Sunday, April 30, 2006

Celebrity New Items

I don't care if Katie Holmes had a silent birth or not. I don't care who dropped Britney Spears' son on his head (the child would obviously have a better shot at living a normal life if he was being raised by chimps regardless of whether Brit or K-Fed was there when it happened, so whatever). I don't care what continent Brangelina's baby is born on or what he or she looks like. And I don't really care about that whole Charlie Sheen/Denise Richards/Richie Sambora/Heather
Locklear mess going on. I really don't.

But I am DYING to know why Keith Richards was in a palm tree, out of which he fell and got a concussion. Seriously. They can't keep that kind of info from us indefinitely, can they? I mean it -- the public has a right to know. Color me waiting with bated breath (baited breath? Whatever.) Inquiring minds want to know!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Life Gets In The Way

I am constantly writing blog posts in my head as I exercise, drive places, dry my hair or do any of the 487 other things that take up my time besides being at the computer. You know when I don't think much about writing in my blog? When I'm actually sitting at my computer, reading email or checking my list of sites I look at every day, which gets a little longer all the time, and I let myself believe that I must go through the whole thing before I do anything actually productive online. Answering email usually comes first, though that's always piling up as well, and then it's usually time to go to the gym, pick up the kids, help with homework, take a shower, something -- and then I don't write in my blog, or do any of the other things I need to do, which lately include:

- Querying the two agents out of my first list of ten who don't accept email queries
- Looking at the email I got a year ago from the woman who ran the used book sale at our upcoming school event, which is now my responsibility, and making sure I'm doing everything I need to do to get the word out that we are collecting used books, not to mention contacting the list of volunteers I'm going to need to help me actually run the thing, which is now less than 3 weeks away
- Working on the novel I started almost two years ago, which is good and which I think about and which I really really really want to work on but somehow never make the time to actually
do so

But let's face it: life has gotten complicated. Just this past week, for instance -- Enthusio is back in school, but he's been home every morning till 10:15 or so because I excused him from STAR testing because one of the practice tests freaked him out, and his teacher and the principal and I all agreed that it wasn't worth jeopardizing an already fragile situation to have him take it. It doesn't seem like that big a deal to just have him with me for that long -- we get Mermaid off to school, go to the gym, get some coffee, and then I drop him at school either before or after I go home to shower -- but you know, somehow taking a 7-year-old places makes it take just a little longer to get everywhere. So there's that. There are only two more days of testing, thankfully, and then that will be over.

Also, my grandmother has moved to a nursing home for the time being, and so going to see her one day a week is now top priority. I have really enjoyed both my visits to her so far, and I'm really happy to be able to go spend time with her. Also top priority is having lunch with Reasonable Man once a week, coffee with Sue, and anything else social. So between obligations (school stuff, getting kids from one place to another and getting their homework done) and spending time with the important people in my life, time gets to a premium. Here's how my week looked:

Monday - gym, quick coffee, quick shower, drop Enthusio off at school, lunch and shopping with Sue and her sister, pick up kids from school, homework
Tuesday - gym, quick coffee, quick shower, drop Enthusio off at school, Target, lunch with Reasonable Man, Trader Joe's, go home to put away groceries, pick up kids, drop Enthusio at Campfire meeting, get Mermaid a haircut, drop her at home, go hang out for the remainder of Campfire meeting, go home and help Mermaid with homework
Wednesday: appointment with personal trainer, drop Enthusio off at school, run errands, come back to school to work in classroom only to discover they don't need me, go home, shower, clean up kitchen/house, kids get home at 1:30, homework, take Enthusio to social skills group and do homework with Mermaid while he's there, go home
Thursday: gym, coffee, take Enthusio to school, drive to Walnut Creek, stop at store to pick up lunch, spend an hour having lunch and chatting with Grandma, drive back to Davis, pick up Enthusio from school and take him to therapy, read therapist's parenting book while I'm waiting for him, go home, do homework with Mermaid, Reasonable Man gets home and we go out for dinner where we have terrible service so we're there over and hour, go to my friend's office opening for an hour and get home after 8 pm
Friday: skip going to the gym, do homework w/ Enthusio, drop him off at school, go grocery shopping, make pasta dish for gathering I'm going to that night and cookies for girl scout meeting after school, clean house, shower, run errands, pick up Enthusio from school, get snack ready for girl scout meeting, host girl scout meeting from 3:15-5:30, take 5 minutes for minor grooming, greet sitter, and go to friend's house for dinner

I'm not complaining. There was lots of fun stuff packed into the schedule this week, and even my "stressful" stuff is not exactly the stuff of which nightmares are made. And not all my weeks look like this, but the school-related activities sort of naturally ratchet up this time of year, so at this point I'm just looking forward to getting it all done and surviving till the end of the school year. Maybe I'll blog more then!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Enthusio Update

He went back to school yesterday, and had great day, according to both he himself and his teacher. I'm having her call me to let me know how it goes each day this week. He did melt down a couple of times yesterday afternoon, and I didn't have high hopes of him having another great day at school today, just because of how things started out. First, he argued with me and then cried because I made him turn off the TV and take a shower before school this morning. Then he acted really put out about a couple of other things before I took them to school. It's never a good thing when we have tears 3 times before he even goes to school!

On the other hand -- I'm beginning to think things are not as bad as we thought with him. Reasonable Man, Enthusio's therapist and I have all talked about his extreme sense of injustice, and his therapist hypothesized that this is because he has developed an expectation that things will never go his way due to low self esteem. But this past week, after hearing from a good friend that her 7-year-old daughter is also going through a major "life is so unfair" phase and that she read in a book about 7-year-olds that this is a common thing for them to go through, I've been asking around a bit, and guess what? Sounds like a lot of them go through this. I know that the constant falling apart and the complete inability to deal with any frustration whatsoever is still not a normal or healthy thing for him, but it's awfully good to hear his belief that everyone else in the world gets to do things he doesn't get to do, etc, etc, is probably a phase and not a sign that his sense of self worth is a lost cause.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Rain, Rain, Rain

I'd love to know the number of Californians who have written whiny posts about the rain in their blogs over the past few weeks. In case you haven't heard -- we've had an absolutely unreal amount of rain over the past two months or so, and now here it is mid-April, and we're still waiting for spring. Poor us, huh? Those of you who live in parts of the country where rain is a regular part of the summer, sub-zero temperatures are regular part of the winter, and wearing shorts and sandals for most of October every year must be really dripping with sympathy for us, huh?

I don't usually mind the rain too much, but I would have appreciated this particular patch of wet weather not coinciding with my first (and hopefully only) experience of "homeschooling" immediately followed by spring break. It was very inconvenient to have to try to remember which days it was raining and therefore Enthusio couldn't have ridden his bike for at least 20 minutes in order to count it as PE as I fudge on his Independent Study Log, which I have to turn in next week. There was also that whole issue of being trapped in the house a lot. Not great. I could have been better about things, God knows -- there are plenty of museums and such around here I could have taken him to. Unfortunately, rainy weather just makes me want to hold up in the house and lie on the couch. It does not inspire me to take my son out and enlighten him in a cultural way.

All the rain reminded me of this story I read in my 5th or 6th grade reader. It was about a human colony on Venus, where it rained all the time except for one hour every 7 years, and there was this girl at school who everyone hated because she'd lived on earth and was probably moving back to earth eventually, so they were jealous that she could remember what the sun was like. On the day the rain was supposed to stop, there's some kind of altercation and her classmates lock her in a closet, and they end up forgetting about her while the sun comes out and she misses the whole thing. I remembered the basic plot points of the story and also the poem that the girl wrote: "I think the sun is a flower/ that blooms for just one hour" -- so I Googled it and found the story online. It turns out that it's called All Summer In a Day
and it was written by Ray Bradbury. I was kind of surprised at how much of it I remembered and that it would stick with me for so long -- I had also remembered that the girl's name was Margot, and I guess that I identified with her -- she was sensitive, and poem indicated that she was a good writer. Reading it again after all these years, I was particularly struck by the bullying aspect of it, since that's a topic that's been on my mind a lot lately.

Thursday was such a fake-out, because not only did it not rain -- it was 75 or 80 degrees out, and the sun was shining and it was just the kind of gorgeous spring day we should be having regularly. And we all knew that it was supposed to turn around and rain again the next day, so it felt particularly cruel, but we took advantage of it and spent the afternoon at the park. Yesterday actually was fairly dry -- the skies were gray, and the rain came down a few times, but for the most part it was pretty nice out. We spent the morning in our friends' backyard, and when it started sprinkling, the kids just kept jumping on the trampoline and the moms just kept sitting there on the porch chatting. Today is a little colder, a little grayer, but it's still not actually raining, and I am just hoping it stays fairly dry out so we can enjoy the Easter egg hunt at the park our friends are having at noon. Maybe we're adapting to this rain thing -- I guess that's what you do. The good news is, starting Monday, the forecast is for sun. Hopefully it's the beginning of something and not just another sample of what we've been missing so far this April.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Moving Right Along

Well, I did it. I just sent out my first agent query! You know, in the past, this process must have been SUCH a pain in the ass. If I was only using the book of agent listings I've had sitting on my shelf for a while, I would have much less idea about each of the agents I'm querying, but compliments of the internet, I've been able to find out more info about most of them. A few of them actually have blogs :-) and a lot of them accept queries via email, so that's pretty cool. Anyway, I have a list of 10 agents who sound good, and I've written my query letter and fiddled with it and I'm hoping it's good. I guess we'll find out when these agents start replying, either saying no thank you or asking to see sample chapters of my work.

In addition, I've put my work a little more out there for feedback this past week. I sent all three novels to my mom, asked a girl who babysits for us to read them (I thought it might be nice to get some feedback from an actual young adult) and I've now heard some positive things about the third, most recently-written novel The Princess of Whatever from two of the people I gave it to. Sure, I'm married to one of them, but he is usually willing to be fairly honest in his assessment of my work, and I don't think he would have led with "I think this is best thing you've ever written" if he iffy about it. He reads a lot and knows all my work, and so this is high praise in my book. Good feedback on this particular novel feels really good since it was, in some ways, SO difficult to write. Reasonable Man says that I got the tone right, which is good to hear.

Getting back to passing the manuscripts on to my mom. She had to ask me for them, and I've been thinking about why that would be. I am tremendously proud of them, and she always wants to read my stuff, so why wouldn't I be passing them along to her as I've written them? Well, there is the fact that she's my mom, and my novels are full of teenagers doing things that parents don't want their teenagers doing, and maybe there is still a little of that whole "she's my mom and I don't want her thinking I do that stuff," which is obviously pretty silly, considering I'm 35 years old and in less than two years, I will be the mother of a teenager myself.

But there's a more general issue as well, and here it is: if a grown-up asks me if they can read some of my writing, I usually want to give them this other novel I wrote called Claim to Fame. It's about people in their early 20s, but at least the target audience is adults. That's great, but the fact is, what I want to do long-term is write for teens. I'm not embarrassed to tell people that, but it would seem I'm a bit squeamish about showing people my work in that area, and if the dream I'm currently (and finally actively) pursuing comes true, these things are going to be out in the world where anyone, not just the people I pick and choose, can read them. So I'm thinking it may be time to try and develop -- hm, a thicker skin is not the right term -- let's say a little more confidence about what I do. I write books for young adults -- they aren't genre romances, but they do focus on romantic relationships, and my target audience is teen-age girls. And not that I've gone around apologizing for them, but I do think I've found myself trying to explain what the heck I'm doing writing for and about teenagers, and I am hereby officially done with that. So there.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

I haven't read many YA novels in a while, so I had forgotten about how the tone in them is different than the tone in a novel written for adults. It's hard to put your finger on what it is exactly, but the closest I can come to explaining it is to say, remember that thing you used to hear from your English teachers about how you should show, don't tell? Well, there's a lot of that kind of telling that goes on in YA novels, particularly if they are written in the first person. YA protagonists are always telling you how they feel and explaining crap to you. The funny thing is, this is something I was really trying to cut down on in my work because it seemed like a weakness to me, and I still don't want tons of it there, but I think what's there can still work because of the audience for whom I'm writing (I almost said "market" instead of "audience" there -- perhaps I am beginning to think of this in business terms after all!) I don't ever want to talk down to my readers, but then again, teens are not going to be analyzing the subtext...

From My Imaginary Mailbag

Tracie, I noticed some interesting titles on your list of the books you've read this year: Topping From Below, and All's Fair in Love, War & High School. The first one sounds dirty, and the second one sounds like something girls in 6th grade would love. Weren't you an English major in college? What gives?
- Curious

Curious - I'm glad you asked this question. Yes, I do have a degree in English, and you're right, these titles are kind of outside the norm for even my eclectic reading habits. But I have good reasons for having read these titles, and here they are.

Topping From Below sounds dirty because it is -- the novel is about kinky sex. I'm not a prude but I don't usually read kinky sex books. I read this one because a friend of mine gave it to me -- she knew the author and actually appears as a very minor character in the book (the main character runs into her at the grocery store), which is set in the part of Davis where we live. It wasn't a very good book, but I enjoyed all the references to streets and businesses in Davis that I know. I could have done without all the stuff about without all the stuff about dripping candle wax and nipple clamps though.

In case you're curious, the term "topping from below" is part of the domination/submissive lexicon, and refers to the sub trying to control what's going on. It is not considered a good thing in terms of dom/sub relations, as in "oh, you don't want to get involved with that guy -- he tries to top from below." And before you ask, I didn't know that before I read the book.

All's Fair in Love, War and High School is one of the books I'm reading in the name of market research. I'm looking at different young adult books that deal with relationships to see what's out there and how my own work compares. So far I haven't been overly impressed with what I've read, which makes me think I have a pretty good shot at this whole thing. All's Fair actually was kind of a cute book -- it didn't strive to be anything more than it is -- Chicklet-Lit? -- and it had some pretty funny parts, so I enjoyed reading it. The other one I've read so far, Hard Love, tried for more serious issues, and didn't fair so well in my eyes.

Next up: another YA title (RX, about a high school brain/drug dealer), and a reread of an old favorite (Tim, by Colleen McCullough, my choice for book club this month).

Goodbye and Good Riddance...

... to the month of March 2006.

Everyone in our house was sick at least once, even Mermaid, who has the immune system of a small horse. I went to the ER twice. Enthusio had to take a break from school and now he's home being taught by his less-than-qualified, less-than-patient mother. I went without my meds for three days and discovered what a bitch it will be to stop taking this particular medication at some point in the future. Reasonable Man set a record for hours billed in a month at his current firm, working on project he does not find to be the least bit enjoyable. Yesterda, my meeting at the school to discuss Enthusio's issues was transformed by my least favorite bureaucrat into a debate about whether Enthusio should repeat 2nd grade next year -- a decision that had already been made. And the icing on the cake -- my grandmother ended up in the hospital Thursday night with congestive heart failure, which has been frequent problem for her in the last few years. We visited her in the hospital yesterday, and thankfully, she is doing well and will hopefully be released today. Unfortunately, her hospitalization caused my parents to have to cancel a fun weekend at a cabin in the mountains that we had all been looking forward to. I guess I'm not too surprised -- that's just the way things have been going for us lately.

In addition to all of that, this has been the wettest March in about a zillion years, and everyone around here is SICK of the rain. I don't know how people in the Northwest put up with it.

Anyway, here's to a better April....