September 30, 2013

The Kicks: Reading with Zoe

As Zoe gets older and starts reading independently, I'm afraid we're going to lose out on something special. She'll want to read on her own; sitting down with me for hours on end to work our way through chapter books may become a thing of the past.

I'll be sad when that happens. Right now, whenever we're tired or frustrated with each other, we can still find the energy/patience/stamina to read. We've read a lot of books in the past few months - Charlotte's Web, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, endless episodes of the Junie B. Jones series - and it's been great. 

And I know it'll work out okay, even when she dosen't want me to read to her. I remember my mother reading every Babysitter's Club I brought into the house, and I loved that she did. We had stuff to talk about. "Can you believe what Claudia did?" "Why can't Stacey eat candy?" "I wish MaryAnn would just grow a pair already!"

So it'll be okay for Zoe and me, too.

But for now, I'm going to enjoy every minute of reading together. While I do, I thought it might be fun to share our books with you from time to time. They maybe won't be about scary things and zombies and such, but then, you never know. It may be close to time to introduce her to Goosebumps! Until then...well, here are some books we've enjoyed.

****

Zoe loves soccer. So do Charles and I. We're a soccer house. We have a pop-up goal for the backyard, and about a half-dozen soccer balls always at the ready. Zoe plays with the "big girls" this season - six and seven-year-olds, even though she's only five. This week, there was even a nine-year-old on one of the teams she played! And she loved it. 

So Zoe and I were VERY excited on a recent trip to the bookstore when we saw a book with a group of girls and a soccer ball on the cover. Bright colors, fun graphics, the cover was what caught our eye.

And then, when I looked closer and saw it was written by Alex Morgan of the United States Women's Soccer team...well, I was sold. Why not give it a shot? My soccer fiend kiddo would love it!

As it turned out, we had so much fun reading that as soon as we finished the first book, we bought the second one too!


The books are cute - middle grade fun about a group of seventh- and eighth-graders who try to bring their soccer team (called the Kicks) back from various points of reality-based disaster. Ever had a coach who doesn't...coach? The Kicks have, and they can tell you what to do about it. Ever had another team try to stir up trouble on yours? Yep, the Kicks have faced that too.

Lead by a pink-headband wearing, number 13-touting girl named Devin, who's almost certainly Alex Morgan's own alter-ego, there's nothing the Kicks can't do...so long as they work together. They always pull through in the end.

The Kicks are sweet. Lovable. My child hung on every word as we followed Devin and her team's shenanigans (there's even a Zoe on the team...a forward who's little and zippy and not unlike my own Zoe). She begged me to read just one more page each and every night...and day...and night again. 

She loved them, and, frankly, so did I. If you have a soccer star in the making, definitely give her these books. They're wholesome, they're fun, and seriously - read them aloud with your kid. You'll have as much fun as we did!

This is Zoe and her suggested "cover art" for Sabotage Season

September 27, 2013

This is my life...

Last night was kind of weird. I had adventures and heard entertaining things. I thought it might be fun to share them...

****

It all started with Zoe. I guess it always starts with Zoe. She and I sat on the back patio after dinner, she eating ice cream and me spending time with her before I went to a play. It was very relaxing and cozy as Zoe goofed around with our two dogs, Molly and Quentin.

Suddenly she turned to me, gesturing over her shoulder with her half-finished ice cream cone. "See that dog?" she said. "That's my dog, Sniffer. He's brown. He died, a long time ago."

I almost choked. "I'm so sorry to hear that," I managed, not knowing what else to say. "How'd that happen?"

And suddenly, slipping into a character reminiscent of the student-soldiers in Red Dawn, she told me a story. There was once a war, you see, and it happened in our back yard. Some people climbed our fence, looking for trouble, and they found it. Sniffer was killed in the war. He was shot through the heart. Zoe, Molly, and Quentin were all shot too.

"They were protecting me," she said, her voice deep and calm, her eyes distant. "But it didn't work. We were all shot in the tummy, and it broke our hearts. They took us to the hospital, and they mostly fixed us, but you know what? We were all left with a sickness from it. I'm still sick today."

At this point, I was blown away, part horrified and also utterly impressed by both her acting and her imagination. I was also suppressing that nervous laughter that plagues me whenever I'm feeling conflicted. So I blurted out, "Is there anything I can do to help?"

She cast her eyes down, and I swear to you they filled with tears. "No," she said, still looking away. "There's nothing you can do. We just have to hope for the best."

The story carried on for another ten minutes, with Zoe remaining fully in character. Finally I had to leave. She switched back into goofy, bubbly Zoe. "Yay," she said. "Now I can go do my homework with dad!"

****

So then I headed downtown for the play. Ordinarily, I try to park in the street, not really feeling the whole walking-into-a-dark-parking-garage-alone-at-night thing. But last night I couldn't find a spot on the street.

Near the theater was a parking deck that proudly displayed Visa and MasterCard signs, which was ideal since I almost never carry cash. I pulled in, drove up and around and up and around until I finally found a spot on the fourth floor, and then I took the stairs down.

The stairwell spit me out on a random, creepy alley, populated only by a bunch of bloody-looking towels, so I hurried to the theater. Once there, I made plans with my brother to call him after the show - he's on West Coast time right now, so I knew he'd be awake, and it seemed like a good idea to have someone to chat with while navigating the dark alley.

And it was, even though I found a way into the deck without going back through that creepy alley. The show let out a little after ten, and within about five minutes of chatting with my brother I had found my car, right there on the fourth floor.

So I got in and drove around and around and down until I reached the gate. It was unattended, but they had an automated pay system. Unfortunately, beside the automated pay system was a sign. "Cash only," it screamed in blood-red letters. "No cards."

Here's where I turned into a trucker. "Fuck me," I said, and my brother laughed. Poor guy, all he wanted to do was eat his sushi, but there I sat, cursing in his ear.

"What's wrong?"

"This...this fucking thing....oh, gawd, I have to go back up and park. It says there's an ATM in the hotel lobby across the street."

So, still on the phone with my brother (don't lecture me about driving and talking...this was keeping me SAFER, darnit!!) I drove up and around and up and around until I found a parking spot on the third floor this time. A stickler for rules, I refused to park in the closer "reserved for hotel clientele" spots even though I knew I'd only be there for a few minutes. 

I marched back down the stairs and across the street, cursing and spewing irritated vitriol the whole way. Luckily my brother knows me well, and didn't seem to mind.  I found the ATM. I paid the $4 surcharge to withdraw $40 (just to be safe...$20 didn't feel like quite enough). On the way out I found out my fantasy football quarterback wasn't playing well - yes, I stopped at the bar to ask when I saw the game on the TVs - and so I cursed and spewed some more.

I marched back up the stairs and found my car on the third floor. It was still dark and relatively scary in there, by the way, but by then I was too mad to notice. I got back in the car. I drove down and around, down and around, until I found myself back at the gate.

"Well, what the fuck," I said. There was no way for it to read my little card, to tell me what I owed. Finally I figured out it was just a blanket charge of $7. I grabbed one of my two hard-earned twenties, and I stuck it into the machine.

The machine spat it back out.

I flipped it and stuck it back in.

The machine spat it back out.

"Motherfucker," I said, and I meant it. I started to panic. "I think I have to call the police," I said. "I can't get out of here."

"Try the other twenty," my brother said.

So I did.

And it took it this time! And I wanted to throw a party.

Until I realized..."Oh, shit, Daniel, this thing's gonna give me $13 in those little gold dollar coins. I'm gonna have to carry them everywhere."

"Well, that's..."

He never finished what he was going to say. Because the machine started spitting out my change....in... "Oh...my...god. It's in quarters. Daniel, it's in quarters."

So. In the end I got out of the Parking Garage of Doom, carrying 52 quarters in the cupholder of my car. 52. My pockets will be jingle-jangling for months.

So here's the moral of this story: carry cash. In small bills. And when in doubt, call your brother and it'll turn any mishap into an entertaining adventure.

September 23, 2013

Undead America: No Angels - Cover Reveal!

Hi there, friends and family and readers and anyone else who happens by! So nice to see you!

Today, I'm thrilled to share with you the cover for the upcoming sequel to Undead America: Zombie Days, Campfire Nights. Called No Angels, this book covers the months following Jenna and her family's jailbreak from the New Orleans prison camp...and...well, let me just tell you about the book:

Jenna, Sam and Lola were lucky to survive the horrors of a zombie-filled New Orleans, but they still have a lot to learn about living in Undead America.


First, you can never let your guard down. Even when you think you're safe, dangers lurk around every corner. Sometimes the dangers are from the undead, but more often they're from the living.

Next, it's easier to inspire a group to fight for their lives than to lead them through everyday hardship. For Jenna, the pressure of managing an ever-growing group of survivors may be too much to survive.

And finally, in Undead America, no one is quite what they seem. Everyone has something to hide. 

From the bowels of a rundown farmhouse to the plains of Nebraska, from a leather-clad human monster to the tiniest of child zombies, there are truly no angels.


And now...without further ado....the latest in tremendously amazing covers from the ever-talented artist, Marion Sipe!


Undead America: No Angels will hit all your favorite e-retailers this October!  I'm happy to be working with MuseItUp Publishing again, and can't wait for y'all to see the finished product!

So what do you think? Feel free to drop me a line in the comments - I'd love to hear your thoughts!!

Thanks! :D

September 16, 2013

Goings on: Undead America style

Hi friends!!

It's been a busy week or two in the world of Undead America, and I have some news/events/goings on to report. So mark your calendars, or do whatever you do to remember dates you want to remember, and feel free to share this info to your friends and family! I'll love it if you do! :-D

(Yes, I just put a smiley face in an official blog post. That's just the kind of girl I am!)

****

Get ready! Monday, September 23rd, is the Great Cover Reveal for Undead America: No Angels, the sequel to Zombie Days, Campfire Nights! I'm so excited to share this cover with you, you guys! Marion Sipe, the cover artist for both novels, did an amazing job!! I'll post the cover here, and a few of my favorite bloggers will also be posting. Participating blogs/bloggers are (in no particular order): 

Lauren Spieller: Lauren is a super-talented emerging author, literary agent intern, and up-and-coming editor. 

SK Falls: SK is author of bestselling novel World of Shell and Bone, among many, many other cool books.

Jocelyn Rish: Jocelyn is a storyteller and screenwriter. Her short film Saying Goodbye has won awards around the country. 

Shauna Granger: Shauna is the prolific author of the Elemental series, and co-founder of the beautiful Spellbound Scribes blog.

Thank you, ladies, for hosting me, and I can't WAIT for everyone to see this cover!

****

And EEEEEEEEP!! It seems like everything is coming together, and I'm going to have PRINT COPIES of Undead America: Zombie Days, Campfire Nights, just in time for the second annual rUNdead Charleston 5k Zombie Race on October 26!  The guys at rUNdead have agreed to let me have a table to sell some books and do my first official book signing, so I hope I get to see you there! 

And while there, you can get made up like a zombie, or you can even participate in the race itself. I won't be running this year (I hope to be busy!!), but I did it last year and it was a blast. Seriously. Even if you're not a runner, it's a great chance to get out in the wilderness (well, the wilderness of Wannamaker Park in North Charleston, anyway) and run from some zombies. Soooo fun!

The race itself will benefit Lowcountry Food Bank, with all proceeds going to that amazing cause. If you want to skip the $5 spectator charge, bring at least two non-perishable food items and you can get in for free!

I really, really, REALLY hope to see you there!

And in the meantime, check out the rUNdead blog for some original, short zombie fiction, too! I've had fun playing around over there!


I think that's it, for now, but really...it's enough, right? I'm so excited! Once I have official release dates for the print copy of Zombie Days and the ebook copy of No Angels, I'll let you know. In the meantime, happy zombie day!!!

September 11, 2013

It's that day again...

Damn.

Every year I swear it'll be different. 

Every year I swear it'll pass just like any other day.

Every year I lie to myself, and every year it catches up with me in the end.

September 11.

Maybe it was the blue of the sky this morning; maybe it was the pictures of the Twin Towers littering my Facebook feed.

Maybe it's because today will never be just like any other day.

When I was a kid, I never understood how the older generation could remember everything about those momentous days of the 20th Century. Pearl Harbor. D-Day. The day JFK was killed. I'd see my grandparents tear up when talking about those days, remembering where they stood, the song heard before the radio cut over to news, the clothes they wore.

Now I get it. Now I know I wore jeans and a blue t-shirt. Now I remember turning off the Italian opera ton the bakery's sterio to turn on the news. Now I remember the sounds of people screaming as the towers fell. Now I remember the smell of the smoke, the ash, when we drove to Eagle Rock Mountain that night to view the stunning lack of towers.

I don't need to tell you I'll never forget. My predecessors have already done that for me.

Sarah Rossella Rhea Christina Alison Scott Kevin Michael Debra Daniel Mom Dad. Just a few of the people I think of on this day each year. 

I'll hug Charles and Zoe tighter tonight, and say an extra "I'm thankful" at dinner.

Maybe next year will be different.

But I doubt it.

My mother's reflection on a 9/11 memorial
Photo credit: Wendy Soltis, 2013


September 5, 2013

Worlds War, Leah

This is not a serious blog post.

Instead, it's the tale of how last night I suddenly found myself baffled, confused, and uncertain about what book I was reading or even, let's be honest, where I was...

So let me set the scene.

Since Zoe began school, I've been hard at work writing and reading all the things. I'm editing my sci-fi novel, set on a far-flung planet populated with the coolest group of women I've ever had the pleasure of writing. I wrote a piece about World War II literature for LitReactor. I've also been reading the latest Jonathan Lethem novel, set in Queens, for a different LitReactor story. Plus, Zoe and I worked our way through a middle grade novel called The Kicks: Saving the Team. It's about middle school soccer players in California, written by US National Team player Alex Morgan. Zoe LOVED it. (Tee-heee....so did I!!)

Yesterday, I worked on all of those things at varying points throughout the day. It all gets a little muddled and confusing at times. I spent hours working within the world of my own book, only to get mixed up in the politics of New York City for a while, and then I even read about a Quaker boarding school.

Last night, after finishing the soccer story with Zoe and reading the little inspirational Note from Alex at the end, I headed downstairs to veg out in front of the TV. Charles put on a Doctor Who episode that took place in the English countryside, 1913. So now, adding to all the worlds in which I'd spent my day, I suddenly had British accents and period costumes.

Plus, it was a long, exhausting day. I finally went upstairs to go to bed. I picked up my Kindle, and the Lethem book opened automatically.

I stared at the page.

I read some words.

I read them again.

And I realized, I had absolutely no idea what I was reading, where it was set, if a soccer ball was going to come flying off the page, or if a spaceship was about to land.

What??

I had to put the book down. I had to look around.

Ok, I thought. I'm in a bed. I'm in my jammies. It must be bedtime. So that means, right now, I'm in the real world. 

I'm not kidding. I really had to think that.

Then...

So what book is this? Ok, it's on my Kindle. I usually only read review books on my Kindle. What book am I reviewing? Ok, that's the Lethem. So where does that take place?

I looked around again, one more time.

I took a deep breath.

Lethem's book. Ok. Not on a faraway planet. No aliens. No...soccer, either...I think. Ok, so that means...I'm in QUEENS!!!

I seriously wanted to throw a party. I'd found myself again! That said, although I did make it through some pages of the book, I still kept expecting the unexpected, and also, somewhat bizarrely, reading with a British cockney accent.

I mean, I guess it's a job hazard, right? Reading/writing/thinking all day is bound to get you muddled sometimes, right?

Right?

Right? 
Ok, where am I again? Who said that? What's going on??????