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Happy Anniversary to me


It's been approximately one year since I've posted on LJ.

Woo!!

::throws confetti::

The truth is, I was just blogged and social networked out. And even now it takes more time than I want to give to cross post between here, Paula's JORT, The Brown Bookshelf and God help me, Twitter.

I miss my LJ friends. Really, I do.  Letting LJ go wasn't personal, it was more of a last man in, first man out thing.  LJ was the last blogging forum I joined so...

How very corporate of me!

But I've reconnected with quite a few of you via Twitter. So if you're tweeting and we aren't following each other yet, reach out.

  • Current Mood
    chipper chipper
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My Thinkie Thing's Tired!

 Some days I long for the days when I was in college, home for the summer waitressing. Not to glamorize it, because being the relative low gal on the totem pole of the food service industry is no joke. Long hours on your feet, demanding customers and that icky, food residue smell that saturates your clothes.

But what I enjoyed about being a waitress was how when my shift was over, it was over!

I went home, shed my smelly garb, showered and turned into someone else for the rest of the day - sometimes I was reader girl lounging in my parent's sunroom, other times I was date girl, hanging out with a guy friend at the movies.

Don't you love jobs like that?

I'd simply hang up my server's pad and pen for the day and didn't lose any sleep worrying about whether or not a customer received the right order or fretting if maybe I'd forgotten to refill all the ketchup bottles.

I haven't had a job where I could leave my work at the job in a long time, because though I rarely take work home from my full-time job, writing and promo are always there waiting on me.

In other words, my thinkie thing is operating at full-tilt eighteen hours a day. But that gravelly crunching sound you hear are my gears grinding to a halt.

In January, I already knew what my April and May would bring: travel to RT, a few local library visits, my cheer squad's final Nationals and a trip to Canada with Princess A's French class.

I also knew, that despite some of the activities being purely personal and fun, it would make for a very tiring two months. So I was doing my best to get as much writing done on my fifth, DRB series book, Flipping The Script, as I could.

Good thing I did because I've hit the wall.

Yup, right here at the very start of my busy period, P's thinkie thing has left the building. It's simply incapable of doing anymore deep thinking.

Don't get me wrong. I can handle the lightweight stuff. Hell most of my daily routine I can do with my eyes closed, though I wouldn't recommend doing that while behind the wheel in rush hour traffic. But where writing goes, I'm fooling myself to think it's happening until life has settled down to a more natural rhythm.

Too bad that's another 40 days from now!

You know what the hardest part of slowing down is? Admitting you need to.

I had a good time at last week's RT Convention. Had fun with some cool authors and networked with a good number of booksellers and librarians. Woke up every morning at 6:30, worked out, got a little writing in on Friday and was in bed fast asleep by 11:30 every night.

I know, I'm such a party poop. No faery ball for me.

I honestly didn't feel tired until I woke up Sunday morning. Never underestimate how tiring being "on" is! I've been dragging ever since and the writing has suffered.

I pushed myself to write yesterday, got in two hours. The prose didn't titillate me, but I got it done.

However, today, as I dragged my butt to the post office for stamps (remember the rates go up on May 12th...don't get me started on the postal service and these near annual rate hikes!) trying to see ahead to what the next chapter would tackle, I realized my brain was muddled. So muddled, in fact, that even my desire to write can't help me produce something coherent.

Normally, I'd rather write drivel then write nothing at all. But if you don't re-energize the thinkie thing it goes on strike.

I need to stay away from my characters long enough for them to come looking for me. I love those times when they won't leave me alone, no matter how I try to block them.

Right now, they're seriously MIA.

If you see them, send them my way. I'll be the one poolside sipping a Seven & Seven.
  • Current Mood
    exhausted exhausted
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Extreme Author Visits & Romance

Do you hear that? It's the sound of the P promo train leaving the station, first stop The Village Learning Place, a private library in Baltimore.  Second stop, the Romantic Times Convention.

I've become increasingly cynical about book promotion.  As a PR person for more than sixteen years, needless to say this realization is a bit disturbing.  After all, PR has been my bread and butter since college.

But the truth is,  the more I promote the more I resent/on the edge of hating it.

But my resentment is often kept in check after a library visit.  Invited by Ms. Andrea, of the VLP, I was asked to do the author thing with their middle school group. I had a good time, a little rusty since I haven't done a visit since November, and the kids...well I think they enjoyed it. It's so hard to tell with middle schoolers. If it's not something they're currently obsessed with, you only register mildly on their radar.

But I think they had fun. Ms. Andrea said something that really struck me and may help other authors who find themselve hesitant about visits- she said with this age group they know what they don't want but not really what they do. I think that's so true. Which is why exposing young readers to as many experiences as possible is key.

So while they may not jump up and down, greeting you like their latest rock star crush, I think they appreciate meeting authors and I'm a firm believer that somewhere down the line - days, months maybe years later - the visit positively impacts them in some intangible way.

I'm fairly certain the young patrons enjoyed making posters to promote their chapter more than they did creating it, but I've learned when it comes to young readers - take what you can get and be happy. If they're geeked to get your book - and they seemed to be - then Ms. Andrea and I did our jobs.

The point of my Extreme Author Challenge is to help young readers experience life as an author. They get fifteen minutes (a deadline) to write a mini-chapter as a group. Then they must promote their "book" within their library and encourage patrons to read and comment on their chapter (promotion).

I hope they get some comments on my blog. They're far too young to experience the deafening silence that's the norm for authors.

Their chapter is based on Don't Get It Twisted.

The Set-up:
Mid-way through the book, Mina is warned by Brian, at a party, that she may not be too happy when she finds her crush/sort of boyfriend, Craig. Here's what the clique at Village Learning Place thought happened after:

Mina gets hit by Kelis, the girl Brian was secrety dating. So Mina punches her back. The neighbors called the police and cleared the area. Then Mina went home and told her mom. Her mom asked what happened for her to get into a fight. Mina tells her mom what happened and her mom says, "That was a very stupid thing to fight over." When Mina finished talking to her mother, she went up to her room and slammed her door. She found out Kelis was talking to a friend they met at camp. But Craig came over and he and Mina went to Mina's room. She found out he was cheating and Brian was like, "What I tell you?"

On another note - I'm heading to the RT Convention tomorrow.  I'll be on a panel with my cyber buds Melissa Marr, Stephanie Hale and Mari Mancusi. 

Now this, I'm truly looking forward to. Speaking to aspiring writers is my favorite.  I love paying it forward with advice and sharing my experience. 

If you're going to be at RT please try and stop by the panel or the book expo on Saturday.  It's always so cool meeting writers I've befriended online.

  • Current Mood
    crazy crazy
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Sweet Mother of Anorexia

 What was Random House thinking when they changed the size of the Sweet Valley High twins from a size six to a size four. And what on earth made them bother to highlight it in a letter to the press announcing the re-issue of Sweet Valley High?

Are there not enough images on television and in film of the ultra-thin? Now, books must also emphasize someone's size?

I was a first-generation Sweet Valley High reader. Loved those books to death. I never knew the size of the twins, much less would recognize a change in a re-issued version of the book. I'm completely clueless as to why it was an essential fact to "update." Or why it's worth noting in relation to what is otherwise a grand moment in the life of this series and teen literature.

Gossip Girl and my own Del Rio Bay series owes our debt to SVH - it's the mold from which all teen pop series were formed.

I met Francine Pascal at the SCBWI Mid-Winter conference in 2006 when I attended her workshop "Writing The Teen Series." I remember her saying she wrote SVH because she wanted to create a teen soap opera. And SVH was definitely that, right down to amnesiacs, evil twins and mysterious sometimes near-fatal diseases among key characters.

Pascal's plot lines were homages to the Guiding Light, Days of Lives and All My Children soap rage that personified much of the '80's. The SVH twins being "a perfect size six" wasn't a marketing angle. It merely mirrored the petite women of daytime soaps.

But what purpose does diminishing their size serve? And what the heck is wrong with being a size six?!

As the momma of an athletically-built, curvy teenager who hasn't been a size six since she was in the fifth grade, I'm disgusted that size matters. As a YA writer, I'm saddened that within all the words we writers put together to make a fun read, the one which bears the most significance, in this case, is a number.

See, this is why I'm not a numbers person!
  • Current Mood
    confused confused
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I Heard You Died

At least that's what regular readers of any blog feels when their blog goes on unannounced hiatus only to come back out of the blue.

I am alive and well, thank you. But blogging is harder and harder to keep up with in between writing to pay the bills, working to pay the bills, helping to make bills aka family time and of course the ever present coaching - as you know cheer season runs the same amount of time it takes a woman to carry a baby to term. That makes me perennially pregnant for the last six years. Oy!

And I doubt I'll return to any sort of regular blogging schedule until something gives. This includes but is not limited to:

- Cheer season ends once and for all culminating in the most bittersweet moment of my life. I'll have to resume blogging to add meaning to my life - after all, isn't that what coaching cheerleading was about?

- I get a multi-million dollar book contract allowing me to become arrogant and big headed, leading both to a drinking problem that somehow enhances my ability to write the world's best prose and an obnoxious need to rub my new riches in people's faces via daily blogs outlining my new luxe lifestyle that may or may not involve a manservant named Chauffery.

- My boss at the FTJ decides for reasons only known to her that blogging is somehow an essential part of my job duties, regardless of subject matter.

- I decide to begin videotaping my family (secretly of course) 24-7 and launch my own Reality Blog show titled, "Meet The Hymuses," a hilarious but incorrect spelling of our last name according to some random junk mailer. Now the whole world can feel the pain of a mother caught in the maelstrom of both teen angst and toddler tantrums, as she and her husband raise a 13 and 3 year old.

- I decide writing for pay is for suckers and that the only writing with any true merit is speaking from the heart about random topics, grammar be damned.

- A publisher decides my blog entries are so witty, I'm forced to begin blogging again which immediately freezes my creative juices and earns me the title of a dried up has been. This would be crushing except for the immediate offers from the producers of Dancing With the Stars, Gone Country, and every other show on Vh-1 not titled something "of Love."

Should I start blogging again with any consistency, one or all or none of these things have happend.

So, how the hell have you been?

  • Current Mood
    bouncy bouncy
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The 28 Days Spotlight Widget is here!

Interested in spreading the word about the authors The Brown Bookshelf is highlighting for Black History Month?

Look no further than our handy-dandy widget, created by Jacketflap.

It's stylish, fashionable and all the author blogs have one.

Get yours today!

Okay, so I'd never be a Price is Right model, but you've got to admit, those colors are very Brown Bookshelf. But you can customize them, ya know, in case you're into hot pink and chartreuse.

And if you are...I'll reserve comment.
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Commitment-Phobe, Thy Name is P

I used to be such a nice girl. So dedicated and devoted.

At one time, I was strictly a one-show gal, commited to the end.

Seinfeld
Law & Order
X-Files
Oz
Sex and the City
The Sopranos

Friends

Name it and I watched it religiously. I knew backstory. I cared about the characters, even had a mini-meltdown when X-Files moved from Friday to Sunday because it threw off the karmic energy of my week.

I rebounded from the X-Files move and all was well in my world until the HBO Block fiasco.

Sunday nights were for The Sopranos, Sex and The City and Oz. But slowly, the schedules changed. Sex and The City moved. Then The Sopranos took one of their notoriously long hiatuses. And Oz was near impossible to find anymore.

I was then stupid enough to try my hand at one of Showtime's original programs...something about Pro-ballers. Hoop Dreams, I think, with Mykelti whatshisface (Bubba from Forrest Gump). The show was moderately interesting but then with no warning they stripped it off the air.

Just gone, no story lines tidied up or anything.

I'd been burned one time too many. Kept waiting one month too long for a show to return. My viewing habits changed, gradually, at first.

I switched to procedurals: Law & Order, CSI, Without A Trace, Cold Case.

Nothing wrong with that right? Then, I realized I'd get annoyed anytime one of those shows focused on the character's lives.

I don't care about their lives. Just get to the case!!

Next thing I knew my viewing was nothing more than a tawdry list of reality TV shows. Flavor of Love (I do however draw the line at Flavor of Love 3 and I love New York 2), Survivor 110 (I mean, 11 or 12...whatever season they're on), America's Next Top Model, Project Runway.

TV and the erratic scheduling has made me into a fickle, bitter commitment-phobe.

I've had so many shows recommended to me, that I've simply refused to get into. 24 in its prime. Alias before things went to pot. Heros, which sounds interesting but...no, thanks.

I even tried getting into a few on my own. I watched the first season of Big Love. Enjoyed it too. But I've never gone back.

I'm too resentful and salty.

What's the point of getting into a show when it's going to take a hiatus long enough for me to raise a kid in? Why invest the time and brain power into learning the characters and what's happening to them from week-to-week, knowing that just as it gets juicy the show goes off for four weeks because of the World Series or the Wide World of Bug Eating?

Seriously, why bother?

Then I watched Lost, Thursday. And I'm reminded that when TV is good, it can be something truly amazing. When a group of writers get together and dedicate themselves to spinning a yarn until it can't be spun anymore, it'll have you so caught up you forget it's just a TV show.

Still, right now, I have no intention of making any long term commitments to any show.

Lost only has eight eps anyway thanks to the writer's strike. I'm all in for those eight episodes. But if the show comes back next season? Meh, I may watch. I may not.

Another show that's kept me amused is Nip/Tuck, the modern day soap opera complete with ass shots and bawdy language. This show has everything but the amnesiac, split personality. We're talking:

- Two guys laying claim to one son and okay with being joint dads
- The son getting addicted to meth by his ex-wife who leaves him once she gets clean to go back into the porn industry
- Gruesome plastic surgery shots
- Rosie O'Donnell as a total crack pot (wait, is she acting?)
- And a sex scene shot on a roof ending in someone falling over the ledge

Any show with the cojones to write those kind of wild, outlandish and mostly inappropriate storylines has my vote. I'm watching...when I remember to.
  • Current Mood
    thoughtful thoughtful
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You Brown Bookshelving Today?

 

Today's the day !

Since receiving that fateful email from Varian Johnson in September, I've been burning the midnight oil with fellow Brown Bookshelf members gearing up for this day. I don't think I was this excited the night before Release Day for So Not The Drama.

I don't think any of us knew just how much was involved in researching authors and having to, in essence, judge our peers to determine who deserved and/or needed the light shone their way. But knowing what I know about this group of people, had we known how much work it was, I think we all would have still dove in head first.

Because this thing, to quote a cliche, is bigger than us.

The Brown Bookshelf isn't a political statement.

It's not about creating a separate "club" of children's writers who share a common race.

It's not even a sigh of frustration, taking our ball home to play on our own field because the indusry-at-large tends to forget about so many of the African American children's authors out there.

It's actually about inclusion, reminding and tooting the horn of authors who sometimes are easily overshadowed due to the sheer number of children's books on the market.

The literay community could use more Brown Bookshelves and ReaderGirlz - working together to pool resources, serving as portals to anyone genuinely interested in finding books that may not have big publishing budgets, critical acclaim or wide distribution.

I have never been more tired than I am, right now. I think when February ends I'm going to sleep for two days straight.

But it's that good kind of tired. The kind that comes from knowing you've done something so satisfying, you're too wired to care about being tired.

So, go forth and discover, while I get some shut-eye.
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My New Covers...Well, One of Them

You guys know better than most how much I angsted over the new photo covers that will grace books 3-5 of my YA series.

I've had enough time to get used to the idea now.  So while I don't love the new covers, I like them.  And more importantly, I understand what my publisher is trying to do by putting the photo covers on them.  Raise sales.  And that's never a bad thing.

They kept the models multi-cultural, which in the end, was the sword I was willing to throw myself on had there been push-back.

The live version of the cover is embossed - which I really liked.

And the models' expressions definitely evoke the proper amount of drama that my books portray.

So, I'm pleased.  I just hope they have the impact on sales my pub thought they would. I'd hate to think we sacrificed my vivid graphic covers for nothing.

And secretly, I believe graphic covers will become all the rage - because I was ahead of my time - and I'll be the only one left with photo covers.  That will be the last straw and I'll spiral into madness, officially becoming an author. 

But, while I still have a shred of sanity left, here it is - the new face of my Del Rio Bay Clique Series:



  • Current Mood
    cheerful cheerful
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Who Needs Sleep?

 I don't. And it's a darn good thing, too, because things have been jumping in my world.

I just turned in the final manuscript for That's What's Up! - book three in the Del Rio Bay Clique series. I'm putting the final touches on the draft of book 4, Who You Wit'? and have been preparing for today, Brown Bookshelf announcement day.

We've selected our 28 authors and four illustrators for the 28 Days Later campaign. And I'm tickled to death.

We started reaching out to the finalists last week and the response has been touching. Some of these authors have no real "need" for a spotlight, having run into some recent good promo fortune (a John Steptoe winner, a National Book Award finalist, an author who's been on CNN and Tavis Smiley) or simply having been in this game for a number of years. And yet, words like "honored" "excited" and "thrilled" have been used when they've responded to our emails informing them.

So, between research, outreach and writing, I haven't gotten much sound sleep lately. Please tell me it's not in vain.

Visit The Brown Bookshelf and check out our spotlight authors. And come back every day next month to find out a bit more about these authors and their passion for children's literature.

I've listed them below. But you'll miss out on Don's wonderful poster, if you don't visit the page.

Key:
Authors in bold are vanguard authors
Illustrator spotlights are in italics

Feb 1 Christopher Paul Curtis - Elijah of Buxton

Feb 2 Michelle Meadows – The Way The Storm Stops

Feb 3 Dana Davidson - Played

Feb 4 Rita Williams-Garcia – No Laughter Here

Feb 5 G. Neri – Chess Rumble & Sean Qualls - Phillis’s Big Test

Feb 6 Janice N. Harrington – The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County

Feb 7 Eleanora E. Tate – Celeste’s Harlem Renaissance

Feb 8 Patricia McKissack – The All-I’ll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll

Feb 9 M. Sindy Felin – Touching Snow

Feb 10 Jabari Asim – Daddy Goes To Work

Feb 11 Mildred D. Taylor – The Road To Memphis

Feb 12 Nina Crews - The Neighborhood Mother Goose & Leonard Jenkins – Sweet Land of Liberty

Feb 13 Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu – The Shadow Speaker

Feb 14 Allison Whittenberg – Sweet Thang

Feb 15 Walter Dean Myers - Game

Feb 16 Tonya Bolden – George Washington Carver

Feb 17 Troy Cle – The Marvelous Effect

Feb 18 Eloise Greenfield – The Friendly Four

Feb 19 Sundee T. Frazier – Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything In It & John Holyfield - Bessie Smith & the Night Riders

Feb 20 Carole Boston Weatherford – I, Matthew Henson: Polar Explorer

Feb 21 Karen English - Nikki & Deja

Feb 22 Coe Booth - Tyrell

Feb 23 Irene Smalls – My Pop Pop and Me

Feb 24 Stephanie Perry Moore – Prayed Up: Perry Skky Jr. #4

Feb 25 Kyra E. Hicks, Martha Ann’s Quilt for Queen Victoria

Feb 26 Celise Downs – Dance Jam Productions & Shane Evans- When Harriet Met Sojourner

Feb 27 Valerie Wilson Wesley – Willimena Rules!: 23 Ways to mess up Valentine’s Day

Feb 28 Sherri L. Smith - Sparrow