Friday, October 29, 2010

{Insert Whooping & Hollering & Cartwheels & Somersaults}

A miserable week just got much brighter!

I just received the coveted email announcing that my NaNoWriMo novel has been selected for the semi-final round of 30 Covers in 30 Days.


We are excited to let you know that your 2010 NaNoWriMo novel may be receiving a cover designed by an amazing designer. Our design dream team has agreed to try to bash out 30 NaNoWriMo book covers in November as part of our "30 Covers, 30 Days" project, which you can read about in the official forum:  We’ve listed the designers participating here:

We loved your title and synopsis. If you give us the okay, we'll send them to the designer team, and the designers may use them to create a cover design for your novel-in-progress (we say “may” because we’re sending the designers a few options to choose from).  Plots will be sent throughout the month, so be sure to stay on pace with your word count!

Every year, professional designers donate their time to create covers for thirty of the tens of thousands of novels born of the contest. I've been coveting one for ages! Not only does it feel awesome to know that people are looking at my work, but I'm in love with book design. As big a reader as I am, I've bought many books just because I loved the cover so much, including my Bartlett's Roget's Thesaurus with a retro yellow design. [Edited to add that Kelly Blair, the designer of said thesaurus, is one of the designers for this contest. Spooky!  I had no idea when I first posted this.]

Now it's down to ninety titles. Each designer gets three to choose from. I looked through the list of designers, and they are amazing, indeed. Lots of eye candy and blogs to add to my Google Reader.

I don't know when I last smiled so much. I may not be selected for the final round, but this feels wonderful.

I think it even cured my headache.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I Challenge These Two Items to a Race


(Anthropologie 2010, "Poni Sweater," $328)


But together?



Now I just need a crazy old lady hat and skirt or pair of chaps to complete the look.

(Unlike the crazy sweater, the crazy shoes almost interest me. I feel the insanity serves a possibly compelling function there. On the other hand, I can't even wear flip flops due to the horrors caused by having things between my toes. I'm almost nauseous thinking about these.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I'm a Bad Influence

My children have joined the Middle Earth side of the force. This makes me happier than I should admit.

My little hobbit refused to wear the hairy feet that came with his costume, but can you blame him?

Even Frodo and Sam look horrified, peering at the monstrosities from behind a wall. I think I'll hang them in the back of a closet to scare people. No Narnia in my wardrobes. Just dead halfling feet.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Bellowing of Crickets

I spent the last four days in the clutches of a crushing sinus headache. At one point, while climbing out of the car, I realized I must look like Patsy or Edina from Absolutely Fabulous, staggering, bent, squinting, and clutching a drink. In my case, it was Diet Coke, darling, and I didn't have smeared lipstick and rumpled party clothes, but I'll bet my hair was plenty askew. And I was holding my keys like Patsy holds her cigarette.

I really should call a doctor about these things, but when I'm ill, I can't remember or bear to perform such superhuman feats as think or dial a phone. (Do people still say dial?) When I'm better, I forget -- in large part because I'm terrified the thing will return just by thinking about it or speaking its name.

So my headaches are like Voldemort (Don't say that name!), only they have a nose (being of and related to my sinuses). And Ralph Fiennes is nowhere to be seen. Alas.

But now a break! A tentative moment of clarity.

I've enjoyed my reprieve by spending the evening eating gummy bears and reading P.G. Wodehouse. It's my first foray into Wooster & Jeeves -- at least as a reader. I shelved the books over and over again in the various libraries and bookstores of my employment. If I didn't know who wrote them, I'd know his or her last name started with a letter at the end of the alphabet because I can still see where they sat on the long wall of fiction at one particular store which we shall refer to as Barns & Stables.

I can't remember to get a medical solution to debilitating pain, but I can remember where individual books were shelved fifteen years ago. And the lyrics to obscure Ambrosia songs I haven't heard since I was in the single digits but which are now playing faintly over the speakers at a loud brew pub.

Anyway, lots of laughs from the books...

  • On Jeeves' seeming ability to appear as if from thin air (apparate): "I've got a cousin who's what they call a Theosophist, and he says he's often nearly worked the thing himself, but couldn't quite bring it off, probably owing to having fed in his boyhood on the flesh of animals killed in anger and pie." (Those last five words got me.)
  • On a trip away from Manhattan: "The days down on Long island have forty-eight hours in them; you can't get to sleep at night because of the bellowing of the crickets."

One week until NaNoWriMo. Gots me a book on Vaudeville. I'll do a little light research tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Woke Last Night to the Sound of Thunder

I fell asleep last night to the sound of neighbors playing bass drums and rolling boulders down the street. This is a Monday night ritual, although most call it wheeling three mammoth waste cans to the curb.

My dreams were fitful since I'd gone to bed feeling sick, and when I heard someone bowling beneath my bed, it seemed about right. It scared me, but it fit the mood. Took a moment to realize that, hey, that's not right. Husband eventually discovered that one of our apparating mice apparated onto a tupperware full of sugar and knocked it out of a cabinet to the floor where it then rolled across the tile. I sleep just above the kitchen. Thanks mice (who are obviously in league with the ants).

Thusly awake at an ungodly hour, I discovered there was real thunder, too. I watched the rapid, flickering lightning that usually occurs only in horror movies, listened to distant thunder, and then the inevitable happened:

The Depths of Despair.

I believe the great Sir Elton John said it best when he declared, "It's four o'clock in the morning. Dammit!"

It was five, but same difference. Just as many Dementors on the loose.

A song crept into my head that used to play a lot on the classic rock channel when I was in college:
I woke last night to the sound of thunder
How far off, I sat and wondered
Started humming a song from 1962
Ain't it funny how the night moves
When you just don't have as much to lose
Strange how the night moves

...When autumn's closing in

The verse follows a crescendo of exulting over being young and restless and bold, and it seems to be him as a middle-aged man looking back. I thought it was kind of sad when I was twenty-three. At forty, it's kind of tragic. At least, it's tragic at 5 AM, and it set me off in reeling despair about age and wasted time and doors closing and no CTRL-Z/Undo.

Bob Seger eventually gave way to Pink Floyd. Yesterday, I hurtled along the road with my five-year-old in the backseat enjoying Dark Side of the Moon, so the lyrics to "Time" were readily available to my nighttime brain.
Tired of lying in the sunshine, staying home to watch the rain.
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

In the wee hours, a lyric can seem like an epiphany, a message crafted just for you. And even if you wake up later that morning and most of its poignancy is lost, even if it's lost all meaning like those dreams with ideas you think will be brilliant that turn out to be gibberish, some of the emotion remains.

I need to get writing to burn off some of the irritating angst. I blame Bebe. In trying to put myself in her head while plotting Upper High Hog, I seem to have opened a few dark little doors in my own life. Let's just call it inspiration that I can use in my story.

It's a dangerous thing, waking before the sun. Too easy to see what lurks in the shadows when you aren't blinded by the light.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I Feel So Alone

Am I really in such a small minority? Are 99% of NaNoWriMo novelists really writing fantasy/sci-fi/dystopian/vampire stuff? (Not that there's anything wrong with that. Some of my best friends are dystopian sci-fi vampires.)

But really. It's getting scary. I have no right to feel put off since I'm the kid who wouldn't buy or check out a book unless it had ghost or magic or witch or some such in the title. I'm the grown woman wearing an officially licensed Lord of the Rings "Rivendell" ring. (Should I admit that publicly?) (Or that I have Gollum, Minas Tirith, and the Watchers of Rauros on my bookshelf?) (Shh, Caroline. Shh.)

Maybe I'm just bitter because I want to dive in and play on the message boards, too. But unless you're writing about dystopian futuristic societies of vampires who go to high school and fall in love, find out that they're the long-lost heirs to a mysterious kingdom that's under attack, then overturn the government and their cyborgs before blasting off into space to save the universe from psychic copper-plated mechanical men, all of whom have names that seem deeply rooted in Finnish and Welsh...

Lost track of my point there.

Anyway, I'm probably just jealous because it's the kind of book I should be writing, have always imagined myself writing.

Most of the protagonists (including mine, sigh) have red hair. Gotta watch out. I dye my hair any further, I might get sucked into a fictional adventure (of dystopian unicorn princesses with top-notch sword-fighting skills who fight vampires and...)

Vent over.

Bought myself a gigantor box of gummi bears to last me through next month. Hopefully that will quell the demons.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Random ! of the Day

One can only dream of such a land -- a sea of gummi bears and no ants to swarm them.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Introducing The Fabulous Betty Noire! (NaNo 2010)

Should all go well, this is what I hope to write next month for NaNoWriMo.
Quick blurb:
The View from Upper High Hog

Set in Arizona during the early years of the Cold War

An outrageous former Vaudevillian finds herself put out to pasture, fumbling between her perplexing new job as guardian to a Russian child and her misadventures trying to regain her former glory (not to mention a ticket back to New York) through playing what she dubs "The Jackalope Circuit."
Short synopsis:
The View from Upper High Hog

New York, 1954

Jazz Age, Atomic Age, Space Age — meh. The Fabulous Bette Noire (a.k.a. Bebe Rosenthal) figures she’s seen it all. Life on the big time Vaudeville circuit gives a broad an extra broad perspective, not to mention the chutzpa to fight. She’s been through wars one and two and enough husbands to form a chorus line, so she’s up for anything.

Therefore, when her latest husband kicks the bucket, stranding her on his employer’s Hudson Valley estate, Bebe knows just what to do. Enough with this love nonsense. It only leads to trouble. And a little hay fever. Her fans must be clamoring for her after her long hiatus. She’ll call her agent and get back to her proper place in the world — the stage.

Unfortunately, she discovers a few more things have gone on hiatus since last she saw Manhattan: the Age of Vaudeville and her ability to find a role.

With no money to speak of and nowhere to go, Bebe finds herself lured by an offer from her late husband’s employer. Give up her apartment over their garage, and they’ll give her a job with lots of time off and travel. She just has to be ready to start the next day, no questions asked.

Sounds great to a gal who loves her freedom and wants to see exotic places. And no questions asked? Bebe’s first husband was a bootlegger. No problem.

Then she finds herself herded onto an Arizona-bound train with her previously undisclosed responsibility shoved into her arms as the train pulls out. To Bebe’s horror, it’s a child. And, not just any child, it’s her employer’s newly-orphaned niece, Tatiana, a four-year-old who draws attention with her crazy orange hair, ugly duckling face, and constant babbling in Russian — a dead giveaway of her Auntie Kate’s secret past on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain.

Bebe figures that Aunt Katya’s a smart one, killing two broads with one stone, setting her burdens adrift on an ice floe. Smarter, she’s put Bebe under the supervision of  “Grandpa Joe,” a muscular enforcer from down on the (collective) farm.

Thus, Bebe begins her new life as hapless guardian to an alien life form in an alien land — the dust and neon planet of Route 66. She’s caught between the needs of the child, a feud between Aunt Kate and the headmistress of the child’s school, and her own urgent need to escape what she dubs The Jackalope Circuit.

In a series of misadventures, including stalking famous musicians, sending hate mail to Betty Hutton for stealing her schtick, and and trying to form a theater company using the residents of a flea-bag motel, Bebe struggles to reclaim her former glory, independence, and relevance in the world.

Meanwhile, the newly-renamed child, Elizabeth, looks on from the shadows, trying to make sense of a world equally alien to her and longing for Bebe to give her the attention, stability, and love she’s never had.

Against the backdrop of the burgeoning Cold War, the two dream their own versions of happily ever after, or, as Bebe refers to it, Upper High Hog. And Bebe fights what she considers the scariest age of all — old age.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Best Book Cover EVER!!!

Found this over at the blog for The Office of Letters & Light:

Just so much to love. My favorite bit is how they're ditching that Jesus guy down in the lower right corner.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cats As Big As Ponies

Wrote 3500 words late last night  of a story that happens in the background of my main novel and will only be dealt with briefly. Woke up this morning and realized that it's not chatty, but it's too much walking and thinking. Walking and thinking does not equal compelling action. Back to the drawing board again, but it sure felt good to be up until one in the morning, writing. I haven't had that kind of workout in a while.

This side story involves my masochistic character. They're suggesting I do this for NaNo and not that other silly thing about the Vaudevillian.

Oh, and I killed time making another useless graphic for High Hog. I'll paste it here and that way I can pretend I was doing something interesting and useful.

 Photo from

We have apparating mice here in the Untitlement household. Lots of slither-slither-thump along the baseboards, then, poof! Mousie's gone. How do they do that? Mousie floo powder? How will we ever trap them? Or it? I'm hoping it's a case of It and not Them. (Suddenly thinking of ants and scary clowns.)  I think a cat like this would be able to do the job handily, but the only way I'm getting one is if some crazy person gives the local shelter a cat that costs as much as a down payment on a house. (But, come on, look at that cat hanging his head out the window of the car in the above link!)

If they ate ants, I might have to hock something to buy one. Well, not really. How big is THAT cat's litter box?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Maybe Just One Teeny Exploding Planet?

Wrote 1800 words of the last chapter of my book today then sat back and thought, "Well, now, ain't that a chatty little resolution?"

They aren't exactly sipping tea, and I don't require an exploding Death Star for my finale...


No. Focus.

Anyway, it needs to be quite different. Time to do the old Cut & Paste between my document and a junkyard file for old ideas. And then back to the drawing board looking for the strangest path between Y and Z.

Friday, October 8, 2010

You Cannot Dribble a Pumpkin

Mother Nature and I seem to have reached a compromise -- I get to wear boots and sweatercoats in the morning as I take the kids to school, and then the temperatures rise so I'm wearing sundresses and sandals when I pick them up.

Today was the annual kindergarten field trip to a local pumpkin patch. I took my youngest to school in the AM, and he came home at noon covered in stickers and clutching a little pumpkin -- a pumpkin he really really really wants to use as a basketball.

My eldest informs me he is to play a mirror in the upcoming school recital. I figure a cheap dorm mirror from Target and some duct tape should do as a costume, right?

When I was waiting in my car for eldest to get out of school today, I looked across the park and saw a gaggle of kids standing inside the school fence, jumping up and down in unison. Then they took off tearing toward the fence, pell mell tumble bumble, shrieking, and flailing their arms like Phoebe Buffay on a run through Central Park. It was some sort of race because that same dash was repeated in waves. There were the athletic kids in the lead, pushy boys rough-housing along the perimeter, and girls in sparkly pink princess gowns were scattered throughout (there were a lot of them, for some reason). One tall blond boy jogged cheerfully in the wake of the others, loping with such bounding grace it was clear he could run faster, he was just happy where he was.

I'm not sure why, but the scene really got to me -- the joy, the shrieks, the different flavors of kid. I flashed back to my own childhood and its joys and anxieties, and my unwitting thought was, "It's all still happening." Just to new generations of kids.  On my best day, I still feel like this whole grown-up thing is no more than a never ending game of make believe, and it's scary to realize I'm responsible for a few kids of my own when I still am one  (just exhausted out of my mind and wondering what the hell is going on with my face).

The blond boy in the back of the clamoring mob gets to me the most. It's the kind of contented confidence I want for my boys. It's the kind of carefree peace I want for myself. But, as a kid, I was always somewhere in the middle, trying my best to be invisible like a rabbit surrounded by wolves. And it remains to be seen where my boys land. I hope I can help them land in a good place.

You'll have to click through to YouTube to watch the video.

I'd Like to Publicly Humiliate Myself, but...

One of the writing blogs I follow had a challenge recently where writers were supposed to blog embarrassing snippets of stories or diaries from their reckless youth. This appealed to me on a few levels.

  1. I'd get to read through old journals and short stories.

  2. I might enjoy people laughing at my idiocy for a change.

  3. Unearthing earlier scribblings might make me feel better about my current writing.

I thought maybe I'd make that a periodic feature -- once a week, once a month, something. So I looked into it.


I shake my fist at thee, Facebook. Too many of the people in my high school journals are FB friends now or friends of friends, and there'd be a heck of a job changing the names to protect the innocent. (See above about being an idiot and then apply that to teenage crushes and resulting behavior.) Not that many people make it over here from the old Book of Face, but I suspect that would be the moment that they did.

I did enjoy reading old journals, though, so people might not be safe, after all. I'm going to see what I can do.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

On the Bill for November...

Introducing Idea #1 for a NaNoWriMo masterpiece/wreck:

The View from Upper High Hog

Click here for a longer synopsis

Set in Arizona during the early years of the Cold War

An aging former Vaudevillian finds herself put out to pasture, fumbling between her perplexing new job as guardian to a Russian child and her misadventures trying to regain her former glory (not to mention a ticket back to New York) through playing what she dubs "The Jackalope Circuit."

I've hammered out ten pages of notes. I'm full of the music, the images, the texture, and tons and tons of emotion. Now I just have to find a viable framework on which to drape it. Or maybe not "drape" -- that implies some droopy slow bits.

Hopefully those notes and these fiddly unofficial graphics aren't as far as the story goes.

P.S. I think my melodramatic character is getting jealous. Now they're threatening me with truly awful developments when I return to my main novel. But, unlike when my kids act up, I think I'll actually pay attention to this character.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

In Which Autumn Socks Me in the Eye

Ah, autumn is here. October. Why, it seems like only last week we were suffering triple-digit temperatures, afraid to open our windows late at night because it was still 90.

Oh, wait. That was only last week.

I've been pining for true autumn weather, shaking my fist at shimmering heat mirages on the road and saying, "I have sweaters and boots, and I'm not afraid to use them!"

The good news is that chilly temperatures arrived yesterday. The bad news is that any major change in the weather sets off doomsday alarms in my head, so I spent most of yesterday curled in a ball, clutching my head, and feeling psychedelic levels of sea sickness although I live near the desert. I had to drive my eldest to school early in the morning, and that was terrifying -- I could see the road just fine, but my peripheral vision was full of swirling shadows, and my head was full of stabbing pains like acupuncture gone wrong.

So, no blogging yesterday. My only thought was, "Ouch," the laptop screen was too bright for my eyes, and Mother Nature was standing over me with a baseball bat, saying, "You wanted to have your cake and eat it, too? Eh? Eh?"

Today is pain free so far (knocking wood), and I gleefully dressed in tall boots, a heavy cotton shirtdress, and a long cardigan to walk my son to school. I even made it back home minutes ahead of the rain, so my new boots didn't melt. Gotta waterproof those things.

On the writing front, I'm trying to decide on a story for NaNoWriMo. Right now I'm contemplating a prequel set in the 1950s.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Quick Update

First, yay!


Second, when the first bakery was nothing bundt impossible to find, I did what I should have thought of sooner -- went to my local independent bakery that makes the yummiest mini-cakes for a lot less money. It was twenty minutes until closing time, so only one flavor of cake remained -- apple spice, not normally what I'd choose -- but it was goooooooooood!

Swirling vortex of insane goodness

Don't let its cupcake-like appearance fool you. That's dense, moist, full-bodied cake! If you're in the Temecula/Murrieta area, definitely check out Sweet Layers. Yum.

Last Sprint

Before we had kids, my husband liked to play a video game where you raced motorcycles and attacked your opponents with chains or mighty kicks. Because that wasn't exciting or brutal enough, he always tried to end the game by wiping out just short of the finish line so he could tumble and skid across from momentum, still winning a medal.

That's a really lame metaphor for how I view Fridays. The week's been brutal and fast-paced, the finish line is in sight, and I'm about to wipe out from all the stress, hoping my momentum will carry me through to the relief of the weekend. How long I skid depends on how late my husband works, and that always varies.


  • Drum roll over who will be chosen for a page critique at Nathan Bransford's site.

  • Drum roll before the NaNoWriMo 2010 site goes live.

  • The drum roll before the wipe out described above.

Plus, a battle with my muleheaded five-year-old:

He reads a short book and is supposed to talk about it, then draw a picture with the book's title at the top.

I sit down with him. "So is this a true story, Youngest? Or is it make-believe."

"It's true."

(It's not.)

"Is it something that really happened? Or do you mean it's a story about something that could really happen?"

"It really happened. I was there!"  He gives me his scowling bull expression.

"Um. Okay." I'll fight that battle later.  "Tell me what it was about."

"It was about me and Daddy and [his brother]  going to Legoland last weekend."

"This book was?"

"No. My story is."

"Well, we're supposed to be talking about this book you just read."

"I don't want to talk about that story." Scornful look. "I want to tell my story."

Then he didn't want to write the book's title.; he wanted to make up a sentence at random. He didn't want to draw a picture about the book; he wanted to draw the pedal cars at Legoland. He didn't want half a dozen other things. Much finagling later, I'm still not sure his picture had much to do with the story, but he drew it with glee: a happy hedgehog with an apple stuck to its back standing beneath a tree that grows blue apples.