Journal 2008

December 11, 2008
You Know You've Been on Deadline When . . .

I've been busy finishing a book that should come out in 2010—more on that later—and it seems like no matter how hard I work in advance, the last two weeks of a deadline are always brutal. I turned in the manuscript last week, and after living, breathing, and not-sleeping that story every day for months I'm still wandering around here trying to figure out what to do with myself.

The obvious solution would be to start a new project, and I will. But not today. I need a week or so to decompress and remember what it means to have a personal life. Which brings me to the subject of this post.

You Know You've Been on Deadline When . . .

You need to catch up with the dusting using a handheld vacuum cleaner.

You are finally free to leave the house and you no longer remember where to go.

Being away from the computer for more than an hour gives you the shakes.

You have a bunch of laundry to do, but no detergent—or food.

You forgot how good your desk looks without all that paper piled on it.


There are people studying for finals right now who can probably relate. For them, and for everyone else on a deadline, four words: deep breaths; caffeine; Unisom.

You know you'll feel great when you've finished! Especially once you remember what you were doing before you started . . .

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


November 17, 2008
Say Huh?

As my own Webmaster, I have access to a variety of weird statistics regarding my Web site, including "Top Search Phrases," the strings of words people type into search engines that lead them here. Don't worry, I can't trace those phrases back to whoever entered them—although someone with more computer savvy probably could. I simply use that information as an indication of which aspects of my site people are most interested in.

For the most part, these search strings are predictable: my name, individual book titles, "clearwater crossing." Not infrequently, though, people get directed to my site for reasons I can figure out but which may or may not make sense to them. For example, my site is Google's number one pick for "red-headed model melanie." I would not have seen that coming, and yet . . . okay. And after you know that, it's much easier to see how I get offered up for "model high cheekbone chiseled jaw" and "Josh Stone legs."

There are searches that hit me for obvious reasons, and yet out of all the sites on the Internet, I find it staggering that I've been tagged for that particular word. Examples: "newbery," "author," "puzzle," "journal," "books." All of these words appear on my site multiple times, but they also appear on so many other, larger, more subject-specific sites that it boggles my mind to think that anyone found me that way.

And then there are the searches that don't make sense even to me. Two favorites from this year: "women's sad journals and hurting poems" and "why does my boyfriend keep disappearing?" Say huh? I'd prefer to think my work includes very little of the former, and if the answer to that second search is anywhere on my site, I'd really like to know about it.

Seriously. Clue me in.

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura

PS—If you're participating in NaNoWriMo, you're halfway finished. Hang in there!


November 2, 2008
Daylight Saving Time, The Sequel

Guess what? I still hate daylight saving time. And this time of year I hate it more, because the days are about to get "shorter." If I were a politician, abolishing daylight saving time would be my first bill. How does no one in congress jump on it when the Wall Street Journal prints an article like this? The article references that report I mentioned before, in which researchers found that DST actually uses more electricity, and the report was just updated to stand by those conclusions.

I'll admit that in the grand scheme of problems our government ought to be fixing daylight saving time isn't that important. On the other hand, most of the issues congress faces are hard and this one is dead simple. Wouldn't any of our elected officials like a little easy success?

All right, enough. I've made my feelings clear.  Now I have to go and change about a hundred clocks.

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura

PS—Best of luck to those of you participating in NaNoWriMo this month!


October 31, 2008
Happy Haunting!

Have fun!

Laura


October 14, 2008
And the Newbery Goes to . . .

If you are an actor, you probably dream of winning an Oscar. If you write middle grade books, the undisputed heavyweight equivalent is the Newbery Award. I would be very, very surprised if there isn't an author somewhere who has given a fictitious Newbery acceptance speech to a mirror, just to imagine what winning would feel like.

The truth is, though, even authors at the very top of the middle-grade heap can't count on ever winning a Newbery. That's partly because a book has to win in the year it comes out (and competition some years is particularly fierce) and partly because it is just about impossible to predict what the Newbery committee will go for in any given year. So impossible, in fact, that some people have started to wonder if the committee may be putting too high a premium on the element of surprise, choosing little-known titles while leaving excellent, popular books out in the cold. School Library Journal recently posted an extremely interesting article on this subject titled Has the Newbery Lost Its Way?

In case you're wondering what my opinion is, any author who wins the Newbery has my respect. Period. I believe we have to honor the selection committees' efforts too. The Newbery still shines for me, and will for as long as I remember the childhood thrill of getting my hands on a Newbery book. But I do agree with some of the points made in the article. Which ones? Doesn't matter. Which points do you agree with?

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


October 1, 2008
Odds and October

Fall always seems to creep up on me. A couple of days ago I was out driving and spotted some weird stuff filling a house window. As I got closer, I realized I was looking at ghost decorations. Ghosts? I thought. In—? Oh, wow, it's almost October. And now it actually is October. Time flies regardless of whether you're having fun. Or maybe that whole time thing is a myth:

 

Realizing that October was upon us gave me the idea to pop over to the NaNoWriMo site to see if they were gearing up for November's National Novel Writing Month yet. They are already off and running over there. I have journaled about this event before, twice. If you want to write a novel but need some help getting started, this would be a great way to jump in. They even have a Young Writers Program. Right now there's a bit posted about a girl who wrote a novel with NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago, when she was 19, and will see it published in January. (Yes, it takes that long for a book to hit the shelves. All the more reason to start ASAP.)

Speaking of things hitting the shelves, this October staple (one of my personal favorites) ought to be available by now:

Which made me wonder, Why don't they make candy peas? Or candy beans? How about a Candy Vegetable of the Month Club? Someone is missing a big opportunity here.

So I started poking around and, as usual, the Internet is way ahead of me:

Candy peas and carrots. Who knew? I also realize now that we do have candy beans. Unfortunately, they're in the form of jelly beans, which give me no thrill at all. However, (so far as I know) there is still no Candy Vegetable of the Month Club.

Which brings us to this:

That's a school of baby catfish with an adult down below, keeping tabs on the situation. I'd never seen anything like it before, which is why, when I encountered these guys, I took way too many pictures. Did you know baby fish are called fry? That strikes me as slightly ironic in the case of catfish; then again, they are completely safe with me. I love to look at fish, but I can't stand eating them—unless they are Swedish fish, in which case, yes, please.

How come no one has started a Candy Fish of the Month Club?

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


September 13, 2008
Still the Funniest Thing I've Ever Seen About Writing . . .

I posted this video last year, but it's still brilliant. If you are thinking of becoming a writer, watch it, learn it, and be prepared to live it. It's not even strictly necessary to have an editor involved in this conversation. Most of the writers I know are perfectly capable of playing both parts themselves.

Enjoy!

 

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


August 11, 2008
What I Did on My Journal Vacation

In addition to working on a book this summer, I've spent plenty of time pondering life's mysteries. Like, how can a pound of cookies turn into more than a pound of fat? And how do golf photographers keep that teeny hurtling ball in every frame while the cameramen on So You Think You Can Dance can't find the lower halves of two full-grown human beings? Here's one for the ages: If enough pages fall in the forest, do they turn back into a tree? And what is the sound of one's mind snapping?

As you can tell, I've been busy. But it hasn't been all hard work and philosophy. For one thing, I rediscovered these:

Big Stick popsicles have only 70 calories—way less than a handful of cookies. Unfortunately, my intensive summer research has proven that eating lots of Big Sticks doesn't make you lose cookie pounds any faster.

I also learned that Life on Mars is being remade for American television. I loved the British version, so of course I'll be watching the American one to see how they mess it up. If you're not familiar with this show, the main character, Sam, is a modern-day detective who gets hit by a car and wakes up in 1973, a year he is barely old enough to remember. In the British version, the accident happens within roughly the first five minutes and Sam spends the rest of the series trying to figure out if he has gone back in time, lost his mind, or is lying in a coma hallucinating—all while solving crimes without the assistance of DNA or any of the other technology he is used to. In my opinion, the American version has already missed a big opportunity by choosing New York as the setting instead of California. CSI Miami showed us that crime happens even at the beach, and the bikinis of the 70's could have attracted a whole extra audience for this show. Surfer boys or subways—which would you rather see?

And the last thing I did on my journal vacation? I actually took a few days off to go on a real vacation. My husband and I rented a cabin on Big Bear Lake for three nights and I promised myself I would not even think about writing the whole time we were there. So of course I found myself creeping out of bed with a flashlight at 3 a.m. to scribble down the solution to a plot problem I'd been unable to solve for over six months. (Let's not try to figure out how much over six months; that could only depress me.) I have written about this phenomenon before, but it's always a surprise when it happens—and an especially welcome one this time. Important work-related note to self: Spend more time paddling the kayak in exotic locations.

I hope your time off has been just as rewarding and that you're thoroughly enjoying your summer.

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


June 1, 2008
Working Vacation

I'm so far behind on writing a book that's already supposed to be finished that I've decided to declare the months of June and July a Journal vacation. You will only hear from me here in the event of one of the following:

  1. Major news regarding books I've already written.
  2. Major news regarding the book I am working on now.
  3. A deal involving movie rights for any of my books.

(And technically #3 doesn't need to be on there because everyone's going to hear from me if I ever sell movie rights.)

In the meantime, I leave you these links to suggestions for great summer reading:

     Summer Reading 2008

     ALA 2008 Best Books for Young Adults

     Teen Reads

And here are a few more, totally random, books that practically scream, "Take me to the beach!" (Okay, this part is a shameless plug, but even Barnes & Noble thought so.)

 

Wishing you all an outstanding vacation and many happy hours of warm, wonderful reading!

Thanks for visiting!
See you in August,

Laura


May 19, 2008
The King of Second Place?

Anyone who has read The Queen of Second Place will know why this cracks me up:

 

PC should take comfort in knowing that he has lots of company.

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura

PS—Both of my computers are PCs. Do you think that means anything?


May 10, 2008
This Never Gets Old

There are lots of firsts in publishing: the first time you get a manuscript accepted, the first time you see your book in galleys, the first time you hold your own finished book in your hands. But one of the most exciting firsts is seeing your first book on a store shelf. That makes being an author feel real in a way that none of the other firsts can.

I used to think every published book automatically appeared in stores, but that is not the case. Many, many good books come out each year and stores only have so much room. Which is why a sight like this thrills me even more now than it did the first time:

Do you see them? The first two books on the second shelf up? That's The Queen of Second Place and Queen B being featured with other fun summer reads at Barnes & Noble!

Granted, this is not the best photo. That's because I took it with my BlackBerry instead of my digital camera. Even so, if you squint you can see that the top two shelves hold The Chronicles of Narnia. I can't help thinking back on my Narnia-loving teen self and imagining how stunned I would have been if someone had shown me this photograph then. It's probably safe to say I would have majored in English the first time.

The shelf my books are on is labeled Fantasy & Adventure. I'm guessing that's because B&N used this rack for other books first. Still, it's fun to think how that designation could apply to Queen B and The Queen of Second Place. Technically, my books aren't fantasy, unless romantic fantasies count, in which case my main character, Cassie, totally earns her place. Also, some people might say fantasy is another word for delusion, which would mean Cassie has it covered again. And as far as adventure goes, let's see: getting kicked out of a bowling alley, becoming an unwitting participant in a wet-shirt contest, creating an embarrassing scene at a Sweet 16 . . . misadventure might be a better word. Delusion & Misadventure, that's the rack for Cassie. But all in a good way. She's really a very nice girl. If you'd like to judge for yourself, you can meet her here and here.

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


April 11, 2008
Dogged Inspiration

Have you ever liked somebody who just wasn't that into you?

 

Ever felt like chasing the dream wasn't getting you anywhere?

 

Sometimes no matter how hard you knock, opportunity won't let you in.

 

It's normal to feel discouraged, but don't even think about giving up.
You never know in what murky waters your next success might be lurking!

 

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


March 31, 2008
And While I Have My Rants Warmed Up . . .

I'm no fan of April Fools' Day. On any other day of the year, if someone lies to you, he is a liar. On April Fools' day, if someone lies to you, you are a fool. My tendency to take the people I know seriously makes this "holiday" especially dangerous for me.

The worst I was ever April-Fools' pranked happened one year at work. I'm a little obsessive about car-door dings, not because I drive fancy cars but because any dent drives me crazy. I'll go to a lot of effort to get an end parking space—and people notice this. On the Fools' Day in question, I was working in my second-story office, minding my own business, when one of my coworker friends—one with a view of where I'd parked—rushed to my doorway. "Laura!" she cried. "Someone just hit your truck in the parking lot and they're totally driving off!"

Almost. Had. A. Heart. Attack. In addition to hating dents, I didn't have the money to repair a wrecked truck. I flew out of my chair, raced across the building, and thundered down the stairs to the lobby so fast that I missed a step near the bottom. I only avoided breaking my neck by getting a two-handed grip on the handrail and swinging Zoro-style over the last few stairs. Lunging for the front door, I simultaneously saw my untouched truck through the glass and heard the burst of laughter from the lobby behind me. A bunch more friends had packed the back of the room, eager to witness my hilarious reaction.

Yes, yes, very funny. The fact that I could have died didn't bother anyone.

On the other hand, that whole thing was over in less than two minutes. Which makes a someone-hit-your-car prank seem downright wholesome compared to this:

 

Seriously, this is evil. Don't even think about doing it. Or at the very least, be positive you know how to undo it.

Watch yourself tomorrow.
You've been warned!

Laura


March 14, 2008
Why I Hate Daylight Saving Time

My computer thinks it is 10:51 again, even though it is 11:51 and I informed it of that last Sunday. Both incoming and outgoing e-mails for the past week have messed-up time stamps on them. And I still have a headache from adjusting to the time change, which leads me to one of my favorite rants:

      Why I Hate Daylight Saving Time

  1. Wasted time. I have clocks in every room, plus wristwatches, a clock in the car, one clipped to my purse, one on my golf bag, etc. Changing them all twice a year, every year, represents an enormous amount of time wasted on an extremely boring activity.
  2. Jet lag. It takes me about a week (twice a year) to become physically acclimated to the new schedule. When this happens due to travel, most people agree it's a bad thing, yet Daylight Saving Time puts us through jet lag (twice a year) without any of the fun of going someplace new.
  3. Utter pointlessness. When Benjamin Franklin first hatched this plan (jokingly) in 1784, his premise was that switching the clocks would maximize waking daylight hours, thereby saving candles. No one was crazy enough to actually try it until World War I, when energy conservation became part of the war effort. With due respect to Mr. Franklin (and not so much to the legislators who later put his joke into action) a recent study found that instead of saving electricity, Daylight Saving Time may actually cause us to use more of it.
  4. Complete randomness. Our intrepid leaders can't even decide when DST is supposed to happen. They have moved the start and end dates repeatedly, and why? Because the whole system is completely random anyway. Meanwhile, the problem I am having getting my computer onboard this year is very real.
  5. It doesn't have to be this way. Entire countries, not to mention Arizona and Hawaii, have quite sensibly chosen to ignore Daylight Saving Time and stay on the same time all year round. Arizona and Hawaii, I salute you. I envy you. I wish you would talk some sense into California.

I will admit this much: I like the "longer" days in summer. But I hate the "shorter" days in winter. And, most importantly, I loathe switching back and forth.

So here's a modest proposal: Let's pick a time and stick with it. Let's split the difference and call it a day. Let's give the coming generations of children the gift of proceeding through life without the headache of "springing forward" and "falling back." In short, let's admit that maybe, just possibly, a humorous two-hundred-and-something-year-old plan to save candles isn't all that pertinent to the way we live now.

If Ben Franklin were here, I'm sure he'd agree.

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


February 2, 2008
Valentine's Day Giveaway (Plus Pancakes)

Valentine's Day is coming up, which got me thinking about presents (and candy, obviously, but mostly presents because I'm still eating candy from Christmas), which got me thinking about a gift for my readers. I haven't held a contest in a while, I have a few copies of Queen B, and the fact that Queen B includes Valentine's Day seems to make it a natural present. Except (as you're likely thinking) a contest is not a present. So here's what I've decided:

From now until midnight PST on February 13, anyone who e-mails me will get their address put into a hat (or other handy receptacle) and on Valentine's Day I'll draw out three names to receive signed hardcover copies of Queen B. That's it! You don't have to answer a question or solve a puzzle (although if you like solving puzzles, I happen to have one here). You don't have to write anything more than "entry." You don't even have to be that speedy, because every entry received before Valentine's Day has an equal chance of winning.

Send your entries (or should we call them gift requests?) to . Good luck!

Meanwhile, in my ongoing quest to bring needed recognition to important overlooked holidays, I'd like to remind you that February 12 is National Pancake Day. And if that's not exciting enough, IHOP is giving away free pancakes! I know, it sounds too good to be true, but it says so right here so I believe it.

Eat a stack for me!
See you soon,

Laura

February 14 update: The giveaway is over! Thanks for participating, and Happy Valentine's Day!


January 26, 2008
They're Ba-ack!

Speaking of things that have landed . . . .

Remember those Where's Waldo? books? See if you can find the Waldo equivalent here:

Did you get him? I'll make it easy:

Yes, the parrots who make it their personal squawky mission to denude my coral trees are back, throwing red flower confetti all over the driveway. Their mess is a little annoying, but it's so fun watching them make it. Besides, what else are digital cameras for?

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


January 14, 2008
The Newbery Has Landed

Every year the American Library Association hands out its most coveted children's book awards during its Midwinter Meeting. The winners of the Coretta Scott King, Printz, Newbery, and Caldecott awards, among others, were all announced in Philadelphia this morning.

Last year I watched the presentation live via webcast, which is fun if you're up that early. This year things kicked off at 4:45 a.m. Pacific Time, though, so I caught (most of) a rerun. If you'd like to see the ALA awards presentation, you can view the on-demand webcast here.

Or, if you're one of those people who discover (as I did) that you can't endure the suspense of a lengthy presentation when there's a perfectly good press release you could read in two minutes, this is the link for you.

Thanks for visiting!
See you soon,

Laura


January 1, 2008
Happy New Year! (Again)

I hope you had a fun New Year's Eve. I always enjoy watching the Times Square ball drop (on TV because I live in California and on DVR this year because I fell asleep), but my favorite part of New Year's Eve is the fireworks. Given that I'm also crazy about England, if I ever get the chance to see this, I will definitely be there:

 

I've been to London twice and even ridden the London Eye (that giant wheel), but there were no rockets shooting off it at the time. Unfortunately. Because I would totally sign up for that. Would I drive one of those fireworks-spitting boats? Possibly not, but I wouldn't rule it out either. In fact, if you're in charge of those boats and you invite me, yes. Yes, I'll drive.

My favorite thing to do on New Year's Day? Here's a hint:

And one more.

That's right. I watch the Rose Parade. I love watching the Rose Parade so much I even put it in Queen B. And yes, technically it's called the Tournament of Roses Parade, but not by anyone local. Here in California, the Rose Parade is queen—in fact, I was all grown up before I even heard of that little Macy's thing in New York. Honest! Someday I'd like to see the Rose Parade in person, but not until I can figure out how to enjoy it the way I do at home: in my pajamas with a front row seat and orange rolls baking a few feet away.

Wishing you all a truly happy 2008!

Laura

 

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