Monday, June 29, 2009

Coming and Going

My children have come up with a brilliant scheme for making money this summer. Basically, they've learned how to get Mommy coming and going.

Yesterday they woke me up, insisted that I get dressed, then ushered me out to the family room where a pink princess table waited with a menu. As you can tell from the photo, this table was not built for adults. Much as I'd love to destroy this pretty plastic posession (note: my brother who has no children gave Jasmine the beloved table that we have no room for in our house) I thought it would be safer to sit on the sofa.

Well, I was treated to a lovely breakfast at The Brunch Cafe (they serve breakfast and lunch, hence the catchy name). Ovaltine, toast and a platter of sliced peaches, strawberries and blueberries for me, oatmeal and a glass of milk for the father. But before we even finished our meals, their hands were out for payment. It is a café after all. Not like we should be able to eat for free in our own home!

Granted, the prices are very good. I think I paid a dime for my meal. To each of them. Unfortunately, I was still on KP duty. I guess at those prices, what can you expect. Lunch set me back another 20 cents. They called up my brother and insisted that he have lunch at their café as well, only I had to pay for his meal. (And he didn't sit at the pink plastic table either.)

I've been told that the café is open Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. But due to the initial success, they might be expanding their hours of operation, and the menu. Today at the grocery store they told me their father has requested filet mignon. I'm wondering how much that's going to run on the menu. And who's going to cook it...

Of course, with the prices they charge, they might be able to buy an ice cream cone from Rite Aid by the end of next week. Just think what they'll earn by the end of summer!

Winners and Liars

Does anybody remember the Thompson Twins? When Carrie Harris tagged me for this meme, the song "Lies, Lies, Lies" came immediately to mind.

"Sometimes you can learn more about a person by what they don’t tell you. Sometimes you can learn a lot from the things they just make up. If you are tagged with this Meme, lie to me. Then tag 7 other folks (one for each deadly sin) and hope they can lie."

Well, I'm a terrible liar (really!) but I figure I make up stuff every day and write it down. How different is this? So here goes:

Pride: What is your biggest contribution to the world?
My chocolate chip muffins. Have you tasted them? One bite and you’ll be hooked. That little doughboy creature is at the door trying to steal the recipe, but I think Plankton might have beat him to it.

Envy: What do your coworkers wish they had which is yours?
Everything -- my looks, my life, my inexplicable ability to tell the difference between Charmin and Quilted Northern. (Don’t even try to make me wipe with anything other than Charmin!)

Gluttony: What did you eat last night?
Have I mentioned the muffins? All 4 dozen that I baked in my professional Easy Bake Oven?

Lust: What really lights your fire?
Marilyn Manson is my dream guy.

Anger: What is the last thing that really pissed you off?

When the children asked for breakfast this morning. I mean really, who do I look like, their mother?

Greed: Name something you keep from others.
If I told you then I’d be giving it up. You can’t trick me that easily!

Sloth: What's the laziest thing you've ever done?
I don’t actually have to lie about this. I’m probably the laziest person I know. In fact, I’m still in bed, wearing my pajamas and ignoring the children’s pleas for food…

And in case you've forgotten the song, here it is in all its 80s glory.

Now for the winners...well, actually it's only one winner. Jasmine pulled the winning name for Rena Jones' debut picture book, A New Job for Dilly. And the winner is...


Yay! Email me your address and let me know if you'd like a special inscription. Rena will be autographing the book before she sends it your way. Enjoy!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Interviewing my Author Friends

Look what arrived for me today! Yay!

If you're not familiar with Beth Kephart, you can read my interview here. And over at My Friend Amy's blog, Amy and Lenore throwing a book drive party with fabulous prizes. They are trying to get 200 sales for Beth through their blog, so if you haven't bought the book yet, do it through their link.

I've enjoyed interviewing authors on my blog, and I have to say, I've noticed a trend...these friends of mine are doing well, winning awards and gaining momentum in the marketplace. And who, you may ask, is this happening to? Well, since being interviewed on my blog:

Jessica Burkhart's Canterwood Crest series has been optioned for a TV series or movie, and the first book of the series has gone to reprint.

Thalia Chaltas was named as a Flying Start author by Publisher's Weekly. Her book, Because I am Furniture, is also going into a second run.

Val Hobbs' book Sheep was chosen as this year's California Young Reader Medal winner for intermediate readers. Sheep was extremely popular in hard cover and was reprinted in paperback in April.

I love success stories. I'm so excited for all of them and thrilled that I got to share their stories here on my blog. Now, I'm off to the sofa. The kids are gone, the house is clean, and I can't wait to read Nothing but Ghosts.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Write a Review Wednesday: The Hunger Games

I didn't want to read this book.

To be perfectly honest, the whole premise kinda creeped me out: teenagers fighting each other to the death on national television? Pass. Not really my thing.

The people I know who had read the book were quite rabid in their adoration. "You have to read this. Amazing book!" I would politely nod and go about my business, not quite sure if they were off their rocker or if I was just completely out of touch with popular culture. I was pretty sure I didn't need to read about some grotesque killing spree.

Two things happened to change my mind. First, I fell in love with Gregor. And second, The Hunger Games landed in my lap. Literally.

When I started reading Gregor the Overlander, I had no idea that the same author wrote The Hunger Games. But before I finished reading the first book, I knew that I had to read all five. Not only did I borrow them in rapid succession from the library, I had to buy them, and read parts over again because I was just floored by the brilliant way the narrative was woven together. Anyone who can make me cry over the death of a cockroach has to be amazing.

Of course I bought them from my local indie, The Book Loft. The people in there know us, know our reading preferences. In fact, my son has gone in there to buy a book with no money...and they let him! They know I'll be along in a day or so to pay. You don't get that at a Borders. But I digress.

My point in mentioning the Book Loft, is that one day after I had bought all of the Gregor books and raved about them (go figure!) Kathy, the owner, handed me her ARC of The Hunger Games. "Since you liked all her other books, I thought you might like this one."


I'm quite positive that my mouth dropped open and I stumbled over myself trying to thank her. I mean, how many time have you gone into a book store and had them GIVE you a book that you should be paying $20 bucks for in hardcover? A Suzanne Collins ARC? I swept all reservations aside and plunged into the book.

What I learned from reading Gregor, is that Suzanne Collins is a masterful storyteller. She can take a situation that others would sensationalize, and make it moving and beautiful. A subject that seemed savage and abhorrent to me at first glance, came together in her hands in a way that surprised and touched me.

I LOVED this book.

I know, I'm going all fan girl here, and truly, if I came anywhere near her, I would probably make a complete fool of myself. But if you haven't read any of her books, you simply must. Her writing is brilliant.

Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games, is the must have ARC now. I spent last night googling every site with a giveaway and signing myself up. I even found it on eBay for $95! I'm not that desperate. I can wait. I think.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Twitterature? Yikes!

Okay, I probably shouldn't care. It shouldn't matter. But it really bums me out when I hear about book deals like this one:

Book Deal for College Kids' "Twitterature"
The Twitter revolution continues apace as two 19-year-old college freshman just sold "Twitterature: The World's Greatest Books, Now Presented in Twenty Tweets or Less" to Penguin.

Penguin's John Siciliano bought the book, and the deal was brokered by Brian DeFiore at DeFiore and Company. According to LA Observed, the book will be "a humorous retelling" of literary classics in 140-characters or less. The book was pitched by Emmett Rensin (who is the son of David Rensin, a LA Observed writer) and Alex Aciman. (from GalleyCat)

Like the pet rock and those yellow "Baby on Board" signs, it's the kind of thing I look at and think, "Wow, I can't believe someone thought of a way to make money off of that!"

One the one hand, I can see why the "twitterization" of a book like War and Peace could be funny. With just 140 characters, you really have to boil the plot down to its essence. a writer I'm thinking, holy crap, can someone do that to my book after it goes into the public domain? Ick! Not cool, on so many levels!

Would YOU like it if your book became Twitter fodder?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Author Spotlight on: Rena Jones

When I started blogging last fall, I discovered an amazing community of writers. Some were published, some were pre-published. Little by little, more writers are finding homes for their stories. I'm excited for my friends and encouraged with every success.

One of those writers making the move to becoming a published author is Rena Jones. Her first picture book, A New Job for Dilly, released last week through a small publishing company, 4RV Publishing. Rena also has the books available for sale through a new website linked to her blog.

What attracted you to writing for children?

Actually, it was a little white mountain goat! After visiting Glacier National Park with my family one year, I was inspired to write a story about the mountain goats we had seen. Manny the Mountain Goat was born and I soon became interested in writing stories for children. I have several different versions of Manny and I still have hopes of having them published someday.

How many drafts did you go through to get the story of Dilly just the way you wanted it?
I honestly don't remember the actual number. I have a really bad habit of printing something up dozens and dozens of times and changing it each time.

Do you have an agent?
No, I don't have an agent at this time.

Then how did you find your publisher?
Vivian Zabel [President of 4RV Publishing LLC] posted a thread on a writer's board asking about illustrators. That led me to their website where I saw they were accepting manuscripts and looking for new authors. I jumped at the chance and she got back to me very fast. I received my first contract on 08-08-08. Considering the number "8" has been my favorite since I was a little girl (I was born on the 8th), I took that as a good sign.

And then your books shipped on the 8th of June…
Seems to be a good number -- LOL!

Not only are you a full-time mom to four children, you also home school. How do you find the time to write?

In spurts -- I get in writing frenzies where an idea hits me and then I just make the time. Other times, I'm at a loss for something to write about, so I think it works out pretty even.

Did you always plan for Dilly to be a series of books?
No, and it's funny how Dilly came about. I had plans on writing about a rat who lived on a pirate ship, but I got stuck on the story. Then I decided to turn it into an alphabet book and it just took off from there. Once I had the first story, the next 2 came easily. I have a few more ideas for Dilly too, but that will depend on how well the first books do and if my publisher wants to take on anymore, as well as the illustrator, Lisa Oakman. Dilly is a little neurotic because in order to get anything done, he has to look from A to Z, so that's a repeating feature in the series.

You have SEVEN books coming out over the next 15 months. Tell me about your Critter books. Are they PBs as well? Are they with the same publisher?
I'm really excited about the Critter books also! There are 3 in the series -- Lemur Troops & Critter Groups, Stork Musters & Critter Clusters, and Pony Strings & Critter Things. These are picture books with short rhymes to teach children animal congregation names. An example of one would be, "A pride of lions, dressed like Hawaiians". Nikki Shoemaker is illustrating them and her animal drawings are just cuter than cute, so I know these are going to be adorable books. The only reason there are 3 of them is because I had 66 animal groups listed, which would have made for a pretty long picture book. By spliting them into 3 books, we will have a fun little series. And yes, they are with the same publisher.

I know you were expecting to get the books in April. What caused the delay and how hard was it waiting?

From what I've been told, Dilly's illustrator, Lisa Oakman had some unexpected family emergencies that threw her off schedule for awhile... Then there were some problems with the file size for the printer, so that added to the delay. It was hard waiting, but by that point, the situation was out of my hands. In the end, the wait was worth it because I love the book. I'm as happy as a cucumber in a jar of brine!

What did your kids say when they saw and touched the books for the first time?
Oh, it was fun! For the past 3 days I've been driving down to our mailbox (2 miles away) to see if the books had come. Each day I've come back kind of sad. Today, as I drove into the driveway, I saw my youngest, Neil standing at the window looking out. I held up the book as I drove into the garage. I saw him throw up his fists in the air and it looked like he said, "YES!" He ran into the garage to meet me and I gave him the book. Then he ran downstairs screaming, "Dilly's here! Dilly's here!" Rick, Nathan & Neil came upstairs and each of them grabbed a book. Rick read it outloud and the boys followed along in their copies. It was fun. Both my daughters are out of town though, so they haven't seen it yet. Nicole will be home in a week, but Nichelle is in Maui, so I'm planning on mailing her a copy... I'm sure she will get a kick out of sharing it with her new friends. Not only that, but I just know Dilly will love going to Hawaii! They do have pickles in Hawaii, right?

With so much going on, how do you find balance in your life?

Good question! Honestly, even though I have 4 children, there's an 8 year gap between my girls and my boys. That makes a big difference. Nichelle is 19, Nicole is 18, Nathan is 9, and Neil is 7. I'm homeschooling everyone but Nichelle, and Nicole will be graduating this year. Since we've been homeschooling 11+ years, we're set into a routine, which makes it easier. Finding balance can be tricky and I have a habit of putting my family first. I consider myself pretty low-maintenance and really don't have any huge desire or need to get out and spend time on myself. "Me time" would be being able to write, listening to music, or taking pictures. As long as I give myself time for simple things like that, everything seems to balance itself out.



Written by Rena Jones and Illustrated by Lisa Oakman
Dilly loves pickles, and the more sour the better. He has just one problem -- finding pickles he can eat. A 48-page alphabet rhyming book for ages 4-8.

If you'd like to win a copy of A New Job for Dilly, tell me about your best and/or worst experience with pickles in the comments. Entries will be randomly drawn on Sunday, June 28. Followers get an extra entry :)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Weekdays in Vegas

Three days away from my wireless connection was difficult. I'm sorry, but I like to be plugged in.

Despite the lack of internet access, I have to say we had a great time in Las Vegas. We drove up to Mt. Charleston (who knew there was skiing 45 minutes from downtown?), visited Red Rock Canyon, crossed back and forth between Arizona and Nevada atop Hoover Dam, and lounged in and around the Luxor pools. Not your typical Vegas vacation, although we did venture out on the Strip a bit.

I think my son had the most fun visiting Hoover Dam, but not for the reasons you might think.

"Why'd you bring us on this dam vacation?" *giggle*snort* from the back seat.
"We thought you'd have a dam good time." *belly laugh*
"There's too many dam people here." *snarf*giggle*
"Well stop your dam complaining!" *choking laughter*
"Can I get a dam souvenier?" He's laughing so hard he can't breathe by now.
"Yes, but you realize you'll have to stop all this dam cursing once we leave the dam?"

I missed my Write a Review Wednesday. Did I mention I didn't have internet access? But I still did push ups on the hotel floor, and I even started doing sit ups during the rest periods! Of course, I ate so much that I didn't lose weight, even with all that exercise. On the bright side, I didn't gain any either.

Much as we liked the Luxor, the kids and I decided we don't want to stay there ever again. Is it wrong to reject a hotel that charges $14.95/day for internet access over an Ethernet wire? I think not.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Great Expectations

I met a friend for lunch the other day. And apologized for the weather.

What is it about living in California that makes us apologize whenever the weather is anything but sunny and warm? I actually love the rain and the fog, but I know it's not what people expect when they come to visit Solvang (the name actually means "sunny fields" in Danish!).

Expectations play a huge role in the world of books. When you attend a conference, you have high expectations for what you hope to achieve there (touch an editor, worship an author, beg an agent). Based on your query, agents and editors have certain expectations for your novel (so hopefully your query builds the right expectation).

Expectations seem to run the highest when we're on the cusp of something new. New job, new friend, new book, new agent. I'm starting a critique group with a friend from writing class and I expect to improve my writing as a result. I enjoyed reading The Hunger Games so I expect to be blown away by Catching Fire. I'm visiting Las Vegas so I expect to have a great time with my family. I expect to find an agent soon and continue on the next step of my writing journey.

What are your Great Expectations for the near future?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Meet Kung Fu Kitty

"Have no fear! Kung Fu Kitty is here!"

My daughter started shouting this a few months ago. Unfortunately, we usually hear this cry moments before she launches her body into her brother. See, he's her arch nemesis, Radical Rat. Only he doesn't have a costume. Not that you need a costume to fight.

Kung Fu Kitty is a game that Jasmine made up, a game where she hunts down the enemy to save the world. As you can tell from the fancy moves in the photo, her knowledge of kung fu doesn't go far beyond the actual words. I think she's seen Kung Fu Panda once but, y' know, it's not really instructive in the art of kung fu fighting.

The thing is, every time I hear that battle cry, I'm torn. I don't like to have my kids fighting. But...the stories she comes up with for Kung Fu Kitty are vibrant. If only I knew a writer who could get all this down and make it into a graphic novel series, I just know they'd have a bestseller on their hands...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Yeah, I'm a Twit

Okay, I know a bunch of you are tweeting out there. And much as I hate to acknowledge new technology, an email from Greg Pincus made me realize that I should at least reserve my name. After seeing his advice and the Shrinking Violets' experiment, I decided to jump in. I followed Greg's directions at The Happy Accident and became a Twit.

Now what?

The first thing I've discovered is that Twitter is not as friendly as Facebook. Facebook was easy to figure out. I make comments on a friend's wall and it shows up in relation to their original comment. Twitter doesn't work that way (at least I haven't found a way to make it work that way). All I have are these random replies showing up on my Twitter page that are in response to other people's comments on their Twitter page.

Confused yet? Try reading my Twitter page. Not only does it have my random responses, it has random comments from people I follow. But there's no thread. It makes no sense!

And is it useful? I already have a Facebook account (which I use primarily for finding old highschool and college friends) and this blog, and, oh, yeah, my web page. Sometimes I worry that I'm spending too much time on my computer, and a lot of it is NOT writing time.

So really, I guess the question is how is this helping my writing career and how much information is too much information?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Poem from my Son & a Launch Party, Too

Sometimes I read things that my son has written and I'm blown away. I wasn't that good when I was his age. He's a gifted writer and I'm so lucky to get to watch him grow and improve.

I'd say this even if he wasn't my child. Really.

This was an assignment from school, a color poem. The descriptions were so vivid, and of course the illustration was perfect.

Red is like lava,
a bad feeling.

Red tastes like hot candies
and sounds like roaring wind.

Red looks like sulfuric ashes.
It feels like hot embers.

Red makes me angry.
Red is evil.


Cynthea Liu is having a launch party for her new book, Paris Pan Takes the Dare. Wander on over to the site, take some dares, win some prizes. And while you're there, take some notes for launching your own book. Cynthea's online launches are brilliant!

Write a Review Wednesday: Savvy

I realize I should be doing push ups right now, but I thought I'd avoid them for a few minutes longer by doing a book review. Tara Lazar alerted me to Write a Review Wednesday so I'm going to try to remember to post a review of a children's book each week.

This week's review is of SAVVY, by Ingrid Law. If you take a look at my reading list, you'll see that most of the MG/YA I read is fantasy/adventure. What can I say. I like action. But every so often a simple coming-of-age story will capture my attention and make me want more. SAVVY is that kind of book.

Now some of you who have read the book might disagree with me about the genre of this book because it does have a lot of fantasy-like elements. As Editor Kate Harrison said, "It's fantasy lite." But really the book is about family, friendship, secrets and figuring out who you are in a given moment of time. The book is filled with memorable characters, a crazy adventure and funny situations. It's a great summer read.

Here's the publisher's blurb:
For generations, the Beaumont family has harbored a magical secret. They each possess a “savvy”—a special supernatural power that strikes when they turn thirteen. Grandpa Bomba moves mountains, her older brothers create hurricanes and spark electricity...and now it’s the eve of Mibs’s big day.

As if waiting weren’t hard enough, the family gets scary news two days before Mibs’s birthday: Poppa has been in a terrible accident. Mibs develops the singular mission to get to the hospital and prove that her new power can save her dad. So she sneaks onto a salesman’s bus...only to find the bus heading in the opposite direction. Suddenly Mibs is on an unforgettable odyssey that will force her to make sense of growing up—and of other people, who might also have a few secrets hidden just beneath the skin. For ages 9 and up.

So what are you reading this summer? Any good recommendations?

Oh, and for all Blogger/Facebook/Twitter fans, you've got to read this article.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Up to the Challenge

I'm laying this all at the feet of Carrie Jones. Especially if I end up typing this from the Emergency Room...

Today was the start of the Push Up Challenge. Kidlit Kim actually got the ball rolling. Carrie added some momentum and recruited 18 more of us to join in. The goal is to do 100 consecutive push ups in six weeks.

I guess part of my motivation is the fact that it's June and the thought of putting on a swimsuit makes me want to curl up under the covers until Halloween. I'm much more of a winter person. I like seasons where jeans, sweaters and jackets are encouraged, things that cover my body rather than reveal it.

So the Push Up Challenge seemed like a good idea. Until I started doing the push ups this morning and heard every joint in my upper body creaking, popping and groaning for me to stop. Then the dog came to lick my face and decided to lay on my back, giving me an additional 9 pounds to lift. (Thank God he's a little dog!!)

I made it through day one and we only have to do it every other day. My goals are small: don't have a heart attack, don't give up. And in six weeks, who knows. I'll either be laying on the floor waiting for someone to discover my corpse, or I'll be sending Carrie a box of chocolates to celebrate our beautiful bathing suit bodies!

Wish me luck! Better yet, join in the misery :)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Poetry Friday

Nature keeps putting words in my head.

We had a rare rainstorm move through last night and today. (It never rains in Southern California, especially not in June!) The lovely sound inspired me to try another poem. I overshot the 15 word limit by three. Oh, well.

Have a great weekend everyone!

It rouses me from sleep.
The drip, drip, dripping
Steady, unrelenting
Gentle bouncing
Slipping sliding
Of renewal.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Hear my Voice

So now as you read this post, are you wondering what my voice sounds like? Yeah, I knew you were :)

That got me to thinking (dangerous as that can be). It also got me to playing with Garage Band and that fabulous Podcast feature and, well...

My son, Drew, is nine-and-a-half. Don't forget the half. It's very important. He's an avid reader who enjoyed The Last Olympian so much that he's reading it for a second time. And believe me, since I paid full price the day it came out, I'm thrilled to be getting my money's worth out of the book!

Anyway, I dragged him over to my computer and started asking him questions about the book and recorded it all. Forgive the one-word answers. He's nine. And a half. And never been interviewed before!

Assuming I can figure out how to upload the file to Blogger (!) maybe you'll have a better idea about the voice behind the blog :)

45 minutes later: *sigh* Making the podcast was easy. Embedding it is not. Maybe next time I'll just do a video...

UPDATE: Okay, since I can't seem to embed the file on this page, try clicking the link below to hear the podcast. Hope it works!!

Sherrie and Drew's Podcast Link

Monday, June 1, 2009

Voices in my Head

“Whose voice do you hear in your head when you read?”

My husband looked up from the book he was reading to ask me the question.

“It depends on what I’m reading,” I replied. "If it's the newspaper, I hear my voice. Or sometimes I guess I hear Charlie Gibson or Robin Roberts. If I'm reading a book, I usually hear a different voice for each character."

" you hear multiple voices in your head." He laughed. "Why am I not surprised?"

Well...doesn't everyone? Not only do I have the voices, I've got the full visual of where they are, the weather, the home, the terrain...even when the author doesn't give me all those details. My brain fills it in and creates these vibrant scenes.

I distinctly remember reading Savvy and giving Mibs the voice of Cherry Jones. I've only heard her before on the audio book version of Because of Winn Dixie. But her lovely drawl seemed perfect for Mibs.

It's not often that a character in a book brings to mind a well known person or place. Usually I create my own voices, my own visuals. I guess that's why most movies based on books are sorely lacking for me. Hollywood can't match my settings or my special effects. Or my voices.

And it's not just when I read. I've got multiple voices going when I write, as well. I mean, if they were all my voice, wouldn't that be kind of boring? (Not to mention WEIRD since I write middle grade!)

What about you? Do you hear characters voices when you read and/or write? Or should I be telling this to my therapist?
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