Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Party Like a Rock Star

I am in full on boogs mode, which was unavoidable, what with Romy coughing directly into my face over the last week.  I'm taking Romy to the doc today for her pneumonia follow-up, and I plan to ask the doc to listen to my chest, too.  Do you think she'll do it?  I love my grown-up doctor, but her office is 40 minutes away from my house and the wait is usually a minimum of one hour.  We'll see what the kiddie doc says.

I read yesterday that the line-up for the Young Adult Library Services Association’s half-day Annual pre-conference this summer in New Orleans, “Give Them What they Want: Reaching Reluctant Readers,” has grown to awesome proportions.  The original trio, Walter Dean Myers, Chris Grabenstein, and me, will now be joined (does that make it sound like I invited more people?) by Jay Asher, Sarah Dessen, James Kennedy and Carolyn Mackler.  How cool is that?  In the past, every time I've seen Sarah Dessen I end up talking to her about breast feeding (Read about past experiences here and here).  Will I continue the trend?  My only fear is this: According to American Libraries, "All six authors will reflect on how their work speaks to today’s teens and offer insights on how to turn those teens into active readers."  Wait a minute.  There are seven authors total.  Are they trying to kick me out?  Am I not cool enough to hang with such a rock star lineup?  Are Kennedy and I going to have to duke it out for the remaining spot?  (Chicago has a very small YA author scene, so I know James Kennedy and am allowed to say that.)   Will everyone hang out together, or will the big names be shuttled in and out like famous people?  I'm super curious.  And so excited!  Get to it already, summer!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sims Suckage

I'm already out of time to blog this morning, so I shall be quick.  My Sims Medieval game has gone medieval on my ass.  I don't really know what that means, but it sounded funny in my head.  The reality is that the game, after I played for hours and days whenever I could so as not to be the bad video game playing mommy, crashed on me.  I had all of my people created, all of the buildings in their places, and I was almost through fulfilling all of my quests.  And now I can't open the game.  Well, I can open it, but trying to open my saved game crashes the whole thing.  So technically I could still play, but I would be starting from scratch.  The EA Games chat boards are all abuzz with crash news, so it's not just me.  Still, kind of makes me feel like an even bigger goob for playing all of those hours and having nothing to show for it.  Alas, alack.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Million Dollar Nun

It turned out Romy had pneumonia (has it?  I don't know when it officially goes away), so we've had a rough go of it for four days.  She's finally acting much more like herself, but it was sketchy for a while.  It certainly took its toll on me, and my cold will be coming out any minute now.  I wish it would because right now it's just stuck in my throat.  Happy happy joy joy.

But I was a nun on Saturday night.  Thankfully, Romy was in decent spirits and I was able to get away for my planned murder mystery dinner party with my friend Katie.  We rendezvoused at a hotel parking lot where we took the following photo from the roof of my car:
I took the wimple off while we drove, not because I didn't want to look like a weirdo (not that nuns look like weirdos, but I was an imposter) but because it was pretty tight on my head.  I donned it once again when we stopped for gas, and the woman working at the gas station made a comment about it not being Halloween.  How did she know I was a fake?

The murder mystery was not as expected.  I envisioned Clue: The Movie, with ten of us sitting around a table and being served dinner as the mystery unfolded.  Instead, there were 65 people, all with distinct characters (and, yes, I was the only one dressed as a nun) and varying levels of commitment.  I was pleased that there were so many people (particularly funny, middle-aged men) who were speaking to me as we mingled as though they knew me and I knew them.  It pissed me off that there were duds there wearing jeans or boring work clothes.  How dare they!

Katie and I were placed at a measly four person table, while others had at least ten, which was a little lame.  Even more lame was that the other people at our table never showed!  It turned out one of them would have been a suspect (most people, including us, were witnesses).  It certainly would have enhanced the experience.  Bummer.  The mystery itself wasn't as fun or complex as the ones you can do at home (I'm a huge fan of the How to Host a Murder series), but it was fun dressing up, being somewhere else, and seeing how everyone else dealt with the characters they had.  In the will reading, my character, the sister of the deceased, inherited one million dollars, so that was exciting.  I would definitely do something like this again, and am already wondering when Katie and I can host our next murder party.  I wonder if this is some sort of hint I should start writing murder mysteries. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Sick and the Sims

Romy has a cold, a cough, and a fever, so we're heading to the doctor's office today.  I shall reward her (because this kid is sooo good) with a sweet treat from the Lovin' Ovens Bakery.  Isn't that a funny bakery name?  It has put a cramp in my Sims playing because, even when my mom was here yesterday to play, Romy wanted her mama.  The guilt!  The game is super fun, and I can't wait to play again.  I played a little with Romy on my lap, and she enjoyed watching the people.  But the guilt set in with that, too. 

Remember how I told you I'm going to a murder mystery at a haunted mansion this weekend?  Well, I got my character assignment.  The theme is "1930s gangster," so I bought myself a cool beret and shirt at H&M that I thought made me look all Bonnie Parker.  But guess what-- I am no gangster.  My character is (wait for it...) a nun.  So instead of being cool and glamorous, I borrowed a habit (?) from my next door neighbors' Halloween stock.  I'll be wearing a star of David underneath, fo shizzle.  Will I manage to keep a straight face?  That's the real mystery.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I am totally shirking my blogger responsibilities because I have been playing my Sims Medieval.  It's SO FUN!!!  Since I'm on my computer during the time when Romy is sleeping, I can either a) blog or b) play my game.  Yeah.  So today, here's a link to a fabulous blog post at Seven Imp all about my husband, Matthew Cordell, and author Julie Sternberg and their new book, Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie!  And BTW- Matt just received his second starred review for his upcoming book with Lauren Thompson, Leap Back Home to Me!  Kirkus called it an "instant classic!"  Gotta go storm the castle!  Or, really, play with Romy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My Top Five Computer Games

Before I had a baby, I was an avid computer gamer.  Not that I was up on so many of the latest computer games, knowing release dates and camping out, but I played computer games.  A lot.  In honor of today's release of The Sims Medieval, I thought I would make a list of my favorite computer games of the last ten years or so.  Like I said, these may not be the coolest of games, but they kept me entertained for hours.  And HOURS.  When I probably should have been outside or exercising or whatever.  In no particular order:
  1. The Sims and The Sims 2: I started playing The Sims shortly after the original game was released.  A fifth grade student of mine regaled me with stories about a game where you make people and then take them through their day.  Why?  Just because.  It seemed weird, but intrigued me.  I bought it, and then bought every expansion pack they released for both The Sims: Original Sauce and The Sims 2.  Why is The Sims so fun?  Who knows?  I used it at different times in my life for different reasons.  Sometimes my Sims had lots of babies.  Sometimes they were tramps.  Sometimes I just built houses.  Or bought clothes.  Good times.  I do own The Sims 3, but I have had little time to play with pretend lives now that I have a real life to look after.  I'll always look back fondly at building a wall around my Sim just to watch it pee itself and then die.  Okay, I only did that once.  Just to see what would happen.  I feel gross admitting that.  It turned into a ghost, in case you were wondering. 
  2. Oregon Trail: When was the last time you played Oregon Trail?  Was it on your Apple 2C in grade school?  Or was it in a crappy Facebook version?  Either way, you should really go out and try to snag yourself a newer version.  They did such a funny job with the game.  The most recent version I have is probably ten years old, but it's got these great real people scenes where guys dressed as pioneers talk directly to you.  Like, real people.  Best acting gig ever!  And you can still die of dysentery.
  3. Titanic: Adventure Out of Time: This is a historical game, which apparently I enjoy.  It's also totally creepy!  You're aboard the Titanic, and not only do you know the ship is going to sink but you have to solve a crazy mystery in time or else you sink, too!  Towards the end, the music starts getting louder and faster (or was that my imagination?), and it's so intense you think you're actually going to drown.  Perhaps it's the sitting so close to the screen (as opposed to playing a game on a TV console), but you really feel like you're on the Titanic.  And you get to meet all sorts of people and see the rooms (all historically accurate, I believe).  So much fun, I wish I could play it right now.
  4. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: I know for a lot of people, this is one of the lamest of the HP games, but I completely disagree.  If you want to know what it's like to spend DAYS at Hogwarts, play this.  You can walk around almost the entire school.  It's literally a lovingly designed, computer generated version of Hogwarts.  The game itself is cute and pretty fun, but I love being in Hogwarts.  Love it.  The two games that have come after have been ultra lame, with the newest being so boring and all about shooting off your wand that I only played the first chapter.  Since I couldn't get past it, I stopped.  Really, why play a game if you have to win?  I like to play to be immersed, not to keep losing so that I can't see what's coming next.
  5. Zoo Tycoon 2: I don't know why I loved this game so much.  I'm not a huge animal or zoo person (I always feel so guilty after going to the zoo), but I liked the challenges.  If you could save certain animals, it unlocked other animals.  Plus, I learned some things about animals, too!  Always the scholar.  I seem to remember getting extra into the game after a trip to the San Diego Zoo.  Particularly when I unlocked the pandas.
There may be some games I'm forgetting, but I am downstairs and don't want to wake anyone by going upstairs and rifling through my oldies but goodies PC game collection.  I'm stoked for my delivery of Sims Medieval, although I have no idea when I'll play it.  Maybe I'll have to wake up at five in the morning.  Or hire a babysitter.  Which would make me a terrible mom.  "Can you come over?  I need to spend hours with pretend people instead of my actual daughter."  Dang.  I have some friends that do not ever want kids, and one of them asked me if I ever wish I didn't have a child.  Never, I told her, which is true.  But the one thing- really, the only thing- I miss about not having a kid is the free time I had to play computer games.  Seeing those words here on the computer makes it sound even more lame.  Ah well.  I still can't wait to play it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Berry Bribes

I've been weakly trying to potty train Romy.  I mean "weakly" because I'm not fully committing, following her around and asking her every five seconds if she has to pee or poo.  I've been told it's best to do it during the summer, when she can walk around bottomless and not freeze, well, her butt off.  But I am sort of tired of the diaper game, and she's over 30 pounds now which gets very heavy when you have to lift her to the changing table.  So my thing is bribes.  Many have suggested an M&M after she makes on the toilet, but the problem I foresee with that is by the time she makes it to the potty, all of her M&Ms will be in my stomach. 

Instead of food, I went into my stash of weird items from my childhood.  I originally tried to reward her with this:
One of my Barbies from my attempt at Barbie collecting as a teen.  This is Rollerblading Barbie.  She is wearing a fanny pack.
Romy is holding the box.  Note how the rollerblades have awesome sparking action.
This is Barbie and all her rollerblading pals.  Fanny packs, one and all.
I am annoyed this is turned.  The original photo wasn't, so, blah.  But here are the skates, excuse me, blades, with their sparking instructions.
Another non-originally turned pic.  And here's the caution: Use outdoors.  Do not use on furniture or smooth surfaces.  Another warning somewhere notes that they can damage flooring.  #1. Who plays Barbie outside? #2. WTF?
I'd like to throw the blades out, but I'm afraid they'll set my garbage on fire. 

Instead of a giant Barbie every time a pee was made, I decided to move on to smaller bribes.  Up until recently (until I ran out), Romy was rewarded with one of my old Strawberry Shortcake minis from the early 80s.  I was never a hoarder, but I have a small collection of my old toys, including a bag of twenty or so Strawberry Shortcake and friends (and they still smell!).  Here is a sampling:

I had a hard time remembering their names, but I found this thorough site on the subject.  In fact, according to this site, I had some minis worth $15!

We have now moved on to a cheap, easy, compact potty wall chart with funny star stickers.  But believe you me, I have plenty of oddball toys waiting in the wings.  My daughter is probably the only two year-old who knows who Bender, Calculon, Cornelius (of Planet of the Apes), Hellboy (who she refers to as "cowboy"), and Hank Hill are, at least in action figure form.  I knew we collected all that stuff for a reason.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Weekend Bits

Happy Purim!  I don't know if we'll make it to a Purim carnival today.  It's so crappy outside, so who wants to get their kid all dressed up just so she can drag her fancy costume through the wet parking lot?  Some weekend thoughts:
  • Romy is talking over her monitor to herself about this little girl who said, "Boo!" with her at Target about a month ago.  She's really going into detail.  Already a storyteller.
  • I have eaten enough hamantashen for ten Purims.
  • I couldn't watch Dinner for Schmucks in its entirety.  It was like a "Three's Company" episode on my stomach.  Know what I mean?
  • My murder mystery party is less than a week away!  And all I have is a beret!
  • My in-laws visited this weekend and bought Romy enough Polly Pockets to fill a shoebox.  Which is a lot of Polly Pockets.  Because they are small.
  • Does anyone watch the new Steven Segal: Lawman show?  I want to.
  • I'll try to have more interesting thoughts tomorrow.  Enjoy your Sunday!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Email Follies

I received an email yesterday that was very odd.  I am not sure what to make of it.  As an author, I receive emails from students sometimes asking me questions about my books because they have a report due.  These questions usually ask me to expand or clarify things but make it obvious that the person has read the book (and usually that they enjoyed it).  Yesterday's email felt like a blatant attempt to dupe me into outlining my whole book for the person so that they would have all the info they need for a report.  I can't be sure, and I don't want to assume someone would ask this of me.  Maybe it was sincere, although, as I said, odd.  Here is part of the email:
"Could you give me a list of the characters and the reason why they went to the mental hospital
I was confused and I want to make a poster for my room of the characters and a brief description of them because I loved the book so much!
Could you respond ASAP so I canget[sic] started soon Thanks!"
 The suspicious bits of this note are a) saying they needed a "brief description" and b) ASAP.  What do you guys think?  I still have to write the person back, obviously not with the answers to her question (because I would actually have to go back and reread the book myself and create my own handy chart.  I'm guessing a student who is a fan of my book could do this more efficiently than me, no?).  But I don't want to make her feel bad either, if she was merely doing this out of love for my book (I kind of feel like if that were true, she would already know all of the info she needs, though).  Conundrum.

I also had a nice exchange with an area librarian who is hopefully helping to stop a potential official challenge of Get Well Soon in her district.  She is a smart cookie who read the book as soon as the verbal challenge occurred (the difference between the verbal and official is that librarians can hopefully ward off any paper/board meeting/media frenzy (as if about my books, but still) by talking directly to the challenger and straightening things out.  I do love a good challenge, though, so I'm curious to see what, if anything, happens.  

I better get dressed.  The in-laws are being imported from South Carolina for a couple days.  Yee ha!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cover Me

As you know, I am a regular googler of my name.  I love discovering random web reviews of my work, most of the time really positive (I have been very lucky in that regard; I don't think enough people know who I am to write critical stuff about me, and those who read my stuff and like it generally talk about it.  Nice.).  But this morning I came across this, a blog post about new paperback covers for originally hardcover books over at Stacked, a review blog written by librarians.  And they HATE the new cover for Into the Wild Nerd Yonder. 

Old HC

 Which, of course, sucks.  Not the cover, but the hate.  Because authors, as much as we'd like and even as much as we talk to the designer and make suggestions, really have little to say about covers.  These days, do you know who has the final say in cover designs?  THE MARKETING PEOPLE.  Do they go to art school?  No.  They go to business school.  Yet, they are the ones who decide what is "popular" and what looks good, sometimes without reading the words (and there are a lot of them) inside the covers.  This is for sure rough on the artists and designers who work on covers, but it is also very hard on authors.  Sometimes our work isn't represented on the covers as much as we would like.  Sometimes, as was the case for Justine Larbalestier's Liar, the character's color was changed (and then, rightfully so, corrected).  I can imagine it's very difficult to come up with an artistically appealing, age appropriate, marketable image that encompasses an entire story.  At least with movies, they already have actors to move around, but book designers have to pull images out of their butts.  Unless, of course, they have to use one of a million stock photos that make their book look like every other book out there of a beautiful teen's head.  I'm lucky; my designer puts tons of thought into his work (and those who work with him) to make original images for my book covers.  It sucks that one blogger doesn't like the new paperback cover, but that's the interesting thing about book bloggers: they are adults reading books aimed at teens (as am I, so I'm certainly not knocking it).  But in terms of sales and who will hopefully be grabbing the book off the shelf, particularly when it goes to paperback?  Those are the people my books are aimed at.  The teenagers.  So I'm really hoping they like the new paperback cover for Nerd.  I think it's pretty cute, like the garish color, and am happy the designer took my suggestion of putting Chucks on the cover.  Because in the immortal words of Julie Halpern (hey!  That's me!), "Converse are sexy."  And just so the bloggers know, I did say I liked the original tagline, "My life on the dork side" better than "high school on the dork side."  Those pesky business people thought this made it seem older.  So is the life of a book cover.

Monday, March 14, 2011


I am not good at waiting.  Is anyone?  I'm sure some people are.  Weirdos.  Right now I'm waiting on a few things, so I am feeling very stalled out.  One of the biggest things I'm waiting on is the first round of edits on the Get Well Soon sequel from my editor.  I sent the manuscript to her in December, so this has been a long wait.  Much longer than the usual (not because of the book but because of how busy and back-logged my editor was with books on earlier lists).  I had planned on starting my fifth novel, and actually got five chapters in, when I decided I didn't want to continue.  It would suck to get the fourth manuscript back and have to work on it whilst in the middle of the fifth.  I am not a stopper when I write, so I think that would really halt my momentum.  Instead of continuing on the number five, I am waiting until I can get through my first round of revisions of number four.  I just didn't know I'd be waiting so long.  Essentially, I'm not writing anything these days, besides this blog and emails.  I have a few tiny tidbits, but nothing motivating me enough to pick up the pen during Romy's naptime.  Which scares me a little.  When I get the sequel back, will I be so rusty that it will take me a while to get back in the writer's groove?  Or will it be a welcome respite from the On Demand crap I keep watching?  And, after that, will it inspire me to barf out book number five?  (That sounded gross, but I think of myself as a barfing writer: I write fast, straight, and clean.  Not that barf is clean.  Cleansing?)  Time will tell, I guess.  But how much time?  It took me forever to start writing today's blog, and now that I started it, Romy is up from her nap.  A great excuse, once again, to stop writing.  I hope I don't continue to look for excuses.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Poor Camels

Thoughts of the weekend:
  • I do not like how people are dogging on Jennifer Lawrence for possibly being Katniss in the Hunger Games movie, since pretty much everyone who is down on her follows up with, "I haven't seen Winter's Bone."  First of all, Winter's Bone was beautiful.  Secondly, Jennifer was incredible in it-- tough, perfect at masking her emotions (as Katniss is), and completely without vanity.  I understand that she's too old for the part and that they may age up, but I kind of agree with that.  In a book, it's okay to read about fourteen year-olds killing each other (I guess?).  On film?  Maybe not so much.
  • I have four ratings on Goodreads for Don't Stop Now.  Problem is, it gives me an average of 3.5 stars, even though the site only shows that I have two five star and one four star rating.  Can people give hidden ratings?  That suck?
  • If you have forgotten about Amy Fisher (with good reason), it's time to revisit one of the three (or was it just two?) made-for-TV movies.  You'd think I'd recommend the Drew Barrymore one (why you'd think that, I'm not sure, but I'd think that, too), but I watched Casualties of Love: The Long Island Lolita Story starring Alyssa Milano this past week (well, not all of it, but was that really necessary?).  I highly recommend it, if mostly for the fact that Milano deserved an Emmy for a) acting like she was genuinely attracted to that guy and b) enduring the countless yeast infections I can only assume she contracted from wearing camel toe after camel toe-inducing pants.  Behold:
 Have a good weekend!

Friday, March 11, 2011

On Wisconsin

I went to the University of Wisconsin and lived in Madison for five years (I never went home for a summer, although I lived in New York City for one of my five summers).  The more I think about it, the more I realize that college made me a huge part of who I am today.  Or it at least allowed me to find that person.  And a lot of that had to do with Madison.  A comfortable, beautiful, independent city, I was always a little annoyed with it while I was there.  Perhaps it was because I never felt like I quite fit in, even when I was excelling in most parts of my life (women's studies classes, film classes, dating, cool jobs, etc.).  I was not a pot smoker, I didn't drink, and I certainly wasn't into the Greek scene, so where did I belong?  Looking back, of course, I realize no one really fits in, and we're all just hoping to find some people who like us and we like back and to have some fun in the process.  And I had all that in Madison.

So what the fuck happened?  How can a city so free-wheeling and open-minded be hit by such a tiny group of assholes?  I'm not putting any of this on Madison or its people; if anything, our country is SO lucky this happened in Madison, a city where people GIVE A SHIT.  BIG TIME.  But one of the (freakishly numerous) things that is most disturbing, disheartening, and just plain wrong about what Walker and his cronies are doing is that it didn't seem to matter how many people spoke up or cared.  A tiny group of close-minded, hateful, ignorant dickheads made a decision for everyone else.  I don't get it.  At all.  I have some friends in Madison who are hardcore about protesting and staying on top of this, who believe Walker will be recalled, who believe in something.  But me, watching it unfold online, I don't know what to think.  I felt so much hope when Obama was elected president, and a few days later my daughter was born, but I think my hope may be lost.  And not because of Obama, but because of all of the people out there who don't treat people like people.  Those who have an agenda of spite and hate and some childish point to prove that doesn't help anyone.  Or our country, that they pretend to love so much.  Whether it's unions or women's rights or health care, a lot of people making the decisions are not on the side of actual people.

I'm depressing myself by being such a lame-ass pessimist.  Good will prevail, right?  This can't really happen, right?  Buffy will save us all soon, right?  Cheers, hugs, a gratitude to all of my friends and the people in Madison fighting for the freedom and benefit of all.  Not just a group of rich toads.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Colonel Mustard?

I have done it.  Something I've always wanted to do.  Something I never really thought I would do.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have signed up to go to a murder mystery mansion.  Perhaps the train murder mystery is more of the classic fantasy, but that cost twice as much.  I'll be going with my friend Katie in a few weeks, a perfect friend for such an adventure.  Katie and I are extreme kindred spirits and like randomly odd things in similar ways.  I will never forget the time when we were making our Peeps dioramas, and... Well, when a story begins with that sentence, do I even need to finish it?  The conundrum right now is: what to wear to the murderous affair?  The theme is "30s/40s gangster."  Can anyone think of a movie or send me a picture that will best exemplify this style?  We don't even technically have to dress up; the woman on the phone with the gravelly voice told me costumes are optional.  But if I'm driving an hour and a half to an eight acre estate (ALL TRUE), I best be dressed for the occasion.  What if it's just like Clue: The Movie?  One of my all time faves!  Admittedly, I'm nervous.  What if it's really creepy?  What if everyone there is weird (and not in the good way)?  What if there really is murder?  Maybe I should bring along a tommy gun just in case.  Now where did I put that thing? 

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

An Interview with Cover God Rich Deas!

This is very exciting.  I have been asking my friend and Senior Creative Director at Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, Rich Deas, for an interview for a long time.  Finally, the two of us have gotten it together enough for me to post this.  Rich designed all of my book covers, and in the process we have exchanged numerous emails and phone calls, sometimes having less to do with covers and more to do with Pearl Jam.  Or how one of us is getting old (ahem).  Below is a look into one of the great minds of book design.  I'm lucky to have him on my team.  Or am I on his team?  Play ball.

First, Dear Sir, what is your official job title?
I’m actually the Fire Warden on my floor where I work.  I think that concerns some.  But, I’m also a Senior Creative Director at Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. I work directly with the Feiwel and Friends, Henry Holt and Square Fish imprints.

Do you read every book you design a cover for?  What is the expectation for that in this business (for you and other designers you know)?
I do try to read every title I work on.  I really feel disconnected if I don’t.   I’ve worked as a designer for other publishers, and there are variations in the way people work.  Some art directors just read a description or a synopsis since there are so many titles on a list. It can be quite difficult to read them all but I do try.

When is the moment you envision a cover for a book?  What do you do next?
I doodle and take notes while I read a manuscript. Then I start to play around with more sketches or ideas.  I usually do numerous comps before I land on one direction.  I may think I have a good solution early on, but when I get into it I may realize it doesn’t work.  I have tons of personally rejected pieces or stages before I show the few final comps. 

I’ve been fortunate to have worked with my publisher, Jean Feiwel.  I think we share a similar taste and appreciation for art and creativity.  We work closely and have generated a lot of covers together.  She may have thoughts before I start in on the manuscript.  She’s constantly thinking and throwing out ideas.  We usually meet a few times through the process until we have comps we feel comfortable presenting.

Have you ever come up with a cover, had it published, and then seen a very similar cover?  What is the first thing that comes to your head when that happens?
Thief!  Just kidding, it does happen, especially in the stock photography era.  I’ve had plenty of designs and/or ideas that I’ve worked on, used or not, to only later see them published somewhere else. I think there are a lot of art directors, artists and designers out there with similar tastes, so it’s bound to happen. There is a series that I worked on that had a very stylized approach.  I was fairly disappointed to see the approach and style mimicked for another series in a similar genre.   Actually worked out better for them – oh well!

What is your all time favorite book cover you designed?  If you can’t think of just one, how about a top five or ten?
No such thing.  I don’t normally like what I design.  I know it sounds crazy, but I tend to see the flaws etc.  I’d rather look at someone else’s work.  I do think Into the Wild Nerd Yonder, The Marbury Lens, The Wager, and the original, rejected Demonata covers are some of the better ones but I do have issues with them.  Ask me tomorrow, and I might give you a different answer.

How do you feel when an author tries to suggest ideas for their cover?  Have any authors demanded you use their idea or change the cover after you’ve completed it? 
Do you mean besides you (just kidding)? There have been a couple of unsatisfied customers, but for the most part, the authors have been very supportive and happy with the designs. 

What are the factors in the publishing business dictating the design trends right now?
Publishing has changed quite a bit due to the economy and limited shelf space. So, there is a stronger focus on what is published and how it’s packaged.  More people are involved with the process, trying to help create a marketable and sellable book. Unfortunately some of the trends are to follow whatever is selling at the time, and because of that you see less variation and originality suffers a bit. I think a good example of this is the amount of teen covers with headshots. It amazes me, when I walk into a bookstore and see a wall of good-looking floating heads. Some of these covers look great, but I hope the trend continues to open up to more conceptual approaches and styles, etc.  I’d like to see illustration and design become more of an option (or trend), as well!

Do you personally hand draw any of your covers?  Are they all computer made?
I can still draw a pretty straight line without using a mouse.  Magic. . . no.  I use the ancient instrument of our ancestors, the almost extinct, Pencil.  I’m a big fan of the Sanford design 2B pencil.  For me, everything starts with some sort of sketch, doodle, note to self etc.  I think I’m an illustrator at heart and I do feel sketching helps me think.  I still paint and draw, but I find myself scanning and finishing illustrations on the computer.  

What is the worst thing you could hear when you finish a cover?  Who said it?
 “It looks like a whore or something.”  I kid you not, one of the first covers I ever designed and illustrated about 12 years ago was abused or defiled at a sales conference by a sales rep who could not find the better words to describe his reaction.  It was a western novel (can’t give you the title) that I illustrated using a flat vector style. It was rejected because of that comment.  It’s ironic, I’ve seen plenty of covers including westerns done in this style.  It’s too bad because it was definitely different at the time.

What is the best thing you could hear when you finish a cover?  Who said it?
Comments are good.  There are times where I don’t hear anything. . .gulp.  I think, I’ve been fairly lucky, most people are nice about the covers.  I’m usually most happy when Jean, the author and editor have a nice words.

How did you get into the art and design business in the first place?
I picked up a pencil.

Who are some of your biggest influences in art and design?
I could go on forever here because I do so admire other people’s work.  I’ll keep it short, unfortunately, leaving off many names that are important to me:
Galie Jean-Louis

I saw that your brother designs postage stamps.  Are you insanely jealous?  Can you ask him if he will put out a commemorative Beverly Hills 90210 series?  What about Buffy?  And the question we’re all wondering: does he get free stamps?
My big bro, Mike is an amazing painter and has illustrated some pretty interesting projects in his career including the Edgar Allen Poe, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe Stamps, Columbia Pictures logo, etc. I’m not sure if he gets free stamps, but I do have some cool collector stamps from the relationship.  He also was a big help in teaching me how to paint. Unfortunately, I think he robbed the gene pool on that trait.

Do you really exist, since we have never met in person, or are you more of a Max Headroom-type?
I’d prefer, a Keyser Soze-type comparison. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.

Who is your absolute favorite author to work with?  And since I know your answer will be me, why is that?
There are several reasons.  First, you understand and have also mastered sarcastic humor.  Your books make me laugh. You are passionate about books.  You hung with Eddie Vedder.  And, for the most part, I respect my elders.

Thanks, Rich, for your answers and your art!

Monday, March 07, 2011

Budget Monkees

I screwed up.  The Monkees are coming to a small theater less than an hour from my house, suburb-style, which means not having to drive and park in the city (Chicago) or go to some casino in the Boonies.  I was all prepared on Friday to buy the tickets, and in my mind I budgeted a price (I thought I would go up to $50 per ticket).  I have to do that now that I quit my job.  Everything I do feels irresponsible, needs vs. wants, etc.  The Monkees are most definitely not a need, but I still love their music so much and it would be great to see them at such an easy venue.  The price of the tickets was not posted ahead of time (or maybe it was, but I hadn't found it-- you see where I'm going with this).  When it came 10 a.m., I was ready.  And then I priced two tickets.  One hundred fifty-three dollars.  WTF?  So I waffled and freaked and kept refreshing the Ticketmaster page to see if different seats would make it seem worth it.  I had one page open to Ticketmaster, and one page open to the seating chart of the theater.  Every time I had to type in those jacked up letters (what are those called?  For security reasons?  The ones I ALWAYS get wrong?), minutes passed by.  I felt like I was wasting my life trying to find the perfect tickets that would justify such a spendy amount.  In the end, I didn't buy them.  I'm bummed because now the seats available are certainly not worth that much money.  This is my reality now because as wonderful as it is to be home officially with my daughter, it sucks to be frugal.  Without a steady income, my financial future feels so uncertain.  How can I squander the money I have on tickets to a band I have seen in various formations (with increasingly surly, old men banter) throughout the years?  But the pressing question is: are there really that many people who would pay that much money to see The Monkees?

Saturday, March 05, 2011

What to Watch Weekend: Waxwork/Waxwork II

I have no idea how I forgot about these film gems.  You can tell the director/writer/whatever (I am trying to write this fast because Romy is up on the monitor.  So is always the case.), Anthony Hickox was really into the Sam Raimi Evil Dead movies because there's a lot of camp in the Waxwork saga, particularly in the sequel (which includes a cameo by Bruce Campbell!).  The first one also has a silly evil hand, which, duh, is straight out of Evil Dead 2.  Whatever.  I'm not complaining.  The first movie is all about a random waxwork that pops up in the middle of a neighborhood, and a group of college students get invited to a "private showing," which means they are going to enter each of the displays, all of old horror movies, and become part of the waxwork.  Did that make sense?  Both movies are excuses for the actors to dress up in silly clothes and act like different people.  Different people than the ones they are already pretending to be.  The actors in the first one are great, including Zach Galligan (the star of Gremlins!), Deborah Foreman (Valley Girl!), and David Warner (from the original Tron!  And lots of other things!).  In the second one, they get random crazy guests, such as Marina Sirtis from Star Trek:TNG and Martin Kemp, whose older brother was in Spandau Ballet, but they sadly replace Valley Girl with another actress who just doesn't have the same vacant oddness.  And the sequel has much less to do with a waxwork and more to do with reenacting scenes from lots of movies.  Which makes it sound just like the first one.  A fun way to waste a weekend afternoon.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Plane Jane

I am a person who likes to stop using businesses as a statement.  For instance, I will not eat Oberweis ice cream (this may be very local)--even though there is a store less than a mile from my house, and ice cream is one of my four major food groups-- because the owner of the stores, Jim Oberweis, has a political career run on hatred of women, gays, and immigrants, just to name a few.  Remember the Toys R Us Christmas Catalog debacle this past year?  [I can't find it in the search function of my blog, for some reason.]  I stuck with that, too.  In college, it was very easy to be all feminist, women's studies major righteous, but it's so much more complicated to translate into an activist as an adult.  This is my way.

But how far do I go?  I'm never sure.  Because right now I am trying to book our plane tickets to New Orleans for the ALA conference this summer, and the airline with the best times (although not the best price) is United.  There is nothing (as far as I know, or at least nothing worse than other airlines) that I'm boycotting politically, but I have had several annoying experiences with them.  For instance, they cancelled a flight on me, and I found out about an hour earlier than they actually alerted me (because I'm top of stuff like that).  They continually switch around my flights, which means they switch around my seats.  If I wanted to not know where my seats were going to be, I'd fly Southwest.  And last time I flew with them, I had a little chat with someone about how they screwed my family one too many times, and they were idiots.  Shouldn't they have given me a free flight or something for my troubles?  I told them I would never fly United again.  How can I go back on my word?  What if they have it in their files that I said that, and they see me book and they never take any of my requests seriously again?  What if they deliberately change my seats because they hate me?  What if I take so much time worrying about all of this that I miss out on all of the flights going to NOLA?  Could that happen?

What to do, what to do.  All of this is a trillion times more complicated because we're traveling with Romy.  Not that traveling with her is complicated, but we've done it enough that we know what times are best and how to make the trip easiest.  And she's totally excited about the trip.  Not quite as excited as going to the mall today so she can ride on the seventy-five cent per ride cars.  Maybe we should just take one of those to NOLA.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Rainforest of Fun

Last night my family and a friend's family went to the Rainforest Cafe.  It was a madhouse.  I thought kids ate free, but after a (very prolonged) delivery of the check, it turned out kids ate for $2.99 on Wednesdays.  So what was all the hubbub?  Romy seemed to have a good time, and so did her friend, Logan.  A balloon guy came around and made them balloon animals (which they promptly popped, although Romy did unravel hers and use it as a phone for a while), and he had this whole shtick that Romy and Logan were an old married couple.  I thought that was pretty funny.  I do find clown tendencies a bit charming.

Speaking of clowns, did anyone watch the PBS series Circus?  At first I was disappointed it wasn't about the history of circus, a story and era I love.  But it was compelling and fascinating just the same.  What wasn't compelling or fascinating?  The Oscars.  Yes, I am a little late to blog on this, but I'm still catching up on my sleep from that night.  My quick opinion: Anne Hathaway just seemed young, like a college kid or something, and James Franco, whom I have loved since the original airing of Freaks and Geeks, was boring.  Like, he always seemed really interesting to me, but whether this was him being an arteest or him just not giving a shit, it was boring.  So, boo to him.  I'm sure he'll win me back after one episode of F&G, though.

In Shamrock Shake news, every time I say I am going out for a Shamrock Shake (okay, this has occurred twice, but still) I end up going out for something else.  First, it was a Blizzard-esque thing from a local establishment because I was in the mood for peanut butter, and second was last night when Matt and I scooted away to Steak and Shake for a Double Chocolate Fudge Sippable Sundae (after I told my mom we were going for the Shamrock).  What gives?  I think every year I buy a SS, and every year I get a stomachache and am a little disappointed.  Maybe I have finally realized that.  Doubtful.  I still have two weeks.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Parks and Fast Food

Yesterday I took Romy to an open gym in our park district (and now whenever I do anything within our park district, I can't but help think of the people on Parks and Recreation planning it for me.  I just power-watched the first two seasons), and she loved it.  I overheard some parents talking about lunch, and the convo went something like this:
"We're not having McDonald's today because we just had it."
"I always say that they just have to get the apples this time instead of the fries."
Then they decided on Wendy's.  And I was all high and mighty in my mind and like, wow, I will never take my child to a fast-food restaurant and buy her processed meat crap and choose between a lesser evil over a greater one.  I mean, never say never, but I haven't eaten at McDonald's in a hundred years (Shamrock Shakes excluded, naturally).  Part of that is because we don't eat red meat in our house, Romy included (that does not mean that some day I will not allow her to eat if if she wants to, but it also does not mean I will ever take her for a burger at McDonald's.  That stuff is like crack).  But the other part is that fast food is a hard habit to break.  Just, as I've sadly learned, is television.  Now that we allow Romy to watch TV, she always wants to watch.  With the neverending Chicago winter, I feel like I've become a lazier parent.  It's so much easier to put on the TV, which depresses me and makes me feel like shit and that I suck as a parent.  Some TV is okay, but it's still just sitting in front of something and not being very creative.  And like an idiot, I let her choose Shrek from our DVD collection.  Not having watched it since its release, I had no recollection of the negativity and obnoxious language in the film.  I don't care if kids say "shut up;" I don't need my two year-old saying it.  I also don't need her seeing a woman abusing a donkey or a gingerbread man being tortured.  The problem is, now she wants to watch Shrek all the time.  So I hid it.  I'm not an idiot; I know kids talk like that and she will be exposed to it eventually.  But she is two.  She has plenty of time to turn into a little shit, and I'd rather not be the one to have that influence on her.  Mr. Noodle would never tell anyone to shut up.  Perhaps because he does not talk.

When did this turn into a parenting blog?  I don't even know if anyone's reading, and this is what's on my mind.  So, parenting it is today!

In actual book news, Into the Wild Nerd Yonder is a nominee for the Oklahoma Sequoyah Book Award!  That's so cool!  Oklahoma is OK!  More than ok.  Okay?  Am I supposed to spell it out?  Oh!  And I also just found out I'll be on a YA panel at the Printer's Row Bookfair in Chicago this summer!  Summer.  It's so much easier to be a parent in the summer.

PS (added a few hours later)
I hope I didn't read like a nasty beyotch about eating fast food.  I understand that it's cheap, and tastes delish, but I also know how bad it is for us (ALL of us).  So, I don't think less of you for eating it, but I don't want it in my or my daughter's body.  Make sense?

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Big Dresses

Yesterday I spoke in front of a whole lot of high schoolers for Fremd High School's Writers Week.  It's my second year doing it, and I had great experiences both times.  The kids were welcoming, and they seemed to be listening.  I think.  They laughed some.  I even had a Power Point, although now I'm thinking that having the lights low like that probably encouraged some naps.  Hmmmm...  I have no idea why I am second guessing myself all of a sudden because the day really did go swell.  Aside from the fact that I literally did not sleep at all the night before (I think the Oscars made me miss my sleep mark, the one I have to hit or I won't sleep, and then I sort of went crazy and decided we just had to have bedbugs.  Which we do not, thankfully), and I had to still take care of Romy when I got home.  She kept saying, "Mama's not happy," which she likes to say when I'm mad.  But I hate when she says it at other times because it sounds horrifically sad to hear a two year old say their mom is not happy.  Where was I?  Oh, yes, my school visit.  I would really like to have more high school visits.  And middle school.  It's funny being on the other side now and wanting to do school visits, when just last year I was the school librarian, busting my ass to get authors in my school.

One of the funny moments from my visit was when a boy asked me to the prom.  It was because I told this story about not going to prom, or maybe just because I had on this really cute outfit.  I told him maybe, since I did always want to wear my wedding dress again.  Every time I think about that, I laugh.  That was kind of a hilarious answer, if not just as a comeback but as exposing something weird about me.

In cruddo news, I found out that the TV show of Into the Wild Nerd Yonder is not going to happen.  Or, I guess it still could, if someone were to go to the production company and say they want to make it.  But I guess they're done pitching.  Sad.  Disappointing.  Not super surprising, but still.

Lastly, I had this dream last night that Melissa Rivers was my mom, and I was mega pissed at her for being sleazy and buying the same vacuum for $299 that I just bought for $500.  Um, yeah.