The Crown’s Game!

Even though I have nothing to do with this, and nothing creative to add, I wanted to share the link to the cover reveal for THE CROWN’S GAME, written my friend Evelyn Skye!

I’ve read one of Evelyn’s manuscripts, but not this one, and I AM DYING TO READ IT. Go check it out!

Also, when you’re done oohing and aahing over the cover, stop by her website and find out how to preorder, see upcoming events, check out the extras (including the alternate cover artwork drawn by Evelyn’s sweet daughter), and join The Tsar’s Guard (giving you exclusive previews, reveals, and contests!)

 

What to expect at an Oklahoma SCBWI conference

Our Okahoma SCBWI spring conference is next month!! This year’s theme is “Ignite the Spark,” and it’s going to be incredible. There’s a great lineup of publishing professionals on the roster, and I can NOT wait.

And check out this awesome poster for the event, designed by our regional illustrator coordinator, Jerry Bennett!

Conference Ad (1)
It’s funny that it’s only been two years since I attended my first spring conference. That one was in Tulsa, too (we alternate between Tulsa and Oklahoma City) and I was really nervous about it. I had only joined SCBWI a few months before, but I made a point of attending the Critique-a-thon in January and both OKC Schmoozes before the conference, in February and March, so I had at least made a few friends. I asked if anyone wanted to rideshare (partially to ensure I’d have someone to hang with) and got three lovely ladies who agreed to ride up with me. We left early in the morning and came back late that night, and it was hands-down the best day I’d had with SCBWI, up to that point.

Anyway, I still remember how scared I was about it. Having others around me who knew what was going on helped. I was worried about 1) driving to TULSA (the horrors); 2) finding the hotel; 3) knowing where to park; 4) knowing where to go when I actually got inside the hotel…

And this was all before I even made it to the conference room!

But luckily, I had friends, I had a new dress and new shoes and a manicure and a pair of spanx and I was ready to wow everyone with my shiny new novel.

And also scared.

And if you’ve never gone to an Oklahoma SCBWI conference, maybe you feel like I did. Or maybe you’re super confident in all situations and awesome, in which case, woohoo for you! Maybe we can hang when I have to go in a new situation next time.

In the meantime, I’m gonna post a few thoughts about what you can expect at an Oklahoma SCBWI conference. Your experience may vary, but I think some things are universal.

1. People are gonna be really, really nice and welcoming.

 

As soon as you see our crowd at the registration table, you’ll be greeted by sincerely friendly people. We’ll be happy to see you! We want you to succeed in your publishing dreams, and we can all make that happen together!

2. The speakers are excellent – informative and highly motivational.

Also, are speakers are actively looking for new talent. Even if they’re not living in a van down by the river. (But if they are, then even more reason for them to want your fabulous book, right?)

3. Our speakers are also wildly entertaining. Always.

At least, that’s been my experience. I’ve only been to four Oklahoma SCBWI conferences now, two spring and two fall, but I’ve never been bored.

4. You’re going to learn a TON. 

The speakers WILL be incredible. Bring a notebook or laptop because your brain won’t even be able to take it all in at once. Your mind will be blown.

5. The speakers will be accessible. 

I mean, you don’t want to smother them, but they will be hanging out at certain times, and you’ll be able to visit with them. For reals.

6. You’ll get to pick up some new reading material. 

books in a wagon

Both traditionally and independently published Oklahoma authors and illustrators will have books there to purchase. You can even get them signed and take a big pile home with you!

6. You’ll meet a whole lot of people who get it.

People who love books. Who love creating books. You know…people like you.

8. You’re going to get really, really excited about writing and illustrating for children. 

big bird on roller skates

There’s an amazing energy in the air at SCBWI conferences, and it’s contagious. Before it’s over, you will be super ready to do fantastic things.

9. And you’ll believe in yourself! 

Shake off all the doubt because you CAN do this! You WILL do this! And it’s gonna be GREAT!

10. And finally…the FUN!

so fun

It might seem scary before you go (or maybe not) but trust me, it will be fun. It’ll be really fun. Yes. Seriously. As much fun as Rapunzel is having. Maybe funner. You won’t regret it.

So…will you come? Please? PLEASE?

Registration information for the SCBWI Oklahoma Spring 2015 conference

SCBWIOK on twitter

 

 

Best of Books

You know what I love? Books.

So you know what that means. I love bookstores!

Central Oklahoma is pretty blessed to have not only a collection of chain bookstores, but two independents. One of those is going into the new year with new owners!

best of books

Joe Hight, along with his wife, Nan, and oldest daughter, Elena have just finished a successful first holiday season after purchasing the Edmond-based Best of Books in the fall from Julie Hovis and Kathy Kinasewitz, who owned the store for 24 years.

Joe said that Julie and Kathy had been searching for new owners for two and half years, and felt that the Hights were the right fit for the store. “Julie and Kathy have continued to work with us to ensure its future success,” he said.

Best of Books has at least 21,000 titles in the 3,100-square-foot bookstore, located in Edmond’s Kickingbird Shopping Center. One side of the bookstore is for adult titles, while the other is mainly for children’s books and educational toys.

Now, Best of Books is a long way from where I live in the sticks, but I can attest that it’s always worth the trip. I’ve gone a couple of times, when members of the Oklahoma SCBWI group have been holding book signings, and both occasions I’ve found plenty more that I need to take home with me!

books in a wagon

I can keep up with what’s going on at Best of Books even easier now, since they’ve increased their social media presence with the new owners.

“BOB the bookstore routinely tweets about what’s happening in a bookstore’s life,” Joe said. “We also post on our Facebook page about upcoming events, like our recent ‘An Evening With Oklahoma Authors’ that featured 13 authors and ‘Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators Day’ in which they featured 10 authors and illustrators and included a 15 percent discount on all books. We plan to redesign our website early next year, too, and make other improvements to this terrific bookstore.”

A quick check to their website told me that – to my jaw-dropping excitement – that JAY ASHER will be at Best of Books on January 24, 4-6 p.m., signing copies of 13 REASONS WHY and THE FUTURE OF US!!!!

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And…my kids are going to be performing in The Mikado that night. Call time 5 p.m. An hour from Best of Books. Looks like I’m going to have to figure out how to bend space again, because I do not want to miss this signing, dang!

Anyway.

Best of Books also recently started collaborating with Full Circle Books, OKC’s independent bookstore, to provide the Local Bestsellers List to The Oklahoman each week for its Sunday Books pages in the Life section. “We felt that it would be a good public service from the state’s two largest independent bookstores to provide the reading public through the state’s largest news organization,” Joe said. “It’ll be fun to read what the Local Bestsellers are as compared to the national lists each week.”

Best of Books recently celebrated its 30th years in business and has also just received notice that it is a finalist for the Edmond Small Business of the Year. Joe said the store also has doubled its number of customers on Small Business/Indies First Saturday for 2014 and was mentioned prominently in the national Shelf Awareness newsletter.

The Hight family has a lot of history in Oklahoma, returning after successful work around the world. Joe has been an editor or reporter for the last 34 years. He was most recently editor of The Gazette in Colorado Springs, which won the Pulitzer Price in National Reporting in 2014. “After winning the Pulitzer, I felt that the timing was right to move back to my home state of Oklahoma, where Nan still has parents and other family members here. My stepmother, sister, and brother still live in the state.”

Elena had been away from Oklahoma for seven years, most recently teaching for two years in Honduras. At 25, she is one of the youngest bookstore owners in the country. She’s the vice president and day-to-day manager of the bookstore, with Joe as president and Nan as secretary.

For more information on Best of Books, and upcoming events (including the signing with JAY ASHER, check out their website at www.bestofbooksedmond.com!

For more information on how I’m going to go to the Jay Asher signing, and also have my kids at the theater with a 5 p.m. call time a full hour away – plus be there when the curtain rises at 7 p.m. – follow my twitter, where I will cry and gnash my teeth until I figure out a solution that fulfills me both as a reader and as a fairly responsible parent.

Best of Books on Facebook

Best of Books on Twitter

Tumbleweed Baby launch party

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a friend’s book launch party. I’ve only been in SCBWI Oklahoma for a little more than a year, so this was my first. I’ve been to some signings and a party-after-a-book-sale though. It’s so great to get to see these things beforehand, and support my friends. I love it!

tumbleweed babyThis launch party and book signing was for Anna Myers, in celebration of her picture book, Tumbleweed Baby. Anna’s got nineteen books already for young adults and middle grade readers, but Tumbleweed Baby is her first picture book. I’ve already posted some about this book. It’s such a fun read, with a surprising end and beautiful, dreamy artwork.

The party was held at Best of Books in Edmond (which is under new ownership!) and included a readers’ theater, plus Anna read the book. SCBWI Oklahoma members Gwendolyn Hooks, Darleen Bailey-Beard and Gayleen Langthorn did a lot toward the organization of the event, including packets of tumbleweed seeds! Of course, the party was a super success and the store completely sold out of Anna’s book.

Of course, I got a lot of this second hand because my husband’s car broke down and I had to go and pick him up at work, right when the party started. And I was supposed to help. I did some – a little publicity, including getting a mention in the Oklahoman, whoot – but I didn’t feel like I did enough. It’s always a bummer when you know you could do better.

But I did get there before it was over, husband and kids in tow, even though I was too late to buy a book. We hung out and I shared some exciting news about one of my manuscripts, so that was fun. I love my SCBWI group.

And Anna’s signing again at our SCBWI Oklahoma City Schmooze on Monday night at Full Circle Books in north OKC, so I’ll get another chance to get my book there. I just need to get there earlier this time! Anna’s son, Ben Myers, will be reading some of his poetry Monday, and Anna will be main speaker. If you missed out on the launch party, come Monday night and get your copy of Tumbleweed Baby signed along with mine!

OKC SCBWI Schmooze

Monday, October 20, 2014

Full Circle Books

50 Penn Place (on the NW Expressway)

Oklahoma City

Pre-schmooze at Belle Isle Restaurant (also in 50 Penn Place) starts at 5:30 p.m. Schmooze starts at the bookstore at 7 p.m.

Always another story

The more I immerse myself into being a novelist, the more my mind amazes me. When I came up with the idea for the first novel, I wondered if it would be the only one. Then the second idea came. Would it be the last?

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My new idea came to me a few weeks before I finished the first draft of THE RAT QUEEN. I still have a couple others on the back burner, but I know this is the one I’m supposed to do next. The excitement of the idea and my desire to just think about it pushed me to get RAT QUEEN done, to free me up for this one. I’m still in the first few weeks post-draft, so I’m not ready for revisions.

I thought I was going to take a break between novels. But I’ve been writing down ideas and connecting the dots with my characters’ lives. The skeleton of the novel is already decided. Now I just have to discover how they get there.

That’s another thing. When I daydream about these characters, it’s like I realize things that are factual about their lives. I don’t feel like I make these things up, even though I know I do. It’s more like their stories already exist, but I’m just figuring it out. The other day I realized that Jacob (my main character) has a pastor for a father. It wasn’t like I thought, “Oh, his dad should be a pastor. That’ll add conflict.” Instead, I thought, “Wait. Is his dad a pastor? Oh gosh, of course he is! How did I not know that before?”

It’s crazypants.

So now I’m in this weird half-in, half-out place. I’m in love with RAT QUEEN, and I’ve love to get to sub it (the first chapter has gotten great reviews from critiquers) but I’m not sure I’ve gotten far enough away from it to really clean it up. It was the hardest novel I’ve written, and I’m not seeing it with unbiased eyes. Not by a long shot. But am I ready to start a new novel? Am I ready to go back into the cave? At least plotting and planning is relatively safe. I can keep figuring out things and putting the edge pieces on the puzzle without diving completely in.

I don’t have a witty ending for this.

Review day…

So, I’ve been thinking about this since yesterday. This is Wednesday, the day I said I’d write a review of a book by an Oklahoma author.

But instead I say, not today, legions of desperate fans. I’m working on my own novel today, so maybe someday I’ll find a (hopefully) pleasant review of my work online.

One problem is, I’ve waited so long. Yeah. I know. I should have written them right away. But I was working on another novel then, and the books were good to read, so I didn’t want to write a review. I wanted to read the next one.

So. Maybe next week. If you’re lucky.

Back to my work in progress, The Rat Queen.

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!

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.

Anna Myers

So, after reading Assassin by Anna Myers recently, I went on an all-out Myers binge.

I read Time of the WitchesTulsa Burning, Stolen by the Sea, Graveyard Girl, Flying Blind, Fire in the Hills, and When the Bough Breaks.

I read them one after another. Some took me one day. Some took a little more.

I enjoyed them all, but my favorite, hands down, was When the Bough Breaks. I liked the complexity of the book. Instead of one storyline, there were two, woven together – and I liked both of them. Sometimes when I read a book from multiple points of view, I prefer one character and want the other to shut up and let me get back to my favorite. This time, both were intriguing. Both had terrible secrets – and both were satisfying to discover.

I also still love the little things you find in a book written by a person you actually know in real life. One of the storylines – the one featuring teenager Ophelia – includes a scene at the cemetery, which is across the street from the school. I’ve been to Myers’ hometown, and the cemetery in that town is indeed right across from the school. I was driving around, killing time before a SCBWI Oklahoma workshop, when I went by the school and noticed the cemetery nearby. I thought it was a little creepy and strange, and wondered what the students though. Later, when I read the When the Bough Breaks, I was delighted to see the school and cemetery put to use in literature.

Myers’ books are such a good way to combine fiction with historical events. We homeschool, and I think her work will be a great way to supplement history when we are doing studies this year. My oldest daughter doesn’t care for history, but I think that’s just because she hasn’t had it come alive for her yet. She enjoyed Assassin. Now I just need to add more historical fiction to the curriculum.

Time of the Witches – This one focuses on the Salem witch trials and the effect on the life of an orphan named Drucilla. She is separated from her bff, Gabe, and moves in with a crazypants woman and her weird family. After she and her foster sister start visiting the servant of the town’s new reverend, several girls, including Drucilla, start claiming they are being attacked by witches.

Tulsa Burning – A story of a boy named Noble who lives in the small town of Wekiwa and faces the Tulsa race riot of 1921. His friend is trapped in Tulsa, and Noble (nicknamed “Nobe”) goes into the burning city to find him. Wekiwa had a lot of twists with who was related to who – I would have liked to have seen a dossier on all of the people who lived in the town!

Stolen by the Sea – A girl named Maggie rides out the Galveston hurricane of 1900. I didn’t even know about this event before reading the book. According to Wikipedia, the Galveston hurricane is the deadliest natural disaster to ever strike the United States. An estimated 6,000-12,000 people died. In the book, Maggie stays in her home, struggling for survival with the help of Felipe, a Mexican boy from the orphanage who works for her father.

Graveyard Girl – Another new event for me – the yellow fever epidemic in Memphis in 1878. I loved the newspaper quotes at the beginning. I also adored a quote from Grace, the Graveyard Girl, about life and death. This was a library book, and I meant to write it down before I returned the book yesterday, but of course I didn’t. Figures. I did not really love the artwork on the front, and I was surprised at how that colored my view of the title character. It reminded me of someone, and that was hard to shake. On Amazon there’s a different cover for the paperback, which obscures Grace’s face. I wish I’d seen that one first.

Flying Blind – Told from two points of view – a young boy named Ben and…wait for it…a macaw named Murphy! I enjoyed it. This book looked at the problem of plume hunting in Florida at the turn of the 20th century. The line between right and wrong isn’t so clear when Ben learns that two of the plume hunters are orphans that use the sales of feathers to survive. Plume hunting took a terrible toll on birds, with millions being killed every year just for fashionable hats for women.

Fire in the Hills – This one was about a girl in a tiny Oklahoma town who loses her mother and cares for an ill military deserter during World War I. I liked the main character, Hallie, quite a bit and wouldn’t have minded this story going on a little longer.

All in all, eight enjoyable books. I probably should have spread them out a little more so I could give each one a post. Or maybe I should get back to writing my own novels.

When you find an author you like, do you rush and read everything by them that you can get your hands on? What authors have inspired you to race through all their books?