Saturday, November 29, 2008

Found Bird!

On Friday morning, my daughter put on her roller-blades and I borrowed my husband's bike so we could go put up "Lost Bird" signs around the neighborhood. We concentrated our efforts to the south, the direction the bird would have gone if he headed straight out the garage door. There's a big freeway one block to the south, and I figured he wouldn't have gone past that because the high wall would be hard to fly over and the noise would frighten him.

We whistled and listened as we went. At one point my daughter thought she heard him answer us, so we circled the area but didn't hear him again. As I passed by all my neighbors' houses and beautiful yards I thought of how nice all the people are around here and felt sure someone would find my bird and be kind to him. Then I noticed all the cats stalking around and thought that for sure my bird had been some feline's Thanksgiving dinner.

After putting up the signs and calling the vet I thought I'd done all I could do and proceeded to try and forget about it. On Thanksgiving day no one had felt like eating any dinner, we were all so sad about the bird, but on Friday we made up for it by making a good dent in the left-overs.

On Saturday the phone rang during lunch. The man on the line said that my bird was on his roof! I got my two little boys, the bird's favorite two people in the world, and my daughter grabbed the cage and we drove south one block to the house. When we got there the man I had spoken to was standing out in his driveway. His wife and son were in the garage, with my bird sitting on the son's shoulder. The man said he had seen me putting up signs on Friday morning, and so when they noticed this funny sounding bird on their roof they gave me a call.

So today I feel like anything is possible. I've got my birdie back! He was tired, hungry, and thirsty, but very glad to see my two youngest boys again. After being out in the rain, then spending two nights out in the cold, that bird is quite the survivor. I'll have to bake those people who found him a pie or something.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Lost Bird

Last night I let our cockatiel out to play with the boys. He flew back to his cage after a while, but I never shut him in.

This morning, with everyone playing out back or working in the garage, the bird made his escape.

I'm very sad because he is probably hungry and cold and tired and lost. I just hope someone kind finds him and takes care of him.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

And Now, For My Next Trick...

After submitting my very first full manuscript ever to be requested by anyone in the publishing industry, I thought I should take a short break before beginning my next project.

Four days was enough.

Yesterday I sat down and wrote out all the ideas I've had to date that I thought were good enough to become books. I picked the one I got the most excited about, and then spent the rest of the day happily dreaming up a whole new world.

In other happy news, my three-year-old went to the eye doctor yesterday and lo, his lazy eye is now reading 20/30 just like his strong eye! His vision is equal after only six months of patch therapy! Hooray! This month we're cutting his patch wearing time in half to see if it stays stable.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rebeca's Reviews: Kung Fu Panda

I have one thing to say about Dreamworks Animation's "Kung Fu Panda."

The characters and story were so good I entirely forgot I was watching computer generated animation.

As the closing credits rolled, I sat up in sudden surprise and exclaimed, "That was CGI!" Sure, the animation was awesome, the styling was incredible, and there were 3-D shots that could only have been done in the computer, but I got so absorbed in the story I never thought about the media.

That, to me, is a great achievement of storytelling.

The film is PG for animated Kung Fu action, and has a few vulgar gags thrown in, so parents should definitely watch it first to make sure it is appropriate for their children. Don't worry, parents, you'll want to watch it again with the kids.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Microwave Popcorn

When the popcorn is in the microwave, popping away like crazy, you know you should leave it in there. But then when the pops come slower and slower, one second, two seconds . . . you know more kernels would pop if you left it in, but if you leave it in any longer its going to burn.

That's how I feel about my manuscript. I keep thinking of little things I want to change. They pop up while I'm driving, while I'm walking, while I'm doing housework. When I get a chance I go to the computer and type them in. That could go on for days, but it wouldn't make the manuscript much better. In fact, it might make it worse.

So I sent it in. Yes, I clicked the send button.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Riddle for You

One morning this week I found my son sitting up in bed in his pajamas with concentration and a grin on his face. "I've got a riddle for you, mom. I just made it up." He proceeded to recite:

I am what everyone wants to find
I can be a potato or an orange rind
I can be anything that you want me to be
My start sounds like A, my end sounds like Z.

Everyone needs me, especially in school.
If you wish for good grades, I'm the number one tool.
Now all that you have to do is to try
And guess my riddle - what am I?

After several days of wrong guesses, I finally got it this afternoon. My husband got it in less than thirty seconds. Can you guess?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rebecca's Reviews: Greetings from Planet Earth

I first met Greetings From Planet Earth by Barbara Kerley a couple of weeks ago at the library. The spine really caught my attention. That font, those colors - the book looked like it ought to be thirty or forty years old. But the book had a shiny new plastic jacket and a "NEW BOOK" sticker half-covering the first letter of the author's name. I had to investigate.

The cover illustration looked just like the cover illustrations on the books that had been published when I was very young - scratchy line drawing filled in with pools of uniform colors like bright red and pale turquoise. The end paper was that bumpy stuff you never see anymore. Published in 2007 but set thirty years ago, I held in my hands a piece of historical fiction about WHEN I WAS ALIVE ALREADY! I must be getting really old.

I smiled at the book designer's cleverness and popped it back on the shelf.

But I couldn't get it out of my head. Two weeks later I was back to check it out. I am glad I did. This is unlike any book I have read before. It deftly combined the wonder of moon exploration and the Voyager probes with the tragedy of Vietnam, all through the eyes of a twelve-year-old boy who wants to know more about his missing father. The book made me think, made me laugh, made me cry, made me wonder. What more could I ask?

Could I write a book like that?

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I got to the end of draft 4 yesterday, but I'm not quite ready to submit yet. First some housekeeping tasks. I thought I'd learned when to use it's and when to use its, I thought I knew the difference between a beat and a tag in dialogue, but once again it looks like when I really get rolling with the writing my old bad habits resurface. I got the it's-its's done, and right now I am half-way through the onerous task of checking the punctuation on every line of dialogue. Yes, I know they have copy editors to do that, but I really, really want the editor to enjoy my manuscript instead of going, "Ooof! Ouch! Ack!" every time her eye trips over a bad comma.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Me and Me and the Pumpkin Queen

After working on my second-to-last chapter this morning I felt ready to open that catering service. Oooohhhh! My book was such a wreck! I moped around all afternoon and then decided I needed a reading break.

Yesterday at the library I meant to find one book that had been edited by the editor who requested Earthcrosser. I came home with a stack of books - two edited by the editor, two others by one of the authors she'd edited, and two more by the publishing imprint she edits for. Over half of them were first books! I love new first books. Someday I want to pick up a new first book at the library with my name on the jacket.

So this afternoon I sat down with Me and the Pumpkin Queen by Marlane Kennedy, feeling a little worried that I was making a mistake. If this book blew mine out of the water I might sink into discouragement, never to resurface. I read the first paragraph and relaxed with a contented sigh. It was charming, simple, delightful! I loved the characters, loved the voice - just enough description, good plot movement throughout the story, charming bits that made me laugh, lots of personality, and EXCELLENT RESEARCH ON PUMPKIN GROWING! Only upon reading the acknowledgments did I learn that Marlane Kennedy has never grown a pumpkin. She sure fooled me.

As I read I began to feel that this was a story about me, and that growing a prize-winning giant pumpkin was just like getting a first book published. Can she do it? Will hers be the one? Can I do it? Oh the suspense!

The best part is, I realized that the things I was fretting about in my own manuscript don't matter so much. Pumpkin Queen had plenty of sentences in passive voice. There were monologues by the point- of-view character. It went on and on with details about pumpkin growing. I loved it all. It was interesting! I cared about the characters and so I was along for the ride. That's what counts.

Happily off to work again tomorrow.

Major Surgery

Oh this is terrible! Chapter 18 is AWFUL! I hate it! My brain is so tired! I CAN'T DO THIS!

I will try again tomorrow.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Two Chapters to Go!

I am down to my last two chapters! Soon draft four will be complete!

First I need to re-write chapter 18. The ending-ending is really awesome, but I made the dire mistake of starting the denouement BEFORE the ending. This is always a bad move. It destroys the sense that the story is rising to a spectacular climax! I'll keep the climactic scene at the end of the chapter but replace all the parts at the start that make it sound like the book is already over with scenes that actually build the tension.

Oh this is going to be so good!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Plumbing Adventures

Last Tuesday I went out to move the laundry and noticed a small puddle around the water heater stand. Curious, I peeked around the side and . . .

IT HAD CRACKED! The stand had cracked and the water heater was tipping, dripping, and gradually ripping off the wall. If any of you have plastic water heater stands, please replace them TOMORROW. We were lucky. If the stand had cracked all the way and the water heater had fallen it might have broken the gas line and spewed flammable vapors into my garage. Maybe if it had happened while we were camping last weekend our garage would have blown up when we came home and clicked the garage door opener.


Friday, November 7, 2008

What Gets You Out of Bed in the Morning?

I love this stage of working on a manuscript! After months of writing and revising, I know the manuscript so well I can work on it in my head while I do housework. Homemaking and novel writing is an ideal career combination. As a homemaker, I have innumerable mundane tasks to perform. While I match socks and wash dishes my mind can run free, eavesdrop on my characters' conversations, work out new passages of text, find errors, and come up with fresh ideas. Any time I get stuck at the keyboard I can go pull weeds, sort toys, and especially go play games with my little children to get the creative flow going again. On the other hand, working on the novel gives me a sense of progress that would otherwise be eroded by the unending round of laundry, dishes, and meals to cook.

I especially like waking up in the morning and having an idea so exciting I have to run downstairs to the keyboard and get it in before it is time for me to start the day. Then trouble occurs if I try and keep writing while I cook breakfast. Was that the oatmeal boiling over? Oops! Got to go!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I Voted!

As I left my house this morning on my way to the poll a small brigade of children biked by. "Vote for McCain!" one shouted. "Vote for Obama!" another one called. I laughed and waved.

When I got to the school I showed my voter registration card and signed for my vote. At the next table a short Asian woman with a cute page-boy haircut argued that she hadn't voted yet, even though the records showed she had voted early.
"Where did I vote early?" she asked.
"At the Galleria Mall," the voting day volunteer showed her the record on the computer screen.
"I never go there!" she insisted angrily.

What if that had been me? What if someone had stolen my vote? It wouldn't be too hard. They could steal my voter information booklet out of the mail and forge my signature. What if someone had stolen my vote? The thought made me sick. It would only be one little vote, but it would be MY vote, my chance to have a say, my voice, my freedom.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Catch Me, Mommy!

This morning I misbehaved at the eye doctor's office.

I was very good for the first forty-five minutes. I kept my three-year old quiet by reading to him and playing with the toys in the lobby. Then I got impatient. I got crabby. I had a book to revise and laundry to fold, for crying out loud!

With well practiced technique, I engaged in subtle passive-aggressive behavior. I let my three-year old run wild through the lobby. He tore around and around the big salt water fish tank as fast as his little legs would go. Then he did a dance for me on the front door mat. After that he played with the drinking fountain (one of the old ladies in the lobby was nice enough to inform me that he didn't really want a drink, he was just playing with it). Next he had fun trying to run away from me as I attempted to catch him and re-do one of his buttons that kept coming undone. Every time I started to feel a little guilty that we were terrorizing the office I remembered that my appointment time had been a whole hour ago. They deserved it!

When we finally got in to see the doctor she spent most of the five minute visit talking to her intern about making sure to write "no refills" on the prescription when the patient shouldn't have refills. This had NOTHING to do with my son since he doesn't take any medicine at all. I was happy to learn that his eyes are still improving, and I was very polite and thanked the doctor for helping my son to see better.

On the way out, two hours after we had arrived, I was hoping that there wouldn't be a spot for us in three weeks and we'd get to wait longer before we had to come back. No such luck.

Next time, Dad can take the three-year-old to the eye doctor.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Fourth and Final Draft

Tonight I marked up the last chapter of draft three and I'll start putting in changes on Monday, after I get back from taking my three-year-old to the eye doctor.

Last week I e-mailed the editor to let her know I hadn't dropped of the face of the planet or decided to start my own catering service instead of writing this book. To my surprise and delight, she e-mailed back three minutes later. She remembered me and my humble first chapter from way back in June, and she said she'd keep an eye out for my submission.

So now I will remain very calm and professional.