Thursday, October 31, 2013

November 2013 Releases

Not so many books this month, which is a good thing. It's NaNoWriMo! And I don't really read much while I'm drafting, if at all. Plus the holidays are upon us, so there is even less time to read and write. It's a good thing two of this month's releases are short stories, which I will devour.

Why -> If you haven't read Spellcaster, you really should. It's so much fun and I love the magical aspect of the book. I'm excited to see how things went with Elizabeth in the beginning. How did things go so horribly wrong? Why did things happen the way they did in the beginning? Great book and I'm really looking forward to reading the next book in the series, next year.

Horizon (Soul Seekers #4) by Alyson Noel (11/19/13) 

Why -> I've become a fan of Alyson Noel through The Immortals Series and The Riley Bloom Series. I learned that I enjoy reading her books straight through. So to say I've been anticipating this final book is and understatement. I've been collecting each and every book in this series, just waiting for the day Horizon arrives at my doorstep so I can read them back to back. Yes, I've already ordered it and I'm anxiously awaiting it's arrival. Then I can finally read this series!

Whisper Falls by Elizabeth Langston (11/19/13) 

Why ->  I love history. Have I ever mentioned that my degree is in history? Well, that could explain why I love history. This book looks so good spanning between our current day and 1796. When Mark meets Susanna on a bike ride past the mysterious falls he is curious to find out more about her. Even if she claims she's from 1796 and is an indentured servant. The more he learns about her time, life, and position the more he risks changing history forever to save her. I'm curious to see what he does. Does he save her and change history? Or, does he let her live the life that history says she does?

Brooke (Under the Never Sky 2.5) by Veronica Rossi (11/26/13) 

Why -> Seriously, it's a novella for Under the Never Sky. I shouldn't have to explain why this I'm anxiously awaiting this one. But I will. ;-) I absolutely love the characters and world Rossi has created for this trilogy. And of course the novellas are a extra added bonus since we get to get inside the heads of a different character. I loved the last novella from Roar's perspective, I want more of Roar! Anyways, I'm curious to see what things are like from Brooke's point of view. How does she feel about Aria? What does she think of Perry now that he's in love with Aria? What is it like for her to have her sister back, thanks to Aria who stole Perry away from her? Oh, and I can't wait for Into the Still Blue!

Pawn (The Blackcoat Rebellion #1) by Aimee Carter (11/26/13) 

Why -> I really enjoyed her first trilogy, The Goddess Test, so I'm looking forward to seeing what she has in store this time. Kitty has a choice, to stay where she is in the bottom ranks of society or become part of the most powerful family in the country. The catch? If she stays she will be forced to leave those she loves the most behind. If she agrees she will be surgically altered to resemble the Prime Minister's niece, Lila, who died mysteriously and squash the rebellion Lila started. The same rebellion that Kitty believes in. Very intriguing. 

 Your turn -> What books did I miss? What books are you eagerly awaiting to release?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Texas Book Festival 2013

Ah, book festivals. Pretty much the best invention ever. Am I right? Well, aside from the books themselves. This past weekend was the Texas Book Festival in Austin. And I have to say WOWZA! It was so much fun. The festival takes place just outside the state capitol building and spans two days. So many authors. So many books. It was heavenly.

This year was my first year at this festival as it's the first year I've been in Austin at the end of October. My dad, my 3 year old son, and I went and waited in lines all afternoon. There was so much to do there. All of the authors would speak on panels and then make their way to the assigned tent and sign their books. Some authors only signed their names, no personalization, and only one book per person. Then there were other authors who would not only personalize, but sign as many copies as you had. I looked over the list of panels and wanted to attend several, but realized quickly that wasn't going to happen at all. It seemed that for every panel I wanted to sit in on there was another author signing at that same time. So we waited in lines for a quick hello to authors and their autographs most of the time we were there. No panels for us. My legs hurt by the end of the day from all of the standing around. So, why all the standing around? 

The lines for autographs was crazy! And then there was the rushing from one tent to another tent. They had the adult and young adult books in one tent on one end of the festival and the middle grade and children's on the other end. We purchased two books over at the adult and YA tent first and noted the signing times for those books. Then we made our way to the children's book tent and bought a bunch of books there.

I got so many books it was crazy! I had already missed Karen Harrington's signing, but luckily there was still a couple copies of Sure Signs of Crazy she had signed. Then I stood in line for an hour and a half for R.L. Stein to get A Midsummer Night's Scream signed. When he arrived it was as if a rock star had just arrived for a concert. Everyone in line was giddy and excited, pointing in his direction as he walked up, people were taking pictures of him from all angles. The best part were the teens who were beyond excited to see their favorite author. I was lucky that Adam Gidwitz was still signing after getting R.L. Stein's autograph and I was able to have him sign A Tale Dark & Grimm.

It was then a quick race over to the adult and YA book signing tent to jump in Kami Garcia's line where my dad was holding a spot for me. While I had been in R.L. Stein's line forever my dad got Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore and Ajax Penumbra 1969 signed by Robin Sloan for me. Seriously isn't that a catchy title? Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore? The title alone is a huge catch. Of course that could just be a book nerd's view. My sister and my fifteen year old daughter both looked at me like I was crazy. They didn't find it near as intriguing as I did. Their loss.

Every year my parents go to this festival and get the latest book in the Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl signed for me. I have all four books signed by them. And now I have Unbreakable by Kami Garcia signed as well. And that was the highlight of my entire day. She was so sweet. I asked if I could get her picture and she instantly said I should get in the picture as well and one of the wonderful volunteers took the picture. Yes, that made my day!

While I was in line for Kami Garcia my dad took my little man to get food. Of all of the food trucks there was only one with real food that people wanted to eat. The line was insane, but the chicken gyro was delicious. They were also the only ones selling bottled water, for $3 a piece! That was the best cold water ever. Hahaha

After lunch we wandered back to the children's tent to have Click Clack Boo signed for the little man. He was so funny, asking when they were going to sign his book as we waited in a line full of parents and kids ranging in age from upper elementary all the way down to tiny tots. As soon as the line began to move the little man passed right out. And no matter what I tried he refused to wake up! Both Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin thought it was great and had a good laugh. My dad angled his stroller right next to the table and got a picture of him fast asleep next to the authors signing his book. When we got home he wanted me to keep reading him the book over and over. So cute!

I wanted to return on Sunday to have The Year of Shadows signed by Claire Legrand, but a nasty headache reared it's ugly head and there was no way I was doing anything productive, let alone drive downtown, search for a parking spot, stand in line, and deal with the loud crowds and light. But, I'm still glad I got her book on Saturday. It looks so good! 

For those of you familiar with Austin you may have heard the local saying, "Keep Austin Weird." Well, it wouldn't have been a truly Austin event without a little dose of amusement. As I zipped my son through the crowd from the children's tent to the main book tent for Kami Garcia's signing I noted what made the festival truly Austin.

Throughout the day a group of young college student age boys and girls wandered the festival spreading the word that God is writing a new book. They were handing out business cards with information printed about their message and they held poster boards with their messages hand written on them. Apparently I didn't look like someone they were targeting because they skipped me when handing out the cards.

Anyhow, as we were racing along I noted a couple of them in front of me. One holding up a poster board and the other reading a message about the Lord at the top of his lungs as he paced back and forth. Behind me there was a tent dedicated to the Austin's true love: live music. As I looked around I saw people ranging from those dressed in casual business attire, to those with bright pink or bright blue hair, piercings & tattoos, cowboys, and everyone in between. And that is the Austin I grew up in. Which may explain why I was the only one not staring at the man in drag standing outside the gas station in New Jersey about six months ago. It didn't even register until I noticed everyone else staring at him. I guess you could say growing up in this "weird" town desensitized me in some ways. After all, I did grow up in a town where everyone knew of Leslie, a local cross dressing homeless man who even has his own Wikipedia page.

If you have the chance next year, you really should make the trip to Austin to take part in the Texas Book Festival and experience the Austin atmosphere.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

I'm Taking a Pen Name

Recently my future has come more into focus, as far as the direction I want to take it. I've always loved writing and want to continue to write YA, MG, and NA fiction. But, my original plans with writing weren't in line with this. When I went back to college to finally finish my bachelors degree I was interested in teaching until I could return to school to eventually earn my masters and a doctorate in history. I'd love to teach history in the university setting. I am an avid genealogist and love to do historical research. I mean seriously. I love to find hidden gems in documents.

I have two projects that interest me within the historical research realm and my goal has always been to do the insane amount of research and then write historical books on them. In recent months I've begun thinking about this more and more. I'd like to go back to school when my three year old is in elementary and get those degrees.

While my two goals are within the realm of writing there is one glaring issue. My name. If I write fictional novels and historical research under the same name I'm bound to confuse someone. Big huge problem there. So obviously I need a pen name in one of those worlds. Since the historical research will be tied to my college degrees and hopefully a position as a professor in the future I feel my name on those should be the same. I can't teach history under one name and then publish history under another. That just doesn't sit right with me.

And let's face it, pen names in fictional writing is not a huge no-no. I mean some of my favorite authors write under either pen names or have left off their last name choosing to go by their first and middle names instead. So, I've tossed around a ton of names. I tried on my mom's maiden name for my "new" last name. My dad's mother's maiden name. I even thought of using my maiden name, but everyone seems to mispronounce that, it's German. Actually all three are German. So, I thought I'd try out my first and middle name as well. I sent all four names out to my family, my daughter's friends, and my writer friends to see which they liked the most. And, the winner was my first name with my middle name, no last name. 

So, as of this week I'm no longer going to go by the name Heather Simone in the world of YA, MG, and NA fictional writing. Instead I will be going by Heather Helene. It was the name that the majority of those polled chose. Not to mention my teen daughter and her teen friends thought it sounded the best. They all picked that one.

Fingers crossed this transition goes smoothly. :-) Have a great weekend! Tuesday's post will be a recap of the awesome Texas Book Festival. I can't wait to go this weekend!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bad Blogger

The title should say it all about me right now. I've been horribly busy and of course things begin to fall off track when a busy schedule takes hold. But, I'm determined to get back on track. In fact, I'm planning to begin blogging my usual Tuesday and Thursday posts again, starting today!

While I've been super busy this fall I have been able to get back into some of my writing. I've been busy outlining my NaNo 2013 project. Last week I finished up the character sheets. I'm still working out plot kinks, though. I have some scenes that I see in my head, but I'm not sure where exactly they fit in. And there are other scenes that I need to bridge gaps between better. I also need to figure out what is going on in the end of the story. I have a few ideas, but pinning down one as the actual ending is the hard part. The interesting part of it all is that this is a new adult project, not YA or MG. So, this should be interesting. The goal for NaNo is to finish a 50,000 word novel. Usually my YA rough drafts hit right around there. I'm hoping this one should be a bit longer. Which means I'll have to write more every day to hit my goal. And yes, even though I should hit the NaNo word count, I hope to have the entire rough draft completed by the end of November.

I also haven't been reading as much. I've been trying to figure out where in my busy schedule the writing should take place and when I should read. I've rearranged when I do each of these things. I think I've finally found a routine that works best for me, but it's still not at the pace or amount of writing/reading from the past.

I'm also relearning the German I've forgotten since high school and college. And I'm learning French. My daughter is taking French in school and she was having a hard time, so I took up learning it through Rocket Languages. I love that site. But honestly, French is kicking my rear. My theory is that I've already learned German once, so I'm just refreshing. Whereas in French I'm just learning the language. And I'm floundering around like a fool with it. So for now I go back and forth between the two languages listening to lessons. I'm convinced my three year old son and seven year old nephew think I'm a whack job wandering the house with my earbuds in and then repeating strange words. My son seems to be getting used to it though. He's started to ask what different words are in German. My little budding linguist. He's learning animal names right now.

I've also been doing a lot of thinking about what I'd like to do in the future. But that's another post, Thursday's to be exact. So stay tuned to find out the big change.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Austin Teen Book Festival 2013

So this past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Austin Teen Book Festival. Guys, this thing was AWESOME! I knew it was big, but I had no idea that people were literally driving in from hours away just to be part of the fun. I talked to several other book lovers throughout the day, and none of them were from Austin!

I arrived with hopes of seeing a particular panel, but I arrived late and then couldn't figure out the layout right away. So instead I wandered around and checked out the vendor booths. There were so many great booths! And I mean great booths, all the way from local authors, the library, and publishers. It was great! I snagged a bunch of goodies including two posters and two bumper stickers. It's too bad I'm not big on sticking bumper stickers to my car, otherwise they'd be on there now. I need to come up with something else cool to do with them instead. I also purchased my books!

The first panel I went to wasn't much of a panel, it was more of a game show. Fierce Reads versus Dark Days. Yes, the moderator had a light saber and gave out points in the form of colors at one point. It was fun. If only the two women behind me would have stopped talking so loud throughout the entire thing I might have caught more of the answers. They were so loud the lady in front of me kept turning around and glaring at them.

Anyways, after that panel I had lunch with some lovely librarians from all over Texas. I marveled at the sheer number of people in attendance. So many book lovers in one place. There were adults with small children, a bunch of middle schoolers with their parents in tow, a ton of teenagers, and then a large number of adults without any children in tow. It was amazing.

After lunch I attended three more panels. The first was by far my favorite panel of the entire day: Dark Days. The panel included Madeleine Roux (Asylum), local author Sherry Thomas (Burning Sky), Mindy McGinnis (Not a Drop to Drink), Michelle Gagnon (Don't Turn Around, Don't Look Now), Rae Carson (The Girl of Fire and Thorns, The Crown of Embers, Bitter Kingdom), and moderator Amy Tintera (Reboot). This panel was full of awesomeness that can't be described. You can tell the authors are on tour together as they played off each others answers and they were so freaking funny. I left that panel wanting to buy and read all of their books. Too bad I'm not made of money! But a very good thing the Austin Public Library put together a list of the books featured at the festival on their site. (I've requested them all. lol)

Then my dad dropped off my daughter a bit too early for the signing portion of the day, so she joined me for the Into the Hearts of Darkness panel. This panel was fun as well. Again six wonderful authors: Holly Black (The Coldest Girl in Coldtown), Johnny Sovron (Man Made Boy), local author Mari Mancusi (Scorched), Robin Wasserman (The Waking Dark), April Genevieve Tucholke (Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea), and Texas author and moderator Victoria Scott (The Collector, The Liberator). The audience enjoyed yelling out "Devil Horns!" when one of them would mention something they've done or thought that was considered "bad." It was fun and entertaining.

The final panel was freezing! I had been cold in all of the other rooms, but this one was downright frigid. And I was in shorts and flip flops. Next year I will definitely be in jeans and sneakers. Brrrr! So Tales of Tomorrow as fun and interesting as well. I left there more interested in some of the books that I had previously heard about, but hadn't necessarily been interested in. This panel was made up of Malinda Lo (Adaptation, Inheritance), Brandon Sanderson (Steelheart), Suzanne Young (The Program, A Need So Beautiful, Just Like Fate), Cat Patrick (Forgotten, The Originals, Just Like Fate), local author P.J. Hoover (The Emerald Tablet, Solstice), and moderator Brian Yansky (Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences, Homicidal Aliens and Other Disappointments).

Of course at the end it was time to race from line to line to get autographs. We were slightly disappointed when we were still in a very long line and wanted more autographs, but they closed off the lines because our time in the Convention Center was up. We were all practically kicked out of there so clean up could commence and then the organizers could be kicked out as well. The security lady sure was sticking to the noted time everyone was to be out of the building.

All in all it was an exciting day and an event I will be sure to catch again in the future. It's events like this that help me to discover new books that I might not have added to my to-read list otherwise. Seriously fun! And I can't forget to mention the amazing group of teens from PSJA ISD. I talked to one student while in line for a while and was shocked to learn they were up at 1am to take a bus to the festival. Seriously, that's dedication. And their librarian who organized the whole trip, well, lets just say I am in complete awe and though I didn't meet her, I think she's completely awesome.

Here's a link to the PW article all about the festival. Now, who wants to join me next year?