Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Short Killer Cruise Update

Sammy's getting to know her dad. She can't call him Dad 'cause that's too weird. But it's been interesting. And really hard to not slip up about him around the house.

Of course Mark knows who he is, but the boys don't.

That's right--my own kids don't know who Sammy's dad is.

But when something happens in the story that I want to talk about, or I just want to ask Mark something about plot, I tend to forget that they don't know. And since it's summer break and they're around, I've almost blown it several times.

Anyway, that relationship has been very interesting to see unfold. It's the mystery that's got me a little crazed. To track things I've made two spreadsheets -- one to organize where which character Sammy interacts with (or sees) is when and where, and the other to track the basic events and what times they happened. And since there are 14 big decks with countless public areas on this cruise ship and 14 characters to track, I've really needed to go back and get organized before moving on.

So since last week, I've been rewriting day and night, updating my spreadsheet after each chapter. I've got 2 chapters to go before I can move forward. It's taken me all week to almost get back to where I left off. I've added quite a few scenes in the process and shored up a lot of the structure, so I feel pretty good about that. And today I wrote the dream sequence (have you noticed that Sammy has a wild dream in every (?) book?). Those are always fun and have begun to feel like 'tradition' to me. 

I know this isn't a very inspired post, but please understand that of all the things I should be doing (laundry, dishes, vacuuming, responding to sorely neglected correspondences, paying bills, watering my plants, getting groceries, eating...) I'm writing this post.

To rank above eating?

When you're as hungry as I am right now?

I think that sums you guys up.

Thanks for being here. Thanks for being you.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Panic, Uncertainty, Dread, and Bald Spots

It took me over 200 pages, but I think I'm finally getting to know the (new to the series) characters in Sammy Keyes and the Killer Cruise.

Which means I'm having to go back to the beginning before I'm even at the end because I didn't know them when I started and now that I do...well...things have changed.


But it's like I can't fully structure the story until I know the characters' motivations, and I can't fully understand the motivations if I don't know the characters.

And I can't get to know a character in 50 pages!

Well, unless I'm fashioning them after someone I know.

But then they always morph into their own person anyway.

Who do they think they are!

Also, I hate books where a bunch of characters are introduced and you can't really keep track of who's who so you start to gloss over names and pretty soon you don't care who's who. The book becomes a big blur of characters and if it's a mystery you just hope they all get killed off quickly so you don't have to endure glossing over their stupid names any more.

This story has that potential, and since the new characters are all from the same (dysfunctional and very rich) family (the Kensington Family, if you must know) it could get very confusing as to who's who. In other words, I could be writing a book I would totally hate, so I'm having to come up with ways to creatively (and not that obviously) remind the reader who's who.Thankfully, Sammy is good at giving people alternate names. What would I do without her?

Anyway, the point is, I now know these Kensingtons and I'm back at square one, totally ripping up the pages of what I thought was pretty close to final draft and I'm not even done with the rough and the book was due three weeks ago!

So hair is ripping and doubts are creeping and Mark is trying to calm me down, telling me that this is what I always go through when writing a book so why am I panicking?

Panic, uncertainty, dread, bald spots...apparently it's all part of the process. After almost 30 novels you'd think I'd recognize this, but I refuse to believe it has to be this way! If characters would just let themselves be known earlier, if they would quit being so coy and elusive, if they would come out with their inner selves already and not make me have to dig so hard, it would save me so much time and hair pulling!

But no. It's always the same.

Damn Kensingtons.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Rewarding a Life of Good Reactions

I'd said in a previous post that I wanted to talk a little about Jack Gantos, this year's winner of the Newbery (given to the author of "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children"). That's Jack on the left there with his winning book Dead End in Norvelt, starring a lad named...Jack Gantos.

If you've been following recent posts you know that I attended the American Library Association's Newbery banquet a few weeks ago and was in stitches over Jack's acceptance speech. He tied the day he learned of his history-making historical novel's win of the Newbery to events that occurred on that day in history. Events such as the birth of John Hancock in 1737, and the signing of the International Opium Convention in 1912.

Obviously a date rich in significant historical events.

He also shared facts from his own personal history, and this is where I grew in admiration of Jack Gantos the person--I'd already held him in pretty high regard as an author.

See, Jack Gantos was a felon.

Yes, that's him again on the left.

(He's not the only Newbery-winning felon, he was quick to point out. Such layers of intrigue with this prestigious award!)

His crime?

He was young and stupid and got caught sailing hashish into New York. (His autobiography, Hole in My Life, recounts the whole ordeal if you're interested.) He spent a year and a half in prison and during that time he became a writer. (Again, the autobiography explains how he did this.) At the Newbery banquet he told of exiting the prison on his release date and mentioning to a guard that he was going to be a children's book writer.

The response?

Good luck with that.

There's a lot to be learned from the life and times of Jack Gantos, but what I find most compelling is what's at the heart of his story.

Good people can do bad things.

Smart people can do stupid things.

Life is rarely smooth, and can be cruel and unfair.

But what really matters in life is not what you've done wrong, or the stupid mistakes you've made or how unfairly you've been treated...what matters is what you do in reaction to those things.

I chose this concept as one of the core themes of The Running Dream because I believe it's at the heart of a happy life. And I think Jack Gantos is a living embodiment of this. From felon to librarian darling, from the gray-bar hotel to the gold-stickered book, Jack is living a life he's earned through good reactions to bad things...and we all love him for it.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Diamond In A Smelly Old Sock?

Sammy Keyes and the Power of Justice Jack gets released in two days!

More like 36 hours!

Of course I love Sammy and the gang and am always excited when other people can move forward in the series, too.

It's hard to keep the story arc to myself!

Over the years it's been interesting to hear adults says things like, I've heard of Sammy Keyes, but no, I've never read one.

But they have read Twilight!


There have been some pre-pub blog reviews of Justice Jack, and two that I saw today were written by adults who had never read a Sammy before.


Here is a link to one of them. I really like the review itself and think the excerpts she chose are colorful and make her point very well. What I want your weigh-in on is her comments about the artwork.She's rendering an opinion on the entire line of art and I'm just curious if you agree or disagree...or are somewhere in the middle.

Art is tricky...and subjective! So no criticisms of others' opinions...just read the post and weigh in with your thoughts.

I think this will be lively and interesting!

And three cheers for Tuesday when Justice Jack can leap to the rescue of fair citizens world wide!

As always, thanks for checking in. See you in the comments!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

More Tales From ALA

What's a Schneider?

It's the American Library Association's award for a book that "embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences."

What's that mean for a winning author?

You get honored at ALA with banners and plaques and get to meet some truly outstanding committee members.

It also means that your publisher is happy with you and hosts you as a guest of honor at parties and such.

And what does being a guest of honor at  a Random House function held at a Downtown Disneyland restaurant mean to the author?:

Mouse ears!

Yup, the president / publisher presented ALA award winners with Mickey Mouse hats embroidered with our names during one such party, and since I've never owned Ears before I thought it was ubercool and wore mine all night.

I was busy the whole conference with book business so Mark and I didn't visit Disneyland Park for rides, etc., but the boys did. We paid their entry with the proviso that they return with pictures of themselves in front of the White Rabbit's door. Here's why:

That's them together 15 years ago.

And again last weekend.

(No room for togetherness! [And no parent to take the picture])

Maybe it's just a mom thing, but something about this group of pictures makes me really happy.

But back to the conference:

Brian Selznick (the wonderful author of Hugo Cabret) also won a (younger category) Schneider for Wonderstruck, so we were at all the Schneider functions together and I am happy to report that a) he wears awesome cool shoes, and b) he is a fun, seemingly humble and very kind guy. I should also report that c) somewhere out there are pictures of him with my bunny ears messin' up his stylish look. (There's only so much picture-taking I can handle before I spaz out--something he totally got.)

There's more, but this is probably plenty for now.

Thanks for checking in. Thanks for caring.

See you next week!