“Why Does This @#%& Happen to Me?”

Hello, friends. Is your life just brimming with holiday merriment these days? (And by “merriment,” I mean total and utter chaos.) Mine is. Here’s an example.

This past weekend, my brother-in-law came for a visit, which was awesome. But it’s the first time we’ve had an overnight guest in a while, and our guest room doubles as my office. And the guest room/office was a complete mess that I’ve ignored for too long (confession: YEARS), so I had to spend some time cleaning. It took me a week to clean it, in fact — though I had to clean at night, since I spend my days working and running after a very active toddler. Needless to say, I didn’t get a lot of sleep in the lead-up to the visit. And then, on Saturday, our kiddo came down with a cold.

I went to bed exhausted on Saturday night, but I was woken up at 2am by the kiddo crying for me. “Woken up” is an overstatement; I stumbled out of bed only half-awake and headed in the direction of the crying as quickly as possible. This was a mistake, for several reasons.

  1. As mentioned, I was only half-awake; I’m not even sure my eyes were open.
  2. I was moving way too fast.
  3. So fast, in fact, that I neglected to open our closed bedroom door.

WHAM. My face, particularly my nose, came in full contact with the door, a la Wile E. Coyote after the Road Runner paints a picture of a tunnel on a rock.

While my husband attended to our son (who, it turns out, just needed a tissue), I spent the remainder of the night writhing in pain in the fetal position with an ice pack on my face, moaning “Why does this @#%& happen to me?” and “Do you think I broke my nose?”

Luckily, I didn’t break my nose; I just hope the headaches and bruising clear up by Christmas. As for why this @#%& happens to me, I can only come to one conclusion — that it continues to give me stories to entertain you.

P.S. Speaking of entertaining, on Friday I will be posting a schedule of my upcoming events and appearances to promote The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: The Jolly Regina. I’ve been brushing up on my pirate talk, so I hope I might see you!

Five for Friday

Hello, friends, and Happy Friday. I’ve been struggling with a weird cold for the past few days, but I’m happy to say that I’m finally back on my feet, and back to work on the final (?) Bland Sisters novel. This weekend, I’ll be heading to Maine for my annual getaway weekend with my BFF, featuring lots of good food, shopping, and plenty of bubbly. Are you finding some time to “treat yo’ self” this holiday season? I hope so.

Speaking of treats, check out these five links:

  1. So important, especially these days.
  2. I’ve relied on this stress reliever forever. Feeling validated…and also, hungry.
  3. Just bought this for my kiddo. It’s a position we can all agree on, no?
  4. If you’re feeling anxiety about the state of our world and are looking for a way to stay politically active and connected, consider joining Order of the 1460 on Facebook.
  5. 48 tips to Keep Calm and Be Like Ina (aka my mantra).

Have a great weekend — see you again on Wednesday! xo

That moment.

One of my favorite movies is Julie & Julia. Not just because it’s about cooking, or because it was written and directed by the transcendent Nora Ephron, or because it stars Queen Meryl Streep. I love it because it’s about writing, and specifically, about the arduous process of writing (and rewriting) a book you love, and then trying (and trying, and trying) to get it published. I love just about every scene in the movie, but the one that brings me to tears every time is the last one: Julia is cooking in her kitchen when Paul brings in the mail and hands her a package. She opens it, and inside is a finished copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. You can see how choked up she gets, and then she and Paul laugh with joy.

You can therefore imagine my reaction when this arrived a few days ago:

 

img_0181

Yes, it’s a finished copy of The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: The Jolly Regina. This book took years, and more effort than anyone will ever know.

I talk a lot about the craft of writing here, and the process of publishing, and the not-always-skyward trajectory of this author’s career. But I would like to take this moment to celebrate what just might be the very best part of it all, when your “baby” is finally born, and you get to hold it in your arms. It is a feeling like no other. Truly, I weep, with relief and with joy.

And then, as ever, I get back to writing.

The Weekly Peek

Hello, friends. I know it’s been a while, but it’s taken me some time to recover from the trauma of the election results (though, tbh, I doubt I will ever fully recover) and figure out what to say about these trying times. It comes down to this: I am here. I am angry (and sad, and scared, but mostly angry). And I am ready, as ever, to MAKE IT HAPPEN — and by that, I mean being educated and vigilant, and using my words, to speak truth and voice protest to those in power, and to continue writing stories that promote kindness and equality. If you know me at all, you know I’m not one to shy away from a challenge, even one as seemingly-insurmountable as the one we now face. I hope you’re ready to make it happen, too, in your own way.

If you’re up for a little distraction, here are a few bits of news from moi:

The Jolly Regina (the first in The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters) has been named to the Winter 2016-2017 Kids’ Indie Next List! Friends, this is a HUGE honor, because 1. Everyone knows that independent bookstores kick ass, 2. Have you SEEN the other books and authors on the list? What brilliant, amazing company!, and 3. It thrills me that the Bland Sisters already have fans — and incredibly smart, discerning fans, at that!

I have three manuscripts out on submission right now — two picture books and a new chapter book series. Fingers crossed for some good news.

For the foreseeable future, I will be working on the third (and final?) book in the Bland Sisters trilogy. I’m sure I’ll have LOTS to share about this process in the coming months.

Recently, I got a little something in the mail that I can’t wait to share with you. To be revealed on Wednesday!

That’s it from me. How’s YOUR week shaping up?

 

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?