Loving Author Assemblies!

So Spring Break is booked. Only, I'm not heading for rest and relaxation. Instead, I have another set of author visits coming up in New Jersey. Very excited to share The Secret Path of Ned the Ninja with more kids, and I get to bring Energizer Bunny Girl with me. (Although, I might have to switch up her nickname on the blog here pretty soon. She has hit fourteen and getting her up in the morning to move herself isn't quite as easy. Although ... set her up for a convention where she can cosplay and she's instantly wound up and ready to go!)

Melissa (my co-author on Ned's adventures) and I will be bringing the character-building and self-acceptance skills of a mental martial artist to a few more schools, as well as presenting writing workshops on creating three-dimensional characters. There's a karate demonstration, as well.  So that's three awesome elements ... together ... sort of like this Mountain Dew commercial I cannot get enough of.... 


Now that is the sort of thing that will have you laughing all day, yet unable to sleep at night!

Anyway, the plane is booked for the middle of March (my new discovery: Hacker Fares on Kayak!), and EBG and I can't wait to squeeze our friends in NJ, NY, and CT to pieces. That alone makes this trip better than heading for a Hawaii, Disney, or island getaway spring break. The full Author Visit schedule makes it all a whirlwind--a working vacation to be sure--but like that old adage, if you love doing it, it's not really work.

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For more information on our visits, check out our Author Visit page


Winter reading! Nice gift for middle grader

Wow, my ornament countdown is going well, huh? (Sigh)

Still, I have an exciting sight....

Holiday pack

My co-author, Melissa, has put all three of our Secret Path of Ned the Ninja books (autographed) together with a hachimaki (karate style head band) and bound it all with a bow. They are for sale at her dojo, but can be ordered, too! It's a great gift for middle graders and we know first through third graders who love to hear it read to them, too!

The package is $27, plus shipping and handling. Call 201.262.0457 to order!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah! Wonderful Kwanza! Festive Festivus!


It's a Jen Ornament!

The first of my "It's a Jen ornament!" collection in this Countdown to Christmas is the most recent one: Saturn.

Every year, my forever friend Jen gives me a unique ornament that wows me. I have so many on my tree, and this year they have me more sentimental than usual. And every year, I look at these unique ornaments and think about how they are as unique as Jen. After 36 years of friendship, she still reminds me of crayons and playdoh...bright, colorful, and fun. And this year, I finally found an awesome ornament to send her. Shhh!
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Touchstones

The thing about a big move is that when you unbox all your Christmas stuff, you can't go into autopilot mode while decorating. Sure, the wreath can go on the front door, but where to put the motion figures?

That's why I love my tree. All my old ornaments sprinkled over the same tree we have had for six years. (We are a fake tree family. Too many breakable ornaments to chance snapping thin branches).

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So here is the first ornament I bought when I knew I was getting married. Just a couple of mice checking their Christmas list atop Santa's glasses. It was real comforting placing them in the tree this year!

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Countdowns

December is a season of countdowns this year. There is the usual countdown to Christmas...but this year there is the twist of a first Christmas in Florida.

There is the countdown to The Force Awakens on December 18th. Yes, of course I have my tickets!

And there is the countdown to hubby's podcast relaunching before the new year. This is a big deal, really, because in many ways it signifies a return to something close to normal life--whatever that is.

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Today, I'm kicking off my Ornament Countdown to Christmas! This little guy is from my friend Mike, who knows I love stars. The ornament is almost as old as our friendship, I think. So, close to 30 years old. He's a brother from another mother, the guy you can say anything to, he can suck down the contents of a hot sauce packet in a split second, knows how to make you feel better about yourself, can make you laugh no matter how determined you are not to, and it's really going to suck not being able to see The Force Awakens with him. He is also a tremendous storyteller, but allows spelling to get in his way. You've got to cut that out, Mike. Love ya!

Sent from my iPhone

Five kids with real empathy

So, I don't know what my eyeliner looks like right now, because the following link from SocialChive had me in tears: 

Five boys with real empathy

Because that's what reducing bullying is all about--just a bit of empathy. I hope you'll check out the video and I hope you'll wear a blue shirt tomorrow, Monday, October 5th, in honor of Stomp Out Bullying's World Day of Bullying Prevention!

My middle grade character, Ned the Ninja, a kid who is learning all about self acceptance and standing up for himself, has put on a blue gi top for the occasion!

Ned hig blue shirt

 


My Writing Nook

I hate to be this blunt about it, but ... moving sucks. Especially long distance. I mean, really. If I were to fill you in on all the little details about how much it sucked moving down to Florida, this would be a rather depressing post. So I'll just leave this right here as a hint of how much it sucked by way of the delivery that finally came ...

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... and then I'll focus on the positive:

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My writing nook is finally together and I love it! It's not huge, but it's cozy. It's full of things that inspire me (including some stuff that I had packed away for at least ten years). 

For example:

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This guy was picked up in the tiny town of Cairo, New York, in an incredible little shop of oddities. It was one of those things I just had to have. My fiance (now husband) and I had ventured in on a whim and the store owner made us pick a small polished stone from a basket to keep. I forget what the one we picked meant, but it was something nice about the future. Still have that, too. Anyway, this guy was never packed away. He's an incense holder, and he reminds me of the beauty and mystery of upstate New York.

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My hand-painted, hand-drawn cell of Sorcerer Mickey was given to me by my parents. Sorcerer Mickey is my favorite Disney character, narrowly beating Elliot the dragon. I appreciate this cell all the more these days since Disney got rid of my favorite icon ... the hat in Hollywood Studios and has now closed the Art of Animation building. In fact, the only way the Dis can do right by me is to replace it with a Star Wars emblem of some sort. We'll see what happens.

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Desk lamp from my forever friend, Jen, who never forgets my love of dolphins. It as found at a Restoration Hardware, so who knows its past before coming to me.

 

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 Krystonia! This is one of my favorites. 

 

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It feels good to be back in the saddle--at least one part of my life feels homier now. It's time to get back to writing regularly, slinging words around, and contemplating the 'what ifs'. Time to get comfortable enough to allow my new surroundings to affect my prose. With views like this ...

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... I have hope!


Art Cafe: a Thing of Beauty


IMG_3400 (2)As a newbie living in Florida, I would like to know three things: 1) When is the moving truck finally
 going to arrive with my stuff? 2) Why has it rained and stormed every day since I got here? 3) Where, oh where, does a Floridian writer go to pound the keys and drink coffee in bliss and solace?

I've left a lot of things behind in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area: incomparable friends, a ridiculously-adorable godchild, a job I loved, two trees that stood apart at perfect 'hammock' distance, oh ... and my stuff--because after three weeks, it hasn't left New Jersey. Still, I'm summoning a stiff upper lip and trying to find my way around Florida with mind and heart open to new ideas and different places. For example, I'm the sort of writer/caffeine addict who falls in love with an eclectic cafe or coffee shop. Sometimes I just need to bolt from the home office and thrive on the energy of a place where people meet over caffeine, take a break, laugh with friends, or put their noses to the grindstone at a laptop. Will a Starbucks do? Sure, sometimes. But where do I find offbeat, creativity-charged cafes an hour outside Orlando in Sumter County? I'm on the prowl--yep, mind and heart open--but so far, no luck. (If you would like to make suggestions, please do!) In the meantime, I'll be reminiscing over Art Cafe in Nyack, New York. Would-be Floridian business-owners please take note:

Artcafe

Art Cafe: Be still my 'art! How I miss this place. Nestled along Broadway in an old Victorian sits a true haven for gathering with friends or hunkering over your laptop. Sit outdoors in the front garden surrounded by greenery, in-season blooms, and perhaps music from a local musician. Otherwise, find a cozy nook indoors where you'll enjoy the ever-changing work of local artists. But the art doesn't stop there: Order a latte or mochaccino (my favorite) and you'll spend your first few minutes with it marveling over the foam.

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That said, any of their coffee beverages (made with organic Blue Bottle Coffee beans they roast themselves) are superb. And the teas? Their lavender brew puts me in such an 'all is right with the world' state that I wound up buying it loose to make at home before bed.

While I usually went for the coffee, the food is not to be missed if you enjoy Israeli-inspired dishes. If I try hard enough, I can still taste their Gruyere Toastini: fresh gruyere, fresh mozzarella, mushroom, and red onion on a pressed panini-style Israeli bagel (no hole!) covered in sesame seeds. And the dressing on the side salad? I never really asked what it was, but seriously, I am kissing my fingertips in a very Italian way right now and briefly wondering if they'll ship it--along with the toastini--frozen. Perhaps the hummus or tahini?

It's hard to push the coffee, tea, and yummage aside, yet the best part of Art Cafe was the soothing atmosphere that made writing a pleasure, but gathering with friends even better. How I miss my Wednesday evenings with Rebecca and Audie! Intelligent and fun conversations on kids, schooling, politics, family life, and the arts revived my spirit halfway through the week to get through the rest of it. The only bad part about that was how many times I lamented only meeting these ladies recently. Maybe I'll find a unique little cafe down here at some point, but the friends that went with it are irreplaceable!

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Announcing Ned the Ninja's "Power in Numbers"

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So there's Ned, and we have a feeling he would be smiling even bigger if he wasn't so nervous over the lovely Adrianna to his left! But they are both pleased over this new story, which has Ned continuing to grow in many ways--but not without some hefty growing pains along the way. It doesn't help when your mysterious mentor isn't big on words and seems to like talking in code, either!

Power in Numbers is available in print and ebook on Amazon.com and in print on BN.com.

Thanks so much to Ned's growing number of fans and to the schools who have had Kea and Melissa in for workshops and assemblies! We hope you enjoy Power in Numbers and look forward to your reactions. To review any of Ned's stories, you'll find easy links here.


Adventures of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

You know that feeling that comes over you in a flash when you are 'done' - body, mind, and soul? Maybe you have walked the mall or worked all day long, then ran errands, and now it's 98 degrees outside, 100% humidity, your feet are killing you and all you have to do is find your keys to make it through your front door so that you can fall onto the couch? One ... more ... step! Al ... most ... there!

Sometimes life in general just feels like that, doesn't it? Everything piles up, goes wrong, dumb little things roll into a growing snowball until you suddenly feel like Indiana Jones running from that monstrous boulder. I don't know about you, but I can't run that fast, I never have Indy's sort of luck on my side, and sometimes I just need a mental couch to fall onto before I scream loud enough for strangers to stare.

I had that couch, once a month, for about fourteen years. It was called canasta. I played the game with three friends -- and it was anything but a game for old ladies, thank you very much. (Old ladies could never handle our conversations.) We happily ate junk food, sometimes drank wine or sangria, had coffee, shared stories, advice, tears, and the sort of laughter that results in no sound coming out. In homage to the film, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, we called ourselves Ya-Yas, and at the end of every meeting, we pulled out our calendars to schedule the date and place for the next one. Pity the husband who dared to get out of watching the kids on a canasta night!

About one week before each meeting, we would call or text each other with phrases such as, "OMG ... thank God canasta is Friday", "I need a canasta! Now!", and "Is it Friday yet?" Because canasta was the couch to fall upon when operating on one last thread of energy and sanity. Only one ... more ... day ... to .... canasta!

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Love my Ya-Yas always!

 Anyone have ideas on how to play cards over Skype? Seriously.