Friday, December 31, 2004

Spooky Links

In honor of my birthday, here are some great pages from other folks:

Horror! from the Welles-Turner Memorial Library in Glastonbury, CT. A bibliography of recommended titles divided into two categories (a) "Featuring Creatures You Never Want to Meet" (b) "When Hell is Other People." Visit the YA Department.

Horrors: What to Read after Fear Street from the Haverhill Public Library in Haverhill, MA.

Master Shaper: An Interview with Neil Gaiman by David Carroll (first appeared in "Bloodsongs," Issue 8, 1997) from Tabula Rasa.

Scaring the Children by Kyla Ward (first appeared in "Bloodsongs #8," 1997) from Tabula Rasa; emphasis is on mass market rather than literary children's horror.

YA Mystery & Horror Novels from The Cuyahoga Falls Library in Cuyahoga Falls, OH. A bibliography of recommended titles.

What Is Horror Fiction? from the Horror Writers Association.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Angel Wings

Was out for chicken marsala last night with G and spotted at the next table the most exquisite girl with tatooed angel wings on her back (shown to perfection by a strappy sundress--totally do-able on some Austin December days). I simply must put her body art in a book someday. Devastating.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Ten Little Mummies

Austin author Phil Yates reports that his picture book, Ten Little Mummies (illustrated by G. Brian Karas), is now available in Japanese; check out the Japanese-language cover.

Monday, December 27, 2004


Just dropped off a copy for my editor and another for my agent in the Fed Ex box at BookPeople. My theory is the proximity to other books provides a good vibe. Whew.

Turning my attention now to writing up comments for SP on his latest draft.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Mr. Grinch

Boris Karloff absolutely ruled as The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

Changed the word "foolishness" to "nonsense" both for voice and meaning, which are similar but not quite the same.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Movies and Mistletoe

Wrote, printed, and signed the cover letter! And the crowd cheers!

Spent much of the day watching "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" and "My Fair Lady."

Also fiddled with two pages, rewriting one line to more specifically reflect the antagonist's interests and another to clarify the fantasy universe's motivation of a word choice.

Thursday, December 23, 2004


Merry Christmas Eve Eve (if you celebrate it).

Ah, glorious ink. I'm right now printing the copy of the mss to CC to my agent, having already printed copies for the editor and for my file. I'd hoped to get at least a draft of the cover letter done today, but 'twas not to be.

Things I did instead of writing the cover letter:
printed the manuscript three times;
had lunch at Suzi's Chinese Kitchen on South Lamar;
shopped for AB's gift at Target and Bath Junkie;
picked up a copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban;
stopped at Randall's for French green beans and deli turkey;
did laundry, dishes, and many other domestic tasks.

But who cares! I'm yuletidy! Get it? Yule-tidy.


Wednesday, December 22, 2004


Finished reading the manuscript and keying in changes. Yahoo!

(Almost) ready to send back the draft.

Put on my black velvet long-sleeve top, my black lace skirt, my black cowboy boots, and went to Zoot for dinner with my honey, followed by a pick-up of books at Dragon's Lair.

Best Of Intentions

Happy Solstice!

Yes, I know I was going to be done with the revision today. But the fates conspired against me. Imagine every possible interruption. Twice.

The upside, I think I've managed to simplify the antagonist's driving plot and done a bit of helpful rearranging. There's still a continuity detail I'd like to add.

But anyway, after hours of splicing in a page of corrections here and there, I've lost faith in that approach. I need to reprint the whole thing from the file and start over. Fresh. Perhaps--dare I say it--after the holidays?

Monday, December 20, 2004

Children of the Night

Five stars night--stars big, stars bright. Wind howling! Roadtripping followed by divine dinner and show-house via TC; thoughtful, ultra hip and cool gift from SP.

Had SP read, which was a good call and allowed me to hear off beats.

Comments: smiley; "good description;" "good way to explain; checks;" some clarifications; a simplification or two; "it really gives a flavor for this type of life;" "I don't think that's been done before."

Planning to read once more tomorrow and send back.

Did I just type that?

Bela Baby

Watched the classic "Dracula," starring Bela Lugosi (1931), which was apparently the first version with sound. Totally waters down (so to speak) the sexy stuff, especially the gay overtones of the original story. Most distressing, though, since it's based on the Dean/Balderston play, is that there is no Quincey Morris. Texas weeps. See more vampire movie posters. My favorite, by the way, is the Francis Ford Coppola version (1992), which more closely follows the novel than the rest.

Sunday, December 19, 2004


I did absolutely nothing on the novel today.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Revisiting The Letter

I just took a deep breath, walked down to the sunroom, and with my trusty kitten Leo by my side, reread the editorial letter.

First and foremost, I'm grateful for it.

Of course prior to this round, the story had been through more than one incarnation. One entirely from KM's POV. One with a wildly different plot.

But this time when I returned to face the dragon, I was armed with my Excaliber. Not only do I feel as though T has shown great progress, I also feel stronger, smarter, savvier than before.

I'm a better writer than I was in mid-September.

This has been a thoroughly magical, transforming (pun intended) experience.

What with 60 percent cut and 40 percent new, I'm sure there will still be work to do, and I look forward to it. But I honestly feel as though the process is clicking, and I'm bursting with joy at my writing life. When I read Tuesday, I'm going to have fun doing it and celebrate this step in the journey.



So Greg wanted to write last night, and I read again. Ended up with maybe 43 pages with some stray mark on them.

Changed one chapter title and switched another (they'd fit better before the revision). A few lines cut, killed a couple of adverbs, changed some names to pronouns or vise versa, fixed a bit of too-close repetition of words, snipped a "sigh," fussed at a bit of formatting, reduced the blood in DM's room, and that's basically it.

I keyed in but didn't even print a whole new copy (just the corrected pages). I'm going to reread this one instead on Tuesday and that should do it. Hope to mail Wednesday. Printing two scenes to bring to crit group on Monday.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Worth The Pain

Whew. Okay. Keyed in. Printing now. If Greg wants to write all weekend, I'll read it again. If not, I'm just taking those two new segments to group and then reading--drumroll, please--one more time. I'm that happy!

On the downside, the massage therapist tells me my neck muscles are a mess from staring down at my laptop for hours at a time. And I still don't care!


Format And More

Finished reading again last night. Fixed the formatting. Split one of the chapters into two, changed one of the chapter titles. Cut some detail that seemed confusing--to me, if no one else. Smoothed language. Found a couple of missing!!! words. Cut a bit of the Spanish because I was worried about having used it incorrectly. Varified the Italian. Cut any repetition of words too close together. Cut a little more Junk DNA. Added a line of character backstory on DM. Decided I had one too many "no matter" and/or "raising eyebrow." A "sigh" is always suspicious. Fiddled with my characterizations of Shelley and Hawthorne. Need to key again, read, and do the whole thing one more time. But not right now. Right now I am going to Daya!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Again With The Time

Read through all the first-to-second pages of the chapters, and really, spotted very few that didn't have some kind of time/date marker. I added one line at the end of p. 28, saying that Q was off to K's house, so when you turn the page, you know that next scene picks up immediately afterward. Also added: "That Thursday" to p. 96, "after school" to p. 98, "Friday's" to p. 105; "still Sunday" to p. 186; and slipped in a transition page before the author's note. I also cut a reference to "Waterford" on p. 176 because I have a reference to "water" seven lines farther down.

Planning to read again this weekend, then print extra copies of new scenes for group.

Key In

Managed to key in last night, and didn't bother to put on a movie. Did it upstairs in bed on the laptop instead. Took only about a couple of hours--remember when it used to take three movies worth? Another sign that it's almost done ("done" being relative). Woo woo!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Time Transitions

Read through today, and really, the only nagging thing I'm seeing is time transitions. One reader suggested doing some kind of countdown headers, but I'm not sure about that. Many chapters are on the same day, and I think it would start to look redundant.

I need to look at that again.

Keying in tonight while watching The Haunted Mansion. I don't have hugely high hopes for it, but if you've been steadily reading this blog, you know that my keying-in movie standards are not high.

Monday, December 13, 2004

The Plan

Will read once more, bring to group new scenes a week from today, read once after that and send. Period. The end. No more angst.

Dinner at Houston's (chicken and brown rice with beans) and drinks after at the Driskill hotel. Tea at Sweetish Hill with AB cancelled due to family crisis (hers, not mine).

Also, good news, DW liked her scarf!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Reality Check

Now, I'm rereading the same eight pages, adding additional paragraph returns. This is ridiculous. I'm showing the new pages to AB tomorrow, making whatever changes, and then line editing to send back.

Beyond The Numbers

Printed out about eight pages of new writing or rewriting and have been playing with them.

Tendencies I need to watch: making sure I'm not the only one who can see the cinematic quality of the scene as it passes (or, not getting so comfortable with the image in my mind that I forget everyone else can't see it); over explaining (not trusting the reader enough).

Yes, the fact that these are contradictory competing interests makes it much more difficult/subtle. Most writers I know struggle to varying degrees over this balance.

Thinking I need to augment just with a line or two the characters who die before the final showdown so they feel a bit more real, resonate.

The death count, btw, is up to twelve now.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Someone Like Q

Keyed in this morning while watching "Someone Like You" with Ashley Judd, Greg Kinnear, and Hugh Jackman (of The "X-Men"/"X2" and "Van Helsing" fame) on DVD.

Current count is 45,500 words. Also identified eight pages to bring to group, which is a week from the day after tomorrow. I wish it were tomorrow.

I should probably read through once more, key in, field the new scenes, make any necessary adjustments, read again, and--gasp--look once more at the editorial letter.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Labor Day

Did another read-through today and am reasonably pleased. Greg says he wants to wait until the next round, assuming there is one, so I'm just about ready to resend. Probably in early January, given my level of compulsiveness.

The thing I caught today was that I'd completely spaced off any mention of Labor Day. Fortunately, I don't have it timed out as a key school scene or anything, but I still think a nod is in order so I added one.

Also picked up a copy of Hunter's Moon by C.J. Adams & Cathy Clamp at Randalls; who appear to be a set of Laurell K. Hamilton mentees.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Another Bat

It is sad how many Post-It notes must die so I can write a novel. Scribbled up another one today, this with a (final?) decision on a minor, though classic, fantasy element. I'm cutting it because the science behind it is applied inconsistently. I know I could just say "it's magic" and be done with it, but that sort of feels like cheating. Planning to reread again tomorrow. Wondering if I'll be ready to resend after the first of the year. Not able to sleep tonight.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

"I Did it!" -- Henry Higgins

Feeling full of bravado at the moment, but not hesitating to point out it wouldn't have been possible w/o AB's help.

Finally figured out to do with the one plot thread that has been nagging at me for weeks. Again, the simplest answer is the best one. Drafted the scene, too, and feeling pretty good about it.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Initial Skim

Great critique from AB. Main things that she thought that I'll focus on are making B more consistently icky, clarifying why Q keeps trying w/ K, bring back the police (merits a whole new scene, I think), plus some more minor time, character, role tags.

From the margins: marked the first few pages "perfecto!" Liked/got of the passing jokes, caught some junk DNA, lots of smiley faces, "so Austin!", "oooo" "ah," some stars, "!", "go horns," "ha!", "cool," "could be taken literally," "sorry, I don't get it," "oops," "wow! this is a surprise! good good," "or that still loved her," "yuck!", "oooo la la," "gross," "creepy," "yuck-o-rama," "yikes!," "oh, yea," also wants me to cut those (I thought) clever lines closing the author's note.

Much of it is just clarification of stuff that's in my head but not on the page. This is the hardest thing for me, trying to write tight and keep it moving and tell the reader everything he/she needs to know which is so obvious to me after having written the whole thing in the first place, revised, revised, revised...

Plan: one more draft, bring new cops scene to group, polish, and let G read.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Needles and Pins

Heard from AB who says she started the mss and expects to have comments for me tomorrow or Monday. Didn't say anything flattering. Obviously can put down mss to call. Am stressing. Am also obviously SO pathetic.

Revised S&TS today with Greg, though. Big fun. About to read KC's mss.

On the Horizon

I'm starting to think about what's next. I love the manuscript in the queue, but it's really quite dark, and after T, I'd kind of like a bit more gothic levity (not an oxymoron). I do have an idea in mind. I'm also interested in a companion from K's POV. Basically, I'd like to do all three, but there's the question of what would be the best order creatively and career-wise. Still pondering.

In the meantime, T is still at the reader, I have KC's revision on my nightstand to be read, and I have a revision request on that pb with G to get to.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Critiquer Ready

Skimmed through twice more, mostly notably cutting the scapbook references. They're sweet/scary but seem a bit out of character for Q and, besides, there's zero mention of it between page 11 and page 201, which generally doesn't make for a compelling prop.

I'm wondering today if I need some attribution here and there for some of the narration. Maybe not. Maybe. Hm.

AB offered to read again, which was hugely generous, so I'm going to key in changes one more time and drop it off over at her place later this afternoon. No movies. Just me, the desktop, and whatever cat happens in (currently Mercury).

There aren't even enough changes right now to justify a whole new reprint but rather a page here or a few pages there. Saving trees and all.

I'll drop it off later this afternoon and can only hope she likes it.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Weird Science (And Mythology, Too)

So thankful to be back at it again. It was almost physically painful not working on the mss over NCTE/Thanksgiving. I even bought a journal in case I had some brill insight that simply couldn't be lost and (I think) got only the opening quotes out of it. Which, really, in rhetrospect is not that minor.

Did a read through last night in the sun room with the three little cats and then keyed in changes while watching "Weird Science"--"She's alive!"--for the first time in ages. (You've gotta love a John Hughes movie, especially an '80s Frankenstein retelling).

The good news is that the read is nice and smooth. Caught a major logic error in the weaponry function though. Very good Cyn; carefully explain how weapon works only to highlight massive glitch in sequence of events narration. At least I caught it. Not that someone else wouldn't have, but how embarassing!

Did a bit more tightening and killed my favorite (sob!) mythology backstory exposition paragraph. Ouch. So clever, so innovative, so not needed. Anyway, it was slowing down the scene too much, and I have a hint elsewhere that flows better and accomplishes much of the same thing.

Still a little worried about needing to nip/tuck in the middle. Going to read once more with an eye toward pacing there and then perhaps pass over to AB who has generously offered to read for me. I'm also considering asking one more person, but I know I'll have one more sweep--at least line edits--and I'll need some really fresh blood for those.

Current word count: 44,670; author's note: 280

Monday, November 29, 2004

Crosscultural Writing

What I said in answer to a question about crosscultural writing at NCTE 2004 in Indianapolis: "As it happens, my next book is a vampire novel.* And I in fact am not a vampire although I did go to law school. However, I certainly meant no offense to the undead community."

*technically, it's a multi-monster-verse.

Still struggling with what to do about what's going down at Q's house during the climax. Am thinking about typing up the whole fact pattern, available options (a, b, c) and bringing it to group for opinions. But that's wimpy.

Isn't it?

Friday, November 26, 2004

Mammoths To Go

How appropriate! Watched all of the segments except the last, about the mammoths and early humans (I suppose).

Thinking about police/RK/MM at Q's; possibility of photo of VTB to go with DM/GM/G&PM in the foyer of S; using the BL quote as the header of the author's note. Possibly KM should just say that MM and her contacts can handle both of first above.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Walking With Prehistoric Beasts

Picked up a copy of "Walking With Prehistoric Beasts" on DVD from BBC Video at the Discovery Channel store at the mall.

I know what you're thinking, but this clearly counts as shopping, right?

It's not research (or, heaven forbid, writing) until I at least load the disc into my DVD player.



It's still shrink-wrapped!

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Fresh Eye

Fresh eye...

Sounds like a really gross recipe ingredient, doesn't it?

Okay, this is it. I absolutely must stop fiddling or I'm never going to have a fresh eye to read for the final polishes before sending back.

If all goes well, spookycyn will be quiet until after the holiday.

But she will miss you.


Sometimes when you're looking at a passage, you have to ask yourself if it's specific enough. The difference between the narrator saying "me" versus "my shoulder" is enough to paint a more vivid picture for the reader, which is seldom a bad thing.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Critiquer Comments

My, I was chatty yesterday!

Some of my recent manuscript reader comments:

"Sounds so real for the situation."

"Good, different name."

"So true."


"The story reads well, flows well, + it's tight. Very polished. Great info about characters + background."




Almost there!

Someone wrote late last night asking when I would give more specifics about the manuscript itself. Basically, I'll say more once the advanced reader copies are sent and then the book is released. All things in good time!


According to readers, the suspense is up, the mss is tighter, and heightened emphasis on questions has upped the page-turning quality. Directly laying out stakes in terms of inviting in badness also ups the ante.

SP thought of a way to better delineate a tone issue.

And the intellect of placekickers was defended.

All in all, a bloody good night.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


Have confirmed that Econ is offered as an elective in some Texas high schools, so that's realistic. Little things, don'tcha know.

Still torn about what to show. Have printed both the Q/D at home scenes and the 2nd hr. school scenes. May bring both and ask to go if someone else doesn't have anything. Is that obnoxious?

It's obnoxious, but no one will mind.


Picked up a novel yesterday that started out innovative and amusing, but by the last two thirds seemed unforgivingly predictable. And the same jokes were wearing thin.

I'm not 100 percent sure it's me or the book, though, so I'm putting it aside to try later. Sometimes it's just the mood you're in when reading something, how it connects with your own emotional space.

I hope reviewers and awards committee people do the same, but I suspect they don't have the time. Thirty percent (or fewer) always seem to do one hundred percent of the work in just about every pursuit.

Trying to decide what to bring tonight for feedback. It should be one of the new or massively revised scenes, which basically means anything. I'm thinking though the D/Q scenes at home because they're the most new and possibly a little flat.

P.S. for she who wrote to ask, I found "Saved!" (forgive me for having overlooked the exclamation point in my previous post) funny, fascinating, a tad preachy, but all and all totally worth watching; "Raising Helen" (beware of this site; it starts singing to you) bittersweet with its so many ends too neatly tied but great for a good cry; "A Cinderella Story" bubblegum beyond tolerance--fast forwarded through the last four segments on the DVD; and "Mean Girls" something I'd already seen before (old-school teen movie plot updated; appealing star), so I apparently rented it for no reason.

P.S. II. neatest thing I've seen online lately, the break-dancing front page at the Out Youth Austin site.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Scent, Truth, and OCD

I've been brainstorming a bit on sense of smell. It's interesting because I was far more generous (or at least acknowledging) on that for characterization of my bad guy than I was on the good. What is it with that whole bad boy sexy thing? Fortunately, I grew out of it personally, but professionally, it seems to linger. Eh, considering my current artistic focus, probably okay.

I'm also cutting out overused words and phrases. Some repetition is okay; in fact, it's voice. Everyone has their pet words and patterns. But too much gets grating, and the impact of each reference is much greater on the page than it is aloud in casual conversation. My worst offender: "Truth was." I had something like nine of these in the manuscript, some just a couple of pages apart from one another. Now there are three and they're spread out.

I'm also pumping up (so to speak) two of the three hot-and-heavy scenes because they are so important for emotional and plot impact. And as long as you're in that state of mind, might as well take advantage, right?

Huh. Can you say a man "slithered?" What if he's not a man anymore?

How O-C I've become:

I don't want to reprint the entire mss again until 12/1 so I'm changing a word here, adding a few sentences there. Then I have to print the changed page (more if it affects page breaks until the end of whatever chapter). Then I back up on my desktop, on my laptop, on disc, and on my highspeed USB device (which I generally refer to as "the little plastic thingie"). (I keep these on separate floors of the house.) Then I have to replace the previous version of the morphing pages with the new ones in my hard copy file. Because this is not insane enough, I've bought an additional little plastic thingie that I can carry in my purse in case I go out of town or something.

Anyway, trying to shake off some generalized pre-holiday angst with a teen movie/chick flick bonanza. Rented "Saved," "Raising Helen," "Mean Girls," and "A Cinderella Story." If they're awful (which particularly "A Cinderella Story" promises to be), I will nevertheless take comfort in mocking them.


Just read the whole scene aloud with "slithered" and laughed for a good three minutes. Ah, I needed that, though it's really not the reaction I'm hoping to inspire in readers. Needless to say, the word is back to "slid."

It's funny because beginners often obsess endlessly over word choice on their first drafts, the result of which being that they're married to what should probably be disposable text and so focused on the trees that they can't see forest to save their lives (or manuscripts).

But at the polishing level of one's revision a small word choice issue can have huge impact.


So help me....


Monday, November 15, 2004

Curse of Three

So I'm reading yet another third Goth novel in a non-series series, and again, it's falling flat. I'm betting it's the deadline pressure that comes with that kind of deal. May I be so fortunate as to face (let alone face down) such a curse.

I have no idea what to bring to crit group on Wednesday. I should bring one of the new scenes that deal with the parents' death, but I'm doing good to write that stuff right now without having to discuss it in an upbeat and professional manner. Bah.

Cranky today.

Bela Lugosi

Doing some deep background research, I found this page on Bela Lugosi. Fascinating stuff, especially if you're into the classical films. I plan to spend some quality time in the future making my way through the links.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

A Great And Terrible Beauty

Surf by the official site of A Great And Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. Have I mentioned how amazing Libba is lately? Very really quite extremely amazing. So there.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Spit Polish

Spent some time on the two new D/Q scenes--mostly working on little details like making sure the reader (at least in rhetrospect) understands how he's trying to manipulate and establishing their pre R dynamic. More minorly, changed what Q has for breakfast to something more local. Sometimes the difference between good and better is putting in more thought on the storytelling details.

Also finished To Catch A Wolf by Susan Krinard (particularly affecting heroine), which maxes me out on the romance gothics. I don't think there's that much else available. Moving on to the mystery gothics.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Enfield Again

Once again I'm on a Randall's run, and when I hit Enfield, it occurs to me how to rephrase a couple of words that were driving me nuts.

What I'd had sounded way too obvious, and I knew I wouldn't keep it. But I'd jotted what came to mind just as a place holder. I ended up scribbling a note to myself on the back of a Halloween card envelope (I knew I'd left it there for a reason) at a stop light.

Then on the way back had another thought about how to up a dramatic moment with a descriptive line that tagged directly into the real-world analogy at work in the novel.

My conclusion is that my muse is flirting with another one who just happens to live on Enfield. Maybe I should pass that way more often.

Why Am I Doing This?

My sweet (and very promising) friend Keri asked me yesterday if I thought that keeping this blog was in some way helpful to my process, and honestly, I hadn't really thought about it.

My initial reaction, which is what I'd told her, was that I thought it might make good fodder for speaking when the next novel was released and that it seemed a potentially interesting feature for the young adult audience increasingly likely to visit my site. Also, I supposed, I was trying to be hip (feel free to chuckle).

But having slept on it, I'm pretty sure there's more to it than that.

People often compare "birthing" a novel to "birthing" a child--that you forget the pain afterward. Part of me hopes this blog will serve as a reminder how much work and uncertainty and internal cheerleading is involved so the next time I sit down to do this, I won't be intimidated by my own most recently finished effort.

No more of that "But it'll never be this good!" whining for me! (Or at least less).

I'll remember that it can take a long--often challenging--path to get to that point, and that the journey is an end in itself.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Keyed In and Keyed Up

For those keeping track, I'm at 44,364 words, plus the 208 word author's note (that's 241 pages btw).

Keyed in changes today while watching Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.

A few paragraphs were rearranged for flow, a few words trimmed, but mostly it was about smoothing out transitions. I'd tightened so much with this last revision that some of the scene and focus changes had seemed jarring.

I imagine mythical reader curled up under the blankets reading this story, sinking in. I don't want him/her to put it down. And on occasion, I do want to jar him/her. But on purpose, not because I can't polish my prose.

I am really wired on iced tea right now.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Delight Held

Finished the read-through, ironing out some flow issues. But again, nothing major. I'm going to key in changes tomorrow, let it sit through the end of the month (yes, I know I have zip credibility on that), and reread in early December.

Must say though, I'm likin' it.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Have completely forsaken the idea of abandoning the mss for the moment. Began reading with the idea that I could rest this mss later instead. Got about 50 pages in, and the news is de-light-ful.

Definitely there's a need to smooth out some of the beats. Perhaps carnage from having cut too deeply--just for the sensibility of each passing moment. But big picture, saucy! Will continue in the a.m.

Lovely day at Daya (hair and mani/pedi--polish is tuxedo, a black with blue sparkles on top) and night on the town.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Gothic 101

Added another clarification line about the core mythology.

You'd think that would be the stuff I'd address first. But... Maybe because it was so obvious, I didn't pay enough attention to it.

I have to watch that. Sometimes I become so entranced with my supposed cleverness or twist that I forget the audience has expectations about the fundamentals. Bad Cyn.

Mostly, though, I'm reading multi-monster-verse novels. It's really tough, I think, once you hit book three plus not to get convoluted.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Manuscript Page 188

Researched manuscript page 188. Yowza.

Extended the exposition.

Something I don't do...lightly.

Devil in the Details

What is the name of that clock tower (not the clock tower, but that clock tower) by Town Lake anyway, and when does it chime, and should I make mention of it in the scene at the trail? Especially if no one, even locals, recognize it.

Can you hear the bands outside after midnight on Thursday on South Congress? What if you're across the street? Or is there already enough flavor of the music scene?

In December, I need to do a read aloud, perhaps up the beats. Terse is good at times, flow better at others.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Internal Growth

In fiction, "internal growth" is supposed to be a good thing. But if you look at the literal words, they sound kind of horrific and kind of gross.

So maybe we should call it "shape-shifting"? K would probably say so, but look who's talking.

When GK first read the mss, that was her question. My theory had been that because Q had been led so far astray, the goal for her growth and change should be to get back to her original humanity.

It was a good theory.

There was nada wrong with the theory.

Plenty of Gothic stories are like that.

But then having shifted Q's role at S, her relationship with D, and her voice, enough of the character had changed that there evolved a clear internal arc in both directions, back to the girl she was and the woman she's becoming. It's like driving the story in two directions at once--not for the faint O heart.

DW tends to skew minimalist on internal dialogue, which is all good, but last night I did add a few clarification lines here and there, sort of like traffic signs. As in, the story is going....this way-->

At least now I know where it's going.


Thursday, November 04, 2004


I'm at Central Market tonight, eating a square of dark chocolate with bottled water. Greg is checking us out at the register, and I glance over.

There, sitting on a bench beneath the painted tile mural is this young woman who to me just screams Central Austin. Everything about her. Her hair, her slouch, her musical accessories.

I just keyed someone who's got her look into a scene where I needed flavor.

She's flavor.

You'll notice what a bang-up job I'm doing letting the mss rest.

My hands are totally covered in pink ink again.

Attack of the Mundane

Due to intense weeks of writing, today will be filled with doing laundry, doing dishes, clipping cat nails, dusting, changing bed linens, sweeping floors, vacuuming rugs, and all those other nifty home duties that fell behind schedule.

But first, Blizzard, the puffy white cat, has pounced to purr on my lap so I really must pet him, and then maybe I'll take a hot bath because autumn has finally hit and it's really too chilly in this old house today.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


Just cut the author's note from 680 to 190 words. Much better.

Changing Mind

I'm rewriting the generational reference to be funnier and less specific to which generations are involved. People now will just link it to their contemporaries and future years will still find it applicable.

Now, I wonder, is it necessary to explain that some Austin houses do have basements? Mine does, but that is unusual. I can't imagine the general reader though would be interested in limestone hills and the water table.

The Connoisseur's Guide

New purchases include the Dracula: The Connoisseur's Guide by Leonard Wolf and a T-shirt featuring a wolf howling at the moon from Turquoise Trading Post.

I plan on wearing the T-shirt today to dinner and hope to start in on the book as a reward for outlining my upcoming speeches, though the latter may have to wait until tomorrow.

Driving down Burnet today, I realized that a paragraph that had been cut from the basement scene should probably go back in. I'm going to dig back into the previous draft and see if I can salvage it. I will not at this point write it back into the manuscript, but I will pull it and put it with the print-out in the file.

There's another line that's bothering me too because it includes a specific generational reference. Two actually--boomer and Gen Y, which arguably will date the book. But won't the cell phone references date it anyway? Maybe, maybe not. Will cell phones be called something else in the future? Will they be solar? I don't know. Humph.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Tall Dark & Hungry

The manuscript is secured in its folder and on multiple electronic back-ups. I haven't touched it since yesterday morning. Noon, maybe as late as noon.

Today I'm going to keep myself otherwise preocupied. I'll continue working on my class for next week, and I'm going to finish reading Tall Dark & Hungry by Lynsay Sands, which is a light, entertaining vampire romance. (As in a genre romance with a vampire leading male, not as in a gothic fantasy with a romantic element). I'm about halfway through, and from the back story references I'm pretty sure this is one of a line of vampire romances she's written. Checking... Yep, titles at the front include Love Bites and Single White Vampire.

In scarier news, I've resolved today to catch up my laundry. And then there's that election... Yikes! Talk about your nail-biters!

Monday, November 01, 2004


My name is Cynthia, and I fiddled with my author's note again today.

Probably no one will ever even read the author's note.

It's not necessary to understand the story.

The editor will think I'm just being self indulgent.

I like it and find it witty and fascinating.

I must now work on preparing to teach the YA novels class on Saturday.

I am backing away from the manuscript.

Really. I swear.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Resting In Peace

The manuscript is peacefully resting for now anyway. I know it sounds theatrically inprobable that I'd finish this revision sufficient to let it sit on Halloween, but what can I say?

The printer is churning out pages as I type. So, it's technically not resting yet, but definitely on its way.

Right now, I feel good about it. For those paying attention to the count, it now stands at 42,956; author's note 681. I haven't looked again at DW's letter. I want to wait to do that until after I've picked it up after the rest to read again. But I think I've accomplished my goals. There may be something I'm missing at this point though as of late I've gone over it so much that I can no longer see the story clearly.

That's the benefit of setting it aside, regaining that clarity.

It can be hard though. I just cheated by sneaking back into the file to add a clarification line about VPH's activities at the school. Sometimes it's difficult to write, and sometimes it's difficult to tear yourself away.

For now, I have a class to teach, speeches to prepare, a holiday to get through. Tomorrow, I'm starting From Romance To Realism: 50 Years of Growth and Change in Young Adult Literature by Michael Cart (Harper, 1996).

Tonight, Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Odd Moments

I'm sitting in the back row in a session at Texas Book Festival, listening to Walter Dean Myers. I idolize Walter Dean Myers. The man is a living legend. He's an amazing speaker.

I realize right then that I have a major logic problem in a Q/D scene and that if I don't write it down I may forget. Basically D brings up R searching out a real V with Q, which would possibly cue Q that K was right about the Vs, thus throwing her entire intellectual journey off-kilter.

I don't want to think about it right then and there during Walter Dean Myers talk, but I can't forget or else it'll be a lingering problem in the mss and perhaps even the finished novel. Eek!

I very quietly unzip my purse and make a note in pink ink on my left palm. I've missed now about three precious minutes of WDM talk.

I take some comfort in the fact that he would probably understand.

Critique In Hand

Greg had mostly minor comments, which is of course a miracle. He's such an attentive reader! Anyway, this gives me something I can revise to before competing events will force me to set the mss down for a while and let it cool. I'm teaching a class on Writing the YA Novel (no doubt I'll learn a lot in the process) next Saturday for the League, and so I have to finish my preparations.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Trade Offs

I've read through the new scenes and done a bit of line editing. I'm considering keying in changes and giving it completely fresh to His Majesty, even though that arguably will mean more paper carnage than necessary. On the other hand, the marks may be distracting and adversely impact his concentration. Hm. Moral quandry.

In either case, while he's reading tonight, I am going to comb through and reorganize our contacts so we have a solid list to give Little Brown for the mailing of the Tofu & T. Rex ARCs.

So, he works on my writing and I work on his marketing. How romantic!

First, though, I have to see if there is an archeology department at UT. Research thing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


Okay, so I gave Greg the mss to read, and he's (a) wanting stuff back in that the editor wanted out--at least with regard to the Q/D relationship and (b) totally confused because Q/K are no longer drifting apart, they're imploding.

I keeping the changes to (a) because I really do think DW is right and the betrayal is more poignant if there's a more substantial guardian relationship in place but (b) is basically carnage from the previous draft that I've yet to edit out.

Along these same lines, I realized I summarized in one paragraph a plot point that should manifest in three or four separate scenes, and because I've shifted the plot, I have a logic inconsistency in the fantasy element. Both fixed as of today. As in I wrote the new scenes today.

You know what it is? You can never, ever, ever get away with past referencing something that actually makes a difference. Show, don't tell. I swear.

Hello, wheel, I'm reinventing you. Anyway...

Greg is bewildered by this as I didn't give him a chance to finish the draft before revising to comments, so he's starting over again tomorrow. He's a decent soul.

Also Dianna sent me a nifty, witchy Halloweeen postcard today and called me her "sweet, spooky friend." It made me feel absolutely Mulder-esque.

Must run; have to research the various symbolism behind turquoise.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Bad Kitty!

Greg has not been reading my manuscript because he's too tired.


Because Mercury, the 20-pound alpha gray tabby, keeps waking him up at 4:30 a.m. Last night, the night before.

Tonight I will try to lure the mega-kitty into sleeping with me downstairs on the daybed instead of upstairs with my husband in an effort for Greg to get a good night's sleep. Sad, I know. I'll miss Greg, even for just one night.

But this is my novel we're talking here. Priorities! ;)

Monday, October 25, 2004

R.L. Stein's Haunted Lighthouse

Checked out R.L. Stein's Haunted Lighthouse at Sea World this weekend and was surprised to see such name stars as Christopher Lloyd and Lea Thompson (admitting now to being a "Caroline in the City" fan).

It's a 4-D experience complete with vibrating chairs and floors, in-chair speakers, and spraying water from the ceiling.

The story was quite R.L. Stein-ish.

I would've stayed for more Howl-O-Scream fun except that I'd been walking since 10 a.m. and had monster blisters from my new shoes.

While watching the first disc on The X-Files Season II, finished keying in changes again, upped the ante on my male hero--again. I'm planning to print and give to Greg tomorrow for feedback.

I want him to look hard at the fantasy element logic since I shifted it somewhat.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Night Light

Stayed up reading until about three a.m. and then put in another hour this morning.

Overall, it's surprisingly smooth.

The rough patches are at the end. I just need to block out the plot points, clear and simple so that the emotional tug-of-war is easier to follow.

I'm going to go look at it again, then maybe take the weekend to let it cool off.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

The Count

Currently at 43,085 down from 55,479 with the same plot and eight completely new scenes, plus rewriting of course.

The count intrinsically doesn't matter. It's generally the sort of thing beginners obsess over. How long does an X need to be? And the answer is: as long as it needs to be. Simple.

But if you're trying to ratchet up the pacing, it's certainly a good indicator when you have about 12,400 fewer words and a whole lot more plot going on.

I'm going to show the post-body discovery scene to a few people, including a couple of lawyers and see what they think. Then look hard at the middle for any sagging.

But big picture, I think progress is going swimmingly--despite it being the height of speaking season.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Mr. Limpet

Keyed in the first 50 pages of changes today while watching "The Incredible Mr. Limpet," a first-rate shifter film.

Dinner tonight with Greg at Flemmings to celebrate the ARCs for Tofu and T.Rex (steak undercooked; lobster overcooked); went to Kyoto afterward for sashimi because still hungry.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Sneak Peek: Now You See It

Loving the sneak peek of cover art for Now You See It by Vivian Vande Velde (Harcourt, January 05). Can't wait to read it!

Finished reading my draft. Keying in starts again tomorrow.

Bits and Pieces

Read over the draft in snatches today. While having iced tea at Texas French Bread on 32nd and Red River, waiting on lunch at Suzi's Chinese Kitchen on South Lamar, waiting again at the vet for Bashi to have his allergy shot, while sitting with Greg on the daybed listening to light classical music. About fifty pages to go this time through.

Never Kloses

Spent most of the day in bed with my cats Mercury and Blizzard, reading the latest draft. Hoping to get through by the weekend, including key-ins.

Grabbed brunch at Katz's (scrambled eggs and turkey ham), and finished up about 50 pages there. I would've been even more productive today if I hadn't felt guilty about taking up the table.

Which reminds me, swooped by a boutique just down the street on the way home. When did T-shirts start costing $150+?

Hyde Park for dinner (turkey burger on wheat with soup of the day); waiter was Daniel who used to wait on us at Chili's on Lamar.

Am still obsessing on author's note no one will probably read.

Sunday, October 17, 2004


A master's student wrote today, asking me how I used my writer's notebooks; this is most what I replied:

I don't keep a daily notebook like some authors do with observations and so forth.

Basically, I just grab one to take on a trip or with me somewhere I'd rather not bring a computer.

I only really use them a lot before the draft has begun to fully take shape.

I'm flipping through a couple to offer examples.

The first includes: a personal Christmas shopping list; brief character sketches (like "latter-day hippie; new girlfriend; heroine's legal guardian; pushing 30); physical descriptions ("insurance salesman in business casual"); first drafts of scenes; an interview with a source (public information officer for a police station); possible chapter titles (of a pithy thematic nature); notes on a place I visited as a possible setting model.

Other second has more of the same plus notes on the history of the genre in which I'm writing and a sketch of the protagonist's fictional bedroom.

For me, the benefit of the notebook is that it gives me a venue for getting something down so that it's less intimidating to face the screen. It's also portable and offers a good, easy to store reference for the process.

The downside is that it's totally disorganized.

Most of what goes into never reaches the manuscript except in the most tenuous form, but it still gets me to the point where the manuscript exists.

Back to work today: realigned the chapter breaks and adjusted the titles; expanded the author's note; drove over to South Congress to do a little shopping/research.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Purple Rain (Or Purple Smudge)

Must remember to look in purse and then in sunglasses case for scribbled notes in purple ink, inspired by Judy O's talk, with regard to possible expansion of author's note. Seem to remember some of the ink running from water on the table at Musashino's but still hopeful of good fruit. Everything said about CW validated the happy!

Thursday, October 14, 2004


New draft clocking in at 47,726 words.

Finished off the cemetery and pre-party meltdown scenes.

Just jotted a note on a Post-It that I'm going to add to the freshly printed pages in the folder downstairs, along the the silent screen name of choice I researched this afternoon. Thank the muse for search engines.

I have no idea how it'll read or whether it makes any sense.

Right now, who cares? I'll relish the moment and find out Sunday.

In the meantime, I have incoming company and a writing conference to attend.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

I Want To Be Evil

Eartha Kitt's "I Want To Be Evil" is perhaps my all-time fave Halloween-y song, though of course Eartha herself is no doubt my all-time fave chaunteuse.

It's on a CD that my honey picked up at Restoration Hardware, which I'll grant isn't hip, but nevertheless has some nifty stuff.

Drafted two and a half chapters today, which means I have one and a half to go on this run-through. They were all school scenes. Also got my stitches out, so I'm bendable again. Heaven.

Didn't watch "Smallville" or the presidential debate in favor of quality time with above mentioned honey. Dinner was tiger shrimp, solar hummus, and sliced cucumbers. No regrets.

Driven To Write

Two chapters rough drafted today. One at Q's home and the other at Q's school. In between, I took a break to do the mail and groceries. (Btw, I love the new electronic self-service postage machines; and if you like spicy, try the solar hummus at Central Market).

Anyway, I'm driving down Enfield and the entire motivation for a secondary antagonist hits me. What to do? I grab a spare piece of paper and pen from my purse, all the while listening to 103.5 Bob FM, and trying not to wreck the Oldsmobile.

I have this theory that Austin roads are more dangerous because of all the artsy people who're driven by the muse while driving.

By the way, is it just me or do we have the highest number per capital SUVs with environmental-awareness bumper stickers?

Anyway, three new chapters to go (I think).

Monday, October 11, 2004

Stained Palms

You can always tell when I'm really into a manuscript because my left palm (I'm right handed) is covered with different colored inks in different stages of fading--notes I've written myself on my hand so that I won't lose or forget them. Notes that are so important yet so misty that I'm fearful of not getting them down somewhere solid immediately.

Today the inks on my hand are (in order of vividness) purple, turquoise, and red. In purple, I can make out the words "quail" and "Lutheran." In purple, I can see "Dad told B re: K when Q hurt" and "b/c R." The red is too faded to read and looks vaguely like an almost healed injury.

Have pretty much figured out the timeline. Spotted one noticeable inconsistency: K studying from texts days before school first begins for the year. Also need another home scene so the existing one doesn't feel like an orphan.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Witches' Datebook

Arg! Having trimmed so much and tentatively inserted new scenes (three written, four to draft), the timeline/pacing is pretty much in shambles. At least for the first half of the book.

I see though that I have a Friday, the 13th in September, which, I realized after checking the past few years' calendars, means the story has to go by the 2002 dates.

That in mind, I just grabbed my Llewellyn's Witches' Datebook 2002, so I can use it to figure out what needs to happen when--additions and pre-existing!

(No, I'm not a wiccan, but I'm highly wiccan friendly. Notice above, by the way, the incredible Amazon sales rank on a wicca calendar almost three years out of date!)

Current word count: 45,441.

I'm a little freaked out about the Friday, the 13th emphasis because, after all, my dad died suddenly on the last Friday, the 13th (though it was in August, not September), but that feature is already multi-years built into the novel. Like it or not, I'm just going to have to face it head-on.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Seven Scenes

I've sketched out notes on seven scenes, which when complete should accomplish a good part of what I need to do. Keyed in changes, too, but I'm not going to print until I add the new material. Pre-additions, still hovering in the 43,000 word range, but that includes some rewrites on the fly.

Watched "Big" and "While You Were Sleeping" while keying in. I have this whole Texas woman solidarity thing going with Sandra Bullock.

Am going to try to do something very radical for me tomorrow. Write new scenes in daylight. I'm moderately optimistic about the idea. Maybe if I pull the shades...

Sweep Complete

Did one more swoop through the manuscript and, armed with the APD interview answers, I'm ready to work on new scenes tomorrow. Thrilled to report that the entire weekend is wide open for just that very purpose, though fall speaking events are increasing a competing force.

Took off tonight to watch the debates, it being my patriotic duty and all. Had some scrambled eggs after at Katz's with my honey.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Cause of Death

I got busy yesterday and today with administrative stuff for fall speaking, four family calls, and meeting with a friend at Sweetish Hill to discuss her witch manuscript.

So I'm only up to page thirty-something of this sweep. I'm adjusting the backstory timeline a bit to make the custody situation more plausible and continuing to minimize the exposition.

Currently reading for research:

Cause of Death: A Writer's Guide To Death, Murder & Forensic Medicine by Keith D. Wilson, M.D. (Writer's Digest, 1992). The section on what happens to the body at/after death is the best argument I've ever heard for organ donation.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Kindred Souls

People who have to think hard and a lot about death shortly after the death of a loved one: funeral/cemetery directors, medical/emergency professionals, clergy, greeting card writers, trusts and estates attorneys, horror novelists. I'm sure there are others. Here's sending up a prayer for them.

Called APD yesterday and talked to the public information officer about police procedures that would affect the first part of the novel. She was helpful and straightforward and brisk in that police officer kind of way. The assistance was most appreciated!

At her suggestion, I'm printing and studying a number of APD news releases to get a feel for the kind of information the department might release to the media under certain circumstances.

I'm also trying to figure out what adjustments might be made at a police station to accommodate the threats present in my fictional world.

Today, the goal is to read the latest version with cuts and get a feel for the adjusted voice.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The Gender Genie

Tried the Gender Genie on my past few spookycyn blog posts.

These are the results:

F 309; M 351 -- author is male!

F 129; M 126 -- author is female (by three points)!

F 420; M 450 -- author is male!

It's supposed to be 80 percent accurate. Once it called me a "butch chick." Just FYI.

Monday, October 04, 2004

In Memorium: Janet Leigh

"Psycho" actress Janet Leigh died Sunday at age 77.

The Old Willis Place

Lately I'm reading The Old Willis Place by Mary Downing Hahn (Houghton, 2004). It's a contemporary ghost story with a nostalgic feel to the prose, which includes a couple of young ghosts/wild children (not sure yet) who steal books. Interesting. More interesting because I can't find my book now. I'd swear I left it on the night stand. I suspect it was stolen by my ghost!

If I can find the book, I'd love to finish it.

Hahn is the author of one of my faves:

Look For Me By Moonlight by Mary Downing Hahn (Clarion, 1995). Cynda's fight with her mother and new stepfather over moving to Italy results in Cynda being shipped off to live with her father, pregnant stepmother, and five-year-old half brother at their historic inn in Maine. Cynda, 16, is fascinated first by rumors that the inn is haunted and then by Will, the grandson of the cleaning woman. But then appears a guest, Vincent -- an older, sophisticated, and attentive man who seems to be the only one who really understands the displacement Cynda is feeling in her family life. Apparent sympathy grows into apparent romance, but it quickly turns more bitter than sweet. Ages 12-up.

Recovering today from newly inserted stitches. I feel like a skin corset. Ew. Saw a lady at the dermatologist/plastic surgeon who had lips like a rafting tube. Also ew.

New favorite song: "1985" by Bowling for Soup. Yes, I'm ancient.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Kill Your Darlings

Previous draft: 55,479 words
New draft: 42,126 words

I love to revise, to dig deep and make the story better. It's terrific fun.

A few years back there was a much discussed debate on process between Jennifer Armstrong (follow your head) and Nancy Werlin (follow your heart) in the pages of Horn Book.

That's oversimplified, but you can read their full comments at the links above.

We're all probably hybrids in terms of our approaches. But the one thing that's clear is that being open to to revising, learning, and growing is essential. You have to push yourself and accept that it's hard sometimes but also a joy.

Friday, October 01, 2004

The First Cut Is The Deepest

One hundred pages to go keying in, already down by thirty pages total.

Did keying in today while watching "Sex In The City" season II. Fave character: Steve.

More personally, under attack from energy vampire hereafter referred to as "E.V."

What I'm reading: Margaux With An X by Ron Koertge (Candlewick, 2004).

Inching Forward

Keyed in changes on about fifty pages today.

On quest for multiple copies of the Hallmark card of vamp girl. Figured out yesterday that I could just look them up on the Web site. Working on it today but the site is a challenge because they're already marketing for Christmas. I finally find the Halloween cards page, and it's not featured. With respect to The Great Pumpkin, I was unimpressed by the Halloween beagle. I know this makes me a cruel woman.

Most perfect spiderweb has been crafted from my arbor. It's about the span of my hand and glistens at about ten a.m.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Scary Movies (Not)

The good news: finished the first full read through and am pulling together a clearer, more streamlined ending.

The eh news: keying in is taking forever, and it's extraordinarily hot in the sunroom.

Context: watched "Hairspray," starring Rikki Lake, and "Erin Brochovich," starring Julia Roberts while keying in. Both enjoyable but possibly need to raid my scary movie collection for something more mood appropriate.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Good Intentions

What I had meant to do today: read and cut from my last chapter then key in changes while watching two Netflix DVDs ("Erin Brochovich," starring Julia Roberts and "Hairspray." starring Rikki Lake).

What I did: go to PO Box, grocery store, Goodwill (three jackets), talk to my mama and grandmama, split a bottle of red on the terrace with Greg.

Tomorrow, I have to deal with James about the gutters and will hope for better progress. I'm thinking of killing one fewer major characters.

Next fall, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes has a new book coming out, titled Snakecharm.

Also check out: Mystery Writing With Joan Lowery Nixon. I miss JLN. She was so nice to me at my first TLA. Old-school graciousness at its best.

Monday, September 27, 2004

I Love The Nightlife

Firmly in the groove now. I can tell because I kept waking up in the night with ideas about the love story thread. I don't know if any of them will make it to the manuscript, but just in case I was afraid to go back to sleep and risk forgetting in the morning.

So, at about four a.m., I grabbed an extra yellow thank you card envelope and red pen from my desk to take back with me to the nightstand.

I have no idea why I hadn't been prepared in the first place, but I sort of forgot what it's like once you're really sucked in. Ideas just hit and you have to do something with them, if only as a precaution.

This morning, I copied them back over onto the notepad I'm keeping in the manuscript folder, and really, there's some potential there, including a logical explanation for a key character scene that otherwise would've had to have been cut entirely as part of the plot re-focus. Encouraging.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Red Ink

Page 136, halfway through this read, not enough red ink in the world. Cried through Extreme Makeover: The Home Edition.

Latest discovery: the bar at Jeffrey's in Old West Austin on West Lynn. Half price appetizers at happy hour. What can I say? It's research.

Shaun of The Dead

Cutting is ongoing. The decisions seem crystal clear. The edits definitely are improving the landscape, but... Yikes! I'm worried that when I get done nothing will be left, but that's just fear talking. It's a (too) long manuscript. This'll do wonders for the pacing.

Told my friend Sean about "Shaun of the Dead," which he's supposedly viewing today. I look forward to a full report.

Saturday, September 25, 2004


I'm trimming my manuscript, on the second section now.

I'm also taking the occasional break to watch of the the E! 101 Staralicious Makeovers segments. It seems appropriate because in some ways the novel is about two "staralicious" (great word) makeovers.

This has led me to a pop-culture breakthrough conclusion.

Michael Jackson is a vampire.

Think about it.

It's the only logical explanation.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Bat By Bat

Am I freaking out?

No, I'm sure it was just an accident that I accidentally knocked my tea glass into the granite counter, causing it to burst into a thousand fairly invisible shards all over the sink, kitchen tile, and breakfast room hardwoods.

I'm also pretty sure that even though I got up early to start working, it was really necessary for me to watch a romantic comedy ("Chasing Liberty") on DVD and talk to my mother and whatever else I managed to do until about 2 p.m.

But then I remembered that I'd already broken the whole thing into a to-do list and just started in on cutting. Shifting voice, trimming exposition, simplifying fantasy element.

That's enough to get me into it, and I can already see where additions need to go.

What I'm most worried about is adding more police scenes because of the need for the background in Crim Pro. What is the one standard 1L class that Michigan doesn't require?

You guessed it. And I didn't take it as an elective either.

I'm asking friends for recommendations, and Page has already come through with a handful of names--any of whom I'm sure would know the basics in Texas.

But big picture I'm back in. Really working with the manuscript, taking it bat by bat.

As a sidenote, Trick-Or-Treat for Unicef has expanded it's Halloween night fundraiser to a month-long national education program, raising the awareness of children about their world and how to make it better.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Gothic Beauty and Batman

Picked up my comics (for fun) and a copy of Gothic Beauty magazine (for research) today at Dragon's Lair and am pleased that everyone finally seems to accept that, even though I'm a female person, I'm not (just) buying the books for Greg. The cynic in me fears this will last only until they hire a new male salesclerk, but I love them all anyway. The Batman "War Games" crossover is quite good. Per expectations, I hate Tarantula and am most distressed about the whole Nightwing/Oracle break-up. How's that for girly?

In other news, I'm about to begin applying the office supplies.

Be afraid.

Be very afraid.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Dino Decapitation And Office Supplies

I'm most distressed to report that vandals pushed Mangiasaurus Rex, the dinosaur on top of Mangia's Pizza on Guadalupe Street (the drag), off the roof and onto the parking lot where his head, tail, and at least two limbs broke off! Bad vandals! Never mind that I don't eat pizza; Mangiazilla is an Austin institution. Please note that there is a $1,000 reward for any related info.


More personally, I met with Anne at Sweetish Hill about her middle grade fantasy, combed through the second two pages of my revision letter, typed up my to-do list based on the comments, and--this is very exciting--went shopping for office supplies at Office Depot on South Lamar.

I take my office supplies very seriously.

No way am I attempting to revise again without virgin office supplies.

I purchased a Globe-Weis 3.5", expandable legal three pack of wallets for the version of the manuscript in revision, red and purple two pocket Mead folders (one for the letter, the other for my to-do list), a packet of turquoise, yellow, hot pink, and purple Post-It notes as page markers (because what is life without color coding), and a package of tri-color, heart-shaped Post-Its (because I'm all about the love, baby!). However, I'm most thrilled about the package of three sheets of Mrs. Grossman's stickers in various friendly bat designs.

Dinner was chicken tacos at Magnolia Cafe on Lake Austin Boulevard; watched the season premier of "Smallville" with much appreciation for the Margot Kidder cameo.

Junk DNA (Dialogue, Narration, Analysis)

When confronted with a revision letter, what to do is to boil down the comments into a more manageable checklist so you can evaluate and apply them. Otherwise, you try to take in the whole thing at once and become overwhelmed.

I'm noticing as I do this today, that some of the flags are related to things I thought I was supposed to be doing per the last letter and misinterpreted (dumb Cyn).

Some are related to aspects of the story I thought were well delineated, but clearly are confusing to anyone who is not me (also dumb Cyn).

And some of the flags are related to things I was doing in previous but now defunct versions of the mythology (even dumber Cyn).

This is what I mean by Junk D.N.A. It's dialogue, narration, and analysis (or exposition) that's no longer relevant after revision that you don't catch because you're too close to the manuscript.

What happens with so many readings is that you get too familiar with certain passages and your eye skims over them, even when they no longer apply, especially when the manuscript is hot. Hot, meaning something you've been working on steadily.

Right now, after five-and-a-half-months stagnant, my manuscript is ice cold and they all stand out. It's embarrassing.

I'm embarassed.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


The Hallmark Channel is showing a mini-series, Frankenstein, billed as a "classic tale of undying love."

And, to think, I remember when Hallmark was making movies like Sarah, Plain and Tall.

Dinner last night with G at Katz's, one of Austin's handful of 24-hour restaurants. Something about them makes the night here so much more alive.

Hm. Make that, "It's alive! It's alive!"

Monday, September 20, 2004

Bet Me

"What happened to 'Bibbity bobbity boo'?" Cal asked Min.
"That was Disney, honey," Min said. "It wasn't a documentary."
--from Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie (St. Martin's, 2004)

Ah, at last. Just when I'd given up on the romance genre completely (other than Nicole, of course), here comes Min. A carb-eater with a healthy sense of self who isn't dying to give up all of her dreams to breed in return for a mega-SUV in the fungiburbs.

Fearful of my editorial letter, I zipped it safely into a folder and indulged in retail therapy at Top Drawer Thrift on Burnett Road by the soon-to-be-no-longer Dragon's Lair location. "All proceeds benefit Project Transitions, a 501(c)3 non-profit agency providing hospice and housing to people living with HIV/AIDS."

For $34, I found seven garmets that make me look sassy and darling. Seriously. If you're an Austinite, check it out.

Note: Dragon's Lair keeps moving farther north (to Round Rock) and farther south (to San Antonio). Sigh.

Editorial Letter

Eeeek! Did I say I was eager for my editorial letter? Yes, I did.

Here it is, this afternoon, via email, four pages, single spaced.

She tells me, among other things, not to repeat myself. Again and again and--wait!

She repeats herself, too.

Hm. She's right. It isn't necessary.

What else? Terrifying use of bold face. Bold face has never seemed so intimidating.

Okay, it's not that bad. Or bad at all. A number of the suggestions are already clicking, inspiring new imaginings. New scenes. More clarity. Ripping away all those self-protective layers. Wicked smart editor. Very helpful. Kind of personally unsettling, though, even as it's professionally empowering.

I'm supposed to show more vulnerability on the death of the parents.

My own dad died just this past month and on a date that already was set up in the novel as significant.

If anything, I may have too much vulnerability to tap into.

The Teeny Tiny Ghost And The Monster

I've been particularly dreary of late, so a recommended read for the youngest set:

The Teeny Tiny Ghost And The Monster by Kay Winters, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger (HarperCollins, 2004). The third and latest in Winters' and Munsigner's Teeny Tiny Ghost Books is a not-so-frightful delight and a celebration of the creative spirit. Ages 4-up. Look also for the previous books in the series: The Teeny Tiny Ghost and Whooo's Haunting The Teeny Tiny Ghost.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Austin Setting

Though it's one of the brightest (literally and metaphorically) of literary landscapes, books set in Austin--or, for that matter, in the central time zone--are rare. This is especially true of novels about young adults; however, the fates have gifted us with a recent gem:

MY ROAD TRIP TO THE PRETTY GIRL CAPITAL OF THE WORLD by Brian Yansky (Cricket, 2003). In this journey to the self (and from Iowa to Austin), Simon’s struggling to keep things together. He’s skating the law, recently dumped, and dealing with a dad who just doesn’t understand. Overwhelmed, he hits the road to find his biological parents and wisdom about evil advertisers, scary giants, witches, ETs, friendship, nature/nurture, and, well, pretty girls. One part magic, two parts tall tale, this YA debut is one to read and remember. Ages 12-up. Yansky's novel has received tremendous attention, including nods from the Texas Institute of Letters, which honored it as the winner in the YA division, and League of Texas Writers, finalist in longer works, award programs.


I had a dream last night wherein I was sitting on a yellow, 1950s couch next to a very old woman with flowing white hair and blue eyes. She was talking, not to me, but to the distance, about nothing of consequence. Then she turned and said something that was upsetting enough (I don't remember what) for me to flee from the couch to my husband, who was sitting across the room. Her head began to shrink to the size of an orange as her hair fell out, and she become more verbal, more threatening. Looking for a weapon, I found a spoon, which I threw at her only to have it ricochet back at me. I threw it again, and this time it came back with one of her eyes in it. Again, and on the third time, it returned with a piece of her head, which stuck to my hand, and I couldn't shake it off. That's when I woke up. No more suburban chain Tex-Mex for me.

Thursday, September 16, 2004


Fear feels largely numb perhaps because the alternative would be too overwhelming. It aches in the joints and creates a hollowness in the belly. It worms its way into the neck muscles and holds them tight. It isolates. It steals your air away from you.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Books For Treats

Books For Treats is a neat trick-or-treat program, designed to encourage folks to give gently used books to kids for Halloween. Basically, feed their brains healthy stories rather than their bodies cavity-causing sweets. No bad there.

Critique group tonight at Anne's. Sean went to the conference last weekend where my new editor was speaking, so I'm especially looking forward to his report. Neither Greg nor I have anything new to share, but both of them should be closing in on full drafts to read. Possibly last drafts before sending. Very exciting.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Author's Note?

Obviously, I'm too eager to sink back into my manuscript because, essentially, I've been playing with rewriting a tentative author's note. Tentative in the sense that I've yet to mention a note to my editor at all, and she may hate the idea.

It's satisfying, though, at this stage to look at my early influences and think about how they may be reflected in the manuscript.

In the introduction to Gothic! Ten Original Dark Tales (which I'm reading now and so far like best Vivian Vande Velde's "Morgan Roehmar's Boys" and M.T. Anderson's "Watch and Wake"), anthologist Deborah Noyes writes, "The differences may be academic, but it's probably more accurate to think of gothic as a room within the larger house of horror. It's decor is distinctive. It insists on the burden of the past. It also gleefully turns our ideas of good and evil on end."

In an earlier post on "horror" versus "gothic fantasy," I found myself leaning toward the latter mostly based on the poetry and connotations of the specific words. But Noyes' analysis drives more to the heart of the matter.

I have no interest in too clearly crafted good and evil stories. If fantasy is a metaphor for reality, for humanity, most everything intriguing falls somewhere in between. Certain conventions, traditions, provide a framework, a lulling familiarity, but what keeps us turning pages is the storyteller's surprise. What haunts us, changes us, is how we recognize ourselves in the otherworld.

I suppose, through the dark veil, "burden" of the past feels more true. But as a writer, I see it more as a gift, an inheritance. Even a responsibility. I hope that reading my novel will lead the audience back to the earlier gothic masters, the pre-existing folklore, the other influences juxtaposed to offer the novel it's twist. Perhaps an author's note then is a good idea, a tool to point the way through the shadows. Or maybe I'm just being self-indulgent.

Hm. If nothing else, it would give the librarians and reviewers something to chew on. They're all geeky academic sorts like me.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Promoting cynsations and spookycyn

Satisfied that I'll keep it up, I've enabled the link to spookycyn on my profile, and I've registered both blogs with such indexes as Popdex.

Essentially, spookycyn focuses on my gothic fantasy work while cynsations is more globally about writing, reading, and the life that goes with both.

Countdown to Revision

My contrite new editor told me that I should be getting my revision letter by the end of this week. (This weekend, she's at a writer's conference somewhere else in Texas--along with Sean and Stephanie, who'll hopefully fill me in.) Anyway, Deborah is speaking with Michael Stearns, whose work I adore. Nice guy, too.

The truth is that it was kind of a relief having some time to enjoy WriteFest and bask in the sale before digging back in. Plus, with my father's death, I haven't really been emotionally up to writing fiction this past month, and, in any case, the related logistical responsibilities wouldn't allow it.

Now, though, I'm looking forward to sinking back into that world. I made a few shuffling gestures over the past few days, getting my notes together, etc. Reminding myself of the back story that is unknown to my protagonist, the kind of detail that adds dimension and believability.

Planning like any good, little O-C author... I'm tempted to handle the whole thing ritualistically. You know, curl up with the letter on the day bed in the sun room, put on a creepish music CD, reread the entire mss as is and then study the letter. Yeah, that sounds just right.

Hm. I better get in gear and order some new creepish music for delivery or, better yet, cruise over to Waterloo Records and just start shopping.

Saturday, September 11, 2004


Currently reading:

Gothic! Ten Original Dark Tales edited by Deborah Noyes (Candlewick, 2004). Features stories by Joan Aiken, M.T. Anderson, Neil Gaiman, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Gregory Maguire, Garth Nix, Celia Rees, Janni Lee Simner, Vivian Vande Velde, and Barry Yourgrau. Worth the price of the book for the introduction, though the collection is wickedly outstanding. Highly recommended.

Surf over to: the Web site tie in to Kinley MacGregor's multi-monster verse romance novels. My fave character: Simi! (Or else, I'm sure).

Darke Place: Yvonne's Navarro's Web site. I first learned of her work by reading one of her Buffy novelizations focussing on Willow; YN is a fantastic and imaginative writer.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Annette Curtis Klause

Found a couple of sites that may be of interest:

Rupert Giles and Search Tools for Wisdom in Buffy the Vampire Slayer by GraceAnne A. DeCandido, MLS. Find out about this TV "Hero Librarian" and why The Internet Public Library has named all of its office computers after characters in the show. Also don't miss Buffy Studies.

Princess Wolf: The Unofficial Annette Curtis Klause site.

I had the honor of interviewing Annette for my site a few years ago. See as follows:

Annette Curtis Klause is the author of critically acclaimed middle grade and young adult horror and science fiction novels. Her books include ALIEN SECRETS (Delacorte, 1993), BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE (Delacorte, 1999), and THE SILVER KISS (Delacorte, 1990). Most recently, her short story, "Summer of Love" is featured in THE COLOR OF ABSENCE: 12 STORIES ABOUT LOSS AND HOPE edited by James Howe (Atheneum, 2001). This interview with young adult book author Annette Curtis Klause was conducted via email in December 2001.

09/04 update: Klause fans are abuzz with rumors of a "Blood and Chocolate" movie. Cross your fangs!

What could you tell us about your childhood experiences as a writer?

Well, I was always writing, that I can say, and I still have some of those early tales.

For example, I have my very first book, GYPSY CAT. It was a chapter book about a cat owned by Gypsies (of course), and illustrated in clunky felt pen. I wrote it when I was about nine or ten. Just to show I must have always had ambitions to be a published author, I taped all the pages together on the left side, and made a front and back cover. (The tape is all yellow and crackly now.) On the back cover, I listed the names of the other books in the series--even though I hadn't written them. I did go on to write one other, but the rest of the series never came to be.

A couple of years later, when I started to write a book inspired by Jack London's novels WHITE FANG and CALL OF THE WILD, I gave it the same treatment with tape down the left side. It was called LONE WOLF. I never finished that one, though.

Teachers were very encouraging about my writing, and my parents were very supportive. My father even brought home an ancient typewriter for me to use.

I found it was a mistake to tell kids my age that I wrote, however. They just thought I was weird. The plays I wrote to put on for the class with my girlfriend made people laugh, but didn't earn me party invites; and after a student teacher let me read aloud my collected horror stories about THE BLOOD RIDDEN POOL OF SOLEN GOOM, the kids in my class actively tortured me in the school yard. I stopped sharing my writing so much after that.

Even so, a girl I knew as a young teen called me Shakespeare. I think it was supposed to be friendly teasing, but it really irritated me. I'm afraid I was an overly sensitive child.

What were you like as a teenager, writing and otherwise?

I still have a lot of the soppy love poems I wrote as a teenager. I cringe when I read them but, "He was cute, though," I say to myself, remembering the inspiration. I also have some journals and diaries I wrote. When I wasn't being smitten by unrequited love, I was trying to be witty and sophisticated. I realize how shallow I was when I read them and alternate between being embarrassed and laughing affectionately at myself. I actually kept a top ten of boys which I updated regularly. Thank God no one ever got hold of those things and used them against me.

When I was fifteen, we moved from England to the United States. It was the sixties and I became terminally cool. I wore bell-bottom jeans and a head band, and walked around barefoot in the summer. That drove my parents nuts.

"Why don't you wear something nice?" my mother would say.

"But I'm saving you so much money," I'd reply.

The Amoeba, Aiden's friends in BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE were based on my group of friends known as The Blob. We used to go to free rock concerts in the park, and some of us would talk our way in free to pay concerts by flirting with the bouncers.

Could you tell us a bit about your path to publication?

Long, winding, and rocky. Ha! Ha!

Whew! Let me think. I won't count school magazines. Well, first I had some poetry published in small science fiction magazines and a couple in Cats Magazine (don't tell serious poets), then I had a lot of rejections for my fantasy and horror short stories, and finally the leader of my writing group talked me into writing a novel. "Annette, your short stories are not short," he told me. "You want to write a novel."


I fought that for a while because I couldn't imagine finishing a whole novel, but finally I gave in. I knew I wanted to write for teenagers, so I thought about what I was into when I was 14 or 15.

I remembered a sequence of poems I wrote after reading my first vampire book. It was called THE SAGA OF THE VAMPIRE and was about two vampire brothers feuding over a teenage girl. I dug out those poems (Yes, I still have them), and when I finished laughing at how bad they were, I stole from myself.

That was the beginnings of THE SILVER KISS, my first published novel. My writing group teacher loved it so much, he asked his editor to read it, and she called me up! Wow! A real editor talked to me. But she had a serious criticism.

"You're really inside the head of the vampire," she said to me. "I can really feel where he's coming from. It's the teenage girl you need to work on. I don't know what that says about you."

I spent a year working on characterization and revising that book, then I sent it back to her. Sadly, she then didn't want to buy it for her imprint. But she had done me a big favor, nevertheless. The book was so much stronger.

I began sending it out and actually received personal letters, and another phone call! I knew I was on to something.

What finally happened was an editor from School Library Journal, (a magazine I had reviewed for, and had written some articles for) wrote to say he was now an editor at Bantam Doubleday Dell, but would like to keep in touch. Editors like to hear from librarians what books kids are asking for. "Aha! Little does he know, but I have a manuscript," I thought. The rest is history.

You talk about the relationship between your work as a librarian and your writing on a page from Authors Among Us: Children's Writers Who Are Or Have Been Librarians at:

What jobs did you have before you became either a librarian or author? Did any of them teach you anything or introduce you to people who influence your work today?

Let's see. I was a waitress for a month and discovered that I hated being subservient and that Nuns don't tip much. It made me realize I should stay in college so I could do anything rather than that again.

In college I posed nude for art classes. It paid better than most student jobs. It taught me that it's pretty chilly in a "temporary" hut left over from WWII in the middle of winter when you're stark naked. I traveled with a kitchen timer and a space heater. The long poses gave me plenty of time to create poetry in my head.

The experience certainly helped me free myself from inhibitions and look at creativity in new ways. One teacher had me climbing bars up the wall (that studio used to be a gym) wearing a child's plastic GI helmet and flippers and nothing else, while he projected a rocket ship taking off on me and played at top volume the electronic version of Beethoven's 9th from the soundtrack to A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. "Capture her movements! Capture her!" he cried to his students.

I pitied them, but I was having a great time.

For a while I had a job putting security strips down the spines of books in the Graduate library. The job was called "Stripper". It was funny when one of the supervisors called out, "We need five more strippers on the 4th floor." You should have seen people's faces as we filed out. I guess that taught me that language can deceive.

My resume looked very interesting for a while.

As a librarian and author, you must read a lot. What types of children's and young adult books do you enjoy most and why? Who are some of your favorite authors and why?

Actually, I find I am reading less, because much of my spare time is taken up by writing or writing related business. I miss it. I'm afraid I am very behind, so don't expect any hot tips. Thank goodness for books on tape.

I still try to read a little of everything in children's and YA books, although I must admit a preference for the strange and unusual. I enjoy the Lemony Snickett books, for instance, since they remind me of Edward Gorey, another favorite author and illustrator, and the Captain Underpants books by Dav Pilkey make me laugh out loud.

I love fantasy, of course. Two of my favorite fantasy writers for young people are Margaret Mahy and Diana Wynn Jones. I find both to be creative, intelligent, and skillful writers. I have just finished THE AMBER SPYGLASS by Philip Pullman. What a great end to the trilogy (HIS DARK MATERIALS), but so sad. I found the books to be wonderfully written, subversive and glorious. I am so grateful that he and his publisher give young people credit for intelligence.

I also enjoy science fiction, horror and suspense. I thought THE KILLER'S COUSIN by Nancy Werlin was a real page turner. I love a bit of romance mixed in with my fantasy and horror, which is why I like THE CHANGEOVER by Margaret Mahy and OWL IN LOVE by Patrice Kindl. I enjoy gore, so THIRSTY by M.T. ANDERSON was a hit with me. I've liked the books by Vivian van de Velde I've read because of her sense of humor, and I am jealous of her great titles--I want to steal them. I know there are tons of other books I could mention, and it would depend on the day and the mood I was in what I would come up with.

CLSCLR features a bibliography of recommended horror and suspense titles. Occasionally, we'll receive an e-mail from someone concerned that we're trying to recruit vampires (which we only do between dusk and dawn) or werewolves (which we only do on nights of a full moon)(yes, we're kidding). Have you encountered any resistance to the subject matter of your books, and if so, how have you responded to it?

Well, now and again at conferences or on speaking engagements someone will tell me that they hate any form of science fiction, fantasy and horror. They usually imply that it's because these genres are somehow inferior; I think it's because they have no imagination, poor things.

I just nod politely and agree that we all have different tastes. More often, someone will say, "I hate Science Fiction but I loved ALIEN SECRETS," or "I hate horror but I loved THE SILVER KISS."

So, I think of my books as being rather subversive; they point out to people that it only depends on the book in that genre that you happen to read. I have had no one say to me face to face that I am recruiting disciples of the devil, thankfully.

I'm a little worried about people who actually think that vampires and werewolves exist, and a writer could actually recruit them. It's nice to know that someone thinks I am that powerful but...give me a break, they are just metaphors I use for the human condition.

Have any of your books been banned or received any critical publicity, and if so, how did you respond to that?

My book THE SILVER KISS was pulled from the Sequoyah award ballot in one town in Oklahoma the year it was nominated. The award committee was furious. I won anyway--nyah nyah nyah, nyah nyah! I only found out after the fact, so I wasn't too worried. My book BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE was challenged in Greenville, South Carolina and La Porte, Texas.

Perhaps this has happened other places, too, but, these were instances where their local newspapers called me. I believe it was pulled from middle schools in Greenville, but the fight is still going on in Texas, and they have pulled my book from the middle school and high school until it's resolved. So it is like being censored.

As I have reported elsewhere, the woman who is trying to get BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE out of the schools in La Porte, Texas called me up at work to tell me it wasn't personal! That showed a great deal of either nerve or naivete on her part. I didn't know what to say at first.

What reactions to your work have you received from teens?

I will always remember my first fan letter in which a young lady said--"I, too, would surrender my neck to Simon."

"Yeah!" I thought. "Exactly."

I get letters from girls who have read my books over and over and over--what a wonderful compliment. I also get letters and e-mail from boys who are in love with Vivian--hah! and my writing group thought that was a girl book.

My husband does Internet searches on me and finds fan sites and great reviews by kids on school web pages. It's all very encouraging, and makes all the hard work worthwhile. A few girls who tracked me down by e-mail years ago still report in and tell me about their lives. I feel honored by that.

My big regret is I don't have time to answer letters very quickly. I feel guilty about that, since people took the time to write to me--but it's impossible! I don't want to send a form letter, but writing a personal letter takes time.

Two of your books are for older teenagers. It's not unusual to hear concern about the upper YA market. What do you see as its challenges and what ways would you suggest to face them?

The challenge is walking the fine line between truth and what the publishers, parents, and the more conservative librarians want to hear.

We all know that teen language is much spicier than some adults want to admit and they may experiment with some dangerous aspects of life as they find their place in the world. The challenge is to have characters that sound and act real without being accused of promoting promiscuity, bad language and rampant drug use.

I suppose balance is the answer--if one shows questionable behavior, sometimes it helps to also show the possible consequences. One can show real life behaviors considered negative as long as there is perspective in the narrative that implies this may not be the best way of handling things. I hate didactic books, though, so I am not suggesting writing moral tracts that justify illustrating lurid behavior, I only mean some subtle writing that makes it clear this is illustration not promotion. The language need only be implied ("He cursed", "She spat a foul word") many places, with a few actual swear words for effect here and there.

There is no need to include every curse word a teen may interject in conversation, as little as there is any need to include every "like", "ugh", and "Uh". (Unless you are trying to make a specific point about the character that is.)

On the other hand, some things like sexual feelings, are universally true in adolescence, and I am not about to ignore them or pretend there is something wrong. The feelings exist--it's what you do with them that counts. Sometimes people make unsound choices as they find their way, and I'm not about to condemn them for that, just show in some way what it meant for them so the reader can make an assessment.

What are the particular writing challenges of horror and sci fi stories? What suggestions do you have for writers? What appeals to you about these types of stories?

The challenge is to make over the top situations seem like they could actually happen. The way you go about this is to make all the things that surround the unusual events and situations as real as possible. Creepy stories are always more effective when they happen to believable people in everyday surroundings. Stories set in space work when the characters are normal people reacting in ways that you and I would.

I like those genres because I want to escape from the everyday world and explore possibilities. I find it much more fun to experience vicarious chills and explore the future in my mind. Why would I want to write about everyday life? I already live there. There is so much room for commenting on the human psyche when one writes horror. And in SF, one can have adventures and stretch one's perception of the universe all from a cozy chair-- the perfect way to adventure for a scaredy cat.

Of late, there has been some debate in the children's literature community about the importance or inappropriateness of stories that touch on violence or horrific themes. It's somewhat reminiscent of the withdrawal of monster movies from Hollywood after the attack on Pearl Harbor so many years ago. What is your take on this emotional dynamic as related to young adult literature?

Reading about violence and horror is a way for a person to not only clarify their stance on moral issues by exploring the alternatives (and in doing so give license to the antisocial creature within in a safe venue) but to exercise their responses to the terrible and be prepared for it in real life.

It is foolish to try and sanitize literature and the arts under some mistaken idea that one is protecting youth. Children and teens need to explore the dark side as a healthy part of growing. If a child is protecting from everything dreadful, he will have no coping mechanisms in place when finally confronted with disaster.

I don't mean that anything goes, however. I still think there are limits in what should be presented in children's literature based on a child's cognitive level and life experience. I don't want to traumatize young people. But I think they are capable of dealing with much more than some people give them credit for.

Do you have any interest in writing contemporary or historical realism?

I'm afraid every time I do, a fantastic element creeps in anyway. I just can't do it straight. The book I am writing now is historical, and has weird enough characters without going beyond reality, but I just had to insert a turn of the screw--can't help it.

For you, what is the hardest part of being a writer?

Actually writing.

What do you love about it?

Actually writing.

How is different for you to work on a novel now than it was at the beginning of your career? What have you learned over time and trial? Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

I spot my mistakes quicker now when it comes to overwriting, grammar, and spelling. I don't have to look things up in a grammar book as often. But it's just as hard to drag that story kicking and screaming onto the page.

It all seems so clear in my head. If only they'd invent some magical machine that could lift those scenes whole from my brain. I have learned to recognize my weaknesses and watch out for them in rewrites. I am looser in the way I construct a book and skip back and forth a little more within chapters and fill in the gaps, although I still tend to write a book chronologically.

I now do first drafts right into the computer instead of doing a hand written first draft. I couldn't live without my computer. If I'd have had to type the final version of my first book, I probably would have given up in frustration and would have never been published. I can't think of anything within my control I would have done differently.

Is it possible to find bits of you in your characters? If so, which one(s) and which bit(s)?

There are bits of me in all my characters--after all, you write what you know the best. Zoe, in THE SILVER KISS, is the shy young teenager I was who found it hard to make friends, and took long walks alone and wrote poetry. Simon, the vampire in that same book, is the side of me that felt alienated and angry because of loneliness.

Puck in ALIEN SECRETS is the side of me as a child who would sometimes do impulsive, crazy things (scaring even myself) and agonize over it later--the girl with a mouth quicker than her brain. There's still a lot of that in me.

Vivian is me in my late teens--angry, seething, frustrated, horny. There was a baser creature inside me who would get loose from the shy girl and do things carnal and wicked--and revel in it.

Where do you work now? How is the space conducive to triggering your imagination?

Often I work in the little room lined with shelves, between the kitchen and the living room, which we laughingly call the breakfast nook, although we eat all our meals there, as the dining room is full of boxes of books and may always be.

I have an office upstairs with a PC, but my husband likes to use that one, so I work on my laptop, on a folding wooden table, in front of a window looking out on the back yard.

I am perfectly happy and cozy here in this corner; I can stare out into the
changing seasons and dream. I have the table we eat on to my left and shelves to my right, and the coffee and refrigerator only a few steps away.

The cats take shifts on the table beside me sleeping or "helping". The only nuisance is having to clear off the table at mealtimes. Sometimes we eat between piles of books and magazines.

I do remove the cats, however.

What advice do you have for aspiring young authors (children and teens)?

The usual--write, write, write; read, read, read. Pay attention to how your favorite writers do what they do. Trust an experienced writer or teacher to read your work and don't freak if they actually say something constructive. You'll get nowhere if all people say is, "isn't that lovely." Listen to what people say when they critique your work. If they say things you don't like, store the information away, anyway. Look back at it later when you have had time to cool. Sometimes you'll see that it makes sense after all, and you can apply that advice to your writing. Sometimes you realize they just didn't get it and you can toss the comment aside. Remember that no first draft is perfect, and you'll spend much of your time revising. Revising is good--at least you're not staring at a blank page.

What about adults interested in breaking into publishing?

Do your research. Look over your manuscript after reading THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE by Strunk & White, if you have never read that book. Research the proper form in which to submit a manuscript and write a cover letter. There are many useful books on this at the library. Look at WRITER'S MARKET and LITERARY MARKET PLACE and publisher's catalogs to decide what publisher is the right one for your book, and what their requirements for submission are. There are many strict requirements these days. You want to find a publisher who publishes the type of thing you write, but hasn't marketed anything too similar in the last few years.

Join writing organizations like The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. You can get great market information from their newsletters as well as tips on writing. Go to writing conferences and network--if an editor can put a face on your name and remember a friendly conversation, you're ahead of the game. There's lots more stuff--read up on it, don't assume.

Are you interested in speaking to teacher/librarian groups or in school visits?

Yes, in moderation since I have a full-time job and still need time to write.

Is there anything you would like to add?

No, I am all out of thoughts.