Saturday, June 30, 2007

eye liner & chickens & "the ugly stage"

So, yesterday evening, due to a complex chain of events, Jim and I joined my brother and my eleven-year-old niece for a concert. That's where the "eye liner" portion of this post title comes in -- it was (and really still is) all I knew about this band: that the front man wears a lot of eye liner. The band was Fall Out Boy, much adored by teen and pre-teen girls and there was much shrilling and shrieking. I hadn't been to a concert in a while (I don't love concerts. Even when it's a band I like, I get bored really fast and wish I had a book and a flashlight) and was amused to see there was a big screen by the stage that people could TM little messages to, like "Amanda will u marry me?" and "Neal your walking home" [sic] ha ha!

Being there, surrounded by teens, I thought a little bit about writing a contemporary teen book. I mean, I wasn't thinking seriously of doing it -- my dance card is kind of full -- just thinking about what that would entail. What would I have to do if I wanted to write a convincing contemporary teen novel? Part of the reason I'm comfortable with fantasy is that I can create my own world, my own culture. Teen culture today is obviously pretty different than it was 20 years ago, and I don't know much about it. I know YA writers have to do research just like any other kind of writing, and they have to hang out around teens to get familiar with how they speak, and what they're into. The emotions are surely the same as they've always been, but it seems so much more intense, what teens today have to deal with. It's intimidating, thinking of trying to write something authentic that would resonate with them. I came up with a few ideas and jotted them down. Who knows? Maybe some day I'll try to write a book set in high school. It would be fun to write highschool characters that were bolder and quirkier than I was, sort of play out some of the "what if," the things I loved and feared and was mortified by, but you know, updated, and cooler!

Anyway, we left the concert for a "Chicken Party" which had nothing to do with eating chickens. It was more like a "coop warming" for Maggie's girls -- a soiree in honor of the hens, who were sleeping and out of sight by the time we arrived. At the party I got to talking to a guy named "Howeird" who said he has been writing two different sci-fi trilogies since the 1970s, and it came out that he still hasn't actually started writing them. He's outlined them and re-outlined them, and he's done the "world building" but as far as the actual writing. . . not so much.

Now, I totally get this. I do. I bet there are a million Howeirds out there. As I talked about a little in this speech, world-building was the big fun for me as a young "writer." Dreaming up the cosmologies and character names, even drawing the maps of imaginary lands. It's a great exercise of the imagination. But it isn't writing. Make no mistake. Outlining is not writing. "Dreaming stuff up" is not writing; it's the threshold of it. I know. Progressing from the one to the other is like jumping off a cliff. It is so hard. To dive in, pick a scene and go, just go, flail forth into the dark. It's freaking hard.

But it was kind of good for me to give Howeird advice last night that I doubt he will follow, about starting the dang writing already. You know how sometimes giving advice to someone else is the best way to reinforce it for yourself? Well, it's not that I need to start a book -- that's well underway -- I just need to believe the things I was saying about first drafts and just moving forward, about "exploratory drafts" and how OF COURSE the book is not going to be awesome right away.

I'm still in an "ugly stage" of my manuscript right now and I'm gritting my teeth through it. That's what I call my paintings when I've put only the underpainting in, the flat first layer of color without any rendering or shading, and I just have to know that it's part of the process and it WILL get "prettier." Well, it's easier with paintings than with a novel, but the principle is the same. Got to keep the faith through the ugly draft, that it will serve its purpose as a solid foundation for the lovely thing to come. In the past I have, ahem, been known to spend days and days writing a perfectly beautiful scene, just to have to cut it later on when I figure out what the book is really about. Wellll. . . this is a good way to minimize that sort of thing. It's a strategy. I have a lot of strategies. I feel kind of like I'm a marathon runner, or let's say cyclist, and I'm also the person driving alongside in a car shouting encouragement. I'm both, the exhausted one who wants to fall off the bike and gasp, and the maniacal bullhorn-weilding one in the car whose job is to keep the cyclist moving. I don't know if that's how it works in cycling. Maybe in training. Oy, am I ever rambling. The thing to take away here is dang, it's hard to write a book.

Yesterday I wrote over 5000 words, which is just marvelous for me. It was a kind of surge. And it's likely not a single paragraph of it will survive to the next draft, but that is totally okay, because I'm finding my way through the book, figuring out the best way to fit the scenes together, learning the kinds of things that can not be learned from an outline, only from the actual writing. So I go forward with the ugly, every fiber of my being yearning toward the pretty, the persnickity, the rewriting.

Speaking of word counts, I'm still a bit derailed from having discovered that Naomi Novik, author of the Temeraire books I was raving about recently, considers 6000 words a productive day of writing. HOLY holy! That hurts my head! I wish I could selectively delete that from my memory!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Peanut butter & dog food sandwich? Anyone?

This is actually a post about something besides the release of my book! This has been me lately: "Blah blah blah Dreamdark blah blah blah Blackbringer. . ." So, here are 5 things that are NOT about Dreamdark.

1. Peanut butter and dog food sandwich
That is what Leroy had for dinner tonight. He hadn't been showing any interest in his dogfood, a glomp of wet goosh into which was mixed his arthritis medication, and so I slathered some bread with peanut butter, slorped on the dog food, and stuck another piece of bread on. Yummy. He was so delighted with it!

2. Tiger Farms
This one sucks. Out and about today, I happened to pick up the Asian Reporter, a Pacific Northwest weekly of Asia-related news, which reported this: the international ban on trade in tiger parts for traditional medicine is under threat in China, where "businessmen" are putting pressure on the government to overturn it. That's bad. Very bad. But the part of the article that really nauseated me was the fact that there are legal tiger farms in China, where Siberian tigers are bred for use as parts in medicine. There are some 5000 captive-bred tigers in China now, while there are scarcely more than that estimated to remain in the wild.

In other grim tiger news, read this link about the sad state of tiger conservation in India.

3. Hero Rats! (this one is much cheerier!)
Awesome news that humans don't always suck. In fact, they don't suck a lot. And here is one of the non-suck times. On PBS's Frontline/World tonight was a segment on the "Hero Rats" project run by a Belgian researcher in Tanzania. He's been a rodent-lover since childhood, and has turned that love to training African giant pouched rats to sniff out land mines! These rats are BIG, and they're so cute, they live around 8 years and are super trainable. Did you know that a landmine explodes somewhere in the world about once an hour? (Okay, an example of human suckage) And Africa has more than anywhere else. So these rats go out on leashes and sniff out mines and scratch the ground!!! And they're almost always right. I love it! Weetjens, the researcher, is now training rats to sniff out tuberculosis. Check out this: a human lab technician can test about 20 samples for TB in a day; a rat can sniff about 2000. You can watch that segment here.

4. My sister the snake surgeon!
Yes, this is my sister Emily about to cut open a rattlesnake. I'm not sure why. Probably to implant a radio tracking device. She's a professor at Cal Poly (for you non-West Coasters that's the California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo). Her website here has lots of great herp photos and things of interest to would-be field biologists.

5. Ridiculous tall shoes
You might know that I have a problem. An, er, addiction to artificial height. My tallest platform shoes are 6-1/4 and I've been wearing them quite a lot lately. Wellllllll. . . I felt the need for some "summery" stilts, so I ordered some. That is, four pairs. Ulp! However the blasted shoes site emailed today that two of them are on back order! DAMN! See, the problem with platform shoes is that it is very difficult to find shoes that are TALL, but not "stripperish." I don't want thigh-high red patent stilettos. No. It's tricky, this quest of mine. Especially considering that anything below four inches -- okay, 4-1/2, is just way too short. Ha! Anyway, here are the ones that weren't canceled (check out that witchy heel on the not-so-summery pair):

6. Pink hair!
I know I said there were 5 random things. This one is a bonus: PINK hair. That's what I'm thinking now, instead of blue. I am totally going to do it!

Monday, June 25, 2007

An amazing blueberry criminal llama-herdress am I

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone for being so supportive of my book, and for getting excited with me! I'm so glad I had my blog community to share the experience with; I'd have felt very isolated without you -- it's funny to think that a year and a half ago I had never blogged; the world seems so much bigger now, and more full of smiling faces!

Thank you to Liz for calling excitedly from Barnes & Noble with a copy in her hands!

Thank you to Kim for braving the ferocious clerks at Powell's (and I'm not kidding here -- the scowls!!) and asking them to bring forth a copy from back room, and for putting up a post about it!

Thank you to Mardougrrl for the flowers!

Thank you to Amber and Deidre for both using dark chocolate metaphors for the reading of it!

Thank you to Jone for planning a book party for me!

Thank you to "Davesap" for buying the 15 copies pictured in this stack, as gifts for friends! (And I'm wearing the same T-shirt as in the last post because it was the same day!)

Thank you to Chary for staying home all day the day after the release to reread the book!

And of course, thank you to Alexandra for having a release-night party for me! There was an interview and there was a silly questionnaire for guests to fill out. Here's a sampling of responses:

One word that describes Laini is: daydreamer; creative; artistic; perfect (submitted by my dad); amazing (by my mom); hot (by Jim); tall (by myself; I was wearing my 6-inch platforms); pulchritudinous (by Chary, who out-vocabularized us all); blueberry (from Maggie, and I love it); and lastly, from Alexandra: criminal.

One word that describes Jim: affable; solid; hot (from me); caring; sweetest; sweetheart; lucky (from Jim); kind; perfect-2 (from my dad); high-fallutin (from, of course, Alexandra) -- overall, can you tell that this guy is a good guy?

If Laini wasn't an author she would be a: artist; artist; llama herdress; artist; illustrator; zookeeper; veterinarian; travel series host; reader; polka dot (yes, this last -- Alexandra). Interestingly, a few posts back, I actually said exactly what I would be if I wasn't a writer and no body got it! Don't you read my blog, folks? ha ha!

If Jim wasn't an illustrator he would be a: superhero; superhero; superhero-ninja-FBI agent; barber (ehh?); inner-city youth counsellor; movie critic; doctor; cyclops rabbit (you can probably guess by now whose this is)

Wasn't that fun? I totally recommend that as a party game! Again, thank you to everybody, to everyone who has left encouraging comments along the way -- this writing process feels very much less like, I don't know, dropping pennies into a void, with kindred spirits out there for commiseration and cheerleading. Thank you.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Book Birthday!!!

This is it! Today's the day. My book is born.

I have a huge knot in my stomach. I don't know why. I mean, nothing "happens" today. It's really just another day, and I am in the middle of writing a very fun scene for Silksinger, but my mind keeps wandering. As if something is going to happen. Some mysterious surprising thing. But it's not. I feel very weird. Today would be a good day to go for a long hike in a remote place, actually, and just breathe and look at the sky and maybe take a nap on a warm rock, like a lizard. Try not to wonder what is going on in the bookstores of America.

Most blogs I've read or interviews I've heard, writers just seem so happy and grateful to have a book published, and I am totally happy and grateful, but I'm also anxious and. . . sheepish. There's this whole thing, all throughout the process, of learning to keep excitement in check. It's not just the publishing process, it's sort of the whole process of trying to make a creative career happen. You send out postcards of your art work to publishers and try not to expect to get any response, because you probably won't. You submit stuff to contests and annuals, and try not to get excited. The first time I got a call from an art director wanting to hire me. . . that was a moment when excitement was allowed to actually bubble forth -- it was great! And with the sale of Blackbringer, there were lots of mini-moments of almost-excitement, interspersed with fretting and incredulity -- you know, I'd had a lot of experience with tamping down the excitement by then, and I started to experience this weird detatchment, like I didn't even know what moments were genuine excitement moments anymore! So weird! And a year and half has passed since selling the book to Putnam. A year and a half!

    My most memorable moments of the past year and a half:

  • getting my first editorial letter. . . It was really, really short and I thought that meant my book was perfect {heh heh} and didn't need much editing. Well, that was only the first editorial letter!

  • going into the Penguin offices in New York and meeting everybody! Champagne lunch with my editor and publisher (and my husband/illustrator). WOW! I felt very special! (But the very next day, I was unable to get into the "pro" party at a writing conference because my book wasn't published yet. Un-special!)

  • speaking at ALA Midwinter. That was awesome. The most pure and undiluted pleasure I think I've felt during the entire journey. Thank you, librarians. I love you. And what a perfect first signing it was -- a huge line of librarians with my book in their hands! Pinch me! No wait -- don't pinch me. It's too good.

  • reading my first review, and loving librarians even more!

  • getting a photo of my first-ever child reader dressed up as Magpie Windwitch for Purim! (Her attention to detail was fabulous! My character was really out in the world -- a child had dressed up as my character!!)

  • speaking at the library in Topeka, Kansas, when the teenagers in the audience actually lined up to buy my book after! The whole sheepish thing, I had prepared myself for no one to buy it, and then they did!!

I might be forgetting something. I probably am. The thing I'm thinking about today a lot is how many writers and artists I've heard speak who have said that the very most important thing is to love the work itself -- that everything else is just gravy. And it has to be true. It really has to be. Because the excitement moments, when they come, glorious as they are, are not enough to buoy you through the uncertainty and the waiting. You have to actually love doing it -- that's what gets you through. Being lost in the world of the next book on the day the first one comes out. Thinking ahead to a lifetime of books, to the steady building of an oeuvre, one book at a time, and savoring those moments when the outside world comes in contact with the internal world, the thing that is born in my head. And only in my head. That's what's great, really. Like the famous quote by Martha Graham:

". . . because there is only one of you in all of time [your] expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it!"

So, happy book birthday to me!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Shopping for daggers

It's happened again: the real world and the Dreamdark world have done that thing they do. . . there's probably some cool-sounding mathematical term for it, something smart-sounding like "algorithm" or "gnomon" or something -- that is, they've proven they are. . . inversely proportional in terms of interestingness. The more interesting Dreamdark, the less I have to blog about. I am off in the Himalayas, my friends, shopping for daggers in a faerie bazaar. How about you? Really, I can't think of anything to write about that isn't related to the release of Blackbringer or the writing of Silksinger. (Well, there is one thing that I'm dying to write about, but I'm not allowed to yet. whine whine) Soon.**

Oh, there is this: I'm thinking blue. Blue hair. Really. In my mind, my hair is already blue. Electric blue.

And this: I loved, I mean LOVED the first Temeraire book. The one the Borders clerk disdained as that kind of book. LOVED it. Read it in a day. And I'm so happy to know Peter Jackson is going to make the movies. I can't wait to see his vision of these dragons in full battle gear wheeling in the skies. And who, o who, will he cast as Captain Laurence? Hm. I haven't figured out a dream casting yet, but I can tell you this: I am beside myself with joy that Eric Bana and Rachel MacAdams have been cast in Time Traveler's Wife. Perfect. Come to think of it, Eric Bana would make a great Captain Laurence. . .

Obviously, I am not one of those people who object to movie versions of their favorite books. I love seeing them brought to life by the amazing visual minds of great directors and great cinematographers. And when they're disappointing? Well, shrug. Then just go read the book again. (Can't wait for The Golden Compass!!)

Sunday, June 17, 2007


So, there have been early sightings of Blackbringer in bookstores. Not by me, but there have been sightings and. . . purchases! [Squeal.] But when Jim and I went to peek at Powell's yesterday evening, they did NOT yet have it, though their computer said it was, indeed, coming. 9 copies to that location (the smaller one.) I had to steel myself when I asked this. Like when I go into a store that carries Laini's Ladies, I do not breeze up to the cash register and say, "Hi there! I'm Laini. How are my ladies selling?" I keep a low profile and get nervous if I see someone browsing the display. (When I'm nervous, my chest gets blotchy.) I do not want to hear if things aren't selling well, and I did not want to know if Powell's had not ordered my book or, if they had ordered one copy or something. The bookseller had this nonplussed look on his face like authors asked him these questions every day, which they probably do.

When I worked at a [wonderful] independent bookstore during college, I was very starstruck whenever an author would come in (and I am not saying booksellers should be starstruck over me!). Isabel Allende and Anne Lamott both lived in the neighborhood and came in often, and this young novelist named Glasgow Phillips had gone to the highschool down the street so he was kind of a celebrity to us and I'm sure I stammered whenever he came in and asked for a book. I probably got blotchy, too. Needless to say, the hardened character at Powell's did not get blotchy when he met me. Hee hee. Funny image, though.

Had one of those "Portland evenings" as Jim and I call them, when we went out and ran into people we knew at every turn. Love living in a small city! Walking from the car toward Powell's on Hawthorne, ran into Too Much Coffee Man sitting at a pub and stopped for a beer because. . . why not? He was one of the first people we met when we moved here. A little later at Powell's ran into a guy who I worked with six years ago. Interesting story -- he's an identical twin (and they are both poetry MFAs! How cool is that?), and Stephen Spielberg had somehow happened to get his and his brother's head shots that they'd done on a whim, and they got cast as the "precogs" in the pool in Minority Report. What a random life twist! Anyway after that there was dinner + a birthday party in a groovy hair salon with a disco ball.

I'm thinking of getting my hair dyed cherry-popsicle red. I've kind of wanted colorful hair ever since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but lately the idea has really been creeping up on me. Perhaps it would be dreadful, I don't know. Perhaps it is an early mid-life crisis. I'd also love bright blue hair. Stay tuned.

Oh, and writers, check out this awesome post by Scholastic editor Cheryl Klein.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I think I will be a samurai mangoologist

The other night while we were making dinner, Jim and I were wondering to one another what career we would want if we couldn't have our "creative" careers. It didn't have to be something we would be good at, or even remotely suited for -- when we play "what if" or "would you rather," it is important it be out of the context of real life, or else it would be no fun. It would be like:

"Would you rather be a ninja or a samurai?"
"Mm. . . ninja."
"Really? Because ninjas are assassins. You'd have to kill people."
"And what do samurais do? Tickle people?"
"Well, they kill people too, but they have honor."
"But when they mess up, don't they have to commit suicide?"
"Yeah, I guess."
"That sucks. I don't want to be a samurai."

Okay, I totally made that conversation up -- I'm sure Jim would have handled his side of it very differently -- but you get the point. No interrogations, no implying that the other person would not make an especially good ninja. But the other night, neither of us elected ninja as our second-choice career. I thought I would like to be a scientist of some sort. Kind of like my sister, but without the hard work. I want the job of saying: Wow! Did you know there is a kind of moth that eats sloth fur? Also, I wouldn't want to specialize. Like, Emily studied primarily one species of snake in her research. I couldn't narrow it down. One day: sloth-fur-eating moths, the next day: vampire bats**, etc. But if I had to specialize, I think I would be:


That is, a mango-ologist, but like zoologist, spelled without the hyphen. I checked, and google came up empty on mangoology. So it looks like I will be the first one ever. Do you suppose you have to know something about botany? What if I just study the flavor of mangoes?

Jim thought he would probably be in the FBI or CIA. He didn't say anything about superpowers, but I'm sure he wouldn't mind being an invulnerable FBI agent, perhaps one with adamantium claws. (Oh, we're such nerds!) (That last bit, as I wrote it, I sang it my head like a nerd anthem.)

But anyway, since we are not a mango-flavor-ologist and a superpowered FBI agent, but a writer and an illustrator, we should get back to our writing and illustrating. I apologize to all for my lack of blog comments -- but I am one frantic writer right now. This morning I emailed my editor to inform him of my intention of delivering the Silksinger manuscript before leaving for San Diego Comic-con in late July. So I have to finish it by then. Which means: no reading, no knitting, no anything for the next 6 weeks except for "Silksingering." I totally love this book, but it is not, er, easy. Not that I have ever had the experience of writing being easy, but I keep hoping.

Speaking of Comic-con, I get to be on a panel there about writing villains. Cool! I'm not sure who all is going to be on the panel yet, but there are a couple people I have my fingers crossed for, because I really want to meet them and get to sit next to them and answer questions, and have a picture of me sitting next them, etcetera etcetera. Will keep you posted!

PS -- the monkeys in this picture are all named after famous samurais!

** Apropos of nothing, I would really like to see an enormous bat exodus. The one I'm thinking of is the one at Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo). Three million bats come streaming out of a cave at dusk! Man, I'd love to see that. Has anyone ever seen a good bat exodus?

Friday, June 08, 2007

And dragons shall eat all the literary snobs. . .

I had jury duty yesterday -- and spent the morning in the jury room writing on my laptop, only to discover, when it was time to change to my second battery, that it was not charged. And I had not brought anything else to do. AAAAAAGGGHHH! So at lunch break I stumbled desperately into Borders where I picked up a few books, and where I forgot, again the author and title of those dragons-fighting-the-Napoleonic War books that I've been curious about. So I asked at the info desk if that rang a bell with the clerk and I was told "No, I'm sorry. I don't read that kind of book." Huh. I never knew bookstore clerks only had to know about they kind of books they themselves read. Anyway, I remembered the dragon's name (Temeraire) and found the books myself, thank you very much, helpful Borders employee. Honestly, the way this woman said "that kind of book," you'd have thought I was asking for porn, not fantasy. Oh my god, dragons! Lewd!

You know, this used to be so entirely the pervasive attitude toward fantasy -- the pitying smirk -- but large strides towards social acceptance have been made. Still though, plenty of people out there, and I am sure many of you may be among them, think fantasy is juvenile and a little embarrassing. Check out this fabulously awful quote from Mary MacCarthy:

"If a criterion were wanted for telling a novel from a fable or a tale from a romance, a simple rule-of-thumb would be the absence of the supernatural. In fables and fairy tales, as everyone knows, birds and beasts talk. In novels, they don't; if you find birds and beasts talking in a book you are reading you can be sure that it is not a novel."

Damn! I totally thought I had written a novel. Alas. Anyway, that was probably said in the '60s or something, not now. Whatever. I like talking birds, and I like dragons. Two of my favorite books this year have had dragons in them: Dragon Slippers and Dragon's Keep. Awesome books.

As for jury duty, I did not get called to a panel, so I am free of that civic duty for at least two years.

But to the "good stuff"-- Today is Jim's and my sixth wedding anniversary. Yay! Six years -- pretty amazing how quickly it has gone. Well, closer to nine years together, but six years of marriage. I feel so incredibly blessed to have found such a sweet, talented, thoughtful, funny guy to spend my life with! I love you, sweetie! It's also almost seven years to the day since he proposed -- in a gondola, in Venice. Can you believe that? How awesome. We had been traveling for some six weeks or so, and all the while Jim secretly had my engagement ring tucked into his wallet, and I had no idea! I found out later he had almost proposed once in a Turkish restaurant when some folk dancers pulled him up onstage to participate in a "wedding dance," and once on a tiny little beach on the Amalfi coast that we had kayaked to. But he waited for Venice, and it was beautiful. And so was our wedding, in Berkeley, and so have been the last six years. So many things we have shared -- buying our little house, sticking with our creative dreams, experiencing the sadness of our doggies growing old, and much, much more. So, happy anniversary to us!

And, Blackbringer comes out two weeks from yesterday. At last! My first book will be in the world! Good things have been happening -- it is a Book Sense summer pick, and as a former indie-bookstore-worker, this tickles me! Also, Booklist just gave me a good review! This is my favorite line: ". . .this all braids together into a radiant conclusion." Aw, shucks. Okay, and I like this one too: ". . . lovely echoes of its literary antecedents from Tolkein on down," and the reviewer calls my language "vibrant," though that is, I must confess, in the context of my first criticism: "Vibrant language overcomes a surfeit of telling rather than showing." Okay, for days that was the only line of this review I was able to process because. . . really? I mean, I take such great pains to "show" rather than "tell" that I was bowled over by that. It made me want to sit down with my book and study it and see if it's true. Of course, I don't think it's true, but I am not going to try to prove it to Booklist right now. My mind has cleared and I am capable of seeing the niceness of the rest of the review. But it made me feel a little tiny bit how much a bad review would hurt. Ouch.

I also stumbled upon this review whilst -- ahem -- googling myself, and it was lovely to read this reviewer's take on my characters. And this one, which totally gets my theme about dreams! It's so awesome that people are "getting it"!

P.S. Without brown sugar, steel-cut oatmeal isn't really worth it. Sigh.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Spectacular Oregon Coast

a little color:

These photos are all taken along about a 30-mile stretch of the Oregon coast, from Oswald West State Park south to Netarts. We took a little belated birthday trip for Jim's birthday, and also to get a little taste of summer before buckling back down to work. We had a wonderful time. This stretch of coastline is riven with bays and sand spits and inlets and estuaries and mountains so it is always dramatic and each bend brings all new scenery, with dozens of state and county parks hither and thither -- a detour into the hills to a tucked-away river paradise, or a narrow path through scrubby dunes to a white beach, or down a long, long sand spit with ocean beaches on one side and bay beaches on the other. And this is all just an hour and a half from Portland. Look:

Oswald West State Park

I LOVE Nehalem Bay, with its blue skies and its little riverside antique-store-filled towns of Wheeler and Nehalem on one side and the huge, wondrous state park on the other (a great place to ride horses on the beach).

Nehalem Bay State Park



Nehalem shops

Further south, out from the dairy settlement of Tillamook, known for its cheddar and ice cream, are Cape Meares, Oceanside, and Netarts.



Cape Meares

Kilchis River Park

Just a little ways north of Tillamook there's a small sign off the highway pointing the way to this delightful riverside county park, way off the beaten path. We were the only people there. It was so quiet, with just the shush of the creek and the splish of leaping fish. There's a great campground too, and seems like a perfect place to swim on a hot day. Bring your inner tubes!

Our cabin in Manzanita

This was the third time we've stayed in lovely Manzanita. Bit irritated to find that none of the restaurants were open mid-week, though! See, what we want is to get away to a beautiful, semi-secluded, non-touristy town, but we want there to be good cafes and wine bars such as one finds in the city! Is that too much to ask? Ha ha -- off-season, it is. And if you're out this way: for breakfast, go to Wanda's in Nehalem. YUM. For coffee: Bread & Ocean in Manzanita. It's organic and roasted in Cannon Beach, and there's a cute octopus painting on the patio.

at the Tilamook creamery (can you say "full fat ice cream"?)

Jim & Leroy

We had plans for hiking and kayaking and various active pursuits, but unfortunately, the first time we got out of the car at Oswald West and walked the half-mile through the forest to the beach, Leroy's old doggy elbows got very sore from his arthritis and his limp was so bad for the next few days that we pretty much took it easy. There are a lot of pictures of us sitting in chairs in the sand or at the river bank, reading, drinking wine, and thinking up new story ideas for the future (and ooh, we have a good one!). I am dying to go kayaking in Nehalem Bay next time. It's so beautiful, and there are otters and seals and herons, and miles of secluded beach to paddle to, both up river and out towards the sea. Better time the tides right though, or you'll be begging a fisherman for a tow back!

Our friends Chary and Aaron came out for one night and we had a BLAST. They were foolish enough to disregard the hand-written warning label on a bottle of hot sauce at the taqueria, and they wept tears of hilarious (sorry guys, but it was!) agony for several minutes, and later we played Beyond Balderdash, to much more laughter. Below, see Chary and Aaron picking out his and hers majorette costumes at the antique store in Wheeler. VERY charming!

Milk, Worms

Been out at the Oregon coast for the past three days -- delightful! -- and we're more in love with it than ever. More photos soon. Meanwhile, beginning a cycle of sleep followed by work followed by sleep followed by work, etc etc. Cheers!