Thursday, February 25, 2010

San Francisco, Part Two

So, the conference ended. I had a great time, but I was out of my cowboy boots (#1 lesson learned: Do not walk down 20% grade hills in cowboy boots) and into my sneakers in 2.3 seconds flat after the last handshake, and then we were pounding the pavement downhill to Chinatown.

Did I mention it was the first day of Chinese New Year? And we were in Chinatown? On a Sunday?

The Kid is getting noticeably better at getting everyone's head in the shot.

Speaking of 'shot,' man, it sounded like downtown Baghdad, what with all the firecrackers going off. Seriously, someone could have whipped out a Tommygun and taken out half a block and not one single person would have noticed the noise.

First, we ate. I made the excutive decision that any restaurant on the second floor was better than any restaurant on the first floor, and any restaurant that had a line was better than any restaurant that didn't. (This opinion has been confirmed by my Chinese ESL students.) So we ate at Kan's.

Then, for dessert, we got some fortune cookies.

No, really, I mean we went and got some fortune cookies, made by this nice lady:

The cashier tried to give my Kid one of the ones she was making. I don't know if you can see that little pile of yellow slips of paper by her left hand? Yellow means something in fortune cookie world, apparently, because she grabbed that cookie out of The Kid's hand and began to apologize: "No! NO! Not for childrens! For adults!!!" I laughed so hard I almost wet my pants. The cashier almost gave my son a dirty fortune cookie! Try to find something like that in the Midwest!

Note the blooming trees? The clear blue sky? The 65 degree temperatures? Man, I was loving life right then. And that was just one afternoon.

The next day, we did Alcatraz.

Did you know the island had been taken over by American Indians in the 1970s? I sorta did, but I know a lot more now. That's the sort of thing I like knowing, because you never know when it will pop up in a book.

The Kid, truth be told, did not enjoy most of Alcatraz, except for the models:

It was so foggy that day that we couldn't see the island (even the parts we were standing on) until the next day, when it cleared off and we were on the Golden Gate Bridge:

That's it on the left.

Oh, the Golden Gate Bridge. It was my Favorite Thing.

It was foggy enough on the north side that it still had that air of mystery to it, but clear enough we could see dolphins and seals in the water below and the city in the bay. It was beautiful. And very tall:

It made me dizzy.

We only walked about 1/3 of the way across, because The Kid was hungry and we had a date.

A date with the Pacific Ocean, that is. Man, that water was COLD. Then we walked up to Haight-Ashbury.

Haight-Ashbury, if you don't know, was the hippie center of the world in 1969. My menfolk think they're being 'cool' over there. Now, there's a Ben and Jerry's across the street. We had ice cream.

So, in conclusion, we stood beside our hearts in San Francisco:

Ate the chocolate in Ghiradelli Square:

And had Mai Tai's at the Tonga Room:

It was an awesome vacation. We saw things you don't see in the Midwest; ate things you can't get in this part of Illinois, and generally had a heck of a good time.

What? What's that you say? After at least four blogs on it, you wanna know what I wore?


This was Friday. I've got on boots under that skirt!

This was the Gala Banquet dress Friday night. Only a few other people changed, but damn it, I bought the dress, packed the dress, and, if I may say so, looked good in the dress, so I wore it.

And that's it. Those are the only two outfit pictures we remembered to take. But have no fear! The 'professional' cowgirl look will be seen again, very soon!

How soon? VERY soon. I'm doing a radio interview for a conference at which I'm presenting in two weeks, and then, of course, the actual presentation (more on that on Tuesday)!

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

San Francisco, Part One

Hello, and Welcome to the inaugural Tuesday Authorial posting on the Authorial Mom blog!

(Don't panic. That was as formal as it gets around here. Tangential humor still rules.)

So, I packed up the Husband and the Kid and went to San Francisco last week. On Thursday, I'll talk more about what we did as a family on our vacation. But I didn't go just for the vacation. I went for the San Francisco Writers Conference.

Hosted by my agency, Larsen Pomada Literary Agents, the San Francisco Writers conference was at the top of Nob Hill in (surprise!) San Francisco. And when I say the top, I'm not kidding. That hill was freaking huge.

I didn't walk around it too much for a few days, though. The Mark Hopkins hotel, where the conference was held, was a beautiful place, and it was full of all sorts of people! Writer people, agent people, and even editor people! In other words, my kind of people!

Well, sort of. Most of these writer people write 'literary fiction,' which is good stuff, but tends to have fewer steamy sex scenes and greatly reduced chances of a conventional happily-ever-after ending. I write romance. I'll be honest, I was worried about getting funny looks. I don't handle confrontation well.

Turns out, I didn't need to worry. The only problem came at the session entitled "Putting Passion on the Page" with Rachelle Chase, Elizabeth Jennings, and Margaret Marbury. It was the only romance-focused session at the conference, and about half the people in the very crowded conference room were men. It was the last question of the session, and a woman asked "Yes, could you tell me what the difference between pornography and erotica is?"

That is, hands down, the worst question in the world. And about the most commonly asked one.

Rachelle, Elizabeth, and Margaret were great, though. They stuck the landing with a perfect 10. And, in case you were wondering, the answer is that pornography is a sex act. Tab A into Slot B. Nothing more, nothing less. Romance is about a relationship between two people, of which sex is a natural, emotional part. Emotion is the key word there, people. Emotional as in love. As in happily ever after.

I digress. I did get some funny looks, as in I personally found them funny. I sat between two gentlemen at the first lunch, Raymond Edge and David Shapiro. Raymond writes anthropological fiction, set in early American Indian periods, while David has an awesome natural history graphic novel aimed at middle-school boys. And the conversation went like this (in between bites of less-than-awesome salmon):

"So, what do you write?"

"New western romance."

It's not easy for one's eyebrows to shoot up and backward at the same time as one blinks slowly, but it is doable. "Well . . ." and then something interesting happened. "What does 'new western' mean?"

So I did my elevator pitch, "Where the cowboys are the Indians, but they often have cell phones, pick-up trucks, and advanced degrees."

And then something even more interesting happened. "Do you have a particular tribe in mind?" Now, it turned out that Raymond also writes about American Indians, but this was a common male-based question. I answered it six times in three days.

When I went to the Romance Writers of America conference last July, not a single person asked about the tribe. They wanted to know about hunks on horseback, which is totally fine with me. But the men want the non-romance specifics they can wrap their heads around. They want details. Real facts.

So I had a variety of interesting conversations with men (who would not be considered my typical reading audience) about the authenticity of being a white woman writing about Lakota Indians. It was weird, in a good way. I think the fact that I actually do my research (as opposed to just making stuff up, which I got the feeling people sort of expected me to do as a romance writer) earned me some writing respect.

So while I didn't feel like I was being attacked for writing romance, I did feel like I was representing the entire genre, so I better make it good. I talked to a lot of women who weren't sure if they wanted to call what they wrote 'romance' or not because of that aforementioned 'pornography' stigma.

Like Laurel Levy, who writes urban fantasy/paranormal. . . romance. I think. I haven't read her book yet (but will some time next week), but it sounded like the romance between the two main characters played a pretty major role. Or Lisa Slabach, who writes women's contemporary fiction and also has a romance sort of on the side. She's originally from Chicago, so she's cool, and by the time the conference had ended, she'd already made contact with her local chapter of RWA. Sarah Harian, who has an awesome sounding urban fantasy for young adults, was less concerned with labels, but I think that's because she's one of those 'young people' you hear about so much today who just do what they do and don't care what anyone else thinks. (I kid, Sarah!)

Look, I know that 'people' like to dismiss the entire romance genre as trashy, light-weight drivel, and, honestly, there's some stuff out there that is, in fact, trashy, light-weight drivel. But a lot of it isn't. A lot of it is good. Really good. These same 'people' also blow off other genres, like science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, horror, detective . . . pick a genre, they get dumped on. But the fact of the matter is that readers like romance, sci/fi, horror . . . all of them. Readers buy these books. Lots of these books. Romance alone counts as almost half of all books sold alone.

I'm an author. I write romance. I want to sell books.

I'm so glad we went to San Francisco. I met so many great people, plotted the next step of my journey with my agent (more on that next week), and saw a hell of a lot a great city (more on that Thursday).

Saturday, February 20, 2010


So, you know, it occurred to me that, while the title of this blog is Authorial Mom, it's really almost exclusively a Mom blog. Which, of course, if you're my mother and enjoy reading about what The Kid or various dogs are up to any given week, is just fine. (Hi, Mom!)

The Kid and everything about him--how much salad I can make him eat, how many dragons I've stepped on today, or who his latest girlfriend at daycare is--takes up about 40% of my daily brain power. Toss in a Husband, the aforementioned dogs, and the never-ending battle between dishes and laundry, and that's about 85% of my daily brain space.

But there's more to this whole endeavor than the Mom part. There's the whole Authorial part. In real life, the Authorial part is constantly running in the background, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays takes up the bulk of my time. It occurred to me that the Authorial part doesn't get the air time that the Mom part does.

So I'm making some changes. Starting this week, Tuesdays will be the Authorial Day 'round these here parts. I'm not exactly sure what form Tuesdays will take. Fewer pictures of my dogs, maybe, replaced with more links to industry insiders on hot topics, like the recent Amazon/McMillian throw-down. I might post what I know (?) about the business side of publishing.

I'll put up more details on the book(s) I'm working on, for sure. After all, I can do 8-9,000 words a week. (Note the can. I can. I don't always, but I can.) That works out to a book every three to four months. That's a lot of character development, story arc, and happily-ever-after in a relatively short time. Why, I'd be willing to bet there are at least four people out there right now who want to know what the heck all those people who have constant conversations in my head are talking about. I'm pretty sure I'll also be talking more about the American West and American Indians, too. It's what I write. It's what I love.

If you already get an email reminder about the weekly Authorial Mom update, I'm still only going to send out one per week on Thursday. If you'd like to get that reminder, email me at and I'll add you to the list.

So join me on Tuesday, when I start putting the Authorial back in the Authorial Mom blog!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Leavin' . . .

(sing it with me now) oooooonnnnn an airplane . . .

Boy, I miss Peter, Paul, and Mary. I know, I know, Peter and Paul are still technically with us, but it's not the same.


Yes. Back to the topic: Leavin' on an airplane. In fact, by the time most of you read this, I, along with my loving husband and The Kid, will be winging our way rapidly to Minneapolis.

Why? Beats the tar our of me. I wasn't the one booking flights. I barely got the hotel reserved, and that in and of itself was a major accomplishment for me.

No, Minneapolis is merely a connecting flight. For reasons that escape me, we have to fly to the Great Frozen North to get to San Francisco.

Oh, San Francisco. Even the name sounds warm enough that no frozen precipitation falls from the sky. And, frankly, by mid-February, that's all I ask for from a destination.

We've never been, individually or collectively. And we go now for 2 1/2 very simple reasons:

1. My agency, Larsen-Pomada Literary Agency, is hosting the San Francisco Writers Conference. I will learn things, meet people, and most importantly, suck up to my agent.
2. My loving husband has worked 6-7 days a week, 10-14 hours a day, for the last 8 months, and today is, in theory, when that insane period of changing a major corporation over to a new computer system, bringing international offices on line, and training multitudes of other office workers while also doing his normal accounting stuff ends. The man needs a vacation in the worst sort of way.
1/2. As I mentioned, we've never been to San Francisco. We wanna go. It's cold and snowy and icky in Illinois. It may rain on us in San Fran, but damn it, it'll be a lukewarm rain, and that's all I'm asking.

Yes, when I bandied about the very notion of attending this conference way back in August, the first thing he said wasn't, "How much?" but, "When?" which was followed closely by, "Let me check my schedule." And then it was on like Donkey Kong (and no, I don't know what that means.)

This is a major deal for us. First, I'm going to a conference, which, if you've been paying any attention at all (not required), sends my neuroses into overdrive. (Clothing update: My friend Leah came over and we forsook the Super Duper Bowl Halftime Old Geezers Show so that she could personally vet my outfits {and accessories!}. I will now stride forth in all fashion confidence!)

Second, I have to get on a plane to get there. See above mention of neuroses.

Third, this is the first real, serious family vacation we've taken that does not involve staying at an in-laws' house since my sister Hannah got married. That was fast approaching four years ago, and the Kid wasn't even a year and a half old yet. We flew to Denver a week early, got very (damn) little sleep, and did our best to have a good time before the nuptials began. (Side note: We had a good time at the nuptials, too.)

But that was it. In the past three and a half years, we haven't taken a real vacation.

So, off we go, into the abyss. 'Santa' got The Kid a portable DVD player for Christmas (although The Kid stubbornly insists on calling that his 'DS') and we've been hording gum, but I have no idea how that boy will do on a plane.

Unlike me, being as I am a naturally paranoid person who does not personally enjoy, in a stomach kind of way, the ups and downs of altitude changes. I know exactly what I will do on a plane. I will guzzle ginger ale and focus on meditative breathing like nobody's business. Which means my husband will be in charge while we're on the plane. Unless The Kid has to go potty, because my husband has a strict no-airplane-bathroom rules.

Yes, as you can see, we are going to be a bundle of fun on the plane. WHEEE!

We'll be in San Fran for a week--three days for the conference, and then three days for Family Time. I'm only loosely aware of what those crazy menfolk of mine are going to do for their three days of completely uninterrupted father/son time--trolleys, to be sure, and aquariums, and something called The Duck. I know I'm going to Alcatraz, Chinatown, and something about a bridge? Yes, that's it.

I won't be back in time next week to blog about it, and I'm not nearly insane enough to try and lug a computer AND a small child around an airport(s), so stay tuned in two weeks for pictures!

Oh, and wish me luck. Lord knows I'm going to need it!

Monday, February 1, 2010

January is . . .

. . . the PERFECT time to visit Chicago!

What? You don't think so? Ha! Just goes to show you what you know! You're probably sitting around somewhere warm, all proud of your stable core-body temperature, like that makes you 'special,' 'right,' or even 'alive.'

Ha! I say again!

I thought January would be the perfect time to visit Chicago for several key reasons.

1. All the 'new' has worn off the Kid's Christmas toys. He's officially bored.
2. I feel like I only leave the house to chauffeur people and go to work.
3. My husband is working every weekend, all weekend.
4. Zen-Master Becca is noticeably pregnant. Being as this is the woman who was physically THERE for the birth of my son, I felt that going to up to pat her belly was the least I could do.

So, I did. I packed up the Kid in what turned out to be sort of a test run for our Big Trip to San Francisco in two weeks, (more on that later), we hitched the Carl Sandburg, and headed north.

Heck, it wasn't even that cold. The high was 17! It's not like Lake Michigan was frozen solid or anything . . .

Whoops. Spoke too soon.

So off we went. The train schedules are always a little bit tricky. They only leave from our hometown very early or late in the evening. We didn't get into Chicago until 10 Friday night, and had to leave at 7:35 Sunday morning. So that gives us one whole day.

January is the perfect time to go see whales! So we did.

I think the Kid thinks he's looking at me through binoculars or something. Note the tent-tunnel behind us. We got to the Aquarium within 20 minutes of it opening. There was a five minute indoor line. When we left at 1:30, that line was 200 yards BEYOND the tent-tunnel.

Which represented Fatal Flaw #1 of my plan: I figured the Aquarium wouldn't be too busy. I failed to take into account that other people--most of Chicago, in fact--would have reached the same conclusions I had earlier. That place was PACKED shortly after we got there.

First things first: Sea Turtles!

Oops. You're not supposed to use flash photography. The sea turtle doesn't like it, dude.

The Kid wanted sharks, and he wanted them NOW. So we found the sharks:

I do think he was disappointed that they were *only* nine feet long. This is the downside of Finding Nemo. All sharks should have Australian accents. Note I'd turned the flash off by now. No one wants to piss off sharks, even smallish ones.

We saw the show, called Fantasea.

I don't want to disparage or anything, but the show was weird. Sea nymphs (also known as trainers wearing incredibly silly outfits) 'guided' our passage into the World of the Sea or something supremely weird like that. Aquarium people, just remember. You are Aquarium People. You aren't Disney, and you shouldn't try.

I mean, seriously. Is this a Renee Magrit homage in the middle of an aquarium show???

Still, the Kid was mostly engaged, as long as there was an animal doing something. He didn't give a whit about Sea Nymphs.

He did like the penguins, and we were close enough that when one of them pooped, he giggled uncontrollably.

Fatal Flaw #2: If the cafeteria worker asks if you want fries with that, she's asking not because she's helping you watch your figure, but because fries are not included. They were damn proud of those fries.

The Kid had been good all week so that I would buy him a 'special' toy at the Aquarium. I was thinking up to $15--two dollars a day of good behavior, rounded up. And you know what he wanted? A jellyfish. To heck with Baby Beluga or the sea otters, or even the sharks. He wanted a jellyfish.

So I got him one.

And the great thing was, this jellyfish came with a whole bunch of other sea creatures. And all of these sea creatures together totalled $3.99. They were just about the cheapest thing in the store. So that's how I got talked into buying Pooh Bear a 'camera.'

That's the kind of Mom I am. I buy cameras for stuffed bears.

After that, we hung out with Zen-Master Becca and her hubby, then wound up driving by our old house on the north side of the city and eating at the Chinese restaurant where my husband and I had our first date. Between pregnant best friends and the trip down memory lane, my mind was boggled.

Which is why we watched Madagascar 2, apparently. That and the Plumpy song. Becca insisted, and you don't say no to a pregnant woman, not when she's got the Kid on her side.

Then we came home, where the Kid loaded all his sea creatures onto trains and puffed around the tracks while I came down with a raging sinus infection.

One day, I'll take the Kid to Chicago when it's above freezing. Heck, given baby showers and the like, it might even be this year!

As long as I don't get the Plumpy song stuck in my head again. Man, that thing is contagious!