Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy Almost New Year

And where the heck did 2007 go? Let's see if I can recap briefly:
  • Spark revisions
  • Repeat above
  • Spark submissions
  • Spark sale and contract negotiations

Yes, it takes that long. Yes, it is totally worth it when you're finally done.

  • Two final semesters of college for the kid
  • Semester early graduation!
  • Subsequent celebrations including a wonderful gathering yesterday afternoon

Yes, he did it! Yes, it was worth it!

  • A number of trips out to Tempe
  • A rip roaring trip to Vegas
  • A wedding in Chicago
  • Various Texas road trips

All quite memorable, each in its own way.

And in the in between times, family joys and sorrows. Death of a beloved aunt on one side. Adoption of a long awaited child on the other side. Another baby almost here. Some health scares for people we love. Some really fine books, movies and even some rocking tv. (Harry Potter 7, Jenny Downham's Before I Die, and Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely- are 3 books that come to mind immediately. Juno comes to mind for movies cause I just saw it and LOVED it. And my new guilty pleasure Gossip Girl (the OC goes to the Upper East Side) is my tv pick for today.)

And for me in particular, the roller coaster ride of a life time. When I set out to write a novel, I had absolutely no idea what that would really mean in the long run. I just knew I had a story that I wanted to tell. I did not know that not only would it evolve, but so would I. It's an evolution that's still ongoing, so I plan on keeping you posted. Next comes revisions with my editor Lyron Bennett at the wonderful independent publisher Sourcebooks. And after that, well, like I say, I'll let you know.

Tonight, we'll celebrate. Right now, I'm working. Wednesday I'm back at school. Somewhere in the next week, I hope to finally wrap up novel 2 and send it off. Somewhere next week I'll post more about the ongoing Spark journey.

And next time I throw a party, would someone please, please, tell me that just because the double ginormous pack of mustard at Sam's is only $3, it is so not worth it. And that 72 mini yeast rolls for 50 people is about 30 rolls too many if you're also serving other stuff. (and that's not counting the other 20 rolls I bought and froze) Also, if you place dips and chips on the stovetop under that outdated enormous wooden exhaust hood, unsuspecting guests get the bonus of a mini concussion each time they go for the dip. (Ooh, hummus. Thwack!)

Til next year...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

musical heaven

Yes, I know I have yet to post another part of the Spark journey. Sort of keeping it to myself so it continues to feel all shiny and new. Soon, though.

It's been musical heaven around her. Sweeney Todd on Friday. And this afternoon, the off Broadway production of "Altar Boyz" - mildly cute, okay a bit sacchrine, story of a five boy band (4 Christians, one Jew) on their soul saving mission. Was our annual family event where we add the kid and the mother in law to our December theater outing of our subscription package. Went rather well, except that when we changed tickets so we could be a party of four rather than two, we ended up in the first row. Stages theater in Houston is a wonderfully intimate theater. I love it. But if you are in the first row, you are basically on stage with the actors. "We're sooooo close," son whispered to me while mother in law fiddled in purse for cough drop and kleenex. "We're so close" I thought, when one of the actors finished his solo by placing his hand on my knee. Yup. My. Knee.

Then tonight we watched "Once." Irish indie film. Score/songs by Irish band, The Frames. "I don't know you/but I love you" Oh! Romantic. Story between the notes. Loved it. Watched it with the kid and one of yesterdays' football friends. No, not the lovelorn one. Watching a romantic musical with the testosterone crowd means moments like this:

Me: Oh. Look Aer Lingus. When you go to Ireland (kid is planning a trip to Europe) maybe you'll fly Aer Lingus.
Football friend: Aer Lingus. Heh.
Me: Shut up. Seriously.
FF: (Rolls eyes and thinks Aer Lingus) Seriously. I know this is what he was doing.

Still working on meeting my end of year deadline for first draft of novel two. Still thinking I'll make it. Gee, no pressure on that one...

Til next time...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

happy happy joy joy

Waiting for our pizza. Family game night tonight. Yes, we are total geeks. When kid is home we have game night once in a while. Play some Trivial Pursuit or Scene It. I kick ass on books and entertainment. I suck at sports questions. I can remember every tv ep. I've ever seen. And trust me, I love tv, so that's a lot of wasted brain hours.

Bake banana bread. Cleaned the house. Brave Sam's Club for stuff for next week's graduation party.

Holiday spirit. Yup.

So... Sweeney Todd. Boy oh boy is it gory! But Johnny. Depp. Captain Jack with razors. Edward Scissorhands giving people shaves. Teensy, tinsy cameo by Anthony Stewart Head (son and I screaming quietly to each other "It's Giles!! Rupert Giles!!! Wait. Where did he go??? Why was he only on screen for three seconds. Giles!! Come back" ) Lots o' spurting blood. Gobs and gobs. Seriously, we were supposed to go out for lunch afterwards and coversation went like this: So.. where do you want to go?
Son: Hamburgers?
Me: Ack
Me: Too red
Son: Chinese?
Me: Maybe... but only if I can get vegies and rice. Aren't you gagging?
Son: No

The football gang came over last night. One was rather lovelorn and wanted to TALK about it. Finally, he occupied himself by alternately spinning a large wooden dreidel and eating the scripture mints a student had given me. (What can I say? We're an odd household) I looked over after awhile.
Me: What are you doing?
Lovelorn Football guy: Gave up smoking so once in a while I dip.
Me: Ugh
LLFG: (spits brown juice into an empty Ozarka bottle)
Me: Why the hell are you doing that while sitting on my new leather furniture?
LLFG: Sorry. I'll pour it out. (goes to sink)
Me: NO!! @@@ Pour it down the toilet.
LLFG: (shuffles off; pours; flushes; comes back and eats four more scripture mints then goes outside and calls the girl again)

As always, you just can't make this stuff up!!

Til next time...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

in which I recount the SPARK journey, pt.1

So how do you get a book deal? Well, I'll try to make it concise. But as with most things, it's a rambling, crazy journey. And although I've certainly seen my share of quick fixes of fame for folks as I've plodding patiently along, I think that for most folks, it's a long haul to get to this point.

For me, the story starts with a love of writing. I've written since I was a kid. Always loved telling stories. Vivid imagination. Crazy dreams. Typical stuff, I'd think. Broke into publication with non fiction. Professional essays, newspaper personal essays that garnered some local buzz and totally jazzed me each time I got to see the byline. My name. My article. In a real paper. That actual people actually read.

But that was about it. Working full time. Doing the mom thing. Piddled around with picture books. And let me say, there's a reason you don't see one on a shelf. I wasn't a little kid person. I loved my own, but never really could get in their heads as a writer. But I knew there was a book lurking in me. Many of them, actually. Just had to find a way to pry them out. Kept letting life get in the way. Easy to just go along. All our days are so full with just the regular stuff.

And then one day, SPARK came to me. My MC's voice, really. Actually, the scene that originally emerged one rainy afternoon while I was still at school and trying to get out so I could get home and then to critique group doesn't appear in the book anymore. Book itself wandered in another direction. But a girl named Anne had knocked on my brain. She was funny and brave and a little snarky. And she was destined for an adventure of a lifetime. In the original pages, she was trapped in history class, bored out of her head, writing a note to her friend. But I had a voice. And eventually, I gave her a story. (more on that later)

So I started writing. Some weeks, I wrote only two pages or so. But I kept going. And about a year later, summer of '05, I had a book. I called it Spark, the title it still retains. I'd had some pages critiqued at an SCBWI conference. Got some positive feedback. Moved on to revisions. Finished book in early fall of '05.

And then I hit one of the worst professional semesters of my life. Oh, I loved the kids I taught. But some other things at my school were not as jolly. Okay, things sucked. I was in a word, miserable. I think now that it was fate slamming me on the head, saying, get off your hind end and get that book out there. Now.

Sent it to one agent. Got a request for a partial. Just about peed my pants. But she rejected the project. I went back to moping through the bad school year for awhile.

Last day of January of '06, I pulled myself together. This time I did my full research. Picked a list of agents. Sent out the first batch of queries. Got three requests for partials in the first five queries. One request for a full after that. Couple of nos. And a silence for a few months from Laura Rennert at ABLA. And then in April, I status queried her. And discovered, to my undying gratitude, that she'd passed SPARK on to Michelle Andelman, who was building a client list. Michelle would call me, she said. I think I did the happy Snoopy dance for two hours.

So... Michelle called. We talked for very long time. Could you revise this, she asked. And gave me a very long list of suggestions. One included the word organic. I think the phrase overarching quest came up a couple of times. Sure, I said. I will revise. Of course I'll revise. Oh, heck, I'll revise the crap out of it. Please like me, please, please, please. (possibly it was all less desperate sounding. Somehow I doubt it)

By July, we'd signed to be buddies for life.

Revisions continued. Many things happened to SPARK. I learned that someone can love your story, get chills from your story, and still have a laundry list of changes so it will be commercially viable.

And then... one day... in its own good time... Somewhere around March.... we were ready to submit.

Tomorrow I will post about that.

I am still doing the Snoopy dance of happiness. Michelle still rocks. ABLA is still an awesome agency.

And I'm gone to cleaners, grocery, bank, blah, blah, blah.

Till next time...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

SPARK is sold!

I have been holding this secret in for so long (okay, not from some of you, but nothing that I could post about) that it feels odd to actually talk about it. But I can finally say that my debut young adult fantasy novel, SPARK, has sold to Sourcebooks. Right now we're looking at Fall of '09, but all that is yet to come. I will post the longer version of the SPARK journey tomorrow when my head isn't spinning from excitement. Graduation Thursday, kid coming home today, and the deal announcement, all in less than a week!

A huge shout out to my fabulous and hard working agent, Michelle Andelman, who put her heart and soul into all this on my behalf. She is the best agent a girl could ask for.

And without further ado:

Joy Preble's SPARK, a contemporary fantasy of Anastasia Romanov's disappearance, in which a teen ballerina's line of descent becomes her destiny as she joins forces with a mysterious boy, battles those who betrayed the royal family, and rescues the princess from a legendary Russian witch, to Lyron Bennett at Jabberwocky, in a nice deal, by Michelle Andelman at Andrea Brown Literary Agency (World)

Til next time...
and let me add: squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

That's my boy!

Stuffy nose, backed up grading, messy house, no holiday cards sent, unmade banana bread for little work gifts...

But none of it matters. Why? Because my kid just graduated from college! Watched him walk across the stage at Arizona State. Took tons of pictures. Ate and drank far too much good food and drink. Celebrated til we dropped. Soaked in the great weather. Cold, but sunny, sunny. Not a cloud in the sky. Stayed in the hotel we were always too cheap to stay in but figured if we didn't do it this time, when would we do it. Were accompanied by our best friends who have been like second parents to the kid. Stayed gone and didn't even check email from Wed. til Saturday night. Really clears your head of all the things that don't matter quite as much. Well, most of 'em anyway.

Gonna pound out the last three days of school. Gonna try to finish WIP by New Year's. But other than that - I'm going to dance about with a smile on my face.

And in case anyone is headed for Scottsdale - Breakfast Club is pricy but trendy and delicious. Pink Taco is great chips and salsa, okay food, and Mexican folk art ambience. Lots o' Virgin Marys and crucifixes and the like. And Roaring Fork has lovely glasses of wine. (no memory of the food that night. I'm thinking everyone enjoyed it, though. But that wine glass never seemed to be left empty)

Til next time...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Francheezie

So I don't know. Maybe it's the holiday time. Maybe it's having so much to do trying to finish a book. Maybe it's school with endless and senseless and mind numbing benchmark testing that is sucking the soul out of education. Maybe it's all of those things or none of them. But I've been waxing nostalgic once again over Chicago foods I miss. Actually, I think this all started because two years ago I ordered Lou Malnati to go pizza for husband's birthday and the Taste of Chicago catalogues keep a'coming. I like to peruse them while I'm eating my perfectly healthy bowl of oatmeal in the morning.

But whatever it is, my tired brain happened upon the francheezie. Okay, so the francheezie is the ultimate of bad for you food that I used to adore from my childhood when no one actually had heard about sodium counts or nitrates or foods that will kill you if you even look at them. (yes, that last part is supposed to be hyperbolic. Go ahead. Eat that piece of cheesecake if you must or that latke or whatever)

But back to the francheezie. Take an all beef hot dog. Split it down the middle. Stuff it with gooey American cheese. Wrap it in bacon. ( yes, you read correctly) Fry it up. Put it on a poppy seed bun. Serve with crispy french fries and a side of coleslaw. And if you were me, add a chocolate phosphate to drink. Phosphates are choc syprup and seltzer, basically. No redeeming value other than yum. Okay, even back then I think we all knew this just had to be bad for you. But hey, the "diet plate" included a hamburger patty, so what did we know? I loved those things. Every restaurant seemed to have them on the menu. I'd imagine no one does anymore.

Shouldn't they? Wouldn't that be awesome? A side of the menu for the devil may care crowd. Francheezies and cheese fries and monte cristo sandwiches(I've never eaten the latter, but as Rory or maybe Lorelai commented in a Gilmore ep, it's nice to have it on there as an option), and bricks of onion rings and all that crap that's really bad for you but let's face it makes life worth living once in a while.

All things in moderation. Even the bad ones.

If you're celebrating Chanukah, let the light spread. If you're getting ready for Christmas, sprinkle some more tinstle.

And go ahead, eat that cookie.

Til next time...

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Great Title search and other random stuff

So I do believe I have found a title for the WIP. At least I've typed the new one in the header that appears on the top of each page. Gonna try it out for awhile and see how it goes. Actually, I'm working on the chapter about midway through where title becomes significant in a more obvious way. It will be (in theory) be significant in every way, but this is sort of the title's defining moment. So I suppose I've stumbled upon it none too soon.

Played hookey and watch Heroes just now. Am I the only one who wishes they'd stop bellowing "You killed my brother..." and "You killed my father"? The cadence simply reminds too much of Princess Bride. 'My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." Actually the intent of the line is exactly the same. Leaving me wondering if they actually mean to steal the riff from PB or if it's unintentional aping on the part of the writers.

Thoughts, anyone?

Til next time...