Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Sweet Home Sarasota

We're here! We made it to Florida in the late afternoon yesterday. Nearly our whole 3-day drive was rainy. It was even pouring as we drove through St. Petersburg, which was named the sunniest city in America. The whole Sunshine State thing wasn't resonating with me... But amazingly, just as we drove over the Sunshine Skyway bridge heading from St. Petersburg to the Sarasota area, we drove into the sunshine and it has stayed with us since. Our moving truck won't arrive until at least tomorrow, so we have a very small subset of our stuff. Unfortunately, we brought my laptop computer ourselves, and it was a casualty of the move! Right now I'm using my husband's laptop from work. My laptop monitor was destroyed, but I am very much hoping the data is salvageable. My writing was backed up, but our digital photos from the last few months only existed on that hard drive, and I'd also lose several years worth of e-mail, etc., not to mention that I can't currently remember any of my passwords for checking my e-mail from another computer! Whoops. Anyway, except for that, so far so good. We need to try to get a hasty physical for my younger son today so he can start preschool here (he just had one in November but they want it from a Florida dr!), & we want to take my older son by his new elementary school. We also need to get the younger one's glasses fixed, as a screw fell out for the billionth time and they're being held together by a safety pin--which the dr may not take as a sign we're taking good care of him! ;-)

Friday, January 27, 2006

Last night in Texas

It's our last night in Texas! Which ought to seem momentous after I've spent my whole life here, but the move has been so long in coming (3+ months since we found out about it) that I'm just ready to get it over with. The movers finished packing & loading today, & left with our stuff by 4:30 pm. My husband ended up giving some of our large unwanted stuff (sleeper sofa, loveseat, broken dryer, and dining table) to one of the movers, so our oversized giveaway items are gone. The kids and I spent the day at the house of Kyle's best friend, which was pleasant. In the evening, we had a last Texas dinner at Pok-E-Jo's barbecue, bought a portable DVD player for the long drive (I had really resisted ever getting a DVD player for the car, but 20 hours with 2 small kids in a confined space...sheesh!), and bought sleeping bags for my husband and me so we'd have somewhere to sleep tonight! We wanted some anyway. We're having kind of a family slumber party tonight in Kyle's room. We still have to get rid of the last food in the fridge, pack our van better, & get a few more small items out of the house, but we hope to hit the road in the morning. Even with all of the stuff out of it, I still don't like our house, so except for the fact that this is the house I brought both my babies home to, I won't be too sad to say good-bye to it!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Boxing Day

My house is full of boxes. However, it's not all packed up yet...apparently, we have so much junk that one day wasn't enough. I suspect it must be at least 2/3 done. I think all that's left is one child's room, several kitchen cabinets, the audio/visual stuff, the laundry room, and the garage (er...there's a lot in there, though it's at least been started!). My van is also overflowing with stuff we wanted to take ourselves, so I have to get that organized before we embark on our 20-hour drive! Unfortunately, we still have a lot to get rid of, & I don't know how/when we're going to do that. Normally we'd do it tonight, but our friends are having a send-off for us tonight! Anyway, the kids have both been withdrawn from their schools here, & we will probably leave town Saturday morning, or Saturday afternoon at the latest. So weird!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Ready or not...

...here they don't come! We were so not ready for the movers, we managed to put it off another day. So now they're coming tomorrow instead! Which is mostly a relief, though I'm a tad disappointed this won't all be over today. I just hope we'll be able to get the rest done today considering how exhausted we are now. I got NO sleep last night, and my husband got maybe 2 hours. He is sleeping again now, but I'm terrible at napping. But I know I'll need renewed energy to be ready for tomorrow. Too bad a construction crew is currently using an excavator to dig a huge hole in the street right outside of my house, about 30 feet from my bedroom window (I have no idea why)...so it's awfully loud for trying to rest. They've also completely blocked off my driveway and a large area around it, so I hope a moving truck can ever get near!

Can someone freeze time?

It is almost 3 am. The movers are coming in 5 or 6 hours. To say we are not quite ready is like saying an ice cube is not quite as big as an iceberg. Gulp!

Monday, January 23, 2006

A novel approach to my novels

An idea stolen from another writer friend...

10 ways you can tell you're reading a novel by me:
  1. It has bizarre touches such as beet restaurants, gum-crazed towns, or cat romance novels.

  2. The characters think too much and don't do enough (I'm working on that...).

  3. Characters may have odd names and/or talk about their names or nicknames.

  4. It's a bit wordy.

  5. The characters eat constantly, often fast food or something weird.

  6. No one seems to say anything harsher than "crap."

  7. Beets are mentioned somewhere in the novel (seriously, I mention beets in all of them!).

  8. It's not that heavy on setting.

  9. It's a little angsty, even if it's humor, and a little humorous, even if it's angsty.

  10. You know it's going to be laughed off the shelves the next big thing!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Only in my dreams

After several bad dreams that woke me up last night, I went back to sleep and dreamed I already had a book published & hadn't realized it! In the dream, I hadn't really counted it because it was written under assignment from an editor, instead of being my original idea. Yet it was an attractive hardback novel with my name on the cover (actually it looked a lot like Cynthia Lord's book Rules...), so I decided I might as well count it as my own book!

In reality, I'm frustrated because my move has put all my writing projects on hold since October, when we found out we were moving. I thought that once we got there, I could finally throw myself back into writing, but we're moving in such a disorganized fashion that it now looks like I'll be trying to sort out all the junk from my move for months! Even worse, we're just moving into a rental home that we don't see as a long-term solution, so we'll probably have to do it all again within the year. I'm still determined to carve out time for writing in the new place even if I'm surrounded by boxes and chaos at the time, but it may be hard to clear my mind for it.

In other dream news, a few nights ago my son Kyle (the one who just turned 5) crashed in my bed at 5 am after a bad dream of his own (bizarrely, he has recurrent bad dreams about Richard Scarry's Busytown!). Around 7 am, I was up getting ready in semi-darkness while he was still asleep on the bed. No one was around him or touching him, and his brother Ryan was still asleep in his own bed, but Kyle suddenly said, loudly, "Ryan MADE me push him!" He was fast asleep at the time. I'd say that was a very telling dream!

Friday, January 20, 2006

My husband and I would like to call for a moratorium on joking statements that "men won't ask for directions" and "women love shoes (or shopping)," especially when said as if it's a new and particularly humorous insight, and most especially when said by comedians and/or pastors. In cases where the moratorium is violated, please refrain from chuckling & nudging your partner as if you'd never heard it before, as that will only encourage further violations. Thank you.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

My "baby" turned 5 this weekend...hard to believe! The camoflauge, warpaint, or whatever it is on his face is left over from a dinosaur hunt:

Okay, theoretically babies can't read, tie shoes, drive bumper cars, or do one-handed cartwheels, all of which he can, but if my husband can still be the "baby" of his family, this little guy can be ours!

Even though we're moving out of state any day, I bought a special State of the Arts Texas license plate when I renewed my plate a few months ago. I love it! With the new screen-printing and font, it looks even better than the one in that picture. I'm so glad I got it, even at the last minute. I'll hate to remove it for one of the Florida ones, none of which I'm thrilled with (not even their arts one...), though I expect it'll go on my office wall. If you live in Texas, buy one of these plates and support the arts! (There are also several literacy ones available.)

Things I will be glad to leave when we move: ROAD CONSTRUCTION, ROAD CONSTRUCTION, & MORE ROAD CONSTRUCTION! Saturday I had a nightmare morning with 2 major roads I needed to turn across completely closed off. I was diverted miles out of my way in each case, & started thinking even 2 weeks is too long to live with this! I'll also be glad to leave my horrible, inconsistent "broadband" Internet connnection that knocks me offline constantly and seems to get slower speeds than my old dial-up! Supposedly our new Florida connection is much better (though the cable TV doesn't have a big menu of movies to rent at any time like ours does here...huh?!).

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Here's a fun time waster for writers: Enter the title of your novel, & the Lulu Titlescorer will predict its chances of becoming a bestseller. My YA novel Chasing Monday scored a whopping 79.6%, while my midgrade Purple Panic came out at 41.4%. The 3 picture book titles I tried came out much lower, but the formula is based on bestselling novels for adults, so I don't think it would be particularly accurate with books for young children. (After all, I doubt a novel called If You Give a Mouse a Cookie would have topped the bestseller list like the picture book did!) It also doesn't seem to account well for plays on words, & they readily acknowledge that it may be way off with some titles, but they claim it was accurate for nearly 70% of titles tested. Take it with a hearty helping of salt!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I heard about a new book called This Day in the Life: Diaries from Women Across America, which features 34 women's diaries from a single day, June 29, 2004. I checked my blog & found an entry for that day. I guess it was a pretty productive day, because the midgrade story I mentioned revising is now slated for publication in an anthology from Blooming Tree Press, and the YA story I was entering in a contest received an honorable mention in the contest, & I later got notice it's being considered for a different Blooming Tree Press anthology. To complete my "diary" of the day, here are excerpts from the e-mails I sent that day.

Now stop me before I blog again! A few months ago I was averaging one post a week, if that, and so far this year I've made 9 posts in 10 days. I actually drafted another yesterday & decided not to post it after all. I guess blogging helps me avoid what I really need to be doing! But I hate to keep shoving my previous brilliant posts out of the way before people even get to read them. ;-)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

My husband's on a plane back to Florida right now--bah humbug. And I have so much to do before our move, I can't stand to think about it. Anyway, we had a pretty Austiny night last night. We had dinner at the original Kerbey Lane Cafe, then went to the university area to see the UT tower all lit up for the national football championship, as shown in my post from January 5. The campus area was swarming with people, hundreds of them, most wearing burnt orange and most taking pictures of the tower. We didn't get out of the car (nowhere to park!), but had our windows down & it seemed like a fun, friendly atmosphere, so I'm glad we took the kids to see it before they forget they were ever Texans! We capped off the evening with ice cream from Amy's Ice Cream, complete with pictures from the photo booth:

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Cool, cool, cool. My in-laws gave me a $20 Borders gift card for Christmas, and it's good at Borders.com, which also happens to be Amazon. So I was able to order the latest 2 items on my Amazon wish list for just over $5, including shipping: Beating Heart: A Ghost Story, by A.M. Jenkins (whom I heard speak last year--she mentioned the forthcoming book and it caught my interest); & the Here Come the ABCs CD/DVD from They Might Be Giants. Seems odd to order a hardcover book in Texas just before I move, but I figured the book (and CD) would be good to have on the 20-hour drive! I hope it arrives before the move.... I also just pre-ordered a bunch of the great new picture book art stamps.
Today I went to my last meeting of the Austin chapter of SCBWI. Our regional advisor, Julie Lake, spoke on revision, a topic I always need to learn more about (and need to do more of!). I got a little sad drving there down Loop 360, a gorgeous route through the hills, with a steel arch bridge over Lake Austin and a beautiful view. I realized, for the second time this week, that I'm really going to miss driving through the hills when I move to flat Florida! I'll also miss this SCBWI group. I've been involved with the group since 1997, when the founder of the chapter was still the regional advisor--there have been 4 more since her, and I've been around the whole time. Florida only has one SCBWI chapter for the whole state, and it won't be doing anything near me. I'll probably travel for some Florida conferences, but I hope I can also come back for occasional Austin conferences, because Austin throws some of the best ones!

I finally saw the Narnia movie last night. I really enjoyed it. I can't think of anything I would have changed about it, although the book isn't fresh in my mind, so there could be something. I've really only read the book once, back when I was 11 years old, but I fantasized about going to Narnia for years after that, and last year my husband and I read it aloud to our older son at bedtime. However, we took turns reading on alternate nights, so I only read every other chapter and didn't get a sense of the whole book! I need to read the whole set again. The kids also liked the movie, though I had worried it might be too scary for them. Kyle, who is 4 (turning 5 in a week!), even said he liked the battle scene best, though Ryan, 7, kept his head to the side and his eyes averted for most of that scene. Oh, and speaking of Narnia and our local SCBWI chapter, the founder of the chapter has a Narnia room in her house! It's kind of like a closet, but the only entrance is through a wardrobe, and it has murals of Narnia painted on the walls...one of the coolest rooms ever!

On the subject of rooms, the moving company walked through our house yesterday to get an idea how much stuff we have (still way too much!). We hope to move in just over 2 weeks, though the guy said it might take 2 days to pack & 1 day to load the moving van! I hope not, because that doesn't work with my intended timeframe for the kids starting school in Florida, and I still hope to purge more stuff before the move date, but at least it's starting to seem real that we may actually move.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Happy Epiphany! (Also known as Three Kings Day.) It's the 12th Day of Christmas, and I'm expecting loads of birds and other strange gifts from my true love...no, wait, anyone who loved me would know better than to give me all that! Actually, it's the day we need to finally take down our Christmas tree.

And now for something completely different (insert strange sounds & animation here).

If you're old like me--that is, if you didn't have the Internet in high school or college--have you thought about how your life would have been different if you did? I'm not thinking so much about the easy access to information (which is hard to remember how I lived without!), but more about the Internet as a social medium. I have to think about this stuff a lot in writing for young adults, because there's been a profound shift in the way teens communicate from the way they did when I was one, and I can't afford to ignore that when I'm writing. I think my own life might have ended up very, very different, and probably not for the best. I'm pretty sure that if everyone I knew had e-mail and instant messaging when I was a teenager (not to mention if I was meeting people online back then), I would not be where I am today. Of course, today I'd love to be anywhere else, since this move thing is driving me crazy, but in general, I'm glad I ended up where I am in life!

I'm sure high school would have been unbelievably different, but for me, college might have been even more different. I went to college three hours from home, which in my case meant a lot of snail mail letters. I probably got more than 200 letters during my first two years of college, not to mention running up shocking phone bills in those days without cell phones or flat rate long distance! But if I'd had an easy, free way to communicate with my friends back home...would we have said more, because it was easier? Would we have said less, because it seemed too immediate? Would our perception of the distance have seemed different, knowing how easy it would be for a long-distance friend to respond? Would I have kept further away from the people around me at school, or gotten to know them even better because we could send instant messages so easily? (Or read & comment on each other's blogs, or whatever!)

I think people will say things in letters that they'd be less likely to say in e-mail, but they will also say things in e-mail, and especially in instant messaging or chat rooms, that they'd probably think better of if they had to sit down & write it in a letter. And while my online relationships as an adult have been fantastic, making it so much easier to connect with people, I imagine that as a teen, with relationships being so fraught with angst as it is, it could be both suffocating & frustrating to know that everyone you knew was only a few clicks away anytime...or could be if they wanted to...and that people might even be watching to see when you were on and offline. I don't think I would have lacked for correspondence--I'm sure I would have a lot more than 200 e-mails from friends in that same time period, most of them lost to old operating systems, old file formats, & hard drive crashes by now (I've lost tons of e-mails when old computers died, including many I'd love to have back about my kids as babies, etc., though I do have a bunch of e-mail messages printed out from my first few years working in Austin...say, 1993 to 1995, when e-mail was new to me and quite exciting!). On the other hand, I think they would have had a different impact, and taken me down different paths, and as a result I doubt I'd be exactly where I am today. Though now, I've been active online for 12 years (using text-based browsers & newsreaders until there was an alternative), so my Internet connection seems almost as essential as food and shelter! But I do think the medium can greatly affect the message, and I'm kind of glad in retrospect that I didn't have the Internet back then. (But then...if I'd had the Internet and NaNoWriMo and all the online writing groups and opportunities that are out there these days, maybe I would have had a book published years ago!)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

I've been sorting through what I hope are the last of our old unsorted clothes (including some remaining baby clothes, costumes, bedding, etc.). I can't believe how many clothes we had! This is after giving away 8 or 9 garbage bags' worth already! I've also had a tendency to keep things for sentimental reasons, which I'm trying to get over. I'm still having trouble parting with a few remaining shirts from the 80's. It's not like I wear them anymore, but a couple of them just seem too dear to part with. (And I might always get invited to another 80's party--though the time I went to one before, I ended up buying my outfit at Goodwill anyway!) I suppose I shouldn't listen to 80's music while I'm sorting the old clothes, huh?!

Meanwhile, we went to one of those coin sorting machines with all the change we found around the house, including a few jars of coins we'd been adding to for years, and even after they took their cut, we ended up with over $127! I knew it was a lot of change, but I was still stunned. That's 4 or 5 times the amount I would have guessed.
UT is #1!
Hook 'em Horns!!!

National Champions!
(in football and baseball, in fact)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Back to school for the kids! Supposedly we are also moving in 3 weeks, but our move preparation is not going as well as hoped...argh. In sorting our stuff for moving, I've come across a whole bunch of old datebooks & journals. Not surprisingly, there aren't many that I kept for a whole year, but also not surprisingly, most of them DO have a lot of entries in January. Just for kicks, I compiled a list of what I was doing on this day in the history of my life, on the 10 different years I've found info for so far. If you are bored enough, you can view the list.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy 2006!! We spent a lovely New Year's Eve with a group of old friends from my husband's grad school days, two of whom we hadn't seen in ages, and finally got to meet one of them's wife, 3+ years after the wedding! The evening featured a tasty roast beef dinner, wine, cheese, good conversation, a view of more stars than most of us had seen in years (our friends live on 20 acres), and a thought-provoking read-aloud session like we used to have. Meanwhile, the kids were completely entertained playing with our hosts' children, who are some of their favorite friends in the world. For our kids, we rang in the new year early--for ourselves, we threw serpentine at midnight. We stayed at our friends' home overnight and woke to a New Year's Day breakfast served on their screened-in porch on a beautiful, warm morning. After sharing a time of singing (with our friend Jeff's always-fabulous classical guitar playing) and a makeshift Sunday worship service while the kids enjoyed the freedom of exploring the property, we left our kids there for the rest of the day & night while we came home to do more preparation for our move. All in all, a great way to ring in what I hope will be a wonderful new year! 2005 had its good points, but unfortunately, for us they were few & far between. We are eager for a fresh start, and I so hope that this new year and our move to Florida will provide exactly that.