Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Who is that Masked Man?

So when you've got a book coming out, your publisher generally assigns you to a publicist. At my level of the game - nobody special, definitely no longer a child prodigy, didn't write about vampires, doesn't sparkle in the sunlight or know anyone who does - this is often a crap shoot. You get who get and he/she adds you to their list and occasionally communicates about your book. For the most part, you're on your own, baby. It's just the way it works.

But as with many things this year for which I am humbly and profoundly grateful, that's not exactly how it worked for me. Oh, I've worked my butt off promoting - still am in fact, with many many miles still to go - but I've had a partner in crime. He's smart and funny and genuinely awesome and after a little hesitation on both our parts (cause seriously, it's like here you go; you two figure it out), we discovered that we made a good team. Together we created the Dreaming Anastasia Blog Tour That Ate the Universe. He dragged me kicking and screaming into the Twitterverse and nodded sagely when I discovered that I sort of liked it there. He told me that the HuffPo people would find me amusing and he was right. He drove an hour through rush hour traffic to be at one of my signings. Even brought his dog. He read my novel once because he was assigned to, and then he read it a second time just because. He makes sure I know stuff I need to know. (trust me, this is huge!) Sometimes, as I've said on this blog before, he nags. Usually he's polite about it. I tell him that to my other writer friends, he's a rock star. Mostly he doesn't let this go to his head. Or maybe he does. Because my favorite story about Publicist Paul is how he looked the very first time I met him. Which you can see below.

Til next time..

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Odds and Ends

If you're signing at Borders during the Christmas rush, it's nice to have some school friends visit
  • Taking a break from the writing, writing, writing that I STILL can't tell you about. (Gee, Joy, could you hint any more annoyingly and repetitively? Probably not.) Never did post a pic from my Borders signing on 12/12, so there it is above. Had a lovely time visiting and signing and occasionally - as seems to be my norm - directing folks to bathrooms, neighboring toy stores, whatever. I don't even get thrown by these requests anymore. In fact, I rather enjoy them.
  • Still liking my Kindle, although my pal Barrie Summy has another take on the whole subject, which you can read here: Barrie is awesome and funny and a talented writer and I shared some delightful wine and conversation with her this summer at SCBWI LA.
Okay - back to writing.
More soon. A whole pile of end of year thank you's is on the horizon...
Til next time..

Monday, December 21, 2009

Waffles Shaped Like Texas and other Stuff

Slipped away with husband for the weekend and some very badly needed R&R. Headed up to Bastrop, which is not far from Austin and hung out at the Lost Pines Resort where one can relax, swim in the heated pool, ride horses, hike trails in the nearby nature park, eat delicious meals including brunch with waffles shaped like Texas, go on hay rides, get a massage, make s'mores in the fire pit at night with the other guests, sip adult beverages when the mood strikes, and other relaxing stuff. Even managed to write for a couple of hours at some point. Now that's a weekend!!

Now it's back to work while school is off. I am writing, writing, writing. And did say writing? More on that soon. I know I said that last time. But the wheels of publishing work slowly at this time of the year. So I must be patient. You too!

But something I CAN talk about is that to my absolute shock, I am in LOVE with my new Kindle. I did not think I'd take to it so well and easily. I'm a book person I said to everyone. Books feel good. They smell good. Nothing will replace them in my heart. Well, not so much the truth. Okay, I still love books better. But this sleek little book shaped creature is quiet and efficient and easy to read. I purchased Julie Powell's Cleaving and it downloaded in an instant. Woosh. There it was. (and woosh there was the charge on my Amazon acct!) When I stop reading, it remembers where I stopped. It can also do all sorts of nifty things like let me annotate but so far I'm not so good at those. I'll be able to send it manuscripts if I want. Subscribe to magazines and newspapers if I'm so inclined. Kindle I love thee!! Who would have thought?

Also loving Cleaving, which surprised me by being about Julie Powell's maritial traumas in addition to her months as an apprentice butcher. She is phenomenally brave, I think, to discuss her affair with the man she calls 'D' with such brutal candor. I have not really had the time to read any reviews so I don't know how the rest of the world is reacting to this latest book, but I've been blown away by how she just lays it all out there - although sometimes left feeling that maybe I don't need to know quite this much. (But I am learning a heck of a lot about how to break down a lamb) Anyone else reading this? Let me know what your thoughts are.

And speaking of thoughts, chime in about Kindles, Sony E-reader, Nook. What do you guys think?

Til next time...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dreaming From the Rooftop

Big Al, me, and Mark Hayter at Hastings, getting ready to film From the Rooftop ep

So last Friday night, I hung out with my pal and former teaching colleague Mark Hayter and his brother Big Al. Mark's humor column From the Rooftop has spawned TV episodes of his same goofy, folksy humor, some of which are currently airing on Friday they were filming at the Hastings in Conroe and Hayter called to see if I would guest star as, well, me - author of Dreaming Anastasia. I told him I'd see if I could manage the role. I'll let you all know when it airs. And if I'm still in it when it does. Pretty much, they dosed me with coffee and told me to be myself and then asked me a bunch of questions which I think I may have answered. Or not. I think we did a fake book signing somewhere in there, too, followed by Mark and Al pretending to sign books that weren't theirs. There was also a bit with one of the baristas. (It was two for one night at the Hastings coffee bar, by the way. Starbucks! You need to adopt this idea. Soon) There may have been other bits, but by then I was chatting with Mark and Al's sister Jill and Mark's wife Kay. So I probably missed something. I am clearly not cut out for television diva stardom. Or maybe I am. If the episode airs, you'll judge for yourself. It is possible that I was hugely amusing. Jill laughed a couple of times as I remember...

Anyway, I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, check out Mark's blog here: He's a great writer, a great history teacher, and an all around good guy. Al's kind of nice, too.

And stay tuned for my own big announcement. That's all I'm saying for now.

Til next time...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Agent Appreciation Day - one day late!

Me and agent Jen at our Bellagio breakfast last year

Yesterday was unofficial Agent Appreciation Day - at least that's what author Shari Green told me. So here I am - a day late with the whole thing. Had a good reason or two, but I won't bore you with them. I'll just get down to business.

Why do I love my ABLA agent Jen Rofe?

Let me count the ways:

1. For our first official meeting, we had waffles and fruit and coffee at the Bellagio Cafe in Vegas. How can you not love someone who feeds you waffles? On Christmas Eve Day? In Las Vegas? I just had to work not to associate her with my subsequent losing streak on the slot machines.

2. She lets me whine. A lot. And then she never fails to tell me to pull up my big girl panties and get on with things. Which I do.

3. She has mad cowgirl skills.

4. She is a pit bull when it comes to standing behind her clients' work.

5. She has wickedly wonderful editing/critique skills.

6. Did I say she knows how to ride, rope and barrel race?

7. She took me on as a client in the middle of Hurricane Ike. When I had no phone or electricity. Somehow she found me anyway.

8. Sometimes when she gets really excited while reading my books, she texts me to let me know exactly where she is in the manuscript. One time she did this while at a wedding rehearsal dinner.

9. She negotiates like a mad woman! This is a good thing.

10. She has an internal chill-o-meter and so I know when she gets goosegumps that I'm on the right track.

I could go on and on but I have a book to finish.

Jennifer Rofe!! You are da bomb! The princess! The crazy cowgirl! My favorite valley girl! Have another Chai Latte on me!

Okay, back to work.

More on that soon.
Til next time...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

On the road - Houston style

Me and some of the Banff school girls

Did my first Houston school visit today and all I can say is WOW! Banff School rocks! Thank you to Mrs. Granberry's classes for being such a great audience. You read Dreaming Anastasia! You took Mrs. Granberry's quiz! You researched the Romanovs and Baba Yaga and wrote about how those are reflected in the novel. And you even came up with fantabulous questions to ask me! All school visits should be this wonderful. I had a great afternoon chatting, laughing and giving away awesome swag. We even had a Dreaming Anastasia trivia faceoff for the final t shirt!

So again, thanks Banff for hosting me!

Til next time...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Let it Snow and Upcoming Events: Borders! Signing!

Yes, it's snow on the windshield. Real snow. In Houston. The earliest snow in recorded Houston history.
Okay, so up here in the northern burbs we didn't have too much. And I had to take the picture through the windshield because otherwise you really couldn't see the flakes. But still. Snow! What a great day yesterday was. The administration even decided that we should have our December fire drill early so everyone could get outside while the getting was good. So out we all went about 1:30 into the cold and snow. Joyous! I had forgotten how happy snow makes me. All smiley and giddy. Until it piles up in giant frozen heaps and I lose my car in a drift that is, as as happened in my past life in Chicago. But yesterday's snow was just plain fun.
Beyond that, I'm absolutely bursting with great news... which I can't actually tell anyone yet. But soon, my gentle readers. Soon. Let's just say I'm going to be very busy for awhile.
And other than that... if you're in the Houston area, come on out next Saturday 12/12 to the Borders in Market Street in The Woodlands. I'll be signing Dreaming Anastasia from 2-4 PM and I'd love to say hi! If you've never been up to Market Street, it's lots of fun - great shops and restaurants and a cool park and a movie theater. And a wonderful Borders with a fab YA section upstairs... and me signing books. :)
til next time...

Monday, November 23, 2009

HuffPo Rides Again

And for post two of the Dreaming Anastasia Road Trip, I present the more humorous version, which is up now on the Books Vertical on Huffington Post. Enjoy!

Til next time...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dreaming Anastasia Road Show

Me and the Chicago part of the Preble family at my Borders' signing. Do you see the HOT sign on the display of Dreaming Anastasia's?

Lou Malnati's pizza - just like Anne and Tess eat in an early chapter of DA

University Hall at Northwestern - the real building for the fictional setting of Professor Olensky's office in DA.

Award winning illustrator Larry Day, who was signing with me at the St. Mary's book fair in Riverside.

My little table at St. Mary's Book Fair.

Me at the John Cooper School Signature Series Event

Just back from Chicago events and before that the John Cooper School Signature Series here in The Woodlands, TX. Three days off from school, two book fairs, a teacher round table and a Friday the 13th book signing at Borders north of Chicago in Wilmette. In quick summation, I present the Dreaming Anastasia Road Show Highlights:

  • Getting to listen to John Grogan talk about his dog Marley and book talking Dreaming Anastasia with anyone who stopped by my table.

  • Flying to Chicago on a half empty plane and having row 19 all to myself. And what did I do with all this bounty? Spread out so I could grade Antigone tests. Oh the life a famous author!

  • Visiting with the 7th and 8th graders at St. Mary's School in Riverside. What a great group you are! Plus Jessica and her team, including her husband who graciously brought back Diet Coke and warm oatmeal raisin cookies from McDonald's during the dinner lull.
  • Getting to meet picture book illustrator Larry Day, who was great company during the above mentioned dinner lull at St. Mary's.

  • Getting to visit my alma mater Northwestern and donating a copy of Dreaming Anastasia to the YA collection at the library.

  • Driving along Sheridan road from Wilmette to Evanston and later along Lake Shore Drive to Hyde Park. Chicago cooperated with 60 degree weather. In November.

  • Staying with my cousin Sara who is an amazing baker and has a freezer full of cookies and brownies and other crazy good stuff and seeing a bunch of other family, too.

  • Getting to hang with college friends - for lunches, coffee, after one of my signings. Something about being with the people that knew you when that's sweet and humbling and just oh so right! Hard to be a diva when you're with people who have held your hair back so you could vomit...

  • Reconnecting with the Chicago Preble's! You guys rock!

  • Dinner with author @PattyJMurphy!

  • Lunch with 2k9er's Fran Slayton and Susan Fine, and the ever fabulous best publicist ever @psamuelson01 - otherwise known as Publicist Paul. And did I mentiont that it was 60 degrees out that day? In November? In Chicago?

  • The great Look What's HOT display of Dreaming Anastasia's at Border's in Wilmette for my signing - at which I read some, signed some, answered a bunch of questions, and even learned more about the story of the Dreaming Anastasia cover from Sourcebooks' own Kay Mitchell, who drove with Paul Samuelson and the intrepid Teddy Roosevelt all the way from Naperville in Friday night traffic to be with me.

  • Hanging with teachers and the fab Angela at 57th Street Books in Hyde Park.

In short - Thank You! to readers, friends, family and to the Sourcebooks team that made the Dreaming Anastasia Chicago tour a reality!

Til next time...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

SHSU Children's Lit Festival & YA Conference

Looking author-y in between Kelly Bennett and Janet Fox
SHSU grad student Katie Poland poses with me.
Kellly Bennett and Janet Fox with Janet's Faithful cover

Janet Fox and her SHSU grad student helper

Absolutely delightful time yesterday presenting at the Sam Houston State Children's and YA lit conference with Janet Fox (Faithful, Puffin, May 2010) Thanks to Dr. Holly Weimar for choosing us to be part of the program and to my cheery grad student helper Kathryn Poland for sheperding me around! And of course I'm always thrilled when I get to be a fan girl and Newbery authors! Specifically, the phenomenal Christopher Paul Curtis and Jacqueline Woodson, who were the keynote speakers and with whom I had the honor of eating lunch. (Let me say that when you are a newbie debut author, it is still shocking that someone lets you eat barbeque and cobbler with really famous people. In your own little guest author/presenter room. With all the other wonderful presenters such as author Kelly Bennett and some really cool librarians! While everyone else gets a boxed lunch in the cafeteria. I mean seriously - I had to pinch myself. Plus the cobbler was warm. And there was vanilla ice cream to put on top.
Purchased Woodson's If You Come Softly, which I had not read. It is a re-telling of R&J, black teen Jeremiah falls in love with white teen Ellie. It is so beautifully written that I don't have words for it yet. I have so much to learn about this craft! And Bud not Buddy, by Curtis is next on my list. Christopher Paul Curtis is another master of the written word, of storytelling, and just listening to him was an honor.
Onward this week to Chicago! I am very excited to get to see Publicist Paul and authors Susan Fine and Fran Cannon Slayton when I'm in town and very much looking forward to my events!

Thursday - St. Mary's Book Fair in Riverside
Friday - Signing at Borders in Wilmette, 7 PM
Saturday- Educator's Round Table at 57th Street Books in Hyde Park

Itching to tell you all more updates. But not quite yet.

Til next time...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

HuffPo, Sharpies, and other News

Quick post this morning. So much work to do and then husband's birthday dinner later on. (Don't you love it when birthdays fall on weekends and you can have more leisurely fun rather than the "here's your cake, let's go do homework" kind of fun?)

If I haven't mentioned it, I'm an official Huffington Post blogger now, on their new books vertical. I am thrilled! Posted my latest- on paying your dues as a debut author - on Friday. You can read it here: Hopefully you will be amused. :)

Beyond that, if you're in Houston area, come join me up in Huntsville at SHSU's YA Lit Conference on 11/7. Janet Fox (Faithful, Puffin 2010) and I will be talking about on line writing communities, among other things, and also signing Dreaming Anastasia. Come say hi.

I'll also be a "local author" at John Cooper School Signature Series Event on 11/11 at the Waterway Marriott in The Woodlands. John Grogan (Marley and Me) is speaking! Plus it's a fund raiser for literacy causes. All worth the price of admission.

Chicago folks: SBooks is bringing me to town right after that. My bigger public signing is at Borders in Wilmette 11/13 7 PM. Hoping to rock the house on that one. Help me show them what this Chicago native now Texas girl can do! And if you're an educator, I'll be talking to teachers and then signing at the fabulous 57th Street Books (thank you Angela!) on 11/14 around 2 PM.

Beyond that, all sorts of other things going on, but this is not the post for them. Soon, though.

Happy November!

Til next time...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

In Which I visit the kid in Phoenix and Sign at Changing Hands

Family pumpkin carving in AZ. Mine's the middle one.
Presenting AZ Blogger Shellie with her signed Dreaming Anastasia

What I didn't eat at the State Fair

Talking Dreaming Anastasia at Changing Hands

Dreaming Anastasia at Changing Hands in Tempe AZ

So the trip didn't start out too well - 2 hours sitting on the plane at the gate in Houston while maintenance tinkered with a part in the cockpit. Long enough that I graded two sets of essays, drank my complimentary cup of ice water (oh c'mon folks - isn't 2 hours at the gate enough for say, a Diet Coke?), watched all of The Proposal with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds and chatted with a delightful history prof from England, who'd been sitting on planes since Heathrow and was resigned to it all.
But after that - what a great weekend!

To whit:
  • Visited with son and girlfriend and the adorable Bernie the dog - the best mutt in the world.
  • Signed Dreaming Anastasia at Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe - an amazingly wonderous indie that you must support if you are ever in town. They had graciously pushed me into their schedule for an hour and I was even able to present blogger Shellie of Layers of Thought with the signed copy of Dreaming Anastasia she'd won through Book Butterfly's contest! Some other interested folks dropped by; I signed stock, and I do believe a good time was had by all.

  • Visited the AZ State Fair and debated on eating the deep-fried bacon, but instead consumed part of a corn dog and all of something called Dole Whip which is pineapple soft serve yumminess! Other than the food, we watched sheep shearing, llama obstacle course, and other assorted ag stuff. Played a few midway games. I lost. Kellie won an orange stuffed lobster by tossing ping pong balls in a bowl.

  • Did the official family pumpkin carving event. Everyone lied and pretended that my pumpkin didn't suck. You can judge for yourself above.

  • Ate and shopped and generally enjoyed the wonderful AZ fall weather.

And now I'm home. Back to school. Back to grading. Back to writing. Onward it goes. Sam Houston State Conference coming up 11/7. Chicago mini tour coming after that. What a crazy wonderful fall! I am totally thankful for it all.

Til next time...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dreaming Anastasia goes to Blue Willow

Signed the Blue Willow author wall. Yes - Joy Preble right next to Lauren Conrad
Visiting with blogger and Twitter pal Sabrina

Signing Dreaming Anastasia at Blue Willow

If you live in Houston or visit Houston, promise me that you'll stop by Blue Willow Bookshop on Memorial on the west side of the city. Valerie Koehler and events coordinator Cathy Berner and the rest of the staff were gracious enough to take a chance on a newbie debut author - aka - me! Last night's signing was such an enjoyable, delightful event. Those in attendance - some friends, some family, some friends of friends, and some new faces who came out to see me - cozied up in this beautiful, book-filled space. I talked a little genre and inspiration and other Dreaming Anastasia stuff. Signed books. Gave away posters and a t-shirt and some bookmarks and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Even got to sign the author wall - which was totally cool and since I got to pick my spot, you will see above that I signed next to LC herself - The Hills' Lauren Conrad - who was in town this summer plugging her own novel. Hey - if I get to pretend I'm a famous author then why not, right? Thank you, Blue Willow. You guys rock!

Onward to Changing Hands in Tempe, AZ in a few days. Check my website for the full schedule of upcoming events if you are so inclined.
As for me, right now I'll be doing what any author diva does - grading papers! Whoot!
til next time...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Laissez les bons temp rouler! Louisiana Book Festival!

Dreaming Anastasia in a B&N in Baton Rouge
Look who's on the program at the Louisiana Festival of Books

Me and Burton Raffel, amazingly brilliant scholar and writer and translator of the definitive version of Beowulf

Fran, Joy, and Donna in the B&N signing tent

At the Author Party with our book covers, State Library

Dreaming Anastasia makes it to the big time in Louisiana

Just came back from Baton Rouge and the delightful Louisiana hosptality of fellow 2k9er, Donna St. Cyr (Secrets of the Cheese Syndicate) - who housed both me and Fran Cannon Slayton (When the Whistle Blows) for the weekend. And what a time we had proving that there is no limit to the amount of jambalaya and bread pudding a human can consume and meeting, greeting, signing and presenting at the wonderful Louisiana Festival of Books. (It occurs to me that I did not take pictures of either the jambalaya or the bread pudding, so you'll have to take my word for their wonderfulness. Likewise the shrimp po-boy I consumed at Boutin's (which used to be Mulate's if you're in the Louisiana know) and the wonderful satsuma oranges that we ate each day at Donna's by pulling them fresh off her trees!

And lest you think that all we did was eat and drink... the Festival itself was delightful. Weather- cool, clear, sunny. Books and book talk and readers and writers - all interacting at the Capitol, State Musuem, State Library, and other assorted buildings on the grounds. So seriously - how cool was it for Donna, Fran and me to do our panel on writing adventure into stories and have our venue be a Senate Room E in the Capitol building? Totally cool! If you're reading this and you came out for the event, thank you! I met not only people who were at the festival and chose to come to our events (the other one was about on-line writing communities and we got to present it in the State Museum!), but also people who had already read Dreaming Anastasia and actually came with their books already in hand to have me sign. You are all awesome!

My personal highlight came when I got to meet and chat with Burton Raffel! Yes, the same Burton Raffel who translated the definition edition of Beowulf from Old English!! He has just published his translation from Middle English of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales so that's what he was currently promoting. But Burton Raffel - Someone whose book I've taught from and read aloud - just sitting there and chatting and telling me how he used to read Beowulf installments to his sons when he was working on it back in the 1960's! I can't tell you how thrilling this was for me.

Anyway - the mighty Mississippi was still muddy and mighty. Baton Rouge is charming. The Book Festival was inspiring. I was honored to be part of it. I mean seriously - I got to put on a dress and go to an author party at the State Library and drink wine and eat gumbo and mini muffaletas with FAMOUS authors. How cool is that?

Onward into the week - signing at Blue Willow in Houston Tuesday 10/20 at 7PM. Then on to Changing Hands in Tempe, AZ at 11 AM - noon on Saturday 10/24. Plus the AZ State Fair. And possibly pumpkin carving. (the last two aren't book events, btw. But they're on the agenda! If only because I might get to see the world's largest alligator again.)

Til next time...

Monday, October 12, 2009

So Did I Ever Tell You about the Squirrel?

So the squirrels. Did you ever notice how they hesitate? You're driving along and there's one at the curb and you see him and he sees you and you slow down just a little and give him some more woman to rodenty -creature eye contact. And then, just as it is too late for you to do anything about it, he dashes in front of you to cross the street. Sometimes it works out for him. Sometimes - not so much.

Last fall about this time, I was severely traumatized by one of the latter variety. Old Rocky races out and smacks himself against my front right tire, richochets to the right, cartwheels up someone's driveway and into their open garage, where he landed, stunned but not dead. I slammed on the brakes - obviously too late - and sat there watching as he eventually got to his little feet, then stumbled about dazed. (Can squirrels stumble? I suppose maybe there's a better word. But you get the picture) Eventually he made it out of the garage and sat on the driveway looking at me. And I'm thinking, "Buddy. What the hell do you expect me to do? You are unfortunately a wild animal even if you're cute and even if your potential demise is now going to be a lot sooner now, and it's clearly because you smashed yourself into my Altima. Trust me when I say you're on you're own here. I'm going to drive away now. I am not going to nurse you to health. It's a rough world here in the suburbs. Welcome to it."

So why tell you this now? Because 1) It just almost happened again with yet another squirrel just now as I was rushing home from the cleaner's to meet the dryer repair guy who eventually told me that said dryer was not dead but only wounded from a blown inner fuse because I'd pushed it too close to the wall and the vent wasn't venting which was why it was getting so hot every time I dried sheets or towels and eventually blew a fuse rather than setting itself on fire which would have been the much less pleasant alternative.... and 2)It is, it occurred to me as I was stick-vaccing up the crap behind the dryer and hoping the repair guy was not judging me on my slovenly housekeeping habits, the perfect metaphor for being a debut author. (stick with me here; this is going to be profound if I can explain)

Debut author life is full of false starts and hesitations. Mostly you have no idea in hell what you're doing. You race across streets - metaphorically speaking - hoping you won't crash head first into someone's mid size sedan. Sometimes you do anyway. Sometimes you make it to the other side. Some of the stuff you write is brilliant. Some of it, not so much. Some of your choices are fantastic. Some are phenomenally stupid. Some of your reviews are stellar. Others are the equivalent of crashing into an Altima. You keep going. Get up and stumble back down the driveway. Go gnaw on an acorn and tell your squirrel buddies about the crazy woman who just didn't stop to render aid. If you're lucky, the next time you remember - wait at the curb. Or run faster. Get good at dodging navy Altimas. Clean behind your damn dryer if you don't want to spend an hour at your mother in law's making small talk while your underwear dries. (Okay, that's a lie. I sent my husband)

In short - it's like the lesson my mother taught me when I was growing up in Chicago. "If you're somewhere unfamiliar," she said, "Make sure to walk with a purpose. Look like you know where you're going even if you don't. It's safer that way. Trust me."

I'm walking like I know where I'm going this fall. Mid way through month two of the great Dreaming Anastasia adventure. Still loving every minute of it. I've bashed my head a couple of times and sat on metaphorical driveways a tad stunned on occasion. But then I get up and get back to business. So far, it's working out for me. And possibly even the squirrels.

Til next time...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

How Well do You Know the Real Anastasia Romanov?

I'd originally made this quiz for Lauren at Shooting Stars Mag to use for her Dreaming Anastasia giveaway contest. But now that the contest is over and I've sent the book to the winner, I present to you, gentle readers! See how much you know!

How Well Do You the Real Anastasia Romanov?

In Dreaming Anastasia, Anastasia Romanov might not be quite as dead as the history books say. But how well do you know the real Anastasia? So let’s see how well you know this famous Russian princess!!

1. What was Anastasia’s actual royal title?
2. On her mother’s side, to what other royal families was Anastasia related?
3. What were the names of Anastasia’s sisters and her brother?
4. Anastasia’s father, Nicholas, held the title, ‘tsar.’ What is the etymology of that title?
5. When was Anastasia born?
6. The Romanov family was often gifted with amazingly beautiful decorative eggs at Easter. Which famous jewelry making family created these eggs?
7. From what very serious blood disorder did Anastasia’s brother suffer?
8. Anastasia’s mother trusted a particular holy man who some believed was evil. What was his name?
9. What was the name of the revolutionaries that overthrew the Romanov family?
10. Anastasia had a pet spaniel. What was his name?

Scroll down for the answers!!


1. Grand Duchess (Anastasia Nicholaievna)
2. British - Great-granddaughter on her mother's side of Queen Victoria, and German - also her mother's side - Her mother, Alexandra was Princess of Hesse)
3. Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Alexei
4. Comes from the same word as Caesar and Kaiser (originally back to Latin)
5. June 5th or June 18th, (depending on which calendar you use), 1901.
6. Fabrege
7. Hemophilia
8. Rasputin (Father Grigory Efimovitch)
9. Bolsheviks
10. Jimmy

til next time...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Talking about Ethan and agents and editors with the Girl Scouts

Dreaming Anastasia, the Girl Scouts, their leaders, and me
What a great time I had yesterday afternoon! I'd been asked to meet with a local senior Girl Scout troop to help them earn patches having to do with storytelling and reading. So that is what I did - and had a blast talking about Ethan (I told them that one reviewer had mentioned that E was always pushing that thick hair of his off his forehead and they began to giggle. "That's what guys do," one girl said. "Always.") and Anne and Tess (they loved Tess's over use of "wicked") and even Baba Yaga. We also talked about what agents do and how authors earn money and how many people it takes to create a book and promote a book. (editors, copy editors, cover artists, agent, publicists... it was a longer list than some had suspected. )

Almost two hours later, we took a few pics, I signed some books for them, raffled off a poster, gave out some book marks and went on my way. This was the first all girl group that I'd spoken to and that was fun, too. Dreaming Anastasia is, after all, a fun read for girls and it is also a book with strong female characters so that part was special as well. They had such great questions - about process and inspiration, about the craft of writing, even about the history aspects of the novel and what was real and what was alternate history.
I'm delighted they invited me!

Til next time...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Book Talking Dreaming Anastasia

Reading from Dreaming Anastasia to NEHS group
Either I'm surprised, or I'm answering a question

Clearly I need to talk with my hands

Did a little book talk with the National English Honor Society at my school Tuesday. Went pretty well. I'd anticpated that some would have read, some wouldn't. Some would have liked. Some wouldn't. As I've said in this blog before, that's the great thing about teaching high school. You simply can't take yourself too seriously. The kid who loved you yesterday will be pissed at you today if only because she broke up with her boyfriend or got yelled at by her mom or her dad's out of work and life at home sucks and now there you are asking her to do an essay and it's just too much and because she feels safe with you she's going to lash out because she can. That's the way it works in the classroom. And we the adults have to remember that we're the adults. And keep everyone as safe and warm and cozy as we can while we impart knowledge or facilitate the finding thereof.

So here's the thing I didn't realize about having a book published. That it would remind me to be as kind as I can most days. That I am lucky to have people being so supportive. That even those who aren't, or have told me that Dreaming Anastasia just isn't their cup of tea, serve to remind me how fragile we all are some days. That I'm charged with an awesome responsibility in the classroom when I work with students. I need to remember to critique them with love and thoughfulness. Tell them what doesn't work and praise them for what does. Say it gently but push them to strive for the stars. Make them part of the great literary conversation. Respect what they can do and help them with what comes a little harder for them.

I'm learning a lot of lessons this fall. The next one will be how to balance travel and teaching. But again - seriously - how freakin' amazing is that? I get to travel to talk about my book? Publicist Paul is stirring the pot of the Great Chicago Tour, plans to be announced. But I know for sure that on 11/14, 2PM, I'll be at 57th Street Books in Hyde Park, along with other authors including Esther Hershenhorn. I am thrilled.

Okay - I'm nervous and a little neurotic about the whole thing. But still thrilled.

And in other book news: Three new ones on my to read shelf: Libba Bray's Going Bovine; Susan Fine's Initiation; and Danielle Joseph's Shrinking Violet. Very excited!

Til next time...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Best Birthday Ever

Me and Dana Wright, B&N bookseller and merch mgr supreme

A table of Dreaming Anastasia and my friend Wanda, supporting me and the Banff School, whose book fair I was supporting with this signing

See all those books? They were all gone by 4 PM

Look at the cool sign. With my picture. And me in the window taking the picture...

I signed yesterday in Houston at the Champions Forest Barnes and Noble. My pictures don't totally reflect what an amazing time I had because I was busy signing from 1:45 until 4 and talking with people and just generally enjoying myself and having a rollicking time telling people about me and Dreaming Anastasia and meeting lots of great new readers! So I remembered to have people take pictures with my camera at the beginning and at the end. Once I get some pics from other people, I'll post those, too!
It was also my birthday. And yes, this was the best possible way to spend it. Two of my friends work at The Banff School, which is a small private school in Houston's northern suburbs. Yesterday's signing was done in conjunction with their book fair, which I thought was only fitting since their upper school students will be reading Dreaming Anastasia and I will be coming to do a school visit and writing workshop with them in December. So I knew the Banff kids would come and buy their books.
What I didn't expect was everyone else! We sold out of every copy of Dreaming Anastasia in the store and as you can see from the loaded table in the pics above, there were a lot of copies. In fact, you don't see them all in the pictures. Some were still hiding in the storeroom. Let me just take this moment to say that if you are personally in any way part of the grass roots support of Dreaming Anastasia (or as my cousin's 6 year old son - whose father is a doctor - calls it "Dreaming Anesthesia") let me say once again, "THANK YOU!!"
I was signing books for future Christmas gifts. I was talking to all sorts of wonderful people from age 12 - much older! A former student of mine from a very long time ago (let's just say that I wasn't yet a mom when I taught her and leave it at that) made me cry by showing up with her own two kids. This is the girl (now woman) who was on my UIL spelling team when we somehow went to the state finals and I had to drive them in a van to Mesquite, Texas and we passed the long hours in between competitions sitting on the floor of a mall, all - I have no idea why now - playing tunes on kazoos and generally being obnoxious to passersby. (I was very young then. Possibly I was a total idiot. Definitely I was no more respectful of the rules then than I am now. Luckily Shelly seems to remember me fondly. This is very much a relief)
October and November bring a lot of travel for me: Louisiana, Arizona, Chicago... I am still grateful beyond words.
A story of love and loss and redemption and the need for second chances. A little fantasy, a little fairy tale, a little historical fiction, a subtle romance. Dreaming Anastasia.
A dream indeed.
Til next time...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Come See Me! Win a t shirt!

So this t shirt thing. I am nothing if not a cheerful, low budget operation. And I like it that way. When you're a debut author of this little book that no one quite knew how to define - is it fantasy? historical fiction? maybe it's fairy tale? Ooh, there's some romance - you're a cautious investment at first. So if you want to do giveaways, well, you better figure out how to do it on your own.

On release day, my friend Paula - our Latin teacher - surprised me with Dreaming Anastasia t shirts. They have been a huge hit. (full disclosure - she only made 10 in the first batch. In that special, special way that is life in a public education institution, there was jealousy and in-fighting about who would get one of the ten. At one point I worried that someone would ask me to strip down in the cafeteria. This did not happen, which was probably a relief to all involved.)

Short story - Paula made more. I raffled them off at my launch signing. Still a big hit. People were even asking about them last night at my live chat at My Friend Amy's blog. Soon Paula will have to give up vini vidi vici for her true calling as a sweat shop worker in her own dining room. This afternoon, she emailed the secrets of how to make an iron on image and what aisle I should go to in Hobby Lobby for all my supplies. Clearly she is thinking ahead and has realized that just possibly this is not her calling in life. (I think she is being rather short-sighted on this. But as I am her friend, I will let it slide)

If you're in the Houston area, I'm signing this Saturday, 9/26, 2PM at the Barnes and Noble on 1960 West at Champions Forest. People who live nearby tell me that there's even a poster up in the window to that effect and that it has my picture on it! Seems that Paul the Publicist has sent extra stuff out into the world.

So stop by! Tell your friends. I'll sign your book and say hello. And maybe you'll win a t shirt.

Til next time...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Book Talk and Live Chat Reminder

First an invitation: I'll be doing a live chat Wed. 9/23 at My Friend Amy's blog, 9 PM EST, 8 PM CST, 6 PM PST as part of my Dreaming Anastasia world domination blog tour. I'd love you to stop by and join in the fun as I talk about DA and whatever else comes up!

And now on to the post:

Somewhere in between the relentless pace lately - not that I'm complaining, just observing - I've had to shut things down on occasion and just read. Does anyone else do this? (I know you do. Just fess up!) When the going gets too rough, I retreat with a book for a bit and I'm always better for it.

Not quite done yet with Megan Frazer's debut YA The Secrets of Truth and Beauty, but it is lovely. Dara Cohen discovers that she had a sister, Rachel, that her parents have kept a secret from her. Mom and Dad have deemed Rachel dangerous. Unstable. Whatever happened with Rachel was a rebellious teenager - before Dara was born - it was enough to sever the ties irrevocably. When an incident over a school autobiography project triggers Dara's own conflict with her weight, her life, and her distant and demanding parents, she searches out Rachel. What follows is a journey for everyone involved.

I am loving this book. Frazer's prose is sharp; her narrative skills impressive. She's got a keen eye for characterization, such as the moment when Dara first sees Rachel and notes the few strands of grey in her hair, thus letting the reader know that the years have taken their toll. Or the moment when Rachel realizes exactly how much she'd been cut out of her family. Heart-breaking stuff, but also, I'm sensing, ultimtately uplifting and life-affirming.

I won the ARC of this one at an SCBWI meeting in June, but hadn't gotten to it yet. Now I'm just frustrated that I don't have time to just read and read.

Of course, Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver continues to stick in my mind, too. That scene in the candy store. Oh my! Werewolf loving. Passion, passion, passion. And just a darn good storytelling ride.

And my beloved 2k9er's are slamming into the fall YA scene right now. Megan Crewe's Give Up the Ghost is amazing. Cass sees dead people. Including her own sister. The living "breathers" as she calls them - well, they're not quite as fun. But Cass learns to embrace life in Megan's tale, even as she both uses and helps the ghosts around her. I loved Cass because she seemed totally real to me - prickly and unlovable some of the time. It made me love her all the more. This is a great paranormal read and I adored how Megan set up the perameters of what ghosts could and couldn't do.

Lauren Bjorkman - who has had an amazing life during which she actually spent some of her childhood years living a sailboat! - is about to release "My Invented Life," which is also on my to read list and as far as I can tell, witty and funny and thoughtful all at once. Here's the synopsis:

Roz and Eva are sisters, friends, and rivals. Roz fantasizes about snagging the lead in the school play and landing sexy skate god Bryan as her boyfriend. Sadly, a few obstacles stand between her and her dream. For one, Eva is the more talented actress. And Bryan happens to be Eva’s boyfriend. But is Eva having a secret love affair with a girl? Inquiring minds need to know.
Roz prides herself on random acts of insanity. In one such act, she invents a girlfriend of her own to encourage Eva to open up. The plan backfires, and Roz finds herself neck deep in her invented life. When Roz meets a mercurial boy with a big problem, she begins to understand the complex feelings beneath the labels. And she gets a second chance to earn Eva’s trust.
MY INVENTED LIFE is set in small California high school during the rehearsals for a Shakespeare comedy.

And finally, October brings Lauren Strasnick's Nothing Like You - the story of Holly Hirsch, grieving for the death of her mother, who can't let go of a one night stand with Paul and whose life spirals out of control from there. I've read the ARC of this one twice - it was just that moving.

So here's to a little reading therapy! When the going gets tough, the reader in me just curls up and lets someone else tell the stories for awhile.

Til next time..

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Feeling the Dreaming Anastasia love

This is the cake my librarian ordered for our DA celebration this week.

Even my principals have jumped on the Dreaming Anastasia train

Three weeks into the Dreaming Anastasia blog tour! Around 60 amazingly dedicated book bloggers have been reviewing, allowing me to guest post and interviewing me and basically spreading Dreaming Anastasia love around the globe.

I am: humbled, thankful, profoundly grateful, ecstatic, amazed, honored, and totally jazzed!! Thank you, thank you!! for spreading the word to everyone about this novel. I thank you. Anne, Ethan and Anastasia thank you. Publicist Paul thanks you. (I think he is even sending me an extra silver sharpie. Sourcebooks sends pretty markers when you're being extra good. At least that what Paul tells me. Possibly he is just holding out on the good stuff.) Editor Dan is beyond happy. To my readers who are loving this crazy combination of fantasy, historical fiction, fairy tale, and romance - huge virtual hugs!

If you're in the Houston area, I'll be signing at B&N on 1960 West at Champions Forest, next Saturday, 9/26, 2PM. (it is also my birthday!!) T-shirt raffles, book mark giveaways, posters signed by my snazzy Scooby Snack silver sharpie that Paul sent.

And if you're able, I'll be doing a live chat at My Friend Amy's blog on Wed. 9/23 at 9 PM EST. Come on by to and chat about Dreaming Anastasia and other stuff.

Check out my appearances on my website under News. I'm headed lots of places in the next couple of months, including the Lousiana Festival of Books in Baton Rouge on 10/17, Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston on 10/20, Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, AZ on 10/24, and Sam Houston State University YA Conference on 11/7. And keep posted for my Chicago tour dates - still TBA, but coming in November! (I knew I bought that great black wool coat last year on sale for something!) If you're around, I'd love to meet you.

And finally, thank you!! to the faculty and staff and especially my intrepid librarian Twyla at the high school where I teach for a lovely reception honoring me and Dreaming Anastasia. National English Honor Society is even selling books in conjunction with local B&N as a fundraiser and sold 50 in less than a day! And there were reporters! My grass roots support has also been humbling. Thank you. Seriously.
Til next time...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Rocking the House at Barnes and Noble

Standing Room only - can you believe it?
You all helped me pack the house.

Wow! A wall of Dreaming Anastasia

Assistant CRM Kat and Christine and Nick - two of my son's h.s. friends

Kara and Karissa and Me - My original readers

Talking and reading and generally looking shiny

Me and former students. Aren't we adorable? And what's that pretty book?

Thank you thank you!! for everyone - all 170 of you, I think! - who came out yesterday to help me celebrate at the Dreaming Anastasia Launch Signing at The Woodlands Barnes and Noble! And many thanks to CRM Libby and her assistant Kat and even former student and bookseller Jen for making sure that everything went smoothly - from super special sharpies, to raffle tickets for the super schwag t shirts to opening the cookies and bringing me a bottle of water! Plus of course, all the advertising and promotion that went on prior and behind the scenes...
Friends, family, strangers, Tweeps from the Twitterverse, friends from school and amazingly - many,many former students - all came to join me. I read a little, did some Q&A and signed and signed and signed. Toni and Amanda - two former students and lit mag editors - brought me flowers. At least two of my original readers - the girls who for months during flex time, fifth period read in tiny ongoing installments, the very first pages of what would become Dreaming Anastasia and gave me the teeniest of inklings that yes, maybe, just maybe this was a story that people would enjoy - came in from college to be there with me. Truly, it took a village. And mine was there yesterday on the second floor of B&N.
Til next time...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dreaming Anastasia Front and Center for Launch!

Front of the Store, Baby!
Yes, this is what I saw when I walked into Barnes & Noble a few minutes ago. A sign. With my name. And the words author. And a poster. And books. And they were all Dreaming Anastasia. Can you say that I swooned from happiness? You would be right.

And if that's not happy happy joy joy enough, Shelf Elf just said all the very right things. Plus she's doing a giveaway! And Shady Glade allowed me to indulge myself with an Anne and Ethan guest post. Oh so clever, those two.

Til next time...