Whatims – March 12, 2018

Last week was an action-packed five days full of school visits, energetic kids and superhero librarians! I always get a little anxious leading into them, but have such a blast while reading and creating stories with the students. They keep me fired up to write more so I get to visit more!

What I’m Writing: We’re going strong with the revision of my fairytale-based fantasy MG (and by we I mean me and all the characters screaming inside my head). Still at that chapter a day pace, and feeling confident I can keep it up to have this draft done by the end of the month. I didn’t just jinx it, did I?

What I’m Reading: Sayantani DasGupta’s THE SERPENT’S SECRET. It’s the first in the new middle grade fantasy-adventure series, Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond. I totally recommend this for fans of the Percy Jackson series. There are so many fantastic magical hijinks, all centered around Indian folklore which I have never had the opportunity to dive into before. I’ll be looking for the sequel when it comes out!

What I’m Thankful For: I am so into all the book-to-movie adaptations we are getting this month, starting with A WRINKLE IN TIME through to READY PLAYER ONE at the end of March. The movie I’m most excited for is LOVE, SIMON, the movie adaptation of Becky Albertalli’s SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA. Teenage Me can’t believe that there is going to be a major movie about a gay, high school love story. I’m going to see it this weekend when it releases so that movie studios know people will spend their skrilla on LGBTQIA+ movies at the theater! Let’s all go!

The Invasion (of My Perfectly Peaceful Week, Thank You Very Much)

So I read in this BuzzFeed listicle that journaling is supposed to really help you out when you’re stressed to the max, so I went and got myself one and here we are. The first entry in my diary of a Yeerk.

This has been a doozy of a week, let me tell you.

Everything started off perfectly fine. I had been assigned to my favorite human yet. Her name was Ethel, and her favorite pastime was watching reruns of Golden Girls. That Blanche gets me every time!

So there I was, forming some serious squad goals with those golden ladies when I get a call from Iniss 226 that I need to head back to the Yeerk pool ASAP to swap into a Taxxon and assist with Visser Three’s arrival.

can’t stand Taxxons. It’s all, “Let me eat this” and “Imma devour that.” Every time I’m made to Control one of them, I end up covered in blood, and Bethenny Frankel-ly, it really grosses me out. So Innis 226, I’ve only got one thing to say to you: Thank you for being a jerk!

Anyway, I get sent down as a Taxxon with a bunch of Human-Controllers (I don’t see why they couldn’t just let me help out as Ethel, but whatever) and a couple Hork-Bajir. When we get there Visser Three is facing off with that Andalite prince, Elfangor-Something-Something. Elfangor slashed the Visser and my first thought was, “Giiiirl, you are going to regret that.”

Boy, was I right. Visser Three turned into this epically huge Antarean Bogg, nabs Elfangor in a tentacle and devours him whole. Unfortunately, this is when my Taxxon instincts kicked in and downright begged me to gobble up some of the Andalite bits littering the ground. What can I say, I couldn’t resist. Those Taxxons are incorrigible.

So I sent a thank you up to Cher (I have got to do an entire diary entry on her, let me tell you) that the night was finally over and I could get back to Ethel and continue on my way all Golden Girls and chill.

But guess what? Some flipping kids were watching us and got away. Ooh child, did that ever spike Visser Three’s Kandronas. He went into a raaaage. He ordered us to do this whole city-wide search for the group of teenagers that were watching us. I was like, “Seriously? You want us to find five teenagers in a city swarming with teenagers?” That’s like finding an authentic Louis Vuitton zip-fold wallet on Ebay for under three hundred dollars. It doesn’t happen.

Anyway, the kids still hadn’t been found, but it was time for me to soak up some Kandrona rays. I was assigned to a new man, Gregory (never Greg, BTW), and contemplating why we could never do something like lavender-scented Kandrona rays circa my favorite bubble bath scent when I see these two weird kids standing off behind a storage shed of Dracon beams acting like they had just completed the Cinnamon Challenge. That is to say, weird.

I had just told a Hork-Bajir and a Taxxon to nab the kids when a fracking monster with wrinkly gray skin, huge ears, a thick worm-like nose and monstrous teeth comes barreling behind them. Gregory kindly let me know the thing is called an elephant. But then that Cher-forsaken elephant wraps its worm nose around me and chucks me through the air.

Lord and Taylor.

I came to and there was Visser Three literally spitting fireballs at a ragtag group of Earth animals. Gregory says they were a tiger, a gorilla, a horse, and that capital R Rude elephant. Turns out they were Andalites in morph, and it was those guys who were at the construction site, not a bunch of kids. But they got away again, and the Visser is in a tizzy.

But wasn’t the one who let them get away, so for now I’ve found a good caftan and I’m just going to enjoy another GG marathon. As the brilliant Sophia once said, “People waste their time pondering whether a glass is half empty or half full. Me, I just drink whatever’s in the glass.”


Whatims – March 5, 2018

I am SO into a book right now (you’ll see which one at the end of this post) that it took everything in me to turn away from it to write this entry!

What I’m Writing: I’m deep into the second draft of my MG fantasy-adventure and I’m loving it! I’m feeling that excitement that comes from knowing what direction your story needs to take, and I’ve been able to up my daily goal to a new chapter a day, whereas in the first draft I was writing 500 words a day. I’m hoping to have this draft done by the end of the month, and have it submission ready by the summer so I can relax and look like this:

What I’m Thankful For: This week I have so much love for author Carrie Jones. She is an amazing writer, and a SO-FANTASTIC-THERE-SHOULD-BE-A-PARADE-IN-HER-HONOR writing mentor. Carrie is leading the Write. Submit. Support online program for novelists through the Writing Barn this spring (and you can sign up for the summer session with her here) that I’m currently taking. Every note she has given me has been outrageously helpful. Carrie, thank you for your enthusiasm, encouragement and thoughtful feedback.

What I’m Reading: Dhonielle Clayton’s THE BELLES. You guuuuuuys. I’M ROBSESSED! This young adult book is set in a world where six young women control the power of beauty and can alter anyone’s appearance. In THE BELLES, we follow Camellia “Camille” Beauregard’s journey as she becomes an official Belle and navigates the political maze of a world obsessed with beauty. AND THINGS ARE NOT AS GORGEOUS AS THEY SEEM. I’m so freaking into this that I have to get back to reading it right n—



Gym Buddies Premiere!!

At the end of 2016, I was feeling a little creatively frustrated. I was writing away, but I can only write for so long each day before I need to let things simmer in my mind so that I can come back to the page the next morning ready to rock.

But I would still be creatively anxious (what an obnoxious term—I’m rolling my eyes at myself) in the afternoon, wanting to let out some more steam. I decided I would take acting classes, and I was instantly hooked. I got immediate feedback from an expert, and found that my ability to get deeper into characters in my writing was getting better and better thanks to acting exercises all about getting into the minds of other people.

Then I thought I would try my hand at auditioning for local projects, and the first thing I was cast in was a web series called Gym Buddies. It’s written and created by the brilliant Shruti Saran, following the story of Aparna and Quinn when Aparna hoodwinks her BFF into joining a gym with her after a nasty breakup.

I got to play the part of the extremely awkward and sweaty gym manager, Rob, who really has no business running a studio dedicated to physical fitness. It was so fun getting to ham it up and play this guy who really feels so out of place next to body builders, but whose can-do attitude, despite his overactive nerves, won’t let him back down from the challenge.

The first episode (of five) premiered today! Here it is:

Hopefully this gets me closer to one day getting to work with Anjelica Huston. Fingers crossed!


Whatims – February 26, 2018

This week is giving me LIFE! I’ve got a fire under me on this MG fantasy project I’m working on, plus I’ve made a deep dive into the TV show “Don’t Be Tardy,” and it may go down as one of the Top Ten Best Decisions I’ve Ever Made.

What I’m Writing: I finished the first draft of my MG fantasy-adventure this past week! I’ve been taking this first draft way slower than I usually do (more on that later this week), which allowed me to have all kinds of ideas for the revision. I’m going to jump back in TODAY!

What I’m Reading: Jacob Sager Weinstein’s HYACINTH AND THE SECRETS BENEATH! HYACINTH follows the titular character as she discovers that the rivers that flow under London are actually magic, and just what happens when the mischief in that magic is accidentally unleashed. I am flying through this, and I’m robsessed with the dry sass of Lady Roslyn, Hyacinth’s elderly companion on this adventure who I’m picturing a lot like Mrs. Doubtfire.

What I’m Thankful For: This week I have got to give a ginormous thank you to Debbi Michiko Florence. Not only is she an amazing writer (if you haven’t started her JASMINE TOGUCHI series, you have got to stop what you’re doing and get the first two books in the series RIGHT NOW), but she is an amazing friend. This past year Debbi and I started emailing each other on a regular basis, cheering each other on in our writing and filling each other in on our current adventures. I look forward to our emails, and it feels so great to have somebody who gets the author life by my side—even virtually—on this crazy writing rollercoaster.

Debbi, you complete me!

Whatims – February 19, 2018

Every Monday I’m going to give a rundown of what I’m writing, what I’m reading and what I’m thankful for. In short, the Whatims. Hopefully this will help out with three things: 1) Keep this fella on track to write everyday, 2) Spread the word about good books, and 3) Kick off the week with a little gratitude to avoid a Cathy case of the Mondays.

So here we go!

What I’m Writing: I’m nearing the end of a first draft of a middle grade fantasy-adventure. It’s about a love-adverse boy who finds himself stuck in a fairytale, and the only way out is to help Prince Charming find true love. I’m writing the ending this week, and I’m (Lisa Vander)pumped to get started on the revision! There will be a lot of fairytale research involved, which knowing me will include watching Disney movies and taking BuzzFeed quizzes on which Disney Princess would be my BFF.

I’m also working on a narrative nonfiction picture book about jellyfish! I’m shocked that I’m trying my hand at nonfiction. It’s always scared me, but it’s been a fun adventure. I’m nervous but excited!

What I’m Reading: Kim Tomsic’s THE 11:11 WISH! I have been on the edge of my seat waiting for this book. It’s about a girl named Megan who starts off a new year at a new school by making a wish at 11:11, resulting in all sorts of magical hijinks, both delightful and disastrous. I was lucky enough to see an early draft of this from Kim, and this book is everything I want and more! Kim, it’s catastrophically good!

I’m also reading a lot of picture book nonfiction right now to get inspiration for the jellyfish project I mentioned above. This week it’s IF SHARKS DISAPPEARED by Lily Williams, and ALABAMA SPITFIRE: THE STORY OF HARPER LEE AND TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD written by Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Erin McGuire.

SHARKS is so well done, explaining the devastating effects the Earth could experience if sharks vanished from our world. Even though the subject seems like it could be rather doom and gloom, there is a strong feeling of hope throughout the whole book that details how an animal that might at first appear scary is actually an integral part of our environment that humans can help.

Bethany Hegedus is like my writing fairy godmother, so anytime she has a book come out, I’mma get that right away. Due to Harper Lee’s history of being reclusive, I didn’t know much about her, so I learned a ton about Lee’s life in ALABAMA SPITFIRE. I had NO IDEA she was besties with Truman Capote! Erin McGuire’s illustrations go so well with the story. I especially loved her depiction of setting. I could feel the slower pace of Alabama compared to the hustle and bustle of New York City.

I also left ALABAMA SPITFIRE feeling an even deeper drive to keep at striving to sell a novel one day, and also to buy a typewriter—preferably this fabulous pink Hermes one right here (not to say that Lee loved pink because as I learned from AS, she didn’t, but she did clack away at her typewriter!).

What I’m Thankful For: BookPeople! My local independent bookstore here in Austin, Texas. I always feel so welcome when I walk through their doors, and they are outrageously supportive of their local authors. In fact, I walked in this weekend and was pulled aside almost instantly to sign more copies of WHOBERT. It made me feel like a rockstar, which despite the long hair I’m decidedly not. Plus, Shannon the School Visit Coordinator has been a dream in getting presentations set up at local elementary schools.

To the Book People at BookPeople, I LOVE YOU! Thank you for all that you do!