Thursday, May 27, 2010

Superhero Insanity

The Kid is five now. Five is a good age for superheros. Some people might ease into this, but not us. Not when there's a superhero costume contest/ice cream party going down. (You can read the official press release about it here.) All proceeds from the party went to PAGER, which is something I really wish I'd known about when The Kid was still The Baby.

Anyway, there was a party, and The Kid owns a variety of superhero-themed jammies--plus, ice cream was involved. The Husband was going to be out of town that day, so it was the perfect way to kill an afternoon.

I tried to get the party started Friday night by Tivo-ing Superman because The Kid had picked out his Superman jammies to wear. I thought it would be helpful for the boy to see what the fuss was about, and, frankly, I never get tired of watching Christopher Reeve in skin-tight anything. I didn't remember the moving being hyper-violent, either, and, as I mentioned, The Kid is now five. Big boy movie time.

I was foiled in this grand plan, because the Tivo recorded a Star Trek movie (heavy on the borgs) instead. Okay. No biggie. We're still going to rock jammies in broad daylight. I put a lot of mousse in his hair in an attempt to do a swirling-bangs thing. It didn't necessarily work, but it didn't hurt, either.

The Husband made an important contribution to the outfit. He saw fit to bend a piece of rebar for the Man of Steel. Foolish me, I didn't think a five-year-old-boy swinging a piece of iron in public was a good idea. However, The Kid managed not to bop anyone on the head with it. I was impressed.

The party started at 1. In general, I hate to be late--even fashionably so--for anything (which is not the same thing as saying I'm never late. I frequently am--I just hate it when it happens), so we got there at 1. We walk in, and see this guy:

Yes. Spoon Man. He was there with his sidekick, Bone Boy (but you know about that long-standing no-kid-pictures-on-the-blog thing, right?). Apparently there's a song about Spoon Man that references Bone Boy, but really, it was just a four year old in his red jammies, a beret, and a brown cape. That's superhero enough for me!

Then, the TeaTotaler showed up.

His secret identity is really Alex Sanders, who organized the party, in part, for the Quincy Not-So-Fine-Arts Society. But on Saturday, he was the resident Villain, flinging tea bags at any adult who was paying attention. For the kids, though, he had bubbles. In the picture above, he's giving bubbles to The Kid. Note that The Kid is wearing a Batman jammie cape with his Superman jammies. You make due with what you've got.

Ge showed up with her boy.

Ge is one of my former students. She's also a photographer; I think she's going to do a more professional author photo for me soon.

Ge also used to watch Land of the Lost in Brazil when she was a kid; she was a little weirded out by the Ice Scream's full sized Sleestak. I was a little weirded out by the fact that Land of the Lost made it to Brazil.

Turned out that although we were there at one, the costume part of the party wasn't until 3:30. We had a lot of time to kill. The Superheros spent a lot of time trying to prove their super-ness by climbing the light post.

Oh, and there was music! Brought to you by Camel Man:

Yes. We won't go into the state of his camel humps. This is a family page.

So, finally, the costume contest. There were four entrants, Bone Boy, the Amazing Hailey, Superman, and Batman. Batman's younger brother, Iron Man, was too shy to stand up in front of everyone. Voting was based on crowd noise, because, clearly, these people had never met me before.

Batman, who had shown up at about 2:45, got third place. Superman, my boy!, got second because we'd been there longest. Amazing Hailey got first, mostly because she was the only one there who wasn't wearing jammies, but had, in fact, made her own costume.

The Kid got a superhero coloring book, a water squirter, and bragging rights.

Next time, though, he wants to be Iron Man.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

R.I.P. Kip

Today we gather together to mourn the character Kip Two Elks. Kip passed away (or, in everyday terminology, 'was deleted') on Thursday, May 20th at 11:20 a.m.

Kip's passing was preceded by the lengthy wasting illness commonly known as the Editorial Process. In her prime, Kip was a unique woman, an albino Lakota woman capable of great bursts of psychic energy, which occasionally manifest itself as an electrical storm. Kip was widely loved and only a little feared.

The feared Editorial Process weakened Kip considerably. First she lost her ability to generate electrical storms; then she regained all of her pigmentation. Next, the level of her psychic energy began to dwindle.

As so often happens with this sort of wasting illness, once Kip lost her unique features, she lost her reason for being. She became boring and whiny, one of the classic signs that the end was near. After consulting several top-notch specialists on Editorial Process, Kip was deemed too weak to save as a character.

As a result of this terminal diagnosis, Kip was put on life support. Several last-ditch attempts to save her character were made, including name changes to protect the innocent. However, the Editorial Process proved to be too strong for Kip, and she succumbed on Thursday. As is the hallmark of this disease, all traces of Kip in mention of novels in progress died with her.

As per Kip's last wish, no funeral will be held, and all condolences may be directed to Sarah M. Anderson, because I could sure use them.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Semi-Homemade Birthday

I got older yesterday!

I know that a vast majority of women in my age range are all busy wailing and moaning about how everything has started to 'fall' and how they're all getting older and how they're all going to be 29 until they die..

I don't have time for that. My Gram turned 95 this year, and she'll proudly tell everyone exactly how old she is--often without any prompting. She's really taught me that being old isn't a thing to be feared--age makes you fearsome. (How fearsome? We won't go into that.)

So I don't mind getting older. Beats the heck out of the alternative.

However, I was a little under the weather for my 34th birthday, so I was unable to take my menfolk shopping for my presents. (Yeah, you read that right. No, I don't mean I take them to a store, point out what I want, and order them to buy it for me. Remember the legally blind husband who doesn't drive?)

They ordered things online, but they didn't get here soon enough. So I had a semi-homemade birthday.

First, the ice cream birthday cake:

Can you spot the 'homemade' part? Honestly, we'd bought the little candy letters for the Kid's birthday cake two weeks ago--and used all of several key letters in my name. This was the best my husband could come up with--thank God we play Scrabble!

I love the blog CakeWrecks, but the guys did a good job not getting me a wreck.

And my present from The Kid:

Semi-Homemade Original Art! If it had one of those little tags under it, this is what it would say:

A mixed media piece made from found objects (in this case, the packaging to a WALL*E toy). The Artist has made a bold use of common household items ("stickers") to evoke the true nature of the character's ability to remake himself in the face of difficulties. This piece, which projects strength and renewal, is available for purchase for $1,395. Please see the curator for more details.

Seriously, we were talking with The Kid during my birthday dinner, and asked if he'd want to do Karate. He said no. We said, well, you have to do something--something sporty, or musical, or arty. And he said, (and I quote), "Mommy, I'm an artist." No word on if I have to start buying him all-black clothes yet.

So, despite Nell, the Sinus Infection from Hell, I had a great semi-homemade birthday with my guys.

Next year, I'm not inviting Nell.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Research . . .

Or, more specifically, What Counts as Research Around These Here Parts.

You see, I've been sick. For almost a week now, I've had the Sinus Infection from Hell, which I've come to call Nell. Nell has settled into my face and seems to be quite content with trying to push my teeth out of my head via sinus pressure. This has gone on for days.

I tried to get rid of Nell. I went to a medical professional; she gave me an antibiotic. I took it dutifully, trying to ignore Nell's peals of mocking laughter. Finally, after five days, the antibiotic started working. Not on Nell, of course, but at least it was doing something. We won't go into what. This is a family page.

So, I've been at home for almost a week. My chair has become permanently contoured to the shape of my backside; the dogs now consider my lap part of the furniture.

I've tried to write, but I think the snot ate my ideas. All I can do is stare at the television.

So I'm making the most of it. And I'm calling it Research!

What Counts as Research Around These Here Parts:
1. The Outlaw Josey Wales
2. Justified (multiple episodes)
3. 3:10 to Yuma (the Bale/Crowe version)
4. Unforgiven
5. The Apple Dumpling Gang (Come on, you know it was the first western you ever watched!)
6. The Man Called Horse
7. Return of the Man Called Horse
8. Randy Rides In (John Wayne, 1932)
9. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
10. Smoke Signals
11. Thunderheart (again, but always good!)
12. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
13. Little Big Man

My Tivo is tivoing nonstop these days. Heck, if I don't get better soon, I may start talking with a permanent drawl.

Why does this count as research around these here parts? Because 93% of Americans (a statistic I totally made up) have never been on a horse, have only seen mountains from their car or airplane windows, and think all cowboys have six-shooters and all Indians have bows and arrows. That 93% of Americans learned everything they 'know' about cowboys and Indians and the Wild West from movies.

I don't write about movie cowboys and Indians. My cowboys and cowgirls never shoot first, ask questions second. My American Indians never say 'How' and haven't scalped a soul yet. (Although if someone wanted to make a movie out of my cowboys and cowgirls . . .)

But if an author is going to write against a stereotype, then that author better darn know what the stereotype is. Case in point: The reason Shrek is so danged funny is because they know and understand what's at the heart of each and every fairy tale--and then they subvert it. Similarly, Justified's Raylan would never work if everyone--both the people he meets on screen and the viewers at home--didn't know and understand the concept of the lone gunslinger.

So there you have it. Research, Apple Dumpling Gang style.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dogs at the Dogwood Parade

Recall how Jake the Three-Legged Wonder Wiener won his very first wiener dog race at the Mardi Pals event, held by Paw Pals?

You should. It's been practically the only thing I've talked about for the last month.

Anyway, Jake made quite an impression on the Paw Pals people. A week after our stunning upset victory (and subsequent unstunning loss), Jan from Paw Pals emailed me and asked if I'd like to walk with the Paw Pals people in the annual Dogwood Parade.

I thought long and hard about it. Actually, I just checked the weather. But after I thought long and hard about the weather, I emailed her back and said "Sure!" As long as I could bring Gater and it wasn't raining, we'd be there.

Note: Jake, in case you've missed the four thousand other references, only has three legs. The parade route is three miles long. Our starting position was a mile behind the official starting point. I spent a lot of time wondering if people would be able to see Jake's legs if I carried him the whole way.

Parade day arrived--overcast, humid, and temps in the low 60s. Perfect wiener dog walking weather!

First we met up with the other walkers and dogs.

There was a lot of sniffing. Most of it was inappropriate for a family parade.

The Royal Court from Mardi Pals got to ride:

(Once upon a time, I knew the names of all these dogs and their people. Those brain cells have since died in a flood of sinus-based snot. My apologies.)

We waited to begin.

The people behind us waited even longer.

Finally, we were off!

From the spot where we normally watch parades (see last week's Presidential Parade post for the locale), there aren't that many people in the crowd of parade watchers. It turns out that our block is an anomaly--the route is PACKED the rest of the way.

It turns out that it's somewhat hard to hang on to two over-excited dogs, walk, and take pictures at the same time, so when I saw my husband, I handed over the camera.

He only took one other picture:

because he knew I'd be sorry I missed them. What a guy!

Funny story:

My senior boss lives along the parade route. He, his lovely wife, and their son (the junior boss) and his family were all watching the parade. I went over to say hi, we chit-chatted, and then the junior boss looked down and saw . . . .

Gater peeing on his shoe.


I'm sure you'll be happy to know that I remain gainfully employed. I know I'm happy to know that. I almost killed Gater right then and there, though, but that seemed to be in poor taste, given we were walking an animal rescue organization.

All in all, we had a good time (peeing notwithstanding). Jake managed to walk all but about 15 minutes of the parade, and the kids (who had a good angle to see the missing leg) loved him. Gater was a little uncomfortable with all the extra attention (see above mention of peeing incident) but Jake was living it up.

He slept for the next 20 hours, though.

Fame can do that to a fellow.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Medium Revision

About a year ago, I was working on a book I called No Man's Land. Here's the back cover blurb:

 Bull riding is a man's world, but June Spotted Elk is determined to make it her own. She's not about to let anyone tell her that girls don't ride bulls - especially not seasoned pro Travis Younkin. Sure, he claims he just wants to keep her safe by keeping her off the bulls, but June knows that he's more worried about her messing up his big comeback season than anything else. But what June doesn't know is how deep Travis's scars run, or how far he'll go to make sure no one else winds up on No Man's Land.

Good stuff, right? June had an introductory bit part in the novel that my agent actually signed me over (which I refer to as the Noseless Cowboy book), so there were a few reoccurring characters when she got her own book, including Kip.

Kip is . . . a unique figment of my imagination. She's a Lakota Indian, but a Holy Woman to the tribe. In other words, she's a psychic. A powerful one. But she's still a young woman in most of the books, with all the personality quirks a young woman has. In other words, she's not always in control of her power. Not only that, she's an albino. I liked Kip a whole lot, so she showed up in about five books I wrote. She was June's best friend.

My agent liked Kip, along with the Noseless Cowboy. After all, she signed me over their book. 

But here's the cold, hard truth for all you pre-published authors out there: Just because an agent likes something doesn't mean it's going to sell.

The Noseless Cowboy didn't even get out of the starting gates because of that whole noseless thing. And Kip? Kip is too . . . unique for publisher to take a chance on for an unpublished author. 

Four of the five books that feature Kip are on a shelf. June's book was the only one where she still popped up. No Man's Land has been out with editors for about seven months. I've gotten four rejections, and it's stuck in the slush pile a few other places. In other words, not much is happening. Blame the economy, the timing, the unpublishedness of the author (me) or . . .

Blame Kip.

My agent emailed me last Wednesday, asking me if I would be willing to try cutting Kip--and if I was, could I do it in two weeks, before her co-agents made a selling trip to NYC? My agent LOVES this book--she believes in No Man's Land and she believes in me. She really, truly believes that the perfect editor for this book--and me--is out there, but it might be easier to find said editor if there was no albino psychic Lakota Indian Holy Women in the mix.

So we spent a few days going back and for about what level of rewrite this would be. Cut the mysticism entirely? No, we decided. An element of the supernatural is too important to the book--and all my books. Kip just needed to be scaled back and toned down--and not albino. She needs to not be a busybody, but more hesitant, more reserved. Oh, and just in case we ever do sell the Noseless Cowboy book, she needs to have a different name. 

So, the next week and a half won't be a major rewrite. Just a medium.

Pun intended.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Presidential Parade

So, Mr. President himself came to my quiet little hometown last week. He flew into our airport, took a helicopter to Iowa, spent the night, helicoptered back to our airport, hopped in a SUV and drove to Missouri (Macon, hello!) and then finally came back to Quincy . . .  for a 40 minute speech. Then it was back to running the country!

In other words, he was in Quincy for a net total of an hour and a half. And for this, our whole town was in a serious state of lather for almost two weeks. The last time Mr. President was here, he was still running to be Mr. President, and we were in the middle of a rather nasty flood. He filled a few sandbags, shook some hands, and posed for some photos. He was the only candidate to come, and our Mayor asked him to come back if he was elected. (Heck, he might have asked him to come back anyway. I don't know.)

So he came back.

Tickets to see him speak went like hotcakes, and the lines to get into the convention center where he was speaking were long. He was to speak at 4, you really sort of needed to be in the building by 2, and it was standing room only. And I'm paid by the hour, and someone's got to get the kid from daycare. So I didn't go see him speak.

But then the rumors started that he would be exiting our fair city down Maine Street, less than three blocks from where I live. Around 4:45 in the afternoon.

I decided that I'd get the kid right after work and we'd go wave at the motorcade. About 75 other people had the same idea. There was quite a crowd on our corner!

I took the Kid, the Girl Next Door, Gater, and some flags left over from the 4th of July parade last year.

We waited.

We waited for a long time before this police vehicle went by:

Followed by these police motorcycles:

The Kid began to get excited. But we waited some more before, finally, off in the distance:

See the kid holding the dog? He got yelled at for standing in the street. Standing in the street--even by a foot--is not allowed!

This was about the point that we all realized that the motorcade was traveling at about 40+ miles an hour (in a 30 mph zone, no less!).

40 miles an hour is really too fast to both take pictures AND actually look inside the vehicles to see Mr. President. But for our purposes here, I think he's in that first SUV. Someone to my right said she thought she saw him!

There were quite a lot of vehicles traveling in the world's fastest parade.

Close to 30 total, I think. All zipping down the cleared street at top speed.

And then it was over.

And The Kid looked at me with the greatest sense of disappointment on his face. The world's fastest parade had blown right by him with no waving, no dogs in silly outfits, and, most importantly, no candy being thrown out the window.

Something tells me this won't be a memory he treasures forever.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Spring Fling Saturday Play-by-Play

When we last left off, Friday night at the Chicago-North RWA Spring Fling had ended with my agent using the word 'anomaly' five times in five separate sentences to describe me, Marta Bliese had to budget for buying my agent a Diet Coke during her pitch session, and Cherry Adair had promised not to abuse anyone until Saturday.

And Action!

8:00: Pick up Hannah and head down for breakfast. Sit with Carrie Lofty, Christine Segina, and Christy Longmire. Fail to realize I'm already facebook friends with Christine. Later feel like a dolt.

9:00: "Rejection Bootcamp" with Joelle Charbonneau. I try to take a picture of Joelle during her presentation. I fail. But she gives me a solid pep talk about on a rejection I got and doesn't even seem to hold it against me when I have to leave early to go to . . .

10:00: Moderating Pitch Sessions. I'm the timekeeper for Amanda Bergeron from Avon. Moderating Pitch Sessions is a nice way to make friends with an Editor. Unfortunately, I do not write historicals, so I decide not to pester the woman, above and beyond interrupting each and every one of her sessions to tell her she's got two minutes left.

10:30: Several women show up about forty minutes early for their pitches. I scare the snot out of Heather Snow by enthusiastically introducing myself to her. After she's good and terrified that I'm a crazy lady, I tell her I judged her entry in the Fire and Ice contest, in which she is a finalist. She immediately (and I mean milliseconds) apologizes profusely for not writing me a thank you note--several times, in fact. I decide this makes us friends.

11:00: Sneak into Allie Pleiter's "Wrangling Your Muse" late. Crib Hannah's notes to figure out what's going on. Discover that I write 'big chunks' (see 'anomaly' from earlier). This comes as a surprise to no one.

12:00: LUNCH! Hannah and Andrea Dickinson have to be told to keep it down (by me) because the lunch room is just a tad loud. It gets quiet when Julia Quinn gives her speech. She reminds us that romance writers make people happy, and that is important--and never to let a single person tell you it isn't. Decide Julia Quinn is my new favorite person. 

1:30: "Author's Brand Image" with Blythe Gifford. She asks me to stand and model while the rest of the attendees try to guess what I write based on my appearance. Ever thankful I'm in cowboy boots--and everyone guesses correctly. Voila! I'm an Author Brand!

2:30: My agent waves vigorously at me from the doorway, so I sneak out. She's got an earlier flight on standby, so is heading out. Tells me I really, really don't have to finish the current book in a hurry--after all, she just finished reading the LAST book a week and a half ago. (I am afraid to tell her I only have about 4,000 words left on it. EEK!)

3:00: Take Hannah to "Editing for Voice" with Courtney Milan. I'm thrilled to be at a presentation aimed at a higher level. Plus, she gives me her novella This Wicked Gift for talking! 

4:30: Interrupt The Husband's nap. We go down to the bar for a glass of wine on an empty stomach. I wind up babbling to Mary Trimmer and eating two bowls of bar snacks. I immediately regret this course of action.

5:00: Book signing!

5:30: Find Marta Bliese again. Ask how her pitch went. She said that my agent asked for three chapters, but she's not sure if that's good or bad. I assure her that is AWESOME, because my agent normally asks for the first ten pages. Marta starts to get really excited, and revealed she'd actually brought my agent TWO Diet Cokes. High fives all the way around.

6:00: Really regretting wine and bar snacks on an empty stomach.

6:10: Go put on my pretty dress for dinner. Meet back up with Hannah, and we are stopped by Nancy Plummer of Fine Threads, who tells us that we are doing everything right. We decide we like Nancy a whole bunch.

7:00: Dinner, finally. Sit with a librarian who turns out to be a sparkling personality. I learn LOTS, and my stomach finally settles down.

8:00: Cherry Adair takes our pictures clapping. Her husband immediately texts to ask what the dessert in the tiny cups was.

8:15: Heather Snow wins first in her category! I scare the librarian by whooping. Later, Heather apologizes for the thank-you note issue again.

9:00: Begin to assist with the Silent Auction, benefiting Literature for All of Us. Mostly I assist by using my foghorn-like voice to announce how much time is left in the Auction to everyone in the lobby, hotel, and surrounding square mile. Silent, my fanny!

10:00: Silent Auction ends. I didn't win any baskets, darn it.

11:00: Finish helping with the Silent Auction. Realize I have been in heels, not cowboy boots, for almost four hours. Hope a glass of wine remedies the situation.

11:30: It doesn't, so I go to bed. Spring Fling is officially over for me!

And Scene!

All in all, I had a great time, and I'm so glad I dragged Hannah along with me. My agent thought it was a great conference, and I hope to hear positive things from Heather, Andrea, Marta, and more in the near future!