Monday, February 27, 2006

Research/Pre-Writing Phase

Today I'm satisfied with leaving the six scenes to be written. They'll be sirens to lead me back to the manuscript. I'm going to set a goal of doing research and character work for three-to-four weeks while the story cools.

This is what I'm doing now. I'm breaking in my extremely pretty blue and metalic gold kitty-butterfly journal that was a gift from FH (saved for just such an occasion). So far, I've: listed my major research topics (7); made some notes on the timeline questions; listed the named characters (15); and listed the major settings (3, though, say, interior rooms of a building aren't included).

I've also begun assembling research books. Many of them I have already. I'm quite vexed though because there's one wonderful picture book (so good for the visual images) that is out of print, and the cheapest it's available is $54 on Amazon. That's just wrong. I could get it through interlibrary loan, but then I can't keep it. I may have to settle for that anyway. We'll see.

Basically, my plan is to write the name of whatever it is I'm brainstorming, underline it, and then make a note underneath. When I'm done, I'll synthesize and key up reference guides to each topic. Previously, I've used notecards, so this is a new strategy.

In other news, I wrote a draft of my panel talk on YA history and multiculturalism. I'm speaking with KA, who's talking about alternate forms, and GLS, who's talking about humor, at the upcoming AWP convention. By the way, Exploding The Myths: The Truth About Teenagers and Reading by Marc Aronson (Scarecrow, 2001)(author interview) was the best reference source I found. I'll refer the audience to it for further reading.

Oh! One last thing, try the turkey melt sandwich on whole wheat at Magnolia Cafe on Lake Austin Boulevard. I had it for dinner. Yummy!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Almost Drafted

Eye is much better, though I'm going to hold off until Tuesday to jump back on the treadmill (margin of error and all). I wrote sixteen pages today, which is phenomenal for me, and I'm up to 18,885 words, having also cut a lot. The manuscript has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

It's arguably the second first draft. I'm not letting myself off quite that easily, though. The next time I sit down, I'm going to study the six scenes, which are outlined, that I skipped. I'll decide whether I really need to do more pre-writing before tackling them. That in mind, I'll dive into what I can and then set the mss aside to work more on character development and world building.

Thanks to AS for her amazing e-card!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Suffering for My Art

I wrote eight pages today, bringing the mss up to 16,504 words.

For a while, I tried writing with the eyepatch on, but that was too distracting. It's stinging now, no doubt vexed by the abuse, but globally feeling better than even last night. It also seems to be much better inside than out. The natural light results in its watering almost immediately.

I'm mostly staying in, but there was a lost puppy earlier that I had to check on. (Puppy is fine now).

Friday, February 24, 2006

Pirate Cyn

Ow! I poked a fin'ernail in me eye! I have t' wear a patch for t' next three days. I'll be spendin' as much o' that time as possible off-line as it's wicked light sensitive. You all take care in t' meantime!

Check out me favorite pirate book, and find out how t' talk like a pirate!

Thursday, February 23, 2006


It's silly while writing the second first draft to fret something like the title, which might well be changed by Marketing anyway. But I have my vaguley o-c preoccuptions. Not long ago I changed my WIP title from F&M to T&C:ALS because I thought the latter was rather clever and the juxtaposition of the subhead would hook the market.

I've never had a book with a subhead before, but they always seemed to make novels sound more interesting somehow--maybe just because you get more information. I've been noticing of late, though, that people frequently leave off subheads. In my case, that would give a related but less sellable connotation. So I'm back to F&M. I'll use T&C, though, as a chapter head.

I also found a biblical quote that I'm including for now in the front papers.

13,849 words; I've been going through and reading each draft, keying in changes, then writing the next scene. The idea is not to polish--I'm still looking for the forest, not trimming the trees--but rather to keep the fantasy construct internally consistent.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Keying in changes from reading everything I have up to this point on the WIP. I've made notes, too, on two scenes, one from the POV of each main characters, that fall somewhere near the front. I think I'm not going to write them now, but rather keep going. That way, after I set down to cool and pick up the mss again, I'll have assignments waiting for me that force me back into the groove.

Also had lunch today with FH at Katz's (turkey ham, swiss, lettuce, tomato--hold the bread). Wanna hear something spooky? Both of our fathers died on a Friday, the 13th. As a result, we suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia.

Staff picks at BookPeople today include Freaks: Alive on the Inside by Annette Curtis Klause (Simon & Schuster, 2006)(author interview); Grand & Humble by Brent Hartinger (HarperCollins, 2006)(author interview); and Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos (Atheneum, 2006)(author interview)(recommendation)(excerpt).

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Second First Draft

In my workshop with LK at the last VC residency, I mentioned in passing that I always throw away my novel manuscript first drafts and delete the files. This got a much bigger reaction than I'd ever intended, but in any case, the reason for it is so that I can give myself permission to just write full-out--find the voice, explore the setting, really play with no inkling that I'll ever use any of it as a real foundation.

But now I'm onto my second first draft, the real one that I'll build on from now on. Maybe. Unless for some reason I have to throw that out, too, which is what happened when I was writing T. But this time I feel more secure in it. My Spidey sense is happy.

I've got 13,703 words so far, which translates to 67 pages, the last four of which are single-spaced notes on what's supposed to happen next. I have no idea how long this draft will run, but no doubt it'll be a whole lot shorter than every subsequent stab.

The great thing is that I have a solid grasp of the work in front of me. On the other hand, the scary thing is that I have a solid grasp of the work in front of me.

The even better news: I'm having fun!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

So Long Savannah

I was supposed to be flying to Savannah today. I had reservations at the Ballastone Inn. I was looking forward to the ghost tours. It's been more than five years since my last vacation, though that one was to Paris. This one has already been rescheduled twice. But GLS had something come up at the last minute with his law practice. Ah well! Such are the perils of self-employment.

On the upside, I got two scenes done on my novel mss today. That's nine pages, which is basically my max for one day's new draft efforts.

Thanks to JLH and HB for their sweet cards!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Alternating POV

I'm back in the saddle--literally, one of my co-protagonists is riding along... I have co-protagonists! I blame/credit GLS for his influence as Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo (Little Brown, 2003, 2005) and Tofu and T. rex (Little Brown, 2005) are both alternating point of view novels.

It's harder than it looks. First, you have to find two sufficiently compelling voices. Then you have to keep their perspectives straight and plots interwoven in a mutual crescendo kind of way. Hm, that sounded sexier than the mss seems to be (so far), but you know what I mean.

Whenever I have a break, I have to re-read the entire mss to get back into it again. I spent much of the afternoon doing that and hope to draft a new scene tonight.

Thanks to AS for her lovely e-card; check out her new picture book, Mocking Birdies (Simply Read, 2005).

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Dedication Day

My editor emailed today, requesting the dedication information for Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006). That's always exciting--counting down to the August release. GLS and I are dedicating the book to my mother and in memory of my father.

Also finished my last VC packet (300 pages) for January and wrote the letter. Whew!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Last night GLS and I celebrated Valentine's Day at home.

He gave me a couple of shiraz/syrah wine tumblers and a bouquet of red roses. I gave him a copy of The Driskill Hotel: Stories of Austin's Legendary Hotel -- A Cookbook for Special Occasions by David J. Bull and Turk Pipkin. He made shrimp and turkey thighs with peppers, onions, and squash for dinner, and after dining, we watched "Charade," which is my second favorite Audrey Hepburn movie after "My Fair Lady."

Incidentally, I must confess that I've always thought the fuss over the right glass for the right wine was simply a manifestation of snobbery and marketing, but I was so wrong. It makes quite a difference for the better.

Today, I received valentines from AB and LGS--sweet! And GLS and I had a wonderful lunch with JW at ClayPit: Grill and Curry House (try the Taj Mahal soup--"fresh lentil and vegetable soup with a quick tempering of cumin").

Look for JW's debut novel, Escape from Arylon (The Silverskin Legacy)(Llewellyn, 2006). It's the first in a trilogy!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Retirement Cheers

GLS and I had lunch yesterday with JL at the Eastside Cafe to celebrate her retirement from the APL. Not that this library guru won't be keeping really busy...!

I'm wrapping up my VC packets. I've finished all but one.

Spooky News & Links

If a vampire were after you by Kimberly Pauley of YA Books Central.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


GLS cooked DHA and me a wonderful dinner this afternoon--Cantonese lobster and shrimp with snow peas, both on brown rice. She was lovely company, as always.

More globally, I'm still feeling somewhat hollow, but trying to pour as much positive energy into the world as I can. My grandma was a big believer in karma.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Crispy Oysters

Had crispy oysters for the first time ever last night at the 34th Street Cafe (extra parking is around back). Yummy! I dislike oyster dressing and oysters on the half shell and so was loathe to try them, but FH encouraged me, so I decided to go for it. I also had the Chinese Hack Salad with crispy shrimp, which was great, too. It was my first time at the restaurant, and the service was quite good. Try to snag a booth seat though. The chairs looked uncomfortable.

FH , GLS, and I were celebrating the sale of BY's second novel--a WF novel, no less! Yay!

Finished grading one VC packet yesterday evening before going out, starting on another now.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Mulligan Report

The Mulligan stew was a big hit last night with the crit group. I had some of the leftover whole wheat noodles this morning with my turkey bacon, scrambled eggs, and American cheese for breakfast.

Everyone was likewise positive about the tall tale revision. We read the original version sent to the editor, my summary of his notes, and then my rewrite. Suggestions included making it a more universally tall-tale world rather than specifying Texas (to broaden the market), tightening the series of events, and omitting a "sound" word that was hard on the read-aloud. A good question was raised about the exasperation level of the parent characters, but the teachers in the group seemed convinced that their dialogue rang true. After everyone left, GLS had an additional suggestion to make one of the scenes bigger, and this morning I smoothed out one last parallel construction before contacting my agent. Cross fingers!

This afternoon, I must set my own writing aside for a few days to focus on VC MFA packets. New students, new writing, most exciting!

Spooky News & Links

Don't miss today's interview with Margaret Bechard on Spacer and Rat (Roaring Brook, 2005) on Cynsations!

Comic of the Week: Nightwing #117--sigh.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Suffering Soccotash!

Zoomed out this morning to BookPeople to shop for birthday and Valentine's gifts and cards. Then I was treated to lunch by KD at Thai Tara on 6th. I enjoyed my shrimp spring roll and my chicken satay with peanut sauce (four hearty servings--order to split), but next time I would sit outside on the deck, weather permitting.

After lunch I picked up a box of 400 individual packets of Splenda at Randall's on Exposition.

So, I'm in the sweetner section, and this motion-detector device begins lecturing me in the voice of Sylvester the cat to buy the pink stuff instead. I was appalled. I find the trend toward more and more in-store advertising at groceries vaguely vexing (point of purchase coupons, ads on the floor, etc.), but this was like being berated by a salescat (and you know I'm cat friendly) simply for walking by. I'm trying to imagine the cacophony of noise if product "spokesman" were pitching on five or six products on the aisle. Sigh.

My crit group meets tonight at my house. GLS and I are serving what my family calls "Mulligan stew," which is made from 2 cans of tomato sauce, 2 cans of tomato paste, 1 can of Campbell's Vegetarian Vegetable Soup, and ground turkey over whole wheat linguine. (My family uses hamburger and regular pasta). Can't wait to hear what the group thinks of my tall tale revision!

Happy birthday to KZ on Vashon Island in Seattle!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Tale Tale II

Had a glorious three-hour lunch with AL at Houston's at Anderson and Burnet this afternoon. She's fantastic. I can hardly wait to read her upcoming YA. She shared part of it at WF, and I was wowed. Plus, you know, she looks quite fetching in pinstripes.

Also continued rewriting the tall tale. It now has a statement of mythology, and...that is new why? Ditto on clarifying the emotional stakes.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Tall Tale

I've spent most of the day working on my Texana picture book revision. This has been a toughie, coming in bits and pieces. I'm definitely getting closer though. The key was to keep thinking bigger, bigger, and now, okay, I've got a TALL tale, which not coincidentally was along the lines of my editor's comments. Go figure. Those editors. Smart cookies.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Valentine Rose

A red rose is blooming just outside my front door. Not having grown up in the southwest, I'm wowed. Roses in the yard in February. The first Christmas I lived here, one bloomed on the holiday and I was enchanted.

After a break for teaching and travel, my muse has regained full force. I'm enjoying working on F&M, which is now called T&C: ALS. I've got about 10,000 words, though the last four pages of the 44 is comprised of single-space notes that (hopefully) tell me where the story is headed.

At this point, I tend to panic that there's not enough to sustain a novel, that it'll all be written in 75 or 80 pages. It's a familiar byproduct of the fact that my rough drafts tend to be fairly bare bones (so there is much to be added), the fact that I always underestimate how many words it'll take to translate a handful of notes into a scene (sometimes a sentence equals six or more pages) and typical author insecurity. I've grown to recognize and accept it. You'd think I could also smite it from my writing life, but that may be asking too much.

In other news, GLS and I have been watching "Fantasy Island season 1" (very rhetro--women scream and faint a lot) and "Remington Steele season 2" (definitely one of the best and most underappreciated shows of its time; lots of action and charming really).

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Ghost Boat

I finally have had a chance to begin unpacking from a busy January and now a journal recycled from a book, The Ghost Boat by Jacqueline Jackson, sits on my desk--fresh, fierce, awaiting scribbles. It was a gift from the VC graduating class--each faculty member and first semester student received one, though of course the books recycled varied. Very spooky!

Friday, February 03, 2006 redesigned

The Spooky news of the day is the redesign of my site at by Lisa Firke of Hit Those Keys. Surf over to check it out and then pop over to Cynsations to read Lisa's related interview and soak in some of her global thoughts on author sites.

Highlight of yesterday was lunch with AB at the U.T. Club. Due to recent travels, hadn't seen her in far too long. We had much to catch up on.

On another note, I can't help thinking that someone would have a field day trying to psychoanalyze me from my Google searches. Writing demands all kinds of research, and I do mine along the way. Today it was "Stages of a Drowning." And for the record: not planning to do it myself or inflict it--just background, okay?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

In The Groove

Wrote the prologue. Am scribbling on it. Plan to begin drafting new scenes with earnest beginning tomorrow. This, I love.

Beyond that, not much to report. Turkey tacos for dinner. Made out my Valentine's Day cards for the family. Elders really like cards, and so do kids.

El Chile

Had dinner last night with GLS, AG, and his fiance S at El Chile Cafe y Cantina. It was the first time I'd been to the near East Austin restaurant. I was impressed with the casual atmosphere and higher-end interior menu. The Rajas con Queso was fantastic, though the Downtown Charlie's Special was a bit on the dry side (I had the chicken). That said, people go there for the sauces, but most aren't on my diet. Downsides: no whole wheat tortillas (I brought my own) and only one ladies room to serve the entire restaurant (though there was never a wait).