Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Husband Machine

Our house is running very oddly these days, and whenever there is a kink in our normal lives (the kink this time being my surgery) it's very obvious who does what and how we do it well. To add to the kinkiness, our daughter has a bad cold/cough, and was up several nights coughing. But my husband, the uber-talented Matthew Cordell, still has to work during the day, within the walls of the House of Kook, on his books. We do not have a large house. His office is one of our three bedrooms (and you all know how awesome my office is). Things are sort of calming down (I'm healing, although annoyingly slower than I'd like. Why am I not bionic?), and my mom has once again graciously taken Romy (probably to the damn Rainforest Cafe and on the mall train. The driver of that thing is insane. And thus ends my poem about the mall). But I still need to commend the hubby and give him a massive shoutout because of all of the great work he's doing, both as a family member and as an illustrator. Below is a list of only SIX of the SEVEN books Matt has coming out next year! Can you believe that?! I hope this means big things for the H-C family, and by big things I don't mean my butt (Who am I kidding? I would love a bigger butt!). I'll be sure to remind y'all when these book are dropping (we need to use that term more for books. Because, unlike with music, you can actually drop a book! Unless it's a stupid ebook, and then you'd be all upset because you dropped your precious ereader. Um, I mean that in a nice way).

We start the year off right with an author/illustrator one-two punch! Matt's second twofer, Another Brother (which already received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly!). 1/31/12

The rest of these titles I'm just going to list. Otherwise, I'll never get this post posted.

Itsy Bitsy Baby Mouse by Michelle Meadows 3/6/12

Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems by Gail Carson Levine 3/13/12 (Yeah, that's right, GAIL CARSON LEVINE.)

Justin Case: Shells, Smells, and the Horrible Flip-Flops of Doom by Rachel Vail 5/8/12

Bat and Rat by Patrick Jennings 5/1/12

Hello Hello by Matthew Cordell! Matt ends his book party with another author/illustrator book! This one's a real beauty. I have no links for it yet. Fall 2012

Now it's my turn to work on my one measly book release for 2012, Have a Nice Day, the sequel to Get Well Soon. I received the copy-edited manuscript this morning, so it's time to get to work! I'll blog more about that next week.

Also, anyone thinking of giving my books as presents for the holidays? If so, I would be happy to mail out a personally autographed bookplate. Inside the U.S. only, please. Unless you want to send me stamps. Or money. Or barter candy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Typing Tuesday

I totally missed Cyber Monday! What a bummer. You know why? Because I was having surgery AGAIN. I have had surgery three times in less than two years! WTF?(as the kids say, and I am obviously not a kid anymore. #bodyfail) This time was removing a cyst from my ovary (is that too much information? I feel like once I bring out the ovaries, it's all TMI, but whatever), and I guess all went well. The whole experience was rather undelightful, particularly the waking up and feeling like shit for way too long afterwards. I still can't even look at my stomach and may never look at it again, thanks to three little cuts. Ug. I don't want to make myself barf. ANYWAY, the point was that I was too under the knife to shop Cyber Monday. Which was probably for the best. I went a little cuckoo on Black Friday. Not that I spent too much (or maybe I did), but I totally got sucked into the spirit of it! And, actually, it was pretty fun.

I must start off by addressing the hullabaloo about Black Friday getting crazier and crazier that it now impedes on Thanksgiving. But, really? I don't know. Is Thanksgiving that sacred a holiday? It's mostly about eating a shitload and celebrating all things gluttonous, whether it be food or, say, taking lots of land that's not yours. And for that guy who started a petition because he'd have to work at Target at midnight and because of that would have to sleep all day on Thanksgiving and miss out just so he could be awake for work, I say this: seriously, dude? Just go to work all tired like everyone else does. It was probably ridiculously bizarre anyway that lack of sleep could've come in handy as a coping mechanism. Or at least an excuse.

My Black Friday began Thursday night. Gratefully, Toys R Us opened at 9 p.m. I would never had stayed awake until midnight to shop, nor will I wake up at an ungodly hour. The fun is shopping at times when you normally can't shop. I live about three minutes away from Toys R Us, and since this year they apparently listened to my complaints from last year (remember me griping about their great big CHRISTMAS catalog? Which then made me boycott them for the holiday season? This year they had a great big HOLIDAY catalog! So, all shopping was a go. I thought I blogged about that, but when I went to find the post for a link, I could not. Maybe I just bitched about it on facebook), it was on. I think I would have had more fun if I had a friend with me. I watched lots of people tagteam shop, leaving the winding checkout line to emerge with even more bargains with their place held neatly. But I still had fun. Outside the line wound around the entire back of the store. I stood behind a man and his son, probably nine years old. I chatted them up, told them my favorite Black Friday story (about the woman they showed on the news in a Wal-mart stampede who fell to the ground and her wig popped off, and instead of standing and getting herself out of the way she made sure her wig was on again perfectly before she stood back up), and we strategized about where to go first in the store. Then when we actually entered the building, there was a dramatic "Good luck!" as we parted. Hilariously, I didn't really have any big ticket items I planned on buying. There were a few things to add to the list (which is freaking huge, since we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas-- but to clarify, we're raising Romy Jewish. We don't believe you can be two religions), but they were more like "maybe another Polly Pockets set or Spiderman thing." I did get her a kid camera that I wanted to buy, and that was a Doorbuster at half off! But was it really about the purchases? I couldn't stop talking to everyone. I wanted to make it into an experience because if not, what was the point? I kept coercing people to let me pass them to quartered-off sections of the store, and once in line I convinced a woman who continuously left her friends in line to pick up that Polly Pockets set I mentioned. When it was my time to pay (I made it in and out of the store in under an hour), I kibitzed with the bouncer (seriously, they had a bouncer) who said that he had to work until three am and then was moving on to Sears! The next day, Matt waited in line with me as we returned several items (and watched inefficiency at its most annoying), so I didn't even really spend that much money! Oh, and when Romy woke up at 7 am on actual Black Friday, I got her dressed (and then she asked if she could put on her Spiderman costume, so I said sure), and we went to Target. All of the big 5 am deals were already gone (Blu-Ray and portable DVD players I didn't need anyway), so all we left the store with were some towels (that were a great price). Then we went out for donuts (which we do maybe twice a year). Quite festive. And you should have seen the joy Romy brought to the other kids being dragged about when they caught a glimpse of her in her Spidey suit.

This post was far too long (and I used the word "really" about 700 times), but I'm in bed and drugged and felt like chatting with myself. Anybody else out there celebrate the joys of Black Friday? Cyber Monday? Still kind of bummed I missed it. There is so much more crap I don't need that I wanted to buy! The spirit of the season is within me!

PS I want to note that on Small Business Saturday, I stopped by my local comic book shop, an awesome newly discovered restaurant, and an independently owned toy store! And, yes, I spent money at all three places. So, yay for shopping!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Turkey Radio

Sorry for my pity party post yesterday. I am not usually one for "oh poor me." I am more a "why does everything suck for everyone" type of whiner. Anyway, being Thanksgiving time and all, I am definitely grateful for many things. However, I am not going to blog about them right now. Instead I am going to bitch about the state of Chicago radio.

In my car (a glorious 1998 Honda Civic), my listening options are vast: I have a cord from my TAPE DECK that allows me to plug in my iPod, CD player (when I remember to bring batteries. And CDs), or XM radio (when I take advantage of their free trials. I used to have a subscription when I commuted, but now it wouldn't make sense to pay for it unless I bought an inside unit for my house. Which I really want to do because I totally miss the Elvis and Backspin [old skool hip hop] channels). I can also choose to listen to Chicago's shitty "array" (and I use that term lightly, since there are only a handful of actual music channels these days) of stations. Of course there is always the NPR option, which I do choose sometimes, but when I'm driving in the Civic that means I'm alone (Romy's car seat is in our other car) so I'd like to use that time to listen to music I want to listen to (instead of "Daydream Believer," which we are forced to listen to on repeat every time we get in the car with Romy.) Wow this post has a lot of asides. Yesterday, for the second day in a row, I had to drive an hour each way to the doctor's office for the second day in a row to get the skinny on my upcoming surgery. To add suck to the suckpile, the cord of my tape deck adapter broke. That meant no iPod, no CD player, and no XM radio (for which I'm in free trial time right now). Four hours left with Chicago radio. I guess I can see, what with all of our choices now for car listening, why radio might be struggling. However, if I drive North towards Milwaukee, they still have some excellent radio stations. Their oldies channel is outstanding (they play actual oldies from the 50s and 60s), as is their choice of hip hop stations. Chicago's radio has turned into a wasteland of random talk channels and Billy Joel. I swears every time I flip through the five music channels (I'm not counting channels that play country because I never stop on those), at least two of them have on a Billy Joel song. Or Elton John. Or John Melloncamp. Or that freakin' Adele song (how does anyone like that song anymore after hearing it 70 trillion times?). Chicago radio is one boring mush of lame. The "rock" channel was playing fucking Oasis yesterday. And the hip hop channels? Do they play ANYTHING other than Drake? I like Drake (that's Jimmy Brooks to you and me, Rusty), but where's the variety? I like my radio segregated: METAL, HIP HOP, OLDIES. Our oldies station plays 80s music! And not even good 80s music! All of this forced me to dig into my trunk and pull out the remnants of my cassette collection, which had me driving to such gems as Eric Johnson's "Ah Via Musicom," Rush's "Chronicles," the "Pretty in Pink" soundtrack and Special K's cassingle of "I Got a Man." Sigh. Last night I went to Target and picked up a new cassette adapter (thank turkey, they still sell those!). Not that I'll get to use it today. No, today it's a family ride in the station wagon. Time to get ready for two glorious hours of cold shaving razors and white knights on their steeds.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Alexander was Right

This morning I woke up at 4:30 when my daughter yelled and cried and interrupted our sleep yet again.

When my cat came out of the basement, he threw up right in the middle of our front room.

I can tell it's going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

I couldn't help myself from eating the chocolate-covered pretzel I bought for my daughter, and there aren't any good classes offered at the gym this morning.

And I have to drive another hour to a doctor I went to yesterday so she can talk to me about the surgery I'm having on Monday to remove a cyst from my ovary. That means another IV and waking up from anesthesia and having three little incisions on my stomach and maybe even losing an ovary and recovering while my daughter doesn't understand that her mom just needs to lay in bed and watch shitty TV.

It is definitely, abso-fucking-lutely, going to be a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day.

I think I'll move to Australia. Again.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


No, I am not about to discuss the brilliant(ly awful) 80s movie, Troll, starring my purple buffalo-hunting beau, Noah Hathaway. Instead, I'm going to review the super awesome Norwegian movie, TrollHunter. I may be a bit biased about this movie, although I don't think that should diminish anyone else's enthusiasm for it. You see, I took Norwegian during my last semester of college. Hvorfor, you ask? Because it seemed like a funny thing to do. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, there are many students with Scandinavian backgrounds, so many that the school has an entire Scandinavian Studies Department. I hung out with several people of recent Scandinavian decent (like, they had really Scandinavian names and spoke their native languages when I asked), and the kookiness/attractiveness of the languages and people led me to Norsk. The class was filled with other like-minded oddballs, and many a week would end with a wacked-out party involving Norwegian hard liquor and pop songs. This one in particular, which our TA made us learn:

What is this crap video?

TrollHunter (I'm not sure if I'm supposed to separate the words or not. The DVD box cover showed the title in a variety of formations) steals from the (at the time revolutionary) Blair Witch format, when a group of college students heads out to make a documentary about a bunch of bear (bjorn) deaths happening around Norway. (Yes, this is the type of thing on which Norwegians report. I so wish I had the hilarious news report our Norwegian TA shared with us where the reporter changed positions after each story, sometimes in a lounge chair, sometimes in front of a roaring fire. Who wouldn't want to visit Norway after watching that?) But instead of finding a bear killer, guess what they find... Troll Hunter!!! The troll hunter himself is so awesomely committed, both the character and the actor, to the seriousness of the troll hunting situation. The three college students (Two guys and a gal. Blair Witch again!) follow him on what they think is a ridiculous hunt, until they SEE their first troll! And let me tell you, that troll is awesome. I LOVE the trolls in this movie. They are cartoony in their weirdness but so real in the way they fit into the film and their environment. Really inventive.

TrollHunter is a movie that could only have been made in Norway. They have all sorts of troll lore references that were not a part of my childhood but were obviously very prominent in the Norwegian characters' fairy tales, such as trolls being able to sniff out Christians (I was floored by how readily the main characters were all, "No, of course we don't believe in God." Is that how it is in Norway?). As the film progresses, and the students discover trolls are real, they start to refer to the troll hunter as a national hero. Very cool. He was the only one who could do his job. Kind of like Buffy! But hairier and in Norwegian. The film itself is suspenseful, a little scary, and all around fascinating. I plan to watch it again when it comes back in at my library. Mostly because I want to look at the trolls some more. There is one that is as big as a mountain! And it totally looks like it!

The lost footage aspect (yes, they did that just like in Blair Witch) was hokey and not quite as believable as B.W. (there were too many camera views for only one camera to be at play), but if you can forgive that (which you can because, geez, it's just a movie) then this movie is pure awesomeness. I give TrollHunter five out of five troll bogeys!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Toasties

I'm sure my male readers feel left out when I post such fashionable clothing items from the Sunday paper, so today I have some hottttt pants for you!
I delivered, didn't I? I love that they are from the "Casual Joe" line. Wait- I just had a flashback to blogging about these same pants. Because they have so many features. Let me check. Ha! I did! It was just a little over one year ago! Note the man is different. And the price, too! Wow, Cargo Comfoters inflation. Times are tough. My other blog post is way hilarious and references Butterfingers. This one is not comparing.

And now I swear I also blogged about these, but I can't find that post:
Is it my fault the Sunday papers keep running the same clothing ads, or am I getting lame in my blogging ideas? Whatever. I was going to say that I am SO tempted to buy these boots! But how would my pants fit over the big, fluffy band? Or if I wore them over my pants, how hideous would that look? Too bad they wouldn't arrive in time for NCTE. I would be most impressive.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Softest Yet!

For those coming to Chicago next week for the NCTE conference, I will be appearing (which makes me sound like a magician) on a panel called "No Vampires, No Witches, No Dystopias: Young Adult Literature Goes Back to Its Roots in the Here and Now." I just realized what a long title that is. Good thing we don't have to print it out as a banner on our dot matrix printer! Think how long that would take! Other awesome authors (which implies that I think I'm awesome. Sometimes I do. Shouldn't we all?) on the panel are Donna Freitas, Tara Kelly, and Andrew Smith. Come see us at the Hilton (um, vague, but if you're going to the conference you'll know where that is) on Sunday, November 20th from 8:30 - 9:45 am. After that, we'll all be signing over at the Macmillan Children's Booth #402 from 10:30 - 11:30. Don't worry- I'll remind you 700 more times.

The last time I was at NCTE, it was held in Philadelphia. I had a blast there and chose to wear ridiculous shoes for the ALAN cocktail party (to which I am not invited this year. LOSER). I just reread the blog post I wrote, and it is HILARIOUS. Well, at least the Boyz II Men reference made me laugh. To the point where Romy was like, "Mom, why are you laughing?" And I was like, "Because I was reading something I wrote, and I think I'm funny." Anywho, in the post I talked about the shoes and how they KILLED my feet.
High heels are fugged up. Which is totally why I am in the market for a new pair to wear to the Macmillan dinner party I'm attending on Saturday night! Totally an asinine (why does this word not have two s's?) decision, seeing as I am certain we will have to walk to the restaurant, and it will be cold, and I will be in pain. But I wear jeans everyday, so this is my chance to feel like a lady. Stay tuned for that debutante debacle.

Speaking of awesome clothes, check out these babies!
So many things to love about these. Like how they make that thin woman look all lumpy! And how they are "Wonder Warm." 100% washable! Because most of my pants are an average of 63% washable. And who doesn't love a pair of slacks? The ad claims they have "the warmth, drape and look of finest woolen flannel with all the modern advantages." I'm going to stop them right there. Flannel pants=pajamas. Modern advantages? Who is the awesome person who writes this stuff? I love them so!

This ad isn't as funny, but I love how these are the softest sweaters YET. Does that mean there are softer ones to come? That the old ones aren't quite as soft? They use a "lofty new acrylic." Sounds like a rash waiting to happen.

Hmmmm. Maybe if this author thing doesn't work out, I can get a job writing for But do I have the talent to keep up with these masters?

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

My Glamorous New Digs

Since some of you (okay, I think one of you) requested more vlogs, here's a vlog about my awesomely impressive new writing space:

Friday, November 04, 2011

Defending Realism

First off, I have to give a shoutout to the awesome kids at New Trier High School, especially my old students, who came to see me during their writers' week. I had an amazing time and felt such love. Sniff. Made me question quitting my job. Just a little.
There were more people, but I only took this one lame picture. See how nice they look?

But now, I would like to address the issue of realism in realistic fiction. Again, I am talking to the doubters, those who like to write reviews where they say stupid things like THAT COULD NEVER HAPPEN. For fuck's sake: anything can happen! What kind of lame-ass existence do you live in where things can't happen? Sick bastards blow themselves up in the name of religion! Conversely, two week old babies are pulled from rubble alive! The world is a crazy place, good and bad. Just because your lives are uneventful in the kook department, doesn't mean everyone else's are. It certainly doesn't mean mine is. Here are some examples from my works of FICTION that actually happened TO ME:

Get Well Soon:
- I was in a mental hospital very similar to the one in the book, and, yes, the staff acted very similarly to the lazy, unhelpful characters.
-There was a Satanist, a girl who had seizures and spoke in tongues, and a roommate who had to carry around a fake baby.
-Parents can be that oblivious

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder:
This isn't so much about real vs. fake, but it pisses me off that this book was so lauded for the wonderful family represented, and when I wrote a book with parents who were absent (Don't Stop Now) people complained about that. Why? Because (I'm so sure) all parents and families are perfect? When I wrote it, I actually wondered if my Nerd family were so saccharine sweet, people would complain they were unrealistic! Diversity in characters is important, for both the readers AND the writers. It makes books more REALISTIC.

Don't Stop Now:
- I had a friend who faked her own kidnapping. At age 18. And I was the only person she told.
-I lied to the FBI about said friend faking her own kidnapping.
-My parents trusted me to make lots of decisions at age 18. They never visited me at college. I slept on people's couches in New York for a summer. Maybe you had over-protective, busy-body parents who were all up in your grills, but mine let me figure out things for myself. As, I'm certain, many others do. I don't understand AT ALL the complaints of reviewers that the parents in this book are too relaxed about letting two eighteen year-olds go on a road trip together.

And, lastly, it's just boring to think that people would really want everything in every book to feel 100% realistic. "I have to brush my teeth." "I had a graham cracker for a snack." "I have to poo." It would be like the world's worst Twitter conversation. Realistic Fiction is just what it claims to be: FICTION (i.e. stuff that is made up) but done realistically. And in my world, my books are very realistic. The fiction part comes because I have no interest in writing memoirs. Although, if I did, I think today's title would be: Grumpy Author Needs to Stop Reading Reviews.