Monday, January 25, 2010

Holed Up and Reading Lists

After a week of snow days, the oldest is leaving for school (though on a delayed schedule), the two year old is playing in his room, the baby is asleep in her swing, and my husband is back to work. Ahh! A minute to myself. I savor it.
We ended up getting 3-5 feet, just as NOAA predicted. Three feet on the south side of the house, four feet on the east side, and five on the north. And we've been home bound up until yesterday morning when my neighbor could finally get his tractor through the mess. Some buildings in town even collapsed, among the travesty was the USED BOOKSTORE and the ice rink. Too sad.
Here's what out our back door looked like (as a gauge, that guy there is 5' 10 1/2").
Fun times.
I'm still holed up at my house because THIS week The Boy (the almost-three-year-old) has to take super-mega dilation drops for four days so that the Opthamologist can figure out what his eye prescription should be. Poor thing, his eyes are crossing. So he and I and the baby are sitting in the dark so that he won't go snow blind. Literally.
But that's not what I wanted to post about.
I wanted to show you my list of debut authors! I'm so excited about so many books coming out, but I had to keep the list to a minimum. I have my own writing to do, after all...

1. Julie Kagawa The Iron King
2. Rae Mariz The Unidentified
3. Becca Fitzpatrick Hush, Hush

4. Leaving Gee's Bend By Irene Latham
5. Scones And Sensibility By Lindsay Eland
6. "Paranormalcy" By Kirsten White
7. Rachel Hawkins HEX HALL
8. THE SECRET YEAR By Jennifer Hubbard
10. Chelsea Campbell The Rise Of Renegade X
11. Greg Van Eekhout Kid Vs. Squid
12. Jackie Morse Kessler Hunger
13. Olugbemisola Rhuday Perkovich SEVENTH GRADE SUPERZERO
14. Jennifer Cervantes TORTILLA SUN
15. Prophecy Of Days By Christy Raedeke
16. The Mockingbirds By Daisy Whitney

These books are all part of the YA Debut Author Challenge that I talked about last week. Feel free to join on your own. And think of me, sitting in the dark on a sunny day, reading a stack of good books!

Oh, and don't forget to pick up your own Sunshine... in award form.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Scatter Sunshine

Dude. DUDE. We had three feet of snow fall today. Which we needed, but now that night has fallen, it's pouring rain on top of the snow. Go figure. At least we're not flooding like the rest of the Western US, I guess.

Regardless I haven't seen the sun all day and very little over the course of the week. And we're going stir-crazy at our house (Snow Days all week). So I thought I could use a little sunshine in my life tonight, even if it's only the virtual kind. And then I thought I might as well pass it along!

So anyone, EVERYONE, please feel free to cut and paste this little ray of sunshine to your blog and then post 5-10 quirky/funny things about you that might bring a smile to someone today.

Here are mine (feel to free to laugh at me):

1. I like to stir milk into my ice cream. I eat it almost exclusively this way. Also, when I consume a baked good--say a cookie--I have to have milk with it and there has to be the appropriate proportion of cookie to milk in my mouth for every bite. Chocolate cake with milk poured on top is especially heaven's great elixir.

2. I own every U2 and Beatles album released. And some that weren't.

3. I have a hard time throwing leftovers out, though I don't like to eat them. They'll sit and rot in the fridge until they can walk out on their own. It's not like I lived through the Great Depression, so what is my problem?

4. I'm a morning person: I love being up before the sun (4 am, 5 am--whatever it takes) but after 9 pm, I act so weird people think I'm hopped up on something illegal.

5. I don't like musicals. There, I said it. I'm just not sophisticated enough (I guess) to like contemporary musicals. I like some of the old stuff, but Fiddler on the Roof is the only one that comes to mind. People were just not meant to burst into song about mundane things.

6. *Warning: this one's really gross.* I can't just use a facial tissue and throw it away. No--I have to stuff it in my pocket, the cushion of the couch, anywhere. As if I'm "saving it for later" and another use. It's a very gross habit and it drives Steve crazy. Rightful so.

7. I have a nervous laugh and I use it often. I hate it. If you've seen That 70s Show then you know how that mom, Kitty, laughs nervously to cover for the rude things her husband does? Well, that's me. And yes, I'm do use it to cover for the things my husband does among my own verbal blunders.

8. I'm a picker. I admit it. I can't stand it if my kids have a sunburned scalp, ear wax sticking out their ears, or a very dry scab. They've gotta go. Now.

9. I didn't think about my husband as anything but a friend until my roommate said he reminded her of Mr. Darcy. Hmm... I think I'll start calling him that too: The Real Mr. Darcy.

10. I hate talking on the phone. I avoid even phone calls I have to make until the last possible moment. (Yep. That doesn't work too well when making doctor appointments.)

Now it's your turn. PLEASE participate and scatter along the smiles and sunshine. After you do, please leave me a comment with a link to your post so I can enjoy the fun some more.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

This and That

Wow! I've started quite a few posts the last couple of days and none of them got finished. Sorry. (Well, you probably don't care, but I do.) I suppose that it was bound to happen since the kids have had snow days all week, I've been finishing up revisions, and I'm still not up for much with the surgery A STINKIN' MONTH AGO! Yep, I still can only stand for so long. But hey, I've got my revisions done, I have amassed a lot of research for my WIP, and my husband has taken over most of the household tasks. (Yay for Steve!)

Anyway, I've sent in requested revisions to an agent and I'm nervous. I've done this before and it turned to not so I guess I'm prepared for the worst. I just have to realize it's out of my hands and move on now. WHICH, I might add, I am not too sad about because my WIP is rapidly becoming an obsession. Post-WWII Germany--very interesting time.

I'm signing up for the 2010 Debut Author Challenge. You should too! They need support getting their books out there and someday, hopefully, I'll be in their shoes and will need support too.

And in great, grand exciting news, I'm going to have another contest in February. Yep, that's right--I'm calling it my Feel the Love contest. So stay turned for February 1st. The prizes will likely be one reader's basket of goodies and one writer's basket of goodies. I'll let the winners choose what they want. Each basket will have a favorite book, a few little goodies, and the only book I have published yet: a poorly-written field guide to the mammals of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah. You can use it for toilet paper. Whatever. I'll even sign it. The book, that is, not your toilet paper.

And I'm thinking of going to either the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference in Utah or the LA SCBWI. Are any of you going to either? I would love to meet real, live writers. I mean, sheesh, we're only in the millions.

That's all I got!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Life Lists

Way back when I was a Sensitive Species Biologist in Utah, I would record birds with survey transects on trails, roads, in the wildlands, the towns, cities--everywhere. I also kept up my own life list. A life list is a running total of species you've encountered your whole life. Makes perfect sense, right?
When I moved to AZ and had my second kid, I let my birding days and listing lag. Which is sad because Arizona (especially way down south of me) are Western bird Meccas. We have us some great, bright, beautiful, and rare species here.
But my life list of books--books that I read over and over again--is easier to keep. Mostly because I have them in hand (or rather on my shelf) and they give a cheery wave almost every day. Here are a few that are at the top of my life list (My Lifer Books, as I call them):
1. The Lord of the Rings
I spent a lot of years missing out on these books because I thought they were books only real, die-hard fantasy people liked. Like the girls who liked to wear their cloak and wooden sword on their hips to school. Boy was I wrong! I love these books and they appeal to so many people.
2. The Airman by Eoin Colfer
This book has all the elements I love in a good story: action, adventure, a splash of romance, and science--good, fun science. I adore this YA book.
3. The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling
When I first started graduate school in 1999, I contracted mono. A really bad case. And I was too sick to do field work (or at least well) for months. Escaping into these books was the best cure for my frustration at not being able to physically do the things I wanted/needed to.
4. A Reason for Hope by Jane Goodall
Jane is one of my heroes and I love this memoir-style book. She has an amazing outlook on life and the future.
5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I found Jane Austen my freshman year of high school and it's been true love ever since. It seems at least once a year this book calls to me and we become reacquainted. I love her other books as well (I admit I don't like Norhthanger Abbey, though.)
Those are just a few. What's on your life list? And how do you keep track of your list? On actual paper, a goodreads-type website, a spreadsheet, or in your head?
And speaking of animals, here's a feel good reminder that it's the simple things in life that make one happy--whether it's a book that transports you or a sprinkler run with a sibling.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

You Might Be a Writer Mama if...

10. Your infants would rather play with paper than rattles.

9. Your kids draw comfort at night from the sight of you behind the illumination of a laptop screen. (Or worse, they think your laptop IS their mom.)
8. You forget kids at the bus stop because you're too busy plotting your next WIP.

7. Your children don't even suspect you are cheating on their dad when they hear the words "critique partner".
6. You fight over notebooks with your grade schooler.
5. You name your children after characters in your favorite pieces of literature.
4. Your kids never ask you to tell them a story because they can only stand to hear you wax eloquent for so long.
3. You keep snacks in a low cupboard so they can fend for themselves rather than make you get up from your desk.
2. You type as well one-handed as two. (Well, almost, anyway.)
And the number one reason you can tell you are a Writer Mama:
1. You call your children by your character's names.
Have any of your own? Post them in the comments!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Somber Reminders

As I awoke this morning and kissed my healthy kids good morning, took a long, warm shower, and chose from the many clothes I own, I did so with somber humility. Tragedy can strike at any time, in many ways, and today my heart goes out to the families in Haiti. With a country so poor anyway, I shudder to think what the emergency response situation is like. It makes me all the more committed to a) support humanitarian efforts and encourage others as well to support their favorite charities that aid poor countries and b) prepare my own family for potential disasters. We all have one or more natural disaster that could possibly threaten our homes and lives. In Flagstaf it is forest fire. Be prepared. Have food on hand, have a bag packed ready to leave, and know first aid. Be grateful for what you have. These are the things I need to remember.

And most of all, let us all pray for those who are suffering right now.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Know Any Good Jokes? (And other genre issues.)

Here's a joke I heard the other day:

A father took his little daughter to see a new litter of puppies. When they got home, the girl told her mother, "We saw two girl puppies and two boy puppies!"

The mom said, "How could you tell?"

"Because Daddy picked them up and looked underneath. It was printed on the bottom!"

This got me thinking about labels. I for one hate labels. I hated them in high school and I hate them now. In high school I refused to fit into a stereotype of prep, jock, hippie, stoner, cowgirl, etc. Instead I dabbled in all of them and had friends in every so-called "type".

I feel the same way about kid's literature. I hate to say that I write YA Historical Fiction or MG Fantasy. Rather I want to say I write for kids. Any age of kids. And genres and branding be hanged. Does anyone else feel this way?

I'm sure that I'll have to face genre groupings once (if) I get published, but for now I've come to terms with my dislike and have decided thus:

I'll first write the best books I can--books that appeal to me--and then I'll worry about where they fit in.

Q4U: How do you feel about genre-bending and branding authors in chidren's lit? Where in your process do you start thinking about how your WIP fits in?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

It's 2010, did you know?

It's that time of year when I start thinking about conferences. I peruse the Shaw Guides and day dream how to logistically incorporate it into a family vacation. Then I get overwhelmed and give up. But this year my babies are all bigger and it just might be my year, with or without them! (Though I may bring my husband since he travels for work so much anyway.)

When I was a biologist and my oldest a baby, I always felt like I was ripping my right arm right off my body every time I left to go to a conference. I've not yet learned how to enjoy myself away from them. But I'm ready to try again at least once. (Start small and all that.) So I need your advice:

Which ONE do I choose? Are any of you planning your conference schedules this year? Where are you going? Which would be the best cost versus benefit?

Shooting for the Stars!

A Quote for your day: "Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together." ~ Vincent van Gogh

I love this quote. It makes me think how reaching for the stars is not accomplished in one leap, but continual leaps of faith.

And speaking of stars...

If you are a writer, stop over at Shooting Stars and enter their contest for a free critique or a signed book. Those ladies are awesometastic and any writer would benefit from knowing them. Go. Enter. Learn! (Oh, wait... I really didn't mean to quote my alma mater's slogan. Whoops!)

Friday, January 1, 2010

Nine Things I Learned In 2009

Ha! That's right. I'm still ruminating on the end of a year. (Yes, I know it ended yesterday and I'm okay with being a day late.) I just can't help remarking on things I learned this year. They haven't been huge revelations, but when I think about what I know now versus a year or two ago, I laugh at myself. I don't call names or anything, I just laugh in a derisive, mocking sort of way. So as a kiss off for 2009, here are 9 THINGS I'VE LEARNED ABOUT PUBLISHING THIS YEAR:



You are special. But so is everybody else. Some agent/editor is not just going to walk up to you and say, "Gee, you look like one of those specialtastic people out there who should get a book contract without actually having to edit the crap out of it. Heck, why don't you even send it to me unwritten. I'm sold on the idea alone!"

Yep. I've learned I have to pay my dues, write a gazillion bad words, and learn the hard way how to be a good writer. Sure, there are some people that have gotten a lucky break and didn't have to write the gazillion words. But I want to be the best I can be, so I'm prepared to work hard now so that I'll be ready when my lucky break comes.


There is a huge learning curve in the publishing business. But I've discovered the hard way that I can't let it cut into my writing time, into my own creativity.


I've had a few close calls this year, but I think agents have to be absolutely certain they love your work. If it was hard to get an agent before the economy took a bad turn, I'd say it's even harder now. So requests should be taken as such--requests with no commitment and only a slim chance of a contract.


What?! And I had this dream of sipping herbal tea at a cafe/bookstore or writing masterpieces at a mammoth hardwood desk. Really I get more done if I can write where my kids are, lounging in the living room recliner or the giant bean bag chairs in their bedrooms. That's because I take advantage of those small, numerous moments when they're occupied rather than waiting for a giant block of time. Besides, that Thomas the Tank Engine is truly inspiring. I mean how many different times can YOU say, "he was cross" or "bust my buffers" in conversation and get away with it?


People ask how I could write when I was pregnant. The same way I wrote when I was working full time, had a kid, and taught one night a week at the community college. You've gotta want it more than sleep, more than eat, almost more than air. Health may fail, you might be tired, but you wouldn't be the first to work through those moments. Look at Stephen Hawking! He can't even type his books but he manages. If you want it enough, there is no excuse.


It IS okay. Out of all my family, my sister is the only one that has read a full manuscript. And I have a big family and they are all big readers! Everyone has only so much time. Besides, tastes differ so much in entertainment options. And that's okay. (To be fair, my husband has finally, FINALLY picked up Courtesy and Patience this week. What I write is just not his cup of tea. I still love him anyway.)


I've met so many good writing friends! Some of you may read this so I want to say THANK YOU! It's awesome to know people who know what it means to be obsessed with a hobby and yearn for it to be more than a hobby.


At any given time I have about five things in my head that I think I should be doing. I have to constantly remind myself that to be happy today, I have to make some time for me to create new words. It's a matter of mental health and I've slowly learned that. I physically can't stop myself from writing.


With the requests I've gotten this year I've noticed that even though the advice is contradictory (I love the characters but the plot pulls me out of the story! I love the plot but the characters pull me out of the story!) I can still see the underlying problem. Sometimes it's pacing, sometimes dialogue, sometimes it's something mechanical. But once I've looked at the minutiae, I can see that it's disconnecting the reader from the whole. Hopefully I'm learning to fix this as well as spot it more often in revisions.

Perhaps these are things I should have learned earlier, perhaps they're common sense. But 2010 is here and I can't help but wonder, "What will I learn this year? How close will I be to being published this year?"

And then I think: The number 10 is my favorite number, something great HAS to happen!

Here's to a year that I hope brings great things to you too!