Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It's been a while...

Between visiting my new niece (cute!), juggling job interviews, going to my friend Lisa Graff's book signing, and a few other various and sundry tasks, I haven't updated my blog in an entire week. Crazy! Well, let's recap the week, for starters.

Agatha June is a healthy and happy little girl, born at home, 11 pounds even. My sister is 6'2" and she grows huge babies. Big brother Henry really seems to like her, only occasionally offering to crush or poke her, and frequently sharing his monster trucks (which she does not care about, of course.) My sister recovered from the birth in about ten seconds and is back to her usual self. Apparently she is some kind of Amazon.

I finally landed an interview at the zoo where I ultimately want to work long-term. It's unbelievably hard to get a foot in the door there, and I am beyond psyched to have a chance, especially since their budget has been tightened up even more this year and there are few new positions offered. But it sounds like I got the job -- I'll be raising baby birds for a meager eight hours a week, with occasional extra hours picked up as a relief person, taking on other tasks when other keepers are sick or on vacation. I'll take it! It's a starting point, and my huge foot is in the door, and from here I am very confident that I can make an excellent name for myself, as I have at other facilities, so that when an opportunity with more hours arrives, I will be the first candidate everybody has in mind. Plus: BABY BIRDS! As an insane bird nut, this fills me with joy. I only regret that I will get to spend a mere eight hours per week with baby birds. I would prefer a million zillion hours per day.

I'll take advantage of the fact that this job offers almost no hours and continue my breakneck writing output through the summer. I will be a machine. I'd like to wrap up Book 2 by the end of May and get Book 3 all finished by midsummer, so I can start something non-Egyptian by the late summer. My agent is going to soil herself when I hand her three more historical novels to sell by the fall.

My pal Lisa Graff came into town for a children's book conference, and a local teacher who loves her books (with good reason -- Lisa is the bomb) set up a signing for her at a Borders store. Not too many people came who didn't already know Lisa, but it was short-notice, and Lisa didn't seem to care. We had a great time catching up, and Lisa sold almost all the copies of her latest midgrade novel, Umbrella Summer, that were in the store. Yay!! I am really excited for her next MG novel. She's still working on it. She's got a chapter book coming out next, and then her fifth book will be out, and I can't wait to get my paws on it. It's about kids who dare each other to do increasing more horrible pranks, and it sounds suspiciously like one of the characters is based on my husband, who grew up with Lisa, and who led all the children of Big Bear, California in their awful misdeeds. Plus, it sounds like this fifth book will be a lot like Lisa's second, The Life and Crimes of Bernetta Wallflower, which has the distinction of being one of the few books, for kids or otherwise, that I literally could not put down. I lost almost a whole night of sleep over that book, and I am eagerly awaiting another like it. ;)

While at Lisa's signing, I met another local author, Richard Farr, author of Emperors of the Ice. This book sounds like exactly my cup of tea -- it's technically nonfiction, but written in a novel-like style. I can't wait to get a hold of it. Richard was a fascinating guy, and we had a lengthy discussion about the ups and downs of that whole "getting published" process. He has a manuscript out there, a book on rational thinking for teens, that keeps making it all the way to Acquisitions and then getting kicked back because they just don't know how to label and market nonfiction for teens. Arrgh! This is a book we sorely need, and I am rooting for Richard big-time.

Anyway. It was a good old time, and I am eager to do my own book signings, even if the only people who show up are my friends. We had fun, and that's what it's all about, right?

Meanwhile, writing has continued, though the word count of Book 2 is actually shrinking the more I write. I have written the fifth/sixth/seventh chapter triad more times than I care to count, each time deleting it after a day or so of rumination because something about it just isn't quite right. This morning I woke up with a terrible epiphany: I've started the story in the wrong place, as I did with my last novel. I've begun the tale when my main characters are just too young, and to continue like this will make the book too YA, which won't be a strong follow-up for Bride of Amun, which is decidedly adult in spite of the fact that the main character of that one is thirteen at the beginning of the story. Book 2 is just to darn young, and that means not only the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters will probably be cut again once I finish this blog post and get to work, but likely chapters one through four, too.

I could be starting over again with a blank slate. A sick feeling, but at least I know from past experience that once I hit on the correct beginning, the rest will come ripping right out of my head like a stooping falcon, and the book will practically write itself.

Why do beginnings have to be so hard for me? The Alliterati recently asked on their blog whether beginnings, middles, or ends are easier for their readers. Endings are always the easiest for me. I actually see in my mind a few images from the endings of my books and stories. A final tableau, a last scene. All the writing I do is just propellant to get me to that final image. I've got an image in my head of Hatshepsut, a strong young woman, dressed in the regalia of a king, crossing the crook and flail over her bared breasts, proclaiming herself Pharaoh to a crowd of rekhet that is drunk with love for her. It's the final scene of my book. But I am having a hell of a time kick-starting the ride that will take me to that image.

Nothing to do but keep writing!


  1. Good grief. Eleven pounds? Just reading that made my eyes water!

  2. 6'2 -- sounds like a basketball mom in the making :)... thanks for the shout out and good luck getting to your final image (having that final image, though, is awesome)

  3. I always know the ending of a novel when I start out, but it's getting there that's the hard part. In fact, Book #2 started with only an ending and I have an idea for Book #3 that's just a final line that's been rattling around in my head for ages.

  4. Yeah, that's how I roll, too, Stephanie. the entirety of Bride of Amun was built around a single image that was very near the end of the book.

    I'm sure something will click soon with the opening. It would be easier for me if I could write out of sequence, but I have tried before and I just can't. I have to write in a linear fashion or it just falls apart. Arrgh!!