Saturday, December 23, 2006

Technology strikes again

I tried to post a blog before now. I went to the website and--uh no--blogger announced that they'd improved themselves. They were better now! These are always scary words for we, the technology-illiterate. I spent several minutes trying to give the website Dr. Phil-like advise about accepting ones shortcoming, loving their inner beauty, and not getting caught up into the trap of keeping up with the Joneses (or in this case, Myspace.) But no, the I'm okay, you're okay philosophy doesn't apply to technology. Where technology is concerned no one is okay, especially those of us who don't even know what Beta is. (I thought it was a fish but apparently not. I can't imagine Blogger announcing that they are no longer using fish on their website.)

I guess I should have known I was in trouble when Blogger used the comparison of Battlestar Galactica. The difference between the new and old Blogger is the same difference between new and old Battlestar Galactica!

Yikes, I loved the old Battlestar Galactica (see my biography page) and haven't been able to bring myself to watch much of the new series because, hello, Starbuck is a girl and so is Adama. Though I do admit that the Apollo is still cute . . .sigh . . .what was I talking about again?

Anyway, so I'm still posting using the old method and there may be a long blog break while I try load and navigate the new one.

Note to the people at Blogger: Learn to love yourself, fish and all!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

And the windows need to be cleaned too . . .

Have you ever wondered what authors did in-between books? Right now I'm waiting for revisions on Revenge of the Cheerleaders. I walked into Home Depot and suddenly became Martha Stewart. "I can do that project, and that one, oh, and that one too . . ."

Eight hours into faux painting an accent wall in my family room, I'm having second thoughts. Sure, it looks great, but my designer friend, Angela, says I should do it in the kitchen too. Did I mention it took me eight hours to faux paint one wall?

Besides, I'm not sure a paint job, even a faux one, can save my kitchen. My maple cabinets (which I paid extra when I moved into the house, mind you) have turned an orange color. I'm not sure why. I'd like to do a tile back splash to dress up the place but the Home Depot expert says I shouldn't do this until I've done my countertops. (In my overly optimistic fantasy world I am one day going to replace them with granite, or marble, or perhaps a slab of gold. Which ever is cheapest.) But I can't sink a large amount of money into my countertops until I'm positive that I don't want to change my cabinets, which lets face it, I do. I mean they're orange. Why wouldn't I want to replace them?

So instead of a tile back splash, a slab of gold, or new cabinets I'm going to faux paint the place and hope this somehow turns the room from drab to charming.

It makes me want to get started on revisions again.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Forget reading faces

You can tell a lot by reading faces, but why bother? In my case, you can learn everything about what's going on in my life simply by taking a glance at my fingernails. Are they long with colored polish? Things are going great. Are they short with clear polish? Something is stressing me out. Are they ragged and look like they've been through a cheese grater? The stress is mounting. Are they in my mouth? I'm behind on a book schedule.

Right now I'm so far behind in writing, that if I bite my nails any more I won't have any fingers left.

My editor said she wanted the book in November. I should have it to her by November 45th or so . . .

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The downside of being friends with an editor

I'm not sure how much editors get paid, but maybe it's not the pay that they're interested in anyway. I think people become editors because they secretly wanted to be movie stars.

When my editor at Penguin, Tim Travaglini, came out to the SCBWI event in Arizona I told him, offhandedly, that we'd sit together for lunch. Big mistake. After his talk he was surrounded by people who wanted to meet him. One would leave, we would take a step towards the food table, and someone else would come up and gush about how much they enjoyed his presentation--and would he be interested in a story about insecure porcupines? And would it help their submission chances if they taped dollar bills onto page two? And did he know how extremely handsome he was? A Brad Pitt double, in fact.

No wonder the man thinks he's always right. He could have said his shoes were made of cheese and had three people volunteer to eat them.

Anyway, twenty minutes later when we'd moved approximately two feet, I realized what a bad idea it is to eat with an editor. I nearly starved to death. Next conference, I'm pretending I don't know who he is.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Attack of the Wall Street Journal

Those of you who aren't avid Wall Street Journal readers may have missed the article they ran on July 7th called, Literary Losers.

Now normally you'd have to read a book before you can review it effectively, but those folks at the WSJ are so erudite they managed to review an entire list of recommended summer reading novels while only reading the one sentence description blurbs. Not surprisingly, they found the whole list lacking. It was formula fiction. It was no better than the back of cereal boxes, and All's Fair in Love, War, and High School was obviously trash because it was about a cheerleader.

Everyone knows cheerleaders aren't actual people.

Children, the article urged, should only read the classics.

Thus proving that no one at the Wall Street Journal has children. Hello, there is a reason why you never see kids fighting over Ivanhoe. And just because something was written 75 years ago doesn't make it better than the stuff that's rolling off the presses now. Today's authors have a lot of advantages that help make our writing better. We've got computers, we've got tons of books on writing, and we've got editors that cut all the three paragraph descriptions of purple tinted mountains.

Admittedly there are some great classics. My favorite book is Pride and Prejudice. I also love Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh, great children's classics. But I know that if you gave children nothing but classics to read, you would not have a generation of literate and well refined kids. You would have a generation of kids that hated reading.

Let kids read what they want. After they discover a love of books in all their varieties, they'll love the classics too. But they'll still love the newer stuff and that's fine. Today's cereal-box fiction is tomorrow's classic.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Blond Characters

Someone just commented on the fact that my books have a lot of blond main characters. I guess this is true. Samantha in All's Fair in Love, War, and High School, Cami in Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Free Throws, Jessica in Fame, Glory, and Other Things on My To Do List, and although it's not done being written yet--Chelsea in Revenge of the Cheerleaders--all have blond hair.

It's not that I have anything for or against blonds. True, I married one and now (despite what my biology teacher told me about dominant genes) four out of my five children are blond.

When I'm out with them I sort of feel like Midge, Barbie and Ken's token brunette friend.

But my family doesn't have anything to do with why I write blond characters. It's a habit I first picked up when I started writing. I was afraid my old high school friends would read my books, shake their heads at my main character and say, "It's really Janette. And we still remember all of those stupid things she said and did."

See this way I've disguised all my main characters as blonds so people won't recognize me. Now when they read my stories (assuming any of them ever have or will read my stories) They'll all think, "That sure is an amusing character. It can't possibly be Janette though, because Janette's a brunette."

Writing blond characters is like being incognito.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Revision Heck

Okay, I know the title sounds silly, but I don't swear. Doing revisions tempt me, however. A lot.

I would like to take this opportunity to represent oppressed authors everywhere and just scream at the top of my lungs. Cover your ears because I'm going to do it in all capital letters.


Is my editor insane? Does he hear voices instructing him to make all of these little comments? Or is he just trying to drive me crazy? Maybe insanity is like misery and it loves company.

Well, somebody had better get out the extra place settings because I'll be arriving shortly.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The joy of revisions

My editor just sent me the third set of revisions for upcoming (June 2007) How to Take the Ex Out of Ex-Boyfriend. I got the package yesterday and coincidentally decided to give up writing and raise ponies instead. It would be easier. Funner. And don't tell me that funner isn't a real word. I'll use it if I want to . . . oh sorry, for a moment there I was having a flashback.

Anyway, one day and approximately half a pound of chocolate later, I am tackling the project. Okay, I'm actually checking email and writing this blog, but I'm going to go back and work on it just as soon as I finish my 100 Grand bar. It is the closest I'll ever come to the big money while writing.

I bet you'd I'd make more money raising ponies . . . they can't be harder than kids and they're probably cleaner too . . .

Friday, November 17, 2006

New York City--Pro's and Con's

Hello Blogworld!

I'm back from my trip to New York. I went to drop off my 18 year old daughter to an internship at Putnam. (You can see her blog here) Now she's off all by herself--well I mean she's not technically by herself, since there are approximately a gazillion other people living in New York, many of whom sing karaoke songs in the subway terminals and ask you for money. Some of those singers, by the way, are darn good which I think should be worrisome for all those people who go to New York to make it in Broadway musicals. Listen up guys, you're just one bad audition away from singing in the subway.

But I digress, here are my thoughts on New York City.

The cool parts:

1) Madame Tussauds wax museum where my daughter took multiple pictures of me snuggling up to George Clooney until she finally said, Mom, would you let go of George. You're obsessing over him.

Yeah, so?

2) Meeting my editors and all of the cool publishing people. After getting hopelessly lost on the subway system, I took a quick tour of Putnam and met a legion of marketing people. I suggested that they rough up any bookstore owners who wouldn't stock large quantities of my novel.

The next day I went out to breakfast with Walker people and got a tour of that office. One of the editors had brought her dog with her to work. How nice is that? If I ever get a real job I want one where I can bring my dog with me.

3) Riding the subway is oddly like being on an amusement park ride. I always had to stifle the urge to raise my hands and yell, "Wahoo!" (My daughter had already informed me to stop acting like a tourist.)

Bad things:

1) Mile after mile of skyscrapers. It reminded me of being in one of those corn mazes, but without the refreshing smell of corn, and with a whole bunch of aggressive, angry drivers.

2) Crossing the streets. For some unknown reason no one in New York pays any attention to traffic signals. Crossing the street is like having a death wish, really.

3) New York seems to have an overabundance of strange people living there. I met several of them, like the guy who wore a napkin on his head in our first restaurant, the woman who for no apparent reason yelled, "What's wrong with you people?" while we walked past her, and the guy in the airport who cornered me and tried to convince me that George Bush had personally taken explosives to the twin towers and blown them up. I wanted to tell him that, No it couldn't have been George Bush because I know for a fact that it was aliens. But I thought he might believe me.

All in all a fun trip, and suddenly that scene from Disney's Hercules makes perfect sense

Friday, September 01, 2006

Burning Your Bridges

While I was on vacation my husband, Guy, gave me the news that Alec Guiness had died. Guy then read a little blurb from the newspaper about Alec's talent and distinguished acting career. I said, "I wonder if it will bother him that he'll always be remembered the most as Obi-Wan Kenobi."

"He'll be remembered as other things too," Guy said.

"Name one," I said.

Guy had to think a minute. "He'll be remembered as the leader in 'The Bridge On the River Kwai'."

Which just goes to show you what I know about film trivia, because I didn't even know Alec Guiness was in that movie. I watched it one Saturday afternoon when I was about ten years old and only remember one thing about the movie. This guy was taken prisoner by the Japaneese during the war and forced to build a bridge. He knew it was for his best interest if the bridge was destroyed, but when it came right down to blowing up the bridge, he felt like he couldn't do it. He'd put to much of himself into the bridge to destroy it.

I spent a lot of time during my vacation thinking about this phenomena--a phenomena which seemed so strange and unbelievable to me as a ten year old.

Do I have negative things in my life, things which I know are not for my best interest, that I can't get rid of because I have too much of an emotional investment in them?

Uncomfortably, the answer is maybe. Or probably. OK, it's yes, but I don't won't to talk about that. However, the subject of burning bridges fits perfectly into my writing message this month.
If the passage ain't helping your story, honey, dynamite that sucker out of there.

We get so caught up in our stories, in our characters, and in our plots--we invest so much in them emotionally, that it becomes very hard to cut anything. We love our scenes and characters. They are our friends.

Trust me, you need to be objective about what you've written. After you've written something, preferably months after you've written it, put on your editorial hat, and go over your piece scene by scene. Look at the goals, motivation, and conflict in each one. Ask yourself, what is the point of this? What does it add? Have I said this somewhere else? Is there a better way to say it? Does it address my story question?

Don't hesitate to cut or completely change things if you can make it better.

I know. It hurts. It took us so long to craft our work. We put so much of ourselves into it. But next time you edit, think of Alec Guiness, not as Obi-Wan, but as the River Kwai guy, and don't be afraid to burn your bridges.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Reflecting On Stephen King

Several of you, I know, saw the title to this article and thought, "Gee, I didn't know Stephen King had a reflection." First of all, it is only vampires, not horror story novelists, that don't have reflections, and second of all, I'm not talking about that kind of reflection anyway. I am talking about reflecting on Stephen King's writing schedule.

Stephen King writes ten pages a day. Every day. Even his birthday and Christmas. I know this because the lead article in the April issue of Writers Digest is titled "Stephen King, How to Write Ten Pages a Day." I eagerly turned to the article because I would love to learn some magic secret that would help me write ten pages a day.

As it turned out, there were no magic secrets, no previously unknown methods, in the article. The gist of it was this: Make writing a priority, then sit down and do it, and don't get up until it's done. Which would work well for me if that pesky family of mine would stop demanding that I do things like be a wife and a mother.

Still, I've spent a lot of time thinking about a certain statement in the article. Stephen King was talking about two kinds of authors. Those who are prolific, (he himself has written 35 novels, one of which only took him a week to write.) and those who write well, but write fewer than five books in their life time.

"Which is okay," King said, "but I always wonder two things about these folks: How long did it take them to write the books they did write, and what did they do the rest of their time? Knit afghans? Organize church bazaars? Deify plums? I'm probably being snotty here, but I'm also, believe me, honestly curious. If God give you something you can do, why . . . wouldn't you do it??

On one hand he's right. If God has given us a talent than we ought to use it, ought to glorify His name with it, instead of burying our talent in the sand. But King makes an assumption with his statement that I can't agree with. He seems to think that writing is a more important way to spend ones time than anything else. Somehow knitting afghans or helping with church functions is less valuable than creating stories.

I, like most of us, have spent a lot of my time in these so called lesser pursuits. I've spent my time wiping noses and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I've helped with girls camp and scout functions, and Primary activities where the children made picture frames out of tongue depressors. I've never knitted anything, but I recently crocheted beads onto a dozen pair of socks to send to an orphanage in Siberia. And what's more, I don't regret spending my time on any of these ventures.

In this group we are mothers, wives, neighbors, visiting teachers, and involved in all sorts of school and church work. We may very well fall into the category number two--unprolific writers. That's okay. We have all eternity to work on our talents. Let's never feel like our other duties--the daily acts of service we give to others--are less valuable in God's eyes. In some cases being number two is not so bad at all.