Monday, December 22, 2008

Cool technology? (In which I reveal my secret identity)

Okay, I admit it. Just like Clark Kent and Peter Parker and other extremely cool people, I have a hidden identity. Besides being mild mannered Janette Rallison YA author, I am also Sierra St. James, exotic romance writer. Not that any of my romances were exotic, just my persona as a romance writer is exotic.

I would regularly wear a boa and dangly rhinestone earings, and all of that other glamorous stuff romance writers wear. I would also swish my luxurious auburn curls around my shoulders and lower my lashes while speaking to wry, brooding men. (Okay, I am totally lying about that. I wrote those books in my pajamas and my husband only gets wry and brooding when I inform him that once again we're having cold cereal for dinner.)

Anyway, I haven't been Sierra since 2002, but one of my Sierra books, Time Riders--which is a science fiction LDS romance--is going to be picked up by Deseret Book and rereleased in 2010. (Wahoo! Wahoo!)

DB wanted me to make some changes and one of the things they asked was, "Will you be updating the technology in the book? With all the latest, greatest techno gadgets that materialize these days, are there things in the future setting that don't seem as cool now as they did when you originally worte the book?"

True, I wrote the book in 2001 so a lot has changed since then. When I wrote about a GPS-like device that not only steered cars to their destination, but had an electronic map that showed the destination and the car's progress, I had never seen or heard of a Garmin.

Here is a list of technology that I already have in the book:

1) the time machine (sort of)

2)cell-phone like communicators that can also track where people are (GPS will get us there quickly).

3)Voice activated computers

4)hologram recreational rooms.

5)crystals in their hands which work like credit cards (and also can be used to track them)

6)laser guns, of course! What would the future be without cool laser guns?

7) instead of cars they have community owned pod-like cars on rails that they call whenever they need to go someplace. When they're done with the car it sits there until someone else calls it. People program in their destinations, but because the cars move on rails, there are never car accidents. (I actually think this is a good idea--someone go out and invent this.)

8) I have added restaurant chairs that moniter and tell the diner what their weight, body fat, blood pressure, heart rate, etc are.

Do you guys have any other ideas of cool things you'd like to see in the future?

Let me know!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The other thing that bothers me about a lot of contemporary YA literature.

Okay, I get that the teen years are turbulent , emotional times, and that many teen girls are drawn to drama. I am embarrassed to admit that I, myself was that way as a teen. I even wrote ultra melodramatic (and bad) poetry that I unfortunately shared with a few of my boyfriends. Which is why I always tell budding writers to ABSOLUTELY NOT share your ultra melodramatic and bad poetry with your boyfriends (especially if it rhymes, or sort of rhymes . . . well, you know, assuming that you ignore a few syllable accents here and there).

Because if you actually ever do become a writer you will always be worried that should you get really famous your bad poetry will show up on ebay.

It just isn’t a situation you want to put yourself in.

But even when I was a melodramatic teenager often drowning in self pity and cynicism, I still liked to read cheerful books most of the time. I devoured romances and loved comedies. I did read Go Ask Alice, (Everyone read that book.) and probably a few other edgier books, but truly, if they had all been that way, I would have stopped reading after about the fifth book and never picked up another novel.

Which is why it worries me that all of the non-fantasy YA books I’ve read recently are excessively turbulent, dark, and angsty. I’ve read book after book and not only is the reading material depressing, I’m wondering if all teenagers have awful, horrible lives. Oh and as a corollary, I’ve also learned that guys are basically evil and untrustworthy. Girls aren’t much better—at least not if they are pretty.

I’ve compiled a list of situations that I’ve found in the last oh, about ten high selling YA contemporary books that I’ve read. You may set this to the tune: The Twelve Days of Christmas. (But I will not make you go through all twelve verses.)

On twelfth day of reading, I found in YA literature:
Ten cheating boyfriends/fathers
Five betraying friends
Four drug users
Three fatal car crashes
Three alcoholic, neglectful mothers
Two abusive boyfriends
Two overbearing violent fathers
Two date rapes
Two anorexics
Two undeserved slutty reputations
One unplanned pregnancy
And a suicide.

And mind you, this is the stuff that sells well. Probably better than my books. Which makes me wonder if I’m in completely the wrong genre. Maybe teenage girls just don’t want to read romantic comedies any more. Maybe kids who don’t want angst and edginess stopped reading long ago. Maybe they all just switched to other genres.

Fantasy readers still seem to like happy books. And yes I know there are dark and edgy fantasy novels too, but I imagine if you picked up ten random well selling fantasies they wouldn’t all be that way.

So yeah, I’m definitely thinking about making a full time jump to fantasy. My Fair Godmother was a super fun book to write and it’s already getting great reviews. I think I could be happy doing fantasy.

Monday, December 08, 2008


I currently have a couple of interviews at different sites up. You can check them out at YA Fresh


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Why you should buy a book

I’m going to interrupt my grumblings on the things I don’t like in certain YA books to give you an important message: buy a book. In fact, buy several.

Book publishing has always been an odd business due to the fact that stores are allowed, at the publisher’s expense, to return unsold books. For the sake of example, let’s say a bookstore has 1000 books that it’s paid 10 dollars for, and when they don’t sell, the bookstore returns them to the publisher. Not only does the publisher have to pay the bookstore 10,000 dollars, it also has to pay the shipping—let’s say 200 dollars.

And that’s what has happened a lot in the last couple of months as the bookstores have felt the effects of the recession. One editor’s blog I read said that several publishers saw all their profits from 2008 vanish in October due to returned books.

Now we’re hearing about lay-offs at the publishers and freezes on acquiring new manuscripts. Scary.

So if you’re looking for a gift for someone this holiday season, try a book, a gift card for a bookstore—or even better, one of my books (which as you know from my website, make readers instantly skinny and rich.)

And really, reading is way more fun than that pair of slippers, new tie, or DS game that is all about blowing things up.

Happy reading!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

My pet peeve in fiction

There are many benefits to being a writer, but one of the best is that you can read books and tell everyone that you’re working. I love that. My husband is stuck in meetings and trying to fix overruns and explaining to various branches of the government why his team is behind schedule and I’m lying in bed reading. Yep, it’s hard work.

The Bow-tied One is an especially cool editor because he sent me over a dozen bestselling books that he thinks I should read. (The message apparently being: figure out what these authors are doing and then do it.)

When I got his package full of books I clutched them to my chest and murmured, “I love this job!”

I’ve read five of them now. I will not tell you the titles or the authors because I’ve pretty much hated them all.

One of them read like a handbook on how to have sex. Seriously, it even gave instructions on how to put on a condom. Is that really necessary? Don’t the boxes come with directions? Unfortunately there were no instructions on how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases; in fact, there was no mention of them at all.

I have to call my fellow writers (for both books, TV, and movies) out on this subject. It’s irresponsible to pretend like STDs don’t exist. According to some research I did for one of my Sierra St. James novels, 80% of sexually active people over the age of 14 years old have at least one STD. 50% of these people have genital warts—which condoms don’t prevent. Ditto for Herpes, which one in five people have. At first when I ran across these figures I thought they couldn’t be accurate. They sounded way too high. I actually even called two STD hotlines to find out what the real numbers were.

And those were fun calls.

Me: Hi, um, I’m an author doing research for a novel and I wanted to ask you a few questions . . .

Them: Yeah, yeah. You’re calling for a friend. We know. What are your symptoms?

Each time, they confirmed the numbers—80% of sexually active people have STDs. I still couldn’t believe it so I called my obstetrician. And yep, he confirmed the numbers too.

If 80% of people had any other ailment (and there is no cure for many STDs) we wouldn’t be silent about it. We would be warning people night and day. But when was the last time you read or watched any story where this issue was addressed in any fashion?

James Bond? Yikes, I hate to think what he has. Sam Malone of Cheers? Even worse. I’ll admit that one of my favorite TV shows ever is Frasier and I can’t count how many different women he slept with during the show. All with no consequences. That is not real life, and we shouldn't pretend that it is.

And then there’s AIDs. How many millions of people has that killed? I have a friend who’s a drug rep and does work in some of the African nations. In one of the countries he visited, 40% of the population had HIV. That’s almost half the people.

Look at the houses on your streets. Think of the people at your work, at your classroom, that crowd at the football stadium--can you imagine if 40% of them had a deadly disease?

That could be our nation if we aren’t careful, if we aren’t responsible, if we don’t let kids know that yes, they too are at risk.

Okay, this blog has gone on for too long. I’ll let you know the problem I had with the other books next blog.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gaston/ fire alarm update

A few of you have been asking for updates about my oldest son, code name: Gaston, because there's no one as burly and brawny and he’s got biceps to spare.

Let me tell all of you women who don’t have children yet—having boys is not something for the faint hearted. Boys do not think like we do. And they enjoy destroying things. Sometimes it is just better not to know what they’re doing.

Like the time when Gaston was in third grade and he told me he got in trouble for doing back flips off the swings. While they were moving.

Me: Why in the world did you do that?
Him: The other kids always want me to do it. They think it’s neat.
Me: realizing that this is something he’s done many times Aaah!

Another example is when his scout leader told me, “Do you know that Gaston can climb all the way up a lamp post?”

Double Aaah! I didn’t need to know that.

Another thing boys like is playing with fire.
Here is a picture of Gaston and his friend T-man igniting something with a Bunsen burner. (I didn’t take this picture; T-man’s parents did. They have all boys so they’re used to this sort of thing.)

So the other day while I was typing away, I heard a ruckus downstairs and words like “Fire” and “extinguisher” being thrown around by Gaston and my husband.

These are not words you really want to hear as you’re busy typing. By the time I reached downstairs it was completely filled with smoke.
It turns out Gaston was cooking up a smoke bomb on the stovetop. Apparently some part of the recipe requires you to caramelize sugar. Unfortunately Gaston caramelized it to the point that it turned into an inferno, effectively setting off the smoke bomb in my kitchen.

Here is a picture we took a few minutes afterwards in the living room. We had to open all the windows and completely air out the downstairs.
And despite the fact that we replaced the smoke detector the last time we had a "caramelizing issue" in the kitchen, the alarm still didn’t go off.

That's good to know, right?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Embarrassing stories contest winner

Okay, let me say right off that I'm embarrassed at how long it's taken me to post the embarrassing stories and the contest winner. And actually they were all posted about a month ago, but when my daughter added them to my website it caused the website to split in half, and then her computer crashed and she couldn't fix it.

I didn't really want to draw anyone's attention to my oddly formatted website but now my dear friend Marsha has fixed it (Way to be techno-savvy, Marsha!)here's the news:

The winner is: Cheryl S.

Here is her story:

When I was a senior in high school (at least 11 years ago, give or take a few months), I had the privilege of being voted as one of the representatives of our youth government group. This was good, because it meant a trip to our State Capitol (which was Boise. Quick, what state am I from? Anyone? Anyone?). Hundreds of high-schoolers from around the state took over the Capitol building in mock Senate, House of Representatives, and Judicial sessions.

It was great! We passed our fake laws, voted, created caucuses, etc. For two days, our lives revolved around debates, the mock "media", and seeing which high school had the most controversial bill. I happened to be in the House of Representatives. I had borrowed my best friend's incredible "power suit" for the occasion, and I did a pretty good job debating for and against various bills in front of hundreds of peers and dozens of teachers.

On the last morning of bill-passing, one particular bill came up for debate that caused quite a stir. It was a bill wanting to put condom machines in high school bathrooms. Both sides were very heated. As a conservative virgin (and yes, this is important to note), I was against the bill. I heard several people stand and declare that it was about freedom of choice and/or preventing pregnancy, since "everyone will do it anyway". One person against the bill stood and spoke about how "30 STDs could still pass through a condom", etc.

Fired up by the debates, I stood up. "Mr. Speaker!" I yelled. "The House recognizes so-and-so from whatever!" (that's me; and no, he didn't say "whatever", but I digress). I stood up and said:

"Thank you. I rise in negative debate. As Representative So-and-So stated, over 30 STDs can still pass through a condom. See, Condoms do not necessarily make sex any better....wait...wait..." My mind went blank. What did I just say?

Soon the entire room was roaring with laughter. The teachers, some of whom were listening via microphones in the other room, were laughing. The audience up in the balcony (consisting mostly of high school students from the Senate and Judicial Court) were laughing. I finally realized what I had said and yelled "Safer! I meant Safer!" And then sat down, completely humiliated.

Luckily, I had a sense of humor and could laugh with them --even when some started calling out "How do you know!" Oh, the joy.

Thanks Cheryl, it's nice really, to know that I'm not alone in embarrassing myself.

Oh, and honorable mention goes to Chuck, the golfing librarian, for the sheer number of embarrassing stories he's shared on my blog. We are kindred spirits, Chuck.

For the many people who contributed great stories but still didn't get a free book,(you check out stories on my web page) have no fear. My Fair Godmother comes out in January and Just One Wish comes out in March so I will be running more contests then.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Faking It

The bow tied one read over my blog entry on the subject and his favorite title pick is: Faking It. So AzLang, remind me to send you a book when it comes out. (I will try to remember this myself, but as my memory is frequently out bowling with my muse, it is not the most reliable entity.)

Of course, who knows what the marketing department will decide as far as the title. Just One Wish started out as My Life as a Teenage Genie, briefly flirted with the title: The Rules of Wishing, then went to Last Wish, then went to When You Wish Upon a Movie Star, and finally settled on Just One Wish.

I am not hard to please when it comes to titles. Covers, on the other hand send me over the edge. Often times you can find me huddled in a corner weeping over my cover art and muttering, "You can't judge a book by its cover, but people always do!!"

Really, just don't get me started on that subject.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I sent off the first draft

For those of you who are devoted followers of my blog (Hi Mom!) you know that I was supposed to be done with my first draft of my next manuscript by the end of August. It's still August, right?

Well, okay, the end of August was always a long shot. I'm simply not one of those authors who can write a book in two weeks or a month. I never even try during National Write a Book in a Month. (Who are these people and do they ever shower?)

Anyway, after four months of not cooking dinner and wholing up in my room during every free moment, I'm finally done with the first draft.


I lovingly patted it's pages (well, electronically anyway)and sent it off to the bow-tied one last night. I'm sure he will slaughter it with post haste and send me back the bleeding entrails to fix.

When we last talked on the phone about it, one of the first things he asked me was whether it was going to make him cry. I keep telling him that I write romantic comedies and people aren't supposed to cry during those, but he doesn't buy it. Since I wrote Just One Wish for him, he wants tears.

Actually, I'm sure it will make him cry--although maybe just because it wasn't what he wanted after all and he had to wait four months for it.

We'll see.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What would you call it? The working title

The bow-tied one has asked me on several occasions what I'm calling my new manuscript. (Which still isn't done--but I have written 54,000 words. Of course of those 54,000 words, approximately 3 will remain standing by the time revisions are done, so I don't even feel close to done at this point.)

Apparently editors like to know title information so they can put it in contracts and use it when talking to the other people at the publishing company. I usually have some sort of title. I mean, I've got to call the manuscript something so I can find it again on my computer after Vista tries to bury it in the bowels of some obscure file where I will never be able to retrieve it. Vista is just like that.

So the name I'm using on my computer is: New, new, new, novel for Tim. Really. It started out as novel for Tim but then got 'new's added every time I completely scrapped the thing and started over. Yeah, this hasn't been my easiest novel to write.

Anyway, despite the fact that he should be honored that I put his name in the title, the bow-tied one has not taken to the title: New, New, New Novel for Tim. He wants me to come up with something else.

I am really drawing a blank. I thought maybe I could do a take off on The Prince and the Pauper, and call my book: The Prince and the Pop star, but I'm sort of afraid that no one would make the connection and they'd just think it was a book about royalty, which it's not. (The prince would be referring to the hot guy lead who is also a rock star and is thus the Prince of Rock.)

It's a book about a girl who, in her quest to meet her father, impersonates a famous teen rock star. And yes, she does fall in love with rock star guy who doesn't know who she really is.

Since you guys did such a great job with producing song lyrics, I'm confident someone out there will come up with a brilliant title. Or at least a really bad title so I can laugh about it.

Suggestions anyone?

If you come up with the title that the all-powerful marketing department actually likes, I'll send you a free copy of the book when it comes out.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Stupid song lyrics

In my current work in progress (I'm at 50,000 words but I still have a few scenes to write and then the whole thing to revise. Thankfully, the bow-tied one is being patient.) the main characters are teen pop stars. At one point I have the guy write a song for the girl called: Give First Impressions a Second Chance.

I keep thinking that I should put in a few lyrics because after all he does sing it to her. But here's the thing. I'm lousy with song lyrics. I had to put in song lyrics in Revenge of the Cheerleaders and no matter how long I worked on them they always sounded stupid. (They were supposed to be a little cheesy, but still.)

The thing is, most song lyrics sound stupid without the music. Really. Here are a few song lyrics from popular songs of the past that I'm pulling off of the top of my head (because I'm too lazy to google them).

She loves you, yeah,yeah, yeah. She loves you, yeah yeah yeah.

Hey Mickey you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind, hey Mickey.

I believe in miracles. Where did you come from, you sexy thing?

And the possible all time stupidest song lyrics: Some one left the cake out in the rain, and I don't know if I can take it, cause it took so long to bake it, and I'll never have the recipe again!

I'm not totally mocking stupid song lyrics. I mean, I just bought a song from Itunes which starts out: Uga chacka uga uga uga chacka. Uga uga uga chacka, Really, it does that for ten seconds before normal lyrics start. And it's a great song. Check out Hooked on a Feeling, if you've never heard it.

But the point is, I'm clearly not equipped to write song lyrics if even popular song writers frequently come up with stupid ones.

If anyone out there is a budding lyricist (is that a word?) feel free to send me some good ones about how if you judge people by first appearances you're likely to miss out on love. This song should be a duo. Nothing sappy.

Otherwise I may have to revert to stealing the Uga chacka lyrics.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I always suspected as much

I have often asserted that anything would taste good if it was dipped in chocolate first. Really, you could take a pair of old shoelaces, cover them in peanuts and carmel with a dark chocolate coating and instant: Mmmmmmm.

I have a Russian friend who came to visit me not long ago. She knew I loved chocolate and knew I had five children so she bought me all sorts of Russian candy. We had no idea what any of it was, but ate it most willingly anyway.
This one was a particular favorite. It turns out that it's chocolate covered prunes. Yeah, prunes, those things my kids refuse to touch. They went pretty fast once they were covered in chocolate.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fashion and the author

I admit that I'm a fashion dropout. This is one of the perks of being an author. You can hang out in your pajamas flipping popcorn into your mouth while you work. What could be better?

But I do have to go out every once in awhile, so occasionally I find myself perusing the racks at the mall, wondering what is 'in fashion' and what I can wear without looking like I'm trying to be sixteen. It's hard to buy anything in the big, loud prints that are popular right now. I still remember making fun of those after they went out of fashion the last time.

And besides, I don't trust fashion designers. I think secretly they are like the tailors in the story of The Emperor's New Clothes and they just come up with outlandish things to see if they can make people look like fools.

"Ha ha," they laugh in their fashion designer lairs, "We make people look ridiculous and they pay us large amounts of money for it! What can we get them to wear next?"

You don't believe me? Take a look at some of these recent outfits that probably cost more than your mortgage payment. (And no, these pictures didn't come from the worst-dressed issue of some magazine. These are straight out of the September 22nd issue of People magazine.) Apparently the celebrities were proud of these outfits.

Here is Anne Hathaway in a dress which was obviously inspired by a Hershey's kiss: (Well, fashion designers have to eat something while they design . . .)

Here is Christina and a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen. A word of warning to all other celebrities who may be tempted to wear this sort of thing: Video of Lucy Lawless singing the national anthem when her arms went one way and her strapless top went another are still floating around the Internet.

This is obviously a castoff costume from the old Buck Rogers show. Watch out Martian warriors, Beyonce has joined forces with Twiki.

And lastly, here is Victoria Beckham sporting the latest craze: Sponge Bob Orange dress.

Now don't you feel better about your wardrobe?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'm coming to the Tempe Library this Saturday

No this isn't an announcement of my next run to the library to check out books. I'm doing one of my school visit presentations at the Tempe Public Library at 3:00, Saturday, September 27th.

I'd love to see any and all of you! (Read between the lines: please don't make me go through the library grabbing strangers to drag into my presentation so it looks like I have fans.)

Tempe Public Library
3500 S. Rural Road
Tempe, Arizona 85282

3:00, Saturday September 27th

Thursday, September 18, 2008

If you've ever felt like you couldn't compete with super models, read this:

I was all set to post a blog about fashion and the average author (some of you may think that's an oxymoron) but last night I was at a talk that just blew me away, so I have to blog about that instead.

It was a self esteem workshop for the young girls at my church, and I must admit I only went because mothers were invited and I didn't want my daughter to be the only one whose mother didn't show.

I am so glad I went.

The statistics they told us were staggering. Did you know that only 2% of women worldwide feel beautiful? By the time girls hit 12 years old 57% of them hate their bodies. One in four 12 year old girls think they are fat.

I can't remember all of the statistics because there were too many, but each one basically told the same story: Society relentlessly tells women that we are not good enough the way we are. We are subjected to an average of 3,000 adds a day. We will spend an average of three years (Three years!!) of our lives watching commercials, and all of us know what we see in those adds. We see perfect faces and bodies. The models not only don't have flaws, they don't have pores.

None of us can measure up to that. How can we help but feel bad about ourselves?

Oh here's another scary fact. The average model 30 years ago was 5'8 and 132 pounds. Now the average model is 5'10 and 110 pounds. Hello, that's concentration camp skinny. Should that really be the standard we weigh ourselves against?

Why do advertisers do it?

The theory they told us last night is that advertisers want us to feel bad about ourselves so that they can sell us the fix. If only we'd use their clothes, make up, hair products--whatever, then we'd be as beautiful as the models.

But here is the horrible secret: Even the models themselves aren't as pretty as their pictures. (You can tell how worked up I am about all of this because of all the italics I'm putting in here.) The average cover of a beauty magazine costs 60,000 dollars to digitally fix and enhance. The pictures inside run about 5,000 each.

Watch this video from Dove, and see how the advertisers/magazines do it. Really. Watch it. You'll never look at those photos in the same way again.

PS--I've just realized I can stop trying to be beautiful all together. I just need a good photoshop program.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The good school visits

I thought to balance the last story of Alene's bad school visit, I’d blog about a good one. The problem: I’ve had so many good visits that it’s hard to choose just one.

There was Shepherd Junior High in Mesa, Arizona where one of the girls told me that she hadn’t been able to sleep the night before because she was so excited that I was coming in. I felt like Santa Claus.

There was Wy’ East in Oregon where two teachers sold snacks out of their classrooms to pay for my visit. That’s dedication. I really hope I was worth all of the beef jerky.

There was San Manuel High in Arizona where I overheard the principal talking with one of the teachers about the difficulty in paying the school’s air conditioning bill—it was humbling to realize how much they were struggling financially, and yet they’d paid for an author to come in to try and inspire their kids to read and write.

Ditto for San Rafael in Ferron, Utah, a town so small they didn’t have a bookstore, but I could tell how much the community and librarians cared about getting the kids to read.

But the school I want to blog about is Estrella Middle school, perhaps because like the school in Alane’s bad school visit story, it too was a school full of at-risk students. In fact, the first thing I saw when I drove up to the school was a big sign that said, “We beat the odds!”

I’m always a little nervous when I do school visits because you never know what to expect. I have these paranoid fears that a) the school forgot I was coming b) I’ve come on the wrong day and was supposed to be here yesterday or c) my powerpoint presentation won’t work on the school’s computer, and I will spend the entire day making shadow puppets on the screen.

So I was my usual nervous self and the librarian told me that a couple of my classes were filled with kids who were just learning English. Then I was really nervous because a lot of times it’s hard to keep the kids' attention when they understand what I’m saying, what would it be like if they didn't understand me?

It turns out I shouldn’t have worried. Every single class at this school was great. The kids were creative, enthusiastic, and respectful. One boy gave me a story he had written to read over lunch. It was so sweet--not the story, (which as I recall had a hot girl and exploding buildings) but it was so sweet that this boy was writing and he wanted me to look at it. I was that way in sixth grade too. I’m sure if he keeps at it one day he’ll be a published author.

Another boy told me that I should write his story. You could tell he felt passionately about it. He said, "People don't realize what we had to go through to come to this country." You know how sometimes in life somebody says something and you know it will stick with you forever? That’s what it was like when he said this to me.

He was eleven years old and I have no idea what he went through to get to this country.

Afterward I talked to the librarian about him. I told her to talk to his parents and if they agreed, he could tell me his story and I'd consider writing it.

But the parents never answered back. Maybe they thought they'd get in trouble with the law if they were telling an author how they sneaked into the country.

Anyway, it was one school I’ll always remember. I hope the kids I met there do beat the odds.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Guest blogger: the bad school visits

I’m on a list with some other authors and the subject of school visits came up. First off, I want to say that 99% of all the school visits I’ve done have been great. The teachers have been wonderful and accommodating and the kids have excited but respectful.

However, I have to say I always get a kick out of hearing other author’s bad school visit stories. Alane Ferguson shared a couple with me that are worth passing on to all of you aspiring writers out there. In speaking about why free school visits aren’t always the best thing for authors to do, she wrote:

I had a personal revelation when I went to my old elementary school and spoke for free. First, they forgot I was coming. Next, they made me pay for my *&^%$#@ school lunch. And then last but not least, teachers stood up in the middle of my assembly (sorry, but we've got early recess) and ushered a third of the little darlings out of my assembly while I had the mike in my hand. They actually turned out the lights on me while I was packing up my things.

First I called for help, and then I had to go and find the switch in the complete dark - I must have fumbled around for a full five minutes. I'm SUCH a celebrity!

That also reminds me of another horror speaking trip I had, this time in Texas. I was placed in an auditorium with middle-school kids from an inner inner INNER city. First, when I met the small group in the library, the kids would ask me questions, but their accent/street talk was so thick I kept turning to the library lady, pleading, "What did he/she say?" (At times it was hard to tell who/what was asking the question.) And she'd have to TRANSLATE for me! I felt like I was in that old 'Airplane' movie where I had to turn to the Beaver's mom who says, "Pardon me, I speak jive." It was so embarrassing!

So then all of the teachers left me with these kids who looked like were posing for mug shots. I really mean that ALL the teachers left, as in they were gone to their own teacher party. When the bell rang the kids filed out and then the same kids came back and sat down, which I figured out when they started repeating my lines back to me during my second presentation. So I'm looking around for help, and there was none - the kids were just dumped with me for two more hours until the last bell. I was doing sock-puppet tricks by the end. Oh, and the principal, when he showed up, was armed, if that gives you a hint.

And I swear to you on all that is Holy, the librarian, who drove me home, told me she was into all kind of kinky things with the principal, who apparently had no principles. I found out w-a-a-a-y too much about whips and chains and all kind of unmentionable things. Talk about overshare! I did not want to KNOW! I kept staring out the window muttering "I'm from Utah, please stop.”

I could not get out of that car fast enough.


Janette popping in again. Okay, Alane's story made me laugh until I cried. (Which just goes to show you the kind of supportive friend I am.) If any of you authors out there can top this school visit story, I want to hear it!

Monday, September 01, 2008

I've made it! . . . well, sort of . . .

Okay, remember how I said in a blog long ago that I would know I'd made it when Mattel created a Barbie doll of one of my characters? Well, I was flipping through my latest Barbie doll catalog and low and behold what do I see but this picture:

Look at that long pink hair and the gaudy accessories. Clearly this is Chrysanthemum Everstar from My Fair Godmother, (See the picture in my last blog) which means that my book and character must have reached the same fan level status as Elvis and Priscilla, Lucy and Ethel, the cast of Grease, and Batgirl, who are also in the catalog.

I am officially cool.

Okay, so Mattel didn't know they were making a Barbie doll likeness of one of my characters. She's actually one of their designer series Barbies. This one is by Tarina Tarantino. (Don't you just want to rush out and buy something of hers?) And because she's a designer Barbie, she costs twice what the normal collector Barbies cost, and I'm going to have to shell out 80.00 if I want to own one. (It's basically the same principle involved in buying designer jeans.)

I sooo bet that Priscilla Presely got a free copy of her doll.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

New releases

Here are my new babies due out early next year.

Photobucket Photobucket

Neither of them is dedicated to Orlando Bloom or his dog.

Monday, August 18, 2008

How to make an impression on a panel

So I just got back from the children's book panel at Changing Hands. There was a nice crowd, good questions, and fun people on the panel with me. Afterward as I sat chatting with people and signing books I felt like such a professional. A real author. And then one of my friends told me that my fly had been open the whole time.

Yeah, I'll never run out of embarrassing stories.

Speaking of which I should be updating my website next week (translation--my daughter's coming home from college) and I'll put up the stories from my embarrassing moments contest.

Stay tuned!

Event tonight at Changing Hands

Okay, granted, I know I should have posted this announcement um, sooner than four hours before the event. But if you happen to be in the Tempe, Arizona area and you want to write for kids, here's a free event you'll want to check out.

Time: Monday, August 18, 2008 7:00 p.m.
Location: Changing Hands Bookstore

6428 S McClintock Dr
Tempe, AZ 85283
McClintock at Guadalupe


Explore the writing, marketing, and publishing process of creating first-rate children's literature with authors J. S. Lewis (The Fall of the Templar), Janette Rallison (How to Take the Ex Out of Ex-Boyfriend), Robert Mesta (Condor: Spirit of the Canyon) and freelance magazine writer Sara Fujimura. Joining them is Christianne Meneses Jacobs, editor and founder of Iguana, a bilingual magazine for children. Panel moderated by Changing Hands Bookstore’s children’s book buyer Brandi Stewart.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

My Wonderful editor

Okay, I have to give major kudos to the bow-tied one. In fact, I take back all of those things I'm going to say about him during my next book's revisions. He asked me a long time ago who I wanted to blurb my book and the first name I said was Ellen Conford.

Right now Ellen Conford is best known for her Jenny Archer and Annabel the Actress series but back when I was growing up she not only wrote middle grade novels she also wrote some dang funny Young Adult books. She was hands down my favorite author. I loved reading about her quirky heroines because they always made me laugh. I pretty much wanted to be her when I grew up. In fact, after I'd written my first national market novel, Playing the Field, Tim mentioned that my main character didn't have a last name and needed one. So I gave my character the last name of Conford in her honor.

Now the thing about Ellen Conford is that she is not easy to get a hold of. Go ahead and try to google her. She doesn't have a website. I know it took Tim a long time to get a hold of her and even longer to get her to read my book and blurb it, but he did--and SHE DID!!!! (Those are exclamation points of a rabid fan. Imagine me waving my hands around and squealing.)

Here is what she said about my next book for Tim, Just One Wish.

Rallison's manuscript was a pleasant surprise, humorous and unsentimental in spite of its serious underpinnings. I especially appreciated the scheming and machinations the girls devise to see Steve Raleigh. . . With sympathetic characters and a charming teen aged hunk I think that Janette Rallison's book will appeal to many young teenagers.

I am so going to put this quote somewhere on my website. And there will probably be dancing cats or something surrounding it just to draw people's attention to it. Because yeah--how cool am I--my idol liked my book. Wahoo!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Pictures from my daughters that make me nervous

Lately I've been getting pictures from my daughters that make me . . .well, just a tad bit concerned.

Here are a series of drawings that my youngest daughter drew in comic book like procession. As you can tell they are pictures of her happily riding her bike singing, "La La La" when along comes her older brother, humming, and runs her down with a car. We, her parents, look on in horror. Her older brother does not drive the car, by the way, nor has he ever made plans to flatten her. At least not that I know about.

One just wonders if her teacher is reporting us to CPS.
Scene 1

Scene 2

Scene 3

Scene 4
I have to say the expressions on her drawings are quite good. I actually look like this drawing sometimes. She obviously takes after middle daughter who surpassed my drawing skills in about third grade.

Then here are pictures of my oldest daughter falling to the earth. Yeah, that's a little bit scary.

Skydive with Hawaii

Thursday, July 24, 2008

STDev and book update

I just had to let you all know--because I know you're awaiting the news as eagerly as you're awaiting the next Twilight book--that I got an A- on my STDev test, which gave me an A- in the class.

I am clearly not the perfectionist that I was in college the first time, because that minus sign only bugs me a little. (Stupid little minus sign.)

Still, for the moment, I am a straight A student. I will enjoy it for this one class streak. Yep. It feels good.

Oh, and speaking of updates, I'm on 10,905 words of the new novel. I'm trying not to get discouraged about the many words I have left to write. After all, you eat an elephant one bite at a time.

Of course, if you were really trying to eat an elephant one bite at a time he would probably stomp on you and gore you with his tusks. In a lot of ways, this is just like writing, so the metaphor works doubly well.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

On the other hand, maybe college isn't such a good idea

Here is a confession: I never finished college. I meant to, but after my husband graduated and we moved to Arizona, it just became one of those goals that went on the back burner. I always said I'd go back when all the kids went to school, but hey, then I turned into a writer and there just didn't seem to be the need or the time to go back.

But last year was frustrating in a lot of ways. A few bad days as an author and I found myself surfing the Internet for other career possibilities. Another bad day and I actually sent in an application to a university, then bam another bad day and I registered for an online course.

I didn't take it--the no time thing hadn't changed--and so a couple of weeks ago they sent me a reminder letter that the deadline was coming up.

Well, I'd already paid for it, and really I always did want to finish my degree, so I buckled down and got it done. It's a one credit required course called Student Developement 100 and is basically about how to become a successful student.

On the website the class is listed as STDev 100, but somehow my mind skipped over those lower case e and v and I've been referrring to it as STD 100, which might not have been so bad except that I just had to go to the testing center to take the final.

And yes, I did go to the desk and tell the lady that I was there for my STD 100 test.

And no, I didn't realize how that sounded until she gave me this shocked sort of look, like I was entirely in the wrong place and if it was my 100th test then maybe I just needed to choose a different lifestyle.

Then I quickly told her that I meant Student Developement 100.

See, this is why I'm never going to run out of embarrassing stories for my books.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The evil new computer

We got a new computer. It was time. The last one was so old and slow that the other computers just laughed at it whenever it went on the Internet. The problem is that the new computer now has Vista.

"Why in the world did you buy a computer with Vista when you know I hate Vista?" I asked my husband, aka Techno-Bob.

My laptop has Vista. I think the word Vista is actually just one of those scrambled words that really means: Is Vat. This is fitting because anything I type on my laptop sooner or later disappears into a vat-like black hole where I can't retrieve it. And don't even bother using the search function on Vista. If you type in the words: Proposal for ARA, you are never going to find your proposal for ARA. It will bring up three hundred documents whose titles are not Proposal for ARA but that somewhere in the body use the words, Proposal, for, or some part of ARA.

I could go on and on about Vista, like how it took me about a year to find the insert ruler button amongst all the web layout, switch windows, and Macros buttons. (I don't know what any of those buttons do or why they are on my computer.) My last novel looked like it was typed on a PowerPoint slide until I was halfway through it. Really. It's just so annoying.

My husband knows how I feel about Vista because I have threatened to turn my laptop into an expensive Frisbee, many many times.

So then he told me, "The new computer has Vista because they all have Vista now."

I am not much of a conspiracy theory person, but I know this is a conspiracy--probably by aliens who are trying to permanently cripple the computer-using workforce. Or maybe just some horrible joke Bill Gates is playing on us.

Now the computer is refusing to spellcheck my emails. It says, "This language is no longer available for spellcheck."

I wonder if it would spellcheck my emails if I wrote them Lebanese. I may have to resort to that.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Starting a new book

My editor, AKA the bow-tied one, asked me to send him plot ideas for my next novel. "They don't have to be fully developed," he told me. "Just any ideas that you think are good."

So I sent him several plot ideas complete with beginnings, middles, and ends.

He didn't choose any of those. In fact, he chose one that I don't actually remember writing. It was a one sentence thing that I threw in for some reason (probably to show him I was trying to be versatile)which had no beginning, middle, end, conflict, or story question.

So that's what I've been working on. I wrote the first five thousand words, changed them, and have now thrown them away. I started over again yesterday and am now two thousand words into it.

Moral of the story: Do not send your editor one sentence story premises just to show that you can be versatile. Versatility, it turns out, is way overrated.

He called to talk to me about the new plot, giving me many instructions and I would tell you everything he had to say about it, except that in the middle of the conversation he said, "And I don't want to see any of these things I'm telling you on your blog."

"You won't," I said, "because you never read my blog."

He paused then said, "Yeah, but I make my assistant read it, and she flags it for me every time you mention me."

So now I'm considering randomly inserting the word: Tim into every blog just so he'll have to read them all. And by the way: Hi Shauna! I hope you like my blogs. Call me later so we can talk about Tim behind his back.

(Note to Tim: Just kidding. Please do not tell any more large crowds that I skip out on paying my parking fees.)

Anyway, I'm supposed to have the new book done by the end of August. The way things are going it may not be done until August 50th or so.

Manuscript update: 4,580 words written. Aproximately 45,000 to go.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Haiku, Low-ku, and chocolate

I forgot to add one thing about my class at BYU, and that was the Low-ku contest. (Haiku that is low on the poetic scale.) I thought Mike in my class wrote the best Low-ku poem. He was simply robbed when he didn't win the contest, so as a consolation prize I am posting his poem here where it will be seen by (according to statcounter) approximately five hundred viewers this week. Of course also according to statcounter many of these viewers will be from countries that don't actually speak English,so I'm not sure why they are stopping by my blog. Oh well, everyone is welcome here and if I knew how to say that in Portuguese and Chinese I would.

By Mike Blakesley

Boogidee the bird
flew by Tansy the bird dog.
We still find feathers.

This, according to Mike is a true story.

On a heavier note--heavier because I'm completely switching topics and now speaking about all the calories I've consumed lately--I'm returning to Arizona tomorrow. I've been traipsing around the Oregon and Utah for the last three and a half weeks and basically eating like I've been living on the Good ship Calories-don't-matter-so eat-whatever-tastes-good.

Seriously, I don't think I've ever eaten so many deserts and stuff. There is a tub of chocolate covered raisins upstairs in my mother's kitchen which I keep returning to like some sort of homing pigeon. Through constant use, I've rubbed off some of the lettering on the tub so that it now reads: Chocolate sins. And yes they are.

Reality and bran flakes will come tomorrow. Tonight there are more chocolate sins to be devoured.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

My fab Utah trip part two and the famous guy

Janette Rallison and some wonderful, marvelous, incredibly talented writers.

After hanging out with Shannon Hale and her fab entourage, I went to BYU to teach at an annual writer's workshop. And really, I don't know when I've had so much fun. Writers are great to hang out with because they totally get me. Not only that, I can go on and on about the sins of misusing point of view or faulty motivation and people actually care about what I'm saying. They write it down. (As opposed to my husband and kids who try to block me out.)

Carol and Cherie, who were in charge of the conference were hilarious. I will never forget them dancing around Stephen Fraser in sunglasses to the song Secret Agent Man. And I'm sure Stephen won't forget it either. Rick Walton and Will Terry ought to be comedians. I want copies of their presentations to cheer me up every time I get to down about this business. I won't detail the entire staff--but they were all wonderful.

Also, it's great to bounce ideas off of other writers. When I was critiquing my class's manuscripts I think I tried to add romance subplots to all of them. So you're writing sci-fi story about the end of the world? It could use a little romance. A coming of age, character driven novel, about a girl coming to terms with her mother's abandonment? Add a neighbor boy. And some raccoons. Because raccoons are really cute and kids love them.

I think I gave the class all my best ideas.

We had lots of fun, and I hadn't anticipated how hard it was going to be to say goodbye to my class. I miss them already, and I want to know how all of their stories turn out.

So Amy, Julie, Susan, Melinda, Laura, Lisa, Elizabeth, Mike, Darlene, Kaye, Kristi, Jared, and Erin, (am I forgetting anyone?) when you get published, I want to know!

Oh, and one more thing--I told my class that I had used Orlando Bloom's name in a shameless attempt to get more hits on my blog. They didn't approve of my methods. They suggested that instead of simply writing Orlando Bloom, Orlando Bloom, Orlando Bloom over and over again that I should write: Shirtless Orlando Bloom, Shirtless Orlando Bloom, Shirtless Orlando Bloom. (You can tell my class consisted of mainly women.)

So here it is ladies: Shirtless Orlando Bloom

Monday, June 23, 2008

my fab trip to Utah--Shannon Hale

I came to Utah to teach at the BYU writing conference, but first I went to ShannonCon. (Shannon Hale kept on insisting that she didn't name the gathering ShannonCon--her fans did, but we know better. As soon as I become famous enough, I am going to have a JanetteCon.)
Here is a picture of Shannon and I. My head for some odd reason looks huge.
Here is another picture of us, where I look normal, but Shannon is closing her eyes. After that my camera battery died, so I don't really have a good picture of the two of us. Maybe I'll photo shop her eyes open . . .

Well, despite the fact that I couldn't find a Shannon Hale costume anywhere, I had a great time. Shannon's fan club (Little Read Riding Hood) are a great group, and I'm not just saying that since some of them are also my fans too.
Nathan Hale, who has illustrated Shannon's new book--Rapunzel's Revenge, also dropped by to tell Shannon stories (He is so funny!) and hand out some very cool Rapunzel paper dolls that he made in conjunction with the book. Now don't you wish you'd gone to ShannonCon?
We went out to dinner and her fans gave me chocolate--which just goes to show you that they know me well.

I can hardly wait until the next ShannonCon!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Utah and Arizona announcements--plus more Orlando Bloom

For all of you in Utah and Arizona I have some events coming up. Please come! Because as you know I hate to look bad in front of book store employees.

Saturday June 21st
Barnes and Noble
330 East University Parkway (1300 South.)
Orem, Utah
Book signing from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00

TEEN NOVEL WRITING FOR ADULTS WITH Janette Rallison • 6:30 pm • Are you interested in writing for teens? Janette Rallison, the author of How to Take the Ex Out of Ex-Boyfriend and eight other teen novels, discusses the differences between YA literature and other books. She’ll teach you how to create main characters that will hold teens' interest, develop story questions, believable motivation, conflict, antagonists and more.

Janette's novels have been put on various states' reading lists, as well as YALSA's Popular Picks lists, and the YA Choices list. Her books have sold over 700,000 copies. COST: $25. Registration and pre-payment required at 480-730-0205.

THURSDAY, JULY 24, 31, August 7
CREATING STORY LINES with Janette Rallison (For ages 12-18) • 3-4:30 pm • Learn about the elements of writing and plot with Janette Rallison, author of thirteen books, nine of which are young adult novels.You'll learn about point of view and why you need to use it correctly. You'll also learn about character goals, motivation, and conflict. Thursdays, July 24, 31, August 7, $50 for the series.

You can register by phone or by going to Changing Hands.

Changing Hands
6428 S McClintock Dr
Tempe, AZ 85283
McClintock at Guadalupe

Now you may have noticed that I also said I had more Orlando Bloom stuff. I said this because on the day I published my Orlando Bloom story, I had 170 hits on my blog. This is more hits than I've ever had in one day and I imagine it's because I got Orlando Bloom fans who were googling his name. So with that in mind I'd like to say: Orlando Bloom, Orlando Bloom, Orlando Bloom.

I am not exploiting his name because I really do like him. Hey, how many of his fans write romance novels with him in mind?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Fact Checking in the Real World, part 2

When I first decided to write books, I always knew that there would be some story scenes that had roots in incidents from my real life. What I didn't realize was how many times I would write a scene or story line and then have something similar happen in my life (or just as often my oldest daughter's life) Really, it's happened with such regularity that it is a little bit spooky.

For example, there is a scene in Just One Wish (Used to be When You Wish Upon a T.V. Star) where Annika and Steve are driving down a highway in the middle of nowhere and their car stops. I'd barely researched and written that scene when my daughter and her boyfriend had car problems after a visit here when they were driving back to Utah. You'll all be glad to know that apparently I'd written a pretty accurate description of what happens when the transmission goes out. I also asked my daughter what her boyfriend said at the time and then used that as dialogue. (That is the type of loving mother I am--my child is stuck in the middle of nowhere and I want dialogue details.)

I have to say though, that the Orlando Bloom story surprised even me.

In Just One Wish, the main character Annika, goes off to Hollywood to try and track down a famous and incredibly handsome young actor. (And yes, I did imagine him to look like Orlando Bloom when I wrote it.)

But the first time she sees him she doesn't recognize him.

The Bow-tied one did not buy it. He told me that if she was a fan and she'd done any amount of research on the Internet she would know what he looked like, even if he did play a blond guy on the Robin Hood series. (Think Legolas from The Lord of the Rings. Ahhhh. Now stopping thinking of him and get back to reading my blog.)

So not long ago, one of my high school buddies emailed me. Without knowing anything about my conversation with my editor she told me the story of her encounter with Orlando Bloom.

Here it is in Misty's words:

I actually met Orlando Bloom. He was in Louisville filming the movie "Elizabethtown". Paramont had a temp office in the same building where I worked. I walked from one building through a pedway to another building with him and his dog, and we talked the whole time. He was a really nice guy.

The funny part was that I didn't know who he was. I knew the dog was Orlando's dog, because the security guard in the building had told me that they were letting him bring his dog in, but I didn't realize Orlando was the scrub walking the dog. I even asked him if it was Orlando's dog.

He looked at me to see if I had a clue in my head. Seeing that I didn't, he said that yes, it was Orlando's dog.

We got to the end of the hallway, and there was this guys with the movie signing folks in for second call backs for extras. I asked if I could go back to get some autographs, but he said no.

I said, "Well at least I got to pet Orlando Bloom's dog." I petted the dog again, and went on my merry way.

When I got back up to the office I told some folks about it. They asked what the guy who was walking the dog looked like. I described him (in my defense, he was dressed like he just rolled out of bed and grabbed what was on the floor).

This lady I worked with had taken his picture earlier that day with her cell phone. Much to my surprise, it was the dog walker. Another lady I worked with had a brother who was a stage hand working on the movie. She went out with him and some of his stage hand buddies. Apparently Orlando was telling everyone about the crazy chick who didn't know who he was, but knew who his dog was.

You know, he meets a lot of folks, but me, he will remember. Feel free to use this true, but unbelievable story in a future book. It is pretty funny.

Okay, it's me, Janette again. I have to say that it is funny. And just one more example of life imitating my writing. Thanks for taking the hit that time, Misty, and proving to me that yes, it could happen in real life.

(I think for my next book, I should write a story about an author who becomes fabulously wealthy and best friends with Orlando Bloom . . . it could happen.)

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Fact Checking in the Real World, part 1

I just got my galleys (page proofs) back for Just One Wish, which has made me think about all the facts authors have to check when we write novels.

For example, in this story the main character, Annika, tells her six-year-old brother that she has a genie and that he can have two wishes. He is a little skeptical at first, but ends up buying the story.

I wondered if a six-year-old would really believe the whole genie story. Luckily, I happen to have a six-year-old (my children often come in handy when I'm writing) so I sat her down and asked her, "What would you say if your sister told you that she had a genie and that you could have two wishes?"

My six-year-old thought about it for a second and then said, "Thank you?"

Yep, that part of the story works.

Second fact: There is a part in this story where Annika is going through a guy's room looking for clothes to wear. (That sounds wrong, doesn't it? It's not what you think.) The guy is six foot two, however, so I wrote it that his shorts slip off Annika's hips.

In real life my 14-year-old son is a half inch shy of six feet. He's a gymnast and pretty much solid muscle. He weighs, I think, twenty pounds more than I do. But as it turns out my son and I both have some Old Navy jeans that look about the same--except, get this, his pants are smaller than mine. I'm not sure why this is since he is both taller and heavier than me.

It is just unfair though.

Not long ago, we were doing laundry and I told him, "I think you've got my jeans and I've got yours."

"No you don't," he said.

I pulled a candy wrapper out of my pockets for proof. Then he pulled a pair of bobby pins out of his pocket, and we switched pants. (And yes, at my house we believe in washing and drying the contents of our pockets with every load of laundry.)

So yeah, assuming Annika was tall (and I never say whether she was or not) she may have fit into the guy's shorts without any problem at all.

Oh well, I'm not changing it at this point.

Here is a picture of my son and his friend showing off their abs. He is the patriotic one. (Perhaps I should start regularly putting pictures of him on my blog to increase the amount of teenage girls coming to my site . . .)
The next fact checking story involves the real life Orlando Bloom and my high school chum, Misty. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Joy of Revisions

Okay, that's a misleading title. There is very little joy in revisions, but still, I thought I'd comment on revisions for my used-to-be-A-Fairy-Godmother's-Guide-to-Saving-Troubled-Teens-and-now-will-be-whatever-the-marketing-department-comes-up-with. The last title they suggested was, "Be Careful What You Wish For" which I quickly vetoed. I mean, besides being a cliche, it gives the reader no indication that this book is a fantasy-comedy-romance. Which it is.

Here is the briefest of synopsis:

When Savannah's boyfriend, Hunter, dumps her for her older sister, she is understandably devastated. Luckily, Savannah has something most sixteen-year-old girls don't--a fairy godmother. She wishes for a handsome prince to take her to prom and is transported back to the Middle Ages where she lives the life of both Cinderella and Snow White. It wasn't what she meant. It wasn't what she wanted, but now she's got to find a way to deal with spiteful stepsisters and a queen who wants her dead, while she tries to figure out how to undo a fairy's enchantment and get back home.

The hard thing about this book is that when I sent it to Walker it was 110,000 words (about 435 pages) and my editor wanted it cut back to 85,000 words. (about 335 pages) I knew it could be trimmed a little even before I sent it in, and I must admit I left it long on purpose. I figured that they'd want cuts regardless, and if I cut it down to 100,000 words before I sent it in they would ask me to cut it down to say, 75,000 words instead of 85,000.

I'm not sure whether I'm right about that or not, but at any rate, I ended up cutting more than I wanted and it still ended up at 91,000 words. But they're really good words. Trust me.

So here is a bit of what had to go:

The sentence where I described Savannah's Snow White outfit. I said it was a simple red gown, thankfully lacking the collar in Disney's version, which made Snow White look like she was wearing a megaphone around her neck. My editor cut that because she didn't want Disney mad at us. She may be right about that. I probably wrote that line while pondering the hour-long lines at our last Disneyland vacation.

I also had to cut some of the religious refrences about the Middle Ages. My editor didn't want any mention of religion in the book because religion, at least Christian religion, is a taboo subject in young adult literature. I know, it doesn't make any sense. Especially since we are dealing with the Middle Ages. Is it a surprise to anybody that the people of that time were Catholic? No matter, I cut the scene where she went to church and the mention of her reading in her history book about popes and bishops.
My last example of cuts: I had to cut all the parts that dealt with leprechaun drinking. Originally I had a leprechaun who'd accidentally come to Virgina with Savannah's Irish neighbors. He had one too many Guinnesses and crawled into a box to sleep it off. When he woke up he was in an airplane cargo box, wedged between a bunch of knickers, and flying over the Pacific ocean.

Really, now that I think about it, he was sort of a lush.

My editor didn't want any mention of alcohol in the book. Which is ironic because I don't drink at all. So yeah, you'd think I'd be the last one to encourage any young, impressionable leprechauns to start downing whiskey. Plus, it was probably a good idea to cut those parts because the drinking-leprechaun is sort of a stereo type, and I wouldn't want a bunch of angry leprechauns banning my book.

So now the book has nothing in it that will make any magical creatures, anti-Catholics, or the Disney corporation mad at me.

And it has tons of good stuff. Really, it's going to be a great book.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hawaii Blog

I love Hawaii. I really do. In fact, even though I am day-glow white, I think I might actually be a native Hawaiian. I'm basing this on the fact that I'm always late for everything--which apparently is also known as "Hawaiian time". Plus I stay up until midnight every night, which is only 9:00 p.m. in Hawaii, therefore proving my internal clock is set to somewhere in Polynesia. Also, I could totally do the moo-moo thing when I get older. I already wear flip-flops most of the year.

So anyway, my husband and I just went to Hawaii to drop off our daughter who is staying there this summer. The entire summer. How unfair is that? I never got to do cool things like that when I was her age because, let me think, oh yeah, I was a poor married student.

Anyway, she is having a blast. Here are some pictures from the trip.
Here we are at the Polynesian Cultural Center, which is lush and green and not an Arizonan desert. The weather was great there. It's 108 in Arizona and will be that way for the next six months. All of you in normal states should feel sorry for me.
Here I am on a little pink blowup raft drifting off to sea. It was a bit windy that day and my husband started to panic that I wasn't paying attention to the fact that I was literally being blown away. Okay, so in fact I wasn't paying attention, but eventually I noticed and paddled back to shore. He needn't have worried. However for the rest of that afternoon he stood in the water with one hand holding my raft so I wouldn't drift off again. In so many ways this is a metaphor for our life together.
[This photo has been removed because my daughter works in the public schools, and her students are far too fond of looking her up on google.]

This is a picture of my beautiful daughter standing near the ocean. If you are planning a trip to the beach, I wouldn't recommend you take along a beautiful daughter. We swam every day and in most pictures I look like something the cat dragged in (and then left to ferment with the dirty laundry.) She always looked gorgeous no matter what. Seriously. In fact . . .
here is a picture of her with some random tourist who saw me taking her picture and asked if he could have his picture with her because "she looked just like a supermodel".

And lastly here is a picture for my editors and fans. Even in paradise I was still working on my novel.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mothers' Day card/ cleaning fairy

I have a saying which I use frequently with my children. It is: "Hey, the cleaning fairy doesn't live here. Pick up your stuff." Sometimes we even have entire conversations along the same lines.

Child: I don't want to do the dishes.
Me: Well, neither do I, but the cleaning fairy stopped making rounds at our house.
Repeat both responses indefinitely.

So a while ago my daughter drew a picture of the cleaning fairy. I added the phrase, "Where is the" to the top and taped it to the kitchen wall.

Since then, my daughter has been trying to convince me that I am indeed the cleaning fairy. Here are two more of her drawings.

Here you see I also have antennas and tiny wings--apparently my fairy status is similar to a lady bug.

Anyway, so here was my dear daughter's picture on the back of my Mothers' Day card. I think she was making the point that I'm angelic (so true). Photobucket
As you may have noticed, I'm ascending to heaven with a Windex bottle in hand. Apparently I don't get to stop cleaning even when I die. See, it really does never end. I figured as much.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A New Dawn is out


News flash for all of you Stephenie Meyer fans: You'll like this book. I was contacted a few months ago and asked if I wanted to write an essay about the Twilight series for a compilation that Teen Libris was putting out. It's thirteen authors getting philosophical and funny about the hottest series out there. Sort of like when all of those country stars put out an album of a tribute to Shania Twain songs. (But you know, without the singing on our part.)

Since I am an Eward/Jacob/Bella fan I agreed. (Read between the lines: more people will probably read my essay about the Twilight characters than will actually read my books. Who could resist that?)

Anyway, since I received a couple of extra copies, I thought I'd run a Twilight trivia contest to see which dedicated fan out there in the blog world should get them. The first one I'll send to the first person who can answer this question: Which two literary works does Stephenie Meyer mention (and we could even say model parts of her books on)?

The other book I'll just randomly give to one of the commenters. (Like if I have fifteen comments, I'll have one of the kids pick a number between one and fifteen and then send it to that person.) So comment even if you don't know the answer.

For those of you who must have one anyway, you can find the book at Borders. (I'm assuming anyway, since there is a sticker on the front which says: Borders exclusive.

And as a teaser I'll post the first couple paragraphs of my essay: To Bite or Not To Bite; that is the question. (See, Stephenie isn't the only one quoting classics.)

What's your definition of a bad day? A fight with a friend? A speeding ticket? How about being attacked by a vampire and painfully being turned into the undead, then realizing you must wander for eternity fighting off a craving to kill people? Yeah, that would pretty much be a bad day.

Carlisle, the leader of the Cullen clan of vampires, had this bad day (and we can assume) many other bad days that followed. Stephenie Meyer doesn't skimp when handing out problems for her characters. Seriously, if you were Cinderella and could choose someone to be your fairy godmother, you wouldn't want it to be Stephenie Meyer. Sure, she could come up with the ultimate prince charming to take you to the ball, but he might kill you afterward.

You'll have to get the book to read the rest of the essay!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Theme song

When I was in Kansas for the library conference, the presenters in one of the classes chose theme songs. One lady chose Happy Trails, another lady chose Life is a Highway (and told us to insert the word "information" before the word "Highway". Another lady chose the song I Will Survive because she'd had to move her library four times in the last year.

It got me thinking about what song I would choose for a theme song. Right now I'm doing revisions, which never makes me happy and is especially hard now because I just waded through revisions for Just One Wish (Or maybe it's Just One More Wish--I'm not really sure what they changed it to.)It's also been hard because my editor asked me to make some sweeping changes in this one and to cut out about 100 pages. Why is it that none of my editors seem to grasp my brilliance?

So with that in mind, my theme song of the moment is Love Song by Sara Bareilles. If the technology is working, it should be playing on your computer right now. (How cool is that?) You can sing along, but wherever Sara sings the words "love song" insert the word "novel". If you are doing revisions it will make you feel much better. In fact, I should start compiling a list of revision songs.

As far as a theme song for my life . . . well that's harder. Right now I'm leaning toward the song, I Knew You Were Waiting For Me by George Michael and Aretha Franklin. That song got me through some hard times and so I'll always love it. Although if we're talking about the song I'd take with me to that desert island which is populated with all those people who got to take only one book with them--then I'd probably take Pachabel's Cannon in D or Jewel singing Ave Maria. I didn't even like that song until I heard Jewel singing it and now it's one of my favorites.

So what is your theme song right now?

. . .Blank stares at Blank pages . . . no easy way to say this . . . your help just hurts . . .

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fiction writers in the real world

For those of you who are wondering how the mural project went--first let me say that the box had big letters which read, "Easy to put up . . . Anyone can do it!"

Yeah, right.

This is fiction writing in the real world. Fantasy, to be exact. It wasn't easy, and there was no way I could have done it by myself.

Or as my friend Leslie, who came over to help me, put it, "By the time you realize the truth, they've already got your money." (Luckily Leslie had done wallpaper murals before, so she knew what to do, despite the box's inadequate instructions.)

But I've decided not to blame the box writer. No, I actually think it was just a case of over editing. I think originally the writer had written the description as:

It will be easy to put up pictures on the wall to cover all your mistakes! Anyone who is a trained professional--and only trained professionals--can do it!

Editors will do it to you every time, my friend. (Can you tell I just got back the revisions on A Fairy Godmother's Guide to Saving Troubled Teens? Except for that name got vetoed so who knows what it's going to be called now.) More on revisions later.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The problem with writing comedies

While I'm waiting for revision notes on A Fairy Godmother's Guide to Saving Troubled Teens, I'm trying to chip away at my To-Do list. Namely, I'm putting up the mural in my daughter's room that I bought for her at Christmas. (Not last Christmas, the Christmas before--yeah, I've been busy.) I put primer up yesterday and ran out so I had to go to the store and buy more to put up today. The problem was that I splattered some on my clothes yesterday and had to furiously wash it out before it could stain. I used to have some paint pants, but I think I chucked them. (It's obviously been awhile since I did this sort of thing.)

So as I'm coming home from the store I come up with a great idea. I could just paint without my clothes and then I wouldn't have to worry about ruining anything. After all, I'm alone in the house. The kids are at school, I'm not expecting anyone, the shades are down--what could go wrong?

See, that's the problem with being a comedy writer. My mind is full of ideas about things that could go wrong, and go wrong in a big way. Getting locked out of the house is top on that list. The UPS man showing up and needing me to sign for those revision notes is number two. My husband unexpectedly bringing home his boss also ranks high.

I will go find some pants to ruin now.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Kansas Trip

First of all, I'm going to refrain from using any Dorothy and The Wizard of Oz comments at all. (Even though I'm a big Wicked fan--well, what did you expect from someone who skips out on their parking tickets?)

I'm here at the Kansas Library Association conference and having a great time. Librarians are so cool! Of course my computer, which has a serious evil streak, is acting up--but what else is new?

I'm giving a presentation and a keynote tomorrow. Everyone send good thoughts and prayers my way so I don't start channeling Miss Teen South Carolina. (It could happen. After all, I look like a beauty queen, right? Okay, maybe not. I don't own any sequened dresses and didn't even dress up for the Whitney Awards, but still.)

More later!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Revenge of the Bow-tied One

I suppose it served me right that after all of the stories I've told about my editor, that he told one about me to a large group of people, but yeah, he got me back. We were both just up at the LDStorymakers conference where he told all of the atendees that I was a woman of questionable moral values. Really.

To quote myself from Revenge of the Cheerleaders, "Some people should not be allowed access to a microphone."

Okay, so the bow-tied one actually just told people that I'd run off without paying for a parking spot, which may have been inadvertantly true, but still.

It all started when I picked him up from the airport and he insisted that I take him to dinner at pub. I, of course, had never been to a pub before because they are clearly dens of iniquity. Addmitedly, this one had the best taco salad I've ever eaten and I'm going to have to go back there the next time I'm in Salt Lake, but that is not the point. The point is that it is a slippery slope to a life of crime and I can blame it all on Tim for insisting I go to the pub in the first place.

The parking outside of the pub was full but there was a parking lot next door. It had one of those booths were somebody gives you a ticket and takes your money, but there was no one inside because by that time it was after 9:30 at night.

Where I live in Arizona, if they have one of those booths but it is after business hours, parking is free. (Actually, where I live there isn't much parking that you have to pay for.) Even when you go to the games at the Cardinal stadium, the ticket taker leaves at 10:00 p.m. and if you leave the garage after that, there's no one to take your ticket and it's free. I mean, you're not expected to shove bills under the booth's door or anything.

So I was not particularly concerned about parking there but as we were pulling out, Tim said to me, "Aren't you going to pay for your parking?" and he pointed to something that looked like a post office box.

I had no idea what he was talking about, but just to humor him I agreed to put five dollars in it. (No sweat off my back, the Storymakers were paying for dinner.) Unfortunately there was a car behind us and I didn't want to make it wait for us so I decided to drive out onto the street and then pull over. I did that, but almost immediately the traffic picked up and I didn't want to get rearended because I was in my parents very expensive car and I figured that the drivers outside of a pub might not have the wherewithall to notice that I'd stopped. So then I told Tim that we'd have to go down the street and do a u-turn and he told me to forget about it and just drive to the hotel.

Really, I thought he was wrong about the whole post office box looking thing being a recepticle to put money in for your parking, but when I told this story to people at conference, they all nodded knowingly and seemed to know exactly what it was.

So yes, after last conference where Bill Gardner uncovered my unwitting illegal activity that happened in our home town when I was a teenager, I'm afraid I'm going to get quite a reputation for being some sort of thug.

And it all comes from going to a pub. Let that be a lesson to all of you impressionable people out there.

Here are some other cool people from the conference. This is me with Marsha Ward, Candace Salima, and my dear cousin-in-law Shirley Bahlmann.
More cool people: Julie Wright and Tammy Norton
And here I am with James Dashner--proof that guys can be cool writers too.

One more thing--the website for BYU's week long, writers' conference is finally up! (Although I swear I gave them an updated picture of me. Honest.)I'll be there teaching June 16-21. You can check it out at:

And don't worry, I happen to know for a fact that you're clear to park in the student parking lot after 4:00. It says so on the signs. (They are ever so much nicer than certain pubs I frequent.)