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Friday, July 20, 2018

Five For Friday: Dumplings, Bathroom Tile, STUMPKIN, SWEETY, And Other Stuff

What five things make me happy today?
(I could definitely go with five that don't make me happy but couldn't we all at this point?)

1. The soup dumplings at One Dragon in Houston's China Town. Yummy little water balloons of deliciousness. A mom and pop place for sure - I think there are like 8 tables and you wait outside if they're all filled which they often are.

2. The beautiful succulent plant in a cute little pot that I got at Trader Joe's. It prefers minor water and not much sunlight - perfect for a neglectful gardener like me.

3. The almost done bathroom remodeling that has filled this house with dust. I didn't used to be a person who got all gooey over new counter tops and shower heads and tile but I think I'm gonna throw a cocktail party in this room. Force our friends to get as excited as I am. Because this bathroom has been the original bathroom from whenever the house was built. And it was time.

4.  Two picture books that I've seen in F&G form that I am so excited about: Lucy Ruth Cummins' STUMPKIN, coming this fall, about a pumpkin who wants to be a jack o lantern except he lacks a sturdy stem, and next spring's SWEETY by Andrea Zuill, about a naked mole rat who just wants to be herself. (she wears fabulously homely outfits and has braces, complete with headgear and I am in love with her.)

5. The tiny ice cream cones (also from Trader Joe's). First because they are tasty. Second because the box lists not only the calories of one or three but the entire box, which while not my thing is certainly pleasantly aspirational for those just in case moments.

Til next time.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Five For Friday (Including some random thoughts on Captain Ahab)

Well, my goal to post more each month got blown out of the water in June now, didn't it? That's what three road trips and a bunch of work and trying to finish a manuscript and remodel the bathroom and slog through 95 degree plus days all month long will do to a girl.

So back at it and here you go with a quick Friday Five of things that are making me happy even if the world seems a giant trash fire most days.

1. Had a great time last month at ABA Children's Institute! Learned a bunch. Caught up with some of my favorite publishing folks. Met some new fabulous folk. Got to speak on a panel. Ate a bunch of yummy New Orleans food, much of it provided by publisher dinners. (As a mid-list author I am not always on the publisher 'family dinner' invite list. As the children's buyer at an indie, I am sitting at the table while the waiter asks me filet or fish and I am beyond thankful to get to rub elbows and drink a bit o' wine.) Bonded with the Brazos gang as we drove through a torrential downpour most of the way from Houston to NOLA.

2. The bathroom remodel folks were able to put up the new recessed lighting I have wanted for like 10 years. Nothing else in there is done, but the lighting is kick ass!

3. The homemade hot chocolate and mini churros at Xochi in Houston. Do I even have to elaborate?

4. The new season of YOUNGER. If you are not watching, you need to be watching.

5. The sweet earnestness of THE BOLD TYPE.

Also, I am slogging through Moby Dick, a chapter or two a night. It's our store summer book club read and although I am not in charge and don't have to read, I thought I would attempt. It is different than I remembered when I didn't finish it the first time. It is still long-winded to the extreme. I am still skimming long passages and am none the worse for doing so. But Ishmael and Queegqueg are quite the buddies and some of it is really funny (although possibly not intentionally so) and so onward I go.  No clue when I'll finally meet Ahab. At this pace I'd imagine he doesn't appear until around page 150, but I could be wrong about that. I'll let you know.

Til next time.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Five for Friday

And Friday has rolled around again. Mid-May already, too, although by our 95+ degree weather this week you'd think it was July.

Here's what's making me happy this week:

1. Krusteaz brand lemon square mix. Yes it's better if you make them from scratch. But seriously, this mix isn't bad. It's lemony and the crust is tasty and it comes out of the pan smoothly and honestly, that's about all I want in a dessert with a 2 buck price point.

2. The soup at Local Foods. Today I tried chicken posole and it's quite the cup of yummy goodness. Yes, I had soup for lunch on a 95+ degree day. Deal with it.

3. My Brazos colleague Ben because he can quote almost all the dialogue from Young Frankenstein. Possibly he can quote all of it; I haven't actually checked this scientifically. Also, I have to admit that I do judge people who never quote favorite lines from movies. How can you not have favorite lines? How can you not love using them when the moment is right?

4. This season of RHONY. If you watch, you know why we all love it. If you don't, well, I guess it's like that whole crazy Yanny or Laurel thing that's burning up the internet right now. (For the record, I hear Yammy -- which is close to Yanny but not exactly.)

5. The news that Nathan Fillion is coming back in a police drama called The Rookie. So what if it feels hugely derivative of a million things including Castle. It's Captain Mal, people! Wearing a police uniform. Having a mid life crisis. Giving earnest speeches. Being wryly funny. Occasionally showing the darker edge like he did as evil Caleb in Season 7 Buffy. Okay I think it was Season 7. Maybe it was 6. Either way, Nathan Fillion is returning to prime time. I'm in. Yup.

And that is 5 things that make Joy happy this week.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Monday Musings on Books, Customers, the Difference Between YA and Adult, and Other Stuff

 I love my job. I mean I seriously adore it. I get to play with books for part of my living and work with colleagues who are creative and clever and talk to customers who value independent bookstores and are willing to pay full retail to keep them going, keep them a center of literary life in the community. Customers who will call us first and consciously not press that seductive buy button on the A--- site because they want us to exist and thrive. So as my manager says, Bully for that. (Actually what he frequently says is, Bully for you, Joy when I announce something that I'm excited about.)

But still. People are...people, you know?
And sometimes they say stuff. Goofy stuff.
An example for your Monday morning pleasure:

At least three times a week I field a phone call that goes something like this:
Customer: "Hi! I am looking for an obscure book on Glockenspiels of Iowa from 1897 - 1895, a topic only I care about but hey, you're a bookstore."
Me: "Well, let me see what I can find."
Me: Does some spiffy quick research on our distributors sites and elsewhere and holy moly, it exists! Ingram has one in stock.
Me: "Great news! I've found one. It can be here in 4 business days."
Customer: "No thanks. I needed it this afternoon."


In other news, I am reading the WICKED KING arc, the sequel to Holly Black's fabulous CRUEL PRINCE. It is as absolutely wonderful as I want it to be. In fact, it's better!

Other books on my nightstand:

NIGHT FILM by Marisha Pessl. This one came out in 2013, but we're hosting Pessl for her new YA next month and I wanted to read some of her back list and holy cow this  one makes your heart pound!

MARLENE by Julie Buntin, which is about female friendship and a tragic event in the past that's defined everything that's come since then. It reminds me a bit of THE GIRLS by Emma Cline (which honestly was a depressing read for me) but I'm liking it so far although there are spots where I wish the writing was sparer. That said it is always interesting to read about teen characters told from an adult vantage point and always interesting to note how different that feels in terms of character development and narration than actual YA. You'd think it wouldn't be that different, but it is. Because the adult narrator knows how an event has shaped and formed and destroyed. The teen in the moment does not. Both have value in story telling. But you really can tell the difference.

On that same note, I'm interested to read the new Michael Ondaatje book WARLIGHT which looks back at two teen characters in 1945 in post war London and then moves them forward into adulthood, carrying their scars and secrets.

But for now I need to finish my own manuscript. And so it goes.
Happy Monday!













Monday, May 7, 2018

Tears, Tears, and Yup, More Tears: My Adoration for Call the Midwife

Truth? I didn't start watching it right away. But one friend and then another and then another (all writer friends, which was interesting) kept saying watch it. You need to watch it. And so I did. Made the husband watch it, too -- assuming it was not his thing but hey it was Sunday night at 7 PM and he had ended up loving Downton Abbey more than I did -- stuck around for the PBS after show with Eddie Manous--who I recently got to meet when he was in conversation with Sean Penn the other night for a store offsite even, but that is neither here nor there.

And here's what happened: I fell in love with this show. It shouldn't have worked for me. I am snarky and jaded and I can see a plot line coming a mile away and sometimes the characters are a bit too broadly drawn and the happy resolutions are a bit too happy and there are nuns! Lots of nuns. Although honestly I'm a sucker for stories with nuns and not just that movie/play (you know the one) where the hills are alive with the sound of music and the Nazis get outplayed and the Von Trapps walk to Switzerland in lederhosen and capes, singing.

And yet. I love this show. Its characters feel real. Its birth scenes definitely feel real.Which is a good time to mention that its about Nonnatus House -- a group of Anglican nuns who served for years in the East End of London as midwifes. (And yes, I love when they say, "Midwifery" pronouncing the i as a short vowel like in 'if'.) Sometimes I say the word aloud just for fun.

Seven seasons ago it began in the late-ish 1950s, with London just about a decade out of WWII and National Health Care just coming into play and if you've never seen it, although over the years some birthing hospitals came into play, most of these births were home births and the pre and post natal care (which was meticulous) often occurred though cheery home visits as well. Season 7 finale has crawled us up to November 1963. The Nonnatus nuns are augmented by a team of lay nurses who live in the house with them. And let's just say everyone has a story.

I won't do a character analysis for you today, but I feel one coming. I have loved them all -- even if occasionally Dr. Turner is a bit much for me because despite his backstory the man is just too damn nice. A few of the most lovable have been killed off in incredibly sad ways -- one this season and her funeral was last night in the Season 7 finale and it was immeasurably sad in a million ways that should have been treacly but worked. So many sad and happy/sad things last night and then because we'd eeked up to November 1963, in the middle of everything JFK was killed over in America and so the world felt like it was falling apart, as the world often does.

The show is about life and death and all the stuff in between and last night was about grief and how we navigate this new, terribly unfamiliar world after something awful has happened and we are strangers to ourselves. And damn you Fred Buckle (a character I shouldn't like but adore) who made me weep uncontrollably while he was helping (I'm trying to avoid spoilers) a grieving and recently widowed husband.

There was a birthday celebration for Sister Monica Joan at some point after that and Trixie made a surprise appearance and if only Miranda Hart had returned as Chummy I probably would have never needed to watch TV again because it would have been that perfect.

Yeah. You need to watch these 7 seasons. And the Christmas specials, one of which I still haven't seen because my local PBS showed it on New Year's Day and then it disappeared into the ether and not even Netflix has it and what is up with that?

Friday, April 27, 2018

Five For Friday

Things I'm Happy, Excited, or at least not cranky about today:

1. The SCBWI Austin conference, which starts today, where I'll be presenting my workshop: Advice from a Bookseller and doing critiques. I love doing both those things, love seeing author friends, love having a couple days in Austin, love learning from other speakers.  Also, possibly there is uninterrupted work time stashed in those days and I can come closer and closer to finishing this book.

2. A bit more on Laurie Colwin, whose writing I praised earlier this week. I treated myself to Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen and it is such a grand read. It's so refreshingly matter of fact - just hey-- here's how I make fried chicken and why I think it's the perfect fried chicken. It's conversational and after a long day of a million things, I can sink into this plain, delightful prose and it's like a blanket of happy.

3. Getting up early to write. Okay I hate getting up early. But it is quiet and once the dog's needs are met, I get to cozy up to the laptop and get some work done and it's just me and the page and the words and we have a good time together, my words and me, before the news of the day (the crazy rants and tweets and mutterings of you know who and the awful things that people do and say) seeps into my brain.

4. The great day I had this past Tuesday taking Brendan Kiely and Jessie Chaffee on school visits and listening to them talk writing and feminism and toxic masculinity and how to get past the bad stuff and I'm telling you they had those kids held rapt when they talked about falling in love with each other's words.

5. My critique partners who almost never fail to ask questions that help make my work fuller and more layered.

Happy Friday my friends.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Three For Thursday: The Time Travel Version

Yes, yes, not the most imaginative title. But I need to get at least one more April post in and by the way, how in the world is it almost May? Can anyone answer that one for me?

And so--

1. Still enjoying Timeless. It is hokey and predictable and has plot holes big enough to drive through. I love it anyway. It is--obviously-- not perfect, but it is many of the things I've loved in storytelling my entire life: Time travel. Romance. A time machine! The typical time travel paradoxes and the ability to change the present by screwing with the past. Plot lines that allow the characters to interact with historical figures. (Hey! It's JFK in his Connecticut boarding school and they end up having to temporarily bring him back to the present and even warn him about Dallas... not that this changes things) I love the idea of time travel stories so much that the novel I'm working on actually began as a time travel story until my editor announced that she believed it was a contemporary novel hiding behind some time travel hoopla. Okay I don't think she used the word hoopla. But you get the idea. Maybe I should have fought harder for my love of time travel. Maybe I still will at some point. But not with this book. Anyway. Watch Timeless. Sunday nights.

2. Speaking of which -- did you ever see the 50s version of the HG Wells' The Time Machine? There is one scene where they are underground with the Morlocks and one of the Morlocks gets lit on fire (I have no memory of why and no interest in trying to find out) and as he's running and screaming his Morlock scream, if you look at his feet you can see that he's wearing sneakers, and clunky ones at that. This makes me love the movie even more. Like the one version of Julius Caesar (I think it's the one with Marlon Brando playing Marc Antony -- and if you haven't ever seen Marlon Brando delivering the Friends Romans Countrymen speech then get thee to YouTube right now) where one of the extras milling around in a crowd scene gets caught under another extra's toga and has to swat his way out of it while the cameras keep rolling. I love crap like that. I love that no one bothered to correct it.

3. And while we're on the subject of time travel, at least sort of, did anyone else desperately want to be able to tesseract after you first read Wrinkle in Time? (I totally did) Here I need to interject that if you only saw the movie, you also need to read the book.

PS -- My favorite time travel story? Well, one of them is an episode of the original Star Trek. It's called City on the Edge of Forever, and the story itself was written by one of the great sci fi writers, Harlan Ellison. It's the one where Dr. McCoy goes crazy after getting some kind of injection and leaps through a time portal (because of course he does) and Kirk and Spock have to leap too in order to find him because somehow once McCoy goes back history changes and the Enterprise disappears and if they don't change it back they'll be stuck on this planet forever. But they don't find McCoy right away; they're just having to live in some sort of 30s reality and Spock has to wear a hat over his ears all the time and Kirk falls in love with Joan Collins who's playing a woman who runs a mission for the down and out. And of course Spock discovers that there are two versions of history and they all seem to revolve around whether or not Joan Collins lives and somehow causes the wrong side to win WWII. And so Kirk -- unlucky in love as always- has to let Joan get hit by a car. It honestly doesn't get better than this, people. It really doesn't.

yeah. I love the heck out of time travel stories.
How about you?