Sunday, March 29, 2009

Jennifer Hubbards Library Loving Challenge and other things

Caught up on life a little late this week and almost missed Jennifer Hubbard's Library Loving Challenge. But although I was too late to comment on Jen's, I did have time to comment on some of the others she has listed, who have extended their challenges through today and even April 1. So jump on that band wagon if you can because they'll be donating money to the library of their choice for each comment they receive. Very cool idea! Bravo for this you guys!

And all that library talk makes me think it's time for a What's on my Nightstand post. Honestly there's so much stacked up there that I wonder when I'll ever get through it all, but currently: I'm finishing fellow 2k9er JT Dutton's (alias the delightful Jen Dutton) Freaked. Powerful and hysterical read that I will post a review of when I finish. Jen has nailed boy world,I do believe, or at least her mc Scotty Loveletter's, world and I'm anxious to get back to it.

Also now reading 2 by Dan Ehrenhaft - Dirty Laundry and 10 Things to Do Before I Die. Dan - you are one funny guy! I'm loving brillo pad head Ted Burger in 10 Things. A lot. Dan, btw, if you do not keep up with Publisher's Weekly, has now come over from Alloy to Sourcebooks as MG and YA acquisitions editor... Sourcebooks being the publisher of the contemporary fantasy debut YA novel Dreaming Anastasia written by yours truly and coming out in September... Ah yes, I'm sure there's a story in there, you're thinking. Yup. More soon.

Bunch of other stuff on the old nightstand - I'm reading up about British Columbia, cause we are driving the Pacific Northwest coast this summer some - Seattle, Vancouver.....

Headed to a day of TLA this week and I'm looking forward. I'll just be doing the exhibit floor and meeting up with among others, Janet Fox (Faithful, Puffin, 2010). In any case, I've never been, so I'm excited.

Til next time...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I did it!

Yup! Finished the copy edits. As it's been a very, very, very weird day (more on that another time), celebration was low key. Small glass of wine. A toaster waffle (don't mock the power of a waffle with honey). Critique group. And a lot of introspection on the journey that got me to this spot. It was fun to be up close and personal with Dreaming Anastasia again during the copy edits. You get deep into the bones of your story. Get to remember where scenes started, what a certain passage might have been like early on. (sometimes you get to do that cause there are left overs from what was and they don't track with what is; that is bad. It gets fixed.) When it was all over I thought I might feel sad or nostalgic. Honestly, not so much. I felt elated. Excited. Thrilled. Not that it was done. But that I'd done it. Kept with it. And that Velveteen Rabbit moment was a step closer. The one where I get to be a real author with books on the shelves.

In other news - I'm still loving this season of Friday Night Lights. Tammy's sex talk with Jules last Friday - it was spot on and poignant. And the Buddy Garrity arc - rips my heart apart. Seriously - if you're not watching, try it.

Til next time...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fried Oreos and other stuff

So that's what a bag of fried oreos looks like. And let me say, they were one of the highlights of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. (Okay, Keith Urban was really the highlight. Plus this event called Mutton Busting, where 4-6 year olds- wearing protective vests and helmets - cling to the backs of sheep and try to ride them as far and fast as they can. Which, if you've never seen it is as odd but enjoyable as it sounds) But back to the oreos... the chocolate part gets all mushed and dense, the fried outside is as grease-ilicious as you'd ever want, and the powdered sugar just ties it all together. The guy hands the bag o' goodies to you warm from the fryer...

Beyond the rodeo, I've been finishing my copy edits for Dreaming Anastasia. Suzy Williams (author of the delightful and recently released Bull Rider) described the copy edit process as sort of Zen like. Basically, you have to go through everything your editor/ copy editor/production editors have marked and either ok it or fix it or comment on it. After the pull it apart and stitch it back together of revisions, this is definitely different. But very exciting because it's the last big step. And also because this cool team of people have read your book and helped make it as smooth as it can possibly be. (plus tell you things you ought to have known, like that lightning always comes before thunder, for which I am very very thankful)

Also got to see two very fine films with two very fine actors - Sean Penn's amazing performance in Milk and Anne Hathaway's oh so emotional starring role in Rachel Getting Married. Neither ends happily. But I was blown away. Even more than by the fried oreos.

Til next time...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday Teaser time - Dreaming Anastasia

Well, it looks like DA is scheduled for a September release. Will keep you posted on the exact day. And suddenly that's looming closer than one would think. Maybe it's just this time of year; once I hit spring break, which for me is this week, the rest of the school year kind of slides into place and we start planning ahead for next year and sometimes I feel like I'm already there. Maybe it's the book events I'm starting to plan - various fall book festivals I'd like to attend, SCBWI LA in August... But the excitement is building. (gives tiny little squee sound)

In any case, it's teaser time.

One of the most enjoyable and also challenging aspects of Dreaming Anastasia for me is that the novel has three narrative voices - sixteen year old Anne, handsome mysterious Ethan, and Anastasia. The challenge for me as writer was, of course, to keep those three voices distinct and separate. Anne is a contemporary sixteen year old girl. Ethan is an eighteen year old guy - who (not to give too much away) may not exactly be as contemporary as he'd like Anne to think. And then there's Anastasia, who as I've mentioned, is not quite as dead as the history books say.

From a writer's perspective, this means I'm balancing not only historical elements, but language and gender, too, in addition to the usual character issues. Add in minor characters such as Anne's best friend Tess, who plays a significant role, Anne's mother and Ethan's friend Professor Olensky, and my wonderful witch Baba Yaga, and there are a lot of voices simmering in the story pot.

My first draft of the novel had actually been in 3rd person, so when I shifted everything to 1st person present tense, that upped the ante as well. That POV gives everything a pressing intimacy. None of my characters could hide behind that 3rd person narrator. Even if they wanted to.

All of this has impacted me as a writer and as a teacher of writing and literature. I must admit I find it sort of dumfounding how often that word voice is thrown around rather cavalierly in education circles. The assumption seems to be - at least in the world of our Texas standardized testing in language arts - that voice is quickly and easily developed in student writing. That a few little tricks -use lots of adjectives, Suzy! Show don't tell! - and wham - our kids will develop their writerly voices. In fact, their standardized test essays are graded for it.

Any writer, editor, agent, publisher will tell you - it just ain't that easy! Voice is something we know when we read it. It is often more nebuloulsy defined in our heads than standardized test makers would like, developed through hard work, practice and yes, probably a little talent, too. It is not easily taught or easily achieved. Nor should it be.

And look at the digression that this post took. You can tell that school is still on my mind today.

As for Dreaming Anastasia, I look forward to sharing those voices with you come September. In fact, I'm so excited I can hardly wait!

Til next time...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

I can almost make a souffle and other things

So I'm working on a novel called Sweet Dreams. Main character works in her dad's bakery/pastry shop. And the book's about all sorts of things, including a really rocking love triangle with two really adorable guys, both of whom have numerous redeeming factors, thus making it hard to choose between them, which of course, is absolutely the point. It's my first foray into what former agent Michelle calls "frothy fun." A girl book. A commercial project that Ms. Muse has fluttered into my brain as a little Scooby snack of pleasure after two much more literary projects in a row. But I digress. Well sort of.

Back to the point, main character KC has trouble mastering the art of a chocolate souffle. She has trouble with lots of things, but souffles are one of them. Only, I'd never really made a souffle. I've read recipes; I've heard it was hard; I know souffles seem to fall at the drop of a hat or whatever. (which, btw, is a phrase I've never gotten - do hats fall all the time in other people's worlds or something? Cause in mine, not so much)

Anyway, yesterday, I drove to the River Oaks Sur La Table for Classic French Dessert class. Two and a half hours during which we learned: Grand Marnier Souffle, Tart Tatin, Clafoutis with cherries (the actual title has the French word for cherry in it, but I'm too lazy to run downstairs right now to get the recipe, and in case you care, Clafoutis (Klafootie) is a custard thing), and Begneits. (yeah, like those ones you eat at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans only not quite as amazing).

We worked in teams. Mine included a guy who is training to be a pastry chef at the local community college and who spent the entire two and a half hours complaining that Chef John, our teacher, was moving too fast. Chef John was a pretty good sport and repeated things as needed. Additionally, besides me, there was another lady who'd come by herself and seemed personable enough, and two couples. Couple A took copious notes and loved the Food Network. The husband of couple B managed to cut his thumb while paring an apple for the Tart Tatin and then DIDN'T say a word. So there we are, piling peeled apples up on our tray and other lady by herself to my right says, "Look at this apple. Is that blood?" At which point I actually pick up the apple and poke at the red spot because it NEVER occurs to me that it could be blood. It was. "Who bled on this apple?" I say. Knowing full well it has to be either chef in training guy or husband of couple of B. They are the only two who volunteered to pare an apple with a paring knife. Finally, husband B confesses. The fact that he was actively bleeding into a paper towel at that point made it difficult to hide. We all washed our hands and contained the damage. The Tart Tartin became the dessert I chose not to taste.

But back to the souffle. It is not that hard. Just don't slam the oven door. That will cause those suckers to fall like the Berlin Wall. Only quicker.
Til next time...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Sunday Seven

Okay, the title is like, totally derivative, but functional.

1. Finished fellow 2k9er Albert Borris's ARC of Crash into Me. You are all in for an amazing story. It is dark and timely and real as Owen, Audrey, Jin Ae and Frank- all of whom have attempted suicide and failed - take a cross country journey to visit the graves of celebrity suicides and ultimately decide if they will be going through with their death pact. As I just said, this is a dark story but it draws you in and doesn't let go. Albert's a long time counsleor so he knows his subject matter and he's created a powerful, powerful story. Please watch for it to hit the shelves later this year.
2. Speaking of 2k9, we're adding our fourth release right now, which is Lisa Greenwald's My Life in Pink and Green, a delightful tween novel. Also on the shelves are Rosanne Parry's Heart of Shepherd, Suzanne Morgan Williams' Bull Rider, and Kathryn Fitzmaurice's The Year the Swallows Came Early. These last three are middle grade novels and each more lovely than the next. As Kathryn's protag. Eleanor "Groovy" Robinson says, "I'm here to tell you" that these books are all phenomenal. I am so honored to be able to know these talented authors and to count them all as new and treasured work partners and friends.
3. Speaking of which - that's the thing that's most amazing me these days. When you crawl over, um, a certain age - okay let's just say when you're old enough to have a 22 year old son and leave it at that - you don't necessarily get the opportunity to suddenly double and triple your 'friends I adore and never want to let go of' list. So what a rush, to suddenly get to to exactly that. It's been the unexpected true blessing of this whole publication journey.
4.Spring break can't come soon enough. Just sayin'
5. Loved, loved this week's ep of FNL. Actually teared up a few times, especially with the Buddy Garrity story line. That man is so annoying and so imperfect and he knows it, but I feel for him nonetheless because he has an enormous heart and when it breaks, it about crashes through the tv screen at me. Ditto with the Landry and Devon (is that the new girl's name - the new musician in Landry's band?) story line. Landry, Landry. Oh, Landry.
6. Son has introduced me to the world of Millionaire Matchmaker. I won't be obsessively tuning in, but it's a decent once in a while guilty pleasure.
7. Have tried to get into this latest season of Amazing Race, but I think I exhausted myself with Dandrew!

Well, guess that's my seven. I'm outta here.
Til next time...