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

Monday, March 31, 2008

Change is good

Who knew clothes could dry in one cycle? I'm happy to say I no longer have to give it two spins when trying to get stuff dry.

Ahead for me are revisions on my latest manuscript (T - not WIP). I got amazing feedback from my agent. Really, stuff that once you read the suggestions, you wonder why you didn't think of it yourself. It all seems so obvious. I guess that's why agents and editors are agents and editors. And why writers have agents and editors :)

I've spent the last couple days brainstorming and can't wait to sink my teeth in. And just a note that I love having a critique group. People who I can bounce my ideas off and they neither think I'm crazy nor a horrid writer (or else if they do, they keep it to themselves).

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Defeat is in the Eye of the Beholder

And yes, I am the beholder of a brand new dryer. I tried. I really did. It was the snap and the puff of smoke that came out of the motor on the old one that pushed me over the edge. It had a good life. Fifteen years. I'm willing to let it go to dryer heaven.
But here's my question. I took it apart and have this big dryer drum in the middle of the living room. Seems like there should be a good use for this. Table base? Playset addition? Any ideas?

Highlights of the day (besides the new dryer) consisted of the Austin SCBWI monthly meeting. Brian Anderson (awesome author of the Zack Proton series) spoke on "Lessons from Film Writing." If you haven't checked out the Zack Proton books, you should. They're like a more educated and older Captain Underpants. (OK, he'd probably shudder at this description.)

Also, on our trek to Fry's to buy the new dryer, I picked up Michael Jackson's Greatest Hits Music Videos. It's been on my list for ages, and, really, it's just as great as I remember. Thriller. So cool. Beat it. Billy Jean. And Do You Remember the Time. The kids loved it (though they did cover their eyes during the zombie parts).

Up for tomorrow? Install new dryer.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Short Update

I now can disassemble a dryer.
A dryer has many different kinds of screws.
The dryer still squeaks (thought not as bad).
Let me rephrase that.
It did still squeak until it stopped running.

New theory, as the not running thing takes higher precedence than the squeak. I think the belt is no longer gripping. Must replace belt and then deal with squeak.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Title Change

So I'm nearly done with the first draft of my WIP. And the whole time I've been working on it, the title has been up at the top of the page bugging me.
I loved it, actually, so that wasn't it. It's just that there were two words in it 99% of the population on Earth would never have heard of.

I knew it would have to change. But it was just so perfect. Sigh.

So today it came to me. A nice, new title. One that conveys the message of the book way better. One that everyone on Earth will understand. I think these are both good things. So I changed it. Now I have a nice simple title. One I could tell people (not that I'm ready to do that yet) and they wouldn't screw up their faces and say, "What does that mean?" or "Is that English?"

They say a title can make or break a book. Sol Stein has a great section about this very thing in Stein on Writing (which BTW is a great book if you're looking for a new one to read. Or even if you want to reread one you've already read.)

What's your favorite book title?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Squeaky Wheel

Which wheel gets the oil first?

I have squeaks in my life.
My car is squeaking when I apply the brakes. My friend thinks it's the accessory belt.
My dryer is squeaking when I turn it on. Two days ago it was fine. Yesterday it was not.

So here's the question? Which one will I fix?

If you guessed the dryer, you're right. Within ten seconds, I'd googled "squeaky dryer" and found hundreds of websites detailing exactly which screws to remove and where to spray the WD-40. And, really, there's not much to lose here. The dryer is fifteen years old.

Cars are messy. There's oil and grease and metal parts tucked behind metal parts tucked behind belts and hoses and stuff. Plus they have wifi at the auto garage.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Just when I'm starting to feel like an author...

First off, special thanks to Kinkos. Not only did I manage to get free business cards printed up there, the woman helping me couldn't have been nicer (and more helpful), and another employee starting asking me about my book, showed excited interest, and promised to buy. So I gave him a business card. Yes, I feel famous. OK, not really, but it's still kind of cool.

It's funny how when you start to hand out bookmarks and business cards, people start to realize that not only have you talked about writing a book, you actually have one coming out. On the way out of the book fair today, another mom stops me and asks all about it. She talks about how her son will love it. Coworkers mention it in the hallway. My boss jokes about how well written my self-assessment is (I removed all passive voice and gave concrete examples of how great I did this year).

Anyway, so then I get home and proceed to put some newly printed business cards in my purse.
"What are those?" my son asks.
"Business cards," I say.
He sighs. "You're not famous, Mom."

OK, thanks for that. It's good to have kids. They keep everything in perspective.

Monday, March 24, 2008

My Quick List - A New Addition

So I keep a whiteboard by my desk, and on it I list key things to remember while writing. Sure, the list could go on forever, so, to make it more effective, I keep it short and only add new things when I feel strongly about them.

My list:
1) Cool things per page - How many cool things per page does your novel have?
2) Use the 5 senses - This is a huge one I need to work on.
3) Tension on every page - Without tension, why bother reading?
4) Develop Minor & Peripheral Characters - Even the teleporter operator can have a distinguishing feature. He doesn't just have to be the guy that pushes the button.
5) Conflicting Motivation - Make your characters want things that directly conflict.
And my newest addition:
6) Create a sense of urgency - I love this one!

What's your list of top writing essentials contain?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Random Dying Bamboo

Any reason why? All goes great for two years, and then one day I see this:

Friday, March 21, 2008

Fun Friday

Thanks to Kim for this:






Horus



Sparkling personality, intense will, intelligent, understanding, impatient to exert influence.

Colors: male: red carmine, female: gold
Compatible Signs:
Bastet, Geb
Dates:
Apr 20 - May 7, Aug 12 - Aug 19

Role: God of the pharaoh
Appearance:
Form of a falcon-headed man, wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt

Sacred Animal: falcon

What is Your Egyptian Zodiac Sign?
Designed by CyberWarlock of Warlock's Quizzles and Quandaries





All in all, I think Horus is WAY appropriate.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

What's on the Wish List This Year

So my son went to the book fair preview today. I kind of shudder at these book fairs. Normally his wish list consists of plenty of books but an equal number of toys or movie tie-ins.
Not this time. This time he had all books.

Here's my consensus after reading the list:
- I know he's my son.
- I know he's a boy.
- I know he's smart (OK, I am his mom - I can say this).

The first book on the list is Tunnels. I've been wanting this, and given the great hardback price, it's a must have.
Book 2 is The Titan's Curse. I told him I already have this, but he didn't quite get that we could share the copy. Still it may be worth getting a second copy seeing as how it was such a fantastic book.
Third - The Curse of the Campfire Weenies. Yes, this proves he is a boy. I asked if he picked it only because it had the word "weenies" in the title. He insisted no, it was because the weenies have arms and legs and faces, and after seeing the cover, I agree. It is cute.
Fourth - The Fall of the Templar. So the Templars have taken over kid-lit too?
Fifth - Never Land. Wait. Is this a Tinkerbell book? Maybe he picked it for my daughter?
Sixth - Epic Battles Star Wars
Seventh - The Story of Darth Vader
(Did I mention George Lucas is a genius?)
(And no, I don't consider the Star Wars books movie tie-ins. They go way beyond that).
Eights - The Dag - No idea on this one what it is.
And Last - Sea Monsters. I clarified that this was not The Sea of Monsters, and he insisted it is a big book (as big as his shark book) on sea creatures.

So there you have it. He is a boy. He is my son. And he is smart.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Goals Ahead

Someone asked. No, I haven't found the scarab beetles yet. I started cleaning my office area, but, as of yet, the only find worth mentioning is the massage gift certificate I got for my birthday last year. Yeah, last April. It's like I'm getting the gift all over again. So I need to schedule that, and my goal is to get it before my birthday this year. 39 days and counting.

Other goals for the month ahead include doing taxes, finishing the first draft of my WIP, and updating my business cards. Not bad when you consider I have to fit folding laundry and cleaning the toilets in there also.

Got any goals for the next month worth sharing? Any not worth sharing? Around here, we aren't picky.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Links Close to my Heart

OK, so if you haven't been over to visit The Class of 2k8 blog in a while, now's a great time to do so. Why? We're on our second launch of the month!
In case you've lost track of our launches so far, four of our 27 books have debuted.
The Opposite of Invisible by Liz Gallagher
I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder
The Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman
A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce
Stop by the blog! Offer a congratulations!

On that same note, take a second and pop over to The Class of 2k8 Website.
Why?
The homepage has been redesigned by - guess who? Yep, by me! I used tables and pictures and everything.
And if for some reason it looks totally hosed in your browser, a comment would be great. Not along the lines of "This webpage sucks," but more along the lines of "When I look at this in Netscape on my Linux workstation, the columns don't line up nice."
OK, you get the idea.


Oh yeah, Blooming Tree Press has a newly designed website. No, I didn't have anything to do with it, but it does have my book cover and my name on it, so that's pretty cool. I'm under Midgrade Novels.


Have you set a goal for eating right and exercising for the year? Good! Head over to my buddy MizFit and see why at the core, we're all the same.


And a final thank you to my friend/co-worker who pre-ordered The Emerald Tablet!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Big Sur - The Real Highlight

OK, Big Sur was great, like I already mentioned. But I fibbed about one thing. The highlight was not the guy telling me I was pretty at the gas station (though it was a nice finishing touch to the weekend).
The real highlight was meeting agent Laura Rennert, having her love my voice/work, and signing with her (as of Friday). Laura is a Senior Agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency, represents some amazing authors and books, and is passionate about her work.

Yay!

Not only is she a fabulous agent (my top choice), I think she's even more excited about my book than I am. We emailed throughout the week, talked on the phone Friday, and then it was official.

---

If you ever get a chance to go to Big Sur, I highly recommend it. Being able to chit chat, eat lunch with, and get feedback from excellent agents, editors, and authors is worth every bit of the investment.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Growing up a Nerd

And now I'm a grown-up nerd. And proud of it, too.

So to all geeks out there in the lands, take a break from soldering the control panel of your old VCR, and celebrate Pi Day!
Challenge yourself. How many digits of Pi do you have memorized? Make it five more. Or ten if you're feeling really daring. After all, what other day can you be proud to be a nerd?

Did they have this when we were young?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

WIP Update

So I've gotten to page 200 of WIP (or about 45K words). I figure that's a good place to stop for the night. Tonight I deviated from the outline, and I'm loving it (though it did hurt my head). It didn't just happen. I sat down and brainstormed. Actually I did it as I tried to get my three-year-old to sleep. For some reason tonight she decided she didn't like her Superhero room anymore. She said Superman's eyes looked mean. I tried to convince her he was just going to throw Lex Luthar in jail and then head over the the Superhero party. It worked until I left her room. Truly, I think she was angling to sleep in bed with us.

How's everyone else doing on WIPs? I'm working not to incorporate Superman into the story, but I admit it is tempting.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Misplaced Bugs

I had two blue scarab beetles on my desk when I left for the weekend. Now they are gone.
I asked my son if he took them.
"No."
"Are you sure?"
"Well, yeah, I did, but I don't remember where I put them."

At some point while decluttering the house, I hope to stumble on my missing bugs. At least my mummy Smurf is still around.

The Big (Sur) Adventure

One comment: Driving on the top of big cliffs is scary. And pretty. But the last thing I wanted to do was look.

OK, so California is beautiful. I'd flown through LA one time, and once I made it to Tahoe, but other than that, I've never seen the state. So after my overnight stay with sister-in-law and niece, I headed down to Big Sur Friday morning. Accompanying me on my journey was an excellent audiobook - "A Great and Terrible Beauty" by Libba Bray. Can you say fantastic?

I lucked into a room by myself as my roommate got double booked. OK, so my cabin was at the very corner of the place, and there was a total blackout one night, but my doors had locks, so aside from creepy horror movie recollections, I felt safe.

My schedule for the weekend included group critique sessions with Catherine Ryan Hyde (author of Pay it Forward and like a gazillion more awesome books), Laura Rennert (agent at Andrea Brown), and Jamie Weiss Chilton (agent at Andrea Brown). I also had a one-on-one critique with author Eric Elfman who'd pre-read my first 20 pages.
Can I say the feedback I got was incredible, I made great improvements on my manuscript, and I met so many nice people.
If you can make it to this workshop, go!

Possible highlight of the trip? Filling up my rental car gas tank at 5:30 in the morning Monday and having a guy at the pump next to me tell his friend on the cell phone, "Man, this girl just got out of her car at 5:30 in the morning to fill up her tank, and she sure is pretty." I kind of smile, and he says "Girl, you sure wake up looking good."
OK, sounds creepier than it was. There were plenty of people around, and let's face it. I'm a married 37 year-old woman with 2 kids. It's nice to have a random stranger tell you you're pretty even when you haven't showered and have no makeup on.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Day One - The Mothership

OK, I have one word to say.

Wow.

And I'm not talking about the landscape while flying out here, or the fishtanks in the lobby, or the salmon with Bok Choy and Tofu for lunch.

I'm talking about the ability to sit in a cube in near perfect silence for five hours and write.

Wow.

I'm talking pure bliss. Concentration like I haven't had in years. No distractions on the desk (I will be doing some reorganizing at home based on this). No one coming by and talking. No laundry to change out. No dog poop to pick up.

Wow.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

So why go to Big Sur?

Yep, tomorrow I leave! Bright and early for the 6:25 AM flight. Which means I need to wake up at some horrible hour like 3:30. I know. But I need to shower in the morning.
So why go?

1) From everything I hear, the writing feedback is incredible.
2) I get to sit on an airplane with no kids in tow. If I need to go to the bathroom, I can go all by myself.
3) There's a pretty drive along the ocean.
4) I have the added benefit of visiting with my sister-in-law and niece who happen to live near San Jose.
5) Tomorrow I get to visit the mother ship of my day-job company.
6) Did I mention the writing?
7) It's fun to get away and meet new people.
8) Sharpening the saw is huge.
9) So my family can realize how much I'm needed.
10) Because all of us need a little time to ourselves.

A funny thing. I'm officially on vacation tomorrow, but I plan to be at my company all day. Why you might ask. Turns out there HQ is right by the airport, I get a cube where I can work on writing all day, I get free breakfast, free lunch, and free espresso, and they have fish tanks big enough to swim in. I've heard it's close to palatial. So really, I can't miss the opportunity to take it all in.

See you guys on Monday night!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Something fun from Middle School

Except when I was in middle school, it was Junior High. And it was only 7th and 8th.

I dug this out and scanned it in to put on the get in touch page of my website.


It's the cover for an English project from 7th grade. I loved my 7th grade English teacher. And he thought I was talented. I still remember I wrote a poem which he read aloud to the class. I wish I still had it, but at his point, I only remember the first two lines:

A tiny shrew named Sammy came from his home one day.
He smelled blood from a human, and the sun let out a ray.


Genius, I know. :)

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Look! I'm on the Internet!

Random Note: I forgot to mention I tested for my green belt in Kung Fu this week. I love testing! It's so great to be able to challenge myself in such a positive way!


In case you just can't get enough of me, here are two more awesome places to check:

1) I'm the featured Blogging Writer on this month's Edge of the Forest! If you read the interview all the way to the end, you even get to see a picture of my wonderful writing space.

2) Special thanks to Cynthia Leitich Smith for the shout out on her Cynsations blog.