Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Little Princess Syndrome

All of us mommies who have little girls know about this -- well, I'm thinking that I must not be the only one. Most little girls do have their daddies wrapped around their finger, no?

I know Kate has her dad not just wrapped, but tied up with a bow. And for a guy who first thought adoption was cool because we could get a boy, he sure does love his little princess.

He tries so hard to shield her from the bumps and bruises of life. Take for instance, her first foray into team sports. Ah, soccer.

I had a feeling that I should have swapped off and let him go to the Parent's Night at her kindergarten, while I went to the soccer field. I came home to find that Kate had spent at most 15 minutes at practice before running up to her dad, tears streaming down her face.

Of course he took the little princess home, where he promptly let her sack out on the couch.

When I tried to delve deeper into this, all he could sputter was, "It was all BOYS! They had BOYS on her team."

He, who lives and breathes football and basketball and any other rough-and-tumble sport, thought soccer would be too much of a contact sport for his little Princess.

Kate, of course, was upset because of a different reason, one that I sussed out of her this morning.

"They wouldn't let me kick the ball, Mommy!"

Yup. Knowing that she'll have to compete against boys her whole life through, I'd say she needs to head right back out on the soccer field and figure out how to MAKE them let her kick the ball.

I'll bet she'll learn to do it in the best Little Princess style yet.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I Need An MBA In The Business of Writing!

Yikes! This has been a week, all right! (Yes, I know it's only Tuesday!)

When I first started writing, I pictured a pubbed author's life kind of like the character Kathleen Turner played in "Romancing The Stone" (no, not the trek through the jungle with yummy Michael Douglas, but the first bit, where she's writing and sniffling all by her lonesome.) It would be a leisurely pace, writing away on my laptop, because publishing, everybody says, moves at a speed that makes glaciers look like they're on the Daytona 500.

Ha! Already this week, I have received a request for a three-paragraph synopsis of THE BABY WAIT (due this week) and a go-ahead to send a proposal on UP FROM ROCK BOTTOM, my current WIP. The synop is not due until Thursday, but I think I will get it in before that. I stayed up late last night to polish the proposal (and it's a fat proposal, since I'm sending all 189 pp of what I have so far), and get the final synop of UFRB written. It all winged its way to my lovely agent Miriam Kriss via cyberspace at midnight last night.

You see, I had to feed Kate, do kindergarten homework, and dunk her in the tub (plus copious amounts of story time) before I could get settled down on everything. Sleep? Who needs sleep? It's vastly over-rated.


Those are just my OFFICIAL assignments. Other stuff includes website worries -- why, oh, why didn't I tackle that one earlier? And then there's the prospect that my revisions for THE BABY WAIT are soon arriving. Plus, I dearly want to finish this WIP I'm on ...

You see ... (shame-faced), I have ANOTHER story idea.

That racket in the background? Well, that's my poor, long-suffering dh who is groaning loudly. As he says, "It's always another story, another deadline."

Maybe things will settle down soon, and I'll do better about blogging. No, I'll make that a promise -- I'll blog more regularly -- one day, soon, very soon. Just as soon as I get through this deadline.

Friday, August 25, 2006

A Final Exam On My Book

We had horrific thunderstorms last night, complete with flashflood warnings and a torrent of rain that would make Noah's ark feel a little uneasy (if arcs could feel, of course!). So no internet last night, and no writing and no blogging. Sigh. I will have to catch up tonight.

I was all set to blog, too, and knew what I wanted to write about: I had to take a final exam on my very own book. Yikes!

When I sold, my editor told me we'd have to rush on the cover art, but I didn't know what "rush" meant. It meant that I was given my deadline for my Art Fact Sheet even before the official title had been settled (though that came quite soon after, thank goodness!)

The Art Fact Sheet is a series of questions about your book that Harlequin's cover artists use to come up with your very own cover. The cover is frequently in process before the book goes into print, I understand, so artists need to know a little bit about the book before they pick up their paint brush (or computer mouse, more likely in this day and age!)

I peeked at it the first day they sent me the info. Truly, it scared the be-jeebies out of me! Man! They expected me to answer all these questions? Gulp.

You'd think I would readily know the answers to questions about a book I've revised three times, but, ahem, no. I know how the characters feel. I know the obstacles they overcome. I know the way they typically respond to whatever curve balls life throws at them.

But eye color? And did my heroine's hair match the "short but floppy" or the "short and curly" better? Or maybe it was really short and wavy? I had to go back and look at how old she was in the book before I could plug in her age. My own book! I had to look!

Questions like that were the easy ones. They also had some tough "essay" type questions about conflicts and turning points and themes. Plus you had to describe up to three scenes that you would suggest for the cover. Ultimately they decide what goes on it -- they're the experts in marketing, after all.

I hope I have it all done right. I know I felt a huge load off me when I finally e-mailed the editorial assistant and told her it was done. I haven't felt that way since I finished a final in my upper level Lit courses in college!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A well-rounded diet

My family can attest to the fact that we didn't own a book that I haven't read -- growing up, I read everything, including Webster's. I know. I'm a complete geek, and even more geeky for confessing it. But I used to open that book on rainy days, when I couldn't find anything else in the house worth re-reading for the second or third or fourth time -- and we had lots and lots of books.

Where was I? Oh, rainy days and Websters. I'd run my fat little finger down that column of tiny print, marveling that there were so many different ways to say the same thing -- and yet, not quite, for each had its own little meaning and connotation.

I'll go ahead and admit that I got on a Hemingway kick when I was in high school, something that concerned my English teacher to no end. Did I really, really GET it? she wondered.

At the same time I devoured Hemingway, I was also reading things my teachers probably considered "junk." Rex Stout. Catherine Cookson. Robin Cook. Phyllis Whitney. Any Harlequin Romance I could get my hands on. (No, these writers didn't write junk, but you know how librarians and English teachers can get, right? Heck, I was an English prof myself, so I know we can get uppity.)

I didn't limit myself to "adult" literature, either. I went back and read all sorts of "children's" literature, books that hadn't appealed to me when I was younger: ALICE IN WONDERLAND, LITTLE WOMEN (still one of my faves), and even THE FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS.

To this day, I'm still an eclectic reader -- lots of biographies and mysteries and thrillers -- oh, and romance, of course. Lately, I've been enjoying Barbara Park's Junie B. Jones series ( with my daughter -- it's great writing, and I love the little scamp she's created.

The point of all this? The point, I guess, is that I'm glad I never fell into the trap of believing that "reading should be good for you." Tess Gerritsen put it so well recently in her blog entry called Legume Literature. People who are determined to read high-brow stuff -- when high-brow stuff really doesn't move them -- are making themselves miserable, and in the process not getting the true payoff for reading.

So ... With my little one, I do what my mom did for me: I let her read whatever interests her. If it's a non-fiction book about snakes, well, I'll squirm but I'll keep turning those pages. If it's more June B. Jones, that's great, too! As long as she's reading!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Cool Cat

I am about to confess to something that would make millions of people say, "Yech!" Heck, I even said, "Yech!" myself. So why should I fuss about anyone else's agreeing with my opinion?

In addition to the recently "fixed" Max (who seems just as manly as ever, or at least as interested in warning off other strays from his territory), we are the proud possessors of another kitten, a flame-point Siamese my daughter dubbed Pete.

If you don't know what a flame-point is, don't feel like the Lone Ranger; I didn't either. Picture a white short-haired cat with golden-brown ears and paws and tail. He looks like he's been stuck under a broiler for just a bit and he's crisped at the edges.

Knowing Pete, he'd waltz right into that broiler. He cannot resist an open door. He'll go in my kitchen cabinets, my closets, behind service panels -- if it's a crack that's as wide as his whiskers, he's in there.

Against dark portals, he fairly glows, so it's no big deal to swish him back out of the forbidden opening.

Ah, but it gets complicated when he attempts light-colored doorways.

Like my fridge, for instance.

Yup, that's right. The other night, my better half was watching television, while I was curled up with my laptop. Kate was in bed. All of a sudden, my dh heard Pete meowing.

He'd heard that meow -- that was a, "Get me outta here!" meow. So off he went, opening cabinet doors and closet doors and peeking into every corner he could think Pete might have been.

When all stones (or so he thought) had been turned, with no little broiled-coconut colored kitten stepping out, my dh decided he'd open the fridge.

Out popped Pete, a little chilled, but no worse for the wear.

You'd think a chilled kitten would fear the fridge, but not so. Pete's still intrigued by the big food box. We just know now to keep our feet in continuous motion so we can sweep away any of his attempts to be a cool cat again.

Friday, August 18, 2006

My own little clothes pony

I came to motherhood late -- and with zilch hands-on practice. I'd never even held a baby until I held Kate. Part of that was I was afraid I wouldn't want to let go. Part of it was sheer, unmitigated terror. Strange, I know, to have the twin emotions of terror and yearning in response to the same thing.

Suffice it to say, I've had loads of surprises along the way. For turning out to be as good as I am, Kate can thank all the good and sensible moms I know who have steered me right.

One of those surprises has been Kate's fascination with clothes. The child has picked out her outfits since she was 18 months old -- back when I thought it would be a good thing to lay out two different ones and let her choose. I had no idea she really was choosing until I kept pulling out this cute little pink striped outfit and she kept picking the alternative. One day I tried to put said pink outfit on her -- only to get her visceral, "Me no wike!"

Fast forward. She's five. She's in kindergarten, with its PE and climbing equipment and slides and playgrounds. Skirts and flipflops are out, so we have to make do with her shorts wardrobe -- such as it is.

This morning, the child hornswoggled me into letting her change shorts not once, not twice, not three times -- but four . She finally got a pair that she liked -- while I stood there in no makeup, dressed in my ratty bathrobe, hearing the clock tick. And it's not like I didn't lay out clothes the night before.

But my bad. I didn't let Kate choose. Oh, man. I've got to get better at this mothering business.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A bit of progress

Well, I'm in proud possession of another chapter of UP FROM ROCK BOTTOM, my current WIP. (Which is why I didn't blog last night -- I was all written out.) My usual pace is 10 pages a night -- which is also my usual chapter length, too. But what with school starting and The Call and the flurry of activity which has resulted from that, I've been more than a little ADD lately.

It was nice to get to the end of a chapter, and I know that eventually I'll be able to do that every night again. I feel more confident now about where this manuscriptis going.

I should really give myself a break. I know that. I've had a tumultous few weeks -- the RWA conference in July, The Call the next week, Kate's first day of kindergarten, our cat getting hurt. It's all been a bit much. And I don't do well with "a bit much" patches.

Things (if not my house) are getting back to normal (and my dear husband would say that the house is very much normal, if not neat, LOL). I'm finally mostly unpacked from conference and my editor hasn't called me back saying, "BIG JOKE! BIG, BIG JOKE!" Kate is doing well in school -- and Max is back home from the vet. He is not holding his, uhm, procedure against me, instead climbing up in my lap, turning on the purr motor and making me feel incredibly guilty.

And I've got a chapter done. Tonight, I'll write one more chapter. And the night after that, another chapter. Before I know it, I'll be typing THE END.

Which, besides "I love you!" or "Congratulations, you're the new Publisher's Clearinghouse winner!" or "I'd like to buy your book," are the most beautiful words in the English language.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

It's Official!

I have official word! My book has a name -- THE BABY WAIT, news my editor sent me via e-mail -- along with a heads-up that revisions should be winging my way shortly. That news certainly has lit a fire under me to get this current Work In Progress (WIP) finished.

It's so nice to be able to refer to my upcoming book with a real, live, definitive name! It will take some getting used to in order to think of it as anything but THE RED THREAD, but I had an idea from the get-go that my own working title was toast.

For those of you not familiar with the publishing process, authors have very little control over most everything once the final draft hits the editor's desk: the title, the cover, the back cover copy -- all of that is carefully engineered by The Powers That Be to generate book sales. I defer to those Powers That Be, as they are in the business of selling books. Me? I just write 'em!

On the home front, the Max report looks good. Max is doing very well, according to the vet, and my former tom will come home that new non-man tomorrow. Kate is quite excited about the prospect, though we've warned her that he probably won't feel up to a whole lot of holding. I just hope the rascal doesn't think we've abandoned him!

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Repellent Weekend

I got the grand sum total of eight pages written this weekend, so I am well and truly behind on my self-imposed deadline for UP FROM ROCK BOTTOM -- which means I'm well and truly behind on my other self-imposed deadline for OLD GLORY.

But, teacher, I have an excuse, really, I do!

Friday evening, while I was playing around with website design ideas, and Kate was playing in her room with a friend of ours watching out for her, she got into the insect repellent -- Family Off, the Skintastic version?

Well, Kate decided she would spray down her room with the stuff -- only she forgot to check the direction of the nozzle on the spray. It happens -- I did it myself when I was her age. My spray of choice was the aerosol static clean eliminator.

Having experienced such a crisis first-hand, I knew what I had to do: get that girl's head under the water and wash out that eye for 15 minutes. Only, things didn't go to plan: picture Kate screaming "No 'mergency room! NO 'mergency room!" Picture our friend shouting that what was really needed was for us to take her out to the yard and use a water hose. That of course induced more screaming from Kate.

Fifteen minutes later, with me soaked and Kate soaked, I finally felt confident enough to call the ER and the poison control hotline. The guy on the poison control hotline was a peach -- he seemed quite impressed that I'd actually made a five-year-old cooperate with an eye-flushing.

Assured that I had done all I could do, I collapsed into a chair, hugged my little one until her ribs creaked in protest ... and ordered a pizza. No way could I cook after that adrenaline buzz wore off.

Our pizza was interrupted when our tomcat Max got into a free-for-all with a stray. He seemed no worse for wear when we got him in.

The next morning, both Kate and Max showed battle scars: Kate's eye was swollen and Max was limping on a leg that was double in size. So off to the pediatrician and vet we went, to their respective Saturday clinics.

Kate's doctor laughed at me when he saw her eye -- after the wait for our turn with him, Kate's eye had no visible swelling. The vet, on the other hand, did not laugh -- Max was the proud possessor of the highest feline fever the vet had ever seen.

Picture Kate holding onto the counter by her fingernails as I pulled her away from her beloved cat ... Max is now much improved after spending a few days recuperating, and when he comes back, let's just say he will be a brand new man -- or as my editor so succinctly put it -- a brand new non-man!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Sign of the Times

My hubby can be a sweetie -- and completely surprise me sometimes! Like yesterday, when Kate and I left open house and drove down Main Street ... there it was, big as life, a rental sign he'd put on display in a friend's front lawn.

On one side, he'd spelled out, "Congratulations, Cynthia Reese!"

And on the other, he'd wished good luck to Kate on her upcoming first day of Kindergarten.

It was definitely an awwww moment!

He gets impatient at times, with my seeming permanent attachment to my laptop and my undeniable addiction to the internet and the loops and boards I'm a part of (JUST a few dozen!) He worried about me this past year and a half, worried about my single-minded focus on writing. After all, I'd given up Law & Order AND CSI (and all their subsequent mutations) to pursue this -- this was a serious commitment!

He didn't want to be a wet blanket -- but he also didn't want to see me chasing after a pipe dream. My guy is a definite here-and-now kind of guy.

And speaking of Kate's Kindergarten Debut ... she did wonderfully ... but Mommy cried. I did manage to hide my tears until I was out the classroom door. This afternoon after school, she told me, "You know, I think I might go back there!"

Glad to hear that -- since tomorrow is another school day!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Paroxysms of Paranoia

Okay, so I get the good news about my book on Friday. I should be deliriously happy, right? Floating on air?

But for the longest time, a lead balloon kept me tethered to the ground. I kept thinking ... What if you got the release date wrong? Wouldn't that be soo embarrassing?

I looked at those notes I scribbled during The Call a million times. Each time I looked, the ink had not changed. It still said, in blue ballpoint, April 2007.

Had to be a mistake. I have writer friends who have been waiting and waiting and waiting for a slot. So it must have been my wishful thinking or complete delusion or auditory hallucinations.

And ... ahem, if I got that wrong, what if I'd gotten the whole deal wrong?

I was ordered by more than one critique partner to get hold of myself and calm down. So, I screwed up my courage and I e-mailed my editor, and I asked the stupid question.

Luckily my editor knows a few things about the phenomenon of Book Brain. She was hugely gracious about it. Yup, the book is to be released in April of 2007. I even have my number! Wow! No official title yet, but that will come.

My dh is learning a few things about Book Brain, too. I attribute, gratefully, to a whole host of my shortcomings here lately to Book Brain: forgetting to register my five-year-old for her ballet class; forgetting to buy milk when we were down to droplets; forgetting to double-check my day-job's pay stub to see if there were any errors on my direct deposit. He's pretty accommodating now, but I have a feeling he's thinking the same things my critique partners have told me.

Get hold of yourself and calm down!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Truth About Ladybugs

It occurred to me that perhaps I should explain about the ladybug in my banner.

I've always liked ladybugs -- what's not to like, right? They don't bite, spray or sting, which is the kind of bug you're hard-pressed to find in south Georgia where I live.

But I didn't love ladybugs until my dh and I were in midst of The Paperchase and The Wait for our daughter Kate. Kate was born in China, and we adopted her when she was 8 months old -- our Wait lasted about 18 months, so we were praying for her even before she was born.

When you don't have morning sickness or even a due date you can count on, people come up with some awfully strange superstitions. Somehow, some way, the folks on the APC (adoptive parents of Chinese children) Yahoo group came up with the idea that every time you saw a ladybug, referrals would soon follow -- somewhere, and soon, a mom would get The Call -- she would find out who and where her baby was.

So ladybugs became our mascot of sorts -- and to this day, when I see them, I smile and think, "Referrals!"

It's only fitting, since the book that garnered me another sort of The Call is about a couple going through their Wait for a baby from China, that I use ladybugs here, too.

So if you see a ladybug ... know that somewhere, and soon, some happy mom will get The Call that will change her life forever.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Getting The Snail To The Ark

One of my mantras is a quote from Charles Spurgeon: "Perseverance is what got the snail to the ark." It's a great motivator, right up there with, "The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time."

And it's so true. Years ago, I read a book (can't remember the title) about getting organized in a week or ten days. As a hopelessly recovering disorganized person, I am drawn to books like that, and this one was no different. It talked about your priorities and your dreams, and it said something magical that stuck with me: do one thing toward your dream each and every day, and your dream can't help but come true.

The first dream I had was my house, and I'd been holding onto that dream when I started reading the book on organization. I put that book down, and I called an architect. In the weeks that followed, my dh and I went shopping for land. A year or so later, we wound up not building the house we originally had planned, instead moving an old house that we got for a bargain. But if I hadn't been prepared, that opportunity would have slipped away.

The second dream I had was for my daughter. We adopted her from China, and it involved a long, long process. But I did one thing each and every day. It might have been something really small -- or it might have been a great big accomplishment. No matter, it chipped away at the barriers between us, and sooner than I could imagine, she was placed in my arms.

The third dream? Well, you guessed it! It was writing and selling a book. I tackled that dream in the same way. Each day, I did something that I could do toward my goal. It might have been writing (I'm a big believer in writing every day on a project), or it could have been studying the market, or making connections with other writers so that I wouldn't feel so alone.

Those other writer friends were crucial. In this business, there are times you get down, times when you don't feel like you can go on. The key, though, is to keep plugging along ... and you, too, will get to the ark, right alongside of the snail.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Hello, World!

This is a pretty big step for a technologically-challenged gal such as myself, starting a blog. I've resisted for some time now, even though lots of my writer friends have blogs to which I'm hopelessly addicted.

But Friday brought news that made me realize I had to disengage myself from the cabbage roses in the wallpaper ... big news!


Yes, the wonderful call from a wonderful editor, telling me that -- gasp -- Harlequin Superromance wants to buy my book!

I was supposed to get The Call Thursday -- my editor (oh, how I love saying that! Please forgive me!) called me twice, only to catch me in a meeting with my phone's ringer not on. So when I realized that it was Harlequin on my caller ID, I screwed up my courage and I called her back the next morning.

My book, tenatively titled THE BABY WAIT, will hit the shelves April 2007 -- a scant few months from now. I am beginning to realize that everyone who told me to get a website and get a blog and get some ideas going was, ahem, right.

Thanks to a very dear friend of mine for helping me set this up -- I told you I was technologically challenged!

As far as what happens next on the road to publication, your guess is as good as mine. It should be an adventure -- one that I would not miss for anything!