From New York to NASA (and Beyond)

What a week! I’ve been avoiding travel to focus on my writing deadlines, which will be coming fast and furious now that I’m working on two series at once – Kane Chronicles and Camp Half-Blood. However, this week I made an exception and headed to New York City on Tuesday.

There were no public events, so don’t feel like you missed me if you live in the area. However, I did visit Books of Wonder to sign stock while I was in town, so if you are looking for a signed Percy book for a holiday present, I would definitely contact them, as they have plenty in stock and ready to ship. While there, I got my first look at the deluxe hardcover edition of The Lightning Thief, with John Rocco’s full-color illustrations. It’s beautiful! I also did some promotional videos at Disney headquarters for the Kane Chronicles, which I’m sure you’ll be seeing on the web as the release date, May 4, gets closer. I stayed overnight at the Standard, a new hotel in the Meat Packing District, and my room had a great view of the Empire State Building. Yes, I did wave to the gods.

The main purpose of my trip was a meet-and-greet for Disney. We had a very nice mixer on Wednesday night with a lot of people from the film division and book division. Disney, as you might imagine, is a huge company, so it’s good to have a chance for everyone to meet each other and put names to faces. My editor Jennifer Besser and agent Nancy Gallt were there, and it’s always good to see them. It was also a chance to catch up with some of my Disney author friends. Eoin Colfer had flown in from Ireland and told me a new Artemis Fowl book is on the way – woohoo! Jonathan Stroud had come from England, so I got to tell him how much Becky had enjoyed the Bartimaeus trilogy (and how much she cried at the ending). Ridley Pearson and I got to talk about the wild world of Twitter. He’s been kind enough to tweet me several times, and was the first person to report seeing a Lightning Thief movie billboard. His Excellency Jon Scieszka was in the house, as were Mo Willems, Cinda Chima, Sharon Flake, Melissa de la Cruz, Ally Carter, and a whole host of other talented folk. The evening was a lot of fun, with much talk about movies and books. The book group had dinner afterwards, though I had to leave a bit early to catch some sleep before my 5AM flight.

Interesting side note: I’ve gotten many emails asking why the last two books in the Percy Jackson series were published by Disney. Many people wanted to know if I’d changed publishers. This is because Battle of the Labyrinth and Last Olympian say “Disney” on the spine, but the first three books do not. There was no change. Hyperion Books for Children has been part of Disney for a long time. The only difference is they started to put their name on the books as Disney-Hyperion, but it’s the same publisher.

At any rate, it was a quick but productive trip, and Thursday I flew to Houston and rented a car to meet up with my son Patrick’s fifth grade field trip to NASA. I got to do this trip when Haley was in 5th grade, and it’s always fun. We got to visit the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, which was a rare treat because the astronauts were actually working in the huge pool. We got to see them come out, surrounded by divers, and get hoisted from the water in their 275-pound suits. Pretty amazing. After that we went to Space Center Houston for a number of activities. Patrick’s favorite part was the tour through the displays, where we saw Skylab, a Mercury capsule, a lunar lander and many other cool exhibits. The kids made rockets out of balloons and robotic arms out of sticks and string. Then we all headed back to the hotel and crashed hard. I’d been up since three in the morning, but I think the kids were even more exhausted than I was.

The next day it began snowing. No kidding – a freak snowstorm in Houston. We decided to cancel the day’s activities and head back to San Antonio, which was a wise choice. Patrick and I got home safely and we’ve enjoyed a chilly weekend at home since then.

Over the weekend I had two nice presents. The Christian Science Monitor named Last Olympian one of the best children’s books of 2009, and just this morning, the New York Times named Last Olympian a Notable Children’s Book for 2009. What an honor!

Next week, it will be back to writing for me. I have finished work on the Red Pyramid and am now turning my attention to Camp Half-Blood. Oh, man, I’m having so much fun with the new series, and everything is just clicking into place, but I can’t share any details with you yet!

Happy holidays, everyone. Stay warm and keep reading!

Rick Riordan