Journal 2007

December 20, 2007
Have Yourself a Crafty Little Christmas

The biggest holiday stresser for me is the shopping. I'm not much of a shopper. I know this because my version of the ultimate shopping experience is scoring a new pair of sweatpants at Costco without trying them on. However, not being so big on the act of shopping doesn't mean I don't appreciate shopping's results, and I do love giving gifts. So December is the month I pull together what shopping skills I have, take a few deep breaths, and remind myself that giving good presents has more to do with devoting time and thought to the recipient than hitting multiple stores. In fact, there are plenty of great gifts a person can make.

When I was in high school, I made candy wreaths with a friend. They were fun, inexpensive presents, but I couldn't remember how we'd done it until I found this video:

 

We made the coat hanger parts of our wreaths just as shown in the video, but instead of using string, we used a spool of thin craft wire to attach the candies (which ends up looking exactly the same, but takes a lot less time). Hold one end of a candy directly against your coat hanger, then wrap the wire around both the cellophane and the hanger once or twice to connect the candy (by passing the spool through the center of the wreath). Without cutting the craft wire, lay on the next candy and wrap it, then the next one, etc. Also, you don't have to leave so much room for a bow; you can fill the wreath with candy just about all the way around.

Another fun gift to make is cookies. Cookies may not seem like the most original idea, but their originality depends on how you decorate. Have a friend who plays soccer? Use black and white icing to turn round gingerbread cookies into soccer balls. Know a diva? Try making crown-shaped cookies sparkling with pink sugar and studded with silver dragees. Wrapping your finished cookies in clear cellophane and tying the cookie cutter onto the ribbon will give your gift extra flair. Check out this site to see an amazing variety of cookie cutters. Or, if you're feeling really ambitious, you can make the cutter too.

Candles are traditional throughout the holidays and lots of fun to make as well. This craft requires more equipment than candy wreaths and cookies, but it can still be done inexpensively, especially if your plan is to make multiple candles for multiple friends. Don't feel like you have to buy professional molds, either—you can use household stand-ins such as milk cartons and orange juice cans, or even pour the hot wax directly into a hole dug in sand. Decorations like shells and dried flowers can be incorporated into the melted wax or glued to the outside of the finished candle. Look into starter kits online or at craft stores—and be sure to follow the safety instructions because melting wax can catch fire. Or try making beeswax candles, which involves practically no equipment and no melting, either:

Macrame is a craft we don't see enough of these days—and before you start having That 70's Show flashbacks, remember friendship bracelets? Those were macrame. You can also make cute necklaces, belts, and bags, as well as the ever-popular plant holders. All you need is some string and the ability to tie a knot. If you have a few different colors of string, some beads, and a metal ring or two, things can get really fun. If you want to give macrame a try, here's how to make an easy bracelet:

There are You Tube demonstrations of other macrame projects too, as well as all kinds of books that explain how to macrame. Or you could give the gift of a how-to book and some string and let your friend figure it out. In any event, do not be discouraged by this, although we can all take a moment to feel her pain.

Happy holidays to you and yours, and if finding/buying/making/wrapping presents starts to freak you out, here's one last tip that always helps me: Take a minute, take a breath, and remember the real gift is having so many people in your life you want to give presents to.

Thanks for visiting!
See you in the new year,

Laura


December 2, 2007
Ah, the Holidays

It's hard not to be overwhelmed by the holidays this time of year. If it's not enough that Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Eid al-Adha are all packed into a single month, did you know that December 7 is National Cotton Candy Day? That's something I definitely want to celebrate. Or how about December 16, National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day? Chocolate-covered anything? Chocolate-covered genius! And then there's December 22, National Haiku Poetry Day.

If you've read Queen B, you know I love writing haiku. So here are a few new poems, in honor of those previously mentioned, sadly overlooked holidays.


Cotton candy melts,
Pink clouds on the tongue. Sticky
Heaven on a stick.


I'm happy to eat
Chocolate-covered anything.
Except maybe bugs.


That second poem required an important decision: Is chocolate two syllables, or three? If I'm marking syllables on paper, it's three; if I'm saying the word, it's two. I ended up consulting Webster's, which helpfully advises that chocolate can be pronounced as either two or three syllables. I went with two, for poetic reasons. Which leads to this final holiday observance:


Haiku is easy.
Five, seven, five. Seventeen.
Own those syllables.


Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


November 13, 2007
Pumpkin Bread While Comfortably Seated

Last year I shared the fact that banana bread is a Thanksgiving staple at our house. In addition, we always have pumpkin pie. I like banana bread, but pie gives me no thrill at all. So this year I had a brilliant idea: Why not take the pumpkin from the pie and the bread from the banana and substitute pumpkin bread? And then, for dessert, we could have something involving chocolate, which, as everyone knows, is the essential ingredient in any real dessert.

Well, it turns out we can't skip the banana bread, because that's traditional here. And we can't skip the pumpkin pie because pie gives my husband a large thrill. But we can still have pumpkin bread and a chocolate dessert. I'm thinking of making a chocolate pudding cake. Turkey with gravy, cake with gravy . . . Right? Why didn't the pilgrims think of that?

If you like pumpkin pie and banana bread, you ought to love pumpkin bread. Here's an easy recipe that I modified from a couple of others:

Pumpkin Bread
1 cup oil
3 eggs
2/3 cup water
15 ounce can of pumpkin

3 cups sugar
3-1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1-1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the wet ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the dry ingredients. If you like nuts, you can mix some into the batter. If you like candied ginger, chop some and sprinkle it on top before baking. Bake in two greased 9x5x3" loaf pans for about 60 minutes, or three smaller ones for about 45 minutes, until a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Baking times can vary in either direction depending on pan size, pan type, and oven temp, so check your loaves frequently and trust your eyes over the timer.


Meanwhile, on the writing front, I got a new desk chair. Yippee! Check it out!

If you think it's a little weird to be so excited about a chair, 1) you're not wrong, and 2) you probably don't sit on your butt for a living. Someone should do a study comparing the comfort of a writer's behind to the number of pages produced. Don't believe me? Meg Cabot writes in bed and she has three new series coming out.

Happy Thanksgiving!
See you soon,

Laura


October 31, 2007
Why Are You Dressed Like It's Halloween?

As I've mentioned before, I love Halloween. Why?

Exhibit 1:

Exhibit 2:

Exhibit 3:


I haven't written a Halloween book yet (not a published one, anyway), but I have put Halloween scenes in other books. My Clearwater Crossing characters hold a haunted house fund-raiser in Promises, Promises. A Halloween party is key to the action in The Queen of Second Place. And I also wrote a book about a ghost. Which is set in the summer. But still.

Ghost of a Chance is the story of what happens when a sixteen-year-old girl named Chloe discovers a ghost haunting the California mansion her family has just purchased. She introduces him to her best friend, Melissa, and things get complicated fast when both girls fall in love with him.

Here's a tiny excerpt (or a longer one) from Ghost of a Chance:

I'll leave you to imagine how well I didn't sleep that night. I couldn't stop tossing and turning. I mean, it isn't every day you meet a ghost.

The thing is, though, by about midnight or one o'clock, that wasn't even the issue anymore. All I could see were James's eyes. I couldn't get them out of my head. And that voice! The way it curled right up inside my ear. It was so . . . intimate. I have to tell you that James was hands-down the hottest guy I've ever seen, dead or alive.

On the other hand, how stupid is it to fall in love with a ghost? Not that I was falling in love, I kept telling myself. It was just sort of a crush. A world-class crush, maybe, but a crush just the same. Infatuation. Still, it kept me up all night.

Happy haunting!
See you soon,

Laura


October 14, 2007
So You Want to Be a Writer . . .

Last year I posted about National Novel Writing Month, but I didn't do it until halfway through November, so this year I'm on top of it: NaNoWriMo begins November 1 and advance sign-ups are underway now!

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel within the thirty days of November. Challenging? Yes. Impossible? Not even a little. If you've been looking for a gentle push to get your novel started, NaNoWriMo might be more like a shove. In addition to keeping a running word count of daily progress toward your goal, their Web site offers tips, encouragement, an on-line community, and plenty of humor along the way. (I'm betting you'll start really appreciating humor somewhere around day ten.) They even have a Young Writers Program.

Already know you want to join up? Go to straight to their home page at nanowrimo.org and click Sign Up Now at the top. Want more information before you make that type of commitment? Check out this link to How NaNoWriMo Works (in Ten Easy Steps).

And whatever you do, remember Step 9: Win or lose, you rock for even trying.

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


October 1, 2007
Teen Read Week and Author Chats

Teen Read Week, a program of the Young Adult Library Services Association, is taking place October 14 through 20. This year's theme is LOL @ your library, and libraries across the country will offer related events and displays. To find out if yours is participating, check this list.

Why am I mentioning this two weeks early? Because a Web site called readergirlz.com has decided to celebrate YALSA's Teen Read Week with a full month of live author chats, and those kick off tonight. Thirty-one YA authors, one for each day of October, are scheduled to chat at the readergirlz group forum at 5 p.m. PST/8 p.m. EST. Their whole schedule is packed with big names, starting tonight with Meg Cabot (The Princess Diaries) and ending with Stephenie Meyer (Twilight) on October 31, so be sure to check it out.

Meanwhile, on a totally unrelated note, I have learned to embed YouTube videos. The temptation now will be to include a video with every new post. (I won't. But I'm tempted.) Today, in the spirit of October, and Halloween, and the book I'm still revising, I ran a YouTube search on "screaming." This is what came up:

(PS—If I thought this guy was hurting the frog, this would not be funny, but he claims it is alive and well in his backyard pond.)

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


September 19, 2007
Is It Fall Already?

I can't believe it's already September, and not just September, but more than halfway through the month. Two weeks ago it was so hot here that everyone I talked to agreed we were ready for the weather to cool off. And it did—overnight. Now my driveway is full of rustling leaves, the new TV schedule is starting, and we're halfway through September. How did that happen?

Meanwhile, adding new posts to this journal is one of several things I've let slide recently because I've been working on a revision. I generally enjoy revising my manuscripts, but this time . . . not so much. This one feels more like this:

(Let me just state for the record that my editor is nothing like the one depicted here. That blank look on the author's face, on the other hand, is playing on every mirror in my house.)

Of course, the fact that it's September is not news to most of you because you've been back at school for a while. If you are starting college this year (or looking forward to the year you will), you may be interested in a new reality program that Seventeen magazine is doing with MySpace. The show is called Freshman 15, for the fifteen pounds that college students tend to gain during their freshman year. (And if you think that's a myth, it's not. Take a scale. You've been warned.) According to the MySpace site, fifteen freshman girls picked by Seventeen magazine will tell you everything about their first year of college as it unfolds, so the program isn't really about weight. (Take the scale anyway. Trust me.) There is supposed to be a feature in the October issue of Seventeen too, which is already out because it's not enough for Seventeen that this is the middle of September—they feel the need to push us into October. I already know it is almost October because my grocery store has been selling Halloween candy for two weeks now (What is wrong with you people? And if you're going to tempt me, why are you hiding the candy corn?) What's worse is, right about the time we actually need Halloween candy, the Christmas decorations will come out. And if this book I'm working on isn't wrapped up before Christmas. . . .

Can we go back a couple of weeks, to when I was moaning about the heat? Because it really wasn't that bad.

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


August 15, 2007
Free Books

Did you know that you can download lots of great books for free? If you're not maxed out on summer reading—or if you expect to be assigned some literary classics this fall—take a look at these two sites:

Gutenberg.org—Project Gutenberg, established in 1971, offers over 20,000 books for free download and claims to have over 100,000 available through their affiliates. The books at Project Gutenberg are titles in the public domain, which means their authors no longer hold copyright and the books can be copied and distributed by anyone without restriction. Copyrights don't generally expire until after an author's death, so this site is heavy on classics, which is great. Here's your chance to get all the Austen, Dickens, and Twain you like—for free! If you want to check out some of my childhood favorites, the entire Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery is available at Project Gutenberg, and so are Little Women and Little Men by Louisa May Alcott. Also recommended (and free): Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, and everything by Jane Austen.

Wowio.com—This site, launched in August 2006, offers copyrighted e-books for free download. They do this by making agreements with the books' publishers, then selling ad space to cover their costs. The selection here is smaller than at Project Gutenberg, and the biggest publishers aren't participating (yet), but it's a great place to check out—and download—books you might not otherwise have seen. Did I mention it's free?

There's still time left for poolside reading. Plus, with school about to start again (sorry if I just bummed you out), knowing a couple of places where you can download a last-minute book-report book can only be a good thing.

Happy browsing!
See you soon,

Laura


July 31, 2007
Best Flap Copy Ever!

Flap copy is that blurb publishers put on a book jacket to try to entice you to read it. You might have assumed the books' authors write those blurbs, and occasionally they do, but the ultimate decision on what gets put on a book's cover is made by the publisher. Publishers frequently write their own flap copy, using their experience with other books to come up with a teaser they hope will grab readers' attention.

Here's the thing about flap copy: As an author, I not only need it, I need it to be great—as I reader I avoid it like crazy until after I've read the book. Why? Because flap copy is full of spoilers. Unfortunately, it's pretty hard to tell people what a book is about without, well, telling them what it's about. And if I already know what's going to happen, why do I need to read the book? I like to discover a story on my own. I like to be surprised when, say, our heroine gets held up at the bank, as opposed to waiting for the stickup since before I begin page 1.

Which is why the flap copy for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows wins my vote for Best Flap Copy Ever. Here it is—all of it:

We now present the seventh and final installment in the epic tale of Harry Potter.

In other words, You already know you're going to read it, so why spoil the fun by giving anything away? Is there an author anywhere who wouldn't love to write a book that could fly with copy like that? Congratulations to J.K. Rowling on a truly epic achievement!

Thanks for visiting.
See you soon,

Laura


July 23, 2007
Writing is Like Golf

I was sitting at a stop light the other day, trying to decide if I should make a side trip to Staples on my way to the golf store, when suddenly it hit me: Writing and golf are a lot alike.

  1. Even after you own all the equipment, you still burn through supplies. (Paper. Toner. Erasers. Tees. Balls. Oh, the balls.)
  2. You only feel like you know what you're doing half the time. (The actual percentage is lower.)
  3. You're out there with other people, but you're ultimately playing against yourself.
  4. The goal may be simple, but the ways you can get there (or get lost trying) are endlessly complicated.
  5. When you finally get it right, you know you've truly accomplished something.

If you're thinking that golf is a sport for old men, I'm guessing you didn't watch this year's U.S. Women's Open (a tournament among top women players from all over the world). Teen girls are flocking to and dominating the sport like never before. One of the competitors was twelve! The clothes are cute, the balls are pink . . .this is not your father's game.

I would have started golfing younger, but I was discouraged by all the people who told me how expensive it is. What they should have told me is that golfing's a lot like eating out—you can spend ridiculous money or you can hit McDonalds and get just as full. There are great public courses with affordable rates. Used clubs are available at garage sales all over the country. And, if you're young enough to qualify, there are fantastic programs like The First Tee and LPGA-USGA Girls Golf designed to introduce young people to the sport regardless of income level.

So if you're looking for things to do this summer, why not get some friends together and go give golf a try? It's fun. It's great training for becoming a writer. And did you know some colleges offer full-ride golf scholarships? If you stick with it all the way to pro, you can earn a pretty nice salary. And while we're dreaming big, let's not forget the endorsement deals . . . . How many other ways do you know of for a sixteen-year-old girl to earn ten million dollars?

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


July 13, 2007
Congratulations!

The Queen B giveaway contest is over and congratulations to the winners! The correct answer to the contest question (given below) was "Wind Beneath My Wings."

If you want a laugh, check out this clip of Will Ferrell singing "Wind Beneath My Wings" to Megan Mullally. Interpretations like Will's are the reason I had to put this song in my (bad) talent show.

Thanks for playing!

Laura


July 10, 2007
Queen B Giveaway

Today is the debut of Queen B in paperback! To celebrate, I'm going to give signed copies of the paperback edition along with its companion book, The Queen of Second Place, to the first three people with the correct answer to this question:

Contest Question: What song does Sterling (Fourteen-Karat) Carter                                 attempt to sing in Cassie's talent show?

If you need a hint, look here. Then e-mail your answer to . Be sure to include a snail mail address with your answer, so I can mail you your prize if you win. (And don't worry—that's all I'll use your address for.)

Good luck!
See you soon,

Laura


June 21, 2007
Countdown to Queen B the Second

One of my favorite things about publishing a hardcover book is that I get to see it come out twice. Queen B, which debuted last July, will be out again July 10—in paperback! Once again, the cover will look like this:

Last year, Sweet 16 Magazine chose Queen B as one of its Super Summer Reads. This year, as a paperback, the book will be even easier to fit into a beach bag. So to celebrate summer, and summer reading, and seconds, I'm going to give away three signed paperback copies of Queen B along with its companion book, The Queen of Second Place:

To win, just come back on July 10 and be one of the first three people to correctly answer a question I'll post about Queen B. To give everyone an equal chance, I'll make sure the winning answer is contained in this excerpt from the book.

And in the meantime, if you're looking for more ways to fill your beach bag, check out this cool Beach Bag of Books contest at Teenreads.com.

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


June 6, 2007
Summer Reading

Summer vacations are the perfect time for reading. When my husband and I camp for a week or more, I pack a cardboard box full of books. For shorter trips, we stuff an old briefcase with stretchy sides, and if space is an issue, we choose books we both want to read. The key is just not to run out.

There's really nothing better than crashing in a lounge chair someplace warm with nothing more pressing to do than read through a pile of great books. If you can bring your dog and there's a body of water nearby for occasional dips, that's pretty much paradise.

If you've got summer reading on the brain too, check out this Web site. In addition to suggesting books for all ages, it allows you to track what you've read, write book reviews, find out what others are reading (and what they think about it), and explore interesting links to puzzles, games, and authors. Live chats with children's and young adult authors are planned, and if you happen to live in New York, you can attend some events in person as well.

You know what the best thing about summer reading is? It doesn't have to cost a thing. All you really need is time, a place to sit, and a borrowed book. Dog and swimming hole are optional (although highly recommended).

Happy reading!
See you soon,

Laura


May 28, 2007
Memorial Day

The older you get, the more you remember.

Thanks to all who serve.

Laura


May 7, 2007
W(r)iting or W(a)iting—Give Me an “R”!

As you've probably guessed from my last entry, I've been busy with a new book. I finished writing the first draft at the end of April, and last week (having completed the traditional three-day backlog of neglected chores and errands) I started writing another one.

Leaping into a completely different project so quickly isn't normal for me, but I'm happy about it. Not only am I excited about this new idea, writing a second book gives me something to do besides drive myself crazy while I wait for my editor to read that first book.

Those of you who plan to be writers someday might want to start practicing patient waiting now—hopefully you'll be better at it than I am by the time you begin publishing. Publishing is a slow, slow process, and getting a novel ready involves many steps and lots of dedicated people who combine their expertise to make each book its best. For the books I've written so far, my steps usually go like this:

  1. Write and submit first draft.
  2. Wait.
  3. Get feedback on first draft from editor.
  4. Revise first draft; submit second draft.
  5. Wait.
  6. Get new set of comments from editor.
  7. Revise second draft; submit third draft, if needed, or address a few limited pages.
  8. Wait.
  9. Receive copyedited manuscript, including queries about grammatical and/or factual mistakes I may have made.
  10. Address copyediting queries and return manuscript.
  11. Wait.
  12. Resolve any points on which copyediting and I may have differing opinions. (This usually only happens when I want to do something wrong on purpose, like say "like.")
  13. Wait a very long time.
  14. Receive typeset manuscript (also known as galleys) for proofreading.
  15. Proofread every page (preferably twice) with a ruler placed under each line; return.
  16. Wait until my head is about to explode.
  17. Receive advance copies of my new book.
  18. Wait.
  19. See my new book in stores!

I am currently on step two of the book I just "finished," so as you can see, I have a long way to go—and a lot of waiting to fill—before that book shows up on shelves. It would be fantastic if all of the people who work on a book could do their jobs simultaneously, but that's obviously not possible. Author downtime is just part of the process. Which doesn't mean I endure it well, what with the obsessing and stressing and all.

I'm not saying any of this to discourage aspiring writers. How can you not love a job that lets you stay home making up stories in your bathrobe? I just think it's helpful to know what the process is like in advance, so that you can learn how to meditate now. Just say Om, like this guy. And cut him some slack for believing that (despite the proven benefits) spending twenty minutes blanking his mind is a total waste of time. He is, after all, a writer.

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


April 26, 2007
A Public Service Announcement

Any questions?

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


April 17, 2007
Saving Squirrels (But Not Par)

Look who we found on the golf course.

Isn't he the cutest? He's so young his eyes haven't even opened yet.

My husband spotted this baby squirrel first—lost on a tee in a rainstorm, soaked to his pink skin and dragging his wobbly baby body through the wet grass. In addition to being motherless, blind, and totally pathetic, at this particular course he was hawk food waiting to happen. He seemed so weak we didn't see how he could survive longer than an hour or two, but it was too sad to let him suffer. I picked him up, dried him off, and put him inside my jacket, figuring that at least he could drift off warm and with friends.

But, to our total amazement, the little guy hung in there. We took turns heating him up, and as he thawed out he started acting livelier, wrapping his toes around our fingers and burrowing deeper into our clothes. By the time we got him home, he was pretty wriggly and I was starting to think he might actually make it.

I turned to the Internet to find out how to take care of him. If you run those searches yourself, you'll discover 1) properly caring for baby squirrels is a lot more complicated than you might guess, and 2) it's not even legal to keep one unless you have a permit. Found wildlife is supposed to be turned over to qualified people to be "rehabilitated" and released back into nature.

Squirrel rehab wasn't open just then, so I nursed him through the night, waking up every hour to adjust the temperature on his heating pad. Twice I got him out of his box to syringe more Pedialyte into him, and in the morning he actually cheeped at me—the first noise he'd made since we found him.

It was hard giving him to the wildlife shelter. He was sweet and I was attached. But I wanted him to have a full, squirrelly life, and trained wildlife rescuers did seem like his best chance. They've promised to release him where he was found, so maybe we'll cross paths again someday. He'll be an adult and won't remember me, but I'll remember him.

Every squirrel I see at that golf course for the next ten years, I'll be thinking, Is he that one? Is he that one? Or maybe I'll see his babies. Or his grandbabies.

As much as I hated to let him go, that part's pretty cool.

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


March 26, 2007
Queen B hits the (Y)A List

Good news! Queen B has been named to the 2007 New York Public Library's Books for the Teen Age list. This annual list selects the best of the previous year's books for teens. The Queen of Second Place, my first book in this duo about a fifteen-year-old girl who tries her hardest but just can't seem to win, made the list in 2006.

Excerpts from The Queen of Second Place and Queen B are posted here and here. (You can read them in order or read either one—each book makes sense on its own.) And for enough great YA reading to keep you busy all year, check out the entire Books for the Teen Age list!

Thanks for visiting.
See you soon,

Laura


March 10, 2007
National Procrastination Week

Did you know about this? I just found out there's an entire week dedicated to procrastination. According to various Internet sources, National Procrastination Week takes place the second week of March. Granted, a few sites say it's supposed to be the first week, but we can all guess what happened there.

Procrastination has been on my mind a lot lately, ever since I read about this new study, which—wait for it—took five years longer to complete than it was supposed to. The researcher found that the biggest reason people procrastinate is the temptation to distract themselves with the wide array of other (more) interesting things to do. A second factor is whether or not a person believes she is capable of completing the work she's avoiding. As a writer, I can relate to those reasons, but there's a third reason I procrastinate too: No one has any idea what I do all day anyway.

As long as I meet my deadlines, my editor doesn't care how I spend my time. This enormous freedom is one of my favorite things about being a writer. It is also the reason my workday frequently stretches from the planned hours of 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to the actual hours of 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. It is why I work most weekends. Now that I'm not punching a time clock, it is crazy easy to convince myself that it doesn't matter if I take a break to bake cookies, surf the Internet, walk the dog, or check out whatever fascinating saga is currently unfolding on Court TV. I can always make up that time later. Or later still. Except that eventually later is all used up (due to the previously mentioned deadline) and I have to buckle down in a way that inevitably makes me start thinking, "This would have been a lot easier if I'd done it when I had more time."

But is that really true? For some jobs, it probably would be, but when it comes to writing novels, I'm pretty sure it's wrong. Sticking to a rigid x-pages-per-hour, eight-hours-per-day writing schedule sounds like a great idea, but I don't believe it's humanly possible. More importantly, I don't believe it would yield good results. Writing and typing are two different things, and there are so many characters to understand and plot threads to devise and story issues to solve that it only makes sense there are going to be times when a writer's brain is busy in ways that don't involve a keyboard.

The fact is, I'm always writing—even when I'm baking cookies, surfing the Internet, walking the dog, or watching TV. Even when I'm sleeping. I know this because sometimes, right in the middle of one of those things, I have to stop and grab a piece of paper, my mind suddenly so full of the next paragraph, or page, or plot twist that I have to write it down. It sounds weird, but it's true: Sometimes the only way I get anywhere with a story is by not thinking about it.

I didn't author the ten-year study, but my own experience leads me to believe that a little healthy procrastination is actually necessary to writing. I suspect it may be important to all creative thinking. So go ahead, enjoy this last day of the week that procrastination is actually celebrated. And forgive me for not telling you about it sooner. I got distracted writing a novel.

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura

PS—The winning answer to the Clearwater Crossing contest question was Team Take-out, a name the group took on while working a food booth at a charity carnival. If you knew this, be sure to check out the Clearwater Cross-word, featuring trivia questions from the whole series.


February 28, 2007
Clearwater Crossing Revisited

One of the biggest surprises of this Web site has been the number of people who drop by looking for Clearwater Crossing information. That series wrapped up a few years ago, stores don't carry it anymore, and I just didn't realize how many of you were still reading it. I've learned from your e-mails, though, that while the series is no longer in bookstores, the books live on in libraries—which is yet another reason to love librarians.

So to give the Clearwater Crossing crew more to look at, I've added a few things. Clearwater Crossing experts can now test their trivia knowledge with the Clearwater Crossword puzzle. If you're trying to locate books in the series, here's some information on that. And for full details on all twenty books, check out the series page.

Because a lot of you are trying to locate specific books, let's have a contest. The first person to e-mail me the correct answer to the following question will win an autographed Clearwater Crossing book of his/her choice:

Contest Question: Before the eight main characters in the series named
                                themselves Eight Prime, they gave their group another
                                name. What was it?

My e-mail address is . Be sure to let me know which book you want and to include a snail mail address with your answer, so that I can mail you your prize if you win. (And don't worry—that's all I'll use your address for.)

Good luck!
Thanks for visiting,

Laura


February 3, 2007
Michener Turns 100, or Why I Don't Eat Bananas

In eighth grade I transferred to a new school and I got sick a lot. Those two things were not unrelated, which is not to say I was faking. Given the choice between six periods of near-certain misery or spending the day in bed with a pile of good books, the human brain is perfectly capable of taking the body down. It got to where I could spike a fever just thinking about the bus ride.

My mother had a rule: Anyone sick enough to stay home from school was too sick to watch TV, go outside, or even come down to dinner. Sick people stayed in bed with books and a radio and had meals brought up on a tray. If this was supposed to make me want to get better, that was one serious miscalculation on her part.

Eighth grade was the year I learned the lyrics to every song in the Top 40 and developed a taste for truly thick books, the kind that could keep me entertained for the maximum number of hours. Eighth grade was the year I discovered James A. Michener.

The Michener novel I started with was Hawaii. I still have that old paperback edition: 1130 pages of small print which I read at least twice that year. I had read plenty of other books, but I had never seen anything like this one. In his story about the blended cultures of the people of Hawaii, Mr. Michener chose to begin with the islands being formed, oozing up as lava from the ocean floor. It was crystal clear right there that he wasn't in a hurry. He eventually went on to introduce a huge cast of native Polynesians, Caucasian missionaries, and Chinese and Japanese immigrants, all with separate and intersecting stories spanning hundreds of years—millions, if you count the geology section. I was in awe that a single human being could know so many different things, turn them into a story that complicated, and make it so fun to read.

Most people who have read Hawaii—or seen the movie—remember the missionary storyline, which is a big chunk of the book. In that section, a rigid, unsympathetic man marries a perfectly nice girl and drags her off to Hawaii to convert the natives. This guy is so certain he's right all the time that he is incapable of seeing the intolerance and cruelty of his own actions. That is why, when the ship this missionary and his poor, violently seasick wife are traveling on meets up with a whaler who gives them a large quantity of bananas (a fruit the missionaries had never seen before), he insists she split one with him twice a day, to acclimate herself to the local food before they reach Hawaii. She is already vomiting, finds the smell of bananas revolting, and, as they overripen day by day, is made ever more sick by this twice-daily torture. He forces her to keep eating them, though, because he knows best—except that, as they eventually learn, Hawaiian women weren't even allowed to eat bananas.

I'll come clean—I was never a big fan of bananas, and the older I got, the more I disliked them. So lying in bed, already feeling sick, reading about that poor woman being forced to swallow slime until she threw up made a huge impression on me. I pretty much knew that as soon as I was in charge of my own menu, bananas were off my grocery list. I buy them for my husband now, and I like banana bread, but don't ask me to eat a raw one.

Michener published over forty books, and if he were still alive, today would be his 100th birthday. Somehow over the years I've lost my copies of Tales of the South Pacific and The Source (his book about Israel), but in my house right now I have Hawaii, Texas, Centennial (about the American West), Chesapeake (Bay), The Covenant (South Africa), The Drifters, and Space.

If I stay in bed rereading them all, will somebody bring me a (banana-free) tray?

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


January 16, 2007
Speaking of Birdies . . .

I've lived in Southern California all my life, so I feel pretty confident saying that parrots are not a natural part of our wild bird population. Even so, in the area of San Diego where I live we have a whole noisy flock of them. The rumor is they started out as pets, got loose somehow, and reproduced to their current impressive numbers. I've seen similar-looking birds offered for sale at the Mexican border (despite the fact that it's illegal to bring them into the States), so maybe they made their way north from there. In any event, they're here now.

The other day I heard some serious squawking from my driveway and went out to investigate. At least ten wild parrots had taken up perches in our coral tree and were busy announcing their arrival to the neighborhood. These two might be a couple. Aren't they cute?
I was pretty thrilled—until I figured out the reason for their visit. It turns out they didn't drop by to say hello and pose for photos. Their actual motive had to do with those red flowers.


That's right—they're eating them. But they don't like the whole flower, just a millimeter or so at the end they've yanked out of the tree. The rest gets dropped about two seconds later. I even thought that was cute, until I realized how fast they were stripping the tree. In under fifteen minutes our driveway looked like it had weathered a freak red confetti storm. Those flowers normally last all winter, so eventually I started thinking I should encourage the birds to move along. Except that it seemed mean to go out there yelling or set the dog barking at them after I'd just spent so much time taking their pictures. . . .

Should you ever find yourself in this situation, it turns out that parrots are not real keen on having a van driven under the tree they are eating. I had to run an errand anyway. Honest.

Thanks for visiting.
See you soon,

Laura


January 1, 2007
Happy New Year!

I hope you had a great holiday season and are looking forward to this new year as much as I am. Did you make any resolutions? I didn't make one this year, but if I had, it probably would have been something in the interest of increased productivity. Perhaps:

I will not check my books' sales rankings on B&N.com and Amazon.com more often than once a week. And I will really, really not e-mail my editor about them. (I know someone who would appreciate that one.)

Or:

I will not surf the Internet when I am supposed to be writing. Even if I am only going to peek for a minute and haven't been online for two whole hours. Because let's face it—there is nothing a person can do on the Internet in a minute, especially not when the variety of things she can see there is endlessly fascinating and meanwhile, back in her office, she's been stuck trying to write the same page all morning.

Or:

Even though keeping tabs on Disney and The N and watching just about every teen show on TV is clearly important research and in no way wasted time, I will cut back on the total number of television programs I follow in order to free up more time for work.

Or not.

The problem with New Year's resolutions is that when I make them, I tend to keep them. And who really wants a 2007 with less Amazon.com, B&N.com, the Internet, or Friday Night Lights? I could resolve never to mention Internet sales rankings to my editor again, but sooner or later I'm bound to think of a compelling reason to break that one, so why set myself up for failure? No, I've decided that it's better to head into 2007 unfettered by petty resolutions, focusing instead on the wide-open promise this brand-new year has to offer.

I'll be kicking off 2007 by writing my first middle-grade novel, a project about which I'm very excited. And on July 10, Queen B will be released in paperback. I'm looking forward to growing this Web site and learning new tricks to improve it. I might even birdie a hole in golf—or at least get two pars in a row.

In other words, the possibilities are endless. I'm going to embrace the possibilities.

Hey, you know what? That makes a pretty good resolution!

Thanks for visiting.
See you soon,

Laura

 

Contents copyright © 2006–2016 by Laura Peyton Roberts. All rights reserved. Text and
images contained within this site are copy protected under international copyright laws.