Monday, March 30, 2009
I didn’t grow one over the weekend, but the visually stunning and slightly creepy cover sitting on my kitchen counter began to taunt me. Also, I got tired of feeling like the kid at school who doesn’t know the inside joke. Quite simply, I was sick of feeling left out: "What are you talking about guys? Huh? Huh? Tell me. I want to know." And all the other readers looked at me disdainfully: "Oh, you wouldn’t get it because you haven’t read D100D." I’ve already survived middle school once – I refuse to go back to that place again.
Although apparently I haven’t out-grown peer pressure…
I was going to start reading it this weekend, but the writing bug bit. Hard! I think it drew blood and left a bruise. Not that I’m complaining, I’m *thrilled!* that I was able to finish the first draft of my WIP (working title/synopsis: The-Book-About-Leukemia-MacGyver-Cheerleading-Superstitions-And-Playlists. TBALMCSAP for short). There was no time for reading. Yesterday I didn’t shower or get out of my pajamas until 5 pm. (Okay, I’ll say it with you: ewwwww!)
I was barely even a presence in the Twittersphere. And sleep? Forget it. The writing bug’s bite is made of caffeine (or maybe that was just the pots of coffee St. Matt made me each night before he and the puggles went up to bed). I don’t know the total number of hours I slept from Friday ‘til this morning – I don’t think I want to know, and I doubt I could do the math at this point anyway. Suffices to say, the number would be a single digit.
But this is GREAT! No, that’s not just the sleep deprivation talking. This is great because I know I’m going to sleep tonight. Like a baby made out of rock who’s overdosed on Nyquil. So all my fear of D100D keeping me up all night – no longer relevant!
I may still be an invertebrate, but my D100D problem is solved.
Can’t wait to join the cool kids club and discuss it when I’m done!
Thursday, March 26, 2009
1) The title scares me. My first word was ‘dog.’ Actually, that’s a total lie. I don’t know what my first word was (makes a mental note to check), but I do love dogs. And I have issues with dog books. I have never seen or read Old Yeller. This is FORBIDDEN. So emphasized was it’s forbiddeness that even at 28, I still will not break this rule. There’s a good reason it’s forbidden: after I read Where the Red Fern Grows, I didn’t want to go to school for days because I was scared to let my dog out of my sight. I also got in BIG trouble for throwing a fit during 5th grade read aloud when Marty feeds the chocolate-covered graham crackers to Shiloh. Marty may not have known that chocolate was toxic for dogs, but I did – and I made my point that Marty need to find a vet NOW very loudly and clearly. Louder and clearer than the teacher – who promptly asked me to leave the room until I could be a good listener. Do not even ask me how I dealt with Marley and Me. Seeing the movie was not even an option. I need to take a break and go hug Biscotti and Bruschi after even thinking about it. A book that implies 100 dogs have died in its title – I am wary.
2) The cover also scares me. I don’t do scary things. Coraline was the limit to my scariness tolerance – and even then I had to hold a sixth grader’s hand. The cover of the book is visually stunning, but it also makes me want to turn on all the lights in my house and hold St. Matt’s hand.
But I’m working on my wimpiness. Really I am. And I was sick of feeling like the kid at the party who doesn’t know the gossip because everyone else had read it and I hadn’t. So, really it all came down to peer pressure.
On Valentine’s day while I was at the local independent bookstore picking out great books, I took a deep super-brave breath and had them order me a copy of Dust of 100 Dogs.
It came. I picked it up. I stared at if for a few days. I opened it. I read the first page.
And the first paragraph included an eyeball being popped out and rolled in sand. I don’t do blood. Not even a little. Not even papercuts.
I needed to take a break after this scene.
I’m thinking I might be ready to try again. Might take some courage pills tonight and give it a go.
Or maybe I should wait ‘til daylight…
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I thought this while reading and loving The Season by Sarah MacLean. As I smiled like a puggle in a sunbeam and turned delicious pages, I imagined his reaction:
"Um, there’s a lot about dresses in there."
"I know!" *dreamy sigh*
"What the heck’s a dance card? These girls have to follow a lot of rules. You, my sweet catastrophe, would not have done well in the 1800’s." Then, kiss on my forehead, he’d walk away.
As usual, he’d be right. Even in my imaginary conversations, St. Matt’s irritatingly accurate.
I would have been an awful regency lady. Despite my love for all-things-Austen, I’d have failed miserably in her social circle. I’m impulsive. I’m outspoken. I’m entirely too uncoordinated for the quadrille and all the beautiful slippers, gloves and gowns would spontaneously stain and rip under my wear. I’d be scandalous.
On the other hand, the feisty heroines in some of my favorite books made rebelling against 19th century society seem like a recipe for love & happiness. Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse, A Great and Terrible Beauty’s Gemma and Felicity, and The Season’s Ella, Vivi, and Alex were more admirable because they refused to conform. They were all impulsive, opinionated, rule-breakers like me.
So maybe I wouldn’t have actually been good at living back then, but – dancing skills aside – I’d make an excellent regency heroine (provided they don’t try and separate me from my Blackberry (Petunia) or yell at me for ripping my gloves).
Now if I can only talk St. Matt into dressing like Gavin…
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Also, there are the distractions of my choosing; my own personal kryptonites. I should know better than expose myself.
When we pulled into Target at 6:53, we were the only ones there. Sure there were a couple cars parked in the lot, but they were empty, some even frosted over. St. Matt emitted an awkward cough that might have been a suppressed laugh, but since he’d gotten up at six on a Saturday to make me happy, we’ll give him the benefit of doubt.
I’m positive there was one when he found me sitting on the bedroom floor two hours later, turning pages.
Now I’m finished Evermore and I can’t regret the lost writing hours because the book was that good.
Or I could go watch call the bookstore. Or watch the movie. I never did figure out what was on that third disk…
Thursday, March 19, 2009
And it was fabulous.
Last night was technically called: I Have Seen the Future…and It Sounds Like This
I like to call it: I have heard my favorite authors read & now need to start saving because I need to buy each book that was read from tonight.
It was held at the Mulberry Street Branch of the New York Public Library and hosted by the very funny David Levithan. He’s also quite coordinated – he didn’t stumble over the microphone cord – not even once – despite its best efforts to trip him. Each time he stood, my panic level jumped to red alert and I tensed up – ready to spring from my front row seat and catch him. Or provide a Band-Aid from my purse (I come prepared).
The night’s Guest of Honor was Joe Monti. Each of the reading authors had a sweet (albeit sometimes fictional) anecdote about Joe’s influence. He also came prepared with goggles for Scott (more on that later). Joe has quite the author fan club, one that I’d gladly join.
Each of the authors read from their WIP. Going into the event I was very curious; would their WIP’s sound like my WIP’s (meaning, full of
My WIP has developed an inferiority complex and is cowering in the corner. Hopefully he’ll feel better after I inform him that no one would want to read him until he’s sufficiently re-written. (And finished. Finished would be helpful too).
Enough about me – let’s get to the good parts: what the authors read.
Libba Bray is adorable. She read from Going Bovine, (released date 9/22) which is about a teenage boy with mad cow disease. It’s quite different from AGATB; for one thing it’s modern. It’s also funny and includes a ‘Get Happy’ song, which Libba performed adorably. (I told you she’s adorable).
Barry Lyga got my attention right away. His book-to-be, Goth Girl Rising (release date 10/19) begins with slit wrists and mental hospitals. It’s intense. Kyra needs to hear the "Get Happy" song. I haven’t read its prequel (The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl) but now know that I need to and will get on that right away.
Justine Larbalestier has the coolest boots and accent. The accent’s Australian, I didn’t think to ask where her boots were from. She read from a piece temporarily titled Wild Heat. Rest assured, it is not an Amazonian romance novel, but instead a magical twist on life in the 1930’s. The main character, Lizzie, has great voice and I can’t wait to read more. There’s not a release date for this book yet, but her next novel, Liar, will be out in fall of 2009.
Eireann Corrigan also has excellent taste in footwear. Very cute green heals that I admired from the front row. She read from Person of Interest, which is about two girls who stage a missing persons event to get attention, but horribly wrong. Eireann didn’t read from the beginning – instead she choose a very intense, highly suspenseful part, which I think it slightly unfair because there’s no release date for the novel yet and I can’t stop thinking about it. So, apparently I’ll be mildly obsessed and nightmare-inflicted until: date tba.
Holly Black wasn’t on the original list of authors so I didn’t have any of her books for signatures. I pouted about this for 8 nanoseconds before I switched to: Holly Black as a bonus reader? HOORAY! She is charming and endearing and I loved speaking with her afterwards. (BlanketFortress, rest assured, I told her about our superiority to TeamCastle. Strangely enough, I don’t think she was jealous.) Holly read from The White Cat, which was straight from her editor’s desk (she joked she’d skip the crossed out paragraphs). Her reading started with the main character waking up on the slate roof of his boarding school in boxer shorts. It was intense, but also really intriguing and humorous. Can’t wait… but I guess I’ll have to since it’s not due out until 2010.
Rachel Cohn began by joking that she should name her next book Money, because with books titled Cupcake and Gingerbread, guess what people bring her. Funnily enough, I say the same thing about my next dog (I should name it Coffeegiftcard so I have something to go with all of the Biscotti I receive). Her forthcoming book is one that I can relate to on a tragic level. Very LeFreak is about a girl who becomes addicted to technology. (Twitterverse, I just can’t quit you!) Very is forced to go to technology rehab and have her life unplugged so she can detox. Rachel read to us from Very’s very amusing admission process. I’ll definitely read the book, but I won’t give up my Blackberry (you’re safe Petunia, don’t worry!).
Scott Westerfeld’s gone steampunk. And Joe Monti provided the goggles to prove it. Leviathan, illustrated by Keith Thompson and full of Scott’s trademark Wester-words, will be released on October 6th. Scott not only read an excerpt to us, but also gave us a sneak peak of the illustrations. We were asked not to post pictures, but rest-assured, they’re stunning.
So start saving because you’re going to want these books. Trust me! You’re also going to want Scott’s goggles, Justine’s boots, and Eireann’s shoes.
Monday, March 16, 2009
I’ll admit, I’ve heard that comment more than once. Usually after I’ve done something particularly Tiffany-tastic like back the car into the house, drag him to the midnight release party for Breaking Dawn, picked out a pink Kitchenaide mixer for the kitchen (seriously, when HE uses it even once, he can comment on the color), or perhaps, dropped tweezers in the toilet and left him a post-it about it.
"Your husband is a saint."
And I never know how to respond. "So you’re saying putting up with me requires sainthood? Thanks."
But he kinda is.
Every time he allows me to write while he does the dishes or eats Mac ‘n Cheese for dinner.
Or lets me listen to a song on repeat one more time because it matches the mood of the scene I’m brainstorming.
The times he patiently prompts me to: "Finish your sentence, please," when I trail off mid-conversation because I’ve picked up some thread of inspiration.
The way he recognizes my writer-face when I come back from a run and lets me furiously scribble before greeting him.
He’s graciously allowed our family to expand to include the characters from my WIP’s and doesn’t even flinch when I comment, "Mia would love movie," or "Can you imagine Luke’s face if he heard that."
He proofreads my blogs (even this one- Hi YOU!) and lets me talk plot lines and conflicts.
He kisses me goodnight and heads upstairs with the puggles and a nightly reminder to "Try and get some sleep tonight."
He really kinda is.
I’d like to think that the house elves are the ones that make coffee magically appear in the morning or remember to move the laundry I started yesterday to the dryer, but that’s not the case. I appreciate the 17 million things he does behind the scene that enable me to carve out precious writing minutes.
And I appreciate him: his patience, encouragement & support. I don’t say it often enough, but I do.
And when I get woebegone about my chances of finding an agent, he looks at me in exasperation. I used to think it was because he was sick of hearing the same lament – until he finally told me, "You’re being ridiculous." And clarified that he wasn’t sick of my refrains (although he might have been this as well), but actually he was annoyed that I would doubt myself. In his mind, I was already successful and there was no way I could fail.
It’s time to surrender the argument and offer to polish his halo.
So dearest, saintly Husband, thank you and happy birthday!
Friday, March 13, 2009
Toothbrush still wedged between my molars and cheek, I stared open-mouthed. Toothpaste foam began to dribble down my lip. Looking like a rapid insomniac, I peered in the toilet.
Did that just happen? Maybe I imagined it. Sleep deprivation can cause hallucinations.
I checked the counter. No tweezers.
I checked the toilet. No tweezers.
They’d gone down the hole.
Confession: my first instinct was to flush. If there’s no proof or witnesses, it never happened, right? I stood glowering at toilet and imagining what would happen…
Husband: Have you seen our tweezers?
H: Yeah, tweezers. Pointy metal things? Used to take out splinters like this one?
Me: *giggling nervously and edging out of the room* Never heard of such a thing
Later the same day, the pipes EXPLODE and plumber is called. He spends hours muttering things like ‘hopeless,’ ‘major repairs,’ and ‘Maserati’ before plucking the tweezers out of the ruin that used to be our bathroom and saying: "Here’s the cause of the bazillion dollars of damage. I’m going to hafta turn off your water. It’ll take four months to repair."
Me: *innocent look in place* Wow. How could those have gotten in there? I have no idea how they could possibly, accidentally gotten knocked into the toilet and then impulsively flushed.
Resisting the urge to flush, I backed out of the bathroom.
I needed an expert – but who to ask?
Around 1:30 this morning, I tweeted this:
HELP! I dropped my tweezers in the toilet. Can't see them - can I just flush & consider them a lost cause, or do I need to do something?
But no help was offered. Tweople were asleep. Stymied, I took a post-it note, wrote: Don’t Flush! Tweezers in there. And went to bed.
Since it was 2 AM when I crafted my post-it, it took multiple snoozes, wet puggle noses and finally Husband threatening to withhold coffee before I got out of bed in the morning. He was on the way out the door.
Me: Um, honey, did you fix anything this morning?
Me: *perking up* Really?
H: Yes, your coffee’s ready to go and sitting on the counter downstairs. Now get up!
Me: Oh, coffee. (first and only time when having coffee fixed for me will be disappointing)
I followed him downstairs, and held my breath as he popped in the bathroom to Lysterine before heading out the door.
Husband emerged with post-it. Ut-oh.
H: What’s this?
Me: You’re going to be late, we’ll talk about it tonight.
H: Why didn’t you just pull them out?
Me: I’m not putting my hand in THERE. Besides, I can’t see them. But don’t worry, I have a plan.
Great, now I needed to find a plan. Well, it’d taken him that long to find my note. We have other toilets – maybe we should consider this one a lost cause and abandon it forever. I could find an alternate use for the toilet – like people who use tires as lawn art. We could fill it with dirt and make it a self-watering planter. If we got a step stool, it could be a water bowl for the dogs.
I needed help.
- Co-workers just reiterated that Tiffany should NOT flush the toilet. No matter how much she believed that maybe the tweezers disappeared overnight.
- Students thought it was very funny. Sixth graders like to say ‘toilet’ and make bathroom jokes.
- Our DARE officer stopped by and I asked him: "I know this is outside of your typical jurisdiction, but…"
I needed more help; good thing that the Twitterverse was very ready to be helpful. It assembled a virtual support team for my tweezer/toilet crisis.
Thank you Suze, Emily, Linda, Clinton Books, Lisa, Julie, Alea, Michelle, and Pseudosu for being there for me in my time of need. Julie, if I have a plumbing emergency – I’m calling you! The rest of you – I’m glad you weren’t around when I was fighting the just-flush impulse last night. Clearly you’re in cahoots with the plumber – he wasn’t really going to let you test drive his Maserati.
My students came through in the clutch too; they created a fetch-your-tweezers-from-the-toilet-dance. It involves reaching down, making a fist, pumping it in the air, shaking it off, then reaching around with the other hand to ‘flush.’ I’m sure it will be appearing on dance floors near you later tonight.
With all this support, I was ready when I got home from school. I plucked the strongest magnet off the fridge. Tied my best former-Brownie knot around it. Twice –I wasn’t a very good Brownie. Took a deep breath. And marched into the bathroom.
And it an utterly anti-climactic turn of events – the tweezers stuck to the magnet the first time I dropped it in the toilet.
The tweezers and magnet are both safely in the trash and I’m dancing. It’s a great new dance that’s all the rage in 6th grade; the fetch-your-tweezers-from-the-toilet. I’ll teach you if you want.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Today, to celebrate being done with the play, I figured I’d stop by my local bookstore and treat myself to a book. Okay, three books. I may have also ordered two more…
One of the books I bought was Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Feet. There’s been such buzz about it on Twitter & the blogs, and it even has a snazzy u-tube video.
And it’s about zombies.
Yeah, I missed that part. Even after I saw the video, I was thinking more along the lines of M. Night Shayamalan’s The Village or Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Running Out of Time. I didn’t think of zombies. Clearly, this was an oversight on my part. I should constantly be thinking about zombies these days. In fact, if I have two consecutive non-zombie thoughts, someone should come bop me on the forehead like they do on the V8 commercials and ask me what I was thinking!
Except, prior to this fall I had never read or seen anything featuring a zombie – unless you count the music video for Michael Jackson’s "Thriller," which I don’t. I’ve still never seen a zombie movie – which should make March 20th interesting.
Zombies. Except, I don’t believe they’re actually called zombies anywhere in the The Forest of Hands and Teeth, which is amazing, by the way. Also, it’s finished, or rather, I’ve finished it. I decided to read a few pages before I went to bed tonight. Now it’s 4:30 in the morning and I’m too scared to sleep. Since I’d have to get up in less than 30 minutes anyway, there’s no point in chancing nightmares.
This is not a story of slow immersion, one where you gradually get used to the characters and plot. This is a story that you cannonball into and gasp for breath as you hit the icy waters. You continue to gasp for breath because there’s no getting comfortable in a world where someone is always – literally – waiting to grab at you from all angles.
The characters are complex and conflicted – you want to shake them and tell them what to do – but you understand their complexities and conflicts. I found myself empathizing even when I disagreed and weighted by the choices Mary faced.
One particular aspect of this book that I loved was Mary’s character; she is so remarkable, admirable and strong. She not defined by a man, nor is she completed by one. Mary’s goals and longings may be affected by love, but she doesn’t dissolve and become an extension of the hero.
Bravo, Carrie Ryan! I hope you’re getting lots of writing done in that Irish castle because I can’t wait to see what you come out with next.
So back to zombies. I think I might need to read more of the Zombie Survival Guide. Maybe even buy my own copy.
Of course, if the zombie apocalypse started today, I’m totally out of luck. There’s not enough caffeine in the world to combat the zombifying effects of fear-inspired sleep-deprivation.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I’ve been directing the school play, Annie, for approximately the last four and a half years. Okay, it’s only really been since November.
Why they chose someone who can’t sing, can’t dance, to direct the school musical, I’ll never know. It could have something to do with my complete inability to say ‘no.’ Or it could be that tattoo I have on my forehead (it says ‘pushover’ in invisible Sanskrit).
Knowing that tomorrow is the last time I’ll hear the song "Tomorrow" sung by 108 ten & eleven year olds (and accepting that it will be months before I get all the catchy choruses out of my head), I decided to dedicate this blog to the lessons learned from those scrappy orphans and big Daddy Warbuck’s.
Here’s where the saccharine overload begins.
Lessons I’ve learned from Annie
"I think I’m going to like it here!" – When faced with a new situation *gulp* keep a positive attitude and an open mind. And if the laundry hamper you’re hiding in tips over while Bundles the laundry man is pushing you off stage – just go with the flow & improvise. Plans don’t always work the way you expect them to.
"It’s a hard knock life" (sometimes) – There are bad days: days when words won’t come; days that queries get rejected; days when you get thrown up on during the in-school performance (true story) – but these don’t last.
"You’re never fully dressed without a smile" – Nothing makes a bad day worse than a bad mood. I’m not made of cheer & sparkles, but when I give in to crankiness, it never helps the situation. Plus, smiling’s contagious!
"I don’t need anyone but: " my feedback groups (both of them), my writers’ workshop, my first readers, my blogger friends, my twitter friends…. Okay, I need a lot of people. I’m no Thoreau going off to write in the wilderness. These are the people who lift me up on bad days and remind me that…
"The sun WILL come out tomorrow" – And even though it’s always a day away, as long as I can find something to look forward to and hope for, there’s always a reason to be optimistic and keep going. Who knows, tomorrow could be day Super Agent calls and asks to represent me.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
In my writing life I function much the same way. I prefer to sit down for an endurance writing session – get lost in the world I’ve created and only re-emerge when my stomach is audibly growling, my muscles are cramping, and my head is utterly emptied. (Oddly enough, this is the same feeling I’d get after a long run!)
But my life doesn’t work like that. There are rare and wonderful days when I can lock myself away and write, but they’re the exception, not the norm. What I struggle with is how to get the most out of the stolen minutes that I smuggle and stack together to construct my writing time.
I’ve tried these tips:
* End your writing session with a half-finished sentence so you can pick up there tomorrow
* Start by reading and revising the previous two pages, then move forward
* End by creating a bulleted list of where you’d like to go next
None work all that well for me – I’m incapable of leaving a sentence half finished, I never want to go back just two pages, and once I start bulleting, I just want to write the scene. How can I teach myself to sprint when I want to run (er, write) a marathon?
How do you make the most of shorter writing sessions?
Friday, March 6, 2009
1. D.: Aislinn (Wicked Lovely)
2. K : Anidora-Kilandra (Goose Girl)
3. B : Cabel (Wake & Fade)
4. P : Calder (Chasing Vermeer)
5. Q: Capricorn (Schooled)
6. R: Doon (Tales of Ember)
7. L: Fitzwilliam (Pride & Prejudice)
8. F : Gemma (A Great and Terrible Beauty series)
9. S : Grandison (Enthusiasm)
10. J : Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights)
11. H : Holling (Wednesday Wars)
12. M : Leisel (The Book Thief)
13. G: Lyra (His Dark Materials Trilogy)
14. O: Mibs (Savvy)
15. I : Percy (Percy Jackson & the Olympians series)
16. A : Phineas (A Separate Peace)
17. T : Roiben (Modern Tales of Faerie)
18. E : Tibby (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants)
19. C: Vlad (The Chronicle of Vladimir Tod)
20. N : Zane (Uglies)
Thanks to everyone who played my character challenge. Even those of you too chicken to post your scores. I hope you as much fun taking it as I did creating it.
Another thing this exercise made me aware of: the awesome nicknames that so many YA characters have. (hmmm, do I sense a characacter quiz : part 2 . . . stay tuned!)
Monday, March 2, 2009
So, as a challenge, I’ve listed some of the more unusual names from some of my favorite books. Most of them are middle-grade or YA. Although, it was pointed out to me that Percy could also be from Harry Potter & Capricorn from Inkheart... maybe some of these names aren't as unusual as I thought!
I get very attached to the names of characters I love. When I was seven, I wanted to name my future children Fern and Wilbur. Thankfully I’ve outgrown my Charlotte’s Web obsession – no offense to any Ferns or Wilburs out there. There was also a time when Pippi a la Pippi Longstocking and Josephine from Little Women made my list.
It’s a snow day and you need something fun to do. So,as a challenge, I’ve listed some of the more unusual names from some of my favorite books. Most of them are middle-grade or YA.
How many can you identify? I’ll add some multiple-choice titles tomorrow for those of you who want a hint and post the answers on Friday. Have fun!
How many could you identify? If you’ve got a reason to brag, brag. If you’ve got a reason to be embarrassed, ’fess up!
What great names did I forget? I’m sure there are many, many more!