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...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Dreaming Anastasia Blog Tour Updates & Thank Yous!

Book bloggers rock! People who read them rock! Okay, I'm feeling pretty thankful about the entire reading populace this morning.... but seriously, I am honored and humbled and totally and utterly grateful for all the many sites that have been reviewing Dreaming Anastasia, hosting my crazy guest posts, and interviewing me. Launch week has been amazing because of all of you!

First the thank yous and links to those who have already been doing their thing. (And let me say that this is honestly only a partial set of thank yous. There are on-going contests, such as Tascha Cullen's at Bloody Bookaholic and Marta Morrison's nice review (it was my first ever) at TeensReadToo and the on going Dreaming Anastasia vs. Bran Hambric giveaway smackdown at So if I miss you in this round of thank you's, it's only because I've already shouted out to you earlier. Trust me, Momma raised a polite child; I am virtually hugging all of you every second of the day!

So: Thank you, Janet Fox, (Faithful, Puffin, 2010) for asking me such thoughtful interview questions at your Through the Wardrobe And thank you Kristi at Story Siren for letting me post about my beloved Class of 2k9 and all things internet inspired. Story Siren Thank you Ever Read for a nice review EVEREAD and The Book Resort for asking me some very different and amusing questions including chunky vs. smooth! Marta’s Meanderings deserves an enormous shout out for a thoughtful and wonderful review and for talking up Dreaming Anastasia. Big Thanks to Katiebabs at Babbling About Books for a very thoughtful review and of course to Casey at A Passion for Books for review, contest and the opportunity to chat about Baba Yaga! Day by Day Writer let me post about my writer's journey and of course I'm as big of a fan of Kate at Neverending Shelf as she is of me! Review, interview, contest. Just too wonderful!!

Lots more to come. The ones that are definitely scheduled for now are:

Sunday, September 6thYA Books CentralMonday, September 7thDolce Bellezza Books & Literature for Teens Tuesday, September 8thShelf Elf The Shady Glade Wednesday, September 9thDebbie’s World of Books Thursday, September 10thUltimate Book Hound Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf Friday, September 11thSarah’s Random MusingsSaturday, September 12thCindy’s Love of Books Presenting Lenore Always Riddikulus Sunday, September 13th Jenn’s Bookshelf Carol’s Corner Monday, September 14thA High & Hidden Place Looking Glass Review Karin’s Book Nook Tuesday, September 15thShooting Stars Magazine Library Lounge Lizard Wednesday, September 16thBook Journey The Book Pixie Thursday, September 17thThe Compulsive Reader BildungsromanFriday, September 18thBooking Mama Saturday, September 19thThe Written World Hope’s Bookshelf Sunday, September 20thBook Nut Hope is the Word Monday, September 21stZoe’s Book Reviews Homespun Light Teen Scene magazine Tuesday, September 22ndGalleysmith Once Upon a Bookshelf Wednesday, September 23rdCafĂ© of Dreams My Friend Amy (9pm EST author chat)Thursday, September 24thThe Brain Lair Ms. Bookish Friday, September 25thLori Calabrese Writes Mrs. Magoo Reads Saturday, September 26thRamblings of a Teenage Bookworm Fantasy Book Critic Sunday, September 27thInto the Wardrobe In the Pages Monday, September 28thBeth Fish Reads Reverie Book Reviews

So keep posted!

And if you're in the Houston area, my Launch Party Signing is next Saturday, 9/12, 2PM at The Woodlands Mall Barnes & Noble. Come say hi!

Til next time...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Live Chat Tonight about Dreaming Anastasia!

Live Chat Thursday, 9/3, 8 CST, 9EST, 6, PST.

Just got to and click on the blog to access the direct link!

Let's talk!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dreaming Anastasia is Here! Launch Day!

As I type this preparing for my launch day post, it’s Saturday night, August 29th. You won’t see these words until Tuesday morning, 9/1. So I guess there’s a chance that I’ll feel differently than I do right now. That some other huge piece of news will have broken and maybe I’ll have to chunk this post and start a new one. Or I’ll realize that having just watched Teddy Kennedy’s funeral on CNN that my mood is a tad darkly sentimental for what is ultimately one of the most joyous messages I’ve ever written. But for what it’s worth, here goes:

A little over five years ago I began writing the book that eventually became Dreaming Anastasia. It has been a long journey between then and now. Reams of paper, lots of copier ink, a couple of computer apocalypses, two agents – the current one being the fearless Cowgirl Jen- two editors – the current one being the fabulous Mr. Tiger Beat, Dan Ehrenhaft - a copy editing team that simply rocked, the boy genius who forced me to tweet called Publicist Paul, some sleepless nights, an amazing group of people called the Class of 2k9, a generally patient family who realized that this wasn’t just a whim and that I was going to see it through no matter what, a stiff neck from too much typing, and a few too many glasses of wine when the need arose.

Along the way, I learned a lot of things, the most important one being that I should believe in myself. I want to say that I always did, but I realize now that that’s probably not the truth. I wanted to, but the leap of faith that required was pretty darn scary. Because once you leap, there’s no going back. My life changed completely and utterly in many ways. I am better for all of them. People I had never met took a chance on me and this crazy story about a strong, kick ass girl who had the power to change history and a handsome stranger who didn’t really know as much as he thought he did and a bad guy with a crazy secret and a fairy tale witch. It was part fantasy and part fairy tale and part historical fiction and part romance. It had a strong literary element – which as we all know doesn’t sell well most days – and three narrative voices. It will come, my agent at the time said. But I sensed it wouldn’t be easy. (okay the six months of revision was probably a clue) But as we are fond of saying in the publishing business, it just takes one offer. One person to take that leap of faith with you.

That person was my original editor at Sourcebooks, Lyron Bennett.

The rest, as they say, is history.

I hope you all enjoy this story as much as I do. It’s a fine, rollicking tale of love and loss and hope and regret and the desperate need most of us have for second chances. It’s about the power of blood and the power of secrets and about what people do for both of those. It’s about stories within stories and layers within layers and the things we do for the people we love. And okay, Ethan is really, really hot!

Welcome to the world, Dreaming Anastasia! Happy birthday. May you have a long and prosperous life.

With all my love,

PS- And to my favorite NYC girl, Michelle Andelman – I owe you! Seriously!