Thursday, June 28, 2007

By Jove!

I think I've got it. So Lexi, the MC in my YA, has been languishing in jail for something like six weeks while I revised my MG and figured out what comes next in the YA. Then last night, I was doing something totally random when all of a sudden the movie started playing in my head and I saw just how she was going to get out and why. And it was pretty good too. The best part is that I actually remembered all of it so that it wasn't lost to the ether like other good ideas.

So, the next time you see me staring off into space, it's not that I'm just staring off into space - I'm writing. In my head.

On this date: In 1969 the Stonewall Riot in New York City began.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Selling Ourselves Short

Why do writers tend to sell themselves short? Mechanics, lawyers, doctors and plumbers all get paid a tidy hourly sum to perform their craft. Writers, on the other hand, tend to get paid a pittance for what we do and personally it's starting to get annoying. The biggest obstacle seems to be ourselves.

I freelance by writing blog articles through a writer's website. This site is great because they let you set your own prices for your work and the buyers can choose which rights to buy for the articles. I tend to calculate how long it is taking me to research and write say, a 500 word article and price it accordingly. Many writers on the site price their articles really low, say $5 to $10 for an article of the same length, making it hard to sell things for what they are actually worth. It drives me crazy to look at the recent article sales and see $4, $6 or $10 repeatedly. I refuse to lower my prices because that would mean lowering my standards and I charge what my work is worth. I know of other writer's websites where the prices are regularly under $10 per article, and the quality of the work reflects that fact.

Very few writers actually make a living doing what they do best. A kidlit writer only clears a few thousand dollars for a picture book, a few times that for an average young adult novel. Considering that you can only crank out one or two longer books per year, you'd better have a backup plan. Many writers make money by doing lectures and school visits, but again, some writers will do these for free, making it difficult for others to add to their income.

Sure, some people hit it big and are able to do nothing but write, but most of us have to look elsewhere for our income. It is so hard to do work that you don't love during the day for money and have to turn what you are destined to do into a "hobby" that just might bring in some extra cash. Maybe somewhere there is an alternate universe where the writers and teachers get paid $375 per hour and the lawyers have to scrape by on $10,000 a year. Hey, that might make a good story.

On this date: In 1922, the first Newbery is awarded to The Story of Mankind by Hendrick Willem van Loon

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Will Paint for Cash

Yay! I made $100 today. Okay, it was painting a friend's house and not through any writing endeavor, but still. Spending the day inhaling paint fumes wasn't so bad...I might take it up again as a way to make some dough if this writing thing doesn't work out.

One nice thing is that I was mostly working alone, so I had lots of time to think. Don't tell Agent E, but I haven't worked on my fiction in weeks. I have been selling a lot of website articles with my freelance gig, and right now, immediate payment is what counts since I don't have a lot of writing time during the summer. Even though I haven't technically been writing anything, I've been thinking a lot. I'm trying to get a better handle on my MC in the YA I'm working on and I think it's starting to come together. There's nothing like a little meditation on your WIP while you're lying on the floor painstakingly painting baseboards.

On this date: In 1945 the U.N. Charter is signed.

Monday, June 25, 2007

A Forever Family

Thanks to Ellen and her two kids, it looks like Birdie and Bunnie are going to be able to grow up together. They came by to meet them this evening, of course fell in love with the both of them, and will hopefully be able to take them home by the end of the week. The shelter requires that both kitties be fixed before they can be adopted, but they should be able to get us in quickly, and they won't even have to go back to the shelter at all. They'll go straight from our house to their new home. There is a 5 year old girl waiting for them, so I see lots of doll clothes and stroller rides in their future.

On this date: In 1967, the Beatles record "All You Need Is Love."

Friday, June 22, 2007

My Meme

So I got tagged with a meme by LindaD. I'll spare you all the weirdest things about me, and just try to come up with 8 things that are true. These are the rules:

Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

The only thing is that just about every blogger I know has already been tagged, so I'll have to work on coming up with a few more.

Here goes:

1. I can ride a unicycle. But I can't juggle.
2. I can bake perfect chocolate chip cookies without using a recipe. Sadly, I actually do this about once a week.
3. I have a thing about dragonflies. I have images of dragonflies all over the house and I was never sure why until I found out that they represent change and luck. Then it sort of made sense.
4. My favorite food as a kid was liver and onions. My mom was forced to make it for every birthday dinner until I got old enough to make it for myself. For about ten years, that was the only meal I knew how to cook.
5. I always wanted to be a gymnast. Sadly, that dream died when I reached the lofty height of 5' 10" at the age of 12.
6. I have a tattoo and I used to have something pierced other than my ears.
7. I rode a Honda 650 cc motorcycle all over San Francisco for several years during my 20s. I never told my mom, so if you see her, don't say anything.
8. I hate tomatoes. Really hate them. Once we were at dinner at my boss' house and he served bruschetta with fresh tomatoes as a starter. Couldn't do it, not even to be polite.

Okay, that's me. Now...I tag Natalie and I'll have to dig for a few more people because it looks like I don't have any more bloggie friends who are tagless.

On this date: In 1969 Judy Garland died.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Yesterday was a bit of a rough one for me because J turned 10. I'd been practicing saying it for weeks, so it didn't really bother me at first. Ten. Double digits. I was fine until I went to pick up the birthday cake at the store and had to buy not one, but TWO number candles to put on it - a 1 and a 0. Two candles. That's when it hit me - my baby is 10. Ack.

Ten going on 16. Lord help us all.

On this date: In 1788, the US Constitution was ratified.

Monday, June 18, 2007


My crit group has gotten hold of my in -progress YA and discovered something I figured out a little while ago - none of us likes the MC. At least, not in the beginning. She does lighten up about 1/3 of the way into the book, but for the moment she is not in possession of a lot of redeeming qualities. This is a problem. I've been dancing around this manuscript for a few weeks now, but haven't actually opened up the file and typed anything for oh...longer than I care to admit. What's gotten in the way? Just few things like a revision on my MG, a quick trip to Santa Barbara, some freelance work and summer vacation. Today was the first real day of summer for the kids and it just confirmed my fears that I'm not going to get much done for the next 90 days or so. Sigh.

On this date: In 1942, Paul McCartney is born.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Summer Vaca!

Well, we're about 7 hours and 58 minutes into summer vacation. So far so good. We've had two friends over, J went over to a different friend's house, we had tacos and went up to the pool after dinner because it was horrifically hot here and nobody has air conditioning. Ignore the whiny post of June 1st - we're all sweating to death now.

It's funny writing shorter kids books - sometime it's more like putting a puzzle together than writing a book. I've had a great idea for some kind of kids book for about a year. I wrote it about six different ways as a picture book and nothing worked. A few weeks ago, I decided that maybe it should be a young mid-grade. Yeah, that's it, a young mid grade. Then, I was reading a writer's newsletter last night and it hit me - not only is it a young MG, it's a mystery! By jove, I've got it. Well, not really, but little by little all of the pieces are falling into place and the whole picture is becoming clearer.

On this date: In 1777, Congress adopts the Stars and Stripes.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I Write Stuff Good

I quit my very very part-time accountant job today. Mostly I quit because the kids are out of school for the summer, and it wasn't worth it to find daycare for them so that I could go to work for 5 hours - basically, I'd be paying to work. Partly I quit because I want to be a writer. Not an accountant/writer, or a teacher/writer or even a waitress/writer. Even though I only worked a few hours a week, I found myself resenting every minute. This was time that I couldn't spend writing.

I've got a lot riding on this summer. With the MG getting out there, along with a few other projects that we're shopping, things might really heat up. And then again it might not, but I can't let myself think that way. I just read an article last night about stay-at-home moms trying to reenter the workforce, and it wasn't pretty. I write stuff good, that's what I do ;) And I can't imagine doing anything else.

On this date: In 1970 "The Long and Winding Road" became the Beatles last No.1 hit.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sit Down and Shut Up (At Least for Awhile)

I am so tired. The magic pills from yesterday worked just fine - I took two right before bed and after awhile the sneezing and runny nose eased and I was able to get to sleep. For exactly two hours. At 2:36am my eyes popped open, random tetchy little thoughts running through my head about our camping trip in August, PTA whatever, trying to find the kitty-pig a home with someone I know the drill. This lasted for a little more than two hours - the last time I looked at the clock it was 4:42. Now I remember why you're not supposed to take anything with pseudoephedrine in it right before bed. They make meth out of it.

Kristin Nelson over at PubRants had a funny post about the guy who stood up at a crowded conference to ask a question only to put the room on hold when his cell phone rang. Twice. This reminded me of a conference I went to a couple of years ago with a panel of authors, editors and agents. The room was packed and they were doing Q&A when an older woman stood up to tell the panel that she had written a cute story about her son learning to tie his shoes. Someone on the panel politely directed her to plotting and uniqueness in a story while the rest of us winced. Then the poor dear stood up again with a follow up question about how when her story was published, she would send the artist pictures of her son when he was a boy and she would make sure that he'd captured him correctly. The editor again politely told her that if her story was purchased, the publisher would pick an artist who would interpret the words for her. "But he's my son," she insisted. "I know what he looks like. How is some artist going to know what he looks like?" The longer she insisted, the more the majority of the room cringed. Until you learn the ropes of publishing children's books (and there are a lot of ropes), it's often best to sit, listen and absorb. And turn all cell phones off.

On this date: In 1994, Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson were murdered.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Desperate Times

I felt the urge this afternoon - that little tickle that precedes the intense need that grows by the minute. It finally got so bad that I went searching in the medicine cabinet trying to find the only thing that would work. I was desperately pawing through an old first aid kit when I found two of them. I unwrapped the precious pills, ignored the fact that they had expired in 2004 and slugged them down. Sweet relief. By evening, the effects had worn off and I was desperate again. I had no choice. I had to go the the drugstore and buy some real cold medicine so that my nose would stop running. After donning the trench coat and the baseball hat so nobody would recognize me, I approached the pharmacy counter. Once I'd turned over my photo identification and signed a two-page release, they finally let me walk with 18 pills, enough for almost 5 days. If this head-cold lasts any longer than that, I'm going to have to send in DH for reinforcements.

For those of you who don't live in the US, in order to combat the evils of methamphetamine production, the federal government in all its wisdom has put any over-the-counter medication containing pseudoephedrine under strict lockdown. You must swipe your identification, sign releases and then are only allowed a limited supply per month. God help the poor soul who gets a cold lasting more than a few days. You start bargaining with your friends and neighbors to see if they will go get you some, because you have used up your allotment for the month. "Psst...hey buddy. There's a tenner in it for you if you'll go buy me some cold pills."

On this date: In 1963, the University of Alabama was desegregated.

Friday, June 8, 2007


After our marathon session of school stuff yesterday, we just went downtown today and shopped (no, I didn't buy the black shoes at Nordstrom that I really, really wanted) and walked around. Here are some views of the fabulous Santa Barbara Courthouse, just because it's really pretty.

I did manage to polish and send Armadillo off to Agent E, so now we wait for the editors she has chosen to get back to us. Now there is no excuse for not getting back to the girls in my YA. When I left off, one of them had just been arrested, so I'm pretty sure they are impatiently waiting for me to figure out how to get them out of their situation.

On this date: In 1968, James Earl Ray is arrested for the assasination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Good Life

Still on a total high from my trip to Mermaidland yesterday. Is it wrong that I find them so fabulous? It's almost like going out on a really good first date - you replay all the high points in your head for days afterward. If you're not a regular reader of the Discomermaids blog (and why that would be, I don't know), check out what Robin had to say about our little get together. I've never actually met Jay, but they seem to think he's okay, which is okay by me.

It's funny, because I've only met Robin once, and that was for about a minute an a half, and before yesterday, I'd never met Eve, but through the wonders of the internet, it felt like we were old friends. Totally symbiotic, and I wish I could do it more often.

On another topic, if your kid is looking for somewhere amazing to go to school, you must look at UC Santa Barbara. I may be just a teensy, weensy bit biased because I went to college here (just a couple of years ago), but really. This is the view from the dorms:

This is the view from the dorms looking the other way:

This is me and little sister on the beach:

Now, all is not bright and sunny at Santa Barbara all the time. There are hazards:

But as long as you steer clear of the tsunamis, you should be alright.

On this date: In 1954, Louise Erdrich is born (I loved the Beet Queen).

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Me and the Mermaids!

So that's me in the middle of two hotties also known as 2/3 of the Disco Mermaids. Yes, they are as fabulous in person as you think they would be. It was so cool to sit in a cafe and talk books, publishers, and writers for a couple of hours: I loved every second of it. They're gonna be big I tell ya. If you get the chance to hang out with them at SCBWI in LA take it. They don't want to admit it, but they are the rock stars.

The only thing that was a downer was how Mom-ish I felt in between the two of them. Yes I'm slightly older (ahem), but still. I think I have to try just a little harder.

I got to see them because I'm on a little road trip with my younger sister back down to Santa Barbara. She's taking a look at the university and I'm the tour guide. I'm going to try to take a few minutes and tidy up the MG for Agent E so that we can get that show on the road.

On this date: In 1944, D-Day.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

She Likes It - Hey Mikey!

Whew! Agent E sent an email today saying how much she likes the revisions to Armadillo. Yay! Having major neurosis comes with the territory, so of course I was picturing the email that I thought she would send, about how all of the changes didn't work for the character and that we were going to have to scrap it all and start over. But she didn't - in fact the words "love" and "can't believe what a difference" were included in the email. She also said "okey-dokey" at one point, but that's just the kind of fabbo agent she is. I'm just going to make a few teeny tiny adjustments for continuity (a few things I missed the last time around) and then off it goes! I also have to go back and check all of my it's/its now that I've been saved by Strunk and White.

I was at our local library today, up on the second floor balcony and there was this really, really long spiderweb that went from a beam way at the top of the ceiling and shot down to a post below. This one strand was maybe 25 feet long and all I could think of was what a brave spider to take a leap like that. I could almost hear him talking to himself as he stood on that beam, willing himself to just go for it - he'd make it if he only took that first step. I even wondered if he counted to three before he made the leap. The best part is that it is so high, that there is no way the library people are going to be able to clean it off. Is that just the weirdness in me talking, or do you think other people would think the same thing? Yeah, that's what I thought.

On this date: In 1968, Robert F. Kennedy was shot.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Special Delivery

Got a really cool surprise from Mr. UPS on Friday afternoon - the galleys of my PB Six O'clock in San Francisco. No, not the galleys with the art (hopefully around the end of July), but the galleys with the text all dropped in and official-looking. Now I just have to go over it with a fine-toothed comb, because catching mistakes is now or never. Thank goodness for proofreaders. I have to admit, when I opened the envelope and saw my name right under the title on the first page I got goosebumps. The kids were stoked to see their names in the dedication. I told them that there is still time to change that part if they act up. Nothing like the threat of pulling their 15 minutes of fame to get them to straighten out.

On this date: In 1989, the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Global Warming?

What is this? Is it a camera malfunction? A view to the inside of my brain after several hours of writing? No. This is an actual photograph of the sky above my house just a couple of minutes ago - that would be 11:43am. You may notice a distinct lack of sun, blue and general niceness that might be expected in California on the first day of June. We've had nothing but fog, clouds and cold temps for over a week and I'm so over it. We spent Memorial Day up at the pool, covered in towels trying to pretend it was warm. I swear T's lips were a distinct shade of blue for awhile until I told him to go take a hot shower. For the past several days, our heater has kicked on in the morning meaning that the inside temps have dropped below 63.

It is June and I live in California. Everyone knows that San Francisco is a cold, foggy mess all summer (and if you didn't know that, now you do - bring a parka) which is why we bought our house 20 miles away in the SUNNY part of the Bay Area. My closet is full of summer skirts, capris and strappy sandals while I sit here huddled over my laptop for warmth wearing the same pair of jeans for the second day in a row, slippers and my Lands End fleece jacket. I might just get up in a minute and kick the heater on for a bit. If you are somewhere warm, go out and stand in the sunlight for just a minute and appreciate what you've got. Hot cocoa anyone?

On this date: In 1980 CNN was launched.