Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Shape of Things to Come

So I had my first experience with the whole boy-girl dichotomy today. A sample of things to come, no doubt. Mine is always the house with a bunch of kids who don't belong to me hanging around and eating my food. Today, two of the girls came in giggling and confessed that one of them had a "crush" on my ten-year old, J. Unfortunately, the first word out of my mouth was, "why?" Which set them off on another fit of giggling.

To me, he is an overhaired, stinky, dirty boy. Apparently he has other qualities that are being noticed by ten year old girls in his class. Eventually, I said that her having a crush on him sounded just fine to me. Then, she confided that he actually liked another girl in their class. News to me.

I think we need to sit down and have a talk. Not that talk - we actually had that talk two years ago - but the talk where we tell him how to treat girls and what will happen to him if he doesn't. It wasn't all that many years ago I was on the dating scene (actually, it was quite a few years ago, but it seems like yesterday) and I remember wishing that more moms had discussed some of the finer points with their sons. Now it's up to me.

The cool thing is that both the crusher and the crushee are great girls - smart, polite, just the kind of girls I always hoped he'd bring home. I just figured it would be a few years from now.

On this date: In 1947, the UN voted for the partition of Palestine.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Joke of the Day

Q: Why was the snowoman pregnant?
A: Because she wanted to have chillldren.

(My seven year old swears he just made this up.)

On this date: In 1925, The Grand Ol Opry debuted.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

1k Per Day....That's All We Ask

I'm so excited! The new YA I'm writing involves a very specific mental disorder and I've been lurking around on websites for children of people who suffer from it. I sent an email to the website introducing myself and what I'm doing. Well, that put me in touch with two fabulous women who are very excited about the project and have agreed to be my sounding board, readers and the people who make sure that I keep the story real. It's a very emotional experience, and I feel like I've been entrusted to tell the collective story of the children who live with this problem. Heavy indeed.

On another note - I've found the secret to writing novels. Seriously. I read about this method and scoffed - I remember reading it out loud to DH and laughing at how ridiculous it is. Except this guy was right and it's very simple. Here it is:
When you're working on a book, write 1,000 words every day. Every day. No taking off for holidays, vacations, or illness. 1k every day. At some point - be it 5am or midnight, you have to sit down and write at least 1,000 words (I write down the running word count on the back of my notebook.) Often it ends up being more, but if all you can manage is 1k, it's all good. I think the original theory was to write for a specific time (3 hours I believe), but this adaptation is working for me just fine. So did I stay up until 1am on Thanksgiving so that I could get in my 1k? You betcha.

On this date: In 1942, Jimi Hendrix was born.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Monday Potpourri

I'm still waiting to hear about my YA, so I'm amusing myself with other things in the meantime.

I had a date with my dad on Saturday night and he surprised me by taking me to see Jersey Boys in San Francisco. Frankie Valli was so his era, and though the show was great, the best part was sitting next to him with tears in his eyes as he watched. Now the kids have to listen to the show CD over and over again. Along with my singing.

My second grader had to answer a question from his teacher about whether he'd rather be the president or a movie star. Here, spelling and all, is his answer:

I would be a movistar because I don't like to write a lot and I can act really good. I don't whan't that much money. I love being a diferent guy. But I wan't to live in a regular house, not a manchon. I would like to sing otograf's.

It's a keeper.

On this date: In 1922, archaeologists enter the tomb of King Tut.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

This Old House

I live in a 1916 bungalow house here in Northern California. It sounds cute, and it is. Until you try to fix something (which is pretty much all the time). It is never easy.

We decided to put a French door between the living room and main hallway. (Okay, I decided because DH generally just goes along with my crazy plans.) You can see from the puttied-over hinge mortises that there was one there originally. The original owners were on to something, because as the kids get older, the noise level from the living room back to the bedrooms has increased proportionately. You'd think, not that big of a deal. You'd think.

We couldn't buy a door new, because all of the original interior doors are only 1 1/4" wide, but new doors are all 1 3/4" wide, so they won't fit. I went to the Habitat For Humanity ReStore yesterday to sniff around, and the very first door I spotted was perfect. Seriously, in a warehouse full of doors lined up sideways against the wall, I go right to this door that is the right style, the right width and even the right overall size. Like the creator himself was pointing me to that particular door. It was even a brand new blank, so it hadn't had any hinge or knob cutouts made in it. And then it didn't have a tag, so the guy says $60. PERFECT!

Because the house is so old, I have to special order big brass hinges for $15 each. No problem, I know just where to go. Then we try to buy knobs. Because the door is so narrow, you can't buy new knobs because they won't fit, but all of the old knob sets require that you cut out a big square in the edge of the door for a mortise lock. Hard. You can buy a special attachment to do this which costs around $900.

Basically, we're waiting for our very skilled builder friend to come home from Thanksgiving vacation and save us, because we haven't got a clue. But it's going to look awesome when it's done.

On this date: In 1978, Letterman first appeared on The Tonight Show

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Kidlit Writer's Thanksgiving List

In addition to the usual Thanksgiving items (wonderful family, amazing kids, nice roof over our heads), as a writer I have additional things to be thankful for. Here are some, in no particular order:

1. Agent E who doesn't mind (much) soul-searching emails that require occasional hand-holding.
2. Computers.
3. The Internet. How did anyone ever research without it?
4. Clarion Books, who bought my first PB pretty quickly. If they hadn't, I probably would have quit long ago.
5. Critique groups, both past and present, who value honesty over niceness.
6. Writing friends who "get it". All of "it".
7. That I'm a night owl. This way I can be assured of a few uninterrupted hours every day to write.
8. That DH is becoming a morning person. See above.
9. Hot baths on a cold night.
10. Verla Kay's Blue Board
11. In and Out Burger. Okay, I would be thankful for In and Out no matter what.
12. Karen English who encouraged me when my writing was crap.
13. Miss Snark. RIP.
14. Tivo.
15. The typing class I took in 8th grade.
16. Spellcheck.

Feel free to add your own - I'm sure I missed some.

On this date: In 1936, the first issue of Life Magazine is published.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cute Interlude

It's almost Thanksgiving, so in lieu of boring you with my current wordcount on the WIP, or how crazy I'm making myself with the waiting, or how I'm going to still keep up with 1k per day on my YA, even over the holidays....I'm sending you a photo of our new foster kittens.

All together now....awwwwww.

On this date: In 1947, Princess Elizabeth marries Philip Mountbatten.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Friday night is take out and video night around here. We watched Evan Almighty - which wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I did take one important bit of Morgan Freeman's wisdom away with me.

When you need to be kind you aren't give kindness as a gift - you are given opportunities to practice kindness. When you need to learn generosity, you are given opportunities to be generous.

I think I really really needed to learn to be patient.

On this date: In 1863, Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Taking the Plunge

So I did it - I dove in today and wrote the first 2k of my new YA. I've been holding off getting into it, partly because it takes a while for the characters to gel enough to start writing, and partly because I'm waiting for Agent E's verdict on where the other YA rates on the crapometer. If it is going to need an overhaul, I don't want to be smack in the middle of something new - it's too hard to cross over. It's a lot like when Gil Grisham from CSI showed up on Without A Trace last week. Very disconcerting.

As I'm writing, I'm researching (I had to know what a person's face looked like after they'd been dead for oh, say, twelve to fifteen hours). If anyone ever stumbled on my laptop and checked the search history they'd be shocked. The upside is that Yahoo has everything. I got this as a pop up ad:
Find Holiday Bargains at Yahoo!
Low Prices on Face+of+Death!

Have a nice weekend!

On this date: In 1988, Benazir Bhutto is elected leader of Pakistan.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Playing Hooky

So yesterday we all caught a case of the Monterey-flu that has been going around. (Cough). The only cure for this is to take the kids out of school and head down the coast to Monterey Bay for the day. So in the name of health, and safety, we did.

Apparently, a random Wednesday in November is the best time to go, because it wasn't crowded at all. We went to the aquarium and saw some jellyfish:

And some more jellyfish:

And some more jellyfish (can you tell which part of the aquarium I like best?):

We sat and watched the fish feeding at 4pm. The boys thought this guy had the best job of all:

Actually, it wasn't just the jellyfish that called to us - it was my uncle too. He lives in Rhode Island and was in CA for business. I'm ashamed to say that I haven't seen anyone on that side of the family for over nine years - and I'm wondering why because it was really really great. He came up from LA with my cousin and we had a way too short dinner together.

The funny thing (and the one that confused the kids the most) was that we are all about 1/2 of a generation apart. I always pictured him in my mom's generation, but in fact, my uncle is only 11 years older than me. My cousin Jeff is 18 years younger than me, so he is slightly over 1/2 of a generation behind. The kids kept asking how we were all related, but I think they finally got it.

And Jeff, if you're reading this, live the dream a while longer. Your regular life will always be waiting. And I hope you come up to SF to visit soon!

On this date: In 1956, Elvis' first film Love Me Tender opened.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

So Much Fun!

I just got back from a fun author signing in San Francisco at Not Your Mother's Book Club. It was so cool! Jay Asher (Thirteen Reason's Why), Ellen Hopkins (Crank, Glass), Bary Lyga (Boy Toy, Fanboy and Goth Girl) and Brian Mandabach (...Or Not) read and answered questions from the masses. The entire room heard my intake of breath when Ellen was talking about her new book that involves identical twins. My new YA involves identical twins, but apparently that's all they have in common. Whew. There is always that moment of panic when you hear about a book that runs in a similar pattern to yours. Especially one by a very good and famous author.

Jay had a fun reading and got quite a few laughs for such a serious book. I geeked out and had him sign my copy. I got to meet his wife, who was lovely (and I do mean lovely - what's with Jay that he is constantly surrounded by beautiful women?).

As I watched the four of them sitting there up in the front, I realized again how much I wanted to be up there too and how terrified I am of that prospect actually happening one day. When I do have an actual book out, and I have an actual reading in a bookstore somewhere, I'm positive someone will stand up in the back, point a finger and tell everyone that I'm an imposter.

So all in all, it was a very fun evening. Did I mention there was pizza? And little brownie-muffin thingies.

On this date: In 1968, my little sister was born. Happy Birthday Wend!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Not a Fan of Holidays

Back when I had a real job, I loved holidays. One (or two) whole days to sit around and relax - ahhhh. Not so much now. Holidays represent one more day of the week when the kids are underfoot, I don't get anything done, and most editors and agents go quiet so there is no hope of a "good news" phone call. Even the email goes into holiday mode. It's a bummer.

Everyone was home from school today. As I work from home, I inherited an extra kid or two for the day. We went here:
Was it as crazy as it looks? Nah. Apparently, most people didn't realize they were open for the holiday and it was pretty empty. See that clover looking thing? That is the hot tub. I spent most of the day in the lower right-hand quadrant helping my BF J figure out how to make a move on the cute guy that was sitting in the corner reading a book. And she did! It was just like Jr. High all over again. Squeal!

Side note: I think I'm going to make it into the City tomorrow night to Books Inc. and the NotYourMother'sBookClub pizza party with fabbo authors including our favorite scribe Jay Asher. Squeal again!

On this date: In 1954, Ellis Island shut its doors.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Doing What They Want

It's always best not to mess with the characters in your head. They laugh at you if you try.

So far, I've got the premise for my new YA, I've got a pretty good handle on the main character and a shadowy idea of the other characters. Not bad, but I was having a hard time nailing down the setting. I was thinking (for reasons that will be revealed later) that it had to take place in a very cold and snowy location - the only problem being that I've always lived in California. So, in my front-brain, I'd decided that this was going to take place in Wisconsin or Minnesota. And then the movie stopped playing. I was getting no more information from my character, no more interesting little tidbits about why she was going to graduate at 17, why she changed her name, etc. Nothing. I started to wonder if the book wasn't going to work after all. I posted a setting question on the Verla Kay Blue Boards, and got wonderful feedback about writing locations that you know nothing about. My great writer friends convinced me that I was probably better off sticking to what I knew.

Last night, I started trying other locations on for size. East Coast? Please, my main character said.. (At least she was talking to me again.) Lake Tahoe? Nope, she said. Okay, I pleaded with her, how about forgetting the snow and setting it in the Bay Area? It gets cold here in the winter. Sometimes. Hmmm, she said. You're getting closer. Re energized, I started picturing different locations in San Francisco where I'd lived before. She seems to like one particular apartment in the Mission District, but we're negotiating between that and a house in the suburbs.

Now that I was doing what she wanted, she dumped a whole bunch of info on me while I was getting ready for bed. I'm so glad we're talking again.

On this date: In 1965, the Great Northeast Blackout.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

It's Off...

So I shipped the finished YA off to Agent Erin today - I should have an idea by the end of next week if it's a go or not. It's gotten good feedback from my critique people (thanks Nat!), so hopefully it won't need too much before it gets launched out into the world.

At the same time, Agent E gave me the go ahead on the next YA I want to do, which is great, but now I have to play butt in chair and start writing the thing. Its always hard to start, because I have the situation and the starting point, but the characters always reveal themselves slowly. This next one is going to take place in a very narrow time frame and in a very limited location so it should be interesting. I'll keep you posted.

On this date: In 1916, Jeannette Rankin becomes the first US congresswoman.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Yard Doody Observations

I was taking my turn at yard-doody today when I saw something that tugs at every writer's heart. Two first grade girls were sitting on a bench at lunch reading amidst all the chaos. Being me, I was curious to see what they were reading, so I went over to check it out. They both had the same copy of Magic Tree House, turned to the same page. One of the girls couldn't read very well, so she was following along in her book while the other girl read out loud from her book. It was so adorable I almost got misty. They told me how much they loved the MTH books, and that when they were done with this one, they were going to go back and read number 5 because they couldn't remember what it was about. Sniff.

On this date: In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President.

Monday, November 5, 2007

And You Thought Baseball Was Ridiculous...

Check out soccer with the hair people!

There are rumblings of haircuts in the near future - I'm all over it.

On this date: In 1935, Parker Brothers released Monopoly.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Art and Life and Art

My MG has a scene in it where the MC runs away to an RV that is in his neighbor's yard. I even called my mom, who has an RV, to see if this would be possible, and what systems would run quietly enough so that it wouldn't be noticed. A few months after I finished the book, there was a news story about a 13 year old who had run away, only to be found a few days later in - you guessed it - his neighbor's RV. I figured that people would think I copied the story, but I swear, I thought of it first!

The newest YA that I just finished has a scene where the bad guy hacks into the university computer system and "sells" better grades to his frat brothers (and gives bad grades to our heroine). I open the SF Chronicle today to see a story, yup, on two guys who just got convicted for hacking into a university computer system and selling better grades to their friends.

Once is a coincidence - twice is a conspiracy. Would all of the newsmakers please get out of my computer!

On this date: In 1983 the Martin Luther King holiday is declared.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Procrastination Olympics

If there were medals given for the procrastination decathlon, I'd win gold every time. I had several hours this morning to work on the new piece and I managed to write exactly twelve words of the synopsis I've promised Agent E. There were issues.

First off, I couldn't figure out what that weird smell was in the boys room. Finally traced it to some rank sneakers that had to be thrown in the wash. In order to do that, I had to finish drying and folding the load that was in the dryer so that the load that was in the washer could get transferred. That ate up somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 minutes. Then I had to talk on the phone for awhile. When I finally sat down, I spent a good hour on the baby names websites trying to hit on just the right name for my MC. After websurfing, I discovered that I didn't have anymore blank notebooks. I need one-subject ruled notebooks with pockets for notes, musings and doodles for each new book. That meant I had to go to Target to get some more. As I am rarely in Target alone, I had to go to pretty much every department and look at everything before paying for my notebooks and one air freshener (see shoes above). By the time I got home, it was lunchtime and blog-visiting time.

I did manage to come up with a really nice opening sentence and figured out that although she is a senior in high school, my MC is only sixteen because she skipped second grade. Still not completely sold on the name, but we're going with Lauren for now. She seems to like it well enough.

On this date: In 1512, the Sistine Chapel opened to the public.