"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Series & Backstory

So the dentist told me yesterday they thought my (3-year-old) daughter would lose her front teeth early. They're already wiggly. She bumped them a couple years ago, and, well, the trauma and all... They also advised she stop sucking her thumb. Uh, OK. I told her that, and she said "No."

I submitted ten pages for a workshop coming up in June. At first, I was stressing, wondering if it would be good enough compared to all the other awesome writers who are going to be in attendance. But, you know, what's the point of a workshop after all? My piece doesn't need to be perfect.
Did I put effort into it? Yes.
Did I just throw something together? No.
Am I genuinely interested in getting feedback on it? Definitely!
Am I excited? Oh yeah!

It's the first ten pages of the second book of a series. Perfect for me as I need to make sure to
1) Hook the reader as if it were a standalone novel.
2) Not inundate the reader with too much backstory.
3) Give enough backstory to not utterly confuse the reader.

I'm heard a couple things about books in series.
1) A reader should be able to pick up this book, enjoy it, and not be utterly lost and confused if they haven't read the books before it.
2) Regarding backstory, if it's not relevant to the story ahead, don't include it. After all, then what reason would there be for the reader to go back and read book 1?

Anyone written series books and have some great advice they'd like to share?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Five Goals on a Monday

Here we go again. A brand new week ahead. So what's on for this week?

My top five things I want to accomplish this week are:

1) Submit critique piece for manuscript workshop I'm attending in June.

2) Prepare for my son's seventh birthday (and associated party). This includes ordering the Chick-fil-a and cake, and making sure the house is in perfect order (:))

3) Finish initial pass on revision of NOTW. Many more passes required, but I'm feeling good that by next Monday I'll be once through the thing.

4) Buy some new phones. There seems to be a coup around the house with my phones. None of them seem to work right. One I can't hear on. Another has static.

5) Head to my local B&N and grab some awesome books by authors in The Class of 2k8. The ones I plan to pick up this time are: Braless in Wonderland by Debbie Reed Fischer, A Difficult Boy by M. P. Marker, A Lucky Place by Zu Vincent, and Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle. Looking for some great books? Head there and get them yourself!

Have a great week ahead, and if you've got anything to add, have at it and share!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The New Addition

I thought I wanted a box turtle, but after careful examination at Herpeton Exotic Pets, I'm pleased to present King Tort:

He's a Sulcata Tortoise, and has already made himself quite at home. Our Yorkie barks and scratches at his habitat, but so far, she hasn't tried to eat him. The guy at the pet store told us he could live to 180 and to make sure we will him away to our kids. And pretty soon (couple years) he'll be able to roam the backyard and live in the garage in the winter.

I also got this great Ammonite. We think the fossil is around 65 million years old. And funny enough, Ammonites are mentioned in The Emerald Tablet.

And finally, after a wonderful nap, I was greeted with this yummy cake. Make sure to read the writing!

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Five Things on a Friday

So two weeks now as an official writer, and the good news is I've actually started writing during the day! I know. Sounds bizarre. But I'm trying to build my schedule little by little.

So here goes. Five things about my week.

1) Have to say it. I got everything done on my Monday list. I'm still waiting for one of the bathroom tile quotes to come in, but I consider it in the works.

2) Our Class of 2k8 proposed panel got accepted at this year's November NCTE!

3) Today is early release at elementary school. The kids and I are headed to the Bob Bullock History museum IMAX theater for Sea Monsters 3D. I'm thinking I have a giant squid in one of my books. Book research?

4) My son has memorized "How much wood would a woodchuck chuck..." I can still remember how excited I was to know this. I never got the Bitter Butter one though. Thankfully my husband knows it by heart.

5) Revisions on NOTW are amazing. I've cut thousands of words and can see huge improvements in my writing! And best of all, I'm having fun. It's rewarding when you actually feel like you're getting better at something.

Side note: You always know it's time to change the batteries in the wireless mouse when every time you go to use it, you feel like picked it up and chucking it across the room.

Have a great weekend! Our Austin SCBWI Conference is tomorrow, and my birthday is Sunday. I only have one this on my wish list. Here's hoping I report back with a picture of it on Monday!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Salvaging stuff

I'm fifty pages in to my revisions on NOTW. Not bad considering I've completely rewritten the first few chapters, tied in a new plot element, removed a couple more plot elements, renamed characters, removed characters, and added a whole new location.

And can you say backstory? Given that this is the second in a series, I'm yanking out as much backstory as I can, seeding tiny bits here and there, and then will go back and add more as needed. Way easier to add more after the revisions are done.

And another thing I notice I did a lot of back when I revised this last. Crafty tags. Way too many people exclaimed in this draft. Or suggested. Or cried. I'm changing them all to "said".

Like I said (or suggested, or exclaimed), now is definitely the time to edit.

I have to laugh as I read through some of the stuff. How many things have I read and thought, "now how is that relevant to the story?" or "does anyone really care?"
I love that I'm at a point where I can do this! I know where I'm going. Now I can just have fun getting there!

So how about out there? Revisions going well? First drafting?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The best time to edit

OK, so I started and finished The Emerald Tablet yesterday in two sittings. Why is it so easy to read our own stuff? And I only found the overwhelming urge to mark up a few things in the ARC (which I did in pencil). Some misspellings. Lots of missing commas (didn't even bother to mark these yet). And one horrible transition. Hope I can fix that one.

So just now I opened the last draft I have for NOTW (book 2). It has been over a year since the last time I edited it. A year! Wow. Honestly, I can't believe it. But I did have book 3 (TN) going on along with the book I'm now agented for (T). So it's not like I've been idle. And thinking about it, I'm thinking this is the perfect time to edit NOTW. No hold on anything in the past. Almost like a fresh, clean start!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Five Goals on a Monday

So whatcha got going for the week ahead? What? You haven't planned it yet? The week is here. It's started. And it's not going to wait for you. So take a couple minutes and figure out five things you want to accomplish this week.

Here goes mine:

1) Re-read The Emerald Tablet. OK, this isn't just because I got the ARC for it. It's related to (2) below.

2) Begin another revision on the next book in The Forgotten Worlds Books. The Emerald Tablet is number 1, and the working title for number 2 is The Navel of the World (NOTW).

3) I ordered my tile. Now I need to arrange for someone to come install it. Guest bathroom will be back in working order before you know it!

4) Go shopping. Yes, alone. For myself.

5) Plan out bookshelves for my husband's office. We checked IKEA but didn't see any in the right size. Now I need to decide if I want to build them, or make due with what I can find.

So how about you? What's planned for the week?

Happy Monday!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Get to know you Meme

OK, catching up on another meme tag. Spring definitely brings these out, but seeing as how it is my blog, well, why not?

Thanks to critique group member, Patty, for the tag.

Here goes.

Rules for the game:
1. Put these rules at the beginning of your post.
2. Answer each question (see below) in your post.
3. Tag five people at the end.

What was I doing 10 years ago?
A newlywed, no kids, designing chips, making plans to visit Japan, practicing Aikido, working on an 8000 piece jigsaw puzzle.

Five things I would do if I were a billionaire:
Hang with the family.
Spend time with friends.
Shop for a bigger house.
(I'm thinking only one of these really related to the billionaire thing)

Five jobs that I have had:
Donut seller
Dorm security monitor
Car assessor
Chip designer
Writer :)

Three of my habits. Patty assumed bad habits, but let's go with one good, one bad, and one neutral. You decide which is which.
Write every day (or night)
Let laundry stack up until I have seven baskets to fold
Not think about what's for dinner until five o'clock

Five places I have lived:
1. Alexandria, VA
2. Dayton, Ohio
3. Blacksburg, VA
4. Chicago, IL
5. Austin, TX

Five people I want to get to know better -- You're tagged!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The spin on the book meme

OK, I've been tagged. Actually, I'm about five memes behind, but I start with this one.

Thanks to Sheri for the tag. And without further delay, here are the rules:

1. Choose anyone of YOUR OWN manuscripts. It can be a picture book, MG novel, an adult novel... It makes no difference.
2. Turn to page 30 of your novel or page 3 if it is a PB
3. Find the 5th sentence.
4. Post the next 5 sentences of text.
5. Then tag 5 writer friends to do the same.
6. See if you can visit Your Tagged Friends and the Person who Tagged You to read their short excepts.

And since I have a nice, new copy of The Emerald Tablet ARC right here on my desk, I'll go with that one.

Page 30, fifth sentence:
Benjamin looked at Jack.

Next five sentences (without trying to edit as I type):
Jack smiled and looked back at Benjamin. "You won't even know I'm around," Jack said.
Benjamin tried to relax, but found it hard to pretend the small man wasn't on his shoulder. Would Jack be around all the time? Would he have to shower with the Nogical on his shoulder?

And now, for fun, I tag:


Friday, April 18, 2008

Five things on a Friday

Friday is here! Halfway gone actually. Here's what I have to say about the week.

1) I got everything on my Monday list done!

2) This was my first official week as a full time writer. Yes, it's true. My last day of work at the engineering job was Friday. It's taken me the week to feel like I have my arms around everything I want to accomplish. My advice for the week century - Make Lists.

3) Our new fence in the backyard rocks! My kids can play back there with no fears of them running into the street. My dog gets to go outside without a leash for the first time in eight years. And now I have the exciting opportunity to clear out all the brush.

4) The Class of 2k8 has four releases this month! Two have already come out. Zu Vincent's The Lucky Place and M. P. Barker's A Difficult Boy. Head to your bookstore and get them today!

5) A friend and I were discussing the whole "I think" thing. Her feelings were it may be gender related. Women are more apt to say "I think" than men. But then today at lunch with my husband, I caught him saying it. Now I notice it everywhere.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I met Mark Twain

So when I saw him, I thought it was Einstein. Anyway, he did let me take a picture with him. But then I knew it wasn't Einstein when I asked him to take a picture of me. He couldn't figure out how to use the camera.

TLA was great! I'd never been to a library conference before, but didn't find it the least bit overwhelming. Except for figuring out how to stash all my books. And just when I though I'd have not where else to put any more, I rounded the corner, and a booth was giving away free tote bags. Enter twenty more free books.

I tried to only pick up stuff I had a chance of reading, and I ended up with over forty books. Some are for my kids. A couple for my dad. And as the kids get older, they'll be able to read more.

Funny enough, when I got to the Blooming Tree booth, they asked me to sign books! Wow. Talk about feeling like a real author. I did have my lucky pen with me. I keep it around for all book related signing things. So far, that's been a publishing contract and an agent contract. And now I can add 400 ARCs of The Emerald Tablet to the list.

I give you a picture of me with my wonderful editor, Madeline Smoot. Yes, those are ARCs of The Emerald Tablet we're holding. And I'm happy to report all 400 copies vanished from the table! Go Emerald Tablet, go!

Monday, April 14, 2008

So there went that week!

Um, what happened? Almost a week went by and I didn't post?
I wanted to do the Five Things on a Friday thing, but Friday vanished. So this Friday, look forward to hearing about five things I've done this week.

So instead I give you Five Goals on a Monday. Five things I plan to accomplish this week:

1) Attend the Texas Library Association conference (TLA) on Wednesday. I've never been. Blooming Tree Press has a booth. I want to see what the buzz is all about.

2) Finish a (very bad) first draft of my current WIP (code name KOS). So much of this will need to change. But getting through the first draft will help deliver that punch of completion needed to keep us writers going.

3) Evites for my son's birthday party. I've already booked the snakes and spiders to come over, so now I only need the kids.

4) Make one of those lists of everything I want to get done around the house. This includes tasks like pouring through the junk drawers and taking stuff to Goodwill.

5) Figure out how much tile I need for our guest shower. Currently we have our master shower and our guest room shower torn out. We're down to one shower in the house. My dad is sure we'll end up out on the deck pretty soon with the hose.

So how about you? Whatcha got planned for the week? This about it and we can compare notes on Friday.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

How to make money

And other fun things from my day.

This morning? I figured out what to use the dryer drum for. Metal recycling. Yes, big sigh of relief from my mom who I'm sure thought I would put it in the backyard and plant flowers in it. (I was tempted). Instead, my husband and I shoved it in the back of my car in three pieces and I took it up to the metal recycling plant. Seven dollars later, I no longer have a dryer in the driveway.
When I got there, they asked, "Do you want us to pay you for it?"
"Yes," I said.
Then another guy asked the same question.
I asked, "Doesn't everyone want to get paid?" OK, maybe this is the cheap engineer in me asking the question.
I mean, duh. Money is money.
But apparently not.
The way I figure, I didn't have to pay the $16 haul away fee, and I made $7. In my books, that's a $23 gain.
After seeing the metal recycling plant, I see the appeal. Not quite as cool as a junkyard, but a huge pile of treasures, nonetheless.

Another highlight after my $7 windfall, included a visit with my editor at BookPeople here in Austin. She tells me my ARCs will be ready for TLA, and Wednesday is the day to be there. I'm looking forward to seeing what these library conferences are all about along with scoring some free books.
She also mentioned the Spiderwick Cronicles Day Camp sponsered by BookPeople. A possibility for my son? I'll have to check the summer catalogue. He hadn't read the Spiderwick Chronicles yet, but I'm sure they'll be on the list soon.
And Tuesday, May 6th at 4pm? The BookPeople release party for Rick Riordan's Battle of the Labyrinth. Will we be there? Um, heck yes!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Is this what it feels like to dig through a slush pile?

So I finally got around to something I've been putting off for months. Actually, for years. You know all the art and homework and stuff your kids bring home? The colored in menus from restaurants? The worksheet where they've written the letter "H" twenty times?
Since my son's birth almost seven years ago, I've shoved them away.Two bins and four brown bags worth. I moved the whole stack into the dining room a month ago, but it's been sitting there taunting me this whole time. So yesterday I dug in.

What to keep? What to pitch? I can only imagine it's kind of like an agent or editor digging through a slush pile, looking at each piece, searching for a compelling reason to not toss it in the garbage.

Basic homework - trash.
Crayon scribbles - trash.
Anything three dimensional - trash.
Anything with beans or pasta or some other bug attraction device - trash.

And so it went. I whittled it way down. Then I got to the laminated stack. I swear when my son was one, they laminated every thing he did at daycare. Dot paint. Crayon. Paintbrush. I picked out the exceptional ones, and tossed the rest.

Really, one thing I see no reason to hold on to are the generic projects they do. The ones where every kid does the exact same thing. Cut on the lines here. Glue to the paper here. Write these words here. Gone.

Luckily some of the sentimental stuff I may have had a hard time ditching spoke for itself. The votive candle holder made out of the can had rusted. The Advent clay sculpture had dried and cracked.

So now both kids' things are in less than one bin. Seeing as how they are only six and three, I figure I have plenty of art ahead of me to save.

Note: Of course I kept everything that said "I love my mommy". These are the gems in my art slush pile.

Friday, April 04, 2008

I think I felt that way...

But I'm not really sure.

Sounds pretty bad, huh?

This is something I notice I do in my writing. And in my speech. I used "I think" and "I felt" way to much. My husband says it's fear of being wrong.
If I say "I think it's going to rain today" I'm not putting my bottom out on the line. If it rains, I thought it would; if not, I wasn't wrong.
If I say "It's going to rain today" then if it does rain, I look like a genius. If not, I was flat out wrong.

I'm working on this myself. I want to be more clear of what I really believe and what I don't. And I'm working on this for my characters too. The more assertive ones can't be running around saying "I think he'd the bad guy." They need to know he's the bad guy.

Similarly, as someone in my crit group pointed out to me, I need to use "I felt" as little as possible.
"I felt my heart speed up."
"My heart sped up."
See the difference?
One sounds assertive. One sounds so emotional and wishy-washy.

I'm not saying I plan to globally search and remove all my "I thinks" and my "I felts". But I am searching on them and considering each one.

What's your latest writer's habit your trying to break?

Thursday, April 03, 2008


OK, I didn't fix the dryer.

Next, my kids' play chainsaw stopped working, so I took it apart. Even pulled out my soldering iron to fix a wire which had come undone. Put it back together. Didn't work.

Two tries. Two failures. I started to get a complex. Normally, I'm so good at this stuff.

But today was different. I pulled out the new parts for out treadmill. The ones I'd ordered. Changed them out on the treadmill. Put it all back together. Plugged it in. And guess what? It works!


So what's this tell us? It doesn't matter if you fail. Keep on trying, and you're sure to find success.


Side note: The drip inside my washer is getting worse. But I think I'll wait until tomorrow to google "dripping washing machine". I plan on ending the night writing, not unscrewing another appliance.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Deep in

So I'm deep in revisions. Honestly, sometimes it's hard to think about anything else. I've had fun putting some new scenes in, changing others, developing characters more, tying plot lines together.
Sounds like basic stuff, I know. I should have caught it myself :)

I headed over to Amazon today to order a few books on writing:

How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling by James Frey

How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them by Sol Stein

Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies by Sol Stein.

Yes, I know I have this last one, but I have the audiobook version. It's good enough I want the paper copy also.

While there, I noticed a cover, description, and author bio had been put up for The Emerald Tablet. The age range is wrong (it's for 10-14, not 4-8 year-olds), but getting the cover up is an accomplishment. I should have ARCs at TLA in a couple weeks. Truthfully, I'm really excited to see them. It's one thing to print out a bunch of pages at home. I think it will be another entirely to see them bound together with a pretty cover and my name on the front.

OK, off to revise.