Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Stand Back - It Could Blow Any Minute

You may wonder how such massive amounts of hair can be safely tucked into a baseball cap. The answer is - very carefully.

I had hoped that baseball season might bring around a decision to finally cut the mop but apparently not yet. The only saving grace is that soccer season is just around the corner, and I don't think he will be able to see the ball through all that hair. He refuses to put it in a ponytail or do anything resembling a headband so I'm not sure what we're going to do. My clippers are ever at the ready.

Still waiting for word on the rerevision of Armadillo, so in the meantime I'm amusing myself writing freelance web content. So far, I've done articles on green burials, allowances, Victorian mourning jewelry, and tattoo removal among others. It's a blast, and I'm starting to earn a little pocket money as well. Until that big, six-figure, two-book deal comes through I think I'll keep it up. Plus, you never know how interesting container water gardens are until you do a little research.

On this date: In 1431 Joan of Arc was martyred.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Winter Ball at the End of Spring

We just got back from J's baseball game and I'm beginning to thaw. Baseball around here at the end of May is played down by the bay with a brisk wind blowing off the water. All the parents are bundled up like it's an ice skating party (I'm still wearing both jackets, but I've put the fleece blanket away). About halfway through I made T put a sweatshirt over his tank top and shorts because I was freezing. After the game (we won and J got a 3 run homer - go Braves), everyone was starving so we had to go and get burritos because the hot dogs at the game weren't enough. Now it's 9:25 and everyone is jacked up on adrenalin and carbs with no sleep in sight. Good thing DH is in charge of books tonight.

I've been working on my freelance stuff late at night lately, but I've decided that I have to cut down. Whenever I wake up in the night I have phrases from the article I'm writing running through my head and it gets distracting. Does that happen to anyone else or once again, is it just me?

On this date: In 1917, John F. Kennedy was born.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Sounds of Silence

Do you hear that? What? You don't hear anything? That's the entire point - for the first time in ages it's quiet around here. DH took the boys to the batting cage, our guests have gone home (sniff) and the kids down the street are busy with their own families. It's been a lovely long weekend, but frankly, I'm looking forward to tomorrow when things will get back to normal and I can get back to work.

Shoot, the dog is barking and there's someone at the door. Got to go.

On this date: In 1937 the Golden Gate Bridge opened.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Too Many Screens

Quiet day today. Must be the pre-BEA and Memorial Day. That doesn't mean I necessarily got more done, just that more disappointment awaited me every time I logged onto my email.

Having a bit of a parenting dilemma. Oldest son is turning 10 soon and has been bugging for a Wii or Playstation or something. We've managed to make it this far without any videogames that hook up to the TV and I'm not sure I'm ready to cave. They both have handheld games, so we're not total luddites, and they can still manage to spend ungodly amounts of money on teeny tiny cartriges. The tide turned a little when he started asking for an Ipod this morning. I might be able to see my way clear to one of those (even though I don't even have one) instead. He was asking for a laptop, but that's not going to happen for a few years yet. At least he has lofty ambitions.

On this date: In 1977 Star Wars opened.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Official Geekdom

This is my new favorite book. I never thought I would be so geeky as to love a book about grammar and punctuation but here we are. My new freelancy thing requires that I actually know the ins and outs of the English language so I've been reading this cover to cover. With YA you can take liberties with how you write, but now I actually have to be accurate. Wouldn't you know that my biggest issue (it's vs its) is on page 1. Agent E should be thrilled.

On this date: In 1883 the Brooklyn Bridge opens.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

It's a Personal Problem

Things are getting desperate when I start to annoy myself. DH has always said that watching TV with me is irritating because I tend to pick shows apart. I love CSI (Vegas only), but I have to admit I'm either guessing the ending or commenting on motivation and the convenient placement of evidence (come on, if they were to run a vacuum over my rug, there would be a lot more in it than one suspicious white fiber and a strand of the suspect's hair complete with follicle so that they can run it through DNA). Where is the ground up popcorn and pieces of bark that the dog is constantly bringing in from outside? Where are the stray retainer rubberbands or chewed up pencils? But I digress...

I'm starting to annoy myself because I can't seem to read like a reader rather than a writer. I love to read and I can still read adult books without much trouble. I'm reading the 6th No. 1 Lady's Detective Agency book by Alexander McCall Smith and Lisey's Story by Steven King. I enjoy the stories and it goes smoothly. Not so with YA or MG books. I was trying to sit back and enjoy a MG last night, but I found myself constantly editing it and thinking what I would have changed. At one point a relatively minor factual discrepancy got the better of me and I had to put it down. It's not that this book has any problems - its actually a great book that my son recommended. It's just similar to my mom - who was an O.R. nurse most of her life - watching any kind of hospital show. It drove you crazy because she was constantly critiquing the show (and I loved Emergency! - Randolph Mantooth anyone?) and nobody could enjoy it. The only hospital show which apparently bore any semblance to reality was M*A*S*H - which in itself is a bit frightening. I'm not sure what to do about this - I'm not sure that I can shut off the internal editor.

On a side note, the little kittea pig just came to sit in my lap. I'm sorry but she really is adorable. It's pretty impossible to have her scoot by you and not give her a shnuzzle.

On this date: In 1934, police kill Bonnie and Clyde.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Little Something on the Side

I'm starting a new "day" job doing some freelance writing that is going really well. I've just started dipping into it and it's really fun and hopefully financially rewarding. I feel that I need to make some money aside from writing fiction so that hopefully the sense of urgency I always feel will back off a little bit and let me breathe. I'd so much rather sell something that is amazing and be able to wait until it is right rather than feel that I had to make a sale as soon as possible because my self-imposed financial deadline is hanging over my head. I had hoped to get my YA first draft done before the kids get out of school for the summer, but it's just not going to happen. Plus, I'm still waiting to see about Armadillo and it's hard to get all involved in the new project when I might still have to rererevise it in the next week or so.

Now I have to come up with a good, solid schedule that will allow me to tackle both. I'm allowing myself to run with the freelance stuff right now because it's new and fun but I could easily see it taking over and leaving no time for fiction. Some people might think that writers sit around waiting to be inspired and work on whatever is calling. Uh, no. If that were the case, my head would be filled with nothing but What Not to Wear reruns while I waited for inspiration to strike. What you do is, sit down at the laptop, open the appropriate file and say "okay, go!". Inspiration will then kick into gear and you're off. Well, there is actually that secret ritual involving sacrifices, candles and the secret handshake, but if I told you the details...well, you know what I'd have to do.

On this date: In 1859, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is born.

Monday, May 21, 2007

What is it?

It's a kittea-pig! Seriously, if you could cross a guinea pig and a cat, this would be the result. She is one of a pair of sister kitties that we're fostering right now and I just love her to death. She doesn't even meow, just makes these odd little peeping noises. Good thing we already have too many cats...

On this date: In 1992, the "Long Island Lolita", Amy Fisher, is arrested.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


No more Miss Snark!?! It can't be true! I'm grasping about in the darkness of despair. Now I'm going to have to account for that extra 4 minutes and 37 seconds every day.

I know that Killer Yap is behind this. I can almost smell his Milk-Bone breath as he whispered in her ear that it was time.

Rant: Tear Off The Covers!

This is probably under the heading of more-than-you-wanted-to-know, but every night before I go to bed I read magazines in the bathtub. Nothing scandalous, but along the lines of Oprah and Real Simple. Anyway, I'm noticing a trend that is driving me insane. For the past year or so, magazine publishers have been making the front covers of magazines bi-fold so that the minute I open it, the front flap pops open and gets dunked in the water so that I have to tear it off in anger and toss the soggy ball of paper in the direction of the waste basket. Every time. Whatever marketing genius came up with this practice should be strung up with dental floss and forced to read nothing but celebrity picture books for a month. The ones by Madonna and the zebra one from that guy on the men's makover show will be in heavy rotation.

On this date: In 1899 the first speeding ticket was issued.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

What If I...

Well, it's gone. Armadillo Season round III is off to Agent E for her opinion. I have to say, my MC took me on quite a trip this time around, but I think it was all for the best. At least I hope it was. Maybe it was? That's the problem with fiction - the options are endless so you're always second-guessing what you did and piling on the "what-ifs". What if we didn't get on the bus? What if I take out this entire storyline? What if instead of armadillos, I substitute meerkats? The what-ifs will just have to wait until Agent E renders her verdict.

What if we don't change anything and go with version #1?

On this date: In 1954, Brown vs the Board of Education was decided.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Almost the Happiest Place on Earth

What, you ask, would make Disneyland the happiest place on earth?

That's right - coffee. And not that poor excuse for a caffinated beverage called Nescafe that is the only choice within the confines of the Magic Kingdom. In order to keep our caffeine levels up, we had to exit Disneyland altogether and seek out real coffee elsewhere. Long days + overexcited kids-afternoon cuppa = near disaster. I realize that Nescafe has probably had the coffee concession at Disney since the 1950s, but it's time to step up to the Starbucks generation.

The final ride tally:
California Screaming: 2
Haunted Mansion: 4
Pirates of the Carribean: 4
Space Mountain: 1
Autopia: 1
Small World: 1
Matterhorn: 1
Splash Mountain: 2
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad:5
Indiana Jones: 4
Tower of Terror: 0 (I'm not an idiot.)

All of the advances that Disney has made over the years have come with a price: technical difficulties. These became the code words for the trip as just about every ride was closed at one time or another due to technical difficulties. One cool thing though - they were setting up a giant screen on Tom Sawyer Island for the Pirates movie premier next Saturday. We were going to go up on Tarzan's Treehouse and check it out but it was closed due to technical difficulties.

One slightly related literary note - my review of Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos is up over at The Edge of the Forest.

On this date: In 1929, the first Academy Awards ceremony was held.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Space Rangers

We're hard at work as Space Rangers in training. Mystery Sister and I took aim at Zurg. One of us needs a few more weeks of training. One of us is a Zurg Master.

Friday, May 11, 2007

We're Off

Q: So, Cynthia, you've finished rerevising your novel - whaddaya gonna do now?
A: Why, I'm going to Disneyland!

That's right, we're off to the happiest place on earth. I'm a big fan of California Screamin' the upside-down roller coaster but I won't do anything spinny or the Tower of Terror. I'm sorry, repeatedly dropping from great heights in a fake broken elevator isn't my idea of fun. I should know because my nephew conned me into going with him a couple of years ago. The sad thing is that I'm almost as excited as the kids - and the thought of spending Mother's Day Disney-style isn't daunting at all.

On this date: In 1981, Bob Marley died. (That one is for my DH)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

What Must the Kids Think?

This afternoon's conversation:

J: Mom, are you going hangliding?
Me: No, why?
J: Because there's a hangliding website up on your computer.
Me: Oh that. That's just research.
J: So who's going hangliding?
Me: Nobody. It's for the book.
J: Oh. Can I go hangliding?
Me: No. Only the fictional people in my life can go hangliding.
J: Too bad. It looks fun.
Me: Get off my computer. Please.

On this date: In 1994, Nelson Mandela is inaugurated.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Tyler is in SF

Whoo Hoo! So I got on the bus with Tyler and we rode it all the way to San Francisco (see yesterday's post if you're confused). There was one annoying guy who got on in El Paso and talked about his comic book collection all the way to Tuscon, but other than that it was a nice trip.

In about 3 hours this morning I cranked out 2300 words. I still have time tonight to work so I think today is going to be a record-setting over 3k day. One of the minor characters is now stepping up and getting a personality of his own which is always fun. It is cranking and flowing and everything I signed up for when I decided to become a writer. Now, we just have to wait and see if Agent E thinks it was worthwhile.

I'm working hard because I'm taking a 4-day vacation starting Friday and I don't think I'll get anything done during it. Where are we going? I'll give you a hint:

On this date: In 1960, the FDA approved the pill.

Update: As of midnight, I'd managed just over 3,700 words in one day. I only wish every day could go this well.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


I've been hijacked by my main character. Dang teenagers! Just when I had decided to do just a minor tweaky revision of my original version of Armadillo, the MC decides that he doesn't want to do what I've written. What does he want to do? He wants to grab his backpack (containing a very important urn) and hop a Greyhound bus headed west. While this is a fine idea and all, it would involve much more rewriting than I had signed on for.

What to do?

On this date: In 1945 V-E is celebrated in America and Britain.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Biological Picture Books and Their Adoptive Parents

Friday's email contained one of those good-news/bad-news messages. On the one hand, we still don't have a follow-up picture book for Six O'clock so the new MS is going to start making the rounds. On the other hand, my editor is very excited about the illustrations for Six O'clock. The final art is due in July, which apparently is pushing it for our Spring 2008 debut, but it should be different and new and wonderful which is the most important part.

Today at J's baseball game (we won 15-9 Go Braves!), another parent asked me how I chose my illustrator. Ha! For those of you who don't write picture books, here's the rundown:

I write words. For picture books, not more than about 1,200 max. I send those words to my editor (or agent now). They decide if they like them, and if they do, they send me a contract and a check (yay!). Then THEY pick the illustrator and will hopefully tell me who they have decided to hire. I have no say in the illustrations and won't even see any sketches until I get the galleys and it is pretty much on its way to the printer.

I liken it to giving birth and putting the baby up for adoption. I have no say in how it is raised and won't see it again until it's full grown. Hopefully, this baby will be raised right and I will like it when it is an adult. Maybe not. But I've seen some of the other children this illustrator has raised, and I'm pretty confident.

On this date: In 1915 the Germans sink the British ocean-liner Lusitania

Friday, May 4, 2007


Rerevising? Unrevising? Disrevising? Well, whatever you call it, I'm at it again. Agent E felt that the changes I made weren't what the novel needed, so I'm rolling up my sleeves and am at it again because basically, she's usually right. I'm putting the storyline that I eliminated back in (which is making DH happy because he didn't want me to cut it), but tweaking it in other places to address the comments that have come across my desk.

Whenever I get news that isn't what I want to hear, I get the suck-monster following me around for just about a day. This is the little voice that all writers have that tells you how badly you write and that you'll never amount to anything and might as well delete all files related to this particular story and go and get a real J-O-B. Thankfully, he usually goes and visits some other lucky writer by morning and I can get on with what I need to do. So now I am.

On this date: In 1970, National Guard troops kill 4 protesters at Kent State.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

I Wreck The Songs...

My kids are now obsessed with Grease. Ever since we went to see the play at the High School, they've been watching the musical numbers on YouTube and driving me crazy singing the songs. So, of course I caved and got the DVD from Netflix and we watched it tonight. There's something weird about seeing a pivotal movie from your childhood with your own children. I figured out that I wasn't all that much older than J when the movie came out - I won a copy of the album in a dance contest at Denise Clevenger's slumber party.

The kids were amazed when I told them that we didn't have DVDs back then and had to go to the theater to see the movie. Then they asked if that was back when movies cost 25 cents. T asked me nicely not to sing along to the movie. "It's not that you sing bad, it's just that you wreck the songs." Whatever.

On this date: In 1991, the last episode of Dallas aired.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


We got two new visitors today. This is #1- she's a girl:

This is #2 - he's a boy:

They came from the Animal Shelter because they are too small to be adopted. We usually foster kittens all summer and into fall and these are our first official kitties this year. They'll be with us until next Friday and then go to another foster family because we're headed out of town. As you can see, they need names. Leave me your suggestions - we'll draw names from the suggestions and those will be the names they leave with. Little boy #2 has a tiny stubby tail if that's any inspiration.

The timing is good because TK2.0 is going home with his new family on Friday, and these little guys will help the kids get over that.

In writerly news, my buddies over at Shrinking Violets are starting a movement to declare May National Independent Booksellers Month which is really cool. Hop on over there and see what it's all about.

On this date: In 1933, the first modern sighting of the Loch Ness monster.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007


Along with all of the other blueboarders, I'm into this new blog. This is like the Miss Snark of the editorial set, and lets you get into the head of this elusive species: editorialus newyorkikus. One of the recent posts was on the enormity of the slush pile. This editor gets 15,000 pieces of slush (what we in the biz called unrequested manuscripts for you non-writerly friends of mine) each year. As she demonstrates, this is an amazing amount of mail. Why do writers keep sending slush? Because sometimes, occasionally, once-in-a-while something gets picked up. How do I know? Because mine did.

My first picture book was picked from the slush pile by an editor that I had no relationship with and had never seen speak at a conference. I did get her name from a writer friend of mine, but that's it. She didn't know me from Eve, but thought that the book was good enough to warrant a second look. Is this because my writing is vastly superior to everyone else's in the pile? As much as I'd like to think so, the answer is no. Much of that success can be attributed to the following:

1. Mentor. I got a mentor who told me that my first writing was crap and stopped me from sending it around. By the time I was ready to send stuff out I knew a lot more than I did in the beginning. Don't submit your first attempt. It's garbage, I guarantee it.
2. Research. I joined a lot of writers boards, read a lot of books and learned not only how to write, but how to submit and not look like an idiot. I tried not to give them an easy reason to toss my stuff in the recycling.
3. Something different. I got an idea that I'd never seen before, but would still work as a picture book. Trust me, my first story had several talking animals in it.
4. Dumb luck. This MS landed in the hands of the right editor at the right time. A lot of this business is timing. Just before this book was accepted, it had earned a half-page form rejection from another house.

Getting plucked from the slush pile is a lot like playing the lottery, and I hate to say it to all of those editors out there who's very lives are in jeopardy from the towering mountains of slush; you can't win if you don't play. Now, if only my slush-pile manuscript came with a $28 million dollar prize spread out over 20 years, we'd be in business.

On this date: In 1967, Elvis married Priscilla.