My very first author event

As I mentioned in my last post, I had the great good fortune this past weekend of participating in the first-ever Longmont Public Library Teen Author Night, which culminated the weeklong Longmont Library Festival.

It also happened to be my first-ever official author event, and the organizers were kind enough to include me even though my first book won’t be published until July. Luckily, the panel also included the fabulous local MG & YA authors Jeannie MobleyMelanie CrowderJenny Goebel, and Todd Mitchell, so the panel’s attendees were not starved for wisdom and advice from actual published authors.

And oh, those attendees! The library did an absolutely incredible job bringing in teens and tweens, and there were more than 60 kids in the audience. Check out how deep that room goes!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We took questions from the audience for an hour, and it was amazing how quickly the time passed. (Left to right: Melanie, me, Todd, Jenny, Jeannie)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s my turn at the mike! What am I saying? Possibly telling the kids that I was working on my first book before some of them were born. That line got some gasps and a few laughs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Even better than the formal panel was the Q&A time after, when the teens were able to just come over and chat with us. They asked such fantastic questions, ranging from “What do you do when you have writers’ block?” to “Should I study creative writing in college if I want to be an author?” Longmont Library Teen NightOverall, it was an incredible event, and a very useful testing of the waters for me as a presenter. Special thanks to Jeannie Mobley (whose gorgeous first novel, Katerina’s Wish, you’ve heard me kvell about repeatedly on this blog) for roping me in. I hope to return to Longmont for more events in the future!

 

 

Author panel tomorrow!

Colorado is for writersHello, folks! If you’re in Colorado and are free tomorrow night (4/12), I’ll be on a teen author panel at the Longmont Public Library at 7pm along with fellow fabulous local authors Jeannie Mobley, Melanie Crowder, Jenny Goebel, and Todd Mitchell. There will be pizza, too!

Hoping to meet lots of teens and tweens and talk about writing and books in my very first official event as an author. :)

Here’s the flyer–click for larger version. Maybe I’ll see you there?

Longmont Library flyer

Updates, and chance to win an ARC of ALL FOUR STARS!

We haven’t had a general update here in a while, and there’s a reason for that–I’ve been insanely busy of late. I’m currently in the throes of sequel revision, am moving house this weekend, and have had a couple of extended family visits recently. Bottom line: not much time for blogging.

But, exciting things have still been happening. All Four Stars is now less than four months from publication (!!!), so if you’ve been following that journey, here are a few milestones that have happened recently.

Reviews
All Four Stars got its first book blogger review from the terrific Eli Madison at Tweens Read Too! Here’s the review, and here’s an interview I did at the same blog shortly after.

Giveaway
If you are on Twitter and would like to enter to win an ARC (advance copy) of All Four Stars, Eli is giving one away. All you have to do is follow Eli’s account and retweet this tweet about the giveaway: https://twitter.com/elimadison2019/status/447423264160088064. I think that there are currently very few entries, so your chances of winning are excellent. Go enter now!

swagSwag
Thanks to the design stylings of Amber at Me, My Shelf, & I and the printing prowess of GotPrint and Tattoo Sales, I am now proudly in possession of approximately one million billion All Four Stars-themed bookmarks, postcards, and temporary tattoos! If you would like some to pass out at your local library, school, bookstore, cocktail party, etc., please just give me a holler and I’ll be happy to pop some in the mail to you.

Preordering
All Four Stars is now available for preorder just about anywhere where you can buy books. Preorders are wonderfully helpful to authors (especially debut authors!), and I heartily thank all of you who have already ordered copies from your local bookstores or your favorite online retailers! And if you haven’t preordered yet but would like to, you can find links to booksellers here.

Over at Emu’s Debuts
I’ve recently published two new posts over at my group blog, Emu’s Debuts.

In “The Second Time Around,” I talk about how writing and publishing a second book is a little less exciting–but also a little less stressful–than it has been for my debut book.

And in “Strange Sweet Song Launch: When Cats (and Other Dangerous Animals) Attack!” I amassed tales of the Emus’ crazy animal encounters as part of our launch week celebration of Adi Rule’s YA debut, Strange Sweet Song. This book is one of the most incredible reads I’ve had in the past year, and I hope that everyone who reads this will go request a copy for their library and/or buy their own! If you’re a fan of dark, Gothic, romantic books like Jane Eyre, I think you’ll love this book. Here’s my own GoodReads review.

Strange Sweet SongStrange Sweet Song by Adi Rule

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of this book, and let me tell you, it was incredible. I am someone who has no musical skills and definitely no interest in opera, and still I found myself COMPLETELY sucked in to the world Adi Rule has created–a remote conservatory with a touch of magical stuff going on.

The writing is impeccable on the sentence level–the author really uses all of the senses to make the reader experience the wintry setting and hear the beautiful music being played and sung. And she is just as comfortable writing about everyday teenage backbiting and boyfriend-stealing as she is executing the more gothic and paranormal aspects of the story, bringing all of those elements together seamlessly.

This was hands-down one of my favorite reads of 2013, and I imagine it will top many people’s lists when it hits the shelves in 2014.

View all my reviews

I think that that’s all my news at the moment. Once I’m settled into my new place, I plan to start sharing All Four Stars-related recipes here, working on a discussion guide for the book, and launching an e-mail newsletter. Stay tuned!

Interview with Colorado author Renee Collins!

Colorado is for writersWelcome back to the Colorado is for Writers interview series! Every other Tuesday, I talk to different Colorado-based authors about their work and their connections to this beautiful state. Today, I’m happy to welcome young adult author Renee Collins to the blog!

Renee’s debut YA novel, Relic, was published by Entangled Teen in 2013. Welcome, Renee!

First things first: Colorado native or transplant?

Renee CollinsI’m a transplant. We moved here for my husband’s job four years ago and I think we’re here to stay.






Tell us a bit about your book(s), published and/or in progress!

Relic, by Renee CollinsMy debut novel, RELIC, came out this last August with Entangled Teen. It’s a YA fantasy set in Old West Colorado. The red rock cliff near my house actually helped inspire the setting in the book. It’s a world where miners don’t dig for gold, but instead the magical relics of ancient fantasy creatures like the dragon, mermaid, and unicorn. Maggie Davis loses her family in a terrible, magic-created fire, and she has to relocate to the tough town of Burning Mesa in the hopes of finding out who’s responsible.


What’s the view like from your favorite writing space?

I live in Western Colorado, less than 5 miles from the Colorado National Monument. I can see the red rock cliffs from my bedroom window! The view is truly beautiful, and part of the reason we picked this area to live.

What’s the best thing about being a writer in Colorado?

I love doing outdoorsy things to get my creative juices flowing. Mountain biking and hiking always helps to clear my head and stir my imagination. And there’s no better place to hike or mountain bike than Colorado, in my opinion.

I’ve heard that about the mountain biking here (though I’m too chicken to try it myself). Thanks so much, Renee–Relic sounds amazing, and like the perfect Colorado-set read!

Interview with Colorado author Emily Hainsworth!

Colorado is for writersWelcome back to the Colorado is for Writers interview series! Every other Tuesday, I talk to different Colorado-based authors about their work and their connections to this beautiful state. Today, I’m happy to welcome young adult author Emily Hainsworth to the blog!

Emily’s debut YA novel, Through to You, was published in 2012 by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins and is a totally compulsive read. Let’s get to know Emily!

First things first: Colorado native or transplant?

Emily Hainsworth Transplant! But I’ve lived here longer than where I grew up (Central NY)–does that win me points?

I was drawn to Colorado by a boy. It was the mid-90s, it was an online relationship, I was a teenager and (at the time) it was scandalous. ;) I had secretly always wanted to live in Colorado, so I took off with the first guy I met from this glorious state (I suppose the happily ever after is that he’s still stuck with me–I mean we’re happily married–more than a decade later).

Tell us a bit about your book(s), published and/or in progress!

Through to You by Emily HainsworthTHROUGH TO YOU is the story of 17-year-old Camden Pike, who has been grief-stricken since his girlfriend, Viv, died. He’d give anything to have just one more glimpse of her. But when Cam visits the site of Viv’s deadly car accident, he sees an apparition. Her name is Nina, and she’s a girl from a parallel world. When Cam follows her there and makes an unbelievable discovery, it’s as if all his wildest dreams have come true. But things are very different in this other world. Nina is hiding a secret, and the window between the worlds is shrinking every day. As Cam comes to terms with the truth, he’s forced to make a choice that will change his life forever.

I’m currently working on a second YA novel, TAKE THE FALL, which is a contemporary murder mystery. While there’s no sci-fi element this time, the story is similarly dark and emotional and should appeal to readers who enjoyed my first book. The title could still change, but the book should be available in 2015!

What’s the view like from your favorite writing space?

View From Emily's writing spaceEvery one of my books has been written (at least in part) on an old black couch in my living room. It’s one of the first pieces of furniture my husband and I ever bought, and while it isn’t terribly attractive, it’s the most comfortable place I have found to write. Of course, a couple other members of my household think it’s pretty great too (if you can’t tell from the picture, that’s our cat, Dagny, squeezed in on top of our standard poodle, Basil), so we might end up needing a bigger couch because right now it’s a little cramped for leg room.

What’s the best thing about being a writer in Colorado?

The best thing about being a writer in Colorado is being able to get outside throughout the year. I know that doesn’t sound very conducive to writing, but I’m someone who needs to get out and think before putting words on a page. I’m not a big fan of freezing my butt off on the ski slopes, but I LOVE the 50-degree winter days in Denver. Those temperatures were unfathomable when I was growing up in Central New York, and they’re perfect for replenishing the writing well. If I’m stuck on a particular scene or character, I get outside where I can think better. It’s not something you can do every day throughout the winter, but the sunshine and mild temperatures are something I try never to take for granted. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

I adore those 50-degree days, too! Thanks so much, Emily, and good luck with TAKE THE FALL–I’m looking forward to it!

Butterbeer! Pumpkin Juice! Puking Pastilles! (What I ate at Harry Potter World)

Foodie Kidlit Friday icon“I’m going to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with my cousin this month!” I spent most of January telling anyone who would listen.

“Oh, that’s so nice of you,” a lot of them replied. This response baffled me at first, until I realized that they thought that my cousin was a small child whom I had volunteered to chaperone around Universal Studios. Then came the awkward moment when I had to explain that no, my cousin was my age, and that we were going to Harry Potter World… well, just because we wanted to.

Hogwarts

Whatever. Harry Potter is awesome, and Merrie and I have been wanting to check out the Universal versions of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts for years. (And as a kidlit author myself with a particular penchant for writing about food, I was especially excited to do some taste-testing of Potter-inspired foods at The Three Broomsticks and Honeydukes!) So in the last week of January, off we went to Orlando.

I would like to say that we arrived via Hogwarts Express, but apparently the track-elves are still working on the Denver-Hogsmeade line. Still, we were welcomed at Hogsmede station by a conductor, who seemed to be legitimately blown away by Merrie’s impervious (i.e. rubberized) rain pants. (The weather was shockingly British for our Orlando visit–high 30s and rainy most of the week!)

Hogwarts Express

Hogwarts castle was truly impressive from the outside.Hogwarts castleBut inside it was even better! There’s so much to see as you wait in line for the Forbidden Journey ride–such as the house points hourglasses filled with emeralds for Slytherin, sapphires for Ravenclaw, rubies for Gryffindor, and…what the heck is Hufflepuff’s stone, anyway?House points

You could stop off for a quick look in the pensieve in Dumbledore’s office.PensieveMerrie and I particularly enjoyed that the ride warning signs were provided by The Department of Magical Transportation. :) Warning signCloser to the ride entrance are walls of talking portraits…Portraits…and right before you enter, the sorting hat recites a rhyme about how pregnant ladies and people with heart conditions shouldn’t get on the ride. It was brilliant.
Sorting HatIn retrospect, perhaps I should have paid more attention to the sorting hat’s warnings about dizziness. The Forbidden Journey is a thrilling, but also kind of sickening ride. Once was enough for me and Merrie.

On to Hogsmeade! The rooftop snow is fake, but it could have been real that day–that’s how cold it was.Hogsmeade

Into The Three Broomsticks to warm up. I was really hoping for a hot tankard of butterbeer, but alas, the only options were cold or frozen. I went with cold (drink on the right), and Merrie ordered a pumpkin juice and a strawberry-peanut-butter ice cream (which I believe is the flavor Harry eats at Florian Fortescue’s parlor in book 1). Butterbeer et alCheers!Tara with Butterbeer

Okay, honesty time–we were actually pretty disappointed with everything in this first order. The pumpkin juice was refreshing at first sip, but tasted more and more fake the more we drank of it, like artificial pumpkin-pie-flavored Kool-Aid. The butterbeer tasted kind of like cream soda with a thin butterscotch-flavored foam on top, and for me, once the foam was gone, so was the novelty. And the ice cream tasted mostly like peanut butter, which isn’t a bad thing, though it was frozen so solid that we really had to dig at it with our spoons.

We finished the ice cream because…well, it’s ice cream, but couldn’t make it to the bottom of either of our drinks. Alas.

But the pub atmosphere was great, and it sure is fun to eat in a place where Butterbeer is on tap!Butterbeer on tapThere was also a giant Butterbeer truck in the street. I bet that it’s really popular on non-freezing days.Butterbeer truckOn to Honeydukes!Honeyduke'sPossibly my favorite window dressing in all of Hogsmeade: an animatronic doll continuously puking a sheet of puking pastilles into a bucket. :)Puking pastillesWhile I thought that the prices at The Three Broomsticks were pretty reasonable for a theme park (specialty drinks around $3 and change, full meals $8-$15), the shops are definitely where they aim to get your galleons. Almost every candy package at Honeydukes cost at least $10. Still, it was fun to see so many items from the books–like Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans.
Bertie Bott's Every Flavor BeansThere were huge chocolate cauldrons filled with marshmallow…Chocolate cauldrons…and, in the bakery section, cauldron cakes, which apparently have about five different types of chocolate in them.Cauldron cakeMerrie bought a chocolate frog, which comes with a cool pentagon-shaped wizard card inside. The frog is just a massive, solid block of milk chocolate, though, and it’s pretty hard to crack apart and share. (However, packages of much smaller peppermint toads were available, and Merrie hacked the system by refilling her chocolate frog box with toads so that her kids could open it up and enjoy them without getting frustrated by the giant frog. That’s an engineering mind at work right there!) Chocolate frogMy haul from Honeydukes: Bertie Bott’s Beans and a chocolate cauldron for my students, and ton-tongue toffee for my husband. (Sadly, it did not turn his tongue into a three-yard-long purple snake–but it was sort of shaped like a giant tongue and did have a ton of calories!)Candy haulHere’s Merrie in front of Hagrid’s hut. Which, honestly, was a little nicer than I’d pictured it! Note the giant pumpkin in the yard.
Hagrid's hutHey, it’s lunchtime–back to The Three Broomsticks! I opted for the Cornish Pastie lunch, which included three hot little meat pies and an enormous iceberg lettuce salad. Lunch at the Three BroomsticksThe pies were good (mostly because they were hot). The salad was a salad. Merrie and I lamented that your meal does not magically float up through the table like it does at the Great Hall feasts in the books. That would be some good technology–er, I mean, magic.

At Harry Potter World, The Hog’s Head is actually just an extension of The Three Broomsticks, but I did appreciate the enormous head behind the bar!Hog's HeadAnd the head on the tap. I’m not sure what actually comes out of this tap, though. Anyone know?Hog's Head TapOh, look–it’s students from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons! Apparently they sometimes do an acrobatic show, but the stage was too wet for them to perform. :(TriwizardWhile there were plenty of school scarves and hats and other expected apparel you could buy, what surprised me most was that you could also get Hogwarts cheerleading uniforms. Funny, I don’t remember cheerleaders in the books (though I can only imagine the height they could get on those basket tosses with the aid of a wingardium leviosa charm!).Hogwarts cheerleaderMerrie insisted that, as a writer, I take a picture in front of the quill shop. Thanks, cuz. :)Scrivenshaft'sIt was still freezing that afternoon, and we were hungry again, so we decided to give The Three Broomsticks one last try. We ordered two potato side dishes: the seasoned fries and the garlicky potato wedges. Both were really tasty, and this visit got our biggest thumbs up of the day. Potatoes at The Three BroomsticksI’ll wrap things up now in a different section of Universal, outside the Dr. Seuss bookstore. A perfect place to take a picture with your cousin: note the quote!CousinsDespite the weather, and the nauseating ride, and the “meh” drinks, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter didn’t disappoint us. The level of detail put into the buildings and atmosphere was really impressive, and I’m sure that once the new section opens up this summer, it’s going to be even better. I’ll probably skip the pumpkin juice and Butterbeer next time, but I wouldn’t mind having some of those hot potato snacks right about now. Hooray for Harry Potter!