary, because seriously frightening things happen to Marcus. It's humorous because the main characters and their interactions were so real, they truly made me laugh. And it's intriguing because there are so many interesting things to be learned.

3) Which kind of brings up my next point. Or the same point. I learned so many different things. It was kind of like a layer of CRYPTONOMICON learning. Like after reading that book, I felt like I could get at least ten different degrees. With LITTLE BROTHER it was the same sort of thing but much more focused. Lots of smarts hidden inside.

4) So silly, but yes, this cover completely works for me. And even more importantly, this cover completely works for the book. It's just that cool and unique and awesome. Like the cover? You'll like the book.

5) The book edge a bit upward on my scale of what age it's right for, so I'll go with 7th grade and up (as opposed to my normal 6th grade for lots of YA). Boys and girls will both enjoy it, with those interested in geeky things like computers (like me) and hacking and conspiracy theory at the front of the list. Highly recommended and totally worthwhile!



Source of book: purchased


About LITTLE BROTHER:

Marcus, a.k.a “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.

But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.

When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.


And just for the record, I am totally excited for the sequel, HOMELAND (Tor Teen, February 5, 2013).



Featured Event! YAK Fest!



If you haven’t heard of YAK Fest, then listen up. It’s the newest (and hippest) YA book festival in Texas. And we want YOU to come.  Here’s the deal, it’s free fun entertainment and you just might make a new friend or two. Maybe even get your picture taken with your favorite author. So, check out the 411 below and COME.

WHEN: Saturday, January 19, 9am – 5pm
COST: Dude, it’s FREE.
OPEN DOOR: Come when you can and stay for as long as you like, of course we want you there all day!
WHERE: Keller High School, 601 N. Pate Orr Rd. Keller, TX 76248
SOCIAL MEDIA: twitter / facebook / blog
https://twitter.com/YAK_Fest
https://www.facebook.com/YAKbookfest
http://teacherweb.com/TX/KellerHighSchool/YAKFest/apt1.aspx
KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Simone Elkeles, BAM. That’s what we’re talking about.

Panels of AWESOME Breakdown:

Keeping It RealJessica Lee Anderson, Charles Benoit, Chris Crutcher (afternoon only), Simone Elkeles, Guadalupe Garica McCall, Jessica Warman, Lori Aurelia Williams and Shannon Greenland

This is Not Normal – Rosemary Clement Moore, Cory Oakes, Victoria Scott, Mary Lindsey and Jeff Hirsch

This is Not Normal Either – Krissi Dallas, Tracy Deebs, Greg Leitich Smith and Andrea White

Vampire Smack Down - Cynthia Leitich Smith, Rachel Caine and Jason Henderson

Poetry Workshop – Colin Gilbert

A Walk on the Weird Side – Kelley Milner Halls

Choctaw Tales – Tim Tingle

Here’s the schedule of AWESOME 



Because we know you’ll have questions, here are some things that CAN and WILL HAPPEN:
There will be books available for purchase from The Book Carriage, and they will be selling books all day.
The Book Carriage will accept cash and credit cards.
You may bring some books from home for authors to sign.
Food and drinks will be available for purchase at lunch.
Why, yes there is a twitter hashtag. It’s  #YAKFest13 – thanks for asking. We WANT you to tweet.
Of course you can talk and have your picture taken with your favorite author(s) during the signing.  We insist upon it.

Other stuff that is just as important:

Want to VOLUNTEER? It’ll be fun. We promise.  If interested please contact Janet at Janet.Adams@kellerisd.net
MEDIA INQUIRIES? Please contact Stacy at stacy@girlsinthestacks.com

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What I'm Reading: THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR by Mindee Arnett

I was so happy to get my hands on an early copy of this book. I adore the cover, the author is awesome, and the story intrigued me. Sold, sold, sold!

THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR by Mindee Arnett (March 5, 2013)



Here are five things I have to say about THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR:

1) This book is what happens when HARRY POTTER and PARANORMALCY get together and have a love child. No really. You never saw that happening, did you? But it's so true.

2) If you like twists and turns, then this is the story for you! I had no idea what was going to happen, who I could trust, and how anything was going to be resolved until the very last page. Great suspense and great clues!

3) Okay, I have to mention Dusty, the main character, being a Nightmare. I mean, how cool is that? I never tried to imagine what a nightmare looked like, and I never thought of one as a real person. And yet, in THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR it totally works. And it's totally cool!

4) Arnett manages to find that perfect balance between humor and serious consequences. Dusty kept me in stitches because I never knew what she was going to do next, and yet, all the while, I was led on the perfect path of a serious and scary story.

5) There are a million reasons to pick up this book. So go ahead and do it! You won't be sorry. Highly recommended for (mostly) girls, 6th grade and up, fans of fantasy, science fiction, or good, solid mysteries!


Source of book: From publisher by request




About THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR:

Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare.

Literally.

Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder.

Then Eli's dream comes true.

Now Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

COVER REVEAL: THE SEVEN YEAR KING by Kiki Hamilton

I am so happy to share the brand new cover for book 3 in THE FAERIE RING series by Kiki Hamilton today! In case you haven't read this series, it's full of everything made of awesome. You can read my review for book 1, THE FAERIE RING, here!

THE SEVEN YEAR KING by Kiki Hamilton (May 14th, 2013)




Here's the short teaser:

A deadly sacrifice, a heartbreaking choice, an uncertain future...


I can't wait!



THE SEVEN YEAR KING is the third book in the FAERIE RING series, which started with:

THE FAERIE RING by Kiki Hamilton (Tor Teen, September 27, 2011)




THE TORN WING by Kiki Hamilton (August 9, 2012)





Monday, January 07, 2013

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a great holiday and are ready for the best year yet :) I'm so happy we all survived the end of the world!

So have you guys stopped to think about all the awesome things coming up this year? Wait, you haven't? Why not take the time and make a list of ten things right now.

As for what's coming up in my world, it seems like there is a ton to look forward to. 

1) Yes, I actually do have a book coming out this year, just in case you missed it :) That I am looking forward to.



2) I'll be heading to a fantastic writing retreat at the Lodge of Death soon (you have to see it to understand) and can't wait! Nothing like hanging out for 3 solid days with my favorite writing buddies to help inspire and to be productive.



3) Well, seeing as how I saw the first part of THE HOBBIT movie three times, I am definitely looking forward to part two, coming in just 11 short months.



4) And on the topic of movies, I am also looking forward to STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS. Have you seen that trailer? Seriously made of awesome. It may be another midnight premier for me.




5) Conferences, travel, it's all good! This year, so far, I'm looking forward to our local Austin SCBWI conference next month, TLA in Fort Worth in April, ALA in Chicago in June/July, along with school and library visits and other fun authorish things.



6) We have a new writing place! So I've mentioned "THE PLACE" in the past as where I go to write, but now we've found a new one. And it rocks. I always look forward to going there to write. Though I do miss the old place a bit, this one fixes a few major problems we had.

7) New story ideas! Yes, I have a great one and can't wait to get a chance to actually think more about it. But it's good to give it time to stew, right? Right. Plus those revisions have to get done.

8) Blogging! Yes, I took the holidays off, but I'll be doing all sorts of blogging this year, in a variety of places, one of which is the brand new SCENE 13 blog! Check it out. I'll be posting on the 13th of each month. It's the luckiest day.



9) Austin Comic Con 2013! Is it bad I'm already looking forward to this? And trying to figure out my costumes? Actually Fall is filled with fun activities here in Austin. Comic Con. Texas Book Festival. Austin Teen Book Festival. It's a great place to live (in case you are looking to relocate).



10) Good books, good friends, and so much more! Speaking of which, I really must do my post about my favorite reads of the year!

Happy New Year, and thanks for reading!