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 www.yaauthorscafe.com 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.