Sunday, February 24, 2013

Psycho Stalker

I forget sometimes that people might mistake me for a psycho stalker.

I am, I assure you, not a psycho stalker. I'm just, you know, me, and I have this thing about trying to spread a little happiness around. Which--who knew?--apparently can be a little scary.

Last week I flew to Arkansas to do school visits. It took four airports and an hour's drive in a car to get there. As you might deduce, two of the flights were little hoppers, with only 3 seats across. On one of them, I was pinned into my window seat by a man who didn't quite fit in the aisle seat beside me. (Good thing there were no refreshment carts on this flight, because if there were no one past seat 7B would have been refreshed.) In addition to breaching the invisible aisle barricade, this fella definitely spilled over into my personal space. The little arm rest between us could only do so much.

To his credit, he did his best not to impose. He kept his arms out in front of him (holding his book the whole flight), and he held remarkably still the entire hour we were in the air. But there had definitely been a meal involving garlic in his recent past, and with those extended arms...

It could be that my experience on that leg of the journey contributed to my next neighbor's suspicion that I was a psycho stalker. He had the aisle, I had the window. There was no possibility of him blocking the refreshment cart, and miraculously, on this  "completely full" plane, there was an empty middle seat between me and the new aisle guy.

I was overjoyed! And since he seemed like a somewhat weary traveler I said something about it being a long day of traveling and how this little stroke of empty-middle-seat luck was a very welcome thing.

Now, look, I wasn't being Chatty Cathy or anything. I was just having the standard back and forth conversation regarding destination and travel. But when it turned out he was traveling to a foreign country, I was like, whoa! Well, I'll stop feeling sorry for myself now 'cause I'm only going to Arkansas. So of course I asked him business or pleasure, and since it was business I asked how long he was going to be over there because you don't travel halfway (or more) across the earth for a morning meeting and then fly back. He said two months, and I'm like, wow, really? Who do you work for? and then I can see him getting all, hmmm, is she a psycho stalker? right before he gives me a real nebulous "the government." I laugh and I tell him, "Nice non-answer!" 'cause, c'mon--that covers half the jobs out there!

He turned it around after that and asked me what I did. So I told him, and since being a children's book author is about the most non-threatening profession there is, I just plowed ahead, blithely asking if he had kids. Which he did! So I asked for details...boys, girls, ages...the usual stuff parents like to talk about. And he did tell me, but he was strangely, I don't know, confused. Like he didn't know if his daughter was 10 or 11 or even what grades they were in.

Now, in my head, I'm figuring out which of my books I can send to his kids. Their dad's going to be gone for 2 months, the poor mom's got a part time job and him being gone is going to be hard on fun would it be to get a surprise package from an author with a letter saying their dad misses them already and here are some books to help them pass (and laugh through) the time.

But in his head, I can tell--he's worried that I'm a psycho stalker.

So I tell him about my great plan to send books. (A psycho stalker would never send books, right?) All I need, I tell him, is an address and the names of his kids. And his wife. So I can send her a book, too.

He wants to believe me. So he writes down the names to inscribe the books to and an address. Only then he says that he's "just moved there" and not sure about the zip code. "That's okay," I tell him. "I'll double check it on the internet."

"No, no," he tells me. "This is right."

It seems marginally odd, but whatever. I do this almost every time I take a trip somewhere, and reactions vary. Often people are a little take aback. Like they can't quite believe I'm serious. So I just put aside the marginal oddness of it. I was just planning my package, happy thinking about making those kids (and the wife) happy.

After my 3 days in Arkansas, I flew back and unpacked and picked out some books and found a box and some bubble pack and started making a label. Only something about the way the guy had acted had been a little odd. And I didn't want to send a bunch of books to the wrong zip code.(USPS is not exactly agile in that regard.)

So I did go to the internet. And I did look up the address. And you know what it was for?

The FBI.

I thought about chucking the whole idea. I mean, clearly the guy was being cagey. So what would happen to my package? Would it ever even get to get to his kids before he returned? Did he warn his secretary to be on the lookout for a mysterious box from a psycho stalker? Would they blow my box of books up in the parking lot?

But realistically, paranoia about the safety of one's children has to be part of the territory of  working for "the government". Would I give some random stranger on a plane my address? No. (Which is why it's nice to have a PO box.) So, really, I couldn't blame him for not telling me the truth.

But geez. He should have just told me the truth! Or said, mail it to my secretary and she'll see that it gets delivered to my kids.

Anyway, after debating the pros and cons, I put the package together and wrote the letter and I'll take it to the post office tomorrow. I said I would, so I will.

I am not a psycho stalker.

Just someone trying to make the world a little happier.

Monday, February 18, 2013


Sorry I'm late--it's not diva behavior, I promise! Just spread too thin(ly)!

But now I will tell you about chortling. And how I've been doing it loudly. And with great joy.  Mark, you see, has received his first editorial letter.The one where the editor presents suggestions. You know, think about doing this. Will you please consider doing that? How about you have this happen instead?

Mark has witnessed the editorial process for all 30 of my published books (and Killer Cruise, which will pub in the Fall). So that's 31 times he's told me that the letter "isn't so bad" and that the corrections "will be easy" and that "adding a sentence or two would totally address that."

Now it's my turn! My turn to read the letter and say, Oh, this isn't so bad (it's only six single spaced pages of comments and suggestions, after all), and "Don't worry, that won't be hard," and "You know...just adding a sentence or two would totally take car of that!"

I hear these words come out of my mouth and then I chortle. (Ah, such a satisfying sound and feeling it is to chortle.)

For the past 31 books, Mark has also agreed a little too heartily and a little too often with the editorial quibbles on my multi-paged editorial letters.

Now, it's my turn!


Let me tell you, it is way more fun sitting at the chortle desk than being at the one where sweat pours and mutterings emanate


Hmm. Maybe I'm enjoying this a little too much.

(Chortle, chortle and a bwa-ha-ha!)

Moving on to things of a less chortling nature, I was hoping to have news for you regarding the new Sammy Keyes FaceBook page, but it's not quite ready. Fingers crossed for this coming week! You'll be the first to know!

Meanwhile, try to keep your chortling to yourself, would ya?

(Actually, it would be funny if everyone did a "Hey Mark!....Chortle!" comment this week. Tee-hee!)

Sunday, February 10, 2013


One of the questions I've gotten from adults over the years is How do/did you do it? How do you juggle a career and parenthood and also find the time to write?

The answer is simple: Imperfectly.

As evidence of that, I want to share with you a letter. Over the years I've kept copies of my correspondence with Nancy (my editor), and I happened upon this one tonight. I think it illustrates the struggles of a working mom who is also trying pursue a creative passion. Is was written somewhere in the early stages of the Sammy Keyes series. My sons Connor and Colton were about 6 and 8 years old.

I worry that you think I'm a callous brute of a mom. I recognize that on more than one occasion I've been seemingly insensitive to one of my kids while you and I were on the phone. And today one child was crying because I'd raised my voice at another. Sigh. You don't know that a banana cured the hysteria or that Colton wasn't upset at all that I'd been testy, because he'd (AGAIN) forgotten the book which he needs to complete his homework assignment. He knew he'd goofed up. (Although his report is on Louis Braille, sometimes I think he'd be more suited to report on a famous deaf person...)

Such things you've witnessed from afar: Crying kids and Barney. You probably don't remember suffering through the Barney theme song which I just HAD to sing with Colton at the end of that goofy dino's early morning show, but I do. What must she think? Me singing this damned song while she waits patiently to have a long-distance conversation with me. The fact of the matter is my kids have got to learn that I am not at their beck and call 24 hours a day. They CAN wait to have a snack, or show me just how big a poop they've produced. Yes, it will wait.

My conversations with you are very precious to me, although today Connor told me that they were complete "nothing nonsense." You see, he'd (for the first time for either of my kids) picked up the extension and listened to our "stupid" conversation. "You care more about Nancy than you do about Colton, Mom! I have to tell you something. I have to tell you something important. Mom. I LISTENED, and I KNOW that what you were talking about with her was NOTHING compared to what I'm going through here. I'm very upset Mom, and you have no idea how bad I feel!"

Guilt City.

But hey, there's Colton saying, "It's okay, Mom. I'm not upset. Connor just needs a banana."

Such is life in our household. Especially between 4-5:00 PM

So don't think I'm a brute, okay? I give so much of myself to my kids. Sometimes I think I love them so much my heart will positively break. I'd do anything for them, but they've got to learn that there are times they cannot demand my attention. I'm just sorry that you've been witness to my attempts at their re-education.

The fax has arrived. I'm looking forward to reading it after the kids are in bed. Meanwhile, there's homework to finish, and Colton's drying to de-throne me in foosball, so I've got to go defend my title.

Thanks for being you,
So take heart if you find yourself trying to juggle everything. It's not easy, even if a public persona makes it look like it is. We all make mistakes. Sometimes the answer's a banana. Sometimes it's a good night's sleep. But the key is to keep stumbling forward because eventually you will get there, and the only way you will get there is imperfectly.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Shower Singers

I want to thank those of you who took me up on last week's request for quotes. (Thank you!) 

It struck me that being asked for an "official quote" is probably like being asked to sing on TV when what you're used to is singing in the shower. When someone's excited about some discussion we're having here about Sammy, what appears in the comments is always so enthused and fresh and real. Like singing in the shower! Nobody cares about misspellings or syntax or structure. La-la-la! It just comes out!

But when I asked for something official, it seemed that for some you, nerves came into play. (Or maybe  self-consciousness, or the "importance" of it, or worrying about grammar, or all of those combined!)

So if you haven't sent something in yet (or want to send something else in), just write it like you're talking to your best friend. About Sammy, about Cammy, about the series, about whatever. Sing like you're singing in the shower! Don't worry about anything. Just let it out. And forget about the "one or two sentence" thing. If it's okay with you that I pull out (what I think are) the gems, write as much as you want! (Here's the e-mail where to send: )

Moving on down the line...

I had a conference call last week about Random House's upcoming Sammy Keyes Facebook page. And going into the call I was kind of bummed because was supposed to have been updated by the end of January and when I went there pre-phone call, it still said that Cold Hard Cash was the latest Sammy and...well, you get the picture.

But my mood did a quick U-turn when I found out that Random House has folded the content of the old sites (Shredderman, The Gecko & Sticky, etc.) into this one. There are still a few tweaks to be made (like the various other sites need to redirect to the new one, and some changes to my bio), but I think they've done a wonderful job so far!

There's also something really cool about your character being on a scrolling tab with characters from your own childhood.

Well, there's not image of Sammy--just her name in her font, but in a lot of ways I like that better.

So I hope you take a minute to check it out. I'll see you in the comments, where I hope you'll sing like you're in the shower!