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

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Disney is Spoiling...

...but Six Flags is still fun.

On the writing front, I'm happy to report that for my current WIP, I did the little wordle thing, and the word "Said" did not even appear. Last book it was so big, I could hardly see anything else on the page. Of course, I am in present tense now, but even "says" was tiny - just a little blip off on the side.

As promised, I went through my childhood books, and I want to highlight a few of my favorites or most memorable.

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
I loved this book growing up. I wanted to be locked in a museum.
First line:
"Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away."

(Um, OK, why is Beedle the Bard coming up at the top choice every time I do a search on Amazon. Seriously. Enough people will buy it. They don't have to mess with the search results.)

Mystery of Hurricane Castle by Joan Lowery Nixon
I don't totally remember the story here, but I loved it. A Castle. A storm. Mystery. Anyone remember this one?
First Line:
"The bus stopped with a screech of brakes before the station with the weather-worn sign: Seacliff, Texas."

And, for some reason, I just have to include the following:
The Official Preppy Handbook edited by Lisa Birnbach.
"Look, Muffy, a book for us."
Did I really try to act this way?
First line:
"It is the inalienable right of every man, woman, and child to wear khaki."

Check out a couple things:

The Class of 2k8 blog has some fantastic posts this week. Wonder how a book ever gets that far anyway? We've had posts with Agent Erin Murphy and Editor Andrew Karre so far this week. I can't even wait for what's next!

Tabitha has an interesting post on present tense today. If your interest is peaked by this topic (like mine), hop over and check it out.

Vivian at Hip Writer Mama posted the Last Lecture by Randy Pausch who recently passed away. (I know this has been on other blogs also.) The thing I loved about this speech more than anything was the picture he flashes of the brick wall and says, "Brick walls are only there to show us how much we want something."
Such great advice.

Almost Friday! Believe something great will happen to you this week :)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday Madness...

Means a week of kids home ahead.
Means we're heading to Six Flags on Wednesday!
Means I'm really cranking on a new WIP. It's all I think about. I'm obsessed.

Here's what I'm playing with on the WIP:
1) Present tense. I know. I mentioned this one before. But just to advance defend myself, if my posts keep slipping in and out of past tense, you'll know why.
2) Reduced tags. Actually, on draft 1, I'm going to no tags. I want all dialog to be clear by voice and identifying actions since so much stuff is going on also.
3) Female protagonist. Why has everything else been guy main characters so far?
4) Minimal outlining for first draft. I want to see where it carries me.
5) Write fast. Just for fun. It is only the first draft, and there's joy in revisions.

I'd love some thoughts on the difference between writing in past and present tense. I'm finding it's not just changing the verb tenses. The words seem to flow differently. I'm finding less dialog and more narrative (which may not be a good thing, but I can always work on it during revision).
Your thoughts?

And on the whole "Time is life's most valuable resource" topic. I have successfully managed to vacuum the floor while doing just about anything else. There's a new addition to our household. We haven't named him yet, but currently he's the most popular guy around.
Meet Roomba!

His favorite food is dust bunnies, and he loves hard to get to places like under the bed and dressers.
And yes, I recommend one!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Five on a Friday

Happy Friday! Camp week here, so it's been somewhat blissful all the way around. Except for my husband who thought I might cook for him this week. Yeah, I still need to work on that cooking thing.

1) Stretch!
I'm headed to a day workshop in September for which I can submit the first three pages of something. I've been kicking a new idea around in my head, and this week started on it. I've got my three pages and more.
The stretch part? It's first person present tense. I haven't tried present tense before.
Note - I mentioned it to my husband. I thought his response would be kind of glazed over nodding. He surprised me by saying, "I love present tense. It just has so much impact."
So I challenged him on what he could think of in present tense.
He says, "Call me Ishmael."

2) I got carded at H-E-B the same week a kid at Kung Fu camp told my son, "Wow, your mom looks old." I think the cashier was being nice when he joked about it being a fake ID. I pointed out not many people would make a fake ID with the age of 38 on it.

3) Just for fun!
I started a "Draw Your Own Nogical" thing over on my website.
Wonder what a Nogical is? You'll have to read The Emerald Tablet to find out.
Have your kids draw a Nogical (or draw one yourself), scan it in, and email it to me, and I'll post it!

4) The week brought two great reviews for The Emerald Tablet!
Thanks to Eleanor at Presenting Lenore and Daphne Grab at The Longstockings for the reviews.

My favorite line from the first:
"This is FREAKING awesome!" - Yeah it's hard to beat that.

My favorite line from the second:
"After about two sentences I felt like I knew him (Benjamin) and was happy to know I’d be hanging out with him for a few hundred more pages."

5) Three huge boxes of books arrived from my parent's house. While visiting, I boxed up a bunch of my kid books from when I was little. Favorites when I unpack them!

Happy weekend! We had rain here in Austin, so it's a veritable cold front.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What is it about Eye Contact? And Plumbing?

First off, special super thanks to Cynthia Leitich Smith for her fantastic post on my presentation from last Saturday! I'm not sure why all the photos from the event turned out orange, but as a lesson to take with me, I shouldn't wear an orange shirt to the Westlake Barnes & Noble.

I've been working on the beginning of something new in the last few days, and, at one point, two of the character's eyes met. Sure, this is something we use all the time in writing, but it really got me thinking about the actual power behind eye contact.

I remember a time when this first struck me. My dog was about a year old. I was in college. And I was sitting on my bed studying. And like she always was, my dog was by my side. I looked over at her, and the second our eyes MET, she started wagging her tail.
So I decided to test it.
I looked away. Tail stopped wagging.
I looked back at her eyes. Tail wagged.
Looked at the top of her head. Tail stopped wagging.
Somehow, this tiny dog knew the power behind actual eye contact.

Same thing happened when I had a baby. From probably seven weeks old, as soon as my eyes would actually meet my baby's eyes, he'd start smiling. If I looked toward his face, but did not meet his eyes, he wouldn't smile.

Is eye contact some powerful, instinctual thing? How do we know when someone else has actually met our eyes? Can you tell if someone is looking at your eyelids and not your eyes?
As soon as someone gets home, I'm testing it.

So how does all this relate to plumbing? Good question. It doesn't. But I found my solution for those times when you hit a slump during the day.
Go fix something.
OK, it doesn't have to be plumbing, but in my case, yesterday, it was.
I'd hit my end for the afternoon. I needed to get away from the computer. I felt low on energy. So I got the wrench and fixed the sink which had been building a slow clog for the last 15 years.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I'm ready to set my Goals!

It's funny. Just getting the speech together made me excited to rework my goals. I'm looking forward to cleaning my office (after asking myself the dreaded question, "What kind of person works in here?")
Yep, time to clean.

My speech Saturday went great. It was a fantastic turnout (about 40 people), and given this is the middle of summer, it's even better. Everyone seemed happy to work on their goals, and share their own tips on time management.

Special thanks to Tim Crow, our Austin SCBWI Regional Advisor) for having me, and to my publisher, Miriam Hees, and my editor, Madeline Smoot, for coming! Madeline brought my book jacket to show off at the end of the meeting, and Miriam asked the nice question, "Why don't you tell us about your book?" And thank you to everyone who came! I really appreciate it :)

My personalized fruit rollups (with title and author as tongue tattoos) went over well, and some even dared to use try to tongue tattoos on themselves.

After the meeting was lunch at La Madeline with Madeline, Greg and Cynthia Leitich Smith, Anne Bustard, Carmen Oliver, and Brian Anderson. If you happen to get Highlights, check out the July issue for a fantastic answer to why mood rings change color by Brian Anderson (you may also know him as the author of the great Zack Proton books.

You can read about my speech at Carmen Oliver's blog and Alison Dellenbaugh's blog.

And here's a rather orange photo I snagged from Alison's blog of me with author Mark Mitchell.

So plan your goals, and have a great Monday!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Five on a Friday

Back to the real world for two days now. I've unpacked, watered the plants, and attempted to get through some of my to-do list.
Here's my five for the week.

1) I'm speaking tomorrow at the Austin SCBWI meeting. If you happen to live in Austin, come by the Westlake Barnes & Noble at 11:00 to hear me try to explain everything I know about goals and time management.

2) Last Sunday we saw Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D. Can you say fabulous? Go see this movie, and when you do, make sure you go to a 3D location (not all are). It's well worth the extra $2 per ticket.

3) The flights home worked like a charm. On the first flight, I looked at my 3-year-old daughter and said, "take a nap," so she lay down on the seat and fell asleep. Wish it always went that easy.

4) Why I love my kids. While heading into the grocery store yesterday, fellow Austin author Mark Mitchell drove by us in the parking lot, stopped, and said hello. While walking away, my kids asked who it was.
I said, "He's this author I know."
My 3-year-old daughter replied, "Mommy, you're an author."
Love those kids.

5) I'm almost at this point where I can wonder what to work on next. Yeah, there's always revisions. I'm thinking these just never go away. But as far as a new project, I have choices. I could go with a book 3 in a series, or go for something completely different. How fun!

Have a great weekend. Get outside. Come to the Austin SCBWI meeting. Set some goals. And have fun!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Time to Return to the World

You know you've been on vacation long enough when you're looking forward to doing laundry.

OK, I do jest - I love having my mom wash all my and the kids' clothes. But one can only sit around in a state of non-accomplishment for so long.
It's time to get back to real life, set some goals, and get accomplishing.
And to help in this return to the world, my mom and I watched The Secret last night. Have you seen it? If not, please drop whatever you are doing, order it off the internet, and watch it. It's got to be the most fantastic video out there.

I remember criticism of The Secret. People asked why if it worked so well, everyone wasn't the most successful person in the world?
The answer? Because The Secret is all about controlling your thoughts. Thinking about what you want. Not giving any energy to what you don't want. And let me tell you. This is more challenging than it might sound.

Here - try this. For a 24 hour period after reading this post, think only about what you want. Focus on only positive. Have no negative thoughts about anyone (yourself included). Every time a negative thought begins to come to you, mentally focus and shove it away.

I'm ready. Are you?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

New Cover and Stuff

Yes, it's final. I have a new cover. It's even posted on Amazon and everything.
So what do you think? Me? I think it looks way cool. I love how much of the picture can been seen. And the best part? It has my name on the front of it.

And I even have two more reviews here and here.

The first happens to be the ten-year-old sister of the Book Review Maniac who recently reviewed The Emerald Tablet. Which is perfect, BTW, as this is such my target age range.
My favorite line from the first review? Just about everything.

"I liked The Emerald Tablet because this book comes to life in my mind. Mythical creatures pop out of the pages.Once you come to the end of this book you will not want to stop. I can not wait till the second book,The Navel of the World comes out!"

My favorite line from the second review, In The Booley House, who it seems is an adult reviewing kids books for adults.
OK, I have two:

"Definitely a fun, entertaining, and quick read."
"it’s pretty absorbing, and was a lot of fun to read."

On a side note, no one asked or even wondered where the photos from this post were taken.

The first is the sculpture garden in front of Archives owned by the Smithsonian National Gallery of Art.

The second is Fort Hunt, an old fort on the way from DC to Mount Vernon.

Hope everyone has a great week ahead!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Five on a Friday

When you're on vacation, every day feels the same. Reality hits next Wednesday, but until then, I'm living the good life.

So here's my five for this week. Hopefully it was a great week for everyone :)

1) The Emerald Tablet got a great review from Kyle over at Book Review Maniac. Not only did he come up with a perfect summary (I may hire him for synopsis writing in the future, he gives The Emerald Tablet 4-5 stars out of 5. And with rounding up, and all, well... you know.
My favorite line from the review:
"This book is destined to climb the charts when it releases in the fall."
Do you see me smiling? Thanks, Kyle!

2) OK, and since we're on the topic of reviews, Jessica over at Trainspotting Reads gave The Emerald Tablet a very nice review also.
My favorite line from the review:
"One of the better Middle Grade books I’ve read."
Thanks, Jessica!

3) While you're popping around on the internet, take a second and check out The Class of 2k8 blog this week. We've got a great series of mini-interviews going on. There's been a bookstore owner, a debut novelist, an aspiring author, and an actual real-live agent.

4) Something about this picture made me want a beer.

5) (OK, please forgive all the DC photos. This place if just rife with photo opportunities.)
Something about this picture makes me feel smarter.

Have a great weekend, and take ten minutes or so to post your five!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Gratiuitous Photo and Goals

Seeing as how it is DC, I have to start off with a gratuitous DC photo. Here's a picture of some embassy. My cool DC connection (high school friend) took me to Malcolm X Park yesterday, and off to the side was this embassy. Anyone know which one it is?

And a cool shot of Malcolm X Park (aka Meridian Hill). Love the fountains though they smell like river water. And my son commented one area smelled like pee.
Yeah, he was right.

So I realized both last Monday and this one, I've neglected to post my goals for the week. It's not like I have no goals, but I am trying to make the most of this "get away and relax" time. Am I OK with this?

It's OK to take a break from goals. The important thing is to make sure it's only a break. And once I get back, it's right back to the usual routine (which I love). And it's not like I'm sitting around doing nothing. There's places to go. People to see. But kind of more unplanned and spontaneous.

I remember Stephen King mentioning he writes every day. I certainly strive for this, and for the most part accomplish it. But with the kids and the visit with the parents and all, for me, I've found what works. Everyone will have a different level of comfort with this.

So what's yours? Take planned breaks? Only write on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday? Write eight hours a day every day?

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Scene of the Crime

Do you guys do any scene visiting? Scoping out the places you set scenes in your writing? Personally, I love this, and, as luck would have it, large portions of my WIP(s) are set in DC. Which makes visits to this area have such a nice underlying purpose.

So what have I found so far this time?
For starters, I need to change the location already for one scene. Because, let's face it, no kid who can hang in DC on the Fourth of July would be anywhere else. Yeah, I know - Duh. They'd be right there with the hundreds and hundreds of Port-a-potties.

OK, this one's not a scene change, but here's how visiting can help.

Perfect location for a protagonist and his/her main romantic interest to have a romantic meeting? Looks pretty nice to me.

Perfect location for a protagonist and antagonist to have a nice battle? Lots of doors and stairways make it uber-interesting.

Or maybe I should switch them just to shake things up?

And, just for fun, can anyone identify either of the places in the photos?


On a fun, final note, I went to a BBQ tonight and visited with a friend. We were talking about just this topic - cool places around DC for scenes.
She mentioned The Senate Hart Building, and of all things said, "They have an Alexander Calder there."
If she'd said this to me two days ago, my eyes would have glazed over as I tried to figure out what the heck she was talking about.
But as it turns out, I started reading The Calder Game two days ago. I could totally relate. Is that bizarre or what?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Photo Five on a Friday (Posted Thursday night)

Not only are we an hour ahead here in Alexandria, we're on the east side of the time zone. You'd think these two would equal early bedtime bliss for the kids. Not quite the case, but it is vacation after all.

My new saying for the rest of vacation/summer/life.
Take the time to dip your feet in the fountain.
(Yes, we stopped at the fountain sculpture garden outside the Museum of Art today. Yes, we took the time to dip our feet in).

So here's my five on a Friday.

1) DC is getting totally ready for its big Fourth of July celebration. I'm curious how many lines will feed into all these babies. And this wasn't the only row of them.
There's no place like DC on the Fourth.

2) Me hoping Jenny Ziegler's writing brilliance will rub off on me.

3) For those times when you need a giant mental eraser.

4) Me arriving for the Awesome Austin Writers' Workshop last Saturday.

5) Yes, everything around here is named after George Washington and Mount Vernon.
My son had house envy after our visit here.
i was just hoping to spot Nicholas Cage.

Happy Holiday Weekend to everyone! Post a Photo Five this week for fun!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Seriously. Go Buy This Book.

I just finished up How Not to be Popular by Jennifer Ziegler. Really, I had a hard time putting it down. If it weren't for the kids clambering on the plane and needing my attention and all, I would have finished it before arriving in DC. But, yeah, kids need attention, so it had to wait until bedtime.

I loved it. I must've laughed out loud thirty different times. And no, I'm not just saying this because I want Jen to be my friend :) (though she was in attendance at the Awesome Austin Writer's Workshop this past weekend and is way awesome and totally popular).

The book is rife full of perfect little clever treasures.

My two favorites:
"And Carter gave them the tuba he stopped playing when he got braces."
"Of course, it's hotter than a convection oven outside..."

Yeah, in context, these are hilarious!

Loved it. Go buy it.

On a vacation side note, we're off to Mount Vernon today (a mile from my parent's house here). They actually live on land once owned by George himself. We're all about the patriotism and the soft serve ice cream around here.