How Married Writers Get That “First Kiss” Feeling

Do you remember that feeling you get when you’re just about to kiss a new girl/boyfriend for the very first time? Or that feeling you get when you’re going up the first steep hill on a roller coaster and you know the really fun, really scary part is right over the top, just a few more inches away?

I get that feeling. All. The. Time.

Trust me, if you’re as happily married as I am (which means first kisses are a thing of the distant past!) and you have little kids (who are still terrified of the really fun coasters), you’ve gotta start writing a new novel.

It’s so fun, it feels naughty.

Yes, I started writing a new novel today. No, I won’t tell you what it’s about. But I’ve been reading Kathi Appelt’s The Underneath, Jerry Spinelli’s Star Girl, and Elizabeth Bunce’s A Curse Dark As Gold. Imagine those three on a spin cycle in the warped mess that is my brain (and add a dash of my not-so-secret fetish for paranormal mysteries) and you might come close to glimpsing my current madness. I love writing. Love it, love it, love it. As in, I’m about 4,000 words in love with my new book already.

Of course, the previous novels are either in revision or in agents’ hands. I’m not loving that part as much.

And what do I hate? Submitting and rejections. Bleah.

In Love with Terry Fator

Oh. My. Goodness.

Did I have fun in Vegas? Yes.
Did I win? No. (You have to play to win, I believe!)
Did I fall in love? Oh, yes.

I fell completely in love with Terry Fator. As in, Simon-Cowell-listening-to-Susan-Boyle in love. As in, Paula-Abdul-talking-to-everyone-who-has-vocal-cords in love.
Have you heard of Terry? I hadn’t seen him perform, since normally I have no life and never watch television (writing, right?), but he won America’s Got Talent a while back. He is just about the best entertainer I have ever seen. He can do dead-on impersonations of anyone, male or female. With his mouth shut.
Because he’s a ventriloquist.
And he’s so cute you just want to hug him.
Here’s a clip.Enjoy!

Mars Needs Moms and more…

I can’t help it! I have to blog one more time before I go to Vegas.

Last night, on my Mother’s Day date (perfect: excellent Thai food, an hour in Borders, and a Star Trek movie filled with eye candy for Moms) I bought two — count ’em! — two hardcover picture books. Full price. All you authors out there, I know you’re loving this.

I couldn’t stop myself. Once you sit in Borders laughing your head off, then crying… you buy those books. (Actually, they kind of ask you to buy them once you cry onto the pages. Weird, huh? Tear stains just add character, I say.)

What books, you may be wondering? For laughing, it was Walter the Farting Dog Goes on a Cruise.
No, I don’t have the other Walter books, but I knew my kids would love the cruise one just as much as I did.

Now, the perfect book for Mother’s Day, for a Mom with sons, is the one that made me cry. Twice. Berkeley Breathed’s Mars Needs Moms.

Of course, you’re gonna go all “Velveteen Rabbit” (or is that “I Love You Forever?”) trying to read it to your kids, but it’s worth it.

So, with that, go to a bookstore, and buy a book or two! And if you get the Mars one, buy a box of tissues as well.

What Happens in Las Vegas…

When I was a little girl, whenever anyone mentioned the words “Las Vegas” around my grandma, she would practically spit out the words, “Trashy town! Trashy people!”
I asked her when she had been to Vegas. She acted like I had asked when she had been a hooker.
“Las Vegas?! I would NEVER go to Las Vegas. Trashy town!” Yadayada.

So when I took Grandma to lunch yesterday for an early Mother’s Day, I didn’t bother to tell her I was going to Vegas on Monday.
Wouldn’t want her to die of shame, right? I mean , she’s 89. The shock could kill her.

And no, I’m not going to gamble. I “lose” enough just submitting my work! So, I’ll be back in a while, ready to post about the den of vice and depravity that will be my home for the next few days….

Hey! One piece of news! I was invited to write a “Kids Cooking”-type column for a new e-zine. I’ll link to the first issue when it happens, which should be in August. Of course, I wrote it with my own special brand of humor….

Idea Factory Time Again

I read a book on creativity a while back, a borrowed one, unfortunately, or I would be able to remember who said that an artist/writer needed to “go for a long walk, and every day, and alone.”
For me, that’s it: how I prime my pump. I can’t go with anyone, not even my dogs. I have to go every day, or I lose the momentum of my imagining.

Yesterday and today, the walk resulted in a story, called “The Outside Music,” which I very much like, even in its rough first draft state. I haven’t read anything exactly like it, and I made it to fit Texas and the American South, so it may be “marketable.” Sigh. I hate thinking of the market when I’m writing, it seems so much like preparing your toddler for a rigged beauty pageant.

But there’s enough saleswoman left in me to know it’s necessary.

Maybe someday it won’t be that way. Pleasant dreams!

(Oh! I did have an idea for an MG or chapter book today about a kid magician who keeps doing tricks that go very wrong and very right! He cuts his brother in half, and can’t get him back together, etc. I think I’ll play with it this weekend. My oldest son has more than enough magic books and tricks for research!)

Here’s a teaser from today’s story, the first few lines — poetic, though lacking references to local flora/fauna:

Once there was a boy who could do something very unusual —
He could be still. Completely still.
And when he was perfectly still, he could listen.
And when he listened, he could hear the music of the Outside.

Unwriting

I don’t mind editing. In fact, I kind of like it, in the way that I like vacuuming: not at all before the fact, but it’s very refreshing to look around afterward and think what a nice clean house you have! Until the kids get off the bus, that is.

I woke up this morning and wondered which project I should work on today. A quick email from the editor at Texas Co-op Power solved that dilemma for me! My essay should (may, might, etc.) be in the September edition, but I need to provide a shortened version. Wait for it…. from 1,500 words down to 900.
(Maniacal laughter on this end.)
So, it’s less like plastic surgery, and a bit more like amputation. “Hold still, this won’t hurt for very long… I just have to cut the heart out.”

No complaining, though. I can’t wait to see this essay in print!
Gotta go chop chop now.
Nikki

My Favorite Lines… This Week!

Happy Monday!

You know there’s nothing like a really long really meandering sermon to get the creative neurons firing! I had an idea yesterday — yes, during the sermon –for another PB. I wrote the first draft this morning. I don’t know what the Spirit is doing, but recently I’ve been writing this lyrical, poetic stuff, in between jags of snarky middle-grade humor — and I LOVE IT!

Although I won’t post the entire manuscripts here, I thought I would give you a teaser. Email me if you would like to see the full text.

My favorite line from The Treasure Nest (today’s draft):

She built it out of twigs and ribbons, peacock feathers and candy wrappers,
buttons from her favorite winter coat, and gleaming silver tape.

My favorite line from Shadow Dance:

“I remember dancing the salsa in a crowd on the streets of San Juan, my arms like streamers before me, my legs so long they stretched into the ocean.
But that is not the tango.”

From “Once Upon A Duhhhh”:

But the next night was the same. His Mom tried to tell one of his favorites, the story about Drew and the Amazing Albatross from Alba, but all that came out was “the Amazing Duhhhhhh.”

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming… and revisions for me (oh, joy).

Peace!

ParentWise:Austin Essay out today!

Hi!

Check out my essay in this month’s Parentwise:Austin magazine! The essays are lovely, so take some time and read them all.

Good Friends

I’m having a friend over today. I would like to say I entertain often because I’m social, and I enjoy my friends’ company, but the truth is I would just as soon meet them for a cup of coffee at Thyme and Dough.

The truth? I invite people over when my house is getting so messy I can’t find things, and the dog hair is piled up in clumps like snowdrifts.

Of course, cleaning takes away from my writing time (grrrr), but when I can’t see the monitor for the dust, it’s probably a good call. Ack! What’s this? Crumbs in my keyboard, rotten little kids…. oh, wait. I think I did that, too.

I think there’s an essay in here somewhere, about generational sloppiness. Given that I once invited my brother over to my house to help boil my dishes clean, I think I have adequate “platform” for this!

I have been very sad today. I found out that a close friend of mine — we met when we were 11, and stayed friends through graduate school! — died in late February. I didn’t know until last night. Her name was Melanie Wilkinson, and she had a voice like cream, a laugh louder than thunder, and was one of the kindest souls we had here. She never made fun of anyone, and she had this way of seeing the good in everything that made you want to try that, too. I sang with her through high school, but I missed her Master’s recital at Texas State University. I was out of town. My brother went, and said it was exquisite. I am sure it was.

I wish I could hear Melanie sing again, and then make her laugh just for the fun of seeing her happy.One of her co-workers said it was like a light went out when she was gone. I wish they could know that she was always like that, from the time she was a little girl. She was always a light to everyone around her.

Let Your Light Shine, Melanie!

Stuttering to Myself

What a marvelous, strange day! I had the great opportunity to hear Jeannette Walls, the author of
The Glass Castle (now moved to number one on my nightstand list, right after I finish Elizabeth Bunce’s A Curse Dark As Gold) speak at a Caritas fundraiser in Austin. My husband Dave was the official photographer, and I volunteered as well. They put me in with the group in charge of selling the artwork done by a support group of formerly homeless women. Of course, I don’t think they knew I did this professionally for years (selling art glass across Texas and Louisiana when I was young and sales rep material)! I have to say, we sold a lot. One piece to me! It’s painted on a skinny cabinet door, very cool. Found art.
Now to the stuttering. For the first time in… ever… I had an idea come together for a story that made me stop, break into a cold sweat, and think “Can I do this?”
I mean, really. I was freaking out, wondering if I could make this fabulous idea rest on the page, retaining its inital impulse and shape.
I have the first draft done. I don’t know if I captured it all, but I tried.
And, for the first time in… ever… it’s not humorous. It’s a picture book where all the main characters are shadows, at night, when they are free to relax and play. It combines my love for Latin dancing with my love for grandmothers. Gosh. I hope I can refine it, and find a home for it someday.