Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Triple Whammy...a.k.a the Holy Trinity of Distraction

First off, I tend to do things in threes: Three daughters, (I myself am one of three kids...a middle child of two middle children), usually three WIP's at a time, three cups of tea a day, that kind of thing.

So, it should come as no surprise that each year, I get to end my year with a triple whammy:

Christmas (which I love)

My anniversary (which is a blast)

and my third daughter's birthday (which also happens to be New Years Day).

That's right, folks, eleven years ago I had the first baby of the New Year for the city I lived in.

Imagine, if you will, TV reporters in your room at 3:00 a.m. interviewing you for the 6:oo a.m. News...

Reporter: So, Mrs. Thomas, (awkwardly looks at the HUGE bundle in my arms) is that your first ten pound baby?

Me: (Did he really just say that...???) Let's just say it's my last ten pound baby...(awkwardly laughs...does not make eye contact with camera).

Yes, eleven years ago on New Year's Eve, I was in labor and at 12:46 a.m., my little (not-so-little, actually) Cali was born.

So, um, the writing I get done in the week between Christmas and New Years looks like this:

not so much.

But, next week, when I get to go back to work, then I'll have time to write...



Happy Birthday, Caledonia.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I couldn't even think of a title for this post without sounding super schmaltzy. Not that I have a problem with schmaltzy stuff. Heck, I live a pretty schmaltzy life....but I digress.

Today is the 22nd anniversary of my marriage to my husband, Sean.

Now, lots of couples celebrate their anniversaries in terribly romantic ways, dinner, dancing, yeah. But when you get married two days after Christmas, let me tell you, by the time the big day rolls around, you are totally fooded out!! Seriously, who wants to spend the cash on a nice dinner when the thought of MORE FOOD* is enough to induce a coma?

So, what are we doing to mark the beginning of our 23rd year together? One word:



Here's hoping all of you get to spend 22 years with someone who accepts you just the way you are and loves you...even the weird bits.


*Well, we did go out very fancy schmancy for out 19th, to a very elegant restaurant, where we got the pleasure of seeing a cute couple a few tables over receive a very lovely box at their table. After the waitress dropped the box off, we hailed her and asked if there was a ring in the box and the guy was proposing, which of course, there was and he was.

The girl refused.

It was the most uncomfortable dinner I have ever witnessed in my life. (silly boy, proposed before the meal???) And I couldn't look away....

So, bring on the hamburger joint and the movie!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The 12 Deeds of Christmas

Okay, so I'm a bit of a mean mom...kind of. We have this thing at the Thomas house call The 12 Deeds of Christmas wherein the three Thomas children must complete 12 good deeds amongst themselves before Christmas. (12 total, usually works out to 4 a piece.)

The rules are loose:

1. It must be a selfless act.

2. It must not rely too heavily on The Bank of Mom.

Individual deeds have included picking up all the dog poop in the backyard without being asked (thank you Cali), or chaperoning a 10 year old's gingerbread party for 4 hours (Thanks Noel and Issy).

Anyway, the girls decided one of the deeds they would do would be to make a cookie plate and deliver it to an elderly neighbor. Nice, huh? I thought I would help their deed out by buying a lovely paperwhite narcissus to go with the cookie plate. I have always loved these flowers at Christmas, far better than poinsettias, and thought it would be nice.

Youngest child: (upon getting in the car) What stinks?

Me: It's probably the flower I bought for (insert elderly neighbor's name) to go with the cookie plate. It's a paperwhite narcissus. And it doesn't stink.

YC: (Leans over to smell) It smells like baked pee.

Me: (first response) No it doesn't. (second response) Ewwwww. (third response) How do you know what baked pee smells like?

YC: It just smells like pee would....if you baked it. Or maybe it smells like one of those white board markers before you are about to throw it away because it stinks so bad...or maybe a toilet.

Me: It does NOT smell like a toilet.

YC: (Grumbles from the back seat under her breath, something about the fact that the smell of the flower is going to ruin the whole cookie plate.)

So, there you have it. Good deeds abound! Cali saves the elderly neighbor from having a foul smelling plant (which now resides on front porch.)

And that, my friends, is what Christmas is all about.


(4 more deeds to go!)

Monday, December 21, 2009

In Which I Owe You a Donut....Or a Drink.....Oh yeah, and Kissing

See, what happened was that school is finally over and for the first time in, I dunno, a hundred years, I can read blogs leisurely instead of whizzing through at lightspeed. Yea and hurray!

But I got a little cocky, with my new found time. And when I saw that there was a Kissing Day today where people could post parts of their WIP's that involves kissing, well, in a moment of utter stupidity, I signed up.


So, now we get to the part about the donut (or the drink). Back when I had my first writing group in New Mexico (love you Holly, Karen and June!) and it came time for me to read my stuff, I'd hem and haw around, saying things like, "I know it's really rough..." or "Don't comment, just listen, because I know it's not very good." Blah. Blah. Blah.

Well, the group got tired of hearing this tripe, and I got tired of saying it, so I challenged myself to buy a drink (or a donut) for anyone who had to hear me hem and haw around before reading my stuff.

Consider the Hemming and Hawing part done. (Maybe a virtual donut....?)

Soooooo, on to kissing.....(This is where round 2 of H and H begins in usual glad you are not here in person. I am stepping away from the computer...back again...okay.)

Okay, here we go. From WIP titled Wren Faire, wherein a teenage girl who works as a serving wench at a renaissance faire in the summers falls in love with a cursed boy from the 16th century.

Here we go...(Stop stalling!! Just Do it!)

He pulled on her hands, causing her to lean in towards him.

Wren resisted a teeny, weeny bit. She didn't want to just fall into the arms of the first boy that opened them to her. But then again, here she was, under the moonlit sky, stars sparkling, with a beautiful boy who appeared to be funny, charming and mysterious. And he was wearing a kilt, for heaven's sake! A kilt!

As Wren looked at his face, she felt her breathing increase. Great. Now it matched her heart rate, which was going completely insane.

Close eyes? Leave eyes open? Close eyes? Leave eyes open?

But Will just smiled at her as he moved closer. Softly, more gentle than the hint of a breeze, Will touched Wren's lips with his own.

So, so, soooo much better than when she had tried kissing Jamie back when they were both thriteen, giving Wren the shocking realization that it's not how you kiss, it's who you kiss.

Happy Mistletoe Day!


Thursday, December 17, 2009


Tagged by MG Higgins!!

Okay, I don't even know what this means! I think I have to answer these questions....which is probably a good things, since I had a really good blog post planned, but have not the brain power with which to write, as an interim post, I shall answer the tagging stuff (Is it a Meme? a MeMe? How do you say it..what does it mean?)

What was the last thing you wrote? What is the first thing you wrote that you still have? The last thing was a few paragraphs of my attempt at a YA. As for the other, I still have a book I wrote in second grade. I take it to classes to show kids all the time....messy handwriting and all.

Write poetry?
If I got the time, I can bust a rhyme. (Sorry.)

Angsty poetry? If surfing hippos are considered angsty, then yes.

Favorite Genre of Writing?
Picturebook, then chapter book, middle grade, then YA.

Most annoying character you've ever created?
Not finished yet, but it has to be Extra Super Cranky Lady. She's made of annoying.

Best plot you've ever created?
No idea. Really.

Coolest plot twist you've ever created? Probably the famous Good Knight Kiss.

How often do you get writer's block? Almost never. Instead, I get Writer's-Complete-Lack-Of-Time-Itis.

Write fan fiction?

Do you type or write by hand? Hand.

Do you save everything you write? Yes. (Can I find it? no.)

Did you ever go back to an idea after you've abandoned it? There are no abandoned ideas, just those that aren't ready yet.

What's your favorite thing you've ever written? I love the Good Knight Books! Still crack me up.

What's everyone else's favorite story you've written? Kids love the Good Knight books, too. Also they love an unpublished middle grade about a dungeon under a school.

Ever written romance or angsty teen drama? There's a love story at the heart of my YA.....

What's your favorite setting for your characters? Um...not sure really. Where ever I'm not having to think too much about the setting, probably....

How many writing projets are you working on right now?
2. Finishing a YA and also finishing an easy chapter book.

Have you ever won an award for your writing?
One of my books is an ALA Notable Book, which is a good thing. Another was a Nickelodeon Top Ten Book of the year. Also, I got an Oppenheimer Platinum Toy Award for a book, and nominated for many, many state awards.

Almost forgot, one of my books was recognized by the Anti-Defamation League. Yeah.

What are your five favorite words?
Dude. (giving it up for the new year...can't really pull it off any more, even though it pours from my lips as if I were a skateboarding-skinny-jean wearing wannabee. Sheesh.

What character have you created that is most like yourself?
I am the Good Knight. Ironically, I am also the little dragons....

Where do you get your ideas for your characters? Usually, the concept comes first, followed by the characters. So they come to me by way of "who might fit in here?"

Do you ever write based on your dreams?
My book, Somewhere Today: A Book of Peace came came from a dream I had.

Do you favor happy endings?
Most definitely.

Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?

Does music help you write? Sometimes it really helps. Sometimes it is an incredible distraction. (Yes, Sean, I AM tired of you playing the heck out of the Jamie Cullum CD.)

Quote something you've written. Whatever pops in your head:
"The best gifts do not come from a store,
they come from our hearts and our hands,
nothing more." (The Good Knight said this in Happy Birthday, Good Knight.)

I don't think many of my answers are all that interesting, but they saved you from some lame bathroom humor, which is slated for the next post...unfortunately for you.

I am Tagging:

Laura and Lisa (but they probably already did this)
Katie and SF
Amy Tate
Corey Schwartz (that's what you get for being the first in the comments....hehehe, that was part of my evil plan, tag the first one!!)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Storytelling Scorecard

How the Grinch Stole Christmas: Told 13 times this season.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas: Told 15 times. Anticipate 5 more tellings.

Charles Dicken's Christmas Carol (The Story Queen Version): Told once, anticipate 5 more tellings.

Twelve Days of Christmas: Sung/Told 12 times

The Biscochito: Told 0 times.

What??? StoryQueen, you did not tell the story of the Biscochito even once??? Bad StoryQueen! Bad StoryQueen!

The Biscochito is a gingerbread man type of story, but the main character is a cookie that hails from my old stomping grounds...New Mexico. I wrote it many years ago, and it is a holiday favorite of mine. (Shhhh, don't tell anyone, but it is one of those things I wrote that didn't sell right away, so I just use it with kids as an oral-tradition type of story. And they LOVE it. I mean, how can they not with great lines like:

Run, run, run,
as fast as you can go,
you can't catch me
I'm the Biscochito.*

That's good stuff, my friends.)

I'm sorry, little Christmas Cookie. There's still time. I'll tell your tale at least once this year, I promise.

*And the fox doesn't eat the cookie at the end....a big guy in a red suit does, teehee.

Off to tell Dickens today!


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Why Would You Have a White Christmas Tree?

Because with a white tree, you can see the ornaments better! (You might not be able to see him, but Sponge Bob is on the tree, as well as Mr. Bill. That's Hedwig sitting next to Santa and the red thing on the left side is a sash Cali won in a dance competition. Behind Santa is my pop-up book collection, starring the amazing Robert Sabuda. And yes, those are mouse ears on the top of the tree.)

In case you were wondering, we are colorful mini-light people....lots and lots of color.

Why a fake tree? Well, they do last longer and I like to set up early. Plus, I kind of hate the whole dead tree thing at the end of Christmas...kind of depressing.

Favorite time to write: Early in the morning with the Christmas lights on!


Monday, December 7, 2009

Holiday Messages

Those are my Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer peeps. I love them. (I also have all of the Rudolph characters in plush...about beanie baby size, lounging under the tree)

See, Rudolph is one of my favorite holiday shows. There are soooo many layers going on. I mean, most holiday shows have the it-is-better-to-give-than-to-receive message or the Christmas-is-not-about-presents message.

But Rudolph? much conflict, so much character much growth.

First, let's look at the characters, shall we?

We've got Hermie who is the elf who wants to be a dentist. (Be yourself, Hermie!!)
There's Rudolph, born different from the other reindeer. (Don't hide what you are, Rudy!)
Not to mention Donner (or Donder, depending on which Christmas story you are reading)....(You did NOT just cover up your kid's uniqueness, did you?)
There's Santa...prejudiced against red-nosed deer....

And that's just for starters.

Throw in the whole island of misfit toys (I love that flying lion king....), a monster who's maybe not so fearsome, and a gold prospector who just does his own thing and you've got one spectacular, character driven holiday epic!!

And what I love about watching the little claymation-looking puppets struggle is that the writers did not make things easy for them. They had to tackle huge obstacles, and in the doing of their deeds, they grew.

Even the youngest of TV watchers gets the theme: Be who you are. Accept others for who they are.

Right now, my little plastic elf band peeps are playing right outside of my daugher's Lego Hogwarts (which is decorated, naturally, because there's no place like Hogwarts for the Holidays). The Bumble is perched atop the tower. Rudolph is hanging with Yukon Cornelius, with Clarice trailing behind, as usual. Hermie is about to extract a molar from Hagrid (it's really been giving him trouble). Harry and Ron are playing hide and seek with Santa.

Such is life.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Lessons from a fifth grader

The scene: 9:00 p.m. Wednesday night at the Thomas house, at the end of a very busy day. Kids are eating spaghetti made by dad. Dance is finally over for the evening and the homework begins......

Cali: (pulls out a fresh piece of lined paper from her notebook.)

Me: I thought you were done with your homework before dance.

Cali: I was...I am...but I have to rewrite Chapter 25 from Sign of the Beaver for my teacher.

Me: I thought you did that last sat at the table while I was working....I remember....?(am I experiencing deja vu?)

Cali: I have to do it again.

Me: Wha?? (Okay, it's bad enough to have to rewrite Chapter 25 from Sign of the Beaver in a new way ONCE....but twice??)

Cali: Apparently, it can't be funny.

Me: (a knowing look appears on my face, I'm certain)

Cali: Mr. S is not a fan of rubber chickens, I guess.

So there you have it....there is a time for rubber chickens in writing and a time for NO rubber chickens in writing. It is a good thing to learn the difference.


P.S. Poor Cali....the little apple is maybe too close to the tree sometimes.....

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Booksignings: Then and Now

My first book signing was about 14 years ago....

It was on a Saturday.

I bought a new dress.

I did my hair.

My friends had a party for me after with cheesecake, hors d'oeuvres and champagne.

The only glitch was that they ran out of books (Houghton Mifflin had just moved there warehouses and sent only a few boxes...not expecting there to be that many people that wanted to buy my book...first time author and all. My parents had to scramble to the other bookstores in town, buy all the copies and bring them to bookstore I was at and re-sell them.)

Lovely day.

Flashforward to yesterday:

5:45 Wake-up, check e-mail, read blogs....prepare mind for day to come.

6:50 Discover that the black shirt I thought I had spotted in the closet was really a black skirt. Scramble for black shirt.

7:00 Struggle with zipper on daughter's skirt for 10 precious minutes...until we both throw in the towel and she changes. (It wasn't too small or anything....just temperamental).

7:10 Realize that teenager won't get to school on time unless prince consort, who is lounging in bed, gets up and takes her due to loss of 10 minutes. Make snarky comment* which thrusts prince consort from bed, into the car and down the road.

7:30 Stick paper bracelets in teachers mailboxes to put on kids' wrists so they won't forget to come to the book fair.

7:40 Don StoryQueen garb. Force youngest child and two of her friends to put on the dragon costumes to stand in front of the school with a sign reminding people to come to Barnes and Noble. (Laugh while the dragons do the macarena for the parents dropping off...)

8:00 Take child (not mine) who is crying and won't go to class to my room to help tape signs on my puppets (Please return me to the StoryQueen) for the scavenger hunt...BEG her to be a good girl and go to class because the StoryQueen is slammed today and just can't deal.....she consents.

8:00-2:30 Teach about a million classes (not really, just seemed that way).

2:30 spend time in office, calling parents of kids who forgot that we cancelled writing club due to the book fair to come and pick their kid up.

3:00 Race to B and N, having procured the appropriate pens at Rite Aid for signing along the way, putting on lipstick in the rearview mirror.

3:30 Me: Um....where are the books?
Them: And, who are you?
Them: They are probably in some boxes in the back....
Me: Okay (taking a deep breath) what you don't understand is that in 30 minutes, the drill team is performing outside the store, and then they are coming. Andy by THEY I mean hundreds of kids and families. It is going to be a zoo. This is the only chance we have to get ready.

Them: (Strange expression)
Me: Trust me.

4:05 Drill Team performs.

4:15 Kids pour into store. I sit in the chair and sign books. My hand never stops moving.

5:30 I take a break from signing to do a reading.

6:00 Butt in chair. Signing.

7:20 Run out of two titles (Still have three titles left....) Still signing.

7:30 Take a break for another reading.

7:45 Signing again**

8:00 Things slow down due to bedtime...They find another box of my books (with the two titles I'd sold out of) but the sleepyheads are gone.

9:00 I stumble into my house. Prince consort procures some take-out and I don't even remember chewing. I drink a glass of champagne from the bottle my brother-in-law left in the fridge at Thanksgiving. (Thanks, Michael.)

So, there it is...the very glamourous life of a StoryQueen.

True, things are different...I miss the dress (for now I wear the royal garb...), the hair, the moments of soaking it in...But let me tell you, seeing kids wound around in a snakey line through the store just to have me sign their's as close to a rockstar moment as I am likely to get.


*Okay, probably I said something like, "Darling, would you be a dear and take Issy to school? There's a good chap." Yeah. That's the ticket.

**I signed not only my own book last night...I also signed Wimpy Kid (sorry Jeff), a book by Diane de Groat (sorry), an anime graphic novel (sorry) and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas illustrated by blogging friend Richard Jesse Watson (sorry, Richard) and four autographs on bookmarks, because, it's not like these kids see me every day or anything....except that they do.