Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Day 2: Honk Kong = Delicious + Colorful

Yesterday was my first real day to venture out into Hong Kong. My body spent most of the day in a state of jet lag confusion, which kind of feels like having a mild hangover.

We started the morning with a delicious breakfast at home with Asian Pears, turkey, scrambled egg, egg quiches, and some much needed coffee. Then we took a car ride through the city to join in on the BSF chapter here in Hong Kong.

During the car ride, I saw a really cool tree. I love how the trunk looks like its made of multiple cords of bark woven together.

I was pleased to see that Hong Kong has decided to go with my favorite color, red, for their taxi service.

The streets remind me of a mix of the highway's back home and a bit of road travel in the larger cities of India (due to the congestion), save for the fact that drivers in Hong Kong actually respect lanes, unlike in India.

I got to attend a BSF small group with my bestie and some local ladies. Everyone in Hong Kong speaks English, better than some people in Alabama, I might say. LOL. The English that people speak here has a soft English accent, and it sounds beautiful and proper. A dear family friend is the leader of the entire Hong Kong chapter of the day women's group of BSF, and it was such a privilege to hear her speak.

Before we started small group, since the jet lag was making me feel hung over, I decided that I needed some sort of liquid hydration So my bestie and I left the building, and boldly crossed the street and walked into the shopping center where there was a sign for a Starbucks. We walked inside, never found the Starbucks, but did find a small grocery store and headed to the refrigerated section. I didn't know what half the bottles were, but my eyes zoned in on these.

And because the bottles said "Water" I assumed that "POSTONIC" was just the name of the manufacturer. So as we walked back, I opened the cap, and took a sip, and the water was syrupy sweet. That's when I looked at the label and saw that it had TWELVE THOUSAND CALORIES!!!

It was Diabetes in a bottle. No Joke. I even asked my Uncle and he confirmed that it had TWELVE THOUSAND CALORIES!! He said that people drank it after they exercised. Ummm....why? So they can undo all the calories they burned from working out?!?

Needless, to say that once I saw the primary ingredient was high fructose corn syrup, plus the TWELVE THOUSAND CALORIES, and the bottle went in the trash.

After BSF and the water incident, we spent some time with my goddaughter and her cousins and then headed out to here for lunch:

The restaurant was on the top floor of a building and boasted panoramic views of the Hong Kong skyline:

From that high up we could even see the equivalent of Hong Kong's white house. It's where the leader who is the equivalent of Hong Kong's prime minister lives.

I ate dumplings, chicken mushrooms and rice, cucumber salad, and sipped on tea. And then the waiter brought in this:

Yes, that is a bowl full of floating red chili peppers, under which you will find the vegetables and fish. The dish is called Spicy Sichuan Style Stewed Wild Organic Freshwater Fish. I'm a failure at being Indian because I can't eat spicy foods. So naturally, I thought I'd skip this dish. But, then my Auntie, gave me the idea of giving the fish a bath in a bowlful of water, to wash off the spices and pepper. I felt like Anna from Anna and the French Kiss when she was at lunch giving her grapes a bath. The fish was so moist, and still had a moderate kick to it after I gave it a bath. I can't imagine what it'd taste like straight from the fiery bowl.

For dessert I had a delicious bean curd custard with sprinkled yellow sugar on top and a gelatinous cake made of coconut and dates:

On our walk home from lunch, we passed a pond full of beautiful koi.

After that it  was mid afternoon, and with my tummy full and my brain foggy with jet lag, it was nap time. In the evening, we ventured out to the Ladie's Market. No Joke. That is actually what it's called. And, no, they don't sell ladies there. 

Really missing my selfie stick on this trip. I know the #NASASocial media folks are probably like whhhaaat?!? Anita, with no selfie stick?!? On an international trip?!? Don't worry, I've got someone from the states bringing theirs later in the week.

After the Ladies Market we rode the MTR (the subway) back to Town Center and had another delicious meal at home. Another one of my Aunties made this flavorful crab dish. It was soooo fresh and sooo flavorful. Here in Hong Kong, the tofu literally melts in your mouth. And we had chicken and fish and beef and veggies and wine. And after that, I went to sleep. At 7:30 in the evening. LOL.

Stay tuned for Day 3 in Hong Kong!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Made it to Hong Kong!

Now that I'm here, and looking at this view out of my bedroom window, the seventeen hour non-stop flight from Dallas was worth it.

I'm in the heart of downtown Hong Kong looking out at a bunch of skyscrapers that belong to banks. HSBC. Citi Bank. Bank of America. Bank of China. In between the buildings you can see the Hong Kong Observation Wheel and the harbor. I hope to go on the observation wheel soon and see a bird's eye view of the harbor.

This is a view of the harbor and skyline as we drove from the airport into Town Center. When we were going through immigration at the airport, the lady at the intercom cautioned touching the wild animals in Hong Kong, specifically the camels.

So...yeah...watch out for those wild camels.

I'm so blessed to get to stay here with friends (that are really family) and to be with my goddaughter to celebrate her first birthday! Who, by the way, was an absolute trooper. For almost being one year old, she handled the flight pretty well. It did involve chasing her precious diaper butt up and down the aisle of the plane, but over all she handled it fairly well.

I'll have more to share tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Cover Reveal for FROSH!!!

Today we have the honor of featuring the cover reveal for Mónica Bustamante Wagner's new adult novel, FROSH!!!

Who is Mónica you ask? 

She was born in a Peruvian city by a snow-capped volcano. Growing up, books were her constant companion as she traveled with her family to places like India (where she became a vegetarian), Thailand (where she *almost* met Leonardo di Caprio), France (where she pretended to learn French), and countless other places that inspired her to write. Now, Mónica lives in Chile with her husband, three boys, eleven hens, and stray dog.

Not only does she spend time with hens and almost rubs shoulders with Leo, she is also a Pitch Wars mentor (if you don't know what Pitch Wars is, I highly suggest you click on the link. Dude. click on the link.) 

In December 2013, I actually submitted my manuscript to Mónica in hopes that she would be my Pitch Wars mentor, but she had already fallen in love with another project. BUT, Mónica took the time to complement my work and told me that she would continue to root for me. Encouragements like this can really help a writer make it through the query trenches. And I'll be forever grateful to Mónica for encouraging me to push on. 

Now that we know that Mónica is waay cool, one can only logically come to the conclusion that her new adult novel FROSH has to be just as awesome as she is. 

*drum roll*

*Throws some confetti*

*passes out celebratory snow cones*


That cover is HOT. And the story is even HOTTER:

During welcome week at Hillson University, the FROSH will hit the fan.

Type-A aspiring journalist Ellie plans to take freshman year by storm. But hell-bent on breaking a huge on-campus scandal, she risks becoming one herself—and getting the mysterious, heart-melting QB in serious trouble. 

Grant, star quarterback and charismatic chick-magnet, is hiding a life-altering secret. The last thing he needs is an overeager (absolutely adorable) journalist asking questions. He’s got a reputation to protect.

High-society legacy student Devon is ready to catch the football hottie of her dreams. If the tabloids feature her with the “it” boy on her arm, her tainted past will be buried—or so she thinks.

Charlie, pre-med, is done being the sweet and funny geek that girls like Devon ignore. But if he tries to impress her with a new edgy, spontaneous attitude, will his heart end up in the emergency room?

FROSH intertwines the stories of Ellie, Grant, Devon, and Charlie in Mónica B. Wagner’s sexy NA debut series, about falling in love and falling apart.

I can't wait to read FROSH. If you're just as eager as I am, check out FROSH on Goodreads. And if you want to stalk....I mean...err...follow Mónica you can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

First Time: Watching the Movie Before Reading the Book.

This past Friday I watched the movie PAPER TOWNS, based on the novel by John Green. I vacillated over whether or not to see the movie because I hadn't finished reading the book. In my experience, the book experience is always richer than the movie experience. And I always, always read a book first prior to watching its movie adaptation.

But with PAPER TOWNS I did things different. I had started the audio book the middle of last week. The narrative voice hooked me as the did the hi-jinks of the female lead character, Margo Roth Spiegelman. While I was compelled by the narrative voice  and the narrator of the audio book, I was a bit disappointed because it seemed the main character, Quentin or "Q," wasn't the one moving the story forward, it was Margo. And then I thought about if maybe Margo was really the main character of the story? Granted, I had only made it through the second audio disc and these were only thoughts and musings going through my head. I was enjoying the book, but I wasn't completely hooked by CD 2.

So I decided to watch the movie, and I LOVED it.

You know how movies have to trim out scenes from the book in order to keep the film at a reasonable length? And often I poo poo the choice of which scenes were trimmed. I mean, I would have sat though a four hour long Harry Potter movie, wouldn't you? But, back to PAPER TOWNS--I feel like every scene that was combined into another or cut was done to benefit story pacing. In addition, the beginning of the movie made it quite clear who it was that was moving the story forward, and it was Quentin--the main character, not Margo Roth Spiegelman, the mysterious girl next door.

I don't know if I'm going to make watching movies before reading the books a habit. But, in this situation it wasn't a bad decision. I'm still finishing up the audio book, and despite knowing the ending, I'm thoroughly enjoying the story. Well, done John Green. Well done.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Joys of Volunteering

This summer I decided to volunteer my time and started a writing workshop for teens and adults. We've had quite the turn out with students ranging in age from fourteen to forty. I've enjoyed working with the budding writers and encouraging their creative spirit as they venture on the journey of writing a novel.

Last week, middle grade fantasy author, Lou Anders, came out and gave his very informative Scrip Tips lectures. The writers were little sponges, soaking up all the knowledge Lou had to offer. We are also lucky to have middle grade author and poet, Irene Latham, come visit us at the end of the month to talk about finding your writing voice. And for the last class of the workshop, young adult author, Stephen Duncan, will talk about how to get an agent and write a query. The writing community is so amazing and generous with their time.

It has been a privilege to work with the writers in the workshop. And I've learned so much week from week as I prepare lectures, come up with in class writing exercises, and critique work. It has been a wonderful experience, but unfortunately it has meant radio silence on Anita's Edge as of late.

Hope everyone is having a lovely summer! Happy Writing!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


CONVICTION by Kelly Loy Gilbert
Official Release Day Celebration Hosted by MMSAI Tours

*Throws confetti and passes out cupcakes*

Kelly and I are agency mates and I'm so happy to be celebrating the release day of CONVICTION! Here's a little bit about the book:

Ten years ago, God gave Braden a sign, a promise that his family wouldn’t fall apart the way he feared.

But Braden got it wrong: his older brother, Trey, has been estranged from the family for almost as long, and his father, the only parent Braden has ever known, has been accused of murder. The arrest of Braden’s father, a well-known Christian radio host, has sparked national media attention. His fate lies in his son’s hands; Braden is the key witness in the upcoming trial.

Braden has always measured himself through baseball. He is the star pitcher in his small town of Ornette, and his ninety-four-mile-per-hour pitch al- ready has minor league scouts buzzing in his junior year. Now the rules of the sport that has always been Braden’s saving grace are blurred in ways he never realized, and the prospect of playing against Alex Reyes, the nephew of the police officer his father is accused of killing, is haunting his every pitch.

Braden faces an impossible choice, one that will define him for the rest of his life, in this brutally honest debut novel about family, faith, and the ultimate test of conviction. 

“While the mystery of what really happened on the foggy stretch of highway is the driving force behind the narrative, it is Braden’s unfolding story that will captivate readers ... Both hopeful and devastatingly real.” -Kirkus, starred review
“A poignant look at the messiness of love, faith and humanity.” - School Library Journal, starred review
“Braden is a deeply sympathetic character ... a moving debut.” - Booklist, starred review

Now go forth and get your own copy of CONVICTION from here:

Kelly Loy Gilbert is a fiction writer who believes deeply in the power of stories to illuminate a shared humanity and give voice to complex, broken people. She is passionate about social justice, the San Francisco Giants, and organizing things by color. Kelly studied writing at the University of California—San Diego and at San Francisco State, and enjoys serving on the NaNoWriMo Associate Board and leading creative writing workshops for teens. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family in a home teeming with books.

Ships in US Only. Must be 13+ To Enter

Thursday, May 7, 2015

FOLLOW YOUR PASSION: What I learned at Kennedy Space Center

On March 20th I was perusing Twitter and I saw NASA had tweeted about an opportunity to attend the Space X Falcon 9 launch in April and be a part of NASA's social media team. I thought to myself, how cool it would be to see a rocket launch (especially since I'm writing a novel about space). I filled out the application, became preoccupied with life, and forgot about it. Little did I know how much filling out that application would change my life.

Seven days later I received an email from NASA Social congratulating me as an attendee to the media events and launch of the Space X CRS-6 cargo resupply flight. It was an unexpected e-mail. It was an email I had to read several times before it really sank in. And then I ran up the stairs, hands flailing, grin so wide it hurt, and told my best friend (who was trying to put a baby to sleep) in an excited whisper, that I was going to see a rocket launch.

There is so much I want to share about my experiences of being a part of the NASA Social Media Team. But today I want to talk about how an astronaut and a massage therapist inspired me.

After an exciting day of touring the Vehicle Assembly Building; standing at Launch Complex 40 and seeing the actual Falcon 9 Rocket and Dragon; gazing in awe at the historic Launch Complex 39A where the space shuttle missions flew from; we got to meet an astronaut! Director of Kennedy Space Center, Bob Cabana, is a marine, pilot, former astronaut, and an American hero. He stood against the backdrop of the Vehicle Assembly Building (which has housed everything from Apollo, space shuttles, and new SLS Rockets) and inspired us.

There is a prevalent enthusiasm that fills Kennedy Space Center for all things space related and for NASA's next goal, which is to put a person on Mars.  Bob Cabana, said it best, "I want to see boots on Mars in my lifetime."

Mr. Cabana said that at a recent NASA meeting a distinction was made between being an explorer and a pioneer. An explorer is someone who leaves home goes to new territory, studies it, and returns home. But, a pioneer is someone who leaves home goes to uncharted territory and establishes a permanence, a settlement. 

NASA wants to be a pioneer.

I've never heard anyone make that distinction before. It was inspiring. It was exciting. 

A NASA Social member, Lauren Phillips (a champion of STEM education), told Mr. Cabana that she would be skyping with an elementary school later and asked if he had any advice for them? He told the children to do their best in school. And if their absolute best was a C, then that was ok. But to always do your best. He went on to talk about finding your passion in life and pursuing it. He talked about the importance of setting goals and never giving up. Mr. Cabana admitted that if he had given up the first time he wasn't admitted to pilot school or the first time he had applied to the astronaut program, well then he would have never been a pilot or astronaut.

Mr. Cabana's words warmed my heart and encouraged and excited me to stay focused and enthusiastic about achieving my own goals. Here's a picture of some of the NASA Social Media Team with Mr. Bob Cabana.

After the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket was scrubbed later that afternoon because of anvil clouds, a group of us decided to go to a mexican restaurant to drown our sorrows in guacamole and cheese dip. While we were there a woman who was dining at the restaurant approached us, asking if we were a part of NASA. Many of us still had our credentials looped around our necks. We told her that we were the NASA social media team. And with no explanation at first, she asked us all to touch a pendant hanging from her neck. One by one, she walked around our table so we could touch this (photo courtesy of Troy Myatt):

It was a very cool space shuttle pendant, but I honestly had no clue why she had shared her pendant with all of us. She went on to tell us how she had grown up in New York and had been fascinated with space since she was a child, and how no one in her family had understood why she loved space so much. She talked about how important it was to follow your passions and never give up on your dreams. And she told us how the little girl from New York, who loved outer space so much, ended up moving to Florida and became a massage therapist at Kennedy Space Center. How she had the privilege of meeting astronauts and NASA officials, helping them with their aches and pains, and how in her own way she was getting to be a part of the space program.

The space shuttle pendant had belonged to an astronaut who had worn it around her neck when she flew on STS-130 on the space shuttle Endeavour. And when the astronaut returned to Earth she gave the pendant to her friend and massage therapist. 

This sweet woman from New York, who is passionate about space and NASA Kennedy Space Center, never gave up on her passion, and says she ended up with the coolest job in the world. She urged us to never give up on our own dreams. Everyday she wears the space shuttle pendant, something that had actually flown on a space shuttle and been in space, and she had shared that with us. We had actually gotten to touch something that had been in space. 

I'll post more stories like this in coming weeks, but wanted to start here first, with the day there was a scrubbed a rocket launch, but an astronaut and a massage therapist told us to follow our passion and never give up.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Kick-Butt Kid Lit

A few months ago the wonderful Natalie Parker hosted an Agented Author Hook Up. Through this opportunity I had the fortune of meeting ten lovely ladies. It's been great having authors to chat with who are all in about the same place with their individual writing journeys. We can ask each other random questions, learn, and support one another.

Along the way, we decided to call ourselves Kick-Butt Kid Lit and decided to have a social media presence. This month we are hosting a Meet the Authors Q&A so you can get to know all of us. I've really enjoyed reading the interviews and getting to know each author better.

Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions or would just like to hang out with us for a bit.
We are on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.

The writing community is super nice and supportive. So I encourage you as a writer, regardless of what stage you are at, to reach out to others and network. It will enrich your writing journey that much more.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Writers Series: Jon and Pamela (J&P) Voelkel

On today's writers series we'll be spending time with Jon and Pamela (J&P) Voelkel who are the author-illustrators of the Jaguar Stones series; Pamela does most of the writing and Jon does most of the illustrating. 

Their books tell the story of a city boy and a jungle girl - a mirror image of Jon’s wild childhood in Latin America and Pamela’s altogether tamer upbringing in an English seaside town. The Voelkels met in London, where they both worked at the same advertising agency, and now live in Vermont.

And here is their latest book in the Jaguar Stone series: 

With his parents in jail and his best friend ignoring him, fourteen-year-old Max Murphy was pretty sure things couldn’t get much worse. But that was before a parade of Maya monsters crashed through his house and the Queen of the Bats tried to sink her fangs into his neck…

Meanwhile, down in the Maya underworld, the evil Death Lords have realized they’ll never conquer the mortal world without conquering social media. So with the bad guys on a charm offensive, it’s up to Max and his Maya friend Lola to reveal the terrible truth before it’s too late.

This epic conclusion to the Jaguar Stones series takes Max and Lola on their wildest adventure yet, north from the teeming rainforest to the lost city at the heart of America’s past.

How has your travel affected your writing process?

As we're sure many people find when they set off to research a story, the act of travel has a way of changing everything. 

In our case, we started out with a fast-paced Indiana Jones type adventure about a city boy who gets lost in the jungle. It was based on Jon's wild childhood in South and Central America, with the Maya pyramids as a suitably spooky background. But when we took our own kids down to Belize to explore some of those pyramids first-hand, we realized we were writing the wrong book. Firstly because almost everything we'd read about the ancient Maya was out of date; and secondly because the living Maya were just as fascinating as their ancestors. 

After that, we went down to Central America many more times and tried to learn new facts rather than validate old ones. It was talking to a group of Maya teenagers in Guatemala that inspired the character of Lola and she quickly became the center of things. It's a delicate balance because our primary goal is still to tell a fast-paced and funny adventure story. But now we also try to bring alive Maya mythology, make a case for rainforest conservation, and dramatize the predicament of modern Maya people. 

Hopefully, the social messages are subtly done, but we'd like to think our readers are sneakily educated while they're being entertained. We feel a responsibility to get things right, so all our books are fact-checked by a leading archaeologist. And because there's still so much misinformation about the Maya on the internet, we share our research with teachers via downloadable reading guides and free lesson plan CDs. So you could say that our travels have driven our writing process and inspired everything we've written.

What was the hardest thing about writing The Lost City?

The hardest thing about writing The Lost City was knowing it was the last Jaguar Stones book and that we'd have to say goodbye to all the characters we'd come to know so well. It's not that we wanted to extend the series - we always knew where it would end and we'd written the very last paragraph right at the beginning to keep us on track - but the books had become part of our lives. In fact, we were already on borrowed time because the series was originally planned as a trilogy but the story took on a life of its own. 

Mostly writing The Lost City was pure fun. Unlike the first book in a series, where you're establishing your world and your characters, you can relax and go with the flow. It's the difference between walking into a room full of strangers and going to a party with old friends. When we wrote the first book, Middleworld, we were terrified that readers would lose interest if we stopped too long for descriptions, so the story moves at breakneck speed. By the time we got to The Lost City, which is the fourth and final book in the series, we'd established a rapport with our readers and we knew which bits they liked because they told us. Some of them even emailed us plot ideas and requests. It's impossible not to be buoyed by that kind of support! So it's going to feel kind of lonely starting from scratch again...

What are you writing next?

Please ask us anything but this! It's become a kind of superstition not to talk about the next book until we have a decent first draft. It's like you can jinx a book by talking about it too much. You feel almost like the book is written but, in reality, all you've done is talk. And if the Jaguar Stones has taught us anything, it's that the book you think you're going to write may not be the one that wants to get written.

Jon and Pamela, thank you so much for spending time with us!

If you'd like to find out more about J & P you can follow them on Twitter @pvoelkel and @jaguarstones of Facebook, and their website.