Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Happy paperback bookbirthday to Linc!

I've been so busy writing, this kind of snuck up on me: Double Vision: The Alias Men is out in paperback today!

I'm a big fan of paperbacks, as you may know: perfect for the reader on a budget, and now you can buy all three for around twenty bucks. Pretty cool.

Have some virtual cake, all!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Back to school

I'm back from summer break! Not that summer is entirely over: here in Colorado, it's still a balmy eighty-something degrees, with no end in sight... I'm kind of looking forward to fall, to tell you the truth.

But it's back to school time, which means I'm back to work. I'm writing a crime novel for adults (work-in-progress, stay tuned), and generally getting caught up with what's happening in mystery, YA, MG and for us grown-ups.

And back-to-work also means I'm stocking up on school supplies while they're on the shelves, including a good stack of spiral notebooks. They're my tool of choice when outlining, brainstorming, pretty much anything to do with writing. I should plant a tree for all the paper I go through...

How about you?? What are you up to? Read anything good lately?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Summer Break

School's out here in Colorado, and the weather is nice--I hope it is in your part of the world also. And Summer means I take a little blogging break, to catch up on some reading, writing, and playtime with the kids.

I hope to see you back here in August, with fresh pencils and notebooks!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Skills you wish you had--part deux

Last week, I talked about wanting to learn new things. Clearly, photography should make that list...

Here's the picture I took of R.L. Stine's keynote at Pikes Peak Writers Conference in April. Beyond horrible... Mr. Stine was very funny, by the way. If you have a chance to hear him speak in the future, I recommend you go.

And at least this time I remembered to take a picture, so there's progress.

Oh, and speaking of skills: I updated my author website and Double Vision's book website, so at least I have some minor skills there (thanks to website templates...).

Happy (early) weekend, y'all!


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Happy Children's Book Week!

I've been pretty busy writing, plotting, etc., so I shamefully almost missed Children's Book Week... Not that I needed motivation; in my world, every week is children's book week :-)

I love the poster (by Grace Lee) this year, don't you? It reminds me of how much I wish I had some illustrator skills, but alas, I don't. I spend a good amount of time around picture book artists, and I'm always in awe. Wish I had some talent...

How about you? Any talents/skills you wish you had?

Playing the banjo, carpentry, and photography are on my list. I should really take a class or two sometime.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Edgar Awards!

I come to the surface (from conference recovery and web redesign--my most hated chore aside from filing taxes) to congratulate the Edgar winners! Alas, I have not read all of the nominees as I had planned, but will remedy this over the summer.

In the Best Juvenile category, Greenglass House by Kate Milford was the winner, and The Art of Secrets by James Klise in Best YA.

You can find the full list of nominees and winners over here...


Friday, April 17, 2015

Kid Problems: When suddenly, everything is so much bigger than you (or: #IWishMyTeacherKnew )

Last Saturday, I went to the Colorado Teen Literature Conference in Denver. It's a one-day event for teachers, librarians and teens, all about books. I love it, even if it starts pretty early. There's breakfast, and this year's keynotes were Wendelin Van Draanen and Andrew Smith. I was inspired, and got to eat a dynamite sandwich for lunch with some cool librarians for company.

I was honored to be invited to talk about how to reach YA and middle-grade reluctant readers. This is a bit of a soapbox topic of mine, so it was a good thing I had a whole hour. I've done this talk at too many library conventions to mention (in AL, MS, GA)--basically, I try to share ideas on how to reach reluctant readers, and ask for teachers and librarians to share theirs. It's fun, inspiring, and I love it when I see heads nodding in agreement as I talk. Makes me feel like we're all in this together.

But I'll admit: this talk has changed over time. I now talk more about how reluctant readers are often kids with undiagnosed reading disabilities (hate that word, but it's the best I've got). I talk about how I have one of those kids in the house, and how easy it is to miss this struggle. How kids become experts at hiding their difficulty reading. And I also talk about how often, much of this reading reluctance is really about the kid's home life. Whether Mom and Dad or guardians read.

And about money. Because after doing so many school visits, and talking to many teachers and librarians and the issues they deal with, so much of it all is an issue of economics. No money=less time=less education=forgotten kid problems. We need to fix economic inequality, that's the bottom line. Teachers and librarians shouldn't be forced to be the Band-Aid to society's ails when kids come to school with gorilla-sized problems in their backpacks.

I could go on about this forever... But I won't.

But I will share this story, since I'm still on my soap box: it's of a third grade teacher who asked her students to share things with her in a note: I wish my teacher knew... These are third-graders being honest, and it'll make you cry, I swear.

After my presentation at the Colorado Teen Lit Conference, a parent stuck around, crying about her struggle to get her son (who has a reading disability) through life. It's a lonely gig, being a parent, kid, teacher, librarian dealing with these enormous problems. Sometimes, it's good to know you're not alone.

Chapeau to the teacher in this online story. Makes me think we should all write a note...

And since this is all a bit sad, I thought I'd surround this post with a bunch of nice drawings I got in the mail after doing a Skype visit not too long ago. Because sometimes, you get a nice note, too. And you make a kid reader friend named Dezarae.

I'm a lucky duck, to be an author of kid books.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Vacation!

I'm taking a vacation for the next few weeks---exciting, but also tiring, at least ahead of time. I'm right at that point where I wonder why we were going in the first place. There's pet care to figure out, stuff to pack, weather to research... We're flying this time, so that's always extra complicated.

But I'm looking forward to a break! Good for the soul. We're not going anywhere tropical like the picture (I wish), but to London, which will be cool.

Earlier this week, someone asked me in an interview what places I still want to visit. I realized most of my wish list location have to do with food: Italy, Greece, Ireland... I also want to see more of the U.S., especially our parks so I can hug a few trees.

How about you? Any wish list destinations?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Remembering where you came from, and 2015 plans

There's a thing on Facebook called Throwback Thursday. It's pretty fun: people post old pictures of themselves (or others) from a while ago. You're probably familiar if you hang out at the virtual watercooler that is Faceybook.

This is me, I'm thinking around three years old. And laughing at someone's joke, clearly. As I flipped through my old picture album, I was reminded how nice my childhood was, and how lucky I am to have all these good memories (there were a lot of smiley-me pictures to choose from).

As a writer, I'm not the same girl who wrote those dark stories umpteen years ago--which is understandable, especially since I write for kids now. But it's good to remember where you came from sometimes. I actually wrote a short story recently, and was reminded to do more of it. And I ticked off one of my plans for 2015, so that felt good.

I still like to have a good laugh like three year-old Fleur, though, so that hasn't changed.

How about you? Do you look back and realize you write differently, or read different books?


Monday, February 23, 2015

Bringing some soul to your Monday with Leon Bridges

Sounds so much like the old Motown stuff, it's hard to believe this is new music. Nice.

Hope you have a great week, all!


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Oscar Week and THE ALIAS MEN: Chaplin and silent film resources

I love to get lost in research. Although I estimate that I only use about one percent of the information I find, it's fun to get lost in biographies, maps, and old photos. Researching the Hollywood silent film era for Double Vision: The Alias Men was absolutely fascinating. And watching old Chaplin movies may have been the best of all...

I thought I would share some of the links and books, in case you feel like joining in. Great for the classroom, if you're an elementary/middle school teacher!

Books:

My Autobiography by Charles Chaplin

Great insight into Chaplin, silent cinema, and the people of his era. I really enjoyed his astute observation of people. At times funny and moving all at once, much like his films.
A must-read, in my opinion.
         

Silent Traces: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Charlie Chaplin by John Bengtson

Fascinating look at the film sets of Chaplin movies; Bengtson also published books on Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd film locations. If you're a film buff, these books are for you. You can read a Denver Post interview with the author here.

Online Resources

Charlie Chaplin website

Silent Locations: For silent film location information, look no further than John Bengtson's blog. He has images, factoids on Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd. A research treasure trove...

The Great Depression: a curriculum guide from FDR Library (for educators).

Hollywood sign: the sign has its own website! Find out more about the history, and where to go if you want to visit.

Grauman's Chinese Theatre: interesting history.      

For educators: here's a teacher's guide to Double Vision: The Alias Men to use in the classroom.

What's your favorite silent movie?


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Oscar Week celebrations, Hollywood and Linc


It's Oscar week! It kind of snuck up on me, to tell you the truth...

In case you're wondering why it matters: Double Vision: The Alias Men (Linc's third adventure) sets in Hollywood, with the final scenes during the Academy Awards. It was a lot of fun to take the story there. The ending is pretty over-the-top--such a blast to write.

To celebrate, I thought I'd give away a copy (U.S. only, postage is wicked expensive overseas...) of Double Vision: The Alias Men. Later this week, I'll share some resources I found during my research for the book--all about Charlie Chaplin, silent films, and Hollywood history. Cool stuff.

In the meantime, here are the nominees for Best Animated Feature, since those are kid-friendly. I'm ashamed to admit that I have only seen the Dragon 2 movie (which was fun). Any guesses on the winner...?

Here is the full list of categories and nominees.



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Thursday YA book review: I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak

From the publisher:

protect the diamonds
survive the clubs
dig deep through the spades
feel the hearts


Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He's pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.

That's when the first ace arrives in the mail.

That's when Ed becomes the messenger.

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who's behind Ed's mission?


My thoughts:

Although The Book Thief is Zusak's hit novel, I really like his earlier books. It's hard to find YA with a strong guy protagonist, and Zusak nails these every time.

I Am The Messenger is gritty, and would technically fall in the New Adult category here in the States (Ed has graduated high school, even if he sort of stalled out since). I liked the mystery of the cards, of the messages, and of the muscle dudes coming to beat Ed up. There's plenty of humor, and the whole novel hinges on character, which is what makes it so great.

Loved Ed's dog, the Doorman.

I Am The Messenger is one of those books that transcends genre classifications like YA, mystery, whatever. It's just a great book. Highly recommend for anyone over fourteen.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

CODE NAME 711 is out in paperback today! Here's to Linc and George...

Double Vision: Code Name 711 is out in paperback today! Very exciting, since I love paperbacks. There's nothing like a brand new book for just seven bucks, I think.

In case you're just joining the Double Vision trilogy conversation, Code Name 711 is the second book, set in Washington DC, city of spies... I have a soft spot for this book, since it gave me a chance to share a ton of cool spy history relating to George Washington and the Revolutionary War. Plus, Linc made a new friend in First Daughter Amy, and he got to see the White House... I love this book. I hope you'll have a chance to read it, and tell me what you think.

If you're an educator (or just a history nut like me), check out this post with resources related to George Washington and the Culper Spy Ring. Kid friendly and full of facts.

And in case you really want just the facts (ma'am), here's a review of non-fiction book for kids that pairs really well with Code Name 711, entitled George Washington, Spy Master by Thomas B. Allen.
Recommended for history buffs young and old.

I know it's not quite President's Day yet, or George Washington's birthday (Feb. 22nd), but I'm sure George wouldn't mind it if we have some virtual cake. Pass it around, guys!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Adventures in reading: should a series character change?

I love a good series. They're my comfort food, whether on TV or on the printed page. I already know the characters, know what story to expect... When my brain needs a break, I read/watch a series.

But sometimes, a series is just... Done. And it seems that's largely up to the writer. I recently read two 'big name' mysteries, series that had been going for a while (one was on book #30!).

One book had its detective character change, as you would expect a real person to. He was no longer the outspoken, slightly unstable hero from the beginning, but he still had a bit of rebellion at his core. This detective grew up. I liked this book a lot.

Another book had two series characters, and although the mystery was good (really good, actually), the characters were completely flat. It was like the author had decided they weren't people who could change anymore. They were just there to deliver the mystery. Disappointing, to say the least.

What do you think? Should a series character change?

Is it possible for a series to be enjoyable without character change?



Monday, February 2, 2015

MMGM review: Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

From the publisher:

From the author of the National Book Award nominee A Tangle of Knots comes an inspiring novel about figuring out who you are and doing what you love.

Albie has never been the smartest kid in his class. He has never been the tallest. Or the best at gym. Or the greatest artist. Or the most musical. In fact, Albie has a long list of the things he's not very good at. But then Albie gets a new babysitter, Calista, who helps him figure out all of the things he is good at and how he can take pride in himself.


A perfect companion to Lisa Graff's National Book Award-nominated A Tangle of Knots, this novel explores a similar theme in a realistic contemporary world where kids will easily be able to relate their own struggles to Albie's. Great for fans of Rebecca Stead's Liar and Spy, RJ Palacio's Wonder and Cynthia Lord's Rules.


My thoughts:

Oh, how I loved Albie. He's sweet, kind--if very aloof sometimes. It seems like the kids around him 'get it', and he's just forever behind the curve. I think we can all relate to that at one point or another in our lives. Only for Albie, it's status quo.

The thing I loved most about Albie was how he managed to impact the people around him: his best friend, his parents, even his nanny Calista. So many people were changed for the better by his kindness.

I will say that Albie isn't really the kid who almost makes it, like is implied in the title... He's more like the kid who always comes in last, which is an entirely different thing. Special needs comes to mind as I read this story. Also, it's definitely a city life kind of book (the nanny business, etc.), and might be tougher for your average kid in my neck of the woods to relate to... Still, I cried more than once, which makes these minor things go away, I say.

Recommended if you liked Wonder by RJ Palacio. Keep your tissues handy.




Thursday, January 29, 2015

Where I'll be this winter/spring, and some good news about Linc and George Washington

So far, 2015 has been all about writing for me. It's been nice to hibernate a little, especially with all the snowfall we're having here in Colorado.

But I do like to get out every once in a while. And I hope to see you at one of these events, if you find yourself in Colorado!

Here's where I'll be:


I’ll be at the SCBWI table, sharing all the great things SCBWI has to offer!
 
I’m hosting a free workshop for local writers on how to plot a novel using plot points.
 
Presenting a workshop on reaching reluctant MG and YA readers 

Faculty member, presenting workshops on writing MG, plotting, and author platform building.
 
Double Vision trilogy books will be available at the bookstore at all events. Hope to see you there!

And to add a bit of good news: Double Vision: Code Name 711 will be out in paperback on February 10th!

Just in time for Presidents Day (since the book features George Washington), very cool...

To celebrate, there's a giveaway of signed copies over at Goodreads (see nifty gadget to the right). Or be wild and crazy with seven bucks, and buy yourself a copy at your favorite bookstore, or straight from the awesome people at Harper Children's. I love paperbacks, don't you?
 
 
 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Congrats to the 2015 Edgar nominees for Best Juvenile and Best YA!

It's Edgar time! I'll admit that I'm not familiar with any of the Best Juvenile noms, but there were several in the YA category I recognized.

BIG congrats to everyone!

Here's the list:

BEST JUVENILE

Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Space Case by Stuart Gibbs (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Greenglass House by Kate Milford (Clarion Books – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)
Nick and Tesla’s Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith  (Quirk Books)
Saving Kabul Corner by N.H. Senzai (Simon & Schuster – Paula Wiseman Books)
Eddie Red, Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile by Marcia Wells (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)


BEST YOUNG ADULT

The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano (Penguin Young Readers Group – Kathy Dawson Books)
Fake ID by Lamar Giles (HarperCollins Children’s Books - Amistad)
The Art of Secrets by James Klise (Algonquin Young Readers)
The Prince of Venice Beach by Blake Nelson (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

You can find the full list of Edgar nominees here.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thursday teen book review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

From the publisher:

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor
... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.

Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.


My thoughts:

I actually read a YA romance! I didn't think I would read the whole thing, but Eleanor & Park surprised me. The romance feels real and not girly--I could see a boy reading this book, too. It helped that there was a good amount of mystery surrounding Eleanor's lousy home life. It made me hurt for her. The story did run a bit long for my taste toward the middle, making me skim to get to the meat of the story.

What teens might find a bit tough is that the book is set in the 1980s but not advertised as such; I've seen this pop in YA and MG a few times now, and I think it's a little bit of a sneaky cheat, probably to avoid dealing with today's technology.

Ample language and mature situations in this book, so probably not for your middle schooler. But also a nice read for us kids from the eighties.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Making plans for 2015 (or: What's the best that can happen?)


Happy 2015, all! Of course the new year is well underway, I know. I'm just a bit of a slow starter, especially after the holidays. Blame it on the food and the cold weather.

This year, I don't have much in the way of resolutions. Instead, I have plans: stuff that I want to accomplish, and I've created a to-do list to go with. None of this vague business.

I plan to write more--I'm tinkering with both YA and MG concepts. I have an idea for a short story I plan to write. I plan to walk my new puppy (when it's not snowing). And I plan to get together with my Colorado writer friends a bit more. Oh, and I plan to blog on Thursdays.

At a recent author school visit at nearby Discovery Canyon Campus middle school, I saw this on a pin board. I like the positive sentiment, so I thought I'd share it here.

I hope you have a great 2015!