This is the blog of children's book author and elementary school teacher, Stacy Barnett Mozer. I blog about my own writing journey, the journey of other kidlit authors, my classroom, and talk about books. Thanks for stopping by. Your thoughts are always welcome (and encouraged).

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Sweet Spot Blog Tour and Giveaway!

The Sweet Spot releases from Spellbound River Press on Friday, March 25! To celebrate, I'm going on a virtual tour. From March 24-April 1, I will be visiting blogs, giving interviews and doing guest posts. Stop along the way to comment, gain entries in the Rafflecopter Giveaway, or to just show your support. You can also join the event on Facebook to let your friends know you are going or to invite them to join in.

About the book: 

When thirteen-year-old Sam Barrette's baseball coach tells her that her attitude's holding her back, she wants to hit him in the head with a line drive. Why shouldn't she have an attitude? As the only girl playing in the 13U league, she's had to listen to boys and people in the stands screaming things like, "Go play softball," all season. Her coach barely lets her play, even though she's one of the best hitters on the team.

All stakes now rest on Sam's performance at baseball training camp. But the moment she arrives, miscommunication sets the week up for potential disaster. Placed at the bottom with the weaker players, she will have to work her way up to A league, not just to show Coach that she can be the best team player possible, but to prove to herself that she can hold a bat with the All-Star boys.

Follow the tour:

March 24: Nancy Tandon  INTERVIEW
March 25: Thin Air  BLOG POST 
March 26: Letters from Annie Douglas Lima  GUEST POST
March 27: Bookish Babe   GUEST POST 
March 28: Middle Grade Ninja   GUEST POST
March 29: Sporty Girl Books   TOP TEN LIST
March 30: Thin Air INTERVIEW
March 31: Kimberly Sabatini  REVIEW & INTERVIEW
April 1: It's All About the Journey THANK YOUs

The Sweet Spot ebook is available on Amazon and iBooks.

The paperback is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

For signed copies call Maria or Theresa at Diane's Books in Greenwich 203-869-1515. 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Sweet Spot by Stacy Barnett Mozer

The Sweet Spot

by Stacy Barnett Mozer

Giveaway ends April 30, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Interview with YA Author, H. L. Burke

Today I am interviewing H. L. Burke to celebrate the release of her novel, Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors.

Here’s a little bit about Heidi:

Born in a small town in north central Oregon, H. L. Burke spent most of her childhood around trees and farm animals and was always accompanied by a book. Growing up with epic heroes from Middle Earth and Narnia keeping her company, she also became an incurable romantic. 

An addictive personality, she jumped from one fandom to another, being at times completely obsessed with various books, movies, or television series (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Star Trek all took their turns), but she has grown to be what she considers a well-rounded connoisseur of geek culture. 

Married to her high school crush who is now a US Marine, she has moved multiple times in her adult life but believes that home is wherever her husband, two daughters, and pets are. 

She is the author of a four part fantasy/romance series entitled "The Scholar and the Dragon," YA/Fantasy "Beggar Magic," and MG/Fantasy "Thaddeus Whiskers and the Dragon," among others . Her current projects are a young adult Steampunk fantasy and an epic fantasy trilogy. 

When did you decide to become an author?
About the same time I realized it was a serious career option, so maybe when I was eleven or twelve. I had written things before that, but I didn't start thinking, “I want to write books for real” until middle school-ish. Other than a few small contests, I didn't really pursue it all that seriously, though. In my late teens I sent out some queries. Looking back, I know that the stuff I wrote then wasn't that good. Then marriage and kids happened, and while I still wrote, I focused more on blogging for several years.

The turn around point for me was NaNoWriMo 2012. I had a 4-year-old and a 10-month-old, but dangit, I was going to write a novel that year … so I did. Finding that I still had the time to create, when I'd been telling myself I didn't because of the kids, flipped a switch and I just kept going.

Tell us about your journey. How did you get your first book published?
While I've been writing for a long time, that NaNoWriMo manuscript was the first thing I'd written in a long while that made me think, “Other people might like to read this!” Everything prior that had sort of just been for my own enjoyment. Sure, I'd daydream about sharing it, but there wasn't the driving need. This novel, which would eventually be Dragon's Curse, the first in my four book Dragon and the Scholar Saga, really felt like a story that deserved to be shared.
At the same time, I had an older manuscript (which I'd eventually rewrite as An Ordinary Knight) posted on my blog in full. Two different friends read through it and said, “This is really good. Why isn't it published?”

I didn't think that one on my blog was marketable, especially since I'd “burned” the first publishing rights by making it available for free on my blog. So I just plopped it on Kindle for 99 cents, with a truly awful cover, telling my friends if they wanted to purchase it, it was there.
A light-bulb-moment came when someone who WASN'T a friend, a complete stranger, gave the book a four star review. I thought, I might be able to do this for real … so I took more time with Dragon's Curse, purchased a real cover, and basically treated it like the launch of a real book to the best of my ability.

I'm still kind of making it up as I go, but it has been about three years now (I published Dragon's Curse in 2013), and I've learned a lot. I get peer review through scribophile.com and Goodreads beta reader groups. I've found resources for covers and marketing, and I'm still having fun.

Was there ever a point when you felt like giving up?
 No. Writing to me is very natural. It's not something I do for the approval of others. I do it for me. I do it because I love it. You don't give up on things that are important to you in that way. It would be like giving up on my kids. Sure, some days they frustrate me. Some days I wonder if I'm messing the whole parenting thing up, but I've never really been tempted to drive them to an orphanage and say, “Hasta la vista, babies!”

Other people liking what I do is a nice bonus, just like it is nice when someone tells me my kids are cute and well-behaved. Financial reward is a nice bonus, but giving up on writing would be kind of like giving up on thinking for me. Not really an option.

Now on individual projects, I've had moments of doubt where I think that maybe this particular story is too much of a mess to be redeemed or I doubt that it will be financially successful or that my readers will like it. Generally I push through and looking back realize it wasn't that bad. I was just tired/grouchy/hungry.

There are times where I've doubted that I could put the financial backing behind my work for fear I might not make it back. Every time I have to make a large expenditure, whether for cover art or marketing, there is always an inner hesitancy because that's money my husband worked for … that could go to more practical things, but writing itself isn't a cost for me. It's a joy. If it ceases to become a joy, chances are I'm focusing on the wrong thing.

The great thing about writing, especially in the self-publishing realm, is you don't need permission. You aren't promised anything … you aren't owed being popular or famous or financially successful, but writing is your right. If you love it enough not to care whether or not you're popular, famous, or financially successful, then you're in the right business. Just keep going.

Is there anything about being a published author that has surprised you?
When you openly admit you have no idea what you're doing everything is a surprise … but weirdly, at the same time, nothing is. It's like opening a box without any idea what's inside. You might have certain things that surprise you less, but since you have no expectations, whatever's in there won't be a shock. Just so long as it isn't a dead cat. That Schrodinger guy was messed up.
So I'm totally making this up as I go.

I wouldn't advise this method for everyone, but I've always been a “learn by do'er.” Don't give me a manual. Just let me jump in and start pushing buttons!
Any advice you would give to a writer just starting out?

As I said earlier (or sort of said) you don't need permission. Never ask permission to create art. Don't believe anyone when they tell you they have the one way that works for everyone. Give all ideas hearing, but be prepared to say, “That's nice. I'm glad that works for you” then go find the way that works for you, not for anyone else.

Is there anything else about you or your books you would like to tell us?
I write whimsical fantasy because that's what makes me happy. My latest book, Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors, was inspired by computer adventure games, the idea of giving my heroine a series of tasks and challenges to complete while she solved a mystery within a really atmospheric setting (in this case an abandoned mansion that might not be so abandoned after all). I really hope it gives readers a fun but satisfying experience. 

Here’s a blurb about Nyssa Glass and the House of Mirrors: Nyssa Glass is a reformed cat burglar turned electrician's apprentice, settled into a life repairing videophones and radio-sets. However, when her past comes calling, she finds herself framed for murder and forced into one last job. No one has entered Professor Dalhart's secluded mansion in almost a decade, at least not that returned to tell the tale.

If Nyssa wants to ensure her freedom, she'll brave the booby-trapped halls and mechanized maids. Nyssa has skills, but this house has more than its share of secrets. As she steps into the cobwebbed halls lined with dusty mirrors, she has to wonder. Is the House of Mirrors really abandoned?

To win this book, you can participate in Heidi’s Rafflecopter Giveaway:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more information about H. L. Burke, visit her website at www.hlburkeauthor.com. You can find her online at www.facebook.com/hlburkewriterwww.instagram.com/burkesdragons, and www.twitter.com/typativemamacat.

Friday, March 4, 2016

#NY16SCBWI Wrap Up

This year the SCBWI conference was held on my school vacation week so I was able to go in early to spend time with some of the other regional team members. I was welcomed at the hotel by a big, red, dog.

Then I went to the RT meeting and had to try to remember how long I have been part of the NESCBWI team (6 years?).

It was FREEZING in NYC, but nothing could stop me from walking down the block to check out the Library Hotel and the Bookmarks Bar with some other early attendees. Thank you to Kris Asselin and Heather Kelly for getting everyone together.

On Friday, I had some free time so I sat in the lobby and worked on revising some work in progress. It was wonderful to have the time to focus solely on the work before the events started. Then it was off to a meeting with the New England Regional Team before attending the annual volunteer event.

The next day started early with a welcome from Steve and Lin. We found out that there were a record number of attendees at the conference and people from many professions, including someone who claimed to be able to tell the future. I bet she was pretty popular with the aspiring authors and illustrators!

The first keynote was William Joyce, who shared some of the amazing things he's been doing to make his picture books come alive, from designing apps that work when you point them at one of his books to creating short films and full length animated movies. The work he did with The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is pretty incredible and I highly recommend checking the book and the app out. You can learn more about it here. 

Next up was a panel on The Big Picture of Children's Publishing. The best news the panel shared was that children's publishing is no longer considered the forgotten step-child of the book industry. In many houses, childrens is where the money is currently being made.

After the panel it was time for breakout sessions. I was so glad I picked Saleable and Memorable Middle Grade Fiction with Sarah Davies, even if she did give some of the book I had been reading at that time away.

Lunch was on our own in the lobby, and as usual, the hotel removed the chairs forcing us to find places to sit on the floor. The lines were so long, I ended up skipping my next session and returning to hear from the wonderful Rainbow Rowell. I enjoyed hearing about her writing process, especially since it is very similar to mine. She starts with a character and has a basic idea of where the character will end up. But much of what happens on the journey is a surprise.

Linda Urban and Kate Messner had the closing keynote, ending our day with Music, Mountains, and Mocha Lattes. 

The final event of the day was the Gala Dinner where I met people from all over New England and talked to them about forming critique groups in their area. We even had a chance to take a picture of the New England Regional Team (along with two special guests).

Once the event was over, it was off to the lobby to spend time with my conference tribe, The Lobby Rats. The only problem - the lobby was freezing! Instead of hanging in our usual spot, we found all the missing chairs in a back hallway. We may have gotten some odd looks as people visited the restrooms behind us, but it was worth it to get a chance to spend time with these amazing people.

Sunday started bright and early with a keynote from the incredible Rita Williams-Garcia. She shared her author journey, along with a page from her first published manuscript. The picture is clear. The pink are the corrections and comments from her editor. She said there were 200 more pages just like this.

I had to run outside quickly at the end of the speech to help pass out SCBWI's Valentine's Day present, a nice new SCBWI bag. That was followed by Jacquelyn Mitchard, an acquisitions panel,  and finally a heart-felt keynote from Gary Schmidt. 

The conference ended with a book signing from all of these amazing authors. I was so excited to get books signed for my children, my students, and my children's teachers. The amazing Rita Williams-Garcia even let me tape her saying hello to my daughter's class since they are just finishing One Crazy Summer. One of my favorite volunteer jobs at the conference is to help authors with their signing and this year I helped out Matt de la Pena and had a chance to talk to him about his Newbery win.

Overall, as always, it was an amazing conference. I loved spending time with author and illustrator friends while being inspired by the many keynotes. For the minute by minute words of wisdom, you can go to twitter and look back on the conference posts from #NY16SCBWI

I will end this year's post by leaving your with one of my favorite conference moments. One of my Lobby Rat friends, Scott Hammon, won the joke contest for the very first time. Here are pictures of his reaction.

Do you have conference questions? Do you have your own favorite moments? Talk to me in the comments.