Tuesday, January 31, 2012

12 Years of Attempting MG

So, um, yeah.

I started  writing my first MG in 2000. (Okay, actually I started my first MG in fourth grade, a fabulous novel called The Adventures of Suzie McGuire.  Adventurous in neither title nor content--still, it was my first book with chapters.  And I still have it:)

The first novel (circa 2000) was a retelling of an old legend.

It was in first person.

From the perspective of a dog.

(You can stop laughing now--it was actually a bit of a tear-jerker.)

But it wasn't quite right.  Nor was it long enough to be considered an actual novel.  It might have qualified at a "chapterbook" but I think the content was too high.  (And don't get me started on the whole chapterbook vs novel thing...I still don't know how it all works!)

So, I then I wrote a chapter book.  (Which I still kind of love, just so you know) with three princesses (named Sunbeam, Moonbeam and Buttercup--yes, I know there already is a Princess Buttercup, but not one named after a Peanut Butter cup!) who went and mixed up a bunch of fairy tales and such.  Perhaps too episodic, but I tend to be a fan of episodic stories so.....

 I rewrote the characters into a modern day mystery, thinking perhaps my princesses could solve many mysteries. But the pacing was off and try as I might, I couldn't really save it.

Then I wrote 80 pages of Trinket (which had a horrible title that I can't even force myself to type, it was so bad....) but my computer crashed and I lost it all.  But I wasn't even that sad because I knew I hadn't done the idea justice.  I knew I needed to be a better writer to tell Trinket's tale.

Now, all the while, I was still writing picture books and easy readers. I absolutely love playing with language.  I love the way the words sound when read aloud and I knew I still wanted to write something longer.  I just didn't know if I could...and do it right.

My next two attempts were probably a little terrible--but I kind of loved them.  I tried hard to write books that followed the "rules". (By rules, I mean that I probably didn't take enough risks with them.  I played it safe, adhering to non-existent "this is how a plot goes" rules.) One was about a dungeon under a school where kids with low test scores were sent during the testing time so the school would maintain its excellence. (Teacher disillusionment with standardized testing?  You be the judge.) The other was about a girl who lived between two worlds (yeah, I know, there are only a zillion books with similar plots) and, yeah, it was the faerie world.  So, um..yeah.

But these two books I finished...and if they weren't good, at least they were Finished.

In addition writing my picturebooks and easy readers (which I already mentioned), I also had a love affair with folk-tales.  I LOVE folktale retellings, but they are not the easiest thing to get published in picture book format.  But I didn't care, (I still don't.)  Sometimes it is just plain fun write fairy tales.

Finally, in the Spring of 2009, I decided that I needed to give Trinket her shot again.  I knew I could finish a longer book (which is not the easiest thing, I tell you!) and I knew, after having followed the "rules" in my last two attempts, I was ready to break them.  I knew the telling of this tale would require an unusual structure, and finally, I was brave enough to follow the story, instead of  doing what I "thought" I should do.

So, here I am , 12 years later.  That's a long time to wait, you might be thinking.  But that whole time, I WASN'T just WAITING.  I was writing.

And that made all the difference.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hi. My Name is Shelley and This is the Cover of My New Book.

Okay, so a picture sometimes really is worth a thousand words.  And this picture says SO much!!

However, here is a blurb for THE SEVEN TALES OF TRINKET, in case you were interested.

Left with nothing but a tattered map, a boy who tends pigs, and the storyteller's blood that thrums through her veins, eleven year-old Trinket's very survival depends upon her ability to capture a good tale and retell it well.  If she is lucky enough to find seven tales, well, wouldn't she be the fortunate lass?  Then she would have enough stories to star in one place for a week, trading tales for food, shelter, and maybe coin.

But stories can be wily an many like to keep their secrets.

As Trinket follows in what she believe to be her father's footsteps, she travels from one adventure to the next, and closer to a truth she might not be ready for.  From an exotic gypsy camp, the the island of the seal people, to the ruins of a banshee's tower, Trinket gathers her stories and writes her poetry, as a good bard should.  But when her journey takes her past the wall between the living and the dead, a dark encounter with a mysterious ghost threatens to destroy the one story Trinket is most anxious to discover:  What really happened to her father?

(This is not the official blurb--this is just part of my query to Jo, but I think it captures the tale very nicely.)

September 4 is the big release day (I think).

The cover art is by Dan Craig (not Dan Craig the actor...though that would be cool, too, just not as cool as the stuff on this link.)

I just love it and I hope you do, too! (I am putting something in parentheses here just because I did on the earlier lines and I didn't want this one to feel left out.)


Friday, January 20, 2012

Lookit! Lookit! Lookit!

So, I've been meaning to post about this for a while.

Well...just look, okay?

Yes.  That is an original painting of the Good Knight and his dragon friends by the amazing Jennifer Plecas.

So, in case you don't remember, there was this auction inspired by THE ARTIST WHO PAINTED A BLUE HORSE by Eric Carle and Jennifer was asked to paint a horse to be auctioned off to support art programs.  She chose to paint the Good Knight's horse, which meant that I HAD to have it.

So, we watched the bidding, ready to swoop in at the last minute and walk away with it.  But we were not alone in our desire to own this adorable painting.  AND the auction was set to end the night before Thanksgiving....and we were traveling in a different time zone.  So, I logged in to check on the bidding....thinking I had all the time in the world...and there were only 10 MINUTES LEFT!!  (And my husband was bidding for us, not me....and he was out somewhere...aaauuugghhh!!)

Yes, the call I made to him was frantic.  And he might have had to exceed the speed limit to get back in time (sorry police officers of Albuquerque).  But I am happy to report that he was victorious...even though it was a tough battle--perhaps the toughest ten minute bidding war in e-bay history.

But we won!!

However, my family kept the painting from me until Christmas.  But that was okay because it was the Coolest.Thing.Ever to open on Christmas morning.

And now it hangs above my desk.  Love.

(And yes, I have new glasses.  And yes, they may or may not look like Justin Bieber's.  I was actually trying to get Harry Potter glasses and ended up with these, only to be told by my class that they looked liked Justin Bieber's.  And also Brad Pitt has my glasses, too.)



Monday, January 16, 2012

Writing Discoveries

I am trying to end a novel.

It is hard.

I keep thinking, "This will be the day.  I will finish TODAY."

But that was yesterday.  And the day before yesterday.  And the day before that.

I think the reason it won't end is because I have yet to have that moment.

For me, that moment is when I am writing a book and I make myself cry.  It's not a forced cry, mind you, but a deep, heartfelt tear or two.

(Okay, sometimes I am writing funny things and I have to make myself laugh out loud before I know that it is right....over and over again at the same still has to be funny to me.  Hey, that's just how I roll.)

Anyway, I need that moment in the writing when it's no longer about the words or the story.  I need that moment when the only important thing is what I am feeling in my heart. If the deep feeling is not there, well, the story cannot end.

So, I am back at it today, hoping my characters will lead me to that moment of perfect rightness (or perfect wrongness, as the case may be) and I will have my little cry and get to type THE END.

Wish me luck!


P.S. Because I have an extremely full plate these days, dinner time at the Thomas house has been SUFFERING.  So, I have developed a little dinner schedule:

Monday- Something good...Mondays are hard enough at it is, they really deserve to have a good dinner.  Often it is crockpot night (nothing like coming home from work and smelling FOOD. Tonight it is BBQ chicken pizza.
Tuesday-Salad Night-Some kind of main dish salad.  This week I think it will be a greek chicken salad, or perhaps a roast-beef bleu cheese salad.  Dunno yet.  But it will be a salad.
Wednesday-I have to drive kids this night, so it will be fast food.  Usually In-n-out Burger is the choice because it is semi-healthy (you can have protein-style!) and not too pricey.  And it always tastes good.
Thursday- Leftovers (if there are any from Mon and Tues) or Breakfast for Dinner.  I love breakfast food and there is never time to make it.  And eggs are super easy to whip up.  So Thursday is Breakfast night!
Friday-Soup Night OR Mexican Food-  It totally depends on my mood.  If I need comfort food, it will be a soup night.  If I need a fiesta, it will be Mexican!
Weekend-No rules...whatever anybody feels like making.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Imaginary Writing Retreat

Back before I even had my own blog, I scoured the internet searching for author blogs.  I wanted to know what other authors thought and if I thought the same kinds of things  from time to time. I remember reading a blog (I think it was Maureen Johnson's but I am not sure.  Let's just say that it was.)  Anyway, she was going on a writing retreat with other authors to a CASTLE in IRELAND.  Seriously.  Could there be anything cooler?

I think not.

Sometimes, when the writing gets hard, I dream of this legendary Irish Castle Writing Retreat.  In my mind, it has morphed into paradise.

Large and  imposing, with a great cloud cover and awesome castle grounds to walk at dusk for inspiration.
This is what happens in my imaginary retreat:
  • I am awakened by a small pot of steaming hot tea placed by my bedside table every morning.
  • Hours and hours and hours to write.  And when I am not writing, I am talking with witty, fab, amazing people about writing.  Or I am traipsing about the Irish countryside, thinking about what I shall write next.
  • There is not any awkwardness between me and imaginary new author friends, even though we all just probably met.
  • The castle is neither too warm nor too cold.
  • Delicious food prepared by a cook that we all lovingly refer to as "Cook."
  • All unfinished stuff gets finished.
This is probably what would happen at a real writing retreat.  To me, anyway.
  • Rodents, vermin, bedbugs.
  • Freezing cold or stifling hot.
  • Lost luggage.
  • Hideous food. (And the snacks I brought all get eaten by said vermin.)
  • Author conversations:  Awkward, awkward, awkward.
Notice the complete lack of lasting structure.  Sneeze too hard, and the whole thing is gonna crumble.  See that big fat window on the right that looks like a monster took a bite out of it?  That's my room.

Yeah, I think I'll opt for an imaginary writing retreat.


PS. Where is your dream writing getaway?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Oh, 2012, You Cheeky Monkey! (bonus feature: Buying Gift Books For Yourself)

Well played, New Year, well played.

Just a few short days ago, I listed my few, fairly simple resolutions (lifted from a well-timed tweet).  To review, I resolved to:

1. Read more.

2.  Write more.

3.  Worry less.

Now, I have this theory about resolutions, a theory of the be-careful-what-you-wish-for-variety.  I mean, if you resolved to be patient, then you will undoubtedly have the most patience-trying events rock your year. It is just the way it goes.

So, the New Year, (or Universe, or whoever is in charge of ill-formed resolutions) had this fun little spin for mine.  More time to read?  You got it!  More writing time?  It is all yours!  Worry less? Well, I'll see what I can do about that.

How do I get these wonderful things?  By catching a hideous illness (of the bronchial-ailing variety).  I can't do any of the cool things I wanted to do over break.  I can't even go outside for long (strange anti-biotic sun reaction)!!  And the weather is GORGEOUS.  But I am trapped inside.   Alas.

So, notebooks, books and keyboards, here I come!

Again, I commend your cleverness, 2012.

In other news, I highly recommend getting a book gift for yourself, just to start out the new year.  I mean, why not?  I bough one YA, one MG and one PB back in December as a promise to myself that I WOULD have more time for reading (pre-illness, naturally).

I bought:

Loved this creepy YA.  Really a fun book for teens, and for me.  I've got to say, I am a sucker for a London ghost story with a fun narrator.  Just what I needed to forget about coughing.

Gorgeous and moving and just WOW.  A perfect story.  I wouldn't have changed a thing. And  I loved those moments when I was muttering to myself, "HAZEL!  Don't do that!!"

Sweet and inspiring.  There is something just so wonderful about a picture book that makes you realize what an unusual and special medium the picture book really is.

So, if your New Year's Resolutions are having their way with you already, go out and buy a gift book for yourself (or two, or three.)

You won't be sorry.

Off to snuggle with more books.


Sunday, January 1, 2012

WHAT?? It's 2012? Wait! I Wasn't Ready!

 I am not ready for 2012 to start.  Now don't get me wrong.  I am kind of tired of 2011.  It was a year of HUGE changes for me and every member of my little family.  Everyone has those moments of, "Well, this was unexpected.  This changes everything," but the Thomas crew seemed to have more of them than usual.

I know I did.

And I am tired.

But no, wait, it can't possibly be a start of a new year.  I didn't get any closure!!

I wanted more of this:

I didn't get time to play with the ornaments!!

I think a purple chicken (Blanch the Bumpy Chicken, if you must know) just stumbled upon the manger, along with pictures of family from far away and I haven't had time to return her to the coop!

And the Christmas villagers were just getting ready to do another carol!

And the Darth Vader Flash Drive just arrived--I've got to have time to defeat him before 2012 starts!

Come on, 2011!!  I needed more of this!  It's not fair to get to the good part of the year and then just leave like that!

Ah, alas, the early morning twinklies.

And I could have used a little more of this!  (Actually, I still think I have some in the fridge--breakfast of champions!)

Yeah, and 2011 would have used a few more lightsaber battles before the end.

But here we are. 2012.  And I do really have so much to look forward to in the coming year, I'm just kind of not ready to think about it all just yet.  I am still in the reflecting part of 2011.  So, instead of jumping ahead with resolutions, I am only going to try for three things this year.  (And I am stealing these from Sarah Dessen's tweet yesterday, but I thought they were just what I wanted, so there you have it.)

1.  Read more.

2.  Write more

3.  Worry less.

But for all of you, my friends and readers out there, I am wishing you a year filled with thrills and excitement, with a heaping dose of peace and tranquility, just to balance everything out, you know?