May 31, 2007

Most Egregious Misuse - the M.E.M. Awards

All RIGHT, that's it, that's it, that is IT!
From now on, I am a woman on a mission. The madness MUST stop.

I know people fear adverbs, but things like the State of Washington (and apparently the state of Texas and New Jersey) wanting me to "Drive Friendly" and Apple wanting me to "Think Different" can't go unpunished forever. From now on, I am on the lookout for you linguistic scofflaws. There may be nothing I can do except EXPOSE you for your... mangling misdemeanors, but I will, darn you all! I will!

Just say STOP!
This afternoon, I saw a Furry Friend's Pet Grooming sign. I thought, "Okay, that one could have been just a mistake of writing too quickly on a window... except that a.) it's on a window. Anything painted on glass can be removed or corrected. Then I realized that b.)... it's on the license plate holder of the owner's car. Perhaps also in the phone book. Oh dear. Perhaps their name is Furry Friend?

But the MOST Egregious Mis-punctuation of the Day I had to look at three times to be sure it was as bad as I thought. It is indeed quite as bad, and it wins today for All-round Most Egregious English Mangling Misuse: several handmade signs seen on Interstate I-80, outside of Dixon: Fresh, Ripe Cherrie's...!

Ladies and gentlemen: there are no words.

Toon Thursday: Controversy Revisited

As always, click the image to view it larger.

Oddly enough, if you looked at TadMack's or my academic pedigrees you might mistake us for members of the overeducated elitist camp. This is what makes the latest installment of the controversy (so articulately detailed at Chasing Ray--thanks to Jen Robinson's Book Page for the link) so ridiculous. Not all of us overeducated folk are alike; likewise, not all bloggers are undereducated, underinformed, and overindulgent. Plus, to put it bluntly and inarticulately--free speech! FREE SPEECH, PEOPLE!!

By the way, if any illustrators are reading this who make a living via their lovingly exact renderings of horses, clearly I'm not putting any of you out of business anytime soon.


"She has a duty as a writer, she added, to make the world more accessible to children by explaining it to them." Britain's former children's laureate, Anne Fine has written a book about a Russian boy sent to a Siberean labor camp in order to open a discussion with young readers about politics and the 'slippery slope' that war, denial of freedoms and lies can lead to. The Guardian has a short piece on it this week, and will follow up with a longer one later on.

I am really intrigued by this - I'm not sure that my writing makes anything accessible to young adults except to validate their own findings about the world... and to prove that it's survivable. I'm intrigued by the idea of bringing politics to that table.

Jenna Bush's ARC of Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope has the traditional 'decapitated girl's head' cover that many YA books seem to sport, and an optimistic first print run of 500,000. Wowza. Coming October 2 to a bookstore near you. AND, I'm ecstatic to discover that the UK Amazon has listed Terry Pratchett's next Ankh-Morpork book Making Money as being released on 24th September 2007. Another zany little something to look forward to in the fall.

I may be making a mistake.
Well, here goes.
I asked about the Class of 2k8 and the lovely people who run it say, "Oh, sorry, no room, only fourteen spaces and fifteen minutes after we said we were doing it, it was full." I thought, Okay, no problem, and starting thinking about other things I could do - with people I know (a little, from blogging) whose books are also coming out in 2008, or whose books are maybe at least close in topic or audience to my own... or something. I forgot all about the whole thing.

This week, they said they had an opening.

This week, I turned them down.

It may have been one of the most colossally stupid things I have ever done. It has a low buy-in amount, the 2k7 people have all apparently had a great time and great results, people are lining up to get into the group, AND my editor suggested I run, not walk, to get involved. And I am completely doing something else.

(If my book only sells four copies, you'll know why.)

Seriously, though ~ as I've been working through things like covers (and big props to Mitali on her cool cover choices! - go help her choose the one that goes to print!) and a concept for a website, and thinking about overseas PR visits (my agent came back from Bologna with some "nibbles" for next year from five or six countries, congratulations Jay on the cool languages in which his book will be published), I've been realizing that it might be the best thing for me to just figure out what I'm doing on my own, as I really do have my own ideas. (Okay, so nobody is surprised. I'm opinionated. Why else do I have a blog?) I wish The Class of 2k8 the very best -- but stand or fall, I think I gotta do this on my own.

Or have I just messed up?

May 30, 2007

Tag--I'm It!

As noted below, we were tagged by Chicken Spaghetti and Jen Robinson's Book Page. The Rules (reprinted here for your convenience): Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

So here begins the Stuff About A. Fortis You Never Knew You Wanted to Know (and Maybe Don't Want to Know After All).

  1. When I was seven years old, I had three favorite videotapes. My two favorite movies were The Phantom Tollbooth and Disney's Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and I drove my parents absolutely insane asking them to rent these movies over and over. My third favorite cassette was some kind of Best Music Videos of 1983 that my parents had taped off a program called Video One. I also watched that repeatedly.

  2. I got to meet Madeleine L'Engle at a book signing when I was in jr. high or high school, and got a signed copy of A Ring of Endless Light. Now, I don't know where that copy is. I think my mom must have it. This annoys me periodically when I think about it.

  3. Various things I have wanted to grow up to be include female major league baseball player, ballet dancer, stand-up comic, and commercial artist. Guess which three date from before the age of ten?

  4. I have a tendency to come up with to-do lists in my head and then set them to a jaunty tune. For instance, if I'm in the shower and think of a few things I have to do when I get out and dressed, in order to remember them better I will repeat them to myself to the tune of some irritatingly memorable ditty like a Christmas carol or folk song. It helps me remember things long enough to do them, but it also sort of drives me nuts in the process. I think I need to buy a shower white board.

  5. I have trouble saying no to new commitments. I am currently president of a non-profit organization that promotes Welsh language and culture. I am not Welsh myself (that I know of), but I like learning languages and was sort of captivated by Welsh. I took a class or two and then found this yearly language class. Then I got suckered into helping out on the Board, and look where I am now--in severe time deficit. Doh.

  6. If I'm upset at you, I am much more likely to seethe quietly until I gradually don't care anymore about whatever it is that upset me than I am to confront you. I don't like confrontations or arguments, and the most confrontational I am likely to get is if someone is directly aggravating me and won't quit. Then I might cuss at them and run away.

  7. I have a pathological dislike of the telephone. I hate making phone calls, and I don't like answering the phone, either, though the ringing itself stresses me out enough that I'll usually pick up.

  8. I used to be a good speller. In 6th grade, I got second place in the Riverside County Spelling Bee (the word I misspelled was "pixilated"), and went on to the state bee in Santa Rosa. By then I had stopped caring and was all jaded about it so I don't remember how I placed (nowhere significant, I'm sure). Now, my spelling skills have deteriorrrated signeficently.

So I guess we're supposed to tag 8 people. These aren't necessarily kidlit bloggers, since I'm pretty sure you've all been tagged already!

Why Is Everybody Talking?

You Wanna Know What I Ate Today?

Random Meanderings

The Gurrier


Dancing the Polka With Miss El Cajon

Oppressed by the Figures of Beauty

Sappy, Maudlin, and Earnest

May 29, 2007

Screaming "Meme"- ies: Eight Truths Meme

It's the 8 Habits/Truths Meme, and A.F. and I have been tagged by Susan at ChickenSpaghetti, and by Jen from Jen Robinson's Book Page.The rules of this meme are pretty basic: a player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves, posts the 'rules' the beginning before those facts/habits are listed, and ends the post by tagging 8 people and posts their names, and leaving them a comment on their blog, letting them know that they are "it" and asking them to read the 'tagster's' blog. (Right now I'm scouring my brain to figure out who else to ask! How do these things end?)

You have now been warned, so let the games begin:
Eight Random Truths About Myself

1. I am slightly intimidated by librarians. They hold the power of life or death over whether or not they will let me take out my fifty book limit when I visit the library. Especially since I venture into our Children's room and into the YA section of the library, I think they give me weird looks. I try to sidle in and look non-threatening.

2. I have never really learned to drink coffee, but every once in awhile I go out with friends and order a cup, then make it 3/4ths soy milk and sweetener.

3. I got a D in 10th grade typing - my worst semester grade in high school. Mrs. Miller should now be pleased that I type 88 words per minute at last test. I am now pleased that in real life, things like that don't matter.

4. I have always wanted to knit, crochet, paint or play the pianoforte. I would have made a good Elizabethan, but if I'd lived back then, I would have been a slave, so it's just as well. Anyway, I can now knit - slowly - play the piano - a little, crochet - a chain - and paint - badly. Art is long, and life is short, right?

5. I cry - a lot. I always hope that people can't tell, but books, commercials, movies, church, classical music, love songs, cute dogs, cute children, old people, fathers and daughters, couples ... it's freaking ridiculous, and the list goes on forever. Just about anything can set me off, and I. Hate. It. It's ridiculous. I'm not even sentimental. Or not very sentimental, anyway.

6. I am slightly scared of my agent. Remember that thing I said about life and death? Ditto.

7. I am a closet reader. I like small spaces, and you can usually find me under the stairs in the living room with my beanbags and a bag of books. That's a throwback from childhood, and the days when I had to hide to get a second to read, or someone would find me "something useful to do."

8. Before it existed as a genre, I started writing "fan fiction" when I was eight- with Anne of Green Gables. Until I was a junior in high school, I never knew there were sequels... (don't ask) and thus, disgusted with how it ended, I wrote volumes of "what happened next" books - and I changed Gilbert's life. A lot.

Eight Random Truths about me. As you can see, I am both important and trivial, normal and strange, extraordinary, and just like everyone else. Welcome to my world!

Sadly, I can't think of anyone to tag who hasn't already been tagged or who would be willing to play, but I do like finding out all these weird little tidbits about all of you. (I'm still amused that Kelly doesn't like feet.) Jen and Susan, thanks for including us!

May 28, 2007

Princess Phooey

The cool chicks at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, by way of Journey Woman pointed out a fun new site for me - Artista, the blog of a cartoonist from Budapest, Hungary. Arista's evocative little works of art are beautifully emotional in spite of their simplicity.

This little cartoon, of course, reminded me of the Disney Frog Princess kerfluffle and I had a little chuckle over the continuing fervor being raised around this movie.

Initially, I hesitated to voice much more than a passing objection to the fact that Maddy - unlike any other Disney "Princess" character, had to earn a living - as a chambermaid, and had a nickname instead of a name. I wanted to be much more vocal about it, but that was to admit to having seen all the other Disney Princess movies (Cough! I have a younger sister and a niece, give me a break!) and viewing them closely enough for cinematic criticism! Now I am a glad to report that many other people got so exercised about this not-even-near-release film that they called it racist, and wrote letters of protest. Maddy, they claimed, sounded just like Mammy. (And I thought: Whoa. Even I hadn't thought that far!)

Disney made some rapid changes. Maddy is now a euphonically correct - but dubious Tiana (I don't know, people, sounds just like tiara...), and said Tiana has returned to the ranks of the idle Disney rich as a non-chambermaid; The Frog Princess, so as not to potentially offend anyone French (!) is now called The Princess & the Frog, and we all will live happily ever after in liberty, equality and fraternity. Or something.

Meanwhile, I rather like this little princess. She still knows how to frown.

Finally, congratulations to Laura from Tockla's World on the birth of Cassiopeia this past Sunday, the newest star in the firmament, and to Our Ms. Bird, the 8th sizzling Fuse, who is about to explode into a larger audience, blogging for the School Library Journal. Mazel tov, and we'll see you over there!

May 24, 2007

Changing the Rules: Simon & Schuster

One of my Cybils Sisters, Jackie, pointed out something else really weird going on at a publishing company. Now, not only do Simon & Schuster enjoy the ability to allow people to trade futures on the profitability of them publishing certain manuscripts, now they seem to have also decided to keep book rights... forever. The Seattle Times reports that Simon and Schuster are offering what, on the surface, appears to be something terribly attractive -- the ability to never have your books go out of print.

The attractiveness to me, however, stops there -- on the surface. Publishing rights are usually purchased for only a certain number of copies of a book, therefore the relationship of any author with a publisher is provisional, based on the number of books sold during a limited time. After this time, the contract dissolves, leaving the author free to revise the work and resell it, or leave it as a part of the literary past, locatable only in libraries and used book stores.

The most important part of that last phrase is leaving the author free. Being involved with a publisher means, in part, having them have their say on your work. We all want to be immortal and be published forever, but it seems a high price to pay to never be the one to own full rights to your own work again.

Author's Guild, the professional writer's advocacy group, decries Simon & Schuster/Penguin Putnam's quiet changing of their contract wording as an attempt to change the face of publishing, and to never admit that a book is out of print. Sadly, both Simon & Schuster's News Release page and their Discussion Boards page on the company website are down, so I could not get their take on this, though their spokespeople have already accused Author's Guild of “perpetrat[ing] serious misinformation.” However, I have read their contract, and I can see how Author's Guild's interpretation could be understood. I am very much interested to see how this tug-of-war will play out.
Meanwhile, fun linguistic timewasters abound at Kelly's, and I am so stacking my pile of 48 Hour Reading Challenge books up next to my bed, because seriously: Shakespeare Really Hates My Emo Poems. And I need that Threadless hoodie! (By the way, if you ever want to kill a fun hour, there's another time waster - that whole website. My next project in my prodigious free time is to design a t-shirt. Glee!)

Poetry Friday is being held at A Wrung Sponge. Until then, I leave you with sinister limericks!

A lugubrious lady of Lawrence
Would regard each new day with abhorrence.
"When I wake up," she said,
"Just to get out of bed
Seems a good deal more work than it warrants."

"Sinister Limericks" and "Assorted Pentastiches" by X.J. Kennedy, from Peeping Tom's Cabin: Comic Verse 1928-2008. © BOA Editions, 2007. Find more here.

Toon Thursday: May 24, 2007

This one's in honor of the previous post by TadMack about Skatey Katy, with acknowledgments also to the Disco Mermaids' fabulous contest. Any resemblance to the actual New York Times Review of Books is purely coincidental.

May 23, 2007


Via Read Roger, I have discovered yet another potential client for MotherReader's BACA Club - poor old Skatey Katy, a book by famously bob-haired 70's (80's?) figure-skater Dorothy Hamil, currently being voted on by the public.

How, you may ask, does that work? According to the NY Times:
"Media Predict is soliciting book proposals from agents and the public, and posting pages of them on the site. Traders, who are given $5,000 in fantasy cash, can buy shares based on their guess about whether a particular book proposal is likely to get a deal, or whether Touchstone Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, will select it as a finalist in a contest called Project Publish. If either happens within a four-month period, the value of the shares go to $100 apiece; if not, the share price falls to zero."
Yeah. I'm sort of horrified, to be honest. (Sort of? Let's try really horrified.) It's not enough that writers have to jump through untold hoops to get published at all (Oh, no, I used colored stationery and festive stamps on my query letter. It will get rejected in the mail room, no editor will ever see it!!), now it seems at Simon & Schuster, anyway, that American Idol has become a mindset in which people other than publishing professionals are... betting on my success or failure? Um, hello...? And people are upset with bloggers for daring to express opinions on books!?

I think I like the model - clunky and outdated though it might be - of editors reading book proposals and trying to base their decisions on their own opinions. It's not foolproof by any means, and it's based just as much on editorial quirk as true merit, which is hard to divine in any case, but it's better than the idea of a popularity contest. Even in middle school, I never won any of those...

Besides wishing I were a comic book artist, I've also occasionally wished that I were a sculptor, which is why I am endlessly fascinated with the creative use of books -- not only are books great as time machines and transport vehicles to spirit you away, they also make good...
clocks. And apparently also birdhouses.

You'll be glad to note than I am going garage sale scrounging for books to turn into some ...thing. A la This Into That, my project is going to be wildly creative and beautiful, will speak volumes (heh) to the world of art and literature, and will leave intellectuals breathless.

Of course, the greater likelihood is that I am going to be the proud owner of a bunch of really old books, but what the hey, huh?
I am still trying to wrap my head around recent news reports. Words fail. For insightful commentary, visit Colleen and CK's blogs.

May 22, 2007

Return to Dream Country

In the preface to his compilation of stories revisiting the Sandman comic, Endless Nights, writer Neil Gaiman conveys the idea that coming back to the surreal, lushly realized world of Dream, Destiny, and the other Endless felt like a sort of homecoming. To me, someone who spent my late high school and early college years eagerly devouring that world, it was much the same. It had been a few years at least since I'd even re-read any of the graphic novels, though I still have many of those (and several original comics as well) on my bookshelf. Opening Endless Nights, with its inimitable Dave McKean book design, felt like coming back years later to a vivid recurring dream.

This particular volume is not an ongoing serial story or even a set of interlinked stories. Instead, it presents a single vignette for each one of the Endless: Dream, Death, Destiny, Delight/Delirium, Destruction, Desire, and Despair. Each vignette is written by Gaiman but visually realized by a different artist. Some will be familiar to those versed in the U.S. comics world, while others are better known in European circles. However, each one presents a fascinating angle on Gaiman's writing and on the already very distinctive characters he created. If you're a fan of Gaiman's Sandman, you'll enjoy this all-too-brief return to that world. As for myself, I'm about to go back and do some long-overdue rereading of some of the first "grown-up" comics I ever bought.

May 21, 2007

Winding Up for the Pitch

Well, my mother always said it took 21 days to start a good habit (Truthfully, the number was kind of random, I think, but since my mother said it, we shall pretend that it Proceedeth from the Mouth of God like all good girls should), so HipWriterMama's 7 Day or 30 Day Challenge inspiration is right on the mark. I wish I could be counted upon to actually DO something for thirty days - but I know I'd better not commit to anything at the moment. I will, however, take a minute to celebrate that I am halfway finished with the last page of my work-in-progress! I am completely relieved.

And also completely in shock.

You know, you read all of these author interviews and stuff, and you hear them say that it sometimes takes them a year to write a novel. (And then you read those other ones that say the author dumped the whole thing out in six months. And then you're tempted to injure someone.) You think, "A YEAR!?" and you sort of -- panic. A year. Twelve months. Fifty-two weeks. Three hundred and sixty five days. Gosh, that seems like such a long time. But truthfully, it's not. Especially given that most of us don't do one thing for a whole year, it can be a very short time indeed.

Since June 28th of last year, when I started this current work-in-progress, I have a.) finished a second draft of one novel, b.) the first draft of another, and c.) with constant editing, am now just finishing the FirstSecond draft of this one. (Sometimes I write in FirstSecond, that is, I am unable to write in a straight line, and am constantly course-correcting along the way. You'd think this would mean my agent had less to make red marks on in my manuscripts. It does mean that -- I mean, I guess the manuscript is better than it would have been if I hadn't made any changes, but he still has comments to make. Many, many comments. He has to get paid for something, and he wouldn't have a job if I were perfect. Right? Oh, just nod your head.) I've also submitted a short story every week for our Flickr Fiction project, I've entered three contests, one of which is for a Mustard... romance novel (oh, you MUST visit this contest - it's so awful it's funny), interviewed seven authors ( The Summer Blog Blast Tour, Coming Soon to a Blogosphere Near You - countdown to June 18!), not to mention written thousands of emails and hundreds of personal journal entries.

This has been a weirdly busy writing year. Granted, the last two weeks of writing have felt like where most of the time from the whole year has settled, but I believe I will be done tomorrow! And when I get there, I will enjoy it. I will sit down and savor the newest Carnival. I will check out Sparrow's Blog, and read her book, I will read some of the hilarious sounding book recommendations that have come my way. I'll take a hard look at the big picture (and groan) and enjoy catching up on all I've missed.

For a day.

Then, I'll join the Hip People and get on with the next challenge. Maybe it'll take me 365 instead of 30, but I'm sure I'll get there. Eventually.

May 17, 2007

Hiatus for Toon Thursday

I hate to miss a week just when Toon Thursday's gaining a following, but circumstances beyond my control have caused every single second of every day to be full this week. Most of this is due to the fact that I'm a bridesmaid in a wedding that is taking place this Saturday, which the bride is planning and putting together almost entirely herself, so I've been helping as much as possible along with the maid of honor. For me, this week was taken up with lots of calligraphy--place cards, and fancy illuminated letters for the scroll which is to be the guestbook. (If you know anyone who needs calligraphy...or desktop publishing...or other custom art or design...I'm used to long-distance work the way, this is a shameless plug, in case you didn't notice!)

I've also started in again on my YA novel revision. TadMack and I have set a date of June 16th (approximately) as my deadline for finishing the revision, because I really, REALLY want to send out a proposal to Andrea Brown Agency. I want it BAD. Mainly because it feels like this revision is taking ages. I keep having to put it off; I keep having other things to do. It's easy, as a writer with other interests (and other freelance jobs) to procrastinate, to feel like things with immediate deadlines are more important than the long-term projects. And maybe, in the immediate term, they are. But once this wedding is over, I'm devoting major brain space to revision. The Disco Mermaids and their recent talk of revisions, and TadMack with her draft book cover (YAY!) have inspired me. Here I go. As of Sunday, that is. And next Thursday I'll post an extra-special super-awesome cartoon. Six-months-of-girl-scouts honor. (What can I say? Our troop was boring. And selling cookies door-to-door? Jeez Louise.)

May 16, 2007

Books, Boys, Boy-Books...

Kelly over at Big A reports that British Secretary of Education Alan Johnson has come up with the Official Boys Bookshelf List for UK secondary schools... I blogged about his views on education and boys before, and had a hard time articulating exactly what was so... wrong about him saying that boys needed 'special books' that were more active and rowdy than Jane Austen, whom he quoted as the antithesis of an author for boys. His actual quote was "We need an educational strategy that builds a positive identity for working class boys, instilling in them pride and a love of learning."

Okay, point taken: Jane Austen's audience was middle-class 19th century girls. BUT, Secretary Johnson's specially singling out books for working class boys as opposed to for children assumes that working class girls must be all alike, that is, 19th century-focused and demure. Ridiculous. Two, he seems also to assume that all working class boys are alike, that is, with a hatred of learning, no identity and no pride. Allegedly they are also all James Bond wannabes. (Apparently the upper class boys need no assistance, and their literature is preselected from the shelf of How To Stay Rich and Rule the World.) When I look at the bookshelf list and see so many that I have read and would have enjoyed even in school...

It's so great to have somebody, anybody pushing reading to kids, whatever their class, - and to boys. But why is he trying so hard to divide and define boys, girls, their genders and needs here? It seems to me that any time you make a statement of something specific for boys or for girls (outside of, say, bathrooms in elementary school), you should probably think twice...

Yesterday, S.A.M. sent me a piece from PW on a cookbook publicist. Who knew there were any such?! He believes I might find some interesting marketing angles with a culinary publicist. Intrigued! Meanwhile, the editorial department is excited about my novel, and yesterday I finished the task of writing bio information for the jacket flap and acknowledgments.

I hate writing acknowledgments. There are simply far too many people who are the proverbial wind 'neath my wings. And I have to admit that I rarely read other people's acknowledgments. So, I went for the Academy Award forty-five second rule, and kept it as short as possible.

Those of you to whom I am grateful: please say you already know, okay?

May 15, 2007

Virtual Spaces for Teens, and Other Random Notes

I always run across such interesting information on the YALSA blog. There's a podcast I really want to listen to (but haven't been able to yet--the to-do list grows ever longer, I'm afraid) about Teen Second Life, the teens-only version of the online virtual world Second Life. The podcast covers what teens are doing in Second Life as well as what projects librarians are doing in Teen Second Life. It sounds like a unique educational opportunity. I know that there are teachers out there using Teen Second Life as a sort of virtual exchange program so that their students can interact with students elsewhere in the world. I think it's an incredible idea. (And NO adults except those specially sanctioned to do so may have access to Teen Second Life--this is a good thing...)

Also from the YALSA blog, I found out that "After Labor Day, twelve presidential candidates will be physically present at a college campus and accessible online through MySpace in interactive town halls reports USA Today. The discussion will be web casted so that MySpace members can submit their questions as well." I personally have an irrationally strong hatred of MySpace (and it was only with reluctance that I recently joined Facebook), but I think this is an excellent opportunity for teens to make their voices heard with political candidates. As a onetime member of the Junior Statesmen, I think it's crucial to get teens politically involved. Whoever thought of this one was definitely using their noodle...

Jen Robinson is participating in something really cool called the Dystopian Book Challenge, started by Lisa at Books. Lists. Life. Sounds great--and now I have another blog to visit! Uh-oh.

Obscurely Random...

My goodness, Sara's Holds Shelf tagged me with the What Are You Reading meme something like years ago, and I kept thinking, "geez, I'm reading, I'm reading!" and I never wrote anything down!!! So now, for your edification, I am reading Bass Ackwards and Belly Up, and, hour-by-hour making the decision to read another chapter or set it down for good. Shades of The Sisterhood of Mobile Trousers, anyone? I'm torn between pure hatred or just "meh."

I am also reading Finding Grace, which was a random pick-up that I selected because I liked the cover. (Oh, you cover people -- know your awesome power! And use it for good, for once, eh?), and finding it most excellent, and finishing Gentleman Peck's On Wings of Heroes, which has already been sublimely discussed by Fuse.

I don't dare 'tag' anyone else for this but A.F.; I'm pretty sure everyone has ALREADY ANSWERED THE QUESTION. Sara, dear: know me for the blogging slacker that I am.

OH. MY. GOODNESS. I'm going to Australia and I'm going to kick some butt. Via Bookshelves O' Doom we discover that the newest Frances Hardinge book is available IN AUSTRALIA ONLY. Um, hello!? Don't make me come down under, people.

May 14, 2007


I'm pretty sure everyone has heard the allegedly Chinese curse/blessing "May you live in interesting times." Well, my life has gotten interesting in the last week. Simple things have turned bafflingly complex. I'm pretty sure that if you look closely into my eyes, you might see something like this centered right in my pupils:

The rest of the world seems considerably less ditzy. The crew at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast have honored our incredibly creative and intellectual Summer Blog Blast Tour organizer and brainmother, Colleen Mondor. (Is that right? The Tour is her brainchild... so I guess she is the brainmother. Anyway, I digress.) Go right on over and read why so many of us drop in at her most excellent blog so regularly!

Meanwhile, Monday, May 21st Chicken Spaghetti is hosting Fiesta! A Multicultural Celebration for the next Carnival of Children's Literature. I look forward to finding out what's cooking with multicultural books - one of my interests for sure.

Also, the latest Edge of the Forest is up, and there's a David Lubar interview!!! (Has anyone yet read True Talents? I have been captivated by the realness of the 'voice' in his novels.) There are a lot more goodies (see the review of Evil Genius), including a paean to Deb Caletti by LW, and the latest on Maureen Johnson's Bermudez Triangle book challenge, so check it out!

Today I got to view the first cover design mock-up for my novel. I feel like I've been put on the spin cycle in the wash. Good things are happening -- lots of things at once, which is making me feel a bit overwhelmed, but I'm hoping the dizzy feeling will fade soon.

Cheers, and happy week!

May 11, 2007

Reality Check

All right.
I have given up.

No. Not on life, writing, or even this particular novel. No, I've just given up on the idea that "two more chapters is going to get it." Really. This is getting ridiculous.

I've been "two more chapter"-ing myself for two weeks, and have blown past my self-imposed deadlines now -- twice. Meanwhile, I keep putting things off until "two more chapters," and everything - including me - has suffered. When was the last time I got outside for a hike? Mac is a bit cranky and lonely, I've JUST NOW read the über exciting news that fellow-sufferer Eve of the DiscoM's has finished her revision, and that artist-turned-dancer-turned-AUTHOR, Devas T. has just been accepted for publication from Lee & Low. Great things are happening to people, people are discussing great books (by the way - this is a heads up to check out the interview with Laura Bowers on her Beauty Shop for Rent novel, which is also getting a lot of great buzz, and which I'm aching to read! And oh! Don't miss picking up Good Masters, Sweet Ladies when it comes out -- what an awesome resource for a classroom or just a great get-you-in-the-mood book to help you finish {ahem!} that medieval novel!), and I'm saying "two more chapters" and creating this weirdly anxiety producing state of must-finish-this-second.

So. I'm going to try and relax before my vitamins start talking to me, and we haul me to the Funny Farm where the pills really chatter. I get like this -- poor AF and poor Mac knows -- EVERY SINGLE TIME the end of the book is nigh and I feel like I'm not finding my way through it as fast as I should. At times like these, relationships go up in flames like dry tinder, and I'm just infuriated with everybody (READ: myself), and I have this awful sense of ...lack. That is, if I don't finish this, if I don't have this "out there" and being circulated and being worked on, if I'm not working on at least three manuscripts at once, then I'm not serious, I don't work hard enough, etc. ad nauseum, ad infinitum and ad schizophrenium. Not even my agent -- who did ask me about going over something when he got back from Bologna -- wants to hear from me right now, and I'm pretty sure we wore rather thin with each other the last time I was "almost done" with something. So. This is my reality check. This is my yoga breathing. This is me, trying for balance, promising myself that the world won't implode if I can't find the right words this minute to turn the tide of my story arc; that the sun will still rise if I let this go and read the paper tonight.

So, how have the rest of you all been whilst I've been happily spiraling into insanity?

Contest Alert! Win Cool Art!

Book reconfiguration artisan Jim Rosenau--like his website URL says--makes this into that, usually old books into decorative shelving. And this time, the "this" happens to be Harry Potter books.

How can obsessive HP fans obtain such an item? Enter this contest at AbeBooks celebrating the release of the final volume, and write a poem dedicated to Harry Potter. The contest deadline is Friday, July 6, so you've got plenty of time to construct your ode. Heck, that's even enough time to write an epic. And even if you aren't wild about Harry, maybe it would still be worth it just to own an art object made from dismantled HP books...

May 10, 2007

Dunking the Bozo

Most people wouldn't want to be the guy in the dunk tank, but the guy on the other side -- you know, the dry one, with the balls in his hand, and the leisure to aim at the red lever to drop the clown in the water. Most people wouldn't want to be the dunk-ee, but Chad does. Walking down the boardwalk at the Jersey Shore where he lives Chad has observed a real pro of a Bozo seated above the tank, and he sees that the guy's got power. He reels people in -- unsuspecting marks -- by insulting them in a genuinely clever fashion. He nags them and pushes their buttons until they buy the three balls that will -- they hope -- Dunk him in the tank and shut him up. Nobody ignores him. Nobody can ignore him. He's got power over their fears and insecurities. He can laugh at them -- and make them laugh, a little... It's all about control.

Chad wishes he had control -- over his life, over how much his mother works, over how much he's afraid he'll turn out just like his lying, cheating, running-out-on-them Dad. He wishes he had control over how he sort of fades into the background when the girl of his dreams is in front of him. Later, he desperately wishes he could control life and death itself, as his very best friend on earth becomes seriously ill.

But Chad can control... nothing. But himself.

In an intense and fast-paced novel David Lubar brings us a not-so-simple story of a summer between boyhood and manhood, where Chad learns that some power is not worth having, and other power has been his for the taking all along.

More Than a Wrinkle in Time

So many times we say, "Gee, where does the time go?" In the little village of Kinvara, J.J. is convinced that it's going somewhere for real. Why else is everyone always late, and why else is everyone in Ireland constantly scuttling around, looking at their watches and scowling at the angle of the sun? It is so rare to take a moment to grab a few musicians and just revel in the joy of their music anymore -- this pressure to go-go-go-go-go is taking the joy out of life itself. And J.J. does want to play -- the music in his heart is his whole life, but now he's got to find time to investigate what must be a family secret -- he hears his grandfather might have been a murderer... but if he's hardly got time to take a breath between school and home, how will he find time to find out?

But then a neighbor fills J.J. in on a secret -- time stands still in the faery realms... and she knows just how to get to them. J.J. may be the only one determined enough to enter faery and remember what he's been sent to do -- but to do so, he has to vanish from his own life. And when J.J. vanishes... into Kinvara comes The New Policeman

At first, this novel seems unlikely for a fantasy candidate, but little by little the magical is revealed. A fun and quirky tale, this book won both the Whitbread Children's Book Award and the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize. Enjoy!

Into the Frozen Heartland

The further you go in, the darker this story becomes. Geraldine McCaughrean has written a delicately taut novel of obsession, deceit and suspense in The White Darkness.

Symone knows that, okay, she's weird. She's had an ongoing love affair with a guy who died something like seventy-six years before she was born -- one Titus Oates, who was a member of Scott's doomed expedition to the South Pole ninety years ago. Titus lives in Sym's head, and it is with him that she shares all of her thoughts, her loves, hopes and dreams.

Sym needs Titus, because it is really a very strange life that she leads. Her father died of a long, horrible sickness where he no longer recognized her, and he really hated her. Her Uncle Victor dosed him with herbs and pills, and everyone knows that her father lived longer because Victor - not really her Uncle, but a dear family friend - did his best for him. Sym's had it rough -- she's always been a little garbled, always been a little disconnected and silence, at least since junior high. She lost much of her hearing then, and got stuck with hearing aids. But her Uncle Victor -- such a smart guy, with an IQ of 184 -- has always been there for her. Even when Dad died, Uncle Victor stuck by them, moving in, helping pay off their mortgage, and giving them the benefit of his helpfulness and his humor.

When Uncle Victor offers Sym and her mother a trip to Paris, it is a gift. Too bad Mom looses her passport at the last moment; Sym intends to enjoy herself, even though Uncle Victor is acting weird, even though they end up in a strange little dive with only two beds, and even though she finds her mother's passport in his... pocket. Uncle Victor is going to take her where she's always dreamed of going -- to the South Pole. And he's going to find a new world there, whatever the cost...

Reading this novel is like walking from a lit room down cold, narrow stairs into a basement -- but one keeps reading because up ahead there is a tiny glimpse ...of...something white... light? A ghost? Pick this one up and clear your afternoon - you'll want to read it in one sitting like I did!

Toon Thursday: May 10, 2007

I highly suggest clicking on the image to view it larger.

The only way in which my office resembles the dream workspace is that I have an antique rolltop desk--whose surface unfortunately resembles the workspace on the right, only much worse. To get my desk, you have to add in some writing-related books, haphazard in-trays, random art supplies, and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. What's on YOUR desk?

Locking Down the Sledding Hill

EVERYBODY knows Lucy Moon. She's that girl who wears a red bandanna during hunting season -- to protest animal cruelty. She's that girl who wears the green and yellow hemp hat to school every day to protest the sweatshop working conditions of third world working people -- and don't ask her to take it off or tell her it's ugly -- she'll give you the whole spiel. She's that girl who has a big mouth and is always talking about injustice and How To Save the World. So it stands to reason that when Miss Wiggins' prime sledding hill in town is closed and fenced as private property and students are arrested for sledding -- and the local newspaper doesn't even run the story!! -- that That Girl, Lucy Moon would be the one leading the charge to break the news and to protest that Miss Wiggins open her sledding hill again. And yeah, okay, she is the one leading the protest. But when her Dad -- who is kind of a rule-making kind of guy, especially since her Mom's gone off on one of her artistic-photography trips -- says no, she stops. She's obedient, even if she's muttering under her breath.

So, how come protests are still going? How come postcards are still arriving in the mail at the home of the offending Miss Wiggins, signed with Lucy's name, if she's not sending them? Why is everything still going wrong when Lucy had promised herself that she'd keep her head down and just hang loose 'til her Mom got home? And when is her Mom coming home?!

What's going on? Is it that all of the people who knew her from elementary school thinks she's just a loser activist, now that they're in Junior High? Lucy's friends are baffling and baffled. She is worried and scared. If only her mother would come home... wouldn't that make everything better?

Everything is spinning out of control, as Lucy is unfairly persecuted -- sent to the principal's office, deprived of her hat, deprived of her voice, and scapegoated as a "bad influence" on the kids in town. Her crush, Sam, doesn't even speak to her anymore, and Lucy is soon so depressed that she doesn't care. What's the point, she wonders? Her mother doesn't even want to come home and be a mother anymore? What's the point of Lucy Moon going on at all?

This poignant, fast-paced and important story encourages readers to use their voices and be true to themselves. A great read with an original character that I hope to see again!

Sliding Out of Control

Eddie Proffit is having one hell of a year, no mistake. First, his dad is killed in a freak accident at work. Eddie's ...seriously messed up by this, blown out of the water -- but at least he has his best friend, Billy Bartholomew, to lean on.

Then Billy, kicks a load of sheet rock leaning against a wall, and it falls on him... and breaks his neck.

Billy's pretty upset about this. He knows a second after he kicks that sheet rock that it was stupid, and now he's pretty dead, and his death is freaking Eddie out - to the point where he's just... stopped... speaking.

Eddie's Mom is going all weird and hanging out a lot at church, spouting the pastor, and having him sit at the head of the table, in Dad's old chair... And then there's the matter of the preacher. He's sure that Eddie would feel just a lot better if he admitted he's a sinner, and that God just had to let all these things happen in his life, just to get his attention...

Enter a top-rate English teacher who encourages her students to read a controversial book by Chris Crutcher... enter a book-banning incident, a riled up school board, and hundreds of students reading on the sly in the janitor's office, and you've got one hell of a school year going on.

But having a ghost on your side makes a lot of things work out better than you might have thought.

Completely engaging, thought-provoking, sad and funny, it's another fully packed -- and how! -- winner of a novel from the real Chris Crutcher, who briefly parts the curtain between fact and fiction and inserts himself into the storyline. The Sledding Hill will get your really thinking about intellectual freedom, and what it means to be really free to be yourself.

Dare, Win or Disappear

The book is Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog. The title alone is guaranteed to slightly goggle the mind, and readers will read on until every element in the title is discovered – but the two ominous butlers, eleven thousand rooms and one red dog are only a sideline to the magical circus that is Flora Segunda.

Flora Fyrdraaca Segunda -- that is, Flora the second, since her dear sister of that name died before she was born -- is about to turn 14, and for that auspicious date, there is Ceremony and Pomp and Circumstances. Flora is to sew herself a dress and prepare for her Catorcena party, which is like a Quinceañera , only instead of being ready for all the joys of womanhood, Flora Fyrdraaca will be eligible to, like her mother, and her grandmother and her grandmother before her -- to join the military.

The Fyrdraacas have a long and honorable tradition in the military; Flora's Mother is the second in command to the War Leader, and Flora’s Poppy, currently a drunk, had a long and glorious past as the right hand man of a certain dashing general. Problem is, Flora doesn’t wanna join the military. She wants to be a ranger, like her long-admired Nini Mo, use magical words and derring do and spy for sake of the kingdom.

Being a ranger is not honorable, however. Flora is sure her Mama will disagree with her choice. Fyrdraacas are soldiers. They are not magic-users. A soldier found using magic would be put to death, immediately.

But something’s gotta happen for Flora, it's simply got to! The Fyrdraacas and their lovely Crackpot Hall with its eleven thousand rooms are simply relics of the past. All of the glorious things seemed covered in decay and falling to ruin. The magical butlers have been banished, Poppy stumbles around, roaring and trashing things, and the house – which is magically sentient – is shifting like mad. All Flora has to look forward to is hanging out with her best buddy, Udo Landaðon, taking care of her mother’s legions of hounds, and looking after her Poppy while her mother is away making war.

Flora deserves to have some kind of life – but taking things into her own hands puts her on a wilder ride than she could ever have imagined!

The Loss of a Mother Becomes a Memento to her Love

Cara’s world is full of scrap-booking and good cooking, a pesky younger sister, and her strong and friendly father. When her mother and sister are killed in a fast-moving house fire, Cara seems to have lost – everything. Even her father is no longer with her in anything more than body. Cara feels like she’s losing her mind – where was God? How can the Rabbi calmly talk about her mother and her sister when they're gone? How can Bubbe and Zayde – her mother’s parents – manage to carry on?

Cara’s grieving is depicted in all of its forms – feeling ashamed for being able to laugh, feeling guilty for having ever been annoyed with her sister, feeling sorry for herself, and unable to pick herself out of a rut of depression to care about anyone else. Out of the ashes of Cara’s grief, she revives her mother’s baking company. With the discipline learned in Julia’s Kitchen, Cara learns to live again – and drags her father back to life, too.

The title made me a sucker for this book -- anything to do with 'Julia' and 'kitchens' is right up my alley! It was fairly intense for a middle grade book, but it tells the truth about true grief and depression and loss, and what it takes to go on.

You Really Got Me

Ever since the first notes of the 1964 Kink's tune You Really Got Me, heavy metal has been on the scene. Loud and completely arresting, it is …life to Sam and his crew. He knows his friends are goofy and his music is loud, and you know? He kind of likes his life like that.

Sooo, why’s he hanging out with this über-preppy chick, who, though doubtless beautiful, is so not a metal chick? I mean, she mistakes being a punk for being a Goth. (What’s up with that!?) She always makes… remarks, like, about what Sam should be doing. About what Sam could be like. About his friends.

Why is Sam turning down his music, ditching his friends, not getting wasted, and changing his life? Could it be love?

Or something… more destructive?

I LOVED this book, and I love Sam, who is completely obsessed with… heavy metal music. What we love we know best, right? Sam knows his music and he knows his heart. It’s just a small matter of turning down the music long enough to listen to it…

Heavy Metal & You …painfully and humorously well-written, supported with a cast of good, goofy friends and a loving family is one of the more fun and wrenching and real books I’ve read in awhile. Check it out!

Sweet Talker

It’s not like Ruby doesn’t realize that some loves are just – doomed.
Look at her mother. Every time her father blows into town, there’s Mom, lighting up the torch for him, and waving it. And every single time, Dad waltzes in, and waltzes right back out. It’s the ‘Honey, Baby, Sweetheart’ symptom – all the guy’s gotta do is talk nice, and she’s done. Ruby knows all the signs and symptoms, which is why it is at times frustrating when it happens to her.

Travis is so typical as to be a caricature – this hot, richy guy on a motorcycle, feckless, reckless and carefree, who one day – whoosh – takes Ruby on a ride. They go over 100 mph, and she doesn’t scream. That means she has cojones, according to Travis. Ruby knows very well she was too scared to make a sound, much less scream “Stop – I wanna get off!” like anyone with sense might do. Travis creates Ruby in the image that he wants her to inhabit, and she does all she can to be the kind of girl that Travis would want her to be.

Meanwhile, Ruby’s mother finally realizes that her daughter is veering off the edge. The two form a plan to keep themselves busy – Ruby is to attend her mother’s book club, where most of the octogenarian readers are hilarious and outrageous. The adults around her provide Ruby the prospective she needs – but only after she hits a wall herself.

A kidnapping, a few wild rides and a lot of laughter and heartbreak, memorable characters and fast-paced dialogue make up this interesting Deb Caletti book. Golden Girl’s fans will smile, so check it out!

May 08, 2007

A Few Belated Links

TadMack and I have been inordinately busy the past week or so. This has been reflected in our minor disappearance from blogging. It will also be reflected in the belatedness, the total behind-the-times-ness of today's linkage, but oh well. What can you do?

  • There's a fascinating discussion on Disco Mermaids about what it means to be a literary vs. commercial book. I struggle with that myself: I'd love to write something considered literary, and that nerd in me just LOVES to win awards, but there's another part of me that would consider it a major achievement just to make a living as a writer, commercial or whatever...

  • According to the YALSA blog, new YA author Coe Booth has won the LA Times Prize for YA Literature for his her first novel, Tyrell, beating out bright lights in the finalist list: AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES by John Green, RULES OF SURVIVAL by Nancy Werlin, ASTONISHING LIFE OF OCTAVIAN NOTHING by M T Anderson, and JUST IN CASE by Meg Rosoff.

  • Congrats to Fuse #8's Betsy for publishing an article about us bloggers in the Horn Book. Yay! Can't wait to read it. Unfortunately, that's still on my to-do list.

  • Speaking of the Horn Book, Read Roger has the scoop on the newly redesigned Horn Book website, which includes a wonderful little virtual history exhibit and other neat stuff.

Passing Through

Some great things going on 'round the blogosphere, and I want to give you a quick heads up to check them out. First up, don't miss Colleen at Chasing Ray's first-Monday-of-the-month Wicked Cool Overlooked Books. She's started the ball rolling to talk about books some of us have really loved, but haven't heard much buzz about. I think its definitely a worthy topic, and eventually I plan to join in the fun... someday... when I get my life back from my novel.

Since high school I have cherished the work of Sylvia Plath, and 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast highlights a new poetry collection about her -- through her childhood, through her years at Smith, and her marriage. The prose poems are fictionalized, and told from the point of view of the people in her lives. It looks amazing, and the review is excellent. I especially love that this is a YA novel, and I can imagine many teens going to seek out her poetry after. Bravo! Here are the other Wicked Cool Overlooked Books that others are highlighting -- Jen Robinson reviews Behind the Eyes by Francisco X. Stork, and Kelly mentions The Unresolved by TK Welsh, which was a Cybils pick. Kelly Fineman also reviews Your Own, Sylvia, and now I really can't wait to pick it up!

A Chair, A(n empty) Fireplace (because it's too bloody hot), & A Tea Cozy is reporting on the third book in the well-loved Greenstone Grail trilogy, hurrah! From what she says, I almost want to read the series from the beginning for a refresher before I tackle the end. It is yet another book I am putting on my private list for the 48 Hour Reading Challenge, coming soon to a blog near you...

A Wrung Sponge tackles the Uncle Remus tales, and I feel pleased that a.) someone else struggled with the language in the originals, and b.) that someone else recognized the folktale aspect, and cherished it enough to make it readable.

There are some children's and YA books I never read because I was worried that they were racist - Uncle Remus was one of those, for a time. If there are others for you, Mitali reminds us of a great way to check our uneasy feelings about racism or sexism in children's lit. This list is a great resource.

Colleen has a new column for the May Bookslut, and I am really excited that two of the Murder in the Faerie Realm books are right next to my bed. I MUST find time to read -- and write reviews. I am woefully behind in everything, it seems.

I am blog-hopping, just not posting much myself these days as I am trying to talk a novel narrative roughly the size of The Queen Mary 2 into turning gracefully toward a conclusion.

Writing novel endings... bites. I'm hanging onto my sanity by my fingernails, here. Crafting a solid, satisfying conclusion is probably one of the hardest disciplines of writing overall. (For me, anyway. For some people, the weariness comes earlier. Like, in beginning a novel. AF seems to relish middles. Writers: we are all so weird.) I don't want to bore anyone with my lying around on the floor in my nuddy pants, plugging my ears and singing while I try to make all the loose ends tie together nicely without hanging me, but I shall return to the world of the living shortly.

Meanwhile, happy Spring...

May 03, 2007

Toon Thursday: Irreverence Alert!

Not only is this irreverent, but apparently I have the maturity level of a junior high school student. But some of you already knew that.

I keep thinking I'm going to run out of ideas, but apparently my silliness is boundless. Hope you enjoy!

May 02, 2007

Shouts-Out--Because Who Doesn't Like a Shout-Out?

Thanks to Colleen for letting me know about some props for our latest cartoon, at Ed Rants and GalleyCat. Woo hoo! My crappy drawings are famous! (And really, I can draw much better than that. I'm just not the world's best cartoonist...)

Next, a shout-out to Fuse #8 and Jen Robinson's Book Page for being runners-up for a Litty Award for Best KidLit Blogger. Congrats to Betsy and Jen! It's always great to get a little wider recognition for the kidlit blogging world. (Via Jen Robinson's Book Page).

This is really more of a heads-up, but it also deserves a shout-out--don't forget to check out the latest issue of Readergirlz. In honor of National Mental Health Month, the May issue contains a lot of great information and links about mental health and mental illness. And don't miss the author chat with Dia Calhoun--a fellow Mills College alumna, yay!--about her book The Phoenix Dance.

Last but not least, a little shout-out to ourselves, along with Little Willow, Kelly, and Gina--we will be presenting a panel on the kidlit blogging world at the upcoming SCBWI conference. We're scheduled for Friday morning, which is great, because it doesn't conflict with any of the sessions being given by TAMORA PIERCE (yaaaaaay!!!). You can find me, Kelly, and Gina listed under the "faculty" and our session listed under the workshops section. We're hoping to talk quite a bit about the Cybils, about things like blog tours and Readergirlz and other exciting happenings in the blog world. If you're planning on going, come support us!

Whoo Hoo, Aquafortis!

Even I have to come out of my "On-A-DEADLINE-Don't-Tempt-Me-To-Blog" hole to do a little dance that GalleyCat has noticed the mad 'Toon Mistress on our blog. Way to go, AF! And thanks, Colleen, for the heads up...

I shall return!