Friday, July 31, 2009

Huge Print Runs

I read this interesting article a week ago from a blog I follow, Editorial Ass. It talks about how big publishers will inflate their print runs on a book in order to sell more books in bookstores and to increase their chances with the best-seller lists. Even after having this explained to me many years ago by my boss and publisher in Boston, I still can't make much sense about it. Seems like a waste and a passing of the buck to me. But then I work for a publisher that is very conservative on print runs and that plans to sell through to customers in every print run, rarely going to clearance tactics to get rid of inventory. I guess the word I would use to describe this large-publisher print run theory is bloated.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

New and Exciting: Getting Started

For me getting started on a new project is the most fun. It isn't the most satisfying part of the process, but it is the most exciting--in a giddy jump around in my kitchen kind of way.

The middle of any project seems to be the hardest. Sometimes the middle comes closer to the beginning and sometimes its a little further down the line. Then when the middle has been endured and the end is in sight that last burst of enthusiasm takes me to the point of completion. That is when the marrow deep satisfaction hits. But for now let's go back to the beginning.

Starting a new project I jump in with both feet, assess the situation, and then roll up my sleeves and get to work. I've done that twice this year with new jobs and it is awesome fun. Running is kind of the same way. When I filled out the registration form and committed to run a 1/2 marathon my head was spinning a little. I called a friend and we screamed and smiled and the decision to start training seriously was made. Then the hard part hits things need to be prioritized and not all of it is going to get done in the time allotted. With running its that first really long distance run when you return home limping and chafed in places that are frankly unmentionable that tests me.

With writing a novel the hard middle hits when the initial enthusiasm suffers from the nagging voice that says, "what do I think I'm doing? This story is not interesting enough, new enough, edgy enough." STOP THE DOUBT. After the hard middle it all pays off. My new job will literally pay off, running pays off every time I can catch my three year old without getting the least bit winded, and writing pays off when someone finally reads the finished draft and calls me screaming about how much they love, love, love it.

The beginning is where the entire process is determined for me. The feeling of joy and enthusiasm that I get at the start must carry me through the hard middle and to the satisfaction at the end. If the excitement isn't burning up my digestive organs and keeping me awake at night the first few nights of a new project then I'm pretty sure that the middle is going to kill it slowly but surely.

If on the other hand the butterflies are fluttering and I'm in love with my hero and want my heroine to be my new best friend, then I can see the end from the beginning and I'm pretty sure that I have hit on the next big thing in my writing. I had some experience with that feeling this week. It's fantastic!

How do you get started and then endure the process of writing?

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Idiot's Guide to Driving

I hate idiots on the road. Those driving slower than me are senior citizens, those driving faster are maniacs and those who cut me off are morons to the extreme. Not so long ago I had someone cut me off. Twice. In the span of one minute. To the owner of the silver Honda Civic that nearly caused me to run off the freeway and curse explicitly in front of my young children, You, madam, are an IDIOT!

These feelings inside me can only be described as road rage. Or perhaps intolerance for those less perfect than me, but either way, when I'm behind the wheel I have desires to honk the horn and let gestures fly.

Something about the illusion of privacy in the car makes normally rational people act a bit crazy. I've seen many behaviors like bird flipping, fist shaking, and even nose picking (although last time I checked, that rarely is caused from road rage). Here is my message to all the bad drivers of the world: If you are an idiot, get off the road because the rational lot of us hate to be forced into our crazy place!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

I Need a Laugh

Provide a caption for this photo.


Finish the Limerick:

There was an old lady...

Friday, July 24, 2009

My Favorite Children's Books

I'd like to survey what everyone's favorite five children's books are (especially those which influenced you as a child, and mostly those middle-grade fiction or younger). Here are possibly* my top five favorite children's books of all time:

1. Cowardly Clyde, by Bill Peet (and ALL things Bill Peet)

2. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, by William Steig

3. Pierre, by Maurice Sendak

4. My Father's Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett

5. Frog and Toad, by Arnold Lobel

*The "possibly" means that this list could very well change over time...there's so many good books to remember.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Oops and ice breakers

I have spent the last 15 minutes looking for today's post on this blog only to finally realize that it is actually Thursday today and not Wednesday. That means that I am supposed to provide the blog post for today. It's a shame really because I was totally preparing for it to appear tomorrow...oh well here it is.

Ice Breakers- that's what we call a question or a game that breaks the awkward tension of meeting new people in a group setting or not so group setting. Akin to the pick up line, but much more benign these sentences are meant to get conversation started. So why not use them with writing exercises? Here are some ways that I have decided to chip at my writer's block(ice cold right now) and break it down:
1) Ask my characters a few ice breaking questions. (What is your most embarrasing moment? what was the bravest thing you ever did? stupidest? funniest? most daring? What food would you crave most if you could no longer eat food?)

2) Take one answer and use it as a story starter. Begin an entirely new story and take it as far as it goes and then start a new one.

3) Make a one line plot summary of the climax of the story before filing it away for future projects.

Here is how my steps went today:
1) Character: Tayla Russo
Question: What is the stupidest thing you have ever done? Tayla said, "I took a job as a reporter with the Zephyr Cove Gazette."
Question: What is your most embarrasing moment? Tayla: "Getting arrested in front of my mom."
Question: What is the funniest thing you've ever seen? Tayla: "Rick Truman belly flop in a mud puddle."

2) Story Starter: Tayla wished with all of her skipping heart that someone would throw a burlap sack over her head. However, there were no meciful sack holders in sight, only Mom and her stoic assurance that she would be right behind the police, a smelly rotund detective wrenching her arms too forcefully and the inevitable black and white door opened wide with no handle on the inside. The portly detective shoved her in the back seat of the cruiser and she landed face down on the malodorous faux leather. Her mother hissed quietly just before the door slammed.

Tayla waited for the hot tears of fury to strike and save her from the oppressive embarrasment of being dragged unceremoniously from Sunday dinner in handcuffs. The tears, much like the burlap sack, never appeared to relieve her. In the end an even more suitable balm soothed her nerves as her mind conjured triumphant phrases she would use to evicerate Rick Tanner and his corrupt detective in her next article. Provided she could get access to a laptop in her cell, or Mom managed bail before midnight, Tanner would be toast by the Monday morning addition of the Gazette.

3) Plot summary. Sorry that one isn't getting posted. But I'll be sure to put it in my file for the day Tayla gets her turn to tell the rest of the story.

Following with the spirit of this weeks posts, give us a few story starters in your comments.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Story Fodder

I've just returned from two trips that were separated by a three day weekend at home. Both were for family reunions. (See previous posts)

Family is great stuff for a writer. You know them intimately; you know their weaknesses and their strengths. You can use them for characters in your stories (changed enough, of course, so they don't know they are being mocked in your masterpiece).

Another great use for family and writing is everyone's anxieties. Just listen long enough and you will find the makings of a great conspiracy theory. Between all the different philosophies in my families, I found at least 7 different conspiracy theories.

I guess it takes looking hard to find the opportunities in fiction, but when found they can be more precious than jewels.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


It's no secret that I'm a fan of Bruce Lee, which is interesting since I've never actually watched any of his movies. I have read about him and seen an interview with him (one of the few he ever did in English). The thing I think is so fascinating about him is the constant drive he had. People were mesmerized by things he could do that, frankly, are humanly impossible for 99% of us even now. But, what about him keeps fans reading his Wikipedia page? What is it about him that keeps us interested? It could be that his story is over, ending just as his figurative star was rising. No long, dull decline of his abilities. No Bruce Lee feeble and gray. He will forever be cast as young and indomitable. It's not a far jump to go from the 'real Bruce Lee' to the 'fictionalized Bruce Lee'. This idea is the beauty of literature and writing. Our heroes never grow old, so to speak. They're available to us in spite of our personally changing circumstances. Although, Bruce was a real person, he's more of a characterization to me, an ideal from which to draw into life a literary being.

Alright, so that's one of my heroes. They come in all shapes and sizes. Let's hear about some of yours.

Monday, July 20, 2009

One Liners

I once flashed a group of senior citizens.

Sounds like a great story, right? But the actual happening is much less exciting. We'll just say it has to do with me swimming and falling out of my suit during senior pool aerobics. Here's another line for you. I drove on a suspended license for over two years. The line, while true, once explained seems much less exciting.

My husband has a great one-liner. He once got caught in Mexico with his pants down. As it turns out, that really is a great story, but by speaking that one sentence, he immediately generates interest.

Everyone needs a great one-liner. That one sentence to make eyebrows raise and interest to cultivate. I want to know your one-liners, something about you that can intrigue in just one sentence. Let's see what you've got!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Author, Author

My sister, who works in the acquisitions department at the BYU library, invited me to attend a series of Q&A sessions with authors & illustrators yesterday afternoon at the BYU Symposium for Young Readers (geared toward librarians and teachers).

The participants were Jessica Day George (Dragon Slippers), Gennifer Choldenko (Al Capone Does My Shirts), Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow), Linda Sue Park (A Single Shard), Brett Helquist (illustrator - A Series of Unfortunate Events), and Jerry Pinkney (illustrator - The Talking Eggs and many more).

I took a few notes and thought I'd pass some along in the hopes they are helpful or inspiring:

  • Include the first page of your MS with your query letter.
  • Once you are published, you can write off travel expenses for research!
  • If you're working on two different types of book, e.g. a picture book and a novel, it works better for her to not work on both in the same writing session (different mindsets).
  • It's hard to get an agent if you haven't sold anything. She got one after selling her first book. It's generally best to have an agent in NYC because that's where everything happens.
  • She mentioned a website - He's a well-known children's book reviewer. When I tried it the website was down.
  • She plays music while she's writing and chooses music based on what suits the mood of the works she is doing.
  • For her, research ends when the information starts repeating itself or when she gets a gut feeling it is time to start writing.
  • You have to work hard and be persistent. He worked for seven years in NYC before getting a deal (which for him worked out very well because his first deal was the Series of Unfortunate Events books).
  • Don't make getting one project published the sole focus of your life. Do it on the side and continue to work on other things. There are people who are published who do quality work and those who don't, but what they have in common is they worked hard and were persistent.
I was only able to go to those four sessions, so I didn't get any input from Linda Sue Park or Jerry Pinkney.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman

Here's the review of a book I read recently which I thoroughly enjoyed, interrupted by fits of laughter at times.

Fat Charlie Nancy led a quiet life in England until he found out his dad was a god and that he had a brother he never knew about who inherited his dad's mischievous powers. When he invites his brother, Spider, to come to town for a reunion of sorts, Fat Charlie finds himself tangled in a web from which he can hardly extricate himself.

Neil Gaiman's humor is paramount to the story, and he pins down such humorous characters throughout the narrative, starting with Anansi himself and going to Fat Charlie, Rosie's mother, Graham Coates, Spider, Daisy, the old ladies from Florida, and a complete set of minor characters who add flavor to the punch. While thickly British humor throughout much of it, the humor is lasting and fresh, not relying on cheap tricks but rather the content itself: the pantheon of mischievous animal gods and their dealings with the main characters. I realized partway through the reading that each character has an affinity in his or her actions and thoughts to one of the animal gods. Gaiman's humor is multilayered and deeply intelligent, offering instantaneously satisfying humor along with ironic, dramatic, and thematic humor that extends well beyond one page. One example is Mr. Graham Coates's use of platitudes and cliches, which almost entirely consume his speech patterns, and including his favorite made-up word: absitively.

I'd recommend the book to anyone looking for a good laugh with some interesting speculative narrative thrown into the works.

Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman. HarperCollins. 2005. 416 pp. $7.99 (PB).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Shaking Organs

In this path to publishing there are some definite moments when my internal organs begin to quake. I'm a relatively brave girl, but there's something about sending out my precious ideas into the cold calculating hands of complete strangers that makes me sick to my stomach. On the outside of course I am a rock of confidence as I carefully research each agent and prepare the query letter. And then the moment comes to click the ominous little 'send' button and I wonder what I have done.

The first round of querries was exciting--full of possiblities. The second round of suggested agents proved promising with a request to read my chapters. Then the rejections came and the promise only made the fall harder to bear.

So this time as I sent out yet another selective round of querries to some of the top agents in the country, my stomach began to clench and I found that I was gritting my teeth. When my jaw began to ache, I called it quits. Now I'm waiting for the replies and I'm cursing the auto-replies in my inbox that two of the agents were out of town for the weekend and returned on Monday only to be silent so far this week.
Just remember that walking a lonely trail comes with moments of quiet joy and then the moments when your internal organs begin to quiver like they are preparing to burst forth in a gruesome show.
I plan to keep on moving until I get back to the next quiet moment of joy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Sham or the Real Deal

We are traveling to Four Corners. Here is my question: Since the recent discovery that the precise location of the states' boundaries are actually two miles off, do I travel there? Do I take my children to the tourist attraction, which is now a sham, and let them do the crab walk in four different states? Does it matter that now they are not in four states? I did it as a kid, and have the pictures to prove it. Millions of people, American and otherwise, have traveled those dusty roads to be in four places at once. And now we all have to make the trip again. Will the government build a new road? Will they transport the platform and all the Navajo stalls? Half of the coolness factor at Four Corners is the stalls. I’m looking forward to picking up some turquoise jewelry . . .

So maybe we’ll just go and take pictures of the sham, knowing it’s a sham, and still love our time there.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Is Anyone Else Tired Of...

The Trilogy?!?!

I know, some of the best books out there are trilogies and publishers probably couldn't survive if they put out huge thousand page novels for first-time authors blah blah blah. But, really? It seems like everywhere I go, I have to pay three times for the same story. Why is this?

Okay, I'm done complaining. I'm going to take this moment to direct your attention to the above lefthand corner of your screen so you can witness for yourself the delightful news. Yes, I was last week's winner in the "War of the Words". (Don't worry. You didn't miss anything. I just made that title up). I do this, not to boast (haha!), but to bask in my glory days while they last. I'm pretty sure they will be over on Friday at midnight.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Story Time

Harry Potter 6 is opening on Wednesday. Kids around the U.S. are trembling in anticipation for this popular book to be brought to life on the big screen. With our writing challenge starting and thoughts of Harry Potter circling through my mind, I begin to wonder what makes a really GREAT story? The kind that makes kids dream and adults want to read.

I think the world J.K. Rowling created is genius and I applaud her. There is a little something for everyone in her Harry Potter series and she truly captured something special. Now the question is, how do we capture that special something to pass on to our future readers?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Deja vu

I experienced deja vu this week. I was sitting on the floor in my son's room playing with him and I looked up at the little tent canopy over his bunk bed and very clearly recalled a dream I had with the same scene in it.

I'm curious what everyone's theories are about deja vu. I think it could be the basis of a good thriller. I personally can't recall at the moment reading any books or seeing any movies with that premise, but I'm sure there are many out there. Anyone know of a good one? I know there is a Denzel Washington movie called Deja Vu, but I never saw it.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Time Clutter

Life is busy enough just with profession and family. But have you noticed how much "time clutter" creeps into our lives? I just canceled my facebook account this week partly for this reason: there are enough great things to do in life that letting the inconsequential and tedious events and activities share any of the limelight is just plain silly. I've been taking a hard look at my time and where it is spent. I noticed that just like a cluttered household, my time was strewn with things that took time but gave nothing in return.

But now I think I've gotten rid of the clutter, and things sure feel great. I know my kids and wife think so.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Calling ALL Writers

I'm going to go out on a limb here and just put the challenge out there. Since The Scarlet Tart introduced the idea of a writing challenge, we have been discussing it. Now all the contributors here at Inking Cap have taken the plunge. We are writing. How much are we writing? How can you participate? Good questions.

Under fear of persecution I cannot divulge the first answer because we are doing a blind contest. YEP. No one is telling what their word counts are until the end of each week. At which time we will email them to our group and the winner of the week will be crowned. So stay tuned to find out which Inker is the Grand Inker of the Week. A title that has much prestige and power.

That brings us to question two. How can you participate? It's easy. There are two simple steps ready.

Step 1 Pull up a chair.

Step 2 Write.

If you would like to share your totals for the week on Friday with us, we would love to see them. OR just check in and tell us how you are doing with the awe inspiring difficult steps 1 and 2.
The challenge started Monday, July 6 and will go for four weeks ending on Friday, July 31. Good luck.

A thought for you to ponder as you begin.
"Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working," Pablo Picasso.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Family Reunions

Oh joy.

Oh no.

How fun.

How awful.

I love her.

I hate her.

Mom is great.

Mom is being unfair.






5 Kids.

15 Kids.



On this journey we've traveled to two family reunions. As I get home I'll post how it really went. It could be great or it could be horrible. I am fortunate that they usually are fun. It's all in your exectations and attitude. . . hopefully I'll be sane in the end. :)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


My kids started school yesterday. Hooray! However, I was sorely mistaken about how much "extra" time I would have to write. Any guesses on how far behind I am in the writing challenge?....that was rhetorical.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Arson, Nick and Old Lace

I am a fairly immature person. I laugh too loud, talk too much, and even find the occasional body function amusing. Considering these circumstances, it is rare for me to be in a situation where I feel "old". However, I had one such experience Saturday at the Stadium of Fire in Provo, UT, where the Jonas Brother performed.

Don't know who the Jonas Brothers are? They are a Disney boy band who attract fans with smoldering looks and casual hair flips.

I found myself surrounded by young girls who screamed, shouted phrases like, "I love you, Nick", and sang every word to every song that I had never even heard of. I also thought the kids performing, also known as the Jonas Brothers, would be pretty cute in ten years.
I suppose that means I might be maturing...but I wouldn't count on it.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Since it is the Fourth of July and I am a very patriotic person, I feel I should write about something related to this great holiday. Instead, I decided to write about something we are all sick of hearing about - the death of Michael Jackson.

Reason being, I am fascinated by how the media is reacting to and covering this event. It has been over a week now and there is still daily coverage with very little new facts to report. There has been speculation on everything from whether or not he had a secret girlfriend to who the biological father of his children was, to, of course, what type of drugs were in his system. Several networks have even gone so far as to track down "Bubbles", his former pet chimp (who is now apparently in an animal sanctuary and according to reports was never visited by Michael -shocking!).

Everything about this has a circus atmosphere, from his father Joe's embarrassing press conference where he bascially announced Michael will bring in even more money now that he's dead to the plans to hold a funeral service at the Staples Center (where they considered actually charging fans admission).

I would not call myself an avid Michael Jackson fan, but I do like many of his songs - going back to the Jackson 5 days even, and I grew up during his peak in the 80s and remember being excited when the "Thriller" video was going to premiere on MTV.

Since that time of course his behavior and appearance grew increasingly bizarre and with strong evidence pointing toward him being a pedophile I lost any respect I had for him. Still, it is a sad story. When you look at him as a young boy performing with Jackson 5 and the talent that he had and what he became, it's a very cautionary tale about what the cult of celebrity can do to a person.

I suppose his dream to live in Neverland has come true - he will cease to age and he will have a certain form of immortality... as the vultures circle and divvy up his fortune.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Happy Fourth!

Happy Fourth of July everyone!

I dedicate this post to Donna and all her tireless efforts (and unfailing candor) to get an agent. Keep your chin up, and you'll get there.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


As this is posted I should be on day four or day five in the Happiest Place on Earth: Disneyland. The last time I went my kids were 3 and 1. Now we’ve added one and they are 10, 8, and 4. I wonder how they will love it . . .

The last time I was there, with babies and toddlers, it was a bit challenging. After four days the kids were tired. The last day they didn’t even care about riding rides. The kids cried and whined and it was miserable on the last day.

With all that misery, I found myself sad to be leaving and looking forward to the day when I could return. It made me wonder why. Why, with all the trouble of carting around 2 little kids and a HUGE stroller, would I ever want to return?

I have a theory: It’s in the music. That happy, jolly tune, that is a little too loud, that is always playing. Always. Does Disney rely on brainwashing? Is that how they keep it the “Happiest Place on Earth”? We all return or long to return (except for the serious deadbeat). Even my dream get-away with my husband involves Disneyland. It has to be the brainwashing . . . or it really is that great! What do you think?