non-fiction book

Happy book birthday to me!

After several long years (this book sold the same month Hugging the Rock did) I am proud to announce that the true story of Enrique Esparza and the Battle of the Alamo is out from Lerner Publishing. The illustrator, Jeni Reeves, did a marvelous job on the illustrations.

This book is based on the true story of young Enrique Esparza who took shelter at the Alamo with his family when Mexican General Santa Anna and his army came to battle the Texans in San Antonio. The book is out in both hardback and paperback at the same time which I think is very smart of the publishers. And what fun for teachers, there’s a Reader’s Theater all ready for you in the back of the book!

Now if I could just figure out how to get it into the gift shop AT the Alamo, wouldn’t that be sweet? 🙂

Wednesday, July 14, 2010|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , |28 Comments

Feast or famine, a writer's life

For months I have been busy not writing. For over a year I have been busy not writing. I have been doing an awful lot of NOT writing. Not even thinking about writing except how, once upon a time I used to be a writer.

Then I decided to wade back into it all. I was ready. I could go slowly. I had nothing pending that needed my immediate attention so I could play with a few ideas and see where they took me. My only writing goal for 2008 was to write three proposals. A hopeful goal would be to turn one into a really rough draft of a complete book. No problem. I had three ideas that interested me: the flying book I’ve been trying to write for over 20 years, the plant book, and Max.

First I worked on the flying book. You may remember my huge index cards project. By the time I was done I was hyped up and ready to go to work. Then came Christmas, family melt-downs and illness. I lost my way.  

Because I didn’t know what to do next, I borrowed an idea from 

 and started writing letters to the main characters in the three books I wanted to work on.  


The way I saw it, even if I wasn’t actually WRITING a book, I was THINKING about writing again. I know that thinking about writing and actually writing aren’t the same things but I was okay with inching my way slowly back to words. I figured a few letters to Flyboy would be all I’d need to take off writing about him. Across the last couple of weeks I’ve written about 20 new pages for Flyboy, in longhand. It’s not a lot, especially if you look at the word meters so many writers post in the blogs, but for me it was progress and that was all that matters.

Now here’s what’s been going through my writer’s brain. When I wrote the new pages on Flyboy I thought they were horrible, stilted, boring and had absolutely nothing to recommend them. They were garbage, the crappy first draft I had to get through before I could find the story. But writing such horrible junk stifled me. How would I ever be able to turn it into a book that someone would want to read? I tossed that notebook aside and went back to the character letters of the Plant kid and the story of Max. One day I saw the plant kid in the yard and I grabbed a notebook and jotted down what he was doing. And then I shivered, those good shivers which tell me there’s something there, maybe even that elusive voice. Yet I tossed that notebook aside too because I was supposed to be working on Flyboy’s book first. It was the one I had promised myself to finally right or admit that I would never write.

But I couldn’t make myself go back to that crummy draft and reread those stilted words. I couldn’t make myself ADD to those stilted words. So last night I looked at the letters I had written about the story of Max and wondered about him a bit more and I wrote the opening scene. And it was all there, his friend, the gypsy lady, the setup, and of course, Max. In one short scene. And I shivered again.

Before bed last night I told my husband that was it, Flyboy was grounded because it was absolute crap and had no magic and it was obvious I was supposed to work on the plant book and Max. So so obvious. Absolutely not interested in working on that flying book at all.

Each night I give myself a dream suggestion to do with my writing. I wasn’t sure what my question was going to be so I picked up the notebook on my nightstand (you can totally see where this is going, right?) and I figured I’d just flip through it, read a few pages, give myself a dream suggestion and call it a night. I saw Flyboy’s pages and thought there was no harm in reading them because I had already decided they were crap and I wasn’t going to work on that book.

And the Universe giggled.

Sure, the words were still rough and there were lots of missing pieces and bits of notes to myself like (describe this and what is that gauge called again and why doesn’t this character have a name) but I got sucked into the scene, the story, and I wanted to know the answers to the questions I had posed in those pages. And most importantly, again, I felt the shiver.

What does this mean? Well besides the fact that it appears I am currently roughing out 3 books at the same time, (which means it’s going to get really crowded in my head and my poor husband will be once again bucking for Sainthood) it means the magic is back. Because I think that’s what those shivers were – the reminder of how wonderfully magical it is to have these stories to tell and the ability to tell them. I woke up excited at the thought of diving deep into fiction.

The Universe has a wicked sense of humor though. Way back in October of 2006 I sold a book called Enrique Esparza, Boy at the Alamo. A true story. A non-fiction book filled with facts and history and things I researched almost 2 years ago. After over a year of complete silence, of not even having an editor assigned to the book, suddenly the edits are coming my way tomorrow.  As in the day after today.

And she would really like them back in a week so we can keep on schedule for the fall 2009 publication. Sigh.

Fiction may have to wait a bit longer but that’s okay. I have the shivers to help me find my way back.

Celebrate with me

Do you recognize the new user pic?

That would be the Alamo. As in Texas history.  As in the location of the story for the book I just sold to Lerner/Millbrook.

It’s called Enrique Esparza, Boy at the Alamo and is part of the “On My Own History” series (as is my book Robert Smalls Sails to Freedom.)

Woohoo for me!

Sunday, October 22, 2006|Categories: Susan's Books|Tags: , , , |75 Comments

A post full of random thoughts (minus the knots this time)

Thank you to everyone who offered support and advice for holding it all together the other night. I hesitated between posting or not posting because I knew I could go on and on and whine and where’s the fun in that? I guess that’s one of those things I need to accept. I am not the type of writer/person/blogger who will be posting blogs that are full of fun stuff. I wish I had that kind of personality but I just don’t. I am an angsty person with angsty thoughts who writes angsty stuff. At least I have friends that post things that make me laugh. (If you haven’t read the latest from lisayee you simply must, but don’t be drinking anything at the same time.)

What I will endeavor to do is get this blog back on track about writing. Saying that, there is, at last, a review up for Robert Smalls Sails to Freedom. And a nice one at that which contains the lovely phrase, “Brown’s telling is vivid . . .”

In other writing news, last night I did something that was very difficult for me; I turned down several work-for-hire projects and crossed a couple of articles off my to-do list. In the past I have always snapped up every writing opportunity that came my way, never knowing where it might lead. I need to accept that I don’t have to say yes to everything. It’s hard because part of the saying yes is the ego gratification that comes with someone wanting your work enough to pay for it. Heady stuff. But as my brilliant husband pointed out to me, at this moment in my career I am in need  of words more than money. Not that money isn’t good, great even, but  I don’t need to chase every few hundred dollar opportunity that  comes my way. I need to make words. Lots and lots of words.

We were talking about my new book project, MTLB. The opening scene has the main character in a new home, a home that is much different that the home she grew up in, a home on the wrong side of town where lots of kids have a parent or sibling in jail, where there are bars on the windows, where roaches and rats roam all too freely.

I asked him why was it so hard to let go of the work-for-hire project and the articles and all the other things on my to do list? Why can’t I just focus on my novels?  Why am I so afraid to write this book?

He said, “Because you remember the rats and the roaches.”

So true.

But I am not in that place any longer.
I need to remember that.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006|Categories: Writing Life|Tags: , , , |26 Comments

I'm back

I’m back, mostly. Exhausted? Very. Writing much? Not a word. I know, I bet some of you thought I was off writing the really really bad thing I mentioned a couple of weeks ago but you know life sometimes gets in the way of what we want to do. Actually I realized I had a major problem with the pivotal scene because there would have to be some legal ramifications dealt with in the book and it wasn’t where I wanted the focus to go. Plus I realized it would probably remove the mom from the story which wasn’t what I wanted to do. But then, in that way that plots do, it all turned on me and it might work after all but I need to talk to a cop and a lawyer to find out what would happen in that particular situation. Is all that about as clear as mud?

I’ve been so busy that there’s not been a lot of time to think about writing. The end of the fiscal year at work meant tons of long days and lots of working with numbers (and you know how much I don’t love numbers.) My husband who never travels for work is now bouncing all over the globe for a week gone, a few days home, then gone again. He just got back from Sydney and left this morning for France. I think it’s Singapore after that. Because he doesn’t usually travel things have gone all topsy turvy around the house.

Then there’s still the publicity stuff which is really a full time job that I can’t work on full time because I already have a full time job. All the brochures and flyers are printed. I’ve almost finished sanitizing the mailing list. My focus was to hit California hard because I figure I need to make a name for myself in my own backyard. I’ve figured out who gets what in their envelopes. Schools that are within an easy driving distance from me get the full packet including my brochure. Bookstores get the Oliver announcement postcard. Ditto the libraries. Schools not within driving distance will probably get the promo stuff plus the traveling Oliver flyer. But wait, there’s more. I got my copies of my new book from Millbrook, Robert Smalls Sails to Freedom which meant that I had to quickly design a new postcard, order it, then go back and refigure who needs to get both postcards. Then I had to factor in new places to send to since the book takes place in South Carolina and Robert Smalls who started life as a slave went on to become a congressman for South Carolina. So back to the mailing list to build up the south and Civil War angles and oh, Black History month. The result is that I am about to start stuffing close to 2,000 envelopes and will send out about 1,000 postcards on their own. It’s exciting having two books come out so close together but it’s a lot of work too. Robert Smalls is out officially in January though it looks like Amazon says they are shipping now. I know the first batch of books have gone out for review and now we’re at the waiting process again. Felicia Marshall, whom I believe lives in Texas, did all the illustrations and I just love them.

Cynthia Leitich Smith posted an interview with me and the illustrator for Oliver’s Must-Do List. I have to say that being interviewed is much harder than it might look. I love the way interview questions really make you think about the process.

Haemi Balgassi sent me a big batch of love when she blogged about reading Oliver with her daughter Lousia and then the divine Miss Princess Hello Kitty    blogged about Oliver herself which gave me a wonderful warm fuzzy when I needed it most.

I’m off to start printing mailing labels but in-between I’ll try to catch up on everyone’s life for the last couple of weeks.