Thursday, February 26, 2009

Okay, so I'm a little obsessed right now. So sue me. I made a wordle (from wordle.net, of course) of YA MS the First. Enjoy!

The third thing is the main reason for this entry

First things first:

I officially agree with Alea that the new "followers" box is spectacularly unattractive and should be returned to its earlier state.

Second thing, the snow in Minnesota is becoming a nuisance. We have about 5 inches on the ground right now, here in Saint Paul, and despite a brief lull, it seems to have started in earnest again. And me already having shoveled. Nuts. I need a remote control shovel.

Third thing, and here's the doozy. I've been holding back--somewhat, from some people--in spreading this around, but I'm feeling now like I can probably reveal it to some degree:

I'm about to sell my YA novel! No, seriously. Give me about a week and a half, and I'll have an agent--and a book deal for YA MS the First.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I am taking this opportunity to answer some of the questions posed by me, myself, yesterday.


1. Not much more, I don't think. Today he only put up with a few spoonfuls before growing tired of it and refusing to open his mouth again.
2. Yes! I just did. Pretty thrilled about it.
3. Some reading is due. The speaker canceled, too, which means we'll be working in small groups. Groan. Some people know how I feel about working in groups: not entirely good.
4. Holy crap, so far six slices of toast, and considering it's only Tuesday, I'm doing fairly well, I think. Almost through the first jar of jam, too. Or jelly. I can never remember which is which.
5. Since #2 has been answered, and since I mentioned YA MS the Second on the phone with the receptive agent in question, I suppose I better get on that in full. That will be my Thursday evening, I expect.
6. Today it has a little. So yay for that!

In other news, I am now in my third week of obsession with Squeeze's "Vicky Verky." If there is a better, more positive, more optimistic song about abortion, I haven't heard it yet. (I bit that line very slightly from a very old friend, and I don't think he'll mind.) Anyway, I have been thinking about writing a novel based on that one song. That's how rich Glenn Tilbrook's characters often are. I'm sure the urge will pass.

Or maybe "Separate Beds." That's such a YA too. Not quite the oomph, though, that "VV" has.


Monday, February 23, 2009

The week seems to have started again. It keeps doing that.

The big questions this week are:

1. How much avocado can Sam eat?
2. Will I hear back from any agents before Friday?*
3. Is anything due in class on Wednesday, and if so, will I get it done?
a. If it's reading, and I skim, is that enough?
b. If it's writing, and I don't do it at all, will the professor be with it enough to collect?
4. How much toast can I eat in a week?**
5. Should I try to work on YA MS the Second, or maybe a SAB job, knowing full well that I can't concentrate on anything? (See #2.)
6. Will the snow melt? Please?

*One agent tweeted this morning: "I think i just read the most annoying query letter I've ever received, and that's saying something." I am hoping it was not mine.

**Our very nice neighbor brought by four jars of homemade crab-apple jelly yesterday, and I am going to have to eat all of it. I went out and bought two loaves of multi-grain bread (buy one, get one free at Rainbow), and will do my best. It is quite delicious.

Coraline 3D, spoilerish

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Thanks to MIL and FIL, last night Beth and I finally got out together, sans Sam, to see Coraline, in 3D no less.

It was fantastic. I can't recommend it highly enough, and if you're reading this on Sunday, this is your last day, as far as I know, to see this in 3D before the Jonas Brothers take over the 3D screens. Maybe you have until the weekend. Not sure. But don't pass up the opportunity to see it in 3D.

My review? Well, it gets an A-, since getting an A is nigh impossible. There were several changes from the novella, including minor ones (like no ghost picnic dream) and major ones (Wybie), but they worked, for the most part, to translate this into a feature-length movie targeted strongly to kids. And Wybie, though at times sort of irritating, was, when silenced by the Belledame or whatever, one of the creepier aspects of the Other world.

All in all, I will very likely want this on DVD, if DVDs exist by the time Sam is old enough to see this.

Oh, also we went to Maverick's for supper before the movie. Delicious as always, though some more time to sit and order from a server and such would have been nice, rather than the fast-food style of Maverick's. But still, no complaints. So good.

In other news . . . well, no other news, I don't guess. Snow emergency in effect in MSP. Move your car if you haven't already.

Half year baby time

Saturday, February 21, 2009

It's nap time here in a second, but I wanted to drop in quick with these pics of the Samster. His six-month birthday was yesterday, and Beth marked the occasion by snapping a photo of Sam based on one of the more popular pics of him from when he was a newborn.

Here's a newborn photo:

Here's the six-month photo:

Right now he's on the kitchen floor in his Bumbo enjoying his first meal of avocado. He keeps going, "Oooommm," which we are taking to mean "delicious."

Six months!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday! I can hardly contain my excitement.

Here's the news from Lake Stevebethandsam. Tomorrow is Sam's six-month birthday! With it came his well visit to his doctor, a day early, this morning. He is in good health, as I learned last Thursday, you undoubtedly recall. He is fifteen pounds and five ounces, 26 inches long, and has the head size of a grown man, essentially. Huge headed! I think that's probably why he's a little late with the sitting without support.

Also, you can rest easy knowing that the too-hot-cup-of-coffee-sleeve thingies are no longer unitaskers!

They are also this baby's favorite toy.

In other news, I was up at 6 and at the dentist's office at 7 am this morning for a routine cleaning and exam. It was without question the least bad one of those I've had in about ten years, I'd say.

Tonight, being Thursday, will be my night at the DBC. I am giving YA MS the First another look through, fixing some minor consistency issues that are bound to arise when one covers the same timeline three times from different POVs, and then sending it off to Aforementioned Editor once again.

I think at that point, the revisions in earnest will probably begin.

No news on the agent tip yet, natch. I expect I'll hear from at least one of these people next week. Maybe? I hope?

Ooh, Beth is making rice and beans for supper tonight. It's a recipe I taught her many years ago, and that she improved over the years to the point that I no longer think of it as my recipe and much prefer it to the shwaggy budget meal I used to whip up for myself and my vegan apartment-mate back in the late 90s. I too was vegan at the time, if you're wondering.

Digression over!

Blog post over!


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I'm about to really get to work now, for the next several hours, I hope. I've settled in at White Rock, which so far is pretty good, as far as free wifi, plenty of outlets, fairly quiet, friendly staff, good Americano (served in a glass; too weird). The coffee cake has too much crumbly on top, which I hadn't realized was even possible. Oh, and one other negative: outside, one-hour parking. No meters, though, so I don't see how anyone would have any idea how long I was sitting there.

Simply Red just came up on my iTunes. I'm laughing. Probably I look crazy.

So anyway, I came in here to the blog to mention two things:

1. YA MS the First is now, I think, finished, which is to say that the major (though fairly easy) changes discussed with Aforementioned Editor have been implemented, including the creation of a new epilogue. I've decided the melodrama and pretentiousness of the new copy is allowable and even desirable because the narrator in that section is a college student. Makes sense, right? I mean, you should see my journals from when I was in college. Lord forgive me for that crap. But it served it's purpose, which was to purge myself of the drive to imitate everyone from Sam Beckett ("Oh boy") to Franz Kafka.

2. Some of what I wrote last night (if you follow my twitter) was incoherent crap and has been replaced, so my announcement last night was premature. But this one, I think, is not.

Either they're having a celebrity-lookalike contest in here, or Ted Danson and Kevin Kline are hanging out here. Maybe neither, actually. But eerie.

iTunes update: Ah, the Foundations, "Baby Now That I've Found You." This is a goddamn song. (It's also one of the two songs that makes Harry bark when I sing it.)

Oh! One more thing: I've decided, after speaking with some more experienced friends, to seek an agent. I am hoping this will not be difficult, given some aspects of my current situation, and have therefore sent out several query letters.

It just gets harder and harder to sleep through the night, for serious.

I'll Squeeze the words out!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I've started this last scene of YA MS the First about seven times now, I think. I've tried starting at the beginning of the scene, the middle, a random line here and there--I've even tried starting with the last line of the book and working sort of backwards. Nothing is helping.

I probably should put some music on. Argybargy, I'm thinking. "Vicky Verky" has been in my head for days on end anyway. "And though she's only fourteen, she really knows her courting."

Tomorrow will be a big one. I'll finish this scene, for sure, during the five hours of free-write time I should have in the afternoon. Which reminds me, prof has moved my Wednesday night class again, this time to the Ford plant. What?! Something feels fishy about that. But the good news is I can work at White Rock, on Cleveland, possibly eat at Highland Grill or Cecil's or Punch for dinner, and have a much shorter trip home.

Foods that ooze

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Our Valentine's Day turned out great, even though exactly nothing went as we thought it would. For example, earlier in the week, during our excellent heatwave, we'd discussed walking over to the local library so Sam could enjoy story time. However, since the heatwave was over, we decided instead to head out for the great Minnesota pastime of winter: Mall-Walking!! We went to MOA, spent an epoch looking for parking, and then spent maybe a nanosecond in the mall itself, which was insanely crowded and we wanted to die. So we left. Leaving the parking lot took about as long as parking had.

So now what? It was already late afternoon, and we still hadn't had lunch, so we figured a late lunch was in order. But don't you have to start calling it "dinner" if it happens after 5? Well, we went to Groveland Tap, right here in Saint Paul, which we love, and I had my first-ever Jucy Lucy, so that nice. Very nice. It was a fine burger, the finest I've had at the Groveland Tap, actually. And the idea I've heard (probably at A Hamburger Today, but I don't feel like finding it) that a JL has to be overcooked otherwise the cheese won't become molten is utter nonsense. This burger was perfect: pink in the center around the oozing amazingness of melted American cheese.

But I digress. This late lunch/early supper blew our Chinese takeout plans out of the water, so we went without any dinner, per se, and went straight to dessert! I whipped up some molten chocolate cake. The cake oozes with rich deliciousness when you poke it, just like my burger did at dinner! For your viewing pleasure, before and after pictures are included in this entry.

So that was V Day! It was fantastic.

Today, my main complaint is that after two hours of writing nonstop at the DBC, I have exactly nothing worth saving, except as a character study in big sister. So, not entirely unvaluable, but certainly not satisfying. I'll do more in the morning, hopefully something worth keeping, if I find the motivation.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Valentine's Day update.

Beth, Sam, and Harry are still in bed. Harry was good enough to wake me up at around 7:30 because he had to use the great outdoors. Of course, when we got back to the house after his walk, he climbed right back into bed and fell asleep. I am not so good at going back to sleep, so I've spent the last couple of hours thinking about what to make for breakfast once my wife wakes up, and goofing off in Northrend. Could my life be any richer??

I kid, of course. My life is the greatest.

We've said no gifts for V Day this year. This got me thinking: If my life were a sitcom or a romantic comedy, both of us would have gone to a friend, individually, or to a trusted but doofy cousin, or the like, and been convinced that when one's better half says "no gifts," they really mean "gifts." However, since my life is not a sitcom, nor a romantic comedy (though it is often funny and at times romantic), I am trusting that my wife and I are not so silly. So we will exchange cards and smooches, but no gifts. I think also we might get Chinese delivery from the place nearby that most resembles New York City Chinese takeout places. Which for the record isn't necessarily the best Chinese takeout. But moving on.

I'd also like to get some writing done today, which of course makes one wonder, Then shouldn't you be writing right now, while the whole family is sleeping, instead of blogging and killing brain cells in an MMO? Yeah, probably.

So. . . . Back to work: what should I make for breakfast?

Recap at 5 in the mawnin.

Friday, February 13, 2009

I skipped a day again. This five per week thing is harder than I thought it'd be. Still, the idea behind it--the spirit of the resolution, if not the letter--was to ensure I kept my blog well up to date, which I think I have been.

Anyway, this post, though dated for Friday, should totally count as Thursday, because it's like 5 in the morning and no one in their right mind is awake and thinking "Hey it's Friday." No. Those in their right minds are asleep, smiling happily and knowing "Ahh it's Thursday night."

Well, I have a lot on my mind, much of which I am not going to say a single thing about.

I will sum up Thursday as best I could, and that's all:

The living room of our cozy bungalow is now mostly baby friendly, and it's become Sam's new playroom, such as it is. (My new favorite overused phrase is "such as it is." Watch for it!) Yesterday, in fact, Sam entertained himself for hours on end, simply rolling around and tugging at things hanging down from the arch of his activity mat. Then, when it was nap time, he started dozing off right there, so I just had to move him to his crib! I guess I didn't really even have to do that, but we're working on getting him accustomed to sleeping in his own room, so I did.

Yesterday, I got confirmation that I will be continuing on as one of the Jake Maddoxes, too, as well as continuing with a couple of other SAB projects I really enjoy. Some new stuff, too, is in the works, for one of my names to do, and I'm excited about those too. But most exciting is that I'll be re-signing my yearlong contract and can let out a sigh, knowing we don't need to make any desperate adjustments to our current financials.

Last night was also my meeting with Aforementioned Editor. It went well. More on that soon, but I will say that the supersecret epilogue is becoming the supersecret prologue, which just hit us both like a wet sock, and is clearly a huge solution, especially since it makes room for the new supersecret epilogue, which is shaping up to be way better.

And now it's Friday. With any luck, the FIL will be feeling better soon, for his own sake, natch, but also for ours: I really want the in-laws to babysit on Sunday so we can go see Coraline in 3D before the Jonas Brothers come along and gross up the 3D screens!

Sam is okay

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Today was Sam's first unscheduled "Holy crap, is he okay?!" appointment with the pediatrician!

Turns out, yes, he is okay! The problem, such as it is, is that his breath smells very slightly (to me) of vinegar, particularly right after he wakes up. The smell is stronger to Beth, but of course my sense of smell (not to mention hearing) is pretty weak.

ANYway. Long story short, brought Sam in, he got his ears and throat and schnoz checked, and some blood drawn from his middle finger (he's much better at that than I am; I nearly passed out watching him have his blood drawn, while he didn't even flinch), and is in perfect health. The good part is I got a sneak-peek at his current weight, since he's due for his well visit in a week, and Sam has broken the fifteen pound barrier! That means, among very little else, that it is time to lower the mattress in his portable crib, from bassinet level to pack-and-play level.


In other news, I may be too late to change my current class's grading method to pass/fail from letter grade. This is a shame, and I am hoping to convince the registrar's office to make an exception. Why is there a deadline on something like that anyway, really?

No other news, really. The Richard Peck DVD I raved about last week is for sale at SCBWI's website, which is still heinous in most respects. And I have not gotten any responses to my plea for a crit group in the Twin Cities specializing in YA and middle grade. Perhaps I'll post a similar plea on craigslist. Hm.

And holy crap, if I haven't mentioned this already, it's been in or near the 40s here in Saint Paul for the last, I don't know, several days. It even rained! Most of the snow is GONE. I do realize, yes, that this merely a reprieve, but it's SUCH a welcome reprieve, I can hardly express my joy to you.

Aunt Ellen will be here to babysit in a couple of hours, then I'm off to downtown. Ooh, just remembered: the prof had our class moved. I have no idea where it is now! Better find out. . . .

Eric Stevens is enjoyed!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A little back patting for one of Eric Stevens's DC titles from SLJ, and on the same day that a review of The Mummy at Midnight appears on the website, too.

Magnet Space Wheel

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Folding laundry at the moment, wondering if and when Sam, Beth, and Harry will decide to climb out of bed. In their defense, they were all three up earlier this morning, for anywhere from a couple of hours to twenty minutes--it varies from individual to individual--and then returned to bed. Still, it's after ten and I'm feeling restless.

I have this weird urge to get out on my bike this morning, despite the slush and ice. Fact is, it's been so long so I took the thing out, I bet it needs a little tuning before it could even go anywhere. I'd probably make it to the garage before saying, "Ah, screw it," and coming back inside.

I haven't gotten a productive thing done in the last two days or so. The other night I started a read-through of YA MS the Second, and still love a lot of it. There are some seriously excellent scenes, not to break my arm patting my own back or anything. Of course, quite a bit is complete garbage, but I'm glad I wrote those bits too, since they all taught me a bit more about central characters. I've sketched out a few new scene ideas, which is something I've always done with fiction and until recently considered a bad habit; this writing in scenes thing seemed to always get me into trouble when it came to really tightening up the plot. But if Richard Peck says he does it that way, then hell, I can too.

I bought one of these yesterday, ostensibly for Sam, but I love it. I mean, he enjoys watching the wheely thing roll around, but it's for me. I'll let him play with it when he's older. Maybe. If he's good. Oh, and saying I "bought" it isn't entirely true either. It was for sale at the World Market closing sale last night, but as it didn't have a price tag or bar code or even any packaging, I wasn't charged for it. So I guess you could say I didn't buy it. I simply took it. Or was given it.

(It's like scrambled eggs with wet matzoh mixed in)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Say what you will about Jewish cooking--nothing but white starch with salt and schmaltz--but we have some damn fine comfort foods. Matzoh ball soup, hot pastrami on rye, potato latkes, chicken in a pot--these are seriously comforting foods, owing in no small part, I suppose, to the fact that so many grandmothers serve them.

Anyway, my point is, I'm having matzoh brei for lunch right now. I am in need of comfort. Fact is, I'm feeling pretty stressed out of late, and though the first item on my list of things keeping me up at night (quite literally, I'm afraid) is now done (give it up for my first historical fiction--albeit very recent history), I still have, among some minor items, this very difficult Wednesday night class.

I honestly thought I'd have it easy, as far as schoolwork, this semester. I'm only taking the one freakin' class. But it's a job of work, let me tell you. I missed the first test, which was last Wednesday, when I was already in New York. Well, last night the professor returned those tests. The results, since he announced them before returning them, were positively dismal. I have to take this test in the next couple of weeks, once I can figure a way to get down to his office without hauling Sam along with me.

Now I live with a fear I haven't felt since my third year at SUNY Binghamton, when I foolishly registered for a class called Vietnam in Literature, or something to that effect. The professor then was an angry, shouting man, with far more to say about the United States' policy in southeast Asia than about literature itself, of any subject. It frankly wasn't what I'd signed up for, but I learned this too late and got my only grade lower than a B in my whole college career.

Well, I'm rambling. I'll just be patient. Someday this pain will be . . . yeah, yeah.

No such thing as bad press

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Quick question: Is this a good review, or a bad review? It is on SLJ.com right now. Please consider that I am the writer of this book, not the illustrator. I won't at this time comment on the "plot holes" the reviewer mentions and that do not in fact exist.

Gr 3-6-In this hi/lo dose of zombie mummies, 10-year-old girls who visit the new Mayan Mummy exhibit at the Metropolitan History Museum are mysteriously disappearing all over town. Fifth-grader Maya Naranjo and her friend Will Perez discover a connection between the museum visits and the unsettling disappearances and devise a plan to investigate. Maya pretends to succumb to the mummy's trance and "sleepwalks" to the museum where she is almost captured by the malevolent ruler of Chichen Itza, who is posing as a security guard. Maya is able to free the mummy's spirit and the missing girls are returned to their families. Prothero's humorous black-and-white illustrations provide comic pauses during tense scenes, a plus for readers who are just delving into horror. Savvy readers will see the holes in the plot and may be frustrated by the unresolved explanation of the mysterious security guard but striving readers will feel triumphant for having conquered a chapter book and a new genre.-H. H. Henderson, Heritage Middle School, Deltona, FL


I just put an ad up on SCBWI forums to find a critique group in the Twin Cities, hopefully specifically in YA. I have no idea what kind of traffic the forums get, and the website does indeed blow, but I can hope.

I'll very likely have more to say later on, when I'm out of the house. Now, it's not eve 7:30 yet.

Sun goes down, it's Tuesday evening. . . .

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

How many times would I have to get a small shock from the static electricity of the just-finished dryer before worrying about permanent damage?

I think I am making a greater effort on my latest SAB/Eric Stevens assignment, perhaps because its focus is the recent inauguration, and I am considering posterity.

I hear it will reach 40 degrees this Friday. That should be nice.

And speaking of nice, the in-laws will be here tomorrow, noonish, and I will finally be able to get downtown for lunch and try My Burger. I'll let you know how it is.

Also, heard from Aforementioned Editor, and we will meet next Thursday to further discuss YA MS the First. I will say nothing more about it until after that meeting. Between now and then, if you hear about writing, it will be completely SAB or YA MS the Second. Unless I foolishly start a new project. But I won't.

I'm off to Northrend for a little while. Wish me luck.


Monday, February 2, 2009

I'm letting myself off the hook for skipping so many days. I think since I was out of town and out of wifi for most of the long weekend, I can be forgiven.

SCBWI NY 2009, wrap-up report! My favorite thing about the conference was this, which I purchased right before leaving on Sunday. It's essentially a conversation between SCBWI founder Lin Oliver and YA book factory Richard Peck. They discuss writing, often technically. I watched the entire thing on the flight home and found it fully riveting. I recommend it to aspiring novelists and YA enthusiasts. I'm not sure how or where you'll be able to purchase it. Someone mentioned the SCBWI website is going to be relaunched soon; hopefully it will be available there.

Other than that, I think I didn't take advantage of the conference as much as I would or could have if not for familial obligations interfering with socializing time, on Friday evening, for example, or during Saturday night's wine and cheese event. Next time I attend a national conference, I'll have to really keep the whole weekend open so I can attend such smooze-fests.

I did get to meet Brad Strickland, though, which was pretty cool. I worked on a couple of his series at S&S, so it was nice to meet him. He's a friendly and chatty fellow.

No new word from aforementioned editor. No fear, though. I have to work on this thing for SAB all day tomorrow and Wednesday anyway.

I have nothing to say about the Super Bowl. I will say, however, that Vincent's, on Willis Avenue in Albertson, makes much, much larger pizzas than I recalled. Quite yummy, though.

Oh, also, Sam was pefectly pleasant on both flights, for the most part. And any crying he did on the return flight was completely drowned out by the escaped eleven-month-old running wild on the plane. So that was nice.

And it was about 45 degrees in New York when we left. Beyond wonderful to feel that temperature in the middle of winter. Beyond.

Of course, we both (Beth and I) miss New York City terribly, and loved spending a couple of days with some time to walk around. But, as we drove across the Throgs Neck Bridge this morning on our way to Newark Airport, we had a few minutes to gaze at the smog on the horizon in every direction, aghast, and decided, No, we don't want to live here again.

Kudos for the new bike path on Broadway through Times Square, though.