Thursday, February 28, 2008

Finally Getting Started!

Art plays a central role in my next novel, and since it's set in the eastern mediterranean in 1000 BCE, I've been doing some research. Aren't these beautiful?

This is a Cypriot tripod from the late bronze age (13th-12th century BCE):

This is a neo-Assyrian plaque in the Egyptian style from the 9th-8th century BCE:

Another neo-Assyrian plague from the same period, but in the Phoenician style:

And a Cypriot sculpture from the 14th-12th century BCE:

Research is one of the best parts of writing a book, I think. It's obviously important in historical novels, but I'd do research even if the novel was set on Antares in the year 2307. The more I research, the more ideas I get and the richer they become. There is so much information out there, and it's so easy to get to these days. These pictures come from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which I'd love to visit one day. (Yes, I dream often of going to New York. Recently, it's been centered on visiting the Scholastic building.) Here are pictures, taken by Lisa Yee, of the building I just mentioned.

The more time goes by, the more anxious I get about my last book. Is it good enough? Is it worthy? Did I send it out before it was really ready? Have they read it yet? The worries and questions go on and on, especially as I drift off to sleep. (Or try to sleep.) To be honest, I'm afraid to pick up Rohana and read through it--what if I spot a million errors or a way to fix something?

Speaking of which, I finished reading Elizabeth C. Bunce's book, A Curse Dark as Gold. I read it in almost one whole day because I could not put it down. It scares me that this woman can write so well (it particularly scares me because I've sent my little book in to the same imprint and editors). Anyway, I urge everyone to rush out and get it, and then devote a day or two to absorbing it. It's fantastic...the best book I've read in months.

Now, off to take a bath and read a book I've had to renew at the library: Our Only May Amelia.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Artist in Training (Pants)

First, a photo of my little scribbler:

Lately, it's all she wants to do, and I'm totally encouraging her. (As long as she uses washable crayons on the walls.)

And here is one of her efforts at artistic photography:

She says it's called "Mommy's Knee."

As for me...I'm still brainstorming my next book. I get both a hundred ideas and a hundred doubts each day. Soon, I'm going to have to make up my mind and get to work!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Green Tea Caffeine

Well, no more of that after dinner! I can't sleep, so I'm doing some research, which leads me next to what I really meant to say in this post: green tea ignites my muse. It does, honestly. For the past week, I've hemmed and hawed over what to write. The math geniuses story was growing dull in my mind each day as I pondered what kind of writer I am. Do I have a particular style? Should I be writing a particular type of novel? The jump from nineteenth-century polynesian genocide to modern-day math geeks was too big, so I'm going backwards even further in time now.

How about an ancient tale? No, not your average Brothers Grimm retelling, but a story drawn from the wells of Africa.

Yes, I'm thinking...a love story, a mix of cultures, and a bit of agony in the birthplace of humanity--Ethiopia.

I feel like this is one I can really write. Math? What was I thinking? ;-)

Monday, February 18, 2008

I'm still brainstorming my next book. I found out that the USA wasn't in the International Mathematical Olympiad in the 60s, when I wanted to place my next story. In fact, they didn't go to the competition until 1974. So now...I don't know. I've got some decisions to make and some research to do.

Other than that, my mind has been absorbing as much Jane Austen movies as it can. Last night I watched the second part of Pride and Prejudice, which I haven't seen in years, and today during lunch, I watched Northanger Abbey for the first time. The movies on PBS are all good, but with the exception of P&P, they are too short. I feel I've missed something, so of course I have to now go get the book.

It may sound as if all I do is read and write, but I do play with Elizabeth an awful lot, try out new dinner recipes, and work out. See? I'm not flat. ;-)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Tuesdays I get to drop Elizabeth off at the Lexington Park UMC for "Kids' Day Out," which means I get a day to myself. The past month, I spent the entire day writing and revising, but today, I played around. :-) First, I went to the gym with my friend and burned a helluva lot o' calories. Then we went to a pastry shop and each bought a scone, thus replenishing ourselves immediately from those just-burned calories. After that, I went to the local book store (Bay Books) and ordered Elizabeth Bunce's book, A Curse Dark as Gold (so excited about that one!). After that, I reheated some pizza and found some cool writing-focused blogs.

And then, I voted. (Yay Obama!)

After that, I went to the local coffee shop that is not Starbuck's (for once) and sank into a wooden chair (as if anyone can really do that) with my cup-o-earl grey and Sold, by Patricia McCormick. I'd been trying to read it for the past week, but each time I opened it up after crawling into bed, I quickly lost enthusiasm. For starters, it's about a young woman/girl who is sold into sexual slavery (i.e., it's going to be depressing). Then to top it all off, it's written in vignettes, which I can't remember ever encountering in a novel before. The first few pages, I kept thinking of other things (anything but Lakshmi, the protagonist) and then fell asleep before getting "caught" by the book.

Well, with my mind buzzing on milk tea and my last free hour, I dove into the book again. This time, I got caught. It's beautiful and sad and naive, so far. I want to jump in Thursday Next-style and rescue her. But I can't, and it distresses me! It's like reading Anne Frank's diary, but with a bit more hope (I'm holding out on a rescue or escape in the end!).

It makes me want to write books like this that smack people in the face with the reality of our world's problems. And that in turn makes me sigh, because I really would like to write something fun and dashing instead. Am I only meant to write stories about pain and pride?

Monday, February 11, 2008


The last two weekends, we've taken Elizabeth out of the house to see what Maryland and DC have to offer.

At the Maritime Museum, she found a little house, with a little chair and some books. Thankfully, the three bears were out while she ransacked their home.

The river otters were a big hit, and they liked her, too.

Posing with some wooden sailors. No peg legs, fortunately.

On the way to the zoo, I looked back and saw she had found her sunglasses.

The cheetas were awesome...pacing along a fence that harbored a teasing zebra. Here she is with her daddy.

Lately, she has taken interest in making animal sounds, particularly those of tigers, so when she got to see them today, she squealed. And then roared. And believe it or not, the tiger faced us, crouched, and roared back at us (and it sounded like a roaring meow). She loved it.

We left the zoo after only a few hours because the 47 degrees and the powerful wind wore us down quickly. I can't wait to get back there in the spring. By then, she'll know more of the animals. She also might not "baaa" at the alpacas next time. Can you blame her? They've sort of have wool like a sheep. If it weren't for her, I might not have noticed.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Wearing Out

I worked out again this morning and then had to take a bath at naptime to soften the muscles in my aching back and shoulders. And quads. And abs.

Even though tomorrow is Saturday, I am not throwing in the towel yet--I'm doing a spin class.

Yes, all of this is to detract the wandering mind (have they read my book yet?), purge the anxiety (what if they don't like it?), and burn off the cookies and apple pie (yum!).

Now, off to yet another hot bath and then I shall cuddle up with a book (I'm reading Sold, by Patricia Mccormick) before I drift off to sleep. Until 3, when Elizabeth will come running into the room, wailing for her nursing.

Oh, this is funny (kinda): last night, when Jim went downstairs to get her some tylenol, she got a little freaked out and sprinted into our bedroom--straight into my night stand. She fell back flat on her back, stunned. And then she cried. I had to bite my cheek to keep from laughing as I picked her up and rocked away the pain and shock of wooden-night-stand-in-the-face.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Kickboxing and New Projects

In an attempt to put my worries and anxieties about my submission aside, I've been taking classes at the gym with one of my friends. Tuesday, we did the "bodypump" class, which meant weight lifting to music for a whole hour. My body quivered at the end of class and I was essentially drained for two days. Today, to fight off lethargy, I went to the kickboxing class. And it kicked my butt. I do feel better, if not tired, so it was a wise move. Otherwise, I'd have been moping around the house all day, trying to convince Elizabeth to play by herself.

This napping session (i.e., while Elizabeth is comatose for the next hour or so), I'm going to sketch out some ideas for my next book. I'm smiling at the moment thinking about it, because sketching is fun and carefree!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Yes We Can

This isn't a political blog, but I ran across a YouTube video made by Barack Obama supporters. It gave me chills. Chills of hope and serenity. I believe him: we can repair this world, this government, this America.

We have such an opportunity in America. We can choose our leaders and we can criticize them. How many countries are there in the world where there is no such power given to the people? My wish for this election year is that we realize this rare opportunity and go to the polls and make our choices.

3 a.m.

It's the middle of the night, and I am not blissfully asleep in my bed, dreaming the night away. Elizabeth woke up at midnight and refuses to go back to sleep. Currently, she's playing with her blocks at my feet.

I am going insane with sleep deprivation. When will my child end this incessant night-time persecution?