Friday, December 31, 2010

Besties

I do not intend on making a best of list for this blog.  I am not the kind of person who makes best of lists based on years.  Probably because I forget lots of things, and I couldn't tell you most of the goodies I watched and/or read this year.  Perhaps that's why I keep a blog-- to remind me.  I also do not make resolutions.  Making a resolution to me feels like you were doing something that you were unhappy about, so you are planning to change it just because it's the new year.  Why not just change it NOW?  It reminds me of when I was a chubbier person, and I was eating some Dots.  I turned to my friend, Liz, and said, with a green one in my mouth, "I eat all the ones I don't like first."  Liz said to me, "Why don't you just not eat the ones you don't like?"  Genius.  On the same tip, why wait until the beginning of a new year to do things you feel good about?  So that's why I don't make resolutions.  I'm a relatively proactive person, and I like to get it done, good or bad.  Speaking of bad, I am on the verge of a cold, so I may or may not be able to taste tonight's celebratory ice cream cake.  Wouldn't that be a shame?  And I also may not be able to stay up until midnight, as I recently promised my husband.  I hope everyone out there has super fun, exciting plans that will trump my ice cream cake and falling asleep ones. 

I still have more to say about sexy stuff in books, but I think I'll wait until another day.  I wanted to talk about how being home from work has now allowed me to read books for older teens, thus reintroducing me to the possibility of sexuality in teen books.  And I want to talk about a survey of sorts I sent to a group of my past students, asking them how they would have felt if their librarian (me)wrote a book with sex in it while they were in middle school.  I've gotten some amazingly thought out replies.  Also, this weekend I'm having lunch with another local YA author, and I'm stoked.  Matt, my husband, has recently built up a rock star group of local illustrators (we're talking Caldecotts and accolades, people) to hang with, and I would love to do the same with YA authors.  It's been hard to find takers, though.  I can't wait to hear about her process, chat about the business, and get any good gossip she wants to share.  If I forget to blog about these things, remind me.  But above all, Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Do You Want It?

After yesterday's post, I've had more considerations about sex in YA books and it concerns me.  No, wait, it doesn't concern me.  I meant how it relates to me.  Interesting.  Anyway, I am now wondering what my readers will think of the change.  Will they notice it?  Will they welcome it?  Will they shun it?  Will they CHALLENGE it?  Bring it on.  Will it be that much different?  I can tell you that the writing process has already been very different for me.  I would love to sit down with authors who regularly write sexy scenes into their books and find out what their experience is like.  And not a watered down version, either.  Not that that will ever happen.

My other thought, or fear really, is that when my editor gets off from vacation on January 3, she will read my email where I tell her all about this fabulous new book that is spilling from my pen and she will tell me she is not interested.  Because that would really suck.  The only book I have started and never finished for my editor was a zombie novel (I know, it sounds cliche, but what's a horror fangirl to do?).  And that was just one chapter.  I am already 32 pages into the new book after writing for two days.  I feel like I could finish it in about three weeks, if I am given the time to work (which involves a combination of a)my husband taking over for parts of the day, even though he has his own work to complete, b) my daughter actually going back to her nap schedule instead of screaming bloody murder for an hour and then us having to force her asleep in the car, and c) my mom coming over multiple days for multiple hours.  Will the stars align and allow me to finish this book in the speed that my brain and body want to write it?  Will my audience applaud the new additions to my writing oeuvre (a word I have not used until now)?  Will my editor tell me to bring it on?  The new year promises many exciting, unknown things.  Just the way I like it.  As long as it doesn't involve nap times.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Dead and the Sexy

I posted on facebook yesterday about how I was writing a new book, and I was probably going to put a sex-ish scene in it.  And since I knew that scene, or possibly scenes, would be in the book, I wanted to skip writing the other parts of the book and get to the sex-ish part (I keep writing sex-ish because I don't know if they will actually do the deed.  We'll see how much they like each other).  Maybe my readers have noticed that I haven't had most of my book characters go very far sexually, and even when they participate in a sexual act, I haven't written a scene that shows the actual act taking place.  The reason I've used throughout my four novels for doing (or not doing) that is because I am a middle school librarian.  I'd love to be able to have my books in my library and for my students to read them.  And how weird would it be if they were reading these sexual scenes written by their librarian?  I just couldn't do it.  So I didn't.  But now here I am on my year off, and I finally feel liberated enough to write a sexy book.  Not the whole thing, mind you, but appropriately placed sex-ish moments.  Sex-ish is starting to sound hilarious to me, by the way.  What happens when I get back in my library?  If I get back in my library?  Who knows?  But the time has come to find out.

I'd also like to mention a comment on that facebook post by my writer friend, Andrew Smith, that said, "I think that makes you a man."  Now, Andrew has this whole tough guy, writer dude thing going, and he likes to talk about boys and writing and manly things.  Which is obviously important and warrants discussion and thought, especially in the hands of a talented writer like Andrew.  But I would like to point out to Andrew, and all people who think that sex is a predominantly male-brained phenomenon, how many books are written by women for women (young and/or otherwise) that make it perfectly clear that females think about sex just as much as males.  Me?  My first self-published works were soft-porn stories I wrote for my friends in high school.  Not that I would have classified them as that at the time, but we were all thinking about it, so I wrote elaborate, graphic fantasies where my friends managed to nab such fine (at the time) men as Michael Hutchence (RIP) and Bono.  The difference is, just like with much of what men do (and I'm not going to turn this into a political rant, but I have many thoughts on men and, oh, the state of the world), women don't have to make everything they do about showing it off to other people.  Maybe it's because we don't have appendages hanging off the front of our bodies.  Wait a sec-- we do, don't we?  They're called breasts.  And somehow men seem to think those are for them, too.

My point was not to dog men out for thinking they are the only gender allowed to have sexual thoughts (well, maybe it was a little), but to explain that women enjoy reading and writing a good sex scene, too.  In fact, maybe I'll just skip ahead and write the scene in advance.  Or maybe I can start a side career, penning sexual fantasies for women involving their favorite dead and/or washed up rock stars.  Any takers?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Inspired

Welcome back!  (Am I welcoming myself back, or my readers back?)  I got home yesterday from my annual Christmas journey south to hang with the in-laws, and I'm raring to go.  Where, that remains to be seen.  What was interesting about the trip (there were, of course, many interesting things, but this is the interesting thing I'm choosing to blog about) is that for a while now, or ever since I finished and emailed my sequel to GET WELL SOON off to my editor, I've been wondering if my inspiration for writing books came from my job at the middle school library.  Not necessarily directly from the job or the kids, but just being away from writing for a school year and then coming back to it each summer.  That concerned me, since I have this year off from work and was hoping to write at least two novels during that time (one down, so at least one more to go, right?).  But then there was that period of time where I wasn't writing, didn't want to start another novel right away, and didn't even really know what I wanted to write.  I had ideas, but nothing that screamed, "Write me!"

During our trip south, Matt and I spent a lot of time driving around while Romy napped.  This was the only way to get her to nap, and it gave me a lot of thinking time.  Reading signs, looking at southern things, whispering to Matt about places he had been, sparked something in me.  And just like that, I was ready to write my next book.  I started it this morning.  It's off to a surly start, but I think that's sort of the point of the thing.  Or not the point, just maybe a place the narrator can move away from.  Wow.  The narrator.  She doesn't even have a name yet.  I'm only four pages in, but I know where it's going a bit.  And just like that, here comes novel number two of my year off.  All I needed was a little change of scenery.  And a Moon Pie.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Happy!

Since I figure not many people are reading my blog during the holidays (or maybe you are, although turnout didn't seem huge for my last post), I'm not going to post again until next week after the big X-Mas shebang.  Wishing everyone safe and happy holidays and travels!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Music as Religion

This past week I watched the film Away We Go twice, once by myself and once with my husband.  I enjoyed the movie, although I found it incomplete and inconsistent (particularly in its mood, that jumped from solemn to slapstick to realistic to over-the-top).  It brought back a lot of my feelings of the period of my life when we were trying to get pregnant.  It also reminded me of something I'd been meaning to blog about, which is music as religion, because music is used somewhat heavy-handedly in the film.  You will soon see how the two topics go hand in hand.  Just an FYI: this blog post may border on the TMI, although if you've read Get Well Soon, one might say you already know TMI about me.

You probably know I have a two year-old daughter, but you may not know what a difficult time I had getting her.  The process was a two year roller coaster ride that included one miscarriage, hours of needles and testing (and, again, if you know anything about me, you know this is my phobia), and a complicated pregnancy with Romy.  Some of you may ask, why look back if you have a beautiful, perfect daughter now?  To that I answer: it is not something I will ever forget.  My friend, Cheryl, has twin girls, one of whom was in the NICU for just a few days.  Her twins are now in grade school, and Cheryl said she still cries when she remembers it.  Infertility is horribly painful (which was a piece of Away We Go that definitely got to me) and traumatic, and it is still fresh in my mind.  By the way, after all of the testing and the ridiculous infertility specialist we saw (one day she came to the office wearing a sparkly dress, the next she was in jeans, her hair piled atop her head because she couldn't bother to fix it), we ended up getting pregnant the natural way.  It just took a very bumpy road to get there.

Now- on to the music!  I used music as religion as a teenager.  I'm thinking most of us did/do.  But now I recognize that there were specific songs throughout my life that really were The Gospel.  Since this post is already too long, I am going to name the three songs that have been religious experiences for me during the last five years of my life.  Away we go:

"Let It Be" by The Beatles - I remember this song coming on the radio frequently when Matt and I would drive home from my mom's house during the trying-to-get-pregnant era.  The darkness, combined with the passing stripes of the road, elevated this song to a mantra.  I now sing along with it loudly to remind myself of Paul's wise words.

"Let's Go Crazy" by Prince -
Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
2 get through this thing called life

Electric word life
It means forever and that's a mighty long time
But I'm here 2 tell u
There's something else
The afterworld

A world of never ending happiness
U can always see the sun, day or night

So when u call up that shrink in Beverly Hills
U know the one - Dr Everything'll Be Alright
Instead of asking him how much of your time is left
Ask him how much of your mind, baby

'Cuz in this life
Things are much harder than in the afterworld
In this life
You're on your own


I cut and pasted these lyrics from a website called Lyricsdepot.com.  I am not a huge fan of people posting lyrics on their blogs, so feel free to skip, as I usually do.  This is from the beginning of the song, where it's like a sermon (forgive me if that's not the right term.  I am a Jew), and I always just used to think of this song as a weird Prince dance/rock jam with a funny church theme.  Back up the sixth week of my pregnancy with Romy when I found out we were having twins.  Six weeks later, I was driving home from the hospital by myself after learning that one of the twins stopped developing at seven weeks.  A relatively common event that many women don't even know happened to them (we just happened to have an early ultrasound because of all our complications), but upsetting nonetheless.  Matt and I drove separately because I was coming home from work.  On my drive, this song came on.  And all of a sudden I got it.  I was in Prince's church.  And at the end of the song, where the guitar builds to heavenly heights, and he screams "Take me away!" I was changed.  I still get chills even thinking about it.

"Falling Slowly" from the Once Soundtrack - I know there are variations of the names of the band who wrote this song, so I could have written The Swell Season or their names, but it really started from when I saw it in Once.  I am assuming the lyrics to this song are about something going on between the couple in the film (and if you have not seen it, please do.  It's magical.), but I found that they worked for me as I failed to get pregnant.  The first lines of
I don't know you
But I want you
All the more
For that
choke me up to this day. 
Take this sinking boat and point it home
We've still got time
Yeah, I'm crying now.  But here's the kicker:
You have suffered enough
And warred with yourself
It's time that you won
I'm pretty sure this song was not written for people trying and failing to get pregnant, but damn if it didn't feel like it was for me.

So there you have it.  Those songs hit me with religious fervor and still inspire awe every time I hear them.  There have been more in my life, like "Alive" by Pearl Jam when I was a clinically depressed teenager, but I think I've shared enough for one blog post.  Probably enough for more than one.

If you've stuck with this long post and you'd care to share, what are some of your songs-as-religion choices?

Friday, December 17, 2010

I Do Not

It's time to talk about marriage.  Not NORMAL person marriage, but celebrity marriage.  What is wrong with celebrities, you ask, that they cannot stay together?  This is in the wake of multiple celebrity break-ups in the past few weeks, including the as expected one of Ryan Reynolds (who I will never see as an action stud guy, no matter how much he works out) and Scarlett Johansson (who also does not appeal to me at all).  In my humble (and often right) opinion, I think it boils down to three things: 1) Acting, 2) Time intensity, and 3) Money.  I shall explain. 

Acting.  That's what they do for a living, so I can't imagine it's so easy to turn it off when they go home at night.  Like when you're a teacher, and you have to go home and grade.  Or that one kid who did something awful that day won't get out of your head.  I'm sure all careers have this to some degree, so why not acting?  I figure actors have this warped sense of reality, so when they come home to their spouse, or soon-to-be spouse, they act like what they think a happy couple is supposed to act like.  And that works.  For a short amount of time.

Time Intensity.  This isn't the greatest way to phrase what I'm thinking, but Romy is up in her crib and I am (as always) rushing to finish this post.  What I mean is that when you work on a television or movie set (which I can say from experience, since I was an intern on The Adventures of Pete and Pete, and I know what a 16 hour day can do to your personal life), you see the same people for a very intense period of time.  You have your own little trailers.  Junky food is spread out for you.  You all know and hang around the same people.  So it's like your own, special world.  But when the television show or movie stops filming and BAM you are in the real world with lots of other people, and then suddenly you are on a whole new set with completely different people than your newly made spouse, those people are the ones that get the time intensity instead of the new/old beau.  Did that make sense?

Money.  This one's huge.  For real people, we have to think a lot about money a lot of the time.  Weddings cost a shitload.  And so do divorces.  Real people have to think about the money they spend on their big day, and they also have to think about what would happen to their money if they divorce.  It causes people to think more about why they got into their marriage in the first place and hopefully helps a lot of people work through their marital problems instead of taking the easy and quick way out through divorce.  By no means am I saying that some couples don't need to get a divorce.  I'm just saying that celebrities seem to think marriage has little meaning and that getting out of short-lived marriages instead of working through is the norm.  Or maybe they just jump into marriages too quickly because, again, they don't have to worry about throwing away a ton of money if the marriage doesn't work out.  Most stars' engagement rings cost more than I will make in my lifetime.  I'm guessing.

I have no idea how I chose this for a blog subject.  I just thought it was weird when I saw people posting on facebook- in shock!- that ScarJo and RyRen were getting divorced.  Really?  And is it sad that I, and I'm sure loads of others, predicted it would happen?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I am an Author

It took me writing four novels to realize that, indeed, I am a writer.  Or an author.  Is there a difference?  Whatever, I am both.  For a long time, with Get Well Soon and Into the Wild Nerd Yonder, I felt like sort of a sham.  Not like I couldn't write or that my books weren't good because I don't believe either.  I think my books are very funny, and if not great literature at least well-written, with excellent characterization and dialog (ha!  I just critiqued myself!).  But I still didn't feel like a writer.  Then I finished my third novel, the forthcoming Don't Stop Now.  Actually, I still wasn't feeling all that writerly.  But about the time revisions came around, and my editor and I needed less than a handful of revision passes between us, I got the sense that I was doing okay.  I read blogs of other writers- HUGE ones (not necessarily in size, of course, although some may be.  I don't know what all authors look like in person)- talking about their revision process and things they struggled with-- things I didn't.  And I though, huh, maybe I am a writer!  With the sequel of Get Well Soon in the hands of my editor, and with much confidence from me (although the self-loathing and terror will most definitely come later), I feel like this is it.  I have found my calling.  I used to think the only job I was meant to do was that of a librarian.  I already knew I was damn good at that.  But I'm very happy to find another career, calling, that suits me.

I have no idea why I just wrote some absurd mission statement/daily affirmation blog post.  That's not what I sat down to write at all.  Perhaps I just needed to tell myself this, as I'm in between books and buying shoes obsessively online, wondering whether or not I'll wake my daughter up by playing my Deathly Hallows computer game upstairs, and thinking I'll wait until after the holidays to get back to writing books.  Other writers have these problems, too, right?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Part (two) of that world

I can't say I'm not disappointed by the lack of enthusiasm about yesterday's post.  Did you just miss it because I posted in the afternoon?  I thought you would be all over it!  Isn't it fun to pretend?  I'll just keep doing it for myself then.
1.  If you had to live in one world purely for its fashion, weaponry, and/or gadgets, which would you choose?
Hmmm.  I am curious as to how the hairstylists on Buffy managed to make her brown hair blond and still look so soft and shiny.  But I don't think I'd look very good as a blond (which is another blog post I intend to tackle someday: celebrities who are natural brunettes who look better as blonds AND those who look awful as them).  It's ridiculous that I keep asking questions I can't answer.  At first, I thought I might want to be in Willy Wonka, so I could go into the magical room where everything is food.  But I'm so germaphobic, that the concept now grosses me out.  Ooh!  I know.  I would want to be one of The Pink Ladies!  But in Grease or Grease 2?  I mean, who doesn't want to be Stephanie Zenoni?  Am I right?  Hello?  Is anyone there?  For weapons and gadgety stuff, I think Star Trek: TNG is pretty awesome.  I could probably spend all of my days in the Holodeck, thus allowing me to live out any fantasy I have.  How does anyone in the world of TNG not spend all of their time in the holodeck?  Plus, I think I remember that they never had to have blood drawn in the awful way we do, just a little reader thing held over their skin without puncturing it.  I would remember that .
2.  If you had to actually BE a fictional character, which one would you embody?
I'm pretty sure I'll go with Buffy on this one.  She's super strong, has great hair, is witty and charming and lovely.  I really admire her.  It would be a hard life, but I'd have my Scooby Gang to help me out.  It would be an amazing power to walk down the street and know you could kick anyone's ass.

I'm going to leave today's blog at two questions, since no one fully answered yesterday's three.  If I don't get any real answers today, I'm changing subjects.  Sigh.  What do blog readers want from me?  I'm so confused.  I bet Buffy could figure it out.  Or at least Willow could.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Part (one) of that world

I have been in mega Buffy mode lately (which often alternates with Harry Potter mode), maybe due to my recent acquisition of the first few comics from the final installment of Season Eight.  If you have no idea what I'm talking about, I feel sad for you.  Not in a cultural snob kind of way, but in an I love you guys, so you should really have Buffy in your life kind of way.  And it got me thinking about WORLDS, like, fictional worlds that I would or would not want to live in.  Because I love a good survey, questionnaire, or Favorites list, I have one for you, dear readers.  At first, the question that popped into my head was a singular one: If you had to chose one fictional world to live in, which one would you choose?  But because I would also have to answer this question, I knew that wasn't going to be an easy task.  So think of this as a series of questions about living in fictional worlds.  Because, how can you choose just one?  What are we basing this on?  The world itself?  The characters?  Romantic possibilities?  Fun vs. coolness?  Realism vs. fantasy?  And would you be one of the characters in this world, or yourself?  Today's entry in the Part of That World Blog Series I just created asks three questions.  Answer carefully.  You never know when you may be sucked into a parallel universe.  For the span of these posts, and unless the question specifies differently, you are answering these question as YOURSELF in these other worlds.  That doesn't mean you can't be yourself and have super powers or magic or whatever, but it is you, not you inhabiting the body and mind of another character.  That comes later :)  See my answers directly after the questions.  You answer in the comments.  Have fun!  Oh, and these can be book, movie, or TV worlds.  And they don't have to be obvious, fantastical choices, either.  If you want to hang with the gang on How I Met Your Mother, that's your prerogative.  I'm not picky.  Well, at least not about that.

1.  If you had to choose one World to live in, which would you choose (in a general kind of way)?
My answer may seem obvious, but the world of Harry Potter.  I'd be a wizard.  Gryffindor, naturally.
2.  If you had to have one romantic interest from another world, who would it be?
This is a tough one, so I'm going to narrow it down to three (yeah, you can do that).  These are off the top of my head, so I'm sure the longer I think about it I'd come up with some ridiculous ones (Like, say, Atreyu from "The Neverending Story" all grown up or something): 1) Ron Weasley, 2) Daniel Dessario from Freaks and Geeks, and 3) Spike from Buffy.
3.  If you had to inhabit one world based on the other people inhabiting it, which would you choose?
Buffy for me.  They are smart and funny, and I just would love to be their friend.  Plus, I'd have my own, personal librarian on hand almost all of the time!


Tomorrow brings more worldy questions, including clothing and other character embodiment.  If you have any ideas for addition questions, do tell.  My mind is a mushball even as I type this.  I was much funnier and interesting this morning when I wanted to write this, but I had to be in mom-mode.  Hopefully you'll like thinking about this as much as I did.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Happy Hodgepodge

We put up our Christmas tree yesterday, and only a tiny part of me deflated when Romy got so excited about it (the part that wants her to be just as excited about Hanukkah).  But I realized that, since we are raising her Jewish, and we celebrate all Jewish holidays locally with my family, that Judaism isn't competing with Christmas.  Instead, Christmas is a fun, food-filled, Southern family-visiting, bright lights holiday that we celebrate.  And Romy loves the tree!  How could she not?  We have a most excellent collection of pop culture ornaments.  I was going to reference a blog post that I swore I published last year about all of our ornaments, but it turned out the post was from THREE years ago!  And poopily, the pictures don't show up anymore (something to do with the blog having to move).  I took a few new pictures of some of the faves:

We bought this at the German Christmas market they have in Chicago every year.  It's a shiny cowboy.
We call this one "The Maestro."  I don't think you can see his wicked, scary legs very well.
The Bumble tops our tree every year.
We have a lovely section of Futurama ornaments.  They are constantly losing limbs.  This year, Romy popped off one of Bender's arms.
I purchased this box back in my QVC-watching days.  Inside are the breakable, collectible ornaments that have no boxes.  We didn't put these out this year because Romy is still very playful with everything on the tree.
This picture is hilarious.  That's Xander and Giles from Buffy in a stare-off.
Please comment if my pictures take forever to load.  I haven't been shrinking them at all in size, so I know they are huge files.  But if it makes it slow, I'd like to know and I will stop being lazy.

In completely unrelated news, please look at this website of awkward pregnancy photos. Damn, it's funny.  I guess it's sort of related, what with the TRASHY holiday cards.  Thanks to Claire Zulkey for sharing.

Oh, and I bought the boots :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Lower Body Solution

Many of you must wonder how I stay so svelte (Ha!  I am very much kidding because a) Most of you probably have no idea what shape I'm in, b) Even if you did, why would you be wondering about it? and c) I used the word "svelte").  I owe it all to Jane Fonda.  Seriously.  As most of you know, or at least those of you who read GET WELL SOON and understood that it was based on my life, I was once chubby.  In college, I started working out to Jane Fonda's Lower Body Solution.  And it changed me.  Yes, the way I looked, but it changed the way I understood my body.  Like, I could do stuff with it.  I was strong.  I had energy.  It had an incredible impact on my life (and we're not just talking lo-impact here).  If I ever met Jane Fonda in some weird Jane Fonda/YA crossover situation, I would probably hug her and cry and tell her what she did for my self-esteem.  Because of her, I became a worker-outer.  Years ago, I was a regular at the gym and one of the stars in my step aerobics classes.  Not that that's important, and not that I am in that kind of shape anymore, but it is so empowering to be able to do those kinds of things with your body if you are so inclined.  These days, I only work out at home about three days a week to help keep my energy going.  And lately, because I missed my weird exercise buds Laurel, Mark, and Jeanne (Jane's lackeys, I guess.  Her AWESOME lackeys), I've been doing the old video workout again.  Not that I need the video.  I have the darn thing memorized.  Now, everyone reading this should get off your buns of steel right now, and give me a little attitude, okay?  Now march six, and cha cha!
[Sadly, I couldn't find any video footage, but I did find this excellent webpage!]

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Period

I forgot that I do not like to not have things to do.  Not that I don't have things I can do, but aside from feeding and clothing my child, there is nothing I HAVE to do.  My book is in my editor's hands, and I have nothing assigned to me as of yet.  Not that I get assignments, but since so much of life has been spent in schools, I tend to look at it as being full of assignments.  Sometimes it's the only way for me to get things done.  The funny thing I am noticing, not for the first time, is that I SUCK at relaxing.  Like, I could totally be vegging out until after the new year, when I can buckle down and give myself real assignments.  Instead, I'm fretting about not having anything to do and what people are going to think about my new book.  I hate this time in a book's life: a few galleys are out there (my publisher is waiting to send out more until after the holidays, so they don't get lost in the hustle and bustle.  Which makes sense.), but they won't be in the hands of teen readers who almost always say positive things, until June, or reviewers, who may or may not influence the shelf life of a book.  It's a scary, self-doubting time for me.  For all authors?  With every book I go through periods of elation and pride, as well as periods of self-doubt and hatred.  The book sucks.  My second one did better than I thought for a sophomore slump, so the bad book must be my third, right?  These are things I think.  Especially when I have nothing concrete to do to fill my brain's time.  But, most importantly, what do you think of these boots?

Kind of weird, kind of cute, right?  But they're $250.  I will not spend that on shoes.  Now that I have the whole feeding and clothing of a daughter to think about.  I do like them, though.  Does Cole Haan stuff ever go on sale?

Oy.  I better get on a new project quickly.  It's only 8:23 AM, and I'm already chewing gum.  Not a good sign.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Don't Panic!

Can you find the muffin tops?
Yet, I am panicking.  Without the book I already lack focus.  Ah, who am I kidding?  It has little to do with the book and much to do with the fact that having a child has sucked out some of my brain.  I do believe it's true.  I used to be one of those people who ALWAYS had their shit together.  Now, I'm lucky if I remember to wear shoes.  Speaking of shoes, does anyone else have a problem where they always have to have the exact perfect shoes for an occasion, and yet the shoes also have to be practical?  It's ridiculous, really.  I own many, many pairs of shoes, and yet I never have the right pair to wear.  In the end, I almost always go to my Converse or Vans.  Which are cute but kind of predictable and, let's face it, not super comfortable.  Plus, now that it's winter, they are completely impractical.  So what now?  What shoes can I wear when it's Chicago winter-cold outside, hard snow on the ground, and yet I want to feel kind of cute?  Because these hideous monsters, which Matt has christened "Muffin Tops" disgust me every time I put them on.  And yet, they are so easy, I ALWAYS put them on.  Being a mom has already compromised my brain, should it compromise my style as well?  Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi.  You are my only hope.

PS Blogger is making it hard for me to move my pictures around my post.  Otherwise, I would have relocated the shoe picture to the bottom.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Freedom isn't Free

It's done.  GET WELL SOON II is now in the hands of my editor.  I have experienced this with three other books already.  But this time, it's different.  Normally, I finish my first editor-readable draft right at the end of summer, and then BAM! I have to go back to work.  This time around, I was able to slow down and finish on my own time.  Actually, I wonder if that's true.  If I added up all of the hours that each of  my previous books took me to write, would GWSII be any greater?  Aside from the fact that it is my longest book, did it only take a larger number of months to write because I didn't have as many minutes each day?  So I really just wrote it in the same span of time, only with less time each day to do so?  Is any of this making sense?  I'm not fully awake yet.  Because I couldn't think of a reason to get myself out of bed early!  Whoa!!!

So what next?  What do other authors do when they are home all year instead of only the summer, and they have nothing technically lined up?  Do I start on a new book right away?  Do I fritter away my time?  Do I play around with some picture book ideas?  I have NO CLUE.  I hope this is not the part where I drive myself insane.  This is where the real discipline kicks in.  Where I have to create an assignment.  For instance, I really need to add a DON'T STOP NOW page to my website.  But no one is making me do that.  Uh oh.  I'm sensing weeks of crappy TV and eating anything sweet I can find laying around the house (hello, raisins!).

Shouldn't I be happy and relaxed?  I am happy, if course, but I am also very nervous.  Do I need the daily stimulation of school life to inspire a new book each year?  Or can I pull a second book out of my head within the same year's time?  I used to be very confident that I could, you know, write at least two books per year.  And I still think I can, but not with as much confidence.  Maybe I do need a few weeks to gather my thoughts, veg out, and live a lazy life.  Now who wants to share a tub of raisins?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

What to Watch Weekend: Go!

This weekend's recommendation is the 1999 film Go.  Doug Liman, who went on to direct The Bourne Identity, directed this frenetic movie about a bunch of whipper snappers who spend a drug-induced Christmas eve going to a rave, going to Vegas, and getting shot.  I am not doing the movie justice at all.  It has an incredible soundtrack, which makes it one of my treadmill staples, and the cast is great.  Sarah Polley, who I just watched in the freakfest Splice (holy crap! Has anyone else seen this?), is all cool and adorably skinny.  Timothy Olyphant is scary and shirtless, as he should be.  And Katie Holmes is, well, Katie Holmes-y, which is fine for her role.  And it's one of those movies that relives different moments from different characters' points of view, but in a really excellent, fun way, not in a pretentious, confusing way.  GO rush out and watch it!  See what I did there?

And you must also watch this.  My homies over in Norway (Jeg elsker deg!) gathered this randy and RANDOM group of people (I'm talking Judd Nelson, Ray Pruitt from 90210, and Carleton from the Fresh Prince to name a few) to sing "Let It Be."  It's ridiculous and completely Norwegian.  It goes on forever, but the crazy guests just keep coming!  We're talking Peter Falk, Sherilyn Fenn, Freddie Krueger, Tanya Frickin' Harding, Right Said Fred, and many, MANY more!  And the hilarity is underneath their names, they also choose the most random credit for that person.  For instance, "Rick" Schroeder was credited for "The Champ."  Hva?

Friday, December 03, 2010

A Little Space, Please

I don't know what Romy's deal is.  She started antibiotics two days ago for her first ear infection, and she's been working her way through a cold for over a week.  Because of these things, she is acting very attached to me.  Even while she should be sleeping.  Or maybe her ears hurt, so she can't sleep.  Or her stomach hurts, and she can't sleep.  Whatever it is, and because of it, I can't sleep either.  I also can't find the time to get any work done.  Here is a picture of me, taken this morning, making my way through my final pages of GET WELL SOON II: Electric Bookaloo:


Are there three million other places in the house she could be playing?  Damn skippy.  She could be enjoying her fabulous new digs:
 But, so is motherhood.  And, yes, I did manage to finish my book.  Now, onto my final step of typing in all of my changes, and then it's off to my editor!  And for a little while, it won't matter if my daughter wakes me up or hovers as much as she does.  Which probably means she will be over those phases and on to following her dad around.  All the more time for me to catch up on crappy TV and my Deathly Hallows game. 

Hope to see some of you at the Young Chicago Authors Holiday Book Bash tonight!  Information is in the side bar.  Happy Friday! 

Thursday, December 02, 2010

If Only

The great Rachel Cohn posted a link to this on facebook today:
Michael Cera joins real life indie band
It's an article from The Guardian about how Michael Cera will be the bass player in some new indie super group while they tour.  Stuff like that used to get me really bunged up, like, of course he gets to join a band!  He's FAMOUS.  The band will get mega attention because of  him!  That doesn't make him a musician or anything.  Nowadays, being an old lady of thirty-five, I don't feel quite as worked up.  But it does make me think about if I had any sort of level of fame, such as Michael Cera, let's say, what would I use my fame for?  And what does Michael Cera-level fame get you?  Obviously, it gets you into a cool band.  But could it, say, get you to the front of the lines at Disney World?  Bumped to first class when you fly?  Or do you have enough money as Michael Cera to always fly first class?  Would people give you free food?  Free clothes?  I always loved the idea of being courted by designers during awards season.  Being courted by anyone with free stuff sounds nice.  Anyone reading my blog have Michael Cera-level fame?  Is Michael Cera reading this?  If so, hello.  I hope you have wonderful success in your "band."  Am I sounding bitter?  I don't mean to be.  I'm, as always, lacking sleep and bordering on, but not close enough to taste it, finishing the revision to The Sequel.  You think if I were as famous as Michael Cera, someone would just finish The Sequel for me?  And I could say that I was a real author because, you know, I'm famous?  Only time and money will tell.

P.S. (added later in the day)
I hope it didn't sound like I was knocking Michael Cera.  It's not him that I'm kvetching about, more the whole deal where famous people get so many perks that us regular folk could only dream about.  It probably doesn't feel like that to Michael Cera.  Or maybe it does.  What do I know from Michael Cera?  Rockin' author Yvonne Prinz and I are starting our own band, and we can perform whenever we want at her record store, Amoeba.  Too bad I don't really play any instruments very well.  Or live in California.  Foiled again!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Happy Hanukkah!

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah! It's very early this year, but I think in our family that is a good thing because it gives us an opportunity to introduce Hanukkah to Romy separately from Christmas, so she gets a feeling for how both holidays work. Even though this will technically be Romy's third Hanukkah and Christmas, it will be the first where she is completely communicative and aware of everything. And, dang, is she communicative. She recites passages from books, counts to twelve, sings the alphabet, and speaks in nine word sentences. And she just turned two! She's a smart cookie. Speaking of cookies, I'm going to try and fit in whipping up a batch of sugar cookie dough this morning, so we can make some Hanukkah cookies tonight. Enough of the Hanukkah Mom talk.

Why did only one person comment on the quotes in books post? I really thought people would have stuff to say about it. I am thinking that means no one actually cares about the quotes at the beginning of books. Is that what I should conclude? If I were writing a dissertation on the subject, would that be my final observation?

I guess I'll get back to reading my manuscript for changes. I'm over halfway there. That means all I have to do is finish this step, type in the changes, and it's off to my editor. And then what? What's next? Do I give myself a break and finally play my Harry Potter game? Do I jump into the idea I have? Do I jump into the other idea I have? I think I might wait. It is December, after all. This is a month, at least when you work in schools, where nothing real gets done, and every day is a book fair or classroom party. But I'm not in a school this year. Maybe I'll just pretend. Okay, everybody, I'm bringing the Hanukkah cookies for tomorrow's class party! W00t!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Quick Time

I am on the third phase of writing The Sequel, where I print up my FINALLY typed manuscript and read it through for millions of tweaks.  After this, I just have to type in the changes and it's on to my editor!  Because of this, I don't have as much time in the mornings to blog.  It seems to me that people catch my blog in the morning, though, and when I blog anytime later in the day, not as many people read it.  Yesterday's post had a cool video, as well as an interesting question about quotes at the beginning of books.  I'd love to hear from more of you about that.  In the meantime, here is a poll.  You can choose more than one answer.  Now it's time to get the baby out of bed and refinance my mortgage.  Jealous?

What time of day do you read my blog?
Before work
During work- morning
During work- lunch time
During work - afternoon
Evening
Late night
Whenever
I don't read your blog. Stop asking me questions!
  

Monday, November 29, 2010

Quotes

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Mine was delightful, aside for my daughter's nasty cold that just keeps giving.  I am also still not fixed in the sleep department.  The sleep med I've been on for two weeks is making me crazy tired all day, so who cares if I'm sleeping through the night?  Right now I feel a bit jammed in the creativity department, and it took me until now to think of what I wanted to blog about.

How many of you notice the quotes in the beginning of books?  How many of you authors include them?  I must admit that I rarely read the quotes authors choose for their books.  Sometimes, I just feel confused, and other times I am completely turned off by the lame choice of band or musician the author happens to be quoting (this happened in a book I read recently.  And, no, I will not tell you which book.  And yes, I am a music snob).  I have only used one quote so far, at the beginning of INTO THE WILD NERD YONDER.  The quote: "I want to see movies of my dreams."  Or was it "wanna?"  Whatever.  A gorgeous quote from a gorgeous song by one of my favorite bands, Built to Spill.  Why did I choose that quote?  I don't know.  I think I thought it had something to do with my book, but I more just liked the quote.  Isn't that a lame reason?  Even lamer, I secretly hoped that the guys in Built to Spill, when asked for the rights to use their quote, would contact me.  Alas.  No contact.  So why bother?  I'm curious to hear people's thoughts on book quotes.  Because I haven't even written my next book (after the GET WELL SOON sequel), but I somehow thought this would be a nice quote to go in the front, "You're gonna make it after all."  Of course, that's a line from the Mary Tyler Moore theme song.  But I love it even more in this version by Husker Du.  (I couldn't figure out how to insert the umlauts.)  I used this song in my AWARD-WINNING (like, college award-winning) movie, "I Wanna Be a Freak."  Don't you wish you could see that movie?  Maybe some day.  Anyway, it was in a montage scene.  It's possibly the coolest song ever.  And a good quote, to boot.  Enjoy at maximum volume:

Saturday, November 27, 2010

What to Watch Weekend: Scarier TV

Y'all know I am tepid about The Walking Dead, and now that Entertainment Weekly is all up the show's butt, I am even more turned off.  Not that I don't enjoy EW.  Any magazine that manages a way to insert Buffy into every list they create is alright by me.  But I just can't jump on the Walking Dead bandwagon yet.  So I thought for this week's edition of What to Watch Weekend, I would suggest the best scary television program of ALL TIME: Tales from the Crypt [note that The Twilight Zone is not considered horror in my brain, even though it may be in some of yours.  Meaning, I adore that show, but it's apples and oranges.].  Tales from the Crypt sparked my interest in horror comics when I was a kid, and there are so many memorable episodes I don't know where to start.  Who am I kidding?  Of course I do!  Here is a list of my favorite episodes of TFTC:

1.  "Dig That Cat...He's Real Gone" (Season 1)- Do NOT go to Wikipedia for descriptions of these episodes.  TOTAL SPOILERS!  Bastards!  That's the beauty of TFTC and The Twilight Zone-- the twisted endings!  For shame!  Anyway, I love any episode that takes place at an old time circus (and there are many), but this one it too brilliant.  The entire story is told from the perspective of a man who was buried alive as part of a circus act after he was given some gland from a cat that supposedly gave him nine lives.  Watch as he recounts each show-stopping death, and hear how he plans to spend the rest of his final life once they dig him up.  I turned this one into a scary story I tell my students.

2.  "Collection Completed" (Season 1) - This is a doozy about a wife whose taxidermy-loving husband won't pay her enough attention.  Perhaps predictable, except for how it looks.  Nasty!

3.  "For Cryin' Out Loud" (Season 2) - An obnoxious guy in the music industry does something bad, and as a result hears voices.  Loud voices.  We're talking so loud you want to jab a pencil in your ears.

4.  "Four-Sided Triangle" (Season 2) - Patricia Arquette and sex with a scarecrow.  That's all I'm saying.

5.  "The Ventriloquist's Dummy" (Season 2) - Do I need to tell you anything else but the title?  If you don't know what I'm talking about, then you don't know what I'm talking about.

6.  "Lower Berth" (Season 2) - The origin of The Cryptkeeper!  At an old time circus!  Holy crap this one's weird.

Alas, I am out of time.  You can see this list might go on forever, if I already have six episodes from only the first two seasons.  If anyone shows interest, I can continue my list another week.  For now, hahahahahahahah! (That's supposed to be the Cryptkeeper's show-ending cackle.  Not as scary in type).

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Sappy Thanksgiving

It's a gloomy looking day outside, and I have a headache.  But I am so thankful on this Thanksgiving for everything I have.  For my husband and daughter and cat, and for being able to see them every day and be home together.  Yesterday, with Romy's cold, we all snuggled into the big bed to watch some "Winne the Pooh."  Romy kept looking at each of us, side to side, and repeated, "We are all together."  I don't know specifically where she got that one, but I it was wonderful that she got that.  I am thankful for the rest of my family, for their love and support, and I can't wait to see some of them tonight while we dine at Aunt Gloria's (I'm bringing two pies.  From Baker's Square.  Maybe someday I'll bake a pie, but for now, French Silk it is).  I am thankful for my publisher and my editor and my art designer and my agent.  All of the wonderful folks I work with at Feiwel and Friends, who are like my little publishing family.  They are so wonderful to me and believe in me and make the whole writing process fun.  Otherwise, why would I want to do it?  I am thankful for my friends, some of whom I rarely see but think about on the silliest and most random of occasions.  I am thankful for my job and being allowed to take a year off from work to experience life with my daughter before she's old enough to go to her own school.  And, I hope this doesn't sound cheesy and Grammy Award-winning, but I'm grateful for YOU, all of the people out there who I don't really know or who I am just starting to get to know who read my books and my blog.  Without you, I wouldn't be able to stay home like this with my daughter, or know that what I have to say can actually help others or make someone else laugh.  So thank you to everyone out there reading this.  I hope you and yours have a wonderful, safe, pie-filled (even if it's not homemade) Thanksgiving!  And tomorrow: Black Friday!  Should I or shouldn't I?  And how many of you participate in Buy Nothing Day?  I like to go through all the ads and circle things, and then not buy anything.  Not because I'm really making a statement.  Because I don't want to go out with all of the crazed shoppers.  Or do I want to be one of the crazed shoppers?  Does any of it matter?  Because all I can think about is the pie.

And here's a cartoon from my friend, the brilliant cartoonist Richard Thompson to get you in the spirit (I swiped it from his blog, so I hope he does not mind).  Click to enlarge:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I Finished! Pie, Please.

Yesterday, with the babysitting help of my mom, I finished typing up my 397 page manuscript for the Get Well Soon sequel.  I felt great when it was over, but then there's always the feeling that I'm still not finished.  The next step will be to print up the pages (something I used to do easily and quickly when I was working, but something that is iffy and slow at home) and read them over.  I will make lots of little changes throughout, but I don't think I need to make any structural changes.  At this point, I'm quite good at creating a solid foundation for my books.  I have a few sections that I'm not sure about.  I feel the ending could either end at one line, or continue on through the next couple paragraphs.  There was a kiss that I took out, but I'm not sure if I should have.  And then there are all the bits that I'm afraid aren't consistent with the original book.  The problem with that is I am too lazy and slow of a reader to go back and re-read Get Well Soon again just to find that one little spot.  Of course I will, because how lame would that be if I were that lazy?  For instance, I can't remember what I named the parents.  Or if Justin had a last name.  Or if a certain person left the hospital in the original book.  Those are important things to remember when writing a sequel.  And truthfully, trying to figure those things out wasn't very fun.  As much as I would someday like to try my hand at historical fiction, I don't know if I have it in me to stick with research and be historically accurate.  It really messes with my creative process.  It's an interesting thought, though: will I write contemporary YA fiction for the rest of my life?  How much will the YAs change during my career?  How can I keep up?  Always another thing to think about.

I don't think I'll be getting much work done, except maybe the printing, over the next couple of days.  I hear Romy sneezing again and again over her baby monitor, which I was afraid of.  She has a cold.  I hope we can still go to Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow night.  She is all excited about eating mince pie.  Not that we'll eat mince pie.  But it was mentioned in a book, and she likes to pretend she's eating it while we read it.  We even rented "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" from the library.  Her favorite is Peppermint Patty.  I hope it's only because she has a funny name.  Not because she's rude.  She's better than Lucy, I suppose.

If anyone reading this blog got their hands on a copy of Don't Stop Now, I'd love to hear from you!  Someone posted on facebook that they were reading it, so that means somehow there must be copies out there.  I heard from someone at my publisher that the blogger review copies aren't being sent out until after New Year's.  I'm disappointed to hear that because I would love to have them out there NOW.  I'm not the most patient person.  If I can get my mitts on some more copies, I'll hold another contest.  In the meantime, I must go wrestle with my printer!  And my daughter's boogers.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Things I Loved and Things I Missed from the Deathly Hallows

Since I am only thirty pages away from finishing my manuscript typing of The Sequel, here is a quickie Top Eleven list of all the things I loved from HP7.  For those who haven't seen it and haven't read the books, there may be spoilers below.  Beware!:

1.  Bill Weasley - How awesome to get to see another Weasley brother!!!  And a fine-looking one at that.  Too bad he has obviously bad taste in skinny, snotty women.

2.  The cartoon of "The Three Brothers - SO incredible.  I could watch that portion on its own a thousand times over.

3.  Seeing the movie the Monday after its release- There were only five groups of people in the theater, so aside from the idiots that felt they could speak aloud in reaction to everything (really, why do people think that's what you do in a movie theater these days?  Especially when nothing you say is at all interesting.), it was a rather comfy, private viewing.

4.  Ron's hideous pants- Why were they so short?

5.  The little dance scene with Hermione and Harry - Sweet and awkward, just the way I like 'em.

6.  Luna's jumpsuit.

7.  Kreacher's nose.

8.  The scene in Bathilda's house looked EXACTLY how I envisioned it while I read it.

9.  Hermione's bag never ceases to amaze me.  And I loved that little jacket she wore when they first changed clothes.

10.  Bill Weasley.  Um, yeah, I said that already, but how much do I love the Weasleys?  Will we finally get to see Charlie in the next movie?

11.  The ending - It totally gave me chills.  And made me smile.  BURN, Voldey!

Three things that I missed from the book:
1.  The touching goodbye between Harry and Dudley.

2.  The mural in Luna's bedroom of her friends.

3.  Am I wrong, or did they make a headstone for Dobby in the book that read, "Here lies a free elf."  And was there a sock involved?  Sometimes I think I just make things up about Harry Potter.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Busy Pants

Sorry for the lack of blogging.  There is just too much going on right now, and my blogging is one of the the things that has to suffer.  Romy is not napping well, and I am still not sleeping well, which means much less typing time.  I am happy to say I am on page 361 of 397, so the end if very nigh!  And I am LOVING the last 100 pages or so.  What that says about the first 300 pages, I'm not sure.  I'll be so happy to finish the typing, but I have realized that this is my life as a writer forever.  There is no way I can write a book directly into a computer.  So every book for the rest of my life will have this torturous typing stage.  Things could be way worse, no?  I could have to wear THESE:
 
I think that guy on the right is dreaming he's a lumberjack, but he didn't have an ax so he's shouldering a shovel.  I am sickened by the fact these are called "denims."  Get 'em while they're HOT!  It's your LAST CHANCE.  Man, I need some sleep.  I hope I don't dream about these pants.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Results

Still working on the sleep regulation.  Last night I took half a pill, so my sleep only sucked half as badly, as does my current state of day sleepiness.  I'm not pleased, and it is causing me to eat far too many Frango candy cane chocolates (which makes me a disgusting Marshall Field's traitor, I know).  I just got my phone call from the doctor's office with my glucose results, and the one number was actually HIGHER (eff me), but some number that she didn't refer to previously is lower, and apparently that is all good.  So, what does that mean?  I guess that I can keep eating dessert, but not every day, and I still have to stick with the whole grains for cereal, bread, rice, etc.  Huzzah!  My vitamin D is still crap, however, so expect me to be a hunchback any day.

On to the winner of the Don't Stop Now ARC giveaway contest!  Thank you to all who entered!  I hope not winning won't prevent you from wanting to read the book someday (out May 10th!).  The winner is...

Molly!  Who said she would run away to "London where no one knows my name. Because I already live too close to Boston and that's where everyone goes."  Please send me an email, Molly, at julie@juliehalpern.com with your address!

Now for something I found rather hilarious, if only because I do love the Potter gang (Weasley is my king):

Movie Trailers - Movies Blog

How awesome was Malfoy?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Grumpy Beans

Today was a blur of bluck.  I started a new sleep med last night, and I could barely get out of bed today.  I felt more tired and groggy than I ever do when I don't sleep, so what's the point?  And I was really mean and grumpy.  I tried to overcompensate by taking Romy to the Jelly Belly factory nearby (yes, I live less than twenty minutes away from the "factory," actually a warehouse with a little train tour.  Whatever, you still get free jell beans).  It worked until I felt like my teeth were rotting, and the grumpies came back.  I'm blogging to remind myself of all the good things from today:
  • I got to page 300 on my manuscript typing!  That's only 97 pages to go!!!
  • Romy had her first jelly bean.  And second.  And a whole lot more.
  • Romy got a Jelly Belly hat.
  • I bought my favorite socks in the world.  (Seriously.  They have the best socks at the Jelly Belly store.)
  • C-Diddy accepted my friend request on facebook.
  • We're going out for Indian food for dinner.
So really not a bad day.  Just a bad me.  Maybe I'll just take half a pill tonight.  And be half as grumpy tomorrow.

Don't forget the contest to win my ARC of Don't Stop Now!!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Corn in the Nose

Yesterday I only managed to type up four pages of The Sequel.  Why?  Because during the time that was supposed to be reserved for typing (Romy's usual naptime), I was at the doctor's office with Romy dislodging a piece of corn from her nostril.  The doctor told me to make a seal with my mouth around Romy's mouth, plug her free nostril, and blow hard directly into her mouth.  I did it, and the corn flew out of Romy's nose and directly onto the doctor's sleeve.  It was a beautiful moment.  But also an exhausting, time-consuming one.  So is parenthood.  Speaking of, you may be wondering what we chose for our first television program for Romy.  It ended up being an episode of Sesame Street, and she enjoyed it.  We've watched a little here and there, until tonight when I brought out season one, episode one of The Muppet Show.  Yes, that included the perfection of Mahnamamnan (or however you spell it), but the best part was when Romy watched this:

She was glued.  And then she became unglued and danced and danced.  Over and over.  We played it at least seven times.  Romy is going to be a wonderful dancer.  And that was the meaningful TV moment I was looking for.

Don't forget to enter the contest to win the ARC of my new novel, Don't Stop Now!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Finnish Fantasy

As you know (since it's all I've been talking about lately), I can't get enough of Air Guitar Nation.  This would certainly not be the first time I couldn't get enough of it.  I think I'm on my third cycle.  This time around I get to share C-Diddy with my daughter, who requests to watch his contest-winning clip daily.  How much do I love my kid?  But now here's the wacky bit: The World Air Guitar Championships are held in FINLAND.  Where INTO THE WILD NERD YONDER was recently published!  How crazy is that?  Maybe not that crazy to you, but I am always looking for signs.  What is this a sign for?  No clue.  But I thought I would tie it in to my contest for the ARC of my BRAND NEW NOVEL!!!  As I said on Friday, I just received the ARC for DON'T STOP NOW in the mail.  It is the story of platonic best friends, Lillian and Josh, who hear the call of the road after their (pathetic, weird, sort of ) friend, Penny, may or may not have faked her own kidnapping.  Will they find Penny?  Will they find more than friendship?  And what do cheese, corn, and Elvis have to do with it all?  Read my new novel, DON'T STOP NOW to find out!  (Like how it's in bold AND caps?  I am so confused.)
Don't they look cute together?

The contest is this: today through Thursday, comment on this blog post and tell me about a secret place you would run away to if given the chance.  As of now, my place has got to be Finland, no?  I'm thinking book tour timed perfectly with the Air Guitar Championships!  On Thursday, I'll pick a winner.  Due to financial and time constraints, I can only ship within the U.S. Please include your email so I may contact you if you win!  (I just added that on Tuesday, so don't freak if you didn't include it.  Just make sure you keep reading my blog!)

Happy travels!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What to Watch Weekend: Another Doc!

Last weekend I recommended Air Guitar Nation, and I'm so glad I did because I just watched it again (yes, I own it) and the brilliance did not dim one ounce.  The best part, and one of my proudest moments as a mother, was when I showed Romy C-Diddy's United States Air Guitar Championship-winning performance, and she air-guitared right along with him.  It was beautiful.  If you haven't yet taken my advice, perhaps this clip will entice you. 






 This week's suggestion may be difficult to get, since I don't think it's out on DVD.  But if you like funny documentaries, this one can't be missed.  It's called Hands on a Hard Body, and it's the story of a group of people who enter a contest to win a hard body truck somewhere in Texas.  The challenge?  Whoever can keep their hands on the truck the longest wins.  I love the different theories people have to prolong their standing, including eating only Snickers bars.  Good stuff.
It would seem that I only watch documentaries (well, that I watch two documentaries), and that makes me sound stuffy and pretentious.  I hope you all know by now that I am neither, and the documentaries I recommend will always be of the happy and funny kind.  I would not hesitate to call Air Guitar Nation the feel good film of the decade! 

What are you guys watching this weekend?

Friday, November 12, 2010

The ARC is here! You are not.

I am sad that only one person replied to yesterday's picture book post!  I worked really hard on that!  Is it because it was Veteran's Day?  Is it because you all only read YA books?  Is it because the task was just as daunting for you as it was for me?  Whatever the reason, it made me feel like poo.

Therefore, I am going to wait until NEXT WEEK to unveil my contest for (Get ready...Here is comes...Now!):
The Advanced Reader's Copy of my brand new novel!!!!!!!!  DON'T STOP NOW is the story of platonic best friends, Lillian and Josh, who hear the call of the road after their (pathetic, weird, sort of ) friend, Penny, may or may not have faked her own kidnapping.  Will they find Penny?  Will they find more than friendship?  And what do cheese, corn, and Elvis have to do with it all?  Read my new novel, DON'T STOP NOW to find out!  [I totally just wrote that little summary.  Was it lame?  Should I work on that some more?]

So, if you're feeling all guilty now that you didn't give me even one picture book title, you have this weekend to redeem yourself.  On Monday, I'll make the official ARC contest announcement, and all will be right with the world again.

Did I mention I'm going to see Buddy from "Cake Boss" tonight?  And maybe Santino and Austin next week when they come to Chicago?  Neither of those have anything to do with anything, but I thought you should know.  Have a good weekend!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pick Your Picture Books

Talking about picture books (two days ago.  Yesterday I talked about zombies) reminded me that I wanted to post a link to my husband's list of top ten picture books.  Sergio Ruzzier asked a whole bunch of picture book peeps for their top tens, and Matt's happened to be the very first list posted (that's probably because Matt's so on top of things.  Except vacuuming.  I kid!  Not really.  Love you, Honey!).  It got me thinking about what my top ten would be.  A very difficult list to make because of my multiple book personalities: Julie as a child, who enjoyed picture books; Julie as a librarian, who read many picture books aloud to her students; Julie as an author; and my newest book life, as a mom who reads at least ten picture books a day to her two-year-old daughter.  How do I choose?  Do I go for nostalgia?  For the best read-alouds?  For my favorite reads with Romy?  Tough call.  The list that follows is by no means a final edition.  I chose these ten books because they have been with me through some, if not all, of my book incarnations.  The second I publish this post, I'll think of another title and regret not including it, but so is the drama of the list.  Not in any particular order:
  1. Mouse Tales by Arnold Lobel - This is my all time favorite book.  Of any and all genres.  Lobel was a master of art and story and sadness and joy.  "And what nice, new feet you have."  Best line ever.
  2. Madeleine by Ludwig Bemelmans - I loved this as a child and asked my mom to recite the final page to me when she closed my door ("Good night little girls.  Thank the Lord you are well.  Now go to sleep...").  Now that I read it to Romy, I realize how brilliant the artwork is.  And so you know, I recite that same page to Romy every night when I put her to sleep.
  3. Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina - Such a clever story!  Such funky pictures!  Makes me want to speak in a funny accent.  A really fun read-aloud.
  4. The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant - I could not be more of a fan of Stephen Gammel and his illustrations for the Scary Stories books by Alvin Scwartz.  But this book has such a different and cozy feel.  I love this family and all their togetherness.  I'm so sad every time they have to leave.
  5. The Snowy Day  by Ezra Jack Keats - This was an obvious influence on my book, Toby and the Snowflakes.  My love for snow and snow books meld together into perfection The Snowy Day.  I'm sure you know that already.
  6. The Amazing Bone or Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig -  I don't know.  I couldn't decide.  These are both my favorites.  Pearl vs. Sylvester?  I don't think so.  I cried when I saw an exhibit of the original artwork at The Jewish Museum in New York.
  7. The Blanket by John Burningham - A tiny book about looking for your lost blankey.  Done with subtlety and sweetness, a zillion times better than any modern picture book on the subject.  And yes, I had (okay, still have) a blankey.
  8. Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arelene Mosel - I loved saying his name over and over again.  Still do.  The adult characters are kind of mean, kind of funny, but still obviously care.  And what kid doesn't want to eat rice cakes after reading this?
  9. The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone - This book is hysterical and beyond clever.  I think some very popular picture books of recent years completely ripped off this idea.  That's all I'm saying.
  10. Portly McSwine by James Marshall -  James Marshall is the master of fat animals.  How is this book out of print?!  What kid can't relate to the story of a worry-wart pig who has to throw a party?  The ending kills every time.  When I was little, my aunt and I did a puppet show version of this at one of my birthday parties.  Someone needs to reprint this NOW!
Well, damn, that was tough.  I am absolutely certain you will read another post from me very soon with my *oops!* missed titles.  
    And of course, now it's your turn.  Give me a top ten.  Or a top five.  Or your all-time fave.  Go on.  I triple-dog dare ya.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    The Walking Dead Dilemma

    I would like to take a moment to discuss the new AMC series The Walking Dead.  Everyone is all over this zombie show, according to how many people seem to be posting about it on Facebook.  But I am not feeling it yet. I am a zombie lover.  You already read my take on the brilliant Dead Set, but it started way before that.  Zombies are the the only things that actually scare me in the realm of scary movies.  I keep flashlights and old long underwear around just in case, you know, the zombie apocalypse happens.  I once had a disagreement with a woman because she had the ridiculous idea to pack a pair of flip flops in her zombie escape kit because, as she said, they were light.  Um, you're not getting away from a swarm of zombies in a pair of flip flops, you fool!  Anyway, maybe it's because it started airing so close to Dead Set, but The Walking Dead isn't impressing me.  The zombies aren't scary, and I don't give a crap about any of the characters.  How can I feel sorry for a guy who misses his wife when his wife is such a skanky bitch?  You may say, the show has only aired twice.  Give them time!  To which I say, Dead Set had me rooting for characters I knew and loved and/or hated within the first ten minutes.  Not that I'll stop watching The Walking Dead.  I mean, there are zombies on TV every week!  But if my poor attitude towards the show doesn't change, it may go the way of Glee.  Hmmm... Zombies on Glee?  That I'd watch.

    Tuesday, November 09, 2010

    The Life and Death and Life of Toby

    Last night I read Toby and the Snowflakes to my two-year-old daughter for the first time.  For those who don't know, Toby is my first published book.  It's a picture book about a boy whose best friend moves away, and he finds solace in the friendly snowflakes that fall.  It is also illustrated by my husband, Matthew Cordell.  A very important book for both of us.  Our only book together.  My only picture book.  The book that started it all, really.  It was surreal to read it to my daughter.  Matt and I started the book before we were married, albeit we were living together.  I remember the day we got the phone call that it would be published-- we were leaving the next day for Italy, Matt's first overseas trip.  You want to know how much they paid us?  I'll just say that together, meaning for both me and Matt, we received less than either of us has received individually on a book since.  We didn't have an agent, we didn't negotiate, and we took it.  Without much push (why should Houghton Mifflin push a book they paid peanuts for?), the book didn't sell very well (although it did receive a starred review in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books) and tragically went into remainder recently.  (Upside?  We were able to buy as many of the several hundred copies for about 80 cents each.)  I hadn't read the book in a while, so it was fun to revisit my work.  It's a great book.  It's sweet and funny and a little sad and definitely pays homage to my beloved snow.  I'm curious to know what Matt would say about the artwork, since I know it's hard for him to look back at his different styles.  Romy was incredibly curious about the book- there was a "What's that?" on every page, which isn't her usual listening style.  At the end of the book is a picture of me, Matt, and our cat, Tobin.  You can find the picture here on Amazon if you click on the "Look Inside" feature.  The first thing Romy said when she saw it?  "Tobin!"  I hope Romy will add it to her pile of preferred books someday.  And I hope Matt and I will again work together on a book.  Writing picture books isn't easy.  I mean, it is easy to just sit down and write one, but it isn't easy to write one that doesn't suck.  Even though Toby was banished to the remainder pile, I can say with confidence that it definitely doesn't suck.

    Monday, November 08, 2010

    Sunday Magic

    How weird is the time change?  I think it's extra weird when a) you have a kid and b) you don't go to work every day.  How are Romy and I supposed to adjust?  Will she forever get one hour less of sleep each night?  Will I forever get one hour less of work each day because of it?  I have no answers, only wondrous Sunday ads:

    This is what I'm getting all y'all the holidays.  You see, I get three with each order, so think of how cheap each gift will be!  Who wants the bone one?  Anyone?

      
    These are ice cream cakes, which always fascinate me.  These, however, are disturbing.  That shiny turkey one?  Really?  Who the eff wants their ice cream to look like a turkey?  Strangely, I feel compelled to buy one. 





     Glad to see hideous Sunday clothing isn't discriminatory against animals.  Not that these are so hideous.  They're doggone stylish, in fact!



    Sunday wouldn't be Sunday without hideous clothing.  How long is this woman's crotch?  Wonder warm!  Crotch!  Happy Monday!

    Saturday, November 06, 2010

    New Feature: What to Watch Weekend!

    I am taking a cue from my author buddy, Brian James, and his weekly blog feature (his happens to be the Weekend Music Roundup), and making my own weekly weekend feature!  Since I don't think people read blogs as regularly on the weekends, this will be a nice, light blogging exercise for me.  Each week I'll recommend a movie to watch over the weekend, randomly picked from my brain.  This week I'm going back three years to one of my favorite documentaries, Air Guitar Nation, about the world International Air Guitar Championships.  You can read a couple of my blog posts about it here, and learn how much this movie ROCKS.  Sadly, the film's website seems to be dismantled, but the spirit of the film can never be! (dismantled, that is)  Warning: Do not watch this movie before bedtime, or you will be too riled up to sleep!  Second warning: there is a penis in the film.  Yeah!

    Friday, November 05, 2010

    Page 164

    I am on page 164 out of 397 in my typing of The Sequel: Why is It So Long?  And I'm feeling poopy about it.  Not the content, but the length of the process.  I calculated how long it should take me to finish this, and it came to just under twenty-four hours.  Which sucks.  That's SO long.  So many hours!  It may not sound like much-- one entire day!-- but when the typing is excruciating at some moments, both in terms of the anxiety it brings me and the pain in my carpal-tunneled hands, it's playing with my mind.  I can only manage about an hour at a time, and those hours are sparse with the mommy thing I've got going.  I don't think I will make my Harry Potter game goal.  Dang.

    So, blog readers, can you help me out with a few words of encouragement?  Just something nice or funny, even if it has nothing to do with my typing up my book.  I need a smile and to know there are people out there that will eventually want to read this beast.

    Ah, Romy's awake.  Time for the mommying part of my day to begin...

    Thursday, November 04, 2010

    Magic as Motivator

    That final revision of Don't Stop Now threw me off, but I'm back on track now with the typing of Shazzam!  It's a Sequel!  And I have a new motivator: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows game comes out November 16!  Actually, it comes out a week earlier if you want to play it on a platform other than PC.  But I don't have a platform other than PC.  No, wait, I do have a Playstation 2.  I forgot about that.  I bought it in order to play Dance Dance Revolution and Buffy: Chaos Bleeds.  And then I put it in the basement. 

    The Potter games are fantastic.  Maybe not always as far as game play, but the last two games (based on the movies that arrived at the same time) made it feel like you were actually at Hogwarts, navigating through the nooks and crannies of the castle.  And who doesn't want to be at Hogwarts?  The biggest downfall in the games was that they made Ron Weasley look all zitty and ugly.  And short.  He looked short.  And he had dorky shoes.  Anyway, it will be interesting to see what the new game is like, considering almost none of the final book (and probably very little of the first installment of the two-part movie) takes place in Hogwarts.  Another great aspect to the Potter games is that they use many of the actual film actors' voices.  Sadly, not Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson (what?  You guys are too good for video games?  Same went for the Buffy game and  no show Sarah Michelle Gellar.  People can be so disappointing.), but my dearest Rupert Grint was there, as were several others.

    The point of all of this video game blathering is this: my new goal is to type as fast as I can so I can play the video game during the times of day when Romy sleeps and I currently have to type up my book.  That means I need to type about 25 pages per day, if my 5 a.m. estimate was correct.  Which is a lot for me.  But if anyone can motivate me to type faster, it's Ron Weasley.