"Mm, cookies."*

Saturday, December 19, 2009

2010 is almost here! I imagine posts like this one will become more common, which is to say posts specifically about |-1| will become more common, since we're entering at least the year -- decade**?! -- in which my debut, well, debuts!

Which leads me to this: a first-ever teaser -- or "cookie," I've recently heard these called -- of The Absolute Value of -1.

(This was twittered to no small degree yesterday, but I know not everyone (A) follows anyone relevant on Twitter, or (B) doesn't habitually click links in tweets.)

Anyway, compliments of the AE on the Carolrhoda blog, here's the results of the latest addition of text to a particular spread in |-1|.

Coming soon, more chances to enter to win an ARC of |-1| signed by myself, Dia Reeves, Jenn Hubbard, Heidi R. Kling, and more, plus a final signed copy of Dia Reeves' Bleeding Violet, and who knows what all else once we get going! Stay tuned!

*I know someone reading this will get the reference I've very subtly made in the title of this post. Who will it be? I have some guesses, but I will keep them to myself.

**This is open to interpretation, since many people subscribe to the idea that larger units of years begin on the year ending in "1," rather than that beginning with "0." I am not among those people, however, since, while there was no year 0, there was also not a year 1, or 2, or et cetera, for a very long time, so relax, you Alex Trebek-types.

WYAOM! (The M stands for "month.")

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The second half of December is totally WYAOD half-month! It began yesterday, sort of, since it was Wednesday, which means SIL babysitting and a half WYAOD. It was particularly special because I think it was the first Wednesday in some time on which I had no reading to do for the Loft workshop (it's over until late January), no homework for an education class (I'm also taking the spring semester off, so that won't change for a while), and no SAB job to help Eric Stevens with (he always needs my help, the bum).

But on Saturday it really kick into high gear! Beth and all the SILs will be at our house baking Christmas cookies for the whole afternoon, and in the morning Beth will be out with Sam buying ingredients for said cookies. That means WYAOD for me!

But it just gets better from there. After Christmas, Beth has a number of days off from work, and I hope and plan to use a couple or few of them as WYAODs as well. At this rate, my current WIP, aka YA MS 3, which is at the moment a hot mess, will be feeling a lot better before the first of the new year.

Oh, also: new crit group forming! We had our first meeting last night. All kinds of fun.

What I learned from last night's dream:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

When traveling to the underground kingdom of the Frost King, to face him and finally end his reign of terror in an epic battle to the death, accompanied by three silver doves, a family of warbears, and your guide (a glowing giant worm), be sure you have enough cash for everyone's subway fare, because the line at the ATM is murder during rush hour.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Just a quick note today. Fellow Tenner and author of Inconvenient (coming from Flux in 2010) Margie Gelbwasser is hosting the 8 Nights of Hanukkah Writing Tips over at her blog. My guest post went up last night, and I'm calling it my anti-advice. Anyway, pop over there, and please comment!

Top Ten Tunes

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I Voted in 89.3 The Current's Top 89 Albums of 2006

Local excellent radio station the Current is holding a vote. From all the songs that debuted on the station in 2009, listeners are being asked to select ten as their favorites of the year. From the votes, the Current will be taking the top 89 as their top songs of the 2009.

Typically I don't do any year-end top-ten lists, but since this one is already made, thanks to the Current, I figured I'd list my picks. So here they are, in no particular order:

Art Brut | DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshake
(Art Brut vs. Satan)

Gossip | Heavy Cross
(Music For Men)

The Avett Brothers | I and Love and You
(I and Love and You)

Animal Collective | My Girls
(Merriweather Post Pavilion)

The Noisettes | Never Forget You
(Wild Young Hearts)

Cornershop | The Roll Off Characteristics (Of History In The Making)
(Judy Sucks a Lemon for Breakfast)

Neko Case | This Tornado Loves You
(Middle Cyclone)

M. Ward | To Save Me
(Hold Time)

Thao with The Get Down Stay Down | When We Swam
(Know Better Learn Faster)

Grizzly Bear | While You Wait for the Others

So what are your top tunes of 2009? And yeah, if you're wondering, the Ting Tings album We Started Nothing came out in 2008, or it would obviously dominate my list.

Another prize; piece in PW

Friday, December 4, 2009

Two quick notes.

1. Dia Reeves has offered to add to the Tenner-signed ARC giveaway. She'll be donating a final copy of Bleeding Violet, signed of course, to go to the winner of the contest announced earlier this week! So head over there, read all about it, and enter in the comments. (This contest will be going on for a while, so don't panic, and enter plenty of times in future posts!)

2. If you don't follow my Twitter (or even if you do), you might have missed this excellent PW article about the cover of |-1| and the Teens Know Best. Now that the spelling of my last name has been corrected, I'm blogging it too. Enjoy!

FTM review from Booklist

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

From today's BOOKLIST:
The Painting That Wasn't There.
Brezenoff, Steve (Author) , Canga, C. B. (Illustrator)
Jan 2010. 88 p. Stone Arch, library edition, $17.99. (9781434216083).

This title in the Field Trip Mysteries series marries the always high-interest topic of an art heist with a breezy, straightforward story just right for reluctant readers. The book opens with an illustrated dossier belonging to sixth-grader James “Gum” Shoo (“Interests: Gum chewing, field trips, and showing everyone what a crook Anton Gutman is”) and three pals. The story then proceeds to tell how he got his flatfoot moniker. In art class, the kids learn about a famous painting and are delighted to find out that they’re going on a field trip to see it in person. At the museum, one of James’ henchfriends notices that the painting on the wall’s a forgery, and the four sleuths set out to uncover the perp. It’s a quickly paced and quickly resolved caper, but what’s lacking in characterization and plot is made up for in style: Canga’s illustrations add a touch of middle-school noir to the overall handsome presentation. The can-do spirit extends to the back matter, prompting kids to solve a mystery themselves or write up a new one.
— Ian Chipman

And don't forget to read Dia Reeves' guest post and enter to win an ARC of The Absolute Value of -1, signed by myself, Dia, Jennifer Hubbard, Heidi Kling, and more Tenners!

Dia Reeves, and the big giveaway!

Well, look at that! It's December first!

This mostly means pain and suffering to me, of course: short lengths of daylight, lots of cold, shoveling to do, ages till the thaw. But it also means it's time to start the Tenners tour of the Exile!

So, without further ado, here's the first guest post, from the wonderful, funny, and talented Dia Reeves, author of Bleeding Violet, which you can pre-order from this page! Remember: the topic is "fish out of water," keeping in the spirit of the Exile. (Stay tuned after the post for some more info about the signed ARC giveaway!)

I can't really think of any fish-out-of-water stories, Steve. I'm always at home wherever I go. You know, as long as people aren't looking at me. The only things I can think of that might even be remotely fishy is, sometimes at parties people insist that I get up and dance because of that old chestnut about how all black people are great dancers. Heh. Well, usually after about ten seconds of watching me strut my stuff, I get asked to sit back down.

Or like this other time when I went trick-or-treating in college and I was so old that no one would give me the good candy--just candy corn and those nasty brown things that taste like root beer. And, like, a toothbrush I think.

And this other time, my mom and I went to the movies to watch one of the sequels to Children of the Corn (can't remember which one) and we laughed the whole way through it, especially at the parts that were making other people scream. Only three movies scare me--The Exorcist, The Return of the Living Dead, and Evil Dead. Everything else is stupid.

So that's all I got. I think my way of being different is largely internal and would require a weird-girl brain scanner or something like that to pick me out of a crowd. Otherwise I just blend in.
Thanks, Dia.

Now, as promised, more info on the giveaway. The contest* will officially begin right now, with this post. To enter, simply comment below. If you Twitter or blog link to this post, I'll give you an extra entry, just make sure to let me know. And on future Tenner posts, there will be more opportunities to enter. As a reminder, the prize is an ARC of The Absolute Value of -1, signed by every Tenner featured on the Exile (so far, that means me and Dia, but many more will follow). I'll also add other fun gifties down the road, so stay tuned.

*US and Canada residents only (sorry, Roo). Please do not enter if you are under 13.

Back at home, lots to do.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I am not going to apologize for being away so long. I might choose to apologize to people who are waiting for email replies from me. We'll play it by ear.

We're recently back from a weeklong stay in New York, specifically on Long Island. We hardly got into the five boros at all, frankly, outside of trips fro and to the airport. Still, it was loads of fun: there's the food (of course, always the priority in my mind--Eddie's, bagels, Chinese, Green Cactus, and of course Thanksgiving dinner), the family and friends, and Sam playing with his cousin, also around one year old, from out in California. It's a shame cousins so close in age will spend so much of their youth so far apart. Still, though, fun.

The flight back with the very tired and restless and loud Sam? Not so fun.

There's some book news about to break as well (personal appearances, a trailer, final cover . . . boring stuff like that), but for now it's under my hat. I will announce right now that, beginning with an exciting guest post in the next few days, I'll be holding a contest here at the Exile. The winner will receive an ARC of The Absolute Value of -1, signed not only by moi, but also but several Tenners. If all goes according to plan, the signers will be the same Tenners whose guest posts I'll be hosting. Details to follow this week!

Finn Reeder: Flu Fighter

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My new laptop is due to arrive today. It might show up at any minute.

Meanwhile, Eric Stevens' latest and greatest project for SAB is now live as a free pdf download! It's only available free until the first of the year.

Click the cover below to get it. And I hope you enjoy it. I think it's pretty funny.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Last night was our last pre-final-cover meeting with the wonderful TKBs. It was a blast, naturally, and there were even more questions and comments for me, which was nice. See, there was more time at the end before the members had to scatter because we only looked at four comps on the old overhead. Anywho, the questions and comments were mostly very flattering and I probably went red once or twice.

The point is I think most of the members who read |-1| (at least those who spoke up) liked it.

Oh! And the covers. Well, I was pretty hot on one of 'em, and pretty cold on one of them, and downright unmoved by another, but one of them in particular has me more excited than a crawfish at a clambake. Unfortunately, the AE warns me that it's nowhere near in the bag yet, what with all the necessary approvals down the road from Sales and departments like Sales. So I can't say anything specific about it. You'll all have to be patient with me. But it won't be long, mind you, as we need finals pretty right quick for the catalog.

In other news, check out this review of one of SAB's FTM titles. A classic?! Oh, go on.

In a perfect world, the picture I attached to this post would have been the cover. Alas, this will suffice.

"I drink with DAMN, I'M DEAD!"

Friday, November 6, 2009

This has been a tough week, and it ain't over yet.

For a lot of you, it's probably pretty much over. Friday afternoon, everything winding down. Go home, have a nice cup of tea or a glass of wine or a bottle of beer, enjoy your weekend. For me, it won't really end until I finish my homework for class tomorrow morning, get through class tomorrow morning, and then wait for Eric Stevens to finish his assignment, too, due Monday.

But those little items aren't stressing me out like they normally would on a Friday afternoon. Nope. Compared to the last five days, those are a cake walk, because on Sunday night (shortly after posting my last entry, actually), I spilled an entire cup of tea -- piping hot and with milk and sugar -- into the keyboard of my laptop.

I didn't sleep well that night, wondering if the innards would dry, if the hard drive would survive, if all the writing I'd done in the last two years would be lost!

Well, not two years. I mean, I have backed up now and then. But plenty of work that I really, really loved, including the latest complete draft of YA MS the Third . . .

Beth did some quick research, and I removed the hard drive and whatever else I could safely unbolt from the underside, then opened the laptop and laid it on a towel, per some instructions on the web. Then, I proceeded to not sleep at all.

At 3:30 in the morning, I got up, thinking maybe the thing was dry now, and got it put together and plugged in and pressed the power button. The Dell start-up screen appeared! The little loading bar got longer and longer! It's working, it's working!

Then nothing. A flash of light and blackness. Total. System. Failure.

I blacked out.

The next thing I remember is waking up under the dining room table with a pot on my head.

Not really. But at 7:59 that morning, Sam and I were at the local computer repair shop. They laughed at me, then pantsed me, then laughed again. Then they said, "We'll call you to tell you it's beyond hope in three days."

Or it would have been, if the hard drive hadn't been spared by some miracle. The thing was bone dry. The folks at the repair shop removed the hard drive, encased it in adamantium (I assume), and turned it into an external drive. All my files -- WIPs, invoices, photos and videos of Sam, completed work -- are safe.

Of course, the motherboard on the old laptop is shot. The thing is beyond repair. So I've gone ahead and bought a new laptop. The amazing thing is that it's a better, faster laptop than my old one, and cost me like 300 bucks less. So that's nice.

And hey, tax write-off!

Anniversaween Weekend

Sunday, November 1, 2009

This morning, for the third time, Beth and I enjoyed the amazing brunch at St. Paul Hotel's main floor restaurant, the St. Paul Grill, no relationship to the St. Pauli Girl.

This is a tradition of ours. You see, we were wed at the St. Paul Hotel three years ago, as I noted recently herein. But specifically, our wedding was a Sunday brunch affair. Hence, the tradition!

It's also one of the best, most decadent brunches we've ever had, anywhere, period.

Today I had the country breakfast, of which I will spare you the details because you'll be so jealous you'll probably devour your own arm. The point is I couldn't breathe afterward and the whole family slept for like three hours this afternoon.

The other feature of our anniversary weekend this year was, of course, Halloween. It's probably my second favorite holiday, behind Thanksgiving, and sometimes I prefer it outright. This year, I did up the porch something fierce, with sound effects and special lighting and a scarecrow -- the whole nine. Also, to spare us the hassle of dealing with a barking and snippy Jack Russell, I handed the candy out through a huge poster of a skull -- the mouth of which I cut a slit into -- that was covering one of the big windows onto the porch. It was hell of creepy.

Anyway, our anniversary weekend is now over. So, one last time: happy anniversary, sweetie.

This post is also a test of my attempt to feed all entries in my Livejournal. Let's see if it works.
[ETA: Okay, it totally didn't work. But I also totally know why. Next time, it will work.]

image from http://undead-art.deviantart.com/art/Together-Forever-zombie-love-54566305

Three years!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Happy anniversary!

To who? To me and Beth, natch. Today is our third anniversary, in fact, and in celebration, Beth went off to work and I stayed home with Sam!

Wait, no.

Last night, while I was at my awesome Loft class (which, by the way, was a riot last night; everyone seemed drunk, in a good way), Beth made a batch of maple glazed cookies with coarse sea salt. They are amazing. I have eaten at least 8 since then, and do keep in mind that it's not even noon here and that I was asleep for about 8 hours between when the cookies were given to me and now. The point is, though, that I recently Twittered that I was having bona fide maple lust. It is sated -- for now.

In other, less interesting news, YA MS the Third is done. Again. I think. I am in the middle of a read-through right now, and then I'll pass it off to Beth, as she is my favorite first reader. It's very short. Like, too short for most editors to look at seriously, I think. The AE is okay with the length, so that's reassuring, certainly. But he's a maverick!

In truth, I probably wrote lazily and could have include more action here or there.

My next task, after Eric Stevens finishes his latest assignment, is to fix and finish the trailer for |-1|. Not that there's any hurry.

Did you guys know Josh Berk is eating a burger a day for a hundred days, to celebrate the release of his debut, The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin, on the 100th day? How jealous are you? Or more to the point, how jealous am I?!

I wish I'd named my book The Absolute Value of Negative Pizza.

One post, two Sams

Monday, October 26, 2009

We're skipping ECFE this morning, I'm sorry to report. Sam's fighting a cold that has his nose running like a faucet, so rather than spread the cold to twenty other toddlers, we thought it best to stay home. I'll do some laundry. We'll have a blast.

Anyway, drop over to the Stone Arch Books blog today. They've posted a guest post I did about my favorite character from the Field Trip Mysteries. (Between you and me, she was also named for after my son.)


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The cover meeting with the TKBs was excellent. I'm not surprised. Seeing the rough concepts on the big screen was pretty fun; some of them are very cool, and the whole process has me pretty excited. I won't say any more about the cover ideas themselves. Of course, once the cover's final, the Exile will probably be the first place it gets posted publicly.

Here are some highlights of the meeting:

  • A cover mock-up designed and illustrated, with flap copy (a review from the Times!) and everything, by one of the TKBs. At the end of the meeting she handed it to me and said, "Happy birthday." Slightly late--or early--but I love it and will cherish it. I'd post here but since I didn't ask her if that would be okay, I won't.
  • One of the senior TKBs: "I cried at the end. I curled up in a ball in the corner and cried." I took that as a compliment.
  • After cover discussion, several TKBs decided to hurl a few questions at me, and they weren't softballs, either. That was hell of fun. I want a whole session of that right there.
  • Adela, TKB advisor/leader, is planning to head to Pino's! As a native of New York (sure, Flushing and a Mets fan, but we must forgive our friends and neighbors), she undoubtedly misses our world-famous thin, floppy, foldable pizza, and has taken my review to heart! My apologies to her for not immediately realizing just what Pino's is. Not good with names, I suppose.
  • I got a TKB T-shirt! It's black! (That means it's straight into priority rotation for this shirt, of course. Black T-shirts are always win.)

Overall, like I said, excellent. Those TKBs who read the book seemed to take something away from it, and generally I'd say they thought it was pretty good. So I'm happy.

Two more things!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I had to pop in one more time today for two reasons.

1. I am answering the Six Questions over at Minnesota Reads today. Check it out!

2. The Exile is one year old today! It was on October 13 of 2008, the first Monday after I attended the Minnesota SCBWI conference, that I posted for the first time. (The blog had been sitting unused for some time.) It was unabashedly an attempt at creating some kind of internet existence for myself, non-anonymously. I think it's going pretty well. But as the ultimate goal at the time was simply to sell a book, I'd say it's going very well, tyvm.

Full stack

Here's the thing about pancakes:

If you're hungry, and someone announces they're going to make pancakes, you're like, "Awesome. I love pancakes. I can eat TEN. Make at least TEN for me." Or if you're on your way to breakfast on a late Saturday morning, you're all, "Man, I am getting a FULL stack of PANcakes, because I love pancakes and I can eat like TEN right now."

Then the stack shows up. You dig right in, after application of ample butter and syrup, of course. Five, even ten bites in, you're still trucking. It's so good. Every bite is delectable (I mean, unless they're totally crappy pancakes--I'm looking at you, Neighborhood Cafe). With each bite, you're certain you could eat pancakes for the rest of your life, nonstop, and never get sick of pancakes.

A switch suddenly flips in your gut. It says stop. Stop eating those pancakes. But your head is still in its pre-pancake mode. It replies, "No, no! We said ten pancakes. We will eat ten pancakes!" Your mind continues forcing your arm to move that damn fork back and forth, back and forth, your gut shouting, or anyway mumbling as best as a rock-laden gut can: "Stop! For the love of all that is holy, STOP."

Finally the gut wins out. It's not like the head says, "You know, you're right." It's more like the blood supply to your brain is far too slow at this point for your mind to do any strenuous work, like fork manipulation. Your arm is probably numb.

The pile of pancakes on your plate is embarrassingly large. You wonder if the server will ask if anything was wrong with the meal, or, god forbid, if you want to bring the rest home. You stare at the mutilated full stack. The butter and syrup have cooled and coagulate in pockets here, and there. The cakes themselves are stone cold. Even if you were fresh to the table you wouldn't want them anymore. As you feel now, you could wretch at the sight of them. You poke at the plate, then let your fork drop, even letting the fork's handle fall into the cold syrup, knowing full well that will make it completely useless.

The point is we went to Highland Grill last night for dinner and I got pancakes.

Tonight, the AE and I and some other folks from Carolrhoda are meeting with the TKBs for the second time. Very excited and nervous. Updates tomorrow.

Updates and BBW

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Clearly, my five posts weekly resolution has been smashed. Then it was stomped on, put out with the recycling, and run over with a steamroller.

Oh well.

Tonight, the first 20-odd pages of YA MS the Third are on the chopping block in my Loft workshop. Early reactions are positive, but I manage to retain fear. It's my nature. I'm strong like that: in the face of positivity, I maintain a lack of composure.

I think I mentioned a trailer for YA Novel the First. Perhaps that was on Twitter. Regardless, I've decided, I regret to say, to redo much of it. The more I fiddled with it, the more of the book I felt I was "giving away," such as it is, and not adding much to the trailer itself, visually or oomph-wise. It eventually became really ineffective. So I'm backing up about three of hours of work, rethinking some of the sketches and the narration script. With a live-in babysitter set to arrive tomorrow afternoon, hopefully I can get it done by the middle of next week.

Not that there's any hurry, of course.

As I just noted briefly, by the way, Beth's mother-in-law will be arriving tomorrow afternoon. She'll be with us until Tuesday. I'd warn you that I might not update much during her visit, but since I've been about the slackingest blogger in Minnesota anyway, why bother.

I can hardly believe I haven't said a thing about Banned Books this week. Everyone did, except me. Of course, as you likely guessed, I am opposed to the banning of books. That said, I expect someone will challenge |-1|, and that bothers me not at all. It seems to me that much of the art teens have loved since "teens" became a demographic has been heavily challenged, regarded by much of the adult world as somehow dangerous. I don't expect that will ever change. And frankly, if it ever did, I expect art for teens would simply push farther, as it should. The teen age is one defined by its burgeoning individuality and independence from arbitrary adult and societal authority. Absorbing that which is challenged and subversive is a rite of passage, and a crucial one.

The Secret of Roan Pizza

Sunday, September 20, 2009

More excellent pizza!

This time it's on the east side of the Metro, and, though Hiawatha Pizza is certainly closer to home as the crow flies (or the bike rides), getting down there in the car is a huge pain thanks to the clusterfrak that is Lake Street. So, we present Pino's of Woodbury. I won't get into a whole review spiel here, since an excellent review is already up at S4xton. (Photo is from S4xton.) It's spot-on. I think Hiawatha is a little closer to perfect NYC-style slices. It's also a little cheaper and the slices are bigger. However, since Hiawatha does very little business, the product is often a little sitting-aroundy. I also have no confidence that Hiawatha will still be in business a year from now, whereas Pino's seems in good shape.

I'm out for some write time at the moment. Been stepping back and forth between my two most important WIPs (YA MSS the Second and the Third, that is). I'm 99% certain that the first 25 pages of YA MS the Third will be my first submission for crit at the Loft. Thing is, I feel like I'm just teetering on the edge of eureka with both projects. Like, at any moment, the thing that's going to make plots really work and feel organic is just around the corner.

So what am I doing here? Who knows. I'm probably a little afraid to get there.

Beth and I watched The Secret of Roan Inish last night. I still love it. Beth was very against it from the get go. I think the scene in which cousin Tadgh tells Fiona about the family's odd mating history is what got her turning around on the issue. Either that or she just said at the end that she liked it to shut me up and she actually didn't like it. Who knows. Anyway, I very much want to read the book on which it's based, The Secret of the Ron Mor Skerry. Has anyone out there?

Workshopping, finally

Friday, September 18, 2009

I haven't workshopped my writing since 2001. That was the year I did two classes at the Gotham Writers Workshop in New York. (In fact, while killing a few minutes before one such workshop, I ran into an old music biz/college friend, and yadda yadda yadda, within a month I was working at S&S Children's; thanks, Detroit*.) I found that experience to be at times horrible and useless, but very often invaluable. In fact, it's safe to say that my first instructor at GWW, one Alex Steele, was one of the three most important--how shall I put this?--cattle prods in my writing career. He was a big fan of some of the earliest scenes in |-1|, and without his confidence in the piece, I don't know I ever would have written even the novella it was this time last year.

I digress. The point is, been a long time since I was active in a workshop, but now it's on: I've just begun the Advanced Fiction Workshop at the Loft, and, no offense to Brian Farrey, I'm glad I ended up "stuck" in this class, rather than BF's "Better Writing through Buffy." That class sounded hell of fun, but probably would not have been quite the swift kick YA MS the Third really needs.

Already the workshop has been helpful. In selecting the 6500-word section I want to submit (I volunteered to submit next week, essentially right away), I determined that the wrong 25 pages are right now the first 25 pages, and the 25 pages I chose for the workshop should be the first 25 pages. Already a win. Oh, plus the first story we read was Kelly Link's "Stone Animals," which, swoon.

*My old friend's name is not actually Detroit. Detroit is simply what a particular mispronunciation of her name sort of sounds like, but not really.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

First, apologies for downer post on Thursday, particularly to my mother, who apparently cried.

Now then. The Minnesota chapter of SCBWI had its annual conference all day Saturday. Here's how it went down:

I met several people, of whom I remember few names and I thought to give a business card to maybe two of them. Of course I also saw a few people I already knew, such as Tina Lee, local pre-published writer, the AE, and Kurtis Scaletta, fellow Otter.

According to Kurtis, I write "pornography for teens."

Jill Dembowski gave major love to Sara Zarr during her talk on the "Do's" and "Don't's" of publishing. (Kurtis: "I hear she'll blurb anything.")

Mark McVeigh's presentation was highly informative. He's an immensely bright man. Also dapper. Oh, and he said thanks to the AE, Carolrhoda is an imprint he wouldn't hesitate to work with. His words seemed to be intended, in fact, to encourage the conference goers to get excited about another awesome, cutting edge place publishing YA in our hometown (in addition to Flux, of course).

Julie Schumacher, author of Black Box, also presented, on a topic near and dear to my heart: "trauma" lit for teens. I personally think the alleged recent explosion in the subgenre is bunk. Frankly, if we're seeing an explosion in a subgenre of YA, it is in my mind simply because we're seeing such an explosion in YA in general. But who knows. The point is, I was a proofreader on Black Box and it's quite good. Julie Schumacher reminded me of Joey Ramone a little bit, too. You can take that as you will. Anyway, I like her.

Donna Jo Napoli is a delight. She is lively and hilarious and a brilliant writer and critic of prose. One of the highpoints of the conference came after First Pages. As soon-to-be honcho of MN-SCBWI Quinette Cook was wrapping up, Donna Jo called out, "May I say a few things?" Quinette of course called her up, and Donna Jo ran, quite literally, to the mic from the back row. She then offered, rapid fire and from notes, her take on the first pages, with serious and substantial suggestions and criticism. Seriously, I was hell of jealous of the members whose first pages were looked at, because I would love to some real notes from Ms. Napoli (no offense, Otters).

Speaking of Quinette Cook, I hadn't met her before, but I knew her name: it appeared on my missed call Caller ID last week, and is pretty unforgettable. Turns out she was calling me for some last-minute material she might use in one of her intro talks or something, since she'd heard (through the grapevine) that I'd had such a great year thanks in no small part to last year's conference. I was flattered and frankly stunned that someone had sort of heard about me. Hopefully we can work something out so next year I (and other pubbed locals) can be more hands-on in the conference.

Tomorrow morning, Sam begins ECFE. Did I mention the kid took five steps on Friday? Yup. And it's happened a few more times since. I wholly expect he will be up and walking like a pro by the end of this week.

Wednesday night, I begin my first class at the Loft. It's an advanced fiction workshop. Today, I spent a little time with the WIP I'll likely focus on in that class, better known on the Exile as YA MS the Second. I'll tell ya this: the old advice about putting your frustrating WIPs aside, to distance yourself from them, is not to be ignored. When I returned to it this morning, I found slicing whole chunks, scenes, even characters that were taking the story nowhere, to be much easier. I think, with no unforseen problems, I have a chance at finishing this WIP sooner than I thought. Ooh, plus, thanks to Donna Jo Napoli's keynote address, I won't worry as much as I usually do when I find a hole; I'll just keep going. Just finish it. I can fix it later.

Seriously I should have that painted on the wall of my office if I ever get one: Just Finish It. Fix It Later.

And finally, I've spent free minutes here and there over the last few days throwing together a trailer for The Absolute Value of -1. I think, if I can convince Beth to do some narration, that it will be ready to premiere fairly soon.

I hate today.

Friday, September 11, 2009

More than a week since the last post.

It's a shame I decided to come back today. I could have come back yesterday, and then I wouldn't have had to post today. Or I could have just stuck to my lazy guns one more day, and then I'd come back on the twelfth, or even the thirteenth, with a post-MN SCBWI update. (I'm sure I'll post one of those on Sunday or even Saturday night.) But no. Instead, here I am, smack on September 11.

I sort of can't believe it's only been eight years. It feels like that was a different man, who woke up in Astoria, Queens, like it was any other day. He got on the N train at 30th Avenue and rode it right to 57th and 7th (I think . . .), to get to work at Good Housekeeping magazine. He was in his black slacks and white button-down, as always. It was completely normal. Only one thing seemed strange, just before nine that morning. The N train stopped at Queensboro Plaza, still above ground, like it always did. And the doors stood open for a little while, to get back on schedule and wait for the 7 train transfer, I suppose. But as we sat there, a man tapped his friend and said something quietly in Chinese. The two men then leaned over the seated passengers to look out the windows. A few others, curious, turned to see as well. I leaned with the rest and saw smoke and flames coming out of one of the Twin Towers. (Lord knows I didn't know which was One and which was Two.)

We shrugged it off as a curiosity: a fire in one of the Twin Towers. The train went on, under the river. But I emerged from the station into a quiet confusion. It just felt wrong. Good Housekeeping's offices were quiet, as they usually were that early. The Research Department, of which I was a member, was always first to arrive. We'd usually started our second cups of coffee before Editorial showed, generally between 9:30 and ten. That day, few editors showed up at all, I suppose. My boss and I watched one of the twenty-four-hour news channels and saw the second plane hit. I don't recall if we knew by then that this was an attack, and not some insane accident. But when the second plane hit, it certainly became obvious.

I started smoking again, right then. I told my boss I had been quit for a week but I couldn't take this and she said go downstairs, so I did. And the streets were filled with people--with New Yorkers. Cars were stopped . . . just anywhere, like that REM video. It sounds fantastic and sentimental, but it's true. People left their car doors open and stood on their bumpers or roofs to try to catch a glimpse. I think we all expected a fireball to come screaming up 8th Avenue, or at least a huge white smoke monster.

I'd told my boss I'd work for the day, but by the time I'd gotten back upstairs, that was an insane notion. No one would work that day, I imagine. We wished each other good luck and a few of us, my self included, tried to get friends and family on the phone; my cousin worked in one of the Towers, and was only late to work that day because he was casting his vote in the NYC mayoral election.

Getting home was tricky. Most subways were not running, and rumors about more attacks, biological weapons, god knows what else, flowed through crowds. There must have thousands of us roaming midtown, hoping an E might suddenly burst into action to get us across the river. I know a lot of people just walked.

An E did run, eventually, but then shut down at the first Queens station, to which I'd never been. I managed to find a taxi and get in. He was nice. He was scared, too. We kept watching the sky. But his car wasn't moving, not much. We didn't get far together. Once I recognized something, I said I'd get out and walk, and we said good luck to each other and he wouldn't let me pay him.

I don't remember when the towers collapsed entirely. I don't remember much else about that day. But I remember that morning, and I miss the Towers--really, I miss them--every time I take a bridge into the city and see that lopsided skyline, with downtown looking like it's sinking into the harbor.

I'm sorry this is so sentimental and ridiculous. The truth is, only the anniversary of my father's death affects me more than September 11. I hate today.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

I have a blog? How 'bout that.

Yup, been gone a week. No good reason for it, frankly.

My last Thursday afternoon for work, with MIL sitting Sam, is today. I'll be working mostly on an SAB title, which is nice. My two most promising WIPs (aka YA MS the Second and YA MS the Third) have been gathering dust, not for lack of time (though I haven't been taking write-nights as religiously as I ought to), but for lack of get-up-and-go. I think writing a quick football title for SAB will help me to feel potent again. Let's hope so, 'cause YA MS the Third is so freakin' promising, and yet I am afraid to approach it.

This has always been a problem for me, and I assume for many writers. I write and write like a house afire, and then, upon reaching some roadblock, stop. YA MS the Second has been wallowing for some time thanks to that issue, and I am afraid YA MS the Third is destined for the same fate. Heck, YA Novel the First wallowed on and off for about twelve years. It took some interest from the AE to really bang it into shape.

This afternoon, I have contractual obligations to attack that SAB title. It's due on Monday, after all. But after this weekend, I'm getting my BIC on, religiously. In fact, here's my vow: YA MS the Third will be agent-ready by Halloween.

Not to put to fine a point on it, but just typing that sentence gave me a small anxiety attack.

About last night . . .

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Last night was fantastic. Fantastic!

I didn't think it would affect me like it did, after all these years. To be honest, I wasn't even all that enthusiastic about it. Sure, when I was nineteen, twenty . . . even when I was, I don't know, twenty-five, I'd've lined up for the opportunity for a night like last night. Heck, I might have waited all night in the rain. But now I'm a grown man. I have a wife, and a son, and a burgeoning writing career. We own a home. It's time to be reasonable about these things.


It became obvious before it even started. Beth and I had just ordered drinks and were just sitting at our mezzanine table when a sudden chill fell over me. My heart skipped a beat and I sat up a little straighter to see a black-clad demure figure move past my shoulder then skirt quickly along the mezzanine. I leaned forward in my chair and said to Beth, "Did you see?" Beth had wondered if that was her. I nodded, then said, resigned, "I think I'm still pretty in love with Suzanne Vega."

From there, my condition just got worse. She opened her set with "Marlena on the Wall," and sure, I love that song, but it was a hit, so of course she opened with it. Next, "Small Blue Thing," and I positively swooned.

There were off moments, from some of the more recent releases that I never connected with quite as well. But there were also stories between songs; there was "Gypsy" and "The Queen and the Soldier," which should probably win the Best Song of All Time Award if the Grammy people ever decide to give it out.

Sorry, Neil Young. I'm going with Suze on this decision. "Cinnamon Girl" can come in second.

Suzanne played encore after encore. Eventually, Beth and I had to leave to get to bed at a reasonable hour, during "The World Before Columbus," and I will find out later today if she continued performing even after that. Just please don't tell me she did "Cracking," because I cannot bear to know that I missed that.

I should also note, in what would typically get its own entry, that the cheeseburger at the Dakota is phenomenal. I'd say it's the best burger I've had in the Cities thus far. Perfectly cooked eight ounces of house-ground angus; a bun with just the right softness, absorbency, and proportions; a thin slice of cheddar that hinted its flavor in every bite; beautifully seasoned meat; a portion of fries that was enough without overwhelming; and the toppings were left off to the side, where I of course decided to leave them. Excellent burger.

All in all, an amazing night at the Dakota (many thanks to the MIL and particularly the FIL for convincing me to go and treating!), and I do very much hope that Suzanne Vega plays there again soon.

The winner is . . .

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Finally the time has come for Eric Stevens to return and announce the winner in his big, multi-book giveaway! So without further ado, here* he is!

Using some very complicated computations, I've come up with a totally random winner of all the comments left on the contest blog entry last week. Our winner is . . .


Thanks, everyone who entered. There will be more giveaways and contests hosted at the Exile in the coming weeks and months, so stay tuned. I know Steve has a very exciting one planned for his YA debut, The Absolute Value of -1, that you're not going to want to miss.

*And there's the final, inked, shaded portrait of Eric Stevens by Sean Tiffany, Jake Maddox illustrator extraordinaire!

WIP dreams

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Eric Stevens giveaway is officially closed. I'll announce the winner early next week, and in that post I'll also include the final portrait, with ink and shading, of Eric Stevens, by Sean Tiffany.

Today, I'm back to my current WIP, aka YA MS the Third. It's my genuine obsession. Last night, I dreamed I was the protagonist, running around Greenpoint, visiting a bike repair shop that also served espresso drinks. It was a very cool place, and it was run by a guy named Jim, who I think was a counselor at my sleepaway camp when I was about ten or eleven. I'm not sure the idea of a coffee counter at a bike repair shop would be a good idea in reality*, and I don't think I need to add a cycling motif to the WIP at this point, but it was pleasant to dream about my characters a little. Protagonist wore some really cool jeans, like a member of the Smiths or something.

Speaking of the WIP, it's made the rounds in the Otters (my online crit group) and has gotten some very good and some very . . . errr, constructive comments. Good: nice writing! Bad: no plot! So I have gone back to the beginning and written up a nice beefy synopsis that I think has added quite a lot of tension and hopefully a nice arc and all that story stuff. Now I need to start the rewrite. So what am I doing here, blogging?

*Um, apparently it is a good idea, since there is a popular one right here in the Twin Cities.

One year!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sam's going to bed now. His first birthday was pretty fun: Beth took the day off from work, so we got to spend it as a family. And it started off with a bang: Sam's third tooth broke through overnight. That's a relief. The first celebration was pancakes from scratch for breakfast, which came out better than I thought they would. I mean, I made them, so I figured it would be a mess and we'd end up going out for breakfast. But everyone enjoyed them. After Sam's morning nap, we were off to the Children's Museum for big fun, and then lunch at Tanpopo, which of course was more for Beth than for Sam, but it turned out he enjoyed udon quite a lot. For dinner, we had one of my specialties, known around here as Kafka. It's actually kofta kebab, off the kebab, and spiced with a little Moroccan flare. We have it with tzatziki, a tomato and cucumber salad, and this time with a homemade flatbread Beth just learned to make that was amazing. For the full experience, we then get arrested for a crime we may or may not have committed and end up lost in a maze of bureaucracy.

Anyway, in the morning, we'll start year number two. If it's half as good (for all of us) as Sam's first year, we'll be the happiest family around*.

Beth posted the birth story over at her blog; she set it to auto-post right at 1:43 this morning, Sam's official time of birth. You might not enjoy reading it quite as much as I did, but I think it'll make you smile. It has a very happy ending.

*Yes, in this photo Sam is wearing the hat they put on his head in the hospital when he was born. We posed him in it on his six-month birthday, too. Shut up.

Look at him now!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

One year ago today, Beth went into labor.

Sam's first birthday isn't officially until tomorrow, but to me it starts right now. I still have, somewhere in my little notebook that was supposed to be for writing down story ideas or plot notes, several pages of timed contractions from that day.

In other news, you have right around 24 hours left to enter the big Eric Stevens/Jake Maddox giveaway. Even if these aren't your type of books, they make a great package to donate to a local library. I know a lot of the libraries in our area are in need of all the help they can get; yours probably are too! So enter! Click here! Do it today!

"enviable prose"!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Two posts in one day? You better believe it, buster.

The official blurb from Sara Zarr -- author of Once Was Lost, Sweethearts, and National Book Award Finalist Story of a Girl -- for The Absolute Value of -1 is here:
Brezenoff’s enviable prose captures four distinct, compelling characters as they struggle through the often heartbreaking work of becoming adults. Readers will identify with Suzanne, Lily, Noah and Simon as they try to reconcile their longing for connection with their need to break free.
Pardon me while I go pass out. While I recover, enjoy the post from earlier today.

Four items of particular interest

I'm dropping by the blog today to announce a few things of varying importance.

1. I finished When You Reach Me the other night. It's fantastic. I haven't been reading much middle-grade lately, but I used to read it almost exclusively. And let me tell you: instant classic, as they used to say on 102.7 WNEW in New York, Classic Rock. I cried and cried for the last 100 or so pages, for two reasons: I figured out what was going to happen, and I knew the book would have to end at some point. I, of course, did not want it to.

2. You can read the first 50 or 60 pages of Bennett Madison's new book, The Blonde of the Joke, at WeRead.com. He's a brilliant writer, and it's a gorgeous excerpt. It will make you buy the book.

3. The first review of The Absolute Vale of -1 has arrived over at the supersecret blog for the cover project. Though reviews are not officially part of the project, I was happy to learn that the first reader found the book "really awesome!"

4. Finally, don't forget to enter Eric Stevens' huge giveaway. This would make a great prize to donate to a local library. The libraries go crazy for these paper-over-board titles, especially Jake Maddox ones.

An Eric Stevens giveaway!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Since last week's giveaway was such a smash success -- or anyway a fizzling step forward, a little? -- Eric Stevens has decided he'd like to host a contest of his own. So, without further ado, here is Eric Stevens*:

This was going to be a Jake Maddox giveaway. I was going to ask for a favorite school or club sports memory, and I'm sure I would have gotten some great answers. But some other samples have arrived, so now the contest will be for this smashing list of titles:

FIVE Jake Maddox titles, including Field Hockey Firsts, Stock Car Sabotage, Record Run, Half-Pipe Prize, and Disc Golf Drive;

HOPE!: A Story of Change in Obama's America;

and Bandslam: Will's Guide to Music.

Since two titles have been added to the giveaway that are strictly NOT sports related, I've changed the entry question a bit. So here it is:

In the comments below (if you're reading this on Steve's Facebook page, please click over to the original post to submit a comment), briefly recount a favorite or least favorite memory from a school or club sports team, band, or government body/council. Hopefully that will give everyone something they can reflect upon.

I'll announce a winner, selected at random from the comments, around this time next week. Be sure to check back!

The Jake Maddox titles are RL 2.0-3.0, Guided Reading Level M. HOPE! is RL 3.4, Guided Reading Level N.

*Sketch of Eric Stevens by Sean Tiffany, the official and awesome artist for a shocking number of Jake Maddox titles!

Teens really do know best

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I don't have any photos. YET.

Last night, the AE, myself, and the esteemed publicist from Carolrhoda went up to Dayton's Bluff to present |-1|, in all its bound-manuscript glory, to a room full of YAs: the intended audience for |-1|! It's not every author who gets the opportunity to present his work, so early in the production schedule and more than ten months before finished books, directly to teens! So, what gives?

Teens Know Best is a group of teens who, thanks to Adela Peskorz and Metro State University, in collaboration with the Saint Paul Public Library, get together to read, discuss, and review books (usually bound galleys; be jealous--their BG collection is swoon worthy) for young adults. This organization was, I think, the first to supply teen-written reviews to SLJ. They are the real deal, mister. And they're going to help us develop ideas for the cover and overall packaging of The Absolute Value of -1!

Each member has been given a bound manuscript of the book, and, once they've gotten through it, will start brainstorming, and photo hunting, and sketching, and concepting. AE has set up a blog (sorry, it's restricted) for all the TKB's to post their ideas and talk it over.

A few of the TKB's also seemed interested in reviewing the manuscript at this stage. While this is frightening, I am thrilled at the prospect, and so far, so good: one TKB insisted upon high-fiving me after reading just the first ten or twelve pages simply because they made her laugh. Sounds like five stars to me.

Adela, TKB's advisor and library liaison (and my professor of adolescent lit., by the way), will be supplying some photos, I believe, so hopefully by the time we drop by again in October, I'll have had the opportunity to post some.

Oh! And they promised me my own TKB T-shirt, which is so going on the list as soon as I get it.

Field Trip Mysteries winner announced!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The winner of a complete set of season of the Field Trip Mysteries, chosen at random using the World of Warcraft in-game dice roller, is . . .

Maddie Clark!

Maddie, I don't have any way of contacting you, so please contact me! You can get my email address by clicking on "view my complete profile" to the right, and then clicking "email" under "contact."

Sorry to all the entries who didn't win. Thank you for entering. There were some great answers, and one vulgar answer! Thanks, Adam!

Stay tuned to the Exile this week, though, because another giveaway will be happening darn soon.

John Hughes, 1950-2009

Thursday, August 6, 2009

There have been many significant artistic influences on me, as a writer, as a person, even as a songwriter in my younger days. At least two of them, if I think about it for just a moment, were called John. One was Updike, the other was John Hughes.

Hughes has died of a heart attack. Movies of the 1980s and 1990s -- hell, teen existence, pop culture, and America itself -- would never have been the same without him. And by extension, my entire generation owes a tremendous debt to films like Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club . . . it goes on. Teen movies had traditionally been teensploitation; that is, they were about little more than sex and beer: throw those two ingredients onto a beach, or a ski resort, or hell, anything at all, and you had a teen movie. It had been that way since the late 1950s, with surf movies, and the tradition went on and on. Some of those movies were good. Occasionally, a funny or poignant script would build on that formula and maybe become great. But John Hughes broke that mold for good. He created movies with characters of depth and scope. Relationships were real. Every conversation, be it between Ally and Andrew, or Duckie and Andie, or Cameron and Ferris (in one of the finest friendships ever captured on film) is as weighty as it should be, because that's what life as a teen is: heavy, moment-to-moment, rarely the carefree sex-and-booze-fest many filmmakers (and local politicans) would have you believe.

As a writer of YA, I am constantly paying homage to, and occasionally ripping off, Mr. Hughes, and my guess is most writers of my generation, and those younger, have his work -- and the archetypal characters he favored -- constantly in their unconcious as they work. It would be impossible not to.

Cures for Heartburn

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

YA MS the Third is giving me serious agita. I'll be taking a short break from it, letting it worm around in my fuzzy little mind, and maybe the problem will look less problematic when I return to it.

Meanwhile, I will be dedicating the next 30-45 days to some SAB business, including one very exciting, totally new, and mind-blowingly cool project that I can't even say anything about yet. I mean, I wouldn't want to build it up too much or anything. I can say it will likely be the longest, word-count-wise, project I've ever done for SAB.

There's still a few days to enter the Field Trip Mysteries giveaway. Give it a whirl! And if you don't win this one, I think Eric Stevens has a giveaway planned for next week. He just got all kinds of samples in, too, including Bandslam: Will's Guide to Music. He's really proud of that one--spent a good amount of time yesterday reading through it, second guessing some, but mostly just liking it. That was an insane project. Some revisions arrived, with a short turnaround requested, the morning my . . . I mean, his son was born! (That's almost one year ago, for those playing at home.) Anyway, I expect that title will be involved in the giveaway next week.

Now then. Back to the Isle of Conquest!

We have a title!

Monday, August 3, 2009

The big news today is the title of YA Novel the First is official:

The Absolute Value of -1

It may be written as |-1| to save time. So from now on, the tag for anything related to YA MS the First aka YA Novel the First aka The Absolute Value of -1 will be |-1|. Does anyone blog read using the tags? I mean, I know I do, but does anyone else?

Related: I just signed three copies of my contract for that novel and sent them off to my smartly dressed agent back in New York City.

Not related: You can still enter for a complete set of Field Trip Mysteries, the first season. And by that I mean, please enter! I want more entries.

Note to self: Buy for Sam a toy with buttons similar to those of the light switch in the dining room. If you do not, he will throw tantrums until you hold him in front of that light switch and let him push it over and over, possibly for hours at a time.

Field Trip Mysteries giveaway!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Beth tells me that posting a screen grab of my Wordle doesn't count as a post. I'm not sure I agree with her, but to be on the safe side, since I promised two more posts this week, I thought I'd better drop another post.

And, since it's Saturday night and I just got paid, I'm going to make this the first-ever giveaway on the Exile! (The second-ever giveaway will happen pretty soon, by the way. Stay tuned.)

Up for grabs today is a complete set of the first season of the Field Trip Mysteries. That's one each of The Zoo with the Empty Cage, The Painting That Wasn't There, The Village That Almost Vanished, and The Teacher Who Forgot Too Much. To enter, just leave in the comments* a short memory of the best school field trip you've ever been on. The winner will be selected at random.

Get your comments in by this time next Saturday, August 8, to enter. Open only to residents of the U.S. and Canada. The Field Trip Mysteries are published by Stone Arch Books. RL: 1.7 - 2.4; Guided Reading Level: M.

*If you're reading this on Facebook, please come over to the Exile itself to comment. Thanks!

Allow me to ramble and whine about T-shirts, please

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I have several favorite T-shirts. Shall I name them? I shall:

Helmet (Meantime-era logo)
01000100 01000001 01000100
Space Invaders
Strong Bad I
Strong Bad II
Four Gregs
Rockford Spelling Bowl

That's all of them, in no particular order. But here's the thing: Helmet, due to intense wear, and Strong Bad I, due to my having worn it while painting Sam's bedroom, are no longer public appropriate. Clearly, I need to replace those shirts. But meanwhile, I haven't had the extreme pleasure of wearing my Helmet T-shirt in months.

I know!

I wear T-shirts all day, every day (writer lifestyle FTW!), barring some kind of fancy-shmancy social engagement, like a wedding, for which I obviously need to wear a shirt with a collar so the tie won't look silly. But meanwhile, I live in constant fear that my favorite shirts -- the ones still presentable -- will soon become worn and unwearable!

The solution is clearly to right now buy an extra of each of my favorite shirts. Does this sound like a good idea?

But more relevant: why am I wasting blog space and your time with this issue? Who knows.

Today, beginning at noonish, I will enjoy a surprise WYAOD. An hour or so of it will be for SAB work. But after that, I intend to attack YA MS the Third with a vengeance. Much revising needs to be done, and I'm the man for the job.

Ooh! And some friends have lent to Sam a cool little car thingy that lets him practice walking! Enjoy this video.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It occurred to me that I finish that WIP draft and didn't drop a Wordle of it on y'all. So here it is!

Sunday in the house with Sam

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Yesterday afternoon I finished the first draft of YA MS the Third. It turned out about half as long as I think it will be, with one entire plot missing, a plot which is yet to be determined but that will save this thing once I figure out what it is.

Beth read the whole thing last night, and had some very helpful notes for me. I think overall she enjoyed it, and her biggest concerns were the same as mine: "What the hell is going on?"

In other news, I haven't updated in over a week now, which is actually fairly embarrassing. But like I mentioned in the last update: still waiting for the final title of YA Novel the First to be officially final, and for a few other things, that will help to make an update a little more worth reading than, say, this one is.

Right now, I'm hanging out with Sam, letting Beth sleep in a little longer. But I do hope she wakes soon so the three of us can get to our Sunday morning tradition: the Saint Paul Farmers Market. Have I ever raved about the market here? It's truly wonderful. It's fairly small, but every farm represented is local and organic. Throughout the summer, I'd say beginning in early May or so, the stuff for sale changes with the months and weeks; we begin with perennials and annuals for sale to the hobby gardener, and soon asparagus and strawberries show up. The corn appears soon, along with peppers and cucumbers and broccoli, and zucchini, et cetera. Eventually the apple-orchard people come out, with sample slices and fresh-pressed cider. It's really one of the best things Saint Paul has to offer.

So that's where we're headed, once Beth gets up. We'll get everything we need for salads, our traditional Sunday night dinner, plus a couple of coffees to enjoy as we stroll the aisles. And I promise that this week, I'll update twice more, very likely with nothing interesting to report, but a promise is a promise, after all.

It's the July WYAOD

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I know. It's been almost a week. If you're tracking my resolutions, you're no doubt as disappointed in me as I am in myself. Here's the thing: I spent much of the week, when not working on a new FTM title, or simply doing the best job ever (watching Sam, that is), simply waiting for word on a couple of things.

First, Aforementioned Editor (how long will I keep up this pseudoanonymity of various people and projects?) and I have been discussing final titles for YA Novel the First. It's down to a few real contenders, one of which I'm favoring especially. It was Beth's idea, that one. In fact, nearly all of my favorites were Beth's idea. ENIV is also favoring that one. I suspect it will be the final title. Meanwhile, though, I wait for word from designers and salespeople and marketers, who are no doubt holding hours upon hours of meetings to discuss the issue, I assume, via AE. I know we're all anxious to settle on something, so I'm sure I'll hear next week.

Next, I mentioned very briefly that a writer whom I admire had agreed to blurb YA Novel the First. The exact wording of said blurb is still TK (I think the acronym list will be growing after this entry, by the way), and I'd love to simply just paste the entirety of her email below, but I think that would be in poor taste. For now, since she already made this public news on Twitter, I can reveal that the blurber is Sara Zarr. Yes! That Sara Zarr. And regarding the email, suffice it to say that when I read it to my mom, she cried.

So. The point is, I was hoping to update the Exile with some final word on either of the above issues. It wasn't to be. Instead, I'll let you know that today is a WYAOD for me. Like a giant doof, however, I biked to the coffee shop, ready to work, and forgot the excellent Father's Day gift cards I'm supposed to be using, per Beth's most excellent gift to me. Anyway, I'll be slaving away on YA MS the Third (poor the Second; why have I abandoned you?), and occasionally embarrassing myself publicly by playing air guitar along with "Aqualung," as I am right now. Don't judge; be glad there's no flute solo in this song.

Not for the squeamish

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I didn't want to blog about this. Frankly, the whole episode would be better forgotten. Of course, if facebook statuses mean any posterity, it's far too late for that.

This was my facebook update yesterday morning:

I was out walking Harry, our faithful if irritating terrier, when about two blocks from home I was accosted and chosen as host organism for a horrible beast. Its new domicile was of course my left ear.

The two block walk was difficult. Every so often, the little expletive would flap its tiny wings, presumably to remind me it was in there and that it essentially owned me. Upon feeling and hearing these flaps ("The calls are coming from inside the house!" has never been so poignant), I would -- I believe quite understandably -- freak the hell out somewhat. Which is to say, I'd scream and slap myself in the ear.

I can only imagine what my neighbors must think of me.

Upon reaching our house, I (can you guess?) googled "a bug is stuck in my ear." One suggestion included "stick a blade of grass in your ear." I suppose that sounds . . . reasonable? But in my panicked state, I read "stick a blade OR grass in your ear." That sounded downright insane, so I tried a different site. Before I had a chance, however, my new little ear friend decided to do some serious flapping of wings. I screamed in a very manly way, and then woke up Beth and the baby to explain very calmly what was going on.

A few things we tried, thanks to Beth's clear head, helped. Among them: flushing the ear with water. This helped the little expletive get one . . . ugh . . . wing out of the ear canal. Beth, coyly, spotted the wing but did not fully let on that the creature living inside me was indeed a moth. She knew this would upset me. She did, however, suggest I stand next to a light.

That's when I knew.

"Ohmygod it's a freakin' moth!"

I won't get into the hoary details of my screaming and flailing and insisting everyone back away, no sudden moves, et cetera. Suffice it to say, just as I was getting ready to head to the ER for a mothectomy, the thing crawled out and fell to the bathroom floor.

I then killed it with tremendous passion and loathing. I think even Roo will understand.

It was a complicated day after that. That is, despite this unquestionable low point in the early morning, it turned out to be a good day (we bought Beth her new laptop), then a very good evening (we had supper at the Lakeside with many a Bracken), and then a freakin' amazing night (an author whom I respect and admire has agreed to blurb YA Novel the First, and sent me an amazing email telling me so).

FTM, revealed!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Finally, if you'll glance slightly to your right, the classified acronym has been revealed. Stone Arch Books newest series of chapter books, the Field Trip Mysteries, authored by yours truly, was so fun to write, so well designed and illustrated, I can hardly bear it. In fact, I'm in the middle of submitting the next four in the series!

Seriously, I just love the art by C.B. Canga. Get a load of these covers.

In other news, edits on YA Novel the First are done! The manuscript, still untitled, is now being sent around for blurbs. My heart is inside out with apprehension and excitement. Aforementioned Editor and I will now discuss titles and cover ideas. I also want to note that the best titles that will come from my end of that conversation were thought up by Beth. She is much better at this than I am.

Oh, also we took this little trip out to New York to see fam and friends, so there was that. Boy, did I eat. Seriously. I can hardly remember anything else. Eddie's pizza, of course (twice actually), plenty of the more typical New York-style pizza, one hot dog from Papaya King, a burger and shake from COZY Soup and Burger (best shakes in the city, hands down), loads of bagels, and plenty of other great, great food. I don't want to think about it, because I'm pretty sure I gained twenty pounds over seven days. The airline should have charged me for an extra carry-on, I kid you not.

Those people from PIX are not as excited as they should be.

Monday, June 29, 2009

We're off to New York in the morning! Pizza, bagels, egg sandwiches, Eddie's* (which will be the first pizza Sam ever tries; everything is going according to my plan) . . . a 6:30 a.m. flight! We'll have to rise early even for us (our normal wake-up time is 5:30 or so). Wish us luck, please, as Sam is teething like nobody's business at the moment and has had a screwy couple of days as it is.

Perhaps you'd better wish the other passengers on our flight luck, as well.

YA Novel the First news: I sent back my second revisions to Aforementioned Editor. Assuming he approves of the minor changes I made and the itty-bitty new scene I painstakingly crafted, I think we're about to work on a final title for this thing. Finally. I've been sweating through every conversation about YA Novel the First, just dreading the inevitable "So?! What is it called??" As if that's all that matters. Sheesh.

We thought we'd see samples of my latest series for SAB last week, but they didn't show up. It's a shame; I'm looking forward to finally dropping them on the Exile and revealing what "FTM" stands for in the sidebar. Hopefully they'll be in by the time we return from back east. They're a treat to write (I just finished another for the next group in the same series today, as a matter of fact), and hopefully they'll be a treat to read. I can tell you one thing: I've seen much of the art and design, and they're positively gorgeous. They're bound to be my favorite SAB titles.

*That picture I found is awesome.

Going back east, sans laptop

Friday, June 26, 2009

I am saddened, for two reasons:

1. I lost a follower on this blog! I'm back down to 30. Sadness. I think I get a few followers here who aren't terribly interested in anything I have to say but are merely hoping I'll follow them back. I get a tremendous number of such followers on Twitter, too. Oh well. Good riddance, I suppose.

2. My laptop--aka, the most important inanimate object in my life--is in dire need of repair. The display simply doesn't work, 9 out of 10 times I try to start it up. And that 10th time, it usually goes black after a few minutes. The thing is still on warranty, so I'll have to ship it out to Dell and wait for it to return to me.

I am cheered, as well, though. For beginning Tuesday of next week, my family will spend a week in New York! This is great for all the usual reasons (i.e., food), but also because we will finally meet Sam's cousin Jaden, born to my brother and his wife in California way back in December!

With any luck at all, my laptop will be back in my possession shortly after we return home in early July. Then I can get cracking on YA MS the Third, which I am re-excited about after a long discussion with my agent yesterday. Oh, and YA Novel the First? I have to write the two tiniest little passages you ever heard of, which I'll probably do this weekend on Beth's laptop (using it right now!), and then I do believe the editing portion of our show will be over. Woo! Then it's final title, cover ideas . . . I can't stand it.

Oh, and speaking of early July, here is a public service announcement: Please, if you live near a family with a dog, don't shoot off firecrackers or fireworks. Thank you. Oh, also if you have fingers.