Archive for the ‘Family News’ Category
January 9th, 2013 Posted 8:42 am
For Christmas, my mom gave me a crock pot. At first, I thought this was strange. Also, at second, I thought it was strange. “I have two crock pots, Mom. You know this.”
“But you don’t have this one,” she said. “This crock pot will change your life.”
Yes, my mom really, really likes this new brand of crock pot.
She called me every day after Christmas. “Have you used your new crock pot yet?”
“No,” I’d say. “I haven’t gotten it out of the box yet.” Or, “I haven’t read the manual.” And finally, “I can’t figure out how to turn it on.”
Don’t judge me, people. It’s a difficult crock pot to master.
I finally made soup in it yesterday. It was… fine. The soup was good. I could have used my regular soup pot. Did the crock pot change my life?
No. But it is a very good crock pot, with some extremely fancy non-stick action, and some other nice features. It may not have changed my life, but it gave me another tool to help get dinner on the table. (And as writer-cooks know, it gets dinner cooked without the typical “Oh, no, I burned the meal again, quick let’s order pizza” that usually accompanies a meal cooked while the Muse is sending Shiny New Ideas your way.)
I’ve been asked to speak in a couple of weeks about how to motivate yourself to keep writing, no matter what. Aside from “I need to make rent,” there are a lot of motivational strategies. Some involve punitive measures. Some involve kittens. There are thousands of ways, hundreds of blog posts with great advice.
But none of them are perfect for everyone. Not a single one is a surefire way for EVERY writer to keep going, to get back to the page with regularity. Not every great new idea is life-changing for me, even if it may be for every other writer in the world.
Some of them, however, are very good. Many of them are like my new crock pot – a new, effective tool that – while it may not change my life – will make certain recipes/projects easier.
So, what did you get for Christmas, if you celebrate it? Did any of you get a life-changing gift? Or a crock pot?
And if you have any great advice (other than punishment and kittens) for helping writers keep writing, I’d love to hear that, too! I’ll share it with the Writer’s League of Texas in a couple of weeks.
Write well, friends!
September 5th, 2012 Posted 6:04 am
I have a guest post up today on the excellent Adventures in YA and Children’s Publishing blog. It talks about my launch party and “writing with edge.” Also, the best advice I got from the phenomenal Cynthia Leitich Smith. Go check it out!
If you’re in Austin this weekend, come check out my totally awesome presentation on queries, pitches, and synopses. How do you make an agent/editor fall in love with your writing? It might take a little mood music and champagne, metaphorically speaking. (Bow chicka bow wow…)
I also got very excited about this Shelf Awareness review. I wrote a “smart, enchanting book.” How cool is that?
Non-writing news: I ran my first race in a very long time the other day with my sister. Only 5K, and we may have stopped and started, but it was fun! If you’ve ever tried running alone, don’t bother. It’s only fun with a friend!
Then Dave and I took the kids to skate/ride bikes at the Austin Veloway. Followed immediately by a trip to Jumpoline Park, an old Wal-Mart converted into an entire warehouse full of trampolines. It was so much fun… we’re totally going back, as soon as the pain stops from last time. (Note to self: you are too old to do standing front flips on a trampoline. Don’t do it ever again.)
Oh, and now I have to go mail four copies of a contract off to my agent. Yep, you heard it: I’ve signed another contract, for a third middle-grade book with Razorbill! I may be doing this writing thing for a while…
Have a wonderful week, Writer Friends! And write something better than the poem I cranked out on Monday. Seriously, a love poem about Texas? I need to get back to the fairy tales.
August 21st, 2012 Posted 2:17 pm
I am a soppy, sentimental, squishy person. I always have been, even if sometimes I hide it. I’ve been humming the words to this tune all week, and thinking about all the people I love, all the ones I feel so grateful to for this day.
An acknowledgments page just doesn’t cover it.
I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Thank you to all the people at Razorbill and New Leaf – especially Laura, Emily, and Suzie. Thank you to my amazing family and Writer Friends. My Writer Friends! Cynthia, Samantha, Joy, Nan, Shelli, Lindsey, Lizzie – too many to count. You are my tribe, and I’m so glad I found you.
Thank you to the book bloggers who have taken time to write and post reviews – and to Jen, for setting up my tour!
Thanks to Dave, who gaily canceled the fun cable channels, magazine subscriptions, and spent down the savings so I could have the time to write. And thank you to my kids, who have learned to cook their own dinners… and how to read manuscripts like professional editors.
Now I have a party on Saturday to get ready for – and you are invited! Bring an (un)healthy appetite – there’s going to be a whole lot of sweetness at Bookpeople on Saturday.
August 2nd, 2012 Posted 6:08 pm
Oh, friends. There are parts of this whole debut author thing that scare me to death. Mostly it’s the technology-related stuff. (You may have picked up on the fact that I’m really the tiniest bit afraid of Twitter, even though I use it. And these nights I wake up in a cold sweat, having nightmares about Skype visits gone horribly wrong.)
So, making a book trailer would be one of These Evil Things, right?
Not if you are married to the world’s awesomest husband. WHICH I AM. And he happens to be an amazing photographer, AND a computer whiz. (My momma always told me to “marry tech support.” Thanks, Mom. Good call.)
This book trailer thing is going to be so much fun. I think.
In any case, we’ve been Very Busy taking pictures of kids with the most insane amounts of inappropriately sweet junk food… and then giving the food to the kids who model for us, of course. (One kid ate his entire PIE right after his photo shoot. A whole pie. There is a picture book I adore with a dog who did this. Buy it now.)
In any case, the trailer will be unveiled at my book launch party at Bookpeople in Austin, Texas on Saturday, August 25. (To which you are all invited. Go, buy your plane tickets!) I think it will be awesome. Here is one of the models. (My kid!)
Once you’ve enjoyed ogling my cute kid, trot on over to the ModPodgeBookshelf blog to read a new guest post I wrote on re-naming my main character in Sinister Sweetness… and enter for a chance to win an ACTUAL first-edition, SIGNED copy of my book!
And if you want to read some amazing reviews for Sinister Sweetness, check out the Mother-Daughter Reading Team, or Pure Imagination! Thanks, y’all – you’re very lovely, and I would totally bake you a pie. A whole one. Just for you.
More later in the week on the Amazing Joy Preble… for whom I would bake an entire kitchen full of pies. She has an awesome book coming out… and I’m going to do something very special for the occasion!
July 15th, 2012 Posted 12:53 pm
Well, Aloha, friends! I just got back from a two-week vacation-of-a-lifetime in Hawaii, and I’m feeling very, very happy.
Not just because of this:
But also, because of this:
SQUEEEEE! (I totally deserve to squee. I mean, “fresh, mesmerizing, new AND classic? Pardon me while I swoon.)
I’m so happy! And I’m ALSO happy because while I was away, TWO amazing writer friends posted interview/essays of mine on their blogs, with ARC giveaways of the aforementioned “fresh, mesmerizing, etc.” book.
So, hurry! Before the contests end, trot over to Laurisa White Reyes’ A Thousand Wrongs blog and enter her contest (also check out her amazing blog. She’s doing it right, y’all!). Then nip over to Claire LeGrand’s site for ANOTHER Sinister Sweetness ARC giveaway, and the story of my lifelong love affair with Pippi Longstocking.
Can I just say how cool it was to see this post go live when I was doing this with my kids?
What a great month! And to think that in one more month (plus a few days), Sinister Sweetness will be out in the world! *nervous trembling*
Okay, now I may need another mai tai.
Write well, friends, and don’t forget to try something new this week. Possibly not breadfruit, though. Blech.
January 9th, 2012 Posted 2:40 pm
I am hip deep in halligators, Writer Friends. I’m writing and revising my way to sending a new manuscript off, and I only have a few minutes to post here, but I had to share this wish for you:
I wish for you, an ideal listener. Not reader, although ideal readers are out there, and when you find one, it makes you want to write faster and better, thinking of your words flying across the page in front of their wide, hungry eyes.
I have an ideal listener, and I think it’s possibly the best part of my writing life.
My ideal listener sits on the bed behind me as I read the chapters of my WIP aloud, wating patiently as I correct typos on the fly, listening intently to every word. He laughs and hoots and kicks at the covers when I read the funny bits. When the tension mounts, he stands up, crosses the room, and stands right behind my chair, his quick breath on my shoulder, tense fingers gripping the back of my chair.
He sneaks out of bed sometimes at night long after I’m done reading, tiptoes downstairs, opens my documents file, and steals an illicit next chapter because he can’t wait.
He tells me, at bedtime, that the book I’m writing is the best he’s ever heard, better than anything.
“Rick Riordan good?” I ask.
“Better than… The Ranger’s Apprentice?” I ask.
“You’re crazy. How about… Harry Potter?” We laugh. It is *almost* sacrilege.
Different, he says. Just as good.
Then: Can I hear just one more chapter tonight? Please?
I know it’s not all true, Friends, but it doesn’t matter. You need at least one cheerleader on the sidelines at the early stages of the game. And if your cheerleader will sit quietly as you read aloud (the MOST important part of revision, in my estimation), it makes even that part of the process deeply rewarding.
Now I have to go write about wishes, and ideas, and seeds. Just a few more pages…
Write well, Friends!
November 16th, 2011 Posted 9:46 pm
Austin has a lot: great music, wonderful food, a laid-back, wear-your-jeans-to-the opera vibe… and books.
Oh, do we love our books.
I’ve been hanging out at the local indie bookstore, Bookpeople, a WHOLE lot recently. Not only am I attending to support my Writer Friends’ book launches, I’m also being dragged there by my kids, who also love them some readin’.
Last week I noticed something… interesting. Book launches are getting more and more exciting.
I mean, seriously. At Cory Putman Oake’s launch for her new YA novel, The Veil, there were… cheerleaders.
Also brownies, but that may only be exciting to me.
And then, at John Flanagan’s launch for Book One: The Outcasts of his new series, The Brotherband Chronicles, there was honest-to-goodness sword fighting. (By trained professionals. If they’d given swords to all the kids, there would have been a higher body count.)
Also, knights in real armor, and more Ranger’s Apprentice look-alikes than you can shake a bow staff at. I thought I’d wandered into the Renaissance Festival for a minute.
It was absolutely cool.
I can’t even express how much I approve of this new trend. But it has me a little worried. How will I make my own launch next year stand out?
Have a gingerbread school contest?
Get impoverished and/or child actors to act out the scariest scenes?
Hire a local coven to come with a cauldron full of fake body parts… or worse?
I could use some help here. I don’t think I can work the sword fighting in at this stage – I’m proofing the final pass pages this month! (And can I just say that seeing my name on the copyright page is the HUGEST rush?)
October 24th, 2011 Posted 7:46 pm
I think it might be me, friends.
Let me explain. This weekend was the Texas Book Festival, the most wonderful, free, fabulous event ever in Austin. I did it right this year.
I sat in on panels with authors I know and love like Elaine Scott, Varian Johnson, Jeanette Larson, Chris Barton, and Jennifer Ziegler — and authors I don’t know as well, but still love, like Rosemary Clement-Moore, Jill Alexander, and Joe Schreiber. I had lunch with the amazing Mary Johnson and other writer friends at Z’Tejas on Saturday, then took the Texas State Cemetery tour after dark.
At the cemetery, I shook Louis Sachar’s hand (then couldn’t wash it until I got home and rubbed the talent germs on both my sons, not kidding, I KNOW), then hung out with Cynthia Leitich-Smith, Jessica Lee Anserson, Shelli Cornelison, Jen Bigheart, Emily Kristin Anderson, oh and let’s not forget freaking Libba Bray and Sarah Dessen and… I can’t remember them all.
On Sunday, I listened to Rebecca Stead and Kate DiCamillo talk about their writing processes and what it’s like to win a Newbery (frightening and wonderful and dangerous if you believe it means you are the bomb because of it, according to these two). They were hilarious. I skulked around their signing tent with my husband and son until we were able to snap these pics.
Afterward, I went to MORE panels, bought books, visited with magazine editors – ones I’d worked with before who I’d never met (which was so cool) and ones I may work with in the future (yay!) — librarians, booksellers and even some official Penguin people. Squee!
That night, after dinner, I was exhausted, but so happy.
Then I heard that Johnny Depp was playing an unscheduled gig (who knew he played guitar?) at the Nutty Brown Cafe, a hot hill country music venue at the end of my street. (I knew he really was in town, since a bunch of my friends had their pics of him from the night before up on Facebook.) We were driving past the Cafe, the music was going, and Dave said – “wanna go?” It wasn’t even that crowded.
I thought about it.
I mean, this guy?
But then I thought – no big. I’d already been in the presence of my rock stars all weekend- the authors who write so well, feel so passionately, and are so incredibly generous with their time and energy. Johnny Depp has nothing on Kate D. or Louis S.
And it was a school night, after all. And… I *did* have a new book I’d gotten at the Festival to read…
So we drove on.
And that, my friends is how I know I am the Biggest Book Nerd Ever.
Now, I’m off to write another thousand words on my Shiny New Manuscript. I might stare at a few Johnny Depp pictures later. You know. Just for inspiration.
September 6th, 2011 Posted 10:35 pm
I was supposed to be writing today. I came home from my other job, setlled down in front of my computer, checked the email… and gazed longingly at this.
My new book, the book I’d been hearing all those good things about.What? You haven’t heard of it?
Well then, here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
Fifteen-year-old Bridget Liu just wants to be left alone: by her overprotective mom, by the hunky son of the police officer who got her father killed, and by the eerie voices which she can suddenly and inexplicably hear. Turns out the voices are demons–the Biblical kind, not the Buffy kind–and Bridget possesses the rare ability to banish them.
San Francisco’s senior exorcist and his newly assigned partner from the Vatican enlist Bridget’s help with increasingly bizarre and dangerous cases of demonic possession. But when one of Bridget’s oldest friends turns up dead in a ritualistic sacrifice that mirrors her father’s murder, Bridget realizes she can’t trust anyone. An interview with her father’s murderer reveals a link between Bridget and the Emim: a race of part-demons intent on raising their forefathers to the earth in human form. Now Bridget must unlock the secret to the Emim’s plan before someone else close to her winds up dead, or worse–the human vessel for a Demon King.
It was supposed to be my Reward Read – the one I let myself devour after I finished the week’s word quota.
But it kept calling me.
The call of this book was stronger than chocolate.
Of course, I really NEEDED a good read – I’d been stressed to the limit by all the Texas wildfires, and the one that had broken out twice across the street over the weekend had made me pack and unpack my Most Precious Preciouses more than once. (Look for a vlog on that late this week.)
You know what happened. I started reading. But what you don’t know was that I couldn’t put the book down. It was un-put-downable. I kid you not, this book? AMAZING. It reminded me of Lisa DesRocher’s excellent Personal Demons a bit, but maybe more scary. It has everything: hot guys, a great, strong female main character (maybe I should hve put that before hot guys?), scary demonic possession stuff, and pacing to beat the band.
LOVED it. You need this book – go out and buy it. But how, you might ask, could this book have saved my whole neighborhood?*
I’m getting there.
My favorite reading chair is upstairs, in my bedroom, next to the window that overlooks the valley by my house. After I read a while in my office, near my computer, I got tired of the way Ms. SmartyPants Computer was staring at me, whispering tacky things about “word count failure” and “lazy procrastinators” and “reward books are the Devil,” so I gave up and went upstairs.
I was reading there, by the window. I happened to look up (probably to entreat the Heavens to allow me to write something this awesome) and saw a wisp of smoke out the window. And then, red flames.
Yep, the next door property was on fire again.
Poeple, if I had been downstairs, I would not have seen this. I would not have KNOWN to call the fire in. It’s entirely possible that Gretchen McNeil’s book, POSSESS, saved my home, my neighborhood… possibly my life.
So, seriously. But this book NOW. The next life it saves could be your own.
* Okay, truthfully? One other neighbor saw the smoke and called it in, so maybe we wouldn’t have all been left without homes. But you NEVER KNOW.
August 27th, 2011 Posted 4:07 pm
So, one of those things Debut Authors do in those months up to The Big Day (whch I have found out recently for MY first book, is August 21, 2012!! Woo hoo!) is go to other author’s events.
Of course, we do this anyway, sometimes because the authors are friends/heroes/mentors, and/or because we love their books, and sometimes because we have no other lives anyways and the Roller Derby was sold out. But anyway… we debuts go, and take notes.
Oh, wow. I could have *filled* a notebook last week at Tom Angleberger’s Darth Paper Strikes Back book signing at Bookpeople in Austin. I could have… but I was laughing too hard to take any notes at ALL!
Now, I’ve been to some pretty good author events. But this guy? He remembered something, I think, that many of us forget when we start talking to a large group of people about our writing-y things.
He remembered who his real audience was. And he spoke to them.
Adults were there, sure, but Tom writes for middle grade kids (of which there were MANY in attendance) and he never forgot that. It was like a stand-up comedy skit for kids, with some juggling and reading thrown in to break things up.
How’s this for getting your audience? He dressed a kid up in an enormous origami Yoda costume.
Every kid there was taught how to make a five-fold “emergency” Yoda, to take home. You know, just in case you need some Jedi wisdom some afternoon.
He drew pictures in all the books he signed.
And every time a kid raised a hand, even if their comment was way off-base (as can happen when kids get REALLY excited and try to make jokes with their favorite author), he was respectful and considerate.
And in doing that last one? He had every single parent there in the palm of his hand, too. Like me. He could write a thousand books, and I would buy them all in hardcover at full price, just because I want to show my appreciation.
Now, I don’t fold paper in my debut novel. I also can’t juggle, and I don’t have a hilarious scene about pee stains guaranteed to have the elementary-aged set rolling on the floor. But Tom gave me a whole lot to think about for my upcoming signings. Things about connecting with your target audience, dressing the part, and giving respect to the whole crowd.
Even the tiny, noisy little 3rd grade Sith Lords.