Sunday, October 31, 2010


When I was little, the Halloween story that scared me the most was The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.

I could not handle this story for some reason, which is probably why is has become my favorite ghost story to tell at this time of year.

My next door neighbor had a record (those were little black, round things that played songs and such when you struck them with a needle.....think of them as prehistoric CD's) with the story of the Headless Horseman on one side and a goofy little song on the other. Whenever my friend played it, I had to go home. I just couldn't hear it and not have it play in my brain, over and over again at bedtime.

Tooooooo Scary.

And then, when I was in middle school, I went to a Haunted House (something I HATE TO DO) that was hosted by the National Labs where my dad worked. Yeah, Scientists put it on. I am going out on a limb here, but let me just say that it is my opinion that Scientists should NEVER be allowed to create Haunted Houses for Little Kids. Never.

Naturally, it was terrifying. There were rooms for each scary thing....a Frankenstein room (with those electrode things zapping across the room as if they were being hit by lightening....nice job, Scientists), a vampire room, a wolfman room (the werewolf actually chased us into the next room, some mad Scientist/human experiment room that I still can't think about (yeah, nice going, Scientists!)

But I survived them all, because I was the ONE kid out of hundreds that made their dad go inside, too.

But then, in the parking lot, as my dad dropped his car keys and was fumbling around on the ground for them, I heard the distinctive clip-clopping that could only be horse hooves. I was afraid to turn around, but somehow I did anyway.

And there he was. Clip-clopping his way across the parking lot on a black horse, black cape, no head, carrying a jack-o-lantern carved into a hideous smile. The Headless Horseman.

Yeah, nice going, Scientists. It's not enough that you scare the pants of little children INSIDE the Haunted House, you have the keep the fun going on the OUTSIDE. (and we were the only ones in the parking lot because I wanted to leave early....all the other kids were still inside having, err, um, FUN I guess you would call it.)

I probably didn't sleep well for months....maybe years.

So now, each year, I treat my fifth graders to a retelling of the classic tale. I mean, there are those things which you just HAVE to pass on to the next generation.....





what's your favorite scary story?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fixed Computers, Bad Dreams and Postponed Dystopia

1. Yay! Husbands rock!! Sean unlocked the secrets of the crashed hard-drive, saving over 50 precious pages of my last WIP!! (Of course, I haven't read them over again yet...I mean, what if they stink and I made Sean spend the entire weekend searching for a way to save a way that I could access easily?) I'll look at them soon...I promise.

2. I dreamed I was still in college but I couldn't find my class because I didn't know what the class was, but I knew I had to be there. And then I was by a river, and people were parachuting down into that river....but they didn't have parachutes so they were just plummeting.....and then my car was on the railroad tracks and a train was coming but I couldn't get the car to start.

Stress much?

3. One of the cool things about reading reviews on Amazon is how it reassures the reader that our dystopian future is a long way away. I mean, when I go and look at reviews of a book that I LOVED and other people give it a one-star-wonder, it actually makes me happy. What a fabulous world we live in! We all don't love the same thing! How sad it will be when we all love only one kind of thing. (Of course, I am also thinking...."Did we even read the same book?" I especially think this about reviews of books that made me think "meh," and people gush over. "DID WE READ THE SAME BOOK??")

But it's not the books that are different.

It is the people.

And that is the best thing about our planet, I think.
People are still allowed to be different.


Friday, October 22, 2010

I Have a Bad Feeling About This

My inner editor is Harrison Ford. Usually he takes the form of Indiana Jones. Afterall, you need someone rough and tough (and hopefully with a whip or machete if necessary) to whack their way through the first draft.

However, Harrison/Han Solo paid me a visit just the other day. There I was, feeling oh-so-cocky about finishing my book in an almost 9,000 word marathon push to the end. I remember thinking to myself, "Self, you should back up your document when you get home from work. You forgot to do it yesterday."

But when I openned the computer to do just that.........
I can't even type the words.

my hard drive crashed.

"Don't get cocky, kid."

Yeah, Han, I hear you.
We are working to fix it.....think good thoughts for me.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Results.....I finished the BOOK!

The weekend was a wild, whacked-out writing-stravaganza!

And I finished the book!!!Yay me!

I started it back in April and really thought I'd finish it by the end of the summer, but it had other ideas. (The other ideas being the fact that I had no idea how to get to the ending, even though in hindsight, I was just worrying too much...which is something I never do. Really.)

Anyway, the timed writing worked well at first. I mean, 2000+ words in a day for ME was huge. I mean, when I get about 1,000 in a day I am flying high. But I knew I'd never get to the end by Sunday evening unless I kicked it up.

And I REALLY needed the first draft of this book to be done.

So Saturday, I tried some more timed writings, racking up 2,500 more words, which was awesome. I was really getting into the zone. I could sit down and just start cranking out words.

By Sunday, I didn't need the timer. I just sat in the chair in my pajamas and refused to get up until I was finished. 4 and 1/2 hours later, I WAS DONE. (I typed the last words at 12:00 noon, lalalalala.)

The grand total on the book is 47,317. I reckon some will be cut and some will be added to the final draft, so it will probably end up at about the same length, which is good I think for middle grade.

My total for Fri, Sat and Sun was 8,869 words. Sheesh. That is a bunch.

But I am sensing a pattern in my work. When I get to the end, it seems like I get to a point where the only thing to do is sit in the chair and push all the way through to the end. I get so scattered in balancing all the different aspects of my life (teacher, coordinator, mom, wife, writer, whatever) that weaving the strands of the story together to create the end takes more concentration than I have most of the time. I must sit in the chair and type away.

Two things you might want to know:

1. When I was worrying about how to get across the Grand Canyon I had created for myself in the book, I discovered that I had indeed packed all of the necessary information to get across within earlier bits of the story. Yay for rereading!!

2. I hate my chair right now.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Live Blogging Friday

Okay, so I am trying to finish a book this weekend. Taking a page from blog friend and awesome author Beth Revis, (who got the idea from PJ Hoover) I decided to try a series of timed writings.


So, first I am going to count up and see exactly where my word count is right now, so I can figure out how many word I get written in each session. The sessions will be 3o minutes, I think.

My current total is 38, 448. This is a middle grade book that I think will come in at around 48,000, however, I'd take anything form 45,000 to 52,000. Just depends on where the story goes.

So, I'm going to refresh my tea and get going. See you in half an hour.

Timed Writing #1

30 minutes

Word count- 430 (lame)

New Total-38,878

Comments: Hmmm. It was really hard to get started. Don't think the voice was where it needs to be, but I got all freaked out that I wasn't starting that I just starting typing kind of cruddy sentences...but the flow came after a bit.

Realized that I have recently introduced a character that I NEVER, EVER described. Good thing Joanna (my agent) hasn't read it or she'd kill me.

I am going to eat the breakfast burrito Sean just brought me, wash last night's dishes, row on the rowing machine and make a batch of banana bread. I think I'll try another timed writing in about an hour.

11:05 The bread making and kitchen cleaning and rowing and burrito eating took a little longer than I thought, but oh well. At least if I have nothing but 430 words and some banana bread to show for the day, it will be a day well spent. And here's a tip: Don't leave dishes for the next day...ewwww.

About ready to start, but am stifling a HUGE urge to net-surf....need to check hotwire for a hotel room price....*points finger at self* NO! Today is not a surf day. It is an industrious day!

Going off to set timer.

Timed Session #2

30 minutes

Word count: 646 (better)

total: 39,542

Comments: Flowed faster this time. Wrote up the description but not quite certain where I am going to put it. Am tempted to go again, right now while the fingers are feeling festive. However, I do have to get to the grocery store....and shower still.....Heck, I'm going for it!

Timed Session #3

30 minutes

Word count: 636 (Maybe I can't get much more than this in half an hour...?)

Total 40,163

Comments: Yikes! The back! Too much time in chair in same position!! Definitely time to get up and move around. I am not sure about the pace of the story right now. Am I going to fast? am I dragging it out? I need to think a bit before I rush ahead. Shower and grocery store, then I'll try again.

Timed Session #4

15 minutes (Real Life has reared its demanding head...quiet house gone. Must pick up children.....only a quickie)

Word count: 233 (And lucky to get it!)

Total: 40, 396

Comments: Wow...the afternoon totally escaped from me. And the evening won't ease up until after 8. Going to bring my notebook with me and do a by-hand-timed-session and see how it goes.

Timed Session #5

15 minutes

Word count: 187 (Was it really worth it?)


Comments: so tired.......probably shouldn't have tried this last one....might just be crud. Will check in the morning.

Total for day: 2,132 (Not bad, but tomorrow will have to be higher if I plan to finish this weekend.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Captain's Log

This is an actual journal entry, dated October 5, 2010. It is for my sisters and brothers out there who teach.

When I was very little, I thought the worst job in the world was to be a ship's captain. I mean, if the ship went down, wasn't there a law or something that said the captain had to go down with it?

The image haunted me. The picture of a captain standing on the deck of his ship and the waves rose and closed over his head.

Oh, Captain.

My Captain.

But like many childhood fancies, this thought submerged beneath the waves of my consciousness. Until now.

The Captain and his Ship have resurfaced.

But this time, I am the captain.

The ship is our current education system.

Now, I am not a political person at all. At all. But what am I supposed to do?

I am on this ship with children, our children, for godsakes, and their ship is going down. There is little money to keep it afloat, but if I don't teach them how to swim and swim fast, they will go down, too.

I should get off this ship. Others have. Others look at those of us still standing on the decks of our ships and shake their heads at our foolishness, our cockiness....thinking that we can still make a difference. I should get off while I can, before it kills me. Before the waves crash over my head and take us all down.

But there are Children on my ship. And if I don't teach them how to build a raft out of deck chairs or how to swim ('cause some of them don't know for cryin out loud) and there are sharks out there and if I don't teach them where the soft spots are (on the nose) they will never know.

They will get eaten.

And then I understood.

The captain doesn't stay on the sinking ship because there is a law that makes him.

The captain stays out of personal honor. Simply put, it is the honorable thing to do.

We must be there for the children, because they are the most valuable resource we have.

(Wait...that makes them sound like somethings instead of someones.)

They are all we have. the rest of the crew out there, I am waving to you, from the deck of my ship. No wait, I am saluting you.

I am not sure how to keep our boats afloat, but I stay because someone has to.

Because kids are worth it.

Because it is the least I can do.

End of journal entry.

On Friday, October 8, a gunman hopped the fence at the elementary school next to mine and began firing on the children at recess. Due to the brave efforts of the teachers (who protected the kids) and the construction workers (who tackled the shooter) no one died.

Folks, I'll admit I don't get out much, but teachers are some of the best people I know. We are dealing with a crisis in education, and teachers are on the front lines. With your children. Trying to do what's right for them and, in the case of the teachers at Kelly, protecting children with their own lives.

So go out and hug a teacher. Tell them that what they do makes a difference.

it does.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Imaginary Conversation Between Me and Richard Dreyfuss

Okay, so on Saturday (tomorrow) I am appearing at the San Diego Library Book Festival at the Encinitas Branch, at 11:00 a.m. on the children's stage.

And guess who else is going to be there? That's right....Richard Dreyfuss. THE Richard Dreyfuss. Want to see? Click here. See, there's Richard on the top....then scroll down....more....more....and there I am!

So, here's how I imagine it.....

Me: Hello Richard. I mean Mr. Dreyfuss. It is an honor to make your acquaintance.

Richard: It's cool, it's cool. And you don't have to kneel down like that or anything. It's kind of embarassing.

Me: *gets up, dusts off knees* It was a curtsy, but whatever. Anyway, I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your work. I mean, The Goodbye Girl....... Jaws, just awesome.

Richard: Well, thank you. Um....I enjoy your work, too.....just remind me again who you are....and why you are dressed like that.

Me: Oh, I'm a kid's author and I'm dressed like a queen because....I um.......I like it, I guess.

Richard: Interesting.

Me: What's that supposed to mean? *feels the steam starting to rise.....interesting? seriously?*

Richard: It just means interesting.

Me: *tosses crown on the ground and raises fists* You wanna go?

Richard: Go where?

Me: No, I mean go, like throw down.

Richard: What do you want to throw down?

Me: Fists. Like fighting. Sheesh.

Richard: Now why would I want to get into a fight (with a queen, no less) when my message today is about helping to educate children to create a better, more peaceful world?

Me: Oh.

Richard: What's your message today?

Me: Um, it's kind about dragons that won't sleep....and there's a Good Knight....and um.....

Richard: Interesting.

Wish me luck!


Edited to include:


Okay, so the event was yesterday and it was such fun. Richard and I were both in the green room at the same time. However, he was having Important Conversations with people and I was just trying to grab a sandwich before I fainted. (People loved talking with, totally monopolized him...I had to try and sneak a picture from behind my sandwich....which only turned out to be the side of his head when he was turning....I felt like a total stalker.)

And I got to see D.J. McHale!! (But just from the audience when he was speaking.) Very cool.

Thanks to everyone that came out. It was hot out there! (Yes, the children's stage was in the park and the grown ups and teens had the nice, air conditioned auditorium. Not complaining, mind you, just ultra-appreciating those that braved the heat!)

The Encinitas Library could win an award for the most awesome library EVAH!


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Grand Canyon of Writing

(I was going to insert a picture here....but I haven't been to the Grand Canyon in about seven years and I can't find my pix easily. AND I am trying to squeak a post in before work.)

Anyway, imagine the beautiful, majestic Grand Canyon. Okay, good. Now, imagine that you are standing on the edge and you need to get to the other side. That other-side-place is exactly where you need to be. It is the end of your journey. It's where your car is. It is the only way you are going to get home.

But that Grand Canyon in WIDE! You can't really jump across and not die.

And you don't want to take the time to ride all the way down to the bottom and back again on the back of a donkey. I mean, it's a DONKEY.

What to do?

Don't look at me for answers. I was hoping you'd help me figure it out.

See, this is exactly where I am with my WIP. I KNOW where it needs to go. It needs to go across the Grand Canyon.

But I cannot figure out how to get there. And WIP and I have traveled so far together. We've just got to make it to the other side.

So, I sit on the edge, dangling my feet over the side, hoping some inspiration will come....or that maybe I'll magically grow some wings.


P.s. Any suggestions are welcome...except that I don't really want to go all Thelma and Louise.....