Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A Place of Solace

Thanks to everyone who wrote with condolences about the death of my grandmother. It's interesting because some writers can write when they're grieving, others can't. I have to. Writing isn't only my playground and passion, it's also my place of solace. Not of safety, definitely not that. But where I belong. It feels reassuring, the belonging.

So, I wrote today. I'm revising a picture book manuscript for one of my editors. It's humorous, tall-tale-ish, and relatively experimental, though I've worked on it for some time. I like it.

Monday, January 30, 2006

In Memory: Grandma Dorothy

My grandmother Dorothy died last week of heart complications arising from a hip surgery. She was 86 years old, strikingly beautiful, imaginative, a dedicated matriarch, a collector of ceramic bluebirds, precise about her cottage and its grounds, as well as fond of entertaining guests, traveling, dining out, and gaming at the riverboats in Kansas City.

Grandma Dorothy also was the inspiration for one of my short stories, "The Naked Truth," which appeared in an anthology titled In My Grandmother's House: Award-Winning Writers Tell Stories About Their Grandmothers edited and illustrated by Bonnie Christensen (HarperCollins, 2003).

I had the honor of giving her eulogy at the memorial service on Saturday. It's a task that often falls to writers in a family, and my experience has been no exception. It's tremendously personal, emotionally draining, and yet also a welcome opportunity to use years of craft to offer tangible comfort to those closest. I'm grateful that when there are no words, some seem to find me anyway, if only out of training and love.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Prologue Postponed

I didn't get the prologue written yesterday, but I did spend some time going over the existing scenes and reconfigering their order. I'm trying this draft at least in alternating POV, and that's a bit more tricky than I'd first envisioned.

Right now, there are about 18 pages of manuscript and another 5 of single-spaced notes. It's not a bad place to be. The voices are taking shape. The internal and external arcs look pretty solid. The previous draft (AKA throwaway draft) was time well spent.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Perils of Prologues

I'm going to make an effort today to write a prologue for F&C: ALS (formerly F&M). Or maybe it isn't a prologue. Maybe it's just a chapter that takes place, oh, a year or so before the rest of the story begins.

Who am I trying to kid? It's a prologue.

Lots of folks don't like prologues, and I think it's an unfair bias. True, many are unnecessary indulgences of an author who simply can't seem to cut prewriting. But let's say there's a literary reason that can be clearly articulated. That's arguably more likely in gothic fantasy. Consider, for example, that "The X-Files" and "Six Feet Under" had a real affection for the beasts.

So, having mused on the subject, I'm going to dive in with the understanding that it all may be cannon fodder in the end anyway.

By the way, I'm reading The Reluctant Miss Van Helsing by Minda Webber (Dorchester, 2006), which is light, mass market adult fare with a penchant for puns. A cute read for romance fans. It was an airport bookstore purchase.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Shoreline Celebration

GLS and I went to Shoreline Grill to celebrate the sale of his Korean rights to Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo. We're running a little late on this celebration because I was at VC so much of this month, but we make it a policy to cheer every publishing victory. This is our first of an international nature--woo woo!

Also logged in a couple of hours of grindstone work on the novel mss in progress; feeling pretty yay about the whole thing. I can do this! I can!

Spooky News & Links

Freaks by Annette Curtis Klause: a review by Adam-Troy Castro from SciFi.com (author interview).

Comic of the Week: Birds of Prey #90 (much funnier if you're a close, personal friend of the Batman, as of course I am)

I'm a Writer

Between all the writing, speaking, teaching, traveling, and what not, it seems like forever since I've really felt like a writer--as opposed to someone who's frantically checking on this or that with regard to her already-contracted manuscripts.

I actually worked on my pb mss with the pending revision request today, and I'm somewhat pleased. It's at least worth running by GLS at dinner. It's funny. It's visual. It moves. My big questions are whether the kid sensibility rings true and whether the resolution resonates.

Tomorrow--maybe tonight--I'm diving back into my novel.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Snapshots from San Antonio

Just back from a whirlwind sweep through ALA midwinter in San Antonio. GLS and I stayed at La Mansion del Rio, which is wonderfully haunted, though perhaps not worth the extra money for a river view unless you really want to hear 50s tunes until midnight and beyond (I was too tired to care).

Highlights included:

lunch at Boudro's with my glam, whip-smart CW editor, DW (guacamole and perhaps one more margarita than absolutely necessary, but when on the Riverwalk...)(she mentioned the possibility of companion book to T--hmmm);

lunch at Zuni with PRG (author interview);

dinner at Sage (at the Fairmount) with DMF, an editor at Simply Read, and the lovely J;

breakfast with SR, JK (author interview), FB (author interview), HVF (author interview), NW (author interview), and the lovely MP;

spotting DT, VJ, BG (live!), and all manner of publishing types on the floor.

Great time and fabulous folks, but I'm fried both in terms of sheer endurance as well as stress---juggling a long-distance family health crisis. May be on a plane sometime this week.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Home to Good News

I'm finally back in Austin after a successful, if sometimes stressful, residency. My one regret is that due to a last-minute scheduling conflict, I didn't get to see my pal TLS, though KCC was kind enough to pick up a couple of signed copies of TLS's fabu new novel, A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl (Random House/Wendy Lamb Books, 2006) for me.

I came home to good news. WF alumnus BY has sold one of his WF novel manuscripts to Flux (an imprint of Llewellyn). Yahoo and congratulations!

Beyond that, I'm in frantic catch-up mode!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Downhill Slide

The sun is back out, and the cold has once again lost its bitterness. Today is the second to last of the VC residency. Graduation is tomorrow.

The entire experience has been intense, inspiring, frustrating, fascinating, and thought-provoking. I'm looking forward to readings today by LG and MH, two of my former advisees. I'm signing semester plans for new students. And I'm a little hungry because I was too busy this a.m. to go to breakfast. (I've had some almonds as a hold-over snack).

Monday, January 16, 2006

New Students

I'm meeting today with my new students, which is so exciting. At this point, we're going over their creative and critical goals so that they can formulate their semester plans. LG's graduate lecture today was on YA/A crossover, and she did a wonderful job. I'm so proud of her!

I look forward to hearing LS, NFM, and EH read tonight.

Must run--one more student meeting to go!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Special Weekend

The VC program traditionally includes a "special weekend" on a theme, featuring lectures, Q&A, and seminars with guest speakers. This weekend, our theme was "the picture book."

Our guest speakers included MK from FSG, MG, WW, JFH, and APS.


MK's seminar discussion of recent FSG picture books. She emphasized finding the emotional core, the emotional truth. Going deeper.

MG's reading from The Old Country (Roaring Brook, 2005), which is a book that has lingered unread on my shelf these past few months, but will absolutely go to the top of my pile once I return home--simply charming man. Spellbinding reading!

APS's fun, upbeat, healing presentation on non-fiction. She is an amazing speaker--I give her my highest recommendation to event planners.

WW's insightful discussion of her determined research process and her inspiring father's influence in her work.

JFH's shared talk with faculty chair KA on the long and dramatic story behind the story of Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers: How A First Lady Changed America (HarperCollins, 2005).

In other news, it's now really cold for the first time since I've been here--brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Author Interview: Annette Curtis Klause on Freaks: Alive on the Inside

No spooky readers worth their stripes should miss out on my interview with Annette Curtis Klause on Freaks: Alive on the Inside (Simon & Schuster, 2006), featured as of tonight on Cynsations.

Spooky News & Links

More on the VC special weekend later, but I must say that while listening to MK (of FSG) talk about picture books this morning I had an epiphany about one I'm revising and wrote a whole rough draft of a brand new manuscript. Talk about an inspiring editor!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Laundry Day

I got through speed dating just fine. Lots of folks came to chat, and they all seemed to like the handout, though I should've clarified my stance on first semesters with pre-existing WIPs and the packet response protocal.

My reading from MT last night seemed to go well, too. DD said the Austin setting made her homesick.

Conventional wisdom is that today, the Friday before special weekend, is the day on which the most people cry. Fatigue, homesickness, a less-than-sterling critique kicks in--whatever. I'm carrying tissues in my purse in case I come across someone who needs one.

On the upside, special weekend is almost here. JFH arrived yesterday, and she is as always a warm, inspirational, and loving pal.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Speed Dating

So far, Vermont hasn't really been all that chilly. Not to tempt Snow Miser, but I don't think he's trying that hard.

Highlights of the residency so far include KLG's opening night talk. She's a tremendously thoughtful, intelligent, and inspiring speaker. I also particularly enjoyed a party in town with the graduating students and faculty. Also, the food is much better this time!

Today begins the speed-dating portion of the event. What happens is that faculty are assigned to various locations around campus. The students come on a flowing basis to ask us questions about our styles and interests. Then after a few such exchanges, they'll be asked to preference which of us they'd like to work one-on-one with over the course of the next semester.

The farther along they are in the program, the fewer choices they put down (so they have a higher chance of getting their top choice).

Fifteen minutes to go! I'm excited to talk to whomever wants to chat with me...but my inner seventh grader frets a tad that I'll be a wallflower.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Great White North

I'm writing from snowy Vermont. Yesterday's travel went well. I took two regional jets--one from Austin to Cincinnati and the other from Cincinnati to Burlington (plus a 45 minute cab ride $98 to Montpeiler).

I read a USA Today on the first and tore out an article, "Cats Have More than 9 Lives, and Plenty of Cousins." Either it's research, or I just miss my kitties already. In the Cincinnati airport, I was delighted to find a sit-down restaurant, Moe's, which served me a wonderful chicken-and-parmesen omlette, and at Border's, I picked up a copy of Mr. Monk Goes To The Firehouse by Lee Goldber (Signet, 2006)(read excerpt), which is a mass-market tie in book to one of my fave TV shows. It's told from the POV of Monk's assistant, Natalie, and is quite good.

When I arrived in Burlington, there was snow on the ground, though the roads were clear. (People here really believe in salt!). I went with KA and LK, who'll be my workshop partner, to the grocery store for provisions, and then to the faculty dinner. MDB and EL, both scheduled to be here, had to cancel at the last minute. They are missed. NFM brought her husband HM last night, which was a treat. The whole party ran to about 11 p.m. local time, and I feel instantly to sleep.

Enjoyed breakfast this morning with KA, PK, and SM, which had a vaguely WF reunion feel.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Pre VC Winter Residency

Not a morning person and leaving at 5 a.m.

Not a cold-weather person, though gear is packed.

But semi-functional toe! (Can hold weight, less swollen--yay!)

Spooky News & Links

SF (Sci Fi) for Kiddies from Bookslut.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Rose Bowl

I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that I was the last person in Austin to realize that the U.T. football team won the Rose Bowl because I fell asleep before the game was over and miraculously slept through all the fireworks and festivities.

OTOH, GLS is a U.T. grad per his master's in electrical engineering, and he was sufficiently excited to buy me two commemorative T-shirts to take with me on my trip--if only to tease KA, who's an Aggie.

According to my wonderful doc, it looks as though my toe will survive, though it will be interesting to see me sneaking off to soak it and pack it in cotton three or four times a day at the VC res.

By the way, if you live in Austin and need a family practice doctor, I highly recommend James Hahn on 38th St.

Comic O The Week: Teen Titans #31

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Bow and Arrows

My bow and arrows from GLS arrived yesterday!

I feel quite Speedy-Diana/Artemis about the whole thing. Of course, non-mammal eater that I am, I will be using the set on targets only.

Almost all of my VC packing is done, except the small bag for the plane. If only my foot weren't throbbing...! Cross fingers that the doctor will be able to fix it tomorrow morning.

Had a lovely lunch yesterday with VJ at Katz's. I hope I wasn't too bad of company, what with the ouch factor going on.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Vermont Bound

After a dicey tech morning, my blogs are both working just fine.

I've been busy getting ready for the VC winter residency. My speech and intros are written, handout sent in for copying, reading selected, and--ta da--my winter coat has been delivered from Eddie Bauer. It's maple with a faux furry hood. I love it!

Sadly, the EB moccasins I ordered, which supposedly had plastic soles, actually had suede soles. That won't work for the dorm, though they are the most comfy mocs ever, and I will enjoy them at home. So, I'm just packing one of my regular pairs. I'm also going to pick up some lycra running tights tomorrow since the whole long-underwear thing didn't work out. Pity that.

I also wanted to mention that I saw "Fantastic Four" this week, and it was much better than I expected it to be.

Cynsations Frozen

I seem to be having a serious posting issue with Blogger on Cynsations. I'll keep you all posted.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year

New Year's Eve is my birthday, which is really a lot of pressure on one holiday, but yesterday was quite fun and eventful.

GLS gave me a bow (with arrows) and carrying case, which made me feel every inch Amazon Cyn. I'm quite jazzed about the whole thing.

We had breakfast at Katz's Deli (scrambled eggs and a turkey ham-and-swiss on whole wheat), followed by a quick trip to Target where I picked up a cloth purse and socks.

Then we checked into the Stephen F. Austin, which is one of the grand downtown historic hotels, recently restored. The hotel itself was gorgeous, quite well done right down to the Art Deco elevator hardware. It was our first time staying there, so we were hopeful.

The service was spotty at best, though. (Staff confusion over whether the bar was open or closed--it was open, but only the bartender was scheduled. We were advised to try room service, which took an hour to deliver after four phone calls--one because the kitchen didn't have a copy of the room service menu, one because the person answering the phone didn't understand that Sauvignon Blanc was a kind of wine, not a winery, another because she wasn't sure how much to charge for my snack, and a final one because it was taking an hour instead of the promised 35 minutes. Plus, we had no hot water this morning).

However, we still had a good time together. Our room overlooked Congress Avenue, so we were able to watch all of the First Night Parade from there. We'd actually been chosen as one of 2006 households to receive bread, and we would've marched in conjunctin with that program if we hadn't already had the competing reservations.

Dinner at the hotel was excellent--a five course prix fixe menu. I skipped a couple of courses, but enjoyed the rest, especially the shrimp bisque. Despite battling cedar allergies, GLS looked quite handsome in his suit, and I wore a black velvet long sleeve top with a white satin skirt covered in black lace.