Too hot today on our little mountain. Sweltering and cranky for many hours.

Move fan in front of door and turn it on. Hey, magic!!

Like I couldn't have done that hours ago. Sigh.
  • Current Mood
    hot hot

Friday Fun

1. Reading Forever Princess by Meg Cabot. This will keep me going strong on the treadmill--I won't even notice the pain!

2. Do you want to be part of the road trip for an ARC of
Mary Pearson's The MIles Between. Leave a comment on Mary's blog here, and enter Mary's contest to be a pit-stop on the ARC's journey from Mary to her editor.

Kids Otter Read Read Day Around the Bay is tomorrow (Saturday, May 16!). Find a bookstore close by and go listen to some wonderful authors read. Son and I, unless homework or life-craziness intrudes, are going to hear Susan Taylor Brown and a few other great writers read at Books Inc in Palo Alto.

4. Star Trek and X-men. We are going to see one, maybe BOTH, of these movies this weekend. I always want to go as soon as they come out, but I also hate crowds, so I force myself to wait. It may be just the right time for an overdose of sci-fi geekdom!

5. Reading, reading, reading. I went to the library yesterday and totally scored. Forever Princess,
The Language of Bees, Dead Man's Puzzle, My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters, & Before, After, and Somebody in Between. Is it possible to drown from so many wonderful books?! :)

Have a great weekend, everybody!
  • Current Mood
    happy happy

Peering into the Future

So here's one result of spending more time on social-networking sites, especially Twitter. You hear a lot more about electronic books and about how they're the future.

I don't have an e-reader. I don't think they're a bad thing, but I don't see them as a tool I need. I don't travel that much, and I actually like browsing in airport bookstores when I do--it's a good way to make discoveries of books I probably wouldn't have picked up otherwise.

On the other hand, I totally see their use. I love that agents can put submissions on their e-readers and not have to print out the manuscripts. And if I was planning a trip of much length to a country where I wouldn't have a lot of choices for books in English, I'm pretty sure I'd budget an e-reader into the cost.

This is not a rant or a rave. What's coming is coming, and readers will read and have ways to make that happen. Pretty easy for me to say, I know, because I don't see electronic replacing print in my lifetime--at least not until I'm old enough for my eyes to be really happy about the ultra-zoom feature I'm assuming exists or will exist!

But this does bring up some questions for me about what life and the world will or would be like without print books.

  • What could possibly replace this as the most beautiful home-decorating choice ever? What would I put on my walls? I guess I could get used to painting and photos.

  • What will libraries fill their space with? I was talking to the Bookmobile librarian about this, and she said that, today, when you interview for a library job, one of the most common questions is along the lines of, "How can you/we keep people coming here?"
  • What will happen to all the books we do own? When my grandmother died, my mother and I went through her books and kept a few, but then a used book dealer came and took the rest. Is that going to be an option in a few generations?
  • What will we check out when we come into a new friend's (or prospective mate's) house for the first time. I understand some people head for the medicine cabinet. Not me--I'm browsing the books.
  • Will Ziplock come out with a baggie that promises protection for e-readers taken into the bath? Will there be a new piece of furniture that holds your e-reader up for long hours of reading in bed (I hear they're not SO light as to be super comfortable), or will the readers just get smaller and smaller and lighter and lighter?
Really, trying not to be negative! But we're the ones with the imaginations, and this boggles mine. I'm sure people way back when were feeling something similar when the printing press came along, and individuals faced the possibility (surely scoffed at by many) that they could have their own books in their own homes. What did they get rid of to make room for those books? And what will we use to fill up the space that we might be on the verge of regaining?

I'm not giving those shelves over to my son's bottle cap collection. :)
  • Current Mood
    curious curious

Getting Started...Almost!

I'm getting ready to write a first draft of my YA. With a few friends, I'm supposed to start June 1st, but I looked at my calendar, and I pretty much don't have that first week in June. So I'm going to try and start the week before. I want to get this draft written!

So of course, laying in bed this morning, I'm thinking about the opening. Do I start here? Or maybe here? What's the goal? What are the obstacles? And of course I start hearing some words. I got up and wrote the first page of the first scene of the book.

Knowing, all the time, that I will do that same thing somewhere between a dozen and a gazillion times before the book is truly done.

I know there are phrases that are wrong. Maybe the voice is too young. Does brick actually feel colder than the air around it? Maybe there shouldn't be an alley next to the house. Is it a trolley or the El she's rushing to catch? Does she have to rush? Is this even the place I want to start the story?

This is the point, though, where I have no choice but to write. Oh, I have a little bit more planning to do. When I wrote the first draft of my mystery, I set myself up with a one-page file for each planned scene. On each of those pages, I typed some basic information:

  • Where the scene takes place
  • The basic event/moment in the scene
  • The hero's goal for the scene
  • The obstacles to to that goal and who throws them at the hero
I'm going to do this in the next week or so, for Caro's scenes. Again, I know that so much of this "plot" will change, but I find it a huge help when I'm trying to get that first draft out quickly, as one big dump. I wrote the mystery's first draft in a week; I'm giving myself about a month to write Caro's. The trick to going this fast, I found, is ignoring all the moments we would normally take a break--at the end of a scene, the end of a chapter, the end of a chunk of dialog. The trick is to close one file and--immediately--open another. If, instead of a blank page, I get a quick reminder of where I'm heading, that makes a huge difference in whether I keep writing or not.

Other than that, though, it's all up in the air. Some people tell me I plot too much before writing. If I could do it, if I knew how, and I had the patience, I'd plot twice as much as I do. The hardest thing for me to do in life is step forward without seeing the next stepping stone, set firmly and clearly in front of me, and I want those stepping stones in my writing, too.

And yet the other part of me is ready to let Snoopy whiz by and grab the blanket. There's an excitement to this point that is unlike any other stage of the writing gig. After this draft, I will know so much more about my story, my characters. And, as wonderful as that will be, it will also put constraints on--give me a form into which I really need to start making everything fit. The first draft, with all its doubt and worry, all the beautiful words that we have to let go, is freedom unlike anything else.

I'm just about ready for the ride.

  • Current Mood
    creative creative

Monday Musings

May 11. As my son pointed out this morning, he gets out of school on June 12, so--yes, we're down to a month before summer hits (the real summer, as defined by summer vacation, not the one printed on the calendar). He's, obviously, looking forward to it.

So am I.

This is not actually typical for me. I love my son, obviously, and love having him around. Summer, though, is unstructured time which--for both of us--is good in short bits, but not necessarily for long stretches. And let's face it, there are less hours for writing--especially in big chunks of time. Finally, there's the heat. In which Pooh doesn't  I don't do so well.

This year, though, I'm with my son. I'm ready, and I'm waiting. And I'm wondering why. The possibilities:

  • My son is 13 now, which means he needs less help from me to stay entertained and, frankly, he wants less time with me hovering around. So, really, if I get my act together, there will be lots of time to write. And to go for walks, swap books, and play board games with said son.

  • May and June are different in middle school than they are in elementary school. I don't know if it's the state standards for the schools, or that teachers want to get kids used to being busy at the end of the year, to prep them for high school finals, but the last few weeks of school just seem to get nutso busy. And my son isn't into after-school activities like band or sports. Summer looks much more like a needed break this year, for me and him, than it did when he was younger. Sleeping in, pushing away schedules, and goofing off sound really good.

  • It's been a long, long winter. No, we didn't have piles of snow like so many of you, but many months of extra cold. It's been a winter of hard economy, too. I'm seeing signs of life coming back in that area, too, and I can't help but believe people and companies will do better with warmth and sunshine than they do with freezing temps and gray skies. This year, I'll take the heat, thank you.

  • I have specific writing/book things I want to do, which--other than getting my YA's first draft written in June, will fit nicely into niche time. I'll be plotting out the second draft on that book, working on promotion ideas for the critique book, and playing with my picture book ideas. AND I'll be making my research trip to Chicago--how cool is that? (Even in the heat!)

  • To repeat the first possibility, my son is 13. Next year, 8th grade, the year after that high school. He's strong, healthy, and happy, and watching him grow up into such a great person is perhaps the biggest miracle of my life. He spends some time pushing away from me and some time pulling me into his life. Half a dozen of these summers left. Why would I want to skip any of that. (Yes, I know, talk to me at the end of August, and I'll have a list, but still...)
So today, I'm going to spend as much time as I can focusing on the words, on my writing, and my time. And I'm going to let a little happy anticipation simmer beneath it all.

  • Current Music
    Fleetwood Mac

Friday Five

Five things that happen when you've been under deadline for a few months, you meet the deadline, and the next one is looser.

1. The house looks cleaner. Not a lot cleaner, but--you know--on the surface. Amazingly, the laundry still does not get done.

2. The day suddenly has time for exercising. Which, on my treadmill, means more reading time. And off my treadmill means walking with friends. And then napping.

3. The desk gets messier. Not sure how this is correlated to number 1, but I'm sure there's a connection somewhere. Or maybe it's that napping in #2.

4. Son gets perhaps ANOTHER sinus infection???? 

5. You buy this and tuck it into the cat's usual spot, hoping they will become friends.

  • Current Music
    Soft, smooth Motown

Slightly Selfish Stimulus

Yesterday, I realized Mother's Day was this weekend. Today, I went shopping for my mom's present. Those of you who live nowhere near the Bay Area and have no plans to visit can skip this, go on to another blog. For anyone who lives nearby, though, I'm going to tell you a bit about the store I went to.

The selfish part? I want this store to survive.

The shop is called
Azuca. They've been open less than a year, I think, and they occupy one of the skinny little spaces on Santa Cruz Ave. They're on the same side of the street as the theater, down toward the south end of town, past The Great Bear. From the front, it looks like another little jewelry/art store like so many others on the street, but I'm here to tell you that it's different.

I can walk in there, knowing that I will find a gift for 9/10 of the people on any of my lists. I just found out that one of the owners makes a lot of the jewelry they sell, and I LOVE her stuff. They buy a lot from other local artists, too. Then they have lots of things of the doo-dad variety and some larger art, and everything is really nice and just more interesting than you see many other places.

And perhaps the biggest "selling" point?

Their prices are completely sane. I can pick up stuff to look at that I wouldn't touch in another store, knowing that I won't want to spend what they're asking. I can pick out a couple of things for someone, instead of just one. And I could (and do) spend long minutes just drooling over the stuff I want for myself. (I'll be subtly pointing the store out to husband every time we stroll through town this summer!)

Anyway, normally I wouldn't use the blog for this. But I figure this is the time to think differently, to help the economy...okay, to send a few people along to a store I want to keep visiting!

If you're down or up this way, check it out. I really don't think you'll be sorry:)

  • Current Mood
    hopeful hopeful

Pete Seeger: A Brief Tribute

I grew up with Pete Seeger. Not literally--that would have been tough, me living in a small town on the coast of California, him off in New York, or traveling all over the place. But figuratively. In my living room.

While I did live through some of the big events in the sixties, I was a bit too young to be any kind of active participant. Mostly, I was making my way through elementary school, wearing my hair in a very curly pixie cut, sporting the stretch-and-sew t-shirts my mom made, and trying not to gag or fall asleep over the horrible SRA "books" I was supposed to read.

My parents were liberals, but not radicals. Okay, my dad had a beard, which--in those days--was still a biggie, and my mom worked--which was also a biggie. They were starting a business and raising a family and building their own places in the community where we lived. They spoke in favor of and supported all the same causes I would have, if I'd been old enough. But I'd say the biggest influence the sixties had on my life was the music my parents played. The folk music.

And that pretty much meant Pete Seeger.

Oh, yes, there were other singers. The rest of The Weavers. Joan Baez. Peter, Paul, and Mary. Bud and Travis. The Kingston Trio. Arlo Guthrie.

But really, behind all of them, was Pete. He, along with Woody Guthrie, was the root off which all these others grew. And he was always there, singing along with whichever of them had another space on the stage. He seemed to me to epitomize friendship and tolerance and love.

As I grew older, I still loved the music, but I got, perhaps, just a little bit disillusioned. As I said, I was tucked into a pretty safe childhood when I was young and missed the protests and the war and the anger and the hope. In my twenties and early thirties, when I looked around, it seemed to me that everything Pete and the others had been singing about, against, was still happening. I wasn't seeing that any of their songs or their dreams were making changes happen. I wasn't, honestly, sure how or why they kept singing. I still loved the music, but I often felt like I was singing along with them into some kind of black hole, a void where they echoed around but didn't do much good.

Sometimes, I still feel that way. Other times, though, I see glimpses of what may or may not be change. Maybe it's just the wheel turning, so that the things I value as important are at the top for a while, instead of the bottom. And maybe, I think, that's all we can keep trying for. Maybe that's why we keep singing, to keep the wheel turning.

And maybe we keep singing, just because Pete does. And because all the branches that have come from his root still sing as well. His tree just keeps going.

Yesterday was Pete's 90th birthday. And, of course, because it's Pete, the celebration wasn't just for him, but for Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, the group Pete founded to help clean up the Hudson River. And, again, because it was Pete, he didn't just sit in a chair and listen.
He was singing, too

Happy Birthday, Pete.
  • Current Music
    Pete Seeger--Amazing Grace

Review: Say the Word

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to win a copy of Jeannine Garsee's Say the Word. I know Jeannine from her LiveJournal blog, Elusive Sanity, but hadn't read this, or her other book--Before, After, and Somebody in Between. Guess what's now on my to-read list?

Shawna Gallagher's mother left when Shawna was seven, and now--at seventeen--Shawna hasn't seen her in three years. That's until she gets a phone call from her mother's partner, Fran, that her mother has had a stroke and is not going to live. And so we're thrown onto the path that is going to rock the not-so-solid foundation Shawna has built for herself in the last decade. (BTW, Jeannine totally blows out of the water the rule about NOT starting with the hero waking up to a phone call!)

Honestly, this isn't a spoiler, because it happens so quickly and so definitely, but Jeannine does not pull the "nice" twist of having Shawna's mother live and reconciling with Shawna. Instead, her mother's death brings Shawna back into contact with Fran and Fran's two sons, cracks open the fragile, unhealthy shell Shawna and her father have been living in, and pushes Shawna into choices she never would have considered before, let alone made.

This is what I like most about Jeannine's story--the choices. She doesn't give Shawna any easy ones, and she doesn't let Shawna opt for the predictable path. She does a great job of showing us both sides of the coins Shawna is handed, and--often--neither side is all that wonderful. Shawna makes some mistakes, some bad ones, which makes it all that much tougher for her to clean up the story's messes and all that much tougher for us to watch her struggling to do so. In the end (no, no spoilers here), we don't get a happy ending. Instead, we get what Shawna herself must settle for--satisfaction with the path she has chosen and hope for the possibilities she has woven into her future.

Jeannine writes tightly, which I always appreciate. She draws wonderful, fully complicated characters, none of whom are perfect, many of whom don't come anywhere close. They're real, though, very real. Shawna's brother, Schmule, is my favorite, and Jeannine touches brilliance with her portrayal of his anger, tension, and depression. He scares Shawna, and he scared me.

Nicely done.
  • Current Mood
    impressed impressed

Finding the Story in the History

I spent a couple of days this week typing up a VERY basic outline of, I guess you'd call them...plot highlights. Nothing new, just filling out the "required" details of one of the appendixes of Maass' workbook. I certainly don't have a plot yet.

This last exercise made it very clear WHERE I don't have a plot.

I think this is part of that research thing. I know where I want Caro to find her "place." I know with whom I want her to end up. And I've been reading lots and lots about that place and those people. I know the world, I know the attitude, I know the general feel of it all.

What I don't yet know is what Caro will/wants to do there.

I know that lots of my specific research will keep going as I write and much of it I won't even be able to do until I've got a draft or two out and can really see what specific facts I need. But these holes--these actions and active choices that Caro will be making--these are the big plot points I really need to have figured out before I write.

Which means that I have some choices to make. I have to start down a few roads, pick a few paths Caro could stride along in this community, think of a few steps for her to take and then, I guess, test them in my gut. See how they feel--both for me and for her. And then, back up, find another possible fork in the road and send her a little ways down that one. It comes back to my goal of not just showing someone living within history, but writing a STORY with history as a layer. I have to keep thinking about who Caro is and what in this world would catch her, would make her angry or frightened or set off some kind of spark within her. And I have to do this while reading all I can about this world and what the real people within in were actually doing.

So, yes, this means a lot of time with books and a notebook and pen. In between, of course, getting those revisions done on the critique book. I don't know about you, but it sounds like a pretty lovely balance of jobs for the next couple of weeks. :)

  • Current Mood
    contemplative contemplative