Saturday, May 31, 2008

Fact Checking in the Real World, part 1

I just got my galleys (page proofs) back for Just One Wish, which has made me think about all the facts authors have to check when we write novels.

For example, in this story the main character, Annika, tells her six-year-old brother that she has a genie and that he can have two wishes. He is a little skeptical at first, but ends up buying the story.

I wondered if a six-year-old would really believe the whole genie story. Luckily, I happen to have a six-year-old (my children often come in handy when I'm writing) so I sat her down and asked her, "What would you say if your sister told you that she had a genie and that you could have two wishes?"

My six-year-old thought about it for a second and then said, "Thank you?"

Yep, that part of the story works.

Second fact: There is a part in this story where Annika is going through a guy's room looking for clothes to wear. (That sounds wrong, doesn't it? It's not what you think.) The guy is six foot two, however, so I wrote it that his shorts slip off Annika's hips.

In real life my 14-year-old son is a half inch shy of six feet. He's a gymnast and pretty much solid muscle. He weighs, I think, twenty pounds more than I do. But as it turns out my son and I both have some Old Navy jeans that look about the same--except, get this, his pants are smaller than mine. I'm not sure why this is since he is both taller and heavier than me.

It is just unfair though.

Not long ago, we were doing laundry and I told him, "I think you've got my jeans and I've got yours."

"No you don't," he said.

I pulled a candy wrapper out of my pockets for proof. Then he pulled a pair of bobby pins out of his pocket, and we switched pants. (And yes, at my house we believe in washing and drying the contents of our pockets with every load of laundry.)

So yeah, assuming Annika was tall (and I never say whether she was or not) she may have fit into the guy's shorts without any problem at all.

Oh well, I'm not changing it at this point.

Here is a picture of my son and his friend showing off their abs. He is the patriotic one. (Perhaps I should start regularly putting pictures of him on my blog to increase the amount of teenage girls coming to my site . . .)
The next fact checking story involves the real life Orlando Bloom and my high school chum, Misty. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Joy of Revisions

Okay, that's a misleading title. There is very little joy in revisions, but still, I thought I'd comment on revisions for my used-to-be-A-Fairy-Godmother's-Guide-to-Saving-Troubled-Teens-and-now-will-be-whatever-the-marketing-department-comes-up-with. The last title they suggested was, "Be Careful What You Wish For" which I quickly vetoed. I mean, besides being a cliche, it gives the reader no indication that this book is a fantasy-comedy-romance. Which it is.

Here is the briefest of synopsis:

When Savannah's boyfriend, Hunter, dumps her for her older sister, she is understandably devastated. Luckily, Savannah has something most sixteen-year-old girls don't--a fairy godmother. She wishes for a handsome prince to take her to prom and is transported back to the Middle Ages where she lives the life of both Cinderella and Snow White. It wasn't what she meant. It wasn't what she wanted, but now she's got to find a way to deal with spiteful stepsisters and a queen who wants her dead, while she tries to figure out how to undo a fairy's enchantment and get back home.

The hard thing about this book is that when I sent it to Walker it was 110,000 words (about 435 pages) and my editor wanted it cut back to 85,000 words. (about 335 pages) I knew it could be trimmed a little even before I sent it in, and I must admit I left it long on purpose. I figured that they'd want cuts regardless, and if I cut it down to 100,000 words before I sent it in they would ask me to cut it down to say, 75,000 words instead of 85,000.

I'm not sure whether I'm right about that or not, but at any rate, I ended up cutting more than I wanted and it still ended up at 91,000 words. But they're really good words. Trust me.

So here is a bit of what had to go:

The sentence where I described Savannah's Snow White outfit. I said it was a simple red gown, thankfully lacking the collar in Disney's version, which made Snow White look like she was wearing a megaphone around her neck. My editor cut that because she didn't want Disney mad at us. She may be right about that. I probably wrote that line while pondering the hour-long lines at our last Disneyland vacation.

I also had to cut some of the religious refrences about the Middle Ages. My editor didn't want any mention of religion in the book because religion, at least Christian religion, is a taboo subject in young adult literature. I know, it doesn't make any sense. Especially since we are dealing with the Middle Ages. Is it a surprise to anybody that the people of that time were Catholic? No matter, I cut the scene where she went to church and the mention of her reading in her history book about popes and bishops.
My last example of cuts: I had to cut all the parts that dealt with leprechaun drinking. Originally I had a leprechaun who'd accidentally come to Virgina with Savannah's Irish neighbors. He had one too many Guinnesses and crawled into a box to sleep it off. When he woke up he was in an airplane cargo box, wedged between a bunch of knickers, and flying over the Pacific ocean.

Really, now that I think about it, he was sort of a lush.

My editor didn't want any mention of alcohol in the book. Which is ironic because I don't drink at all. So yeah, you'd think I'd be the last one to encourage any young, impressionable leprechauns to start downing whiskey. Plus, it was probably a good idea to cut those parts because the drinking-leprechaun is sort of a stereo type, and I wouldn't want a bunch of angry leprechauns banning my book.

So now the book has nothing in it that will make any magical creatures, anti-Catholics, or the Disney corporation mad at me.

And it has tons of good stuff. Really, it's going to be a great book.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hawaii Blog

I love Hawaii. I really do. In fact, even though I am day-glow white, I think I might actually be a native Hawaiian. I'm basing this on the fact that I'm always late for everything--which apparently is also known as "Hawaiian time". Plus I stay up until midnight every night, which is only 9:00 p.m. in Hawaii, therefore proving my internal clock is set to somewhere in Polynesia. Also, I could totally do the moo-moo thing when I get older. I already wear flip-flops most of the year.

So anyway, my husband and I just went to Hawaii to drop off our daughter who is staying there this summer. The entire summer. How unfair is that? I never got to do cool things like that when I was her age because, let me think, oh yeah, I was a poor married student.

Anyway, she is having a blast. Here are some pictures from the trip.
Here we are at the Polynesian Cultural Center, which is lush and green and not an Arizonan desert. The weather was great there. It's 108 in Arizona and will be that way for the next six months. All of you in normal states should feel sorry for me.
Here I am on a little pink blowup raft drifting off to sea. It was a bit windy that day and my husband started to panic that I wasn't paying attention to the fact that I was literally being blown away. Okay, so in fact I wasn't paying attention, but eventually I noticed and paddled back to shore. He needn't have worried. However for the rest of that afternoon he stood in the water with one hand holding my raft so I wouldn't drift off again. In so many ways this is a metaphor for our life together.
[This photo has been removed because my daughter works in the public schools, and her students are far too fond of looking her up on google.]

This is a picture of my beautiful daughter standing near the ocean. If you are planning a trip to the beach, I wouldn't recommend you take along a beautiful daughter. We swam every day and in most pictures I look like something the cat dragged in (and then left to ferment with the dirty laundry.) She always looked gorgeous no matter what. Seriously. In fact . . .
here is a picture of her with some random tourist who saw me taking her picture and asked if he could have his picture with her because "she looked just like a supermodel".

And lastly here is a picture for my editors and fans. Even in paradise I was still working on my novel.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mothers' Day card/ cleaning fairy

I have a saying which I use frequently with my children. It is: "Hey, the cleaning fairy doesn't live here. Pick up your stuff." Sometimes we even have entire conversations along the same lines.

Child: I don't want to do the dishes.
Me: Well, neither do I, but the cleaning fairy stopped making rounds at our house.
Repeat both responses indefinitely.

So a while ago my daughter drew a picture of the cleaning fairy. I added the phrase, "Where is the" to the top and taped it to the kitchen wall.

Since then, my daughter has been trying to convince me that I am indeed the cleaning fairy. Here are two more of her drawings.

Here you see I also have antennas and tiny wings--apparently my fairy status is similar to a lady bug.

Anyway, so here was my dear daughter's picture on the back of my Mothers' Day card. I think she was making the point that I'm angelic (so true). Photobucket
As you may have noticed, I'm ascending to heaven with a Windex bottle in hand. Apparently I don't get to stop cleaning even when I die. See, it really does never end. I figured as much.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A New Dawn is out


News flash for all of you Stephenie Meyer fans: You'll like this book. I was contacted a few months ago and asked if I wanted to write an essay about the Twilight series for a compilation that Teen Libris was putting out. It's thirteen authors getting philosophical and funny about the hottest series out there. Sort of like when all of those country stars put out an album of a tribute to Shania Twain songs. (But you know, without the singing on our part.)

Since I am an Eward/Jacob/Bella fan I agreed. (Read between the lines: more people will probably read my essay about the Twilight characters than will actually read my books. Who could resist that?)

Anyway, since I received a couple of extra copies, I thought I'd run a Twilight trivia contest to see which dedicated fan out there in the blog world should get them. The first one I'll send to the first person who can answer this question: Which two literary works does Stephenie Meyer mention (and we could even say model parts of her books on)?

The other book I'll just randomly give to one of the commenters. (Like if I have fifteen comments, I'll have one of the kids pick a number between one and fifteen and then send it to that person.) So comment even if you don't know the answer.

For those of you who must have one anyway, you can find the book at Borders. (I'm assuming anyway, since there is a sticker on the front which says: Borders exclusive.

And as a teaser I'll post the first couple paragraphs of my essay: To Bite or Not To Bite; that is the question. (See, Stephenie isn't the only one quoting classics.)

What's your definition of a bad day? A fight with a friend? A speeding ticket? How about being attacked by a vampire and painfully being turned into the undead, then realizing you must wander for eternity fighting off a craving to kill people? Yeah, that would pretty much be a bad day.

Carlisle, the leader of the Cullen clan of vampires, had this bad day (and we can assume) many other bad days that followed. Stephenie Meyer doesn't skimp when handing out problems for her characters. Seriously, if you were Cinderella and could choose someone to be your fairy godmother, you wouldn't want it to be Stephenie Meyer. Sure, she could come up with the ultimate prince charming to take you to the ball, but he might kill you afterward.

You'll have to get the book to read the rest of the essay!