Sunday, December 30, 2012

Elvis Is In The Building!

It's a book!

I can't believe it's 9 days away from being in your hands, too. The big reveal. The big showdown. The big holy smokes of all Sammy's holy smokes!

And here's what I've got to say about this book:


I remember when my kids were younger and they were reading Harry Potter and my older son said to my younger son, "Have you gotten to the part where X dies?" My younger son gaped at him and said, "X DIES?" All my older son could say was, "Oops." My younger son threw the book down and never finished it.

So yeah,


The reviews so far have been very good (and have contained NO SPOILERS).

Which is nice. (Sometimes reviewers should be jailed, but so far, so good.)

I really, really hope you guys like the story, like the Heather subplot, like the Cammy stuff, and wish, like me, that you could be a stowaway in Sammy's suitcase.

Well, her backpack because, Sammy is, you know, impulsive and doesn't really take time to pack.

And who can blame her? She has no time to pack. She's in too big a hurry to stow away.

But, like I said, NO SPOILERS.

Anyway, thanks for riding along through 2012 with me. It's been wonderful to know you're out there, supporting me and loving Sammy. Happy 2013 to all of you, and I'll see you next year! On my birthday! (Really.) Which is two days before Elvis's birthday. Which is the day Sin City is released.

And on all these accounts, remember, NO SPOILERS!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

An Elf Cap On A Happy State Of Mind

It's been a busy week! A boy (uh, make that 'young man') with a birthday, shopping, baking, wrapping for Christmas, and getting ready for last night's Risky Whippet gig. I went a little overboard making the gig a real Christmas party--we gave away a present after every song. At first I was just going to give away a few autographed books by a certain local author, but then I got carried away and pretty soon I had enough "real" presents to cover all 3 hours of music.

People were, like, Are you serious? thinking there had to be a catch, but I think it made me the happiest person in the room. (Well, I was playing music in a band with my kids and husband, which is an Are-you-serious? sort of situation to begin with, but the gifts were like an elf cap on my happy state of mind.)

Clearly  most of you couldn't attend the Risky Whippet party (I would have loved if you could have...and would have brought more books!) but I will leave you with a link to a little sample (below) of the "family band" in action. Merry Christmas to all of you, even if you don't celebrate it :-)

Risky Whippet does "Birthday" by The Beatles

Sunday, December 16, 2012

If Only Tears Could Change What Happened

Like millions of others across the country, what I keep thinking about is what happened in Newton, Connecticut. And maybe other topics would push this one from our minds, but what seems most appropriate is a post of silence. So here's to those beautiful, innocent children, their heroic teachers, and all their heartbroken families.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Elvis Holds Sammy

This week we laugh.

Go ahead.

I sure did.

If you read the post from 2 weeks ago, you've probably guessed that this photo is courtesy of Nancy, who took the ARC of Sammy Keyes and the Showdown in Sin City to all the places mentioned in Sin City.

She couldn't find a Mini-Elvis, like I did during my research trip (and like Sammy does during Showdown), but this guy's maybe even funnier. I wonder how much Nancy tipped him to hold the book. I wonder how much work he gets, there on the Las Vegas Strip, offering to pose with tourists.

Maybe he has a good singing voice.

Maybe that's the motivation.

Still. I wonder if he knows he needs a little help perfecting the whole Elvis thing. I wonder who he is when he's not Elvis. I wonder if he's got a day job.

I really hope he's got a day job.

Anyway, January 8th is right around the corner.

You'll be able to hold Sammy, too.

And find out who her dad is.

Just remember, the year ends in 13.

Can't wait.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

For My Mom

It's time for Sinterklaas!

If you've read the first couple of chapters of Sammy Keyes and the Power of Justice Jack, you'll know what this means.

Well, you'll know what this means Van Draanen style. For civilized Dutch folks it's a much tamer affair. 

Basically, Sinterklaas is the Dutch version of Santa Claus. Only he rides a horse. And his hat is way cooler than Santa's. And he comes early in December. And visits five times, not just one. 

Oh, and forget the whole coming down the chimney thing. Sinterklaas don't need no stinkin' chimney. Sinterklaas knows how to deliver spice cookies through the roof.

As Billy Pratt would say, The dude is awesome!

When I was growing up, Sinterklaas and his magic white horse (and cool hat) got all the credit. But the Royal Dutch Bakers for Sinterklaas are actually the ones who do all the work. 

As fate would have it, one of those Royal Bakers was (shhhh) was my mom. 

Yes, my mother had the recipe for the magic pepernoten that clatter through the ceiling / roof and onto the floor. She was a very busy baker, too, managing to make up to three thousand pepernoten in a few days, all while the kids were at school. 

Through this tradition, Mom filled my childhood Decembers with happy squeals and anticipation and fun. And since Sinterklaas kept a rather irregular schedule (depending on whether it was a school night or Scout meeting night, or whatever), peppernoten might fall on December 4th. Or 5th. Or (come on already!) 6th. 

Civilized Dutch stick to the 5th, but, well, we Van Draanens don't fit that mold, and the not knowing when pepernoten might come crashing down around us was half of the fun.

When I had children of my own, I, too, was recruited to become a baker for Sinterklaas. And although I cannot call myself a Royal Baker or boast 3,000 cookies in any season (or maybe, even, total), I have for many years baked lots of little cookies during the early days of December. And each time I did, I thought about my mom. About the dough sticking in her palms, about her airing out the house before school so we children wouldn't detect the sweet spicy smell of pepernoten baking. About how much time and effort she put into the tradition and the holiday. About how much I loved her for the joy it brought to me as a child.

What I haven't shared on this blog (because it's personal and hard and just...sad), is that my mother is in the last stages of life. She's down to 70 pounds and in a memory care facility. (Please, no sympathy comments, okay?) I visit her a lot. (I'm there so much many of the residents think I work there.) 

Some days--some visits--are better than others. Today's was really nice. I talked with her about Sinterklaas and pepernoten and how joyful she'd made this time of year for us when we were growing up. I spoke to her in the best Dutch I know (and she corrected me, as is her way), and she smiled more than usual and remembered along with me about the baking and the hiding and the magic. 

It was obvious that me remembering and appreciating everything she'd done made her happy. Which made me happy, too. Mom may be retired from the workforce, but she will always love--and be loved for--having served as a Royal Dutch Baker for Sinterklaas.

So, happy Sinterklaas to you Dutch. And to you non-Dutch, read the first 2 chapters of Justice Jack. You'll wish you were.