Saturday, December 23, 2006

Friends, Fellowship, Cheer

I'm writing as moments offer along with the understanding that it's okay to live a little, especially around the holidays. On Thursday, I used a gift certificate to have a Balinese Stress Relief Wrap at Daya, followed by a manicure. That night GLS and I had dinner with FH and BY at El Gringo. I split the cracker crusted oysters and tequila cured salmon an appetizers and liked the later so much that I ordered it again to split as a desert. Dinner was shrimp and grits, which I enjoyed but would probably try something else next time.

Yesterday, I had a lovely lunch with JW, newly returned from Korea and San Francisco, at Green Pastures. We were seated in the southeast dining room, and our waiter lit a fire for us. After eyeing it many times before, I indulged in the seafood crepes in celebration of the holiday and plan to make annual use of that reasoning for years to come. I also did some shopping at Prima Dora on South Congress and BookPeople at Sixth and Lamar, where I spotted Santa. Last night, we road-tripped with AB and SP to the Hill Country to TC's log home in Travis Peak. It featured a signing clock in the dining room and singing dogs in the bathroom. Dinner was his signature vegetarian tortilla soup with sandwiches and assorted appetizers.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Christmas Carol

Each night GLS is reading to me from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, illustrated by P.J. Lynch (Candlewick, 2006)(inside spread). I've always been fond of watching the stage and screen reinterpretations, but it's my first time to hear/read the original text.

What makes the difference this time? Here is a beautifully produced, wonderfully illustrated book, designed to be held in your lap, with type big enough to actually see. For too long, classics have been the fodder of flimsy paperbacks for the squinty. Bah to that. Here, we have a book that invites readers into Dickens' world, and it's a very merry experience indeed.

What else? Holiday cards are hanging from the kitchen cabinet glass doors. Currently in a tight race, family photo cards are tied with snowmen, 5 to 5. Letters and animal cards are likewise tied for second place at 3 each. Wreath and sled cards both have two representatives. Making a showing also are an angel, topiaries, candles, cityscape, and drummer boy with one each.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Yesterday, GLS and I road-tripped to Fredericksburg, Texas; a historically German-American small town with a healthy downtown shopping and dining district. Highlights include the Marktplatz and National Museum of the Pacific War, which we've yet to visit and is currently under rennovation.

It was a perfect winter day in the Hill Country--sunny, 70-something degrees with a light wind, and the town wasn't nearly as crowded as we'd expected. I especially enjoyed the country western singers/guitar players and accordian players. Though I still have gifts to buy, we didn't find anything there. But I did enjoy my lunch, a Greek salad, at the Silver Creek Beer Gardens and Grille. That said, it's more of a fudge, bratwurst, beer, and schnitzel town.

Research topics: Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago; Tsavo lions; Sea World, San Antonio.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Holiday Hotels

GLS and I had the honor dining with GB at MH this past Friday night at the Driskill Grill, which one of Austin's premier restaurants and located inside The Driskill, our grandest historic hotel.

I ordered a three-course dinner: Texas chop salad (Maytag Bleu cheese, smoked bacon, avocado, crisp plantains); pistachio crusted sea scallop (scallop quenelle, chanterelle mushrooms, truffled herb salad); and pan broiled lobster tail (green onion crepe, lobster grits, smoked almond butter).

Last night we stopped by the lobby lounge at the Four Seasons for cocoa, piano, and to check out the always impressive gingerbread village on display.

Beyond that, I'm home for the holidays and writing steadily on E. It occured to me yesterday that a building plotline was off-focus, too big for this story, competing with its core. So, snip! On the upside, it also occured to me that the cut portion might be just the launching bad I need for U, which is the manuscript to follow. So, I moved it to my ideas file.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Roaring Fork

I'm reading round five of VC packets, having finished public events until the spring semester. Last night GLS and I made an Austin dining find. Locals and visitors should make every effort to nab one of the two incredibly comfy couches tucked discreetly behind the bar at The Roaring Fork on North Congress. We sank into the leather for about two hours last night, and for the cow-friendly, there is another available in cloth. The new shrimp tempura appetizer is likewise highly recommended.

Spooky Link

Julia Durango is having a holiday book giveaway at her LJ! Zip over right now to enter.

Friday, December 01, 2006

On Writing Horror

The Horror Writers Association just released the newly updated edition of its how-to handbook, On Writing Horror (Writers Digest, 2006). This is an official HWA publication, edited by Mort Castle. The 260-page handbook features such masters of the genre as Stephen King, Harlan Ellison, Jack Ketchum, and David Morrell.

Spooky Links

Gothic Fantasy and Suspense for Teens and Tweens from my website.

Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Candlewick, 2007).

Decking the Halls

What's new? GLS and I did another radio interview about Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006), this one with WEOL AM 930/"Les in the Morning" in Elyria-Lorian, Ohio. I spent some time cleaning up my profile and sidebar on Cynsations and Spookycyn. I also worked on a discussion guide for Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007).

This weekend, GLS and I will be reading and signing at Barnes & Noble Round Rock on Saturday, Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. and at Barnes & Noble Westlake on Sunday, Dec. 3 at 1 p.m. GLS also will be speaking to a teen reading group at the Cedar Park Public Library on Saturday at 11 a.m. We hope to see some of you there.

I plan to spend most of today blessedly working on E.

More personally, my home is now decorated for Christmas. The electric train is set up on the kitchen table. Berry garland is draped over the fireplace mantle and what was once great-grandma Bessie's clock. Red and white crystals hang in candycane colors from the parlor chandelier. Throw pillows are embroidered with German nutcrackers and sayings like "hum bug." The stable of the creche sits atop four Chirstmas picture books.

What I love most is the tree. It's about 10', set in the corner of the dining room, safely protected by French doors from the cats (and vise versa). The unifying colors are traditional--gold, silver, red, and green, though GLS is talking about adding a dark blue.

The theme is music as represented by musical notes and instruments, as a tribute to the original owners of the house. We plan to augment that with books/writing ornaments this year.

The tree also features ornaments more personal to us. The ballet dancer from "The Nutcracker" is a tribute to the years I spent in audiences cheering my pseudo-baby sister and dear friend, a dancer who lived next door to me as a child. (She was later my matron of honor).

The Plaza Lights painted ball is a reminder of my hometown of Kansas City, which hosts a traditional lighting ceremony each Thanksgiving night.

The Eiffel Tour is a reminder of my summer law studies in Paris.

The Marshall Field's clock and miniature silver Art Institute of Chicago harken to GLS's hometown, where we lived in the early years of our marriage.

There are clay armadillos and metal angels and a new limited edition Radko Austin postcard ornament, and a T-rex lurks in the branches in honor of GLS's debut novel.

Here and there, I can also spot an ornament inherited from Grandma Dorothy. This is my first Christmas without her, but the spirit lives on. I can almost hear her, complaining about how the gravy didn't turn out just right.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

On the Radio and Austin B&N Authors of the Month

GLS and I had a great interview this morning about Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006) on KCMN 1530 A.M.

It's been a while since my last radio interview. I did a few for Indian Shoes (HarperCollins, 2002) a few years back.

Basically, you have to be quick-witted, upbeat, and mention your title as many times as possible. The host was great though, and really gave us time to answer the questions.

GLS and I both spoke from my office on our main land line, pulling in a phone from the bedroom seating area on a long cord.

We would gesture to one another to decide who would take which question and mostly traded off. It was a good system because if one of us had a mind blank, the other was there to jump in.

I just scribbled off our thank you card to the program director/host.

This afternoon, we swung by the Sunset Valley Barnes & Noble to meet with the Austin area B&N CRMs. We're honored to be the Austin area B&N authors of the month for December. This involves special displays and posters, which we autographed. Very exciting!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Twig

Thanksgiving was lovely. AB was kind enough to join us for dinner.

I also think I've gotten all my NCTE/ALAN thank yous and follow-ups done.

Yesterday, GLS and I hopped on I-35 south for a successful storytime signing at The Twig in San Antonio. We also brought Hershey's Kisses (those with the caramel centers were most popular) and the booksellers served cookies with orange sprinklers in honor of the U.T. football game. It was a particular treat to see CR there. She's a VC grad and a past Southwest Texas SCBWI RA. She mentioned how successful their recent conference was and what a treat it was to host MDB.

Then yesterday, I wrapped up my upcoming interviews with DMF and MetroFamily Magazine. I'll let you know when they go live. In addition, I got maybe fifty pages of changes keyed in on E.

Today, I'm off to the Barnes & Noble Sunset Valley (Austin area) for a Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006) storytime at 11 a.m., and then GLS and I plan to stop by AB's house to celebrate KA's good news. I'm reading a mss for a pal tonight.

But things should begin to downshift from here on. We still have three Santa Knows signings, two radio interviews, one public library, and a partridge in a pear tree. But they're all local.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Syndication Glitches

Spookycyn and Cynsations LJ readers, please click the link to read my posts at Blogger. My apologies for the connection acting up. This happens periodically and always seems to resolve itself. Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Holiday Intermission

It's Thanksgiving morning, I'm just home yesterday from NCTE/ALAN in Nashville, and my puffy purring white cat Blizzard Bently is curled on my lap, clinging to me like I was gone 500 days (rather than five). I missed the furry bunch, too. JAP was telling me at ALAN about fostering kittens, and I dreamt about them that night.

I feel so out of sync with the holiday. Having been gone and preparing for my Santa Knows signing tomorrow morning at The Twig in San Antonio, I hadn't given much thought to Thanksgiving until today (except to realize that my diet had tanked amdist the choices of the Gaylord Opryland, so it will not be the traditional T-day feast for me, which is not to say I regret my grits).

GLS is just back from shopping, and he tells me he's serving salmon and scrambled eggs for breakfast, followed by poached Cornish game hens and lobster for dinner. (You can always tell when he takes a credit card unaccompanied to Whole Foods).

For those of you in the U.S. who celebrate it, have a wonderful and blessed day.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Santa in College Station, at the Junior League

On Wednesday night, we drove to College Station for a TV interview on KAMU TV Texas A&M University. It went well. I liked being on a furnished stage within the otherwise warehouse setting. One challenge though was that the highly reflective paper of the picture book made it difficult to show the art on camera.

We also signed stock copies of Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006) at Barnes and Noble in College Station, Texas (711 Texas Avenue South) and at Jacque's Toys in Bryan, Texas (4301 B S. Texas Ave.). In addition, I dropped of an ARC and bookmark for Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) with the B&N CRM.

A highlight of the trip was dinner with author-librarian DL at Cafe Eccell. I had the crab cakes.

On Thursday, GLS and I autographed Santa Knows from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the information booth of the Austin Junior League's "A Christmas Affair." This year's theme was "Home for the Holidays" so they invited Austin area authors to participate. I was wowed by the volunteers. With their help and support we sold out our stack of 75 books in four hours.

The lovely JL overlapped and followed, signing Galveston's Summer of the Storm (TCU, 2003) at the author's corner.

The event is ongoing through the weekend. Parking is at a premium, but I highly recommend Austinites check it out.

Research Topics: Chinese Astrology.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Lovely Libba

Wahoo! How much fun was it to spend yesterday evening with the glamorous LB, who was in town from NYC for the Texas State Reading Association conference? So very incredibly much.

We visited BookPeople and signed stock of Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006) while she shopped for toys and gave me a Good versus Evil Unicorn Playset. Love it!

Then we continued onto dinner at Green Pastures (Texas appetizers sampler, crispy mushrooms, sea bass with crayfish, ice cream with chocolate sauce and nuts--split three ways) and continued on for drinks at the Driskill Hotel.

Grading and writing are both ongoing. Research topics: 100 Worst Aviation Accidents, Devil's Night.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Fancy Dancing Santa

I'm living in this odd mental state, juxtaposed between Native American Heritage Month and the North Pole. Last night, I dreamt that I was on a book event panel and Santa was fancy dancing around the table as I was answering the moderator's questions. The weird thing is that's not hard to explain.

November is always a time of many teacher and librarian information requests, much like Black History Month for African American authors, I'm sure. My website traffic zooms, too. I try to support those who're using my Native-themed books with kids and refer them to quality support resources. This year I'm also busy promoting Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006). GLS and I have nine speaking/critiquing/signing/media events for fall down and thirteen to go!

It looks like I'm going to have more writing time than I expected this week, though. So, I'm off to jump on the treadmill and then dive back into E. Time to write some new scenes!

Spooky Notes

So, yesterday, I'm having lunch at Mangia Pizza (Chicago-style thin crust on whole wheat) on Lake Austin Boulevard, and I notice a movie poster on the wall behind me. Has anyone ever heard of "Spamorama: The Movie"?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Library Love

I'm grading VC packets and celebrating the passing of the bond for the new central public library here in Austin as well as the election of one of my law school classmates, Robert Wilson (Democrat), to the Borough Council in Somerville, NJ.

Last night, I had a wonderful time speaking to Dr. Leavell's children's literature class at St. Edward's U in south Austin. Someone asked whether I have more fun writing fantasy or realistic fiction, which I thought was a good question. The challenge in answering it though is that I always love most the manuscript I'm working on at the moment. So right now I'm all about E. That's sort of necessary. But with that caveat, what I love most about fantasy writing is world building, and what I love most about realistic fiction is finding the angles at which I tackle the realistic aspects.

In other news, I spent a day integrating the fruits of my organizational efforts into the third rough draft of E. Research Topics: sunrises and sunsets; Oklahoma City Bombing; L.A. Riots; Our Lady of Angels Fire. Ended up using only the first of those.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Story Compass

Massive organizational push today on E.

This is what I had: several chapters with scenes written, followed by a lot of notes and rougher-than-scene vignettes.

This is what I have ten hours later: same scenes as above, plus quasi-organized new and date-stamped chapter headings leading to the falling action, each of which begins with a summary of what must happen and is followed by related notes.

I also gave one character, previously mentioned in passing, a last name and a larger role, which solves an interior development issue I was having with M, one of my co-protagonists. In addition, I changed one name.

Notes on known revision points are at the end, but I want to make it through a draft before I address them.

I'm a plunger-plotter hybrid. Plunge and then figure out how to swim. On my third first draft, it looks like I've got the plot 85% figured out and have at least a tentative title for each chapter.

I love chapter titles. I can see where you might want to just stay in the story itself, but to me, it's part of the rhythm of a novel. Also, it's an opportunity.

Research topics included: James Dean; Irish boy names.

Enough for today. My brain is leeking out of my ears.

San Angelo

On Friday, GLS and I packed up and headed out to West Texas--about three and a half hours of Hill Country and flatland roads past cotton fields, small towns, ranches, cattle, goats, sheep, horses, and barbecue restaurants to San Angelo to keynote at the Fifth Annual Fall Literacy Conference "Reading and Writing: Not an English Thing, but an Everything!" ("Literacy is the common thread that connects all learning.") on Nov. 4 at Angelo State University.

The event included a giveaway, book sale, and several breakout sessions. Lesson plan displays featured the work of EC, MG, and LN. Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006) was our biggest seller.

San Angelo itself is a charming town with friendly folks, downtown shopping, a saddle-shaped art museum as well as the traditional West Texas enthusiasm for football (think: "Friday Night Lights") and deer hunting (it won't be a bad season, but trophies won't be what they were in previous years).

We were put up at the new Fairfield Inn on Knickerbocker, which was clean, comfortable, and convenient with good service and a computer for free Internet use. (It's a division of the Marriott).

On Friday night, the leadership group was kind enough to welcome us for dinner at Miss Hattie's Cafe and Saloon on Each Concho Street. As they once said, "Miss Hattie's business was the hospitality business. She found great pleasure in entertaining her clients. She believed that if she created a place that was intimate ...private...and ...romatic, no one could resist what she had to offer." (I had the shrimp scampi with wild rice and mixed veggies). Sadly, we did not have time to visit Miss Hattie's Bordello Museum.

However, we did stop by for a peek at the lobby of the Cactus Hotel, which was the fourth built by Conrad Hilton. A stage was set and two very young girls in gowns were rehearsing for an upcoming production of "Cinderella."

We also enjoyed lunch on Saturday at Mr. T's Deli, which apparently used to be a general store, (I had the cheese hotdog with waffle fries) on W. Avenue J. in the historic neighborhood.

Spooky News & Links

On Wednesday, I also voted early at the Howson Branch of the Austin Public Library in Tarrytown. Austinites: remember that the proposal for a new central library is on the ballot!

LF has updated my website, now current with the September status of Cynsations.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Oh, how I adore Halloween! I bought a large witchy boot-shaped balloon with a balloon black kitty coming out of the top at Randall's. Out and about town, I spotted several hippie and biker-themed costumes--of course this being Austin, those may have been regular clothes.

I didn't get much more done on E than copyediting all I'd written yesterday. Well, 300 words. But I did figure out something major about M's motivation. Research topic: Elizabeth Bathory.

Last night was critique group at AB's. I brought the kitty balloon. Dinner was light havarti dill on brown rice snaps, cucumbers with hummus, salsa and Halloween chips (orange and blue corn), smoked salmon and smoked chicken, pasta salad and garden salad with candy apples for dessert (mine was a kitty apple--green Granny Smith with dark chocolate).

We all wore costumes of course. And there were prizes.

GLS was a Ninja and winner of the survival kit in a sardine can.

I was a Sanguini's vampire (with bat wings and everything), and winner of the staple-free stapler.

TC was a kid from the Line and winner of a pocket magnifyer (with a light). TC just took over as the Austin SCBWI RA.

SP was a character from his graphic novel WIP and winner of a blue dog pencil sharpener. SP has been in Phoenix the past few months, and we were thrilled to have him back.

AB was a tacky tourist and winner of the mini lava lamp (also with a light).

We all brought something to read, and it was one of our stronger mss nights ever. I brought two new chapters from Z's point of view, and I was interested in whether he'd be embraced after the mourning for T. Everyone was quite positive about the voice, J, suitability for M, juxtaposition of humor against seriousness/reverence, hope and stakes, and back story. SP mentioned that one element reminded him of an element in "The Matrix" in a good way.

Only one tricker treater, dressed as a football player.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Halloween Eve

As an initial issue, someone needs to explain Daylight Savings Time to my alpha cat/alarm clock.

This is going to be one of my most "down" weeks, speaking/grading-wise, and I'm planning to take full advantage of that to write, write, write. I'm getting momentum now--closing in on the voice of my new co-protagonist, figuring out the finer points of the story arc.

In sum, the third E rewrite is starting to feel like a mss again. It took me a while to really get going because I had to change out a fantasy element and a co-protagonist. The good news is that I'm waaay past the dreaded page 30 (anyone can write about 30 decent pages of a novel, which is why three-chapter critiques and queries can be so misleading). Research topics on Sunday included: Madame Defarge, Christie's, and Chinatown Chicago.

At dinner that night, GLS mentioned in passing that if you look at my gothic fantasy YA as its own beast (not counting my tweener, Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperColllins, 2001)), E essentially is my sophomore novel. Scary news that.

The danger of first novels is that there tends to be too much of oneself in them. The danger of second ones is that there tends to be not enough--they're often rushed to meet a deadline that you would've killed for a couple of mss ago but now may kill you.

I could feel Fearmiser sinking his claws in my spine, so I sent one of my vampires to eat him. I know he'll rise again, but I feel better for now.

Amazing day today! Fourteen pages written! My all-time best production rate. Research topics included: Elton John, Byron, and crematoriums.

Off to watch "Northern Exposure," season one. Of course I'm the only person who thought the show got better when Shelly Tambo started singing.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Festive Festival

A few days ago, I wondered about the pacing of my current rewrite of E (I'd say "revision," but it's really more than that). Especially given that they're co-protagonists, I was concerned about the pacing to the moment when my heroes meet in person. But still writing sparce, I'm a scene or so out at page 44. In Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007), I realized, Q and B meet on pg. 55ish of the mss. Given that these are both gothic fantasies for the same-age range audience, that's a good sign.

This weekend is the Texas Book Festival. On Friday night, I had the honor of dining with TLS (author interview) at Eastside Cafe. I had the chicken mushroom artichoke soup and crab stuffed shrimp. Then we cruised back to socialize with some of the other incoming authors at the Marriott, which GLS will report on shortly at his blog.

We visited the festival itself the next day. Celebrity sightings in the tents included JW (author interview), KD, JK, L&RG (author interview), HH and her co-author BB (co-authors interview). I also tried to say "hi" to SM (author interview), but her escort was already nudging away avid fans to take her somewhere else. In the capitol building itself, sightings included VB (and her darling family)(author interview), AB (author interview), TC, VJ, and GB. AL also waved as she ran by.

This year, GLS spoke on a panel for the Writers' League 2006 Teddy and Violet Crown winners and finalists.

On the children's front, short works finalists BC, author of The Pledge of Allegiance by Barbara Clack (Texas A & M University Press Consortium, 2005) and AS, author-illustrator of Mocking Birdies (Simply Read Books, 2005) participated, though TT, the winner for Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom, illustrated by JRB (Cinco Puntos, 2006)(recommendation) was in Canada so his publisher, LMB, accepted for him.

In addition GLS, a finalist for Tofu and T. rex (Little Brown, 2005)(author interview), and winners HH and BB, Scrambled Eggs at Midnight (Dutton, 2006)(co-authors interview) also took part.

Qustions included sources of inspiration, the revision process, and titles. What with the Violet Crown winners on the panel, too, it was a large group. However, the moderator was strong and the participants all were gracious, so we got to hear from everyone.

From there, reception followed at the Brown Bar from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Appetizers included a bacon-wrapped shrimp, cubed cheese, and both fruit and veggie platters. Attendees were a lively bunch--including the finalists, winners, and HH, who was on a concurrent panel (author interview), and her husband, JL (author interview), who moderated that same panel, VJ, GB, CB and his wife CB.

Afterward, GB, CB and his wife CB joined GLS and I for dinner at Gumbo's, which is right next door to the bar. It was my first time and the restaurant, and the food was gloriously Gulf Coast with all the butter that implies. I had the halibut with crab over a mushroom risotto and asked for my hollandaise sauce on the side.

KA (author interview) will be stopping by later today after her signing at the Wildflower Center so we can autograph her stack of copies of Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006).

Friday, October 27, 2006

Multiple Monsters

"Keep Austin Scary"
--available on T-shirts at The House of Torment

Progress on E is steady if not speedy. I rewrote one scene Wednesday night, which isn't something I'd normally do before I had a whole draft. But it was important to clarify a time gap.

This is another one of my books in which a landmark incident takes place some time before the story really kicks off. Intrinsically, that seems like a bad idea. But I guess, especially for a suspenseful book, it's good to start with a particularly strong hook and build energy again. Like "The X-Files" would do before the credits. Then I can begin integrating more depth into the fantasy construct.

Speaking of which, I'm seeing of late why more authors don't do multi-monster-verses (universes with multiple monsters, not monsters speaking in verse, though that could be interesting). It's a lot to weave, though the juxtapositions are interesting.

That said, I need to get more religious again about having a pen and paper by my bedside. I came up with a few scene starters for today's mission last night before falling asleep and had to scramble to find a Post-it note and working pen to get them down.

Research issues of late have included: grassy knoll; first atom bomb; the spelling/meaning of "Jamilya" and the Amtrak Texas Eagle.

Yesterday, my lunch date was JZ at Guero's Taco Bar. I had the shrimp fajitas (Guero's in one of the restaurants that serve whole wheat tortillas, which I appreciate). Austinites should take note that JZ's new YA, Alpha Dog (Delacorte, 2006), is set here locally.

And now it's Friday! I had lunch today with GB at Castle Hill (tomato basil soup)(we had a TR sighting), and then tonight TLS is flying in from Vermont for Texas Book Festival!

Look for me and GLS tomorrow at the 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. panel and later reception in honor of the Writers' League book award winners and finalists. Congrats again to GLS who is a finalist in the children's long book division for Tofu and T. rex (Little Brown, 2005). See event details!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Lucy In Disguise

My third round VC packets are off.

JL stopped by on Monday to pick up the flower vases from the Austin SCBWI fall conference speaker reception and stayed to visit over some leftover wine and cubed cheese.

GLS spoke Tuesday night at JAL's class at St. Edward's University in south Austin. When I first moved to town, I spent a semester tutoring freshmen students from migrant farm families. It was a lovely experience, and I realized how much I'd missed the campus.

GLS offered some insights behind his stories and then took questions. Among other things, he recommended the work of LY, JS, KWH, and, for adults, JS--especially Moo (Ballantine, 1995), which he much preferred to A Thousand Acres, which won the Pulitzer in 1992.

Today's highlight was lunch with AB at the UT Club. The buffet included the most brilliant chicken breast in tomato cream sauce. The black bean and corn soup also was spicy great.

Then GLS and I wound our way across town in the rain to Lucy In Disguise With Diamonds, Austin's premier costume shop, located on South Congress. It was bustling but well organized with fifty employees on staff.

Austinites, note that they don't take AmEx or debit cards (but regular credit cards are fine for purchase and checks for deposits). Be prepared to park (and walk) in the neighborhood and opt for the day-and-a-half rental option so you can take your costume with you and then return it the day after Halloween to the lot in back of the store. Selection is still excellent, but parking is tight, so be sure to shop ASAP.

Spooky News

Possibly in very small part due to my multiple requests, there are now two Wonder Woman T-shirts available at Dragon's Lair, one of which is a portrait and the other, which I bought, features her logo. Plus, LKH's "Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter" issue 1 also is on the stands from Marvel. Totally worth buying for the illos of Jean-Claude alone.

I also just heard there is a new Meatloaf album coming out. How did I not know this?

Comic of Last Week: Robin 155.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

RAs on the Line

GLS and I joined outgoing Austin SCBWI RA JL and incoming RA TC for a late lunch today at County Line BBQ. Our special guest was EH, who gave the closing presentation. I had the ham and chicken, along with a few beans and potato salad. After lunch, we spent some quality time on the deck, watching the water flow and the ducks and turtles swim by.

This weekend was our annual fall conference, and GLS and I hosted a reception in honor of the speakers. I still have two more VC packets to go on round three, so that's my priority. But I was delighted during EH's talk to realize what one of my E co-protagonists smells like.

Spooky Notes

"Reading? Writing? Who Needs 'em?" talk of the party from CB. Don't miss "Damn Yankees" from VJ See also "Eat, Drink, and Be Merry" from JW on the behind the scenes scene, including party pics. And check out DT's report on "A Successful Fall Conference."

I've mentioned this on Cynsations, but not yet here. Patti, a teen services librarian from Austin is the latest of the bloggers to chime in on my upcoming gothic fantasy YA, Tantalize (Candlewick, February 2007). She writes: "There is murder, love gone awry, distrust and suspicion, menacing foes, were-people and vampires, and more murder. This is a fun read and one that you probably will want to read from cover to cover because it is just that enjoyable and easy to read." I'm especially thrilled that Patti enjoyed the Austin references integrated into the story. Those she mentioned included South Congress and the bats. Read the whole post!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Linda Sue Park on "Jeopardy!"

Surf on over to LSP's LJ to learn all about her "Jeopardy!" experience, and check your local listings to see her on tomorrow's show. Read a Cynsations interview with Linda Sue Park.

Bloomin' Onion

This week, I've been grading during the days and writing at night. I've just finished my third packet of round three for the semester.

The Austin SCBWI fall conference is this weekend, and GLS and I are hosting a reception for the speakers here at the house on Friday night. I'm pretty much as ready as I can be. I need to do one more sweep of the floors and rugs tonight. JL arrives with flower arrangements in the morning. Food will be delivered by Central Market at 5:30 p.m. BC is getting her a little early with TS to set up his signing. We're expecting 35 guests.

What else? On Tuesday night, GLS took me to Threadgill's (bronzed catfish with black beans and green bean casserole) to celebrate the slating of Tantalize for publication by Walker U.K. in October 2008. We tried hard to find an English restaurant in Austin and didn't have much luck. So, if anyone can suggest one, please do.

The evening before we tried the Outback Steakhouse (on S. Lamar) for the first time ever. My grandma Dorothy had been a huge fan of the place, and for some reason that Spike quote about the flowering onion appetizer kept recurring in my head. We sat in a big booth, just the two of us. It was big enough for six. I had the onion, which was fantastic (spicy), broccoli cheese soup (ick, watery) and some shrimp (buttery). I don't know that I'll be back, but I'm glad I tried it. Maybe I'll just go back for the onion.

E is moving along. This is one of the toughest weeks for writing time, but I've been able to get a few scenes down. I've also had to take a few short breaks to research: names of the Pink Ladies from "Grease;" Al Capone; a CTA map, and Rice University.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Tantalize Bookmark from Candlewick Press

Thanks to all the YA librarians, authors, and other enthusiasts who've written in of late with Tantalize (Candlewick, February 2007) ARC cheers. Thanks too to The Goddess of YA Literature for her hurrah post, "a tasty treat."

More excitement on that front includes a new promotional bookmark from Candlewick Press. It's gorgeous, combining the final cover art and an interior art element--an excerpt of the menu at Sanguini's!

Those who read Cynsations know that I'm just back from the JCLC in Dallas. I'm going to take advantage of today to work on E as VC packets begin arriving tomorrow and the Austin SCBWI fall conference is this weekend.

I am writing whenever a window allows though. I restarted F&M, now E, from the beginning and am at about page 30 of the revision. I've also changed the name of the co-protagonist to something GLS agrees is "less 80s."

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Re E-Merging

Yesterday I hd clearance to work on E, so I did. It was wonderful. I settled in the sunroom with a cat (Leo) and a glass of iced tea, popped open my new laptop, and began reinvisioning the story. Because I've already written two different full versions and had some idea of where I was going, I simply started writing a summary of the novel. It's about nine pages, single spaced. I'm also doing through my notes to pull setting descriptions.

GLS and I are watching season 4 "Monk." I have a real affection for John Tuturro's Ambrose, Adrian's brother who doesn't leave the house (at least by choice).

Spooky News & Links

What you should be reading this month: All Hallows Eve: 13 Stories by Vivian Vande Velde (Harcourt, 2006). Or, in other words, "Thirteen tales of Halloween horrors, including ghosts, vampires, and pranks gone awry."

The October 10 YA Authors Cafe Chat will be have a supernatural theme in honor of Halloween. Guest Host Marlene Perez (author of the forthcoming Dead Is The New Black) will interview guests Melissa de la Cruz, author of Blue Bloods, and Bev Katz Rosenbaum, author of I Was a Teenaged Popsicle (Berkley, 2006). The chats are held on Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. EST, 5:30 Pacific. Go to and click the chatroom icon to enter the chat.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Yellow Roses and Jennifer L. Holm

Definitely the week's highlight was attending Jennifer L. Holm's talk and signing at BookPeople on Wednesday here in Austin. She spoke to fourth and fifth graders from Mathews Elementary.

Jennifer was pixie cute and brilliant, sharing the stories behind Our Only May Amelia (HarperCollins, 1999), the Babymouse series, illustrated by Matthew Holm (Random House, 2005-)(illustrator interview); and her latest release, Penny From Heaven (Random House, 2006). Of late, Jennifer reads a lot of graphic novels, describes herself as an "obsessive reviser," and recommends ice cream as a creative force!

Afterward, Greg and I lunched at Green Pastures with an entertaining group of ladies, including not only Jenni--who brought us yellow roses--but also the lovely Camille Powell of Book Moot, who absolutely sparkles. What a force for good in the library world! It was quite a day!

Beyond that, because I'm the most compulsive person alive, I rewrote one of my keynotes. Now, it's just a matter of practicing.

Media is starting to come in for Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006). The review in Publishers Weekly was quite upbeat, Greg and I are featured in an interview at Authorlink, and my publicist just wrote to ask if we'd be willing to do a TV spot in College Station.

What else? After some reflection I finally have an answer to Varsha Bajaj's question at SCBWI-Houston as to what multicultural book I wish I'd written, and the answer is: Every Time a Rainbow Dies by Rita Williams-Garcia (HarperCollins, 2001). Read a recent Cynsations interview with Rita.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

SCBWI Houston

On Sunday, I took some time to put together a handout for the SCBWI-Houston monthly meeting. I think people like a handout. That way, they don't have to take notes. They can just relax and let the speech sink in.

GLS decorated the house for Halloween. Bat lights in the foyers, black and orange candles, autumn tear-drop crystals in the chandelier, lighted haunted house in the fireplace, and so on. We could use some pillows, I think, but many decorative efforts are foiled by the cats. That night GLS and I watched "Desperate Housewives" (what is Brie thinking?).

Yesterday, we drove up to Houston. We took TX-71 to I-10. On 71, I spotted: a Batmobile (didn't look official); the future site of the new Hyatt Resort; a sign past La Grange that read "God Loves You--Praise Him;" more signs against fences in favor of various candidates for election; big ranches; red cattle. At I-10, after sunny skies, we hit an apocalyptic-looking bubble of a thunderstorm and passed bumper stickers that read "Someone Else For President" and "I'm Funkier Than You."

GLS and I had dinner with GG, her husband Jim, and VB at Pappadeaux near the Houston Community College campus where the meeting was held. I had a gator appetizer and crayfish etouffee with dirty rice.

The meeting itself was friendly and upbeat with a crowd of about 40, including DE and MW. We gave away a number of ARCs--some duplicates and others titles we'd already considered for recommendation, noting that they weren't the final books, discouraging resell, and encouraging writers to "make some noise" if they found a book they liked. After each speaking, GLS and I answered questions and read Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006).

We spent the night at GG's house in the Woodlands, highlighted by her new kittens, Spot and Truman, who spent much of the night walking on us in the guest room (not that we minded!).

The drive back on 290 was better--more ranches, many with American flags on the gates; more cattle (white and red); miniature horses; donkeys; PJ's Folk Art Studio; and a drive-through liquor store in Giddings (do such stores exist outside Texas?). Bumper stickers included "Stop Executions" and "Save Our Springs."

Spooky Links

Spine-tingling Halloween Treats: reviews by Deborah Hopkinson from Book Page. Highlighted titles include: What Are You Afraid Of? Stories about Phobias, edited by Donald R. Gallo (Candlewick, 2006)(excerpt); Scary Stories by Barry Moser (Chronicle, 2006); and All Hallow's Eve by Vivian Vande Velde (Harcourt, 2006)(excerpt).

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Happy "80th," GB and MH

Highlight of the weekend was definitely the "80th" birthday party of GB and MH (they're both 40, I think; clearly neither is anywhere near post 45). Sleek, suave, and south Austiny. Gorgeous crowd. Catering by Ciao Chow. Celebrity sightings included CAS and EK.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

All About E

If you're on one of my writing e-lists, you may notice me getting a lot quieter for a while. With my speeches (90%) ready to go, my office cleaned, and my Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006) and Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) promo prep about as far along as I can take it, I'm moving E up to the top of my priority list.

Don't get me wrong. Events and grading also are forthcoming, but the mss will rise to the top of the pile. So, I'm Craft Woman again, which feels good.

To get started on the mega revision, I've made my ceremonial trip to OfficeMax to buy three legal size expanding wallet folders and some heart-shaped Post-it notes. Step two will be to read through the previous draft. I was going to start completely over, which I so love to do and have already done on this project. But I do want to preserve the setting, minor characters, and a couple of scenes.

By the way, I'll be posting this link to Cynsations next week, but if you'd like a peek, Authorlink is featuring a new interview with GLS and I about Santa Knows.

Inflatable Snowman

Inspired by our upcoming party, GLS and I decided to invest in some outdoor lighting from Lowes.

The holiday decorations were going up at the store, and they included a 12' inflatable plastic snowman whose lower half is a "snow globe" that housed an inflatable Santa, another inflatable snowman, and a Christmas tree. It sort of suggests that the giant snowman swallowed the rest.

The "globe" portion includes some sort of fan to blow what looks like small Styrofoam balls. Retails for $179. It's kind of stunning.

Yesterday, I had a lunch with GB at Castle Hill Cafe to discuss a suprise I'm not quite ready to unveil to Spookycyn readers (but will soon!). I had the Spicy Szechuan "Hacked" Chicken Salad on field greens and Napa cabbage with corn relish, honey walnuts, fried dumplings, and sesame-ginger Dressing, but I was too busy chatting to eat much of it.

GLS took me to dinner last night at Hyde Park Bar and Grill though, and I was wowed by a special appetizer--Red Chile Shrimp Satay (Black tiger shrimp on bamboo skewers, painted with red chile and grilled, served with a satay sauce and topped with roasted peanuts). Very spicy!

It's also been a while since I've had a supernatural sighting, but I'm positive I spotted a tiny green fairie walking north on a sidewalk on Duval.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Drakula Romanian Restaurant

Since GB told me about this place a couple of weeks ago, I've been dying to go to Drakula Romanian Restaurant at Anderson Square. Immigrant-family owned in North Austin, it's tucked modestly into a stripmall off the highway, small and decorated with souvenirs of the home country. Its Drakula sign is strikingly gothic, but the atmosphere paled against the attentive charms of the wait staff.

GLS and I split an assorted Romanian appetizer plate (Chiftelute/Romanian Meatballs, Salam/Salami, Icre/Caviar spread, and Telemea/Feta cheese). For dinner I indulged in Castelul lui Drakula/Drakula's Castle, which was a huge mountain of chicken and pork, both grilled, with cheese and mushrooms in a mushroom sauce over lima greens, green beans, carrots, and corn. I managed to eat about half of it and took the rest to go. GLS and I also split a bottle of the Vampire pinor noir because, you know, when in Romania...

More Romanian-Hungarian than vampish, though as a vampire restaurant novelist, I appreciated the wine and their sense of humor about it. Decorated with various images of Vlad--the historic, not fictional. Affordable. Outstanding food. We'll definitely return. I really wanted a T-shirt, but they were temporarily sold out.

Located at 8120 Research Boulevard, Suite 104-B in Austin; open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, from noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday; closed Sundays.

In other news, I finished my fifth speech and, speaking of the Dark Master, am firmly back to work on manuscripts with E as my prime focus. Lunch today with AL at the new Austin Chinatown Center!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Speech Writing

I've written four speeches so far in the past two weeks. I still have another keynote to go, and I plan to begin working on it tomorrow, hopefully to finish by week's end.

Talks with GLS tend to run about 20 minutes each, which--with introductions and questions--makes for a nice hour. (It's lovely having a partner at the podium in part because neither of you has to carry the whole show and in part because the audience seems to appreciate the shift/mix.) Panels with multiple authors tend to go about ten minutes. A keynote can go 45 minutes to an hour, sometimes shorter.

I took Speech at Johnson County Community College (KS) the summer after my freshman year. I'd wanted to finish up my requirements for the KU Journalism School as soon as possible so I could get on with courses in my news/editorial major. It was a small, upbeat, outstanding class. But you know, it never dawned on me at 19 that writing and delivering speeches would someday be a career cornerstone.

In other news, GLS and I had lunch yesterday at Houlihan's with CH. I recommend the French onion soup. Very cheesy.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Santa Postcards

It's thunder-storming outside, so I'll shut down the computer after posting.

Let's see... I've finished critiquing the second round of VC packets. Picked up my Santa Knows postcards at Sterling Printing & Copying this week, and GLS and I are watching multiple seasons of "Fraiser" on DVD (Niles and Daphne just ran off in the Winnebago) in the sunroom and making them out to our contacts.

This morning, we worked together on a media interview, which we'll checkover tomorrow and send back to the editor.

Not that we haven't always helped each other with this sort of thing, but it's fun being co-authors. I'm feeling very Team Leitich Smith today.

Now, it's Mulligan stew for dinner and then back to work!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Let Me Check My Calendar...

Wow, I fielded five event invitations today! That strikes me as a lot, even with everyone settled into the school year. I wish I could say "yes" to them all, but I book fast--usually a year in advance for distance gigs, though local ones can be more last minute--and have to reserve time for my writing and teaching.

For existing fall 06 events, so far I've written two major speeches and have one more keynote and three more panels to go. On one of the panels, I need to wait to hear from the coordinator for more info, but otherwise, I plan to finish up immediately after round two of VC packets, which are starting to arrive today. This will hopefully include my first foray into PowerPoint (feel free to mock; I know I'm late on the bus).

Today's highlight was lunch with LG (author interview) at Suzi's North. We had a great time chatting. What an inspirational woman!

Spooky Links

Santa Clauses Come to Town: At a workshop in San Dimas, dozens of St. Nicks make lists-- of tips-- brush up on their ho-hos and learn how to be nice, not naughty. By Jean Merl, Staff Writer, from The Los Angeles Times. September 17, 2006. Thanks to publicist Rebecca Grose of SoCal Public Relations for sending this link.

"What Kind of Shapeshifter are You?" from Amelia Atwater-Rhodes at Random House. Note: I'm an avian.

Conference Critiques

Productive rainy weekend here. I finished critiquing my share of the manuscripts for the upcoming Austin SCBWI conference. I read 10-ish page partials, each with a synopsis, and my responses ran one-to-three single-spaced pages. It's too late to submit a manuscript for critique, but not to register for the conference. I'd love to see some Spookycyn readers there!

Here's the information:

The Austin chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators announces its Fall 2006 Conference, "Follow Me" (PDF). The event will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 21 at the Texas School for the Deaf at 1102 South Congress in near south Austin. Licensing agent Suzanne Cruise has been recently added to the faculty. Other featured speakers will include agent Sara Crowe of the Harvey Klinger Agency, author Bruce Coville, author-book doctor Esther Hershenhorn (interview), Clarion associate editor Lynne Polvino, illustrator Tony Sansevero, and illustrator Don Tate (interview)(blog). Faculty also includes Dianna Hutts Aston (interview) and Cynthia Leitich Smith. Learn more about the conference.

Note: Sara represents authors of middle grade, YA, and adult fiction.

Thanks to the following Spookycyn LJ syndication readers for their recent comments: cfaughnan and arialas on my wedding anniversary.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Santa Is In The House

What an exciting couple of days! My author copies of Santa Knows, co-authored by Greg Leitich Smith, illustrated by Steve Björkman (Dutton, 2006), have arrived. I can hug them (and I am!).

You know, I've published a number of short stories in various anthologies, but it's been a while since I had a new book out. Indian Shoes was a HarperCollins spring 2002 release. Plus, my last picture book, Jingle Dancer (Morrow/HarperCollins) was published in 2000.

Last night I did a really fun online chat with the Institute of Children's Literature, moderated by Jan Fields, and the transcript is already available online. My apologies for the typos; my fingers were flying fast.

Today I had lunch with the charming Jennifer Ziegler, the debut author of Alpha Dog (Random House, 2006)(excerpt) at Katz's. Now, I must run--crit group tonight; we're serving Chicago-style hot dogs.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Sanguini's Logo in Development

I'm fairly loving my final cover art for Tantalize (front and back), complete with glowing blurbs from ACK and LB, both gothic fantasy goddesses and among the writers I admire most. There's also a bat, which is just gloriously Austin-ish. I'll see what I can do to get the whole thing online.

Today I had lunch with GB, who some of you may know from Austin SCBWI and also works at GSD&M (the people who launched the "Don't Mess With Texas" highways litter campaign). We went to Cafe Josie on Sixth to discuss his designing a logo for Sanguini's, the fictional restaurant featured in the upcoming novel. My plan is to create a CafePress shop for fans,, a certain author who really wants a T-shirt.

Beyond that I changed my blog descriptions (see box above and on Cynsations) as each as evolved into a slightly different beast than I'd originally envisioned.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Los Gatos Black on Halloween

It's been pretty spooky lately over at Cynsations. Don't miss interviews with author Marisa Montes and illustrator Yuyi Morales on their new picture book, Los Gatos Black on Halloween (Henry Holt, 2006).

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Austin's Chinatown Center

Yesterday, GLS and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary. That morning, I came downstairs to find a dozen red roses and him preparing lox and bagels for breakfast.

That afternoon, we cruised north on Lamar to the new M.T. Market at the new Chinatown Center. Having once lived one El-stop north of Chicago's Chinatown (and visited often), we're especially excited about this development. GLS is Japanese-American on his mom's side, and grew up eating some of the ingredients featured there that aren't available in most groceries.

Various items that caught my eye included quail eggs in water, boiled lotus seeds, Thai red rice (pretty!), and the live Tilapia and Catfish (they also had lobster). The prices were great--big gulf shrimp at $4.49/lb. You could also buy big--anyone hungry for a 6 lb/2 onz. can of straw mushrooms? GLS picked up a gallon of Kikkoman Soy Sauce, which we use practically every day--it was heavy, like carrying around a can of motor oil. The store also includes a large housewares section, primarily kitchenware. The clientele was diverse, but predominately Asian (there's a sizable and quickly growing population in north Austin).

The rest of the development is filling in, though there are still plenty of storefronts available. I'm eager to try the Asian BBQ restaurant, and I found myself charmed by some of the Asian dresses in the shop next to the grocery store. I'll be back.

That evening, we dined at Sullivan's. GLS and I split the lump crab meat appetizer. An iceberg wedge with blue cheese dressing came with his steak and with my lobster. We split the greenbeans, he had mashed potatoes, and we split complimentary berries for dessert.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Weekend of Writers

To me, the people of the book world are blessings, home, heartening.

Along those lines, I've had a great few days. GLS and I had a lovely dinner with FB and BY at Eastside Cafe Thursday night. I had a mixed greens salad and mushroom-artichoke-chicken soup. Then I joined JW for lunch Friday at the 1886 Cafe & Bakery at the Driskill for an omelet and gazpacho.

On Saturday morning... Imagine sixteen writers gathered in a circle on a sweeping lakeside porch, sharing their triumphs and challenges--manuscripts sold, declined, set aside; agents won and lost; writing epiphanies, renewed energies; personal and professional downs and ups. It was a wonderful, joyous, laughing and supportive group, ranging in age from twenties to nineties. Of those with an online persona, you can find out more about MGM (author interview), MD, BY, FH, AL (author interview; blog), JW (author interview), JW (author interview, LJ), JL (author interview), NJO, and AB (author interview; blog; blogger interview).

Today I'm typing Q&A interview questions for my publicist, RG, to include in the Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006) media kit, and see how far I get from there. I'd like to start pulling research for the E revision, which is at the top of my priority list.

Tomorrow is mine at GLS's wedding anniversary. I look forward to it.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Preparing the North Pole

I just finished the first round of VC packets, and among other things, found myself quoting Gozer. A stack of mss to critique for the upcoming Austin SCBWI conference arrived immediately thereafter.

I look forward to them, but I'm going to take a break from reading to work on promotion for Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006). I'm putting together a fact sheet on Santa Claus and filling out interview questions for the media kit my publicist is assembling. That should keep me busy this weekend.

In other news, GLS and I had dinner at Musashino last night. The new chairs make the place look more upscale, less tiki bar, but how I missed the old ones. They were more comfortable. I had miso soup, an avocado kama, salmon sashimi, some of GLS's shrimp tempura, and an asparagus tempura roll.

On the writing front, F&M is now tentatively titled E.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Heat Relief

It's a chilly 83 degrees in Austin, Texas, and so to celebrate GLS and I went to dinner at Lucy's Boatyard on the lake. We sat outside on the deck, watching the geese, swans, and ducks. I had an iced tea with broccoli-cheese soup, a wedge of lettuce with tomato and blue cheese dressing, and grilled catfish (made at my special request). Service was friendly, and the breeze was breezy.

I'm pleasantly buried in VC packets and after tonight will have just one left to go. I've been reading them on the sleeping porch with the kitties.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Raspberry Swirl

I'm deep in VC packets at the moment.

This also is the first day I've taken off working out in the past couple of weeks, which GLS insists is important to "let the muscles knit."

Are my muscles unknitted? I don't know, but it sounds--and feels--scary!

We had a lovely dinner party tonight at home for a couple of friends who recently married in Hawaii--heart of palm salad (red onion, heart of palm, shrimp salad, tomato), shrimp scampi (with an Chinese-ish sauce, mushrooms), then finished with rasberry swirl Haagen Dazs yogurt over mixed berries (ras, black, and blue). Do not miss this yogurt! It's divine.

I enjoyed last night's season finale of "Monk," but will counting the days until new episodes in January.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I Wonder How Much The Pens Cost?

So I'm reading magazines in the waiting room of Westlake Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery. (GLS is having a standard med checkup; he's not having "work" done). And I pick up a copy of Harper's Bazaar.

I'm greatly amused to find on page 16 that Prada Notebooks are the latest trend. You, too, can have one for $250-$295 by calling 888.977.1900. They're leather bound and come in various styles and patterns.

As the magazine notes, "What could be better than a designer notebook?"

I feel somewhat compelled to mention that the first draft of my first book, Jingle Dancer (Morrow/HarperCollins, 2000) was scribbled on the back of a used envelope that I pulled from a trash can at St. Edward's University, back when I was tutoring freshmen in English Comp. I'm just saying...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Insomnia Is A Writer's Best Friend

Well, usually.

I tend to write first rough drafts (the ones I toss and then delete the file) and second rough drafts (the ones informed by the first that, if sufficient, serve as a foundation to build on) between midnight and four a.m. The world quiets--no ringing phone, no doorbell, no red-hot email (except from fellow insomniacs, and I don't check so it doesn't matter anyway). The deep night is like another world. My job is to figure out what's going on in it.

Tonight that's not really the case. My WIP is cooling. I have materials set aside to work on my article tomorrow. There are errands to run, but I'm not really in the mood to hit a 24-hour Randall's.

I'm wired though from working out late in the day. Whenever I do that, my energy level zooms up, and I'm too antsy to fall asleep. Tomorrow I'll work out earlier. At this point in the year AKA The Melting Point, I take my exercise indoors on the treadmill to music on my iPod, which GLS was kind enough to augment this evening.

Albums added include: "Cher: Greatest Hits;" "Whitney: The Greatest Hits;" "The Blues Brothers" movie soundtrack; "Songs from Ally McBeal;" and "Bridget Jones's Diary" movie soundtrack.

My key criteria is strong beat--good for fast walking. I also like some drama in my exercise music. In particular, "The Blues Brothers" includes Aretha Franklin's "Think," which will no doubt quickly motivate me to higher physical fitness.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Jingling My Way to (Semi) Functionality

"I love deadlines.
I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."
--Douglas Adams

I appear to have finished cleaning my office--thoroughly, that is, for the first time since moving into the house in '02. I wish I could say I was 100% satisfied. I'd like to know what's on the various backup discs. I wish that I had a good system for maintaining and tracking my contacts (stray business cards were tucked into a large envelope and slid into the appropriate folder), and that, say, my various media coverage articles were organized by date. But big picture, the place is a lot more functional and airy feeling than it ever has been.

Gems found in my desk included a pair of rhinestone earrings, 78 cents, a photo of my dad smiling at me as I snapped it, seven strips of bat stickers, a pen with an audio record function, a compass, several packages of Post-It notes, and my long-lost Scotch Tape.

I also was thrilled to re-discover the beginning of an article I've been trying to write some time, from back when the idea was fresh, scribbled in blue ink on a giveaway notebook from a hotel in Tucson.

What's more, I found a little bracelet with four bells, a souvenir gift made by a teacher. A group of kindergarteners each shook their own as I turned pages while reading Jingle Dancer (Morrow/HarperCollins, 2000) some years ago at an Austin elementary school. I remember thinking that they were like puppies--squirmy and cute and absolutely adoring. They seemed to love Jenna's story almost as much as they did making noise. I had a wonderful time and was smothered in a group hug.

I'm as ready as I can be for VC student packets to begin arriving this week.

Spooky News & Links

Thanks to KCC for her shout-out about Tantalize!

I'm currently relaxing with Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii (Signet, 2006), which is hysterical but probably best appreciated by fans of the TV series.

Curse of Arastold

Yesterday's highlight was a table signing with Jo Whittemore for her newly released Curse of Arastold (excerpt), Book Two of the Silverskin Trilogy, which kicked off with Escape from Arylon (author interview)(both Llewellyn, 2006). The event was held at Barnes & Noble, Round Rock, which is just outside of Austin.

Jo should give presentations on how to do a table signing. She offered chocolate chip sliced cookies (cookie brownies?) to passersby and to her young fans she also offered dragon coloring sheets, M&M giveaways, the opportunity to guess how many M&Ms were in a larger jar (which I'm sure was the prize), and custom bracelets with messages tied into her novels.

Traffic was enthusiastic, and celebrity appearances included BA and his genius daughter.

Jo is new on the Austin and national writing scene, and it's exciting to see her star shooting up.

Spooky Links

"Anything Ordinary: Why Fantasy Beats Reality" by Jo Whittemore from Llewellyn.

"And Then What Happened: Writing the Sequel," also by Jo from Llewellyn.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Happy Birthday, Greg

Happy birthday to GLS! Tonight we had a hot date at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse at Sixth and Congress--with valet parking and everything.

Perhaps you're thinking, Isn't there a great local steakhouse in Austin? But the one we used to go to closed, and we've already been to Austin Land and Cattle several times.

We split a bottle of the 2004 Acacia pinot noir.

I ordered a crisp wedge of iceberg lettuce on field greens with bleu cheese, followed by a lobster tail with Cajun spices and sauteed mushrooms. Quite lovely, though the lobsters of late in Burlington, Boston, and Cambridge were better. (I can't believe I just had legit occasion to say that; after all, I grew up in a mac-and-cheese household--tossing in hamburger was considered living fancy!).

GLS had the steak house salad, which involved iceberg, Romaine, and baby lettuce with cherry tomatoes, garlic crouton and red onions, followed by a ribeye, a baked potato with all the fixin's (which, so far as I could tell, included sour cream, cheese, and scallions), and creamed spinach.

In non-related but still exciting news, Bookshelves of Doom offers a rousing recommendation of my upcoming YA novel, Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007). She concludes: "I suspect that there will be a pretty serious clamor for a sequel." Thanks so much. I'm honored!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Zack Proton

Today's highlight was lunch at ZTejas with BA, author of the Zack Proton series (Aladdin, 2006-). I had herbal tea and the chicken verde soup, which tasted more like sauce.

On the office cleaning front, the shelf against the north wall is now organized. The top shelf features file folders for current projects, fresh spiral notebooks, and my archaic overhead transparencies (I'm all about learning PowerPoint).

The bottom shelf holds various research books, including: Spies by Clive Gifford (Kingfisher, 2004); Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen by David J. Skal (Faber and Faber, 2004); Texas Ghost Stories: Fifty Favorites for the Telling by Tim Tingle and Doc Moore (Texas Tech University Press, 2004); Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality by Paul Barber (Yale University Press, 1988); and Blood Read: The Vampire as Metaphor in Contemporary Culture edited by Joan Gordon and Veronica Hollinger (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997).

Well, I'm not calling myself SpookyCyn for nada.