Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I Got What I Wanted!

Or, Best Panic Attack Ever! I was going to call it that, but it seems overly melodramatic.

And I don't do melodramatic. I just do dramatic.

So, anyway, what did you want for Christmas? Did you get it?

The toddler didn't. He decided two days before Christmas that he definitely wanted Santa to bring him a bike. Sadly for the toddler, this revelation occurred three days after he punched two girls in his class in the face (and left a mark on one!) and then shoved paper towels down the daycare sink until it backed up. (Hubby's response? "What got into him? I mean, besides the paper towels. That I can see.") Santa, I have explained repeatedly, only brings bikes to boys who do not punch girls, or classmates in general. Besides, there's a layer of ice on my sidewalks about an inch thick. He'll get one when he turns four in May.

But I did.

I got my big surprise present two days early - an email from an agent (who shall, for the moment, remain nameless) who said she would "love" to read the full manuscript of the Noseless Cowboy book, officially known as A Part of Her. You can read an excerpt at my website here. It's the fourth book in the Emerson series.

I know we're all still waiting on the editor to get back to me on Marrying the Emersons, which is the first book in the Emerson series. But I couldn't put all my eggs in one basket. And my dear friend Pauline Friday has all these agents sniffing around her How To Be A Spinster in 29 Years, mostly because the book is awesome, and also because she sends out query letters in batches of 20 or so.

But I stalled, hoping the editor would get to the bottom of whatever pile I was in. Plus, I had no idea how to sell the whole series - as a family saga, or one book at at time? If I did one book at a time, what about the two books for Lily and Bobby? Together or separate?

So I took the path of least resistance. I queried A Part of Her. It's the same family, but it's much more a stand-alone book. Plus, that whole Noseless Cowboy thing (read that blog here) is highly visual - and easier to condense than 35 years plus the Vietnam War. (I tried to condense it. Trust me, it didn't work. That's why it's two books.)

I sent out six. I got two rejections within three days. I figured, well, that's that, at least until after the New Year.

And then, this afternoon, as I'm sitting here in a funky mood because I had to chase a three year old down in the sleet (nutty kid!) and I get an email.

She wanted the full manuscript. Two weeks after I sent the query.

BEST PANIC ATTACK EVER! My chest is still tightening up like a boa constrictor's giving me a big ol' friendly hug.

Even more so because, long ago (February) when I first started querying Marrying the Emersons, I set a moderately unrealistic goal of having a contract by Christmas. And after a few bruising rounds of rejection, I scaled that back to having an agent by Christmas. And after a few more bruising rounds, I reminded myself that most editors are already planning their 2010 releases, and that there just might not be much happening right now - and that was before the economy tanked.

And now? I still have no editor. I have no contract. I have no agent.

But I have a foot in the door. Which is more than I had before.

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Moment

Before we get going today, I'd like to invite you to stop back by my website at www.sarahmanderson.com to see what all I've been up to with that Authorial thing. My Web Honcho (aka Craig) has updated the synopses and excerpts for all four books in the Emerson series, and there is also a sneak peak at what's coming up next.

Okay. Back to this regularly scheduled Blog: The Moment.

Do you remember the moment? The moment you stopped being a child and started being an adult?

Maybe it was when you stumbled downstairs for a glass of water and caught your mother stuffing stockings, nary a Santa in sight. (Yes, that happened. I had to promise not to tell my sisters, but I think Leah already suspected.)

Maybe it was when you didn't get the pony you'd asked for under the Christmas Tree, despite being an extra good girl all danged year long. (Sadly, that pony never did materialize.)

Maybe it was the winter the river flooded the town, and your father, being a big, jolly kind of guy, took charge of the toy collection for those who had no home in which to have a Christmas, rented a Santa suit, and packed all those totally awesome toys into the Charger and drove away to give them to other children, not you. (Yes, he did this. It was my first real lesson in helping those in need. Sucked for the first-grader I was, though.)

Or maybe it was the first time the meteorologist predicted five inches of the fluffy stuff and instead of jumping up and down on the bed because you weren't going to school for the next day or three, you threw a hissy fit because you weren't going to get to see your current flame - or worse, you'd have to take the bus and leave your heap of a car at home. (Not that I ever threw hissy fits. Never. Honest!)(And seriously, did that meteorologist say up to 1 inch of ICE today? JEEZ!)

Whenever your moment was, this season is ripe with low-hanging fruit that screams "Grow Up." Which is somewhat ironic, given that most of us embrace a child's simplistic joy and excitement. With such high expectations, there are bound to be crashes that leave some children's concept of what they thought they knew in the world in smoldering ruins.

But there are other moments. Moments that pull you back into childhood and hold you there in a mama bear hug.

Maybe it was the first year you really weren't sure if Santa was real or not, and came down Christmas morning to find sooty footprints all over the place. (That stroke of genius bought my parents another year of Christmas grace.)

Maybe it was the time that Santa left a baseball bat in your stocking, because he knew you weren't a typical girl. (Understatement of the year.)

Or maybe it was the moment when one of the kids in your class, who was living in a hotel room on Christmas Day because her house still had eight inches of mud in it, came back to school and breathlessly told everyone that Santa had personally delivered the Sit n' Spin she'd always wanted, and threatened to punch anyone who tried to convince her that Santa wasn't real. (Oh, how I had coveted the Sit n' Spin. But it got a good home.)

Or maybe it was the moment when your son lined up all his trains just so and then informed you that they were reindeer, and named them. In order. (Kid can't even count to twenty without looping past 14 a few times, but reindeer? No problem.)

Those are the moments that we strive to cherish and protect. Those are the reasons we take children to see Santa, even if that just leads to a screaming fit of mild terror (the toddler actually sat on his lap this year, without crying! He didn't talk, but he did sit!)

Perhaps as adults who have harvested that low-hanging fruit, we realize what has gone before us, and are desperate for things to be that simple again.

The moment comes for us all. But as a parent, I hope that it comes later. For now, I just want to have meaningful debates about which chimney Santa comes down. My moment is very much his childhood.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

How to Wrap a Present in 29 Easy Steps

In my capacity as Authorial Mom, I thought I would offer these 29 steps to easier, more beautiful presents. Just follow this easy program to achieve the same kind of Christmas Satisfaction that the Authorial Mom basks in practically year-round.

1. Buy awesome gifts that your child(ren) will love, like the aircraft carrier complete with die-cast planes and helicopters, real aircraft sounds, and a control tower.

2. Hide it in the garage and pray your child(ren) won't notice it.

3. Assemble your wrapping supplies: Festive paper, sharp scissors, and clear tape.

4. Realize someone used your best scissors to mutilate crayons. Decide to forge ahead anyway.

5. Heft aircraft carrier out of garage. Realize that it's 2 1/2 feet long and 9 inches tall at the tower. Not exactly regularly shaped. And because you bought it for a song at a thrift store, it did not come with in-store wrapping, or even a box. Its only covering is a garbage bag.

6. Begin frantically tearing through your insane stash of boxes accumulated over a lifetime of hording for something big enough to fit an aircraft carrier.

7. Repeat process with festive holiday bags. Again, come up short - literally.

8. Decide to make your own box, just like your father-in-law does.

9. Mutilate six boxes trying to find enough matching parts to encase an aircraft carrier.

10. Give up trying to match box sizes after giving yourself the mother of all paper cuts. Go get a glass of wine and a band-aid. Several band-aids.

11. Newly fortified, return to the battle scene. Begin taping box parts around aircraft carrier.

12. Realize control tower isn't removable. Remove it anyway (using the tips of your ruined scissors) and tape it to the side.

13. Run out of tape.

14. Get another glass of wine while tearing the house apart for more tape. Settle on packing tape. It's still clear, after all.

15. Return to the battle scene. Experience a pang of liberal guilt for giving innocent child a war toy for Christmas. Finish wine and get over it quickly.

16. Begin wrapping festive paper around jerry-rigged box-like covering.

17. Run out of festive paper, leaving a three inch gap between edges.

18. More wine as you debate how to cover the gap.

19. Settle on using different festive paper. Reason that Santa has to improvise, too.

20. Another paper cut.

21. The secret to beautifully wrapped presents is the crisp creases on the edges. Realize that there are no edges on your aircraft carrier you can crease the paper on without poking the tower out through the side.

22. Poke the tower out through the side.

23. Begin rooting around for Christmas ribbon to wrap over the hole the tower made.

24. Find acceptable ribbon. Begin wrapping around carrier.

25. Run out of ribbon.

26. Realize that all children like bows. Dump out whole bag of bows and apply liberally.

27. Stand back and, glass of wine in hand, admire your dedicated handiwork.

28. Overcome by holiday spirits, go lay down until Christmas is over.

There! Wasn't that easy? And the true reward for all your hard work will come Christmas morning, when your child(ren) will rush down, see the highly festive package under the tree, demolish the whole thing in under three seconds, and spend the rest of the day building sheds for trains he already has out of the mutilated box parts and bows, leaving the aircraft carrier to collect dust in the corner. Finally arrive at:

29. Next year, all the presents will be in garbage bags. With a bow.

Is it Christmas Yet?

How was your Thanksgiving? Ours went pretty much like expected, although the rolls were only minimally over-browned this year. WOO! Ah, the turkey - the apple juice secret turkey - was amazing.

But there was one thing that happened off schedule. It snowed on November 30th where we were - at my in-laws' house. The old wives' tale, as my hubby repeated it four thousand times, is that since the first measurable snow occurred on the 30th, we will have 30 measurable snows this winter.

The toddler was ecstatic. I, of course, had not packed for an inch and a half, so my wonderful mother-in-law and I scrambled to find stuff that would keep me, my hubby, and my kid from getting pneumonia. So we crammed my 3 1/2 year old, who's wearing 5T footie sleepers, into a size 7 pair of snow pants. With the suspenders cinched all the way down, it actually worked. The mittens were more like socks on his hands, so we just disregarded the thumbs. At least I was a good-enough mother that he did have a winter coat, but we had to resort to - this is so bad - baggies rubber-banded around his feet.

Yup. I'm that kind of mom.

Of course, I'd packed only a light jacket, suitable for shopping in enclosed malls. So I wound up wearing my mother-in-law's boots and my father-in-law's coat and gloves. Same for my hubby (he wore his father's boots, though) but at least he looked normal. And out we went.

It wasn't really sledding snow, but that didn't stop my men. And of course, we did a snowman. It was snowman snow.

The kid did the ears. He was real proud of the ears.

Now, this was all well and good, but my kid is three. Three and a half. He took one look out the window Sunday morning at the snow falling and said, "Santa's HERE!" Never mind that I haven't even gotten him to the mall to see the Big Guy yet. Snow, in his mind, Equals Santa.

It snowed here yesterday. It was snowing when I picked him up from daycare, and he was just convinced that Santa was coming as soon as he went to sleep. He's all ready for stockings - he's even hung two different ones for his pooh bear.


I bought honey sticks for a stuffed animal's Christmas stocking. But he has been a very good bear this year. I'm that kind of mom.

What makes this even funnier is that the kid is not having what you might call a smooth month. He's getting into trouble at daycare, talking back to me and the hubby, and trying to body-slam my wiener dog. He's made a snow=Santa connection, but he's got no concept of the Nice List or the Naughty List. It's just not sinking in. Not even a little.

I told him IF he was good today, we'd go to the Mall tonight and see Santa. But it's a big IF. So we'll see. We already have him more presents than he needs, so if he doesn't shape up, they go back into the gift closet for his birthday. Trains keep.

So we'll see what kind of Christmas we have around here. Will the pooh bear get better gifts than the kid? Will I get anything but coal for being the world's meanest mom? (Okay - I know the answer to that one. After all, I have a car and a credit card). Will my poor hubby survive until then?

Stay Tuned!