Friday, March 31, 2006

I Love the Nightlife

It's Friday night, and I've just keyed the last of my world guide, research, and character notes into my F&M mss. I'm in the bedroom suite on the denim futon with Bashi, the smaller of my two gray tabbies. He's resting on a Pendelton blanket, avidly watching Blizzard, my puffy white cat, enthusiastically chase a medium-sized blue sparkle ball. My tea glass is empty, even the ice has melted, and though I can't see him, I know GLS is writing a new scene in the library. He has classical music playing (Mozart), which is generally a good sign. I'm off to print. Fact-checking and new scenes to follow!

I have no idea what other people do for fun.

Haven Gallery

Last night GLS and I split a chicken, garlic, tomato pizza on whole wheat at Mangia on Lake Austin Boulevard. That was good. It also was the third night this week that we went out instead of staying home and writing. That was not so good. My bad, as the kids say (do they still say that?), as I'm a full-time writer and after a nice afternoon of productivity, I'm more likely to urge us to go play. That's not helpful to GLS though who has a day job. Not that he's complaining, but I resolve to be a better co-author-wife in the future.

Today I played hooky a bit myself, grabbing a hybiscus tea at Magnolia Cafe with AB and then doing a bit O shopping on Sixth Street. We stopped by Positive Images (1118 West Sixth) and Haven Gallery & Fine Gifts (1122 W. Sixth), which recently replaced the Pecan Street Emporium. I urge Austinites to visit Haven Galley and welcome the new business. The remodel is almost as gorgeous as the art--almost! Lots of price points. Definitely a must-see destination!

I'm off to workout and then it's back to F&M!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The World Stage

I've now successfully at least scribbled in notes from my world-building document into F&M, though of course I'll keep the former handy for reference.

Though there are essentially three main settings for the story, it also takes place quite literally around the globe, which is a wonderful opportunity and also heightens the research/fact-checking burden. The first thing I'm going to do after I key in tonight is to read through and highlight anything I might want to double check and do so before continuing with new scenes. I'm positive I'll also do it again down the road, but there's nothing more disconcerting to the obsessive than having a place name with 16 letters that I can't pronounce, let alone be sure I've spelled correctly.

What was interesting to me about this part of the process--integrating the research and character/fantasy element brainstorms--was that there was clearly a place in the manuscript for each piece of new information. I wouldn't guess that would be true. It seems more likely that I'd end up with a lot of extraneous stuff. Maybe upon revision some will be cut back out, or maybe the subconscious is more savvy than I give it credit.

Also, falling under the category of karma, my apologies to the boisterous phone solicitor who wanted my support in response to the horror of "dark themes" in children's/teen programming and literature. I was perhaps a tad cranky at having my work interrupted by your request for support. That said, you might want to trim gothic fantasy authors from your call list.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Beautiful Lady of the Lighthouse

I quite enjoyed the remake of "Yours, Mine, and Ours," but of course I love sappy movies. The "beautiful lady of the lighthouse" story though was a bit over the top, though. Yowza.

Too much of today was spent working on the website. A lot of the old-time content is from back before I had a consistent style, and not long ago, a grad student complained that not all of the early interviews were fully annotated. I spent about four hours on clean-up duty today.

In book news, my CP editor faxed me the "before" TOC pages for Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007), and my, are they long! Is it front matter or a novel unto itself? I look forward to the "after" version, due ASAP. My agent's assistant also emailed about a secondary rights request for Indian Shoes (HarperCollins, 2002), and I still need to take a closer look at that. Intrinsically, though, I love the whole concept of secondary rights.

DT (illustrator interview) also stopped by to pick up a stack of my books on writing and illustrating graphic novels/comic books. I hope they're of use to him.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Delicious Day

What a delicious day! I had the honor of lunching with the fabulous ERC, her very cute husband, and their son along with DHA and GLS at Green Pastures in South Austin, complete with peacock sightings. I'm not sure about everyone's lunch, but I had the grilled pesto chicken with avocado on yellow rice and ERC had a chicken salad with Macadamia nuts, cranberries, and manchego cheese, followed by creme brule for desert. GLS had what he said was the best steak he'd eaten in a restaurant in some time. ERC also gifted me with two small Chicago-themed journals just perfect for working on F&M.

I came home to an e-note from my CP editor, informing me that the Table O Contents Table was too long to fit on two spreads without it looking cramped. They didn't want to stretch to three because it's just too much to page through before the story starts. I replied that: "I'm firmly against anything that is insanely tight and off-putting. It reminds me of a dress I can't/shouldn't quite fit into--most ill advised. " In any case, it dawned on me that the reason the dates were there in the first place had been more for my own temporal reference than a carefully thought-out design element. I won't miss them, and I agree that it's best to play up the menu headers more as these go more to the flavor of the novel, so to speak.

VJ stopped by this afternoon to chat, and it was a pleasure to see him. Then ERC and her family also stopped by, also to chat (and for directions to Musashino, Hoover's, and the East Side Cafe). GLS and I grabbed dinner afterward at Hyde Park. I had a turkey burger with Gouda and mushrooms and the most fantastic Mexican bean soup.

I'm off to watch the remake of "Yours, Mine, and Ours." I loved the original, so I'm curious.

Monday, March 27, 2006


It's dark and dreary today, perfect for getting things done. I finished integrating character brainstorm notes into my mss, and it was so covered with scribbles that I decided to go ahead and key them in before moving onto mythology. This way, I can at least see what I'm doing.

Spooky News & Links

Don't miss today's Cynsations interview with Stephenie Meyer, author of Twilight (Little Brown, 2005).

Cheers to JK and VJ!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

More Kaley To Come

The weekend's guest star was DCR, who was in town from Wichita giving a workshop for SCBWI Austin. We picked her up Sunday morning at the Hotel San Jose, swept by the wine department at Whole Foods, and then brought her home to our dining room.

GLS served pink gazpacho with shrimp and deviled crab with cucumber sandwiches on whole wheat. She shared the good news that Darby Creek is publishing three more Kaley books, and we got a sneak peek at the cover art.

AB will be joining us for dinner.

Last night we watched "My Fair Lady" for the umpteenth time because GLS was looking for inspiration on the ball scene in his WIP.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Whole Brain

Today I made an effort to begin integrating my world-building into F&M. I'd written the rough draft first, then let it cool while I did research and side-writing work on character, setting, and fantasy elements.

I'd thought about drafting the handful of scenes I'd skipped ("not working, don't force it; keep going") in the manuscript first, but I had so many notes on them from having done the side work that it made more sense to start there.

I did have an initial rush of overwhelmed-ness at the enormity of the task, the puzzle-work. I decided to begin by trying to figure out where and how the co-protagonists' traits and back-stories fit into the larger whole, help advance the story, and/or should be ignored as irrelevant.

Basically, I have two sets of writing on this same manuscript--one that is rooted in story as it flowed from my fingertips (more subconscious) and the other as I brainstormed, read, and took notes (more conscious). Integrating them is sort of like doing brain surgery on myself.

But I just poured myself a glass of iced tea, curled up on the futon in the upstairs sitting room, opened both documents, and began with the first reference first and so on.

Spooky News & Links

Technovelgy: "where science meets fiction.""Explore the wide variety of inventions and ideas of science fiction writers--over 975 are available on Technovelgy (that's tek-novel-gee!). Use the Timeline of Science Fiction Invention or the alphabetic Glossary of Science Fiction Technology to see them all, look for the category that interests you, browse by favorite author/book or check Science Fiction in the News and watch sf come to life."

Cheers to BH!

Friday, March 24, 2006


I love spring, love cocooning with my WIP.

I just read the second first draft of F&M, after cooling time to work on world building and to grade VC packets, and I've now keyed in the initial changes--many tweaked for consistency.

This past sweep, I fiddled excessively with names, ethnicities, and hometowns. Likewise, I decided one character conflict just wasn't necessary--snip! And of course once snipped, the thread must be pulled out of the whole.

The good news is that it isn't totally wretched. Don't get me wrong. It is partially wretched--quite a lot actually--but I can see the potential in it.

I have a foundation.

Cheers to UK!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Writer's Workout

I've amped up my workouts by another 15 mintes this week. I have a treadmill that folds up against the wall in my dressing room, and I click around my iPod to listen to mostly 80s music as I go. One thing about having the beast of the machine in the house is that, unlike the gym, I can't pretend it doesn't exist or that I can't fit it into my schedule. Mostly, though, I'm just relieved that it hasn't turned into a clothes hanger.

Much of what I do--reading and writing--is fairly sedentary, and a couple of years ago my blood sugar was showing it. I was borderline diabetic, which basically scared me straight. I've revamped my diet to become more nutritious, too (Spookycyn readers have no doubt noticed my adoration for cuisine, sensualist that I am), but I find that regular, intense walking has been the greatest thing I've ever done for my health, including my stress level.

Maybe it's the mind/body connection, but I feel as though I'm writing better, too. In any case, I have to bring a Post-It notepad and pen with me, so I can scribble ideas as they arise. All the blood rushing around seems to inspire my thought process. Or perhaps it's the sweat, thinking in water, as I always seem to get a lot of ideas in the bath/shower, too.

Yesterday I had a long chat with AS in the morning, and speaking of food, that evening GLS and I stopped by Magnolia Cafe on Lake Austin Blvd. for dinner (scrambled eggs and mushroom soup), followed by tuna sashimi at the Four Seasons Lobby Lounge on Town Lake.

Today, I had lunch (Kung Pao shrimp with brown rice) with new voice HH, who's a VC MFA grad. Ausinites, be sure to give her a warm greeting if you spot her at a local SCBWI event!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sending Love

Sending all of my love to the Yolen-Stemple family. You're in my heart.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

More Flap

My original quote for the back flap bio on T was stupid, according to GLS. He of course didn't say "stupid." He said something like "do you really need anything here?" and "can't you just use something from the author's note?" But I can translate.

Fear not! By the end of dinner, I had something much better. More conversational, less contrived, less trying, if you know what I mean.

This afternoon I sent it to my CP editor with some trepidation as I'd also fiddled with the first-pass front flap copy. What she'd had was wonderful; I just didn't want to give away quite that much of the story, especially since it's supposed to be suspenseful. So, I massaged a wee bit. This made me a little nervous, but the reply I got was quite enthusiastic, using words like "LOVE" in all caps and "off to copyediting." Hooray!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Flap Quote

My CP editor wrote today with her first pass at the flap copy, a request to give my bio a once-over, and to invite me to offer a quote about T.

Okay. I can talk about T for hours, but in just a few lines--not catalog copy kind of lines? Something else. Theoretically, thoughtful-but-kicky genius author lines?

I have something. Does it sound stupid? Maybe it sounds stupid. I'll ask GLS tonight at dinner if it's stupid.

Let me break this down: Am I supposed to be speaking to prospective reviewers, target readers (14-up), the nice people who'll want to burn me at the stake for writing it? Forget the latter; everbody knows they don't actually read. The business person in me says that I should spin for the grown-ups, highlighting the deeper thematic undertones, but my inner adolescent says to forget all that, trust YAs to figure it out, and just roar.

Spooky News & Links

Congrats to DHA on all the starry attention for An Egg is Quiet (Chronicle, 2006).

Good luck to AB on her upcoming talk!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Love Story Tea

"Let Bloody Mary cure what St. Patrick gave you."
--sign for a Tex-Mex restaurant on Lake Austin Blvd.

Quiet day. I keyed in changes to my world guide for F&M and did a bit of research. Issues of concern included historic knives, Chicago's North Shore, and the San Francisco Opera.

GLS and I are taking tonight off to watch "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" on DVD and sip "Love Story Tea" (black tea blended with rosebuds and chocolate flavoring) from Tea Embassy at 900 Rio Grande--just northeast of BookPeople. I'd given him the tea for Valentine's Day, and this was the first time we'd tried it. I know I've mentioned Tea Embassy before, but in case you missed it, the shop is family-owned, in a charming historic home, and something of an urban Oasis to the extent we're, well, urban in this college town/state capital.

I like "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" because it's set in Chicago, which is one of my fave big cities, because its message is loving your large, occasionally intrusive family (who, us?) without letting its expectations define you, and because it underscores the idea of matriarchial daily life. I also like the idea that you can reinvent yourself at any time. I've done some reinventing myself in the past couple of years. I sense more on the horizon.

Spooky News & Links

I'd like to welcome my dear pal and fellow Austin area author AL to the online children's/YA book creator community! Visit her new website, leave a comment on her new blog, and consider linking to either/both.

Thanks to Monique Madigan on her recent cheers from my LJ syndication! Sending cheers to ERC!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

St. Pat's Weekend

I am partly Irish (thank you, great-grandpa Ernest), but I'm afraid my celebratory efforts were arguably lacking yesterday, especially compared to the festive DMF in Shanghai.

The hands-down highlight of the day though was watching a pro fireworks display from the sunroom window. It was in celebration of 20 years of SXSW in conjunction with the free Friday concert at Town Lake Stage at Auditorium Shores.

Today I'm back to work on F&M. GLS made a convincing argument that Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007) readers might assume F&M, if also set in Austin, was set in the same fantasy world, which is not the case.

It's difficult, though, because I'm a visual writer, and if I can't "see" the scene unfold, it's that much harder for me to craft it. So I'm trying to move the next draft to Chicago because it's a major city that I love, and I have lived there in the past.

(This isn't the kind of story that would take place in a small town or even someplace like Kansas City or Okie City).

He mentioned a northern suburb that I'll research, and I'll try both a neighborhood scene as well as one on the lake front, along Streeterville. Most of the rest of the story would take place in fantasy locales anyway.

I also had a chance to go through my comments from last week's crit group. At this very early stage, they've been around long enough to know the most important thing is offer the encouragement to keep me writing and I've been around long enough to go with it.

Various comments: Love the modern twist. So today, so traditional. Wow, that's neat. Maybe the animals should go silent in the woods next time. Modern architecture is disappointing. Dublin, Ireland or Dublin, Ohio? Cut the rest of the family from the cemetery. Baseball card collection, not baseball collection. Not a lot of humorous books like this. Page turning. Readers will know he's a smart ass so they'll want to see how he gets out of this uncomfortable situation. Spell out bloodlines. Stakes are high. So real. Do parents think he can do it? Depressing but good. Fun for reader. Fresh.

Spooky News & Links

Congratulations to VJ, whose debut novel Red Polka Dot in a World Full of Plaid (Genesis Press/Black Coral, 2005)(excerpt) is listed as #6 on the Essence Best Seller List for Paperback Fiction.

LJS offers an excerpt from Shamrocked (2005).

Sending cheers to LR (author interview)! Happy belated b-day to LB (author interview)!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Tantalize Preliminary Page Samples

"If you like us, tell your friends.
"If not, tell your enemies."
--written in chalk on a sign at Amy's Ice Creams
at Sixth and Lamar in Austin, Texas
(that's what I call win-win marketing)

The big news this week is the arrival of some preliminary page samples of Tantalize (Candlewick Press, March 2007), so I can get an idea of how the various interior design elements will look. I'm entirely wowed but still soaking them in. First, there's nothing like professional typesetting to make a manuscript start to feel like a book, which in itself--at least for the author--is thrilling. But this manuscript had a number of opportunities for design, and clearly, CP is taking everything to the highest level, really investing in a vivid reader experience. The only thing missing was the Table of Contents, which apparently will come after they get the page count nailed down. Design and production quality are two of the aspects of the house that have always impressed me, so I can't say I'm surprised. Yet I so much appreciate that they really "get" the story, its world, and have the artistic ability-commitment to reinforce that perfectly.

GLS and I have a pact to celebrate any and all tangible progress on the writing front, so we celebrated this great landmark Tuesday night by splitting a Mediterranian platter at Jeffrey's.

Crit group was last night at AB's (author interview) house, and she served chicken chili with Fritos and berries or peach pie a' la mode for desert. As usual, it was a fun and thoughtful meeting. We're a lively bunch--three men, two women; three of us with law backgrounds, two with teaching. Everyone gets along, has a good sense of humor, and really applies themselves both to listening and offering feedback. It's an excellent dynamic.

Today I had lunch with CB, who had some questions on the soon-to-be published front, at Suzi's China Grill-Shoal Creek. That reminds me, if you're not already reading his blog, I highly recommend it. I also had a Lesley sighting while driving down South 1rst, near the School for the Deaf. He was sporting a hot pink halter top, thong, cowboy hat and boots. Quite fetching.

Beyond that I have finished grading my second round of VC packets, and so now it's back to F&M. I'm finally going to spend a few days on that character work I kept talking about and then start revising the second first draft. Yikes.

Spooky News & Links

Thanks to EH (author interview) for the hand-y bookmark and mini journal as well as to AS (author interview) and NR for their e-cards! Cheers to SC (author interview)!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Magical Moments

Am in deep VC packet-grading mode; one to go. Took breaks today only to walk on the treadmill for 45 minutes to the soundtrack from "Rocky II" (go ahead, mock me) and have sake sashimi, an avocado bomb, and edamame at Suzi's North.

Cheers to the curvy lady with the long blond hair and low-cut, bright red red dress, smoking a cigarette and sitting at the cocktail table outside Cippolina on West Lynn yesterday evening. The effect was magnificiently Marilyn.

While I'm talking West Lynn, cheers, too, to the owner of the pink sedan with various pigs glued to the exterior, parked outside Anthony's Laundry & Dry Cleaners at the same time. Thanks for keeping Austin weird!

I also was charmed by the four-or-five-year-old fairy princess in the crown, glitter wings, and long gown on Duval late this afternoon.

And more personally, thanks to GLS for fixing the faucets in both upstairs bathrooms as well as the baseboard of the kitchen cabinets. Ah, the finer things in life!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Green Pastures

KA, GLS and I spoke at a successful panel on YA Writing and Literature at AWP. I offered an overview of the field, touched on its history, and then focused on trends, especially in the context of multiculturalism. GLS talked about humor--how to write it in books with substance, and KA offered a "sermon" on who YA readers are today.

Our moderator was the lovely LV, who introduced the topic by showing cover art from Nancy Drew books through the ages.

Afterward, LV's husband joined our group for a long, leisurely lunch at Green Pastures. Spotted: one white peacock. I had the gaspacho with shrimp (and coveted KA's cesar salad with tempura lobster--she was kind enough to share).

Last night, GLS and I watched the syndicated episode of "Star Trek: DS9" where Worf and Jadzia are married in traditonal Klingon style. My husband, who is a trekker (which is what they prefer to be called) informed me that some real-life people really do get married this way, and I didn't entirely believe him until I tried Google and found photos. Since I saw "Star Wars: ANH" more than 350 times (paid admission--granted, many of these for only $1) in the theater as a kid, I personally find the whole thing romantic.

Spooky News & Links

Beyond Nancy Drew: Girls' Literature in the Sallie Bingham Center For Women's History and Culture at Duke University. Bibliography compiled and written by Rabia Geha and Kelly Wooten and edited by Amy Leigh.

Thanks to KR for her suggested agent-related writer links!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Too Early To Howl

Thursday night night GLS and I swung over to Hyde Park Bar & Grill for dinner (lentil soup and turkey burger) and then cruised across town for one drink at the Four Seasons.

On the way, I spotted a redheaded, bearded werewolf-looking fellow at sunset walking along the sidewalk, approaching the corner of 38th and Duval.

Yesterday was a quiet but productive one. I got quite a bit of correspondence and website management done, then read my first VC packet.

Looking forward to this morning's presentation at AWP!

Sending cheers to TLS!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Juggling Hats

I timed myself at 13 minutes, not including the very short readings, for my AWP speech, so I'm feeling pretty comfortable with that. (We're supposed to keep it under 20 but preferably about 15). I also decided to mention the Norton Anthology of Children's Literature for those seeking more information. KA graciously offered to put together the visuals and bibliography, so we should be all set. GLS and I have a date to practice tonight. I need to remember to make 10 copies.

I was going to wait until after grading packets to start in on character work, but I'm just going to go ahead. I can grade in the days and work on the novel at night. I pulled four character craft books to glance through first, just hoping they'll gear my brain in that direction. These were the ones I found on the shelf: Creating Character Emotions by Ann Hood (Story Press, 1998); Creating Characters Kids Will Love by Elaine Marie Alphin (Writer's Digest, 2000); Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress (Writer's Digest, 1998); The Writer's Guide to Character Traits by Linda N. Edelstein (Writer's Digest, 1999). LOL! You'd never guess I quit my day job in 1998, eh?

Sending cheers to PM!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Riding the Waves

Hurrah to the driver of the compact turquoise car covered with 3-D sea creatures headed south on Lamar at 5 p.m. yesterday! Thanks for keeping Austin weird!

GLS made a particularly yummy dinner last night--a tomatillo-based gaspacho with shirmp. We also served sliced Fuji apples with low-fat Vermont cheddar and sliced smoked salmon. AB was our guest, and it was lovely to see her.

After I work out, I still need to key in various points of information from my mss to my world guide. Then I'll switch to AWP prep. I'm making a decision to skew from more of a focus on the history of YA to what it is today and just refer the audience to additional reading. That's more my area of expertise anyway, though I'll give the history a contextual nod to start off. I'm also planning to briefly read from my first novel, Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001)(10-up), Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today edited by Lori M. Carlson (HarperCollins, 2005)(12-up)(editor interview), and My Road Trip to the Pretty Girl Capital of the World by Brian Yansky (Cricket, 2003)(14-up) as examples of YAs at the different age subcategories.

Sending cheers to DHA!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

World Building Is A Big Job

No matter how much I'm aching to get to it, I'm going to have to push back character-specific work until after I grade VC packets and speak at AWP this weekend. Today, I need to read through my mss and plug all indicated character, mythology, and setting information into my world guide. Tomorrow, I'm going to re-read MC's book for my AWP talk in case that lends itself to any tweaking.

Looking forward to seeing AB (author interview) at dinner tonight!

Thanks to TB (author interview) for the lovely card!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Tantalize Publication Date Moved Up to Spring 2007

Those of you who read Cynsations may recall my recent post that the publication date for Tantalize has been moved up from fall to spring of 2007.

I'm excited, nervous, a jumble of emotions, even though that's still a year away. I can't wait to get that initial glimpse at the cover art concept, which my editor suggested might be within the next month or so. CP does a top-notch job at production--one of the reasons I'm so thrilled to be working with the house.

I'm also feeling a tad more pressure on writing F&M as I'm contemplating a companion book for T, too. No matter, each mss will take the time it takes. I'm pleased with my productivity lately.

Incidentally, on my Spookycyn LJ syndication, BSM (LJ) alludes to a good point about the circumstances surrounding cats sitting on manuscripts to facilitate sales. Note that she says she'll "let" Sugar sit on her manuscript. The opportunity is there, but the decision remains the cat's. Writers are not to plop cats on manuscripts or slip manuscripts under cat beds. This is cheating the magic, which is perilous at best.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Research Resumed

Decided to keep going with the research rather than trust my frazzled brain to know the subject. That said, I fairly zoomed through books on the second, more familiar mythology. This was essentially review, refreshing, compiling a checklist of sorts, and I still ended up with about six pages of scribbled notes to key into my world guide.

Of the mega stack, seven books turned out to be especially helpful, and I'm keeping them under my nightstand so that the knowledge can sink into my mind as I'm sleeping (call it "wishful thinking"). I also poked around a little online and found a site with fantastic photographs for setting reference.

Tomorrow I'll organize it all and move onto character building--protagonists first.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

If A Cat Sits On Your Manuscript, It Will Sell

"You will discover an unexpected treasure."
--most recent fortune from a cookie at Suzi's China Kitchen

Publishing legend has it that "if a cat sits on your manuscript, it will sell."

I'm not sure where I first heard this, but I prefer to believe it, especially because I have four cats and that greatly increases my odds.

[I'm not an expert on the success rate of dogs, rabbits, gerbils, etc., but as an optimist, I'd be hopeful].

I mention this because Leo Galilei, my tawny Egyptian Mau, sat on F&M this evening.

In other news, found an additional research tape from the History Channel. Will watch it tonight and start in on characters tomorrow.

By the way, spent a ridiculous amount of time/thought today debating with GLS on the gender of an animal character. He thought it should be male. I thought it should be female. Guess what? She's a girl. And for legitimate logic reasons revealed by today's research.

Moving Pictures

Today's research includes watching: an A&E Biography that, incidentally, featured one of RS's magical illustrations; an episode of "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom," narrated by LG; and a feature from The History Channel.

Video/DVDs are especially useful for, say, notetaking on noises that animals make. Also, sometimes hearing (as opposed to reading) information triggers different kinds of ideas.

I also received an out-of-print, horridly written picture book that has some color photographs that will be useful for describing one of the major settings in the mss. I'll take a look at that later.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Research Fiend

One major research area is done for now. I also have a document, sort of a "world guide," that's divided into: characters; mythology; setting; and timelines. It's about 18 pages, some of which are blank, and includes a cast roster and to-do list. I had tons of related books, but two were infinitely more useful than the rest. I've got about 3,400 words of notes, just getting started. Feeling some eagerness to get through this part so I can do some character work, but all in good time (and no doubt a break for grading packets in between).

Thanks to HB for her get-well wishes; and yes, I did look quite cute in my eye patch (I'm 100% better know; the eye really does heal quickly). Thanks also to LZ for mentioning From Romance to Realism: 50 Years of Growth and Change in Young Adult Literature by Michael Cart (HarperCollins, 1996), which I agree is outstanding.

Sending out thank yous to a few folks who've been above-and-beyond supportive this past week or so: GLS (author interview), EH (author interview) at SCBWI-Houston, and KA (author interview) at Kerbey Lane Cafe.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Logic Hound

My brain is melting, really leaking out of my ears.

Today, I'm working on the some of the logic aspects of my WIP, which among other things involves figuring out the timeline, both in the sense of centuries and the passing of one night, the sunrise and sunset times, and compiling an international backdrop to the mythology. I also researched baby first names from particular eras and surnames specific to time and place.

I've made great progress with the topic research, which has also offered much inspiration for rounding out the protagonists' backstories. One more subject to finish up (I've got two more books to check for now), one to go, and one that is mostly review.

Thanks to KWH for her kind condolences.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Naming Characters

It's supposed to reach 85 degrees today. The sun is shining. My redbud and daffodils are in bloom.

I'm working steadily on the WIP while letting the actual mss cool. I took another look at the character names. I wasn't wholly satisfied with the surname of one of the alternating POV protagonists and that stopped me until I could find one. Obsessive behavior, no doubt. Along the way, I ended up changing the names of four more characters.

Considerations in naming characters:

Vary in terms of first letters;

Very in terms of numbers of syllables;

Vary in term of the sounds they make (vowels and ending letters have great impact);

Consider the meaning of the name (but not in a too-obvious way);

Consider the age of the character (don't give a "new" name to an octogenarian)

When applicable, consider names' geographic/ethnic history (whether thematic or not; hey, it's a diverse world).

Here's an example of the names from Jingle Dancer (Morrow, 2000): Jenna, Grandma Wolfe, Great-aunt Sis; Mrs. Scott, Cousin Elizabeth. Note the variety of syllables, sounds, etc.

This reduces reader and, for that matter, writer confusion as well as adds resonance. I don't go crazy with it so as not to seem forced, but I do think about it.

Two of the minor characters in my WIP have similar names, but the meanings fit each, they never appear in a scene together, and in many ways they're supposed to be mirrors anyway.