The Most Fabulous Aunt in the World

Okay, I’m so totally going to win that title. By some freakish stroke of luck, I placed the winning bid on the COOLEST item* in the Do The Write Thing For Nashville Silent Auction this week. I won Author Cyn Balog’s prize package, which includes: her new book, Fairy Tales (which has been on the TBR list for months!), a fortune cookie necklace, and the right to name a character in her upcoming-in-2012 YA novel.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Nikki, you gorgeous woman, who writes so marvelously and has impeccable fashion sense, don’t you get to name all your own characters anyway? Why would picking another author’s character name be a positive?”

Um, thank you for noticing all that, and for asking. And why? Because I’m giving the naming privilege to my 14 y.o. niece for her birthday. She is a voracious reader – especially of YA paranormal – and she will EAT THIS UP.

Think about it. She will be able to show all her friends her character name in a book! (I hope she picks her own name: Taryn. Cool, right?) And not just in her Aunt’s book. (Actually, I have a published story with her name as the MC, but she wasn’t that thrilled. It was a story for seven year-olds, so I guess I understand.)

All this awesomeness *almost* makes up for the fact that I’m not rich enough to have won the other things I wanted. Sigh.

In Writing News: I finished my latest round of revisions on Blessing, and sent it off to the final beta readers. I’m pounding away at Gingerbread, so as to avoid public humiliation at the hands of Lori, my whip-wielding crit partner from Cali. And I’m working on another essay or two. Whew!

In Other News: No turklings yet. Still hoping.

My other dog, Sugar the fox terrier, got bitten by a rattlesnake this week. Yes, that’s two for two this year. She’s recovering nicely, but I am LIVING WITH A RATTLESNAKE IN MY YARD.

I’ll try to calm down, but AGGGGGHHH! We can’t find it. Seriously, we did it all, even poured gasoline down all the holes to flush it out. (Yes, stop for a mental image of me standing there in cowboy boots with a hoe at the ready, waiting for a rattlesnake to come shooting out of its hole toward me. Wait, your mental image has me in overalls? No, I’m not that country. It was jeans. There you go. Now laugh.)

Also, I sang karaoke for the first time. It was…. interesting.  I will say no more unless I’m subpoenaed.

Write Well, Friends! And stay away from snakes.

* Um, the VERY coolest item would be the one my agent donated. But since she’s already my agent, I didn’t bid on it. I did, however, tell people about it! It went for, like, thirteen squintillion dollars. Cheap at any price. 😉

Turkey Eggs

Okay, this one’s weird. Tonight, my dear friend and neighbor Sue came over to celebrate her birthday (um, by bringing over her birthday presents – chocolate-covered strawberries and muscat – to share. Take note, friends. On your birthday, YOU provide the feast!). She announced that her husband Bob had inadvertently mowed down the tall grass all around a wild turkey’s nest, and that the hen hadn’t come back to her eggs since yesterday.

Most people would say this was too bad, nature in action, yada yada. Me? I said, “Cameron, take this basket, go get those eggs, and stick ’em under Broody (our broody hen who sits on her butt in the nesting box all day, pecking anyone who reaches in to gather the chicken eggs). We’re going to raise some turkeys.” The boys were thrilled, and I became The Coolest Country Mom ever.

Now, please don’t tell me this is a bad idea. I don’t want to know. I want to see if the eggs will hatch. And then, I want to watch Broody take care of a half dozen gangly turkeys. (We’ve decided to call them The Ugly Turklings if they do hatch.)

I’ll probably be back in a few days with news that the eggs are rotting, but who knows? Maybe I’ll be posting cute pictures like this.

In writing news, I got a check in the mail from an unexpected place. Judson Press, who publishes The Secret Place (a devotional book) has accepted – and sent my check for, hooray! – a tiny piece I sent them over eight months ago. Over Eight Months. People are pregnant for less time. I had completely forgotten about it.

So, the moral is, a la Galaxyquest —  “Never give up! Never surrender!”

Also, my beta readers are getting back to me with comments on Blessing. I am thrilled. The comments so far are helpful, and doable. I feel very hopeful I can get Blessing back to Agent Suzie by the end of the month! I have to admit, the comments of one reviewer had *me* in tears. This is how I felt.

Write well, Writer Friends! And hatch lots of lovely, fluffy plots.

Stop Thinking This: Someday I’ll Start My Life

Time for a touchy subject, Writer Friends. Procrastination. But not just any procrastination —  I’m talking about Life Procrastination. The kind of procrastination that takes years to perfect. You have to hone it, over decades of telling people you’re “working on a novel” (or whatever your unfinished life’s work may be) when you haven’t written any words since 1987, over weeks or years of turning on the computer and re-reading your old, half-finished files, thinking “I should finish that piece” and then Stumbling instead. Or, Facebooking, or Flickring, whatever. Pick your poison.

First, let me say this: I am purt near out of judgment today. I’m not judging nobody, nothing, nohow. I spent almost my entire adult life bemoaning the fact that I didn’t have enough time/energy/material/chi/Muse to do my life’s work. I could have filled a swimming pool full of that kind of bullsugar, and had enough left over to frost the world’s largest Bullsugar Cake.

So understand this: I’ve been there. But not for quite some time. What changed? I got gray hair.

Yup, after gray hair, and kids, and some assorted physical complaints (my corns? my bunions! jk), I realized it was looking more and more likely that I would live and die a big fat What-If life, chock full of “I could’ve been a contender.” So I got off my a$$ and started writing. (Actually, I got on it, BIC-style. But you know what I mean.)

What brought this topic up? Recently, I had a couple of non-Writer Friends (who are very much where I once was) ask me questions.

Like “Don’t you get writer’s block?  I have terrible writer’s block. I’ve had it for, like, a decade. It’s debilitating.”

And “Do you think I should go get that writing degree you got, Nikki?* (When asked what this friend was writing, the answer was “Nothing.” When asked what this friend had ever written the answer was also “nothing. Yet.” Sigh.)

My answer to them both? Just Write.

With a pen, with a pencil, with a computer or a typewriter. With the bloody stumps of your zombie-gnawed fingers, for crying out loud, but just get some words on the freaking page! And stop thinking about it.

Also, stop checking Facebook every ten minutes. Your status isn’t going to announce “Fabulous MacWriter just finished her novel!” all by itself, now is it?

There. I feel better now. If that wasn’t enough chastisement (Hmmm… a reminder for myself as well? Maybe.) then visit THIS SITE and weep.

* Heck, no! It scared me away from writing for a decade! Um, kidding. Sort of.

Mother’s Day Essays

This month, two of my essays came out in the local parenting magazine, ParentWise:Austin. I wrote one about my mother-in-law Liz, who passed away over six years ago (leaving an enormous hole in my life) and one about my own mother, who is still around and just LOVES it when I tell funny stories about her in such a public way.

Yeah, right. Sure.

Seriously, people. Be careful when and if you have kids. You never know if one of them might turn out to be a writer, and then you’ll be in trouble. If my kids ever grow up and decide to rat out my poor parenting skills in print, they’ll have material for decades. Here’s a couple of quotes from me just this week. “Two words, kid: Foster Care.” and “I have a knife, and if you touch me one more time, I swear I will cut off your little finger.”

Yeah, I’m really not gunning for mom of the year. I’m actually a lot better off than I was a few years back, when I used to dream about calling anonymous false abuse reports in to CPS so I could get a weekend away.*

In unrelated news, I sent my Blessing in Disguise manuscript to a new set of Betas yesterday (yay) and Raymond Mahaney’s Wrong Moves went out on sub on Monday (super yay!) sent by L’Agent Extraordinaire, Miss Suzie. I have a personal goal of finishing the Gingerbread WIP by June 1, which would be a bit tricky, since that means writing, like, 8,000 words a week! But it might happen. We’ll see.

Whoever you are, have a good weekend. Write well, and if you have a mother you love, who still speaks to you even after you’ve sold the stories of all the embarrassing things she did when you were a child, and who has an excellent sense of humor about it all, congratulations. Tell her you love her so much you can’t help but write about her, and buy her a margarita with your ill-gotten gains. That’s the plan chez moi, anyway. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

*This is the part where I say I’m kidding, so no one actually does call CPS on me. Seriously, it was years ago. And I only thought it, like, a few dozen times. Wait! I mean, never. Just a joke. Move along, move along, nothing to see here.

May Day Bouquet

When I was a little girl, on the first day of May every year, I would gather wildflowers from the sides of the drainage ditch next to my house, wrap the stems in a bunch of wet paper towels and some tinfoil, and sneak across the street to Catherine and Leon’s house. I would put the flowers down on the elderly couple’s doormat, ring the bell, and run away as fast as I could.

Every year. I never forgot.

I can’t remember where I got the idea. My mom? My sister? Someone, somewhere, told me that was what you did on the first day of May, to celebrate spring. A gift and a practical joke all rolled up in one. What kid could resist?

Some years there were better flowers – years like this one’s been, when the winter was rainy as all get out, and the bluebonnets and daisies answered the call to show off. Some years, it was a straggly handful of henbit, purple verbena, and some rain lilies that wilted almost before the door opened.  It didn’t matter. Every year, hiding in the bushes, I would hear the door open, and Catherine would cry out. “Why, Leon! Come and see! Someone’s left flowers here! I wonder who it could have been?”

I loved those neighbors. Their door and refrigerator was always open to a latchkey kid who had dropped her key somewhere (again), and their candy dish was always full of those peculiar delights: Atkinson’s peanut butter bars. To this day, all I have to do is smell one of those candies, and I am six years old again, my teeth stuck together, listening to Leon playing in the living room with his local wash tub band.

Catherine and Leon were old way back then, and they’ve been gone for decades. But I remember them. On top of my computer desk is Catherine’s favorite vase, given to me after her funeral — an elegant, peach-tinted blown-glass cone, filled with dried flowers all year long.

And every year, on May 1, I wonder: Will there be a barefoot, laughing neighbor girl when I’m old, who hides in the bushes and laughs while I open the door and shout for my husband to come and see the bouquet?

Happy Spring, Writer Friends.

Recommended Reading

There are so many books to read, it’s hard to know where to start. And just because someone recommends a book doesn’t mean you’re going to like it. (Trust me, I have a stack of books I bought after a friend’s recommendation, all of them sitting with a bookmark on page 11 or so. I’ll read them right after the Rapture, okay?*)

But I just finished a book you will ALL LOVE. I don’t care if you’re a man/woman/child/spawn of Cthulhu.

Although if you’re a child, you might want to wait until you’re, um, at least 13, let’s say, to read it. Parents, be warned! Or you will have some ‘splainin’ to do. The book? Yeah, I know, I live under a rock. You’ve probably all read it already. Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Sad, wonderful, deep, shallow, so funny I had to close the book and catch my breath from laughing at regular intervals. I only recommned a book every three or four years to my husband (because he likes hard-core sci-fi, bleah!), but he’s reading this one now.

Today, I cracked open When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead. I have a good feeling about this one, too. But enough chatter! I’m away to revise ANOTHER novel. As Ren and Stimpy would say — Happy happy, Joy joy!

Help! I had a request from a friend for books for her mentally challenged adult sister to read. The reading level would need to be around 2-4th grade, but on topics an adult wouldn’t mind reading about. (So, not learning to ride a bike or tie your shoes.) Any ideas?

* For those of you who don’t know me as well, I refer to the Rapture fairly frequently. But I don’t actually believe in it, in the exact sense that many of my friends do. Well, I believe in the kind of rapture I feel after I eat a bowl of gelato the size of my head. Just to clear that up.


Writer Friends, I am pleased to report that my dear Writer Friend Lori and I both made our word quotas for the week. And that means you will not have the special treat of reading the fiery invective I had prepared — insults involving her parentage, her hygiene, and especially her writing technique — for at least another week.

That is, if she agrees to hold me accountable for another 5K next week. (Lori?)

This is a happy day. The only thing that makes me less happy is that I fully recognize the 5,000 words she sent me (to prove her accomplishment) far, far outclass the 5,000 I wrote this week. She is writing the funniest, coolest, most mind-bogglingly commercial YA rural/urban fantasy EVAH. Go, Lori, go!

Now, other news. I sold two essays today – Yay! Links in May when they appear. I am also working/writing  on my new Mac Book. Fun! Also, scary, as I am computer-challenged.

Tomorrow, I attend Chris Barton’s book party for his new picture book Shark Vs. Train at Bookpeople tomorrow. (You HAVE to check out the book trailer, free downloads, and poster at THIS SITE. Seriously, it’s genius marketing stuff. Ideas to steal for weeks.) If you have kids, know kids, or know people who have kids, you need to buy this book. Hilarious, great art, and clever.

Now, go away Internet. I have Old Novel revisions and New Novel word quotas, plus two essay ideas that keep pestering me. Must write more.

Write well, friends!

Stay Tuned For Public Shaming

Okay, today is the big day. I have a Writer Friend who has agreed we should hold one another accountable for reaching a certain number of words on our WIPs each week… and today’s the day we show what we’ve got. Only, I haven’t *quite* reached my magic number, so it’s a head-down, fingers aching, three cups of coffee, “kids, make yourself dinner” kind of day.

If I don’t make my quota, I’ll link to where you may witness my public humiliation (and this Writer Friend is very witty and clever, and will probably think of horrible ways to shame me. Eek!). If she doesn’t hit the mark, I’ll be up all night writing horrible things about her.  Some of them might even be true.

While you wait, trot on over to Austin YA writer and writing instructor Brian Yansky’s blog, read through a few posts, and learn to your dismay *exactly* what it is you’ve been doing wrong all these years. (What? I have to show character development in EVERY chapter? Khannnnnnn!!!!) He’s a darn good writer and writing teacher, and shares the goods for free on his blog.

Write well, Friends!

Book Fairy!

Ah, bliss! The Book Fairy came today. But her teeth look pretty sharp.

Let me explain. I received three pacakages in the mail from a silent auction I went bidaholic on a few weeks back. Many, many books from that moneysuck, I mean, worthy charitable donation opportunity,  are now or soon will be in my possession. My mailbox was stuffed full of enormous yellow packages. Love that feeling: imminent pleasure. (Um, wow. That sounds a little more exciting than the reality. LOL)

Also, my good friend Shelli went to the TLA Conference in San Antonio and picked up a bunch of ARCs for me! (I’ll be reading those and posting reviews as time permits this spring.) Her thanks for doing so: not having to bring any food to Literary Salon meetings for a month. Fair deal, right?

So, I have an enormous stack of books on my bedside table… and another one on my computer desk… and another one in my kitchen. Honestly? They’re getting a bit unmanageable. In fact, they’re starting to look a bit less imminently wonderful, and a bit more scary. Any of you ever experience anything like that?

I’m afraid the Book Fairy wants to take an enormous chunk out of my time. My writing time, that is. To which I say: Back off, Witch.  I just got back in the groove – cranking out 5,000 + words a week on my latest project —  and I refuse to let anything pull me off track.

Oh, wait. The stack on my computer desk just fell over. (Not kidding; this actually happened.) I’ll have to go now and pick those books up. Am I strong enough to resist? Maybe just a chapter or two?

Help keep me honest. I’m up to 16,800 words on the WIP. If I don’t report 21,000 by Friday, shame me publicly. Please. And whatever you do, don’t send me any more books for a week or two!

Write well, Friends.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

I should probably be wary of taking song lyrics as blog posts — someone might think I had a delusion that this blog were fabulous like Betsy Lerner’s — but what the heck. I wanted to talk about writing books today anyway. Not the act of writing books, no. I mean books about writing, written for writers. (Procrastinating writers like me, who spend long hours poring over them instead of finishing manuscripts. Oops.)

I recommended Betsy’s The Forest for the Trees a few months back — an excellent book which I have since loaned out and, therefore, will never see again. (Which one of you Writer Friends has it? I can’t even remember. Ah, well. Que sera. It’s the Circle of (book) Life, or some such.) For my birthday this week, I received a copy of Jane Yolen‘s (on whom I have a humongous writer-crush) writing book called Take Joy: A Writer’s Guide to Loving the Craft.

I’m not even halfway through this book, but I can already tell you — I will NOT loan this one out to anyone. I’m going to need this one again and again. So hie thee to a bookstore and get your own darn copy. Why should you spend your money on this little, watermelon-colored book? She doesn’t say anything in it you can’t pick up from other books, from the Internet, or from your writing buddies over a few glasses of wine. There’s not that much new in what she says. But, oh, Writer Friends. HOW she says it.


So, in honor of Jane Yolen, tomorrow is a designated BIC day – Butt In Chair. I’m turning off the phone, leaving the dishes in the sink, avoiding the Internet like the plague, and writing. Nothing else.

Writing all day long.

Now THAT’S taking joy, if you ask me.