One down, xxxxx to go

Yep, I did it. Wrote Chapter One of my new WIP yesterday. Now if I could just have about two hundred days in a row like that, I’ll be in good shape. (No, it won’t have two hundred chapters, but I need lots of time for revision.)

It’s almost 7am which is when I get to work, but before I dive into Chapter Two, I thought I’d leave you with a Five Ways to Procrastinate on Friday:

1. My father, Rev. Frank Halse, was in the newspaper yesterday. I’m bummed that the photo isn’t online, too. He is rather distinguished. Go, Dad!

2. In other family news, daughter Meredith recommends Our Voice 2008; a site for people under the age of 30 who want their voices and concerns heard int he next election. Please, please, please take a look at this. Our country needs you to be involved in the next election.

3. Want to combine your passion for knitting and respect for the work of Neil Gaiman? Check out this sweater.

4. The censors and defilers of our Constitution have been at it again. Read about the latest challenges to Ellen Wittlinger’s Sandpiper, J. L. Powers’ The Confessional, and Stephen Chbosky’s Perks of Being a Wallflower on the AS IF! blog.

5. You can join us in Mexico, NY tomorrow morning and help support our library, which is a vital part of our community. The Mexico 5K Cider Run is a 3.1 mile run through the streets of the village. The people are very kind and the money goes to a great cause. Plenty of people run slowly or walk, so don’t worry if you move at less than blazing speed. Hope to see you there.


I am finally beginning to feel the burn-out that dogged me all summer begin to fade away. This is officially a Good Thing. That balanced life of awareness, intention, hard work, and fun is on the horizon!

I am almost through the brainstorming draft of my new YA. This is the fast and dirty draft: very fast, very dirty. It’s about 35 pages long, with another 40 pages of notes in a different file. The actual writing of the first draft begins tomorrow morning. And that’s all I want to say about that.

I have now tagged all of my 2007 entries in my LiveJournal. I hope to get to 2006 and 2005 very soon. This will be useful for people who are looking for specific information (writing process, Twisted, Speak) or who just want to see all my pictures of Poland or snow. Do you use tags when looking for info?

BH and I ran in the Salmon River 5K last Saturday, despite the heat and humidity. Much to our surprise, we ran a decently fast race. (He could have run much faster, but he was a gentleman and ran with me the whole way.) Even more to our surprise, we each placed third in our age-groups and won a medal. That was very cool. Our knee trouble over the summer has prevented us from entering the half-marathon in Philly later this month, but we’ll be running in our hometown Mexico 5K Cider Run this Saturday. Come join us! You’ll support our local library and have a blast.

I had an Animal, Vegetable, Miracle moment (you must read that book) in the grocery store yesterday. I had this fancy-pants fish recipe I wanted to make that called for a salsa made for fresh oranges. The problem? Not only were the oranges four for three dollars, they had been imported from Peru. We have been making a real effort to reduce our carbon footprint and support local farmers. Oranges from Peru do not meet those goals. So I drove past an orchard on the way home, bought near ten pounds of peaches for nine dollars, and made peach salsa. And yes, I am feeling rather smug about this, thank you.

I have speeches to work on this afternoon, and thirty pounds of fresh green beans to blanche and freeze. And you don’t even want to know how many tomatoes are waiting in my kitchen. They snicker as I walk by. We’ll see who has the last laugh….

Happy Birthday, Penni! Happy Birthday, Alex!!!

Note to Danielle I’ll be emailing you within the next couple of days. Thank you so much for what you sent!

Reader question about writing process

On my Facebook Wall, Robert W. from Michigan asked a great question: …But, especially with you working on your next novel, how is it you approach each book? What is your general approach to writing a book? Your novels always seem SO carefully pieced together, and I’ve never read endings better than the ones to your works, and I’m just curious what your process is for that.

First, thank you for the kind words about the structure of my books and their endings.I don’t know how my fellow authors do it, but I work long and hard on each novel.

I take one of two paths when I am working on a book; I either enter the story through character or I enter it through plot. When I start with character, I tend to meander around and write a lot of scenes that are eventually cut, but that help me understand the background and motivations of the people in the story. If I start with plot, the scenes are developed in a much more systematic fashion, but I keep a separate journal in which I develop my characters.

If you saw any of my first drafts, you would die laughing. They are truly pathetic. (For the record I would like to note that nobody ever gets to see my first drafts. It is the only way I can hang on to my dignity.) I don’t know that I am a good writer. I do believe I am a better than average reviser.

When I start a book, I usually have a sense of the character and at least one or two scenes have popped in my head. Examples: Speak – rape survivor who hasn’t told about the attack trying to get through her freshman year in high school. Twisted – average teen guy driven to the brink of suicide. Prom – working class girl figures out that the world is filled with possibilities. Catalyst – Brilliant, perfect girl finds out that straight As mean nothing in real life.

No book ever drops fully-formed into my head. It always takes months and months of writing, questioning, back-tracking, pondering, applying the principals of logic and human behavior and checking for spelling mistakes. And that is what I am going to go do right now – work on my new story. (Sorry I can’t be more specific about what I’m writing right now. The Muse would be horrified if I spilled the beans this early. Ask me again in six months.)

Happy Free Hugs Day!!

Late Night Critter Adventures in the Forest

So yesterday was the worst allergy day of the year, hands down. I sneezed and sneezed and sneezed (terrifying the dog) and then my asthma flared up and I coughed and coughed and coughed (alarming my Beloved Husband). I sneezed and coughed so much that I messed up my back, and started walking around the house like a mummy whose bandages were coming loose. Not fun.

Somehow I made it to bedtime. I felt so crappy, I didn’t even care that the Colts were playing the Saints. I took enough medication to knock out an elephant and fell very deeply asleep.

Which explains why BH had a hard time waking me up at 3:30am.

Apparently, he spent at least five minutes doing the gentle-nudge-sweetie?sweetie? thing. Then he said, “Honey, you need to wake up, but don’t be afraid.”

My eyes snapped open. Adrenaline surged.

BH explained that we had another critter in the house. (Critters adore us so much, they are always trying to move in. But they never pay the rent on time and they hold loud parties and let their friends smoke, so we’ve had to adopt a firm “No Critter” rule.)

At first I thought he was saying the critter was somehow poised above my head, preparing to drop on me. Second adrenaline surge. But, no. This one was wedged between a window and the window screen. There was a hole in the screen, and BH couldn’t tell if the critter made the hole in order to escape out of the house, or in an attempt to break in.

In any event, BH couldn’t find the camera.

I was so grateful that nothing with claws was about to drop on my face, I staggered out of bed and found the camera. And then I fell back into my coma. BH took pictures of the critter.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic It was a flying squirrel.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic A flying squirrel is basically a small rat with a hot cape, a fear of owls, and a banzai attitude.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic But as far as rats go, flying squirrels are cuter than most. And I will forever love this one because it did not jump on my head. After taking the pictures, BH opened the window and the little guy sprung off into the darkness.

Now I am going to lay flat on the couch and moan about my back, all the while I try not to sneeze or cough. The snow cannot get here fast enough, I swear. Ragweed is the devil’s handmaiden.