Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

It's my favorite day! One of the reasons I love Christmas is that I get to hear from old friends and see how their families are growing. Here are the Christmas cards for this year:

The 2007 picture: I actually like this one of us. Usually at least two of the kids look like they are stunned, blind, or trying to gnaw through invisible rope, but in this picture no one looks horrible--our very own Christmas miracle. Of course my body looks sort of potato-ish, and people who haven't seen me recently might wonder if I have a waist (I do) or worse yet that I'm having another baby (I'm not) but still, I'm happy with the picture.

In retrospect, it might have been a mistake to make the kids wear red shirts while being photographed in Target. The slinked through the store afraid someone would mistake them for employees.

Here is the Christmas card I sent to my old college room-mates:

The one I sent to the bow-tied one:

And anyone who needed an angel: I love angels.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The odd things that excite us


I sent my revisions back to my editor. This is a load off my chest--literally, since I've been laying on my bed for days underneath my laptop and half a manuscript. In this wave of revisions I changed the main character's home from Avondale, Arizona to Henderson, Nevada which meant that along with everything else, I had to change the roads they travel and the entire time line. Imagine me yelling questions for my husband to Google:

"Do they have a Toys R Us in Henderson? Hurray! One more thing I don't have to change. Where is the nearest Cancer Hospital? Please, please, please let them have one in Vegas. Yes--I love you, Vegas. Can you get an aerial view of I-15 out of Barstow--do they have bushes growing in the median? They do? Yessss!"

Ah the writer's life and the odd things that excite us.

I've read the manuscript probably seven or eight times now. I used to cry in three places--two of which I'm sure nobody else will cry in. (I will tell you where those places are after the book comes out.) The first two I no longer cry in, but the third . . . still, still, after all of the rereads, I still cry there. And it is still weird for me to try and carry on a normal conversation with my kids, "Yes, you can *sniff* have a cookie" as I'm crying over this scene.

On the plus side even after all these reads, I still love the trailer scene. You will know what I'm talking about when the book comes out--which as it turns out will not be until spring 2009. Doesn't that sound like forever away? They don't even have calendars for 2009 yet. Some people who read my book, may not have been born yet. (Okay, I'm just kidding about that--but that's how it feels.)

Oh well, more time for me to write all of those other things which I never get around to because I'm too busy working on deadlines. And maybe I will even get to finish painting my kitchen. There's another thought that would probably only excite a writer.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Is seventeen too young?

I'm still plodding through revision comments. It has taken a long time this time because I have to stop frequently and bang my head against the wall. I also wander into the kitchen and down chocolate in large quantities. Today my editor and I are having a disagreement. This is not unusual, but what is unusual is that our life experiences have taught us completely opposite things about dating.

Here is the situation:

In my book the hero is 19 and has lived on his own for three years. He thinks that the heroine, who is only 17 and in high school is too young for him. (She convinces him otherwise.)

In Janette’s world, college guys rarely dated anyone in high school. I grew up in a small college town and although we sometimes went up to campus or frequented the same restaurants, the college kids at WSU thought that high school students were too young to date. When my friends and I went to hang out at the river, I remember many a guy taking off quickly when he found out we were still in high school. (In fact, this is when I first heard the term, jail bait.)

It became sort of a game for us to not let them know right away that we went to high school because we knew what the end result would be. And really, even if the guys hadn’t thought we were too young, our parents would have. I remember once telling my friend’s college professor father (Almost all of our fathers worked at the university) that we’d met some guys who were taking one of his classes.
I think there was a group of young men who flunked biology simply because I had that conversation with their teacher.

This is not to say that college guys never went out with high school girls, but in all my time in high school I only remember it happening once. And that’s when I went to prom with Devon Felsted. (See, my website, which really, really I’m going to update any day now) But, his family had been friends with mine since before my birth so it wasn’t unusual for us to do things together. I didn’t have a date so it was, as I recall, arranged through our parents at my suggestion. And let me tell you, I was quite the celebrity at school for going out with a college guy. It was that unusual.

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Here is a picture of Janette at 18. (As you can see, she is clearly too young to date college men.)

Next story along the same vein: My husband and I first met at a dance in Virginia when I was eighteen. (He was 21 at the time) It was for college aged students and as I’d graduated from high school a couple of weeks before, I clearly qualified. Yeah, well, when my husband found out how old I was he totally blew me off. I mean really, the conversation was like this:

Him: Chat chat chat
Me: Chat chat chat
Him: What year are you?
Me: I’m a freshman.
Him: You mean you’ve finished your freshman year and you’re going to be a sophomore?
Me: No, I’m going to be a freshman.

Really, he didn’t speak to me again for another year. (At nineteen I was apparently old enough to date.)

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Here is Janette at 19 with college-age fiance (techno-Bob)

Okay, so that is my experience. My editor on the other hand had his first real girlfriend when he was in college (19) and she was 16. According to him, his female assistant, and his female boss, there is no way anyone would think it was odd for a 19 and a 17 year old to go out.

I admit I’m perplexed that we’ve had such completely different life experiences on this one. What is your view?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Internal clocks

My elementary aged son has been working on a space station. More specifically, his gifted class has been constructing them. Not real ones—in case you’re wondering just how gifted this class is. Today the projects were due and the class took a field trip to talk to people in the industry and show them their space stations.

My first clue that my son is perhaps a bit too much like me: He put my cell phone in his room because one of the kids in his group wanted to call him at 4:30 a.m. to make sure he woke up and made it to the school in time to catch the bus that was leaving at 5:15.

My thought upon hearing this: Hmmm. Is this a new service that peer groups offer? Did he not mention to his schoolmates that he has an alarm clock?

When my husband asked my son if he needed to bring anything for the project, Son answered that no, his group made sure he brought all of his stuff early so he wouldn’t forget it.

My thought: Ohh, it all suddenly makes sense. Apparently he has inherited my concept of time instead of my husband’s.

This is a picture of what my husband, Techno-Bob’s* internal clock looks like. He can even look at the sun and tell you what time it is.

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This is more what my internal clock looks like:

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I can’t look at the sun at sunset and tell you what direction west is. (Or does the sun set in the east—I never can keep that straight.)

Come to think of it, Son does have a lot of my creativity and he has definitely inherited my husband's math sense. With those two things working together--wow--he's going to go far in life. Well, just as long as someone makes sure to call and wake him up before all those important presentations.

*Not his real name

PS. You can find either of these fine clocks on

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Me, on anesthesia . . .

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I’m going into the doctor on Thursday to get an epidural injection in my lower back. It will be the third time I’ve had the procedure done. I’m not so worried about the side effects, but I do worry about the anesthesia. Maybe it’s because I don’t drink, but I get a little of that anesthesia stuff in my system and suddenly I’m acting like every version of the town drunk you’ve ever seen.

The last time I was in for the epidural I was laying on my stomach on the table while the doctor and assistant did all of that medical prep stuff.

Doctor to assistant: blah blah blah a bunch of boring medical talk
Assistant to doctor: Yes, doctor, blah blah blah
Me: Hey everybody the floor tile is moving! Is that wild, or what?
Dead silence behind me, then laughter.

That isn’t even the worst time though. You know how they tell you to count backwards from 100 when they put you completely out? Apparently once when the doctor asked me to do this, I decided somewhere in the 90’s to start singing Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall. (And yes, they did tell me about it afterwards.)

I’m sure that must have been really entertaining for the medical staff. Janette does karaoke in the operating room. It’s a good thing I didn’t get all the way through the song or next I would have probably belted out old Barry Manilow tunes.

Doctor: Nurse, are my scalpels sanitized?
Me: Her name was Lola, she was a show girl . . .

One just wonders what sort of thing I’ll say on Thursday. It’s a good thing I never put much stock in a dignified reputation anyway.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Stranger than fiction

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In another strange twist of fate it turns out that my daughter’s guy friend Paul, that she’s been seeing all week (and I do mean every single day—I swear I don’t see my husband that much) is the cousin of my daughter’s first boyfriend, Tyler.

They went to a family dinner and yep, there was Tyler and Tyler’s parents who instantly recognized my daughter. Paul’s parents were also there and oddly enough my daughter is pretty sure she met them when she went to a family dinner back in high school with Tyler.

I could use that in a book, but who would believe it? The guy my daughter meets and starts dating in a college of like 26,000 people turns out to be her first boyfriend’s cousin.

I asked her if it was awkward but she said Tyler was totally cool so I guess it’s okay. I told her she should ask Paul who else is in his family because, hey, she might want to date all of the guys before she decides on a particular model. She laughed and told me she already did.

I am probably a bad influence on her sometimes.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bizarro world

Okay, I think this is a little bizarre although my husband is just shaking his head. (Come to think of it, he does that a lot around me.) Anyway, my daughter is down for Thanksgiving and brought one of her guy friends over. (What is the term for a guy your daughter is dating but isn't exclusive with? I mean, besides 'lucky' because hey, my daughter is pretty special.) The bizarre thing is that I think he looks eerily like one of my old boyfriends, Stuart, who is currently featured on my website (because I haven't gotten around to updating it to reflect that I have a new book out.)

Hmmm. There is probably a plot idea brewing about all of this. (Which is why teenagers are so valuable. If you want to write, a teenager is a must.)

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The second bizarre thing--which an observant commenter pointed out and which I hadn't realized until I'd already posted the blog--is that yes, my daughter and I are standing in the exact same position. No, that wasn't posed for effect. She even has the same head tilt and smile. Which obviously means, dear daughter: THAT HE IS ABOUT TO DUMP YOU FOR JESSIE LIPE!

Not that any of this is making me relieve those early years . . .

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Yay, it went well!

You'll all be glad to hear that there was no need for a metorite to come crashing into earth to put me out of my misery. Civilization is safe until the next book signing. Thanks to all of you who came out. You're the greatest!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Arizona book event/ begging involved

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Do you remember getting ready for dances in junior high? The anticipation . . . the dread? You never knew whether it was going to be a really fun night where lots of guys asked you to dance, or a really humiliating experience where you felt invisible.

Nothing measured your worth in the eyes of society quite as quickly as a junior high dance . . . until that is, they invented book signings.

Sometimes book signings are great. There’s nothing quite so gratifying as seeing people turn out because they want your book and your signature.

But then there are the other book signings. The ones where you stare blankly at a wall praying for a meteorite to strike earth and put you out of your misery.

I shouldn’t let book signings get to me. I mean, I used to work in a book store and I saw plenty of big authors come in and have pitiful turn outs. At the time I really, really wanted to be an author myself. I felt that burning intensity of stories pushing against my fingertips waiting to come out. I wanted to be published in a bad way—and even I wasn’t jealous of those big authors during sparse book signings.

The whole point of this is to let you know that I have a book signing at Changing Hands book store on Saturday, November 17th (in two days) at 2:00. I will also be talking about my new book, Revenge of the Cheerleaders. I have no idea what I’m going to say yet, but it will be moving, and profound. (Well, maybe not, but hopefully it will be funny.)

The address is:

6428 S McClintock Dr
Tempe, AZ 85283

McClintock at Guadalupe

Please come. Please don’t make me sit there wishing for a meteorite.

Friday, November 09, 2007


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My editor just sent me the second wave of revisions. So, in honor of this event I'm putting up some posters from They say it so well. In fact, you can make your own calendar out of their many sayings. I'm thinking about it. I'm also surfing the Internet for other job possibilities.

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Oh, and here is another good one for writers:

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Have I mentioned that I hate revisions?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Denver Trip /Technology strikes again

My school visit in Denver was great because I got to stay with my brother and his family. My nephew made me play Dance Revolution, and yeah, I pretty much stink at that. (Just what the world needed: one more way for teenagers to humiliate their elders.)

My brother let me drive his swanky BMW to the school. It had all sorts of bells and whistles I’m not used to. (For example it was keyless and the garage door opener was built into the car on the bottom of the rear view mirror.)

When I turned it on to leave in the morning I noticed the brake light was on. I sat there, looking for the emergency brake. I finally found it, but it was off. I tapped the brakes thinking that maybe I was supposed to do that as part of the whole keyless routine.

The light still didn’t turn off.

I called my brother’s cell phone, but got no answer.

I tried both of the brakes again then pushed a few random buttons.

The light didn’t turn off and all I could think was, “Great. The BMW makers have put a third brake somewhere on this car and I don’t know where it is, and I’m going to ruin my brother’s car when I drive it.”

Stupid new technology.

Well, okay, for those of you who think I’m an idiot for believing a car maker would put a third brake on a car—let me tell you about my new laptop. I still don’t know how to work it because there is so much new technology. Seriously. The spellcheck has been buried somewhere under all sorts of new functions. I can’t even find the ruler to make paragraph indentations. What was Bill Gates thinking?

So finally I had to drive off because I knew I would be late otherwise, and who knew when my brother would get out of his morning meeting. (Sometimes my husband’s morning meetings last into the evening.)

I drove, like 20 miles an hour all the way there. While cars whizzed by me--cursing, I'm sure--I tried to send them telepathic messages that it really wasn't my fault, It was BMWs for being too brake-happy.

Then I called my brother between every presentation because I didn’t want to have to drive home with the brake still on.

Finally I got ahold of him. It seems the BMW was just telling him it was time to have his brakes serviced. No third brake. The rest of you knew that all along, didn’t you? But then, the rest of you can probably play Dance Revolution too.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

National Author Day

It's that festive time of year when everyone rushes to take down their Halloween stuff and put up their National Author Day decorations. Yes, pull out your Mark Twain centerpieces, your Jane Austen wreathes, and those life-size twinkly Bronte Sisters for the yard. Then let's all sing a few Thank-goodness-we're-not-in-school-anymore-so-we-don't-have-to-read-Hemingway-again carols.

And don't forget to send me your Author Day gifts. Remember, you can't go wrong with precious gems.

Special note to my husband: really, we've been married for 21 years so you ought to know by now that you can't buy Almond Joys, Snickers, or peanut M&Ms for trick-or-treaters and expect that they will ever see Halloween Night if I'm in the house. This is why you must buy the type of candy I don't like. I didn't touch the Whoppers.

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There are obviously a lot of princesses at our house.

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My oldest son wanted to be a vampire for Halloween. This is what happens when the girls at school start calling you 'Edward.'

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Aren't they sooo cute?

Monday, October 29, 2007

IRA in Billings, Montana--how you know you're not a big author yet.

Are you beginning to wonder why all my blogs are about traveling places? So am I. When my husband told a guy at work that he had to leave—once again—to take his wife to the airport, the co-worker asked, “Who set up your wife’s insane schedule?”

My husband answered, “A woman with no concept of time or distance.”

Yeah, that would be me.

It’s pretty much turned into a blur of airports. I nearly missed my connection from Salt Lake to Billings because I was going over my presentation for IRA so intently that I didn’t hear them make any boarding calls until they were yelling, “You-whoo, Janette Rallison—where are you?” This is the same sort of concentration that is to blame for making me miss picking up my children from school, and well, the time I nearly burned my kitchen down. (Long story. Different blog.)

The presentation went well, I guess, but it didn’t say who I was in the program so I don’t think anyone actually knew I was an author until they walked into the room. In fact, I was pretty much an invisible author for the whole time. When I asked the people working at the IRA desk if I was supposed to go to the authors’ dinner on Friday, they told me it was just for “the big authors”.

Have I ever mentioned that at times being a writer feels just like junior high all over again?

Anyway, I think the people in my class enjoyed my presentation. I gave them all a free book. I wanted someone at the conference to remember that I was an author.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The most crowded place on earth.

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Without stopping to unpack from my Houston trip, I jumped in the car with the family and headed to California. We and some of our good friends had decided to take a two day vacation at Disneyland. Neither of our families had taken vacations during the summer and so we were overdue. Plus, we reasoned, Disneyland wouldn’t be nearly as crowded in October as it was during the summer.

Ha, what optimistic fools we were!

It was crowded. And we’re not talking just a little crowded. You know all of those Armageddon movies where vast crowds are fleeing destruction? That’s how crowded it was, but with added benefit of a herd of impatient, hyped up children to look after--and without the meteorite hurling toward the earth so that you could think, “Well okay, this sucks big time, but at least it will all be over soon.”

Nope, we’d paid more money for this trip than our first car cost, which meant we had to stay there and fight the crowd to get our money’s worth.

(When I got home and looked at my pictures I realized that most of them were just of the kids standing in various lines--which actually makes sense since that was 90 % of our Disneyland experience. So here are our vacation pictures!)

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Oh look, we finally made it to a ride.

There are no pictures of me with my arm around Mickey Mouse because A) the line for pictures was too long and B) after waiting for an hour just so my daughter could have three minutes on the Dumbo ride, I was ticked off enough that I probably would have smacked one of Mickey’s ears clean off.

And it got worse after 6:00 when California Adventure closed and all of the park hoppers came over to the Disneyland side. You literally had to hold onto your children so the crowd brushing past your shoulders didn’t peel them away from you. It was so crowded then, that you couldn’t even make your way to the rides let alone contemplate how long you’d have to stand in line before you actually got to touch one. At that point we just gave up and left.
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The beach was much more relaxing. If you’re going to California. I highly recommend the beach. But if you’re interested in the Disneyland experience, well, just go stand in an airport security line the day before Thanksgiving. It’s about the same thing, but less expensive.
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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Houston Trip--see it's not just me.

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Some of you think that I make up all of those embarrassing moments that I stick in my novels. Some of you think that those sort of mishaps don't happen in real life. Well, not only do they happen, but apparently they are contagious--spreading from me to people I associate with, sort of like a bad cold, but with less hacking and wheezing.

I'm sure this is the only reason that things went down in the Houston airport like they did.

Tami Norton, fellow writer, friend, and Houston resident volunteered to play hostess while I was in Texas for a school visits, book signing, and schmoozing with SCWBI folks. It was raining in Houston when Tami went to pick me up and she was worried she'd be late picking me up, so she sprinted through the airport. Unfortunately she was in flip flops and there was a leak in the airport roof. When she ran over a puddle she did a very graceful and lady-like, I'm sure, slip-fall-kerplunk into the puddle.

The problem with landing in a puddle is that it leaves an incriminating wet spot in a place where you really don't want wet spots. Tami had to back her way up into the parking garage, dash to her van, and then spent the next few moments half dressed and waving her pants in the air in an attempt to dry them out. I told her it would have been even better had say, her husband's boss walked by, or perhaps the local clergy, or an old boyfriend--well really, the possibilities are endless. In my mind she still got off lucky.

But anyway, I just wanted to let people know that it isn't just me that these type of things happen to.

Despite the haphazard beginning, Houston was a lot of fun. The homeschoolers and Cook Middle school were great. Blue Willow did an excellent job for my book signing, and SCWBI folks rock. I already want to go back.

Tami and I also spent some time brainstorming for her new novel. How's it coming, Tami? I'm going to bug you until it's done!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Chicago trip

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I am way behind on blogging about my travels, which matches, incidentally, my being behind on cleaning, organizing, updating my website, and well, just about everything else. One day I’ll master the art of not sleeping and then I’ll get all caught up. Until then I’ll just keep being behind.

So now I'll write about my Chicago trip—which incidentally and amazingly I didn’t get lost at. Not even once. Of course this is probably because I rented a car with GPS. But still, it is amazing none the less when you consider that I once got lost from a hotel lobby to my room.

I presented at Anderson’s YA conference and met very cool people like Christopher Paul Curtis Bud, Not Buddy Sherman Alexie The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sonya Sones What My Mother Doesn’t Know Christopher Crutcher whose books are all put on the American Library Association Best Books before the ink dries, and Robert Sharenow, who wrote the book: My Mother the Cheerleader (which isn’t about cheerleaders, by the way.) He is also Vice President of Nonfiction and Alternative Programming at the A&E network, which means that he know Dog the Bounty Hunter. For some reason that I can’t explain myself, I absolutely love that show. (I am one of the few people in the world who doesn’t have cable so I only watch it when I’m in hotels, which it turns out is quite often. Go Dog go!)

It’s always fun to travel and meet other authors. It amazes me that people who are so famous—like Christopher Paul Curtis—are such nice, down to earth people. He told some really funny stories about his early years writing and working in a factory. I guess I remember back in school when all the pictures of authors showed a bunch of stern old men with pipes who looked frighteningly scholarly.

I have yet to meet that type of author. Which is a pleasant surprise.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Suprise School Visit (DC part 3)

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While I was in DC I did five school visits to fabulously brilliant children. (The fact that they liked my books is proof positive of their brilliance.) However, I must say that the most memorable was the surprise visit I did to my old fifth grade teacher’s class. The librarians and I sneakily set it up without him knowing anything about it.

They told Mr. Kuykendall that all the fifth grade classes were required to go to a reading and writing seminar in the library. He has been teaching for nearly forty years so he wanted to skip out of the seminar, but they were insistent.

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He walked into the room and glanced over at me with absolutely no recognition. (Some of you may be surprised to learn that I’ve changed since the fifth grade.) In his defense he told me later that I didn’t hold his attention because he quickly realized that every important person at school was in the library (including the district photographer). What was the principal doing at a reading and writing seminar?

Then he looked at me again, and it all sunk in.

I would have felt really bad if he’d actually had a heart attack before my presentation—and I suppose I should have thought about that before I surprised a sixty-one-year old man. But he survived the shock and had a good time listening to my presentation.

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I had many good teachers, but Mr. Kuykendall will always be my favorite. He is one of those really extraordinary teachers that other teachers hate because he sets the bar so high.

He was an especially good teacher for me to have in fifth grade because up until that point I had pretty much just day dreamed through school and saw no point to changing my ways. Mr. K made me believe I was smart though. My grades went from C’s to straight A’s that year. He also told me that I was going to be a writer one day. He bought me a blank book and told me to write a story for him so that after I became a published author he could tell people he had my first book.

So he does, but don’t get excited because I guarantee you I wasn’t a child prodigy and it’s nothing that you’d ever want to read—unless you want to read bad writing in order to feel good about yourself. It might work for that.

I told his current fifth grade class all about this and they agreed that he is a marvelous teacher and thought my old class picture of him was hilarious. (Have to love those 70s shirt collars which could double as hang glider wings.)

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Afterwards another teacher covered his class and Mr. Kuykendall, my husband, one of his good friends, and I went out for lunch. It was nice to get caught up and spend some time together. As far as school visits go, that one will always be one of my most memorable.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

It's Here!

I’m interrupting my DC blogs (I have one more-and it’s the best.) to bring you this important news flash:
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Revenge of the Cheerleaders is in stores now!

Run to the nearest bookstore and demand your copy. Yell out my name while you do, as this would be great publicity for me, especially if you were, say arrested, and they used my name in the headlines of your home town newspaper.

You will especially love this book if you a) have taste or b) loved the book, All’s Fair in Love, War, and High School because this is a companion book. Yep, I had so many people email and ask me to write more about these characters that I did. Of course this book also stands alone, so if you didn’t read All’s Fair this book will still make sense.

Here are some book details:

Chelsea’s school year has taken a turn for the worse. After being dumped by her boyfriend and humiliated at the pep assembly by her younger sister’s boyfriend, Rick, she’s just concentrating on avoiding any other major embarrassments.

That’s when Rick and his band debut their new album, complete with a whole set of songs bashing cheerleaders. Chelsea’s humiliation has reached a whole new level now that everyone is walking down the halls singing the words to “Dangerously Blonde.”

It’s time to make Rick pay. All he wants is to win the High School Idol audition, so he can be on his way to rock star fame and fortune. But with the help of her best friends, Samantha, Aubrie and Rachel, Chelsea is going to steal his victory right out from under him.

The characters from All’s Fair in Love, War and High School are back, only this time it’s payback.

Happy reading!


Sunday, September 30, 2007

DC Blog - Part 2

One of the benefits of going to DC to do school visits was that I was able to spend some time taking in the sights. And there are more things to see in DC then a person could see during a year. I know this for a fact because I lived in Silver Spring, Maryland when I was in fifth grade, and my family did indeed spend every weekend sight seeing. I was dragged to every Revolutionary and Civil War battleground in existence. If some early American pilgrim had nailed together a shack somewhere, I saw it. And no, I didn’t appreciate it at the time. But now I wish I could move back east for a year just so I could drag my kids to all the same places.

Anyway, here are a few of the highlights from the trip.

Here is Janette at the Smithsonian gem collection touching amethysts and coincidentally developing a craving for new jewelry.

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Oooooh, something like this would be nice.

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Here is Janette by the capital building, and no, she doesn't actually lean to the left.

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Here is a picture of Janette’s husband by one of those statues from Easter Island.

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The placard told us about how the people there spent all of this time and effort to erect statues of their important ancestors. This had some meaning for them, though we’re not sure what. Probably some primitive ritual. What simple-minded folk they must have been—then we went off to visit statues of Jefferson and Lincoln. Quite impressive, eh?
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I just had to include this picture. We will list it among the silly signs we’ve seen in our lives.

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I visited five different schools during my trip Roberto Clemente Junior High, Chester Middle School, Herndon Elementary, Herndon Junior high, and Candlewood Elementary. They were all exceptional. I have to say I’m really impressed with the librarians and kids I’ve met.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

School visits in D.C., part 1

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I’ve just come back from an amazing week in DC area. So amazing, that I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to fit it into one blog. I might have to put it up here in installments just like Dickens novels. (But with a lot less description and shorter sentences.)

The first thing: Virginia and Maryland are filled with big beautiful trees. They are everywhere. If you picked a spot and walked 100 yards in any direction, you would run into trees. As we were driving down the freeway, my husband—who grew up in Virginia—kept pointing out spots to me. “That’s the area where my scout troop camped out one year.”

I looked and saw what I’d seen along the highway for the last hour—trees.

In Arizona the only thing along the highway is rocks. Sometimes the highway people get creative and then there will be decorative rocks. I know of one place where there are colored rocks that form the shape of a lizard. There is also the occasional bush or small tree, but these were also placed there for decoration and have a drip system attached to give them water. I’m pretty sure I’ll never see any boy scouts camping along the highway while driving in Arizona.

Because of the lush vegetation back east, there is a large assortment of darling wildlife roaming around. While I was staying with my sister in Herndon, Virginia there were deer grazing in her back yard. I saw blue jays and fluffy tailed squirrels frolicking around. Even the road kill was cute—raccoons and foxes. Arizona is quite lacking in the cute wildlife category. We have lizards and scorpions. Trust me; it just isn’t the same to see these in your yard.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ex-boyfrined stories are up!

Since I’ve been running a "dish dirt on your Ex" contest, it only seems fitting that I tell some stories about the lucky (and unlucky) guys from my past. Really, as I sit here thinking about it, I realize that most of my exes were truly nice guys. I suppose this comes from trying to date nice guys in the first place. (I only went for the bad-boy type once, and then ended that relationship pretty quickly. I wanted to spend my time with guys who inspired me, not ones I had to reform.)

Still there were a few memorable guys.

The worst: David K, who broke up with me right before I went off to college. Yeah, that was a lot of fun. I spent my first night at college crying myself to sleep and wondering what was wrong with me. What a great way to start your adulthood and impress your roommates. Which is why he wins the Supreme Jerk award from my past. Hadn’t he ever heard the idea of letting long distance relationships die an easy, natural death?

Runner up: Ben C who acted like he was totally into me and then after we’d been dating a couple of weeks asked out my roommate. That’s class for you. Luckily neither I nor my roommate liked him too much (All brawn and no brain) so at least we both learned quickly what type of guy he was.

The Good Ex-boyfriend: Hmmm, it’s really hard to choose one since as I said before so many of the guys I dated were really nice. There was Eric Brown who liked me even though I met him under false pretenses. A friend of mine and I were pretending to be twins at a dance (because so many people had previously told us we looked alike—this is the sort of thing you do when you’re 16 and your names are Jeane and Janette).
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But then after concocting this tale for an entire week, I realized I liked the guy, wanted to have a relationship with him, and had to come clean and tell him the truth. (And you people wonder where I get my plot ideas from.)

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There was John Stucki who so miraculously popped into my life when I was a sophomore—and was so teenage-girl-dream-perfect that his presence alone convinced me that God loved me. One day I’ll have to write an entire essay about him. His story is definitely the stuff fiction is made of. I don’t have a picture of him. I used to have one in my wallet, but when I went to college someone stole it out of my purse. That was how good looking he was.

There was Stuart Hirschfeld, who I completely absolve of asking Jessie Lipe to prom instead of me, because after I moved away from Washington he wrote me faithfully—more faithfully than any of my girlfriends, I might add—all the way up until I got married. In an odd twist of fate, about a year ago he found my website, we caught up on old times, and I sent him all of his letters. So many were journal entries really, that they belonged with him.
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And lastly there was Devon Felsted—who took me to prom that year when Stuart went with Jessie. He still lives in my home town of Pullman, Washington and so for Revenge of the Cheerleaders, which is set there, he was my contact for all things Pullman. I was constantly besieging him with important questions like: Is the Baskin Robbins still there? How many pep-assemblies do the students have during a year? He even read the completed manuscript for accuracy. How many ex-boyfriends would go to all that work for you?
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Didn’t I tell you they were nice?

So now that I’ve gone strolling down memory lane (and thought of many more stories I’ll have to tell at some later, more extensive time period) check out some other people’s Ex stories on my website.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Advice for the rejected author

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A friend of mine from a writing list just had her manuscript accepted by her editor and then rejected by the editor's boss. She asked how the rest of us handled these sort of emotional setbacks. This was my advice:

I go for lots of chocolate. (Does that surprise anybody?) Then I think about the movie, Happy Feet. Apparently somebody okayed that movie--which in case you haven't seen it, and I don't know anyone who saw it and liked it--is about a tap dancing penguin who is ostracized because he can't sing, and tap dancing is weird. (Well you can't blame the penguins for thinking that actually.)

So he goes off in search of aliens to find out the reason why the fish population is decreasing, he's captured and put in a zoo, then released when the general public finds out he can tap dance (as opposed to selling him to the circus which is what would really happen.)

He teaches the rest of the penguin population to dance and this somehow means that people get the message to stop fishing and leave more food for the penguins. They didn't really go into the logistics as to how people deduced the meaning of this message. (Maybe they saw the penguins and thought, "Ugh! Massive tap dancing! Somehow I just lost my appetite for eating fish!")

After thinking about Happy Feet for a few minutes, it makes me realize that perhaps those Big Wigs upstairs okaying and vetoing stories really don't know what they're doing.

So don't worry about it. Someone else will love your story.

Janette, who hardly ever eats fish so can't be held responsible for starving penguins.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Worst first line contest winner--yes!

In the same spirit as the 2007 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, one of my oldest and dearest writing friends, Kerry Blair, sponsored her own worst first line contest. The prize, besides a vintage copy of Bulwer-Lytton’s most famous work: The Last Days of Pompeii, was a fabulous six-figure cash award. (The figure is – you guessed it – $000,000!)

I am bursting with pride (sort of) to tell you all that I won. Or as my husband put it, “So this proves without a doubt that you can write badly?”

Yes, it does.

If I never receive another writing accolade (and to tell you the truth the accolade shelf in my den is pretty empty except for those World’s Best Mom pictures the kids occasionally draw me) this one will make me happy.

Here is my winning entry along with some pretty good runner’s uppers. (Or however one phrases that.)

Alicia's lips were bright red--the exact color of that little button on turkey timers that pops up when the turkey is done--only Alicia never knew that, because she was a strict vegan and just made tofu turkey on Thanksgiving, which of course doesn't have an actual little turkey timer button, but everyone else who saw her thought, "Ahh, the turkey is done."

He was in love with her, loved her like he loved lasagna, not just any lasagna, especially not the vegetarian kind, but the meaty juicy savory kind with extra cheese, and he could tell by the way her face flushed like steaming marinara sauce underneath a thick layer of melted ricotta that she must feel the same way; he only hoped that their love didn’t end like his love with lasagna always ended, filled with excruciating pain on the toilet.

Lucy’s brown eyes were like two chocolate chip cookies, only burnt and made with mint chocolate chips used rather than milk chocolate, making swirls of dirtied-green in her dark and stormy glare for only a moment ago she had received the heartbreak of her teenage life; “CHAD IZ N LUV W BRT-NY” came the ominous text from her best friend followed by an obligatory “R U OK?” Lucy was sure she would never love again.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Revisions are coming

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My editor told me that he is finishing up his revision notes for The Last Wish and will send them off to me today. He said they won't be extensive, but hmmmm, if that were the case, would it really have taken him four months to get them to me? I mean, I wrote the novel in less time.

I guess we'll see. Lucky for the Fed Ex guy, he's not required to stick around while I open the package. (And you always wondered why they rang your doorbell and then fled the scene. They're used to delivering revision notes to authors.)

Here's another thought (one that's much more cheerful); The good folks over at Reader's Digest Magazine who are always offering handy dieting tips say this: Nuts have healthy fat. Always keep a few in your pocket to stave off hunger.

So true. I like to keep my nuts wrapped in chocolate. It works every time.