Sunday, July 27, 2008

Swimming Upstream

And enjoying it. That's what novelists do - right. Get in the thick of problems, enjoy them to the fullest, pull out all the pathos and humor and then, in the best, most satisfying way, solve them. I finished the first draft of my new novel which might be titled, Inukshuk, Like a Human, Sky Hunter, or Icing. Hmmm. In any case, it feels downright delicious to have all the raw material arranged and ready for revision, cut and polishing. Like a diamond. Or something.

Meanwhile, we bought three new little koi for our pond in which there was, until yesterday, only one huge gold fish. One of the koi has yet to show himself this morning. The gold fish is in her usual hangout (don't ask how I know it's a she - I just feel it.) And two of the koi swam upstream, challenging ripples and waterfalls to appear in our small, still, upper pond. Why did they do that? Perhaps it's material for their upcoming novels. And, while we are on the subject, here's a little treat for you novelists out there. Highly recommended :

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Little Whine

Hi there from blog land. Smoke is gone. I'm tired. Way too much coming at me from way too many directions. On the professional front, this was a good writing day and I hope some of you are cheering me on. I'm totally involved in this new book and thank goodness. I just have to be brutal about getting time to write.

Info #5 In one of my other lives, we are poised for the Nevada SCBWI Novel Immersion Retreat at Lake Tahoe September 19-21 and we have opened applications for our Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program for 2009. Both of these should be fabulous programs. If you are a writer or you have writer friends, check them out at

Opinion #5 As for opinions I have only one. It is hard to set priorities when you are committed to interesting or important things that you are doing. I'm trying, but I'm getting really, really tired.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bulls and Roses

The smoke cleared out today and we got one of the summer evenings that makes it all worth it. I just spent an hour trimming roses. It was blissful. I feel good. There is nothing like quiet and a cool breeze to lessen my tension. This is the same place where we've battled wild fires, snow drifts, and rising flood waters. Tonight it was heaven. The goats loved it too, since they got all the trimmings in a big pile to munch on.

Intro #4: The Rose Queen - that would be my neighbor who has the most glorious roses around. Mine look spindly and wild next to hers which are lush and tropical. She loves those roses and I'm so glad. We get to enjoy them too. Thanks to good neighbors who keep flowers that we can enjoy from across the fence.

Info #4: The simple life, the roses and breezes are best enjoyed from on foot. I saw this cool website today where you can test the "walkability" of your neighborhood - Of course I didn't even try ours. We live in the country and need to hike eight miles to get to any store except the trailer dealership and a defunct western wear store. But you may be more citified, so give it a try.

Opinion #4: I'm guessing we will all have to figure out how to walk more, bike more, ride a horse, take a bus. It's late in coming, but it's good for us in so many ways. Imagine the neighbors you'll meet and the stories you'll have. Remind me when I complain about gas prices.

Book #4: Ranch life isn't simple and it isn't always idyllic but it's traditional and close to the land. I have to say that my book, Bull Rider, from Margaret K. McElderry, will be available February 24, 2009 according to the Simon and Schuster website You can go there now, search Bull Rider and preorder it. That would be really cool. If you do, let me know and I'll thank you right here. It's a good book - for kids 10 to 14 - but I try my best to write books adults will be interested in too. Enjoy.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sonatas and Smoke

It's all about expectations. I expect Nevada skies to be blue in the summer. Okay, it can be 101. In the shade. But the sky is blue - right? Not now. We have smoke. Days and days of thick smoke followed by mornings of haze followed by peeks at blue sky, a wind change and more smoke. It's like winter here. No one goes out except for necessities. And just when I'm feeling particularly whiny, I think of the hundreds of thousands of trees that are burning across the mountains creating the smoke. The trees are getting the worst of this. I think of Bambi and how sad it was when he lost his mother. In the summer I expect blue skies, not thoughts of Bambi.

Good stories tie your emotions inextricably to your experiences. Like good music. I can't hear Beethoven's Appassionata without wanting to cry. It's just too beautiful. Get me thinking about that sonata and I prepare to melt. Smoke, sonatas, the feelings that well up unexpectedly, they make me know I'm alive. I don't expect these same feelings from politics.

Intro #3 Clinton Supporter: I went to a meeting for Obama tonight and a woman I've not met before was trying to explain her sadness at Hillary Clinton losing the Democratic Primary. She spoke of her three daughters, her hope and excitement, her devastation that Clinton lost. Obama, she said, did not excite her. No sonatas, no goose bumps. She'll vote for him, but can't smile about it yet. She expects a candidate to move her.

Info #3 Science Daily for July 3, 2008 reports that two California researchers, Fowler and Dawes, have identified genes that affect expectations of voting behavior. People with certain types of the two genes are more likely to be sociable, to trust the system, and to vote. They are also more likely to donate to campaigns, attend rallies, and go to church.

Opinion #3 I guess I'm one of those optimists. I believe in things. I believe my actions matter. I generally like people. Listening to Obama gives me goosebumps.

Books #3 I can't think of any children's books that are specifally about politics although there are many that reflect the politics of the times they address. How about making a list of books you read, say before age twenty, that changed or definitely shifted your view of the world? Any current ones you think must change kids' point of view after they've read them? My number one book on this list is Tistou of the Green Thumbs by Maurice Druon - a book translated from the French that I received as a gift when I was about ten. The story is lovely. A boy uses his gift for growing flowers for social good. This is my hope. To use my gifts for good. See, I'm a melty optomist. If you can find a copy of Tistou, read it. I'll start this new list now, so add your nominations!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Dancing and Disneyland

Last week I went to Disneyland with a writer friend. I hadn't planned to do it. I'd planned to save my money and stay professionally focused at the American Library Association Conference in Anaheim. But Disneyland was just across the street and my cousin and my daughter and her baby met me. The baby and I danced around a fountain. Later, he chased birds. They went home at a sane hour and friend, Fran, and I looked at each other and said, "Let's go." We went to Disneyland at six at night and rode rollercoasters, watched fireworks, ate ice cream, and found some clones of Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean. The weather was perfect and we had the best time. Now this is entirely out of character for me (ok no one out there say cheap - I heard you - or self-sacrificing, not me) but I did it. I smiled at the man in the ticket booth and happily accepted his assessment that I was a senior. Silver hair is good for something. I let myself loose to play. Fred made me do it. He went and died and I remembered that life is short and you might as well play, and jump for joy while you can.

Intro #2 The Puppeteer: I can't go to Disneyland without thinking of my other daughter who loves puppets and politics equally. When she was little she was so scared of those big puppets in Pirates of the Caribbean that she tried to jump out of the boat. Since she moved to Wisconsin she is scared of thunderstorms.

Info #2 Thunderstorms: In the Midwest they really do look like black walls of clouds. My daughter, the puppeteer, says the ones that create tornados look green. I didn't see any green storms when we drove across Michigan this month, but we did meet a lot of hail. I also read once that you can set your TV to channel 13 and a tornado will make static on that channel. I'd check with better sources before depending on either of these as cues to take cover.

Opinion #2: I generally prefer puppets to politicians.

Books #2: I say let's stick with dogs for the moment. I have a couple more suggestions to add to the list from the comments. Anyone read a new dog book, as in this year's pub date? And what about that Dorothy in Wizard of Oz? Was she your favorite? I preferred Toto. I can't pick a favorite from the three sidekicks and the flying monkeys scared me. Did you have nightmares about tornados after reading that book?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Off and Running

Well, hopefully not running off. First post, first introductions. I am a storyteller, a collector of stories and oral histories, a novelist. I love long pauses before a punch line and white spaces on the page, but get me comfortable and you may get too much information. And opinions. Mine, which of course are well founded, intelligent, and insightful. That's what you'll find on this blog. Stories, opinions, random information and snippets, and news of books. I love books and am on a mission to read more and write more. I think I will accomplish this by playing less computer solitaire. Check back and I'll tell you how that's going. That plan may end up being something like my idea of losing weight by cutting back on chocolate. Now really, who ever thought of that?

INTRO # 1: Fred. Fred was a spectacular two year old golden who chewed up my sweatshirt and licked my face when I cried. He chased our dog, Ralph, just enough to give the old boy his exercise and barked just enough to make you laugh at the display because, after all, he was a golden.

INFO #1: Fred died suddenly about a month ago and this is the info. He died from eating blue green algae. Yes, it's the same stuff that you can take in capsules for your health and it lives in lots of ponds and lakes and is generally benign. But, turns out that at some points in its bloom cycle, blue green algae produces a neurotoxin that is about 99.9 percent deadly to dogs. We had never heard of this. When Fred's back legs collapsed we took him to the emergency vet (of course it was midnight) and he sent us home to look for possible poisons that Fred may have eaten. I was thrilled to discover he'd just gotten into a bucket of algae we'd skimmed from our pond and hadn't yet dumped. "It's just algae," I said happily over the phone. The vet said that was probably good but there was one bad kind, "But we've never seen a case in our town." Well, Fred got into that bad kind and he was dead within three hours. No pain, apparently, but he stopped breathing. That beautiful yellow dog looked the same one minute as the next, but he was gone. It was the saddest thing.

OPINION #1: What you don't know can hurt you - or kill your dog. I think everyone should know about blue green algae and then tell their friends. I think everyone should know about a lot of things that can hurt you. What about those drug adds that say, "Side effects may include greasy runny stools," appealing, yes? Or maybe, "In rare instances serious side effects may occur including shortness of breath, stroke, or death." Death? That's a side effect? Who decided that and how much are you willing to gamble that that's not YOUR side effect? More in the next post, intro, and opinion. Enough today or we'll get into that realm of TMO.

BOOKS#1: OK, we started out with the idea of reading and writing more, and since this is a blog and you all may be writers - at least on line - let's launch a chat about reading. This week it's dog books, in honor of Fred. Here are a few I've read: Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, Sounder by William H. Armstrong, Where the Red Fern Grows by Tara McCarthy, Old Yeller by Fred Gipson - now revealing my age. A big difference between Winn Dixie and the others is that in the last three the dog dies, and in the first one it's the mother who's gone. Dead dogs are very, very sad. I'd recommend Winn-Dixie. It's not as heartbreaking as the others. It's a little light - a fun, character read. The others I loved too. Interesting they all take place in the south. Is there something that makes southerners more attached to their dogs? Or do southern dogs just make good stories? Next post - more about dogs - dead and alive.