Thursday, June 29, 2006

Kisses to Spookcyn Readers

Thanks ever so much for the enthusiastic response to my Tantalize cover.

More specifically, thanks to Tanya Lee Stone (author interview) for blogging about it! Thanks also to Cynsations LJ readers jennyhan, mary_ohhh, lstolarz, cynthialord, crcook for their cheers, Spookycyn LJ readers jenlibrarian, d_michiko_f, beverlyjean, lizzb, moniquemadigan, cawriter, halseanderson, brandie_writer, azang, cynthea, and slwhitman for their cheers as well as everyone who wrote me directly. Most appreciated!

All of the credit of course goes to the geniuses at Candlewick Press, who--by the way--are absolute gems to work with.

For those who don't read Cynsations, sensual monster queen Annette Curtis Klause was kind offer to offer the following blurb on the novel:

"Full of unexpected, delicious delights that kept me guessing and turning the pages, Tantalize creates a froth of excitement, danger, suspense, and wit. This original book tantalizes the senses indeed, as it explores the border between attraction and disgust, and makes us question our perceptions. Who are you--predator or prey?"

Annette's latest is Freaks: Alive on the Inside! (Simon & Schuster, 2006)(excerpt). Having read and enjoyed the ARC, I picked up the hardcover Wednesday night at BookPeople along with Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris (Ace, 2005) from the Southern Vampire Series, A Princess of Roumania by Paul Park (Tor, 2005), which was a New York Public Library Best Book for the Teen Age 2006, and Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom by Julie Kenner (Berkley, 2005). I'm completely entranced by Carpe Demon at the moment. Highly entertaining holiday-weekend read.

GLS and I made a night of our shopping expedition. After a light dinner of sliced samon with salmon cream cheese on Wheat Thins and sliced cucumbers with spinach-and-artichoke hummus, we stopped off at The Shoal Creek Saloon for a cup of shrimp gumbo and half order of fries respectively, and later we swung by Amy's Ice Creams (small "just vanilla" with chocolate syrup and pecans in a cup; hey, it's a classic!).

Another highlight of my week was lunch on Friday with HH (author interview) at Guero's Taco Bar (shrimp fajitas) on South Congress. If you haven't heard of her yet, you will soon.

Spooky News & Links

ChickenDance.Org: Austinites, on July 4th help break a Guinness World Record for the World’s Largest Chicken Dance! Yes, seriously!

June is Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat Month. Three of my four cats--Mercury, Blizzard, and Galileo--were shelter cats, and Bashi was found in a bush.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Tantalize Cover Art Sneak Peek

I've received my final cover art for Tantalize (Candlewick, March 2007), and I'm so jazzed that I'm posting it here tonight.

Luscious, don't you think?

It's odd. I'm incredibly nervous.

I have been all day.

I guess it's because the art makes it all seem more real somehow. I'm obsessing over early ARC reads (bless all who've sent cheers/blurbs), whether people will use it as kindling because they hate some part of the text that won't make the final book anyway. You know, the usual.

Plus, I sent F&M to my agent on Monday--yay! yikes!--which means I'm in dreaded wait mode and, worse, I've returned to reality from my latest fictional world. No distractions, nothing to hold the fear at bay.

Highly overrated, reality. No wonder fiction is my life.

But you know, that girl on the cover? She's Quincie. My hero. It's such a thrill to finally see her face.

Spooky Notes

I'm not sure how/whether the art will reproduce for the LJ syndication, so I invite those readers to check it out on Blogger. Comments are welcome, and because I'm feeling especially candid about my emotional needs, allow me to clarify. I want praise. Rejoicing. Confetti.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Undead and Unpopular

Swung by BookPeople today to snag the latest vampire novels for grown-ups. I found Danse Macabre by Laurell K. Hamilton (excerpt), Undead and Unpopular by Mary Janice Davidson, and Tall, Dark & Dead by Tate Hallaway (excerpt)(blog). All commercial/popular fiction, Berkley, 2006. I think the latter two are gothic fantasy romances. The first two are series books, and I've enjoyed the previous titles in each. I'm tempted to leave them for plane reading next month, but we'll see.

Spooky News & Links

Thanks to my fellow Green Lantern, LJ reader, alison23, for her recent comments! I'm thrilled to know that DC Comics (and then Marvel) stamps are forthcoming. Could be a major budget issue. Cheers also to LJ reader d_michiko_f; sorry about your cheese allergy!

"Getting to Know Meredith Gentry and Anita Blake" by Laurell K. Hamilton from Random House.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Favorite Snacks

A student group doing an author presentation on me emailed today to ask my favorite snacks. Apparently, their teachers likes food in the classroom, so they thought they'd do something thematic to my preferences. I wrote back...

I love (not necessarily simultaneously):
dark chocolate
strawberries
blueberries
pecans
popcorn (with real butter)
guacamole
salsa
whole wheat tortillas
gouda cheese (most cheese actually)
hummus
sushi
Sun Chips

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Speaker Weekend

On Friday night, GLS gave a keynote address on multicultural humor at the Texas State Reading Association, and B&N Westlake sponsored a quite successful signing. I'd guess we sold 40ish books to an audience of 50 teachers (regional directors from throughout the state).

The event was held at the new Hilton at the Austin airport, which is quite nice with Texas-themed decor (think big stars and bluebonnet murals). Apparently, it was one of the buildings from the old Air Force base, totally rehabbed.

The conference chicken dinner (with salad, wild rice, Hollandaise, and tiramisu) was on the dry side, but the sauce helped. Very friendly, welcoming crowd!

The next day, we did a joint breakout session at Writers' League of Texas' 2006 Agents & Editors Conference downtown at the Austin Hyatt. Highlights of the event included a Q&A panel featuring authors KA (author interview), CB, and AB (author interview), which was moderated by author-illustrator MGM (author interview). Sightings also included Blooming Tree publisher MH, one of the exhibitors.

I spotted but didn't get a chance to talk to the one children's agent there, AT, but word in the hallways was that those emphasizing the story did a lot better than those pitching the message, which only makes sense.

It was fascinating-horrifying to talk to the writers pitching their manuscripts to agents at 15 minute meetings. I'm SO glad I'm happily agented and never had to do that.

The conference chicken lunch (with salad, gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, and cake) was moist and delicious. We skipped out on the speaker though in part because KA had to grab some party bronze shoes for me.

Beyond that, GLS and I are watching "Lois & Clark: Season 3," at which point Lois knows Clark is Superman and they're discussing marriage. Today we read aloud F&M in a copyediting effort. Late last night I finished and am still poundering--in a seriously impressed way--The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin (Dial, 2006)(author interview)(excerpt)(look for more on that coming soon to Cynsations).

Thursday, June 22, 2006

I Have A Power Ring

Okay, it's plastic and not the most powerful weapon in the universe. Actually, it's a promotional giveaway for Green Lantern Corps #1, and I received it from a lovely woman at Dragon's Lair, not a little blue guy. But nevertheless I'm wearing it proudly.

My main to-dos at the moment are to prep for my VC talks, but first I have a couple of events this weekend and some writing of my own to bring to a pausing point.

Monday, June 19, 2006

South Texas

GLS and I hoofed it to Kingsville, Texas on Friday to do some research for his WIP. Did you know that ranchers prefer red cattle and horses because they're less likely to sunburn (I didn't!)? Also, don't open the car window around lots of cattle--too many flies!

Because the local B&B never returned our call, we stayed at the Best Western, which is the best hotel in town. It wasn't bad, but the room took all night to cool down (and as we'd recently bought a whole new air conditioning system for our first floor, this seemed a relatively cruel blow).

Despite recent restoration and economic development efforts, the historic downtown had been hit hard by the outlying mall and Wal-Mart. But I did enjoy a first-class and bargain grilled chicken sandwich on whole wheat with mayo and guacamole at Harrel's Soda Fountain & Pharmacy. We also had fun shopping at the King Ranch Saddle Shop (though the fetching sleeveless brown silk Day of the Dead shirt was out of my budget at $322).

We were told that the best Mexican restaurant had burned down a while ago, and the best barbecue was another fifteen-to-twenty minutes on the highway headed back north, so I'm vaguely embarrassed to admit that we ended up eating twice at Chili's, which was the highest end chain there. I'm sure if we'd had more time, we would've been able to score local cuisine better than that.

I liked Kingsville. It's a majority Mexican American (about 70%) community and one of the friendliest places I've ever visited. I did keep an eye open for rattlesnakes and gators, though. I didn't see any of those--just lots of cattle, horses, wild turkeys, and deer.

We boogied back north on Saturday afternoon to Corpus Christi (think Gulf Coast, palm trees, T-shirts that read: "It's a Shore Thing." The water was an aquamarine green, the sun shining, and the wind gusty.

Next time we'll also try to make it to the U.S.S. Lexington Aircraft Carrier Museum, but for this trip we just had time to go to the Texas State Aquarium. Highlights included a turtle tank "in memory of Selena--her music opened a window into beauty." My fave animals were the sleeping prehensile-tailed porcupine and the playful otters. I also observed that pelicans are quite large, especially when they're flying right over your head.

We stayed at the lovely Omni Hotel on the ocean, where sights included a pink-purple-dyed poodle. We had dinner that night at the Republic of Texas Bar & Grill (crab fondue, New England clam chowder, and lobster with rice pilaf).

Heading back on I-35 south on Sunday morning, we stopped at the Gruene River Grill in Gruene, Texas. Maybe because of the too-boisterous Father's Day crowd, the stuffed mushrooms were tepid, though my tortilla soup was quite good.

Spooky Notes

Thanks to Vanessa Joy Ziff for cheering Austin, which no doubt misses her too.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Social Cyn

What a busy day! There was something in the water. It seems I heard from events coordinators all over here and yon (wherever yon is).

I also was quite out and about town. I had lunch (asparagus cream soup along with a spinach, artichoke, cheese omlette at South Congress Cafe) with the lovely AL (author interview), followed by tea with AB (author interview) and KA (author interview) at La Madeleine on North Lamar. Then I quickly zipped through the rest of my email, grabbed dinner (a breakfast burrito--too many eggs today) at Magnolia Cafe on Lake Austin Boulevard and headed to JL's (author interview) presentation on "The Zen of Revision" for the Writers' League of Texas at Barnes & Noble Westlake. Luminaries in the audience included AB and MGM (author interview). Now, I'm home and blogging and answering more email. Pant, pant.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Righteous Revision

Only one more VC packet to go! Then I'm going to take a bit of a break and wait until July to do prep for the next res.

Amidst a million other things, I had a chance to go through the scribbled comments on F&M from last night's crit group and apply them to the master copy. Some highlights: "love the parallel to T's life; D is so cunning;" "great turn of events, high drama;" "funny--great movie scene;" "love her formal language; she's doing well;" "M&B seem sufficiently humbled;" "remind me of personal connection;" "go, girl;" "nice D;" "how did he get here? oh, she moved to another room;" "jealous?" "aha, great page-turner;" "I love the letter; it really helps to see it;" "D is a nice addition, helps to see this character. I also like having T and D together earlier. It works!" "great end;" "what does he find?" "does D wonder if T is watching?" "good explanation;" "love this."

Perhaps needless to say this is a much-polished rewrite of a scene they'd read earlier, and in this case I revised to mostly SP's suggestions.

("a million other things:" email, write student evaluation, work out on treadmill (45 minutes), drop off dry cleaning, check P.O. Box, pick up misc. groceries (eggs, pecans, dental floss), mail packet, etc. etc.)

By the way, have I mentioned lately how much I love working with my webdesigner/master LF? She is amazing. If you're on the fence about hiring a pro, trust me, it's worth it and she's the best. I just sent May updates from Cynsations and otherwise, and boom! there they are--quick like a bunny.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Cooling Off

Gothic fantasy goddess ACK (author interview) has turned in a glowing blurb for Tantalize (Candlewick, March 2007). I'm filled with the happy!

Today, our critique group went to the UT Club for happy hour and manuscript feedback. The service was tacos and margaritas. The queso was excellent. I brought a re-written, expanded and moved-up scene of F&M. The story is told in alternating POV and one of SP's suggestions was to move that scene up so that it occured after the two protagonists had met. He also thought it would be good to actually show (rather than cut away from) the scary part and perhaps also use it as a catalyst to D's internal journey. Genius! The dynamic trio of SP, AB (author interview), and TC offered great polish suggestions. [I also brought an interior design element because, you know, I live for those.]

In other important news, our new upstairs air conditioner was installed, and I'm no longer melting. It's almost awe-inspiring. I'm surprised that when air conditioning was first introduced in Texas that it didn't spark a new religion. Repeat after me: "Oooo, cool."

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Chisholm Trail

It's a hot and happenin' weekend here. The hot is literal. Our upstairs air conditioner is on strike, so we've slept the last two nights on a futon mattress in the sunroom. The second repairman is coming this morning. When I expressed surprise that we could get someone on a Sunday, GLS's reply was that in Texas there was no higher calling. It's already a triple-digit summer here.

On Friday, we spoke to a TSU graduate seminar class of writing teachers in Round Rock. It was a friendly, enthusiastic group. We mostly told the stories behind our stories and made a few observations about the industry as a whole. Then we enjoyed a potluck lunch, which consisted of dishes like fried chicken, tuna salad, and hamburger-and-cheese filled biscuits.

On Saturday morning, we drove out to Lockhart for the Chisholm Trial Roundup. We have friends who own a grand old home on the parade route, so we sat out front in a row of folks with lawn chairs and soaked in the small-town charm. Watermelon and strawberry queens, church groups, monster trucks, bands, cheerleaders, girl scouts, cowboys on horseback. It was a boisterous event with a supportive crowd. It struck me, as someone travels a lot, that the participants and audience were about 1/3 black, 1/3 Mexican American, and 1/3 white. Music and dress styles reflected this diversity at times, didn't at others. Unlike many American history celebrations, there was nothing that made my inner Indian cringe. In any case, it's easy to imagine living in a small town with such a strong sense of energy and pride, but I'm afraid I'm a city girl. I like having my grocery store and hospital close by.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Multitasking

I've been grading VC packets and writing end-of-semester evaluations, coordinating upcoming events with planners, getting organized to promote Santa Knows (Dutton, 2006), and corresponding with my editor about copyediting questions on Tantalize (Candlewick, 2007).

I'm especially jazzed this week on the latter because one of my interior formatting suggestions seems to be a go (I had to write some new text and fiddle to make the line breaks work). Also, I'm starting to hear some raves from folks who've managed to snag the rare ARC. The next step will be reviewing second pass pages with (hopefully) all the corrections.

Miraculously, I'm also making time to continue writing. I've fulfilled my last set of revision goals on F&M, and I intend to continue tinkering on the new scenes in preparation for next week's critique group meeting. Because July will be so busy, I probably won't see them again until August, so I want to get some initial feedback on the more sweeping changes.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Republic of Texas Biker Rally

This past weekend was the Republic of Texas Biker Rally in Austin. Think 4,000+ bikes converging on downtown for three roaring days.

Rumor has it that the event is the biggest income-earner of its kind for the city. Leather goods?

In any case, the streets are literally lined and swarming with bikes, bikers, and biker chicks. Sixth and Congress were closed off Friday evening for the parade, making it impossible for non-bike driving. On our way home from San Antonio, we had to get back on I-35 north and go to the other side of the Cap building before we could successfully cut back over to the west side. In East Austin, people were lined up on the streets, cheering the bikers on.

I don't notice the noise here at the house like I did when we had the apartment on Congress. Back then, I just resigned myself to a couple of days without sleep.

Next weekend is the Texas Pride Festival, celebrating the GLBTQ community, in Waterloo Park.

I love this town!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Ooo La La

GLS and I cruised down to San Antonio Friday evening for dinner with JFH and her husband at Paesono's. I gobble so much grand calamari that I hardly had any room left for my chicken marsala. Must climb back on treadmill ASAP.

Saturday morning we went to a bring-your-own-lunch, Austin area writer-illustrator get together at MD's house on the lake. I brought some spicy-tuna-and-avocado brown rice sushi from Whole Foods.

Attendees included CB, BXD, FH, LG (author interview), TC, AL (author interview), JL (author interview), JP, SP, MS and BY. Great publications on display included BXD's story in "Spider" and LG's latest release.

The fabulous AL brought me a powder blue University of Paris T-shirt. I am filled with the happy. My previous one has literally worn out since I bought it in, well, 1991. I did study abroad in Paris, focussing on European Community law and the French legal system. Ooo La La. Well, not the law part, but the Paris part.

That afternoon, I keyed in line edits and notes for revision on my master copy of F&M.

Last night, GLS and I watched "The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement," which had a wonderful supporting cast but was too much a repeat than a reinvention. That said, it's worth watching for Julie Andrews, Hector Elizondo, and John Rhys-Davies. Joel McCray is great, too.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Game Plan

Excellent progress. I've gone through the three critique letters and the three marked copies of the manuscript to pull together revision notes on my master copy.

Here's what I have to do for this round:

a handful of clarifications, in particular one related to motivation ("call to adventure");

move up some of the fantasy worlds' exposition (a challenge with two competing worlds);

insert two documents (love this as a device--one letter and one newspaper article);

expand and then move a scene so co-protagonists can meet earlier;

write four new scenes.

That should keep me busy for a while.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Eerie, Indiana

Last weekend, GLS and I enjoyed watching what appears to be the only three episodes of a 1991 series, "Eerie, Indianna." It's cute and creepy in more of a suburban than small town riff way, as the title suggests. Worth seeing for the premier episode alone. Too bad the network didn't give it more of a chance. A cult following would've quickly developed and spread.

Today, I'm in Randall's, looking for a b-day card for my mom, and what greets me but a mega end cap with Sarah Dessen paperbacks and information on a contest to "win a phone call" with the author as well as a 2GB iPod Nano and a signed collection of her books. So long as the authors' royalties aren't reduced, I'm all in favor of books in grocery stores. Not everyone goes into bookstores (awk!), but everyone except possibly Bush Sr., goes into grocery stores. So, we can reach more readers that way. As a fellow author, it occured to me that the prize is a good one in part because SD is so witty and charming (exhibit her LJ). OTOH, I--who occasionally fall into idiot babble mode--might not be as good of a pick for such a promotion.