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Book II Is Here!

October 30, 2014

I know I haven’t posted anything here in a while, but hopefully today’s post will make up for that.

Plan Your Attack: Book II in the Helen of Hollingsworth Trilogy is now available!

 

Plan Your Attack by Sarah Rodriguez Pratt. Now available for purchase!

 

The e-book is available at Amazon right now, and the paperback should be coming within the next week or so.

And be prepared: this book is darker than the first one. A lot more intense. Early readers said they couldn’t put it down. It even made one of them cry — that’s how much it moved her. It is super serious and super awesome, and I hope you love it.

I’ll post another update here as soon as the paperback’s ready. In the meantime, go forth and buy the Kindle version, you guys!

Copyright 2014, Sarah Rodriguez Pratt. All rights reserved.

Happy Bookiversary to Me!

July 13, 2014

One year ago today, I pressed the “Publish Now” button (or whatever it was called back then) and released my first book, Choose Your Weapon, into a world I wasn’t sure would welcome it. I’d had a few literary agent rejections. (More than a few, to be honest.) Were people ready for a book about a nerdy Latina girl who wants to fight dragons?

As it turns out, the world was more than ready for it.

  • “Dude! This is really good! You’ve derailed me most of the night. I care about these characters and want to know what happens next. I am enjoying the hell out of it! Great job!”
  • “Just FYI – I started reading your book at 11 p.m. my time. It is now 2:15 a.m. and I cannot put it down.” [later] “And I just finished it. And I loved it. I really, really loved it. And now it’s 5 a.m. here. I read all night. Can’t even remember the last time I did that.”
  • “I love it. I wish this book had been around when I was a kid.”
  • “My boyfriend’s sister finished it in one day. She wants to know when the next one is coming out.”

And what might be my personal favorite:

  • “My son thought your book was better than the Harry Potter books.”

Critics loved the book, too.

And then came the big one.

  • “Rodriguez Pratt’s skilled writing ranges from snappy, believable dialogue to evocative descriptions of an abandoned oil refinery and a terrifying dragon cave…A well-written, intelligent, exciting choice for readers looking to get hooked on a new fantasy series.” –Kirkus Reviews

It didn’t stop there. In December, Kirkus Reviews named Choose Your Weapon one of their Best Books of 2013.

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Screenshot from KirkusReviews.com.

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And distribution of the book is growing all the time. You can find it at:

So where do Helen and her friends (and adversaries) go from here?

As you know if you regularly read this blog or follow me on Twitter, I’m hard at work on Book II. My hope is to release it before the end of 2014. If that date gets pushed back, it’s only because I’m working on making the second Helen of Hollingsworth book even bigger and better than the first. But fear not, loyal readers: Book II is done. But it’s only okay so far. It needs to be revised and polished into something spectacular. And that is well underway.

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Coming soon. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Coming soon!

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This past year has been one of the most intense experiences of my life. But, in true overachiever fashion, I’m only looking ahead now: at the next book, at Book III after that, and at seeing how far Helen Connor will go in this world. And if things continue the way they’re going, I think she’s going to be just fine.

At BookPeople. January 17, 2014. Copyright ThatsAGirlsCar.com.

Copyright 2014, Sarah Rodriguez Pratt. All rights reserved.

Birds on the Brain, Part II: Bird (and Dog) Drawings

June 9, 2014

So you guys know I like to draw birds. I may have mentioned it once before. Okay, twice before.

But the thing is, as soon as class is done, I put away my art supplies and that’s that — at least until I take another class. I don’t draw on a regular basis. Sure, if I have a reason — like Draw A Bird Day — I might find a mechanical pencil somewhere in the house and sketch out something fun on an index card. Otherwise, though, the house remains relatively free of eraser bits and pencil shavings.

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My art for Draw A Bird Day. April 8, 2014. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Two of my favorite visitors to the bird feeders.

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This spring, my good friend Pat Falconer was teaching not one, but two drawing classes over a five-week period. And even though I had a ton of freelance work, and I really needed to get more work done on Book II, I had to take both classes. Why? Because Pat is the best, and so are the delightful people who regularly sign up for her classes. Yeah, it would mean a few nights of working past 10 p.m. But my non-working time would be fun, at least. And I really needed to get out of the house for a little while.

Our first bird drawing was a juvenile mockingbird. We used pen rather than colored pencil for this guy. And — as usual — I had to give him some sassy dialogue.

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Juvenile Mockingbird. April 17, 2014. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Very juvenile mockingbird.

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Week 2 brought an American goldfinch, much to my delight as I’d recently finished reading The Goldfinch (OMG YOU GUYS IT IS SO GOOD) and I’d spotted a couple at the bird feeder shortly after that. Lesser goldfinches are pretty common in my neck of the woods, but an American goldfinch is a fairly rare sight.

This year, Pat asked us to get white Molotow markers to draw feathers. I had mixed results with my goldfinch, especially since I found it hard to draw with the pencils on top of the marker, even after it had dried. I don’t think the white came out super smooth on this little guy, but it’s not too bad. His wings and little cap are a mixture of Tuscan red and indigo blue, with black layered on top of that. Unfortunately, my scanner seemed to make the yellow look more neon than natural. But you get the idea.

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American Goldfinch. April 24, 2014. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

American goldfinch who talks like a British goldfinch.

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We had to choose our own bird adventures after that. I picked a Carolina wren first. Despite how they wake me up at the butt crack of dawn with their super loud calls, they’re one of my favorite backyard birds. They’re little and perky and precious. (The next time you see me in person, ask me to do to my Carolina wren impression.) They have a special place in my heart ever since one nested in a potted plant on our patio a couple of years ago. I had just taken the dogs outside when I realized baby birds were hopping and chirping all around me. I grabbed Verona and Zelda, but I had to wait for one wee bird to move away from the back door, as he seemed to be intent on hopping into my living room. As soon as he changed direction and headed behind the gliding bench, I dashed into the house, put the confused dogs on the floor, and watched the chirping and hopping from the window.

As far as the drawing goes, I was fairly happy with how this little guy’s coloring turned out. But I’m disappointed that he doesn’t look nearly as squat and perky as he did in the source photo I chose. Oh well.

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Carolina Wren. May 1, 2014. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Carolina Wren, on the hunt for a bargain.

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After the Carolina wren, I picked another backyard favorite: the golden-fronted woodpecker. I LOVE golden-fronted woodpeckers. There’s a male in my neighborhood (perhaps many, though I like to imagine it’s the same one) who I refer to as Wilson. Wilson was one of the first birds to visit my bird feeder. It’s squirrel- and large bird-proof, so theoretically, he shouldn’t be able to get seeds from it. But oh, does he ever. He lands on the feeder and clings to it, twisting his head from side to side as if studying it. Then he digs through the seeds until he finds a peanut, and flies away looking like a little wind-up toy. Wilson rules.

I love golden-fronted woodpeckers so much that I even mentioned them in my FESTIBA presentation. Appropriately enough, they were all over the UT-Pan Am campus that weekend. Every time I heard one call, it seemed like they were telling me, “Hey, thanks for the shout-out in your presentation. And for the peanuts.”

In any case, I think this Wilson’s head came out a little too pointy on the upper back (source photo here). But I love how the Molotow marker came out on his feathers, and how the shading on the underside came out (though Pat helped a lot with that shading). Not my favorite: the yellow spot that’s supposed to be his whole midsection, but he’s at an angle in the picture, and it just looks like he peed on himself. But he’s a golden-fronted woodpecker. He doesn’t care about your judgment. He’s got peanuts to eat, people.

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Golden Fronted Woodpecker. May 8, 2014. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Golden-fronted woodpecker. (Not pictured: his beloved copy of The Outsiders.)

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My classmates were very tolerant of my silly photo captions. One even brought me a photo her husband had taken on a recent trip. “This made me think of you,” she said. “I know you’ll think of something clever for him to say.” I was so flattered that I completely forgot to ask what kind of penguin he was.

I used indigo blue, a much lighter sky blue, a dark green, and black for his back, head, and flippers. He came out a little greener than I wanted, but I think it just adds to his charm.

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Penguin. May 12, 2014. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Every day is a formal occasion for this penguin.

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Up to this point, I’d posted every one of my drawings — and several shots from the drawing process — on Facebook. I didn’t post my last bird drawing, though. That’s because it’s a surprise gift for my step-grandmother, a super serious birder. But I don’t think she reads my blog, and I’m sending the picture to her this week, so we’re probably safe. (And if she’s reading this, hi, Grandma Jane!)

I drew a Great Kiskadee for her; and yes, that’s the name of the species, not a description of my drawing. (You can see the source photo here.) They’re plentiful in south Texas, and they are gorgeous: bright yellow in the front, with a very distinctive call. I first saw them at the fantastic wildlife sanctuary Quinta Mazatlan, but several popped up at UT-Pan Am, too. They called from the grass and the trees, as if saying hi. I pointed them out to a friend from high school, who I ran into after my presentations. We walked around and, just before we parted, I specifically pointed out the golden-fronted woodpeckers and Kiskadees. I felt like queen of the birds. It was awesome.

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Great Kiskadee. May 15, 2014. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

A good Great Kiskadee, if I say so myself.

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But, as I mentioned, this five-week period wasn’t just about birds. In between my bird drawing classes were the pet drawing classes!

My first drawing was of Zelda, my smallest dog. And like the real Zelda, the drawn Zelda proved difficult. The drawing didn’t pee on me or cost me a fortune in dog ophthalmologist visits, but it did stress me out a lot. If you looked at the photos of the process, you’d be shocked that it ended up looking like a dog at all, much less a cute dog. I’d like to thank mineral oil and a white wax crayon for pulling all the colors together and looking so soft and adorable. And the snaggletooth. I’m pretty proud of that.

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Zelda. April 21, 2014. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Zelda!

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For the bird drawing class and my Zelda drawing, I used a little Stonehenge tablet full of thick, high-quality paper. But Pat wanted us to try a new kind of paper. I got the heat-set variety, and to be honest, I didn’t love it. The mineral oil didn’t really sink into this paper the way it did on the Stonehenge paper. Instead of making the colored pencil look soft and fuzzy, the oil just slid the colors around without really blending them together. I think this drawing of Verona lying on a pile of clean folded laundry would have looked better on Stonehenge paper. But while it’s not my best drawing, I still think it came out pretty darn cute.

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Verona. April 28, 2014. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Verona!

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Alas, we only had three pet drawing classes, and I didn’t want to show one dog favoritism over the other. Plus, I’ve drawn both of my dogs so many times over the years (I haven’t scanned in all those drawings, but I need to). So what to draw for the last class?

Then, suddenly, inspiration struck. I knew who I was going to draw: El Guapo, my family’s beloved Chihuahua who passed away four and a half years ago. But I didn’t want it to be a sad drawing. I wanted it to be sweetly nostalgic…and a little funny. I think he would’ve appreciated it (if he’d been literate and all). He did love peeing on things.

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El Guapo. May 5, 2014. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

El Guapo!

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It was a hectic five weeks, but I’m so glad I took those classes. And while I’m not sure when I’ll be able to take another, I hope it’s very soon.

Yet bird art continues to follow me everywhere — though maybe I’m just looking for it now. This may not be a drawing, but I have to include a photo of my latest Painting With A Twist endeavor: “Morning Rooster.” Unfortunately, his shadow looks less like a shadow and more like poop. But I’m going to get that touched up in their S.O.S. class at the end of the month. In the meantime, I’ll try to gaze at the rest of his glory, ignoring the imperfect parts until I can fix them. Kind of like life, I guess.

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Rooster painting. June 8, 2014. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Copyright 2014, Sarah Rodriguez Pratt. All rights reserved.

Birds on the Brain, Part I: The Bird Bath

May 19, 2014

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I’M BACK, YOU GUYS!

Sorry for the extended absence. It got a little intense around here. As I mentioned in my last post, I spent most of March preparing for my FESTIBA presentation and my Testify speech.

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FESTIBA 2014. Edinburg, Texas. March 20, 2014. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

HELLO, 800 NINTH GRADERS! IS THIS THING ON [crackling noise]

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Now, I’m trying to get back to working on Book II. It’s a little challenging, since a huge new freelancing opportunity came my way a few weeks ago. But don’t worry; the book’s still on track for being done and published by the end of the year. I’ll level with you: the book is technically done; it’s just not quite as great as it could be…yet. My editor sent back a ton of fantastic feedback, and now I have to take it from okay to awesome. But the good news is that the book does exist, and polishing it into a final, ready-to-be-published stage shouldn’t take too long. Yay!

In the meantime, I wanted to get a few blog posts up here about my newest non-writing obsession. It’s an understatement to say, “I’ve kind of gotten into birds lately.” But I have. Oh, have I ever.

I’m going to write posts on the ginormous bird feeding station in the backyard, the birds of my neighborhood, and the amazing bird-related books I’ve read lately. But first, let’s revisit something I mentioned on the blog last year: bathroom renovation. Because if there’s one thing the Internet loves, it’s bathroom renovation pictures. (Well, that and cats. But mostly bathroom renovation pictures.)

I’ve found that renovations, at least for a project of this size, have three phases for me:

  • Excitement and Effort.
  • “I’ve Made A Huge Mistake.”
  • Acceptance and Cheap Frames.

Here’s how it all went down.

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Excitement and Effort

Before we go any further, I’d like to stress that I really, truly thought dark royal blue was a great color for a small, windowless bathroom. I thought it evoked the night sky. Like taking a shower under the stars. But I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong. Sort of.

“It’s just really dark in here,” Craig the World’s Greatest Contractor said, staring at the walls.

“I know,” I sighed.

“You should pick a lighter color.”

“I know.”

He pushes the shower curtain back and looks at the yellow tile. “Was the previous owner’s kid really into Boy Scouts?”

“The previous owner didn’t do this. I did.”

He stares at me in wonder. “You picked these colors on purpose?”

He’s nice about it, but the message is not lost.

Not helping is, well, basically everything else in the bathroom:

  • The cultured marble sink top (sounds so fancy, doesn’t it? “Ooh! Cultured marble!”) is pockmarked from three decades of use. Scars and small holes dot the dull surface, especially in the sink. “You could refinish it,” Craig says, “but it’s essentially plastic. It’s going to look like this again in a few years.”
  • The cabinet under the sink is basically decomposing thanks to a water leak from before we owned the house. We’d noticed the pile of particle board bits when we bought the house, but we were young and bright-eyed, and we just knew we were going to fix that up ASAP. It’s amazing how every other home repair becomes a higher priority over the one hidden out of sight.
  • A slow leak from the toilet (that one was under our watch, alas) caused part of the floor to puff up. It’s noticeable. And squeaky.
  • Come to think of it, the entire floor is squeaky.
  • The mirror, while technically functional, is peeling at the bottom. Oh yeah, and it’s really ugly, too.

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Bathroom. Austin, Texas. November 14, 2013. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Trying to pick a new paint color for the upstairs bathroom. (Everything looks really yellow with the bathroom light on.)

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Bathroom. Austin, Texas. November 18, 2013. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Still trying to pick a new paint color, as you can tell by the swaths of green paint on the walls. (I took this picture without the light on, so there’s no weird yellow glow; but now everything looks kind of washed out.)

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As long as we were bringing power tools into the bathroom and creating dust, I figured we should go whole hog and get new, non-yellow shower tile. But Craig — because he is the World’s Best Contractor — was very up front about costs. “Retiling a shower will easily be the most expensive part of this project,” he said. “If you’re on a budget, just keep the tile. It’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just…yellow. But you can work around that.”

The costs alone convinced me to keep the tile. But I also hated the idea that something perfectly good and usable would end up in a landfill. I couldn’t afford all the so-called “green” fixtures and things I wanted. Recycled glass countered tops, for example, are WAY expensive and have to be trucked in. But I could keep the remodel environmentally friendly in other ways.

Which leads me to:

Sarah’s Green Remodeling Tips For Those Who Don’t Have Much Green

  • If it ain’t broke, don’t toss it. We kept as much fully functional stuff as we could to keep costs down — which also prevented landfill waste. Things that stayed: the toilet, the cabinet, the tile, the tub, the shower fixtures (though more because nothing else would fit in those spaces; more on that later), and the light fixture. I also swapped out the old, rusting shower head for a ginormous waterfall shower head I’d used in my old apartment back in 2005. (Hoarding: sometimes it pays off.)
  • Keep it local. I wanted to get as many local products as possible. The paint was bought at the Sherwin-Williams down the street (at Gallery Oaks in NW Austin; go there and ask for Kelly because she is AWESOME). The backsplash was made by Stone Solutions, an Austin-based company. And the new quartz countertop was carved from a larger piece that was left over from someone else’s project at Austin Countertops, so it didn’t have to be trucked in.
  • Limit your driving time. I know it’s not always possible to plan out all your Home Depot runs, but try to plan stuff out as much as you can and avoid rush-hour traffic whenever possible. Craig was great about working with whatever materials we had that day, and then I’d make an evening trip to Home Depot for the next day’s or two days’ worth of stuff.

Before all that happened, though, I had to do something that would probably delight the average first-world person, but which freaked me the crap out: I had to pick a color scheme.

I’ve spent so much of my life broke that the pressure of picking bathroom colors (paint, a countertop, etcetera) freaked me out. We’d spent six years saving up for this project. What if I picked another ugly color, like the dark blue walls? What if I put all my choices together and they looked awful? Shouldn’t I let a grown-up do this instead?

After way too much guilt and worry, I took my concerns to Facebook (in a funny, lighthearted, “Hey, does anyone want to pick colors for my windowless sh*tter?” kind of way). One friend recommended that I find a great shower curtain and base the room’s color scheme around that.

My first choice arrived looking a lot more forest green and brown in person than it did online. “I can live with that,” I told myself. “I’ll just make the walls really pale.” Then I opened the package and saw the shower curtain was covered with mildew.

“Well,” I thought after it was safely out of the house, “let’s splurge and get something a little more high-quality. We won’t do that with every part of the remodel, but we can afford to have one nice thing as the focal point of the bathroom.” So I bought this bird-bedecked beauty. (And I loved it so much that I got this fabulous thing for the master bathroom. It looks fantastic with the crimson walls and beige tile.)

Now, I didn’t mean to deck the bathroom with birds. It just sort of happened. When we moved in, our shower curtain had a retro geometric design. Then David insisted on getting one of those periodic table shower curtains. The mildew-covered curtain looked like a giant vintage postcard. But once those three little birds flew in, I knew they were going to take over the place — and I was totally okay with that.

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Bathroom. Austin, Texas. November 8, 2013. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Woke up this morning / Smile with the rising sun / Three little birds / Sit on my shower curtain.

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Since the curtain was called “Community Garden,” I decided to work a garden-y theme into the bathroom. I’d make the walls a pale green, like a giant tree. And the floors and cabinet could be dark brown, like a tree trunk.

Except that that would probably be too dark for the tiny space. But I wasn’t sure if I could bear to paint over the nice, solid wood cabinets. And while white tiled floors would show every bit of dirt, brown tiled floors and dark brown cabinets would continue to make the room look dark and dreary.

Fortunately, these questions were temporarily put aside by some bigger questions. Questions like, “You did know this cabinet is just particle board, not real wood, right?”

And questions like, “Why is there a giant sewage pump right outside of my house?”

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“I’ve Made A Huge Mistake”

“Guess how many layers of plywood are on your floor,” Craig asked me with great enthusiasm.

“Um…I have no idea.”

“Three!”

Apparently during the house’s almost forty years of existence, its previous owners never felt like pulling up the bathroom linoleum when they wanted new flooring. They just kept piling new plywood and new linoleum onto the old layers. Hence, the squeaking and the swelling when water got under that top layer.

We also discovered that, underneath all that linoleum and plywood, the floor wasn’t quite level. It had a noticeable hump not far from the toilet. Craig left me a note about it.

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Bathroom. Austin, Texas. November 18, 2013. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

“There wolf. There castle.”

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At this point, construction had been going on for about a week. Thanksgiving was drawing close, and it looked like the renovations weren’t going to be as invasive as we’d originally feared. The cabinets were salvageable, if barely. The sink could stay on the far left-hand side, so no drawers needed to be rebuilt. And the toilet was fine (“Guess how old your toilet is!”) (spoiler alert: it’s 37 years old). I had it temporarily relocated to David’s study. I’m so thoughtful.

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November 23, 2013. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Bowled over.

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By this point, I was picking things and taking names. After staring at many, many paint samples and getting a few swatches up onto the walls, I’d decided to go with Sherwin-Williams’ Recycled Glass. I worried that it might be too light or too bright, but David and Craig assured me that anything darker would look almost as dreary as the blue walls. And I’m not going to lie: I dug the color name. We may not be actually recycling glass to renovate this bathroom, but damn it, the walls were going to look, um, sort of like it? And I loved that it was from the Coastal Cool collection. The next best thing to being at the beach: slathering paint across your walls!

For cleanliness’ sake — well, for the appearance of cleanliness’ sake — I decided to go with dark brown tiles and paint the not-actually-real-wood cabinet white. The floor tile would be…well, I forgot the name and the company, but they were big 1′ x 2′ faux wood tiles — they looked almost like bamboo — and, yes, they were just over my budget. But Craig said they were really high quality and worth the cost. So I told myself, “Let’s splurge and get something a little more high-quality. We won’t do that with every part of the remodel, but it’s worth it for the floor. And the shower curtain. And the countertop.”

This was quickly becoming a dangerous mantra.

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Austin, Texas. November 19, 2013. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Recycled Glass paint sample by Sherwin-Williams. Whitney countertop sample by Cambria. Tile by…someone.

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Austin, Texas. November 19, 2013. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Recycled Glass and Cambria samples with Iceland sample from Stone Solutions.

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To my shock, David — who usually fights me tooth and nail over any home repair project — was willing to splurge on a non-cultured-marble countertop. (An uncultured countertop, you could say.) When he saw the price of Cambria, he looked wary. I, meanwhile, almost fainted onto a kitchen counter display.

Then the saleswoman said they might have a piece in the back left over from another project; and it would be cheaper to use that then to buy a whole new piece; and if they did have it, did we want it?

OMG SOLD SOLD SOLD.

Once we had the countertop lined up, I picked out the backsplash. Like a crow, I’m drawn to sparkly things, so I practiced great restraint to get something relatively subdued, but still fun: the Iceland linear tile from Stone Solutions. Once I learned they were based in Austin, I knew I wanted to purchase my backsplash from them. Plus, the color combination was called Iceland: home of my new favorite bird, the puffin! How perfect is that?

But instead of enjoying all these exciting new developments, two things were slowly driving me insane:

1) Remodeling in general. There’s only so much dust and noise I can handle before I start to lose it. The bathroom is right next to my study, but even though I’d temporarily relocated to the first floor, it was still tough to get anything done. (One day near the end, I finally gave up and tried to work in my study. Four hours later, I realized I couldn’t focus on anything — I couldn’t even see straight — because I’d been surrounded by paint fumes all afternoon.) Craig was lovely to work with, and I like having him around; but with the cabinet’s interior destruction fully exposed and the rest of the bathroom in shambles, I felt like nothing was ever going to be finished and I would be making trips to Home Depot until the day I died.

Compounding my frustration was the situation with the shower handles. They were basically rotting away, but we couldn’t easily replace them. We’d need to either go through the back wall — the one in David’s study — or hire a plumber and get custom shower knobs, neither of which we could afford at the moment. Blergh.

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Bathroom. Austin, Texas. November 21, 2013. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Some serious dust. The walls have primer, the old linoleum is gone, and the cabinet needs to be patched.

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Bathroom. Austin, Texas. November 21, 2013. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

The decomposing cabinet. And this is after it’s been cleaned up a bit.

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2) The sh*tty situation outside. As Craig worked diligently on the bathroom, a much louder, deeper noise soon started outside the house. Turns out a sewage pipe under the street wasn’t working — the same sewage pipe that the city had been digging up and repairing up and down the street for the last two years. And now, it was super serious.

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Bathroom. Austin, Texas. November 21, 2013. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Ugh.

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But the sh*t didn’t really hit the fan until I woke up and found A 24-HOUR SEWAGE PUMP RUNNING OUTSIDE OF MY BEDROOM.

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Bathroom. Austin, Texas. November 21, 2013. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

UGH UGH UGH.

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That mofo was there for days. Almost a week.

After the first two nights of no sleep because of the migraine-inducing noise coming from mere feet away, I started to lose it. I considered going to McAllen and staying with my mom and stepdad until all of this was done. But David didn’t have time to coordinate the renovations.

Fortunately, the sewage pump soon moved down the street (sorry, neighbors). But the street construction came and went for weeks. God, just thinking about it now makes me twitchy. Every time I hear a loud noise outside, I run to the window, terrified that the orange cones are coming out again.

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Acceptance and Cheap Frames

Slowly, piece by piece, things were finished. The power tools were moved out of the bathroom. The Sarah moved her stuff into the bathroom.

Oh, and we got the countertop installed. And I was in lurve.

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Bathroom. Austin, Texas. December 3, 2013. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

This gorgeous hunk o’ quartz basically turned me into Jeremy the crow from “The Secret of NIMH.” “Sparkly! I gotta have the sparkly!”

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Then there was the mirror. Oh God, I love that mirror. The second I saw it on the Pier 1 website, I felt deeply connected to it. I wanted to take it with me on long walks on the beach. So I waited for a 20% off coupon, then claimed the last one at the nearest Pier 1. And if you haven’t had the thrill of driving down a busy highway access road with a giant mirror precariously balanced in your back seat, you are missing out.

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Bathroom. Austin, Texas. December 3, 2013. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Beautiful.

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I don’t remember the exact date of completion. I think I was too tired and burned out (and possibly still high on paint fumes) to celebrate. According to my Facebook photos, it was December 5. But I didn’t finish getting cute decorative knickknacks until late December. (Click the photos for info on buying this stuff.)

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Bathroom. Austin, Texas. December 28, 2013. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

I love this Audubon clock so much. It chirps real bird calls every hour!

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Bathroom. Austin, Texas. December 28, 2013. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Technically, this is a napkin holder, but I think it makes a pretty good hand towel holder.

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Bathroom. Austin, Texas. December 28, 2013. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Peacock ring holder from Pier 1, the home of many lovely peacock-themed things.

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Bathroom. Austin, Texas. April 29, 2014. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Even the shower caddy has birds on it.

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And I didn’t add framed artwork until last month. I’d bought the frames (embarrassingly cheap frames, too) back in December. But they sat in bags until April. That’s how busy I’ve been. (Click the photos for links to these respective stores, where available.)

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Bathroom. Austin, Texas. April 29, 2014. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Over-the-toilet art. The puffin is from the Etsy store Birds In Hats, and the vintage postcard is from the Flying Pig Emporium in Rockport, Texas.

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Bathroom. Austin, Texas. April 29, 2014. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Close-up of the super sweet vintage postcard. The robin’s wee letter reads, “May your life be full of Sunshine.”

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Bathroom. Austin, Texas. April 29, 2014. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

More bird art! I bought these photographs in Rockport as well.

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Bathroom. Austin, Texas. April 29, 2014. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

I bought this lovely piece of puffin art from the Project Puffin online store.

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Bathroom. Austin, Texas. April 29, 2014. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

View of the over-the-towel-rack artwork (and, yes, with the yellow lighting on again).

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Even after everything was done, I stressed over the paint, repeatedly asking David and Craig — and then just David — if it was a good choice. They, in turn, repeatedly assured me that it was both bright and saturated enough for the space. And the more time I spent in there, the more I believed them. Especially once I got framed artwork up on the wall. Any darker than that green would’ve made the space feel smaller, and any lighter would’ve felt too boring.

So I love the new bathroom. It’s bright and lovely, full of charming things that make me smile. The shower curtain birds charm me every time I walk into the room. The Audubon clock merrily chirps on the hour. I adore the unconventional mirror shape. The sparkly countertop still entrances me. And the framed artwork of chipper little birds makes it the perfect blend of a sophisti-ma-cated adult’s restroom and an overgrown child’s bathroom.

This is the first time in my life that I’ve really taken a space and made it my own (not counting the dark blue paint, and we won’t be counting that anymore). This odd little bathroom — this mixture of necessary repairs and cosmetic polishing — was born out of a stressful time, yet it looks as warm and welcoming as a spring day. It took six years to save up for the repairs, and weeks of intense mess to make it happen. But it was totally and completely worth it.

And if we ever sell the house, I’m taking that mirror with me. And the countertop. Seriously.

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Bathroom. Austin, Texas. April 29, 2014. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

I love my bird bath.

Copyright 2014, Sarah Rodriguez Pratt. All rights reserved.

My March Madness

March 12, 2014

What is up, my doges?

First of all, I’m super sorry about the lack of new posts around here. Why has it been so quiet? Two reasons:

  1. I’m going to be the keynote speaker at Gear Up days at the University of Texas – Pan American’s FESTIBA conference! This is pretty much what I’ve dreamed about since I became a writer: the chance to go back to my hometown (well, Edinburg; close enough) and talk to a bunch of high school kids about my life and my experiences. I AM SO EXCITED, YOU GUYS. (A little scared, too. But mostly excited.) I don’t think it’s open to the public, but if there’s a video of the presentation available afterward, I’ll post it. Unless I trip or fart or something awesome like that.
  2. I’m going to speak at Testify again! Come hear me talk about my brief but unforgettable career in social services and emergency management. My presentation’s working title: “Rock Me Like A Hurricane.” The show will be on Friday, March 28. Doors open at 7, show starts at 8 (location currently TBA update: it’s at the Spider House Ballroom).

Don’t worry; I’ll be back in full effect starting in April. And, yes, Book II in the Helen of Hollingsworth Trilogy is still on target to be published later this year. Huzzah!

Copyright 2014, Sarah Rodriguez Pratt. All rights reserved.

New Year — And A New Book!

January 13, 2014

I wanted to write one of those year-in-review posts for 2013. I wanted to revisit some of my favorite posts, share new pictures from my various adventures, and close with a look toward 2014.

Then I realized that, while that would be fun, I’d much rather look toward the future than take one more backward glance at the past.

But I will say this about 2013: it had a lot of dark and challenging points, but it also was the year I did something fantastic and terrifying and ultimately wonderful. Something I’d never done before. It was the year I published my first book — a book that continues to gather praise from readers and critics alike.

I’m excited to officially announce my plans to publish my second book later this year. The first draft was finished last fall, and I’m well into the revising stages right now. Below is the cover in an exclusive sneak peek for my blog readers.

Coming this fall: Book II in the Helen of Hollingsworth Trilogy!

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Coming in 2014. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Coming in 2014!

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Copyright 2014, Sarah Rodriguez Pratt. All rights reserved.

More Reasons To Celebrate

December 23, 2013

I know Christmas is almost upon us, and everyone’s running around doing last-minute shopping and cooking for all their partridges in pear trees. So I’ll make this quick:

Not only am I still super psyched about Choose Your Weapon being named one of Kirkus Reviews‘ Best Indie Books of 2013 (see the full list here and my blog post about it here), but I also received word that the book was named a Notable Teen Book in Shelf Unbound magazine’s Competition for Best Indie Book — AND the cover was named one of “Our Favorite Book Covers”! (The Notable Teen Books start on page 60, and the book cover mention is on page 42.)

I’m so delighted and honored about these awards. The last three years have been a real roller coaster ride, but to receive all these awards and keep hearing fantastic reader feedback has made the whole process of self-publishing my book totally worthwhile.

And in the spirit of the season, I also wanted to give all my blog readers a Christmas gift. I hate most Christmas music, but there are a few tunes I can tolerate…and, okay, even a few I enjoy. Behold the following Spotify playlist, which has all the Christmas music that I don’t hate (except “A Colbert Christmas” and “Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics,” neither of which were on Spotify, but oh well; maybe next year).

Enjoy. And may all your days, through Christmas and beyond, be merry and bright.

Copyright 2013, Sarah Rodriguez Pratt. All rights reserved.

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