Monday, November 30, 2009

Life at the Ranch is Hard. Sometimes Puppies Die. *Added: But no Puppies Die in this Post!

Howdy y'all!

Welcome back. Anyone else so excited school resumes today?

Life on a Ranch is Hard

We went down to Sam's Uncle's ranch in central Utah for Thanksgiving. It's difficult to describe the ranch, because in the middle of this stark rugged terrain is a little oasis with three ranch houses, a shooting range, wine-fry (wi-fi), satellite television and warm water.
Ranch Life is Hard. Everyone kept reminding me of this fact over and over. And over:

We have to hand mash the potatoes...

We have to restore the art on the Indian Art Rock. (It's okay that we're messing with centuries-old artifacts... we totally know what we're doing with our crayons.)

There are grates on the ground to keep little boys out. (Kid B only fell through once.)

Every so often, you have to fight the urge to throw a little kid off the cliff...

If you wanna eat, you have to know how to handle a gun...
Here are the women, performing the most essential task for any Thanksgiving dinner... That's right. We're shooting the stuffing. (Stuffing doesn't usually put up much of a fight. But you should see the jello. Fast little sucker.)

After dinner, the natives come over to perform a traditional rain dance. (Who knew rain dances included karate kicks, and a background song of "Everybody was Kung Fu Fightin'?)

Since these girls kept accidentally aiming at Uncle Glendon during a gun lesson, he only allowed them to shoot with their fingers. He told them this was how the cowboys of yore did it.

Even newborn pups have it hard on the Ranch. Look closely at the picture below... Do you see the little white pup, closest to the dog's face? That little pup's neck was caught inside the steel ring of the collar on the mama dog.
The poor thing was choking, and every time the mother turned her head, the pup would be whipped about.

So I totally freak out. The mother won't let us anywhere near her because she doesn't know us, so Bro-in-law Ed sends his two youngest daughters to get the rancher Adam.
(Here's Adam, thinking, "When are the city folk just gonna leave us in peace?")

The kids run off, and Ed's all, "He's dead. It's too late."

I'm all, "Don't say that! He's alive!"

The kids return with a message from Adam. He says: "Just turn him over."

Hunh? What kind of advice is that? (We found out later the girls told Adam, "There's a puppy on his back, and his legs are sticking up in the air." Which I guess would warrant the "Okay, so turn him over" advice.)

This time, Ed's clear. He tells the two girls to tell Adam to, "Get his butt over here."

The message takes a little longer to deliver, because the girls are unsure whether or not they can really say the word "butt" without repercussions, but finally Adam shows up and coaxes the dog out, and yanks the little puppy neck to freedom and saves the day. I later found out that upon hearing the news that the puppy neck was about to be snapped, the ranch hands sorta shrugged their shoulders and said, "Ranch life is hard."

Grrrr. I know this.

It's raise cattle, hunt for food, water-shortage, dry, dusty, dirty boogers, farmer blow tough. I know that sometimes the cattle leave, and they don't come back, and they're not going to a spa.

But come on! Does ranch life have to be "Newborn Puppy hanging by its neck, choking indefinitely, just needing a little nudge that nobody will give" hard?

Apparently yes. The mother promptly ate the baby. Punishment for getting its neck caught. Because ranch life is hard.
*Update: Just to be clear, the dog did NOT eat the puppy. This is how mothers transport their little ones. I promise.

Here's Adam right before he yanked Kid B off the horse by his leg and threw him across the arena. Because ranch life is hard.
I jest. There was no kid-throwing of any kind. The puppy lived to face another hard day on the ranch. My job was done. I tipped my hat to the ladies and sauntered off into the sunset.

So how was all y'all's Thanksgiving?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

FBF Winners, and my Thanksgiving Top Ten

Final Free Book Friday Winners:


Congratulations! Rank your top five choices from the picture below and email me your address. (Email in the sidebar).

The contest will resume after the holidays, when I expect Santa will have brought me more money. (Wow, that sentence reeked of the Ghost of Past Present Participle).

Now for the quick post:

What I'm Thankful for, in Order from Most to Least Important. (Just kidding. No order.)

1. Health. Among other things, this includes myriad doctors and nurses, the Huntsman Cancer Institute, vaccines, medicine, and my Dad still going strong.

2. Metrosexual Hubby who's not afraid to do the laundry

3. Kid B, who's pretty sure he knows how to talk, it's just the people around him who don't know how to listen.

4. Kid C, who can negotiate the skin off a chihuahua.

5. Friends, who understand the madness that comes with writing, and hang with me anyway.

6. Writer Friends, who don't flinch when one of us says, "Then I had a breakdown." Because what writer doesn't have a breakdown? We're all, "That's not even worthy of setting down my hot chocolate."

7. Extended family, complete with nannies, readers, friends and kindred souls. (Wow. I'm getting sorta mushy.)

8. Parents, who raised me to believe most kids read Shakespeare for fun. (I'm thankful now, but man, growing up... )

9. Blog Readers, who keep coming back despite my stories of pus, abs, spiders and pee.

10. Blog Commenters, who give me something to look forward to every day.

So, what are y'all thankful for?

Monday, November 23, 2009

New Moon: My Official Report...

Happy Monday Before Thanksgiving!

1. Sorry to mention New Moon again, but I went to the Twilight Lexicon's party and showing on Saturday.

Before the showing, they held a drawing for all sorts of cool thingees: A robe from the movie, autographed CD's, and one of Jacob's abs. (That was the hardest gift to get).

The girl on my left won.

And then the girl on my right won. Me? Nothing.

The girl on my left (Emily) won a CD signed by Jackson Rathbone (Jasper) who didn't have a lot of screen time in the movie, presumably because he was off-set curling his hair.
("What do you mean one side is flat??!!")

Some of the stars showed up for the occasion. Hats off to the movie makeup team. These stars are all beautiful, but they look nothing like they did in the film.

The MC asked a bunch of fun questions, like:

* "Who here is team Edward? Who is team Jacob?"
After which the crowd broke into a riot over the fundamental difference between "Movie Edward" and "Book Edward" and "Movie Jacob" and "Book Jacob". The two lone men in the audience hid in a corner.

* "Who here read the book the earliest?"
A girl about two rows up from me raised her hand. She read the first book when Stephenie Meyer was just a toddler. Nobody could beat that.

On to the Movie:

I don't know if this is a spoiler or not, but Jacob has his shirt off a lot.
At one point in the movie, Bella -- under the delusion that a ghost Edward is almost as good as the real one -- crashes her motorcycle and cuts her forehead.
Jacob looks around. There is nothing to staunch the flow of blood. Nothing. No leaves, no dirt, no corner of his shirt, no sleeve, no hand, no long flowing hair, nothing in the world to stop the trickle of blood. So he has to rip his shirt off.
I have to wonder if Jacob's t-shirt was made of water proof nylon or something, because after all the trouble to rip it off and dab at Bella's cut, the shirt didn't seem to soak up one drop of blood.

In fact, it was difficult to find a picture of Jacob where he didn't have his shirt off. Here's one of those rare pics. If you can find your own, they are worth a fortune.
Also, if I had a nickel for every time a guy tells Bella "It's too dangerous for you to be near me" and "This is the last time you'll ever see me" and "So you've decided to eat again?" I'd be a rich woman.

(Rain doesn't bother dogs. Oh, wait...)

Bella has it rough this movie. She gets dumped by Edward, then she gets dumped by all of the Cullens, then she gets dumped by Jacob, then her Dad wants her to move to Florida... I don't know why. She is an absolute joy to be around.

Look: here she is at the neighborhood campout, roasting smores.

Sometimes she loves to just lounge around on the beach

And here she is going for a hike, loving nature. Only problem is, she tends to get lost, and somebody's gonna end up ripping off his shirt and carrying her to safety.

And here she is, making new friends with the pec pack. She's just so likable. Sam has to hold Paul back because he wants to hug her.

Sometimes if you turn your back for just a moment, she'll attempt to inhale sea water. So fun! And a big hit at parties.

And if you ask her on a date, you might end up in a threesome. Because that's how Bella rolls.

Here she is, almost kissing Jacob. She almost kisses him a lot. And what could be better than an almost kiss?

My New Moon Grade: A+

2. New Moon fever has hit our house too.

Sam left me this weekend. He said he was going shopping, but I was pretty sure I would never see him again, because his yellow eyes looked so sad, and his cheek cracked a little bit. So, I wandered into our backyard, spinning in circles and calling out his name.

I barely recognized our yard. Where there was once grass, in which Sam and I frolicked just months ago, there was now death. And snow. Okay, snow-covered death. The vine that had snaked its way into our basement was dead and gone. And snow-covered.

Despite our backyard being only 1/8 of an acre big, I got lost.

Kid B found me hours later. He ripped off his 4T t-shirt and carried me the three feet back inside my house.

3. I loved this! (via Alice Pope): Thirty-Four Ways New Moon the Movie Is Better Than New Moon the Book

So, what's everyone's plans for Thanksgiving? Going out of town? Staying in? I'll have a short blog on Wednesday, and then we're off to Sam's Ranch.

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Moon by the Numbers... and the Final Free Book Friday

1. Free Book Friday: Last one before the holidays! Leave a comment today to enter

2. New Moon Report

I went to see New Moon last night/early this morning, and I'm shocked I have any sort of blog in me. I'll go more into depth Monday, but here's New Moon by the numbers:

*Time I left my house: 10:15 p.m.

*Time I got home: 4:45 a.m. The next morning. The next morning. As in, a few hours ago.

*Number of times I suggested playing "Twilight/New Moon Car Games" on the way to the theater: 2

*Number of people who actually knew any "Twilight/New Moon Car Games": 0

*Number of fans in long lines around the building, shivering in blankets: thousands

*Number of times we cut in line because we didn't want to shiver: 1

*Number of security guards ready to use their biceps to force tween line-cutters back to the very back: 24

*Number of security guards who pictured themselves as Jacob and the Wolf Pack securing the boundaries of Forks: 24
*Number of fans in line to use the girls bathroom: 12

A few hyper girls said they were thinking of using the men's room, and they wondered if any men were in there. I said, "This theater on this night is probably the one time you're guaranteed there are no men in sight."

They didn't find me funny. One said, "There are dedicated boyfriends out there who will see New Moon on opening night."

I wanted to say, "Oh, I thought we were talking about men."

*Number of goodies inside my swag bag: 10.
Including a tiny little bottle of lotion called "Essence of Jacob".

*Number of races represented at Forks High School in the Olympic Peninsula: 42.

*Number of times Edward blinked because of his creepy contacts: millions
I'm sorry, but those contacts made the Cullens in this movie look like a mix between cheetahs and aliens.

*Number of people who actually believed Edward when he earnestly stated, "This is the last time you'll ever see me.": zero

*Number of times the audience swooned over Jacob's abs: 17

*Number of times the audience swooned over the wolf pack's abs: 10

*Number of times the audience swooned over Edward: 12

*Number of times the audience swooned over some random old old couple in one of the previews: 1
It was a very weird moment.

*Number of times Bella got lost in the woods: 2 or 3 or maybe 4

*Number of times Edward called Bella his "spider monkey": none.
And I thought the movie was the worse for it.

*Number of straight months Bella can sit in her room, not eating, and staring out the window: 4

*Number of times the camera circled her during those months: 4

*Number of times I got carsick: 4

*Number of times we thought the CG effects made Jacob's hands look like the size of Subaru's: 3

*Number of neck kinks we got from sitting on the front row: still counting

*Number of times Edward walked slo-mo: 4 (I thought vamps were supposed to be fast)

*Number of times Bella totally messed with Jacob's head: more than a few

*Number of times Jacob promised not to hurt her, and then turned around and hurt her within a few hours, and then told her he broke his promise: 2. or 3.

*Number of times I wondered WTH I was doing at a theater in Provo at 2:00 in the morning: a few

*Number of times I wished I was anywhere else: zero

*Number of times I got Essence of Jacob all over my steering wheel: 1
It's okay. It was an earthy, rustic smell, almost as if I'd been petting him all night.

Anyone else see it? What did you think?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

FBF Winner, and My First Trip to a Kohl's... aka I will Forever Expect Great Things

1. Last Free Book Friday

This Friday will be the last Free Book Friday until after the holidays! There's a chance there might be a huge blowout, and Smokey will pick more than one winner.

FBF Winner:


Pick your top three choices from the pic below and email me your address.

2. D-Will and Kid B

Shout out to my man Deron Williams of the Jazz.
(D-Will Kickin' Arse)

I know the team is off to a rough start, but I love my D-Will. He donated 20 game tickets to the Pingree School for Autism the other night, so Kid B got to go to the game with me. Sam and Kid C bought some tix and tagged along as well. We got to sit in D-Will's Double Team section, and Kid B was totally engrossed in the game.
You can see Kid B considered the game an extension of school. He brought his backpack and wore it the whole time.
(First we make a cotton ball snowman, then we go to the Jazz Game.All in a day's work at Pingree.)

Hats off to any superstar who gives.

Of course, when the Jazz lost, we returned the ticket stubs to the team along with a note that read, "Why can't you win for the autistic children?"

I jest.
(The boys with the Jazz Dancers. They're learning early.)

3. I went to Kohl's for the first time ever the other day.

Why have I never been to this little piece of paradise on Earth before?

Cousins A and K told me about it, and I asked, "What do they have at Kohl's?" And they basically replied, "What don't they have at Kohl's?" And then we all laughed heartily and slapped fives in the air and elbowed each other in the ribs in an "if ya know what I mean" kind of way.

The rumors were true: Everything at Kohl's is on sale. To which I kept replying, "Isn't that like saying nothing at Kohl's is on sale?"

And Cousin K would remind me, "It's not the same thing as saying everyone's special, so no one is. Everything here really is on sale."

I decided to buy a pair of shoes for Kid B. Ones where there would be no foot twisting involved to get his foot in, and preferably the entire top half would lift off when it was untied so he could step on it, and the shoe would automatically enclose his foot.

Cousin K insisted they have those shoes, because they're Kohl's. She asked, "What size is he?"

me: "He's about 3 and a half year-old size."

K gives me a strange look.

me: "Okay, maybe he's more like size 4-year-old in shoes."

K: "'Size 4-year old?' Shoes are not like clothes. They have actual sizes."

me: "Say Whaaa?"

I have an almost seven year old, and an almost 4 year old. How did I not know this?

So, how's everyone's week going? Anyone excited for New Moon? Anyone finish their NaNoWriMo books?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Blog Birthday, and the SCBWI Conference Goings-On.

Happy Blorthday!
Or is it Happy Blogiversary?

Anyway, my blog turned one year old today.

One year ago, my agent Ted came into town and asked the now historic question, "Publishers are going to Google your name. Do you have a blog?"

me: "Totally. Of course. Just don't check it tonight, kay?"

Then I raced home and wrote my first post: My Foot Lives in my Mouth... Sorry, Does that Sound Gross? , and emailed my entire contact list, begging them to comment so I wouldn't look like I'd just started a blog that day. Which is what I did.

At first, I thought I'd run out of things to blog about after a week. Funny, huh?

I went to the Utah SCBWI Conference over the weekend.

Publisher Elizabeth Law spoke about five things writers don't have to worry about:

1. Trends. Don't try to write to "what's hot now".
If there's anything Nosferatu (hot vamp in the 1920's) taught us, it's that our obsession with vampires is as fleeting as a granite mountain. But the second you try to write about them, the mountain crumbles.

2. Don't worry about working in the "telling detail". If it doesn't sound natural, don't put it in.
"I walked into the classroom. The smell of chalk mixed with eraser assaulted my nostrils, and the desks gleamed as if they'd been cleaned with wood varnish by a custodian who loves his job like a trucker loves his truck."

I copied that sentence from one in my book. I think maybe I'll cut it now.

3. Don't worry about making your writing sound ethnic, hip or trendy.
Seriously, don't try it. Fuhgehdaboutit. Umm... capice? Talk to the hand. Grown-ups suck! Cowabunga. Text you later. Me Tarzan. You Jane. Confusius say... Mama Mia!

She sort of forgot 4 and 5.

Here's a rundown from the rest of the events:

*Emily Wing Smith tried out her new video camera, and thought no one would notice it was a video camera, even though she walked around looking like this:

*Matt Kirby got away with wearing a Dr. Seuss t-shirt to the author social while the rest of us were sweating in actual clothes.
(Sarah DeFord Williams, Matt Kirby, Bree Despain)

*Matt thought my fear of Thing 1 and Thing 2 was heeelarious.

*Emily insisted she could suck on a giant ice cube and still look normal. I don't see anything.

*I circled the library four times before I spotted the elusive entrance to the underground parking. Apparently, the library likes to watch confused drivers and laugh its arse off.

*Elizabeth Law said she would give a contract to anyone who could set her up on a date. I offered hubby. She declined.

*Bree Despain appeared on a panel of debut authors. Her ARC of The Dark Divine was the hot ticket at the raffle. Go Bree!

*Matt Kirby theorized that our civilization would morph into a culture where people partake in crazy activities just so they'd have something to blog about. I say, it already has.

*Bree and I reminisced about the party last year, when the two of us went to the wrong party. For 45 minutes. And didn't even notice. The partygoers were all dressed in hoity toity clothes, many carrying pooches in their purses. I remembered thinking, "Boy, Children's authors must be rich!"

How wrong we were. The author's party was in the basement.

So, what did you guys do this weekend? Anyone hit the conference? Any NaNoWriMo updates?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Free Book Friday, and the Best Model of a Weekend Warrior Trailer made entirely out of Coasters

It's Free Book Friday!
Find out how to enter at the end of the post.

1. I'm Being Interviewed:

F.O.B. Tamara interviewed me for her blog today. If you get a mo, please please leave a comment so she doesn't accuse me of ruining her readership. It may not be up until later today.

*Update: her post is up! Go check it out.

2. What I'm Reading:

Keturah and Lord Death, by Martine Leavitt.

Martine Leavitt critiqued the first 20 pages of Broken at a writing workshop over the summer, and I learned so much from both her and the rest of my class cohorts.

I can sum up her advice to me in two sentences: "Don't make me guess what the Frakkin Concrete Object of Desire is!" and "When it comes to backstory, why can't you be more like Kim?"

I kid. She didn't use the word Frakkin, and she said it much more eloquently than I just did. But the general gist of it is there.

I took her advice. Now, my main character has a goal (sorta important in a book) and I'm trying daily to be more like Kim.

Anyway, she talked about Keturah and Lord Death a lot, so I figured I should give it a looksy.

2. What I'm Revising:

Page 2 of Broken. Only 325 more pages to go. Thanks everyone for your nice comments Wednesday, and thanks to those of you who couldn't think of anything nice to say about the first page, so didn't say anything at all.

As reported by Team Gluten Intolerant in the comments section Wednesday, I turned in my book at 10:02 that night.

3. Apparently you'll have to draw me a picture...

Do you ever have those family members who are all like, "If we weren't related, we probably wouldn't be friends, because we have nothing in common."?

I do. Cousin A. I know this, because the other night when we were at dinner with Cousin K, she said to me, "If we weren't related, we probably wouldn't be friends..."

It all started when she was telling me about how their family likes to go to the sand dunes for vacations. I'm stating here and now, I do not understand this type of vacation, or how one even considers it a "vacation". When I asked where everyone sleeps in the sand desert, she said they stay in trailers.

me: "Like a camper trailer?"

A: "No. More like a Weekend Warrior."

me: "What the Frak is a Weekend Warrior?"

A: "It's boxier than a camper, and it has a back door that drops down so you can drive stuff into it."

me: "So, like a trailer on the back of a semi?"

Totally exasperated, Cousin A gathers five square drink coasters on the table and stands them up, arranging them.

A: "Watch closely. You see, the sides come together at 90 degree angles, like walls... four sides... Hey Cousin K! I need more hands. Can you hold the roof on? Great. There. A Weekend Warrior Trailer looks like this:

me: "A cube? All that work, using coasters and four hands to illustrate to me what a box looks like?"

A: "That's not all. Also to show you what the drop down back door does:

Here's an actual Weekend Warrior:

I think her cube of coasters is a pretty good likeness.

After all these years, Cousin A and I are trying to understand each other.
I tried to appreciate the intricacies of a Weekend Warrior trailer, and why in the world someone would make sand dunes a destination.

She reached out to me by telling me she was at a book store the other day, and she thought of me because she saw a picture of a zombie, and didn't I think that was cool. I mean, I like books and zombies, right?

Actually, I always think books and zombies are cool.

To Enter Free Book Friday:
Leave a comment on Tamara's blog when my interview comes up, and then tell me you did in my comments, and you're entered in FBF.
But feel free to leave a comment on this post even if the interview doesn't show up until way later. How about if you leave a comment on this post, you're entered once, and if you leave another one on Tamara's interview post, you're entered twice. Good? Good.

What's everyone doing this weekend? Any fun plans? I'm going to the SCBWI Conference. If you're there, find me!