The Best of San Antonio from a Native Texan

With RWA this week, I thought I would write a few of my favorite things about San Antonio down for all the people coming in for the conference. I am a native Texan and these are the things I never miss doing whenever I am in town.

Eat some TexMex and other local flare while you are here. In fact, eat it every day, for more than one meal. TexMex, or what we just call Mexican food, has a lot of cheese and meat and is sure to make you smile. I recommend a margarita while you eat your chips and salsa. If you have never had a breakfast burrito, do yourself a favor and eat one. Other fun Texas foods include kolaches, both the fruit and meat varieties, and BBQ.

There are a ton of places to eat on the Riverwalk, but if you are looking for great TexMex and want something more local, my favorite places in San Antonio are La Fogata and Rosarios. La Fogata is off the loop and will require a drive. It is family owned and started in a gas station. The food is excellent, the margaritas superb, and the atmosphere original. Rosarios has absolutely amazing food and cocktails and is within walking distance of the conference center though it is a bit of a hike.

I love craft beer, but if you are looking for a variety of brews along the Riverwalk, you will be disappointed. There are some fun nightspots, though they are almost all loud in the evenings with live bands. My favorite bars on the Riverwalk are MadDog’s British Pub, Durty Nellie’s, and Pat O’Brien’s. Out of all of these, MadDog’s has the best beer variety and their porch is nice. It is usually where I end up at the end of the night.

If you want to go shopping and have a real San Antonio experience, try Market Square. The restaurants here are pricey, like the Riverwalk, but there is a Mexican bakery in Mi Tierra which is well worth the extra pounds you will gain after visiting. I suggest forgoing actual lunch or dinner and skipping right to dessert. If you do not have a car, you can ride the local streetcars or take the bus.

We are extremely proud of our history here. The Alamo is free to visit and will give you a good overview of how Texas won its independence. The Alamo is close to the Riverwalk and worth an hour of your time. I have been there enough times I could give tours and I still go for a peek when I am here. There are also many local Spanish missions which you can do on a walking tour.

Overall, Texans are a friendly bunch and San Antonio is as nice as it gets here in the summer. Translated for all the visitors coming in: It is darn hot, but less humid than the coastal areas, where I am from.

Howdy, y’all. Welcome to the Lone Star State.

Distribute your eBooks at RWA

If you are an indie author or a small publisher, I have a cool free way to get ebooks into the hands of RWA attendees in two weeks. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if you could offer a free ebook to RWA attendees only and then promote it to people online? It would!

I spent a week looking at this

Silvercliff Sunrise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and I realized I had made two fundamental mistakes as I started out with my LibraryBox RWA experiment. I forgot two things.

Thing one: Most authors are very careful about how they handle their digital content (as they should be) and I am used to the more open approach of librarians (information wants to be free).

Thing two: As a librarian, enough people know who I am that I unlikely to be considered “that crazy lady.” In the author community, I am not well known enough to be kept out of that category on my name alone.

I am asking for authors to trust me with their digital content and experiment with me using their own content. I am asking for this and then I did not give an expiration date as to how long the material would be on my LibraryBox. Originally, I figured I would just leave all the digital content on the LibraryBox forever.

This was not a good plan. I will now be deleting the folder on my LibraryBox I create for RWA. That means, unless you tell me otherwise, the content you send me will be freely available to the people at the annual RWA conference for three days and then, poof, gone. I hope this makes a difference to some of you on the fence about whether to participate in this.

I do not attend a ton of conferences anymore because of family constraints but I will be doing this again at RT in Dallas in May, but you do not have to attend either event to be included.

I hope that some other authors will join Mia West and Nikki Penttila in this adventure to give out some ebooks at a conference filled with people who love to read.

p.s. Happy Monday.

LibraryBox at RWA

My amazing friend, Jason Griffey, has made an amazing little thing called LibraryBox. From the website:

LibraryBox v2.0 is a combination of a router (a variety of hardware will work), USB drive, and software that, when combined, give you a small, low powered webserver. The webserver acts like a captive portal, and delivers files that are stored on the USB drive.

In “captain dummy speak,” it is a device which creates its own wifi signal, allows users to log on to the signal, and then download any content on the device. It is completely open source and completely awesome. Libraries and educators around the world are using it to distribute books and class materials and to reach students in new ways.

I wanted to find a way for authors to use LibraryBox and I think I found a darn good one.

At the RWA (Romance Writers of America) Annual Conference in San Antonio starting on Thursday, July 24th, I will be walking around with a LibraryBox. I am starting on Thursday so it will not interfere with the Readers for Life Literacy sale on Wednesday.

Why should you care?

Everyone knows ARCs and free books are the things we love to give and receive at conferences. For indie authors or small pubs, this can be hard when most of their stock is ebooks. My LibraryBox will be a free, easy way for you to give copies out to people at the conference in real time to read, review, and rave over with almost no work on your part. Anytime I am at a conference event, I will have the LibraryBox on. Anyone with a wireless device (tablet, phone, etc.) can log on to the wifi signal the box creates and download books to read. LibraryBox keeps tabs on how many of each item is downloaded, but it does not track individual users due to privacy. At the end of each day, I will post the top 10 downloads. If you are an author or a publisher and you would like to participate, here are some FAQs you might want to know, be aware of, take heed of:

  • In order to participate in this project, you must be the digital rights holder for the works you send me.
  • This is for traditionally (with a publisher) or indie (self) published works. WIPs or manuscripts will not be accepted.
  • All files received for this project will be on this LibraryBox for the lifetime of the box, freely available. If this is a major sticking point, let’s talk about it. Updated: The RWA file on my LibraryBox will be deleted after the conference.
  • All books for this project will be in a folder marked “RWA2014″ on the device listed in alpha order by author’s last name.
  • Files should be in easily readable formats, like epub or pdf.
  • There will be a page on this blog listing all the participating authors and publishers so readers and attendees can take a peek and so you can brag about it.
  • I will in no way use the books sent to me for profit or in any way not specified in this blog post. Like any digital content, once it leaves my hands, I can not control it.
  • You do not have to be attending RWA to have your book included!

Interested? Send me a copy of your book to mboule at gmail dot com. I will send a confirmation email when I receive your file.

I toyed around with dividing books by subgenre. Any thoughts on that? Opinions?

Questions? Ask them below.

Silvercliff or Bust

I know a week of silence here is not something out of the ordinary, but I will be offline for the next week. I will be at Silvercliff Ranch in Colorado with a bunch of high school kids. No cell phones, no email, no Twitter. It is nice to be unplugged for a few days.

Gideon and Mom

Gideon and Me

I know 24 hours on a bus and then a week of late nights and early mornings with a bunch of teenagers sounds terrible to some of you. I think it is one of the best weeks of my year. I will miss my boys, but I will be in the mountains, which for me is the sum of all good things.

When I get back, I am going to announce an exciting project for RWA Conference at the end of July. Authors, even if you are not going, you will want to know about this. Stay tuned.

Whatever the Circumstance

This is part of an ongoing series of devotionals for writers.

Not that I speak from want; I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. – Paul writing to the Philippians 4:11

I am stuck in the middle of revisions. I have been floundering since I started this step in the writing process. My brain, which normally has no problem with words, has turned to mush. Needless to say, I have not been content in my writing life.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the launch party for Chasing the Lion. This book and its author had a long way to publication. Nancy Kimball is one of the most amazing ladies I know and I am truly blessed to have her as a friend. I smiled all day for her and for many days after. She reminds me that no road is easy, but we still have to make the right choices and be thankful.

At Nancy’s party, I was also able to reconnect with other authors I know and meet some new ones. We are all at different stages in our lives and careers, but we have two things in common: a love of the written word and a love for the Lord. These encounters reminded me why I write. They each, in their own way, encouraged me to persevere. I had forgotten, in my battle with revisions, to be thankful for where I am.

I have everything to be thankful for and I neglected in the past weeks to find contentment in my circumstance. When I pause to consider where I started, how far I have come, and where I have yet to go, I am excited and thankful. I am content.

For you: In what ways have you let daily frustrations rob you of contentment? What can you be thankful for today?

For your characters: When they face a frustration, what is their reaction? How do they handle a situation for which they feel unequipped? What will it take to make your character feel contentment or even joy in their circumstance?

The Very First Time

Yesterday was a day which started with me yelling at the kids to clean their room and ended with me getting hit in the head by a ceiling fan while I looked for the mysterious bug which had woken up my six year old. It was a day of frustrations, tears, and pain, but there was one bright spot. Gosh, sounds like a normal Mom day, right?

Gideon, the six year old, got his first library card yesterday from Helen Hall Library in League City.

Gideon Library Card

Notice how sad Washington is in this picture. He has library card envy.

I remember my first library card. It was from the Pearland Public Library and was light blue card stock. It had this metal bar on it with numbers which they pressed with carbon paper to make the check out slip. I was very proud of it.

I made a big deal about Gideon getting his card. He had to be able to read and write his name, both things he mastered ages ago, but this is the beginning of summer and that means… Summer Reading Programs!

I am beyond excited to see how much fun Gideon has reading on his own and how much pleasure he takes from reading books. My heart just explodes every time I hear him reading, an activity which has defined my life since I can remember.

Go to your library today and read a book. Libraries pull out all the stops in the summer with amazing programs on science, culture, and art. Not just for kids! Go find something amazing at your library.

Book Review: The Bride Prize by Sandra Schwab

I started to just write a tweet about this, but then I realized I had more than 140 characters worth of things to say.

Anyone who has been reading this blog long enough to see my reading lists, knows I adore Sandra. Not only do I love her books, but she is a nice, intelligent lady who lives in Germany and has a fantastic job as an English professor. All that to say, this review may be biased but it is all still true.

The Bride Prize is, in a word, delightful. It is the first in a series which centers around a satirical periodical titled Allan’s Miscellany. Robert Beaton, the hero of the story, is an illustrator for the magazine. One of the major conflicts of the novella is that Florence Marsh’s father does not hold with those satirical rags and Florence, of course, is falling for Robert.

Schwab has included some hilarious excerpts from the magazine which made me pull down my own copy of Eighteenth-Century English Literature so I could flip through the section on Addison and Steele. A discussion of literature in The Spectator, issue Number 62 starts like this, “As true Wit consists in the Resemblance of ideas, and false Wit in the Resemblance of Words…”

I sat on the floor for a good thirty minutes thumbing through my lit book and chuckling. I then proceeded to talk Mr. Rochester’s ear off about the cultural force of true satire in the 1700s long past his eyes glazed over. He patted me on the shoulder and said something like, “That sounds nice, dear.”

Back to the book.

The Bride Prize is set a generation after Addison and Steele wrote The Tattler and The Spectator, but the need to drive change in society with the power of a well placed word is a theme throughout this small but fun novella. I do not want you to think The Bride Prize is all about social change, though it is mentioned. I do want you to know that the English major, librarian, geek that I am loved the references Sandra sprinkled throughout the story about history and literature of the early 1800s. If you are really a geek, and I know you are, you can signup for her newsletter and get a 24 page pdf which includes illustrations and historical explanations of all manner of things mentioned in the book. You can also buy a copy of the ebook with the extras for a bit more, see the link at the beginning of this post.

The Bride Prize is well worth your time. I smiled for a long time when it was over. I can not wait until the next installment in this series.

Highly Recommended

 

 

The Best in This Moment

When I wrote Mob Rule Learning, it was the longest piece of writing I had undertaken at that time. Before that, the bulk of my writing had been articles and blog posts. The glory of writing for the web is the constant feedback, discussion, and metamorphoses a conversation can undergo in hours, days, or months. Writing long form non-fiction was painful because it is like writing in an echo chamber. I spent a lot of time wondering, “What the heck do I know any way?” and “Does this tripe even make sense?”

Since then, I have completed three fiction manuscripts and I have one WIP (work in progress). The process of writing the first draft of fiction is wonderful. I love the worlds I have created and I love the process of weaving words together.

I took the next step and found an editor I thought would mesh well with my writing and my goals and who would challenge me. I am now in the middle of development revisions for the first book in a series I want to release next year and I have learned something valuable.

This stage of fiction writing is just as painful as writing long form non-fiction.

The reasons are different for each type, but it boils down to the same questions, “What the heck do I know?” and “Does this tripe even make sense?”

In facing these questions again, but for different reasons this time, I know that no matter what kind of stuff you write, if you are author, you spend time wrestling with these questions. The secret is to get past them quickly because they can mire you in indecision and immobilize your brain.

This morning, when you sit down to do the thing you do (write, teach, cook, lead, or change the world) be the best you can be today, this moment, and keep pushing forward. If we do it right, each moment teaches us something new and wonderful and each moment we improve.

Development revisions are painful and I have spent the last week pulling out my hair, but I want what comes at the end, a better book, and so I persevere.

Whom shall I fear?

This is part of an ongoing series of devotionals for writers.

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the defense of my life;
Whom shall I dread?
When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me,
My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I shall be confident.
Psalm 27:1-3

Memorizing scripture comes up often enough in different classes I have taken over the years. My response has always been, “I don’t want to,” which is a terrible attitude in general. A close friend memorized the entire book of James last year and she said it changed her life. It was the last nail in the coffin of my excuses.

I am starting with what has come to be my life’s verse, or rather verses. Some people claim a verse, I claim the entire chapter 27 of Psalms, as my guide. I know it is a bit excessive, but each part has resonated with me at different times. Last week, I started with the first verse of my favorite Psalm.

“Whom shall I fear?”

We fear many things, some real, some imagined. I am scared of the dark, still at thirty-six, and I find myself walking faster through dark halls. I am scared of my own failings, that I will allow my faults to define who I am becoming.

We fear death, our own and of those we love. We fear pain and failure. Sometimes, we fear the truth and the consequences it holds. We fear the scars and baggage we carry from our past experiences. Our entire lives can be wrapped in fear of one thing or another.

Fear has the ability to rob us of what we should be enjoying. It robs us of peace and thankfulness.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation…”

Faith is our light in the darkness. It is our salvation in a world bursting with things to fear. Our anxiety and fears should be handed over the the Lord because all we have comes from Him. In Him, we can find strength and courage to face what comes for us.

I am still afraid of the dark most nights, but I know where my strength comes from.

For you:

What fears are keeping you from living your full life? Turn them over to God and look for one way to step out of our fear this week.

For your character:

What is their greatest fear? What is the origin of this fear? Are they forced, over the course of the plot, to confront their fear? When presented with the opportunity to overcome it, do they? If not, what are the consequences for them and for others?

Gathering Fruit

This is part of a series of devotionals for writers.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. -Galatians 5:22-26

I will be honest. I struggle with this passage. All these things, these fruits which are the natural out flowing of our love for the Lord, are hard for me.

I struggle with loving people who are mean. I struggle to find joy in an afternoon of housework. I struggle to have forbearance, also known as patience, every moment of every day. I struggle to be kind to people who say hurtful things. I struggle with having faith when the process becomes long and hard. I struggle with being gentle when my spirit tells me to charge in and take control. I struggle with keeping my big mouth shut when a little self control would save me from some apologies later.

It is hard to harvest these fruits.

I can say though that I am better than I used to be. I have more patience than I used to when presented with an opportunity to be impatient. I choose to keep my mouth shut more often. I have more self-control. I find more moments in my day where I notice the peace, joy, and love around me and then I turn and show that to others with my words and actions.

I do not always choose the right thing, but I make better choices more often than I used to. I will never be perfect, but God does not ask perfection of me. He only asks that I try with my whole heart and that I improve over time. He asks that, in striving towards Him and becoming like Him, I grow into a better version of myself.

For you: Are you making better choices today than five years ago? If yes, say a prayer of thanksgiving and ask for new ways you can change and grow. If not, what one small thing can you do this week to make a change?

For your character: What thing on this list of fruits is hardest for them and why? Does the plot force them to confront their fault and do they grow as a result? Do they lose something, a relationship or opportunity, because of this fault? How do they deal with the loss?