Thursday, August 26, 2010

The First First Day of School

Did you cry when your baby stepped into that school for the first time?

Last Thursday, The Kid--my baby boy--donned his six-sizes-too-huge backpack and the most stain-free, collared shirt I could find, and went to school. For real--not this 'daycare-is-school-too' stuff. No, a real and true school with all the accoutrements. Music room crammed into the basement? Check. Old-fashioned, subterranean gym? Check. Metal detector in the entrance? Um, yeah--check. I'm still scratching my head on that one, but check.

I was not going to cry. Really. I've been successfully dropping The Kid off at daycare for almost three years. We have a quick hug, I remind him to keep his hands, feet, and all other objects to himself (really), and he's off without a look back, as am I. No drama, no hysterics. Just a quick and painless morning. That's how I like it. Why should the first day of kindergarten--a mere nine days after his last day of daycare--be any different?

Well, for starters, I'm something of an emotional sponge, and there were more than enough teary moms hanging around school to start to get to me. Luckily, we met up with my friend (not sister) Leah's husband and their two boys. Men, if you didn't know, do not get all choked up about the first day of kindergarten. Walking to school with a man was surprisingly calming. I was good to go.

So The Kid, the man, and the boys and I all roll into school on what is, hands down, one of the craziest days of the year. The line to get through the metal detector was about 30 deep. The kids don't have to go through it, but the grown ups do. Ironically, my purse set it off. The guard took my purse and handed it to me around the detector without checking my purse. I'm not yet clear how this makes The Kid any safer. Maybe I'm just rocking the 'mom' vibe extra hard.

Anyway, we go to class. His teacher is standing the hall, directing the children (read: herding cats). She's also handing out little baggies to the parents. I take mine and immediately forget about it as I work on getting The Kid to hang up his backpack, get his name tag, and remind him to keep his hands, feet, and all other objects to himself (really). Quick hug, quicker" love you," longer "BEHAVE!", and I'm out the door. No tears. Not even a lump.

I'm halfway down the block, musing on where the time has gone and also how much longer until I can eat a snack, when I realize I'm still holding the baggie. Upon closer inspection, there's a cotton ball, a tea bag, and a single tissue in it, as well as a note. The cotton ball was for something soft, the tea bag was to relax, and the tissue--well, that's just self-explanatory. I'm still good. Until I get to the last line on the note.

"Thank you for entrusting your child to me. I will take care of all them."

Oh, that was low. LOW.

So, by this time, I'm almost a block away from the school. I'm wearing business casual attire, and I am not holding the hand of a young child. To the rest of the world, I don't really have a good reason to cry in the middle of the morning. I manage to hold at 'teary' and make it to the car, where I sing along with Lady Gaga until I'm good enough for work.

The next weekend, I find out my loving, caring family had a pool--a pool, I tell you!--on whether or not I would cry. And not a single darned person picked 'teary.'


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What Keeps Me Up At Night

There are authors in this world who understand the publishing business. They follow Publishers Weekly, know which editors have been promoted, which have moved to a different house, and which have left to become agents. These are the people who have 'dream' agents and editors because they carefully research each, looking for the best fit. They know the market, where their books fit in the market, and, in general, what's going on.

I'm not one of these people. At first it was just sheer ignorance--I didn't know what I was doing, and approached procuring an agent in the same way I would pepper the side of a barn with buckshot after a long night drinking (not that I would do that). I had good reasons for doing this--in addition to being clueless, I was mothering a two year old boy, starting a new job, and learning how to write books. I did not have time to internalize the world of publishing.

But I'm farther along that curve now. I've reached the point where I should know which editors are a good fit for me (luckily, I'm all good in the agent department!). So what's my excuse?

I've chosen to engage in a profession that is undergoing massive, fundamental changes. The authorial path I want--a major publisher putting out paperback books on a regular schedule that are available in bookstores--is disappearing faster than the rain forest in Brazil. This sysmic changing upsets my stomach and grates my nerves until I've worked myself into a first-class tizzy and my husband (God love the man) no longer wants to put up with me.

Case in point: In August--less than 24 days--of this year alone, things have gone haywire. On August 3rd, Barnes and Noble put itself up for sale after bleeding too much red ink. Okay, that officially gave me indigestion.

But then it got worse, as horror author Brian Keene summed up in his blog. Three days after B&N put themselves up for sale, Dorchester went 'all e-book.' However, it appears that, in fact, the publisher is in a death spiral. They let go of all but one person on their editorial staff.

I think I had a book under consideration at Dorchester once. This took the indigestion B&N started and led to a series of vivid, disturbing nightmares, some of which included me living in a box under a bridge and writing stories in the dirt.

Yes, I should know more about the publishing industry. But I'm raising a five year old now (Good heavens, where has the time gone? And when will I break through?), in addition to working three other paying part-time jobs, and taking care of the house and the marriage and the extended family and all that stuff we call 'life.' I do not have the time, energy, or inclination to spend sleepless nights worrying about the publishing world and what my place in it will be.

So I choose to remain clueless. And the only things that keep me up at night are chatty characters and obstinate kindergarteners. It's better this way.

Trust me.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programs . . .

I'm not ignoring you, faithful reader(s). I think about you a lot. I take pictures to share with you. I plan great blogs for us to be together with (over?).

But life keeps happening.

Everyone's finally healthy in the house, and the war against the fleas is down to small border skirmishes. The Kid finished daycare, so he was home with me for three days before school started. We had fun things planned, plus 'homework time'--to get him into the habit of doing it, and to give me a chance to check facebook and write a quick blog.

But then My Gram had a small medical emergency, the pools closed a day before I thought they would, and . . . life just happened. Unfortunately, not often in the fun way.

School started yesterday. Hopefully by next week, I will have adjusted to the new schedule, where I don't have to leave my house before 8, instead of by 7 every morning. I know that sounds like a good thing, but not much productivity happens when The Kid is still in the house.

So tune in next week, when we will return to our regularly scheduled life, filled with crazy Authorial happenings and rocking fun Mom things!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How To Write A Panel Discussion Proposal

No, I'm not telling you. I'm asking you.

The Romance Writers of America's annual conference just ended in Orlando, Florida--which means it's time to start preparing for the RWA next year! I'm especially keen on preparing because I didn't go to Orlando this year--and given how sick The Kid was and how flea-ridden the dogs were, turned out to be a mistake on my part. (Okay, yes, it's a good thing I was here to take care of the stomach flu and strep throat. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.)

I'm going to New York, baby. And I'm taking The Husband and The Kid with me. They'll run around and do crazy things like see Mary Poppins on stage (The Kid's aunt Weet is a drama teacher. We've raised him to appreciate musical theater!) and a Mets game while I meet and greet, and then we'll spend three days together climbing several thousand stairs to the top of the Statue of Liberty.

Here's the thing, though. New York ain't cheap for one person. For three people? Plus conference fees? I need a plan to help 'defray my costs,' which is Husband-speak for 'make it cheaper.'

So I've got a plan. I'm going to submit a proposal to present a panel discussion on the current state of Cowboys in Romance today. Obviously, I write 'new' westerns, with a fresh take on contemporary Cowboys and Indians. I've already gotten the wonderfully talented Kaki Warner to agree to do it with me--Kaki is a 'new' voice writing historical westerns, and her books are amazing. My Agent has also agreed to sit on the panel, and Kaki was going to see if her agent would join us. We are good to go. All I have to do now is submit the proposal for the panel discussion.

Um, help? The previous proposals I've submitted for conferences were basically me calling up the organizer and saying, "Do you want me to do a presentation?" and the organizer going, "Could you? That'd be great." But RWA gets hundreds--possibly a thousand--proposals. What should I do to make my proposal stand out?

I'm so open to suggestions. Thanks!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

New Week, Same ...

Stuff. I was going to say stuff--really!

Last week was not good here. As you might have gathered from last Thursday's post, The Kid got the stomach flu, and just for good measure, Jake threw up some too. And don't get me started on the fleas. Our yard is infested--which means Gater is infested, which means our house is infested. I try to be an organic, all-natural kind of girl, but after two weeks of fleas? Bring on the chemicals--all of them.

A sick kid plus fleas is a bad, bad thing. I was ready to put last week behind me and get on with some prime-time summer fun--county fair style.

Remember Charlotte's Web, the book everyone has to read or you go to middle school jail? Sure, the messages of life and death were touching and all that, but what I always remember is Fern going off with Henry Fussy to ride rides and fall into serious like. Yes, that's right. I consider county fairs to be a place of innocent romance.

I had several great blogs lined up for today about all the fun at the fair. Our local Adams County Fair is going on, and we were going. First up, we were going to the bull riding, which was last Friday night. Oh, I was ready. I got my hat out, broke out the boots, and had the camera in my hip pocket for easy access so that I could get some great shots of bulls--and bull riders. After sick kids and fleas, were a few cowboys too much to ask?

Yes. It rained for several hours, starting in the afternoon and going well into the evening. True, bull riding is just about the most dangerous sport out there--but bull riding in knee-deep mud? Too dangerous. After all, the bulls could get hurt, and no one wants that.

Okay, so the cowboys were a bust. No worries, though, faithful blog reader(s). I had another blog lined up for you. The demolition derby was Wednesday night. So demolition derbies are just not as fun as bull riding. No cowboys are involved, after all. But it's still a testosterone-ladened event, full of men grunting in a deep, manly voices as the best cars Detroit had to offer in 1972 crash into each other in slo-mo. Mud? Ha! Demolition derbies laugh in the face of mud! Ha! HaHa! It was going to be 97 degrees? No problem--that's what lemon shake-ups are for! I was so ready for a little fun that I was willing to sweat in public. Bring on the destruction!!

Or not. You know what's almost as much fun as a demolition derby? Strep throat. Yes. With 103 degree fevers. Really. You know your child is sick when he doesn't want to spend his sick day watching movies. "Turn it off," he mumbled--and then stared into space for an hour. That's when I called the doctor's office.

And, of course, you know what the perfect complement to strep throat is--fleas. I feel like a chimpanzee right now, spending my day picking fleas off of my poor puppies. Jake's fur is so short that I can see the little suckers running up and down his back. We had to get a comb for Gater, which turned up way more parasites than I wanted in my entire house, much less on one dog. Oh, and Jake threw up again.

So I'm trapped in my own personal Groundhog Day from Hell, with a sick child; sick, flea-ridden dogs; and oppressive weather.

But lo! Hope is on the horizon, in the form of my wonderful in-laws. Assuming The Kid can keep those internal body temperatures at a nice and regulated 98 degrees, he's going to spend five fun-filled days with Grandma and Grandpa. While he's gone, we're going to flea-bomb the entire house. The Kid is mildly concerned that we're going to blow the house up, but we promised him it'd still be here when he got back.

So, please, cross your fingers for me. Or get Bill Murray on the phone.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Golden Rose

I got an email from my agent the other day, saying, "Feel like entering a contest?"

When your agent suggests entering a contest, it's probably a pretty good idea to break out the ol' credit card.

So I've entered The Indian Princess into the Contemporary Series category of the Golden Rose contest, brought to you by the Rose City Romance Writers chapter of the RWA, based in Portland, Orgeon. The final judge for that category is Susan Litman, an editor at Harlequin.

If I win, in addition to having a Harlequin editor reading the first 50 pages of my book, I'll also get a "one-of-a-kind handcrafted rose pendant necklace" and a free membership to the Rose City chapter. When I told my husband I was entering, he said, "Do you get money?" I told him about the necklace, and I actually think he liked that better.

I haven't entered a contest in almost two years. The last contest I did enter was the Chicago-North RWA's Fire and Ice, where I took second place for Warrior, Lawyer--a book that died on the shelf shortly thereafter because no one actually liked it. This time, everyone--including my agent--likes The Indian Princess (now with a new and improved ending!).

In a few months, I'll be entering the Big One, the Golden Heart. The Golden Heart is the nationwide contest for unpublished romance authors. I skipped it last year, and pretty much spent the rest of the year kicking myself, especially since they just handed out the awards last Saturday.

The contest deadline for the Golden Rose is August 7th, if you're interested, with finalists announced on October 11th and winners announced on December 6th.

Wish me luck!