Thursday, January 01, 2009

Resolutions, Shmesolutions. Where's My Cheese Popcorn?

The only New Year's resolution I've ever kept was not to make any more New Year's resolutions. Works for me. Why mess with success?

For the resolution-minded of you out there, though, I have a couple of suggestions. (You've heard the adage, "Those who can't, teach"? Well, this is the lesser-known corollary: "Those who don't, suggest.")

Feed the hungry by testing your knowledge. This is an armchair geek's idealist dream come true. Go to FreeRice and answer the questions. Every question you get right donate's ten grains of rice to the world's neediest people. The default subject is English vocabulary. Give you the shivers? Then click at the upper right to change subjects, from famous paintings to the periodic table to math to geography. Make it a web stop every day, and see how many grains of rice you can donate in five or ten minutes.

Want to do something for the four-legged among us? Then visit FreeKibble, answer the daily question, and, whether you get it right or not, you'll donate ten pieces of kibble to an animal shelter. Prefer cats to dogs, or want to do something for both? Then play FreeKibbleKat, too. This was yesterday's cat question:

One male cat and one female cat and their offspring are capable of producing how many cats in seven years? (answer below)

a) 420 cats
b) 4200 cats
c) 42,000 cats
d) 420,000 cats

(For the math-adept among you, a single female cat can produce up to 3 litters per year; the average litter size is 4 to 6 kittens. Calculate away!)

Flunking your FreeRice vocab questions? Sign up for A Word A Day. It's free, it's fun, it's geeky, it's a little piece of heaven in your daily inbox.

indiebound Been meaning to pop into that little independent bookstore across town? DO IT.

I know some of you live in towns with no independent bookstores (sometimes, no bookstores at all.) But if you do have an indie, go the extra mile. Browse around. Buy at least one of the titles on your list, and if you don't have a list (or you can't remember a single title on it as soon as you step into a bookstore--something that invariably happens to me) then chat up the bookseller for a recommendation. Indie booksellers are passionate book people and they're tuned into their customers; they know whereof they speak. If they don't have the title you're looking for, they'll happily order it in for you--and they'll get it faster than, with no shipping charges.

I fibbed about the resolution thing. I made this one a while back and I intend to keep on keeping it in 2009. Why?

Because ten years ago, there were about 3500 indie bookstores in the country. Today they're down to 1500...and the vast majority of those losses were before the economy tanked. 2009 is going to be a make-or-break year for many of the remaining indies, and they can only do it with our help.

Because the biggest national chain bookstores have a couple of people in corporate deciding which books to carry. They carry books they think will sell...which leaves thousands of fabulous books and authors out in the cold. Without independent bookstores, your chances of ever hearing about those books is virtually nil.

Because the more independent bookstores go under, the narrower our book choices will be.

If you take only one suggestion, take this one. Shop locally, and not just for books. Support your neighbors, keep those dollars in town. If you're not sure whether you have an indie bookstore nearby, check IndieBound and find out. Meet a bookseller in 2009. You'll be glad you did.

Answer to kittycat question is...d) 420,000 cats. A bit of mind-boggling to start your year off right. Spay and neuter in 2009...and Happy New Year, everyone!


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Now THIS is a White Christmas!

Portland lies under a blanket of snow. A goosedown comforter of snow. This isn't our usual precious one inch, which releases gleeful kids from school and shuts down the entire metro area for a day. No, this is a history-making, record-breaking, eleven-days-and-counting Snowzilla wonder, and it's snowing again as we speak.

I love watching the flakes drift down. I love walking a mile and a half to the grocery store for provisions, seeing how magically my dear familiar neighborhood is transformed. I love how the snow makes people happy, so that everyone I meet smiles and calls hello. I love it that we're going to have lox and bagels for Christmas dinner, because that was what I could fit into the backpack. I love it that nature has given us a gentle kick, letting us know that no matter how hard we try, we don't have nearly the control over our lives that we think we do. It's a good reminder.

And now, a carol from our own Lisa Nowak, fellow Portland Kidlit writer and cat lover. (I also highly recommend her beautiful essay on snow, Christmas, and community...including some fascinating Christmas history, which pleased the geek in me no end).

A very merry Christmas to all!


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's a quiet day for us chocolate and laundry in the morning, dinner at a friend's in the afternoon.

Me: What can I bring?

Friend: You don't really like cooking, do you?

Me: (slight hemming and hawing) Um, I don't mind cooking. I mean, sure, I like cooking. Well enough. I mean, I'd be happy to bring something. I mean...

Friend (taking pity...and possibly remembering the pie I brought last year, which I thought came out OK): Don't worry about it. Seriously.

I'm grateful for friends who understand me. For conversation and warmth and camraderie, which I'll remember long after the the turkey and trimmings are gone. For my sweetie especially. For my family. For everything on this roller coaster publishing journey, ups and downs alike. And for things too many to list but which I hold dear in my heart.

And I'm grateful to you, too, for stopping by and spending a little time. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

If It's Not a Resolution, Does That Mean I Can Keep It?

I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions. I’ve broken too many, I guess (the gym, yeah, I know. And my vitamins. And walking the dogs. And watering the plants. And washing my car. All right, already!) But I have a thought to keep in mind as I slug away at my third novel (currently in the research/deep imagining/taking-stabs-at-the-beginning phase):

Strive to stay outside my comfort zone.

It’s said that big risks mean big rewards. The flip side, of course: big honkin’ failure. Staying outside my comfort zone means working with the constant feeling that I have no idea what I’m doing. Forging ahead on a project that at times seems so out there, I have no clue whether anyone will be interested in reading it. An idea that spins off in so many directions and into such big territory, I don’t think I can do it justice. Or even if I can do it at all.

Then again, if it seemed like a cinch, that would mean my vision is too small.

At least, I’ll keep telling myself that.


Besides wrestling the new project, there’s plenty happening around here in 2008. My second novel, Ten Cents a Dance, will debut on April 1st. (Yippee!) My website designer and I are busy cooking up a brand-spanking-new look for, including a slew of pages devoted to TCAD. (If you haven’t already signed up for the newsletter, you can do so here to get exclusive “sneak peeks” of book excerpts, contests, and events).*

Stay tuned to this space…and Happy New Year to all!

*Never fear that I’ll jam up your inbox with endless updates. I can guarantee no more than four newsletters a year, and frankly it’ll probably only be two. No New Year’s resolution, you see.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Dear Santa...

Every Christmas, the entire population of Portland engages in mass wishful thinking. This year, for the first time in maybe ever, our wish came true... snowed!

Cozy as we were inside, the moment we saw the big flakes coming down, my sweetie and I knew there was only one thing to do. Scarves, gloves, hats, and two dogs on leashes later, we were outside basking in the wonderment. Here are Ginny and Inja, (aka Virginia Pearl and How Now, Brown Cow, aka Blondie and Brownie, aka the Most Wonderful Sweet Girls in the World) racing through the snowflakes.

Good thing we carped the diem, too, because a short while later, it was over. A couple of hours after that, all had melted...*sigh* But it was magical while it lasted. Thanks, Santa!


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Cheer Bonus Pack

If you believe in Santa Claus—or wish you still did—check out this beautiful Christmas essay by Kerry Madden. (Kerry is the author of two wonderful young adult novels, Gentle's Holler and Louisiana's Song; her next, Jessie's Mountain, will be available on Valentine's Day, 2008.)

Ever wanted to write a novel, and wondered, "Just how does one do it?" Then skip on over to Libba Bray's blog. (Libba is the author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Rebel Angels; the final book of the trilogy, The Sweet Far Thing, will be released tomorrow. Libba has more comedic talent than the entire population of most small countries, and she's also an accomplished dramatic novelist, which means I would hate her if only I didn't admire her so damn much.)

More on my own adventures in novel-writing next week...for today, it's eggnog, calling family, lolling on the couch watching hours and hours of costume drama DVDs, and spending quality time with my sweetie (who gave me the most gorgeous earrings even though we agreed not to get each other anything, and I would be mad at him if only I didn't adore him so damn much.)

Merry Christmas to all!