A Little Break

Hello, friends, and Happy Monday. Just an announcement that I’ll be taking a break from blogging for the next three weeks, as I catch up on several projects.

In the meantime, if you need a little distraction, I highly recommend binging on The Kettering Incident (Gothic creepiness in modern-day Tasmania) and Goliath (a legal thriller from David E. Kelley, starring Billy Bob Thornton).

Enjoy! And see you in November!

Five for Friday

Hello, friends, and Happy Friday. This weekend, we’re going to get a pumpkin for the kiddo, and some apple cider and cider donuts for the grownups. On Sunday, I’m going to make my homemade tomato sauce and meatballs, which seems like the perfect way to spend a crisp fall afternoon.

As the election draws closer and the atmosphere grows more tense (and in some cases, more delusional), we all need to find ways to take a break from it. To that end, here are some links to distract you:

  1. The more you know.
  2. Also fascinating.
  3. More cheese? Yes, please!
  4. Booooooooooooks.
  5. I don’t know about you, but this makes me feel better.

Here’s to being comfy and cozy (and slow and steady) — have a great weekend!


Naming Names

An idea for a story is a little, crackling miracle. But you have to do something with it, sooner rather than later, before it flames out. For me, the next step in story development is to pick my protagonist’s name. For me, naming the main character (or characters) brings them and the story into  existence.

I have a thing for names. My own name has been a source of frustration for me, for as long as I can remember — it’s hard for people to spell and to pronounce. Because of this, I’ve become obsessed with remembering names and their proper spellings and pronunciations, and this has led me to an interest in names in general. And finding just the right name for a character gives me a singular thrill — it’s as if that perfect match lights a figurative match to my idea.

When I envisioned a story about a boy obsessed with cars…of course, his name needed to be Otto.

A story about a lonely porcupine? Well, hello there, Mr. Prickles.

A story about table manners illustrated in a retro style, featuring two well-mannered children? Welcome, Evie and Simon.

When I first conceived of the story that would become THE INFAMOUS RATSOS, I knew I wanted my characters to be loosely based on my grandfather and his brother, Ralph and Louis Rizzo, so I knew they would be boys named Ralphie and Louie. Then I recalled the character of Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy, and voila! I not only had the last name Ratso — that name inspired me to make the characters rats. As for the other characters, I hope you can tell how much fun I had naming Florinda “Fluffy” Rabbitski, Chad Badgerton, and Tiny Crawley, as well as the grownups — Big Lou, Miss Beavers, Mr. O’Hare, and my personal favorite, Mrs. Porcupini. The animal characters in THE INFAMOUS RATSOS are much more anthropomorphized than anything I’ve ever written before, so their names had to be the right combination of human and animal (and funny). I like to think I got them just right.

With the protagonists of my upcoming middle grade series, The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters, I couldn’t find human names that seemed boring enough, so I started thinking about non-human names. I knew I wanted a “J” name and a “K” name, so it didn’t take long for me to hit on Jaundice and Kale, and then I was on my way. Those names really set the absurd tone of the story. Some of the other character names are an homage to Herman Melville’s work — Princess “Kwee-Kweg” is a riff on Queequeg from Moby Dick, Millie Mudd references Billy Budd, and Mr. Bartleby the mail carrier is an allusion to the story “Bartleby the Scrivener.”And of course, the mysterious pirate Captain Ann Tennille is a wink to this throwback. (Most of my Bland Sisters jokes — name-related or otherwise — are for kids, but every once in a while, I like to throw out a little funny for the grownups. More to come on this mix of humor.)

What are some of your favorite character names?




Five for Friday

Hello, friends — how was your week? Mine was only semi-productive (writing-wise, at least), due to doctor’s appointments and errands and a parent-teacher conference. But I did manage to cross a few things off my To-Do list, and I am only coughing a few times a day now, so I consider that a win.

And speaking of winning, I just got some fabulous news — THE INFAMOUS RATSOS received a CYBILS (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards) nomination!

Since I am in a particularly celebratory mood, here are five fabulous links for you, PLUS a little bonus:

  1. Amazing Agatha Christie stamps. Sadly, only available in the UK. Why don’t we get to have the nice things?
  2. I am so here for this. Though I still love the movie version; I watched it almost daily when I was going through chemo. Laughter really is the best medicine.
  3. Toy Story + Vans? Yes, please. (Get a load of the “ANDY” written on the soles.)
  4. Four words: Golden Girls action figures. This is not a drill, people!
  5. All I want to watch is these tiny food videos.

And finally…my contribution to the month-long drawing challenge that is #inktober:


I call this Portrait of a Tired Writer. (Medium: black Crayola marker on copy paper.)

Have a great weekend!

Falling Behind

I’m the kind of person who likes to deliver ahead of schedule, so you can imagine how I feel about falling behind in my work. But that’s where I am now. A combination of unforeseen (though totally necessary) additional rounds of revision on two projects and a nasty bout of pneumonia has left me with a lengthy To-Do list and an abiding feeling of panic and dread.

The way I see it, the more work I have ready to send out, the more potential earnings I have coming in. Stagnation = starvation. And I’ve told you all about my mantra; anything or anyone that might get in the way of “making it happen” (even myself) is intolerable to me. So the state I’m in right now is excruciating.

But, you know, everything is a lesson. Being a creative person — or any person with any kind of life goal, really — requires hard work and determination and perseverance, but it also requires resilience. So I’m learning from this less-than-ideal experience, figuring out just how I’m going to regroup, and trying to work out a new schedule that accommodates my past-due projects and some new deadlines on the horizon. Through it all, I keep reminding myself that all I can do is my best. That’s all we can ever do, right?



The Weekly Peek

Hello, friends, and Happy Monday. How was everyone’s weekend? Mine was pretty low-key; I finished my course of antibiotics for my pneumonia, but my husband got sick on Thursday just as I was starting to feel better. It’s always something.

This is a short work week for me, as my son’s preschool is closed on Thursday and Friday for parent-teacher conferences and my husband has taken those days off. But in the meantime, I’m hoping to finish revising my new chapter book and hand it off to my agent. Fingers crossed that I can make it happen!

Other stuff going on this week…

  • I’m just about finished bingeing on LUKE CAGE, and sweet Christmas, you guys, it’s so great. If, like me, you loved Jessica Jones and Daredevil, you are in for an ass-kickin’ treat.
  • Since I was sick over the past month and a half, I’ve fallen WAY WAY behind schedule on all my projects. More on this on Wednesday, as I regroup and figure out how to catch up.
  • I just want to take a moment and appreciate how nice it feels to NOT feel like crap. Since August 24th, I’ve been coughing, phlegmmy, and extraordinarily fatigued, and this morning, I finally feel…normal? Healthy? Like I actually have energy to do things? I’ve spent so many weeks muddling through everything in my life; now I can’t wait to get back to operating at 100%. Look out, world!

And how’s YOUR week shaping up?


Five for Friday

Hello, friends, and Happy Friday. I just finished my antibiotics today (yay!), so hopefully the phlegmmy coughing will (finally finally finally) stop soon. In the meantime, here are a few choice links for you:

  1. I can’t get enough of McMansion Hell. It’s a truly addictive (and horrifying) feast for the eyes, and a great lesson in architecture.
  2. As I’ve been convalescing, I’ve also been binging. Highly recommended: One Mississippi, Longmire, Transparent, Fleabag, and And Then There Were None. Next in my queue: LUKE CAGE.
  3. I’ve been reading How Not to Die (so far, so good) and Emotional Agility (just purchased; hope to report shortly)
  4. I knew there was a book called Crap Taxidermy, but didn’t realize it started with this glorious (and continuing) Twitter feed.
  5. Now that autumn’s in the air, I want to eat apples and bake bread.
Have a great weekend!🙂