Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Happy Agentiversary to Me!

Yes, one year ago (yesterday), Agent Man called and offered representation.

I guess this means I'm not newly agented anymore, huh.

Anyway, here's a recap of what has happened since I signed with my agent:

1. I finished some quick revisions on my first book, and Agent Man started subbing it to some pretty awesome editors. (Did I ever mention that Agent Man signed me with the very first novel I ever wrote? I didn't have anything else finished at that point. Yeah, I'm certain that was a mistake on his part, but now he's stuck with me. Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!)
2. I started thinking about Book 2.
3. Agent Man left Writers House and moved to Russell and Volkening, and was kind enough to ask me to move over with him. (I think asking me to stick with him was his 2nd big mistake, but, whatever.)
4. I finally finished the first/second draft of Book 2 and sent it to Agent Man (certain that he would read it and realize his mistake in signing me). He read and gave some amazing suggestions, which I am still incorporating in the manuscript.
5. A small number of those awesome editors finally sent some rejection emails to Agent Man. Only one really hated the book, a few were lukewarm to it, but most liked it but said it didn't fit their list. (Those were the reasons they gave for the R's, anyway.) We're still waiting on the majority of the awesome editors who have the ms.

Okay, totally OT, but what is the grammatically correct way of writing the shortened version of "rejections"? Is it Rs or R's? I need this question answered, because it's keeping me awake at night.

Oh, sorry. Back to the list...

6. I started a group blog *cough cough* because I finally found the nerve to ask people to join me...I figured they might actually take me seriously (getting an agent will do that to you). I should point out that I never take myself seriously. Well, only on rare occasions, and it always turns out badly.
7. An industry professional (translation: a real, honest-to-goodness editor) agreed with Agent Man that I am a funny writer! O HAPPY DAY! (See this post that mentions my life-long wish to be considered funny.)
8. I made it to my first acquisitions meeting with Book 1. Yay! Though I didn't make it THROUGH my first acquisitions meeting. Sigh.
9. I think I've gained 20 lbs. and my first dozen gray hairs from all the suspense of waiting and hoping and wondering. I am not old enough for gray hairs! (Good thing there are few enough of them that I can still pluck them out.) And I am not exactly happy that the submission process is making my butt look big. Curse you, Stress (and Stress Eating)!
10. I'm happily revising Book 2 and working on the first draft of a third book. And working out the plot of a fourth. I'm not exactly the most productive writer out there, but not bad for a year's worth of work, right? (Just nod your head and agree with me here.)

Anyway, thanks for a good year, Agent Man. And here's to the next one, which is gonna be bigger and better, guaranteed.*

Happy Agentiversary!

*'Course, I can't really make any guarantees, but that's beside the point. It's the sentiment that counts, right?

Monday, July 26, 2010

2nd Annual Pity Party! (for those who aren’t going to SCBWI LA this week)

I can’t believe it’s that time again! Yes, I'm talking about the annual summer SCBWI conference in LA. We nobodies need a place to call our own as the somebodies hobnob with the really big somebodies out there in the California sunshine. And I take my job as Biggest of Nobodies very seriously.

So, welcome to the 2nd Annual Pity Party for those not going to the SCBWI Conference!

We have a great lineup this year. First we will have our very own Whine and Cheese Reception, where we will read through the SCBWI Schedule and complain about those lucky enough to be there in person.

Next we’ll have a Breakout in Envy Session titled How to Be a Nobody. Here we will share our jealousy about how we are still not on the list of Really Big Somebodies who are lucky enough to get the honor of speaking at the SCBWI Conference.

Then the real fun begins. We will have our very own, no-holds-barred, razzle-dazzle, in-your-face “Stab My Heart and Squash My Soul Celebration”! Here we will wriggle and writhe the weekend away as we follow the Official SCBWI Conference Blog and #LA10SCBWI tweets that are only there to rub the fun we’re missing in our faces. In real time, no less. Sheesh.

So, pull up the couch, get out your bonbons or other comfort food, and let the Pity Party begin!

(Oh, I forgot to ask. Who's bringing the cheese?)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saturday Six

1. I meant to do a Friday Five yesterday, but I had too much going on. Which I will now explain in #2-6 below.

2. I sent my oldest son and my husband off to a Scout overnight camping trip yesterday. My son was so excited that he had finished packing by about, oh, Tuesday. He did ask why I couldn't go instead of my husband, and I had to explain the whole "it's for guys" thing. But, quite honestly, I would have loved to go instead of my husband. I'm a total camper person, and my hubby isn't. So I do think it's a little funny that my husband is going to be the one who has to go on overnighters with our boys. And our boys are just getting started in Scouting.

3. I heard some good and not so good news this week about my book on subs. The good news: it made it to acquisitions at a pub house. The bad news: it died in acquisitions at the pub house. The good news: less than stellar market conditions was the only reason for the pass (which means the story itself is solid). The bad news: less than stellar market conditions (this is bad for everyone, not just me). The good news: the editor wanted to see anything else I might have. The bad news: it'll be months before I have anything else to show.

But I am happy to just make it this far, honestly. I've been wondering and worrying that the book might need to be revised to make it stronger, but it sounds like I don't need to worry about the manuscript at all. So, though I'd love to have it sell, if it doesn't I can put it aside with a clear conscience. But I'm still hoping another house has a more optimistic outlook on market conditions and will be enthusiastic about my manuscript. Hope springs eternal, I suppose.

4. I've been thinking about a new story idea, and knowing that an editor wants to see anything else I've written (see #3 above) has kicked my imagination into overdrive. I sent a short synopsis to my agent late yesterday (after he left the office, I'm sure, since I'm two hours behind and it was late in the afternoon when I sent it) explaining the vague idea to him. And this weekend I'm going to try to crank out some serious word count and hopefully solidify some of the story.

5. Speaking of story ideas, I need to do some research on foster kids and foster parents, especially for older foster kids 10 and up. If you have any great resources or know someone who is a foster parent, please send (or have them send) me an email at elissadcruz at gmail dot com. I have some questions about how it all works.

6. I ran into an old high school friend at a writing conference a few weeks ago. She friended me on facebook, and suddenly I'm finding all my old high school buddies there as well, since she's already connected with most of them. I've been avoiding doing this, since I'm not sure I want to mix business with pleasure (so far, I've been using FB to connect with other writers), but it's also nice to think that I'll have some non-writing friends I can wow with my writing accomplishments. *snork*

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cookies, cont.

Okay, so enough people asked for the recipe to my absolutely all-time favorite cookie, that I thought it would be easiest to post it here. There are plenty of different recipes out there, but this is the one my mother/father made while I was growing up, so it's the one I like the best. However, there are variations out there on the 'net if you want to experiment. FYI, I'm not sure where this recipe came from, but probably some cookbook somewhere.

No-Bake Cookies

1 C. sugar
1/4 C. milk
1/4 C. cocoa
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 C. peanut butter
1 1/2 C. quick oatmeal (I routinely use regular rolled oats, too)

Combine sugar, milk and cocoa in a medium saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil and then remove from heat. Immediately add vanilla and dissolve peanut butter into mixture. Stir in oatmeal and drop by spoonfuls on waxed paper to cool.

Once you take it off the heat, work quickly, because the mixture starts to set up and cool fast at that point. Especially after you add the oatmeal, which sucks up a lot of the liquid and cools the mixture even further.

I should point out that if you are someone who can actually control your portion sizes when it comes to cookies, you can make about 2 dozen if you drop by teaspoonfuls. We like our cookies bigger than that, though. So I always double this recipe. When doubled, I can make about 20 large cookies (and by large, I mean 2-3" in diameter).

You know you've made these right when they are shiny after cooling. Sometimes mine turn out dull, which means they taste a little grainy (since I think it has something to do with the sugar crystallizing or something), but I haven't yet taken the time to figure out what I've done wrong in those instances. I assume it's either they've been cooked too long or not cooked long enough. But it doesn't happen very often so I've not really worried too much about it.

Also, sometimes these cookies set up within a minute or two, and other times it takes a good hour. I have no idea why. Another one of those "haven't taken the time to figure it out" things. I just wanted to let you know in case you were wondering about cooling time.

Anyway, good luck with your own cookie experiment! I hope you enjoy the recipe.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cookies are like...

I'm blogging two days in a row, I know. It's just that I haven't heard from Agent Man and the other new book is still percolating, so my writing time today is being put to good use here instead.

But I made a vow to my blueboard trench buddies (you know, those who are in the submission trenches with me on Verla Kay's message boards) that I wouldn't talk about my submission anymore, since I really have no news to speak of, so today I needed to take my mind of writing completely. That means today's post is all about COOKIES.

Yes. Cookies.


I've been craving cookies lately. Don't ask me why. I've actually been cutting back on my sugar intake because it just doesn't sound good to me anymore, but last week I suddenly wanted cookies and more cookies and even more cookies. I actually bought chocolate chips (a really big bag from Costco) so we could make cookies. I NEVER buy chocolate chips, so this is a big deal, people.

Anyway, here is a countdown of my top three:

#3: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (image by Squid! from Flickr)

I LOVE oatmeal in my cookies. In fact, I love oatmeal. Period. When I was a little girl, I used to eat plain, uncooked rolled oats like a horse (only horses don't usually eat rolled oats, but you get the picture). And when I was a newlywed, someone gave me a recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies that melt in your mouth. I've been using that recipe ever since.

#2 Rice Crispy Treats (image by stevendepolo from Flickr)

Okay, this really isn't a cookie, but it's still one of my faves. It's quick and easy and so so yummy. And they are perfect treats for those with gluten allergies, since the last time I checked, there was no wheat (still, I suggest you check the packaging and don't just take my word for it). I make them for my cub scouts quite often because we do have boys with wheat issues, and this is one treat I can be certain all of them can enjoy.

And #1 on my list is...

1. No-bake cookies! (image by alibree from Flickr)

I told you I love oatmeal! And these are the best because the oatmeal is still (mostly) raw. Plus I love the chocolate/peanut butter flavor almost as much as I love oatmeal. This is heaven on a tray right here.

Anyway, I love rotating through these three, but I also love trying different cookies. What are your favorites? Do you know of a cookie that is better than my favorites?

(So, there's my post all about cookies. Sorry it's not book-related, but I'm sure there could be a lesson about books or writing hidden in there somewhere, if you dig deep enough.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mixed-Up Monday

I have a few random things to share today. Hence the mixed-up reference. This post has nothing to do with my group blog. I just wanted to make that clear. (Though you are welcome to see that blog in all its awesomeness here, I'm just sayin'.)

1. I've graduated to pictures! See?! Now my entries should be all pretty-like. (BTW, this image is by PunkJr from Flickr.)

Photo from Flickr by PunkJr

Doesn't this pic say it all? Ha ha ha!

2. I haven't said anything yet (not sure why), but I have finished the revisions on my WIP and have shipped it off to my agent for some feedback. I know it still needs a lot of work, but hopefully the characters are acting like they should and the story itself makes sense. I've put it aside until I hear from Agent Man, because I needed some time away from it.

3. I have been spending some time doing some serious thinking about my next book. No, not the sequel-to-the-WIP next book (which I'm supposed to be thinking about), but a brand-new idea book. Well, that's not exactly true. It's the humorous book of mine I talked about in my writing humor for kids entry I wrote a million years ago. I wrote part of it for NaNoWriMo a million and half years ago, and then revised that part and added some more word count with a different character as the MC. I now want to revise it again and change the POV (and the MC once more, too), and actually finish the draft. I thought I had finally settled on who should be the main character, but his POV isn't working. So now I'm thinking of going in a completely different direction and adding a new character as the narrator. It would add depth to the book, but it will also add a serious side to a book that is supposed to be humorous. That could be a really good thing...if I can pull it off. Or it could be a really bad thing, because I'm worried the narrator's character arc will take over the story and the narrator would become the MC, which would completely change the entire mood of the story (and pretty much get rid of the humorous plot). So I'm doing some more thinking as I plot out the story in my head.

4.. I've noticed back to school supplies are in the stores. I LOVE school supplies. This is my favorite time of the year. Back to school time! (Which is funny, since we homeschool and my kids don't actually go back to school.)

5. Speaking of school...I feel a little guilty thinking about this, but there is a new charter school that just opened its doors last year near my husband's work. My younger kids have been asking if they can go to school and see what it's like. As much as I like homeschooling, I don't want to keep them home if they'd rather try a school. My oldest isn't interested, but I'm seriously considering sending the others to school this year. On one hand, the thought of only having two at home during the day (and homeschooling one, my youngest is still a toddler) sounds VERY appealing. On the other hand, I certainly feel like I'm quitting, and I'm stubborn enough that quitting isn't something I like to entertain without a very good reason. I don't know if the charter school has any openings, so it might be a moot point, but I've "applied" for my kids to at least get them on the waiting list. If they actually get a spot, we'll discuss whether or not they really want to go. We're also considering letting them try out the public school next door (literally next door). I feel better about the charter school, which follows the same type of curriculum philosophy that we do at home, but my kids want to go to the PS school so they can be with their friends. Sigh. We'll see what happens in the next month or two.