Sunday, November 25, 2012

Where's Our Girl?

I received a flurry of mysterious e-mails from Nancy (my editor) this week. They had a short teaser subject and an attached picture. No text, just the picture.

The subjects were "Where's our girl?" "Shady location," "Mystery man," "Hungry," "Searching," "Uh, oh"....things like that.

And as I opened them up, one by one, I was, like, HUH? Why is she taking a picture of the ARC of the upcoming Sammy Keyes in the midst of crackers and cookies? Wow, those are cool sunglasses, but...why?  And the book at the feet of suit of arms? Hello?

It was like my son was in kindergarten again and we were going around to odd places taking pictures of Flat Stanley. (Please tell me you had the Flat Stanley Experience as a child / parent.) But I had no idea why Sammy was in front of a fancy light. Or a stony sculpture. And I was feeling secretly dopey. Like, am I supposed to know what she's talking about?

And then, ZAP -- I got it.

It was the map. The corner of a map visible in the bottom of a picture.

I had studied that map when writing the book.

I'd studied it a LOT!

Stupidly excited, I wrote her back with the answer to where our girl was. Turned out Nancy had an elaborate series of pictures still in the queue--pictures that made it more and more obvious where Sammy was--and she was bummed that I'd figured it out so fast.

So right now you're going, Wendelin, hello? Sin City? How could you not have known? It's in the title, right?

I was in Flat Stanley mode, okay?

The first thing I thought was to share this with you. Especially since I've decided NOT to do a contest for ARCs of the book because I don't want some of you to know the identity of Sammy's dad before others do. No matter how fair the contest is, it just doesn't seem fair.

But I thought it would be fun to make a collage of the pictures she'd sent and post it for the super sleuths among you. (It was only after I was done with my little collage masterpiece that I discovered another batch of photo e-mails from her. I could share them later if you want, but I wasn't going to start over! For now, here's the first wave for fun (and to torture you a little :) ) ).

In the upcoming book, Sammy goes all these places. Can you identify any of them?

Have fun!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mudslide By Moonlight

I've been cleaning our garage.

Really cleaning the garage!

And what I've decided is that through their lives, people acquire too much stuff.

It's hard to get rid of stuff. Stuff reminds you of other stuff. Or times. Or people. Or things you've always intended to do.

Or it's the kind of stuff you think might be useful.

In certain circumstances.

Which might arise.


I'm a good organizer. I know how to label a box. I know how to maximize storage. I know how to juggle a puzzle of boxes.

Around here I'm known as The Master Packer.

So I am very good a squirreling things into spaces, but this time I've exposed the contents of all cupboards and have been merciless to the Little Voice that whispers, might be useful in a full moon mudslide.



No, you Widget! You get back in the Goodwill box!


Down, Widget, down!

Clearly, it's been a battle. And part of that battle has been books. My own books. Years ago I started with How I Survived Being a Girl and have continued through each of my 28 (!) books, to squirrel away 6 autographed first editions of each title. For, you know, grand kids, should they ever appear. And if they don't, for my sons to auction off for charity (or whatever) once I'm dead and gone and people think an entire series of first printing autographed Sammy Keyes hardcovers is worth something.

Thinking ahead can take up a lot of  space in one's garage.

I also have foreign editions. And copies of the audio book. And random publication paraphernalia.

Anyway. Aside from Book Stuff, I've been pretty good at letting go of Other Stuff. The trouble is, that only applies to My Stuff, and a lot of the stuff in the garage is not My Stuff. It's Their Stuff. And They don't want to get rid of Their Stuff.

For example, there are two tall, cheesy speakers that go with a tall, cheesy stereo system that my son got for (basically) free at a garage sale. The woman was so excited that my son wanted her junk that she actually loaded it into her truck and delivered it to our doorstep.

"No!" I cried when I saw it, because it was clearly out of someone else's garage, and I know spider poop when I see it.

"No!" my husband cried, because it was clearly a cheesy stereo system from the 80's and couldn't possibly work and was way too big for our son's room.

"Yes!" our son told us, and proceeded to haul his spider-poop prize upstairs to his room.

The system did work (which got ample HA!s from our son) but it is cheesy, and takes up way too much room, the proof being that  it's now back down to our garage where it sits waiting for its rightful owner (the dump truck)...only I'm not allowed to get rid of it. He demands that I leave His Stuff alone. "Stop trying to throw away my childhood!"


Garage-sale stereos aside, I guess it's my own darn fault that his childhood included so much stuff. Parents like to shower their kids with stuff. Stuff that they maybe didn't have. Or stuff that they really wish had been around when they were a kid.

Cool stuff.

But after a while even cool stuff starts to choke you out of your house. Not just your kids' stuff. Your stuff. The cool and the not-so-cool stuff. The useful and the mud-slide-by-moonlight stuff.

And you look around and realize--I don't need all this stuff.

I don't want all this stuff.

I just want my family and time.

If you don't manage your own stuff, people who are left to clean out your closets when you kick the bucket are gonna say, "Why'd she label this bin of bricks?" "What's with this box of buttons?" "Old curtains? Is that what these are? Why?"

And you can't pop out of the grave and explain, "Those curtains would make a FABULOUS dress, can't you see that? Haven't you ever watched Gone With The Wind? Stop! Put that back you stuff-trashing fool!"

I know I'll never make the dress. But thinking that I might gives my brain a little jolt of...someday. I like jolts of someday, because they make me feel like life will go on indefinitely.

Which it won't.

I know.

Not that I'm planning to kick the bucket anytime soon--after all, I have the final Sammy Keyes to write!--but I really need to sort my own stuff before some stuff-trashing fool comes along and does it for me.

Meanwhile, I'm done buying stuff. And if anyone wants to trade Stuff for Time, please let me know.

I'll make you a great deal.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Rock Lobster!

Unless you're new to this blog you're already aware that it took me about 10 years to get my first publishing "Yes." What may be new to you is that during this time my husband Mark was writing non-fiction articles and science fiction short stories. When his first article got picked up by a national magazine we were thrilled and so were his parents and we all went out to Red Lobster to celebrate.

After that, Red Lobster became our celebration spot for publication. With each new article we'd go back, and  Mark was the guy at the head of the table.

Even though we usually sat at a round table.

But you get the point.

I was not jealous. Actually, I was the opposite. It was very cool to be able to go to a newsstand anywhere and pick up a magazine and say, "Here's one of Mark's articles!"

After a while Mark getting published became so routine that the Red Lobster thing stopped. I mean, who could afford to keep that up?

Meanwhile, I kept writing.

And meanwhile, I kept getting a steady flow of rejects. ("We're sorry, this is not right for us at this time. But please, think of us again with your next project.")

After years of this, Mark's magazine issues and copies of his two non-fiction books threatened to squeeze us out of our office / bedroom / library / nursery. (It was a 400 sq. ft. rental, so yeah, I'm serious.) And after years of all his articles and those books creating a lopsided teeter-totter of success, I know Mark was praying that something of mine--anything of mine-- would be published. There just comes a point where you can't enjoy your own success when someone you care about is deluged with failure.

So when I finally got the acceptance for my first novel Mark was at least as happy as I was.

And Red Lobster never tasted so good!

But with each new book of mine that got published, the teeter-totter shifted. And since Mark had started off as a writer of fiction, he was now the one wishing for a different sort of publishing success, and his focus shifted from non-fiction to writing novels.

He wrote a really long one about terrorists.

He landed an agent.

The idea garnered interest.

And then 9/11 happened and nobody wanted to touch it.

Onto the next novel.

And the next.

Sound familiar?

Well, the advice is the same: Patience, Grasshopper. And keep hopping forward.

As you know (unless you're new, and if that's the case now you will know so the next time I say this it will, in fact, be true that you knew), Mark is my first reader. He's brainstormed plot with me through 28 books. He's generous with ideas and has a sincere enthusiasm for my work and my area of work.

So (about 4 years ago) when he came up with the idea for a YA novel featuring a teen on the road with a band, I thought it was a great idea. After all, they say write what you know, and Mark--having spent a good deal of his youth as a drummer on the road--knows a thing or two about the subject. (He's also been writing for music magazines all these years, so music has continued to be a big part of his life.)

And this may seem out of the blue, but I know that really what it is, is about darned time...I'm ecstatic to share the news that Mark's stack on the teeter-totter will have a novel added to it. ROAD RASH will be published by Knopf in Spring 2014. I can't wait for you to meet Kimber and Zach and the colorful members of the band Bad Money and their rock 'n' roll adventures.

Meanwhile, you can find us at Red Lobster!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Power of You

I knew very little about the business of publishing before my first book came out. My focus was strictly on the creative end of things.

Well, that and my full-time job and my growing family.

Of course, I knew it was a business with profit and loss statements etc., and I knew that if I ever got published I wanted my book to sell lots of copies...because I wanted lots of people to read it! But my thinking beyond that was limited and very uninformed.

I know many of the people who visit this blog hope to be published, too. So I try to do a little mix of this and that, sharing my stumbles and avenues for success and, you know, interesting or quirky tidbits related to publishing.

So last week when I shared the Great Star Killer Mystery with you, I did it because this was just another one of those little areas of being an author that was (although frustrating) on some level strangely fascinating. I mean, who knew?

I sure didn't.

But the outcome from sharing it with you? The rally? The charge?

Such power!

And so nice.

So although  my thoughts are much more complex than this will reflect, I'll limit myself to saying I loved feeling the strength of your collective voices.

I'll be back on track with news (or musing) next week. This week I just want to say Thank you.