Tuesday, December 20, 2011

All I Want for Hanukkah

My husband has this friend, Grant. He is young (relative to us), smart, and incredibly ambitious. David had lunch with him recently and they came up with an idea for a new medical product that they are going to try to pursue.

Then I saw him at a birthday party.

ME: We'd like to do blah blah blah, but we can't right now cause we just did our basement which was very expensive.

HIM:  Well, when our new product comes out...

ME:   Oh, you mean, when we make our millions?

Grant just looked at me.

HIM:  "Why are you thinking so small?"

Ha!   Apparently, I need a better attitude!  

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Year of the Monster- and Some Post PiBo Tips

PiBo 2009 was the year of Goldilocks for me.  2010 was the year of the dinosaur.  (I had at least a dozen dinosaur titles, though I didn't end up writing any of them!)  This year, nearly half the items on my PiBo list are in some way connected to monsters.

Is it because I am dying to write a monster story?  Well, monster stories are certainly fun and appealing.  But it's more than that.   It helps me move my list along if I brainstorm one specific area- whether it's a character, a topic, or a theme.  I was able to hit 30 ideas way before Nov 30th, by narrowing my focus.

So PiBoIdMo is over for 2011, now what?

MAKING YOUR LIST.  Don't stop just because November is over.   I find once I am in idea-generating mode, the ideas continue to flow effortlessly for at least a few more weeks.  Keep your list in a handy place so you will have easy access when an idea pops into your head.

CHECKING IT TWICE.  Check your list.  Twice.  Three times.  Forty times.  Check last year's list (if you made one)  Are there ideas that can be combined?   Sometimes an idea by itself it too slight but when used in conjunction with something else on your list it's the perfect premise for a PB!

In 2009, I had the following two ideas on my list:
25. Golidlocks has a twin sister- Tawnylocks?
34.  Use fairy tale to teach fractions. Goldilocks and the three and a half bears? How can you have half a bear? Bear in Mommy’s tummy? Could mama bear deliver right in the middle of the story?

See? I wasn't kidding about the Goldilocks theme.

Neither idea went anywhere, but those two concepts nagged at me.  twins... fractions....twins... fractions... Both seemed like premises I wanted to pursue.

And then during PiBo 2010, it hit me!

TWINDERELLA

The perfect way to combine the two.

Cinderella and her twin sister share everything. Each does half the chores, half the washing, half the ironing, and each takes half the fairy godmother’s goodies. But when they each spend half the night dancing with the prince, and they both fall in love, they have a problem.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

PiBoIdMo- The Pressure is On!


Okay, so.. during PiBoIdMo 2009, I came up with the title GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE BEARS.  I wrote it with Beth Coulton and it sold to Putnam.

During PiBoIdMo 2010, I came up with another title for a fractured fairy tale. I wrote it and though I don't have a contract yet, I am convinced that ultimately... it will sell.

Now, it's PiBoIdMo 2011 and the pressure is on!  I am off to a very late start due to six days with no power!    Our electricity was restored late on Nov 3rd, but I am only just now getting into the PiBoIdMo mindset. 

It's Nov 6th and I am staring at a blank list!

But I am not going to panic.  It takes time to get into an idea-generating groove. If I incubate every day, ideas will hatch and multiply!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Success

We all know the road to publication can be rough.  Long and winding.  Bumpy and bouncy.   Puddly and potholed.  I have hit roadblock after roadblock this year, and to be honest... I have been very down about it.

But I saw this graphic on Facebook today and it made me feel a little better:



It's all about managing expectations.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Conferences- A Double-Edged Sword

Once, at the Rutgers conference, a panelist (whose name has totally escaped me) said this:

Don't take rejections personally.  I've been in the business for 30 years and I've sold over 45 books and I still occasionally get a form letter!  That should make you feel better.

Or..... NOT.

We all laughed, but I think as soon as it came out of his mouth, he realized that his statement, intended to encourage us, had actually had the opposite effect on his audience. 

Yikes!  This is some tough business.  And that is the double-edged sword of attending conferences.  You can leave feeling invigorated and inspired.  But you can also walk out feeling slightly discouraged and depressed.  We picked an industry where the odds are so overwhelmingly against us.

What do you do when this industry gets you down?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I'M NOT READY!

My daughter does not do well with change.   When she was two, we got her a toddler bed.  We talked it up, and she was very excited to sleep in it.  We moved her 200 doggies and kitties from her crib to her beautiful new bed.  We moved her blanket and her special pillow.  We tucked her in.  And started to walk away...

"I'M NOT READY!"  she screamed.  "I WANT MY CRIBBY!"  So we moved all 200 doggies and kitties, blanket and pillow back to her crib and said, "We'll try again tomorrow."

This went on for months.

Two years ago, we got her a big girl bed.  It sits in the corner of her room empty.   I say to my husband,  "What's the matter with her?  She is seven and  half and insists on still sleeping in her toddler bed." 

Yesterday, I clicked on a button that said, "Try the new blogger interface now."

Two seconds later, I screamed I"M NOT READY!!!!    I WANT MY OLD INTERFACE BACK!

Imagine my surprise and relief when I saw a button that said, "Return to old interface."

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

I will not be trying that new interface again for a LONG time.    Possibly not ever.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Slow as Molasses

Okay, Karma Wilson wrote a PB on a Saturday, revised it Monday, and by Wed her agent had sent it to her editor who LOVED it.

I, uh, on the other hand,  am still working on the same friggin' fractured fairy tale that I began last December!

If this were college, I'd be on the seven year plan 

Crawling along at a snail's pace, but I think I am finally (almost) at the point where my agent is happy with it.

Just need to polish up a few final spots and then, my editor should have it, by say... oh, November?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I Must Really Be a Nerd

Ann Hathoway was on Jon Stewart the other night and she referred to herself as a nerd.  Jon Stewart asked her "What sort of  nerdy pursuits do you have?" And she answered, "I'm a Scrabble fiend."

Well, if that is the definition of nerd, then I more than qualify.  At any given time, I am in no less than 18 concurrent games.  (at least 4 on my iPhone and 14 on Facebook)

But I think what really makes the case is this... I participated in a PB Makeover workshop on Write on Con this week, and it was THE MOST FUN I'VE HAD ALL SUMMER!

Yes, really.  Better than beaches and boating.  Better than wining and dining.

It really was a shot of adrenalin for me.

For example,

BEFORE

Beware the itching snitcheroo
with fingertips that stick like glue.
Make sure he never touches you.
The itch will drive you to snitch, too.

I took this already fun, Seuss-y stanza by Myrna Foster, and came back with this:

AFTER

Beware the itching snitcheroo
with fingertips that stick like glue.
But please don’t touch him, if you do
The itch to snitch will switch to you!

More fun than careening down a steep water slide.

Yup, NERD-ville.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Pitch in Time Saves Nine

Okay, so I had this whole post written... in my head.  I was going to explain how I used to write picture books and then send them to my agent, only for her to write back and say "Eh.  The story is well-written, but I don't really care for the premise."   After a half a dozen of these experiences, my husband said to me, "You really need a new strategy."  (Yes, he knew if he didn't speak up, I would continue banging my head against the wall indefinitely)

He suggested I 'pitch" an idea to my agent BEFORE I started writing.  Well, eventually (after several more experiences like my earlier ones) I decided to give it a try.

And guess what?

It worked!

So, I was going to suggest that you all try to write your pitch before you write your story.

Bu then Jean Reidy went ahead and said that exact thing.  And she articulated the reasoning behind it so well!  So... go check out her post!

NOTE:  If anyone would like to test out his/her pitch, there is a great opportunity over at Susanna Hill's blog today called Would You Read It Wednesday?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sometimes Less is More

I always struggle to come up with new premises for picture books. I rack my brain for something high concept.  Something that has a "Hollywood" hook.

But sometimes the simplest stories are the sweetest!

Today I read POUCH by my new idol, David Ezra Stein.  (Author-illustrator of the ever-hilarious Interrupting Chicken.)

From School Library Journal

PreSchool-Grade 1—Stein continues to create deceptively simple yet very affecting picture books. One day, little Joey peeks out of Mama Kangaroo's pouch and says, "I want to hop!" Each time he leaves his safe haven, he takes more steps, meets a strange new animal, yells out "Pouch!," and hops back to his mama to hide. But when the final animal is another little joey who also yells "Pouch!," the two realize there is nothing to fear, have a good laugh, and hop off together. When their mamas offer their pouches, the youngsters say, "No, thanks."

I found this book to be so darling, probably in part because it reminds me of Jordan when she was little.   But isn't that always what makes a book special?  The fact that you can see a little part of yourself (or your kids) in it!

When Jordan was 12 or 13 months old, every time we were out and ANYTHING did not go her way (perhaps, for example, another kid grabbed a toy from her) Jordan would come running over to me yelling and signing, "Home!"

Can't wait to get my hands on Stein's other picture books.

NOTE:  Now that I think of it, Jordan did this at home too.  Whenever we were in the apt. and something did not go her way, she would yell  "CRIBBY!"   That was her pouch.  God, how could I have not written this book?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What's the Worst That Can Happen?

I don't like to do too much self-promotion on here, but since my Hop! Plop! Amazon price just dropped from its highest ever ($15.95) to its lowest ever ($6.38), I feel like I ought to mention it.

Okay, moving on....

I had a bit of an eye-opening talk with my agent last week.  I have been with her for two years and I have shown her close to a dozen manuscripts.  She has subbed and sold two and has not wanted to sub any of the others.  My attitude was "Why not give one a shot?  What do we have to lose?" In my mind, the worst that could happen was that it doesn't sell.  But my agent explained to me that there is something worse.  It can sell to a house, but not do well with the public.  She said, "Early books with poor sales figures can hurt your career." 

Her philosophy is quality over quantity.   This actually works for me.

Beth Revis once asked (in early 2009, when she and I first started blogging):

If you could have one book published--but only one book--and that book would 100% for sure be published, and you would 100% for sure have moderate success (a good advance, book tour, signings and readings--but we're not talking JK Rowling here), BUT after this happened you would 100% for sure never publish again (you can write all you want--just not be published)...would you do that instead of staying in the rat race of publication and trying to break out with your own chops, knowing the chances? Which would be better--guaranteed one perfect slam dunk, or just the chance to stay in the game and hope the ball comes your way?

I still remember it well, because I was pretty much the ONLY person who responded that I would take the slam dunk!

I would rather have one -or a small handful of- very successful books, then 30-40 mediocre ones.

How 'bout you?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bummer in the Summer

So... I got some "problematic" feedback on a manuscript this week. I say problematic because my agent wants a more satisfying ending, and I don't feel like I can come up with one that is satisfying to everyone. Bummer in the summer.

I kind of dug myself into a hole with the story's conflict. I have two MC's and they both want the same thing. They can't BOTH have it.

So, what can an author do?

I can change the problem, of course,... but that is really the essence of the whole story.

I can brainstorm other solutions, but my gut tells that no matter how creative I get, some readers will always feel like one character got short shrift. Oy!

Have you ever given your characters a problem that they couldn't satisfactorily solve?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tell the Truth Tuesday- I Mean Monday

Okay, I have come to two big realizations, so BIG that I can't wait till tomorrow to post.

1) I hate my Kindle.

I am sorry to admit this... I WANT to love my Kindle, but I think I just don't enjoy books as much when I read them electronically. At first, I thought I was just picking "bad" books. But now, I have gotten stuck midway through THREE different MG/YA novels, all of which are getting great reviews around the blogosphere. So, it must be the format, right?

2) I am a friggin' nightmare to work with!


I collaborate on nearly all my PB manuscripts and I can often be heard b*tching about how difficult my partner is acting. She is obstinate. She is unyielding.

But now I am working on a project with my husband, and I'm being a complete a-hole. A perfectionist. A control freak. I ask for help and then I ding all his suggestions. Poor David. It's not you, honey, it's me!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer Biggest List

Biggest Dream- Three Ninja Pigs makes the NY Times bestseller list

Biggest Regret- That I didn't write Go The F*ck to Sleep

Biggest Hurdle- Cannot multi-task

Biggest Accomplishment- started working out four times a week (which means... no writing, blogging, cleaning, etc. See Biggest Hurdle)

Biggest Mistake- promised my daughter a puppy for her eighth birthday

Biggest Sacrifice- gave up one Starbucks coffee frap per day

Biggest Weakness- still drink two Starbucks coffee fraps per day

Biggest Goal- To make it into a Lisa-Laura, Elana, & Friends Vlog.

Do you have any "biggies" this summer?

Friday, July 15, 2011

From the Trenches

The most humiliating thing happened. I was chatting with Steve Meltzer (very senior editor at Dial) at the NJ SCBWI conference and he asked me what picture books I was shopping.

Uh... I have one about a girl and her doll and they pretend all the time. It's about imagination really and her brother keeps trying to steal her doll, but she keeps rescuing her, and .... well, really it's about sibling rivalry, but.. there is a lot of imaginary play, and... in the end, the doll goes missing, and the brother rescues her. Um, well.. it's a lot better than it sounds!

Could anything be more embarrassing.

Lessons to learn from this?

(1) Always have a pitch ready.
I was not attending any pitch sessions, so I did not prepare anything. Plus, I have an agent, so I am not really attending conferences to pitch my work. I am there to just make connections and build relationships. But I should have had one ready just in case!

(2) Make sure your story has a strong hook. Even though this particular story has some universal themes and may appeal to a lot of people, I realized (in the midst of my stammering and stuttering, stumbling and bumbling) "This story is never going to sell!"

If I can't pitch it to an editor, how will an editor pitch it to a sales and marketing team?

Compare it to .. oh, say THREE NINJA PIGS: The three pigs get fed up with the big bad wolf and go to ninja school!

Sounds so much more appealing!

Do you have a good one line pitch for your story?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Being Invisible

I was skimming Aaron Shephard's "The Business of  Writing for Children" last night and one thing really resonated with me.

Aaron was attending a storytelling festival many years ago and  he says:
All, at once, in the middle of the story, I "woke up" with a shock  For a few seconds, I had completely forgotten I was sitting in a hot tent with a thousand other people. The storyteller had drawn me into the story so completely that I was aware of nothing, but the story's unfolding within my own mind.

That moment told me that the height of storytelling-- oral or written-- is when the teller becomes invisible. 

As writers, I think we often find it hard to turn off our internal editors when we read..  I try to just 'enjoy" a book but often find myself thinking, "Boy, she is using too many adverbs" or "Gee, a little too much of an info dump here." 

I remember noticing that I was NOT doing this during The Hunger Games.   Suzanne Collins was such an amazing storyteller that I never once thought about her sentence structure!

What was the last book you read where the author was invisible?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Chicken's Cooking!

Okay, so it's been a while since I talked about a WIP.    When I last left off, my little chicken was having some problems.  And not the good kind that you throw at your character to make the story more compelling.  That was back in March. I am happy to report that he is doing much better. But picture books (especially those written in rhyme) are very labor intensive.  Becky and I can sometimes spend two hours on one line!

For any PB writer who missed it, Mem Fox's Green Sheep Secrets is a must-read!   She makes this point very well when she talks about the last stanza of Where Are the Green Sheep.

It originally read:

Where IS that green sheep?
Let’s turn the page softly, and take a peep. . . .
Here’s the green sheep,
Fast asleep…!

But she goes on to explain it was missing an essential element that she now recognizes as "solace."

It was re-written many times. In the end, a single word provided the solace of togetherness in the last lines—the use of ‘our’ instead of ‘the’:
Where IS that green sheep?
Turn the page quietly—let’s take a peep. . . .
Here’s our green sheep,
Fast asleep…!

Amazing, how one tiny word made such a difference, huh?

Anyway, back to our chicken.  We pretty much had him fried, baked, and fricasseed.  But in the end, the foxes decide to make him into chicken stew!

We started with the super BLAH

     When darkness falls, we'll have a meal
     of tasty chicken stew

and revised until we had

     Tonight we'll feast on finger-lickin'
     chunky chicken stew

Now, we're cooking, baby.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Speaking of Strengths

I was playing Jenga with Jordan recently.  In her version of the game, each stick that you pull out has a question written on it like  "What was the best day of your life?"  or "Who is the cutest boy in your class?"

Jordan got the question, "What is your best physical attribute?' 

JORDAN:  What's an attribute?
ME:  It's like a trait or feature. Something about the way you look.
JORDAN:  Oh, I guess mine would be my hair or my smile.
ME:  Actually, I would definitely say it's your eyes.  You have gorgeous eyes!
JORDAN:  And yours would be... your smile
... or your boobs.

I almost died.  The funny thing about it was ... she was dead serious.(and she's seven!)

So, I guess for the foreseeable future, I will be writing in rhyme and buying some low cut dresses.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Play to Your Strengths

I stirred up a lot of controversy with my last post.  That certainly wasn't my intention.  If I wanted controversy, I would have said something like... pretty friggin' scary when Michele Bachmann is declared the "winner" of a presidential primary debate.

Anyway, my point was... write what comes most easily and naturally to you.

Sometimes my writing partner, will say to me, "Let's write this PB in prose."  And my response is "Okay, and maybe Derek Jeter should try out for the Jets."

Rhyme is what we do best.  Why would we throw our best asset out the window?

When editors read our manuscripts at conferences, they don't say "Wow, what a great plot!"  Or "Oh my gosh, I LOVE this character!"  They say, "This has a lovely, rollicking rhythm." 

Once we are a bit established, then we can experiment with different formats and styles.  But for now, we should play to our strengths.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Are You Writing for the Right Age?

At the 2009 Rutgers's conference, our five-on-five panel leader asked us to go around the table and tell everyone two things.  (1) our name  (2) the age we felt inside.

I am clearly a four year old.  A very smart four year old, but a four-year-old nonetheless.   Some of us were 8-9.  Others were 11-12.  But for most of us it was easy to answer.  And THAT is the age you should be writing for.

I have seen lots of people who write picture books who should really be writing chapter books.  At the first page session I attended Sunday, at least two people (out of the half a dozen who attempted PBs)) were told, "This sounds like the first page of a chapter book."

If you've heard this comment about your work more than once, chances are you are writing for the wrong age!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Conference Woes- But Not the Kind You Might Expect

I'm going to the NJ-SCBWI conference this weekend.  I've been to lots of conferences before, but never one that meant being away from home for two nights.  I've given my husband detailed lists and schedules, but I'm still nervous.   Everyone knows... a father is not a mother.   KNUFFLE BUNNY makes that abundantly clear! (Have I mentioned Mo Willems is a genius!)

Will David remember to sunblock the kids at the pool?  Will he make sure that Jordan  wears her black jazz shoes on Sunday for her Aladdin show?   Will he leave the can't-live-without bunny in the laundromat? (No, wait.  That's Trixie's dad!)

Usually my biggest fear is "Will he give them nightmares for years by showing them completely  inappropriate movies,"  but with Jordan in her first Disney musical, there is a bit more at stake!  (and, no, of course I am not missing her big debut.  I am skipping out of the conference early and going straight to the theater)

The good news is.. with all these worries running around my head, I have no time at all to be nervous about meeting editors and agents!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Inside the Mind of a Five Year Old

My sense of humor must have gotten washed away during the nine days in a row of rain that we just had.  I can't seem to come up with a single witty or amusing thing to say.  So, I'll do what I always do in that situation.  Exploit my offspring.

Here are some recent conversations with Thing 2.


JORDAN: I wonder who was the first person to get an iPod touch?
JOSH: It was probably Adam and Eve


ME:  I think I'll go read some books to get ideas.
JOSH:  You're not like the Beatles.  They were original.


And my favorite...

JOSH: Why are there two N's in the alphabet?
ME: Why do think there are two N's?
JOSH: Cause there are... L, M, N, O, P ... Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, N, Z!


What hilarities have your kids been up to lately?

Friday, May 13, 2011

When is it Time?

Okay, Google Blogger somehow gobbled up my last post. I don't feel like rewriting it, especially since I wrote something embarrassingly similar here. (How Do You Know When You're Ready to Submit)

But I am interested to hear what everyone else thinks.  I'm sure we've all sent things out too early (The classic mistake of a newbie!).   But I'm sure we also all have at least one manuscript that we have "over-written."  One that we kept revising and revising to address other people's issues until the manuscript lost some of its original charm and appeal. 

So, how do you know when you have hit that "sweet" spot.  The exact right time to submit?

NOTE:  Google blogger spit my post back out fully in tact.  Now I feel even dumber!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

How Do You Know When to Submit?

This is a tricky one.  My new WIP is off to my editor.  I thought it was ready.  (My agent didn't)

I've seen people send things off way too early.  I've also seen the opposite.  I've seen people over-revise.  They keep getting feedback and keep reworking and reworking until the story has lost some of its original appeal. 

So, how do you know when you have hit that "sweet' spot.  The place where it is time to submit.

I think a good writer has to trust her instincts on this.   Did I feel like there was no way my manuscript could be improved?  No.  It's not about being "perfect".   It's about being "irresistible."  I felt like any editor who read it would love it enough to want to work with me on "perfecting" it. 

Not to sound conceited, but I felt that it was too charming and compelling to pass up.   That's the time to send it out.  When you can't imagine anyone would say 'no."

When you can drop it in the mailbox and walk away with a huge smile on your face.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

That Comfy Couch

I recognized that Tess was a genius a long time ago, but I was reminded of her brilliance when I read her recent post The Quitting Place.   I've been on that couch and god, is it comfortable!

I was on it just this past week.  It would have been so easy to stay there. But I picked up the phone and I called my agent.  It was incredibly UNCOMFORTABLE.  My heart raced.  I broke into a sweat.  I stuttered and stammered.  But I did it.   And I'm so glad I did.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sitting on the Head of a Pin

I feel like I am sitting on the head of a pin.  If I move in any direction, I will fall off.  

This is NOT a good feeling, by the way.

I think it's being caused in large part by the fact that my agent and I are having artistic differences.   We have two completely different visions for my WIP. 

I wrote a fraction story.  And she likes it, except for the fractions.  Ha!

So, I guess my problem is... I am not entirely clear on an agent's role.  Is it her job to sell what I write?  Or is it her job to sell only what she likes?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day 5 Giveawaty- Signed Goodnight Goon

Note to self:  No more five day parties (I somehow forgot how little stamina I have!)

I'm so sorry.  I've been neck deep in revisions (knee deep really isn't all that deep when you think about it) and I have totally neglected my blog and my contest!  (I also owe some of you prizes and I promise I will get to the post office soon.)

Okay, onto the fifth and final giveaway.  Goodnight Goon written and illustrated by Michael Rex.   This petrifying parody earned Michael a spot on the NY Times bestseller list.

In a cold gray tomb
There was a gravestone
And a black lagoon
And a picture of –
Martians taking over the moon


All you have to do to enter is be a follower and leave a comment.  (and you must have a U.S. Postal address)

Contest ends Thurs, April 28th at 5:00 PM.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Day 4 Giveaway- Hop! Plop!

Many authors dream of the day that they will see their book on a shelf in B&N.   I gotta say... it's a great moment!  But there is actually something better.  Watching as your own child reads your story!

Here is Jordan "reading"  Hop! Plop! when it first came out in 2006.



To win, all you have to do is tell me how cute she is.  Kidding!   Just follow me on Facebook at Three Ninja Pigs.

And leave me a comment to let me know you want to be entered.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Day 3 Giveaway- Nightshade City

Okay, I am falling way behind schedule, but it's spring break and my kids are home.  Need I say more?

For day 3 of the Hop! Plop! Birthday Bash, I am giving away NIGHTSHADE CITY by Hilary Wagner.  Can you believe this exciting underground MG adventure started out as a picture book?

Hilary is here to tell us about it in her own words:

When I got the idea in my head to write Nightshade City, it started out far different. I was pregnant with my daughter Nomi (who at the time we were told was a boy), so I thought wouldn't it be great if I wrote a picture book for my two sons! Vincent was about five at the time and my baby on the way was going to be called Victor. If we have another boy anytime soon at least we already have the name picked out!

So, I started writing. The story began on a roof top of an old apartment building in a dilapidated city, two bony rats brothers, shivering close to each other on a dark and stormy night. *insert record screech here* Hmmm...two emaciated rats in an old dirty city on a dark and stormy night...that didn't scream picture book to me, especially when the owl comes after them moments later!

At that moment, I realized (quite clearly) I was not meant to write picture books. I adore them and buy way too many of them for Nomi--two now--and a total bookavore! I think writing picture books takes a special kind of knack, just like novels do. You either have the talent for them or you don't and just because an author can write a string of bestselling novels, don't think picture books are easy peasy to that same author--total myth! Last year I saw literary agent Michael Stearns speak (who has this awesome dry sense of humor) and he said (I'm summarizing) that many picture book writers move on to novels, but it is rare for a novelist to move on to picture books--at least good ones! He was certainly right in my case.

Just a few weeks back, I finished KINGS OF TRILLIUM, Book II in the Nightshade Chronicles and now I'm working on a second series. I'm so hooked on novels. I can never see myself moving into picture books. I'm just not built for them! For now, I'll just buy Corey's! Nomi can't wait for Three Ninja Pigs!!!! ;)

NIGHTSHADE CITY is available at Barnes and Noble stores nationwide, Indie Booksellers, Amazon and more.

Thanks, Hilary!

All you have to do to enter is be a follower and leave a comment. (You must also reside in the U.S.)

Contest ends Mon, April 11th at 5:00 PM.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Day 2 Giveaway- The Liar Society

Okay, day 2 of the Big Hop Plop 5th Birthday Bash!   I realize that not everyone out there reads and writes picture books.  So, today, I am giving away a copy of The Liar Society by the funny and fabulous Roecker sisters, Lisa and Laura. This YA mystery is fun, fast.paced, and full of suspense. (OMG, I am going a little overboard with the alliteration today)

You'd have to be living under a rock to have not heard of this one, but just in case...  here is the blurb:

Kate Lowry's best friend Grace died a year ago. So when she gets an email from her, Kate's more than a little confused.

To: KateLowry@pemberlybrown.edu
From: GraceLee@pemberlybrown.edu
Subject: (no subject)
Kate,
I'm here... sort of.
Find Cameron. He knows.
I shouldn't be writing.
Don't tell. They'll hurt you.

Now Kate has no choice but to prove once and for all that Grace's death was more than just a tragic accident. She teams up with a couple of knights-in-(not-so)-shining armor-the dangerously hot bad boy, Liam, and her lovestruck neighbor, Seth. But at their elite private school, there are secrets so big people will do anything to protect them-even if it means getting rid of anyone trying to solve a murder...

All you have to do to enter is be a follower and leave a comment.

For this one, you must reside in the U.S.

Contest ends Wed, April 6th at 5:00 PM.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Happy Birthday HOP PLOP (and some giveaways!)

Okay, I'd like to say this is epic.  But if you want EPIC, you need to go to Lisa and Laura's blog for a truly epic, huge, crazy, insane contest, creative beyond your wildest imagination.  (or at least mine)

In any case,  today is the 5th birthday of Hop! Plop!  And I really want to do something special.  So, I am giving away FIVE prizes.

Each day, there is different prize and a different way to enter.  So check back M-F for new ways to win.

Today, all you have to do is announce on facebook or Twitter:

Happy Birthday HOP PLOP, an Eric Carle Museum PB of Distinction- http://bit.ly/guDDnx

Leave me a comment to let me know you've done it.  Do both  (facebook and twitter) and get two entries.

Today's prize is a $20 Amazon gift card or a PB critique.

Contest ends April 5th and 5:00 PM (EST)

Thanks for celebrating with me!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Quacky Baseball- The Story Behind the Story

Peter Abrahams is on deck to share the genesis of his new picture book, QUACKY BASEBALL.   Peter is a New Your Times best-selling author of 25 novels.  QUACKY BASEBALL is his first creation for the 3-8 crowd.  Young baseball fans will love this nail-biter!

Peter, you're up!


Back when I was writing the Echo Falls mysteries (a middle-grade series for Harper), I was hit by a sudden and unexpected idea for a picture book. It arrived in the form of the title – Quacky Baseball – grew in minutes to a whole history of baseball starting from caveman times, and culminated in a ninth-inning nail-biter; all the players would be ducks, meaning there’d be cavemen ducks, which I was eager to see. I called my editor and told her the idea. She said it sounded interesting: “Write it up.” I wrote it up that very day – not many words in a picture book! – and a contract was drawn up soon after.

Time passed. My editor left and I began working with a new one. Frank Morrison was brought in to do the art. I checked out his work, loved it. Soon we discovered there was too much story. I cut out everything but the most dramatic and action-oriented component, meaning the nail-biter, Quackers versus Webbies. Those cavemen ducks? They’ll have to exist only in my mind. I came up with names for the players (I’m very big on getting the exact right names for characters in my work) such as the little hero, Thumby Duckling, and his teammates – Flakey Duckstein, Manny El Pato, Medwick Ducky (an inside-baseball joke I’m not sure anyone has gotten yet), and the others, all brought beautifully to life by Frank. My editor left and I began working with a new one. Yes, again: this is the kind of thing you have to get used to in publishing. I made a few last tweaks of the text to better match the final pictures, then put my feet up, smoked a cigar and retired to an assisted-living compound in Florida.

All of the above guaranteed 100% true (except for the cigar and Florida part).


Peter, thanks so much for stopping by!

Visit the rest of the stops on the QUACKY BASEBALL tour.

Comment here, or on any blog stop, for a chance to win a signed copy of the book.

Monday, March 28 Megan Frances Abrahams - On Beyond Words & Pictures - interview with Kristin Daly Rens, Senior Editor, Balzer & Bray

Tuesday, March 29 - Julie Musil Julie Musil - interview with Thumby Duckling - the main character - via author Peter Abrahams

Wednesday, March 30 - Corey Schwartz Corey Schwartz - author Peter Abrahams on the genesis of Quacky Baseball

Thursday, March 31 - Diane Browning - Out of the Paintbox - interview with illustrator Frank Morrison

Friday, April 1  Hilde Garcia Pen & Ink - interview with author Peter Abrahams

Saturday, April 2 - Lori Walker L.H. Walker - book review/synopsis with input from Lori's childre

Monday, March 28, 2011

Is Your Head in the Sand?

Today's topic is... wait for it...


DENIAL

Like politicians ('I did not have sexual relations with that woman'),  my mother-in-law's  favorite method of dealing with things is to  DENY DENY DENY.

When my sister-in-law got married, my MIL threw her a brunch the next day.  She had this conversation with the host.

MIL:  Excuse me, sir.  We need more seats and place settings.

HOST:  Well, Ma'am.  You said there would be ninety guests and there are clearly more. 

MIL: No there aren't

HOST:   Well, we set 90 places and they are all taken.  So, there have to be more than 90 people in attendance.

MIL:  No. There aren't.

We all put our heads in the sand sometimes.   A little voice inside kept trying to tell me this week that my chicken story had an issue, but I kept telling that voice to shut up!

Luckily, I have a friend  who was honest enough to call me on it.

As writers, we really need to listen to that voice. Denying that there is a problem is not going to get us publishing contracts!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Butterflies are Back

Sometimes, you get an idea... a shiny new idea that you are excited about... but for some reason, you can't get it off the ground.   This has been happening to me a lot lately. 

I get an idea.  I get that flittery, jittery feeling that comes when you know an idea is good.  I start writing.  And then... BAM!   I lose all enthusiasm for the project.

This occurred recently with a story that I'll refer to as HA.  (I don't know why, but I am suddenly tight-lipped about sharing titles.  I blabbed GOLDI ROCKS all over the blogosphere, but now I am being cautious)

So, anyway, Becky and I got the idea for HA in one of our brainstorming sessions.  We meet on Instant Message and just throw out anything that pops into our heads.  One thing led to another and DING DING DING, we hit the jackpot.  or so I thought.   It was clever.  It was fun.  It had a marketing hook   I got all tingly inside.  

Becky and I began outlining and drafting.  From the beginning, we couldn't agree on anything.  We spent an hour arguing about whether the MC should be male or female (I kid you not)  We had lengthy discussions about species (we finally decided upon gopher)  And we were conflicted about whether or not to have a refrain (we both liked the "idea" of a refrain, but it kept feeling forced.)

We got about halfway through a super rough draft and I absolutely HATED it.

So, we did  what anyone would do in our situation.

We ate a LOT of chocolate.

Then we gave ourselves some distance.   We worked on other things.

And when we were ready to take another look, I had an epiphany.  The MC needed to be a chicken.  I'm not sure why, but he just did.

We started over completely and we only have a few stanzas, but already it feels much more "right."

I am once again excited to work on it.  The butterflies are back!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Liar Society Blog Tour of Awesome- Evolution



You Say You Want Evolution...

The version of Liar Society that we queried with was 55,000 words. The published book is 78,000 words. To say that the book has evolved as we edited would be a HUGE understatement.

When we had our first conversation with our agent about the book she told us the book needed work. She had a few ideas about how we could improve the story we were trying to tell. We took her advice to heart and never looked back. After a couple of months of heavy revision we were ready to go out on sub. The book was right around 75,000 words and we were happy with the way we developed the characters and the plot.

And editors liked the book. A few liked it enough to suggest further revisions. So we revised again. We strengthened our central mystery. We got rid of these convenient little magic heart pills that appeared midway through the book. We gave Kate more of an edge, tried to make her grief more immediate. This version of the manuscript clocked in at 85,000 words.

And Sourcebooks bought that book. The fell in love with Kate and her secrets and her snooty school. And then of course we revised some more feedback. The book was too long. We had to cut. So we shaved off about 10,000 words to make things move faster in the beginning. And then we got a new editor, with some truly amazing ideas about Kate and the gang. That's when we added 8,000 NEW words. But they were good words. Words that strengthened our characters and made the book stronger. At least that's what we keep telling ourselves.

So yeah, for us: 55,000 words + 20,000 words + 10,000 words - 15,000 words + 8,000 DIFFERENT words = a fully evolved manuscript. Makes our heads hurt just thinking about it.

Psst...we have a secret. Click here, hit the Pemberly Brown Plaque. The password is CREST.

And if you want to enter The Liar Society Blog Tour of Awesome contest, and really, who wouldn't want to enter!?! There's a $100 Amazon gift card up for grabs! Just click here and enter the super secret password, CREST, for an entry. Remember you can enter one time for each stop on our blog tour, so be sure to click here and see where else we're visiting this month to maximize your chances of winning.

Audi, Vide, Tace,
L&L

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

You Gotta Have Friends

Tag, I'm it!  Tara Lazar wrote a post about the importance of having writer friends.  And then, well... she tagged me.  Why?  Because she and I have a particularly symbiotic relationship.  We each give ourselves credit for at least one picture book sale that the other has made!   (We think we have a decent shot of making that two each by the end of the year! :)

I have very few marketable skills (unless you happen to know of a position that pays for high Scrabble scores?)

But one thing I can do... I can spot a PB winner when I see one!

So, when Tara wrote The Monstore, I said, "Tara, this will sell.  Time to get yourself an agent."   I then gave her a referral to Ammi-Joan Paquette.  Joan and I had been in an online critique together years ago before she was an agent at Erin Murphy Literary Agency.  I had a sense of her style and taste and thought it would be a good fit. (though, honestly, I didn't think any agent would say no tot hat manuscript!)

Joan fell in love and quickly sold it to Aladdin,/Simon and Schuster. 

Tara didn't really need my help  The Monstore would have sold without me. But it sure is nice to have a friend's vote of confidence to get you through the lows of this industry.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pinky's Binky

Okay, this is only funny if you know me really well.  (For those of you who don't, let me just say that by the time my daughter was one and a half, she was already outsmarting me.)

Jordan was home sick from school last week and she insisted that we write and illustrate our own picture books.

Here is my story

Pinky had a little Binky
She loved that Binky so.
Everywhere that Pinky went,
the Binky had to go.

Mommy said, "You're getting old.
It's time to say good-bye."
Pinky said, "I can't do that."
And then began to cry.

I love my Binky far too much
I can't throw it away
Mommy said, You're turning three.
That Binky cannot stay."

Pinky said, "I'll give it up,
if you give up your Fraps!"
Mommy, said, "Okay, it stays.
Come on.  Let's take our naps."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I'm a Puggle, You're a Puggle (and a Giveaway!)

Kristy is not my only friend to have a book launch this week!   Aaron Zenz, author and illustrator of The Hiccupotamus, also had a PB hit the shelves on Tuesday.

Here he is to talk about his new release:

I know authors whose chapter book ideas ultimately became picture books.  And I know of television pitches that instead became graphic novels.  But how's this for a transformation: my most recent book has its roots in... a coloring book!

Back in 2003 I was busy creating art for fun activity books.  One of my assignments was a coloring book simply titled "Baby Animals."  For my own entertainment, I decided to set a challenge for myself.  Could I design the book so that each page had an animal with a unique baby name?  For example, one coloring page would feature a "Calf," another page a "Chick," another page a "Cub."  Could I do 24 pages with no repeats?

Once I started researching, I was astounded at the baby animal names I discovered!  Now, we all know that baby dogs are "Puppies" and baby cats are "Kittens."  But do you know what baby platypuses have been called?  Are you ready for this?  Puggles!  I kid you not!  Baby mice are "Pinkies," baby oysters are "Spats," and baby eels are "Elvers."  I fell in love with this wonderful nonsense, rooted in reality.

After the coloring book was done, these wonderful words stayed with me.  The phrase "I'm a Puggle, You're a Puggle" popped into my head, and I knew I had a children's book.  I didn't care what form it took.  I love nonsensical words, and I just wanted to author a book with the word "Puggle" in the title.


To organize these wonderful critters I'd collected, I took my list of 54 baby animals and worked them into a poem.  Here's a verse:

I'm a PUGGLE, you're a PUGGLE
PINKY, KIT, and PORCUPETTE
What's a CRIA?
Who's a JOEY?
HATCHLINGS race the LEVERET




I wrote my story in 2005 and started shopping it around soon after.  Over the years I created a variety of potential art styles for it.  Whichever style was ultimately chosen didn't matter much to me.  I just wanted to author a book with "Puggle" in the title.

At last, the fine folks at Walker Books decided to publish "I'm a Puggle, You're a Puggle."  It is interesting (and highly unusual) to note that over all those years and after all those pitches, the story has remained nearly identical to Draft Number One set down on December 21, 2005.  A few animals have been shuffled around or swapped out.  But the book has remained virtually unchanged.  With two big exceptions:


Ha ha!  You can't win them all.  In the end it was decided that a cluster of baby ducks has much more appeal than a platypus and an echidna.  A platypus and a what???  My point exactly.  I wholeheartedly agree with the change to "Chuckling Ducklings."  And at least I get to use the line "I'm a Puggle, You're a Puggle" inside the book right?  Oh wait... that was change number two:


It's the one and only line of text from the whole book that fell under the editor's knife.  But on the bright side... we've jumped from two appearances of the word Puggle on the spread to three appearances!  Yes!  More Puggle for the buck!

So look for inspiration everywhere -- you may find your muse in a coloring book or in the name of a baby animal.  And as you craft your works, I suggest you cling tightly to a passion (nonsense words!) but hold loosely to specific details (formats, titles, lines of text).

Wow!  Great story.  Thanks, Aaron.  To enter to win a copy of Chuckling Ducklings, just "Like" my Three Ninja Pigs page on Facebook.

You get an entry just for "liking" the page. You get an extra entry if you leave a comment (there or here) Winner will be picked Monday, Feb 22nd at 10:00 AM EST.  (Entrants must be U.S. residents)

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Story Behind Mini Racer- and a GIVEAWAY!

Tomorrow is the release date for MINI RACER by Kristy Dempsey!   I have been eagerly awaiting this book for YEARS!   To celebrate, I asked Kristy to give us the inside scoop on how MINI RACER came to be.
MINI RACER stars a memorable cast of animals in customized vehicles — a mouse in a cheese cart, a team of alligators in a gas-guzzling racecar, a seal in a wheelchair tricked out with rainbow colored rims, alongside others. This romping race in rhyme zooms through town and country, with mishaps and mischievousness along the way, leading to an exciting finish with an unexpected winner.

The original manuscript was written in about 20 minutes flat. Seriously. I was trying my best to carve out some writing time while my three young children had play time. They proceeded to ride their little vehicles — one on a bike, one on a scooter and one on a tricycle — around the table where I was working, out the side porch doors, around the back of the house and back inside the door on the other side of the house complete with sound effects. Zoom! Vroom! Beep, beep! Around and around and around. I felt as if I were in a circus.

The thought crossed my mind that I should “write what I know” so I pictured a little boy racing through his day like a race car and proceeded to put the rhyming scenes on paper. A few drafts (and a couple of weeks later) I sent it to my agent and she had interest from an editor that same day. Since that day, I look at my children and all the noise they generate with a lot more patience and gratitude! They’re generating inspiration too.

In my very talented illustrator’s (Bridget Strevens-Marzo) hands, MINI RACER became a root-for-the-underdog story with a whole cast of characters with their own side stories. I think the town and country scenes have a slightly European feel and I’m hoping if I ever get to visit Bridget in France, she’ll take me to the little bakery in the “in-town” spread and treat me to one of those ├ęclairs.
To win a copy of this bouncy book, just "Like" my Three Ninja Pigs page on Facebook.

You get an entry just for "liking" the page. You get an extra entry if you leave a comment (there or here) Winner will be picked Monday, Feb 16th at 10:00 AM EST.  (Entrants must be U.S. residents)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

How Much Does the Medium Matter?

I had this conversation with a friend today.

ME:  You have got to watch Lost!  It's AMAZING.  I'm addicted.

HER:  I never get addicted to shows

ME:  But it's like crack cocaine..  The characters are so well-drawn.  The plot is so intricately woven.

HER:  I just am not that into TV

ME:  But.. but... but... this is not like other shows!  It's like the Hunger Games of television.  You just can't walk away.

HER:  Books are different to me

Of course, the written word is my first love.  I go to movies all the time and say "that didn't compare to the book"  But to me, the medium is less important than the following things:

Did the story-teller choose an interesting way in which to present the story? (i.e. by playing with time and perspective)
Are there unpredictable twists?
Do the characters have something at stake?

The biggest test of success for me is this ... is my head in the story even when I am not actively reading/watching?  Considering that Jack and Sawyer often come to the supermarket with me, I'd say Lost passes with flying colors.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Evolution of Mr. Duck Means Business (and a giveaway)

Okay, there is a definite theme here this month.  Has anybody noticed it?   Some people claim that ideas just come to them wholly formed.  But for most of us, ideas evolve.  For the next few weeks, I am going to focus on how ideas develop and change during the process of crafting a story.

We may start out writing a PB and it ends up a middle grade novel!  (Yes, come back next week to hear about the evolution of Nightshade City by Hilary Wagner)  We may start out writing in prose and it may end up in rhyme.  Or... we might do what Tammi Sauer did.   I'll let her tell you in her own words:

MR. DUCK MEANS BUSINESS stars an uppity duck that goes a little haywire when the other barnyard animals mistakenly think they’ve been invited for a swim in his otherwise peaceful pond.

The original manuscript, however, didn’t have a duck or a pond. It featured a huffy little old lady. Miss Matilda’s house was located near the park and all of the neighborhood kids used her yard for the shortcut. The chaos drove her bananas. After some doing, Miss Matilda found a way to isolate her house and yard from the commotion. But…it didn’t take her long to discover she missed those kids.

Pre-agented, I subbed MISS MATILDA MEANS BUSINESS and received lovely rejections and a revision request. But no takers. Then something occurred to me about a year later—kids don’t relate to an old lady who wants to keep a nice yard!

Shocking, I know!

I kept the same premise, tweaked the characters and the setting, and *presto-chango*, the manuscript sold in a multiple-bidding situation.
 
To enter to win a copy of this adorable book, just "Like" my Three Ninja Pigs page on Facebook.

You get an entry just for being a follower.  You get an extra entry if you leave a comment. Winner will be picked Monday, Feb 7th at 10:00 AM EST.  

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Love Your Author Friends!

I'm declaring February "Love your author friends" month!   I'll be giving away a book a week- all newly released children's books (PBs and YA) authored by my very own amazingly talented friends. 

How can you win?  It's easy.  Just "Like" my Three Ninja Pigs page on Facebook. 

You get an entry just for being a follower.  You get an extra entry if you leave a comment whenever  I leave a  "Book giveaway" status.

I will putting up a lot of "behind the scenes" posts here, but all giveaways will be done through Facebook.

The first giveaway?  Mr Duck Means Business by Tammi Sauer.   Come back tomorrow to find out how Tammi's initial idea evolved into this adorable story.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Helpless

Groundhog says, "Early spring is coming."   Why do I find that so hard to believe?

Maybe because there's three feet of snow on my deck?

We had a power outage for a few hours today and I realized how helpless I am without electricity. 

ME:  It's getting cold in the house.  Maybe I'll call a friend and see if I can bring the kids over... D'oh!  All my phone numbers are in Outlook.

ME: (10 minutes later)  Brrr, I know.. I'll just get in the car and drive someplace warm like Starbucks.  Double d'oh!!!  I don't know how to manually open the garage door!

(Yes, for someone who did great on the SATs, I pretty much have no life skills)

Oh, Groundhog, please be right!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Evolution of...GOLDI ROCKS

Okay, way back when... I posted a before and after stanza from THREE NINJA PIGS to give you an idea of how rhyming picture books evolve.

I thought it might be fun to do the same thing for GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE BEARS. 

GOLDI was much more of a struggle than PIGS.  It went through many more incarnations. 

In the first draft, I just try to get the skeletal frame down.  Roughly what content will fall in each stanza.  I do try to make it rhyme, but I don't worry about the meter at this stage.

Perfecting meter can take hours tweaking.  I don't want to take the time until I know I have the content right.  Stanzas may have to combined or cut completely.  So, I wait until I can take a look at the big picture.  I may LOVE a stanza on its own, but it may not work within the larger context of the story.

Here is Goldi entering the Bears' house:

She heard the bear's stereo blaring
Without hesitation, she knocked
"It's such a great oldie!
"I'll join in," cried Goldi.
She soon found the door was unlocked.

We later realized, we didn't want Goldi to be enticed by music. So it turned into this:

She spotted their quaint little cottage.
"Oh what a sweet house!" Goldi cried.
She rang the front bell
Is that porridge I smell?
"I'll just take a small peek inside!"

The story turned out to be too long, so we had to combine this stanza with the previous one in which the bears set out to find a singer.

They set out to find a soprano
Soon after they left, a girl knocked
"Is that porridge I smell?
Gee, that would be swell.”
She checked and the house was unlocked.

We save all drafts. You never know when you might want to return to an earlier rhyme (knocked, unlocked)

Sometimes when you are revising, you have to kill your darlings. My favorite stanza in the whole story got cut :(

The Bears kept on ruling out singers:
"Too fancy." "Too dance-y." "Too plain."
While they judged in the square…
a young girl with blond hair
was wandering down the Bears' Lane.

I could see the three bears sitting at "The Judges" table like Paula, Randy, and Simon!  I loved it, but I had to let it go! 

We have dozens and dozens of drafts.  And we are not done.  Goldi sold to Putnam, and our editor will no doubt want at least one more round of edits.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Buried

Buried in the snow
with no where to go
the kids keep fighting
can't do any writing
I'm playing referee
I'd much rather be...
     Buried in a book

Actually, I'd rather be watching Lost, but that didn't go with the buried theme :)

Monday, January 24, 2011

What's an Idea Worth?

We all know what a picture is worth.  But what is an "idea' worth?  An agent once said to me, "Ideas are cheap."   The context was "Someone gave me an idea.  Therefore, they deserve a co-author credit."  (And a percentage of whatever is earned.) 

The agent felt that ideas are everywhere.  They have no value unless you have the talent to execute them well.  I don't agree.  It's hard to quantify, I think they are worth a lot. If one person comes up with a fully developed idea for a PB and another did all the writing,  I might view it as equal contributions.

Recently, I gave a couple of ideas away.  (Not fully formed ideas.. really more like titles.)  I handed them over to friends who I thought might be a better fit for them than I was.  Will I end up have giver's remorse?  Maybe... if the stories sell :)

What's an idea worth to you?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

And the Winner is...

Before I post the name of the contest winner, I just want to say... not a single person guessed that Beth's Amazon ranking would go up.  What a lovely, optimistic group!

Her rank bounced around... at one point it was down in the 500's, at another up in the high 800's.  But at precisely 3:00 PM eastern standard time, Across the Universe was ranked at #608, giving the win to Kristin Lynn Thetford with a guess of #622.

Congrats, Kristin!

And don't feel bad if you didn't win.  You'll get another chance in February.  I'm going to run the contest again!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Across the Universe Giveaway

Okay, anyone who has a book out knows how tempting it is to check your Amazon rank every hour or so!  This can be a dangerous addiction.  Fortunately for me, my Hop! Plop! rank has gotten so pathetic that I now only check it once every day or two.  Ah, what to do with all my spare time?  Check the rank for Across the Universe!

This book has amazingly sky-rocketed to #637.   No tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands.   Beth is in the triple digits, people.  And I want to get her into the double digits.

So, I am having a contest.  Guess what Beth's ranking will be at 3 PM tomorrow. (Thursday, Jan 20th)

The person who comes closest will win a copy of the book.   But you have to enter by 10:00 AM eastern standard time so as not to give you too much of an unfair advantage.

To qualify you must be a follower of my blog (you're on your honor here) and you must live in the U.S.

Good luck.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dedicated to Beth Revis!

In my early days of blogging, the blogosphere felt like the bar Cheers.  You could name a person, and I could tell you the name of their blog, the genre and subject of their WIP, and how many kids they had.  I knew if they were agented or not and what nickname they used when referring to their hubby.  I basically read their blog every time they updated and commented on every post.  I miss those days.

Of course, I have met many new and wonderful writers in the last two years, but there is something very special about those first bloggers buddies.  A special bond that forms from following each other's journeys so closely. (Now I'm like "What???  I follow a blog called Out for Blood?)

So, it is with that in mind, that I send out a HUGE congrats to one of my first blogger friends- Beth Revis.  Congrats on the launch of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE.   I know how much love and sweat she poured into this book and I am so excited to be holding a copy in my hands!

Beth, we love you!

Cheers!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My Type of Present!

My mother-in-law asked me if I would like a Pandora bracelet for my birthday.  I was pretty sure the answer was "no" but I asked "What's that?" just to be polite.  (I have zero interest in jewelry.)  The first chance I got, I whispered in my husband's ear, "Kindle!" 

And yesterday... my brand new shiny Kindle arrived in the mail!  Now this is my kind of gift!  I had a hard time deciding what to download first.  I got lots of suggestions from friends on Facebook, but after some consideration, I chose Savvy by Ingrid Law.

When my brother Fish turned thirteen, we moved to the deepest part of inland because of the hurricane and, of course, the fact that he'd caused it.

Is that a killer first line or what?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Me and My Menopot

So ... I have a big-ish birthday coming up and I am a little freaked out. Okay, a lot freaked out.  I mean... I have a kindergarten-er and a first grader.  That makes me like 32... 33 max, right?  Not 45-with-50-on-the-horizon, right?  That just isn't possible!

To make matters worse, I have a black tie wedding next weekend and when I pulled my fancy dress out of the closet, it became abundantly clear that  I was not going to be able to get it zipped.

I called my mom and she said, "Don't worry.  I have a stunning dress you can borrow.  It's gorgeous.  You'll love it!"   She brought it over last night and guess what?   No, it wasn't hideous.  (Well, it was a little hideous, but in a pretty kind of way)  I couldn't get it zipped!   My mother's dress.  Now that is just sad. 

So, now here I am... an almost 50-year-old with a menopot. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Thing 2's Greatest Hits

As a writer, it is important to get inside the minds of your audience.  So for those of you who write PBs, here are my five-year-old's best quotes from 2010:

Feb '10


(While visiting, Charlie, a neighbor's new puppy)
JORDAN: Charlie is smarter than Grandma's dog, Rosie.
JOSH: Well, Rosie is smarter than Sarah Palin.


March '10

ME: Josh, when is the last time you washed your hair.
JOSH: December


April '10

JOSH: Mommy, I have a new system. If I back up when I pee, I don't hit the wall.


June '10

(During Monopoly)
JOSH:  I read the word "Indiana"...without even looking!


Sept '10

JOSH: Mommy, come here. I need you.
ME: I can't right now, sweetie. I'm cooking something
JOSH: Can you pause?


Oct '10


ME: Josh, I am so proud of you. You read your first book!
JOSH:  Can you tell all your friends on Facebook?


Dec '10

ME: Josh, did you play Mario with your friend, Spencer?
JOSH: Yeah, but he hadn't played in a long time, so he was a little dusty.


Happy 2011, everybody!  Hope my kids still have a few years of good material left in them!