Of all my tens of followers… do any of you want in on a crit group?

I discovered this link while I was still on my high horse that I managed to get a picture idea from random idea to completed first draft, all in an hour. As a management consultant, I can definitely perform under pressure, the question is can I be creative under pressure as well?  Ask me May 8th.

My idea was that after NaPiBoWriWee, we could get together (via email) and crit a story a week for the next 7 weeks.  I’m open to suggestions though, so if you’re interested please leave a comment telling me how to get in touch with you!


Back in the saddle but with a change of direction

I am still reeling from the break-in.  I no longer feel safe in this neighborhood, not to mention I am disgusted with my neighbors who saw the kids jump our fence, but refuse to give over their names since “we’ve known the kids on this street since they were in diapers”, “they come from a broken home”, and my favorite, “but I’m a Christian and the Bible says YOU have to forgive!

Personally, I don’t come from an intact family either (although death was the “homewrecker”) and yet somehow I’ve managed to go 30+ years without committing larceny.

You would think I live the inner city from what I’m describing, but the only thing “ghetto” about this neighborhood is that people do their own landscaping – the houses are medium-sized, 3 or 4 bedroom homes, and my 10 year old Civic is by far the dumpiest car on the block.

As much as I really appreciate my brothers in law M’s and A’s and my cousin in law (?) D’s cyclically making sure I have access to a laptop at most times, I’ve got to find my own.  On this one, I will install tracking software and  consider the forced donation of my beautiful brand-new laptop, that my husband busted his rear end in overtime to buy and lovingly and painstakingly selected for me, all the donation I owe to east Miramar.

My husband found a halfway draft of Princess Amelia on his computer that I’m going to start reviving soon, but I’ve started by reconstructing some of my short stories.  My March submission for the 12×12, I was able to reconstruct from scratch, and am hammering out the edits from my fabulous Crit Group 6.  But the picture books I’ve written, I will be able to recover faster, so I’m going to shift my focus for right now to finding an agent for those.

Setbacks and Need Advice

Confession: Children (specifically the 3 teenagers down the street who were seen breaking into my home in broad daylight yesterday) aren’t necessarily always the best people in my book.

Among the few thousand dollars worth of stuff stolen, was my laptop, which idiotically I didn’t back up anywhere. Admittedly I’m most upset that all my pictures and videos of my son are now gone, but readers, I’d like your advice on how to handle the intellectual property theft of my stories. My MG novel (Princess Amelia and two sequel sketches)and many short stories are gone. Conveniently, I also saved a list on the hard drive of publishers and agents to check out.  As hubristic as it may sound, I admit I’m concerned about seeing something *I* wrote, get published under some stolen property buyer’s name.

Any advice on managing/preventing this situation is appreciated.

And to those of you out there who have raised or are raising non-punks… thank you. Your kids are the ones whom I hope will love my books someday.

April Fool, Phyllis! (The World Tour Edition)


My house was among the first stops in Susanna Hill’s fabulous book tour:

It’s not the Susanna herself that’s going on tour though, just the book.  All of the publicity, and none of the jet lag.  So we reviewers are all signing our names, locations, and weather coordinates to the book.  I’m also going to make sure Phyllis mails Susanna a postcard before she Priority Mails (cheaper than flying coach, plus no hassles from TSA!) to Los Angeles.

In April Fool, Phyllis! we meet again with Punxsutawney Phyllis, the first female weather groundhog from a very long line of Punxsutawney Phils. 

Sensing a blizzard coming on April Fools’ Day, Phyllis tries to let her family know – they need to cancel the Spring Treasure Hunt so people can stay safe inside!  But they all laugh at her “joke”, which inspires a few more April Fools’ pranks of their own.  Then while out on the treasure hunt, the blizzard hits!  Will the little groundhog kids make it home on time?

Of course they will; this is a children’s book after all. But Ms. Hill gives the reader just enoguh time to get worried before Phyllis saves the day (in a way that could inspire a more inquisitive child to want to learn more about trees).  The groundhog children get home in time to enjoy a sweet surprise, and Phyllis’s real April Fool’s joke.

Kids will also like the section at the end talking about the history and international traditions of April Fool’s day.  (And by “kids”, that can mean “adults who’ve been 28 for a few years now, who submit a fake doctor’s note to their boss, stating they’re now to bring their notoriously ill-behaved cats to the office as service animals”.)

The pictures are the best sort -detailed enough that they could double as wall art and/or tell the story themselves.  Jeffrey Ebbeler is the sort of artist who makes me wish I’d paid attention in Art class, so I could have the proper terminology to describe how great his drawings are.  See if you can spot the Bilbo Baggins homage in the background, the bundled-up bees exhaling “smoke” into the snow, or the bespectacled, mustached goldfish.

All in all, Susanna (and Jeffrey!) get a 5/5 for not only a great story and pictures, but a fabulously creative book tour idea.

In Defense of the Audiot

Audiotn. One who, instead of reading an actual book like a literate human being, listens to them on tape practically nonstop. See Vidiot.

At the November 2011 Writers’ Day of the awesome SCBWI Cen-Cal chapter, a piece of advice was given to the effect of, “The first step to becoming a good writer is to read, read, read.”

After an almost 30 year love affair with, and the GDP of a moderately wealthy country invested in, books, I could not agree more.  Any excuse to keep fattening my library, right?  It’s a great thought until you have a husband, child, and an insanely cool temp job that you’re hoping will become permanent.  The only physical books I’ve read since giving birth were of the board variety, and lately, increasingly focusing on funny noises and gross-out humor.  I just don’t think I have any boad books in me, so that doesn’t really help me as a middle-grade writer.  And days like today, it took all I had to stay up to watch The Office.

So this week in the car ride between my son’s school and work, I’ve been listening to the first book in The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series.  Like most quirky but brilliant middle grade semi-fantasy novels, I wish I’d written it myself.  And like with many audiobooks, I wonder what cool illustrations I’m missing. 

But it does beat NPR and Raffi.  And if it helps me as a writer too?  I guess that’s just a sacrifice I’ve got to make…

“I would’ve written you a shorter letter, but I didn’t have time…”

I’m finally getting a chance to SIT today and focus on editing Princess Amelia (Middle Grade, magical realism novel) to go to the Penguin Tarcher competition*.

I’m excited to have family around, to have moved to an actual _house_, and to have started an awesome part/time temp position in an insanely cool company I’m hoping I can convince to hire me. But it becomes a time management challenge to do that and write, and I take a few weeks to get fully ramped up.

I keep hearing 30,000 – 40,000 words for a MG novel, and editors would rather see that be on the shorter end for a first time writer. BUT… to tell Princess Amelia’s and Zoe’s stories/story as it needs to be told, in a character-driven way where we see both girls evolve?  I went from 35,000 to 38,000 on the first pass, and I see that growing to 40,000 easily.

Not to compare myself to the brilliant Liz Kessler, but I couldn’t help but notice the Emily Windsnap books are in the range of 40,000 to 45,000.

What do you think, followers?  Is the longer debut novel  something I can get away with?

*Which, I’d love to add a link to this but I’m still posting from my trusty but limited Droid. Apparently after 3 weeks it’s still too much to ask for AT&T to get their act together and send us the modem! I’ll drop this subject now, as anything further I have to say is highly inappropriate for a blog about writing for children.