Monthly Archives: September 2014

Book of the Week: Hollow City

I’ve decided to try a series. I’m generally not super great about keeping up with series when I start them on here, but this I think I can do because it will also help me fulfill other goals…if I have to post about a new book every week, I darn better be reading a new book every week. Plus, I have about 700 books I want to get through, so, at one a week, that’s blog posts for the next 14 years 🙂 This isn’t going to be a book review so much as why I think these books/authors are interesting.


Book of the week for September 28-October 5:

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs


Why I think it’s interesting:

I read the first book in this series, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children sometime in 2012. I know this off the top of my head because I distinctly remember sitting in the break room at Whole Foods looking at the time clock thinking…how much trouble will I get in if I just finish this chapter before I go back to work? I had gotten the Kindle version from the library. The story was stunning and I have been periodically checking every six weeks or so to see if the sequel was out. Then, I walked into my favorite bookstore in Minneapolis one day and there it was, on display. It had just come out that week.

I grabbed the hard cover and ran to the coffee shop next door and started reading (after paying, of course.) Then, I had to work on homework, and my books, and…I finally just picked it back up again.

Ransom Riggs collects old photographs, and they are the illustrations for this story (and MPHFPC). As far as I know, the photos aren’t doctored in anyway (by Ransom, I mean, you can see by the cover that they’re not point and click and no editing ever. Someone, somewhere, made these kids peculiar, a long long time ago.) The book design and layout is phenomenally beautiful. I highly recommend “splurging” (really, I think it’s like $3 more) and buying the hard cover of both this book and the first. It’s an old style cloth bound hard cover, like the kind my grandparents have on their shelves from when their kids were kids. It’s absolutely stunning.

Plus, the book is just plain inspiring. It makes me want to go collect old photos and write. And, based on the FAQs on his website he’s starting a movement of kids using old photos as writing prompts. I’m all about anything that encourages kids to learn to write.

The Blurb:

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was the surprise best seller of 2011—an unprecedented mix of YA fantasy and vintage photography that enthralled readers and critics alike. Publishers Weekly called it “an enjoyable, eccentric read, distinguished by well-developed characters, a believable Welsh setting, and some very creepy monsters.”

This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine’s island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and his new friends must journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. Along the way, they encounter new allies, a menagerie of peculiar animals, and other unexpected surprises.

Complete with dozens of newly discovered (and thoroughly mesmerizing) vintage photographs, this new adventure will delight readers of all ages.

If you like this, you might like:

Real stories, real photos (just not the same people.) Larry was the teacher for one of my MFA classes at Hamline and this book is awesome for many of the same reasons Hollow City is, except the stories in it are real.


New website…no pictures

Hi! We have been working to transition all of our sites away from GoDaddy to Host Gator. I finished last night and am pretty happy with the new theme I found. The only problem: none of the pictures came over with the blog posts 🙁

I honestly don’t think I’m going to have time to go back and reload them all. So, if you see something you’re really intrigued by and there is no picture…email me (at) amandamichellemoon (dot) com and I’ll find the missing pictures for you.

New medium

Last Saturday, we went to not one, but two book sales where you paid a certain price per bag, no matter how much you put in it.

Here’s our haul at the first sale:

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And the second.

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(We also picked up a vintage game of Life at this sale. You can see my instagram here.)


For the last year or three I’ve loved going into antique shops on my Artist Dates. There is just something about them…especially the ones that carry a bunch of random stuff besides clothes and furniture…that I love. There are always a lot of antique books, and, lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of dictionary art.

As I have more time now that the kids are in school, one of the things I’ve been wanting to do is make more art, and, specifically, art using old book pages. I also wanted to start doing Erasure work, but I didn’t have a plan. I called a used bookstore and asked if they had a discard pile like McKay’s does, but they said no. So I went to the sales Saturday hoping, maybe…

What I found was perfect. Besides an old dictionary that I can cut up to my heart’s content, I got this:

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How much more perfect could the title be?


My plan is to spend 10-15 min working on this each day. I’m guessing it’ll turn out as a series of flash fiction, but, who knows, maybe I’ll get a story line going and carry it through the whole book.

I started with the dedication page today, to see which pens I could use without them bleeding through.

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And then just one paragraph:

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I don’t know what the book was originally about. And I don’t know what my new story will be about, other than it’s going to be about a writer.

Thoughts from the airport

—–>I wrote this on Saturday<—–

I’m writing this while at Reagan National Airport, waiting for my flight home. I came out here to take pictures for the sequel to Stealing the Ruby Slippers (official title reveal coming soon) and, while only 36 hours long, it has been an intense trip.

First of all, you may think it a bit extravagant that I flew to Washington, DC, to take pictures for my book cover. I will (maybe) write a longer post about this at another time, but, basically, I needed an excellent photo of the ruby slippers, I couldn’t use the one I used for the first book, and I had Southwest credit. So the trip cost significantly less than hiring a photographer out here to take it for me.

But it wasn’t free.

I went back and forth almost everyday this week over whether this was a good investment or if I should be trying to figure out something else for my cover. Ultimately, we decided that it was the best option. So I made the trip.

Yesterday my alarm went off at 4:39 in the morning and I was at the airport at 5:45 for a 6:40 flight. With a connection in St. Louis, I got in just before noon, caught a shuttle immediately and was able to check in to my hotel. Getting to the Smithsonian was also super easy. Things were going great. Until I came around the corner and saw this:


Yep. Those are the original Ruby Slippers, but…seriously…could the light be worse?

I tried not to be too discouraged, pulled out my camera, and started shooting.

It. Was. Horrible.

Dark. Blurry. Entirely unusable.

I switched lenses.


I Googled “Low light photography” and emailed my photographer brother-in-law. They both tried, but neither could give me much— I needed a tripod and an external flash, both of which were prohibited by the museum.

I sat down and almost cried. I was tired, hungry, and way too hot (it was insane this weekend.) I found a place to have lunch and got some coffee, then went back to the museum.

I played with the setting on my camera and the flash until I started to get some I thought might work. I took about 100 pictures (always stopping and getting out of the way when other people wanted time with the shoes), then packed up. I wasn’t getting anything different, and until I looked on my computer, I wouldn’t know what I had. I looked up nearby art galleries and walked over to the National Gallery of Art.

Here’s the thing about the museums in the Capital area of DC: they’re all free. Seriously. Free. And NGA was showing some Van Gogh’s. (I love him.) While looking for the little room housing his stuff, I had to pass through a room full of Monet’s and Renoirs. I mean…wow.

When I got to the Van Gogh room, this was the first one I saw.


His work…it’s…wow. I can’t even. I took pictures of everything, but if I post them all here it’ll take fifteen years for this blog to load. Just look at the museum’s website.

I took pictures and realized my iPhone was doing much better with the indoor light than the nice camera was, so I got the idea that maybe I needed to try my iPhone on the Ruby Slippers. On my way out, though, I stumbled on to this room.


The panorama only let me catch three walls. There was another. They were all Monet’s. (Link to the museum’s list of his pictures). I stood there for I don’t know how long, in awe.

Then I went back to the Smithsonian. The iPhone didn’t work on the shoes— the glass case made it too hard to see.

I went back to my hotel and downloaded the photos I had. Not terrible. I even did a mock up. But the focus was slightly off. (Through the view finder it was so dark I literally couldn’t see what I was focusing on.)

So this morning, I got up, packed and dropped my suitcase with the hotel staff, then was at the museum when it opened. I took 48 pictures of the shoes in 5 min. This time, I had my laptop with me, so I downloaded them right away.

Still didn’t get what I needed.

I took 46 more. Downloaded. Still not quite there.

Third time’s a charm…One last try…Whatever cliche is your favorite…

There was only one angle that was working at all, so I told myself this was the last shot. One more round and then I would just figure out how to use what I had.

I shot 39 more photos, then sat down to download them.


I got exactly what I wanted.

In focus.

I packed up just sat there with tears running down my face (I’m not even sure if I was crying, it was so hot my face was melting off all morning.) But just knowing this trip wasn’t a waste…

You see, lately I’ve struggled with whether me pursing writing full time is too selfish. I am not taking MFA classes this semester. Both of the kids are in school, so it’s not like I’m doing anything contributing to the family during the day. Financially, we’re okay. Chris works incredibly hard and is is incredibly supportive. And it’s better for him knowing that he doesn’t have to worry about scheduling his days around the kids’ schedules. But still…I feel like I should be doing more.

I’ve tried to make up for it by working hard. I am slated to release two books a year (no more in this series, FYI) for the next two years. I know writing is a marathon, not a sprint. The more I write the better chance I have of making a living at it. I know all these things, and, still, it’s hard.


But this weekend I came and got a photo to use for my cover that I own and can do whatever I want with for less than it would have cost me to license someone else’s art. The investment was worth it. It was a small thing, but it was a reinforcement that this investment that Chris and I are making in my career is worth it too.

I left the museum and went to Dupont Circle for some bookstore browsing. Kramer’s is ranked as one of the best indie bookstores in the country. I got there and realized I’d been there before, the last time I was in DC. It was May of 2010 and Nashville was flooding.

I looked around for a while, didn’t find anything, then went to Books for America. On the way there, I passed Gandhi.


Books for America is ranked among the best bookstores in DC and…wow. Immediately I walked in and found a comic book for Austin. Then I found some stuff for Lily and another book for Austin. And four for myself. I spent a total of $26. On my way back to the subway I found another store– Second Story Books— and detoured.


Here, I picked up Big Little Lieshard cover, for $2 more than the Kindle version. The owner recommended Luna Grill for a good burger, (and it had this amazing mural).


While at lunch I found that Chocolate Chocolate was on my way back to the subway. The two owners were there, and absolutely wonderful. Now I want to read their book. As I type I have the truffles waiting in my bag (I’m still full from lunch.) (They were amazing, btw.)

From there it was back to the hotel to pick up my bag, and here to the airport. We’ll board soon, and when I get home, I’ll start designing my cover. Watch out for the big reveal!