Monday, December 16, 2013

Free books! (Good ones, too.)

I've been very bad at keeping up in the blogosphere, but I'm peeking in to announce a book giveaway.
Everyone loves free books, right?

This new book by a very talented writer, Nikki Loftin, is already getting much buzz by the likes of Kirkus as a literary gem: Nightingale's Nest. If you don't win an advanced reader copy, buy it. It's already on my Holiday Gift List for Yours Truly.

Go here to enter for your chance to win a copy. Hooray, Nikki! (She's a genuine, good person, too. The Real Deal.)

Oh, and there are MORE free books, if that's what floats your holiday boat.
DANCE SPIRIT MAGAZINE is giving away copies of my YA novel, SOME ACT OF VISION. SOME ACT is their January 2014 "Pick of the Month," and they'll be giving away both ebooks and paperbacks to lucky winners. Good luck!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

School Visits and Free Books

This past Monday, I visited Ereckson Middle School, home of the Huskies, and talked to about 150 smart middle schoolers about the writing process, SOME ACT OF VISION, and never giving up on books.

I was so thrilled to be there, caught up in the moment, that I didn't ask anyone to take pictures. Argh!

But I did give away two copies of my YA novel, along with a blank journal and a Starbucks gift card (because we all know that coffee and writing and reading are best friends). And I have the suspicion that I'll be Skyping with several of those cool kids in a few weeks. They were amazing.

Thanks, Ereckson English teachers for inviting me! And extra-special thanks to Mrs. Cooper.

If you follow me on Facebook (AuthorLoriAnnStephens), you can learn how to get a signed bookplate in time for Christmas. And if you hop over to Goodreads, you can enter the FREE book giveaway, which happens in one week. So get on over there before time runs ou--

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Some Act of Vision by Lori Ann Stephens

Some Act of Vision

by Lori Ann Stephens

Giveaway ends November 13, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Barnes & Noble Book Reading and Signing

I'm so very late on this this post, but here are a few photos from the book reading and signing. I was told there were about 38 people in the audience. College students rock.
Sooo many people

Purple, a significant color
candy and bookmarks

Thanks, Barnes & Noble, for hosting my book signing!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tomorrow's the day for signatures and Watermelon Jolly Ranchers

Barnes & Noble
Mockingbird & 75 in Dallas

October 16, 2013
4:30 PM-6:30 PM

I'll be reading an excerpt or two from SOME ACT OF VISION and taking questions.
There will be bookmarks, Watermelon Jolly Ranchers, and... live music! (I think.)

Can't wait to see you there!

Friday, October 4, 2013

DIY: Yep We Can

This is what my week looked like...when I wasn't at the university.

The lawn at my new house looked pretty pathetic.

There were about 3 inches of dead leaves on one side of the lawn, which was killing the trees. On the other side was some struggling grass, but most of it looked like this:

So I raked up the 3-inch layer of decaying leaves:

I filled 40 bags of leaves. Yes. 40.

Then I had a heyday with mulch:

Yep, that's about 40 bags of much you see there. The trees are happy now.

I also covered the bald dirt with mulch and lugged out some red brick barriers:

Then, because I have a son who loves to play outside, and because it reminded me of those glorious Camp Fire Girls days, I made this stone and pebble path, with chopped wood from the back yard. (We had to chop down some trees to make room for a shed in back.)

I'm tired.

Funny story about those pea gravel pebbles: I went to Living Earth, which is a bulk supplier in Plano. They brought out a tractor with the front bucket filled to the brim with pea gravel. One cubic yard filled the entire bed. I drove home going about thirty miles an hour on the highway, praying my back tires wouldn't blow out. My truck was wearing plumber's pants, it was sagging so low. But we made it. And now we have a path to skip along.

And... a new patio on cement that was freshly poured last week:

Except for pouring the cement patio, I did this front yard project with woman-power, all by myself. Yep, ladies. Yep we can.

On to the back yard, where landscaping adventures await!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

a Pub, a Cake, a Trivia(l) pursuit, and a Book

There once was a an Irish pub named Trinity Hall that hosted a little literary novel called SONG OF THE ORANGE MOONS.

Three years later, another little book, a Young Adult novel called SOME ACT OF VISION, also decided to celebrate its birthday there.

There were appetizers.
There were drinks. Lots of them.
There were friends and books and a manager reading trivia questions to the entire pub.
A cake also made an appearance.

Everyone was jolly.
The end. (Or the beginning.)


playing trivia

Joseph and me

My brother, sister, and me

Monday, September 30, 2013

Domain name snafu

If you've been typing in, I'm sorry that the link is broken. I suppose someone, at some point, will answer my frantic emails about the problem.

Glitches never happen at the right time. This weekend, I've been in the middle of a website nightmare: my website was assigned a new URL, and when I tried to go to a "certain" host to manage/transfer my domain name (, the server freaked out and pointed the domain to the login page of their free service, which I do not use. Apparently, I've done something wrong, but there's no documentation on the site that tells me how to fix the problem. To make matters more frustrating, this particular business does not have a phone number anywhere on its website. Just a "support ticket." I've submitted three so far.

Meanwhile, I'm handing out bookmarks and business cards with my domain name on them. website domain hasn't worked all weekend. This was the final straw: it sucked, fitting for straws.

So, here's my direct, somewhat clunky website address that will take you to my new site:

You can find out about Appearances, etc, there. I hope my domain name gets sorted out soon.
But...lesson learned. I hear changes afoot!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Kathleen M. Rodgers and Me

Hop on over to Kathleen's blog to see a few rare photos of me. At the Dallas Symphony! In Paris! At 16, when my sister and I adventured to NYC all by our lonesome! We were cool in the 80s.

I also answer some of her questions about Some Act of Vision and Song of the Orange Moons.

Kathleen Rodgers is (consistently) Amazon's #1 Top Rated War Fiction writer and an award-winning author. And she's the kind of person who makes you feel right at home from the minute you meet her.

Thank you, Kathleen, for inviting me for your interview.

And if you're interested in war fiction, take a look here!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Daddy with Pink Ukulele Wins Father of the Year!

Well, if I were in charge of "Father of the Year," I'd pick him.

What do you think?
(video circulating on Facebook...)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Nice Words...

Nikki Loftin (author of The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy and Nightingale's Nest, in February 2014) shared some nice words about SOME ACT OF VISION. Thanks, Nikki!

And over at Kritter's Rambling, there were more nice words. So glad you're looking forward to more!

Feeling happy.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


It's my YA book birthday!
Yes, you can look inside.

I think I'll share some Lucky Charms with my son for breakfast.

My girls did a dance for me:

My girls celebrate photo weekend-update_zpsb35bdd64.gif

Late yesterday afternoon, I received a package in the mail: my book! It has to creamiest, butteriest cover. I actually petted it.

It's getting some sweet reviews on Goodreads, too. Inching their way to Amazon. Hope you enjoy it.

Now I have to get professor-y and head out to work.

I should dance tonight. Yes, I will.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Cure-All for Pub-Day Jitters

Tomorrow's the book birthday for Some Act of Vision. Hooray! Happy reviews are coming in.

And today,YA novelist Amy Plum is giving away a signed copy of the book in a Twitter-fest challenge. Tweet me!

So, what did I do the weekend before a book birthday? I spent it 32 feet up, at the tip top of an extension ladder, painting our two-story house. My sweet guy has vertigo, and I have a case of Crazy when it comes to DIY projects, so he took the vital (and by vital, I mean literally life-preserving) role as Ladder-Holder, and I climbed a wobbly, steel lean-to ladder to the roof of the A-Frame to complete the slow-but-fulfilling task of painting the seams with a paintbrush. Balancing at the top is not the scary part. It's the ascent, midway, when you feel the ladder's slow weeble, and you look up to see another ten rungs to go.You want pics? I shall deliver. Later today, I'll do Part Two of the paint job, because what else keeps one's mind off book birthday jitters?

I wonder what causes the jitters for other authors. Is it: will reviews write kindly about my book? Will readers like my book? Will anyone buy my book? Will it be buried among the million-book pile at Amazon? Too many things to worry about. I say: go paint instead. Make something else beautiful for the world to see.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

One Week, and breathing

I can't believe it's one week until pub day.
Part of me wants to run around the house, flailing my hands, and screaming "gahhhhh!"
The other part (that wins) whips out this post, then puts on some subdued, professorial clothes, and heads to work.

And hey, look! A Book Vacation said some nice things about Some Act of Vision: "a great read" and "most of the novel I was on pins and needles." Four stars ain't nothing to shake a stick at. (That's Texan-speak, for those of you un-introduced to the fine art of the Southern metaphor.) Thanks, A Book Vacation!

Because of server and software glitches, I've been scrambling to copy pages from my website over to a new home here. It's not finished, but you can see my growing list of book-related fun-things-to-do, mainly involving merry toasts.

(breathes and counts to three)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Spilling Secrets over at Kelsey's Book Corner

As the butterflies start winging in my chest and the pub date of SOME ACT OF VISION nears, I'm sharing this little post that surprised even me this morning. Kelsey at Kelsey's Book Corner has posted an interview of me.

Surrounded by pink butterflies and some hot book trailers in the sidebars (wipes brow), I try to answer her questions honestly. Hop over there to find out what I failed to learn from my dear mother.

Thanks, Kelsey!

Monday, August 26, 2013


In January, I finished an opera libretto titled EVARISTE and sent it to the London-based Icelandic composer, Helgi Ingvarsson, to work his magic. This happened over the weekend: 

Evariste Galois was an 18th-century math genius whose ideas were rejected by the leading mathematicians of the period; he spent the last two years of his brief life falling in love, fighting for democracy, and submitting (without success) his mathematical theories. After a short imprisonment and a doomed love affair, he died in a duel at the age of 20, but not before revising, one last time, his brilliant journal that would identify and explain group theory (and revolutionize 20th-century mathematics).

Hooray, Evariste!

Helgi also created a "Mutter Music Suite" based on the first scene in the libretto.   The music was premiered in Salurinn, Iceland on August 7th by the Bartholdy Quartet and recorded live. I realized I was holding my breath as I listened to the music--it so perfectly captures the mood and lyrics. I'm looking forward to the next installment--music and lyrics together. And more more more. Bravo, Helgi! The chamber orchestra live recording is here.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

10 Things a Hamster Can Teach You

A few years ago, I bought my son a hamster. His name is Artie. This is what he looks like:
(Not Artie, but very close)

Don't mock me. Artie wasn't a smoochy dog or a lap-cat, but he has found a way, somehow, to wriggle into my heart. Having a hamster, and a Djungarian hamster in particular, has taught me a few things:

  1. Rodents are not evil or scary. Bubonic plague? Bah! They are cuddly in their own way, and
  2. they make your heart soft when you hold them and can only pet them with one finger because you realize that
  3. when you stroke them with your index finger, you can feel their tiny, bendy bones underneath, and you realize how big and potentially scary you must be to them, and so you feel powerful and scared at the same time. And thankful that they trust you enough to hold them.
  4. You learn that a bite is not a deal-breaker. All bites are not equal. There are curiosity-nibbles and "I'm tired of your holding me" bites and "You got me too excited" bites. And your heart still goes soft when you pet them next time.
  5. Hamsters are sneaky enough to escape even the best cage, and clever enough to survive in the back of your closet for a week.
  6. And if you've shown respect for the creatures, they'll crawl right back into your open palm when you discover them in your closet.
  7. They are fantastic entertainment when they're in a hamster ball, barreling down the hall at warp speed.
  8. You worry about your hamster. Is his cage big enough? Is he bored? Should I give him an apple slice? What is he thinking?
  9. You can get attached to such a fleeting little thing.
  10. Your heart will go soft too, flubbing around in your chest, when you have to move his tiny body to the terrible trash bag, where all hamsters must go. Your son will cry, and you will hold him, curled up in your lap, and stroke his back and notice how big and sturdy he's becoming. And your son will be too sad to say a word, but you'll try to "celebrate Artie's life" and talk about the way this rodent made you laugh. And you'll feel silly. But you'll also miss that little guy.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Winner of my last ARC!

I was lucky enough to have SOME ACT OF VISION be the CONTEST GIVEAWAY hosted every Monday by International Bestseller Amy Plum.

The winner is Jordan Gaylord of Oregon.
This is delightful. Maybe a wink of fate, given that my main character is Jordan.
Congrats, Jordan Gaylord! I hope you enjoy the ARC I'm sending you today.

And many thanks to Amy Plum. Her fans are the best.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


This weekend, I read a YA novel (Young Adult novel) called Riptide by Lindsey Scheibe. I picked it up at the Writers' League Conference in Austin two weeks ago, and cracked it open for a light summer read as I curled up in bed. I teach a university course on coming-of-age themes, so YA literature is more than a "guilty pleasure."(Oh that I could teach a course on wine-tasting.)

Riptide was not a light summer romance, which is what I thought it might be from the cover. It's a story of two teens, best friends who have fallen in love but, for several reasons, can't bring themselves to submit to their feelings. Grace Parker surfs to forget about her troubled home life and her confusing feelings for her best friend, Ford. And Ford is entangled in a tricky employment situation with Grace's father, which prevents him from confessing his love to Grace. Both Grace and Ford narrate alternating chapters. Perfect setup for a book for teens.

I couldn't put the book down for long. Literally. When I needed to take my son somewhere, I put the book in my purse so I could read it at Jules' tennis lesson or the car wash or the grocery story checkout line. I am not kidding. I even pulled it from my purse at red lights so I could read a few sentences. That's kind of embarrassing to admit. This is not literary fiction. It's full of surf jargon, teen angst, and "whatev"s. It's about how teens are cruel to one another, competitive to a flaw, and how, despite our feminist advancements, both girls and boys still see each other in (and limited by) the gender-constructs of the past. But that is one reason why I couldn't get my paws off the book. I was a teenager again, feeling those angsty emotions, in spite of the safe-calm of my current life.

The other reason is this: Grace is in an abusive situation at home, and the tension is cable-tight. I knew things were going to be okay in the end, but I needed to see Grace's decision, the one that would free her. And the end of the book was satisfying. All the little plot lines didn't magically resolve, and some were left stranded. But they needed to be abandoned. That's the point of the book. Sometimes we abandon things to make the right decision in life.

Teenagers who speak their own dialect are not stupid. Teenagers who suffer indecision and inconsistency are psychologically normal. Intense angst over romance/love does feature prominently in the lives of many (of not most) teens. And, unfortunately, so do "issues." One in every four girls will be sexually abused by the time she's 18, according to the Dallas Children's Advocacy Center. Imagine how many others suffer from physical (beating) abuse and neglect. These are the unfortunate ones that I wrote about in a previous post. Books like Riptide tap into the heart of the unfortunate readers, those who have secrets, shame, and fear. Someone else suffers. Someone else has found a way to not only survive, but to find real love. And books like Riptide give those "fortunate" readers--those who have never suffered abuse--a gift that will enlarge their souls: compassion.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Writers' League of Texas Love

I attended the Agents and Editors Writers' League of Texas Conference in Austin this past weekend, and boy did it deliver. I wanted to write about the conference as soon as I flew home, but other exciting things (including Neil Gaiman's Dallas reading and my cover reveal) jumped the gun (and there's this other thing called "putting my house on the market," which exhausted the living daylights out of me). But better late than never, huh?

First of all, if you're a writer, you need to become a member of the Writers' League of Texas. Even though I'm in Dallas and the majority of the events are in or around Austin, I find the membership's incredible network (filled with smart, compassionate people) well worth the annual fees. And there's this conference. This conference!

I didn't even think to take a lot of pictures. I was too busy taking notes and meeting other writers and agents. Frankly, friends, I haven't even had time to craft emails to some of the agents who requested full manuscripts. (*Jots note that I Must Do This tonight.)

You don't go to conferences like this expecting to leave with five agents begging to represent you.  There are a few things you should expect to do:

1. You have to Shed the Shy and talk to people. It's a veritable gold-mine of writers there--some who are genuinely nice and will become published sooner than you can forget them, and conferences are the best places to make meaningful, lasting connections that last for years.

2. Be curious. Ask other people what they're writing and ask them questions about things you don't understand. The enormously talented (and adorable) Nikki Loftin teaches me this every time I see her. (Side Note: Nikki is going to be a star in Children's Literature. A huge, bright star. Mark my words.) She encourages writers and helps those whom she's read and admires. Writing and publishing can be a lonely, cut-throat, impossible business, and people like Nikki prove that the opposite can be true, too.

3. Be confident and mannerly when you approach agents to pitch them your idea. I did this most of the time. But good God, I didn't have my inner editor on when I approached one agent and told him he looked like Paul Rudd. (cringe)  I love Paul Rudd, so this "compliment" kind of fell out of my mouth and into my wine glass. Thank God I didn't say "I love Paul Rudd!" That would have been even more awkward. He took my unsolicited comparison graciously enough, but I still... (cringe).

4. Go to Sarah Davies's panel (Greenhouse Literary Agency). She is brilliant. That is all.

I was finally able to meet/see in person the dynamic duo Cythnia Leitich Smith and Greg Leitich Smith. More good people who are talented and kind and probably hide superpowers, with everything they do. I also made a friend, Amanda Coffin (hi, Amanda!), and we talked about writing and other things for hours and ate sushi.
Amanda and me

The panels at the conference were expertly run, the munchies were filling, the coffee was mmmm, and as far as this attendee knows, everything went like clockwork. I'll definitely be back next year. Kudos and huzzahs to The Writers' League of Texas.

Now go join.

Cover Reveal for SOME ACT of VISION

We'll, I'm pleased as punch.

My Young Adult novel finally has clothes. Are you ready for this?

The cover for SOME ACT OF VISION:

I think my favorite detail is the ominous purple mushroom cloud in her eye. And her "Mona Lisa" flair. And the somber tone. Or maybe my favorite part is the sa-weet blurb by Amy Plum, a fantastic YA writer that had me up till the wee hours of the morning reading by flashlight on the bathroom floor in Paris. (That's another story, but seriously, go read her DIE FOR ME series.) This cover is lovely. Fantastic job, Tim (he's the incredible designer) and ASD Publishing!

I'm wringing my hands, waiting for the pre-order link. It's not up yet, but you can bet your britches I'll post a link as soon as I have one. In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for early reviews from some very special book bloggers. (I'll post links to those, too.)

I'll be pleased as spiked punch if you help me share the cover bliss.
Here's what SOME ACT OF VISION is about:

After ten years of ballet lessons, Jordan Walker has finally landed her first principal role in Romeo and Juliet. Sweeter yet, "Romeo" has asked her to the May Fling Ball at Winston High. But a massive Texas earthquake triggered by the fracking activity nearby tears apart the community and Jordan's future as a dancer. The Walker family survives the earthquake, but wake up the next morning utterly invisible. 

On the run from a military with nefarious plans, Jordan and her family are forced to abandon their old lives and flee to Galveston. It isn't until she meets Caleb, a blind musician, that Jordan dares to hope again. And the more their secret friendship develops, the more Jordan understands the danger she's placed everyone in.

If you want to know more about the book, hop over to my website and read the first chapter. 
September 17 is right around the corner. I hope you can join me in the hoopla!

(UPDATE: My website is being stubborn uploading the new cover. I might have to arm-wrestle with it, but the cover WILL be up soon.)

~Lori Ann

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Writers' League of Texas: Conference Time!

My bags are not packed.
My pitch is not prepped.
My house is half-scattered, half-renovated,
paint brushes, paint cans, scrapers, scrubbers,
toxic goop and wads and wads of paper towels everywhere,
prepping for the agent who will put our house on sale.

I'm peeking in on potential book covers for SOME ACT OF VISION, my YA novel to be published by ASD in September, and my heart is ker-flunking at the beauty of them.

And my head is a reel of rhyming verses for the new libretto that I'm creating for a Minneapolis composer.

But my boarding pass is printed, and I'm ready for the weekend at the Agents and Editors Conference in Austin.  I'll blog my experience when I get back, just in case there are others who are wondering what this conference is, and if it's worth the $$. (I have the feeling it is.)

Bring it on!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Hoopla and Celebration

I couldn't be happier right now. I feel like these guys:

Contracts are signed and sealed in blood.
I'm delighted to announce that my Young Adult novel, Some Act of Vision, will be published by ASD later this year!

Austin Powers thinks it's groovy. Dancing is in order:


I'm busy busy busy juggling all kinds of tasks now. I'll be making a tumblr page (any folks want to help me on this one?) and other fun things as soon as I get back from Paris. Or maybe while I'm in Paris. Because, oh yeah, I'm selling my house when I get back to the states. Just another little thing I'll be doing on the side...

I'll keep you updated on my journey with this small publisher, who has fallen in love with my main characters and their uncommon adventure.

Here's a bit about Some Act of Vision to whet your appetite:

After ten years of ballet lessons, Jordan Walker has finally landed her first principal role in Romeo and Juliet. Sweeter yet, "Romeo" has asked her to the May Fling Ball at Winston High. But a massive Texas earthquake triggered by the fracking activity nearby tears apart the community and Jordan's future as a dancer. The Walker family survives the earthquake, but wake up the next morning utterly invisible. On the run from a military with nefarious plans, Jordan and her family are forced to abandon their old lives. It isn't until she meets Caleb, a blind musician, that Jordan dares to hope again. And the more their secret friendship develops, the more Jordan understands the danger she's placed everyone in.

I've read somewhere that adults comprise more than 50% of the Young Adult book-reading audience. So go ahead, friends. You have permission to read it. Guilty pleasures are the little necessities in life.

Thanks to all my friends, readers, and supporters!


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Paris and Glimmer Train

I'm in Paris for a month and starting to feel like I know the neighborhood here.

Instead of posting pictures and funny stories here, I'm proofreading my 9-year-old son's blog, which he keeps every time we visit family here. It takes him about 2 hours to type it, holding my laptop hostage. But I am catching up on novels that have been on my to-read list.

I realized today that my interview with author Matt Bondurant is in the current issue of Glimmer Train Stories, an amazing and beautiful magazine that is publishing the finest literary fiction today.

I can't wait to get home and tear open the box of copies that I know are waiting for me. If you don't know Glimmer Train and you're a fiction writer, you should subscribe. It's worth the small investment.

á bientôt!

Monday, April 22, 2013

April: Poetry Month Celebration

Last week, I was invited to speak at Collin College's Preston Ridge campus. We were celebrating National Poetry Month, which was established in 1996. I shared some of my libretto and talked about the difficulties of working with rhymes (Do I sound like Dr. Seuss here? And there? And everywhere?)

I expected, at the most, 20 people. When I arrived fifteen minutes early, there were already more than 20 people, and scores of students were streaming in. The fragrant scent of extra credit was in the air. What a beautiful aroma. All told, by the time the Dr. Gingo had two more tables installed in the room, there were about 150 people in the audience (in chairs and sitting on the floor). After JP Reese and I read, several students asked us questions. Then we all moved toward the great spread of food and schmoozed. What a great evening with inspiring students.

Blurry Pictures taken from the audience:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


This morning, I spoke at the Richland College Literary Festival about why I write and why I think people in general should write, too.

Wow! It was scary and fun. The college students didn't fall sleep (score!), and they seemed interested in my little journey through the whys of writing. Thank you, Richland College, for inviting me. Thanks, especially to Sobia and Patrick for your warm welcome.

And now, in 7 minutes exactly, I've eeked into an online writer's workshop, thanks to Agent Jill. I have my wine glass (and the rest of the bottle within arm's reach) and I'm ready to listen to the pulse of the market.

Cheers!  (I'll write my response to the workshop here soon.  Stay posted!)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Thief of my Heart

Last year, I read a novel that stole my heart quicker than you can say mud.

Aptly so, because it's called The Book Thief. If you haven't read it, this is what it looks like:

And now, go buy it. (Or check it out at the library.)
I write coming-of-age stories, so the young age of the main character attracted me. There are many, many novels out there billed as coming-of-age stories, but not very many great ones. This is a great one.

Here's Markus Zusak, the author of The Book Thief:

(Also young, no?)

With that brief preface, let me share a short story of humanity and kindness with you today.
After reading The Book Thief in one whirlwind weekend (it's 550 pages, folks), I walked around in a stupor, wiping my tears and marveling at the power of the story. I decided to follow my nine-year-old son's great example and wrote a letter of thanks to Zusak.

I whipped off an email to him via Facebook, remembering how miraculous I feel when someone says something nice about my own book. (And also thinking, geez, I'll bet he gets so many thank you letters, he just gets exasperated by them.)

He wrote me back, and told me that he also cried when he wrote the scene that I cried over. I was stunned to get his response. What a kind gesture to personally answer a "fan mail." I noticed afterwards that he attempted to respond to EVERY SINGLE fan post on his page. What the what? This man deserves a medal with the word HUMANITY embossed on it...and an extra hour every day to write fiction.

A few days later, I decided to assign The Book Thief to my college students in the spring.

A few days after that, I found out that Markus Zusak was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Highland Park Literary Festival, the festival at which I teach a fiction workshop every year.

I love it when the world kind of comes together like that.

So, in a few weeks, Markus Zusak will arrive in Dallas, and he'll make his appearance at the opening night of the festival. Then the other workshop presenters and I will have dinner with the creator of Death himself (Zusak), at which I'll act very shy and nervous and clutch my worn out novel and ask him to sign my book (and apologize for all the marginal notes) after the dessert course. I know this will happen, because I behaved the same way at the dinners with Scott Simon and Russell Banks in previous years.

Last week, I met the author of The Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson Walker. At SMU, she read from her debut novel, a NYT Bestseller, and she was sweet and gracious and talented.

Sometimes, writing (and trying to live as a writer) is so hard, it seems inhumane. Writers like Zusak and Walker make the world of writing a little kinder. A little gentler. Warmer.

It's good to love what one does. I'm a lucky girl.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A missed opportunity

Just a short post here.
Kemble's drawing of Huckleberry Finn, from the original 1884 edition of the book.
My nine-year-old read the Illustrated Classics version of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer for a school book report. He enjoyed it so much that I decided to read aloud to him Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. (I use the word "slave" instead of that infamous other word, which I just can't bring myself to say.) We read one chapter every evening before bed.

It's a nice time for the two of us, and I get to share some history with my son. I sometimes pause to explain Jim's dangerous situation, the Mississippi River, or the steamboats. Halfway through our chapter last night, I stopped yet again to explain the bend in the river, Cairo, and the concept of free and the slave states.

"So, did Mark Twain write this book when there were slaves?" he asked me.
"No. The setting is around the 1830s or 40s, before the Civil War," I said. "And Twain wrote the book many decades after the Civil War."
"Oh," he said. I started reading, and he stopped me again.
"Wait! You mean Mark Twain's not alive?"
"No, sweetheart."
He buried his face into my shoulder and cried, "Oh, no! Oh, no! I wanted to write him a thank you letter and tell him I love his books."
My heart melted a little.
We had to take a minute break so he could compose himself, and then I kept reading.

I think Mark Twain would have been pleased to know that his book, well into the 21st century, is still touching the hearts of kids. Well done, Mr. Twain.

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Year, Hello! (And the Next Big Thing)

All I've been reading lately are New Year's Resolutions. I feel a little guilty that I haven't publicly made any. I'll go for inclusiveness and say that I will make an effort to be a better human. Seems like a tall order for a New Year's Resolution, but I figure if I ask myself, "Will your response/action/thought contribute some goodness to other humans?" and proceed from there, it could be a worthwhile resolution.

I've been knee deep in another libretto, folks! This talented young composer was commissioned an opera in London, and he asked me to write the libretto, which I have recently delivered. I've been having a swell time--just bowled over by the joy that comes with writing lyrics. That doesn't mean it was without its challenges.  Writing rhyming lyrics is hard, folks.  Half the time, I was worrying about whether my lines were devolving into Mother Goose. But I'm enthusiastic about this opera, based on the tragic and fascinating life of Evariste Galois. I can't wait to hear the music. I might go mad with excitement when the production date draws nigh.

I've been kindly blog-tagged by a dear friend and writer, Gregory Allen, so I'd better jump on this now before another month flies by. Here's the gist of "The Next Big Thing," copied from Greg's site:

"Blog hops are a great way for people to find new authors. Perhaps read a genre they haven't thought of before. The Next Big Thing is an around-the-world blog hop where authors of all genres tell readers about their next/recent book release in the course of answering 10 questions.  Each author has been tagged by another author to write a blog, and the current author then tags new authors who blog the following week."

I've mentioned Greg's children's book, Chicken Boy, on my website before. He's written books for adults, too, all of which can be found here for your purchasing pleasure. Greg is simply an amazing person, and it's been an honor to know him. (Forgive my sentimental gushiness.)

I'll try to answer these questions to my work in progress, which is actually in revisions now. 

Begin fancy font.

1) What is the working title of your next book? 
I have a few completed manuscripts, but for today, I’ll talk about Invisible, a novel for Young Adults about a girl who turns…you guessed it.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book? 
Down here in North Texas, there’s been a fracas about the fracking of the Barnett Shale. (Did you see what I did there?) It’s caused some minor earthquakes, and there are rumors that natural gas is seeping up into houses and other scary places. I imagine, “What the frack?” is going to take over the “wtf” phrase soon. I wondered what other scary gases could be inadvertently unleashed, and what would happen if a previously unknown gas were jostled loose in an unprecedented earthquake in North Texas. And voila, my characters become invisible—and not the convenient kind of invisible. No floating through walls and doors in this story.

3) What genre does your book fall under? 
This is Young Adult science fiction with a twist of government conspiracy and a dash of first love.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? 
I’m finding it difficult to imagine how this kind of plot could be adapted into a film. That would be one heck of a 3D film challenge, wouldn’t it? James Franco could appear in any adaptation of a book (it doesn’t even have to be mine), and I’d go see it.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 

After an earthquake destroys Jordan’s hometown, she and her family wake up invisible, and must hide from the military pursuing them.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 
This book is represented by my agent. Check her out.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? 
I wrote this book over one summer. But I’m still tweaking. Tweaking, tweaking.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? 
Life as We Knew It for older teens.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I wanted to write something fantastical, but also include a love story that would be different from anything I’d ever read, but would have loved to read when I was a teenager. This is it.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
It’s about earthquakes! Invisible people! Family going all to pieces! First love! Kissing! (While invisible!) Annoying siblings! Almost dying! What more could one want?

Here are a few other authors I think you should check out. All of them are wonderful. Follow them!

Jessica Love, Young Adult writer and really entertaining blogger
Amy K. Nichols, another great writer/blogger I love to read
Sean Ferrell, weird and wonderful