Monday, December 31, 2007

Saying goodbye to 2007

It seems like an appropriate day to clean up a few 2007 odds and ends. Much the same way as I just cleaned out the fridge. Who wants to start a new year with last's year's mystery containers and mold?

So, in no particular order...

We have decided to do allergy shots for with child #3. The shots will desensitize him to stings from honey bees +white-faced hornets + yellow jackets. (A little weird as he has no allergy to yellow jackets, but it's an all-in-one shot.) Some ridiculously high percentage of people (like 98%) lose their venom allergies following a regimen of shots. So, wish us luck as we embark on the 3-5 YEAR endeavor! Which starts with 2 visits a week for 6 months!!

By accident, I splashed bleach on the black, sequined dress. Goodbye to that chapter in my life!

I never did get around to blogging about the controversial Christmas gift. I'm really happy with them, but apparently not everyone shares the love. Here's the link.

I take New Year's resolutions really, really seriously. I'm still tweaking mine. So, those I'll post tomorrow or the next day.

For now, I'm headed off on a secret mission with Child #3. A New Year's Eve mission. Our last secret mission of the year. And, yes, there will be photos!

Friday, December 28, 2007

allergy testing

On Wednesday, Child #3 and I spent five hours at the allergist's. Child #3 recently had a couple of bad reactions to insect stings. As in, swelling hugely and some trouble breathing. Our pediatrician suggested we see an allergist for venom testing.

So, Child #3 went through skin-pricking testing for: the honey bee, paper wasp, yellow jacket, yellow hornet and white-faced hornet. The results: a major allergy to the honey bee and an allergy to the white-faced hornet (also known as the bald-faced hornet).

Yikes! This spring, Child #3 is off for a week to sixth grade camp where, because of the wildfires, there will be many buzzing bees. The allergist advised he take TWO Epi-pens. And below are additional tips for child #3 from an informative little booklet called Venom Attack Force.

-Wear tight clothing.
-Don't dress in light yellow or light blue. Instead, lean toward a wardrobe of whites and tans.
-Don't drink beer, soft drinks or juice outside.
-Don't wear perfume, sunscreen or hairspray.
-Wear shoes.
-Don't hang out by paint containing isoamyl-acetate. This is a bee-alarming agent.

A wild-and-crazy, needs-a-2nd-cup-of-tea thought: If we follow these directives, we'll recognize each other in the "real" world. A sort of stay-safe-from-stinging-insects AND blogger uniform/ lifestyle. All rolled into one.

(Excuse all the hyphens. I do love a good hyphen.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The galleys have arrived!

The Fed Ex man delivered a very nice gift--the galleys for I So Don't Do Mysteries.

This is the typeset copy of the book--I can see how each page will look, how each chapter will start, what the font is.

Here are my thoughts:

The font is extremely cute. I'll have to ask Editor Wendy which font it is. I like to know fonts in the same way that I like to know the catering company listed in the credits of a movie. Being serious here.

Each chapter begins with an adorable line drawng of a coffee cup with slender wisps of steam. The chapter number is on the cup. Very adorable.

There are 264 pages. I was really curious about this. My computer version (New Courier) has 282 pages (around 55,457 words).

Anyway, anyway, anyway. I have to read through the galleys, mark any changes and have them back to Editor Wendy by mid-January. This is my last chance to make changes. LAST CHANCE, folks. Kind of freaking me out. I'm going to have to trick myself into reading the galleys withOUT thinking it's my LAST CHANCE.

So... La, la, la. I think I'll sit down with a cup of tea and read the cute galleys. Just for fun. La, la, la. No big deal. No particular pressure. La, la, la.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Wishing you and yours the absolute best! For which ever holiday you celebrate! And in which ever language you celebrate!

Merry Christmas! Joyeux Noel! Happy Hanukkah! Habari gani? Al-Salaamu Aleikum! Pax Vobiscum!

And, in honour of Child #4: Sung Tan Chuk Ha!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

My Christmas Gift

My husband is giving me a cell phone for Christmas. It has SEVENTY-FOUR buttons! SEVENTY-FOUR! My lap top doesn't even have seventy-four buttons! This is a cell phone with some serious smarts. It could so beat me in an IQ test.

Quite honestly, there's not much this cell can't do. It has blue tooth. Because we all know I don't spend enough time on the phone as it is! Has he forgotten the tres expensive month of October when I somehow used 2000 minutes all by myself?!

This phone also has internet. It has unlimited texting. It has a camera. It plays music. It has bunches of memory. It has GPS.

All I can say is, if you want to wish me a Merry Christmas, don't phone. Email.

(In fact, don't call me till February. I'm sure I'll have the basics figured out by Groundhog Day.)

We've launched!

The Class of 2K8. 28 new voices in Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction. 28 book launches in the offing. And our year is almost here!

We have two January releases: The Opposite of Invisible by Liz Gallagher and I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder.

Go see our WEBSITE. It even has a video. And a BLOG. Go meet the Class of 2k8!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Holiday Decorating--So Cal Style

Here in Southern California, we are so filled with the festive spirit that we even decorate our port-a-potties!

These photos are from up my street.

Seasons Greetings to all!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


No Christmas shopping for me today. I have a sick seven year old. She was up most of the night with a stomach bug. I've got her on the living room couch (chesterfield!), snuggled in an afghan with some dry toast on the end table and A Christmas Without a Santa Claus on TV.

I'm next to her with my lap top and trusty outline for book #2, ready to write. Because the potato is calling. Maybe even screaming. (That would be the potato progress meter on the sidebar.)

If there's such a thing as the perfect time for the stomach flu, this child has nailed it. She's sick AFTER her dance recital (yes, she was brilliant!) and BEFORE Christmas.

Ahhh. Child #4 has fallen asleep, one little hand escaped from the blanket and cupping her cheek.

So, now I'm watching A Christmas Without A Santa Claus all by myself?

I think not. Click. Off goes the TV. Click. Publish the post. Click. Head over to Word.

Happy Wednesday to you all. And may your house be safe from the dreaded stomach virus.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Spooky Launch Postcard with Discount

Raffle Flyer for Yellow Book Road Drawing 12/19/09

Win the Happy Holidays gift drawing
from The Yellow Book Road!

The prize is a gift basket that includes books, gifts
and a gift card to The Yellow Book Road (the entire
prize is valued at over $200).

Here's how to enter:
Print this page, fill in the information and bring in your filled out form to
The Yellow Book Road and place in the silver drop box.

Name: _________________________________________

Phone number: _____________________________

No purchase necessary. No entries will be accepted by mail, email or fax. The
Yellow Book Road employees and family members of employees are not elgible
to participate. One entry per customer. Entires must be received no later than
3:00 pm on Saturday, December 19, 2008. The drawing will take place during
our book release party on Saturday, December 19, and the winner will be called
that day.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Complicated Kindness

I'm reading a really, really wonderful book: A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews.

It is beautifully written. Told from the point of view of a teen (although the book was marketed as adult fiction, I can see where it could easily cross over to young adult), it is both humorous and poignant.

From the fly:

"We're Mennonites. As far as I know, we are the most embarrassing sub-sect of people to belong to if you're a teenager. Five hundred years ago in Europe a man called Menno Simons set off to do his own peculiar religious thing...Imagine the least well-adjusted kid in your school starting a breakaway clique of people whose manifesto includes a ban on the media, dancing, smoking, temperate climates, movies, drinking, rock'n'roll, having sex for fun, swimming, make-up, jewellery, playing pool, going to cities or staying up past nine o'clock. That was Menno all over. Thanks a lot, Menno."

In A Complicated Kindness, Nomi Nickel is stuck in a small Russian Mennonite town in Manitoba with her father. She's trying to make sense of the fact that her mother and sister have disappeared. She's trying to make sense of her life in general. She would love to escape Manitoba and live in New York City with Lou Reed. Apparently, she figures out what happened to her mother and sister, but I haven't gotten that far in the book. So, fear not, there's no spoiler!

A Complicated Kindness won the Governor General's Award and was nominated for the Giller Prize.

A little trivia about the author: She lives in Manitoba and is of Mennonite descent. She debuted in a Mexican film this year, Luz silenciosa. It screened at Cannes.

Nothing beats a good book. Except, perhaps, a good book, a hot cup of tea and a runny butter tart!

P.S. I read Miriam Toews' other two novels: Summer of My Amazing Luck and A Boy of Good Breeding. They were both

P.P.S. I can't wait to get to my hair appointment tomorrow so I can continue reading.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Butter Tarts!

The butter tarts worked! Especially the second batch. I had some great help from Child #4 (no long-handled wooden spoon was involved this time) who is, apparently, a talented baker. Who knew?

First, I started with a tart shell. Here's the recipe from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook:

1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound cold butter, in small pieces
1 egg yolk
2 Tablespoons ice water

In a food processor, process the flour, salt and butter quickly. Through the funnel, add the egg yolk and ice water and process until the dough balls up. Wrap in foil and place in fridge for 20 min. Then roll out, cut circles with a cup and press into mold. Prick bottom of tarts with a fork and bake unfilled at 425 for 7 min. (The recipe says 12 min., but that was too long.)

These are the molds that worked best. I tried a muffin tin, but the tarts ended up being just that little bit too shallow. These silicone molds were the perfect deepness to get a slightly runny tart.

And now (drum roll) for the buttertart recipe. The one I used is from a Mennonite cookbook: Food That Really Schmecks.

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup raisins
1 egg, beaten
2 Tablespoons butter (not margarine!), melted
1 Tablespoon water (or less if you use a large egg)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat egg. Add brown sugar. Beat again. Add remaining ingredients. Fill shells 1/2 full. Bake at 450 for 15 min. (I only baked for 12 min., so start checking the tarts early).

Here is a photo of the finished product. On the left is the drier, muffin-tin tart. On the right is the deliciously runny, perfect-with-a-cup-of-tea-or-coffee-or-even-hot-chocolate tart. Yummy!

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Sorry I'm been MIA a lot of this week. I had to do some shopping so my children wouldn't all cry on Christmas morning. DH/Ex-Hernia Boy either. :)

I'll be back later this weekend (or even today, depending on how the baking goes!) to offer up one last Christmas gift suggestion. Although I'm sure you've all finished your holiday shopping. Ha!

Wish me luck. I'm trying my hand at....buttertarts!!! (from a Mennonite recipe)

I leave you with this buttertart thought from

"Consider the butter tart’s singular place in our history combined with its 'typically Canadian' appeal; sturdy yet sensitive; reliable and adaptable; at home in the lunch bucket, the boardroom, or on a doily."

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Office Christmas Party OR The Unworn Dress

Last Saturday was DH's office party.

I had plans to get tarted up in my black, sequined dress with the help of Child #3 and Child #4. I had brand-new thigh-height stockings (which, for the record, don't stay up) and a new Neutrogena lipstick and matching lip pencil.

Then DH (AKA ex-Hernia Boy) made a very wild, off-the-wall request: "Please don't wear the black, sequined dress."


Hmpf. I ended up in a purplish dress I'd picked up last year during the post-season sales. And which I had never worn before. Child #3 said I still looked beautiful, but the dress was a weird color. In vain, I tried to convince him that aubergine was the new black. Child #4 described me as "a smush of eggplant and prune juice." While unflattering, you must admit this is pretty creative for a seven year old. A sign of brilliance even. (Please take note, teacher of Child #4.)

To make matters worse, Child #4 had used up all my blush when last playing Makeup. And my slip had somehow been relegated to the dress-up bin from where it had leapt into a black hole. DH assured me you could only see through my dress in certain lights. And I'd probably be okay at the Marriott).

So, wan of cheek, lacking in the undergarment department, and dressed in a smush of eggplant + prune juice, I left for the party. In the pouring rain. Thank goodness I managed to dredge up a happy-face umbrella from Walmart. My stylish, six-ounce Totes has spent most of the first semester in Child #2's locker.

Despite all this, I had a TERRIFIC time. Because we were seated at the funnest table. Of the ten guests at Fun Table Seven, five were American, two were Bulgarian, one was Chinese and two of us were Canadian.

I enjoyed the goodnatured Toronto-Montreal rivalry with P. Of course, I could afford to be goodnatured; we have the CN Tour. And thank you, T., for saying I could pass for sixteen years old. The lighting was, apparently, good for something. Thank you, I., for the entertaining haircut. Thank you A., L. and R. for the great conversations. Congrats to P. and A. and W on the new babies. And a huge, huge shout-out to W. for gushing about my book.

P.S. I tried to post a pic of the black, sequined dress, but could only get it t show up sideways. Which truly doesn't do it justice!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Child #2!!!!

Child #2 is a high school FRESHMAN. As in GRADE 9! As in 14 years old!

At tonight's high school water polo banquet, he was named MOST VALUABLE PLAYER for the Novice team! And he was named MOST INSPIRATIONAL PLAYER for the Junior Varsity team! And he LETTERED!

I cried. And jiggled the video camera.

Isn't it amazing what our kids accomplish?

(Sorry for the abundance of exclamation marks and uppercase letters, but he really deserves them!)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Potato Updated!

People! Check out the spud on the sidebar!


I SO DON'T DO MYSTERIES will hit the shelves!

Seems pretty far off, but you know how that goes.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

some free advice

Here's some free advice.

One day you might find yourself in a position to help a child with a science project involving a disposable camera. Do not open said disposable camera and touch things willy nilly. You might get an electric shock. That shoots up both your arms. Apparently, there's some magic going on in there between a capacitor and some electric charge. 'Nuff said.

I'll update the potato tomorrow. Probably.

Have a great day, everyone!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The dreaded progress meter

I couldn't figure out how to fit this extremely cute progress meter in my sidebar. So, here he is as a post. I'll update the plain Jane meter on a regular basis and post this guy every so often (weekly, every other week?)

To be honest, I'm still somewhat weirded out by the whole progress meter thing. So, we'll see...

Just so that you can all sleep soundly tonight, the parent-teacher conferences went well. I had the sense that one teacher really wasn't getting the total picture of brilliance of one of my children. No worries. I set her straight. Sort of only kidding. :)

Off to write. Because now I've got that progress meter thing hanging over my head. Not to mention Christmas cards, Christmas shopping, laundry, pool algae, dinner... Ack!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

To word meter or not to word meter. Do I put a little graphic on the sidebar so we can all measure the progress of Book #2? Honestly, the more I think about it, the more I lean towards not adding a word meter. It just feels too invasive. Then again, it could be very motivating. And some of the graphics are quite cute. I don't know what to do. Anyone out there using one/has used one? Any thoughts, people?

Yesterday, Child #4 and I made a cinnamon streusal loaf. Child #4 is very fun to bake with. And baking lends itself well to so many discussions. Like why check the loaf at the earlier time? What's the point of baking soda? And then there are all those yummy fractions!

That said, Child #4 is a zealous stirrer and almost took my eye out.

STOCKING STUFFER NOTE to Ex Hernia Boy: please consider getting me a wooden spoon with a SHORT handle. Or safety goggles.

Today is parent-teacher conferences. I'm off to discuss the brilliance of Child #3 and Child #4. (Not saying that Child #1 and Child #2 aren't brilliant. They just aren't up for conferences.)

Happy Monday to you all!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Rain, Gift, Writing, Gym

It's bucketing here today. This is very unusual given that we get less than 12 inches of rain annually. Dorothy the Dog is refusing to go outside to use the facilities. This can only result in grief for us both. I ended up driving my children to school so they wouldn't sit all day in wet clothes. What would these creatures do if they lived somewhere that had real weather? Like where I grew up.

Anyway, all this rain gave me another good Christmas gift idea. A super lightweight umbrella. SIX ounces. You barely know it's in your purse or backpack. I love mine. Click here if you're interested.

And here's a link to my favorite dictionary in the whole world: Flip Dictionary

BTW, I got a nice email from Pastimes thanking me for mentioning them on the blog.

In writing news, I've been to the gym four times this week. Wait, wait. It is related. Because I get some of my best ideas at the gym. I hop off the treadmill or elliptical, race over to file cabinet and jot down my thoughts. I can't write (or even read) while on a machine because I'd probably fall off. Which shows you just how athletic I'm not.

In gym news, I bought a new pair of sweatpants, but am very unhappy with them. Who invented plumber sweatpants? There is no sense in that!

Next post, to word counter or not?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Writing, Today, December

So, I got my outline for book #2 back from Editor Wendy. Let me just say that this is the absolutely-most-detailed-of-my-entire-life-planned-out outline I have ever written. I suspect it's better choreographed than my wedding was.

Naturally, Editor Wendy found some holes. Because this is her job. And she is very excellent at her job. Lucky for me. I'd much prefer to fill in the holes and iron out the wrinkles (sorry about the awkward mixed metaphors) now than after many, many, many hours of typing.

I am clearing my calendar for December so that I'll have lots of writing time. Or as much as possible given the festive season. I have already been invited to FIVE Christmas parties. This may surprise some of you, but I can actually be a lot of fun at a party. Ha!

This year, however, I will be the woman with the beautiful highlights (thank you Hairdresser Jamie) in the black, sequined dress (thank you fashion-conscious child #3) in the corner on her lap top. I'll have to be in a corner with an electrical outlet because my MacBook battery died (shame on you Apple Customer Service for leaving me on hold for 30 min.) which means I'm always plugged in.

Right now, I'm seated at my kitchen table with a steaming mug of Irish Breakfast tea, a delightful oatmeal cereal bar, and my plugged-in MacBook. Dorothy the Dog is asleep at my feet. Next to me is, of course, the trusty MULTI-paged outline.

Wish me luck. I'm off to write, write, write.

I will take a break in a while and check out all your blogs.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


It's my ISBN.
I think I'll have it tattooed on my forehead.
I'll spend the rest of the day chanting these numbers.
Somehow I will creatively work these numbers into conversations.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Not about writing, about board games

If you're thinking of giving a board game(s) as a gift, you might want to check out those offered by Family Pastimes.

Family Pastimes makes games with a slightly different slant. They make COOPERATIVE games. So, it's the players working together to beat the game. You can imagine how this totally changes the tone of table talk! Two that have been favourites in my family are: The Secret Door and Investigators.

Family Pastimes has been around for about thirty years now. It's a family-run business in Perth, Ontario. They have a workshop where family members, summer students and others manufacture the games.

If, after checking out their website, you have any questions, just phone them. That's what I did.

Click HERE for the link.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Plans gone awry...

I had plans to post early.

Instead I am caught up in a book: If Looks Could Kill by Kate White

Before reading just one more chapter though, I must report that I did make it to the post office (which was empty!) and mailed off my gifts to Canada! Yay! I am now on the lookout for a gift for myself. Double yay!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thank you

Thanksgiving is officially over. Once again, everyone is asleep except me. And the crickets who are loudly chirping away, unaware that tomorrow they will be veiled chameleon dinner.

Anyway, I had a quiet cup of tea with Anne Murray singing Christmas carols in the background. All the Canadian gifts are now wrapped. I've even filled out a few of the custom forms. I do not like those nosy forms which force you to list the gifts you're sending. I try to be as general as possible, so there's still some vestige of surprise for the recipients.

I am thankful for a gazillion things, but here's a short list:
-DH (darling husband) who is very different than me, but takes it in stride
-four interesting and creative children
-my sisters
-online and offline friends
-my health and the health of my family (including DH's successful hernia surgery)
-the book deal which validates the hours I spend with imaginary people
-my gym membership

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving...

and, all through the house, everyone was sleeping. Except me.

I'm And I'm cooking such exciting dishes as mashed potatoes and stuffing and a bean casserole. All so I won't have to cook tomorrow, but will only reheat. And yawn. A lot.

I made my mother's famous Irish sausage stuffing. It is truly delish. For some reason, and I can't really explain it, I decided to tweak the recipe. Just one of those wild and crazy culinary moments. And now that I'm sitting here and having a small bowl of sausage stuffing (I never got around to having dinner and I almost exercised this morning, so it's not as unhealthy as it sounds), I think the tweaking may have constituted a culinary faux pas.

In happier news, I actually did some Christmas shopping today. Child #3 and Child #4 were thrilled to be dragged s-l-o-w-l-y (I'm a very slow shopper) around two stores. Maybe a little less than thrilled until we stopped for pretzels and plastic cheese sauce.

In even happier news, I have finished all my Canadian shopping. By this I mean, I have finished buying all the gifts I must send back to the homeland. This is tres wonderful because if I get the Canadian presents sent off before Thanksgiving, I get a prize.

A prize? you say. From who?

From me! I give myself a reward for good organization! I am a firm believer in positive reinforcement, and I practice what I preach. I don't know what the reward is yet, but I do know I will like it!

Did you actually send off the gifts? you ask.

No, I didn't. But I gave myself an extension until Monday. Ha! I'm covered.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I will post tomorrow (in between yawns and trying not to be grumpy to my guests due to fatigue) about a few of the things I'm thankful for.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Hernia Boy

Hernia Boy is hernialess. Yes, he underwent a left lingual hernia repair.

Do you see how I bandy about such medical terms as "left lingual hernia repair"? Just a little perquisite due to my wannabe-physician status. Along with too much time spent surfing the Net.

At the crack of dawn on Friday, I delivered HB to the outpatient clinic, got him settled with his clipboard and forms, then raced off to take kids to school. Dr. D. did not await my return and, as a result, I have a couple of questions for the dear doctor. They'll have to wait until the post-op appointment later this week. Unless he reads this blog (doubtful) and responds here (more doubtful). Just in in case, though, I was wondering:

1. Did you have to GLUE HB closed? I'm from the era of small stitches and a big cover-all bandage--much less of a visual shock to the nursing spouse.

2. Could you please phone/email/fax the pain prescription to the pharmacy instead of leaving a paper copy?

All that said, it looks to me as though the surgery was a roaring success. HB has been an excellent patient--diligent about his ice pack, stoic between pain meds times and uncomplaining about what food I prepared.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A true medical story

The other day, I took Child #1, the one who broke his wrist six weeks ago, for his second follow-up visit with the orthopedic surgeon. The appointment where the doc tells you to trash the splint.

I also took the bill, convinced someone at the doctor's office had mistakenly input the wrong billing code.

Child #1's bones didn't need resetting. There was no call for surgery. As breaks go, it was simple and corrected with a cute blue splint held on with velcro.

Why, then, did the orthopedic surgeon bill Blue Cross just under $700.00 for our last visit? A visit that, generously speaking, lasted 15 MINUTES.

Here's the bill:

New Patient: $ 73.00
Office Visit: $526.00 (YOWSER!)
Medical Equipment $ 75.00
Total billed to Blue Cross: $674.00


Holy freaking Toledo!

Had a very civilized (seriously, I'm not being sarcastic here) chat about the cost of a 15 min. office visit, the value of years in medical school, socialized medicine, how washing dishes would rehab Child #1's wrist.

At the end, the doctor shook my hand, thanked me for the discussion, told me to write him a letter explaining what amount I felt would be reasonable and promised that he would make that amount work!!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am changing the face of American medicine DOCTOR BY DOCTOR!

Probably Hillary Rodham Clinton will be contacting me tomorrow to ask my advice on the American healthcare system. Probably she'll want to blurb my book. Then she'll tell everyone on her MySpace to go buy it. That's like 33,372 people!


A couple of things to keep in mind: Off the top, Blue Cross deducted $122.98 from the bill as per their contract with the doctor. Blue Cross will pay $212.41, sticking us with the remainder of $338.61. Blue Cross did not pay one cent toward the splint, (but would've paid for a cast. Who knew?)

What do you think? How much should we pay?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

BEFORE I DIE by Jenny Downham

BEFORE I DIE is the story of a 16 year old with terminal leukemia. Tessa makes a list of all the things she'd like to accomplish in the next few months. Before she dies. Those around Tessa are forced to help her live out the last of her life on her terms.

Yes, it is depressing. But not as depressing as you might think.


Well, maybe because the characters arcs are really well done. Tessa's friends (new and old), her family and Tessa herself all go through amazing changes. And Tessa is pretty flawed, pretty human, pretty teen.

Or maybe it's because the language is so lyrical. For example: "I like it - the stall and shove of traffic, the deep thrum of a bus engine, an urgent siren in the distance."

Or maybe because it makes you think about what's important vs unimportant in your own life. How the rules would change if you had a dying teen in your household. And how perhaps some of these rules should change anyway. All good food for thought.

Also, I actually laughed out loud at some of the exchanges between Tess and her younger brother. Dark humour, but really funny.

At any rate, BEFORE I DIE is phenomenal. And the film rights sold in September. Yay! Major kudos to Jenny Downham on her debut Young-Adult novel!!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

psychic fair

At first, the psychic fair went exactly as I'd expected. I walked around with pencil and paper, taking notes for the scene in book #2 where the protagonist visits a pyschic fair. I sniffed incense, watched different healing practices, drank a cleansing tonic, chatted with vendors about various objects my 13 year old fictional character might need.

Then...I went for my psychic reading. In a soothing, restful British accent, the medium said I'd been sent to the fair for a reason. And it wasn't a pleasant reason. She proceeded to tell me some really, really sad stuff about one of my children.

Next...I went to the Avon tarot card lady. Along with the reading, she gives away a bottle of Avon perfume and a cosmetic clutch bag. You have to admit this sounds a bit sketchy and, therefore, more fun and entertaining. She dealt out the cards, turned over one pile of them and said that whatever work I do would somehow end up connected with a sitcom or screenplay. Yes, this is more like it! Not that anyone is considering I So Don't Do Mysteries for these things. But, who knows, maybe in the future someone will. Or maybe something else I write will be considered for the silver screen. So loving the Avon tarot card lady.

Then...she turns over another little pile of cards and tells me very, very similar sad stuff as the medium.

I don't know what to make of it all. Except to say that the psychic fair was a disturbing experience. And I have a headache. Maybe it will make a little more sense tomorrow. Maybe not though.

Friday, November 9, 2007

my mailbox

Today in my mailbox I got...
-THIRTEEN pieces of total junk mail (including a glossy magazine from Porsche. Not a good use of their advertising dollar.)
-No doctor's bills. Yay.
-a book I ordered from amazon: First Draft in 30 Days by Karen Wiesner. Should be interesting. I can't think of anything of consequence that I started and completed in 30 days. Well, perhaps a relationship or two. No, I'm not talking about Hernia Boy. Obviously.

Depending on how the first-draft-in-30-days thing goes, I might be tempted to sign up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) next year. Yikes.

Happy Weekend to all!

p.s. I'm going to a psychic fair on Sunday. Wish me luck in hearing loads of good news. Anyone else doing something of interest?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Gimme a laugh...

I've just been reading a bunch of really, really funny blogs. And now I'm not feeling at all humorous. More like blah. I'm thinking I should turn this blog into a poltical commentary. Tomorrow I will discuss George Bush and his strategies to combat gobal warming. Oh wait. That would be humorous.

Now I'm starting to wonder about all those years of HB and child #1, child #2, and child #3 (not child #4 who is still young and sweet) telling me to stop laughing at my own jokes. Like this one:

Question: What goes "Ha, ha, ha, plop?"
Answer: Someone laughing his head off.

(giggle) Actually, that joke has stood the test of time. (more giggle) ROFL.

Tomorrow for dinner: brown sugar + vinegar + misc ingredients + chicken simmered for too many hours in a crockpot. Ha! Joke's on you, family!

writing and crockpots

Writing and crockpots go hand in hand. The upside: Crockpots deliver an entire meal with a minimum of fuss. Which gives me more time to write.

The downside: I have only discovered ONE crockpot recipe that everyone in my family likes. ONE. Two nights ago, I tried a new brown sugar + vinegar + misc ingredenients + chicken dish. I liked it. No one else did. So, I won't be making it again. Just a little too much overcooked, slightly dried-out chicken for one person.

Feel free to post in comments or email me a decent crockpot receipt. I'm desperate.


Irish Stew Adapted From Child #2's Friend's Father's Recipe (Thanks Mr. R.)

2 pounds beef or lamb or a mixture, cubed
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon each, salt, pepper, paprika
1 1/2 cups beef broth (or chicken broth if you're using all lamb)
1 teaspoon worstershire sauce
1 bay leaf, 2 crushed clove garlic
8 carrots, sliced
4 potatoes, diced
2 onions, chopped
4 stalks celery, diced (I added extra celery because I love cooked celery)
another vegetable (zucchini, yam), opt'l and depends on how much room you have

Place the vegetables on the bottom, then add the meat.
Stir salt, pepper, paprika, worstershire sauce, garlic, four into broth. Pour over mixture. Add bay leaf.
Cook 10 hours on low or 6 hours on high.

If you try it, lemme know what you think.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

a little more on the wildfires

Listening to NPR radio in the car the other day, I heard the best story. This woman, Joane Cosentino, was on tv during the fires and signed for over TWENTY hours straight! She reported a sore back, but said her arms were fine. Okay, I cannot even imagine standing for twenty hours, never mind standing AND interpreting. Joane also mentioned that "it was a lot of work" to keep up with spelling the names of cities, streets and evacuation times. Because she had to literally spell out all this info. So, "a lot of work"??? Quite frankly, it sounds impossible. I hope the county provided Joane with a massage therapist and a twenty-hour shopping spree. :)

Kudos to Joane Cosentino! We're lucky we had you!

Still about the wildfires--did you know that out of the thousands and thousands of evacuated houses, only one was burglarized?

You can't help but feel good about all this.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The loonie's flying high!

According to The Toronto Star, "the loonie set a new modern-day high yesterday." It closed at slightly above $1.07 US!

Holy Loonies and Twonies!!

I have a $10 bill with a pic of King George VI on it. From, like, 1937. What's it worth?

Here's a problem: book covers haven't changed. So, even though the Canuck buck is worth more than its American counterpoint, you still pay more for a book in Canada. Just another example of how slowly the publishing world can move.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


I'm having some trouble with the second mystery.

Sherry wants to solve the crime by the middle of the book.

I suspect that wouldn't fly with Editor Wendy.

I am so not being outsmarted by a 13 year old. Even a fictional 13 year old.

Back to the old drawing board manana.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Does anyone else remember a time when there was an apostrophe between the e's in Halloween? (as in Hallowe'en) No matter. Here, a great time was had by all. Child #3 got lots of compliments on his homemade costume. Child #4 got to real makeup, body glitter, and hair streaks. The children got licorice which they shared with me. We set out all the pumpkins, even those full of mold and ants. Child #4 and I quickly carved a couple of fresh pumpkins after school.

And here are a couple of pics. (Alyssa, I hope you're happy. :) )

Picture A WAS my amazing, talented rendition of Frankenstein carrying his frightful bride.

Picture B is a bat. Simple, but effective. In my humble, carver's opinion.

Any rambling (or typos) in this post is due to the fact that I've been up for 19 (as in, NINETEEN) hours!!! Good night.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Happy Halloween!

I went to take a picture of the jack-o-lantern I carved on Saturday. With child #3 + friend and child #4 + friend. Very fun time. Plus, my jack-o-lantern was very awesome. A strong, healthy Frankenstein carrying a bride with long flowing locks. pumpkin is already creepy and caving in. I guess it's the Santa Anas. Now I have an elderly, undernourished Frankenstein dragging around a headless bride. The headless part is actually my fault. I lopped off the bride's head by mistake, then re-attached it with a straight pin (which is no longer doing the trick).

This brings us to the subject of HB. Given the sad state of my pumpkin and the whole pin repair, perhaps it's better HB found Dr. D. and took me out of the surgical loop. There are some things you just don't want to make the headlines with.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Two gifts for myself....

The copyedits are done, overnighted and received. Editor Wendy is happy with them. Yay!!

As a reward, I bought myself:

BEFORE I DIE by Jenny Downham
SLAM by Nick Hornby

I will report back. :)

The Barbie of My Childhood

So, now we know we're safe from the fires. But all activities (school, sports) have been canceled for the week. And we're basically supposed to stay inside because of poor air quality.

I've been complaining all Fall about how we're over-extended. Here's the golden opportunity to live a slowed-down week with lots of time to hang out with the kids.

I haul down my Barbie collection for child #4. As I pull the plastic black case from the highest shelf of my closet, I'm filled with warm and fuzzy feelings. I dust off the top of the case and tear up at the thought of all those magical hours of Barbie games in the rec room with my sisters. I can't wait to reconnect with Barbie, Midge, Skipper, Ken, Alan and Ricky.

I pinch the metal clasp to pop open the case. Yikes! Skipper is partially bald. Barbie's eyes aren't aligned. Midge is missing four toes. The lot of them are obviously living at the poverty line with tacky clothes and mismatched shoes. And my dishes collection is mostly old toothpaste caps for cups and prescription vial lids for plates.

Holy cow! What else have I misremembered from my childhood? Maybe this calls for some deep introspection, long phone convos with the sisters, psycho-therapy?

Nahhhh. Let's just ditch Barbie et al and go bowling.

(BTW, Sister #2, I have your gold sequined Barbie ballgown. The one Auntie A. sewed. And your Skipper.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

More wildfire stuff

It's really late. Just got a call from MJ. Apparently I have a reputation as a night owl. As reputations go, it could be much worse. :)

For work reasons, MJ's watching the fires via 4 TVs and a variety of websites. Maybe also for obsessive-personality reasons. I'm sure his hair is standing on end, and there's a crazed look in his eyes.

He called to report that my little area may not be as safe as we thought. Yikes. Now, I'm staying up with a pot of English Breakfast, too many M&Ms and the remote for the tv. If this keeps up, MY hair will be standing on end, and I'LL have a crazed look in my eyes. Not to mention wider hips.

Here's a good website to check for fire updates.

Monday, October 22, 2007


They're saying this is the worst wildfire situation ever experienced in San Diego county. Out of the last 130 years, this is the driest. Less than 3 inches of precipitation in some places. Also, we've got those dry, gusty Santa Ana winds fuelling the fires. Over 250,000 people have been evacuated. Including a hospital. The endangered animals from the Wild Animal Park have been evacuated. About 150,000 acres have already burned.

It's also a day where you'll get phone calls offering you a place to stay if you get the dreaded reverse 911 call. A day where the local news stations will tell you which evac centers have too many donations of blankets and food. A day where a local Home Depot will give their parking lot to house a hundred horses. Of my little writing critique group, two of us were evacuated and two of us are hosting evacuees. I'm one of the lucky ones. Our area is safe.

Here's hoping for a change in weather over the night.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


My copyedits are bruise-colored: the copyeditor's marks are in purple; Editor Wendy's are in gray; mine are in green; and there are a gazillion yellow post-it notes.

Each sticky post-it note is labeled "au" ( for author, that's me!) with the page number. Each sticky note contains a question from the copyeditor. For example, I actually gave a character three different last names. I have to choose one and be consistent. Imagine.

I have many sticky notes. Like probably over a hundred. Because I've never done this before, I have no idea whether this is more than usual. But it does add up to a lot of decision making. A lot of agonizing. Especially for someone who has trouble deciding on a restaurant.

Oh yeah, the last name I chose: Perkins. No, no, no. Philips. Or was it Phillips?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The perfect doctor!

HB found the perfect hernia repair doctor!!

Dr D. dislikes insurance companies! He accepts, AS FULL PAYMENT, whatever the insurance company pays him! He doesn't go after his patients for even one additional red cent! I think I'm falling a little bit in love.

Then again. Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I wonder if there's more to Dr. D. than meets the scalpel. For example, does he read blogs? Is he worried about a little healthy competition in the operating room? From a middle-grade mystery writer who does a mean Internet search, has superior fne motor skills and is free mornings?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

In medical news...

Child #1 fell and broke his wrist. We spent the night at the ER. The service was slow. There was a shortage of chairs. A drunk lay in the middle of the floor. All of which, quite frankly, warrants a DISCOUNT. I checked with the nurse who frowned and raised an eyebrow. I shudder at the thought of the bill.

HB continues to insist on surgery by a licenced MD.

Monday, October 15, 2007

In random news...

Child #3's water polo team won an entire tournament this weekend!! Yay! (spoken hoarsely)

HB* is balking at home surgery. He secretly (from work) called the doctor's office to discuss dates. This is going to cost a fortune.

(For those not in the know: *HB stands for Hernia Boy which is DH's (Darling Husband) official new moniker. )

Thursday, October 11, 2007


THANK YOU for the many comments on the blog, in my inbox, and on loops. The comments were all helpful and thoughtful and kind. Which means I couldn't knock anyone off my Christmas list. ;) Actually, a lot of the comments, particularly in emails, were hilarious! Perhaps I can mine a guest blogger or two or fifty!

As per PR's suggestion, here's the breakdown on the results. Can I just take a moment to say I may opt to be a statistician in my next life. I calculated the following percentages from way over a hundred votes. And I enjoyed doing it. Although I did have to use a calculator. Here goes:

Photo #1: 56%
Photo #2: 5%
Photo #3: 30%
Photo #4: 9%

And for those of you who requested the backstory... Yikes. I'm kind of embarrassed. It might say I have problems with self-image. Or maybe it says I need new glasses. Or maybe I just like bobble heads with no necks. Anyway....

DH voted for photo #1. Child #2 & #3 also voted for photo #1. Child #4 voted for photo #4. Good friend MF made me put photo #3 back in the running (yes, yes I know it culled 30% of the vote!). My personal (and unpopular) choices were, in order: 4, 2, 1, 3.

So, thank you, thank you to everyone who took time out of his/her busy day to help choose the photo!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Author Photos


Well, here they are. The author photos. I know they're not particularly well placed on the page, but it takes too long to keep uploading them.

Without actually identifying the specific photos, let me just say they've caused some strife in our family. DH (I mean HB) did not choose the photo I like best. Child #4 did not choose the same photo as child #2 and child #3. Child #1 wouldn't choose. Sister #2 remarked on the unattractiveness of my favorite photo. She is off the Christmas list. Although she can get back on by sending me a big gift. The psychic niece refuses to come clean about which photo I'll choose, thus saving you all time.

So, if you have a moment and feel so inclined, please let me know (by posting the number of the photo in comments or emailing me) which picture I should send to Random House for the backflap of the book. I'll probably go with majority wins. Unless that turns out to be the photo I really don't like.

If you don't like any of the photos, you can politely suggest I use a picture of a rhino. But then, you will never get on my Christmas list. Also, you should keep in mind what the photographer had to work with. Off the top, you can see what a marvelous job she did airbrushing out the third eye. And she's given me a full set of teeth.

And, for the record, this feels really, really weird.

Friday, October 5, 2007


And we LOVE it! We ALL love it! Because it's BEAUTIFUL and FANTASTIC and PERFECT for the book.

It is SO perfect. The cover totally captures the tone of the book AND has all kinds of cool details that are meaningful to the story. Like the background color, the color of my name, the bird, the coffee, Sherry's makeup and hair and sandals and earrings and even the way she's sitting. It's incredible!

So, we're all very, very happy!! Editor Wendy, Cover Designer Marci, Agent Rachel, me, DH (oops, I mean HB), my children, my pets (even the hamster who is rarely in a good mood)! And I'm sure every single peson who looks at this post will love the cover too!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Today I went to my very first Toastmasters' meeting.

I think I'm going to be a star.

I base this on the fact that I was a very quick study. In the space of one lunch hour, I learned many toastmasterly things:

1. Turn off your cell phone. Preferably before it rings in the middle of someone's speech.

2. If you go as a guest, you don't have to speak.

3. "Table talk" does not refer to giving hints to your partner during a card game. It actually means an on-the-spot, impromtu speech about a topic of someone else's choice. Yikes.

4. There is a very cool job where you get to hold a clicker and then click loudly each time a speaker uses a filler word like "um" or "so." Everyone gets a turn at the clicker job. Everyone. You might even be able to request it.

5. Toastmasters are very friendly. And chatty too.

6. I'm going back for more next week.


You know how DH stands for Darling Husband? From this point on, I'll be referring to mine as HB (Hernia Boy). Yes, the rumours are true; he has a hernia. And this leads us to the "s" word. Surgery. Which leads us to my personal soapbox. The appalling state of health care in this country.

As I posted before, Child #3 recently had a trip to the ER for a bee sting. He was there less than 3 hous. And the bill to our insurance was....$3000.00! That's over $1000.00 an hour. Does anyone else find this a little pricey? As in a lot pricey? Someone must put a stop to this.

And that someone is me.

I will be performing HB's hernia surgery in the privacy of our kitchen. I figure I have a level table, a decent set of steak knives and a basic knowledge of anatomy. Granted I'm trained as a speech pathologist, so I'm more familiar with higher-up anatomy (as in the mouth and throat). Still, these areas are less than two feet away from the target. Additional qualifications include a box of dispoable gloves from Costco, the entire second season of Grey's Anatomy on DVD and a travel sewing kit.

Also, I found a very interesting website with a picture of a naked man. You click on the location of the hernia, and you're given its correct name. This goes to my willingness to learn. I'm also willing to videotape the procedure, free of charge, and make it available on YouTube.

What is HB's opinion of his upcoming surgery? Oh, I think you can guess.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

It's official. I'm in....

the Class of 2K8! Yay!

What is the Class of 2K8? It's 14 debut middle grade authors and 14 debut young adult authors. We all have our first book coming out in the year....2008. (And did you notice: 14 + 14 = 28 Who says writers aren't good at math?)

In the process of applying to the 2K8 group, I learned something very cool from Editor Wendy. I SO DON'T DO MYSTERIES may actually be released before Dec. 2008!!! I'm thinking in time for the Friday after American Thanksgiving, the biggest shopping day of the year here in the U.S. would be really nice!

I'm incredibly lucky to have made into the Class of 2K8. We've banded together for all kinds of creative promotion, especially to BLTs. That is, booksellers, librarians and teachers. Nothing edible.

Anyway, over the course of the year, I'll introduce you to the various members of 2K8. Which means you'll be introduced to a bunch of awesome brand new middle grade and young adult authors.

I'm also excited because we'll be passing around our ARCs. These are

Advanced Reader Copies. Which means I'll have read several of these books before they hit the shelves. Yay! There's something very exciting about reading a book before everyone else.

I'll have to remember to post a picture of my own ARC.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Veiled chameleon sheds!!!

This evening, our female chameleon began shedding her skin. It was very cool to see. We all rushed in to watch as she pulled skin off with her rear legs and rubbed her side against the ficus plant. She actually hissed at us which is a sign of stress. You gotta figure we invaded her privacy. Anyway, we backed off at that point, but not before noticing that the sluffed-off skin is white and sticky. The male doesn't look as though he's ready to shed anytime soon. He's smaller than the female, probably because she guards the food dish and, therefore, eats more. I'm not making any comparisons between male and female chameleon behaviour and male and female human behaviour. Nope. Not going there. Just enjoying that we saw a little bit of nature tonight.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Now about that pesky author photo...

I've narrowed it down to four. Actually, I'd narrowed it down to three, but a good friend convinced me to bump it back up to four. Because I'd cut her favourite shot. These are the kinds of conversations you can only have with a good friend. And still remain good friends, that is.

Me: You seriously want me to put that photo back in?
MF: I do. It's my favourite. There's just something about it that's so you.
Me: Really? Because it's the one I like the least.
MF: You should put it back in.
Me: Well, okay. If you say so.
MF: Good. (pause) Is there any way the photographer can blur the wrinkle on your forehead?
Me: What wrinkle?
MF: The one right across the middle. Well, it's almost more like a gash.
Me: I thought it was your favourite photo.
MF: It is . It is. (pause) And while she's in there editing, could she possibly enlarge your left eye? Just a little? You're probably just squinting in the sun or something.
Me: So, if she can't change those things, it's not really your favourite photo?
MF: No, no, it still is.

And I'm barely speaking to DH (short for darling husband) because the shot that is the cutest most adorable most gorgeous, he says doesn't look like me! At all!

I'm starting to wonder if

Random House can just slap on a picture of a rhino.
(Which isn't as far out there as it might sound because, after all, the mystery is about a rhino heist. Not to mention the fact that no one notices if a rhino suffers from squinty eye and major forehead wrinkle.)

All joking aside, I will post the four potential author photos. Hopefully later this week. After the photographer works some more magic.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Introducing Jamie Chavarria, Hairdresser/Miracle Worker!

I would just like to say I've proofed a bunch of the choices for my author photo.

And my hair looks great in all of them.

My smile doesn't. My eyes don't. My eyebrows especially don't. (This is no fault of the photographer; I'm not particularly photogenic. At least my children are. To her credit, the photograher got several terrific shots.)

However, my hair looks seriously good in every single shot.

Thank you, Jamie!!

And to celebrate the author fact, to celebrate that I even need an author photo, Jamie is offering the following to new customers:

A free cut with paid-for highlights or $10 off a cut + style.

Just mention this blog when you talk to Jamie. You might even mention the title of my book :) : I So Don't Do Mysteries. It's a humorous mystery about a typical thirteen-year old named Sherry (short for Sherlock). She wants more mall time, less homework and a certain eighth-grade boy. Instead, she's recruited by her mother's ghost to prevent a rhino heist at San Diego's Wild Animal Park. Random House is publishing it Dec. 2008 and then publishing the sequel Dec. 2009.

And here's how to get in touch:
Jamie Chavarria @ C'est La Vie Hair Salon and Day Spa
9830 Prospect Avenue, Suite C, Santee, CA
(619) 448.8300

By the way, if I ever get on Oprah...

I'm taking Jamie. I'm not saying Oprah doesn't have a decent hairdresser on the set. I'm not saying Oprah doesn't look good. I'm just saying she could look better. If she had Jamie.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fun from the Washington Post

The Washington Post published the 16 winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.

The winning definitions are:

1. Coffee
(n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted
(adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained
3. Abdicate
(v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade
(v.), to attempt an explanation whilst drunk.
5. Willy-nilly
(adj.), impotent.

6. Negligent
(adj.), describes a condition in which you absent-mindedly answer the door in your nightgown.

7. Lymph
(v.), to walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle
(n.), olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence
(n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash
(n.), a rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle
(n.), a humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude
(n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon
(n), a Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster
(n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism
( n.), the belief that, when you die, your soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent
(n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

17. and one from us........
Errogance - not only snooty but wrong

Thank you to my little sister for forwarding this to me!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Another promotion next week!

Yesterday, I got my "casual" (Ha!) author photo taken. You know, the photo that wil be on the fly of my book. The photo that ex-boyfriends will gaze at and realize what a horrible mistake they made. The photo my high school classmates, university friends, my sisters will examine. How "casual" can such a photo be? :)

I'll post next week about getting the photo done.

I've met so many fun, kind, interesting people on this road to publication. One is also a miracle worker. She's my hairdresser. She is seriously the best hairdresser in San Diego county. In California. In the entire world.

And she's offering some sort of giveaway (the details aren't finalized, but I'm guessing it'll have something to do with hair) for those who read the blog about her part in the "casual" photo caper.

I'll put the post up once I take a picture of her. Which won't happen until after she...

does her hair and makeup. Your basic casual look.

And the winner is.... (drum roll)

Chick/Luisa!!! Congratulations! You've won a copy of THE SECOND VIRGINITY OF SUZY GREEN by Sara Hantz.

The rest of you should go out immediately and buy a copy. In fact, start your Christmas shopping early and buy two! :)

Seriously, head out to your local B&N or or wherever fine books are sold. You know you want to read it. :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What I learned at Open House

I went to Open House at Child #2's school. He's a freshman in high school.

It was pretty much what you'd expect. How to access online grades. Some info about curriculum. Each teacher's email address.

And then came the unexpected. Interesting sayings tacked up on classroom walls. Below are a few of the sayings that grabbed me.

If you think college is expensive, try ignorance.

Be careful what your habits are because they will become your LIFE.

Cuidado con tus habitos porque eso sra tu VIDA.

And my absolute favourite of all:

All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.
~Ernest Hemingway



If you'd like to own Sara Hantz's Young Adult novel, THE SECOND VIRGINITY OF SUZY GREEN, leave a comment. One lucky commenter will have his/her name drawn and will win a copy of this great book! I'll probably have Sara conduct the drawing. She's very trustworthy. :)

Here's the write-up from Publishers Marketplace: Sara Hantz's debut THE SECOND VIRGINITY OF SUZY GREEN, about a girl who joins a virginity club in her new town to try to make a new start.

Sara Hantz is my talented agent sister. This means we're both lucky enough to be on Rachel Vater's team. Sara and I will probably meet in real life next summer. How fun is that? And here's the link to Sara's website.

And without further ado, here's the interview.

Me: Would you tell us how you got Rachel as your agent?

Sara: I’d always read Rachel’s blog and was very impressed by her expertise and the way in which she conducted her business. When I parted ways with my previous agent (this was an amicable split, after I sold my first book) I queried several agents and received a number of offers of representation. I arranged to call them all for a chat, and Rachel stood head and shoulders above the rest, especially in terms of getting my writing, and her vision for my future. And she’s really cool too. A perfect match!

Me: What does a typical writing day look like for you? Do you aim for a certain number of words/pages per day/week?

Sara: When writing, my guiding principle is ‘little and often’ as I have a very low attention threshold and am easily distracted. So, I open my manuscript up first thing in the morning and dip in and out of it during the day. Some times I get more done than others, depending on how busy the motel is and how sidetracked I get on the internet. In the past I have set myself a daily page target. Normally, though, I just do what I can.

Me: Do you outline before starting a book?

Sara: YES, absolutely!!! I use part of the snowflake method for plot development (snowflake also covers characters, but I don’t do that bit). Snowflake was developed by Randy Ingermanson, I love planning and writing in a linear way. At the start of each day I will go over and edit what I did the day before. This means when I get to the end the revisions are less monumental than if I just wrote a ‘dirty first draft’ – the thought of which brings me out in hives ☺

Me: I understand you’re part of an online critique group. How does that work?

Sara: We’ve been together for about three years. The critiquing relationship sort of evolved. The others knew each other before knowing me. We all met face to face for the first time three years ago at the RNA conference in the UK. At that time Amanda and Pat were living in the UK, Christina was in Australia and I was in NZ. It started by us just reading each others work for interest, then we began critiquing. We don’t all write in the same genre but that doesn’t matter. We speak all the time on MSN and email daily. I don’t just see these girls as my CPs they’re my closest friends. This year Amanda moved from UK to NZ and Christina came over and joined us for the RWNZ conference. We all use the critiquing part differently. I send each chapter as I write it. Amanda may send us the first two or three chapters and then we don’t see the book again until the end. Christina does a mixture of both and Pat works more like I do. We not only critique, but also brainstorm, and also if one of us is going off track we’ll steer them back on. A couple of years ago when I was asked to do some revisions by an agent, I (unintentionally) didn’t do them properly and my CPs gave me what for…… I can’t thank them enough for that. But it takes a special kind of relationship for that to happen. And our relationship is VERY special!!

Me: What are you working on now?

Sara: I’m just finishing a book called DATING THE MEGAN RUSSELL WAY, which is about a teenage girl who sells psychic dating advice to make enough money to pay off a huge debt.

And now for the most scrumptious question of all...

Me: What is your favourite cookie?

Sara: Stem ginger biscuits covered in thick dark chocolate.

Thank you, Sara!!

Leave a comment for a chance to win THE SECOND VIRGINITY OF SUZY GREEN.

Monday, September 10, 2007


Which I'm not allowed to share yet. Sorry. is so cute, so perfect, so Sherry.

I've printed off copies of it and stuck them all over the kitchen. I'll tackle the living room tomorrow. And the chameleons' cage.

As soon as I have permission, I'll post the cover here.

Coming up next: an interview with the delightful Sara Hantz, author of THE SECOND VIRGINITY OF SUZY GREEN.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Veiled Chameleon

Child#2 is now the proud parent of two baby veiled chameleons. We're learning a lot about coating pinhead crickets with powdered vitamins and keeping the little reptiles hydrated and happy. Sherry, the protagonist in the I So Don't Do Mysteries series, has also acquired two baby veiled chameleons!

Yes, I'm working on the second book. The first book isn't totally done. There are still things like copyedits and galleys. But, it's time to get Sherry back in class and hanging out with her boyfriend and her girlfriends. And, of course, it's time for her to jump into another investigation. The second book is currently untitled because....the title I'd chosen has a sexual connotation. Which I hadn't noticed. But child#1 had. Thank you child#1 for your powers of observation!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

I'm a guest blogger!!

We're all blogging about fresh starts which is an important premise in Sara Hantz's debut novel, The Second Virginity of Suzy Green. So, head over to Sara's blog. And if you post a comment, you might win a prize!

See you there!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Blog Party!

Go immediately to this link.

My good friend Sara Hantz is having a blog party to celebrate the launch of her debut novel, The Second Virginity of Suzy Green. At the party you'll find interesting and fun blogs by a variety of writers and lots of prizes.

See you there!

My biggest, hugest pet peeve

The American health care system. It totally sucks.

Listen to this. Last Saturday, child#3 was off camping with another family. He gets stung by a bee on his finger. His finger swells. The mother calls me. I'm at a local Japanese restaurant with dh and Child #4. We discuss giving him some Benadryl. The mother calls again. Now Child #3's hand is swollen AND the swelling is moving up his arm AND he's starting to have trouble breathing. She's taking him to the closest ER. The retaurant hands us our sushi in a to-go box. We jump in the car and head an hour up the highway to the hospital. By the time we arrive, child#3 is hooked up to an IV and a variety of monitors. Plus he's sound asleep thanks to the medications. His breathing is now okay. Phew.

On Monday, I follow the instructions on the back of my plastic health care card and call our health insurance company, BLUE CROSS. I report Saturday night's events.
"What is the zip code of the hospital?" Mr. Blue Cross asks.
I tell him.
There's silence whle he looks it up on his super-duper Blue Cross computer. "That hospital isn't a preferred provider," Mr. Blue Cross says.
"But he was having trouble breathing," I say.
"It definitely sounds like it was an emegency situation," Mr. Blue Cross agrees. "But our preferred provider in that area is hopsital X."
"But hospital X is further away," I say. "You heard me say child#3 was having trouble breathing, right?"
"I did," Mr. Blue Cross says. "You absolutely did the right thing....but we won't pay."

Arrgh. I'm so annoyed I can't even think of a decent end to this post.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Huge, huge sigh of relief...

The 2nd set of revisions are done and in. Even better, Editor Wendy is very, very happy. Which means I'm very, very happy too. And relieved.

Yesterday, I wrote my Dedication Page and my Acknowledgment Page. If you think you should be on one of these, but are worried you're not, just send money. Even a Starbucks card. I'm easily bought. (This is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek.)

Next on the list for I So Don't Do Mysteries is my author photo. But I'm not getting that done until after I've had my hair highlighted. Which is in two weeks. I'm going for a casual photo, but don't have any definite ideas. So, feel free to pipe up if you have any. DH (which stands for Darling Husband--on a good day anyway!) suggested a shot with a rhino! Hello! They have horns. And they're wild animals. Maybe a photoshopped pic of me and a rhino. Nah. The rhino thing just isn't grabbing me.

Next post will be about one of my pet peeves.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Interview with Judi Moreo

Judy Moreo is a motivational speaker who has written a self-help/motivational book, YOU ARE MORE THAN ENOUGH: EVERY WOMEN'S GUIDE TO PURPOSE, PASSION, AND POWER.
Below are the questions Judi answered for this blog.

Me: How did you get involved in motivational speaking?

Judi: I got involved in motivational speaking when I was a fashion and events coordinator for a department store and schools began calling me and asking for me to come speak to students about grooming and building confidence. I would go to the junior high and high schools and speak to 6 classes a day. When I opened my own business, Universal Models Finishing School and Model Agency, the schools continued to call me. Then the Girl Scout troops asked me to speak so that the scouts could get their good grooming badges. Various organizations continued to call and one day someone asked what I would charge. That opened a whole new world to me! Then I met some other speakers and they told me about the National Speakers Association, so I joined. I’ve been speaking ever since!

Me: Do you have any techniques to motivate writers specifically?

Judi: Motivation is an inside job. Writers must write to stay motivated. Write every day whether you feel like it or not.

Me: Do you have different motivational strategies for men vs. women? Different strategies for different age groups? For those of us writing Young Adult, do you have any suggestions for what realistically motivates our teen characters?

Judi: Motivation is a very personal thing. I wouldn’t dare to put people into categories and say “This is what motivates this category of people.” Each of us…man, woman, mature individuals or teens…is motivated for a different reason. The best way to motivate someone is to find out what that individual wants to do, have, or be. Also, find out what hurts that person and how you can help to alleviate that hurt. We can only create an environment in which individuals feel valued and they will motivate themselves.

Me: In your book excerpt, you talk about how our childhood influences our attitudes. I'm thinking of a character I've written who's dealing with a difficult childhood. How successful are you at helping someone overcome a tough childhood?

Judi: I don’t know that we ever “overcome” a difficult childhood. What we must do is focus on the future and quit dwelling on the past. The things that have happened to us in life are experiences that should not be wasted. You have gained knowledge from them. You have learned what to do and what not to do. You can use all of this knowledge to carve out a new future. As my brother, Wayne, said after having lost his legs in a major motorcycle accident, “It’s not what happens to you, but what you do about it that will make the difference in your life.”

Judi, thank you for such insightful answers. And thank you for stopping by on your blog tour.

Click HERE for Judi's website.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I just discovered Gordon Korman

On a whim, I picked up Schooled by Gordon Korman. Here's the blurb from Gordon's website: "Schooled is about a home-schooled kid raised in isolation by his grandmother, an ex-hippie from the sixties. It's the story of what happens when he's suddenly thrust into a large middle school."

I read it in two days. It's fantastic. It's funny and poignant. The characters are great. The story is told from several perspectives: the protagonist, Capricorn Anderson; the school bully; the school loser; a popular girl; Cap's social worker; Cap's social worker's daughter; the school guidance counsellor. And it works. Also, every, single thread is tied up beautifully. Gordon Korman has written about 50 middle grade and young adult books.

Hello! Where have I been that I'm only now stumbling upon him? Interestingly enough, I noticed that we have several things in common.

Gordon is Canadian. So am I. He now lives in the United States. So do I. He has written over 50 middle grade/young adult books. I'd like to write over 50 MG/YA books. He visits tons of schools. I think I might like that. We both wear glasses.

Okay. I'm not supposed to be reading right now. I haven't finished the revisions due Aug. 27. On Aug. 28, I will begin reading the remaining 49 Gordon Korman books.