Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Magical Summer Read

Whilst attending the SCBWI Summer conference, I picked up a copy of Michelle Knudsen's middle grade novel, The Dragon of Trelian. Meg is a young princess who often acts before thinking, like befriending a young dragon. (She reminded me of myself; befriending stray animals without thinking of the consequences.) Calen is a young mage apprentice who lives within the Trelian Castle with his Master, Serek, adviser to the king.
The fun begins a couple pages in when these unlikely two, meet. The push and pull dynamic of Meg and Calen's friendship, along with the engaging events they're faced with, kept me turning the pages. Calen's gift, to see colors when a spell is cast, and the ability to identify the type of spell from the colors, was brilliant. I loved Meg's psychic link to her dragon, Jakl, which was both a gift and a challenge. Both of these young protagonists struggle to be accepted by their elders, but find it in each other. Together, they take on the evil that's threatening their Kingdom.
Pick up a copy, along with the sequal The Princess of Trelian and discover how this beautifully woven story unfolds.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Awesome Summer Read

"The Start of Me and You" is a YA that I picked up at the LA Book Fair. I was fortunate to hear the author, Emery Lord, speak about writing, life and her book. It was her enthusiasm that had me reading the inside flap and purchasing my signed copy. Emery brilliantly executed a story line that I would have never thought of, and I'm someone who has been going to funerals since I was six. I've been to more funerals than weddings, but not to my first Love's. This is what Paige, in "The Start of You and Me" had to contend with after her first boyfriend died in a swimming accident. The roller coaster ride begins after Paige decides to rejoin the real world. We feel her ups and downs with her flirtation with an old crush, her parents getting back together, and facing her fears from swimming, to falling in love, to joining the Quizbowl. And then there's Max, the wild card,or rather, the nerd card. I admired him the most and loved Paige's relationship with him. This kept me turning the page. A touching and fun read.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Swimming through SCBWI LA Conference Ocean

As a first timer, do I dive in, catch a ride on a dolphin or wait to see what swims my way? With a sea of almost 1200 people, workshops, panelists and speakers, I did all three for three days. I had an awesome roomy, Daphne, swim my way-an illustrator(and writer, though she's not claiming that,yet) from Tahoe. I dove into the waves of workshops. Highlights: Learning about small presses from Alison Weiss, Sky Pony Press and Rana Dioro, Little Pickle Press. The Agent panel where I soaked in how each of these agents work. Break-out session with Michelle Knudsen, PB, MG & YA New York Times best-selling author, her agent, Jodi Reamer from Writers House and her editor, Julie Strauss-Gabel, VP of Dutton Books an imprint of Penguin Young readers Group. Listening and observing this team was inspiring. Keynote speaker, Mem Fox, a PB author, was a delight. Her rhythmic read of her "Hattie and the Fox" continued to resonate in my head into the wee hours of the night. YA authors, Stacy Lee and Anna Shinoda's workshop on amping up tension left me on the edge of a...

The Gala was the dolphin ride with a little wine, dancing, connecting with old friends and meeting new ones, in this sea of sparkles. Then there was buying books and getting them signed. And a few moments that felt okay to approach and speak one on one with a couple of agents and editors.The schedule was so packed, there was barely time to come up for air. Amazing as it was, at the end, I was feeling like a fish-out- of -water and couldn't wait to swim back to Laguna Beach. Maybe I'll pitch to Lin Oliver & Stephen Mooser The Surf and Sand, beach-front hotel for next year's conference.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

LA Critiquenic

SCBWI LA's chapter held a "Critiquenic" at the Skirball Center. There, we were placed  in groups of four according to the age-range our stories fell under (YA), and led to a patio area partially surrounded by these beautiful lotus flowers. As always, I love discovering the creative minds of others. We all had different genres: historical fiction, contemporary,  sci-fi and mine, magical realism. This made it interesting. We read out-loud the first five pages, then we read it to ourselves while writing notes for the author. Next, we verbalized our critique. Once again, I realized that I don't receive well when I'm in the midst of my first draft. It's too raw. Regardless, I did take in most of the notes given, and spent the next day rewriting those first five pages. Like the Lotus flower, I'm working my way up through the mud and murky water to eventually, bloom.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Cea of Change

The view from my office window-My Cea of Change. This is who I work for at the moment,a young Northern Elephant Seal(s) and a baby Sea Lion(s). Pacific Marine Mammal Center, a non-profit, is a rescue/rehab/release center, and right now, we are at our max of animals. 10,000 and counting California sea lions have died along our California Coast due to the unusually warm waters.
After being on the animal care crew for fours years 97-2001, I recently became a gift shop volunteer and now I'm on staff as the new gift shop mgr./buyer for PMMC in my hometown of Laguna Beach. Though part time, I put in a lot of volunteer hours as well to stay on top of everything-purchasing, checking in shipments, organizing displays/items, inventory, volunteer training, searching out new vendors for books, jewelry, t-shirts, etc. I also have my own business here in LB and there's the writing. Diving back in today after being caught up in my Cea of Change for the past couple of weeks.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

LA Times Book Festival

Finally made it to the LA Times Book Festival last Saturday which was held  at the USC campus. After catching up and laughing my butt off  into the early morning hours with an old gal pal in Manhattan Beach, I was happy to arrive at 10am and achieve an awesome parking space. It's a good day in LA, when you find parking. Info booth first, then it was off to the conversation ticket tent. I got all the tickets I wanted, except one-the YA author conversation that included Sarah Dessen. It was sold out, so to speak-tickets are free. I showed up anyway, and there were tons of seats. Note: disregard "Sold Out." This conversation rocked! With my lack of sleep, it was a good thing it was fun and lively. Highlight here, was Emery Lord, The Start of You and Me. I loved her enthusiasm. Though I had to jet to the next conversation, I later found Emery signing books at "Once Upon A Time" Bookstore tent. There, I enjoyed speaking with her, and buying her book signed to me.
The conversation I jetted off to was MG Novel Landscapes which was a snore accept for Kirsten Hubbard. She's a YA author (check out YA highway) and her latest, Watch the Sky, is an MG about a young boy living with his mom and step dad, Caleb who has them intensely preparing for dooms day. Definitely an interesting premise, right? I write for both MG & YA, so I was interested in hearing about her path. Hopefully next year they'll have a panel of YA author's who crossed over to MG or vice-versa, like myself.
No sleep is like a hangover, so for lunch it was an everything bagel with cream cheese and a double cappuccino. I wondered the grounds sipping my double cap until conversation time.
Next was Teen Spirit with YA authors David Leviathan, Hold Me Closer, Leila Sales, This Song Will Save Your Life, and Tommy Wallach, We All Looked Up. All of these books had interesting premises. Thank god/goddess this was another lively conversation where I participated by asking, "Do you write everyday?" As editors as well as authors, David and Leila do not, Tommy, as a full time author, does. I respected the way Tommy handled the attention-whore moderator. I particularly liked Tommy's story's premise, four teens facing an asteroid hitting the earth within 24hrs. His book is why I chose this conversation over the other YA one. I'd hope to buy his book and have it signed, but I decided to dash off to see Brian Grazer. I loved Splash and his list of films that followed like Beautiful Mind. Brian Grazer was worth it. He communicated with sincerity and passion. Learning about the birth of his hair style to the conversations he's had with various people outside the "Industry" was fascinating. These regular conversations that he dedicated himself to were for enriching his mental, emotional and spiritual life. That's why we're here. His book, "A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life." I passed on the book signing, and ventured out to hopefully find Tommy Wallach signing under a bookstore tent. No such luck, will have to settle for an unsigned one.
The day ended with me buying t-shirts from an amazing illustrator and inquiring about purchasing for PMMC and connecting with with a fellow SCBWI member, who's self-published eco-themed book I purchased and ordered for the Pacific Marine Mammal Center's gift shop. By six, everyone was packing up. With all the conversations, I didn't have enough time to explore all the booths and I missed the happenings on the YA stage. Next year I'll go both days.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Latest Library Reads: II

I loved the premise of Kimberly Derting's YA Novel, The Taking. The fireflies on the cover sparked my curiosity and I enjoyed the author's presentation at the Mission Viejo Library as part of "The Summer Lovin' Tour" a couple of years ago. My pitch for this book would be Twilight Zone Meets X-Files Meets X-Men. I love all three of these!
Sixteen year old, Kira Agnew, wakes up behind dumpster outside her neighborhood Gas & Sip without any memory of how she got there. When she goes home, a strange man with a baby answers the door. And her boyfriend across the street is no longer her boyfriend, because..... she's been missing for five years. "Do-do-do-do-Do-do-do-do." ( Twilight Zone tune)

Secret meetings, NSA spying, hazmat suits, and quarantine, smells like  X-File spirit. On the run with love-interest Tyler, her ex-boyfriend's younger brother who's not so young anymore, must be in love to stay at her side. Kira's new gifts are revealed. Empowering is an understatement; we're talking X-Men powers. Two things I didn't buy: her dentist telling her parents about a cavity and not her (5 years ago;yesterday for Kira) What? She was sixteen. Heck, I remember my dentist pointing out my cavities at age seven. The new x-rays are the same as the old. This proves she hasn't aged. The second: no local news reporters showing up. If your whole high school was looking for you and you didn't turn up until five years later, you'd be mobbed by media, or at least the local paper.

But that was minor compared to the compelling story and character. I couldn't put the book down and I was pleased with the cliffhanger ending. As for the fireflies, I can't say. You'll have to read it and the sequel, which I hope there'll be one.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Latest Library Read

The Summoning by Hilary Monahan is about four teenage girls who suffer the consequences of summoning "Bloody Mary." This grabbed my attention because at age eleven,  I heard the myth of Bloody Mary at a sleep over. Though we didn't summon her, the image freaked me out, especially, when I entered my parents room where my mother's closet doors were mirrored. I'm not much of a prologue gal, but it worked as a letter from Mary Worth to her sister in 1863. I loved the historical feel here. The conjuring begins at the start of  chapter one, and bleeds into page-turning moments chapter after chapter.The voices of the four girls were great, but when one girl gets taken, it wasn't much of an event for two of the girls, one especially, Jess-the main conjurer. She had no redeeming qualities, whatsoever. I felt more for Bloody Mary. 

BM has this whole world behind the mirror, and she takes people there who never return, which I found fascinating. But, I also wondered why. Does it make her stronger? Do the kidnapped keep her company? I was disappointed that my question went unanswered. BM was a frightening vision, but the beetles appearing made me think of a Tim Burton animated flick. I would've taken the beetles seriously if Hilary wove in one of the symbolic meanings derived from Egypt: Creation, rebirth, regeneration, and/or Shamanic: Dreams and astral travel. The ending didn't feel like an ending, so maybe in a bloody sequel? It might be a bit too bloody for me. (I was married to a bloody Brit for seven years, ok?)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Secret Agent Contest and Life Writes On

The sun has set(a couple of weeks ago) on Miss Snark's First Victim's Secret Agent Contest. It was for all genres and it was a random bot pick. My first 250 words of my lower MG, fiction-adventure, The Firefly Field, was picked-#40 if you want to read it on her blog. This novel has been critiqued many times and revised, rewritten and edited many times more. Since my YA wasn't complete-first draft seems to be going against the current, I had to submit my MG because it's complete at 28,000 words. I was happy to see most of the critiques were positive. I even had a fellow writer invite me into her online writers group. This was an incredible experience.
I critiqued five works and the secret agent critiqued all 50! I truly appreciated the time she put into it! The secret agent, Danielle Burby of Hannigan, Salky Getzler Agency, didn't pick me, but that wasn't a surprise. Her passions:YA, women's fiction, and mysteries and my Younger MG: bugs, boys, adventure and relationships. Definitely not a fit. Submissions continue as Life Writes On.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Research, Reading and Magic

Normally, I like to only submit to agents and editors that I've seen and/or met at a SCBWI conferences, but now I'm branching out to ones listed on the Children's Book Insider monthly newsletter and writer's blogs. I'm a detective combing the internet for clues about these agents and listing those whom I connect with.
Yesterday, I finished reading "The Mark of the Dragonfly" by Jaleigh Johnson. The photo pays tribute to this incredible upper-middle grade novel. The cover grabbed me and the jacket flap sold me. I've been reading a lot of YA and this was the perfect book to change things up. A magical story with a steam-punk vibe and headstrong protagonist, Piper, who takes us on a nonstop adventure with an eclectic cast of characters with heart. The last sentence of every chapter is a cliffhanger, so it was hard to put down.
When I read the acknowledgements, I was surprised to see Jaleigh's agent was one I researched and put on my list. How magical is that? Speak of which, I finally got to the first "magical" part in my WIP, YA: magical realism. Whoo-Hoo! (Art piece above: courtesy of LGOCA)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Book then Movie or Movie then Book?

"The book was so much better than the movie." Aren't you tired of saying that? Sometimes I watch the movie first, then read the book. You hard-core bookies are probably disgusted at the mere thought of this. Last night I watched "The Fault in Our Stars." I intended to read it awhile ago, but when I read the inside flap and the first page, I put it down. I wasn't up for a downer book-my experience with loved ones dying from "C" was not exactly uplifting. My boyfriend had the same reaction to the movie that I had to the book, but he still watched it with me, and we both loved it. Shaileen Woodley's performance as Hazel along with the writing & direction is what earned it a two thumbs up. I'm looking forward to reading John Green's book, and hopefully discovering some nuances that were left out.

I know I'll offend the die-hard "Hobbit" fans with this one: I read the book before the movies and for me, the movies were above and beyond the book. Sorry, Tolkien and awesome, Jackson! This of course, was out of the norm for me. Usually it's loved the movie but love the book more. Movie then Book- I dare you to try it.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Submission Sunday Morning

 My Submission Sunday Morning with my cat, Jaspurr. My flow was interrupted by a client, but I did eventually email it. Last Sunday morning I was interviewed on Spoken Word/Spoken Song live on our local podcast radio station. The hour flew by talking about my children's book writing process, our local book store and library, along with Shakespeare and Astrology. It was a blast! Here's the link if you'd like to check it out.  http://kx.onelaguna.com/podcast/spokenwordspokensongspodcast/1.27.2015.2000
Went into rewrites last Wednesday after receiving critiques on my first five lines of my YA novel on Miss Snark's First Victim blog. I critiqued as well. Needless to say, it was helpful. It's amazing how much or little can come across in those first five sentences, don't you think?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Land-Locked Period Over

Holidays, work, family & some drama had me land-locked, but it's officially over. Thank God-Goddess for Miss Snark's First Victim Secret Agent Contest last week that got me wading in my Cea of Writing again with critiques for those who got picked by the bot. It was nice to read the agent's critiques, especially when it coincided with mine. Now, I'm up to my gills (Yes, I'm a fish) with rewrites for my YA and line edits for my MG. The chapter I added to my MG novel has been haunting me since I laid it to rest. And tonight's the night I resurrect it for revisions. I plan to set sail three more submissions by the end of the weekend. 

I did contact the assistant editor (will not reveal house) after three months had passed, thinking my submission was sucked into the cyber black hole. I received a prompt email back from him/her that it hadn't and that he /she has not had a chance to read it yet. Needless to say, I was pleased with the news! Other good news: I was asked to do an interview on a local radio show this Sunday on my process of writing children's books . Stay tuned for next week's blog!