End of Year Update

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Baby has arrived!
My beautiful baby girl was born November 1st at 9:16 pm. She weighed a healthy 8 pounds 7 ounces. My husband and I are smitten by her. For a person so tiny, she sure keeps me busy! It’s an accomplishment to get dressed and eat lunch by 2:00 pm now, so blogging has fallen to the wayside. Before the end of the year, however, I wanted to update you on a few literary things that have happened in my life recently.

1). Remember my post about writing to authors? Well, I got a response! Katherine Neville sent me a signature. I was surprised since I had written to her in September of 2013. The signature is now proudly displayed on my bookshelf in front of her novel, The Eight.

2). I also had a response from another author – but in a different way. Not long ago, I posted about Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s novel Bittersweet. I mentioned how I was confused by the story’s setting. I went on Goodreads and posed the question on the book’s page. I figured I would get a response from a fellow reader. Lo and behold – I received a response from the author herself. It answered my question and it made me appreciate the book more because the author took the time to respond.

3). I was further surprised to hear about the upcoming closure of my favorite bookstore. The Barnes & Noble located inside the historic Chateau Theatre in Rochester, Minnesota, will close at the end of December. I am saddened to hear this news and hope I can sneak in one last visit over the holiday season. It’s a unique space and who knows what will happen to the building once the books move out.

Happy Holidays to all. May your holidays be filled with lots of family, laughter, good food, and great books.

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Writing to Authors

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After moving to a new city last summer and not getting a full-time teaching position, I found myself with a lot of extra time. I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time, took up Zumba, and created a blog. I also decided to do something that I had thought about for a long time, but never had the time to sit down and do: I sent out a bunch of letters to some of my favorite authors. I wanted to let them know how much I enjoyed their books and appreciated their work. I shared part of a letter I wrote in an earlier post about Caroline B. Cooney. I found the addresses on various places around the web. I typed up cute letters and put them in the mail…and then I never heard from any of the authors. Not a mass-produced postcard response or anything.

I’ll have to admit, I was a bit disappointed. I’m not trying to book an author for an event or anything, but I’d like some kind of confirmation that my letter made it to its intended audience. I remember writing to celebrities in elementary school when we learned about letter writing, and we all got something back from the people we wrote to (I wrote to Patricia Richardson, aka Jill Taylor from the 90s classic TV show Home Improvement. I must not have been able to find Jonathan Taylor Thomas’s address!).

The only author I did manage to reach was Katherine Neville, author of The Eight. I sent her an e-mail (which means that perhaps my letter writing was a bit too old-fashioned) and she sent a response back lickety-split. I told her how much I enjoyed her novels and that until her next book came out, I was busy reading Steve Berry’s books. She wrote back:

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In an age of social media and staying connected to your customers, I figured more authors would be willing to respond to a reader’s letter. Is this just wishful thinking on my part? I’d love to have a response from an author I’ve admired.

Has anyone else tried to contact an author before? Were you successful? Any tips on how can I find more up-to-date addresses? Or should I give up on the letter approach and contact authors through e-mail or their blogs?

Entry #19 – Favorite Author:

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Entry #19 – Favorite author:  What author do you gravitate towards in the bookstore or library?  Which author can you not get enough books from?  Or maybe they’ve only written one book, but it changed your life.

Growing up, my very favorite author would have to be Caroline B. Cooney.  This past summer, I decided to send a piece of fan-mail to this author who was an important part of my life.  I don’t know if she actually read my letter or not, but I thought it was important to express my thanks for her novels.  Check out a bit of the letter I sent:

I picked up The Face on the Milk Carton in middle school and became a Caroline B. Cooney fan for life.  “Cooney” was the first bookshelf I always checked at the library or bookstore, and I voraciously read your body of work.  I realize now how lucky I was to have parents who valued reading and were able to fund my book habit.  I have read at least 40 of your titles and personally own 30 of the books.  I remember ordering some of the trickier to find titles on e-bay when I was in college.  I also have The Face on the Milk Carton starring Kellie Martin and Edward Herrmann recorded on VHS!

Besides The Face on the Milk Carton series, some of my favorite books are The Time Travelers Quartet, Driver’s Ed, and The Terrorist. I enjoy your books because of the slightly-unusual character names, the fast-paced and suspenseful action, and the relatable main characters.  I’ve never seen my own face on a milk carton, stolen a stop sign, handled smallpox scabs, or traveled back in time, but for some reason, I believe what the characters are doing and feel for them.  I cheer them on when they make good choices and groan when they do the wrong thing.  Your books provided the adventure I needed in my life.

Even though I am now twenty-seven years old, I still enjoy picking up your books.  In fact, I just read Three Black Swans and Code Orange this summer.  It has taken me fifteen years to send this piece of fan-mail, but I wanted to let you know how much I admire you as an author.  I will continue to recommend your books to my friends and students.

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As an adult, I still gravitate towards Young Adult Literature, so I admire authors like Ally Condie, Kristin Cashore, Veronica Roth, Suzanne Collins, Carrie Jones, and Marissa Meyer.  When it comes to more “grown up” books, I’m a fan of authors Steve Berry, Katherine Neville, Paullina Simons, and Gillian Flynn.  The biggest bummer is finding an author I really like, and then discovering that the author has only written one book!

Who are your favorite authors?

Entry #10 – Current Read:

currentreadEntry #10 – Current read:  Speaks for itself—what are you reading right now?

A week ago, I started reading Steve Berry’s 2012 novel The Columbus Affair.  I’ve been a fan of Berry’s for several years, so I was excited to start reading this novel.  I’ve already read ten other books by Berry, including The Amber Room, The Romanov Prophecy, The Third Secret, The Templar Legacy, The Alexandria Link, The Venetian Betrayal, The Charlemagne Pursuit, The Paris Vendetta, The Emperor’s Tomb, and The Jefferson Key.  Berry writes fast-paced thrillers that tie in to history—for example, discovering the hidden library of Alexandria, finding the descendants of Alexei and Anastasia, or uncovering the reason why China’s First Emperor is guarded by an army of terra-cotta warriors.

I became a fan of Steve Berry after my aunt gave me The Eight, written by Katherine Neville.  In the book, a computer expert and chess aficionado travels to Algeria to recover pieces of an old chess set.  The story jumps between different times throughout history when the chess set, once owned by Charlemagne, is pursued by people who believe the chess set can lead to incredible powers.  I was immediately hooked by the history, the mystery, the danger, and uncovering the truth about the chess set.  My aunt had told me this was one of her favorite books of all time, and I could completely see why.  I set out to find more books written by Katherine Neville and was disappointed to find out that she hadn’t written many other books.  At the time, Neville only had A Calculated Risk and The Magic Circle published, along with The Eight.  I read her books and was left wondering—what now?!  Where else can I get my historical-thriller fix?!  Luckily, I found out that Steve Berry was another author that excelled at this type of writing.  Berry quickly became a favorite author.

If you’re a fan of history, action-packed thrillers, conspiracy theories, Dan Brown, or Disney’s National Treasure films, I highly recommend any of Steve Berry’s books.  You won’t be disappointed.

Here is Amazon’s blurb on The Columbus Affair

A family’s secret, a ruthless fanatic, and a covert arm of the American  government—all are linked by a single puzzling possibility:

What if everything we know about the discovery of America was a lie? What if that lie was designed to hide the secret of why Columbus sailed in 1492? And what if that 500-year-old secret could violently reshape the modern political world?

Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist Tom Sagan has written hard-hitting articles from hot spots around the world. But when one of his stories from the Middle East is exposed as a fraud, his professional reputation crashes and burns. Now he lives in virtual exile—haunted by bad decisions and a shocking truth he can never prove:  that his downfall was a deliberate act of sabotage by an unknown enemy. But before Sagan can end his torment with the squeeze of a trigger, fate intervenes in the form of an enigmatic stranger.  This stranger forces Sagan to act—and his actions attract the attention of the Magellan Billet, a top-secret corps of the United States Justice Department that deals with America’s most sensitive investigations. Sagan suddenly finds himself caught in an international incident, the repercussions of which will shudder not only Washington, D.C., but also Jerusalem. Coaxed into a deadly cat-and-mouse game, unsure who’s friend and who’s foe, Sagan is forced to Vienna, Prague, then finally into the Blue Mountains of Jamaica—where his survival hinges on his rewriting everything we know about Christopher Columbus.