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It’s lonely being an orange… (why I’m thinking about new covers)

I’ve been thinking about changing my Time Machine Girls covers for a while now. I just don’t think they stand up very well when I see them side by side, next to others in their genre. To me, they look a little “young” for the age they were written for (girls not quite ready for middle grade). But when I emailed my sister the new book cover I was working on, she said, “If everyone else is apples, there is something refreshing about being the lone orange.”

orange you gladSo now I know I’m the lone orange. And I started second-guessing myself because on the one hand, I like being “refreshingly different,” but on the other hand… it’s lonely being the only orange at an apple store.

I mean, let’s be serious. No one goes to an apple store looking for an orange. Once they open those doors and look out at the aisles and baskets stocked full of granny smith, pink ladies, and red delicious, who would even notice a plain-old orange off in the corner someplace? In fact, think of the poor salesman in charge of selling customers on that lone orange when they came in for an apple. “Hey, before you leave, have you considered something… squishier, less sweet, and requires a little peeling?”

Not to make light of the point, but it’s pretty hard being the orange at an apple store, and I love oranges. So I thought I’d try to find out what you all thought.

Here are the new covers and the old ones, side by side. If you have a moment, I’d really appreciate it if you could leave a quick comment on which one you like better. It might help solve this apples-oranges debate once and for all.

(I’m also thinking about changing the title for the second Time Machine Girls book to Never Give Up. I think it reads better than Follow Failure.)

 

I’ll probably “split-test” the new covers, which just means I’ll probably put the new covers up on Amazon and leave them oranges on itunes. So to recap — oranges on Apple and apples on Amazon. That wasn’t confusing, right?

Harriet Tubman made me cry

It was no coincidence that I launched the third book of the Time Machine Girls series during Black History Month. I thought it was the best time to honor the people of the Underground Railroad. (As you may know, the girls in the story go back in time to meet Harriet Tubman, Thomas Garrett, and a group of escaping slaves.)

Harriet Tubman

I didn’t know very much about the Underground Railroad when I started writing this book, and I was amazed by the stories I came across during my research. But, I’ll admit it, I loved Harriet Tubman’s story the best. There’s good reason you’ve heard about that woman. She had one of the most courageous and selfless lives I’ve ever read about. If you don’t know why, read on.

Harriet had a horrible childhood growing up as a slave. I won’t go into the details, but she was mistreated and harmed. Fortunately, she escaped all of that as a young woman. She successfully made it to Pennsylvania and began a new free life.

She didn’t need to go back to Maryland to help others. She was already free. But she risked her life and her freedom to go there (a free black person would lose their freedom if they got caught helping slaves escape). It also cost money. While some stations along the Underground Railroad were able to give escaping slaves things like food, money, and shoes (Thomas Garrett was one of those station masters), many couldn’t afford to feed and house people without being compensated. So Harriet would work enough to save her hard-earned money so she could make the trip to the South and free more people. Even after the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 went into effect (and escaping slaves were no longer legally protected in the free states), she helped people escape all the way into Canada (which was the reason I set my story in 1849, so I could avoid that 1850 law).

So just to recap, she risked her life and her freedom — and spent the extra money she made — to help others.

But it didn’t end there.

During the Civil War, she helped the Union Army as a nurse, scout, cook, spy, and a liaison to slaves who were being freed. And after the war, she worked with Susan B. Anthony on women’s rights. She was one of those people you read about and think, “Wow! Did that person really exist?”

Yep, she was that inspirational. But that doesn’t mean she was ever rich during her life. In fact, for 30 years after the Civil War, Harriet’s friends wrote letters of support, trying to get her a small pension for her efforts in the war and in helping to end slavery.

In 1899, when Harriet was in her late 70s, the government finally gave her a pension of $20 a month for her role as a nurse in the Civil War (the equivalent of about $550 in today’s money).

Anyway, all the people along the Underground Railroad were amazing, and mostly because they risked so much to help others and didn’t expect very much in return. It was a pretty humbling experience to research and write about because it made me realize I don’t do nearly enough of that. I hope you enjoy the book.

The new Time Machine Girls book is out!!!

The third book in the Time Machine Girls series is finally out! It’s called Courage, and in it, Hazel and Bess find out what it’s like to “ride” on the Underground Railroad. They meet Harriet Tubman, get chased by bounty hunters, learn the true meaning of the word “courage,” help their grandfather return stolen items to history —  and all while uncovering more clues about their family’s secret. Phew! And I thought my summer vacation was busy the year we went to Orlando! (Lol!)

Anyway, here it is. I’m not so sure I love the cover. I’ve been making my own covers, but only because I’m a self-published author on a shoestring budget. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to afford better.

At any rate, hope you like the book!

Book Three of the Time Machine Girls

 

 

Busy finishing up the third Time Machine Girls book

train

I love history, and writing the Time Machine Girls series gives me an excuse to explore parts of it that I didn’t really understand in school. The third book in the series is particularly like that for me. In it, the girls go back in time to visit a station on the Underground Railroad. I know this is a sensitive subject. So I wanted to make sure I didn’t use any language that might be scary to kids or that might offend anyone. But I also felt that because of the whole “don’t really talk about it” feelings we have about slavery, the Underground Railroad can become confusing in history books. And I’ll admit it. I was confused about it as a kid. I thought the Underground Railroad was a real railroad. (But then, my dad was an engineer, and I thought he worked on a railroad too. So the confused part might just have been me.)

Anyway, the book is titled Courage because it takes a lot of courage to stand up to your peers and go against society in order to help people when you know it’s the right thing to do. I hope kids who read it will come away with a basic understanding of the hardship and courage the people on the Underground Railroad took to do what they did, how it was important to go against the law in order to change the law, and I also hope they come away knowing the importance of empathy and social responsibility.

But if all that fails, I just hope it’s entertaining!

Happy Holidays and Thanks for a Great Year, Everyone!

Screen shot 2015-12-23 at 8.42.29 PM

2015 was the year I started as a children’s book author, and it’s been amazing. I’m a shy person so putting myself out there was (and still is) the hardest part of it all. But I’m thankful to have people reading my books and the nice things they’ve said (ok, I’ve only had three reviews so far, but they were really nice, and I’m so thankful to have them). I’m also thankful for the many lessons I’ve learned along the way about writing and publishing. I can’t imagine doing anything else right now, so I hope to make this a full-time job someday soon.

Anyway, thank you for being a part of it. I hope you had a wonderful year too. Here’s to 2016! Happy Holidays!

I still love paperbacks

Whoever started the digital book era was a genius because I love it. I love carrying 100 books around wherever I go in one little device. I love that it saves my place that I can bounce around easily from chapter to chapter, and that I never have to ask my husband, “Hey, have you seen my book? You know the one I was reading last… it had a really cute cat on the cover, I think.” Now, I only have to ask him where I left my e-reader. I also know it’s got to be better for the environment not to have all those books laying around that we chopped down trees to make.

But I can’t help it. I still love print versions too. There’s nothing like the smell of the library or the bookstore, and it’s so cozy curling up in bed on a cold night with a paperback. So I’ve begun putting my books into paperback form too.

And I just got the paperback version for Secrets (Book One of the Time Machine Girls Series) out. But because I did it myself, I’m not entirely sure what it’s going to look like when it’s printed. I’m still new to this publishing thing, and I seem to be making mistakes at every angle. The company I went with to print the paperback gives authors the option to check their proofs digitally, so that’s what I chose to do. And it looks good in that version. Still, I’m worried.

So if you pick the book up and it looks terrible, please let me know.

I’m working on getting the second book (Follow Failure) out in print as well. Hope you like them.

Why This Grown Woman Cried at The Peanuts Movie on Veterans Day

me_peanuts

Me as a Peanuts character

#NoShame

Here’s the whole story:

When I picked my 7-year-old up from school this past Tuesday, I was shocked when she told me she had the next day off. In fact, I didn’t believe her. I had to ask the expert.

“Siri,” I said to my phone. “Is tomorrow a holiday?”

“Yes. Tomorrow is Veterans Day.”

What????? I thought we scheduled holidays on conveniently planned Mondays, not a random Wednesday. But since I’m a writer who works from home, I wasn’t too worried. I can adapt to these kinds of things easier than someone with a clock-in job. I knew my word count wasn’t going to be met, but I’m able to work around setbacks. (Yes, I instantly felt guilty for looking at this as a “setback.”)

So, because of that guilt, I decided I would look at this as an opportunity to spend time with my kids. I quickly put together a Plan B for the day that included the earliest showing of The Peanuts Movie because my youngest daughter wanted to see it and so did I. Neither of my older kids (teenager+) wanted any part of a plan that involved the word “early.”

And it was kind of a selfish plan now that I think about it. I was going to spend the morning at the movies so I wouldn’t feel guilty, then try to sneak in writing in the afternoon. So at about 10:30, my seven-year-old and I headed to the mall for the 10:45 showing. You might be thinking that was cutting it close, but it was hard getting out the door, and cutting it close has never been a problem before… until Veteran’s Day fell on a random Wednesday, that is, because every other parent in Southern California had the same idea. I had never seen a longer line at this particular movie theater. The 10:45 showing quickly sold out. But I was still holding out hope for the 11:20. I knew if I didn’t make the 11:20, though, I’d have to wait until 1:15, or talk my daughter out of going. Good Grief!

When we finally got to the ticket counter, yep, the guy told me the 11:20 had sold out too. I looked at my daughter’s face. She definitely wanted to see this movie, so we were stuck at the mall until 1:15.

At first, I was bummed. Seriously bummed because I was still trying to control the day and make it “productive.” My daughter was just being squeezed into my own plan.

But, life had different plans for us. And once I let go of what I thought it should be, I had an amazing time being spontaneous (something I’m normally not) with my daughter.

We went shopping. We bought some Beanie Boos, had lunch in the food court; we laughed and saw some people we knew. Before we knew it, it was time to watch the movie, and my daughter was saying things like, “This is the best day ever!”

I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone, so I will try to say the next part without spoiling anything (but look away if you’d be bummed, just in case). At the end of the movie, Charlie Brown asks the Little Red-Haired Girl why she picked him to be her partner at school, and she said it was because of the person he was…

And it hit me — “That’s what’s important here, blockhead! You need to stop putting your schedule and your needs first and be more concerned with the people around you, and the person you’re becoming!”

I admit it. No shame. I cried.

There are so many blessings in my life that I don’t always recognize as blessings because I’m too busy rushing through them or looking at changes like they’re setbacks. I need to remember time is precious and so are the people and things I’m lucky to spend my time with. I don’t always need a schedule and a plan, especially not when it’s a selfish one.

Anyway, thank you, Veterans, for your service to our country and the selfless people you are. And thank you, Charles Schulz, for creating characters that remind me how important that is.

Happy (Belated) Veterans Day, everyone!

If you’d like to turn yourself into a Peanuts character, go here.  It was fun.

Fake Letters from Readers (that conveniently ask the questions I want to answer)

(Not my actual hands or laptop)

Dear Ernestine,

I sure love the Time Machine Girl series. When’s the next one coming out?

Signed,

Your Biggest Fan

Dear Biggest Fan,

Well, aren’t you sweet? Thanks for the compliment! To answer your question: soon.

Sincerely,

Ernestine

P.S. I hope to get the next two books in that series out early next year. I made the mistake of putting other projects on my plate, and now I’m committed to them. And I love those time machine girls too much to rush through writing or researching the books. I’ll keep you posted. :)

Story Five: The Hair

A little background about the story:

When I was a kid, I spent a large chunk of lunchtime searching through the peanut butter and butter sandwiches my mom packed for me just about every day. I was sure there was a hair curled up in there someplace, and sometimes I was right. (No, that wasn’t a typo. My mom packed me peanut butter and butter. They were not my favorite sandwiches; I told her. She still packed them.) This was back in the day when people had five-inch thick shag carpeting, though, so there was a lot of hair trapped in those suckers, and who knew what else. To this day, that’s still one of my worst fears — having a hair in my food, and that I will be forced to eat a peanut butter and butter sandwich. Oddly, shag carpeting does not bother me at all.

Anyway, the fifth story in my new book From the Bottom of the Cauldron: Tales of Witch Training is called “The Hair.” Writing it brought back all those feel-good memories of hairy lunches. I hope it brings it all up for you too.

Go here to read it.

Go here to buy From the Bottom of the Cauldron.

My Brutally Honest Kid Strikes Again…

A sad conversation I just had with my 7-year-old while driving her to school.

Daughter: Your hair looks messy from the back.
Me: Rats. That’s not the look I was going for.
Daughter: What look were you going for?
Me: Beautiful
Daughter: You have to have straight hair in order to be beautiful.

Even though I know that was just her honest-kid response to what society has taught her, as a mixed-race author, I vowed then and there to write more absolutely gorgeous characters with wildly curly hair… (that sometimes, maybe, even looks messy from the back). :)