Catherine Stine's IDEA CITY

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Friday, December 30, 2011

HybridBooks & Ginger Nuts Junk Food--Zesty!

In the last couple of days I've come across two intriguing articles on ePublishing. One talks about a hybrid of the traditional and the eBook, the other speaks to the new ability (or nightmare), with the proliferation of digital text, to incessantly revise and update your work. Shades of Winston Smith's rewriting of history in 1984?
Read for yourself:
From The Wall Street Journal
Books That Are Never Done Being Written
By Nicholas Carr

From the New York Times
The Book Beyond the Book by David Streitfeld

Streifeld speaks of Melville House, an innovative publisher that advocates a sort of hybrid between eReaders and traditional books: "On the physical side, the hybrids are attractive, stripped down paperbacks... the electronic element comes in with the ancillary material at the end. The last page directs readers to a website."

These links enable the full experience to go on after the reading is done. For instance, a Melville story leads to a website that shows an 1852 map of lower Manhattan and a recipe for Ginger Nuts, all elements in the actual story. The publisher learned after the fact that Ginger Nuts were considered America's first junk food!

HybridBooks, eReaders, paperbacks, it's all good!
As for me, I'm thrilled with my brand new Kindle Fire.

What's your fave holiday gift?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Thankful for the blog community, blinking holiday lights and...

 Hi all,

It's that holiday time again, Christmas eve, Chanukah, almost the year of the dragon, the winter solstice just past, Kwanza, and, no doubt other festivities too. It's that time to be thankful.
Here's some of what I'm thankful for right now.

This blogging community! I want to personally thank Angel Snyder, Jenny Phresh, PK Hrezo, Sarah Ahiers, Helen Mallon, Kelly Hashway, David Powers KingLizzy Ford, Susan Kaye Quinn for her tweets and Livia Blackburne, and, in advance, Katja Weinert for doing smashup jobs in helping my book launch. Not to mention all of you other folks who posted kudos. What a cool community!

I'm thankful for family, for blinking Christmas tree lights that mesmerize, for one-eyed snowmen and my jolly, fat egg-king tree decoration, for the pretty red candles that we saw in a temple in China last New Years, for the ability to imagine and create, for friends, colleagues and my students, who inspire me.

For Polish smoked ham, Swiss chard and sweet potatoes; cherry pie and caramel cake. For good DVDs to watch while it snows outside.
What are you thankful for this holiday?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fireseed One Launch Extended! Kelly joined the party!!

Welcome to the Launch Party!

Fireseed One is my new YA futuristic thriller. It's a journey into a tricked-out near-future earth where 18 year-old Varik has just inherited a vast ocean farm, following the suspicious drowning of his Marine biologist father. When Marisa, a beautiful and devious terrorist, destroys the world's food source, Varik is forced to travel down to a lethal hotzone, teeming with dangerous nomads and a strange cult to search for a magical hybrid plant that may not even exist. The catch? He must take Marisa along, the only person who seems to know key information.

Settle in and have a virtual drink. We're serving SeaGrape sodas, Snowflake Cocktails and Polar Ice Caps. Oh, and have some Flyfish puffs and Pastel Agar Pastries, specialty of SnowAngel Island. These delicacies are all served in Fireseed One.

I'm thrilled to have some of my favorite bloggers here
to help celebrate!

Kelly Hashway's YA and Middle Grade Blog
Sarah Ahiers at Falen Formulates Fiction
Angel Snyder at 909 Reviews Never Lies
Jenny Phresh at The Party Pony
PK Hrezo's My Fiction Addiction
David Powers King's Cosmic Laire of Sci Fi and Fantasy
Lizzy Ford's Guerilla Wordfare
Helen Mallon's WritingNurture: WritingNurture: Work. Balance. sAnItY?

They're ALL amazing so check out their launch posts, Fireseed giveaways, and follow them! They are also posting Fireseed excerpts and more about the characters. But first, mingle, and leave a comment. Consider a paperback copy of Fireseed for yourself or for a holiday gift. Indulge in its banquet of art: Jay's wraparound color, Taili's awesome world map, and my quirky pen and airbrush drawings. And of course, enjoy its breakneck twists. To purchase the collectable paperback: click here.

Or an eBook for your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch: click here.

On Kindle!

On Nook!

For a little extra effort, want to win a free Fireseed One eBook? Leave me a comment saying why you should win, tweet or post on FB about this launch party, follow me here and please write a review on Amazon or Goodreads when you're done reading. I'll need your email, and let me know whether you want the Nook, iPad or Kindle version, okay?

Great to see you! Please consider "liking" the facebook Fireseed One page on your way out: here. Thanks so much for coming! Catherine

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Launch Party Jitters

My launch party for Fireseed One, is this Tuesday on my blog. And I've got the launch jitters. I feel like I'm waiting for my graduation day, my wedding, a long speech that I had to give in high school in front of the class. You get it, right? In a way, it's silly. I've survived through four solo painting openings, that wedding, and well, not so much that long memorized Shakespeare speech, which I promptly forgot the words to as I stood in front of my entire class.

A note to those who use upstart formatters for their indie projects. I used Bookbaby, a great place with friendly people who actually answer the phone when you have a question. Problem is, that I published the paperback on CS, and apparently, they got confused that I wasn't publishing the eBook version through Kindle direct. I waited, and waited, and waited for the eBook to go live. Finally I asked what was happening. Glad I did. Apparently, amazon needed to get "authority to publish" from Bookbaby, because they are such a new publishing entity. You are forewarned!

So, you see, I have at least one rational reason to be anxious. The eBook is supposedly going to be expedited live by Monday, in order to be available for the launch. Send some positive energy to the good Kindle people.

I hope you'll all stop by on Tuesday, DEC 20th, and that I have all my virtual ducks in a row. Oh, and I'll be serving virtual snacks, all concoctions straight from the pages of Fireseed One!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Writerly and Artsy Holiday Gift Ideas!

It's that time again when we all need to wrack our brains for creative holiday gift ideas. What can you get for the writer in your life, or your artist sibling? Something creative and fabulous, that's what! Here are some out-of-the-box ideas to start with:

How about a New York Times crossword puzzle dish set? Nothing more quirky than serving that holiday stuffing while you're figuring out what a 6-four word down is, starting with Z.

Or, for that graphic designer you love, how about a set of Pantone coffee or espresso cups? Pantone, for the uninitiated, is the standardized system of printing colors. Photoshop contains Pantone, as do printing houses, for syncing up a perfect color palette. I bought my book designer a Pantone 286 C, and a Pantone 2583 C coffee mug (FYI, that's a royal blue and a lilac). Hey, they even make Pantone mobile phone cases!

What about a pretty Scrabble pendant, or old typewriter pendant from Etsy?

Or a naughty "Bad Muse" T-shirt?

How about gifting scrivener software? That's the awesome writing program many swear by. I use it for outlining, as it has a virtual cork board where you can post index cards with plot elements and move them around at will.

For even more gift ideas, check out Open Minds author, Susan Kaye Quinn's recent gifting post.

Have you found other cool writers' gifts that you want to share? Gifts for arty folks?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fireseed One Color Cover Reveal! Launch Date Soon!

Hi all
Well, here it is. The polished color cover reveal of my forthcoming YA thriller, Fireseed One! Isn't it spectacular? The virtual launch party is scheduled here for December 20th and everyone's invited so mark your Google calendars or whatever you use. They'll be giveaways and blog links galore. Getting back to cover art, I do love all of the sizzling photo montages that are so popular right now, but as an artist, I'd love to see a re-trending of the painted book cover, you know with the great, visionary art? I wanted a look like that for the Fireseed novels. That's why I chose my cover artist, Jay Montgomery, a true digital painter. And, I'd like to shine a spotlight on his talent by interviewing him, and providing links to his sites. Welcome, Jay!

Me: What's your process?

Jay: Every job is different and depends on the subject matter and deadline. In general for a book cover, I first get all the input from the client, including excerpts from the manuscript, doodles, images they like, phone call and email discussions. Then I take all that input and use paper and pencil to draw up some small thumbnail sketches. I send those to the client and get feedback and then with those changes work up a tight sketch while gathering photo reference and other inspirations. The tight sketch is usually done in Photoshop and sometimes it's value based and sometimes it's linear based. For this cover it was helpful for me to do a multilayered grayscale Photoshop file, to give me the flexibility for placing and revising various elements. Once I get approval with any revisions I add color to the grayscale layers and continue to add various details. I work from big brushes to small brushes, background to foreground. For photoshop brushes I never use a smooth airbrush perfect looking tips. I always use natural textured brushes. For this cover, from the tight sketch to the final sent file I worked 14 hour days with several breaks/errands and other jobs taking about 14 days complete. I sent a working color version to Catherine once I was happy with where it was going. Then with a few tweaks from her comments and finishing all the details it was sent to the Graphic Designer in the format requested.

Me: Some of your specialties?

Jay: My overall specialty is my flexibility in style and market. As you can see on my website, I have done work in almost every area of illustration, including publishing, editorial, advertising, institutional, multimedia, graphic design, etc. I have illustrated 3 children's books, over 30 different magazine covers and countless interior illustrations for magazine, books, technical illustrations, logos, t-shirts, on and on. I guess I specialize in conceptual realism for any market or subject matter. I love it all and can't decide a narrow focus. Maybe that's my strength and weakness.

Me: Do you have a dream project?

Jay: My dream project would be a $50,000+ commission to create all original and personal fine art work about my observations of the world in terms of making it a better place for a solo show in New York City at a prominent gallery with a deadline of one year. In addition to the commission fee, all the work would be for sale and I would get 75%+ of all sales. The gallery and people that would help me would get the remaining. It's a near impossible dream, but I believe in dreaming big!
A shorter and simpler dream job would be to illustrate a TIME magazine cover and for it to be published.

Me: What was the best thing about working on my cover?!

Jay: The best thing about working on this cover was making up water farm details, burn suits, and rock formations. It was really nice working with a fellow artist and teacher that could visualize and draw. Catherine also had a grasp on how I thought and the jargon of my industry which made things go smoothly and not have to educate the client to make the best possible cover. I loved creating visual representation of the world of FireSeed.

Me: What do you teach at the Savannah School of Art & Design?

Jay: I teach how to embrace your inner vision and visual talent though quick thinking, art techniques, and presentation. I teach a variety of illustration classes for Sophomores to Seniors. Traditional techniques with graphite, watercolor, pastel, acrylics, oils, ink, colored pencil, charcoal, etc. Digital techniques in Photoshop and Illustrator CS5. Advertising Illustration, Editorial Illustration, Book Illustration and Self Promotion. In all my classes I discuss the business side of Illustration, including copyright, contracts, negotiating, pricing, portfolio presentation, website development and anything else that will make them a successful artist today.

Here are some links to his art so you can see more! PORTFOLIO, his BLOG, on Facebook, on FLICKR, on TWITTER, on Youtube, on Jacketflap, on DeviantART.

BTW, the water farms Jay talked about painting, that's on the back cover. Stay tuned for another reveal.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tight Cover Sketch of my New YA Revealed!

It's happening! I am deep in the process of prepping my YA thriller for indie publishing, to hopefully launch on December 20th! I am very excited, as this is a novel I am truly proud of, and feel that it has unique ideas and inventions. I'm also thrilled that I'll have 9 interior illustrations in it. For years, I have wanted to combine my art and writing. Fireseed One, is the right project at the right place and time.

In the next days and weeks, I may chat about some of its themes and perhaps offer sneak reads. For now? I want to reveal the tight cover sketch my amaaazing cover artist did, and leave you curious (as I am) to see his final art, right after Thanksgiving.

I'm learning on my feet about purchasing ISBNs from Bowkers and how to format illustrations and text for all of the various book options. Oh, and I did an illustration marathon over the weekend with no heat, after my boiler died a nasty death last Friday, to the tune of thousands in new parts. (Gaskets disintegrated into ash in a dry fire-scary, scary stuff-thankfully I was up at 3 am, watching TV and smelled something burning, don't ask me why I stayed up so late, but I'm glad)

There's something to be said about holing up in a kitchen for three days with a space heater. You get a ton of work done! What else can you do? Okay, I could have made piles of pancakes.

Anyway, thanks to all of you who helped me decide on the final cover sketch! Your advice paid off. What do you think of the artist's "tight sketch"? Yeah, awesome, right? I will reveal his name when I post the COLOR cover, next week, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cool Sci-fi, Fantasy and Science-related Blogs

Hi all, I've been busy whipping my YA thriller into shape to indie pub it! That's the fun part. The downside is that I haven't been posting quite as often. BUT... I'm determined to catch up! So, let me start by turning you guys onto some of my favorite sci-fi blogs. M'kay? Because I know a lot of you out there are writing fantasy, futuristic stories and sci-fi.

io9 is one of the best. Their slogan is "We come from the future!" They post daily about everything fantasy and sci-fi, including reviews of the latest films, and overviews of the best classic films and novels. They also follow the world of science and space travel. Without further ado: heeeereeee's i09.
And here are a couple of links to their thought-provoking archives:

Another well-regarded blog is SF Signal.

And, just to switch it up, here's a really cool article by Hannah Waters from Scientific American on why scientists should read science fiction blogs.

Do you have some fave sci-fi, science or futuristic blogs you want to share? Do you find it helpful to keep up with scientific advances? What about favorite fantasy/myth sites?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Random Thoughts for a Rainy Day

I've been drawing a lot lately, having fun imaging the futuristic world of my YA thriller for possible use in a book. I dug out a favorite drawing of mine. I had written and illustrated a futuristic story way back when, which turned out to be the skeleton of my current YA. It's amazing how long an author can chew on a theme! I uploaded this black and white line drawing into Photoshop, where I gave it new breath it with airbrush. It's part of an under-border of invasive vines, which provides a barrier against enemies undersea. Think scary/beautiful like a Venus Fly Trap.

On another note, I am happy to say that I'll be teaching a creative writing workshop in Greece, the last two weeks of June 2012! What a great place to do some serious writing and socializing. I specialize in untangling plot knots, helping people with pacing and characterization, and I believe in giving quirky writing exercises that seem like play, but are actually strengthening writing muscle. Anyone up for a workshop near a white beach? Anyone up for freshly grilled fish? I'll post a link when I get more details.

So, what are you up to this rainy day, turned night, turned cold & beautiful day? Any exciting turn of events in your life? What old story themes have become new again through your magic?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Help me decide between two cover sketches ASAP!!!!!!!

Okay, I need your help figuring out SUPER-QUICKLY a decision between one thumbnail sketch for the cover of my YA thriller and another--the dilemma: do I go with scary cult figure on the cover that my main characters run into, or do I go with a more romantic desert scene, where my characters are trying to figure out where they are? I want guys and girls to read this. I don't want to turn off guys by too romancey a cover, but I don't want to scare off girls by a too-scary hooded weirdo (or do they like being scared by a book cover?!). ACK!!!!!!!!
Please weigh in immediately if you can, as I have to get this back to my art guy today!!!!!!
Okay, here are the thumbnails without the title of the book, as I have to leave a little something to the imagination, right? Thanks in advance!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Illustrated YA Novel is Coming of Age

I've written a YA futuristic novel that I'm putting final polishes on. I'm also an artist, so I'm experimenting with doing ten illustrations for this novel. No can do, you say? Not for YA? I'm happy to report this is no longer the case! The age of the illustrated YA is coming of age. Pictured here is a peek at my image of a scary cult that my main characters run into in the Great Chihuahua Desert. Yup, these cowled creeps are raising the net on my guys. Oh, and those rock formations that look like... well, stay tuned. In fact, stay tuned in general, as I may post another picture soon.

Examples of lushly-illustrated YAs are popping up all over the place. Scott Westerfield's Leviathan, with art by Keith Thompson comes to mind. A Monster Calls, inspired by Siobhan Dowd, written by Patrick Ness and illustrated by Jim Kay is another shining example. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, a novel by Ransom Riggs and chock full of vintage photos, takes the already eerie novel about a 16 year-old boy sent to a crumbling, abandoned home for dangerous youth to a whole other layer of strange. Beth Kephart, a YA author posted on September 29th about this very subject, and she's excited to say that an upcoming book of hers will be illustrated.

So, who says teens shouldn't enjoy evocative images! There's no reason that gorgeously illustrated novels should only exist for the picture book and middle grade set. N. C. Wyeth and Albrecht Durer are two classic picture-makers for adult and crossover novels. With the rise of the graphic novel and the text art hybrid that Brian Selznick introduced with The Inventions of Hugo Cabret, this is fast-changing, and I, for one, am hugely excited about it.

That said, I do think that illustrations for teens need a sophistication that allows for one's imagination to paint in the main characters. Good illustration, as good fiction allows for this breathing room.

That's why, in my pictures, I'll have no images of the main characters (Or maybe one, from the side view??) and precious few of the other players. That's why I won't be giving away any big gun surprises in them either. No spoilers, only images that fuel a sharper, more fierce imagining.

I firmly believe that images in YA novels can enrich and elevate prose. Seems like the perfect time to break away from old formulas and invent fresh, new templates. What do you think? (Should I do my main players in profile?) Please share any more good examples of this phenomenon. What kinds of illustrations would you not want to see, or really love to see? Dish here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Tiny Story about a Huge Mama Squid


I wrote a 200 word piece about a mama squid for Rachael Harrie's 2nd Platform-Building Challenge. Here are her rules: 200 words or less. You must use the word imago in the title, and these words in the body of the story: lacuna, miasma, synchronicity, and oscitate. Well, of course I had to look up lacuna and oscitate! But I knew the rest. Anyway, enjoy.

The Baby Squids' Imago Settles In

Mama pressed her 1,300 unborn ones close as she swam toward the schooner. It had sunk in deep waters where predators were few. She propelled through its porthole by oscitating her mantle outwards then inwards. Running a stream of saltwater through the delicate infant sac, she settled it into a wooden chest filled with shiny gems. A miasma of bubbles shimmied up and out through the porthole.

Mama was hungry, but before she ate, she needed to make sure her embryos were safe. Peering around with eyes that sucked in the dim light, she searched for famished sharks and tuna. None. Safe. Next, she searched for food.

Along the rotted wall, algae grew. She propelled up gently, as to not disturb her spawn, and jetted over. The lacuna of the pliable greenery hid pearly fish. With four of her limbs, she stuffed as many as she could hold in her beaklike mouth.

Satisfied, she undulated back and spread onto her precious cargo. Soon, she felt tiny nudges and twitches. Raising slightly, she saw hatchlings, transparent and quivering. She was so lucky to have found this sanctuary in time. Ah! The sweet synchronicity of life.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Brussels Sprouts, Favorite Painters and "From Scroll to Screen" Lev Grossman's article on Pubbing Revolutions

I'm posting random treats!

First, thanks to Sam de la Pena and Mel Corbett for gifting me with two Versatile Blog Awards. Sam describes himself as an author/nursing student/bleeding heart heretic. I've really been enjoying his posts. Visit his witty blog here. Mel writes speculative fiction. Take a look at her blog here. As for the Versatile confessions that I'm supposed to reveal when granted this award, I'll give you a few. Um... I love Brussels Sprouts sauteed with peanut butter; I love the shows Louis CK and Celebrity Rehab (I know, I should be ashamed of the latter, but Dr. Drew is addictive). And, some of my favorite artists are Janet Fish, Charles Burchfield and Alexis Rockman, two of whom have seen my paintings, which is amazing in itself. One of my prized possessions is a Burchfield drawing of thistle my hubby gave me. Above, from left to right, is Burchfield's Four Seasons, and a Janet Fish painting. On the bottom, is an Alexis Rockman, who speaks to bio-tech and climate change.

Next, here's a link to author, Lev Grossman's New York Times article "From Scroll to Screen" on revolutions in reading that include the ancient use of scrolls, the invention of the Guttenberg Press that spawned an explosion in "codex" literacy, and the rise of eBooks that democratize the publishing playing field. Read it here. Lev has written The Magician and The Magician King.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Helen Mallon, guest Blogger Discusses Contrasts in Adult & YA Fiction

I've invited over Helen Mallon, author extraordinaire.
She writes mostly for adults, but has a few short stories aimed for the teen/crossover market. She says her proudest moment came when she received her first royalty check for her e-story entitled "Did You Put The Cat to Bed?" Currently, she's working on a novel entitled Quaker Playboy Leaves Legacy of Confusion. She also loves her work as an editorial consultant for writers of all stripes. Learn more at

Today, I've asked her to speak to the differences and similarities between the adult and YA markets.

Helen: Obviously, publishers market to different audiences, YA or adult, but the writing itself also addresses different points of view. Not only the point of views of characters, but of readers. For example, in my adult short story with a teen protagonist. You Say You Want a Revolution, coming out soon with It's a dark tale about a girl who's gotten involved with a teacher, and told from alternating points of view: the teacher and Sarah's. If a teen asked me about reading it, I'd say "Check with your parents first."

Mark hadn't planned to get involved with a student when Sarah came to him for math tutoring. But her long brown hair as she sat beside him in the tiny study room had reflected tints of roam, even peach. Then unexpectedly, the florescent light overhead stopped buzzing and she had looked up at him, startled... so Mark convinced himself that... it was she who had seduced him.

Yes, YA can and should deal with tough subjects and nothing should be taboo. However, if this story were written for a YA audience, I would have emphasized Sarah's voice because ethically speaking, the two voices are not equally "valid." Adult readers are generally better equipped to untangle moral ambiguity, and authors have a responsibility to respect the developmental level of their readers, without "talking down" to them.

At the story's end, Sarah discovers her own power when she and the teacher encounter another teenager being mocked. "Keep going!" Sarah's hands were fists. She was buoyant and upright, and she wanted to run like hell as soon as she knew that Greg was safe. She had never before saved anyone.

Including the point of view of a child molester is not the only thing that makes this an adult story. The Beatles inspired title makes an ironic reference to the sexual revolution, which hints at Sarah's victimization and emerging power from a decidedly adult, poignant distance.

In contrast, my story I Want to be Just Regular is intended as a crossover piece--for both teens and adults. Olivia's dad has moved into the bathroom and won't come out. Will Dad emerge to attend her high school graduation or will he let her down? Here, Olivia describes an English elective she took, hoping to understand him better.

"Shakespeare and Madness" wasn't explaining my father better to me. Shakespeare's crazies were either faking it or they pretty much brought it on themselves. I thought Ophelia was kind of a twit. My father wasn't filled with hubris or sick with love. He owned a big moving company whose motto was 'We Bring Them Home.' And before that, he liked to fart around in his vegetable garden.

What makes this YA appropriate is the lightness around Olivia and her nutty father. Olivia sets the tone... I believe that the same first person character would speak differently in a book intended for adults... as a child speaking to an adult audience is regarded from a terrain of years and experience. What we might consider narcissism in teens is actually a path to discovery in which common events such as falling in love, breaking up and making career decisions are fresh experiences that never have happened to them before!

Consider an adult book with universal appeal, To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout's first person narration is often from a child's innocent point of view, yet it's also moderated as she looks back from a position of adult experience.

What about you? What differences do you see between writing for teens and adults?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Lazy Labor Day and Animal Book Signings

On this last day of lazy summer bliss, I want to post something light and fun that meanders away from the heady world of books and writing. A couple of weeks ago on facebook, Jonathon Maberry posted an incredibly cute photo of a baby Dachshund posing as a hotdog. It's on my
desktop and it cracks me up every time I see it.
I love animals, and weird photos, and unlikely friendships. Who doesn't? So, I poked around online and discovered more great examples. hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

There's Roscoe the hound with his best friend, Surya, the orangutan. These photos come
from the Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species, which is doing valuable work! Here's a link to their fund. You can see that Surya and Roscoe are actually doing a book-signing. Okay, I guess I couldn't get through a post
that had zip to do with writing and books. Check out the other strange bedfellows. Now, for an animal story or two...

One summer during high school, I went to the shore with a friend. Every morning as we got dressed, we'd hear whistles as if construction workers were catcalling us. We couldn't figure out where it was coming from. Finally, on the last day of vacation, we scoured the windows of the neighboring building, and discovered that the culprit was a giant green parrot!

One more. When I was five, I had a chipmunk "friend" who would hop up on a boulder in front of our vacation house deck, and chirp. I began to leave him saucers of peanut butter. He would fill his cheeks with it as he tipped his head at us. One evening, as I ventured into the bathroom for a bath, I found my chipmunk in the toilet, desperately funneling at the water to stay afloat. I yelled for my dad, who rescued the chipmunk with a butterfly net.

What's your funniest memory of an animal encounter? Of your own pet? Any pet talents? Idiosyncrasies?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurricane Irene, Appreciated Followers & Campaigner 2011

First of all, I joined the Platform-Building Campaign, hosted by Rachael Harrie, so check in for chances to join in the fun and blog-hop. You don't need to be a Campaigner to participate. But if you hop on over to Rach Writes... by August 31st, you can make it official.

Next, I'm thrilled to report that I got two Appreciated Follower Awards in one day, and another a few days later. What an embarrassment of riches! So, I want to thank Kelly Hashway, Dawn Brazil and Courtney Koschel. Take a look at their great blogs and consider following them! It’s funny, they are some of the very bloggers who I would grant an Appreciated Follower Award to. Not so sure the rules allow me to boomerang them back, so my Appreciated Follower Awards (drum roll) go to:
  1. Helen Mallon at WritingNurture
  2. PK Hrezo at Fiction Addiction
  3. Candy Lynn Fite's On the Trail to Publication
  4. Shelley HW at Writ. Written. Wrote.
  5. Cathy Kozak’s When the Dervish Dances
  6. Charmaine Clancy's Wagging Tales

A Hurricane Irene Postscript: I was planning on hunkering down in Manhattan during Irene, but my family cajoled me into escaping to the hollers of the Catskill Mountains. We had three downed trees, including a beloved Willow. We lost power, had major
cabin-fever, and impassioned arguments over what movie to watch, what we should cook for dinner and the true meaning of A Clockwork Orange. We were also unable to drive our son to his dorm on Sunday night as the highways were closed. But, we were safe.

I must confess, I snuck out on the porch, delighting in the crazy high winds and hammering rains. I hope you all were safe!

Any interesting war stories from Irene? Any brilliant theories of A Clockwork Orange or why weather forecasters never get hurricane predictions right? Oh, or the true meaning of life?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Collection of Thirst-Quenching Thoughts

I’m still in summer mode so my inspiration is firing at random, and mostly in between summer activities such as croquet, fishing for trout, and general lazing about
(I even tried shooting at clay pigeons with my sons! My favorite part was getting to drive the electric golf cart). Otherwise, I'm either on my city deck or my country porch. I’d wager a bet that others are in this mode as well. That’s why I’m posting a shortlist of musings.

First off, I want to thank Julia Hones for granting me a Liebster Blog Award. Julia is a very insightful writer and it’s well worth a hop over to her blog, My Writing Life. In her latest post she discusses three powerful short stories.

Next, I’ve been compiling books and essays and novels about writers, artists, filmmakers and other people involved in the creative process, for a freshmen college lit course. If anyone wants to recommend a book or essay that deals in this realm, I would welcome it! To pass muster with my department head, it has to be written by a well known and well-regarded author. For instance, I’m reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Bluebeard, an unflinching satire of the art world in the sixties and seventies. It is absolutely spot-on, and I’m sure my freshmen art students will get some real belly chuckles out of it (plus helpful insight into the corruption and posturing that goes on).

Have you read a book this summer that has blown your mind, or changed your perspective on the world, yourself or an aspect of something you think about a lot?

Lastly, here’s a cheapo drink that rivals Fizzy Lizzy or Snapple or any summery tall sippa chill. Mix cranberry juice and seltzer, and top it off with a liberal tablespoon of Rose’s Sweetened Lime Juice. Add crushed ice. Yum. If you like iced tea but hate all the sugar in mixes, make your own. I add a mix of teabags to a quart of boiling water: usually chai with black tea, again, with a spritz of Rose’s. Or cut up a few slices of an orange and let that steep in the mix. You can drink glass after glass with no calorie worries. Twinings has put out cold-brewed ice-tea bags. Not bad, but never quite as strong as tea that’s been boiled and chilled. Good while on the run, though. You can stash a teabag or two in your pocketbook for travels. What are your favorite summery mixes?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Deep in Summerland

It’s August and deep in Summerland. I’ve been to the Cape and to the
Catskills where our summer cabin is. I just got back from the Jersey shore—Ocean Grove and Asbury Park, that perennially edgy beach town, clawing its way back to
respectability. The creepy old Howard Johnson restaurant, built in the early 60’s and made to look like a hokey spaceship, has been renovated with an open bar and palm trees in elephantine-sized wicker pots. The once-abandoned boardwalk that used to have one lone saltwater taffy store is brimming with surf shops and Cuban restaurants. Stay slightly edgy, is my advice!
Things change—except the need to get away from it all in the pit of steamy summer. Attention to television series,
classes, the hustle in general, turns to nature, sea breezes, fizzy and cold concoctions that can quickly cool. The photos at Idea Farm show our first peaches and Winesaps. Also, my potbellied pig, Thistle, who is an ancient 15 years old and plucky as ever!

Are you still trying to write through it all? Or do you tend to take a break from that too—in order to regroup and rekindle? I finished a 2nd polish on a manuscript in the first week of August, including a cut of 31 pages—no small feat. And I’m almost finished manuscript evaluation #2 for my clients. And soon, it’ll be time to call a halt for the last two weeks—to everything but reading and conceptualizing (which looks like loafing). So far, I've read two eye-opening books for a course I'm proposing: POINT OMEGA by Don Delillo and THE COLLECTOR by John Fowles (very disturbing but powerful).

How about you? What are your deep Summerland pleasures?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Treasures in my Life

I am writing about treasures in my life. It’s this weekend’s theme in Pandora Poikilos’s fun Blog-A-Licious Tour. You don’t have to be in the tour to blog-hop and comment. Great subject, right? It’s a valuable exercise to call up affirmations, especially when you’re stressed, overwhelmed or just plain whiny. If you’re hopping over from Janu’s blog, welcome. And I hope you’ll jump on over to David’s blog, the one after me, when you’re finished mine.

I treasure my writing community—online friends and face-time associates, my longstanding writing group, my zany retreat buddies, my wise agent and the various editors with whom I’ve worked.

I treasure my native imagination. Without it, I’d be lost. I’ve had big fun making up characters like, Johar, a fifteen-year-old Afghan poet and weaver, and futuristic inventions like a credit card skimmer, imbedded in one’s wrist.

My family is a treasure. I’m proud of my sons—one teaching history and geography in a former palace in China, and the other, a fourth-year Arabic student interested in working for a humanitarian organization, who just returned from Cairo. I’m proud of their brave and fearless stance as they traverse the globe. Was it all of our family travels when they were little tykes that inspired them? I’d like to think so. I also treasure the fact that my hubby and I have been friends for so long.

I treasure my years as a painter, and I treasure art, as it has complimented my journey into narrative. For writing, as painting, is about “brushing in” vivid scenes, plot and characters, and layering—a layer of scaffold, a layer of detail, a layer of suspense, a pulling-back layer of compression, a final glossy varnish that pops the story to brilliant highlights and shadowy depth.

I treasure my students, for they inspire and amaze me.

I encourage you to jump over to the blogs below, also in the tour, to read about what others treasure. But first, leave me a note about what you treasure!

1. Dilman
2. Debbie
3. Shelley
4. Lucy
5. Karen
6. Shannon
7. Dora
8. Hope
9. Janet
10. Karen
11. Janu
13. David

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Liebster Awards for Fab Blogs Under 200 Followers Go To...

The Liebster Blog Award was given to me by the awesome Beth Fred, whose blog is magical and has purple sparkles that follow you everywhere you put your cursor! Check it out here.

This award spotlights bloggers who have less than 300 followers (like me, so far). As recipients pay it forward, Liebster love keeps growing. Recipients are also asked to share their 5 top picks, then include the following in their blog:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who awarded you.

2. Reveal your top 5 picks & let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

3. Copy & paste the award on your blog. (see award image above!)

4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.

5. And most of all—have bloggity-blog fun!

Lots of my picks are indie authors to watch. So, here goes:

1. Arthur Slade, a well-published kids' fantasy author, who is turning all of his out of print books into indie gold! Learn how here.

2. Christine Murray, a journalist and author of urban fantasy, who lives in Dublin. Her blog is always thoughtful.

3. Katie Klein, successful indie author of YA fantasy, tells it like it is about her publishing experience. Worth a look!

4. Jenny Phresh's Party Pony blog. OMG, she is the funniest writer alive. I'm not kidding!

5. Angela Carlie, a middle grade & YA author of fantasy. Check her blog here. She's a member of the indie collective, DarkSide Publishing, a very impressive group. And her novel, Land of Corn Chips has the best title and cover everrrrr.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What Does Your Writing Space Look Like?

A writer spends many hours in his or her den, office, cubicle, studio, or as I affectionately call mine—the rabbit hole. So, the way that the space is arranged is an important aspect of being able to settle in. Are you someone who needs a window, streaming with morning light, or do you prefer a dark, cave? Do you like music when you write? Do you use a boombox, an analog record player, or do you listen on your earbuds to the cache on your iPhone? What’s your playlist for your WIP? Right now mine is Velvet Revolver and anything metal or spooky.

I love to write outside in the summer. Witness my sandaled foot, perched on the wooden table at the Cape retreat.

On the table are essentials: coffee and my iPhone. In another photo, see my view on the wraparound porch. Then, there’s a pic of one of my writing cohorts, Maggie, who shares the side porch with me. It’s a rare person I can actually share space with when I write. This attests to how comfortable I feel around her.

Oh, and there’s my lovely retreat hostess, Helen, in her monkey PJs. You see, part of the writing process involves lounging on a morning porch in kiddie PJs and drinking about five cups of coffee, while we rant and rave about our stubborn characters,

our meandering plots, and all of the things that intervene in the writing process—kids, jobs, um… life?

I also have a photo here of my home studio in NYC (Above).
The array of stuff that I have on the wall facing my desk seems random, but it's very planned out. This is where I post pics of my characters, so I can “talk to them” when I write. I also have pics of my writing mentors—Dale Peck and Steven Wright, to name two. They were teachers of mine in my MFA program, and I still hear their voices, encouraging or demanding more.

What does your writing space look like? Do you like the Spartan or the pack rat approach? Do you post lots of photos of your characters and settings like I do? Or is most everything filed in your head? Do you put up the occasional inspirational saying? My latest favorite is from author Franny Billingsley: “A book is like an elegant and efficient machine. Each cog needs to turn something else and, if it doesn't, it should be taken out.” And what’s your writing playlist? Dish here.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Summer Writing Retreats!

It’s that time again for the writing retreat I attend. I look forward to it for months. And I’m willing to endure crawling highway traffic and power outages for it. We have coffee on the porch in the morning while we talk shop. Then we go to our “writing stations”, at various spots on the wraparound porch. We work pretty much through the afternoon, with a quick lunch break. And then, when we're hot, tired and our brains are on overload, we trek through the woods to the beach. We take turns cooking dinner, and play writing games at night. Not a bad life for a week.

I’ve attended an assortment of writing workshops, conferences and retreats over the years. There are ones where you mostly workshop, and spend lots of time reading other authors’ work and critiquing. This is great when you're jumping in for the first time, and really want feedback on your work. There are conferences, where you listen to seasoned writers talk about their novels and how to best negotiate the writing life. This type of event is perfect when what you want is a shot of inspiration and information. And there are many permutations of the above. Summer retreats are also a chance to spend time in a deluxe location—Lake Tahoe, Southampton, Big Sur, Mendocino—you get the drift.

There are so, so many to choose from! You’ll discover this when you Google retreats. And they occur throughout the year. If you’re considering one, find out who the presenting writers are, and whether they’re a good fit for what you’re working on. You may prefer a smallish one, or perhaps a huge one, like the LA SCBWI summer conference, where you can blend in and pick and choose which breakout groups to attend. It doesn’t hurt that there’s a spa and two swimming pools out there.

So, Happy, Happy July Fourth! Have you ever attended a writing retreat? How was it? If not, what kind of retreat or conference would you look for? How are you celebrating the holiday? Getting any writing done?