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...