Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

My mom, sister and I used to decorate cookies every year for Christmas, but I can't remember the last time we actually sat down and did it. Until this year. (We even got Toddler Help.)

See our Iorek Byrnison cookies??

Wintry seals...

A Penguin Parade...

And when you've had too many cookies, you can lay by the fire and read a book. (In this case, Laini Taylor's Blackbringer, which my sister was reading before it was "aquired.")

Thursday, December 11, 2008

वहत दो व्रितिंग मोम्स दो दुरिंग ठिर मतेर्निटी लीव?

I hope that title still isn't in sanscrit (or whatever language that appears in the title block at the moment). Anyway, it's supposed to say: What do writing moms do during their maternity leave? (Someone tell me WHY it's in another language!)

The answer is: change diapers, experience life as a cow, and stare at tiny feet while daydreaming their plot that they know they should be working on. Oh, and in my case, trying my best to convince Child #1 that Child #2 is not a toy.

Seriously, I was staring at my baby's toes last night after he started his milk coma and thought: I should be writing. Then I felt guilty because no, I should not be writing. I should be sitting on the couch, like I was, watching too much TV and wearing my son's spit-up on my shoulders. But honestly, I want to get back to my story. Ali had just exited a prison and then---I stopped writing. I got wrapped up in querying agents and then revising ROHANA. Then I became obsessed with being pregnant and then trying to become un-pregnant. Now that my baby is two weeks old, I'm ready to get back to work.

Only, I get on a computer once every four days and barely check my email.

So what do new writing moms do during this postpartum period? They work their brains and rest their fingers.

Well, it's what they do on the days they get naps.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


I haven't been posting because I had a baby. :-)

Henry was born last Sunday, just after sunrise. Since then, I haven't had much of an urge to touch my computer. He seems to eat constantly and Elizabeth has been a little over-eager to help and hold him, so I've had my hands full. (And I don't mind one bit.)

Forgive him his Yoda feet here. I swear it's just the pants.

Now, back to mothering and pondering plot for my WIP.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Remembering New Zealand

I think labor may be starting now, and I'm trying to distract myself by looking at old pictures of dreamy, inspiring New Zealand. We went there in October of 2007 to do research for my first book. (I was going to post pictures of St. Petersburg, but I can't find them.)

Here's the golden coastline of Chatham Island, where my novel ROHANA takes place.

One of the carved kopi trees. Each carving is done on a live tree, and most represent the spirits of Moriori ancestors. Unfortunately, many trees were cut down, the carving peeled off, and taken "home" to England and elsewhere to be put on display. The peeled carvings don't have the breath of life in them that the living ones do. Sadly, the trees are dying out (even though protected) and no one remembers exactly how to carve new dendroglyphs.

I don't remember the name of these falls, but the hike to them was amazing and the roaring was awe-inspiring. It's in the southeastern part of the South Island.

This is a snapshot of Lord of the Rings country, in the center of the South Island. The water is freezing cold and deep blue due to the mineral deposits from the mountains. Unreal, really.

One of the last days of our trip (as you can tell by Jim's beard). This was at a campground just north of Auckland, on the North Island. The trip is etched in my memory as one of wonder, excitement, and family bonding and bliss.

Anyone else been to New Zealand or somewhere equally beautiful? Share and link pics on your blog if you have!

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Nothing is going on in my life worth reporting, which is why I haven't posted anything. Just some never-ending pre-labor/early-labor. The baby will come soon, but "soon" is a little ambiguous. It's kind of like having a Baby Bomb in my belly with the timer set to "random."

Last night I made the mistake of thinking I was in real labor and went to the hospital. I will never do that again. It was awful. If I could re-do my prenatal care and planning, I would have set up a homebirth. It would be so much more relaxing to labor here, away from monitors and un-comfy beds and not-so-nice nurses and their hourly cervical checks.

So far, the first pregnancy was so much easier than this one.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Today I feel about America as I did when I was in second grade, or thereabouts. It's a grand, hopeful, challenging, wonderful nation with an optimistic path to the future.

And I can sigh in relief.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Nested House

I woke up this morning full of positive energy. It was amazing, as if I'd been off to a dreamland where they gave me special powers or a dose of antidepressants. (Instead, I dreamt that I was at an Amway gathering and they were trying to force me to buy into the program AND vote for McCain.)

By lunch time, most of the house had been picked up, cleaned, organized, and dealt with. The laundry was finally put into the correct drawers. The bathrooms were clean. I was buzzing (and hungry) and Elizabeth was happy. The energy kept up until this evening, when we were at the library's Halloween party. Amazing. The only thing that held me back from doing everything today was my aching back and the feeling of a bowling ball between my legs.

Could this be the proverbial "nesting" instinct? Or was I just finally energized enough to tackle the chaos in my home? I do hope I'm not suddenly bi-polar, because after dragging my feet for several months and feeling pretty much like luke-warm oatmeal, I was happy and rushing around and even organized the laundry room.

Maybe the baby's coming soon. I am 37 weeks now and "full term," so the boy is fully-cooked. Any day now...or maybe in a month. Who knows?

By the way, for those of you who don't know, from now on most pregnant women are obsessed with when labor will start, and most are "done" with being pregnant. I am certainly one of those women. Which is why I have been avoiding this blog--I don't want to suddenly turn it into a "when will my baby come" blog.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Done Revising

I just finished this round of revisions on ROHANA and sent them off to my agent, Laura. Part of me wants to celebrate, but that part is very small. Mostly because I gave up. I'm sure there's more I should do, but I wanted to toss the whole thing into the fire (thank goodness for fire-resistant computer files). The Doubting Snake of Writing slithered into my writing room and wouldn't leave me alone.

Another reason I can't really celebrate is because it is now time to clean house. Elizabeth is at daycare (thank you, blessed drop-in care for us stay-at-home mommies who happen to have writing projects) for the rest of the day, and it's now time to participate in some house-wifey duties. The laundry has been piling up (clean, folded laundry that I just haven't felt like putting away). The floor needs to be vacuumed. The bathrooms need to be tidied. And all must be put in its rightful place before the wee one gets here.

Now, some Octobery delight:

Small, Medium, and Large Pumpkins

Running through the Straw Maze

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wisdom and Teeth...and a preggo pic

Elizabeth and I have something in common: we're both teething.

My upper wisdom tooth is coming in, strangely. I noticed it after lunch today. The dentists all said this one would never show itself and wouldn't even need to be extracted. Hmm. Could pregnancy have sped things up?

The last time I got a tooth removed was in Iraq, 2004. One of my teeth came up partly and irritated me to no end. The dentist, who had a whole lot of time on his hands (not a lot of dental work going on during deployments), offered to take it out. The only con was that he only had novocaine. I kept that tooth as a war trophy. I deserved it--the dentist had way too much fun.

Having a molar come through has brought up two things:
1. Teething isn't so bad. I don't need motrin. I'm not chewing on my hands. I'm not drooling. Why does she?
2. Getting new teeth makes you feel young. It's not something I expected to happen at the ripe old age of 28.

Now, since the cable that connects the camera to the computer is squished, I had to use my cell phone. Here I am, just minutes ago, at "36 weeks pregnant." This is not only to show you why my back is always hurting and I waddle like a Russian penguin on vodka pension, but because I do not have any high school pictures (a la Disco Mermaids challenge).

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cranial Billboard??

Who wants to get their head shaved and tattooed? I just saw this ad from Air New Zealand and had to blog about it.

Thank goodness it's not a permanent tattoo. It would be cooler if they'd give you a full-on Maori facial tattoo, though.

I'd chat more about this, but I'm off to have lunch with the hubby (just us! *gasp*) and then immerse myself in the New Zealand of 1835, pre-cranial billboards.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Revision on a Roll

I woke up early this morning, as you do when you have a toddler, and then went straightaway to Target and bought myself a new desk chair. Nothing fancy, but it's super comfortable when compared to my old wooden chair.

Then I came home, locked myself in the office, and tried out the Shrunken Manuscript revision method. Only, I didn't read the directions first and I ran out of computer paper. It didn't seem to work out well for me, but that's hardly the method's fault--likely it's my interpretation of the method. At any rate, I decided to recycle the paper and print off the last four chapters, where ROHANA seemed to fray the most. Then I read, and thought, and read some more.

Then it came to me. Aha! A means to an end, literally. The only downside (if you can call it that) was that I had to re-write the ending, the last three or four chapters, from scratch.

So we went to the grocery store, had lunch, and put the kiddo down for a nap...and, since hubby was home, I left the house. I went to Starbuck's, since my critique group recently gave me a giftcard (a "congrats for getting an agent" gift--how cool is that? I also got a mug that says "My Critique Group Understands Me"). There, whilst occasionally cupping a hand over my ear as my coffee-house neighbors chatted too loudly, I wrote. And wrote.

I wrote 3,265 words.

I don't think I've done that in a long time, if ever.

Now, there's more to be written, but my bum was tired at that point and I had to get home.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


No, not NaNoWriMo. No, not Amnesiatic Novel Writing Month (unless the computer died and all was erased)...but Amber's Novel Writing Month. Yup. I'm going to do it. Just not in November. Seriously, that would be insane, unfair, and painful. I'll be laboring (no joke) in November, and that'll be insane, unfair, and painful enough for the whole year.

I haven't picked a month yet, but I'm guessing I might be able to do it in March. Or February. Wait, that month is too short. Yeah, March. Thirty-one whole days. The budding of Spring. A 2 1/2-year-old and a four-month-old. One crazy mama.

So I can't join the uber-cool NaNoWriMo crowd and use all of their nifty procrastination helpers and tack on writing friends like gnats to a lollypop, but I can challenge YOU to do it with me. That is, if you're brave enough. If you're not depleted by doing the actual, tried-and-true NaNoWriMo.

Who is game? You don't have to state yourselves now...I'll give you another chance in January when I post this again.

Of course, we'd have to change the name of the game if there's more than just me doing it.

Revisions Revisions

I like to blog after I've done something productive so I can brag, but today I'm muddled. I even made a special trip to the grocery store to get some Starbucks Frappaccino bottles, which is generally against my "tea only" routine. The problem with revisions at the moment is that I want to go back to bed. Last Friday I even laid down to write, citing it'd be more comfortable than my wooden Ikea chair, but I just ended up napping. Today's rule is: No Horizontal Revisioning. And I cannot use pregnancy as an excuse because if I do, then I'll soon be using postpartum as an excuse. And I just can't trust the re-writing to the dog, no matter how eager she may be to tackle the plot arches in my book.

Speaking of dogs, I wish mine would just turn into a cat. She'd be easier: I wouldn't have to take her out to pee, she'd shed less (did I mention she's half-German Shepherd and half-Collie??), she wouldn't jump all over the toddler play-dates, she wouldn't steal food off of the plates, and if she decided to lie in front of the couch, beneath my feet, she'd probably move when I needed to stand up. (Imagine an 8-months-pregnant lady trying to stand up off the couch without using her feet.)

Ha! I called myself a "lady." That's funny (to me) because I more resemble the palace laundry lady than any genteel ladies.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Rednecks for Obama

I don't want to get too political on my blog, but I saw this website today and it made me happier. Maybe it'll make some other people out there smile, too. It's nice to see that some supposed barriers for Obama aren't always there...

Rednecks for Obama website

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Revisions and a Bit o' Joyce

I spent the first half of the day at Panera, sipping tea and outlining the novel I'm revising. Curiously, I had never written down what happens in each chapter. I mean, I'd done that before all of the writing, but things changed, and seeing it all out in the open after writing the novel was, well, interesting. I was able to sketch out what needs to be done and then write some of the new stuff into the story.

Yet there is much more to be done. And it will be hard. (But oh so worth it.)

When my brain couldn't dump any more into my Dana, I headed over to the bookstore and checked out their 70% Off stack. As usual, it was filled with tour guides to places I don't need to read up on just yet (like Stockholm, although I'd love to go), various religious books, and random novels I'd never heard of. But there was a gem: yes I said yes I will Yes: A Celebration of James Joyce, Ulysses, and 100 Years of Bloomsday. I snatched that up pretty quick. Maybe, just maybe, it'll help me finish (and understand) Ulysses. I've read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Dubliners, and Chamber Music, but the "best book of the 20th Century" has continued to elude me.

I picked this photo because it was taken in 1904, the same year Bloomsday occurred. Photo source: National Archives of Ireland.

Why tackle the book? He tells me to, that's why.

"The only demand I can make of my reader is that he should devote his whole life to reading my works." --James Joyce

Also, I think I'm in love with him.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Teen Writing Workshop #2

Tonight I'll be doing another writing workshop. Yay! This time, we're focusing on character development and then wrapping up the class with a writing prompt about secrets. (Ooooh....secrets....)

I'll tell you all about it when I get back, and I hope to have some pics or videos of the class.

We are showing two YouTube videos from Jackson Pearce to spice things up a bit. Her videos are the BEST EVER. Here they are:

This one is about using the Disney process in your writing:

This one is about's like cake:

Hope to have a fun evening. After this, it's all work, work, work. I got my revision letter from my agent, and so I'll be just a bit busy the next several weeks. I've got so much to do, not to mention the revision! I have to basically re-write my book, get the house ready for baby Henry (due in about 6 weeks), potty train my Dinosaur, and finish unpacking from our move. And all of this I want done by Halloween because I'll be full-term then, ready to pop (or unable to move).

Speaking of which, last night I had the honor of having the baby head-butt me in my spine/tailbone. It was not so fun. The sensation was something akin to having an alien trying to come out through my back.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Unpacked and Ready to Write...Sorta

This weekend I filled up my big bookshelf and slid the other boxes of books into the closet in the office/guest room. I cannot deny, any longer, that some of these books gotta go. I've got at least a hundred Sci-Fi paperbacks that I probably won't be reading a second time, and several college texts that I think I'm finally ready to be parted with (mostly books on Soviet economics and communist philosophy). Don't worry--there are plenty of books I doubt I'll ever be able to pass on. I mean, I can't exactly give away Ulysses until I finish it, right? There's the bookmark, with it's little star dangling off the end, reminding me of where I got stuck on my second try...

So. Now. The office is set up mostly. I'm awaiting revision comments from my agent, and once I get them, I can get crackin'. Which is good since I'm pretty much going nowhere in my work-in-progress at the moment. I have a feeling it will have to wait until Rohana is "finished" and sent off, which might not be until after the baby comes. (I have just over seven weeks left until due-date time.) How long did Shannon Hale take off from writing when her kids were born? Four weeks? Too bad we're not chums--I'd ask her!

The National Book Festival was this weekend, and I forgot to go. Yes, yes, I am annoyed with myself. Of course, it would have totally wiped me out, though.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Elise tagged me...but I am not passing it on to either other people because nearly everyone I know has already done this and I'm too tired to figure out someone else.

1. What are your nicknames?
Ambotchka. (I was a Russian major in college.)

2. What was the first movie you bought in VHS or DVD?
That I bought for myself? I think it was Mulan.

3. What is your favorite scent?
Rosemary. Basil. Lavendar. Pine. Anything natural---not the fake stuff.

4. What one place have you visited that you can't forget and want to go back to?
St. Petersburg, Russia

5. Do you trust easily?
I trust too easily. I forgive too easily, too, but don't you take advantage of it.

6. Do you generally think before you act, or act before you think?
My parents would love to answer this one for me. I'm a tad impulsive, but I'm maturing. Slowly .

7. Is there anything that has made you unhappy these days?
I am unhappy that there seem to be more selfish people in the world than unselfish. Geesh, that sounds like a beauty pageant answer. Really, though, where do all these people come from? Do they not have the capacity to look at themselves and wonder??

8. Do you have a good body image?
This made me laugh. Really. I just had to go buy maternity loungewear because my other maternity clothes are getting tight. Ask me this question again after six months of breastfeeding and I'll be a bit chipper.

9. What is your favorite fruit?
Can I say all? Except papaya. The past few weeks it was watermelon, but after splitting one open tonight I deduced watermelon season is past its prime. Maybe crisp apples will rise to the top of the list soon.

10. What websites do you visit daily?
The blue board, a few blogs,'s discussion board

11. What have you been seriously addicted to lately?
Checking email on my new phone. For some reason, I keep thinking I'm going to get something important that can't wait until I get to the top of the stairs, where my computer is. (Really, though, it's taking me longer to crawl up the stairs.)

12. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?
Me, but in Washington. :-) Seriously, it's a bit uncanny how similar we are. (At least, I think so.)

13. What's the last song that got stuck in your head?
"Elmo's an aardvark, and he's proud; Elmo's an aardvark, and he's happy!" It's from Elmo's World: The Great Outdoors. But this morning, and for the past several days, I've woken up to the Captain Feathersword song from the Wiggles. This mama needs a new Tori Amos cd or something...

14. What's your favorite item of clothing?
My new pajama pants.

15. Do you think Rice Krispies are yummy?
They're mushy. They're only good with marshmallows.

16. What would you do if you saw $100 lying on the ground?
I'd look for a video camera to see if someone had purposely put that in front of me to see what I'd do in such a moral dilemma. Seriously. Of course I'd look for the owner, but I wouldn't spend all day and a tank of gas doing it.

17. What items could you not go without during the day?
I find this question a little annoying. Of course I could go without anything, except food, water, and shelter, if I had to. Do you mean what would I really like to ensure I always had?? My phone, Zantac 75, Tylenol 500, and something sweet to munch on occasionally.

18. What should you be doing right now?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I can post this now:

After a week of thinking about it, and weighing the pros and cons of each agent, I picked one. It feels like slipping on the right-sized glove.

I'm represented by Laura Rennert of Andrea Brown. :-) Woohoo!! I'm going to have a career in writing.

A busy week and 3 nice things

I haven't posted anything lately because I'm waiting to decide on an agent and actually sign the contract before publicizing anything.

Also, I've been having insomnia issues (related to pregnancy? choosing literary agents? moving?). My energy level is rather low.

I am, however, excited about tomorrow night, when we get the keys to our new house. A house. A real one, with a garage and no attached neighbors. We'll be across the street from a playground, surrounded by other stay-at-home moms who go on morning walks. We'll have space, and storage, and a laundry room. I am deliriously happy. Or just delirious from the amount of work I'll have to be doing this weekend moving our stuff from one place to another. At least I've got the seven-months-pregnant excuse, so I won't have to move furniture or carry heavy boxes. ;-)

Now, a challenge: I dare you to think of three really good things you have done for other people this year. And then admit it right here in the comments section. I want to see what my friends have done for other this year--I think it would make us all smile. Don't be modest and hide anything, either. Revel in your niceness and generosity!

Here are mine (yes, they're lame, but I haven't been that nice this year, apparently):
1. I made dinner for someone who lost her baby, even though I barely knew her and didn't feel like it.
2. I gave up my evening writing time so my hubby could have more time to study.
3. I read to my neighbor kids, who have a tired single mom who doesn't do much with them (although we never got past chapter one, because they got bored).

Your turn!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Good Day for Me!!

I got the call today from an agent. When all's official, I'll let you know who it is.

Funny thing (sorta) was that I was at the library with Elizabeth, so the whole time I was on the phone, I was trying to keep her from running around like a crazy wild thing. She was loud, she spit on a little boy, and she was pulling books off shelves. Thank goodness we were in the children's section.

Update on the teen writing workshop: it's been moved to October 6th. If you're a local teen, and you want to work on your writing talent and meet others with the same vibe, join us!

Friday, September 5, 2008

The American Bubble and Sheep

I don't want to make this a political blog, but I am getting sickened by what's being said in the news and the apparent lack of education and awareness of the general public in the U.S. Not to mention the great distance many Americans have placed between themselves and reality.

Now, I'm all for idealism. It's pretty much how I live my own life. But, that said, I'm not going to put a bubble around my head to convince myself that all is darn-tootin'-fine with the Good Ole U.S. of A. just so I can feel good about my own excessive lifestyle.

Good writerly news: I'd always thought of writing a picture book, but had no idea where to start or what I would write. Last night (or more appropriately, this morning), in the midst of pregnancy-induced insomnia, I came up with an idea I'm darn proud of. The silliest part of it is that it has to do with sheep. Fluffy, woolen sheep. (Not to be confused with starched, cottony sheep.)

I love sheep. Especially the white ones with black faces. Those are the kind my grandparents kept. The kind I saw toddling around one year and then ate, without realizing, the next. (Now that was an interesting evening.) No, the book has nothing to do with eating sheep.

~~Must go make lunches and get ready for a trip to the local State Park, in which we'll see horses and possibly jellyfish. (Wouldn't it be interesting to see them together?)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The National Zoo Field Trip

Yesterday, my friend and I took our girls out for their first Field Trip: The National Zoo.

We rode the Metro up to D.C. and the girls loved it.

They got to see the elephants hanging out in the "elephant barn." Fortunately, the elephants are getting a new pad soon--all lush and outdoorsy.

After watching the beavers for a while (had no idea they were so huge), the girls made some attempts at rock climbing. Elizabeth seemed to pull some glee and power straight from the rock, which was alarming. Gave me the shivers just thinking about her future self, climbing up the mesas in Arizona without so much as a rope.

Finally, on the way back to the Metro, they both passed out and missed the entire train ride. (Thank goodness for that--I needed to rest!)

While the girls were dozing, we decided to snap some pics of ourselves. Here's my panda date:

P.S. My frankincense arrived today!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I'm a Guru (and I just SO knew it)

Your result for The Perception Personality Image Test...

NFPS - The Guru

Nature, Foreground, Big Picture, and Shape

You perceive the world with particular attention to nature. You focus on what's in front of you (the foreground) and how that fits into the larger picture. You are also particularly drawn towards the shapes around you. Because of the value you place on nature, you tend to find comfort in more subdued settings and find energy in solitude. You like to deal directly with whatever comes your way without dealing with speculating possibilities or outcomes you can't control. You are in tune with all that is around you and understand your life as part of a larger whole. You prefer a structured environment within which to live and you like things to be predictable.

Take The Perception Personality Image Test at HelloQuizzy

It's weird. It's like this test knows me or something.
Here's a definition on the word guru: A guru (Sanskrit: गुरु) is a person who is regarded as having great knowledge, wisdom and authority in a certain area, and uses it to guide others. The word comes from Sanskrit Gu, darkness, and Ru, light (prakash); literally a preceptor who shows others knowledge (light) and destroys ignorance (darkness).

Cindy did it too, so take the test if you're as curious as we were!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My Official "Me" Day

Today was all about me. Seriously. I dropped E-beth off at her Tuesday Day Care, shot over to my 28-week OB appointment, and sat there for an hour to take a glucose test. After that, I had lunch with myself at Panera Bread (yum) and then sat and wrote for an hour and a half. Finally. Then I tried on some work-out clothes at Target, got depressed, left the store without so much as a lollipop, and went to pick E-beth up.

I am at that point in pregnancy when the days drag on and my body just hurts. I've got a little less than three more months of it, which make me just so relieved. As I told my OB today, this is my last pregnancy. I don't think I could do it again. To which she replied, "Girlfriend, you nursed your baby for twenty-one months. You can do this." I nodded, but it was mostly to shake the cobwebs from my head.

If I didn't have writing, a supportive husband who at least seems empathetic, and an adorable little girl, I'd be a lot worse off. (Although, in E-beth's case, I might get more napping in.)

Still waiting for my frankincense to arrive. I can't believe how long it's taken--four days already. Geesh! (Forget the part in history where it took at least three months for frankincense to get from the coast of Yemen to Gaza, then another month or more to get to Rome.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Book Planning

Some of you have heard me complain about writing myself in circles in this second book. Well, I decided to tackle that problem once and for all--while I was at the gym. (And I mean figuring it all out at the gym, while walking on the treadmill.)

Today it finally hit me: I needed to answer a few questions. I need to set the story up just right so that my MC can take me along for the ride without me having to do any major road-building. Now, I went to the gym armed to the teeth with info and had just read a research paper on the frankincense trade and ordered myself an incense burner and a pack of "gourmet" my mind was "in the mood." All I needed now was a reason for why my MC was going to do the things I wanted him to do. I needed a mystery, a deadline, and a few other things.

So as I walked at a fairly fast pace (and tried to ignore the super-skinny long-haired blonde running at 7mph right next to me), I thought it out. I stared outside and tried to feel the heat of the Yemeni desert. I asked my MC what his story was.

And then it came to me. Ahah! I was so excited I almost fell off the treadmill. (And the blonde stared at me like I was crazy b/c I was trying to write while exercising.)

Now I can answer the questions that have been posted next to my desk for months. They're a great guide. I got them from somewhere (I forget where, now)...maybe Cheryl Klein's website?

1. What does your main character really want?
2. Why can't your MC have it?
3. What will happen if your MC doesn't get what s/he wants? (What are the stakes?)
4. How does your MC struggle to get what s/he wants?
5. When is the situation hopeless? (When can you not put the book down?)
6. When is the tension relieved?
7. What is surprising about the ending?

Ok, so I can't rightfully answer 5-7 yet, but I have an idea of what that'll be. I even have a place in mind (geographically). Phew! So although I haven't cranked out draft one this summer like I had hoped, at least I'm on the right track. It's been hard just trying to find my keys lately, much less the rest of my brain, so I'm proud I accomplished this much.

And just so ya know, all of the walking has not helped the preggo pain at all. In fact, now I feel like a Barbie doll whose legs are being pulled apart by a three-year-old.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Teen Writing Workshop

As the sign says (if you can read it), I taught a writing workshop to teens last night at the library. :-)

Aren't they wonderful? They're not all in the photo, as some had escaped before I remembered my camera.

We started right away with a writing exercise and then did the introductions. Then we went over "show vs. tell," in which I went through the latest draft of my novel looking for an example of telling. (Sadly, I found one on page four.) After that, we spoke a bit about using the five senses in narrative to bring the writing alive to the reader. After that, we wrote the same paragraph again, but everyone had to use at least three of the five senses. Most of the young adults then graciously offered to read both of their paragraphs out loud to the class so we could hear the differences. (Brave souls!)

I don't know about them, but I had a great time. :-) Who doesn't when surrounded by writing friends, talking about great books and the craft of writing?

Oh, and the library asked me today if I'd be willing to do it again in October, to start out their Teen Reading Week. I'm honored--it's like being the opening speaker!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Me and Jane Austen

Ms. Austen and I are tight. See?

I even wore my most-Regency-looking maternity shirt to look the part while we toured Bath last June.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

It's Starbucks' fault

I'm up way, way too late. I've been critiquing some submissions I've received in preparation for the workshop I'm teaching on Monday, and because I was rather incoherent all day due to being unable to sleep last night, I opted for a Grande Nonfat Green Tea Latte with two extra scoops of matcha powder. It's like a double-espresso green tea.

Actually, I got two, but the first one ended up on the floor and spread into a circle of about five feet. The very kind baristas gave me a new one for free. :-)

I might have ended all the critiques I needed to do, but I got booted out at 9:30 because they were closing (What?! But it's Starbucks!) and ended up spending too much time online at home. *sigh*

So, yeah, here I am, unable to sleep or read or critique any more. What else is there to do but blog?

Good news: I'm querying agents for my first novel, ROHANA, and one of them asked me for the "full" this evening. Cross your fingers, pray, or chant on your beads that he devours it quickly and calls me up soon, asking if he can represent me for life! If he rejects it, I'll just curl up and cry for a moment or two, then get back to work. It's the way the writing world turns, I've discovered.

Now, here's my inspirational photo for the night:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


It has taken me far too long to talk about the RockSugarBeets, so here I go...

A few of the people I met at the conference were so fantastic, in fact, that we ended up eating the last few dinners together and formed a write-and-share group (not a critique group, as we've all got plenty of that going on). If you check out Cindy and Jacqui's blog posts from L.A., you'll see what I mean. (Everyone else already blogged about this, and it'd be better if you'd just check out their blogs than if I regurgitated everything. I mean, really, twice-chewed news is about as nice as fish bits picked from a mama seagull's beak.) Be sure to check out their photos, too, since I apparently am failing at posting pics lately.

Yesterday was Elizabeth's 2nd birthday and we had four other two-year-olds come over for the party (with their parents, of course). There was much insanity, but it was good insanity, you know?

She was so happy to have kids over to play with. The presents were great (Little People toys, a hand-made Tinker Bell blanket, Crocs, clothes, and a tricycle), the food was great (Brewster's Ice Cream Cake), and the guests were great.

She was so wound up after everyone left that when she spoke on the phone with my mom, she told her "Happy Birthday." (Except it was "Happy Dirtday," because although she can say pterodactyl, she can't say birthday.)

This morning we punched balloons around the living room until after breakfast. And then we played with hairstyles. I was SO proud of getting this done on a moving target (even with her sitting in the sink) that I had to take a picture.

Today was our 3rd Anniversary. (Yes, our 1st anniversary was spent mostly in the hospital.) Since we didn't have childcare set up for the evening but we had it during the day (Kid's Day Out), we went to the obligatory Japanese restaurant for lunch. Jim wasn't expecting anything in the way of gifts, so I surprised him with a huge bag of new clothes and a cute card. He needed those clothes, and I needed him to get something else to wear so my eyes didn't burn out, but he would never have gone out and bought himself anything. I think he was pretty happy. Not the greatest of gifts, like, say, something for his bicycle, but oh well. Last year I had more time and made him a scrapbook of our wedding pictures.

I must get off the computer now, as I was just informed that I should be spending time with him tonight. ;-)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sheba Gold

I'm plunging back into my research for my work-in-progress novel and having a blast on YouTube. I just watched a video done by Discovery Channel and BBC a few years ago on the Queen of Sheba mystery and current archaeology persuits. It's fantastic, and I want to buy it, but it's not available anywhere. Argh.

The clip I included is a 2:37 photo montage about Yemen, Sheba (Saba), the Great Dam of Marib, and other things I've researched. I didn't make the video, but did chuckle through it as it showed covers of books I've bought recently for research and other photos I've seen. Wish I could go to Marib!

I want to make this novel rich with detail, truth, and mystery. Sounds good, right? This book is going to be a joy to write and research!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Back from L.A.

My mind is still reeling and recuperating from my red-eye flight, but it was all worth it. I met some amazing people and feel inspired, confident, and ready to tackle anything the publishing world dishes out. It was nice to get away for once, and hang out with other writing moms (and dads).

Ok, so I meant to write more and create an exciting post, but I'm thinking longingly of my bed--and I can't go to it because I've got a house to clean, queries to dust off, and a non-napping kiddo.

Next time--photos and a "deeper" post.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Tomorrow I will be on my way to L.A. for the SCBWI Summer Conference. (Woohoo!!) Wish me luck.

When I get back, I'm sure I'll have loads to say. :-)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I just can't resist these things:

37 Odd Things About Me

1. Do you like blue cheese?

Yes, but only on really fresh salad.

2. Have you ever smoked?

Yes, about 6 cigarettes. Then I decided I did not like them and never would. Plus, it made me look ridiculous.

3. Do you own a gun?

No. And the one I took with me to Iraq was BROKEN. Can you believe that? I went 4 months there not realizing it didn't work. In the end, I got it fixed, but thankfully never needed it except at target practice. I hated that thing.

4. What flavor Kool Aid was your favorite?

Sugar-Free Cherry

5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments?

No, I get excited. Lame, I know.

6. What do you think of hot dogs?

They're ok. I feel guilty eating them, though, even the kosher ones.

7. Favorite Christmas movie?

White Christmas. (I love Danny Kaye.)

8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning?

Earl Grey with milk and honey.

9. Can you do push ups?

Yes, but last time at the gym I realized my belly is so big now that it hits the ground before I can get all the way down. It made me giggle right in the middle of the class.

10. What's your favorite piece of jewelry?

I have two: a ring Jim gave me with a sapphire stone, and a ring my mom gave me when I had my first baby, with a star-sapphire.

11. Favorite hobby?

Um, reading?

12. Do you have A.D.D.?

No. I'm too neurotic for that.

13. Do you wear glasses/contacts?

I had PRK eye surgery. (Don't do that--it's more painful than childbirth.)

14. Middle name?


15. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment?

I don't like it when Jim reads over my shoulder, we need to buy a washing machine, and I wonder if Elizabeth is asleep yet.

16. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink?

Water, tea, and lemonade.

17. Current worry?

Just one?

18. Current hate right now?

Parents who would rather be "cool" than care for their children.

19. Favorite place to be?

On the edge of a mist-covered lake, sipping apple cider.

20. How did you bring in the new year?

Well, don't blame me for the new year coming in--I was asleep when it happened.

21. Where would you like to go?

Western China

22. Name three people who will complete this?

Um, no.

23. Do you own slippers?

I think so.

24. What shirt are you wearing?

A white shirt with blue snow-flake looking embroidery. I look like a round snowball.

25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets?

That sounds rather sticky.

26. Can you whistle?


27. Favorite color?

Well, now, that changes frequently. Earlier tonight I thought lilac was rather pretty.

28. Would you be a pirate?

Not unless the other choice was to be taken down by one.

29. What songs do you sing in the shower?

Oh, I can sing the whole soundtrack to Sound of Music. But sometimes it's the theme song from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, a Wiggles tune, or Elmo's theme.

30. Favorite Girl's Name?

Well, there was this story about an immigrant family who found a beautiful name for their infant daughter in a dictionary: Diarrhea. But really, if this next kid had been a girl, she would have been Penelope.

31. Favorite boy's name?

Not gonna say.

32. What's in your pocket right now?


33. Last thing that made you laugh?

I can't remember, but earlier I laughed because Elizabeth got way too excited over seeing a monkey on TV. And she had to "be" one.

34. What vehicle do you drive?

Subaru Outback.

35. Worst injury you've ever had?

The second time I broke my arm. But healing up from childbirth took a helluva lot longer.

36. Do you love where you live?

I always do. Temporarily.

37. How many TVs do you have in your house?

One. We were going to have none, but one showed up on our doorstep at Christmas.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Made me laugh

I was just browsing a baby website, and for 23 weeks (where I'm at now), it said: Your baby is about 11½ inches long and weighs 1 pound, or about the length and weight of a Harry Potter book.

Made me giggle.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Catching Up

I don't know when we'll get the England photos downloaded. Maybe tomorrow?

Elizabeth FINALLY took a nap today, which gave me time to get away and write. We purposefully spent two hours at the pool trying the sun+water=nap formula, and it worked. :-) So while Jim was tinkering with his ever-problematic SVX (a car), I slunk off to Starbucks with my dana and wrote a new scene in my new book. At this rate, I might be done with the first draft in, oh, a year.

But it was fun spilling a bunch of water over a cliff. (The scene.)

The more I dip into Ali's world, the easier it is to jot down the story. Even if the story right now is difficult, and bumpy, and looks more like my first attempt at knitting--going off the straight line and far from perfect. Bah! Perfection is for second drafts!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Oh My...

After some googling, I found this link. At first I thought the guy who wrote it was trying very hard to sound like a crazy person. But he's not! (Or I got the wool pulled over my eyes.) It just blows my mind that there are people out there who not only think like this, but put it on the internet! [It's about Harry Potter breaking the 10 Commandments.]

I want to laugh, but I'm too stunned.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Waiting for babies and book news

Just to clarify, when I sent off my manuscript to NYC, I was not pregnant. Now, I am fat and the baby kicks and could nearly survive outside (with the aid of plastics)! So is it weird, or funny, or just plain normal for a human being to be created and developed before hearing from a publisher?

Don't get me wrong: I am not annoyed or angry with the editor. In fact, each morning I hope he'll call! I am just dying to know if my book is "worthy" or not. And I'm afraid that if I don't get a call before I see him in person next month, I'll end up getting sorely disappointed in person. And I'd rather find out any bad news while I'm at home, away from public eyes and ears.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Trip to England--Part Two

I haven't downloaded all the pics yet, so you'll just have to deal with what you get! :-)

The first thing we did in England was check out the playground, naturally:

Then we walked around the RAF base and saw the famous Priory, which is reportedly haunted. (Aren't all old English buildings?) We would have eaten dinner there, but we couldn't find a babysitter and the Brits aren't as easy-going about bringing kids into nice restaurants--not that we wanted to try that!

Next to the Priory was a dumpster with an old tricycle next to it, which Elizabeth saw instantly. We "borrowed" it for the whole time we were there and then dropped it off at the dumpster on our way out. (She wasn't happy about that, and in fact, this morning the first thing she said was, "I want bicacle."

Next, we went to a safari park in which you drive through the exhibits. And yes, that is a monkey, and it's sitting on the moonroof of our car.

And at the same safari park, we got a little bit closer to some tiny monkeys:

Now, the rest of the pics are on another card which will take eons to download as Jim was a bit trigger-happy with his new camera. (We must have thousands of pics on it!)

And for those interested: we are having a boy. :-) I'm very happy to be having one of each, but now I'll have to search out for a new name. "Penelope" just won't do now, will it?

Monday, June 30, 2008

Trip to England--Part One

It was a windy night when we got ready to fly to England via Germany. Here's Elizabeth, preparing for lift off.

After an hour or so of flying, she finally nodded off. We were on a C-17 cargo plane, sitting on canvas jump-seats. In a way, it was nicer than flying commercial b/c no one minded her crying--they couldn't hear it over the plane itself!

It got very cold, so we tucked her in and then laid several blankets on the metal floor so that we could take a nap.

Jim woke me up by putting Elizabeth on my lap. I was soooo tired! (And shivering.)

We arrived in Germany on Sunday morning, and Elizabeth promptly found a clover patch of flowers.

We tried to go off base and "see Germany," but we happened to be in the country, and there wasn't anything near the base at all, except cows and corn. We did walk off, but there weren't any sidewalks and the stroller was in the path of too many fast cars, so we reluctantly turned back and had to eat at the German restaurant on base. (I think we were the only non-Germans in there b/c we got stared at quite a bit.) Jim got a good beer, which I tasted. Yum!

Monday afternoon we caught the flight to Mildenhall, England. It was only an hour, and Elizabeth slept the whole way. My friend picked us up and on the way to her house I tried to shake off the jet-lag and open my eyes wide to the passing scenery, which was hard since it passed by so quickly. After getting acquainted with her cat, we settled down and prepared for our real trip, England.

I'll post those pictures tomorrow. Which, by the way, is also the day we find out what the baby's gender is.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I'll write more later, but Jim, Elizabeth,and I finally arrived a few nights ago, via Germany. We took a military hop--it took us three days of travel to get here, but the flights were free. :) Now we're staying with a friend of mine and getting to know the region she lives in. Taking lots of pictures... so when we get back to Maryland, whenever that may be, I'll post everything and show you what we did!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Starting over--with a disaster!

It's a good thing. No, really. The past several weeks I've been sinking lower and lower, wondering if I could still write anything that wasn't wholly bad. Not only could I not get myself to sit down and write, I couldn't even think past the first chapter while I was housecleaning (which is when I do an awful large percentage of my plot-planning).

But Emily saved me. Or, rather, L.M. Montgomery did. Reading the Emily books brought me back to myself and what I always believed I could achieve. Emily writes a lot, and I wasn't writing anything, so I felt just a bit ashamed. When I finished the third book yesterday (I could not put it down), I could feel my new story growing beneath my consciousness. It was a wonderful feeling. Not quite the "flash" that Emily gets (I don't think I've ever had one of those), but a faint scent of something brewing in my soul, something that I could write out, something I could make live.

So after I dropped Elizabeth off at her once-weekly day-care, I sauntered into the library. First, I browsed the kid's section, as always. The librarian there was happy to see me because the poster is out about my teen writing workshop I'm doing in August. (More info--and a picture--on that later.) It was just so cool to see my name on a huge poster calling on teens to submit their stories and sign up for the class. I think, perhaps, it just helped a bit because after that I sat down in the much-quieter adult section at a desk that faced outside. And I wrote. But more than that, I jumped in. Any of you who write know what that means. I found the voice, I found the beginning, I found out who Ali is and what he wants and what he accidentally does (that's the "disaster"). Suddenly, I was a writer again and I was seeing, in my mind and soul, a story that is true.

Now the challenge is to write it out, so wish me luck and perseverance.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

my name
LogoThere are
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Hmm, only 3 is good. I wonder if the others pronounce the surname the same. It rhymes with "dough."

If I hadn't given up my maiden name, though, I'd be sharing it with 135 other people!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Procrastination or Doubt?

Instead of thinking and writing in this world:

I've been mentally absorbed in this world:

What if I never am able to climb out? I'm afraid the only way is to sell the first book and get on with it, and THEN write the next.
But I can't wait for that. I must press on with Yemen and leave New Zealand behind... even if I am increasingly concerned about what the editor may say when he eventually calls or writes to me.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Home Again

Phew. Two weeks away without Jim (and with Elizabeth) can be exhausting, no matter how fun it may be. Denver was relaxing, but Orlando was anything but. We went to Disney's Magic Kingdom just hours after arriving, and then spent the next day at Cocoa Beach, lounging. Um, I mean, running up and down the surf. (Elizabeth doesn't "lounge.") Then we went to SeaWorld on Thursday and Disney's Animal Kingdom on Friday. My dad was there the last few days and treated us royally--we actually ate at the real restaurants in the parks, avoiding the greasy fast food lines. (The Shark's restaurant at SeaWorld was not only exciting--imagine dining next to a HUGE tank of sharks--but delicious.)

We all took a long nap as soon as we got home.

And...I just (as in, a minute or two ago) finished reading Emily of New Moon. What I want to know is: how in the world was I unaware of it's existence when I was a child? Never before have I felt so slighted in the book world! It would have done wonders for me, I just know. All I can do is be thankful that I read it now, before I got too old and when I'm just starting my writing "career." Frankly, I gobbled that book up. It was tastier and more nourishing than a bowl of chicken noodle soup at high fever. Thank you, Laini, for suggesting it!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Toddler Irony

My blog is named nap-time writer, right? And you have read me complain about how she does not nap regularly, right? Well, on our way to a birthday party, as I was talking up the pizza and presents, she passed out. When we got there, I changed her clothes. She stayed asleep. And moaned.

She slept in her stroller for another hour, amidst shrieking kindergartners hopped up on sprite and cake. The whole time, I pondered her logic: Why now? Why nap when it's ok to be awake and have fun? Why sleep through this when you refuse to sleep through my writing time?

At least she was cute as she napped in her Ariel nightgown at the PJ party. ;-)

Tomorrow, we fly back to D.C. Then on Tuesday, we're flying to Orlando for my cousin's high school graduation. I'm beginning to wonder about my sanity when I booked these flights...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Zoos and a Snooze

Well, just one zoo, actually: the Denver Zoo. Elizabeth and I took a spontaneous trip out to Denver to stay with my parents while Jim was away at a conference, so we went to the zoo yesterday. My parents didn't go (they work--I mean, who does that?), but E-beth and I had a great time strolling around. The zoo is fantabulous, and I think, maybe better than the San Diego Zoo. (For some reason, saying that feels like heresy.) We had a few arguments over hats (like, she wasn't allowed to do anything or see anything unless she had her hat on), but overall, we had a blast. She especially like the "choo choo" and the other "choo choo" (the carousel).

Today, I took her to the Children's Museum. We were only inside for a little over an hour (the A/C was on full-blast and I couldn't stand it), but it was fun. They have a room decorated like a little village, complete with carpeted streams, bridges, fake trees, tree-house houses, an apothecary, a fake garden, and a little boat you can fish from (magnetic fish, of course). Awesome. Then we went upstairs so she could play dress-up and dance in front of the mirror. Then we went back downstairs and sat in on a reading of Green Eggs and Ham, and the kids got to eat real green eggs! I thought she wouldn't like them, considering she turns her nose up at yellow eggs, but lo and behold she asked for more. Four times!

And now, she is napping. Oh, a glorious day! I'm about to do a critique for my writing group. It's something I have to do (and like to do), but it's also, I have to say, a way to procrastinate. I've been doing that a lot lately. I don't know why. Is it because the past month was very difficult with E-beth? Or maybe I'm having a hard time just getting started? Or maybe I'm stalling because I'm feeling pretty low about writing in general since I haven't heard back about Rohana? Who knows. Maybe it's just because I'm lazy and pregnant.

One good thing is that one of my writing group friends just got THREE OFFERS for her book, all from really great publishing houses. It's just amazing! I'm so happy for her, especially since she's part of my "group." And a really cool writer-artist lady. (And she'll read this eventually, so I have to pump her up!)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Phew--Aliens are OK!

This just gave me a little chuckle:

According to the AP, the Vatican's chief astronomer says that believing in aliens does not contradict faith in God.

The Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, said that the vastness of the universe means it is possible there could be other forms of life outside Earth, even intelligent ones.

Now, if only the Catholic church could go back in time and un-burn-at-the-stake those who made such comments long ago...

Monday, May 12, 2008


photo source

So...Elizabeth is down for a nap (I think...she is at least quiet), the laundry is going in the machine, and the house is mildly picked up. What time is it? Time to work on my book!

Last week I had a fantastic idea swell upon me, but, of course, I did nothing but sketch out a few items. I mean, it's hard to write a book, and even harder to write two at once, so I'm putting that one on hold until my Sheba book is well underway. The new idea? It's sci-fi, but more Brave New World than Space Odyssey.

Ok, so she is not asleep. I better go back up there... (When, oh when, will I get my time??)

Sunday, May 4, 2008


I just watched the first installment of "Cranford" on PBS and have just recovered from my tears. (I cannot stand to see children die in movies.) Still, it is well-done and would not let me leave my seat (not that I was trying). Since I had not realized it was part 1 of 3, I was completely shocked when it suddenly stopped. Now, I'll be useless to my family next Sunday night when it comes on again!

Friday, May 2, 2008

the family circus

Tuesday afternoon, we took Elizabeth to her first circus. Not quite Cirque du Soleil, but it was a good sized one for a toddler. Plenty of camels, elephants, ponies, and clowns.

Of course, if we'd known she was coming down with something, we might not have taken her.

And here's our first decent family portrait in months and months:

This afternoon, we reclaimed a corner of our yard from Silver (she likes to dig up the grass) and planted some tomato plants we had grown from seedlings a month or so ago. It was long past due for the poor plants, as they'd grown into knots in their little pot. Elizabeth helped out with the digging and soil-mixing, of course. She's a good soil mixer.

And, just because it's cute, a picture from last Saturday when we went to the Greenwell State Park (note the fact she's in the river fully clothed):