What’s On My Mind

Hello, my name is Amy, and I am a shmoopy book blubberer

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While at the Tucson Festival of Books, I participated in “A Book I Love”, a segment of Mark McLemore’s Arizona Spotlight. Basically, you choose a book you love and talk about it for a couple of minutes. Pretty cool, right?

I chose The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, one of my all time favorite books EVER.

The only thing is, I’m a weepy goober who can’t actually talk about The Book Thief without crying.

I should have known better. I mean, I could have talked about any number of books. There are so many incredible books out there. But whenever someone asks me, “What’s the best book you’ve read lately?” I always return to The Book Thief. So during my two minutes, I talked about The Book Thief…and I cried like a shmoopy blubberer.

Sigh.

Those who know me well are nodding their heads. They’re used to me getting verklempt.

There is an upside. When I played the segment for my daughter, she buried her face in her hands and said, “You are so embarrassing.” There are few things in life as satisfying as embarrassing your tween daughter.

Maybe there’s another upside as well. Perhaps my genuine, emotional reaction to this wonderful book will cause others out there to read it. I just hope they have their tissues ready. Especially if they’re weepy book goobers, too.

Click here to listen to A Book I Love (and me, blubbering). I’m the last speaker on the audio segment, located below the first video.

Saying Goodbye to My Sweet Girl

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Pretty girl
Pretty girl

It’s been a difficult couple of days around the Nichols’ household. On Tuesday, Hannah, our 9.5 year old McNab (and Holly’s younger sister), suddenly got very sick. Despite medications, tests, and emergency supportive care, she was too far gone and we had to say goodbye. The vets weren’t sure what caused her illness, but based on her lab results we wonder if she had sudden and severe  pancreatitis complicated by her Addison’s disease that resulted in multiple system failure.

The pain of losing her, and so quickly…it’s hard to put into words. The kids have so many questions. Hobbes, our 2-year old bordernese, is confused.

I wanted to post some pics of Hannah and share a few things about her.

She really was the sweetest dog, with big brown eyes that would melt your heart. She had this funny bark she’d make when she was excited. Imagine Scooby-Doo saying, “Bow-roo?!” Made us laugh every time. She always had a puppy-like quality about her, and loved prancing around the back yard. She obsessed on the lizards who live in the cracks in our yard walls and the ground squirrels who tunneled in our bushes. She was neurotic in a totally hilarious way. She hated the ice maker, the salad spinner, counting, singing, dancing. All of our videos from birthday parties, singing happy birthday, feature Hannah barking along. And counting…when we taught our kids how to count, we’d get to three or four, and she’d bark like crazy. Every morning she greeted me at my bedroom door. She would sit in front of me, put her paws up on my legs and bow her head down so I could scratch her neck. My husband would joke that she looked like she was worshipping me. “Oh great mom…” Every night I’d fluff up her blanket and tuck her in. She’d snuggle her head in my hands and I’d tell her, “Good night, sweet girl. Mama loves you.” The same words I said when she passed away.

It’s going to be difficult getting used to not having her around. Even as I type this, we’re trying to figure out the new morning routine. Hobbes keeps going in and out the back door, looking for her, I think. This is hard. I know time will help, but I miss my girl.

Last night at bedtime, my daughter was crying and questioning and angry. I told her the story about the fortune cookie I got after Holly died. It was good to remember, and I do believe we’ll see them again.

The Things People Say

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file000808611721Sometimes people say the meanest things. It’s like they don’t hear how they sound. Or maybe they do and don’t care.

I’ve been talking about this a lot with my kids lately. Teaching them that words are powerful. With their words, they have the ability to build up or destroy.

The little boy next door passed a note over the wall to my youngest the other day. In crude handwriting and awful spelling, the boy called my youngest a…well, an offensive term that starts with F and rhymes with duck. The word came out of nowhere. One minute they’re talking and playing, and the next, boom. His feelings were hurt, of course. Now whenever he interacts with that boy, it’s like he’s on heightened awareness, waiting for the kid to hurt his feelings again.

Now, I’m sure that boy had either been called that name, or had heard someone get called that, and was just trying the word out for himself. That’s how kids are, right? But man, that makes me sad.

I told my youngest that I love him, that I think he’s great, to let it go, that he didn’t have to play with that boy if he didn’t want to, but I know how words like that stick with you.

All of us do.

Hurtful words have a way of echoing in our minds long after they’ve been said. They’re like magnets, attracted and clinging to our insecurities, difficult to shake off.

When I was young, one of my friend’s mothers made a comment to my mom. “It’s nice to see Amy’s starting to get pretty.”

Ouch. All these years later, that one still echoes around up there.

The things people say affect us.

The things we say affect others.

Words can build up. Words can tear down. If only we were more conscious of how we use them, of when we use them, and of how they affect the hearer. Think of how we could change the world.

Ready. . . Set. . . LAUNCH!

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Happy New Year!

How’s 2014 treating you so far? Around here, it’s been swell. I spent the first day of the new year reading, doing some web design work for the Class of 2k14 and counting down the minutes to the new season of Sherlock.

(Did you see it? At first I was like *gasp* and then I was like, AHHH! and then I was like, Whoa. I’ll tell you one thing: between The Day of the Doctor, The Time of the Doctor and The Empty Hearse, I’m emotionally spent.)

Anyway, back on topic. 2014.

A few years ago (thanks to S. C. Green, I think) I started choosing a theme word for the year. Last year my word was “spirit“. And if 2013 was anything, it was spirited!

With my first book coming out this year and a slew of other writing projects in the works, the word I’ve chosen for 2014 is…

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Launch!

Let’s do this.

2013 Rocked! (A review with photos)

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Ahhh, here we are. The end of 2013, and the (completely self-indulgent) reflecting back on the year.

In a word, 2013 rocked.

Some highlights:

January: A whirlwind trip to New York with my hubby. I visited my publisher, took in all the art my brain could hold, saw a couple of Broadway plays, ate delicious food and skated at Rockefeller Center. Awesome.

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February: Another whirlwind trip to Los Angeles to go to the Oscars with my friend Trish. And just a couple of months after the two of us went to the Emmys. We ate at The Ivy, did the celebrity cemetery thing, shopped and, you  know, went to the Oscars. Crazy!

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March: I experienced my first real deadline. It was…intense. Don’t get me wrong: working with my editor, Katherine Harrison, has been nothing but a joy. But I have definitely gained a new understanding and appreciation for the energy and discipline it takes to revise a novel, and to do so by a specified date. I work best under deadlines (I think), but man do I need a nap afterward.

April: A weekend trip to Sedona with friends, including a friend who traveled all the way from England! Sedona is beautiful and we had a weekend full of laughter and food and fun.

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May: Phoenix Comicon!! I made my first official author appearance, participating in a panel on publishing. It was so fun! And Phoenix Comicon is just awesome. If you ever get a chance to go, go! Every year gets better and this coming year is no exception.

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June: My Parking Lot Confessional cohorts Stephen and Amy and I met Neil Gaiman!!

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July: San Diego Comicon with my friend Trish. Our first time attending. It was mind-blowing. I don’t know that any future SDCC visits will be able to top it. But we’ll see what happens in 2014!

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August: I traveled to Los Angeles to hang out with friends at the LA SCBWI conference. Always a blast. Every kidlit writer should attend an SCBWI conference at least once. This year was particularly poignant, as I got to meet up with other Adams Lit clients. Yay!

September: My first experience with copyedits. Wow. I’d heard that copyedits were trying, but I had no idea. My hat is off to copyeditors everywhere. You have a unique gift. I have a new appreciation for sentence structure and grammar now. Going through copyedits took my writing to the next level, for sure. September definitely grew me as a writer.

October: A much-needed vacation, driving through Colorado during the changing of the leaves. Ahhh, this trip did my spirit good.

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November: This month was full of fun events. I met Dan Simmons, and Preston & Child at The Poisoned Pen. My family also celebrated the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary, seeing The Day of the Doctor in 3D at the cinema. So cool!

December: Just before Christmas, I submitted the manuscript for my second book to my editor. Then I indulged in all kinds of Christmas celebration, including building a TARDIS with my husband. I don’t think the neighbors know what it is, but that’s OK. In our opinion, we definitely have the coolest Christmas decorations on the block.

tardis

And now, it’s the last day of 2013. Looking back, this year just blows my mind. I only hit the highlights here, but in between all of these events were a day-to-day life filled with all the things I love: my husband, my kids, my friends, my writing. Of course there were less-stellar times as well, but overall the good far outweighs the bad. I am grateful. I am blessed.

2014 should be an interesting year. In 2014, my first book, Now That You’re Here, will be published! Stay tuned for lots of news and fun and giveaways and events.

In the meantime, though, thank you for reading, thank you for putting up with this self-indulgence. Here’s a toast to 2013: a wonderful, whirlwind of a year! And here’s to 2014 and beyond. May we all experience joy and peace and love beyond measure.

Happy New Year!