Monday, April 27, 2009

Stealing time for the Queen and King of Attolia

Ugh. Is there any greater torture than writing an NIH grant? I don't think so. That's what I've been writing for the past month and I'm lucky my hair is still attached to my scalp. I also edited two manuscripts for Allen Press, which although weren't difficult, were assigned right as I came down with stomach flu. So, have I written anything fun lately? Nope. I'm taking a break from academic writing for a while though, so I should be able to finish the proposal for Lady General within the next two weeks and then get back to Windwatchers.

Part of my decompression routine is to read a book, or in this case, three. The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia served as a wonderful escape. Megan Whalen Turner did a brilliant job writing suspenseful stories with surprise endings. She wove a living Greek-like pantheon of Gods and Goddesses into a vibrant world of political intrique and rich cultural traditions that makes me hope she has a sequel in mind. You can't help loving Eugenides, the Thief who can steal anything. Whether he's stealing an artifact, a victory, a person, or someone's heart, he does it with style and nobility. If I write any more, I'll spoil the endings, so I won't. Just pick up a copy and read them for yourself. If you love good, clean, adventure stories with multi-layered plots, these books are for you.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My Fair Godmother

If you've ever read a fairy tale and wished for your very own Fairy Godmother to magically appear and make everything wrong in your life, right, you're not alone. But watch what you wish for, Chrissy Everstar just might show up and make everything worse.

Savannah's life is pretty good, until her boyfriend dumps her for her older sister right before prom. Then at the party where she intended to find a new prom date, a guy who happens to be her ex's best friend, embarrasses her in front of everyone. With so many jerks out there, where's a prince when you need one?

Savannah doesn't think her life can get any worse. Then Chrissy (Chrysanthemum) Everstar shows up to grant her three wishes. Sounds great, right? Well, it would've been if Chrissy knew how to grant good wishes. But when Savannah wishes for her own Cinderella story, Chrissy zaps her back to the Middle Ages and Savannah finds out that life is pretty rough for Cinderella. The prince is an incredible snob, too. After enough chores and bad food to last a lifetime, Savannah begs Chrissy for a prince that's kind, but still handsome. And...presto....she's Snow White.

Snow White isn't too bright, according to the dwarves, who treat Savannah like she's a serious mental case. But Snow White has a load of chores too, and Prince Hubert is a clueless wonder. As a emancipated modern teenager, Savannah's had enough. She demands that Chrissy restore her to the 21st century and find her a princely prom date who's smart, handsome, and kind.


Savannah arrives home safe and sound and ever so happy to see the refrigerator and shower. But Tristan, the boy who accidentally embarrassed her at the party, suddenly disappears and Savannah guesses how. She already knew that Chrissy wasn't a very good fairy godmother - only fair - but now Tristan is gone and Savannah is the only one who knows where. And since no one would believe her if she told anyone, it's up to her to get him back. After learning of a clause in Chrissy's contract that allows Savannah to supervise her wishes, Savannah returns to the Middle Ages to help Tristan defeat an ogre, vanquish a dragon, and become a 'prince' so he can return home.

Things get a little more complicated when she meets the handsome princes of the kingdom and Tristan is on the verge of marrying the princess. Then there's the mysterious Black Knight that Savannah can't get out of her head. What follows is a fun romp of deceit, intrigue, and romance with a few delicious twists thrown in. How does a girl survive a ball as Cinderella, Snow White, and a girl trying to get back home - all at the same time? She might have pulled it off if it weren't for one step mother trying to poison her and the other scheming to send her back home to sweep cinders from the fireplace. Good thing her knight in shining armour (pun intended) shows up, but you'll have to read the book to find out who he is.

This book has been optioned for a movie and I HOPE it gets picked up. Full of humor, adventure, and clean romance, it would be a perfect summer flick. Excellent job Janette!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Grant for Windwatchers of Freed

I've written one whopping thing in the past month. I wrote a grant that would give me funds to attend the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators annual meeting in Los Angeles. I hope I get it. I'd never spend the money to attend otherwise and it would be so amazing to participate in the workshops. It'd also be cool to visit Darin and Kate afterward, take the kids to Disneyland, and spend a day at the beach before heading home. Anyhow, here's the first page of my submission:

Winds, nets, waves, tides
In the deep my soul resides.
Near, far, where 'ere I roam,
the sea will ever be my home.
-First verse, Mariner Folksong

Chapter 1

Lost at sea - what a lonely way to die. So many questions go unanswered when there aren't witnesses or bodies to bury. How did it happen? When? Was it quick and painless or a desperate struggle to the end? Maybe no one else wondered these things, but I did. I feared the sea. Her mood swings terrified me and her depths were a mystery I didn't care to probe. I felt much safer on land. But now I would have to take my chances. I sailed on the next tide.

The clan pennant flapped in my fingers as I stood on the Breakwater Cliffs for the memorial service. The village Alderman tried, and failed, to fill his speech with something meaningful. He and Father never liked each other much. A gust yanked the pennant from my hands just as a waved slammed against the cliff. The wave snatched the pennant from the wind, and then drowned it like the ship it had already claimed.

The Alderman went on and on about the tragedy of Father's untimely death but didn't seem too upset himself. Maybe that's the best he could do, what with the recent conflict between our families and all. And in truth, Father's death was untimely. Now the whole village would suffer. An entire cargo of trade goods had gone down with the ship. Never before had a ship been lost. But the moons hadn't met up in their orbits before either. No one predicted the wild, untamed thing the tide would become when that happened. In hushed whispers, folks were calling it the Death Tide.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Uglies and Pretties

I've found my new favorite sci-fi YA series. Scott Westerfeld's dytopian future of Uglies and Pretties is an intriguing world where everyone is made beautiful at sixteen, and anyone normal is considered ugly. So what happens when a group tries to break free from the system of mind control put in place to suppress the uglier side of human nature? Pick up a copy and find out! The series is a unique hybrid of George Orwell's 1984 and The Devil Wears Prada morphed into an adventure-romance story that kept me reading into the wee hours of the morning.

Now I'm just waiting to get my hands on Specials, the third book in the series. I'm also still waiting for Just One Wish and My Fair Godmother. My local library is SLOW to get new acquisitions into circulation. Oh well, if I had them all at once, I wouldn't get anything else done except read and I have a lot to do.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

On Writers and Writing

Writing is hard and often lonely work. I write, then delete, and then write some more. The next day I might delete everything again and then shut my computer off in frustration when the only words that come to my fingertips are flat. In talking with other writers, I know I'm not the only one who does this. It might be because of this struggle that the authors I've met either in person or online have been some of the most supportive, creative, and coolest ladies around, or maybe they were that way to begin with, but the people I've met over the past year or so have been an amazing inspiration. Hearing their experiences has helped me keep things in perspective. I can control if I write and what I write, but not what happens from there. With this new understanding, I have adjusted my goals and expectations accordingly and the pressure I was putting on myself is gone. It's liberating to allow myself to write only when I feel like it instead of putting myself on a tight productivity schedule. What's that about a type A personality? Oh no, not me. Hahahaha.

But as wonderful as it is to meet an already published author, it's another entirely to watch the process as a friend 'crosses over' from writer and wanna-be author to published author. It's exciting and really informative. But surprisingly, it's also painfully slow. This friend and I have slogged through revisions, sent out our query letters, and then waited, and waited, and waited some more. We both stacked up a load of rejection letters, but then, she got a call from an interested agent who wants to represent her. YAY! But that was two weeks ago. And now she is waiting to sign a contract and make the agent/client relationship official. Waiting seems to be the rule in this industry and patience must be the order of the day, or week, or month, or even year.

Hmmm....I'm probably supposed to learn something here.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Revenge of the Cheerleaders, take two

When I was a cheerleader, I had this recurring fear of tripping in the middle of a dance routine and falling flat on my face in front of everyone. It never happened during high school or college, but the day has finally come. I've fallen smack on my face right here on my blog, which thankfully, is much less public than a basketball arena, but still embarrassing. Three weeks ago I posted about Revenge of the Cheerleaders by Janette Rallison - no problem, right? Well, I didn't think so until I was discussing it with my daughter today. Then to my horror, I realized that I was thinking about All's Fair in Love, War, and High School when I posted, and that because of Lindsey's unfortunate habit of removing the slipcovers from her books, I had the titles mixed up.

Gasp. Choke. Sob.

Sorry Janette.

She's such a gracious lady that she didn't even chastise me for being such an idiot. I only hope I can look back and see the humor in this situation one day. Right now, not so much.

So, here are my thoughts on Revenge of the Cheerleaders (I double-checked the title):

Chelsea is a cheerleader who seems to have it all - beauty, popularity, and designer style. But beneath the facade, she's still hurting from her ex-boyfriend's wandering eye. With her single mother working overtime to make ends meet, Chelsea is stuck keeping track of her wild little sister who is driving her crazy (on purpose, of course). When the little witch doesn't show up where she's supposed to be on Halloween, Chelsea goes somewhere a fifteen-year-old sister shouldn't be, but where that same sister's boyfriend is singing with his band - a college party.

Enter Clark Kent to help in her hour of need. Literally. Chelsea doesn't find out his real name because the witch she tackles to the ground isn't her sister after all and she's kicked out out of the party. But she can't forget him either. She runs into him the next time she's on babysitting duty, and suddenly doesn' t mind that she had to hear her sister's loser boyfriend, Rick, sing again. If Rick hadn't started singing a song that slammed her, she might have found out Clark Kent's name. If she hadn't fled the party so quickly, Clark Kent might have learned hers.

What follows is Much Ado About Nothing - high school style - where pretenses are as real as you make them, and insecurities bloom into suspicions that test loyalties and tear dreams apart. Revenge is not so sweet after all, especially when it hurts those you love. Chelsea joins with Rick to save her sister from a terrible mistake and has to put old prejudices aside for Clark Kent, who turns out to be Ricks brother, to realize that she really is the type of girl he thought she was before the fiasco. In the end, Chelsea discovers the power of love to heal wounds both old and new, and that forgiveness is as liberating as truth.

Chelsea would seem too perfect from the outside looking in, but with her thoughts and insecurities anchoring the storyline, you can't help but be drawn into her world. I found Revenge of the Cheerleaders to be an entertaining and compelling read. It would make a wonderful gift for those difficult-to-shop-for tween girls in your life. My twelve-year-old has read it twice.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Lindsey handed me Rules, by Cynthia Lord last week and told me I "had to read it." So while I waited to shuttle my kids to one event or another, I did.

Cathrine just wants a normal life. But that seems like an impossible dream when her entire existence revolves around her autistic brother and his disability. Catherine writes a book of rules for him so he will remember how he's supposed to act. One of David's rules is to keep his pants on, another is no toys in the fish tank. Convincing him to keep his pants on and his toys out of the fish tank are hard enough, but what's a girl to do when everyone thinks she's weird by association and her parents hardly notice she exists? As Catherine struggles to find her own identity and cope with her brother's embarrassing behavior, she discovers that she can't really be herself until she opens her heart to the people that matter in her life, regardless of whether she is accepted by her new next-door-neighbor who is both beautiful and popular.

I love this book. It's a sweet, funny, sad, and an incredibly touching character-driven story. I really liked the authentic narrative voice. I've been studying voice a lot lately to try to figure out how various authors create it and use it to tell their various stories. In some of my writing, the narrative voice is strong, in other pieces, not so much. So the challenge is to combine a strong narrative voice with an amazing story. Sure, no problem. Hahaha.

I'm like the Little Engine chanting, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.... The Little Engine's story ends with success, but it doesn't really say how long he was stuck on the hill. So I think I'm stuck in 'I think I can' mode until I come up with my own magic formula to combine voice and story to write a book that will give me the satisfactory ending of 'I knew I could.'