Thursday, July 31, 2008

Flip Floppin'

I've been feeling very floppy today. Not this kind of flopping:

or this kind:

but more the kind where I don't quite know what to do with myself. I've (hopefully) sent the final draft of the YA to Agent E, and I haven't started the next book yet. Starting a new project takes a lot of stewage, where you hang out and stew about parts of the the next book, suss out characters and plots and generally pick up ideas, examine them and see if they are going to work. This is frustrating, but necessary work, and I can't write a word until things have gelled for awhile. So far, all I have are some vague ideas. And a title.

Also, all of the cool kids are going to SCBWI in LA, the big, fat writer's conference that starts tomorrow. I'm staying home. That's me, the ant all the way on the left who ISN'T going to the party:

As DH observed, when he found me wandering aimlessly through the house - I don't do nothing very well.

On this date: In 1975, Jimmy Hoffa disappeared.

Thanks to flickrers: stuckincustoms, damiel and tarotastic.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

If Writing Good Love Scenes is Wrong...

...I don't want to be right. I adore a good love scene in a book, particularly a young adult book. On the plane back from Aruba, I read this:

(It was a very long flight.) I'm a heel dragger. I admit that. The more popular something is, the more I resist doing it (ask anyone about my cell phone issues). I read Twilight because I knew I should and expected to not like it, so I was surprised that I thoroughly enjoyed it. Who wouldn't like a love story with vampires? I loved this when it came out in the 80s:

although she lost me around the forth book because the whole 'rock star' thing got a little out of control.

The best love scenes are always the ones that are the firsts: first glance,first touch, first kiss, etc., which is why YA books are such great sources for love scenes. The YA I've been writing has a couple of great 'firsts' that still give me a thrill to read. When you're writing a great love scene, it's almost an indulgence because you can lose yourself totally in the moment without any of the guilt of cheating on your partner. It's been 15 years since I've had a first kiss, and frankly I never expect to have another one, but I still remember the crackling anticipation in the moments that lead up to the first contact with the object of your desire. Getting to create the perfect "first" moment is one of the best perks of the job.

On this date: In 1818, Emily Bronte was born.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

On the Road

So far, our trip has been great. Did I mention that through work channels we got to fly first class? I highly recommend it if only for the legroom. Me being a giant and all, first class is the only time that I haven't had to sit sideways in my seat so that my knees won't smash into the seat in front of me. Plus, when we got to DC, we hung in the secret lounge they have for fancy people. Here's DH trying to decide what he wants from the FREE food they have there. Yes, he was totally embarrassed that I was taking pictures in the lounge, but hey it was 6am and it was pretty empty after all.

Eventually, we ended up here.

It pretty much rocks, although it is populated by an alarming race of fuschia-skinned people who don't seem to have "SPF" in their language. They also have these crazy lizards in shades of turquoise and green. They are everywhere - I caught one dipping it's foot (paw?) in the pool this afternoon. It was quite hot out, so I didn't blame it one bit.

We went out to dinner tonight and they had fried Oreos on the menu. It had to be done. Had to.

So far, so good. Not getting a lot of work done though. Apparently, the laptop isn't waterproof.

On this date: In 1934, John Dillinger is gunned down.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

On Our Way

DH and I are on our way here:

Okay, not exactly here, but someplace just like it. We're taking our honeymoon 11 years late, and I'm nervous and excited all at the same time.

Contrary to what all of my friends said, I'm taking the laptop. Now stop shouting, I have my reasons. I'm putting the final spit and polish on the YA before it goes out to new editors and with all of the down time we're going to have over the next week I figure I can really get into it. (Get your minds out of the gutter people, you know what I mean.) Without any of the usual distractions, I should be able to do a final edit so that we can get it out there. Plus, revising isn't really work work. Not like writing an article on karmic retribution or something. Revising is more like going on a journey of discovery to see if your characters want to tell you anything new.

See you soon!

On this date: In 1966, Mia Farrow married Frank Sinatra.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Travelblog - Calistoga

For my extended birthday celebration, my BFF Karen convinced me that we needed to get away. She's usually right, so I went.

The good thing about living in Northern California is that cool stuff is just a few $4.55 gallons of gas away. We ended up in the tiny town of Calistoga in the Napa Valley.

If you live within a couple of hours of there, you should go. I mean like now. Seriously. We'll wait.

We hung out at the Mount View Hotel which was the best mix of coolness and oldness.

We pretty much had the pool to ourselves.

We were so stressed from five hours at the pool that we then had to go get massages in the spa.

After the spa, we wandered up and down the only street in town trying to decide where to eat. We stopped in at this really nondescript bistro called the All Seasons.

Karen chose it because they had good air conditioning (did I mention it was pretty hot, even at 6pm). So we sit down and quickly discover that this is the kind of rare restaurant that can make even things you don't like taste amazing. Karen is into sharing and she forced me to split a salad that had organic greens and nectarines in it. Ordinarily yuck as I don't like fruit in my food, but this was amazing. The amazingness of the food continued on into the Cornmeal Crusted Scallops and corn succotash (who knew succotash could be good?). I turned the tables on her and made us each order our own desserts. Banana cream pie made with caramelized bananas. Need I say more? After dinner we volunteered to stand out front and direct people to the bistro, so if you want the best meal ever, eat there.

We had to walk off dinner (and wine) before heading for home, so we walked around gaping at all of the cool houses.

Calistoga is the birthplace of soaking in mud, although I don't partake. The thought of sploshing around in warm mud that has been sploshed in by a lot of other people just doesn't appeal. If I were to indulge though, I would go to the delightfully old-fashioned and surprisingly medical facility-looking Dr. Wilkinson's Hot Springs.

On this date: In 1919, Iris Murdoch was born.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Good and the Bad

So, I got outed. Today is my birthday. It has definitely been a good and a bad day:

Bad: I'm another year older.
Good: Another woman my age thought I was a lot younger than she was. Hee hee.

Bad: I got downsized from my freelance writing job (anybody need articles written about anything?).
Good: Now I have more time to work on my fiction.

Bad: I had to write our plumber a humongous check.
Good: Now the toilet won't fall through the floor the next time someone sits on it.

Bad: The Chinese food we ordered from the new place on the corner was probably the worst food I've ever had.
Good: Because none of us finished dinner, we all got really big pieces of cake.

Bad: Now I feel guilty that DH spent $ on gifts.
Good: I got the heat gun I wanted so now I can strip the baseboards.

Good: My kids made me awesome cards.
There's no bad to that.

On this date: In 19something something, my mom had poison ivy, heat rash from the worst heat wave to hit the East Coast in decades and the end to three days of hard labor. Thanks Mom!

Thanks to flickrers: spritegirl, klsanderson

Saturday, July 12, 2008

When Good Chucks Go Bad

Guess which pair the boy wants to wear?

On this date: In 1990, Northern Exposure debuted.

Friday, July 11, 2008

It's Called Research...

And I love it! Tonight, I have to watch an early Johnny Depp movie in the name of research (the words 'have to' and 'Johnny Depp' shouldn't even be in the same sentence - 21 Jump Street anyone?),

and this morning I spent a half hour talking to a fireman (firefighter - what's pc in the fire world?) about starting fires rather than putting them out. I ran into him after dropping the kids off at daycamp and because his son is in the same grade as my son and we took a trip to his firestation back in kindergarten I knew he worked with/against fire. Which is lucky, because it would have been a little weird going down to the firestation and asking to talk to somebody about how to start a fire while making it look like an accident. I think they frown on things like that. But after our conversation ("Hey, aren't you John's dad? I'm T's mom.") he really liked the book idea and invited me down to the firestation next week to talk to some of the guys about it. Fun and different.

I think I need to write a book about chocolate next.

Or a book set on a tropical island.

Or about a mom who runs away during summer break...

On this date: In 1979, Skylab crashed to earth.

Thanks to flickrers: hidako, gorbalsbhoy, mirage and Paula Marina

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wanted: Fairy Godwriter

I'm usually really good at making up my mind. What color to paint the house? Dark green, now go. Cabinets for the new kitchen. White, chosen in a matter of a minute and a half. But when it comes to figuring out what kind of writer I want to be, I've decided I need some help.

The ideal candidate would be able to determine the right direction as far as what kinds of things to write. I consider myself a pretty funny person, but my novels tend to be not laugh-out-loud funny, although there is humor even in dire situations. When I read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson or 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, I think I want to continue to be a writer with issues - deep, thoughtful and with clear meaning. And then I'll read something like the fun princess book written by my own crit partner Lindsey (I got to read it for a critique - you all have to wait until 2010) and think about how fun it was and that maybe I should write something that is pure joy. I'm not a fantasy fan, but every now and then I think I'd love to write some sort of magical realism story. And don't even get me started on writing for younger kids - fun tween or mid-grade books.

Agent E is a fabbo agent and I'm so glad to have her, but just like my contractor when it came to picking out tile, she is pretty hands-off in the decision department. What I want is for my Fairy Godwriter to point to an idea and say "Yes. That one. Write this. It'll be great." Agent E is more like, "Is it calling you? Are you feeling it?" Which is what she is supposed to do, but I want someone to make the decisions for me. The Fairy Godwriter would also be able to make plot decisions and be sure that they are the right way to go. They would go over the manuscript and point to places where the new plot points should be inserted and they would seamlessly mesh with the rest of it.

Is that too much to ask?

On a completely separate topic, I got bobbleheaded. On the website, it actually moves, which is even funnier. Still, I look good.

On this date: In 1965, the Rolling Stones Satisfaction tops the charts.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

It Doesn't Stink!

On Agent E's advice, I'm deep into revisions for the YA based on some editorial comments and a few things I came up with on my own. There is a danger in picking up a manuscript that you haven't read for awhile because often you'll read over your own writing with feelings of nausea working their way into dreaded disbelief. That manuscript you thought was so fast-paced and witty is actually a steaming pile of junk and should only be used as recycled paper for your kid's second grade class to color on. Thankfully, I had the opposite reaction.

I hadn''t read it over in a month, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I still liked it. Oh sure, there were a few points where I felt it dragged and got free with the 'delete' key, but on the whole it wasn't embarrassing or cringe-worthy.

Robin from Discomermaids had a fun post about pens and the revision process the other day. A week or so ago she even posted a couple of photos of marked-up pages that she was working on which made me think about all of the different ways of revising there are in the world. I used to print out the whole enchilada and try to take notes, but in the end decided that this was a colossal waste of trees. Now I just write down some of the things that I want to change/include/delete and start at page one. As I get to places where I could reasonably insert the new character or theme, I just start typing (in a different color so that Agent E can see what I'm doing without having to read all 206 pages over again). The funny thing is, first draft of the book came in at about 54k, the tweaks here and there have added almost 6k, and I figure I'll add a few thousand more words before I'm done. Which will make it just the right length for a YA. Or at least, this YA.

On this date: In 1972, Ziggy Stardust's debut performance.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Dreading It

Seven o'clock this morning found oldest son prone on the rug in front of the kitchen sink, hands between knees murmuring "I don't want to go" punctuated with the odd "You're mean" and then the old favorite "You're ruining my entire summer." Not unexpected, as today was an example of something he dreads: A New Experience. Also known as Day Camp. Now, this was not a completely new experience as he attended the very same camp in the very same place last year. Not that it matters apparently.

He didn't want to shower, didn't want to eat breakfast and at one point was so in the way that I had to take the end of the rug and scoot him to another part of the kitchen so that I could finish packing the lunches. All the while he was murmuring epithets under his breath. After a lot of effort (and several threats), I got him reasonably dressed and in the car, although the accompanying symptom of a stomach ache was starting to appear. Literally dragged him to the check in line for camp when his voice brightens behind me, "Hey look, it's Kevin!" and he goes loping down the hill to meet his friend with barely a wave back at me.

I can't wait for the last two weeks of summer so we can experience this daily about starting middle school.

On this date: In 1984, Prince's When Doves Cry hits number one.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Floppin' Around

I'm at that point in the process where I'm obsessively checking my emails (even though Agent E always calls with good news), holding off revising the book in case we match with a great editor who can help guide the process, and don't want to start a new project until this one gets put to bed. Basically, I don't have anything to do and its making me antsy.

Okay, nothing to do is a bit of an exaggeration. I could always work on my web writing that's due on the 15th. Or I could strip and repaint all of the baseboards in the house like I've been threatening to do for years. The garden needs weeding, the lawn needs reseeding and it looks like a farm is growing up through the gravel on the driveway. But what I really want to do is polish up this YA until it is as perfect as it can get and then fling it out to the world .

But until then, maybe I'll weed the garden. Tomorrow.

On this date: In 1997, Hong Kong was returned to China.