Tuesday, January 19, 2016

the key to extraordinary. and biscuit.

(This is the full artwork for THE KEY TO EXTRAORDINARY, illustrated by the wonderful Gilbert Ford.) 

Sometimes this blog feels like an old apartment. Or like a first apartment, maybe. I don't post here much anymore, but I still come back to read old posts and old comments. This space was my creative spot for a long time, and it was also a sweet source of community for me. I've tried to figure out what to do with this space. My friend Kay, who helps me with all things webby, says we should probably move this over to the actual website. Kind of like in Oregon Trail when you caulk the wagon and float it down the river. We'd float this wagon over to www.NatalieLloyd.com and most of it would still be there. I don't think anybody checks this site much anyway. But in case you do, I thought it might be fun to share some updates. Here goes:

** I am still short. 5 feet tall. Ish. (More like 4'11" ... )

** I still like to write stories, read stories, stargaze, go adventuring, snuggle my dog and drink coffee.

** I have seen the new Star Wars. Rey is just the bee's knees.

** My next novel is called THE KEY TO EXTRAORDINARY and it will be out on February 23. If you want to pre-order the book (aka: if you are my parents), you can do so from your local Indie bookstore (Indiebound.org), or on Amazon (here's the link), or on B&N (here's the link) or just about anywhere books are sold. This isn't a sequel to Snicker. KEY is Emma Pearl Casey's story, and I'm excited for you to meet her. Unofficially, this book is about a brave girl, best friends, a singing ghost, buried treasure and hot chocolate.

KEY is also about the hidden history in a small town that ... I can't tell you because that would ruin the end. But! It was a joy to write. And it was painful to write, too. So far, every story has caused that kind of tug-of-war in my heart. And like all stories I've written, this one ended up being about so much more than I realized at first. It's also a book about how to deal with high expectations - the ones you're handed and the ones you set for yourself. It's a book about wanting to feel connected to the people who came before you. It's a book about getting through loss ... with some help from your friends and hope in your heart. It is also a book about peach lavender muffins, because I like baked goods.

I have never actually made peach lavender muffins. But they sound interesting.

What was I talking about?


Here's the official description of THE KEY TO EXTRAORDINARY: 

Everyone in Emma's family is special. Her ancestors include Revolutionary War spies, brilliant scientists, and famous musicians--every single one of which learned of their extraordinary destiny through a dream.

For Emma, her own dream can't come soon enough. Right before her mother died, Emma promised that she'd do whatever it took to fulfill her destiny, and she doesn't want to let her mother down.
But when Emma's dream finally arrives, it points her toward an impossible task--finding a legendary treasure hidden in her town's cemetery. If Emma fails, she'll let down generations of extraordinary ancestors . . . including her own mother. But how can she find something that's been missing for centuries and might be protected by a mysterious singing ghost?

If you read this book - whether you buy it from your bookstore, or borrow it from you library, or find it in a bookfair - I so hope you enjoy your time in Blackbird Hollow. And I hope you know how much it means to me that you would give any of your time and imagination to this story. It's a joy to share stories. I still can't believe I get to do it AGAIN. Thank you, thank you, for taking those stories into your heart from time to time.

**The audiobook will also be released in February, and there is one especially awesome treat on there that I'll be sharing soon. Probably on Facebook. Paul Gagne and his team of merry audiobook wizards have made this project so special and fun.

**If you would like a signed copy of THE KEY TO EXTRAORDINARY, you can order one from my local indie here in Chattanooga, Star Line Books. Here's the website address: http://starlinebooks.apps-1and1.com

Eventually, I know Star Line is planning to have online order forms for books. For now, if you'd like to order a signed book, just call them up (the number is on the website). They'll take your order over the phone, call me when it comes in so I can go sign it, and then mail it to you.

** I'll be doing some fun adventuring to chat about KEY! I'll be in Ohio, Kentucky, Arizona, Florida and Texas and possibly some more fun spots. I'll be adding details about events on the website: http://www.natalielloyd.com/events/  If you're nearby - or you can teleport - please come hang out and show me pictures of your pet!

** In one of the coolest and weirdest twists in my 2015, the President bought my book on small business Saturday at Upsher Books in DC. Here's the link: http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/28/politics/obama-small-business-saturday-reading-list-books/

** As you might imagine, I printed out enough copies of that article (which I was certain was a typo) to wallpaper my parents' living room so my brother would see it every day when he was home for Christmas. Ha! Just kidding. (Maybe.) Really though, I'm grateful to Anna the Amazing Bookseller for recommending Snicker to the first fam. That was a fun headline that was cause for lots of celebration post-Thanksgiving. I nearly fell out of my car trying to get inside my parents' house to tell them. Here's one of the bazillion screenshots I saved:

Thanks for recommending Snicker, Anna!

** Speaking of Snicker, there are some new happenings in Midnight Gulch. First, I wrote a short story from Felicity's POV set on Halloween: http://oomscholasticblog.com/post/snicker-magic-author-pens-new-halloween-short-story

And here's a short story from Jonah Pickett's POV about how he became the ... You Know What (Pumpernickel...;)

** Most important update of all ... Biscuit is still the most adorable dog in the world. 

(This is how she often sleeps. No joke.)

And on that note, I'm going to end this blog post and and snuggle that very adorable dog.

Wherever you are in the world, I hope you're surrounded by good books and people you love. Thanks for being so snazzy. :)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

new books on the horizon!

Pigs are flying and lightning is striking twice I got to share some fun news this week. 

I'm writing a series! 

Here's the announcement from Publishers Weekly: 

I'm excited, overjoyed and filled up with gratitude. The fact that I get to keep living out this dream come true - that I get to keep writing books for kids (?!?!) - makes me want to flop down in the floor and cry a little. I've done that, actually. Many times. 

I consider myself the luckiest author in the world to be part of the family at two amazing publishers. I'm actually working on copyedits for my next Scholastic novel right now. 

(Not like *RIGHT* now ... because I'm typing this post. But most other waking minutes when I'm not taking snack breaks or typing blog posts, savvy?)  

And for this new series, I get to work with Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins. The Katherine Tegen imprint is incredible, and they publish stories I've adored. I'm so excited to work with the team there, especially my editor Maria Barbo. 

I'm also excited about following a wily bunch of characters through a few books instead of hugging them goodbye after one. I love writing stand alone novels, because I like the feeling of discovery. The newness of it all. But I do have a hard time turning characters loose. Students nearly always ask if I'll ever write a series when I do school visits; and I always say maybe-hopefully-someday. I totally get the series-love. I liked getting to know characters, too (and still do!). I loved knowing another book was in the works. It's a fun process, and a big new challenge, but I'm excited for it! I can't wait for you to meet the Problim family. :) 

So just to clarify, here's what's on the horizon: 

- My next novel is called THE KEY TO EXTRAORDINARY. It will be out from my beloved Scholastic wizards in March 2016. This one is a middle grade, stand alone novel about a brave girl, a quiet boy, a singing ghost, buried treasure & hot chocolate. I'm working through copyedits for that one this week (which is surreal!). So you'll get to meet these characters in less than a year! And pretty soon, I'll be able to start sharing fun stuff like a cover (it's fabulous) and a summary. 

- THE PROBLIM CHILDREN series is scheduled to begin in Fall 2017. Those are the books I mentioned yesterday, that are being published by the swanksters at HarperCollins.

So that's a few years of books coming up, which is hard to believe. :) 

Sharing the stories I've written is a dream, and it's a responsibility I take so seriously. I know there are billions of books out there you could read. I still can't believe it when someone tells me they took the time to read my book, and they want to read another one. Thank you for the time and heart you've invested in what I write. Thank you for bringing your heart to the pages. I'm so grateful for you, and so excited for the adventures ahead.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


A SNICKER OF MAGIC is one of the nominees in the debut author category in the Children's Choice Book Awards. I was surprised and excited and HOORAY!!

I'm grateful to the committee who thought the story deserved a spot alongside all those amazing stories. As the name suggests, young readers get to vote. (I think young-at-heart readers can vote, too.) If you, or your students, want to get involved follow this link:


And please note: I'll still think you're the raddest no matter who you vote for. (Cece Bell has my vote.)

Once you get there, click on the funky doors and you can easily check your favorite book in each category. You don't have to enter any personal information, and there's an easy to way for teachers and librarians to enter group ballots as well. So it's all fun and sure to stir up fun conversation about stories. Voting is open for a couple more weeks, I think. Thank you, CBC wizards for including Snicker!


Thursday, March 19, 2015

the love you part.

This weekend I'll be hanging out with this guy. He's fun and funny and pretty much my favorite person in the world. He is also my brother. Chase lives in Denver, and he loves it there. I'm grateful I can sneak away ever so often to spend a weekend with him. Colorado is a wonderful place, but he's the best part of it.

I dearly miss that nerd.

I remember when he decided to move, to ditch the Smokey Mountains for the Rockies. My heart was a storm over it. I had a tornado-heart. I was so proud, but I was also so sad, and those feelings kept swirling and swishing together in constant, crazy ways. It's nuts to me, how it is possible to miss someone so much and love them so much. At the same time. Hearts are miracles, is all.

I've always said jokingly (...but not really jokingly) that I want my own town where I can put all my family and friends. All together. We'd live on the same street, and hang out on weekends and eat cookies and have bonfires and play Clue. Doesn't that sound dreamy? Alas. :)

I miss him heaps, but the proud-part always wins out. Actually the love-you part always wins out. I'm proud of him for following his heart into the wild, wild west. I'm proud of him for being brave enough to become what he knew he needed to be. And I'm thankful for technology. We still talk frequently. As any loving big sister will testify; distance is really nothing when you care about somebody. I'm not that easy to get rid of. ;)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

goals and goalies.

So I've been raving about a recent read called The Swap by Megan Shull. My mom thought it was great. I thought it was great. And I just passed it off to one of my beloved best friends, Hannah, because I couldn't wait for her to read it. That's a definite marker for me when I read a great book: I immediately think of people I want to share it with.

The book is about two 7th graders, Jack and Ellie, who accidentally switch places. Ellie is stuck in Jack's body ... and Jack is stuck in Ellie's. It is funny and smart and heartwarming. And when I say funny, I mean I put the book down and laughed. It's a fantastic story.

One of Jack's quirks is that he's a goal setter. And he doesn't just set short-term goals.  He's only in 7th grade, but he's already working toward goals he's set for years down the road. Like, when he's an adult. Namely: playing professional hockey. And he's devoted to taking the steps to make it happen: he wakes up hours before he has to to run and train. He takes ice baths. He practices hockey even when he's not at practice. He's a force.

I was super-duper impressed by this because, my word, 7th grade! I've met lots of young readers over the past couple of years who put in that same kind of time, devotion and focus to something they're passionate about. I'm not surprised a 7th grader would commit to something that way. I just think it's inspiring. And I think I can sort of relate. At least a little bit ...

I mean, I have never, ever been an athlete. The only sport I know anything about is Quidditch. And my goals will never revolve around anything that involves running or physical coordination.

But. When I was in middle school, I knew I wanted to be an author someday. Even back then, I was consciously thinking about what I could do as I got older to maybe-hopefully-someday make that dream real. I think that's why my heart clicked quick with a character brave enough to shoot for a dream that seems so far away. So far fetched, even.

As an adult, I still have lots of goals. There are books I want to write, places I want to visit and big moments I want to see come to pass in my life. Sometimes I write down those goals and feel invigorated and full of shimmer-sparkling HOPE. And sometimes I write them down ... and feel a little sunk when I realize how far away it all is. I have a whole book of dreams and goals I keep tucked away where nobody can see it.

As I was thinking about Jack and his goals and my goals and GOALZZZ in general, I came across a TEDtalk by Derek Sivers. And I think it's super interesting. He basically says that if you have a big goal ... you should keep it to yourself.

I've always heard the opposite, haven't you? I've heard you should tell people your goals, so they hold you accountable. But as I listened to his talk ... I wondered if there might something to it. At least sometimes.

For example, when I'm writing, I don't usually talk about what I'm working on for a good long time. Or I'm very vague when people ask me about it. I'm not superstitious about the process at all, and I'm not being cagey. But there's a certain excitement I feel in the early stages of writing, when I'm keeping a book to myself, when it's new and it's mine and I haven't shared it with anybody yet. And once I've shared it, the momentum seems to fizzle.

Don't get me wrong; I absolutely love sharing the stories eventually. There's something about every stage in publishing that I like. But I sometimes think early writing is more enjoyable ... and I even tend to write a bit faster ... when I keep it to myself to start. Maybe it's similar to what Derek is saying?

Here's the TEDtalk (it's a short one): http://www.ted.com/talks/derek_sivers_keep_your_goals_to_yourself?language=en

What do you think? Do you share your goals - big and small - with someone else? Or do you keep them close to your heart? 

Friday, March 13, 2015

where i'm going. where i've been.

Hello, Beedles! 

Biscuit and I are popping in to answer a few questions we've been getting lately. I mean, the most frequently question I get asked is probably: "Welcome to Starbucks! What can I get started for you?" 

But lately, I've met some sweet readers who've asked fun book-questions. And I thought it might be fun to answer them on ye olde blog! 

1. Are you writing a sequel to A Snicker of Magic
Not yet. 

… But know Felicity and Jonah have many more adventures. While there’s no sequel in the works yet, there is a distinct possibility you’ll see more stories featuring Felicity & the folks in Midnight Gulch. Maybe sooner than you think. Stay tuned. ; ) 

2. What will your next book be about? 
My next novel comes out in 2016. It’s a middle grade novel called THE KEY TO EXTRAORDINARY. It is about: 

A brave girl. 
A quiet boy. 
A singing ghost. 
Buried treasure. 
And hot chocolate … 

I just sent the book to copyedits, so it's going to start becoming book-shaped very soon. I can't believe it's already that far along. And I'm so grateful and excited I got to go through this process again. I'll get to share more fun details with you later this year, including the cover. Gilbert Ford is illustrating the cover again, and it's gorgeous. I can’t wait for you to see it! 

3. Do you do school visits? 
Yes! I try to book them as far in advance as possible so I can stay on top of my writing deadlines. If you're a teacher or librarian and interested in booking a visit, contact AuthorVisit@Scholastic.com or just go the Scholastic website and fill out the form about author visits. 

I also do virtual visits (Skype, etc.) with classes and book clubs who've read the book (or experienced it as a read-aloud). Virtual visits are a fun 20 minute time of Q&A. And they’re free. And sometimes Biscuit shows up. :) 

4. Will you be at any events this year? 
Since I don't have a book out this year, I probably won’t be doing many events. But I’ll update the website with more info if I do. I’m very excited to be doing an event in Chattanooga on May 9th. I’ll be at the Barnes & Noble at Hamilton Place with several awesome authors. I hope you’ll come hang out with us! 

5. How tall are you?
I thought this would be fun to answer here because people really do ask me this question a lot, a lot. On my last adventure, a random guy in the airport inquired about my height. I'm not self-conscious about my shortness, and I don't mind answering. But people have always seemed so surprised by the fact that I'm small. I’m 4’11”. Barely. 

6. Where have you been?!?! 
In the past year, I’ve kind of disappeared from blog world. I post pretty often on my Facebook page: 


And I tweet lots of pictures of Biscuit: 


The website is a work in progress, but it's cool to see it come together. Soon I'll be adding a longer FAQ section that will be especially helpful for readers looking for info for book talks and homework. 

And I’m going to make an effort to churn out some quick (fun) blog posts again.

Which brings me back to where I've been. 

In the past year ... I've been writing. I wrote back when I was blogging frequently, too. But now there are different responsibilities that come along with writing. I enjoy all of it, and I’m super grateful for this season I’m in. I still can't believe I get to write books! And I can't believe people take the time to read them! I just don't seem to have as much creative energy left for quirky blog posts as I did. But I have been writing. 

And here’s where else I’ve been: 

I’ve been snuggling Biscuit. 
I’ve been reading. 
I’ve been spending lots of time with my family. 

I’ve been star-gazing,
and exploring. 

I’ve been listening to records on rainy days,
having impromptu dance parties in the living room, 
and meeting my friends for pancakes at the Cracker Barrel. 
(My goodness, I do dig those pecan pancakes.) 
(But I love my friends more.)  

I’ve had some sweet days lately. And I hope you’re having lots of sweet days too. 

What’s new with you? 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

end of the year wrap-up.

Happy New Year, friends! I hope you celebrated a new beginning with kind people, fuzzy animals, and lots of cheese dip. Last year felt like a shooting star for me. A few years ago, when A Snicker of Magic first found a publisher, I thought 2014 was forever far away. 

And the year is gone, a quick sparkle across my life and done. 2014 was a year full of joy and sadness and hope and wonder and worry and - unforgettably - a year when a long-time dream came true. I will never forget it. 

On New Year's Eve, Biscuit and I went to bed early. We snuggled and read until it was almost midnight. And then I turned on the song "Oceans," by Hillsong United, which is one of my Most FAVORITE Songs Ever. I wanted to hear that song when the clock ticked into newness. I wanted the first words I heard in 2015 to be beautiful. I sang along with the song too. Because I wanted the first words I said to matter. Inevitably, I'll say words I regret this year. I'll write a billion words I end up deleting because they don't fit. But I wanted 2015's first Once Upon a Time to feel exactly right. It was a sweet way to say goodbye to one year, and welcome a new one. 

I have an entire sappy post scheduled to run this week, about the best part of last year when it comes to the big journey I've taken with Snicker. I'm certain there will never be another year like this last one, and I'm so grateful for all of it. 

A Snicker of Magic also made a few lovely end of the year lists in 2014. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude for the time folks have taken to share the story and wanted to share them here: 

On New Year's Day, Colby Sharp announced that A Snicker of Magic is one of the 2014 Nerdy Award winners. I love that community, and I'm honored to see Snicker on a list of such incredible books! Here's the link! 

NPR named A Snicker of Magic one of the best books of 2014! HOORAY! Thank you, NPR! Here's the link!

Parents Magazine named Snicker one of their Top 10 Children's Books of 2014! Here's the link!

The New York Public Library named Snicker one of their top children's titles for reading and sharing in 2014! Here's the link! 

Travis Jonker and John Schu, awesome librarians and passionate advocates for children's literature, named Snicker one of their best books of 2014. Whoa, am I honored to see the book on their list. Here's the link! 

I've also received some kind tweets from folks who picked it for one of their favorite books in 2014, and shared it on their blogs. Thank you for taking the time to do that! It means so much to me that you would take the time to write about the story. 

Today I'll dive back into revisions for the next book adventure, and while I can't WAIT for you to meet these new characters ... I know Felicity Pickle will always hold a special place in my heart.  I thought I visited Midnight Gulch (in my imagination) to tell Felicity's story. I had no clue how those wild characters - and the very real and wonderful readers I've met along the way - would change my life. This has been an amazing adventure. I feel so blessed to be able to share stories with you. Thank you, thank you for reading them. 

Here's to a new year, a new start, and a shining new day. Happy 2015! I hope this year is the best once-upon-a-time you've ever had.