Book Club(s)

June 19, 2012
Time for a post of pictures! I’m in two book clubs, one for adults, one that we just started for mother/kids. I’ll write more about what we’re doing in our mother/kid club once we’ve met a couple of times and we know what we’re doing. My oldest daughter is not a huge reader by choice (another discussion), but she’s really taken to the book club.
Book club means food and talking and sometimes dressing up. AND BOOKS. I could join ten more.
AUSTENLAND by Shannon Hale
Oh, how I love Shannon Hale’s writing. I read THE PRINCESS ACADEMY when it won the Newbery honor. I loved that book (and look forward to the sequel, PALACE OF STONE). But Austenland, Austenland I picked up at the library, not sure how an author who writes such lyrical, deep and convincing fantasy could do a funny adult contemporary.
But she did. Oh she did. 
I first read Austenland whilst prego sick with one of my kids, and it had me laughing and smiling throughout. The story was just as enjoyable the second read, and it was so fun to research the regency era (Hair–from BBC version of Northanger Abbey, because I didn’t want to curly cue my bangs. Dress–seventies prairie from online vintage store. I had to change into jeans and a t-shirt halfway through the night because those puff sleeves cut of my circulation).
Fun night with book club ladies for an English tea/marathon of Jane Austen movies/discussion of men in wet white shirts. BTW, I got to leave with the Mr. Darcy photo. He’s in my office. Waiting for me.
With the hostess, Mrs. Scriber, a lovely woman with a fine eye for detail
The spread
Homemade scones, cucumber sandwiches, fruit tarts and chocolate (in Austenland, there is no chocolate, but in Lindsey Land, ALWAYS)

Quotes. Pictures. Fun

Ignore that man in the background. Rootbeer is the American beverage in Austenland, so we included this with my tea. That lovely lass to the left is my sister. I’ll let you guess who is older.
TALES FROM A VERY PICKY EATER by Josh Schneider
When we started this club this spring, I thought book selection would be tricky. We have soon-to-be second and third graders in the mix at all different reading levels. But the child can read alone, with a parent, or be read to by the parent, so we’re reading everything from beginning chapter books to series to heartier middle grade. For the first month, I wanted a “chapter” book that the child could read and feel accomplished, and I also wanted to get a feel for the group. Easy Reader TALES FROM A VERY PICK EATER was a good starting point–it’s funny, there’s good word play, and there were plenty of activities and creativity inside those pages.
We made all the “picky” foods from the book, and had each reader bring a food they didn’t like.

Used this oatmeal to make oatmeal men. Total mess. Mom’s loved me after this one.

One of the suggested foods for the picky eater in the book is dirty, chewing gum, and a smelly sock. My daughter had the idea to bring this as our food. I found her sniff socks in the dirty clothes
No kid pics, as I don’t have parent permission as of yet. But I’ll update how the club goes once it really gets going. Again, best resource I’ve found online is www.motherdaughterbookclub.com

Hey! It’s summer. Let’s read…

June 14, 2012

Oh, how I love summer. Especially THIS summer, where I don’t have a deadline until fall. And although I still am working on two books at once (because I’m such a super organized person *this is where I would insert picture of my laundry room to illustrate my sarcasm, but it’s bad right now. So bad.*), my writing time is a tad more leisurely than it has been in awhile since only one of those books are contracted. This also means more reading time, reading for pleasure, reading without guilt, reading by the pool, reading during nap/quiet time (1 1/2 hour rule where kids either nap or play quietly. It’s been 4 days of summer. I’m sure it won’t last. But let me dream). And it is my hope you are enjoying similar tranquility. I wish you some relaxation, perhaps a nice carbonated beverage and a good book. I’m not going to ship out diet pepsi to everyone, largely because I get a little grinchey with my drinks, but I can give you book recommendations.

Teen

1. Unbreak my Heart by Melissa Walker
I tweeted a few days back that this book inspired me to buy a boat and that is the honest-to-goodness truth. No matter that we got a wakeboarding boat instead of a sailboat, that’s all, er, logistics. Walker captures SO well that feeling of summer, of the family togetherness that happens (like it or not) in a contained space, as well as the self-reflection that boating creates. Loved the mood of this book.

2. The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder
So there is no disguising the fact that Lisa Schroeder is on of my best friends. But the odd thing is, Lisa as person is separate in my mind as Lisa as writer. I love both sides, of course, but even if I didn’t know her personally, I can say I would still love her books. They get me in the gut, surprise me, emotionally challenge me. And I say this every time, but I really think The Day Before is my favorite. Set over the course of one day (on a beach!), this book had me sobbing on my airplane ride. But GOOD sobbing. Beautiful, beautiful book.

3. Something Like Normal by Trish Dollar
So I just started this one, like, two hours ago, but already the voice has me. Plus, I saw on goodreads that educator Paul Hankins said it’s one of the best YAs he’s read in awhile, and that man reads like whoa and always does great reviews. SLN is about a marine returning from Afghanistan to some messed up stuff, not to mention dealing with post-traumatic stress. As you can see from the cover, there is also a girl and… that’s all I know so far. Read it and we’ll find out more together, k?

Tween

4. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
So this book has been around for 7 years now, been read by millions, is a trilogy, apparently there was a movie made and… I never read it. I bought it on my nook because it was on sale for 99 cents. Naturally, I love mid grade stories that start in real world, then something mysterious reveals that the world wasn’t as “real” as the character thought. I’ve already bought the next 2 books though, so the publisher is still making some much-deserved money on me. Well played, Scholastic. Well played.

5. Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis.
These books, along with IT’S RAINING CUPCAKES, are my go-to recommendation when a fan of Princess for Hire writes asking what to read next. Regency England mixed with adventure, magic and a spunky heroine. If you have a girl aged 10-14, this should be on your shelf. I’m taking this to book club tonight (Austenland!) as part of the annoying other books you should read speech. Just released in paperback. The sequel, RENEGADE MAGIC , is sitting here on my bedside table waiting to be read very soon.

6. The Classroom by Robin Mellom
So I can read a book by, say, Laurie Halse Anderson and set it down and think, cool, great book. I’m not filled with envy or angst because my writing in no way resembles LHA (okay, perhaps a little green). But when I read The Classroom? I cried when I wasn’t laughing because I want so much to nail a middle school character like Robin did. The details were spot on, the voices hilarious. It’s mockumentary style (pitched as The Office for kids). Brilliantly funny with authentic kids… I really can’t recommend this book enough.

Oh, and less than TWO WEEKS until we can add A Farewell to Charms to that reading list too! Summer yay!

Sean Griswold’s Head gets a new face

June 8, 2012
Sean Griswold’s Head almost wasn’t titled Sean Griswold’s Head. When title talk came around, the publisher and I went back and forth on titles for quite some time. I tried to think of something else, but every time I looked at this book, all I saw was SGH. I knew it was quirky, I knew some people might not like it. In fact, I’ve since had readers write to tell me how much they did not like the title. But I wanted something specific, something that fit, and to this day, I still think SGH was the best choice. The publisher finally said I could keep the title. And then it was time for covers.
The challenge with a curious title like this is finding a cover that explains the title. Alone, SGH might sound like a zombie book. We needed an image that told a story: this book is about a girl who gets inside a boys head through a very odd assignment. So the classroom, looking at the back of Sean’s head, seemed like the right fit. That’s why this was the hardcover image:
I really like this cover. You can read the full cover story over at Melissa Walker’s cover story feature.  This image is fun, it’s quirky, it has little hints about story elements. And the chalk green, oh, that I just adore. But others not so much. Of the reviews I’ve seen, I would say the opinions were pretty split. Some even asked if this was a boy book because there is a boy on the cover. I don’t think it’s a boy book. Honestly,  I don’t think it’s a “girl” book either, but that is neither here or there. When it came time to release the paperback, Editor Caroline told me they were going for a certain audience. They wanted to show the sweet romance of the story, that yes, Payton researches Sean’s head, but ultimately this story is about opening her heart–opening her heart to love, but also loss.
And so we started to look at couples that gave a vibe of Sean and Payton. This was tough, because Payton and Sean are only fifteen in the book. There weren’t many images that fit. Caroline sent me two others, and they served a purpose, but were either vague or blah.
Which is what I really love about this cover, that the couple communicates the kind of romance in this book. And I love that he’s kissing her forehead, says something about how Sean helps Payton come to term with the challenge she’s facing at home. And the background looks very much like Valley Forge in spring, with the tall grass and mature tree. I hope readers will pick this up, see that there is romance in there, but at it’s core, SEAN GRISWOLD’S HEAD is about family, about coming of age.
The paperback will be available September 19. What do you think?

Vegas isn’t THE HANGOVER. Except when it is.

May 29, 2012
Last week I got a babysitter so I could get some work done. Work for that particular day involved a visit to The Little Chapel of the West. Yes, if you’ve put things together, I went to a Vegas wedding chapel, and all I got to show for it was this blog post (which is probably more than what Angelina Jolie and Billy-Bob Thornton could say)
                                                   
I’m working on a short story for an anthology, WISH YOU WERE HERE, of Las Vegas authors that comes out in the fall, and this chapel is my inspiration. The research made me start to wonder when I will find that perfect story set in my hometown. It’s in me, I know it, and actually I think the YA I’m starting this summer might be it. I don’t know. As Editor Caroline pointed out, Vegas is a character in its own right. A character filled with characters. I mean, where else can you dine at The Golden Steer steakhouse & sit in the same booth Elvis Presley solicited for years and years (Shh, Memphis. I know you claim him first. But do you have this cool plaque?)
That says Elvis in gold. No, really, I promise it does.
I spend half my time bemoaning Vegas’s lack of community/culture/good barbecue, and the other half defending this town. Loving this town. Obviously, the history here isn’t anything like what I experienced when I lived in Valley Forge, PA. Or even Birmingham, AL (see above barbecue). But I love the oddities of this place, the contradictions, the surprises, and the feeling of home. I love the eternal sunshine, the heat, the easy access, the manicured parks, and raising my kids 10 minutes from my childhood home. I didn’t think I would, but I do.
Now the question I get asked most about Vegas is some variation of “Is it like THE HANGOVER?” No. No one lives like that, they just vacation like that, and only if THEY are idiots. I do go to the Strip about once a month, either to shop, eat, or see a concert, which is probably the same as any suburbanite headed downtown for a little fun. My life is carpools and play dates, soccer on Saturdays, church on Sundays, and Target… well, I’m down to two days a week. So not THE HANGOVER (don’t watch this movie kids. Seriously, don’t)
But anyway, for those who choose to maintain this illusion that Vegas is like a movie, well then… okay. Yes, I went to a wedding chapel last week. My senior prom was at the Liberace museum. I have eaten at Elvis’s booth (and Marilyn Monroe’s, and John Wayne’s. Best banana’s foster evah). Oh, and we we all kick it at Mike Tyson’s house.
Y’all. Seriously. I visited it yesterday. 
This tour thanks to a friend of ours from Alabama who followed us to Vegas (his job or something might have played a small part in the move). His boss bought the Mike Tyson home when Iron Mike went bankrupt, and now is hoping to set up a non-profit there. Mike’s old crib was a see-to-believe kind of place, but hope some of these pictures do it justice (his mirrored bedroom and pool-like tub creeped me out too much to share). But really, again, despite the circumstantial evidence, I assure you, this is a very normal town. Normal-ish.
The front door. Here we go…
The second floor hallway/entrance is painted with a mural of boxers from history. Given my extensive knowledge of the sport, I recognized exactly one. Mike, up there above the doorway, with his then toddler boy. Uh, future boxer? 
After entering those subtle golden doors, there is a large black marbled room with this lion fountain. To the right, a piano. Just sitting there. From Elton John or something. NO BIG.

Four lion statues guard the upstairs. I swear there is some Night of the Museum kind of story here, where the mural comes to life and plays Elton’s piano or cooks hot wings in the kitchen, which had a deep fryer. So for those who think Mike Tyson wasn’t the brightest brain to be smashed, remember. He had the foresight to include a deep fryer.
Favorite room in the house. The man who owns the home comissioned a local artist to paint artwork for the property. This room was stuffed with his work, all brilliant. I don’t know the artist’s name, but there were some amazing portraits. And since most of his work was inspired by Old Hollywood, he clearly had good taste.

This statue, which I think Mike got when he converted to Muslim, used to be in the bottom of the pool. Yes, three times the size of me, bronze, and just swimming with the fishes.  I’m convening with this forgotten sculpture, asking him to share his stories. Of note: Although I had my suit on, I didn’t swim in the pool. Sorta creeped out by the whole thing, not to mention blinded by the gold in the decor. GOLD IS SO FANCY!
Sigh, if only I had another PRINCESS FOR HIRE book in the works so I could send my MC, Desi HERE on her royal adventures. This picture from top balcony. Tennis courts behind pool. The property was a monster. A beast. A wonder.

The cover that redefines AMAZEBALLS

May 16, 2012
When I was eleven, Nestle or Hershey or some candy company did a contest with Disney. Collect fun-sized (y’all know how I despair at this misuse of the word FUN) wrappers with letters inside, and if you spell M-I-C-K-E-Y-M-O-U-S-E you can win a trip to the moon or disneyland or something. Of course, it was Halloween time, so like Willy Wonka and his mysterious factory, my friends and I were all in search of our golden tickets. I even traded my brother my candy for his wrappers. That’s right. I gave up SUGAR for this dream. And lo, after I’d jumped into innumerable dumpsters and rotted my teeth, I opened my final snickers bar and discovered the elusive U, the letter NO one had. I’d achieved the impossible dream. My friend and I jumped on the bed and planned our vacation and sang the mickey mouse song until we lost our voices.
Then I handed the wrappers to my parents to mail in and never heard anything again.
But let’s not focus on that part! Let’s think about the excitement I felt upon opening that wrapper. There haven’t been many other times in my life that a little package has brought me so much glee–except my wedding ring, my womb, and now THIS COVER.
This cover might just trump that snickers bar. This cover articulates the vintage flair in this book, but also captures a character, the tone, and the vibrance of the text. This is apt to change, yes, but for now I’m very pleased to share with you the cover for GOING VINTAGE!!!!
Y’all, next year we are going to party like it’s 1962!!!