Tumbleweed Baby

Tumbleweed Baby is now available on Amazon!

Tumbleweed Baby is the first picture book by veteran children’s author Anna Myers, with illustrations by Charles Vess.

I got to read through a early version of this book earlier this year, and it’s pretty dang great.

tumbleweed babyFrom the book’s description on Amazon: “A large, loving family in the 1930s Dust Bowl finds a “tumbleweed baby”—a wild baby—in the plains near their cozy farm home. The baby’s new siblings discover the ways she fits and doesn’t fit into the family, ultimately deciding that her wildness makes her one of them. The rhythm and voice of the text make this feel like a classic tall tale, and it pairs perfectly with the dreamy, warm art from master illustrator Charles Vess.”

If you’re in the Oklahoma City area, you can get your book signed at the Tumbleweed Baby launch party on Tuesday, Oct. 14, 5:30-7 p.m. at Best of Books in Edmond. There’s going to be a readers’ theatre and refreshments, and Anna will be reading the book aloud. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and a great way to celebrate a fantastic new book.

Hope to see you there!

Novel Starting Day

I started the rough draft of my new novel today and I’M IN LOVE WITH IT! I’m using Fall Out Boy as my playlist for now.

I’m updating the blog now, whoot. And I’ve got a couple of posts coming up for the blog about what my friends in SCBWI Oklahoma are up to.

Dinner’s in the slow cooker. Kids have done their schoolwork. House is reasonably clean.

underdog

#winning

Oklahoma Book Review: TOBY

Today I have the honor of participating in another first – a blog tour – in celebration of TOBY, a new picture book by Oklahoma author Stacy Nyikos.

Stacy A. Nyikos

This was of particular interest to me because I read another of her books, DRAGON WISHES (lent to me and as-of-yet not returned to Gayleen Rabakkuk, but I digress). Anyway, I liked that book very much, even though it hasn’t yet gotten reviewed on this blog.

Does it help my case to announce that today, I just got to 20K on my latest novel? That means My lackadasical approach to blogging isn’t just laziness, right?

Anyway. Back to the book!

Toby will be released on June 30, 2014.

Toby will be released on June 30, 2014.

TOBY tells the story of a newly hatched sea turtle who finds himself alone in the nest and unsure what to do next. After listening to his heart, he follows his instincts out to the open ocean.On the way, the little guy faces dangers in the form of a pelican, crab, and crocodile. Illustrations by Shawn Sisneros compliments Nyikos’ story with images set on the sandy beach and in the bright blue ocean. TOBY is the third book in her Under the Sea series.

TOBY is available for pre-purchase on Amazon – when I checked, there were only two left, so keep that in mind. You can find out more about Stacy at her website, www.stacynyikos.com!

 

2014 Oklahoma Book Award

Do you know Tammi Sauer?

I do.

Since I’m a cool member of the Oklahoma Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, I got to meet Tammi about a year ago. She’s incredible, and published, and comes to Schmoozes, and is possibly the most currently-in-demand famous person I know.

I mean, I’ve met/know some other people I consider well-known, but Tammi is the one who might actually comment on something I’ve posted on Facebook, or if I called her up and said, “Hey, this is Regina Garvie,” she would know who I was. (Yes, I would definitely still say my last name. We are friendly but not besties or anything.) (And yes, I wanted to put we are “friends” but then I got scared that she would read that and say that we’re totally acquaintances but no, not friends so I changed it.)

Anyway, Tammi is awesome, and this month, she received the Oklahoma Book Award for her new picture book, Nugget & Fang, which I love and have already talked about on here. Here’s a picture of all the award winners for this year.

She’s the cute one with dark hair in the front row. I like how she’s holding her medal with both hands.

I don’t have much else to say about that, except for to mention that I hope that one day I’ll be in a picture holding a medal like that (except I will totally get into the back row if I can help it, because I’m a back row kinda gal.)

Oh, and Nugget & Fang is also a finalist for the SCBWI Crystal Kite Awards, which is also a huge deal, so good luck vibes for Tammi, please!

In related news, I did read Tammi’s book, Chicken Dance, this week, after seeing it mentioned on a Sequoyah Award poster at the library. Somehow I’d never read this one, even though I read the sequel, Bawk & Roll, more than a year ago.

I read this one to my six-year-old today, and she immediately demanded that I “read it again!” so that’s obviously a positive review.

From the book’s description on Amazon: Meet Marge and Lola, chickens on a mission: to win tickets for the Elvis Poultry Show! But their toughest competition—a pack of menacing ducks—sneers that “all a chicken can do is bawk, flap, and shake.” Can our two feisty chicks show those quackers how to rock ’n’ roll the barnyard? Tammi Sauer and Dan Santat have whipped up a giddy, goofy romp where cows fly over the moon, ducks surf in a water trough, and one very familiar-looking rooster gets all shook up!

This was a really cute book. Having been a chicken and duck owner for many years, I enjoyed all the little jokes…especially when the chickens starting doing “what chickens do.” Good thing, too, since I’m sure I’ll have to read it several more times for my youngest. This is the kind of book that I don’t have a problem repeating. And repeating.

My Girlfriend Bites

Doing good. Got a new car (after the old van died in our driveway after critique group). End of the school year is pressing into us from every direction. My to-do list has thirty-some things on it, not including writing. So of course writing comes first. At least I’m successfully ignoring the siren song of tumblr.

I’ve been reading a little lately. I started A Clash of Kings by George RR Martin and began reading the manuscript of my friend Jeannie. (And that reminded me that I’ve been meaning to order Jeannie’s published book from Amazon, so I just now did that.)

I also read My Girlfriend Bites, by Doug Solter, which has been chilling on my kindle FOREVER.

My Girlfriend Bites puts a new twist on the paranormal young adult theme. Instead of the male character being the vamprire/werewolf/zombie/whatever, it’s the girl who is the werewolf. The story starts out being told from the guy’s point of view, which is a refreshing change from the books I normally read. Later, it transitions to the girl’s viewpoint. It was fun to get in her head, both in her human form and as a wolf.

Book description, from Amazon: After his “dream” girl rejects him, 16-year-old Aiden tries to commit suicide, yet mysteriously survives. Now the teen feels like a loser with zero possibility of finding a girl. Then during a rainstorm, the creepy teen girl at school with too much hair offers him a ride home. Bree Mayflower’s act of kindness surprises Aiden as the two teens feel an attraction to each other that sparks a romance. Bree soon reveals her deep, dark secret to Aiden. Her family are werewolves hiding from the Demon Skins, a mysterious new enemy killing all the werewolf packs on earth. Aiden struggles with his girlfriend being a shifter while Bree struggles with helping her boyfriend whose lack of self-worth and cowardice puzzles a girl werewolf. Can she rely on him if the Demon Skins ever discovered her family? Will Aiden be there when she needs him? It would be so easy to just turn him into a fearless werewolf. But that bite thing is only a myth. All Bree can do is hope that the boy she loves will be strong enough to believe in himself when the time comes.

This was a fun read and passed by quickly. It was quite a bit different from Doug’s other YA novel, Skid, but I enjoyed both of them. I don’t read a lot of indie authors – since you generally have to order them sight unseen, it’s a gamble to spend money on these books. I’ve gotten a few that didn’t have a real grip on grammar, or that didn’t have fully developed characters. But Doug’s books are worth reading.

Doug’s from the Tulsa area, so we’ve seen each other at a couple of statewide conferences and we’re online friends. Because of that, I know that he’s currently working on a sequel for Skid, which I’m looking forward to. I also notice that on Amazon, My Girlfriend Bites has Volume 1 after the title. I don’t remember that being there before, but it’s good news to me. It’s always a pleasure to spend more time with characters you’ve enjoyed.

Anyhoo…recommended.

 

Blogging and things

I’m sort of disappointed with my blogging lately. I’ve been busy, really, doing stuff for our local SCBWI chapter in anticipation of this weekend’s spring conference, and revising manuscripts and working on my newest novel.

But I really did want to read and review books by Oklahoma authors, and that has fallen more and more by the wayside.

And the hundred journal entries project? As if.

However, I seem to have lots of spare time to spend on tumblr. Research. Learning how teens interact. Riiiiiight.

So. First things first, I’m going to go back and see what Oklahoma authored books I’ve read and not got around to reviewing. Then I’m going to tackle them, one by one.

  1. TOGETHER ALONE by Caitlyn Hensley
  2. HEREAFTER by Tara Hudson
  3. EXTRAORDINARY JANE by Hannah Harrison
  4. THE GRAVE ROBBER’S SECRET by Anna Myers
  5. AFTER OBSESSION by Carrie Jones and Steven E. Wedel
  6. DRAGON WISHES by Stacy Nyikos
  7. SPOTTING THE LEOPARD by Anna Myers
  8. SNOT STEW by Bill Wallace

I think I’m forgetting some.

Also…literally sitting right next to me, ready to be read:

  1. COWBOY CAMP by Tammi Sauer
  2. PRINCESS IN TRAINING by Tammi Sauer
  3. THE FLYING FLEA, CALLIE, AND ME by Carol Wallace and Bill Wallace
  4. THE BUFFALO TRAIN RIDE by Desiree Morrison Webber

And on my Kindle:

  1. MY GIRLFRIEND BITES by Doug Solter
  2. LOVE IN THE BALANCE by Regina Jennings
  3. SHINE 1: CHILDHOOD’S END by William Bernhardt
  4. ARISE by Tara Hudson
  5. ELEGY by Tara Hudson
  6. DOUBLE CROSSED by Ally Carter

So that’s…18 books already? And I know there’s more that I want to read. Several are by authors already listed above, but there’s others that I haven’t even gotten to yet. So…I’m thinking if I grow up and commit to doing one each week, I’ve got almost five months of blog posts on here. Of course, the ones that still have to be read are a little more work, but it’s not like it’s going to be hard work.

I used to have the newspaper done each week on Wednesdays, and that seemed to work well enough. So. Every Wednesday. I will have a Oklahoma book review on this blog each and every Wednesday. At least until I get done with the ones I’ve already read.

So now I need to figure out how to schedule blog posts. Good thing I have six days to do this.

Busy times in Oklahoma

I’ve been so busy lately. Good busy. Well, and some time-wasting busy, but we won’t dwell on that right now.

I’ve read a ton of books by Oklahoma authors – so many, in fact, that it’s become intimidating to write all of them. I suppose I need to be a grown-up and write one every day or something, then set them up to post automatically. That’d be cool. It’s funny how I used to write very regularly for the newspaper, but it’s a little different for a blog. I was the editor and reporter at the paper, so I would put everything in and then think, Okay, I’ve got a 40-inch news hole left to fill. So…my city council story needs to be 40 inches. Let’s do this thing! And I would make magic happen.

But this blog is a little more…infinite, isn’t it?

scbwi okI’m also working as publicity chair for the Oklahoma Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ spring conference. It’s kind of fun to reconnect with people in the media. Hopefully we can get the word out about the conference and help open doors for others who want to write for children! Lots more information about that at the Oklahoma SCBWI website. Made a flyer to hang at libraries and bookstores too. I was a little nervous, because it looks suspiciously like it was made by a writer using Open Office, but our gracious regional advisor said it was just fine. So that was happiness.

Finally, I made a press release for a friend, for her to send out before school visits. That was fun too.

Two more things on my to-do list for today. One of those was write a blog post, ha ha. Check.

Now I need to get my pages ready for critique group tomorrow night.

I’ve still got almost an hour until midnight.

Let’s do this.

Agent Day 2013

This month I got to enjoy my first SCBWI Agent Day, in Chandler, Oklahoma.

I had such a great time, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since, wondering how I’d like best to recap it. In the meantime, two of my friends beat me to it, writing wonderful blog posts about the day. I read both of those and thought, these are good. Maybe I shouldn’t write one. I probably can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said.

But then I remembered that I spent a decade working for a weekly newspaper. Lots of times big news happened in our little town right after the paper came out. Little stories would be all mine, but the big stuff would be covered by the big daily papers. I’d still have to write about it, five or six days later. It would just be that local perspective.

So I can at least do that. Even if I can’t be first, and I probably can’t be best, it can still be my perspective. My newbie thoughts on Agent Day. That’s something, I think.

I’ve got my notes from the day, and my outline, so I think I’m going to go over it kind of lazy-style and just start at the beginning. If you wanted the inverted pyramid, I’m sure you’d pick up a newspaper anyway.

It was held in Chandler since that’s in between Tulsa and OKC and it’s where our Regional Advisor, Anna Myers, lives. Our Agent Day is held at the First Baptist Church there. The church doesn’t charge us anything, so it’s less expensive than the spring conference. That’s nice. I drove up with friends and got to use my new Pikepass for the first time, so that was fun and fancy.

The first speaker was Hannah Harrison, who is an incredible author/illustrator and has four books currently in various stages of publication. hannah harrison(She read Extraordinary Jane  at the OKC Schmooze in September and it was fantastic and I love it.) She is also extremely super adorable – like almost overly so – but somehow it works for her and you don’t want to maim her or anything for it.

My notes are sketchy from Hannah’s talk, and it’s entirely all her fault because it was too entertaining and fun. The main point she wanted to pass on to all of us was to not waste your opportunities for advancement. Make the most of your chances to further your career, and don’t procrastinate if this is what you want to do. It’s good advice.

Other things I got from her speech (besides smiles) included:

* Interest in her childhood artwork. It caused me to look at my six-year-old’s work with new eyes. I have noticed that my littlest girl seems to have a different gift for art than the older children, but I haven’t done much about it. I’m now trying to focus on that more now, and encourage her, the way Hannah’s parents and educators did. Whether my daughter will continue with art or not, I need to be better aware of it.

* Don’t shut doors that are open for you, just because you think there is a “right” way to do something. Explore different options that lead to the result you want.

I sure am looking forward to getting my hands on Hannah’s books and maybe getting to review them right here on this blog. Why not, right?

Hannah Harrison’s web site

The agents were next.

Anna got three super agents for us, and I was excited to hear from each of them. We had Natalie Fischer Lakosil, Bradford Literary Agency; Emily Mitchell, Wernick & Pratt Literary Agency; and Danielle Smith, Foreword Literary.

Ugh. How distressing. I wrote all of this in October. OCTOBER. 

And then I didn’t get around to finishing. I saved the draft, and thought I’d get around to it later. Later didn’t come.

Instead, I got busy writing my new novel, which I’m pretty excited about. I’m 35,000 words into it. That’s awesome.

But this blog post is hanging over my head. I haven’t even posted anything else (except for the one NaNo post) because I knew I needed to finish this first.

Today I decided I was just going to delete it and go on from here. And then I actually got on here and read it, and saw that it wasn’t that terrible. Deleting it might not be the best idea after all.

I cannot write that much more about Agent Day, which stinks, because it was a great day. But it’s too far in the past now. I’m not going to wax on and on about the agents, even though they were seriously awesome. Anyone who gets the opportunity to visit with them or hear them speak should.

I do, however, have to mention the other Oklahoma speaker, local author Gwendolyn Hooks. I love Gwen. I am so lucky because she’s one of my critique partners.

Her first book, Can I Have a Pet?, just happens to be my six year old daughter’s favorite book. I did not coerce the child to love the book; it just happened that way. It’s also the first book that she read on her own. I think that it’s sort of wonderful that her first book was written by a friend.

So Gwendolyn told the story that led her to publication, and it was warm, and funny, and perfect, just like she is. She made each of us feel like she was sitting down and chatting with a friend.

Gwen’s upcoming book is Vivien Thomas – The Man Who Saved the Blue Babies. This picture book biography tells the story of a young African American man who, without a medical degree or a college education, designed the surgical technique that showed doctors how to operate on children born with Tetralogy of Fallot, or ‘Blue Babies.” It will be published by Lee and Low in spring 2015.

And…when I went looking for the links for this post, I noticed that she’s completely redone her website! Go see! Maybe that’s why I put off publishing this post for so long.

Even though it’s been weeks and weeks, one thing has stuck with me since listening to Gwen’s speech. She told us that if you love an idea, never give up on it. This resonated with me. One of my novels has aspects that sometimes seem so different that I wonder if I’ll ever be able to interest anyone in it. I love it. I think that it’s amazing. But I don’t know if I’ll ever find the person who’ll be willing to give it a chance. When Gwen said what she did, she reminded me to not give up on it. I can keep working on other, more marketable projects, but I can’t let go of that book that I love so much. I’ll keep trying to get it where it should be, and someday I’ll find the person who understands it as much as I do!

My Mustang doppelgänger

Most of my local writer adventures come courtesy of the Oklahoma chapter of SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). I love this group! I try to not miss any of their events, and I find myself looking forward to each activity.

I’ve met a few other writers in different ways. One in particular is Regina Jennings, author of SIXTY ACRES AND A BRIDE and LOVE IN THE BALANCE.

I first came across Regina because of a twitter post from Writer’s Digest, pointing to an article in the ongoing series, “How I Got My Agent.” I usually click on those stories, and since we share a first name, Regina’s story in particular caught my eye, so I read it.

That was where I found her bio, and started making comparisons.

Regina Jennings is a homeschooling mother of four from Oklahoma. Really? I’m a homeschooling mom of three from Oklahoma. That’s interesting. She enjoys watching musicals with her kids, traveling with her husband and reading by herself. Well, yeah, who doesn’t like those things?

I went on and found out that she’d worked at the Mustang News and the Baptist church there. I’ve worked at the Tuttle Times and I haven’t been employed at my Baptist church, but I’ve volunteered there for years. And she lives in Mustang? That’s the next town over. We’re practically neighbors.

And she writes. And she’s published. Well…I’m working on that one.

And she’s awesome. We follow each other on Facebook and Twitter now. I ran into her outside of the Mustang library, and even though she seemed as cool and collected as she appears in the above photo and I believe I looked about as frazzled and frumpy as I could possibly get, she did not run shrieking to her car, or call security after I fangirled a little. She was nice. It was comfortable. Not awkward.

She was passing out information to the librarians about her upcoming release of LOVE IN THE BALANCE. I about passed out. (Inside. I played it cool on the outside. I think.) A real author doing real author things. My kids were there. They weren’t impressed. They never are.

Anyway. This amazingly long introduction of Regina Jennings is leading up to the fact that I got another chance to meet her this week, at a presentation at the Mabel C. Fry Library in Yukon. I don’t frequent this library, but Regina mentioned it on her Facebook page, so I got signed up. The topic was Getting Published: How to Sell Your Book to a Publisher. Sounded good to me!

It was fun. My mom helped with the younger kids; they came along and enjoyed a different library setting during the session. The turnout wasn’t bad, but I was surprised that not many had finished books.

It was funny at the beginning, when the librarian was introducing Regina. When she was saying how Regina was a wonderful writer, and somehow finds time to squeeze in her writing while homeschooling her children, I just kind of leaned back and pretended it was me. Someday.

Many of the things she spoke about were topics I had already learned through the Internet and through the SCBWI and OWFI (Oklahoma Writer’s Federation, Inc.) conferences. The others in the room were scribbling furiously, so it was good info – I’ve just obsessively researched it already. That was okay. Still good to refresh.

I really enjoyed the “behind the scenes” look at what happens at the conference sponsored by her writer’s group, ACFW, (American Christian Fiction Writers) and the steps her books go through prior to publication. I also liked hearing about what she’s working on now, and what’s currently being developed.

I also plan to look into a book she mentioned that was written by her friend and convention roommate, Stephanie Landsem, called THE WELL. She told us how the protagonist in the book was originally a certain age, but the author had to eventually change that age to get the book published, even though it was hard for her. That is something that I have been curious about, due to an issue in one of my novels. I am not at a point where I feel like I need to make a drastic change in age, but I am interested in reading a book by another person who faced something similar.

And…I badly need to read LOVE IN THE BALANCE! I enjoyed SIXTY ACRES AND A BRIDE very much (see my brief review with other Oklahoma authors here) but I’ve been focusing on young adult lately.

I’m currently in Tara Hudson’s HEREAFTER series, and I have two Anna Myers books sitting on the table next to me that I really need to return to the friend who lent them to me… (and my own writing…don’t forget my own writing) but soon!

Too many good Oklahoma authors!

Business and pleasure at the Teen Author Talk

Today I mixed business with pleasure when I visited a library in the next town over and listened to three Young Adult authors talk about their books and careers.

Oklahoma authors Sonia Gensler and Tara Hudson were in attendance, along with Tessa Gratton, who lives in Kansas. That’s pretty close.

My homeschooled trio came with me, along with my mom, who lives in Blanchard. We picked her up on the way and headed for the library in our van ‘o fun.

A class of high schoolers were already there, and they were joined by a pack of kids from the middle school. My oldest daughter is 13, and she was really interested by the whole thing. She loves reading but has never been into writing, but after the talk, she said she might try writing some short stories and see what happens.

All three of the authors talked about their books and the paths they traveled to publication. They were asked numerous questions by an audience that was a lot more attentive than I thought they would be – the speakers were that good.

We stuck around for a few minutes after and said hi, but I didn’t want to keep them, and we had to get back home for dance lessons and things like that, so with thoughts of short stories and autographed bookmarks, we filed back to the car.

It was good. I’m glad we went.

This was one stop on a big tour they did with all of the Pioneer Library system. They’ve been all over – to schools and libraries in Norman, Moore, OKC, Shawnee, etc. Sonia’s blog says they’ll be at Noble tomorrow night, and that’s the last one. It’s worth it if you’re in the area. Check out the details here.

And now I’m ready to get busy on a new Oklahoma author review for this blog – I just added Tara Hudson’s trilogy to my Kindle!

My darling daughter with authors Tessa Gratton, Sonia Gensler and Tara Hudson.

My darling daughter with authors Tessa Gratton, Sonia Gensler and Tara Hudson.