Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pitfalls (and Benefits) of Working From Home

Many of you know that I've been writing freelance web articles for awhile now. You can't find them under my name because I don't write web content under my name. The pen name for my web-based alter ego is Kat DeLong. You can google it and find some of the stuff I've done recently (no, I'm not the realtor in the Sierras), mainly for, and

I mention this because today T was home with a bad sore throat (better now, thanks). I had two more quizzes to finish under deadline, so he was left to watch cartoons while I worked. I was writing a quiz on working from home, when I realized that if I took it, I'd probably fail. I didn't have alternate childcare for days that I had to work, I did miss the social interaction of an office (sometimes), and I was (gulp) working at the dining room table. But, in the end, I finished my work, and T was able to stay home when he didn't feel well, which is really the point when you think about it.

I have to go watch cartoons now. I wonder if he'll let me watch Hannah Montana with him later.

On this date: In 1997, I got married! Happy 10th Anniversary B!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Staring Into the Abyss

So I did it, and I remembered why I like to revise so much. I've revised all 148 pages of my YA manuscript into first person and have now caught up to the blinking cursor that is new material. Yikes. See, in order to revise, you have to have vised in the first place, which means that at least you have a jumping off spot. Right now, I'm just winging it, and it's not easy.

When I explained to Discomermaid Robin that I felt like my characters had lives of their own, and I just basically wrote down the movie in my head, she looked at me like I was crazy. I think she actually said I was crazy too, but I'm not sure. This is one of those things that I thought was universal - I thought everyone wrote that way - but apparently it is not. Now, the movie doesn't run without a little prodding. I have to give some stage directions.

Like now, Lexi is on the phone while she's at the jail, but I'm not sure who she is talking to. I basically try on different characters until one feels right. Is she talking to Alyssa? Nope. Trevor? Nope. Jessica? Hmmm. Maybe. But why? Its a lot like the book is already written, and I have to figure out what happens before the movie starts to play again. And characters will refuse to say or do things that aren't right to them, regardless of what I think. If they don't like the name I've given them because it is my favorite girl name that I never got to use in real life, I have to change it. If they decide that they would rather be slobs than have the case of OCD that I had planned, I have to acquiesce.

Does that make sense? No? Maybe I really am crazy.

On this date: In 1990, the X rating in films was replaced with NC-17.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Long Distance Parenting

DH is on a business trip in Peru right now. Before he left he installed some Skype thingamajig on my laptop that lets us make video phone calls. He called tonight and after a few minutes of messing with the cords - boom, there he was on my laptop screen. The kids really got a kick out of it and kept grabbing things to show him on the screen. After a while it was time for them to get ready for bed, but they were so wound up they weren't listening (like that's new). The funniest part was him telling the kids to go brush their teeth, and then counting to three from his hotel room 4,529 miles away. Ah, technology.

On this date: In 1957, Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas was integrated.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Cool Chapter Titles

I just finished Cecil Castellucci's new book Beige (which was great, BTW). She uses old punk songs as chapter titles, which gave me a great idea for chapter titles in the new YA I'm working on. No, not punk songs, but close.

Pet Peeve of the Moment: People saying that someone dropped the "f-bomb". Or the "s-bomb" or any other bomb that does not involve actual explosives. I heard it said this weekend on a political talk show, and once the pundits get hold of a contemporary saying, you know it's over.

On this date: In 1961, I Love Lucy aired its last episode.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday Potpourri

Being as I pay most bills online I don't go through many stamps. I did have to go and buy some today and I got the coolest Superheroes stamps:

It was so hard to choose which ones to stick on the letters. Choices are difficult sometimes.

On another note, there is a new movie out called Dedication that I'm sure I would hate. It is about a picture book writer who (of course) is having trouble meeting his Christmas deadline for his new book. He and his illustrator take the first half of the movie trying to come up with ideas and illustrations. When the illustrator dies, the publisher loans the writer and the new illustrator (Mandy Moore) his posh Sag Harbor digs so that they can collaborate - she gets a fat bonus if they meet the deadline. I'm so sure.

First off, most of the time, you never meet your illustrator, much less collaborate together on the next book. Second off, these people seem to have lots of money, which only lends credibility to the rumor that if you write one picture book, you're rich. Hang butler has a question. No, not the blue Rolls. The silver one for tonight's outing. Thank you Jeeves. Anyway...being as each party usually gets a few thousand dollars advance for a book, I can only imagine what her fat bonus will be.

One of my favorite movies was Elf, but they do the same thing. Picture book writers = big money, learjets, and a house in the Hamptons. On the other hand, Stranger Than Fiction was quite enjoyable and not very annoying. Now I know why my mom, an emergency room nurse, could never watch Emergency with us on TV. Squad 51, squad 51...see the man on the corner of....

On this date: In 1866, H.G. Wells was born.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Jena, LA

Armadillo Season, my MG that is out with editors right now, is largely about race and how people react when the object of the racism is one of their own. It is set in a small Texas town that was all white until recently, when a black family moved in. The "N" word makes an appearance, and it is necessary when it does, as it flows from the mouth of a very racist grandfather. Colored is what he says when he is being nice.The local sheriff acts differently when the same infraction is committed by a white kid and a not-so-white kid.

I've had one editor comment that it felt like a period piece set in the 1950s, because racism like that doesn't happen in this day and age. I've spent a lot of time in a little town much like the one in the book, and I had to disagree - it does.

Enter Jena, Louisiana. It is all over the news today because of a racial divide in this southern town, complete with nooses hanging from trees and civil rights marches. I just heard a radio interview with a pastor in Jena, who didn't understand what the fuss was about - she loved all those nice colored people in town. Yes, she used the word colored. Repeatedly. In 2007.

I hate to say it, but I told you so.

On this date: In 1975, David Bowie hit number one with "Fame."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


I'm sitting here watching a documentary on TV. It happens to be on a subject that I'm thinking of tackling for my next book and it's fascinating. No, I know I'm not done with my current WIP, but you always have to be looking ahead. And yes, I'm forbidden to do any actual work on it until I have the current manuscript to Agent E.

When I saw that this show was going to be on, I got almost giddy. Both because it was a chance to learn about a really interesting subject, and because it was like a sign from the universe that I'm on the right track with the next piece because it's an unusual subject, and there it was! Right on my TV. One of the people in this documentary is definitely going to be the model for the character in the book. It's so helpful when you can actually picture a person when you're writing. Too cool. I can't wait.

On this date: In 1960, Chubby Checker's The Twist hit number one.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Not Enough Hours In The Day

And the list grows longer. One of the things I did while I was in SLO was buy a few books that were on offer from the authors who were there. Now I have a giant list of mainly YA that I'm dying to read. They include (in no particular order):
Beige by Cecil Castellucci (currently on my bedside table)
Fat Kid Rules the World by KL Going (ditto)
Everything I Needed To Know About Being a Girl ...edited by Jennifer O'Connell (that too)
Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci
Milicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Runaway by Wendelin Von Draanen
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (I can't wait until next month)
The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart
Flush by Carl Hiaasen (J told me I had to)

These are just the pile that I have sitting near me right now. Being as I only have about 30 minutes a day to read, it is a little daunting. The more cool authors I meet, the more I want to add their books to my list. Maybe instead of going to conferences, I should just stay home and read.

On this date: In 1970, Jimi Hendrix died of an overdose at the age of 28.

Monday, September 17, 2007

My Weekend Away

Where to start? I had an amazing writerly weekend at the Central Coast Writer's Conference. The Discomermaids were as gorgeous and generous and fabulous as always. The great thing about hanging out with the DMs is that they attract other fabulous people that you get to hang out with as well. Such as?

Such as the wonderful (and teeny - I was the Jolly Green Giant next to her petiteness) Cecil Castellucci. By sheer coincidence, I had just started her new book Beige, so it was even cooler. I adore Mary Hershey, and she gave a great seminar on humor that made us work for her wisdom so that it stuck. Here we are hanging out:

Jay was so busy being wonderful that he had his nametag stand in for photos.

But then he finished his seminar and showed up in the coolest shirt.

He let me fondle his last ARC for Thirteen Reasons Why and I managed to cram in one chapter before I gave it back. I'm going to go and preorder my copy as soon as I'm done here. His comparison of Pat the Bunny to current YA is not to be missed. Not only that, but he can even make Moon Over My Hammy pretty:

Then, to top it all off, the gang invited me along to dinner with them and wonderful agent Laura Rennert. The waiter's confused look was priceless once Eve and Robin started riffing on him. Talk about thinking on your feet! He never had a chance. We sat outside among the fairy lights and talked about everything. Because I love Agent E, I had nothing at stake and was able to really enjoy hanging out with Laura. If you ever have the chance to work with her, run, don't walk, because she is seriously fabulous.

I stayed at Robin's house with her amazing (ok, I'm running out of adjectives here, but they are all true) and talented hubby and adorable merboy. They put up with me for two whole days, and even took me for a walk by the beach.

The DMs are as great as they seem. Not once did I feel like the fourth wheel on their tricycle, and it is so nice to see all of the love and support they give each other. I'm already saving my pennies to go to the national conference in LA next summer. It was one of those weekends where you wish you could hit rewind and do it all over again.

On this date: In 1965, The Smothers Brothers debuted.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Becoming the Man

I've done it. I've crossed over to the dark side. At least on Thursdays from 11:30-12:45. That's right, I've become...the Yard Duty.

Well, kind of. Our elementary school has over 500 kids and needed some volunteers to hang out on the yard at lunchtime, so I said I'd do it.

The only problem is that I remember what it's like to be in second grade and hang out on top of the monkey bars and how important that game of chase was to the social structure of the playground. So, I'm not too quick with the whistle. I feel like I'm there to prevent large-scale issues, not hassle kids about the little things.

I have adhered to the rules put down by my fifth grader. No hanging around the field when he is playing football. No eye contact. No waving or otherwise acknowledging that we are at all familiar to each other. The cool part was that half a dozen of his friends came over to give me a hug. And my second grader thought it was cool I was there.

I guess I'm more like yard duty lite. My neon orange vest comes next week. Whoopee!

On this date: In 1916, author Roald Dahl is born.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Likeable MC

For reasons that I won't get into, I printed out a hard copy of Armadillo today and read bits and pieces of it as I went. It's been a little while since I've looked at it and I was struck by one major thing: I really like my MC. He's a little bit like the oldest son I don't actually have. I was laughing out loud at something he said at one point, and feeling bad for making bad things happen to him.

It's like he's a real person that is trapped in the computer just waiting to get out and show everyone what he can do. The story isn't perfect (which is why we need a good editor), but Tyler is pretty darn great. I hope you all get to meet him one day.

On this date: In 1953, JFK married Jacqueline Bouvier.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How Long?

Only 56 hours until I get to leave for fabulous San Luis Obispo, home of a very large rock, a fun writer's conference and three very special DiscoMermaids. Not that I'm counting or anything. My boys have gathered up quite a few special things to give to one TMNT obsessed Merboy, the VW is full of gas and my pens are lined up all in a row.

It's going to be great - Jay Asher is giving a YA talk that I really need, Laura Rennert is all about plot (couldn't be more timely) and Mary Hershey is going to pull on our literary funnybones. I didn't get to go to the LA conference, so this is my time. And, if there just happens to be an ARC lying around a particular Merperson's house, I may just stay up all night reading it.

On this date: In 2001, America was attacked by terrorists.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Six Hours Isn't Enough!

I know I'm getting older because the days are getting shorter - much shorter.

I've finally figured out a workable schedule. Kids leave for school at 8am, I work on the freelance web stuff until noon (quick break in there for lunch and a dose of What Not To Wear), then fiction writing until 1:50 when T gets out. Yes, that doesn't leave much time for fiction, but I usually work on it again at night and when my freelance work is done a few days before deadline, then it's all fiction all the time.

The only problem in the mix is that sometimes I get so caught up I forget to stop and go and get T at school. Many days have seen me sprinting up the street to the school just a few minutes late. Luckily, he's used to it and just sits and waits. I've started setting the oven timer for 1:4o so that I have time to save my work and run out the door.

The good news is that I'm now up to page 113 in the YA first person rewrite. I left off at page 147 before I decided to change POV, which means that in just a few short days I'll be cranking out all new stuff. Exciting and scary at the same time.

On this date: In 1897, the first drunk driving arrest was made in London.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Writing or Typing?

I was having a good email conversation with Agent E today and she made a comment about Armadillo being a literary novel. My first thought was "Huh?"and my second thought was to apologize. I emailed back a question about the book being literary and she sent back a comment that said, "Of course it's a literary novel you idiot. Don't you know anything about writing?" Okay, she didn't say that. Agent E is much, much nicer than that, but I'm sure that is what she was thinking.

It occurred to me that I've never really categorized what I write, and certainly never thought of it as literary. Literary smacks of being hoity toity, but I'm sure it just means that it is not strictly commercial. Every story is what it is, and basically can't be changed in my mind. Michelangelo once said that every sculpture already exists within the stone, and his job is to coax it out (not that I'm comparing Armadillo to David, but hey, it works for my purposes), and that's pretty much how I feel about writing. The book already exists somewhere on another plane, and my job is to be the conduit through which it gets translated.

Really, nothing more than a glorified typist to the universe.

On this date: In 1940, my dad was born. Happy Birthday Dad!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Dates and Fish

I had a writer date with HM, a buddy I met at a conference last spring. It was so fun! It's like hanging out with someone who finally speaks your language. We talked about books, editors, agents and writers for over two hours. We live about twenty miles apart, so we've decided to meet in the middle a couple of times a month just to chat. Happy.

On another subject, Milhouse and Santa's Little Helper are finally eating the little green turtle pellets we bought them. We were a little worried because they didn't seem to be eating much, but I guess they just needed time to adjust. As an enticement, we went to the pet store yesterday and got half a dozen tiny guppies for them to nosh on. Unfortunately (or, fortunately if you're a guppy) they aren't interested, so now we have six guppies and two turtles in the big tank. I only have one question - do you feed the food?

On this date: In 1522, Magellan's expedition circumnavigates the globe.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


I've finally figured it out - I'm spoiled. For over a year, all I wanted was to make enough money writing so that I didn't have to go work at another job. Now I finally do. I've been writing about 20 short articles a month for a womens website which is providing enough of an income so that I get to stay home and type away. And I'm still not satisfied. It's a lot of work. Not to mention the time it takes away from the fun writing.

So I've updated my goals. Now, I want to be able to write fiction all of the time. Except for the effort involved in planting the butt in the chair, writing fiction isn't work - it's play. Now it's just a question of how long it's going to take to get this done too.

Poor DH just rolls his eyes and keeps quiet. He knows me too well.

On this date: In 1957 Jack Kerouac's On the Road is published.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

What I Did On My Three-Day Weekend

Meet Milhouse:

And Santa's Little Helper:

You can probably tell which show my children have an unhealthy addiction to. Yes, I sucked it up and got two red-eared sliders. The little guys were only $15 each. Not bad. Until you count in the 40 gallon tank, huge (and I mean huge) cannister filter, ceramic heater, uv light, pebbles and food. Several hundred dollars lighter, we are now two turtles richer.

On this date: In 1967, the final episode of Gilligan's Island aired.