Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Oh the Horror!

Knives were flying, guts were spilling out everywhere - screams could be heard for miles around! The kitchen was covered in gore from one end to the other while the children laughed maniacally, digging in with spoons and hands. The smell of sulfur hung in the air, lending an olfactory element to the carnage...

Happy Halloween!

On this date: In 1938, Orson Welles broadcast "War of the Worlds".

Monday, October 29, 2007

What Left Brain?

I've started researching my next YA project and it is taking up a large part of my brain. I can't stand not actively working on something, so even though the other YA is out for critique I had to jump right in. The main character is the daughter of someone with a very specific, but disturbing mental disorder and I've spent the entire day on websites devoted to this disorder, immersing myself with both the patients perspective and that of the children of patients. I found a great site that had 200 comments from children of people with this disorder and it was amazing to get this insight. Fascinating, but I know that I'm going to be dreaming of this for the next several weeks.

The funny thing is, this isn't really the project that my left-brain wants to do. My left-brain would love to come up with a super-commercial, easily accessed piece that would be a quick sale. My right-brain says no. My right-brain is busy channelling all sorts of information on this quirky family, from names to the bits and pieces that make up this disorder. I was in the tub last night, when it suddenly hit me that the MC (who doesn't have a name as yet) actually renamed herself in middle school so that she could distance herself from this family. I have no idea what her given name is, or the name that she chose for herself, but I do have this one piece of information. I guess I can only be trusted with small pieces at one time.

On another topic - I have to brag about my wonderful agent Erin Murphy. She was just named the 2nd highest selling kidlit agent on Publisher's Weekly's new Top Dealmakers feature. We're so proud of her! Finally, I'm in with the cool crowd. Now if she'd only get that website we've all been talking about.....

On this date: In 1929 the stock market crashed.

Friday, October 26, 2007

It Takes a Village

It has been said that you can't write in a vacuum - well you can, but it's crowded. I like to think that you can't revise in a vacuum.

As I've been tweaking, pummeling and deleting, I've had to call on my army of technical advisers. There's my friend's bomb-squad police hubby for the jail scenes, my eighth grade reader for correct use and overuse of slang, and above all, my fabbo 20 year old sister who has the knowledge - or will get it- of everything currently college. Thinking of using U2 in concert in the book? Uh, no. Apparently Incubus is the band of choice. Big floor parties in the dorms? Not done anymore. Who knew? She's getting back to me on the correct frat house to use for one particular scene.

Now, it's off to my readers. Yay!

On this date: In 1881, the Shootout at the OK Corral.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Unfairness of it All

I read in the paper today where Microsoft purchased a stake in FaceBook, and now the 23 year-old creator is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 billion.

This, while my wonderful teacher friend is thinking of quitting because she can never afford to buy a house on a teacher's salary and most writers I know get to do it as a hobby because they can't make enough to quit their day job.

I'm going to bed now.

On this date: In 1881, Pablo Picasso is born.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wednesday Writing Wisdom

Today's lesson: Find and replace.

This magic feature on MS Word can be a godsend when you can't decide what a character's name is. You can just go through the whole MS and make the name change 217 times with a press of the button.

Word of caution: You must go back and read the entire MS after using this cool tool. It will replace anywhere that it sees this letter combination, not just in the character's name. Say that you wanted to change a character's name from, oh, I don't know, Ana to Amanda. It will do this for you. It will also come up with fabulous new word combinations such as - mAmandage, marajuAmanda, and my favorite, explAmandation.

On this date: In 1901, the first barrel ride over Niagra Falls

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Two Sweetest Words

Last night at 11:38, I got to type the most favorite words in any writer's rather extensive vocabulary - The End. Lexi got out of jail, Ezra came through in a pinch, and Caleb...well I can't tell you what happened with Caleb. You'll just have to read it. Yes, I've finished the first draft of my new YA, and it feels great.

So what happens when a writer finishes a novel? I suppose that there is a writer somewhere who knows perfection when they see it and emails the MS directly to their agent. Then they close the laptop with satisfaction and pour themselves a glass of wine. I don't know any writers like that, and if I did, I wouldn't hang out with them much.

Finishing a novel just means that you get a temporary feeling of satisfaction until you get up the next morning and open the file to page one all over again. It now has to be kneaded and pummeled into shape - characters need to be inserted in pivotal moments and your finger needs to be heavy on the delete key. Luckily, I did a lot of revising when I switched from third to first person and my crit group has seen a good portion of it. Now, I just have to go over it all again and send it to my crit buddy (who will be owed a favor of monumental proportions) for an emergency whole-MS critique.

I said I would get it to Agent E by November 9th, and lo and behold, I just might!

On this date: In 1971, Disneyworld opened.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Family Field Trip

Today was a teacher thingy at school, so the kids had the day off. Rather than hear them whine about how bored they were, we all took the day off and headed into San Francisco.

If you hit the right couple of days in October, you will find the best weather of the year in the Bay Area. First we hit Golden Gate park for the cement slides.

After lunch at my favorite taqueria on Haight Street (and a stop in J's favorite bookstore), we headed for the beach.

Some of us were having so much fun, we jumped for joy.

Hope you had a good Monday.

On this date: In 1797, the first parachute jump is made from a balloon.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tell Me What You Really Think

T (age 7) peering intently at me: Hey! There's a bunch of lines on your face.
Me (age withheld): Yeah. That's because I'm old.
T: You're not old. You just stayed in the water too long.

On this date: In 1961, the movie West Side Story debuted. No, I wasn't there.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Thirteen Reasons Why by blogger buddy and all-around good guy Jay Asher is officially out tomorrow. I've instructed my local bookseller to stock it so that I could buy my copy from them, and I know that they went to meet Jay last week at the No Cal Booksellers Assn. I don't know about you, but I'm going to have my very own midnight-release party in which I'm going to play old cassette tapes of bands with members that I used to date, and then run to be the first in line at World of Books when they open. It's cold here and rain is forecast, but the sacrifice is worth it.

I actually had my hands on an ARC at one point, and Jay let me read the first chapter before I had to hand it back. I can't wait to curl up and read the whole thing. I suggest you do the same.

On this date: In 1989, a 7.1 earthquake struck San Francisco (I remember it well).

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Weekend Musings Part Deux

I had said that my weekend suddenly turned busy, but I didn't mention Sunday. On the same fateful fieldtrip, another friend invited me on a day-long limo tour of Napa that she'd bid on at our school auction earlier this year, so Sunday morning found me climbing into a limo (my first ever, after all these years - I got married under a tree in a state park, no limos) with five other gals for a really fun day.

So we were sitting on the deck at the Mumm's Champagne Tasting Room on a gorgeous day talking about girl stuff (if you don't know what that is, I'm not the one to enlighten you), and the talk turned to husbands (as it tends to). One of the gals told a story about her husband's family that had me sitting there with my mouth open, and not just because it was a good story. Then, another friend said that the same thing had happened in her family, and then another friend said it had happened in hers too. The amazing thing was that it was the very subject that I'd been struggling with in my MG. I'd been thinking of changing a major plot-point in case it wasn't realistic enough - and then out of nowhere, three out of the six of us had had that very thing happen in their families.

The universe says keep it the way it is.

On this date: In 1976, Disco Duck topped the charts.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Bear Territory

In a few short moments, our whole weekend went from one lonely little soccer game to crazy busy. One of the Dads on Friday's fieldtrip leaned over and asked me if I wanted his six tickets to the Cal football game on Saturday as they couldn't go. Um, yeah. So in short order we were surrounded by 63,000 screaming football fans. The energy was amazing and it was so cool to have that psuedo-college experience again. I went to a UC, but it didn't end in "B", and we had a tiny little football team. I took lots of mental notes for the new WIP. One of the characters in the new book is a football player, so now I've figured out a great place to put a football game - right at the end, and it's going to be cool.

They didn't win (at the very last minute), but it was amazing. The only trouble is that the kids are now bugging me to play football. No way. Go Bears!

On this date: In 1951, I Love Lucy debuted.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Eavesdropping for Research

I spent most of the day in a car with five 10 year-olds, driving in the pouring rain for a tour of the Capitol Building in Sacramento. It's always an enlightening experience spending that much time in a confined space (2 1/2 hours each way!) with kids that you're not related to. Well, one that you are related to, but who prefers to pretend otherwise. One of the girls actually brought a book to read - a fantasy novel that I'd never heard of. I started thinking what kind of book I could write that would get each kid to pick it up. For research, I started asking them. Sports, action-adventure, and fantasy were all high on the list. I couldn't pin them down any more than that, but it's a start.

Later this evening, I was standing in line at the pharmacy behind two high school girls. When they weren't texting or talking on the phone, it was really interesting to eavesdrop on their conversation. Want to know what it was? Which celebrities are pregnant and by whom. I started thinking what kind of book I could write that would keep them interested, and toying with some plot lines in my head.

I like this new exercise - what kind of book could I write that would get that kid to read it?

On this date: In 1938, production started on the Wizard of Oz.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Horrors of Halloween

So I was standing there in the Halloween superstore this afternoon with my age hanging out.
That's disgusting. You can't be that for Halloween.
I'm not paying $50 for a few tacky pieces of fabric and rubber.
You can't see out of that. That mask will last all of three seconds.

And the dreaded:
Back when I was a kid, we made our own costumes.

In the end, we compromised and bought some accessories and I'm going to help them make the rest. Another Halloween disaster averted. I'm starting to long for the days of superheroes and cute fuzzy lions. Now we're stuck with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and a big hairy Werewolf.

On this date: In 1985, Orson Wells died.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Inspirational Quote of the Day

I'm inching along on my WIP, making a little progress everyday. I'm re-reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott for inspiration and I forgot how much I love this quote until I came across it last night.

On writing:
It's like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. - E. L. Doctorow

On this date: In 1940, John Lennon was born.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Saving Quarters

A few weeks ago, I was having lunch with a bunch of writers at the conference in San Luis Obispo. Cecil Castellucci was telling us a story about her parents and the unique way they spend their anniversary. It was a great story, one which I won't repeat here, because as you will see, I don't own it.

When she finished explaining it, all of us nodded, and we all recognized the look in each others eyes - we were all trying to figure out where we could use that in a current or future piece. Someone finally said that since it was Cecil's story, it belonged to her and we all laughed and agreed, yeah, that we wouldn't use it, because by rights it did belong to her.

I've been thinking about this a lot. Writers don't use paints, or other scraps in our artwork - we use ideas. It's dangerous when there are a bunch of writers in a room and someone tells a good story or something funny happens - we all want to file it away to use it later. It's a lot like finding a quarter face-up on the sidewalk. If you know who it belongs to, by rights you have to appreciate it and then hand it back. If you don't, then everyone can jump on it and spend it on whatever they want.

On this date: In 1871, the Great Fire destroyed much of Chicago.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Waiting For A Flood

J went outside this morning and reported: "If you breathe in real deep, you can smell Halloween." So true.

I can also tell that it's fall because of the hundreds of catalogues that have been appearing in my mailbox. Each time I peruse one from J.Jill, J Crew, or even Lands End I get more and more depressed. Not because of the cost (although sometimes because of the cost), but because I usually can't order anything out of a fall/winter catalogue. Or even buy anything at a regular store. Summer is my season. Crop pants, short sleeves - bring it on. When we get into long pants and sweaters, I'm in trouble. You see, I'm not normal.

At least, that is what the people who make clothes think. I have a 36" inseam and a 73" wingspan (I know because I just measured). Almost nobody makes pants or sleeves that fit. I've spent my life waiting for a flood and having frostbitten wrists, see:

I'm the one on the left with the groovy Dorothy Hammill haircut, Earth shoes and pants that are about 6 inches too short. I was 5'10" when I was 12 and was not only taller than most of the other 7th graders, I was taller than most of the teachers.

And before you start in with the being-tall-is-so-cool stuff, let me tell you, it's not. Not only can I not buy anything off the rack (Gap makes jeans in Ultra Talls, but they don't make that many of them and you can only get them online), don't even get me started on sitting in coach for 12 hours on the way to London. But, you say, I just saw a picture of you and Mary Hershey on your blog a few weeks ago - you don't look like a giant. Here's a secret - I always scrunch down in photos. Because I'm a giant. On the up side, being called things like "Flamingo Legs" all through middle school is great fodder for writing angst-ridden middle grade fiction.

Speaking of my writer buddy and cousin-by-agent Mary Hershey, you must go to her blog and see the video that she emailed me. I've watched it about 7 times and it makes me smile every time. Awesome.

Have a nice weekend. I'm NOT going shopping.

On this date: In 1961, Breakfast at Tiffany's opened.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Lisa Yee and Randy Pausch

I'm reading Millicent Min - Girl Genius by Lisa Yee right now (yeah, it's great), so I've been hanging out at her blog. Plus, the discomermaids know her and love her, and they're not often wrong.

Her newest post contains video of Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch giving a lecture on September 18th. It was titled "The Last Lecture", as he only has a few weeks to live before dying from pancreatic cancer. He says not to cry, but I have to admit misting up, particularly when they showed a photo of him with his three little kids.

He sounds amazing, and one thing he said really hit home. He talks about brick walls, and how they are not our enemy. They are there for us to prove how badly we want something. They are there for OTHER people who will give up when they come to one. I'm going to replay that video whenever I'm feeling maudlin. And like one of the OTHER people.

On this date: In 1957, Leave It To Beaver premiered.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Retreat Mania!

I keep hearing about all of these great retreats and I'm crazy jealous. Big Sur in December, and another retreat in Marin around the same time. Both of these pose a problem with DH's travel schedule - December is notoriously wicked for business travel around here.

I'm thinking that I might stage my own retreat. Maybe in nice Ramada Inn somewhere near a strip mall that can keep me in submarine sandwiches and Cold Stone Sweet Cream and Reeses Peanut Butter Cup ice cream. No view, no shopping, no sights: nothing to distract me from writing. Okay, maybe a teeny tiny hot tub. I'm trying to finish the YA in the next few weeks, and I think that early November might be a good time for a hard round of revisions. The annual CynJay Revisions and Reeses Writer's Retreat. I'm liking it.

On this date: In 1967, Woodie Guthrie died.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Lima Gets the Thumbs Up

DH got home from Peru today, and had nothing but raves about Lima. One of the guys took him around the city a couple of times and he really thought it was great. He has to go back in December, and he said that it's one place he won't mind spending more time in. Apparently, they eat a lot of meat in Lima, which to DH is the sign of a good city.

He had the same reaction when he went to Prague. And of course, he grew up in England, so London is always on the list. There are several other cities that have not elicited a favorable reaction, but I won't name them for fear of offending anyone living in those cities.;)

I mention this because, in his line of work it is entirely possible that we could up and move somewhere for awhile so that he can work on a project. It would require mammoth adjustments (Big Hairy Dog being a main one), but I just might be convinced, depending on where it is. Heck knows, in my line of work, I can live anywhere.

So now, Lima is on the list.

On this date: In 1951 Sting (Gordon Sumner) was born.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Best Book Ever! - J

This is ten year-old J's favorite new possession of all time:

If you have a boy (or a man) in your life, get them this and they will love it. Now J is equipped to handle everything from making a go-cart to playing marbles to understanding girls (well, maybe not the girls part, but he did read the chapter).

This book was a hit in Britain last year, and they made a few changes to it for America. The chapter on cricket now contains baseball information, although they can still learn about rugby which makes DH very happy (being an English boarding-school alum and all).

On this date: In 1890, Yosemite National Park was created.