Yet more on writing

I just thought of a way to make my novel much better. It took four years to realize this, but that's okay. It's not that it's a major change; just moving something. It'll help get to the point faster.

The beginning really is the hardest. It's when I excite readers or lose them. It's not bad the way it is now, but I think the new way might be better. OR, I might end up putting it back to the way it was (particularly when I hear back from 1 or 2 people who have it in their hot little hands.)


"Caren...I wasn't paying attention to you before, because I normally don't, but what did you say was ready?" - Graphics person
Writing updates

{}Contrary to what it says on Amazon, there is NOT a $4.99 version of Carrie Pilby coming out in September. There was supposed to be, but it got canceled a few months ago, apparently because some mass market paperbacks (the little ones) haven't done so well lately. So don't order that one. I sorta wish it had come out if only because I corrected 7-8 little things in the text, so I would have been pretty happy to have a cleaner copy. But oh well. Of course, it might have been a nice lead-in to the sequel coming out Oct. 27 (just three months from now!)

{}I'm working on short stories for two anthologies, so I'm pretty happy about that. It's been a while since I've focused on my short stories. I've worked on some that have taken me as long as a novel to get right.

{}Speaking of novels, the one I've been working on for four years is now partially in the hands of a few more knowledgeable people who will give me suggestions. And then I hope it will finally be ready to show in early September. It also takes place in fall, so it's perfect. (I'm a big believer in books for certain seasons.)


Woke up, put on clothes, etc.

To clarify about Tuesday's apple: I didn't bite into it, then leave it in the sun...I actually had left my apples in a bag next to the window with the sun shining through, and by the time I ate one, it was baked and actually looked like that inside.

Now, we move on to a new food lesson, which is: Don't eat a squirty tomato over your keyboard.


This Overheard in NY quote made me laugh out loud.
My pal Joel and I both have things up on the Blacklist today. Mine is about English bulldogs. As you can see, the fact that I won't let myself buy one of these adorable mutants is getting to me.
I shouldn't have left my apple in the sun.

The peach is worse.


Oh, and I went through 2.5 packs of gum today.
Woke up, put on clothes, went to work.

Random things:

1. I just got an e-mail from Mrs. Fields cookies saying:

gift the gift of friendship
friendship day is aug 7

Hey, don't I already spend enough on my freaking friends? (Ed. Note: I'm only kidding. It's nice to have excuses to remember people, but I hope this holiday never takes off, because we already have birthdays and stuff. On the plus side, it's a good excuse to send a new passive-aggressive e-mail to someone you have a crush on.)

2. Saw this ad:

Complete guide to great restaurants near you. All cuisines. Reviews too
Discount Sushi Delivery
New & used Sushi Delivery. aff Check out the huge selection now!

What is used sushi? And why would I want some?

3. Dialogue from Sopranos that I like:

TONY: Please! She's old enough to be my mother.
DR. MELFI (looks at him)
TONY: It's just an expression! Don't cream yourself.

Tony is so crude, but I have to agree about these shrinks and their mother issues.

4. Picture of a puggle. http://money.cnn.com/popups/2005/pf/dogs/frameset.exclude.html

Before I get an angry e-mail from my friend Jane, the animal volunteer, I should remind you to adopt a shelter dog.


Not too young, not too old

Sometimes you have to take a few minutes out from being a stuffy grownup. As noted on Sarah's blog, she was able to see New Jersey's Six Flags theme park on Friday for the first time, and we (and our very patient pal Anonymous Bob whom we dragged along) saw teen heartthrob Aaron Carter and some other young pop stars. Say what you want - Carter can sing, dance, rap, and act...yes, he started as a 10-year-old pop star with peppy songs written for him, but hopefully someone will write him a breakout hit, because he works pretty hard. Plus, as Sarah noted, the social interactions of pre-teens are fascinatin' to watch. For proof, check the second photo below.

Before the show:

A.C. (lower right) chats with fans behind the fence

Girls get ready

Sarah and Bob ride the rides I was afraid to ride

This boy can dance

If this entry was not to your liking, check out altocumulus clouds on the barometer blog...and lighten up!!


Some comments on t-shirts.

When I was in eighth grade, I had a "Cats" t-shirt from the play. It was black with two yellow eyes in the upper back. A girl in my homeroom used to say to me, "I dare you to wear that shirt backwards."

A few days ago in New York, I saw a teenage girl walking with her parents. She looked 15 or 16. She was wearing a cut-off navel-showing shirt that said "69" on it.

Random photos of things to be posted tomorrow (not of that girl.)


I have a bunch of e-mails to return. "Now, how come you have time to update your blog and not to e-mail people back?" you ask. Most of these are 3rd or 4th e-mails in a discussion of writing related matters and weren't life or death, but I promise to catch up!

-Couldn't wait, could ya? The Rhino '90s music boxed set, "Whatever," is about to come out!

-Michael Malice referenced Godwin's Law/Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies, which I'd heard of recently but I didn't know had a name. It's the law that says that once an argument devolves into Hitler/Nazi comparisons, the argument is over. Check out the detailed analysis on Wikipedia.

-And yes, I'm still revising.


Hilarity ensues

One of my pet peeves is people who say they don't like Hillary Clinton but never have a good reason why. Their response is usually to wait a few seconds and say, "I dunno...she seems...like a b*tch."
Michael Malice's long-awaited commentary on the phenomenon disputes the argument that she's only criticized because she's a strong woman. He then lists other strong women who aren't subject to the same derision. Well, of course they aren't -- they weren't as public and powerful as Hillary.
Also, Hillary rose to power with her husband, and many decided that it meant she didn't deserve to run anything. As if an intelligent, driven woman with a law degree and years of public policy work should go to waste.
Malice has a rationale for his own dislike for Hill:

"One problem--and this is telling--is that it is impossible to visualize her sitting on a recliner, in pajamas, watching a sitcom and having a beer. She is not a human being in the sense of relaxing and letting her guard down. She is always thinking of The Cause."

People who do things because they believe it's the right thing to do always subject themselves to suspicion and derision by those who can't imagine that one could do something that isn't in self-interest. "Oh, she's into causes." So what? Some of the activists who've worked tirelessly for what seemed like petty causes at first have saved our sorry arses.
As for having a brewsky with Hill, I've heard the same commentary about Al Gore and John Kerry, that they wouldn't make good pals. I don't want our leaders to necessarily be my pal. Bill Clinton might have made a great pal, and the Republicans sure don't like him.
Quiz kids

Tuesday night's Team Trivia game at the Baggott Inn drew some terrific team names. Here's a sampler:

Enemies of Eloise
Gettin' Quizzy Wid It
A Black Guy, A White Guy, A Chinese Guy, A Jew, A Japanese Girl and an Indian Walk into a Bar...
Karl Rove Took a Leak
Nominate Judge Judy!
Jude Law Did 7 Movies Last Year, Did One Nanny This Year
Judge Reinhold for Supreme Court
Roman Polanski Banged My Mom at a Funeral
The Flatulent Four

We gave the "Best Team Name" prize to the Jude Law team. However, we gave a special prize to the black, white, Chinese, Jew team "for all getting along so well."


Some thoughts about sushi.

Sushi chefs have to be precise and delicate with every piece of the roll. Can you imagine doing that all day long?! I know it's an art, but artists get to work on different pieces. I can't imagine standing on your feet and putting together monster rolls all day.

Then again, think of the money that sushi outfits must take in. Charing $12 for some rice and avocado and peaches!

Also, everyone I know uses chopsticks except me. Oh well. I don't want to eat delicately.



Today I went on a hike. I saw a deer

and a bear.

And yes, this was in New Jersey. Also, someone gave me back part of my novel that he made suggestions on, including a helpful change in language.

I tried on sunglasses. Since you can't see yourself well with sunglasses, I took a digital photo to see how I really looked.


The writing life
(hide your eyes if you hate these passages)

It's amazing how dejected I can get into when I have a problem in my book that I'm not sure how to solve. It's not that I get depressed, exactly; more like anxious, because I have to start working through it immediately or I'll just continue to be annoyed. Someone made a suggestion recently and I wasn't sure how to fix it, or whether it should be fixed at all. I didn't want to delete a lot of stuff from the novel if the stuff was actually good, just based on one person's opinion. Then again, I was tired of some of the passages, too...but that could be from reading the book for four years. It's very easy to lose perspective after a while. I could ask my agent about it, but I try to save that for when I really need to, because good agents are usually busy.

But I had the last two days to play with some revisions, and after three-four hours of reading and making notes on the pages, I figured out just what I wanted to do. I felt much better. Now it seemed easier to tackle the other problems of the world, which had seemed worse when I was feeling pissy over not even having my novel to count on.

This could happen again in about a week, but hopefully I'm almost done with major revisions. Of course, if we send it out and editors say, "Do this" or "Do that," I'll be sucked back in.

There are some paragraphs with great description that no longer fit or move the plot along. I hate to kill them, but I put them in my "refuse" file. Someday, I might put them back.

But here is a paragraph I like a lot that's staying in the new novel:

He was soon back among farmland. The sun sprayed its rays
over yellow, dessicated corncobs. Rusted factory equipment
was stashed here and there. The air smelled sweet, and he
held his head back to face the sun.


Woke up! Got dressed! Etc.!


All right, no more of this cork nonsense. Let's get back to what's important.


I just got back from the reading. There were some clever initial readers including Jonathan Ames, and then three bands...but unfortunately, the last few readers got canceled, including Jess and Will Leitch. Still, Ned Vizzini did a great job of putting it all together.


How come no one ever makes weapons out of cork?


I'm going to see some people I know read at this reading tomorrow. There is music in between.
Woke up, put on clothes, etc.


Well, I got some very strong reactions to today's entry.

Sam writes: What? That’s it? That’s all we get? Yadda x3? I feel so cheated. After seeing that self portrait you posted, and now this I'm really starting to worry about you. Where's that "Woke up, put on clothes" girl we used to know and love?

Carl writes: On July 4, 1997, not long after the "yada yada yada" episode of "Seinfeld," I used the yyy in a toast at a friend's wedding reception near Seneca Lake. The next morning, at B&B's throughout the Finger Lakes region, it was voted best toast ever by many who were in attendance.

Wow, I'll have to be more succinct next time.
Yada yada yada.


Quote of the day

"My whole life I was sort of the lonely, outcast, nerdy bookworm, and my parents would say, ‘Just wait until college, you’ll find people like you and you’ll blossom.’ "

Who said it? Give up?

Jennifer Weiner, author of Good in Bed, in a New York Observer article this week. The story also touches on chick lit and the Sittenfeld/Bank review and some other interesting topics.

On a related front, I have this male friend who seems to get annoyed whenever I mention that I'm still revising my book. Well, more than one friend seems to get annoyed...what they don't realize is that even though I've already published two books, getting published again is still a tough challenge just like it is for any other writer. Yes, it helps that I've had two novels published, but the new one still has to be the best it can be when it gets into editors' hot little hands. I care about this project too much to have it be rejected because it was only 90 percent there. I'd rather keep it another two months and get it up to 99 percent. Editors will have their own suggestions anyway.

Tonight I had a great conversation with a friend in the lit business who read the first 50 pages and had more suggestions. They are good suggestions, and they showed a clear perceptiveness of what the book is really about -- but they also mean it will need more work. After four years, I can honestly say that I have a really good handle on everything: Who these characters are, what I'm saying, what happens to them, and the writing that tells the story. I could say that I'm finished now and it'd be partially accurate. But I may have to shift a few things around in the first half, if I end up following this person's wise suggestions. Or I may not...I need the time and perspective to see if it will work. So, if you're a friend and you're annoyed that you asked what I did on Tuesday and my answer was "worked on my book," remember that if it ain't at its best when we sent it out, it ain't gonna fly. That's the business I'm in, and it won't change.


Someone turned me on to the Tyson Chicken AIM robot, which turned out to be a bit of a dud.

Me: are you a robot?
TysonPowerPlates: Hi, I'm the Tyson Power Plates Recipe Buddy. I've got a variety of Tyson quality chicken, beef and pork recipes that are packed with the protein you need to keep you going strong! To read our privacy policy, type privacy anytime.
Me: How are you today?
TysonPowerPlates: I can't find what you are looking for. Please ask me a different way.
Me: Are you finger lickin' good?
TysonPowerPlates: I can't find what you are looking for. Please ask me a different way.

If you are on AIM, you can put Austin Powers on your buddy list and chat with an automated Austin when you're bored. I did just that:

Me: will you marry me?
Austin Powers: Oh behave! ;)
Me: I want you.
Austin Powers: Crikey! That freaks me out!
Me: Have me.
Austin Powers: Why are you telling me to have you?
Me: Because you are sexy.
Austin Powers: Well I'm flattered, but you have to admit that it's kinda strange to think a robot is sexy.
Me: I am strange.
Austin Powers: Fascinating.>>> Find out what this operation is all about, baby. Type "operational orders"!
Me: Operational orders.
Austin Powers: These orders... They're not really operational orders, are they?
Me: What?
Austin Powers: What up?
Me: What up up?
Austin Powers: Have you sussed out everything I know about yet? Type "hq" and see what interests you!
Me: You.
Austin Powers: Me?
Me: Yes, come over.
Austin Powers: I can't do that.>> Tell your friends about me. I love to meet new people.
Me: I will do that on my blog, in fact.
Austin Powers: You'll do that on your Blog in fact? For real?
Me: Yes, Austin.
Austin Powers: Yea.>>> Say 'ello to my partners in crime... fighting! Type "partners"!
Me: partners
Austin Powers: Show them partners love!
Me: OK, I'm not into that. Goodbye.
Austin Powers: Indeed!


- Random photos -

moi (taken myself w/camera backwards)

park in Michigan

for those who love old signs, ala Forgotten New York, these are from forgotten Grand Rapids.

And yes...I'm still revising the novel!

Coming later today: Random photos from the past week.


Mickey writes: I like the part after this when he says to her, "don't worry, I'll haveyou out of that old thing in five minutes anyway"! I wonder what he meantwhen he said that? I guess he had something else for her to put on.

Must be in the deleted scenes.

Being Ernest

Two of my favorite films (North by Northwest and Sound of Music) were written by Ernest Lehman. I often defend the latter against people who saw it when they were young and remember only the syrup and song. The wry wit in the Sound of Music, especially some of the lines spoken by the icy baronness and repressed captain, is pitch perfect, and if you click here you can read some of the best quotes. In fact, I recently used a line of dialogue on someone as part of a conversation, and he incorrectly guessed that it was from a British comedy. It was this, in fact:

NAZI: Captain, you flatter me.

CAPTAIN: How clumsy of me. I meant to accuse you.

When the Sound of Music was on Broadway, Ernest Lehman went to see it in order to consider a screen adaptation. At the time, it was a cutesy show with some great Rogers & Hammerstein lyrics, but not a whole lot more. Lehman saw something in it. He reordered some of the scenes, made the romance more gradual and nuanced, and, with collaboration of course, gave us the Oscar-winning film that opened to dull reviews from the critics but great reviews from fans in 1965.

A year and a half ago, I started thinking of how I should have a "Thank you day" where I take time to write all the fan letters and thank you letters I should have written but never bothered to. I wrote a fan letter to Lehman and cited some of his dialogue that I loved. I didn't expect a response, but I got one. He signed it himself in his shaky handwriting (he was, after all, 88 years old.)

When they used to show the Sound of Music on TV, they would cut a few scenes to get the whole deal down to three hours including commercials. They don't cut the film when they show it anymore (they actually aren't allowed to because in a historic registry). Anyway, below is a classic exchange in the movie that used to be cut (but isn't anymore).

Captain von Trapp: It's the dress. You'll have to put on another one before you meet the children.
Maria: But I don't have another one. When we entered the abbey, our worldly clothes were given to the poor.
Captain von Trapp: What about this one?
Maria: The poor didn't want this one.

From the Hollywood Reporter: Ernest Lehman, the screenwriter whose adaptations of such high-profile Broadway plays and musicals as "West Side Story," "The Sound of Music" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" dominated movie screens during the 1960s, died Saturday at UCLA Medical Center after a lengthy illness. He was 89. Lehman received six Academy Award nominations.

More on this below.


A literary agent who has a great blog just posted a call for purposely bad query letters. Some of them are really funny.
Woke up, put on clothes, etc.

Happy Tuesday! It must be Black Tuesday because I've made the Black List at BlackTable.com. My entry's the third one down. I shouldn't really note that here, since I come off as really snobby and nerdy in it...and, um, I'm not really as snobby as I come off there. Nerdy is another story.


By request

I just took these an hour ago so you didn't have to drive out here and get stuck in traffic. Hope you enjoyed!

Posted earlier today...

I offered my half-sister a $20 cash bounty if she finds out the name of the goat by the end of the summer. Goat being the goat who lives in the back yard of a family near my father's house.

Results of "Goat Watch" to be posted as soon as they come in.

I am nearly done revising the novel. I know you've heard that before. Like, for the last four years. But I was in a hurry before to get it done by summer, when publishing sort of takes a break. So this past April, I got a version done, but it still needed some pruning and molding. Now it's where I wanted it to be.

If only we can find the right place for it. In publishing, there are no guarantees. But I really believe in it now, and I'm willing to fight for it.

Happy Independence Day!