Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Brighter Day

I'm completely finished with holiday shopping except for GLS. I'd wanted to buy him a crystal Santa Claus in celebration of our upcoming pb, Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006), but the only reputable company I could find that carried one was Waterford and the line had been discontinued.

GLS also made reservations for our more major hotel and restaurant endeavors in December.

Austinites: call now! Our first choices were already booked, especially for New Year's Eve.

Went to bed at 9 p.m. last night and slept through with the occasional brief awakening from Blizzard walking on my back or legs. Feeling much better.

Today's highlight will be lunch at Suzi's off Anderson with KM, whom I met at Evening with the Authors in Lockhart.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Holiday Crit Group

Last night GLS and I hosted crit group. I made dinner (which means I took my credit card to Whole Foods). We had smoked salmon, smoked cheese, and sesame crackers, followed by cranberry, red onion, goat cheese salad with walnuts, followed by shrimp and green beans, followed by fresh berries and/or peanut butter pie. AB and SP brought wine. We served on our Santa Baby plates from Pottery Barn with napkins that read, "Santa, I can explain..."

My new scene of F&M (which SP suggested I change to M&F) was enthusiastically received. SP also pointed out that I should make DD flatter early on. I haven't combed back through my scribbles yet, but I'll do that later today.

December meeting will be at TC's in the country.

I spent most of the morning and early afternoon packaging up holiday presents. I do send to my editors and agent--nothing big, but as a show of appreciation. Overall, though, I'm trying to cut back a little this year because I've been known to go crazy with the whole thing.

Big picture, I'm trying to get done what I can while taking reasonable care of myself. I think I might actually be clinically exhausted.

My vacation that was supposed to be in August 04 was pushed back after Dad died. My vacation that was supposed to be in August 05 was pushed back when I took the job at VC. My vacation that was supposed to be in two weeks has been postponed to February 06 because I thought the 19th meant the end of the semester for student deadlines, not for everything.

So, it's been five years since I've had more than one day off in a row, and I'm really feeling it. Looking at the calendar, though, not much rest ahead for the wicked or weary.

My mood is fairly upbeat, but I'm deeply achy and a bit teary now and then. Anybody who thinks writers sit around eating bon bons and scribbling in journals has never actually been one.

Monday, November 28, 2005

"That Is A Hot Nun!" -- DH

Is it just because I'm a ex-Chicagoan, or is anyone else who watches "Desperate Housewives" rooting for the nun?

This weekend's surprise in the mail was a thank-you box of pecans from KN--I love pecans!

Today I'm writing a couple of authors about potentially interviewing them on cynsations, running to the PO to mail packages and pick up holiday envelopes for sending gifts, and picking up groceries. First, though, I have one more packet #4 letter to write.

Crit group tonight, my place, must figure out the holiday food thing.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Holiday Decorating

"This is Texas! Everyone has a gun. My florist has a gun."
--from "Miss Congeniality"

GLS found some holiday lights made out of red and green shotgun shells at Breed & Co. and was so amused that he bought a strand and hung it over the arches in the foyer.

We also decorated our tree, which stands some 8' beneath our 10' dining room ceiling. It's funny, the history a decorated Christmas tree reveals. From the Field Museum's Sue in gold and Chicago Art Institute ornaments (one a snow globe featuring a lion; the other a silver depiction of the front of the building), it's clear that the Windy City is significant, and in fact, it's GLS's home town. Mine is recognized with a white ball commemorating the Plaza Lights of Kansas City. We also have a "Beauty and the Beast" (Beast with rose) silver disc from the Broadway production, which we saw in Chicago.

But the Texas influence is growing fast with ornaments of armadillos and geckos, Mexican-styled angels and crosses, mostly purchased at Mi Casa Gallery on South Congress. And of course, as people owned by four cats, more than one kitty graces the limbs.

That said, the global theme of the tree is music, which we selected because our 1920s house was built by the family that founded the Austin Symphony.

What else? The hard-carved nativity is displayed on the display cabinet atop copies of: Merry Christmas, Merry Crow by KA (Harcourt, 2005); Santa Baby by JB (Little Brown, 2005); Hanukkah, Shmanukkah! by Esme Raji Codell (Hyperion, 2005); When Cows Come Home for Christmas by DC (Albert Whitman, 2005); Christmas Mousling, also by DC (Viking, 2005); and 'Twas The Fright Before Christmas by JS (Harcourt, 2002)(a particularly good choice for spookycyn readers who celebrate Christmas).

Spooky Link

Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne Ultra-Condensed by Samuel Stoddard from Book-A-Minute Classics. I read YGB in three English classes in college, which inspired me to feature it in Q's English class in my upcoming novel, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007).

Friday, November 25, 2005

90th Birthday Party

On Thanksgiving, GLS and I had caviar (budget) for lunch. Basically, we took whole wheat crackers and added low-fat cottage cheese, chopped red onion, chopped boiled egg, and the caviar. Then for dinner we had turkey with green bean casserole (no bread/onions) and whole-wheat stuffing--cooked inside the bird. A couple of glasses of syrah, followed by no-sugar-added cocoa. It was relatively healthy and completely satisfying. Leftovers are ongoing.

Yesterday, GLS and I went to the 90th birthday party of BXD at a tennis country club in the Hill Country. It was charming to meet her family, sing a song in her honor, and enjoy lunch with MM. Afterward, MM joined us for an after party drink at The Driskill.

I'm still grading VC packets--working on letter #3. After finishing this one, I'll take a break to do Xmas decorating--fa la la la la la la la la!

Thursday, November 24, 2005


I'm starting to think about holiday gifts and the upcoming VC residency. The former are a challenge because so many folks on my list are long-distance. Shopping online is super convenient, though. That's probably the way I'll go. Or a combination of online and catalog.

My main concern about the VC residency is weather-friendly clothing. I've been in Austin some seven years and changed sizes and literally have nothing left of my Chicago wear. I'm considering checking out camping stores for thinner weight but more insular clothes, though probably layers are the way to go because I'll be in and out and can peel if needed. OTOH, I'll be traveling alone and have not much in the way of upper body strength. If any VC folks are out there, any advice would be appreciated.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Christmas at the Four Seasons

Lovely day yesterday! GLS and I joined AB for lunch at the U.T. Club, and then after dinner at Katz's, we scooted over to The Four Seasons for the lighting of the hotel tree and unveiling of the elaborate gingerbread mountain village. Austinites and visitors are encouraged to swing by the lobby for a look at this culinary architectural marvel.

Three VC packets to grade this week. Taking a break for Thanksgiving Day.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Sketches for Santa Knows

GLS and I came home from Quartz Mountain to find illustrator Steve Bjorkman's early art sketches for our upcoming picture book Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006). They're amazing! Fun, funny, emotion packed--wow! N looks a little older than we'd imagined and more spirited, and that really improves the overall book. And don't get me started on those elves in progress--hysterical. Can't wait to show my crit group next Monday. Tonight, GLS and I will gather our happy thoughts to report back to the house.

Checking e-mail brought more good news as my Dutton editor has sent comments on H. I'm so busy pouring over the abovementioned art and reading VC packets that I haven't actually opened the file yet, but I have all faith in his genius.

Spooky News & Links

Remember when I was singing the praises of Computer Nerdz? Well, get this: in my big stack of mail, I found a thank you letter for the shout out and $25 gift certificate for my next service call. (Apparently CNs Google themselves just like the rest of us). Was that a thoughtful surprise or what?! Definitely a class act. Highly recommended again.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Possible Plot Twist

I went over the last few pages of F&M yesterday. No new writing to speak of, but I did come up with a possibly interesting plot twist. It complicates the character motivations and raises the stakes, which suggests it's probably a good idea.

No worries if spookycyn is quieter than usual. November is traditionally my busiest and most stressful month--05 is no exception. December should be somewhat calmer.

Recent good news is the wonderful catalog copy for Santa Knows, illustrated by SB (Dutton, 2006) and the fact that sketches supposedly went into the mail this week. Can't wait!

Great Minds Think Alike, Unfortunately

I just found out from reading a review on another blog that one of the gothic fantasy novels out this year has a major plotline that is similar to a minor one in T. "Very fresh," says the reviewer. And yeah, I'd thought so too. Sigh.

Authors go through this all the time. I guess the fear is that you'll seem derivative, even though the your book is already well in progress or under contract or, in my case, in production--especially because publishing time bears no discernable relationship to real-world time (AKA when an editor says "two weeks," that means "someday, eventually").

What's making me feel better is that I've actually been through this before. My debut novel had what I thought were similarities to one by a fave writer of mine (and was released the season before), plus both covers featured a picture of a girl with a camera.

As far as I could tell, nobody but us noticed, though I did enthusiastically recommend to readers who enjoyed mine that they try hers.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Goodie Bag

The author goodie bag I received at the Star-Lit Children's Literary Festival included:

a CD of Peter Boyer "Ellis Island, the Dream of America;"
the November 2005 "Comfort Food" issue of Texas Monthly;
a hard-cover biography of Benjamin Franklin;
an event T-shirt;
a note pad, paper, and Post-It from Republic Title;
cheese in the shape (and colors) of Texas;
Sesame Thins (crackers);
Texican salsa;
tortilla chips;
dried fruit in a plastic container from Central Market;
a cowboy-hat-shaped cookie cutter;
Burger House seasoning salt;
a Border's wrist band;
a white chocolate in the shape of Texas;
a Republic Title coffee mug;
peanuts from Austin Nuts;
Silicon cowboy soap;
The Thymes Ginger Milk Body Lotion;
Tazo Chai Tea;
a blue-and-white canvas bag with a blue-and-white checked interior, garnished with a golden star holiday ornament.


Thursday, November 10, 2005

An Evening With Mr. V

GLS and I zipped to the Sunset Valley B&N tonight where Varian Johnson was signing his debut Red Polka Dot in a World Full of Plaid (a YA/adult crossover novel). He gave a charming talk on the story behind the story and read an excerpt from chapter two. Luminaries in the audience included DT and JW. Congratulations, Mr. V!

Sushi, Catalog Copy, and Blood Wine Boots

Wrote and sent in author bios for GLS and I for the fall 06 Dutton catalog in preparation for the release of our upcoming pb release, Santa Knows, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman.

Took my uber sassy (not-yet-broken-in) blood wine cowboy boots out to dinner at Musashino with KWH and then had an after dinner drink with GLS at Jeffrey's. All good except for the blisters.

Spooky News & Links

Attention Austinites: Debut novelist Varian Johnson is signing Red Polka Dot in a World Full of Plaid tomorrow night, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m. at the Sunset Valley Barnes and Noble.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Quotable Cyn

I received a note from HVD at CW yesterday saying she'd read T "with great amusement and some stomach turning," and asking me for a quote that she could read when presenting the book to the sister company Walker UK and Walker Australia--something about writing gothic fantasy and T in particular. This is what I sent:

To me, being a teenager seemed a lot like being a monster. A shapeshifter with my changing body. A vampire tasting the forbidden. Sometimes wanting to run with a pack--and sometimes wanting to run from it. Overwhelmed by a hormonal rage. Fearful of what might happen next.

Adolescence and gothic fantasy... They're both explorations of our fears and desires, of the horror and heaven of opening oneself to new, redefining possibilities. They're both about deciding when to walk a line and when to cross it--sometimes with life altering, even fatal consequences.

T is a genre bender that draws its inspiration from the old-school gothic masters but with a contemporary and southwestern twist. It'll be a draw for that emerging YA/adult crossover audience, mystery and suspense lovers, romantics, and those who like their blood served with a splash a wit. It's the book that speaks most to my own adolescent AKA the monster within.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Computer Nerdz

In a fit of tech desperation, I called Computer Nerdz on Saturday, and they sent my nerd (a very nice, not-at-all nerdy but smart guy) over today, as promised, and actually called and asked if I wanted him to arrive earlier (I did). This is the second time I've used the service, and I have to say that it's really outstanding. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable, prompt, and, best of all, they don't talk to me like an idiot because I don't understand how my tech lifeline works (or doesn't). Plus, I only paid something like $80 for a couple of hours of service. Highly recommended.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Undead and Unemployed by Mary Janice Davidson

Undead and Unemployed by Mary Janice Davidson (Berkeley Sensation, 2004). Reluctant vampire queen Betsy Taylor has finally reached her version of Heaven (selling shoes at Macy's at The Mall). Unfortunately, adolescent vamp killers are staking her subjects, a mysterious little girl keeps appearing in her bedroom, and her supposed consort Sinclair has seduced her--again. Wait. Which part of all that counted as unfortunate? Light, fun, and funny, a quick and entertaining read. Adult chicklit with fangs. See also Undead and Unwed; Undead and Unappreciated, and her YA titles.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Esme Incoming

Quiet week before the storm of November. I went to Bo Salon yesterday (new salon on South Congress, just a door or two south of Magnolia Cafe South). Barbara gave me a trim and a sort of reddish brown wash thing, just for fun. I highly recommend her. Also, it's worth getting your hair washed there just for the vibrating chairs.

I've been nursing my alpha kitty Mercury, who has an infection and stones in his bladder. He's on a special diet, which he likes better than the old one. GLS and I are taking him into the vet today, and I'm hopeful that there's been some positive progress over the course of the week.

Woke up this morning with a blazing sore throat, canceled my dentist appointment, and am spending as much of the day as possible in bed reading for SP.

Austinites are invited to swing by the Austin SCBWI "Celebrating Our Success" meeting at 10:30 a.m. to noon at Barnes & Noble Westlake tomorrow and encouraged to attend the Esme Raji Codell signing at 2 p.m. at BookPeople at 6th and Lamar later that same day. (I seriously hope to be better by then; it may just be the ragweed.)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Cheers from the Home Team

I heard from my agent at Curtis Brown that she and the dramatics department had read T--"wonderful," "amazing," "treat," "enjoyed it very much."

How odd and interesting it must be for the agents to agree to rep a mss and then see it after the magic of rewrites and editing. I feel so honored that they offer such tremendous support and faith.

Think happy sub rights thoughts for me!

Spooky Link

AS has launched a new Monsterology site; see his related interview on cynsations.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

More All Saints: Revisiting Crits

SP: liked the two different worlds and voices, the concept, the comic relief. He thought it was more clear what T wanted than D (despite the letter, so I'll look into adding a reinforcing line). He thought a reference to "only" might better convey. Admired the creepy factor on D's side and the world construct on T's.

TC: ditto on the two worlds. "Fresh, new idea." Humor. The "touch of the modern." Thought the local flavor was well developed; said it made him want to read more.

AB: surprised on the r gender issue. Liked T better than D. Wanted more T up front and more of an indication of what D wants.

GLS: thought I'd "really nailed" the voices. "Distinct and different" with tags. Thought I should keep scene order as is. Keep going.

I made a few adjustments in light of comments and got two and a half new pages written today--one full scene, which is excellent, especially for November, which--between Native Heritage Month and children's book week and what not--always is my busiest and most stressful month. I'm completely maxed out but nevertheless filled with the writerly pride.

All Saints Day

Happy All Saints Day!

I'm just back from visits to the gynecologist, Victoria's Secret, and Lady Footlocker. Needless to say, I'm feeling quite female at the moment.

I also spotted a jack-o-lantern on a silver fire hydrant at South Congress and Nellie as I was on my way to return my elf costume to Lucy in Disguise With Diamonds.

I'm going to back up my mss on the flash drive I keep in my purse and more carefully review my crit group notes from last night.

Not-So-Scary Crits

Just back from crit group at AB's gorgeous, newly remodeled house. She dressed as Martha Stewart (pearls, no ankle bracelet), SP as Scooter Libby (suit, handcuffs), TC as a creepy monster guy, me as an elf, and GLS as Santa (AKA The Great Man Himself). AB served salad and turkey burgers. TC brought ghost blood and monster snot.

TC and I read from new manuscripts. Overall the feedback on F&M was quite positive; everyone especially liked the two contrasting worlds. Will try many of the ideas offered. There was some suggestion, though, of easing readers in and catering to their comfort zones, but I'm not sure that's the best approach with a gothic fantasy novel. Will think about it as I press on.

SP bailed early to see Halloween IV, which allegedly is the best of the series, at the Alamo Draft House on South Lamar.

On the way over, spotted a Tigger, several fairies, and gave gummy body-parts candy to a doctor who looked all of about six years old.

Spooky News & Link

The ghost has a new trick--opening the downstairs hallway closet, even after it is latched and a weight placed along the base. GLS had a plan--locking it with the key, which for no apparent reason suddenly doesn't work.

See AD replendent as Bunnicula--bahaha!