Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cupcakes and Commanauts. And a PRESENT for ME!

Something is afoot. Though I know not what. My page views have been putt-putt-putting along and then today? Out of the park! What did I do to make people stop by? Did I fart in public and someone posted it on YouTube? Not possible ... I rarely go out in public. The light -- it burns us! Nor do I fart. (Okay, sometimes I fart. But I never take the fall.) So ... not sure what's happening, but THANK YOU for stopping by. Now I should say something entertaining.

This is not original. Stolen from Facebook. But it's damn funny. And if you're a writer, there is no greater release than killing someone or something, as long as you hug your cat or eat an Oreo after you're done. It's what you do after the fact that maintains the distinction between fantasy and fiction. (At least that's what my therapist said.)

So ... busy week. Oldest daughter graduated from high school last weekend; the two Young Lads had a packed calendar that included a teddy bear picnic, a year-end-5th-graders-are-bouncing-this-baby-school leaving party (for which I totally made cupcakes AND frosted the little bastards -- Mother of the Year over here -- if you knew how rarely I cook anything, you'd understand what a selfless feat this was), and a bout of a stomach bug on Friday night. We decided that our long week of heavy lifting should be duly rewarded with a dessert of film, so at a rather late hour, we ordered up Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows -- which was a fun romp except for the fact that Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) was not in it and that made me So Sad -- when the vomit Olympics commenced. Forever more, Holmes will have "bleeeeeeeeeeahhhhh *splash* Mommmmmmy!" as part of its soundtrack, embedded in my mind for all eternity. (That, by the way, is the sound of someone vomiting, the subsequent splash into the toilet, and the tearful cry for me. Being the mom is AWESOME.)

Mmmmm, cupcakes. 
AND -- speaking of awesome, undying gratitude for Most Deliriously Fantastic Present of the Week goes to Heidi at The Readiacs. THIS is what she sent me:

He's my hero. Dude can make words, I'm telling you ...
The REASON this is so cool -- Heidi is a blogger who is always doing something cool and related to either books or movies. She went to Book Expo America '12 and saw that Green was signing, so she waited in line and scored THIS PRIZE for me. Not only is she endlessly thoughtful and shiny, but she has great taste in friends. *wink* (Last week her exploits took her to LA to watch edits of Breaking Dawn Pt. 2. As they were happening. She stayed in Hollywood and dined with vampires. I'm telling you -- she gets to do the funnest most fun stuff!)

So this signed book -- it goes without saying that I am a HUGE John Green fan. If you haven't read his work, time's a'wastin'. He's a masterful fellow, a genius with dialogue, super smart (so much so that some folks call him pretentious, but I say, if you have a brain that big and wrinkly, use it!), and he writes characters with an unrivaled depth. THIS book, The Fault In Our Stars, will likely make you cry, so beware. It's brilliant. Rumor has it, it's in development for a film (gossip here) as Fox 2000 snatched up the rights months ago, although I wasn't able to find anything on IMDB Pro. Who knows what's happening with it. It should at least have an in-development listing, but these Hollywood types ... SO fickle. REGARDLESS, get thee to a bookery. You can thank me later.

In addition to working like the good little bee I am -- two manuscripts finished, two more on the table -- I did this:

Actually, I decided to try out the freebie software to see if I could put together a proper Website for my editing stuff (mostly because I'm cheap and super tired of paying for shit that doesn't live up to its promises. iWeb? Lookin' at you, dude ...). Pretty easy to use, especially if you're not familiar with coding and all that nerd speak that developers throw around. (I swear they do it to make me feel like a jackass.) Then I asked my Facebook lovelies for help with a title, and my girl Adrienne Crezo, a fantabulous writer of All Things Brilliant (she writes for friggin' Mental Floss, yo!), gave me the title. It was way catchier than my lame attempts at clever irreverence. Once the name was settled upon, I employed Husband the Artiste to draw me a "commanaut" with his spaceship, and then Photoshop and I had a pissing match for a few hours until I got what I wanted. I think it's cute. Whatever. It'll get the job done. And it was way more fun than pacing the floor or rearranging the sock drawers, two pastimes pursued when I inevitably get stuck on yet another unfinished scene and I fall, head first, onto the keyboard and dream of unicorns and Mark Strong. Often, Mark Strong on the unicorn. Not a bad way to pass the time. He's pretty. *pets the Mark Strong*

Oh, and I finished this:

Good book. Jordan is a talented scribe. Heady stuff, though -- this isn't light, feel-good reading. It addresses a lot of deep-seated issues about identity and a person's place within society, the danger of extreme fundamentalism within an otherwise civilized society, and posits a very clever way to deal with criminals, one I think the government should look into. LOL ... Overall, fascinating concept, terrifying reality. Nathaniel Hawthorne would be proud of Jordan's homage to his work.

THIS WEEK, I also received an awesome "fan" message from a talented Oahu artist named Jamie Lynne Swim -- she totally said so much nice stuff. About me. I KNOW, right? Poor deluded child. Anyway, seeing that she has such terrific taste in books and writers, you guys should totally go check out her art: And then go like her on Facebook. Art is GOOD! And I love her stuff!

Beyond that: no news that I can share yet. Will be heading into the revision cave in about four weeks. In the meantime, I'm ever on the lookout for things we can make fun of. OH, and starting daring new projects that likely will never be finished. I'm nothing if not consistent with my inconsistency.

The children are out of school in three-point-five days. You GUYS -- SEND HELP.

Xs and Os ...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Prom -- or grad -- or commencement -- GAH!

How was your weekend?

This was what mine looked like (even though it's not yet over -- I cannot post a photo of what today looks like because there might be small children in the room, and I'm not into scaring small children. "Mommy! Who IS that scary monster? Make it stop! MAKE IT STOP!"). We're tired around these parts. For good reason.

THIS ... is my daughter. Not at all a scary monster.

Yes. She's gorgeous. Thank you.

Yesterday was prom. Or grad. See, in Canada, they do it differently than in the U.S. Grad = prom. Commencement = grad. Ergo, I am totally confused. 

They don't call it prom here. Well, some folks do, but I am handily corrected every time I use the wrong word. (The youngsters tend to use "prom"; their parents say, "It's grad!" And those parents are not shy about correcting my misnomer. SHEESH! The pressure! When I moved to Canada, I thought I spoke the language. I was so wrong. "Toque" (sounds like tewk) = "winter hat." "Gaunch" = "men's underwear." "Grade 1" = "first grade." They don't call them "freshman/sophomore/junior/senior"; high school students are called "grade 9s, grade 10s, grade 11s, grade 12s." They know I'm a Yankee the minute I open my mouth, and no it's not because I tend to be louder and more aggressive than everyone else. It's not my fault that some people think and speak slower than I do. Maybe they should start the day with more sugar, and then they'd be able to keep UP.)

So, now that we're all speaking Canadian, this weekend was grad, with the after-grad party (that was supposed to be dry but, uh, yeah, sure no one showed up drunk), and next weekend is commencement. That's where the cap and gowns come in. It's official graduation, or commencement, even though the Wee Lassie has to go back to school for two exams the week following commencement. That's lame. When they give you the diploma, you should be done. Growed up. Movin' on. Sayonara, suckas. 

Now time for more photos, because it was just that much fun:

The dress.

The corsage. Pretty orchids.

The mommy and the baby. Please excuse my lion hair. I was running around like a crazy person,
setting up photography equipment, trying to capture Every Single Moment. And it was muggy. Thus, frizz.

This is the question we get a lot. "What grade are you in, sweetheart?" People always bend over when they ask her this question, as though bending over will make sure she can hear them. 

My kid is short, not deaf. And if she were deaf, she can't read your lips because you have onion breath. (Her sense of smell would be heightened by the loss of hearing. They say that happens -- other senses improve to compensate for the lack. Thus, she can smell that you had onions for lunch. Here, have a breath mint.)

The question she hates even more than that? "Would you like a kids' menu?" Or how about "Would you like some crayons to keep you busy before dinner comes?" I love that question the most, especially when it's asked by hostesses younger than Yaunna. Uh-huh. I giggle. Then Yaunna punches me. She's mightier than she looks. 

Oh, and when she wears eye makeup? That's awesome. You should SEE some of the looks I get from Judgey McJudgersons who look at her and then look at me, like I'm some shit mother because my young/tween-aged daughter is wearing eye makeup. SHE'S ALMOST NINETEEN. GET OVER YOURSELVES. And before you get all nasty with your condescension, look at your own 15-year-old who is posting photos on Facebook of her chubbily-wubbily boobs smooshed against the Webcam with her duck lips and wine cooler she stole from your fridge because you took the blue-smoke-wheezing Camaro out for a joyride and ended up at the casino to play the one-armed bandits. Yeah. JUDGEY. (And seriously? Wine coolers? Is this 1987?)

My daughter has a growth condition (I have her permission to chat about this) called Turner syndrome. As such, she's tiny -- 4'8-1/2" is where she's at now, and that's where she'll stay. THAT is why we call her the House Elf, the Gnome, Mini-Honey, Mighty Mouse. It's not because we're being mean. It's because she's little, and she owns it. Rarely do you find a personality so big in a package so small. (Oh, and she blogs about all things entertainment.)

What does this mean? It means that I am NEUROTIC about her going anywhere alone. If I could afford to hire a full-time bodyguard/chauffeur, I so would. If I could convince her older Army brother to move to BC with his crazy muscles and mean streak and killer skills with hand-to-hand combat and weaponry, just so he could be her shadow, I would. Because the world is a mean place. And she's very little. Even though she's the oldest in her HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATING CLASS. In four months, she'll be old enough to walk into any Canadian bar and order a drink (drinking age here is 19). With alcohol. Yeah, that's going to be fun to watch. We're probably going to have to take her birth certificate and passport with us.

I'll take pictures of the waitress's face.

So, Yaunna, cheers to you, from me and all my bloggity-blogging friends, and YES, on June 16th, you are officially a grown-up; yes, you have to get a job; yes, you have to go to college; and yes, we promise to be there for you every step of the way. Unless you buy a Camaro and start drinking wine coolers and going to the casino and shoving your boobs into the Webcam. Then you're on your own.

Senior, er, grad photos. Fuzzy as it's a picture of a picture. To buy this CD of images? $300. Not gonna happen.

More photos next week. At grad. I mean, commencement. WHATEVER.

Xs and Os ...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

On MEMORY Glands and How I Got an Agent

So we start today's edition with a little story. If you don't want a story, scan down to the bold title BOOK NEWS, OR HOW I GOT AN AGENT.

As you may or may not be aware, depending on how invested you are in this blog and if we're friends in real life or on Facebook (which is real life to me, full of coworkers and water coolers and all those awesome pictures of cats), I have kids. And with kids comes all those inevitable questions because kids are curious little buggers. They like to know stuff, some more than others. Some are quiet observers, content to learn handy facts by watching and soaking it all in like a little sponge of imminent genius, while others want to know everything. Right. Now.

That would be my youngest kid. Kendon. Oh, the questions!

Cute kid, no?
As happens in a busy household with too few square feet to accommodate all the stuff and people, a then-3-year-old Kendi walked in on his dad in the bathroom. "Oh, my God, you have a furry wiener!" That day, Kendon learned about pubic hair. Of course, this was the ignition for a spate of uproarious laughter that spread like wildfire through the house, and soon his then-6-year-old brother was in on the game. "Dad has a furry wiener! Dad has a furry wiener!" Like good, mature, reasonable parents should do, we explained, "Yes, boys, one day you too will have furry wieners." No, I did not launch into a mini-lecture in which I used all the scientifically approved nomenclature because saying penis out loud still makes me giggle. Although I am becoming less sensitized as my sons grow older and they use penis like another person might say hello. Boys like their junk. They like to talk about their junk. I am dreading the day where I will be changing their sheets and find stiffened wads of Kleenex haphazardly shoved between the bedspread and the wall, because apparently that is what I am to expect from teenage boys, if the friends of mine who are mothers to now-adult boys are correct. They're warning me. I'm scared. La-la-la-la, I can't hear you! Gahhhhhh!

Bodily functions aside, I was changing yesterday and Kendon burst into my room when I was, uh, au naturel. This is how it went down:

Me: "Kendi, go out before you see my furry wiener!"
K: "Mom, you don't have a furry wiener. You have intestines, otherwise known as a vagina."
Me: [laughing, gulping for air, cannot speak] "Um, no. Not the same thing."
K: "And I can see your boobies."
Me: [seeing an opportunity to educate as I quickly cover up and try to scramble into a bra because we have to be at school in, like, eight minutes] "Kendi, these are also called mammary glands. All mammals have them. They're meant to feed babies. Like when you were a baby."
K: "They're called MEMORY glands? Does that mean you store all your memories there?" [runs out of room] "Brennan! Brennan! Mom keeps all her memories in her boobs!"

Yeah. That's how the morning went. SEE why I don't use big-girl words? SEE what happens when I try to be clever and mature and sound intelligent? Thank you very much!

Mommy, where did I come from?
Well, first there's a mommy duck and a daddy duck ...



Book news first: For those of you who want to know what's happening with Book 2, I posted a note on FB yesterday that explains it all. To recap:

Hey, lovelies! Thank you to my friends who've e-mailed and waited SO patiently for me to give you updates about Book 2. A few weeks ago on That Magical Day, I posted a comment about my exciting news, but I wanted to post here again in case some folks missed it. I am now working with an agent, and there are some fantastic developments happening to both SLEIGHT (there's a NEW VERSION!) and the second book, which has been given a name that I can't tell you yet. I know that's sort of good and yucky news all at once, but I think you'll like what's happening. I can’t wait to share more exciting news with you soon, so bear with me! ♥

Which leads me to the next segment, How I Got an Agent. That Magical Day, for me, was May 14. But that date in itself is totally misleading. Here's why, and some of this will be a rehash of events from a long-ago post about why I decided to self-publish, but whatever:

On Easter Sunday 2010--yes, 2010--I started querying Sleight, or a version of what would become Sleight. The very first agent I queried, one Daniel Lazar at Writers House--my DREAM agent--came back within a few hours and asked for a full. Suzie Townsend (then still at FinePrint, now at Nancy Coffey) came back either that night or the next morning, also asking for a full. I WAS SO EXCITED.

By Monday of the following week (so, eight days later), I had two very polite rejections, about four million more to go. (Daniel's actually came in on the prior Friday, five days after sending him the full. He is amazingly expeditious, always courteous, and consummately professional.)

So I rewrote the book, tweaked the areas that I was hearing feedback about, and sent it to Daniel again in April, because he said I could. Again, he said thanks but not quite right.

I rewrote again, found some critique partners and beta readers, made more changes.

In September, I sent the book to Random House Canada because a former mentor of mine is the director of publishing, and I was feeling very brave so I asked her if she would look at it.

Three months later, on/around December 12, 2010, she sent me the sweetest rejection anyone could ask for. Devastated, I hid under my blankets for about a week and swore I would never, ever write anything again.

When that Eeyore state wore off, I started considering publishing it myself, which I did, and you can find much about that grand adventure by scouring earlier posts, if you should care to do so.

SO -- here's the meat: Last summer, I just wasn't ready to let go of The Dream of being an agented writer. I should note: This is NOT A COMMENTARY on traditional vs. self-publishing. This is my own personal thing, based on what was right for me. I tried self-publishing and found it extremely challenging. I am not a marketer, not a natural-born salesperson. Spending all that time on Facebook and Twitter was wearing me out, and absolutely no writing was happening. Besides, no one wants to hear 45 tweets a day about your book. They just don't. Some writers are naturals when it comes to establishing a brand and self-promotion. I am NOT one of those people, which sucks for me. I still have a lot to learn.

As such, I e-mailed Dan Lazar again, and said, Hey, look, I did this myself, lots of good reviews, folks are very positive, steady sales over the first three months of release, blah blah blah, and he sent me a response that would change everything: 

"Raise the bar, Jenn."

He referred me to a few freelance editors. I picked the one he said he "adored" and a killer friendship was born. We started rewriting on August 1, and by rewriting, I mean 

I started with a blank page and rewrote the entire book from scratch. 

Yes. It pretty much looked like this.

I had a "finished" draft by my kids' last day of school in December. Revisions continued into 2012, January through May, with editorial input from Dan and his incredible assistant and my darling editor. We fixed and tweaked and completely reworked the story to the point where there was nothing more we could do and we felt we had the shiniest, most beautiful draft we could imagine. In short, I've worked my ass off.

And THAT was the day when Dan sent me the e-mail that said, "Let's make this official."

I hyperventilated, bouncing like a freak in my chair. My sons thought I was going into cardiac arrest. I might have but instead I needed to get them to school. I didn't have time for a heart attack, only to pull my hair into a sloppy ponytail and race to the school turnaround so the boys wouldn't be late. (Kendon turns into that creature pictured above when he's late. Single-handedly, the child cured me of my lifelong chronic tardiness. My former bosses would be so pleased!)

Then the folly started. Uh, who knew that the phone line in my house was dead? NOT ME. We don't use the house phone (although we still pay for it because we're stupid like that), but no one knew that the line is actually NOT FUNCTIONING until I had this Very Important Document I needed to fax to New York City. OMIGOD! After a serious freak-out that involved sending multiple texts to my husband, each with increasing evidence that I was going to lose my mind, and considering all my local friends who might have functioning fax machines and/or phone lines in their homes, I connected my daughter's laptop to my printer because -- duh, my Mac and my printer hate each other so forget about scanning anything -- I scanned the document and sent it off. PHEW! Crisis averted!

The next step? Likely more revisions, and then submission. And that, my friends, will be a whole new story all unto itself. Stay tuned.

This. Because it's pretty. Thanks,
Catherine Dumont, for coffee.

If tenacity is not part of your genetic makeup, it's time to rethink being a writer.

Of course, that doesn't mean that you should be the "I won't take no for an answer" bunghole who doesn't get it when agents and editors and readers are telling you that your book sucks. If it sucks, FIX IT. Don't keep beating a dead horse. Don't become so enamored with your own ego that you are unwilling to take the advice of professionals in the industry, or more importantly, FROM READERS. If your collection of 1- and 2-star reviews on Goodreads and Amazon outnumbers the 3-, 4-, and 5-stars, you might want to rethink things a tiny bit. Just because your mom liked your book doesn't mean the rest of the world will. Your mom LOVES you. She's going to see you through her fuzzy Mom glasses. Truth. (I have several pairs.)

There's a lot of stuff floating around the Web about people who hate agents, people who hate the Big Six, people who hate self-publishers, authors attacking reviewers, reviewers attacking authors, ALL THAT JAZZ. It doesn't matter. None of that shit matters. Tune it out. 

Do what feels best for you, regardless of what the masses are screaming about.

What DOES matter is your book, your story, how you want the world to perceive you as a writer and as a human being. Write a good book. Know when your good book needs work so it can become a great book. Be nice. Don't be douchey to other writers or to the bloggers and reviewers, WHO YOU NEED LIKE YOU NEED AIR. (Remember: lose the ego. The world doesn't hate you.)

Will I self-publish again? Absolutely. Many successful writers have their feet in both pools. I don't need to provide you with a list because you likely already know who they are. It's a business model that is very attractive, especially if you're a fast writer with lots of material. While I am not one of those souls (*sighs with envy*) for a variety of reasons, as evidenced by the fact that it has taken four years of my life to birth Sleight, it does work for a lot of folks. A lot of writers are making great livings off of their self- or independently published work. Don't knock it till you try it.

But Jenn, we LIKED the first book. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO US? What about the sequel?

Because I wanted more, for you and for the story and for me as a writer. When initial feedback started to flow in, I felt I could do better. Did I publish prematurely? No. I published when I felt I had a strong book. Did publishing that version lead me to an amazing opportunity? YES. For me, it was a major help to work with someone with the credentials and the experience to show me what was wrong, and where I could do better. I will forever be indebted to Daniel and my editor for showing me the err of my ways, and proud of myself for losing the ego and recognizing that I COULD DO BETTER. Had I met my editor before March 2011, I would've published a completely different book. Alas, that's not how things worked out. 

As for Book 2the sequel has been renamed, but it's a seeeeeekret. (I have several of those! OMIGOD! KILLING ME!) I can't tell you yet. But I will. PROMISE.

For those of you worried about how different Sleight 2.0 will be, don't. Worry, that is. Yes, there are changes. It's a whole new book. Some folks who died in the original version don't die in this one, and vice versa. The circus plays a much bigger role (NO SCARY CLOWNS, I PROMISE!), and all the usual suspects are still very much present: Gemma and Henry and LUCIAN (mmm-mmm-good) and Ash and Junie and Summer and Gertrude and Jiminy and Othello and Ted and Marlene and Irwin. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

When will we get to see it?

I'm gonna have to get back to you on that. In the meantime, eat an Oreo. Oreos make everything better.

Brought to you courtesy of my lovelies, Angeline and Heather.

Until next time ...

Xs and Os