Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wednesday Wanderings

     For two days I've been wandering in the desert of the psychotic wilderness of computer crashes. And if that makes sense you get a purple sticker! Waking up on Tuesday morning and booting up your computer and NOTHING IS THERE is the worst, most sinking feeling EVER!!!

Everything is GONE. Your WIP, documents, letters, publicity files, notes, pictures, book trailer images, you name it.

My darling new publicist at Scholastic - YES I ACTUALLY HAVE A PUBLICIST AND SHE IS ADORABLE AND TERRIFIC AND I'M SO EXCITED CAN YOU TELL?!?! - described having a computer crash as akin to losing a limb. Amen sister.

Two months ago I got my first external hard drive so not everything is lost, bless my family for bugging me to purchase an external hard drive! They must be brilliant. And thank goodness I've been backing up the current WIP - WHICH IS DUE IN TWO MONTHS TO MY EDITOR AND I'M TRYING NOT TO PANIC AS YOU CAN SEE BY MY VERY CALM DEMEANOR.

I have the best son in the world. Well, I have three of them, but middle son read my very rough first draft and he and I spent an hour and a half on the phone the other night discussing plot points and how to heighten tension and the stakes. He still has the last 30 pages to read and he has three big tests this week (college engineering so he'll be putting in about 40 hours studying) and we're going to talk again after the weekend. But dang he is good! He's always been my biggest reader (staying up all night reading with a flashlight) although all three boys love to read. Since he was 14 years old, he's been very astute about plotting and characters and what works and what doesn't.

I figured out a couple of months ago that I only have time for two revisions before the book is due and each revision needs to accomplish what 5 revisions used to in my previous books.

I have outlines. And notes. And lists. You betcha I do!

And I'm invoking heaven's blessings for a full computer recovery from this terrible, horrible, no-good-very-bad virus.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Books Read in 2009

It's very interesting to compile this list. For one thing, I knew I hadn't done as much reading this year with a new baby in the house and writing so much and book production and the publicity and promotion research and things like my website and book trailer and school visits and blogging more and getting an account on Facebook. I really miss not reading as much. But I was surprised by how much I actually *had* read. It's also interesting how eclectic the list is. I try to read widely but there are so many books I wish I could have crammed into my brain. But alas, I need to wait until the time I don't need sleep anymore.

There's also some political non-fiction I didn't put on the list as well as my daily scripture study.

And you can probably get a BIG HINT about the type of book I'm currently revising for my editor by the research books below. Ha, ha!

There's also the realization, once again, about how much I enjoy Southern type novels by my adult list. I always have, and try to read as many as I can in children's lit as well. There are titles that are set in the South that I did not read this past year, mostly because our library never got them in.

Children's/Teen Literature:

1. How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier
2. The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
3. Savvy by Ingrid Law
4. Cross my Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter
5. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
5. Wake by Lisa McMann
6. The London Eye Mystery by Siohban Dowd
7. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
8. Kiss Me Kill Me by Lauren Henderson
9. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
10. Fade by Lisa McMann
11. Masterpiece by Elisa Broach
12. Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going
13. The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt
14. The Secret Language of Girls by Frances O'Roarke Dowell
15. The Curse of Addy McMahon by Katie Davis
16. Millicent Min by Lisa Yee
17. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate deCamillo
18. Love, Cajun Style by Diane Les Becquets
19. Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith
20. Dying to Meet You by Kate Klise
21. Brooklyn Bridge by Karen Hesse
22. The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies
23. Gone by Michale Grant
24. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
25. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
26. Bliss by Lauren Myracle
27. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
28. Anonymously Yours by Richard Peck
29. A True and Faithful Narrative by
30. 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass
31. A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck
32. The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson
33. The Kind of Friends we Used to Be by Frances O'Rourke Dowell
34. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
35. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
36. Fairy Tale by Cynthia Balog
37. Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard
38. Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
39. Linnets and Valerians by Elizabeth Goudge

Adult Novels:

1. The Girl who stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson
2. Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson
3. Between Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson
4. The Sister by Poppy Adams
5. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
6. Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See
7. Ethan Fromme by Edith Wharton
8. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon
9. Tell No One by Harlan Coben
10. Time of My Life by Allison Winn Scotch
11. Purple Cane Road by James Lee Burke
12. Sunset Unlimited by James Lee Burke
13. Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
14. Learning to Fly by April Henry
15. The Savvy Author's Guide to Book Publicity by Lissa Warren
16. Voodoo and Hoodoo by Jim Haskins
17. The Mysterious Marie Laveau by Raymond J. Martinez
18. Charms, Spells & Formulas by Ray T. Malbrough
19. Old Love Charms & Spells
20. Black & White Magic by Marie Laveau
21. Voodoo handbook of Cult Secrets by Anna Riva
22. Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic by Catherine Yronwode
23. Hoodoo Mysteries by Ray Malbrough
24. Utterly Wicked, Curses, Hexes and Other Unsavory Notions by Dorothy Morrison

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A FAB designer and a very cool book trailer!

I stumbled upon Vania's Life Captures (VLC Productions) about a year ago and bookmarked it and then had to go digging to find it again. (I never organize my bookmarks, I'm always too busy and too lazy)

So I emailed Vania over the weekend.  And just hired her to do my postcards, bookmarks, posters, business cards and bookplates for THE HEALING SPELL, (July 1, Scholastic)!!! She does gorgeous work. I love it! And she's done swag for other authors you all know and love so go check her out. I mean, I could always stick my jacket art on a postcard and do up a synopsis and reviews in a fancy font, but there's no way I can do the kind of eye-catching work Vania does. I think her price is totally worth it and I'll be doing lots of mailings and school visits so I want my *swag* to look fantastic.

Vania also creates book trailers!

Here's Vania's latest trailer just released over the weekend for Kimberly Derting: THE BODY FINDER, a very chilling thriller for YA's that will be published March 16th with Harpercollins! Yay Kimberly! (Too bad your name doesn't have that very cool extra *e*. LOL.) I have no idea if Kimberly even reads my blog . . . 

Go HERE for Kimberly's awesome ARC contest. She's even giving away gift cards and lots of swag! You have until Saturday to enter!

Now don't get too scared watching this . . . find someone's hand to hold. 

Monday, January 18, 2010

ALA Winners!!!

SO excited for all the winners! I LOVE the Newbery winners!!! I LOVE the Caldecott winners!!! I LOVE the Printz winners!!!

GOING BOVINE for Printz award - did not expect that but I'm so excited for Libba!!!

I got to read GOING BOVINE four years ago when Libba was first writing it - at a super secret conference in Texas. Moi! Yes! Moi got to read Libba's first draft - and it read like my polished drafts. She's such an incredible talent. And a crazy girl, too. She had us all rolling with laughter all weekend.

Happy sighs for all the winners. A good morning. A very good morning indeed.

And no whining about getting up early from all you East Coasters. I was up at 5:30 Mountain Time to watch the live video. Then I drove hubby to his van pool for work. Yep, it's always an early morning out here in the Rio Grande valley.

Enjoy a great book today! I have lots in my stacks!

And if you missed it, check out the January issue of SPELLBINDERS down below or here at Spellbinders Blogspot for all our past issues and book talk
. I have a great Tweener Book Buzz column as well as an interview with two-time Newbery Committee member Vaunda Nelson.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

January issue of SPELLBINDERS!

Spellbinders Logo
January, 2010

Feature Article
Countdown to the ALA Mid-winter conference is underway!

On Monday, January 18, 2010 in Boston, the most exciting children's literature announcements will be made to the world. Go here to watch the live broadcast:

Between 7:30 - 9:00 a.m. the American Library Association's youth and children's division will make a *live* announcement of the 2010 Newbery, Printz and Caldecott Medal winning books (as well as the Coretta Scott King, the Sibert and Laura Ingalls Wilder awards, etc. ) published during 2009.

VaundaYour Spellbinders are very excited to give you an interview with two-time Newbery Committee Member, Vaunda Nelson, a youth services librarian in New Mexico and the author of many acclaimed books such as:

Bad News for OutlawsBad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal (Exceptional title for Social Studies):

Almost to FreedomAlmost to Freedom
, (a Coretta Scott King Illustrated Honor Book)

1. Vaunda, please give us a brief overview of the process of committee member selection for the Newbery and Caldecott Award Medal.

The structure has changed over the years since the first Newbery Medal was awarded in 1922 and the first Caldecott in 1938, but here is the current structure: To serve on either committee, you must be a member of ALSC-the Association for Library Service to Children (a division of the American Library Association). You must be able to attend all required meetings. There are 15 members on each committee, including the committee chair. Eight are elected by members of ALSC. These members are contacted by the ALSC nominating committee and asked if they would be willing to put their names on the ALA ballot of at least 16 candidates. The committee chair and the six remaining members are appointed by the ALSC president. Those who serve on Newbery, Caldecott, Sibert or Wilder award committees must wait at least four years to serve again on any of these committees to give others an opportunity.

My experience working with committee members was very positive. Members came from various parts of the country. They were knowledgeable, enthusiastic, passionate and kind, even when in disagreement. As I listened to and participated in discussions, I experienced a mutual respect that made me proud to be part of such an extraordinary endeavor.

2. Is the committee given any specific criteria to choose their winners or do they come up with it on their own? (For instance, the National Book Award gives no criteria for their judges.)

There are specific criteria for all ALSC awards. The very short versions for Newbery and Caldecott awards are:
The Newbery Medal "shall be awarded annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published by an American publisher in the United States in English during the preceding year. There are not limitations as to the character of the book considered except that it be original work."
The Caldecott Medal "shall be awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published in the United States in English during the preceding year. There are not limitations as to the character of the picture book considered except that the illustrations be original work."
Award recipients of either medal must be citizens or residents of the United States.
The guidelines also include definitions of terms such as "distinguished", "original", "contribution to American Literature", "picture book for children", etc. which committee members must consider as they evaluate books. Details can be found in the October 2009 Newbery Manual online at Type "Newbery Committee Manual" into the search box at the site.

3. How is it decided which books the committee will read, and what is the approximate number you personally read during the year?

Committee members are expected to try to read everything published within the year that is eligible. Publishers send many titles, but some don't. It is the responsibility of committee members to seek out what doesn't come through the mail. I don't know exactly how many books I read, but it was hundreds.

4. How is it all kept secret? How do you communicate with one another? What is the approximate timeline for the year and do you personally meet to discuss before the ALA midwinter announcements?

There is much I cannot tell you about my experience on the Newbery Committee. The secrecy is both necessary and part of the fun. I cannot tell you what went on behind the closed doors during the many hours of sequestered meetings. (Committee members need to feel free to speak frankly, knowing that their comments will not be repeated outside.) I cannot tell you what books were or were not discussed. I cannot tell you specifics about the balloting. It's all confidential. Forever. But there are some things I can tell you about my year.

We met for the first time at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in January. This was primarily for introductions and to discuss procedures and eligibility issues.

Then the work began. I received many books from publishers, some from my library system, and some through interlibrary loan. I learned about some titles through word of mouth, but I resisted reading print reviews before I'd read the book. I wanted to form my own first impressions.

When I found something I thought might be a worthy candidate, I sent the title (with a sentence or two pointing out its strengths) to the committee chair. We had monthly deadlines for suggestions. After each deadline, the chair compiled a list containing all of the suggestions and sent it to everyone. All committee members were required to read the books others had suggested and continue to seek out other great titles.

[When I served, our members did not discuss books through email, but I'm not sure what the process is now. I will find out when I begin work on the 2011 Caldecott Committee in January.]

In June, the committee met during ALA's annual conference where we again reviewed criteria for the award and discussed some of the books we'd read. We did not eliminate any titles at these meetings. This was an opportunity for us to get a sense of the group's chemistry and how members were examining various aspects of the books they had read. It was a chance to do some bonding and get excited about the process.

Each committee member nominates three books in October and three more in December. This gives all members a chance to read the books others on the committee are favoring. Again, this process does not eliminate any book. All remain eligible and on the table until we begin our final meetings in January at the ALA Midwinter conference. At Midwinter, we met all day for three days. One night I didn't get back to my hotel room until 2 a.m. After selecting the winners, the committee prepares a press release. Before the Monday press conference announcing the winners, the chair (with committee members present) telephones the winners, and (what fun!) shares the good news.

5. How does the voting work?

When the committee decides it's time to vote, each person writes down his or her three top books, ranking them by points-top choice gets four points, second choice gets three points, and third choice gets two points. There is a formula to determine the winner. The Medal winner must receive at least eight first-choice votes at four points per vote for a total of 32 points. It must have at least an eight-point lead over the book receiving the next highest number of points. If this doesn't occur, the committee begins another round of book discussions and votes again. This process continues until the voting produces a clear winner. Honor books may or may not be chosen. Again, details can be found in the October 2009 Newbery Committee Manual.
The process of selection is an amazing and difficult one. How do you compare a science fiction novel with a biography or a nonfiction book about the solar system? How do you compare a collection of poetry with historical fiction or fantasy? It is fascinating to witness how a group of 15 individuals come together on a thing so subjective.

Not all members of the book community are happy with the winner. "How could they have not chosen this book?" or "How could they have ignored that one?" they ask.

The Newbery Medal is definitely a committee choice. And for me, this is what gives it integrity. Any time you can get 15 literary people to agree on a single book, that book is worthy.

6. How does being on the Newbery or Caldecott Committee impact your job as a librarian? As a writer?

I use technology resources on a daily basis and have come to depend on and find great satisfaction in the wonderful options they can provide. However, at home, though we have a computer for writing, we are not on-line and, in fact, still have rotary telephones. The bottom line is I am a book person.

When I was nominated to run for the Newbery Committee in 2002, I hesitated. I had served on the committee in 1990, and although it was a wonderful experience, it was also a huge commitment of time and money. My husband, Drew, was very supportive, but justifiably felt a bit like a widower that year, and I wasn't sure I should put him through that again. Also, I knew it would mean that there would be no time for my writing. Despite the sacrifices, I knew in my heart that I wanted to serve again. I needed to serve again. I have worried that technology has become the priority for my profession, the profession I entered because of my love of literature. I worried that libraries were leaving me behind and, soon, I would no longer fit in.

Serving on the Newbery Committee allowed me to make reading my top priority for the year. It allowed me to immerse myself in literature and remember why I came to the profession. It allowed me to sit down with other lovers of literature and talk in depth about books with no technology intruding between us. It helped me to see that there still may be a place for people like me. That my role should be as an advocate for a literature movement, to help keep libraries from going too techno, and bring librarians and teachers back to helping children experience what books, all by themselves, have to offer.

As a writer, serving on the committee was both stimulating and humbling. Consuming so much good literature made me anxious to start writing again myself. At the same time, after reading something really incredible, I sometimes found myself feeling, "I'll never be able to measure up to this." Still, it made me want to try.

From a writer's perspective, the committee discussions were gratifying. Gratifying because I saw that there are still places where literary merit is the order of the day, where numbers of copies sold is irrelevant. Gratifying, too, because I saw that the blood, sweat and tears I put into researching my material, into agonizing over every sentence, every word, is worth it, because some people notice.

7. What do you personally take away from being an Award Committee Member?

We chose A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park as the 2002 Newbery Medal winner, and two honor books: Carver: A Life in Poems by Marilyn Nelson, and Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath. In 1991, my Newbery Committee selected Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli for the Medal and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi as the honor book. I am proud of all of these choices.

Aftermath feedback made it clear that A Single Shard was a surprise - even to the publishing company, which was unprepared to fill the demand that immediately followed the announcement. A Single Shard was a marvelous sleeper, and I am happy to have played a part in drawing attention to this worthy book. And I am proud to have played a small role in what has become a piece of the history of children's literature. I can look back at the list of Newbery winners and say, those are my books.

In 2002, when my Newbery year was over, I was relieved. I was happy to be able to attend to those loved ones and projects that had been patiently waiting the ir turns. Happy to get back to my life. But I also felt something else - something I can only refer to as post-Newbery blues - a sense of loss. This did pass, as once I again began experiencing the joys that come with taking a walk with my husband, baking a pie on a Saturday morning, and escaping into my writing.

This January I begin serving on the 2011 Caldecott Committee. I can't wait.

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L. RubyWho's Right/Whose Right?
Lois Ruby
If you've been a loyal Spellbinders reader, you're probably thinking this corner of the newsletter is only about censorship and book challenges. Not true! It's also about words that have a right of their own to be accurate, playful, descriptive, and fresh. Some words and phrases make the senses soar and the heart race like a sprinter's. Others scritch like nails on the blackboard. Witness as we segue into the following:

Teachers and cybarians, we toil in a community of learners, so let's brainstorm and look at some talking points to dialogue about teachable moments. Taking it to the next level, I'm cautiously optimistic that we can multi-task with impunity, that is, you can read this while peeling rutabagas and red-penciling your students' essays. Now more than ever, you can pick a humble word and analyze it for its truthiness, its winningest virtues, and fling that word back at students and library friends, even if you haven't friended them yet.

If that paragraph sounds stilted and a bit too familiar, too riddled with clichés, it's because the bolded words are on the Lake Superior State University's annual lists of words and phrases to be banished from the Queen's English. People who fine-tune that list seem most aggrieved by the "verbing of innocent nouns," as in, to mentor, to transition, to party, and to gift. Well, that's a no-brainer, so let's not even go there. But if you really want to hunker down and wallow in over-used and imprecise language, visit this page on LSSU's web site for printable lists and downloadable posters going back to 1996.

The point we're chasing here is that we have the responsibility to keep words alive and zinging with originality among the young people we work with. They've invented their own colorful and highly expressive language (not to mention creative spelling) with such vehicles as Twitter, Facebook, texting, and email. But let them not forget how to use standard English. There are loads of amusing and challenging word games available free on the Internet. You can just Google 'word games'. Oops, Google. There's an innocent noun verbed to death. Here are a couple of Websites to visit: and

Incidentally, the time-honored Oxford English Dictionary word of the year for 2009 is ... unfriend. In this new year, I wish you a universe of fun with user-friendly and evocative words. Hey, have a good one!

Please feel free to reprint any of the articles you find in SPELLBINDERS, but do give credit to the author(s) and include a reference to our blog by giving the following information - written by (author) and reprinted with permission from SPELLBINDERS, Helping Librarians and Educators Create Lifelong Readers

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If you are one of the many people who visited with us at the APS author/librarian Winterfest reception and signed up to receive our newsletter, we welcome you to Spellbinders.

The Secret Language of Stories
Carolee Framed
Carolee Dean
In October I gave a brief overview of my twelve-step story method called, "The Secret Language of Stories" (SLOS) and discussed the NEW WORLD vs. the OLD WORLD as well as the impact of setting on character development. In November, I discussed the CALL and the REFUSAL and in December I explored the CROSSING. If you missed any of these articles, you may find them on the Spellbinders' blog along with a copy of the January issue of this newsletter.

This month I will be revisiting the concept of the NEW WORLD and discussing the PRIZE. The arrival in the NEW WORLD marks the beginning of the middle section of the story. If you will recall, the NEW WORLD represents the new setting to which the main character travels or sometimes it represents the changes that occur in the OLD WORLD as a result of a new person or situation arriving there. At this point in the story the hero meets new characters and may have his first encounter with the antagonist. Some of the new people he meets will prove to be allies and some will be enemies. There will be trials, obstacles, and challenges through which the hero will gain power, strength, and information while identifying and drawing closer to his ultimate goal. Though the main character may face difficult challenges and obstacles at this stage of the story, they are nothing compared to the big challenges to be faced in the latter part of the story. Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, compared this stage of the story to an initiation where new members of a society must go through a series of tests to prove themselves worthy of belonging.

The PRIZE represents the main character's story goal and it is in the middle section of the story that the prize becomes more defined. The hero may have a clearly defined goal at the beginning of the story or he may not have any goal at all until he is thrust into the NEW WORLD. He may even spend a good deal of time there before a clear need or goal emerges. The prize may be anything important to the hero: treasure, gold, medicine, a ship, a car, love, knighthood, knowledge, information, an important clue, self-respect, epiphany, or a new rank. Often there is a problem to be solved, but the problems may not manifest until the main character sets out to achieve his goal, at which point intense opposition and resistance will almost always arise. If there was no opposition then the goal would be easily achieved and the story would be over. This is a concept that most young writers have difficulty with. Once they set up a goal they want to see their character achieve it quickly and the building of obstacles often seems like a contrivance, which of course, it is. It is vital, however, to point out that without a problem or conflict, there is no story.

Think about the personal stories you retell over and over again. They typically involve something going very wrong-the camping trip where the bear tried to break into the camper where the cooler was being stored... the wedding where the maid of honor fainted. Events that are lovely but uneventful get top billing in the family photo album or scrapbook, but they don't make very good stories. The conflict is what keeps us reading.

For a fun activity exploring the NEW WORLD and the PRIZE see the January Random Writing Activity on the blog on my website at

K. LittleKimberley's Book Buzz
Kimberley Griffiths Little
Tweener Book Buzz!
What exactly is a "tweener" book?

Let's say you have a child/student who is about ten to thirteen years old and loves to read. Because of their age, they are way beyond chapter books - and they've already read every middle-grade book in the library. They might start dipping into the YA bookshelves, but most tweeners are not mature enough for the problems and teenage experiences of Young Adult novels (in which many titles have characters close to college age and dealing with very adult situations), and yet middle-grade novels are quickly becoming too easy or "young". After all, kids want to read about characters who are slightly older than they are.

So what books do you put into the hands of these "tweener" readers, the kids who live in that no man's land between childhood and teenage-hood? Book Buzz to the rescue!

Total TragedyThe Total Tragedy of a girl named Hamlet by Erin Dionne (Dial)

Hamlet Kennedy just wants to be your average, happy, vanilla eighth grader. But with Shakespearean scholar parents who dress in Elizabethan regalia and generally go about in public as if it were the sixteenth century, that's not terribly easy. It gets worse when they decide that Hamlet's genius seven year- old sister will attend middle school with her- and even worse when the Shakespeare project is announced and her sister is named the new math tutor. By the time an in-class recitation reveals that our heroine is an extraordinary Shakespearean actress, Hamlet can no longer hide from the fact that she-like her family-is anything but average.

Operation YesOperation, Yes by Sarah Lewis Holmes (Arthur Levine Books, Scholastic)

No one in her sixth-grade class knows quite what to make of Ms. Loupe, with her short hair, her taped square "stage" on the floor, and the interest in improvisational theatre. After all, their school is on an Air Force base-a place that values discipline more than improv. But her students soon come to love her fresh approach; and when her dear brother goes missing in Afghanistan, and Ms. Loupe herself breaks down, they band together to support their teacher. What starts as a class fundraiser expands into a nationwide effort for all injured troops, and an amazing vision of community and hope.

EscapeEscape Under the Forever Sky by Eve Yohalem (Chronicle Books)

Lucy's mother is the U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, so Lucy's life must be one big adventure, right? Wrong. Lucy's worrywart mother keeps her locked up inside the ambassador's residence. All Lucy can do is read about the exotic and exciting world that lies beyond the compound walls and imagine what it would be like to be a part of it. That is, until one day Lucy decides she has had enough and she and a friend sneak off for some fun. But to their horror, Lucy gets kidnapped! With only herself to rely upon, Lucy must use her knowledge of African animals, inventiveness, will, and courage to escape, and in the process embarks on an adventure beyond her wildest imagination. Loosely based on actual events.

Missing MarquessThe Case of the Missing Marquess, an Enola Holmes Mystery by Nancy Springer (Puffin).

When Enola Holmes, sister to the detective Sherlock Holmes, discovers her mother has disappeared, she quickly embarks on a journey to London in search of her, but nothing can prepare her for what awaits. Because when she arrives, she finds herself involved in the kidnapping of a young marquess, fleeing murderous villains, and trying to elude her shrewd older brother-all while attempting to piece together clues to her mother's strange disappearance. Amid all the mayhem, will Enola be able to decode the necessary clues and find her mother? The first title of a much-lauded new series.

BellweathersLeaving the Bellweathers by Kristin Clark Venuti (Egmont USA)
The young Bellweathers-fourteen-year-old Spider, thirteen-year-old Ninda, and the ten-year-old triplets, Brick, Spike, and Sassy-and their equally peculiar parents have brought constant chaos to the once-peaceful village of Eel-Smack-by-the-Bay. Still, no one has suffered more than their loyal butler, Benway, who has finally had enough. He is secretly writing his tell-all memoirs, packing his bags, and planning his move to a tropical location, Far, Far Away. But when the siblings discover Benway is preparing to leave their lighthouse home, they band together to prove how much he's needed, as only Bellweathers can. . . . Full of comic capers, close calls, an art heist, albino alligators-and good intentions gone wrong.

So grab a book for the "tweener" in your life-and happy reading!

Author of The Last Snake Runner (Knopf)
AND the upcoming
The Healing Spell - Scholastic, July 2010

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Friday, January 15, 2010

2009 Accomplishments!

Yeah, yeah, it's January 15 and I'm just now posting this. I'm always late to the party, but at least I show up. Like showing up to my keyboard every day to do the writing thing and quit reading 300 of my favorite blogs. Just get my derriere in the chair and open the dang file already! I swear, that's two of the hardest tasks of each day.

I usually write out a yearly list of goals and even delineate by month when I'm going to accomplish each goal, but I never make all my goals because STUFF HAPPENS.
Not just family or personal *stuff* but things change as you work and write.
New ideas happen, crits that change your direction, new writing friends with blasts of fun email flurries, new information about publishing and agents and editors so my writing goals often change during the course of a year. 

Or I decide to rewrite something in a whole new way that often takes half a year which throws off my goals. 

Or I get a new idea that's much more exciting and promising and I swear I'm *in love* and everything else gets pushed aside.

Or I sell a book on synopsis that I hadn't put into my goals for the year and I suddenly have to write this new book NOW. Wow! I've always dreamed of that happening to me and it actually happened this last year! Still trying to figure out if it's a good thing or not . . . I'll let you know if I fall on my keister and my editor hates it and I start completely over and go back to the proverbial drawing board and my book is pushed back a year.

Don't go there! No bad vibes! Banish them!

Drum roll please:


1. Signed three book contract for two MG's and one YA to Scholastic Press. Go here for signing highlights and pics

2. Finished a major revision on Murdering the Dead, my ancient Egyptian YA novel. Got two more critiques from a crit buddy and hubby. Do a last revision and polish. Send to my agent.

3. Back and forth revisions with my editor for The Healing Spell.

4. Production work with my editor for The Healing Spell., ie. copy edits, Jacket art, biography, synopsis, dedication and acknowledgments, First Pass Pages, etc.

5. Planning and execution of 2 research trips to Louisiana - one with girlfriend and one with hubby. Spring and Fall, nearly two weeks apiece. Fun, fascinating and fruitful!!!

6. Hired web designer for revamping my website and wrote a bunch of new content.

7. Hired book trailer people for: images, voice-over and music company for original music

8. Become a photographer when I need to create some of my own specialized book trailer images that cannot be found on places like Istock and Getty and Stock Exchange. Funny stories about sneaking around hospitals and graveyards and Hobby Lobby.

9. Creation of SPELLBINDERS, an educational newsletter with Carolee Dean and Lois Ruby. The three of us design SPELLBINDERS, create the content, write and distribute. January issue has been delayed due to a death in one of the co-writers family over New Year's. Stay tuned.

10. Spoke at the New Mexico Library Association conference.

11. Finished outlining new novel, The Traiteur's Daughter (TTBC = Title To Be Changed).

12. Complete a first draft of The Traiteur's Daughter (77,000 words).

13. Begin the first revision of The Traiteur's Daughter

Personal Stuff: 

14. Help my sisters and mother complete a Life History in pictures and stories for my father, Keith Knowles Griffiths, 1929 - 1973. He died when I was growing up in an airplane crash. The book is turning out beautiful with all my siblings writing their memories of Dad.

15. My son's new little family came to live with us while he and his wife go to college full-time. (They are only 21!) They had a toddler, Tristan, and then another baby girl, Sera, in August. I am now cooking for lots more people and tending babies and playing with babies and bathing babies and reading to babies and cuddling babies and kissing babies! All the things I love to do!

Writing goals and family and memories and babies, what more can I ask for?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Teaser Tuesday, Writing Prompts and a New Genre - at least for me!

I know it's after midnight and technically already Wednesday on the East Coast, but in the Southwest it's only 10:30 p.m. and I just got home from our monthly SCBWI schmooze about half an hour ago and decided to post on a whim.

We have a new schmooze coordinator, Brian Herrera (a new writer, new to SCBWI, but very talented and very nice) and discussed various topics for the year for our schmoozes. I met lots of new people and chatted with old friends and we are now starting a pre-schmooze schmooze with dinner beforehand so we all have more time to talk and visit which we all think is a GREAT IDEA!!! And I got to eat pizza so that is always good.

Which brings me to this . . . at the end of the schmooze Brian gave us a 3x5 card and a writing prompt and had us write for ONLY FIVE MINUTES. Because there were only six minutes left of our time, of course.

I usually do *not* like writing prompts because I feel like I'm forcing words or thoughts when I have a blank mind because I've been busy doing/thinking about other things, but tonight my 5 minutes of words turned out fairly interesting.

I started writing a Victorian paranormal fantasy thing . . . I think.

So I'll share because I'm open and confident like that. Ahem.

The writing prompt was: The window opens . . .

The window opens and I perch with bare feet on the sill, toes gripping the smooth oak ledge. The air is sharp, there's a breeze blowing in from the North Sea. My black hair lifts, tickling my neck as my nightgown drifts against my ankles.

Down below me in the castle courtyard, a team of horses suddenly arrive in the circular drive, pulling a carriage.

I waver on my feet, stuffing down the urge to let go .

I'll have to fly tomorrow night. 

Monday, January 11, 2010

Christmas, Reading, and Butterflies

The Christmas holidays – well, the entire month of December – was so crazy busy and disjointed with finishing my first draft of my new book that’s due in March to my editor and then scrambling, literally scrambling like a pan of cracked eggs, to get shopping and decorating done, sing in a zillion Christmas choirs (well, not a zillion but you get the gist), wrap and bake and grocery shop and then cook, cook, cook, and dishes, dishes, dishes, that I never felt like I got to enjoy sitting and gazing at my beautiful tree and just chill out and read a book.

So I did those very things this past week. Sat. Gazed at my beautiful tree. Read a book.

I got up early in the morning while everyone was still in bed, turned on the Christmas lights (yes, my tree is still up because now I’m trying to do a first revision - and panicking pretty much all the time - and haven’t had time to take it down yet. Don't yell at me), turned on the Christmas music (Enya’s Christmas album is very cool) pushed the toys and junk out of the way, wrapped up in an afghan in my jammies and READ A BOOK. For a whole hour! Luxury! Bliss!

I never showed you my gorgeous butterflies that I bought in a little shop in St. Martinville, Louisiana on my trip in November. The shop is called Tres Jolie and the entire second floor is a gorgeous, unique Christmas shop.

I initially bought only the red one along with a few other souvenirs, paid for them, chatted with the owners, left, got in our car – and then turned around and went back into the store and bought the green and gold butterflies as well. I couldn’t resist and I’m so glad. The red butterfly would have looked too lonely all by itself.



Thursday, January 07, 2010

Memorial video about Michael and Bradley Smith

I tried to copy and paste this so y'all could *see* it, but it isn't working so go here to this link:

It's a BEAUTIFUL tribute by Michael and Bradley's unit brothers and really gives a sense of what it's like in Afghanistan as well (those MOUNTAINS in the background!) - and it's only one minute thirty seconds long to watch the video at the bottom of the page.

In the top picture, our young friend Michael who is struggling in the hospital is on the left and his good friend Bradley Smith, killed in action on the right. Bradley left behind a wife and baby girl.

So worth watching! Today I salute the courageous and self-less men and women fighting for freedom around the world today. Their sacrifice is truly humbling and I'm very grateful. Thank you all, my dear friends, for your prayers and concern.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Where did the last two weeks go?

It's taken me longer than I expected to come back to Live Journal and Blogspot. I was even keeping up with reading posts and commenting during the holiday break - until the end of last week. I haven't posted a Happy New Year to everyone, I haven't posted about books I read in 2009, I never posted my 6 MONTH COUNTDOWN to the publication date of THE HEALING SPELL which happened exactly on January 1, 2010 since my pub date is July 1, 2010!!! To be able to say "My book comes out this year!" or "Oh, yes, my book is due out this summer, don't you know," and then yawn and rub my fingers across my lapel as though I have books coming out all the time instead of the first one in 7 years.

I've been distracted by several personal and professional deadlines this week and then over the weekend we got some bad news. The son of some friends of ours who live right here in our small town - the son who is the same age as my 21 year old son, they graduated high school together - the son (and his younger sister) whom I taught myself at church - was badly hurt in the EID bombing in Afghanistan on Saturday. Four of his buddies were killed. He has been undergoing surgeries in Germany the past few days. He lost his left eye and there is shrapnel in his right eye they are trying to save. He also suffered a broken jaw and shrapnel over his face and body, some in the neck and shoulder area that came very close to hitting a main artery. He's lucky to be alive and I understand that one of his especially good friends was one of the four who were killed. He's only 21.

So saying Happy New Year and being all bubbly just feels strange and wrong somehow when I can't get them out of my mind and I'm feeling very sad and sober the last few days. Thankfully, this wonderful family has a strong support system and hundreds of people praying for them. In fact, there is a special prayer today at 5:00 p.m. Mountain Time for him. If you'd like to be a part of a moment of silence or prayer for Michael, please do. Thank you so much.

I promise a happy holiday post tomorrow! With pictures of some beautiful butterflies I got in Louisiana on my trip in November. And books I read!

And I'm very excited to share with you several upcoming happy, surprise posts about The Healing Spell this month!



Winner of The Southwest Book Award!

Time travel, war, love, rattlesnakes, magic . . .

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