Wednesday, December 27, 2006

New Life Rules

These are the new rules I've discovered over the past couple of days:

1. Do not come down with strep throat on Christmas Eve.

2. Do not spend Christmas Day with a fever of 101, throwing up and achy. Not to mention the sore throat.

3. Do send husband to the hospital on Christmas Day for antibiotics.

4. Do decide the next day that dammit, you're going to go on vacation anyway, now that the antibiotics have whooped the fever.

5. Do not have 10 minutes to get across the entire breadth of the Salt Lake airport, carrying Child and car seat, especially after recovering from 1 and 2 above.

6. If you do #5, try to make sure the luggage makes it on the flight with you.

7. Do not let Child turn up with a mysterious rash on the second flight, that you can see spreading from arm to wrist to face as you watch.

8. Try to ensure that delayed luggage arrives before 11 PM so you can go to sleep.

9. And finally...make sure you have a wonderful vacation in spite of everything, particularly now that the antibiotics have fully kicked in, the luggage is here, and the rash is gone. Whew. Oh, and the rain seems to have stopped too.

Cheers from San Diego, rashless, recovering, and HERE.

Friday, December 22, 2006

It's the Holiday!

Merry Christmas, everyone! And have a Wonderful New Year!!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy happy ramblings

Good morning, my friends!

I am so in a good mood right now. Bing is singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" on my computer {melt}, I get to go out for a few hours in the middle of the day today to attend Child's preschool Christmas party (and hear her sing!!), and I only have one more day of work after this.

No, not forever. But for quite a fair stretch. We of course have Monday off for Christmas, and then on Tuesday we head out for the Warm Lands for a week. I don't know yet if we're taking the computer, but even if we do I doubt I'll blog much. So after tomorrow, you're on your own for a while. Talk amongst yourselves. Topic: "Is it necessary, in today's market, for female MCs to be strong from the first page? Discuss." {g}

In other news, I just agreed to be part of a fledgling project here in my town, a collaboration between visual artists and writers. Each writer submits a very short piece of writing or a poem, and the visual artists each select one and create a work of art inspired by it. Likewise, each visual artist submits a piece and the writers select one and write something inspired by the art. At the end there is a show, where each artist and writer has two pieces displayed. Cool, eh? I'm looking forward to it.

Anyway, gotta get to work for a bit now. If you're taking off somewhere, have a wonderful holiday!!!

Medieval Word of the Day: festive: Of or pertaining to a feast; such as befits a feast.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

State of the MSS

In an end-of-year regrouping effort, I went through all the personal feedback I've received on TMT from agents. Yes, folks, there is a pattern. Here are a few (not all) of the comments, in the order I received them:

"Katherine seemed too oblivious, and I just didn't want to read more about her." {OUCH}

"The key problem for me was Katherine, who, for the majority of the book, was too meek and passive to satisfy me."

"I didn't get to know the characters as deeply as I wanted to."

"I found myself increasingly impatient with Katherine and her naivete, and as a result I lost sympathy with her and her plight."


"Perhaps part of the problem is that I had a hard time warming up to Katherine. She certainly seems like a sympathetic character, and yet I felt distanced from her."


Ho-kay. First, I'm not including the compliments here, or other feedback. They almost all had really nice things to say about writing, pacing, and plot, so I'm very grateful for that. But you see the problem, right? Nobody likes poor Katherine. I do think I'm improving in terms of correcting the passive/naivete issue. Now she's apparently at least sympathetic, but I still have to address the distance problem if I want anybody to connect with her enough to buy the puppy.

On the recommendation of a fellow author friend, I've ordered "Creating Unforgettable Characters" from Amazon, which might have some new ways for me to think about Katherine...and my other characters in TMT and Book 2.

I'm not discouraged, not yet, as I still feel that I can improve the book, and that I'm close. (_I_ like Katherine, but I don't want to be the only one!) Plus I will continue to work on Book 2, which will be Even Better.

Medieval Word of the Day: tuck: To afflict by way of punishment; to punish, chastise; to ill-treat, torment.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Why secrets are better secret

Good Monday-morning-only-a-week-until-Christmas!

I'm afraid both my secrets went bust last week, one right after the other. The second one will stay personal, but the first one was...drum roll, please...that an agent was reading the full of TMT, and it looked pretty good. Sadly, she decided to pass in the end.

Yet I am still remarkably cheerful this fine chilly morning. Why? Partly because of the rejection letter, believe it or not. If I had tried to write a more positive, encouraging rejection letter myself, I don't think I could've done a better job. I won't reveal agent names or details here, but I profoundly thank all agents who still take the time to give detailed, personal feedback--and talk about the things they liked as well as the things they didn't. Yay, you. It makes such a difference. Now I have to decide if I want to read through TMT again or just send it out some more.

I'm also happy because it's almost Christmas, gosh darn it, and I'm really close to being ready. We had a fun weekend baking cookies, Christmas shopping (it is dangerous to send me out with carte blanche to buy things for Child!), and just hanging out. And I don't know if I mentioned it here before, but we're also looking forward to vacation--we're heading out to San Diego for a full week the day after Christmas. This time we're going to Sea World, so today on my down time I get to look up which shows we want to take in. Down time, she says. Ha.

I also have a grad-student hurrah-term's-over party today at lunch, which will be nice. We can all de-stress and bitch together.

And last but NOT least, I am reading a certain kick-ass book that I absolutely cannot put down. I didn't want to go to bed last night, was speculating about it this morning at 6 AM before I had to get up, and am dying to get back to it this evening. I didn't dare bring it in with me to work, because I know I don't have enough willpower to keep away from it. Yes, my friends, I scored an ARC of Vicki Pettersson's THE SCENT OF SHADOWS, and Oh. My. God. I don't care what kind of books you like; if you have eyeballs and a brain, reserve it now.

Medieval Word of the Day: thrutch: To press, squeeze, crush; to crowd, throng

Friday, December 15, 2006

Handwriting and Mushrooms

Yesterday we had a day-long research seminar for work, so (horreur!) I was away from my computer all day. Fortunately I always use the less-apt talks in these seminars to work on the WIP in my notebook. Yesterday I'd been away from Book 2 too long to jump back in with real writing in that setting, so instead I made a bunch of useful notes: "what could be going on in Bordeaux right now?" {list}; "what would C. be thinking about?" {list}. I find that lists and handwritten brainstorming are critical for me to work out plot points, settle what's going on in my head, and get creative with new twists. Most of my best ideas have come in my little notebooks.

I saw another writer talking recently about a book coming to her "by hand" instead of through typing on the computer, which I found very interesting. Most of the time I'm perfectly happy to do my actual writing on the computer, to be able to fiddle, cut here, tweak there, use the online thesaurus. However, there are a few scenes in TMT that I wrote by hand in notebooks because I was stranded away from a computer with time on my hands--and two of them are perhaps my favorite scenes. One is the dream scene, where my MC connects with her mother through a somewhat prophetic dream; that one was written during a research seminar. The other is Katherine's first meeting with John, my currently posted excerpt. I started that scene in a hotel room in Estes Park, Colorado (in the hotel that Stephen King based The Shining on, by the way; it's supposedly amazingly haunted), and it was one of those times when I just couldn't bear to stop writing. John just popped up out of nowhere, a true "mushroom" to borrow Diana Gabaldon's term, and was so vivid to me I felt I could touch him, hear him. I finished that scene, scrawling as fast as I could, in the airport for my flight back. And interestingly, I think I only changed a few words here and there from the original notebook mess; it mostly came over intact.

I wonder if John would never have come into the story at all if I hadn't taken that trip. Isn't writing a kick? Sometimes I really do feel I'm reaching to some Other Side where these people exist. If John isn't real somewhere, he should be. {g}

Perhaps the lesson is that I should try to do handwritten work next time I feel stuck. Or maybe that I should go hole up in a haunted hotel more often...

Medieval Word of the Day: mordant: A device which clasps or holds something fast. 1. An ornamental hooked fastening, usually jewelled, on a girdle or belt.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I'm DONE with school for this term! Woo-hoooo!

Now I just have work and Life to deal with. WHEW. And I get to go to a grown-up party tonight and relax, which I am so looking forward to.

Writing? Yeah, well, I'm way too brain-fried to think about it right now. I'm more in the mood for sentimental movies and light books and parties...but soon I will recover my brain and get back to it. Maybe tomorrow. :)

AND we did actually locate a real physical make-a-meal bucket, at a store in Massachusetts, and it is on its way to me. A second woo-hoo of the day.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


We may have done it! One of the elves on the Books and Writers Forum came up with a link to a store that seemed to have the play-doh kit we want and let me order it. Thank you Tammy, and everybody else who was searching! I love my internet communities.

(and if you came up with one too, Opa, yay! I want at least one of these things, but two would be fine!)

Happy happy over here!

Still here, barely

Just a brief note to say that I'm hanging on by the skin of my teeth over here. Research papers are turned in, but I still have a 2-hour written final and a report to do. Plus work is piled over my head. Two more days and _some_ of the stress will go away, I hope. I am looking forward to enjoying some of the Christmas season after all this.

Last night I had to take a break, though, and I watched the movie "Sky High", about a highschool for superheroes. Laugh-out-loud funny; I loved it.

Oh, and we're having a Santa crisis. Child saw Santa at a party on Sunday and asked for the "Play-Doh Make a Meal Bucket," which she saw in K-mart 2 months ago. Yep, we went to get it yesterday and it's not only gone, it's discontinued, and we can't find one anywhere, online or in real stores. ARGH! Her first specific request of Santa and I'm not sure we can fill it. So if anybody happens to see one of these in their local K-mart, Walmart, etc., PLEASE let me know.

Thanks all! Back to the books!

Medieval Word of the Day: whipster: A vague term of reproach, contempt, or the like, with various shades of meaning. a. A lively, smart, reckless, violent, or mischievous person. b. A wanton, lascivious, or licentious person, a debauchee.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A snip from Book 2

Okay, Mrs. Mitty asked for a snippet. Since I know you've all seen all the TMT snippets, I'll put up a tiny bit of Book 2. Keep in mind that this truly is a rough draft; I haven't got the setting very well yet at all--but I like this bit anyway.

From [Isabella] by Susan Adrian, 2006, All Rights Reserved

Edward of Woodstock, the Prince of Wales and Aquitaine, strode across the yard to where his horse snorted impatiently. They were both magnificent: the Prince resplendent in crimson hunting gear, hat, and cloak, his dark hair and mustache perfectly groomed; the massive bay's coat gleaming in the sun, adorned with matching crimson [gear]. Papa on his big black looked small and faded beside them.

The announcement would be made tonight at Hall, but it seemed that Papa had done it, convinced the right man—the most powerful man in the world, it seemed to me—to help us. All the men were going hunting this afternoon in celebration, and in anticipation of battle.

"If only I could go," I muttered. But I was, as always, only an observer, standing in a dark archway watching the splendor of the hunters.

"If only I could go," mocked a voice, mimicking my Spanish.

I spun. He was only a handspan from me, his freckles stark against his pale skin.

"I see you are not hunting either, John Holland," I said in English. He was the Prince's stepson, and likely would be invited in a few years. But not at fourteen summers, not today.

"Only because there are too many already," he retorted. "I am not a useless girl."

"Ha! Men do not want boys underfoot any more than girls. I think you are just as useless today as I."

I was rewarded with a pink flush right across his cheeks. John Holland was easy to goad and quick to show his choler; I had learned that in just two days.

He took a step back and pushed his hair out of his eyes. In the sun it was a vibrant fire-red, curling and unruly. In the shadows of the arch it was more muted, the color of currants rather than holly. "You know nothing, Isabel the Spaniard."

"I am Castilian, not Spaniard." I shook my head. "And I know what I see. When men hunt or go to war, they do not want children by. You any more than baby Edward over there." I nodded my chin towards the new prince, John's half-brother, in the arms of the Princess Joan as she waved elegantly to her husband from the steps. Her belly already bulged with the next prince. She was a perfect royal wife.

John gave a snort. "You know nothing. And talk too much."

"Likely. They say it is my great fault."

The Prince was mounted now. He signaled, the olifant blared, and the whole party thundered through the gate almost as one, following after the splendid pair. It was a grand sight, and yet odd, somehow. I had seen armies, but I had not seen battle. Was it like that, a mindless, united surge, but with much dearer stakes?

"Will you stay here, you and your sisters, when your father goes to war?"

I had already forgotten John was there. He was next to me now, looking out too, leaning against the marble pillar. I met his eyes, a sharp, dark blue.

"There is nowhere else to go," I answered.

He nodded once. "I thought so." He stretched a hand forward and, shockingly, picked up a strand of my hair, rubbed it between his fingers, then let it drop. "We should try to be friends, then." He smiled, a flash of teeth, then pushed past me out into the sunlight.

Hey, it's Franklin

Child is completely all better, and the rest of us seem to be skating by without catching the crud so far (cross your fingers)! So tonight we are off on a mini-adventure to Helena to see this show:

Gotta love live Franklin the Turtle. We try to take Child to these if they're showing fairly close and they're characters she knows well--so far we've been to Sesame Street Live and Dora the Explorer. She goes to enough of "our" performances! Besides, I really like Franklin (hey, he's Canadian, so he's super polite and well-mannered! {g}) so I'm hoping this will be a fun one.

I haven't been making much progress on the writing front since this is finals week. 1 paper down, 1 just started, and a 2-hour written final to do. Did I say I would be happy after Wednesday? I've got some more fun research books, though, and I have been sneaking reading bits about my characters here and there, so I will be ready to go once this other stuff is over. Then I swear I will get back to my regular schedule!

Medieval Word of the Day: Catabaptist: One that abuseth or depraveth, or is an adversary to the sacrament of Baptism.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Sorry for the disappearing act. Child turned up with strep throat and related scarlet fever--which caused a major mental panic until we found out that nowadays that just means you have a rash along with the strep throat.

Fortunately antibiotics absolutely rock, and she is back to happy, healthy normal except for a little lingering rash. Whew. But add that to finals week and the holidays, and you will understand why I haven't been blogging...and might be very sparse until that final paper is turned in.

Back to it now!

Monday, December 04, 2006

In the Mood

I can't believe I forgot Going My Way on my list of holiday movies! So it's not a Christmas movie per se, but it's Bing, and that puts it in our must-watch Christmas list.

We started the season last night with The Bishop's Wife. I had a moment of doubt when the credits were rolling--"Do I really want to watch this movie AGAIN? Will I like it as much?"

Yes. Yes, I did. :) I'm not really sure why I love the angel theme so much. I've written several short stories about them, but watching that movie made me want to write another one.

This was a busy weekend. We took Child to the ballet with Gram and Opa on Saturday. It was excellent--a young company with lots of kids, but really well trained and professional--and she loved it. That night she put on an entire performance for us, with costume changes and all, copying the dances she saw. Yesterday we took her to the Symphony's Christmas performance, which included a Christmas carol sing-a-long. I am definitely in the Christmas spirit now.

I'm coming into the homestretch on finals and research papers. It won't be over for another 10 days, but it's in sight. I decided I would definitely take it easier next term: only 4 units, and 3 of those are an independent-study class.

In other news I may have another big secret I can't tell y'all yet. Yes, I do this just to drive you crazy. {g} I will tell you when I can on either one, though. Promise!

Medieval Word of the Day: belly-flaught: Headlong; precipitate.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Red and Green Screen

Keeping in the Holiday spirit...

What are your favorite Christmastime movies?

Hubby and I have a pile that we try to watch every year. We don't always make it--last year was particularly bad for movie-watching--but even if I don't actually see them I think about them. These movies are part of Christmas for me now.

--Holiday Inn. We usually start with this one, because it's not ALL Christmas, though it has a lovely version of Bing singing White Christmas. Bing and Fred Astaire, I love it.

--White Christmas. Another Bing extravaganza, with a quite different version of the song. This time with Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera Ellen. Wonderful singing and awesome dancing.

--The Bishop's Wife. I admit this is my favorite. Of Christmas movies definitely, possibly of all movies. (Okay, Dead Again is a close contestant) But Cary Grant as an angel? It's hard to top that.

--Christmas in Connecticut. Barbara Stanwyck as a pretend Martha Stewart type columnist, who suddenly has to act the part for Christmas.

--It's a Wonderful Life. Of course.

--A Charlie Brown Christmas. Yeah, I don't know why, but we still watch it every year. Maybe it's to see Snoopy dancing.

--How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The original one, not the remake (bleah). My favorite song is "You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch". Chuck Jones rocks.

So pony up. What are your favorites? Is there one I'm missing that I need to add to the pile?

Medieval Word of the Day: kemp: A coarse or stout hair, as those of the eyebrows (obs.); now, hair of this kind occurring among wool.