Teen Bookfest by the Bay

Friends.  Wow.  Where to even begin?

This weekend, I drove down to Corpus Christi to be a signing author and a panelist for the third annual Teen Bookfest by the Bay.  It was my first time so I had no idea what to expect.

I don’t know how else to say this other than it was one of them most incredible experiences of my life.

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It all began with a welcome dinner at the Art Museum of South Texas, where the event coordinators and sponsors had put together a wonderful meal (plus chocolate-covered strawberries!).

Each author was also presented with our very own swag bags, complete with snacks, chocolate, t-shirts, name badges, water bottles, and sea shells.  Let me tell you, I have never felt so spoiled in my life.

After dinner (and a quick trip down to the water’s edge to take pictures of the USS Lexington lit up in blue, it was back to the hotel.

Sadly, my straight hair, which had been so beautiful, was no match for Corpus Christi humidity.  That’s okay.  I’ll straighten it for Comic Con.

The next morning, we were all awake bright and early.  Early enough, even, to watch the sun rise over the water from my hotel balcony.

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Then, it was off to the festival.  Before breakfast (again, provided by our sponsors and the wonderful librarians who organized the event), I dropped my books off with the others at the sales table.  It was then that I began to realize that I recognized several of the titles being sold alongside mine.  One of which happened to be one of my favorite books of all time, Seven Tears into the Sea by Terri Farley.

“Wait a minute… Is she here?!” I gasped.

That’s when I remembered that the day before, when I’d first arrived at the hotel, I’d ridden up the elevator with a woman named Terri.  I’d been chatting with a woman who’d written one of my favorite books and I hadn’t even realized it.

Needless to say, I completely fangirled out when I met her for the second time.  Terri Farley, it turns out, is one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet.  She’s also a huge animal lover and has written a non-fiction book called Wild Horses.  I can’t wait to read it.  It’s a beautiful books and features photographs by a National Geographic wildlife photographer, basically my dream job.

After a brief welcome, it was time for our first panel.  Now, I’ve never been one for public speaking. I remember in college, I would prepare slide shows so I would have something to read.  But my fellow authors on the panel, Laura Stampler and Guadalupe Garcia McCall, were so friendly and wonderful and sweet.  They made me feel right at ease and we spent most of our panels laughing.  And talking about books, of course.

At first, I’ll admit, I felt a lithe intimidated.  After all, Laura is published by Simon & Schuster and Guadalupe has won multiple, and I do mean MULTIPLE awards.  I’m just a little indie author from a small town north of Dallas.  In what universe was I worthy to sit next to them and act like I deserved to be there?

But then I thought to myself, “You know what?  No.  You worked your butt off to get here.  You and all the indies.  You’re out there every day fighting the stigma that independent authors aren’t as good as those who’ve been traditionally published when you know that that simply isn’t true.  Not just because you love your books, but because you’ve read and loved so many other indie books.”

So instead of sheepishly admitting that I’d published my own books, I proudly told our audiences that I’d learned the ins and outs of publishing, marketing, formatting, and cover design.  I told them of my friends and colleagues in the independent community who’ve written fantastic books, ones that I recommend over and over and over again.  I told them of the anthologies to which I’ve contributed, including Ever in the After, a charity anthology that will benefit Lift 4 Autism.

When my panel wasn’t presenting, I snuck upstairs to listen to my friend Miracle Austin’s panel.  She (and this is where I get to start name-dropping) shared a panel with multi-bestselling author Jonathan Maberry.

Seriously, this guy has done it all.  I can’t even begin to list his titles, awards, accomplishments, Marvel comics, X-Files, all this super cool amazing stuff.  And the best part of all is he’s SUCH a cool, nice person!  As I was on the escalator back down to the first floor, I noticed him walking by.  Being the elegant and mature grown-up person that I am, I yelled out, “Mr. Maberry!” and began running UP the escalator that was going down.

I introduced myself not as Jacqueline Smith, but as Miracle Austin’s friend, and basically fangirled all over the place.  But seriously, how else do you act around such a legend?

Speaking of Miracle, I just have to take a moment to thank her.  Not only for her unconditional love and friendship, but for telling me about Teen Bookfest by the Bay in the first place.  Without her, I would never have known to send in my name and my books.  Not only is she an absolutely amazing author (Jonathan Maberry even says so!), she’s the most genuine, sweet, wonderful, sparkly person you will ever meet.  I am so fortunate to be able to call her my friend.  She’s a rare one.

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I have so many other stories I could tell you from this weekend.  I met Ann Redisch Stampler, author of After Party, Where it Began, and How To Disappear.  Again, one of the absolute sweetest people you could ever hope to meet.  I ate lunch with Diana Lopez, whose novel, Choke, became the Lifetime Original Movie The Choking Game.  I reconnected with my friend, Amanda M. Thrasher, author of The Greenlee Project which, in my humble opinion, should also be a Lifetime Original Movie.  I met other amazing and sweet and friendly authors like Manuel Ruiz, Brendan Kiely (rhymes with smiley), and illustrator Evan Turk. And again, the best part was how genuinely NICE and open and inviting these exceptionally talented authors are.  God, I felt so accepted and welcome and fortunate.  What an incredible experience.  Truly.

Finally, the amazing librarians, Debbie Carroll VanZandt and her team are simply the best in the world.  They genuinely love and care about their kids and work tirelessly to promote reading and literacy and to make reading fun for these teens.  And wow, do they know how to make authors feel spoiled and special.  We wanted for nothing all weekend.  Honestly, I’ll never be able to thank them enough.

All I can truly say is that I’m counting down the days until next year!  Thank you all again for the experience of a lifetime.  It’s one that I will never forget.

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The Space Between Us

Hi, friends!

Wow, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?  I’m sorry.  That was a semi-conscious decision.  There’s just been so much negativity in our world and on TV and on social media and emotions have been running so high that, for my own sanity, I had to take a step back.

January was a pretty big month.  I turned 29.  I got some work done.  I’m in the middle of writing the fourth Boy Band book called Spotlight.  And I’m working on a new standalone book as well!  And let me tell you, I’m having so much fun.

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I’ve also seen a few wonderful movies in the past few months.  The first of which was Moana.  I love Disney.  I love the ocean.  Naturally, I loved Moana.  But God, that movie made me bawl.  I’m not kidding you.  I was weeping.  The last Disney movie to make me cry like that was The Lion King.

Then there was Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. 

Y’all.

Y’all.

Oh my God.

I didn’t write a review for this movie because I literally have nothing to say other than it’s perfect.  Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them is a perfect movie.  Everything about it is perfect.  Everything.

Newt is perfect.

The Niffler is perfect.

The score is perfect.

The costumes are perfect.

The magic is perfect.

Colin Farrell is perfect.

The subtle Harry Potter references are perfect.

Jakweenie is perfect.

PERFECT MOVIE IS PERFECT.

I could go on forever about how much I love this movie and the cast and the fact that it’s so much better than the eight Harry Potter movies (not books) and all my fan conspiracy theories and my borderline unhealthy love for Colin Farrell… But I’ll spare you.  Just know that I have never been more blissfully enraptured by a movie before and I doubt I will be again.

Well, at least until the second installment.

All that being said, I do have a new movie review for you, one in which I am not quite so emotionally invested as Disney or Harry Potter.

I’ve been wanting to see The Space Between Us since I first saw the trailer.  It looked exactly like my kind of sci-fi movie: a sappy teenage flick with a love story and a road trip.  The reviews weren’t exactly love letters.  Several critics pointed out that the science, the physics, the math, the technology was all ludicrous.  It could never work.  But you know what?  As a writer and as a movie-goer, I don’t go to see movies for their mathematical or scientific accuracy.  I go to be entertained.  I go for a story.  And come on.  It’s fiction.  I know this kid didn’t actually grow up on Mars.  I know I have to suspend belief for a while if I’m going to go see a movie like this.  Besides, as a person with a very, very basic understanding of physics and space travel and technology and what-not… I’m not going to know the difference.

I mean, my grandfather probably would have known the difference.  But I bet he also would have thought it was a cute story.  So whatever.

However, after reading all the negative reviews, I’ll admit that I second-guessed my eagerness to see the movie.  But then I read a review that called it “Nicholas Sparks type garbage” and I knew then that I would enjoy it.  For those of you who don’t know me, Nicholas Sparks type garbage is totally my kind of garbage.

So, without further ado…

Thoughts on The Space Between Us

SPOILER WARNING! 

  • You couldn’t pay me enough to go into space.
  • Of course they’d call this colony in the middle of dusty nowhere East Texas.
  • Why is Gary Oldman kind of hot as an old space geek?
  • He wasn’t even hot as Sirius Black. And Sirius Black is supposed to be hot.
  • Okay, I’m glad this kid grew up with other people.  For some reason, I was really concerned that he grew up on Mars alone.
  • Ugh Britt Robertson. I can’t stand her. I don’t know why. I’m sure she’s a lovely person. But as an actress, she’s like the human embodiment of nails on a chalkboard to me.
  • Also, she was born in 1990 and she’s playing a 17-year-old.
  • Oh look, she’s playing a song she wrote on the piano to show us how deep and vulnerable she is.
  • Gag me.
  • Gardener going through his post-puberty-rebellious stage on Mars.
  • BD Wong, why aren’t you taking care of your dinosaurs?
  • Somehow, surrogate space mom persuades BD Wong that bringing this kid back to Earth is a good idea despite his enlarged heart and brittle bones.
  • I’m actually really happy that Gardener gets to go to Earth but I’m already stressed out because I’ve seen the previews and I know his heart isn’t going to survive.
  • Stressful Martian kids.
  • Okay, Gardener is actually adorable.  Talking with that old homeless guy.  He’s so awkward and sweet.  I love him.
  • That guy on the bus is pretty much everyone in the entire world when strangers attempt to strike up conversations.
  • Gardener walking awkwardly into school.  God, he’s so cute.
  • Ugh, Britt Robertson, you’re such a little brat.
  • Tulsa.  What kind of a weird name is Tulsa?  I don’t even care that that’s the city she was abandoned in or whatever.  Sadly, I don’t even care that she was abandoned because she’s just that annoying.
  • Gardener walking into class and being adorable.  Can’t we just have a whole movie of him being awkward?  It would be much better without Tulsa’s tragic backstory.  Maybe I’d feel more sorry for her if the beautiful foster daughter who seems edgy on the outside but is actually loving with a beautiful spirit on the inside wasn’t SO overdone.  And often, so poorly executed.
  • Okay, I know I said that I was going to suspend disbelief going into this movie, but that was for the Mars stuff.  I don’t, for one second, believe this chick knows how to fly an old crop-duster plane.  No way.
  • Oh yeah, teenagers survive small aircraft crashes all the time.
  • Wow, these kids get away with a LOT of grand theft auto.
  • Tulsa sure does put up with a lot of weird from a boy she technically just met.  I mean, I know they’ve been Skype buddies for a while.  But still.
  • Oh my God, Gardener’s reaction to seeing the horse is so cute.  I just want a whole movie of this.
  • Ugh, Tulsa’s back at the piano again.  Writers, take note.  There are far less cheesy ways to communicate that a character is deep and beautiful and sees the world in a different way and blah, blah, blah.
  • Gardener’s health is still stressing me out.
  • I love this song by James Bay. “Need the Sun to Break.” It’s one of my new favorites.
  • Okay, I think we all knew that ending was coming.
  • I’m happy Gary Oldman got his dream.  I don’t know why anyone would want to live on Mars though.  It really doesn’t seem all that great.  Just a lot of red dust.
  • It would be fun to weigh less though.

Overall, The Space Between Us is a really cute movie.  I’d definitely see it again.  Don’t let the critics discourage you.  Of course, it’s no Fantastic Beasts, but let’s be honest, what is?