Sunday, April 28, 2013


Well, I'm back!  The Texas Library Association Conference was A-MA-ZING.  Truly.  For starters, I think it was as large, if not larger than the ALA National Conference in Anaheim last year.  Secondly, my publisher pulled out all the stops for a delicious and hilarious dinner with a group of YA librarians on Thursday night.  Then there were signings and librarian speed dating, a teen book giveaway that blew my mind, and a post-dinner stroll through the Stockyards.  I felt like a freshman at orientation for the coolest college ever.  So much to see and do.  There are pictures, all trapped on my cellphone at the moment.  I will post them as soon as I figure out what I'm doing wrong.   Photos below!

In the meantime, Thank you to everyone at Penguin for making me feel like part of the family.  Special thanks to my Penguin author buddies DJ MacHale (Morpheus Road, and SYLO!), Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Grey and Out of the Easy), Marie Lu (Legend Trilogy), Ashley Edward Miller and Zach Stentz (Colin Fischer), and Robert Paul Weston (Zorgamazoo), and my panel mates Jennifer Echols (Such a Rush) and John Corey Whaley (Where Things Come Back).

And thanks to the best librarians in the world.  You make me glad to be a writer!

Me and DJ MacHale (SYLO, July 2013!)

Best cast ever!  Heal fast, Mr. J!

The stacks and stacks of books at the Teen Giveway Event. Droolworthy!

Apparently the water park next to the conference center has a colorful history

It's made of hats!

In the corner of every library convention-- fabulous clothes for librarians!

Dinner in the Stockyards.  How cool is that?

When you can't make stars, just hang 'em on the ceiling.

Miss Ruta, my awesome editor Shauna, and me.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Meet the Author - Texas Library Association Conference 4/24 - 4/26/13, Fort Worth, TX

Thanks to everyone who swung by the Mysterious Galaxy booth and the Mrs. Nelson's booth on Saturday!  I had a blast signing along side Robin Benway (Also Known As), Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz (Colin Fischer), and Scott Speer (Immortal City).  Sadly, my little cellphone picture refuses to upload, so no visuals today!

Later this week I will be in Fort Worth, TX for the Texas Library Association Conference!  If you are there, please come say hello.

Friday, April 26th

12:00 pm - 1:50 pm   Young Adult Round Table Texas Tea Time, Omni Fort Worth Hotel
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm     Siging with Follet, Booth #1933
5:00 pm - 8:00 pm     Young Adult Round Table Texas Teen Event, Omni Fort Worth

Saturday, April 27th

9:30 am - 10:30 am    Signing with Penguin Young Readers Group, Author Signing Area
                                   Aisle #4
1:00 pm - 1:50 pm     Young Adult Round Table:  "Southern Stories for Teens,"  Fort
                                   Worth Convention Center, Level 1, Room 121B

I hope to see you there!

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Flygirl Moment: Letter from a real live W.A.S.P.!

Fifinella, the WASP mascot

 A couple of weeks ago, I was tickled pink to get an email from Mrs. Carla Howard Horowitz, which began, "A friend who knows about my earlier life (I was a member of Class 44W8, WASP) sent me your delightful book."

You could have knocked me over with a feather.  For all of the research I did on the WASP while working on FLYGIRL, I never had the privilege of actually communicating with one of these amazing women.  Until now.  Thank goodness she liked the book!  What followed was a string of emails with my questions and her reminisces, one of which I will now, with her permission, share with you.

In Chapter 22 of FLYGIRL, Ida Mae and Lily are tasked with flying the notoriously difficult B-29 Maurader.  The author's note goes on to credit Dora Dougherty Strother and Dorothea Johnson as the two women who actually flew the plane.  Happily, Mrs. Horowitz had this little gem to add to their true story :

A small addition to the tale of the B-29.  As I heard the story, the Army officer who was assigned the task of convincing the male pilots that the B-29 was flyable was Paul Tibbets, who later flew the Enola Gay over Hiroshima. There had been numerous complaints: the plane was too big, slow to respond, unwieldy.  I was told that it was Tibbet's choice to show the men that they would truly look wimpy if mere girls could handle the big monster. He chose two WASP who had twin-engine training, but not four-engine. And that it was Dorothea Johnson Moorman who was at the helm when she called the tower and asked permission to land as they approached an Army field.  There was no answer from the tower.  Tibbets told her to take it around again, make another approach, and call in.  Same story: no answer.  "Give me the stick" he said (or maybe it was "give me the wheel" or "Give me the plane.")  He buzzed the tower, gave the plane back to Dorothea J M and said to try again. She did, and this time the tower did respond:  "Lady, get off the air.  There's a B-29 trying to land."  She replied: "I am the B-29."  It's my favorite WASP story.

Now, it's mine too!

Thank you, Carla, for sharing your wonderful story with us.  For your years of service, many thanks from the bottom of my heart.  You are an inspiration.

(Want to see Carla in uniform?  Click here for a trip to the amazing WASP archives at Texas Women's University.  What a looker!)

On a separate note...
I will be at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this coming Saturday, April 20th.  Swing by the following booths and say hello!
11:00 – 11:45 AM Signing at the Mysterious Galaxy booth (#1201).
12:00 – 12:45 PM Signing at the Penguin/Mrs. Nelson's booth (#720)


Monday, April 8, 2013

Writing Music,Part 2: Character Karaoke

This weekend, I got a tweet from @marmaladelibby (aka Ange) at Libby Blog with a link to her review of ORLEANS.  At the bottom of the review, she has posted a brilliant soundtrack of songs that evoked the book for her.  I've seen this done in some small press and indie comics—often the artists will note which songs they were listening to when they drew a given page.  I used to want to do that for my books, but the fact is, I'm rarely listening to music when I write.  Even if it's playing in the background in my favorite cafĂ© or on a TV somewhere, I tune it out while I work.  Since last week's post was about putting music in a novel, I thought this week I'd write about music for your characters.

I recently took a fantastic Improv for Writers workshop with Robin Schiff and Wendy Goldman.  (You can take it up at Hedgebrook next month.  Trust me, you won't regret it!)  One of the exercises we did involved listening to a two polar opposite pieces of music and creating a character from each one before putting them on a date together.  Iot only was it a fun way to "learn" our characters, it was also fascinating to see how very different they were from the other students' even though they were all based on the same two pieces of music.

I'll be teaching my own writing workshop on character building next month and I'm convinced there's something to the whole music thing.  So, this morning, in the shower with all this floating in my head, I thought "What if all of my characters were in a karaoke bar—what would they each choose to sing?"  Not only do I love the incongruity of my ORLEANS characters sitting sullenly in a neon lit karaoke bar together like a bunch of high school seniors on the last day of a bad spring break, but knowing who would really love to be on stage and who would rather jump out a window is interesting. 
I came up with a list of songs for the characters in ORLEANS.  I know I should list it here, but I won't because-- much like photos of the characters on a book cover-- I don't want it to color your experience of the book.  (If you really want to know,  email me in six months and I'll post it.)
I also applied it to the novel I'm currently working on to see what I might learn about my cast of characters.  The results were… interesting.  I think I need to work more on my protagonist. "The Happy Wanderer" is not a strong character theme song. 

Suffice it to say, if you take my class, we'll be playing Character Karaoke.  And I'll be working on that protag of mine.  Anything to stop this sort of thing from happening again. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Writing Music

So, I'm working on a project and I think I would like to have a character sing a song.  I've used music in my writing in the past, but it has always been an existing folk song or reference to a popular tune of the time.  This go round, I'm imagining something completely original.  The question is how to do it without coming off all Tolkienesque and forcing my reader to know what Bilbo Baggins hates. (Sorry, that's a personal dislike.  I'm a fan of some Tolkien songs!)

Many years ago, I was part of a "write a novel in a week"-a-thon.  My book was about a girl whose obsession with a certain band lead to the creation of a new religion.  After the write-fest was over, I pitched the idea to an editor who told me it would never work.  "You can't write music," she said.  "You have to hear it."  Yes, I know that's all kinds of wrong, but that's what she said and this was early in my career, so I let it go.

This time, I'm sticking to my guns.  I've started thinking of books that have used music successfully.  There seem to be two methods in novels—writing out the lyrics (a la LORD OF THE RINGS and "Baby Can You Dig Your Man" in Stephen King's  THE STAND)  or simply describing the experience of hearing the music.   There's a great scene in David Edding's KING OF THE MURGOS that sticks out in my head, in which Polgara and a couple of the other ladies sing about an ancient battle.  That's the scene that makes me want to write a song into this book.  I wish I'd remembered it when that editor poo-pooed me.  I'd have shown it to her.

Last night, I went back and read the scene again.  This morning, I rewrote my chapter.  And then, in a fit of inspiration, I went back and wrote the lyrics.  Seriously, I could sing it to you right now.  It needs some work and probably won't end up in the finished book, but it helps to know what I am describing.  Now I'm excited to see how it turns out. 

So, what do you think?  Can original music work in a novel?  If so, what's the best method—experience or lyrics?  And, if the lyrics exist, would you want to hear the songs, maybe as an audio or e-book extra? 

 NERD NOTE:  Tolkien actually collaborated on a song book with composer Donald Swann.  There's another book of Tokien songs with music by Marion Zimmer Bradley.  Yes, that Marion Zimmer Bradley.  Think of the filking that lead to that creation!  (Filking is not a bad word.  Click the link and learn!)

 A REMINDER:   Don't forget, I'm in Redondo Beach this Wednesday at Mysterious Galaxy.  Do drop in!