Well, it looks like I took a brief hiatus there. That wasn’t planned. I had a short streak of regular posting and then, hey look it’s August already. I don’t think they gave out awards for regular attendance when I was a kid in school like they do now, and if they did I doubt I was a recipient. And so it shouldn’t be a surprise now that I’m an unlikely candidate for any regular blogging awards, if such a thing exists. It’s always good to have something to aspire to though. If there is an organization out there for underachievers, that should be their slogan.
The Underachievers: We Have More To Aspire To Than The Rest
The Underachievers: We Could Do More, But Then What?
The Underachievers: Where You Can Feel Good About Doing Less
There’s been more keeping me busy these past couple of months than inventing slogans for imaginary support groups though. Just this past week I flew (on a plane) 4 times in 11 days. I’m sure salespeople and flight attendants yawn at those numbers, but it was a bit excessive for me. There was also a week spent with family in Coronado early on in the summer, and another trip to Montana in late June. A visit from my mother and another visit from my in-laws. Planning a shower and a bachelorette party for a dear friend, compiling and editing the next issue of Kite Tales, working on the seemingly endless revisions of my novel. Not to mention the actual paying work and normal day-to-day things that pop up (or break down, as the case may be). And I’ve discovered that marriage is really much more enjoyable when you spend time with your spouse, and that pets respond amazingly well to being fed and taken care of. Who knew?
The bright side of not updating your blog for a couple months is that you accumulate a lot of stories that are potentially interesting for sharing. I’ll do my best to recount some of those, starting with my recent adventure at the SCBWI-LA conference. Recap to commence this week.
Here’s a video that I thought was pretty darn funny. It’s about book promotion and even though I haven’t been there yet, it had me laughing out loud. If you’ve had the experience of promoting your own book I think you will either 1.) laugh in solidarity with Mr. Cass or 2.) curl up in a ball on your kitchen floor, pound your fists and wail, “It’s all too much!” I’m not sure which.
And I’ll tell you, I hadn’t heard of Dennis Cass before, but after watching the video I visited his author’s website/blog and now I want to check out his book. Viral marketing works, people! It works! His post “is just now getting the internet” cracked me up. I don’t know how to link to that exact post or I would, but just scroll down a few entries on his website if you want to read it.
I’m still working on my blog savvy and I don’t know if you need to site your sources like you do for research papers, but I found this video on 52 Projects which is a new site to me but looks pretty cool. A good place to find odds and ends of interesting stuff that’s out there.
Well this is cool. Over on Chasing Ray you can see the master schedule for a Summer Blog Blast Tour. Each day she features snippets of and links to interviews with different authors (and I think maybe other people who work in the world of books? I’m not sure. It looks like today is all authors.) Anyway, visit Chasing Ray and click around on all the different interview links. And watch as Poof! an hour of your time magically disappears. But your brain will fill up with a wealth of information about writers and their habits. And you never know when you’ll find something that will resonate–I already found a little tidbit from one of the authors that helped soothe my poor bruised revising soul.
This weekend was the town fair. A hot air balloon launch scheduled for 6am Saturday morning kicked off the festivities. So Justin and I dragged ourselves out of bed at 5:30 and headed over to the golf course where the event would be. The paper advertised around 60 hot air balloons, but when we got there: zero. But there were spaces marked off for them, and a large crowd was gathered, and there was music, so we waited. Eventually, about ten minutes after 6, a caravan of balloonists appeared. Truck after truck towing balloon baskets drove onto the grass. It was about a twenty-minute wait for the balloonists to get situated and start laying out their balloons before the first ones went up in the air. But it was so worth the wait. Watching balloon after balloon fill up with hot air and lift into the cloud-streaked blue sky, the snowcapped Rockies in the background—such a beautiful site.
As fun and cool as our town’s hot air balloon launch was, it didn’t even come close to the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Festival. Justin and I were able to attend that for the first time with my brother’s family last fall. It was frickin’ amazing. At both events you can wander around the lawn right next to the balloons as they are being inflated, and you can talk to the balloonists, but in Albuquerque there are just SO many balloons. On all sides of you balloons swell bigger and bigger, lurching into the air, drifting over your head. Eventually the sky is filled with hundreds of little dots of color. It made me feel very small and a little dizzy at times. Here’s a photo I took of our town’s balloon festival as we were driving away:
Pretty cool, I think. But for comparison, here’s a shot of the Albuquerque balloon festival:
Yikes, that’s a lot of balloons. There are also a lot of different character balloons at the Albuquerque festival. Darth Vadar and a mug of beer were two memorable ones from last year. But there were a couple unique ones at our little balloon festival too. There was a tweety bird, and this fun and colorful one:
And this guy made me laugh. Whenever we saw him he always seem to be peeking around something:
This one was my favorite. The painting on it was just so beautiful:
We also spent a good chunk of the day in the backyard pulling weeds, planting flowers, and pruning bushes. Everything was mild and pleasant until an episode of animals gone wild that had an unhappy ending.
Our dog Ace is a total bird dog. He takes running hops at one of our trees that always houses a nest in the spring and summer and he’s always racing around our yard, checking his different bird spots. He’s never caught a bird though, at least until yesterday. We were working away in the yard when this bird swoops from a neighbor’s tree down toward the grass. He wasn’t a very good flier and stayed only a wobbly foot or two off the ground. We weren’t sure if it was a baby bird learning how to fly or if it was already hurt or sick. Anyway, Ace saw the bird and almost immediately was on it. The craziest part of all this was that at the exact same moment, two boys in the next yard over chased a baby bunny through our fence and into our yard. So in the span of probably a minute, the bird swoops into the yard, Ace catches him, two other birds dive at Ace trying to help their friend, my husband is chasing the dog, I jump up to help but see the bunny madhopping across the lawn straight toward us and I say, “A bunny!” and then refocus and grab a hold of Ace and straddle him doing my best to hold back an 80 pound dog who is really, really excited that he finally caught one of his long sought after birds, while my husband shoos away our other dog, and here comes Peter Cottontail darting right through the middle of all this commotion and into the next neighbor’s yard. It was a crazy 60 seconds I tell you.
Ace only had the bird in his mouth for a brief moment before Justin got him to drop it, and we hoped the bird was just stunned or slightly injured, but it wasn’t to be. We took a break with the yard work and had everyone go inside to give the birds some time together. I don’t know if birds pay their last respects the way people do, but we felt so horrible about what had happened it was the only thing we could think to do. Later my husband took the bird and buried it beneath a tree in the park and marked the spot with a little cross made out of bark mulch.
But then, later that evening, my husband excitedly called for me to come see something. He pointed into a tree and this is what we saw:
See the hungry baby bird reaching up its beak for dinner? There are two more in that nest and all three of them were poking up their heads, stretching open their mouths and waiting for food. It was the cutest thing and alleviated some of our guilt over the bird Ace had caught earlier that day. And that’s when the sun broke through the clouds and a gospel choir came step-clapping into our yard singing “Circle of Life.” Okay, maybe that last part isn’t true. But if life were a musical, that’s totally what would have happened.
My book group recently read The Traitor King, by Todd Mitchell, and the author was kind enough to join our book group for the discussion. For anyone looking for authors to invite to speak at your schools, libraries, bookstores, or conferences, you might want to consider Todd. Based on how he was with our book group, I think he’d be fabulous for an author visit. (You can find information on his visits and how to contact him at his website www.toddmitchellbooks.com.) He has been a teacher for the past twelve years and is currently the Director of the Beginning Creative Writing Teaching Program at Colorado State University. He is very personable, and I think would have wide appeal speaking to both young audiences and adults. He did a lot of research on Celtic mythology, which is incorporated into his book, and might be a good curriculum tie-in. If you’re not familiar with the book, The Traitor King is a middle grade mix of contemporary fiction and fantasy. Darren Manahan goes on his annual family summer trip to his uncle’s house only to find his uncle has disappeared. He and his sister solve a series of clues while being pursued by the creepy skeleton man and end up discovering the fantastical Land of the Forever Young where their uncle is held captive. It’s up to Darren and his sister to save their uncle, with the aid of a brownie, a wolf, and a nixie. Along with the Celtic mythology woven into the story, there are also themes of alcoholism and environmental awareness that might be of interest to students.
I’m not singing the praises of Todd Mitchell and his book because he’s a personal friend—I’d never met him before our book group meeting—but I do have to confess, I have an ulterior motive in spreading the word about The Traitor King. You see, I was surprised to learn in talking with Todd that, although this book is clearly set up as the beginning of a series (he said it was a trilogy), his publisher has no plans at the moment to publish the next two books. I understand that publishing is a business and from a business standpoint, it must not have made sense to agree to all three books right from the get-go. But as someone who enjoyed reading the book and whose main question for Todd was “When’s the next one coming out,” well, I’m sure any fellow book lover can imagine what a let down it was to hear “maybe never” as the answer. But! An independent bookstore here in Colorado called The Reader’s Cove has started a campaign to help get the sequels (and paperback version of the first book) published. If you’ve read The Traitor King or know of others who have and enjoyed it, you can send an email to Reader’s Cove at firstname.lastname@example.org telling them what you liked about the book and why there should be a sequel. The bookstore will pass all the emails on to Todd’s editor. I think it’s wonderful that The Reader’s Cove is supporting Todd like this, and as a fan of the book I hope their efforts work. I’ve already sent in my email.
Could you imagine if there was only a Book One of the Harry Potter series? His Dark Materials? Series of Unfortunate Events? Of course in retrospect it might be hard to imagine that because those books have millions of fans now. But they didn’t have millions of fans with the first book. Their popularity grew as the series grew. Well, I can’t say that for a fact about Philip Pullman because I believe he was a more established writer when The Golden Compass came out, so maybe he did have a million fans right off the bat, but I suspect not. And even if he did, the amount has surely grown with the completion of the series and everything that followed. I was working in a children’s bookstore and as a nanny when the Harry Potter books were published in the U. S. and saw firsthand how the buzz around those first three books started small and grew and grew until I went to the midnight release party for the fourth book which was a frenzied, festive, literary event the likes of which I’d never witnessed before. It was seriously like a rock concert, minus the rock music, drugs, and stage diving. I’ve heard booksellers tell stories of meeting J. K. Rowling at an author event for the first book where there were maybe twenty people in attendance. I had the pleasure of meeting Daniel Handler when he presented at a small writing conference when the first of the Unfortunate Events books was published. He had many wise words to share (like stygian, omphalos, and Schadenfreude) and struck me as a witty, talented writer with a panache for playing the accordian. But he also seemed relatively unknown at the time. (Although I went to a reading he gave that same weekend and while there wasn’t a tremendous amount of kids in attendance, boy did they go nuts for him. Daniel Handler has the ability to make people giggle even when all he’s doing is standing still.) Fast forward several years to when I was sitting in a sold out theater in downtown San Francisco, listening to Daniel Handler and Pulitzer prize winner Michael Chabon chatting with each other onstage.
So am I saying that I think The Traitor King will become as popular as these three series? I have no idea. If there were a way to accurately predict the runaway successes, the whole publishing game would change. The success of the series will depend on the rest of the story Todd Mitchell has to tell and how readers respond to it. But I sure hope I get the chance to read the rest of the story.
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