Friday, February 29, 2008

A murdery secret story

I sat down this morning with the idea of writing a quick Sunday Scribbling on this week's topic of "Time Travel." I was inspired to post this topic because of my own experience with memory-related "time travel" from the cartoon I babbled on about it my last two posts. I thought I would write about other things that take me back to childhood and teenhood, like Erasure songs and polka-dotted Benetton pants. But I didn't. I wrote the beginning of a science fiction story. It came out of nowhere the way only prompt-born stories can, and I got completely engrossed in it, saw it stretching itself to life, sprouting characters and back story and drama, and I knew I couldn't post it here after all. Because. . . I need to write it now, and I don't want to give anyone my idea!

I swear, it's a good thing I haven't been doing many Sunday Scribblings lately. I'd have more story ideas than I can handle! I am convinced that I (and you) can sit down with a one- or two-word prompt, play with it for a few hours, and have the seeds of a novel. Seriously. And now we've hit a hundred prompts on SunScrib, so many of which I've passed up in favor of staying focused on my novel, and I can't help but wonder: what stories would sprout out of each of those prompts if I gave them a chance? Yikes! What have I missed? It kind of makes me want to write all one hundred prompts down and go at them.

How does this sound: take a stack of perfect notebooks and a fistful of perfect pens on vacation somewhere wonderful, I'm thinking Mexico, and rent a pink house in a pastel-colored colonial city with jungles all around it, jungles full of waterfalls and monkeys, and spend the days strolling and lolling and eating and drinking and filling the notebooks with "scribblings" about all those prompts. Yes? Are you with me? How about a "Sunday Scribblings" retreat? We can get together in the evenings and share! Ah, sigh. Actually, I am conjuring up a jungly Mexico getaway for before my belly gets out of control. I want to go to Chiapas and hear howler monkeys and buy a Mayan bedspread and eat some kind of bizarre fruit that has no English name! I am hoping to dream it into a reality. Passport renewal is on my desk! (The shame of an expired passport! How I have let my travel dreams lapse!)

Anyway, so a new story has taken shape on my computer, but I will not share it here. I'll say this about it: it's not for kids. It's kind of "murdery," and it's a secret!

Oh, and although my last two posts prove that [almost] nobody cares about this but me, the Lady Oscar DVDs arrived yesterday! They're in Japanese with English subtitles, so it's not really the full nostalgia experience of hearing it in Italian, but now I can understand what they're saying. Nerdy fun!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

more Lady Oscar

I'm hung up on Lady Oscar since I happened to think of it yesterday in the midst of my TV ramblings. I googled around a little bit to try to find out more about it -- I essentially haven't heard anything about this cartoon in 25 years, and lo and behold, there is an internet world out there! I loved this post, written by a girl (well, a woman who was a girl) who grew up watching it in Jordan. Apparently it was huge on Arab TV with kids who grew up when I did -- she writes how Lady Oscar was an awesome female role model for her!

The story is -- I had forgotten the details -- that Oscar Francois de Jarjayes is a girl raised as a man to become her father's successor as the captain of the guard at Versailles Palace. She's hot, of course, but [almost] always dresses in male military uniform -- these awesome epauletted costumes. I don't think my Italian was good enough at the time to catch the subtlties, but it was set in the years leading up to the French Revolution, and showed Oscar's growing unease with the treatment of the common people outside the palace that was her world. There was also romance! I really want to see the whole thing now, though I don't know that it EVER played in English, which seems weird, since the rest of the world from Japan to Italy to Jordan was crazy for it. Anyhow, I think we've found an English subtitled version. We shall see! I do love the sound of it in Italian, because it rockets me straight back to being 11 years old. Here's a romantic scene:

Off to the midwife this morning. Cheers!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

New ladies, and TV ruminations

Here are the new holiday ladies in their entirety. You can click to enlarge them. Yesterday I sat on the couch and cut out several of each like paper dolls, to make the samples that will go to the manufacturer in China for bead and ribbon matching. While on the couch, I skimmed through the DVD of the New York City Ballet's Nutcracker, which -- to Jim's ever-increasing pain -- I had Netflixed over a week ago and not gotten around to "watching". I could only take a few minutes here and there, though, before it was ready to go back. I had Netflixed it because I was thinking of doing ballet-inspired ladies for this holiday line and I wanted to see the costumes, but then I changed my mind and the DVD sat around, like a thorn in Jim's toe. "Ahem, are you ever going to watch. . . The Nutcracker?"

It wasn't so interesting. As a kid, I must have watched the Baryshnikov/Gelsey Kirkland Nutcracker about 100 times. But, we lived overseas, deprived of English-language TV or video rentals (poor poor us), so we watched some strange things over and over. Some favorites were Annie (the Albert Finney one), and funnily enough, the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, which as to be a contender for most misogynistic musical ever made. I still love it, though. Love that crazy Russ Tamblyn! Let's go kidnap us some wives, boys!

This was back in the mid-'80s in southern Italy. Aside from the scant pickins at our American "video club" (held once a week at the school, maybe a hundred pirated videos laid out on cafeteria tables), we had two TV channels, RAI uno and due. We watched Japanese cartoons dubbed into Italian, of which Lady Oscar was the best. How cool is this: a cartoon about Marie Antoinette's kickass female bodyguard! I can still hear the theme song in my head!

[insert: Hoy! Jim just found this on youtube for me!! How cool is the internet?? This takes me back. . . 25 years!!!]

That's the theme song, but here's a clip showing her kicking some butt:

Oh my God! Who knew there would be so much Lady Oscar on youtube???? Wild! She was such a cool heroine -- though it was all in Italian and I couldn't understand it that well. I used to have a sticker book of the cartoon too. I was about 11, I guess, and in Italy at the news kiosks along the street you could buy sticker books and sticker packets, collectible like baseball cards. You never knew what you were going to get, but all the rectangular stickers were numbered in order and when you put them in the book it essentially became a comic book, telling a story. We loved those things, but it took forever to get all the stickers, even with our mad trading amongst ourselves. Sigh. Those were the days.

Anyhoo, back to TV last night. Segued from Nutcracker into Miss Austen Regrets, taped last month from the Jane Austen blitz on PBS. A little Sarah Connor Chronicles thrown in. All the while, my scissors were working, cutting out these tiny paper dolls. Every time I make a batch of samples now, I can't help but remember, back in my Saturday Market days, when I made my living by selling handmade Laini's Ladies. I cut out hundreds of these every week. Hundreds! In those days, I watched A LOT of TV. And then there was all the beading and wiring. . . and sitting in a market tent in the sleet or driving rain or blazing sun all weekend down by the Burnside Bridge, peddling my wares. . .

(If you don't know the story of Laini's Ladies, and would like to know, go here. Scroll down to the sidebar on the right.)

So, aside from beading these up, I'm done with this new line, and back to work on other things. Namely, revisions on Goblin Fruit. I haven't yet heard anything from my Putnam editor about Silksinger. I presume he's read at least some of it by now, but I don't know. This waiting-anxiety things used to drive me crazy, but I've learned to cultivate a kind of patience that feels sometimes dangerously like apathy. There's a lot of joy in being a writer, but there aren't that many genuine thrill/surprise moments. Lots of working, and lots of waiting. Good news about the Blackbringer audiobook though! It will be out at the end of April! So soon! I can't WAIT to hear it! If possible, I will download it onto my ipod (I've just joined the ipod generation, by way of getting Jim's hand-me-down Nano, when he got a new, snazzier one) to listen to on the treadmill at the gym, where I will most likely weep to hear it.

P.S. Has anyone else noticed their Netflix cues backing up behind an unheard of number of "long waits" and "very long waits"?? I think they must have had a surge in membership, but not kept up with extra copies of things. Anyone?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sicko, and the [resulting] search for European real estate

Look at our new property! It's on the shores of Lake Trasimeno, one of Italy's largest lakes, and it's a former abbey. We bought it last night in our dreams while surfing for Italian real estate. Why were we doing that? It doesn't exactly make sense, but we were searching for Italian real estate because we saw the movie Sicko at last and realized we need to live in France. (I said it didn't make sense. But, see, the French real estate on the site was all modern apartments and not nearly as much fun to drool over.)

Have you seen Sicko? Especially if you are American, you really need to see it. Any non-Americans among you, you will just be horrified and feel lucky and probably a little superior. It deeply, deeply shocked me. That's not strong enough. It FREAKED ME OUT. I mean, I know a lot of that stuff, but really hearing account after account of the lives ruined (and lost) because of our "health care" system. . . It should really be called a "denial of health care" system. I could go on about it, but really it is so much more powerful, shocking, freaky, infuriating, and terrifying to just see it for yourself. Please do see it. I wish everyone in America could be made to see it. If they were, we might see some change. I don't know the details, but a Canadian in the film made reference to their system being basically the result of the efforts of one man, who is now considered to be the most important person in their entire history. I can see why. When you hear the story of the mother whose three year old died of complications of a high fever because Kaiser wouldn't pay for her to be treated at a non-Kaiser hospital (and the non-Kaiser hospital wouldn't treat her without Kaiser's approval, and kicked her out so that the little girl died on the way to Kaiser). . . And then think -- that could be your child. Easily. Anyway, see it.

So, France. Jee. Zus. They are so cared for. A dear friend of mine lives in the Netherlands and it's the same there. No worries about medical care! Can you imagine? I was so shaken up by it, I actually got to wondering. . . what's the deal, without EU citizenship, of living in Europe? If you are a writer and don't need to seek employment there, can you partake of the system? Can you pay taxes there and get what they get? That naturally led to looking at real estate, and we found this one on Lake Trasimeno. Our new -- har har -- home.

Here's the view of the lake from the property's tower:
And here's the courtyard:
The crypt. That's right. The crypt:
And here are some other rooms:

Are you wondering what this might cost? Ah, that's the best part. It costs. . . $700,000 dollars. And I'm not saying I have that, I'm just saying, here that doesn't buy you a medieval abbey on the lakeshore! (Okay, okay, actually, it's unclearly written, but I'm pretty sure that price is for an apartment within this building. But still.)

I camped at Lago Trasimeno years ago when I was a college student/travel writer. I was very lucky that during my years at UC Berkeley, the travel publisher Fodor's tried to start a student travel guide series to be competetive with Let's Go, which is written by Harvard students. This was the "Berkeley" take on travel. I was in the first batch of writers, and wrote three chapters of the first edition of the Italy book. I'll confess it wasn't the most fun travel I have ever experienced. I was on a crazy timeline, and so had no time to do the things I love, the loitering in cafes and museums, the swimming at the beach, etc. Rather, I had to track down the best and cheapest hotels and hostels, and jot down train info, etc. Tedious! I camped as often as I could, which led to one interesting night in the Apennine Mountains, a lovely, not-very-high mountain range that forms the "spine" of the boot of Italy. Well, I was nestled snugly in my little tent at the fringes of an out-of-season campground. I was the only tent camper there, and I felt very alone when I awakened in the night to the unmistakable roar of. . . a lion. Really. Even if you have never heard a lion roar in person, you know it when you hear it, and this was it. My mind worked frantically. There are no lions in Italy. I know this. I don't know if there are mountain lions, but this was a lion-lion. It didn't sound really close or anything, but that was little comfort. I felt suddenly about as safe as wonton filling is inside a wonton. I can't recall if I slept. . . but I survived the night, told no one I had heard a lion (crazy!), and noticed that morning that there was a circus in town!!! Ha ha.

Another interesting camping experience came in Assisi. There was an absolute stunner of a campground in the hills just outside the city, maybe a mile walk, and worth it. The whole of Umbria seemed to roll away in a valley from the hill on which Assisi sits. Again, I had the place almost entirely to myself. I chose the perfect spot, set up my little tent, looked around contentedly, then walked into town to do my tedious research thing. Late that evening I returned to a very changed campground. You see, a horde of Slovenian pilgrims had arrived for some religious holiday, and they had set up a city of World War II-era tents around my little tent. A city. And their tents were so huge and ungainly they literally had their stakes and tethers stretching over my tent, crisscrossing it. It was horrible!

Anyway, Lago Trasimeno. I had no camping adventures there, just a run-of-the-mill campground to return to after spending the days taking boats to the lake's various islands. On one island was an ancient ramshackle abbey, right at the shore, filled with marvelous things -- it was open as a poorly maintained museum. My imagination set to work at once imagining sneaking there to camp illegally, but I didn't attempt it, because I noticed a group of unwashed types had the same idea, and they looked a little surly. So I stayed where I was. But the property above reminded me of that daydreamy ramble around the grounds of a falling-down medieval abbey on the lakeshore. It was kind of like a Miss Havisham house, but in Italy. Imagine!

Sigh. Here's another one. This is in Tuscany, and the whole 16th-Century villa legitimately does cost under $600,000, including gardens originally planted by the freaking Medici family!!! Here:

Sigh again. Well, Sicko didn't even mention Italy, but I found my way here anyway. It is a big dream of mine to one day own a villa in Italy. When Jim and I have traveled there, we like to play the game of "where will our villa be" and we've provisionally decided on the Amalfi Coast. But Tuscany doesn't sound SO bad! ha ha!

Happy Oscar night, movie lovers. My mom is making an amazing spread of food, including crab-stuffed mushrooms and something about chicken in pastry. I am providing fixings for "tropical banana splits," ie mango and coconut sorbet, toasted coconut and macadamia nuts, and very likely some decadent lavender-infused hot fudge from Alma Chocolate, where I find myself mysteriously compelled to go today. . . I think they had ginger caramel sauce too. . .

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Unexpected joys

Here's another new lady. I really love this one! The quote will be: "May your life be crowded with unexpected joys." --H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

It's strange, going from my deep writing cocoon into design mode. When I'm writing, I feel like I live in my own little world. I don't listen to the radio; I check email infrequently; my mind wanders the lanes of faerie cities more than this real world! But when I'm doing artwork, I'm up in the art studio with the radio on, the days seem longer; I'm getting caught up on some political radio or in the evening listening to cruddy TV shows (and occasionally turning my head to peek at the TV). Oh, and. . . TV sucks! With the exception of some shows, of course (The Wire, which needs a whole new term. "TV show" doesn't begin to do it justice.) But last night I flipped past Law & Order SVU, which I used to kind of like, and egad! It was disgusting. You can show corpses with their clothes blood-stained from having their breasts cut off, but you can't show a little innocent nipple on TV??? Oy. Of course, if network TV was allowed to show nipple, I'm sure they wouldn't use that privilege in an innocent way. So, I'm not asking for more boob -- don't get me wrong. It's just, there's so much GORE. Ick! And where it's not gore, it's reality shows! God, I'm glad the strike is over. We have just been granted a tiny peek into a world without screenwriters, and I didn't like it!

On the subject of TV, though, Lost has been good this season. And, oh, Jim told me earlier that my TV boyfriend Tim Riggins is going to play Gambit in the Wolverine movie. Yay! Do you know who Tim Riggins is? Well, I thought about posting a photo, but that seemed very teenage and wrong somehow. (But I am not above posting a link. Snicker snicker.) He's a character on the show Friday Night Lights, and he's kinda pretty. Is that weird? It's okay to have a TV boyfriend, right? Do you have one? How about movie boyfriends? I'd have to say, at the moment: Daniel Craig and James McAvoy. You?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

*Sigh* -- Squam -- *double sigh*

[First of all, thanks for your feedback on the Martin Luther quote, folks. Food for thought. I'll consider the matter further.}

Now, it gives me both great pleasure and also a little pain to tell you about something wonderful called Squam. That's right, Squam. What is it? Well, it's a lake in New Hampshire, but more specifically, it is a fabulous artists' retreat that is happening at that lake, September 10-14. Look at this!
[all photos from blue poppy]

The reason it gives me pain to tell you about this is because, if not for the expected arrival of a certain gummy bear a week before the event, I would be teaching there!!! It was with sadness that I told "blue poppy", whose brainchild (and heartchild) this is, that I would not be able to make it after all. And now that the website has gone live and I see the full slate of what is happening, I am jealous jealous jealous. But, even though I can't go, YOU can! Check out who some of the teachers are: Penelope Dullaghan, Andrea Scher, Judy Wise, Misty Mawn, and Nina Bagley. The other teachers look fabulous too, and that place! Look here:

You can visit the website HERE and read about the classes at length. And don't miss the featured artist link -- magical collages that make me want to pore through stacks of magazines and make my own! I think I can guarantee I will be at Squam next year to teach some writing workshops. It's a long way off, sigh, but I am looking forward to it! I'd love to hear from anyone who is considering going, so I can be more specifically jealous! And in September, during my first weeks of sleep-deprived new-motherhood, I will be reading everyone's blogs about it!

In the meantime, there is a workshop that I am able to do. It's April 26-27th, in Bellevue, Washington, as part of the Western Washington SCBWI conference. That too is an amazing gathering of folks! If you want to write for children, and you live in the Northwest, I wholeheartedly recommend this conference! Look at this faculty! Arthur Levine! Chris Crutcher! Susan Patron (who probably never imagined her name would become associated with the "great scrotum debate of 2007)! Mo Willems! And MORE -- including Jim. He's talking about the art of doing cover illustrations. My workshop focuses on writing fantasy, and will be great fun. These are short workshops, you know, the hour-long variety, whereas at Squam I'd have been able to teach a whole day workshop. But this is good, because at the SCBWI conferences you get to hear so much in two days, from so many great people. HERE is that website. Hope to see you there!

Okay, one more neat thing to tell you about, and this one is not a workshop, and has nothing to do with me! This is from the blog of Jane Brocket, author of The Gentle Art of Domesticity (which I don't own, but may someday buy. It looks very very pretty and has generated an unholy hubbub from women who don't think we should be "domestic" anymore. Humbug!) Anyway, she is working on a new book that just seems like so much fun! It's called Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer and is a celebration of the foods mentioned in classic children's literature!!! How great does that sound? With recipes! So, when your daughter is reading Anne of Green Gables or The Secret Garden, you can make the accompanying foods! I love this idea. You can read her post about it HERE -- and I recommend a spin around her blog too. It's gorgeous.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


The new Laini's Ladies I'm designing now, you can probably tell by this one, are for the Christmas '08 line. If it seems a little early to be doing this, it's actually really late! Many gift companies are already showing their holiday lines now. But -- ULP! -- I've been really busy, and so have the folks at the Bottman Company, so we're just now getting to these. No worries, though. Plenty of time to unveil them at the summer gift shows, which is -- I imagine -- when more stores are thinking about holiday orders.

The quote that will be on the one above is: "Everything that is done in the world is done by hope." -- Martin Luther. I ask this sincerely: is Martin Luther an okay guy to quote? I mean, I know a little about him, I know he kicked off the Protestant Reformation and translated the Bible into German and started the practice of marriage in the clergy, and preached against the sale of indulgences, etc etc. All good things. But I also saw a reference to his legacy being tainted by his anti-semitism. So, I'm wondering: what is his legacy? Is putting his words and name on a Laini's Lady a bad thing? Thoughts? How is this guy thought of today?

Also, I thought it would be interesting to show you how Laini's Ladies start out. Here's the first step:
Well, second step, really. First is itty bitty thumbnail drawings. Then, this drawing here gets scanned in and I do the collage digitally, with prepared color swatches, patterns, face, etc. Such humble beginnings!

And on an unrelated design note, would you like to see some design wonderfulness? First of all, do you know Maryam at Marrakesh? She's a blogger who lives in Morrocco, and she and her architect husband have been busy building a pleasure palace called "Peacock Pavilions" -- a fairy tale of a small guesthouse set in olive orchards prowled by peacocks. You can read (and drool) all about that and Maryam's jealous-making business and shopping trips all over Africa and Asia on her blog. And now I read, an amazing decorative designer, Melanie at design amour, has asked permission for a group of painters to go to Peacock Pavilions and paint -- for free -- amazing decorative flourishes (inspired by Maryam's antique suzanni collection) on the walls! I don't really know what I'm more jealous of: Maryam's paradise, or Melanie's painting trips! Each year, apparently, she and a group of painters select a lucky property and offer their services, then they go on an exotic painting holiday! OH. MY. GOD. Okay, I guess I'm slightly more jealous of Maryam (just wait until you get lost in her blog), but it's close! Enjoy these two eye-candy treats!

Some day, when Peacock Pavilions is all finished, Jim and I will go to Marrakesh, and we will shop and we will eat and we will draw, and we will stay there in Maryam's olive grove, and we will see those paintings for ourselves! Sigh.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Donut tycoon

Mysterio predicts. . . your child will be a. . . donut tycoon!

Look at that cute little t-shirt -- it's the first in the gummy bear's t-shirt collection, ha ha. I'd never seen these before, but these "Mysterio" shirts come sealed in a flour sack so you don't know what the prediction is going to be until you buy it. Some of the other possibilities were "monkey wrangler," "conspiracy nut," and "gameshow host!"

So, Alexandra and I went to hear Natalie Goldberg last night at Powell's. I had met her once before, in the early 90s when I was in college -- she came into the bookstore where I worked; she was just browsing as a customer. I happened to be in the thrall of Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind just then, doing all her writing exercises like a mad woman, so she was a major star to me and I probably acted a little starstruck! Well, I'd never heard her speak before last night, and she didn't speak much, just mostly read some chapters and answered some questions, but she was still great.

The new book is focused on the practice of writing memoir, something that in itself doesn't appeal to me that much right now. But I still bought the book because it is, Natalie said, intended to follow her teaching style as closely as possible, for the day when she is no longer around. It's meant to be read (and participated in) straight through, not skipping around, so it's a little like taking one of her workshops. There are some great prompts, peppered with her wonderful thoughts on life and writing. Anyone who wants to write and has never read any of Natalie Goldberg's books, I recommend them. They really got my hand moving back in the early days of my own desire to become a writer. (Okay, so my hand stopped moving again for years after that, but that's not Natalie's fault!)

Meanwhile, for those of you who want to be working freelance writers who earn a living, HERE is a great article by John Scalzi; you might have seen it already -- it's been getting lots of link love, and it's really funny and really useful. I never had a desire to be a "freelance writer," -- or a freelance illustrator. Not in that way that you are looking to take on whatever work from whatever client, to make a living. I always just wanted to do "my own thing, my own way." I've been supremely lucky to have figured out a way to do that. Between licensing my art and writing books, I'm able to make a living. But there's still stuff in Scalzi's article I find very useful, such as his money management tips -- he suggests putting half of every check you get into savings for a) taxes, b) whatever is left over going to a retirement fund. That is very, very good advice for a self-employed person. And, if you don't make enough money to be able to do that, basically, you're not ready to "quit your day job" because of course you must be able to pay those taxes (quarterly, no less), and you MUST save. (He also recommends being married to someone stable with the kind of job that involves health insurance, but Jim & I didn't opt for that route, so we have to pay our health insurance out of pocket, which does not give us great joy.)

It's tough making a living as a creative person, but I would never ever discourage anyone from trying it -- and not just trying it half-heartedly. That will never work. You have to put everything into it. But, you might still have to have a day job for quite a while! I did. It's ultimately so worth it, though. I wish our society were a bit more conducive to the attempt -- that health insurance piece, it's a huge roadblock for a lot of people, but you must find a way to make it work. One way Scalzi recommends: live anywhere but New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco! Yeah, we left the SF area in order to be able to afford to be artists. No joke. It just costs too much to live there to be able to have time left over to pursue your dreams!

Happy weekend! I'm designing a new Laini's Ladies line right now, so I shall be in the studio. It's looking to be sunny out there, so I may peep my [freshly empinked head] out now and again. Cheers!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Scott Baio is a tool

So, yesterday while on the elliptical machine at the gym, I was a captive audience to the Scott Baio reality show on -- I think -- VH1, and I come to this conclusion: he is a big tool. And not smart. Have you seen this guy? I don't think I've thought of him once since Happy Days was in syndication in the 80s. He looks good, I'll give him that. But. . . I'm glad I'm not married to him! His poor wife! They're pregnant, and he's such a dip! Seeing the baby's face for the first time on a super-clear ultrasound, and what he really wants to know is what an episiotomy is. Oh, and in some financial management class for expecting dads: he was absolutely floored by the cost of college! Floored. Like he's never heard of college before. But the winning moment was when his wife called him from her baby shower (he was in "Vegas Baby" where his tooly friends (including such famous actors as the big brother from The Wonder Years) were throwing him a "man shower") and all he asked her was how many things they got that he would have to assemble. Like, ugh this baby is going to be work!

Okay, that's all for Scott Baio. I was able to make myself look away, and I came up with some new ideas for the new novel. Treadmills (and ellipticals) are always good for that.

It's Valentine's Day! Happy happy! We're going out for Valentine's breakfast instead of dinner; ever since my waitressing days, I haven't enjoyed restaurants on V Day. Too much of an ordeal. Ugh, perhaps my most miserable night of waitressing EVER was a V Day. So: breakfast, then an ultrasound. Fun! Yesterday I stopped by the divine, decadent Alma Chocolate -- this is the very same chocolate shop owned by the mother of the 10-year-old boy who swooned at my feet back at Wordstock. Oh, the chocolates. Awaiting us for later are two figs, stuffed with blue cheese and dipped in dark chocolate! YUM. There were star anise chocolates, and ginger chocolates, and paprika truffles, and dark chocolate hazelnut toffee. Oh yum!

Happy day to all! (Even Scott Baio.)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

New webby stuff!

This is something I've been meaning to do for a while, and here at last is the start of it -- I'm adding some educational 'Dreamdark' content to my website. So far, all I've done is one page that goes into detail about the characters' names -- since almost all my names come from nature or folklore, there's a lot of fun stuff to tell, and HERE it is!

I have more planned, including a world map labeled with the faeries' place names, and a gentle conservation screed, and an invent-your-own faerie game, and stuff like that. But this is it for today. Man, can I get lost in cool facts. Check out that stuff about the size of Betelgeuse! Does not compute.

And, oh, this commercial totally cracks me up:

Friday, February 08, 2008

it's an amber mail day!

So, the mailman just came by and stacked a couple of packages in front of the door, and both of them were from Ambers! Thank you, Ambers!

The first one, from this lovely Amber, had this inside! Very, very sweet! She had proposed a few months ago that whoever finished their first draft of their book first would get cookies in the mail from the other one -- but I think she finished hers first, so it should be I who am sending her cookies. And now I really shall, to reciprocate the deliciousness! And a BIG congratulations, Amber, for finishing that book and sending it off to a wonderful editor who had previously expressed interest! I have my fingers and toes crossed for you! Just finishing a book, this is a life-landmark that deserves huge amounts of celebration!

And in the next package, which was a weighty Amazon one that made me say, "Huh," as I am only currently awaiting one slender volume from Amazon, was from this wonderful Amber, whose blog I have been loving since my first days of blogging. And in it were these:
Which is awesome, because when I was at the bookstore last looking at baby books, I was overwhelmed by the seeming sameness of them all and did not know what to do! I just sort of stood there! And funnily enough, sweet Jennifer, who came by the other day to drop off boxes of pregnancy tea, and some books and magazines, had -- I think -- mentioned these exact Sears books as really good ones. And now I have them! And I have some reading to do!

Thanks you so much, Ambers, and Jennifer! Once again, I [heart] bloggers!

And now for something completely different, here is the trailer for the movie Jim is most excited about his year:

And second-most excited about:

Or, wait. . . Maybe it's this one:

That just makes me sad, though, because of Heath Ledger. I have bypassed the People and US magazine cover articles on his sad story, but from what little I have heard, as suspected, his overdose was an accidental combination of too many prescription meds, and it's just such a shame. Seeing this movie will be weird, like it was weird seeing Waitress knowing the writer/director/co-star had been tragically murdered earlier that year.

Anyway, there's a little sneak peak of what the year holds in store for comic book nerdlings. Good stuff!

P.S. Has Christian Bale ever played a nice guy? Everything I've seen him in, he's always this deeply intense, cold-bastard type, so I can't help but imagine that's what he's really like. I'm not saying he is. Just, I can't imagine him kicking back being a normal guy. We saw Rescue Dawn the other night, and he wasn't exactly a cold bastard, but he was just really weird -- good movie, by the way.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Does your fetus send you postcards?

So, Jim and I have this expression: ". . . moving at the speed of publishing. . ." The confusing thing about this is that it really has two completely opposing meanings. The speed of publishing, from what we have experienced so far, is either:

a) Ai ai ai! We need it yesterday!! like back when the final edits of Blackbringer were due and Tim asked if Jim couldn't drop them off at Fed-Ex while driving me to the hospital for the heart attack I was going to have from the pressure.
b) Molasses. And I mean, old molasses, like the half bottle that I found in the back of my cupboard and used to make gingerbread cookies. It took forever to empty that bottle into the mixing bowl!!

Which is fine. You get used to it. Anyway, I thought of this when reading this NY Times link, found thanks to Gwenda. An interesting look at what happens in that year and a half or so between manuscript and book.

A few other good linkies. Here's one from Bookmoot about authors doing school visits, full of really good advice. The advice I need, in addition, is how to get invited to do more school visits. (Thanks, Kim for your help in that effort!)

And here's a goody from bestselling author Rick Riordan about his "overnight success." He also stresses the importance of school visits.

Oh yeah, and we got another postcard from the gummy bear today! I relay my fetus's words verbatim here:
Dear Ma & Pa, So, I thought you might be o'wondering how it is that I got assigned to you two homeys. Well, it works like this. Everyone gets three choices to pick from. Mine were:
1) Mr. T & Charro
2) Pamela Anderson & Mike Huckabee
3) Laini Taylor & Jim Di Bartolo
So let's hope it was the right choice because I might have turned down a bassinet on Pennsylvania Avenue next year! [There's a frowny face drawn here.]

Well, baby, it doesn't look good for Huckabee in the White House (the very thought of which gives me the heebie jeebies), and from what I've heard, Huckabee's kids don't tend to turn out so great anyway, so I think you'll be pleased with your choice.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Happy Blog-birthday to me!

It's a big day today! And by that, no I don't mean Super Tuesday in which the next big step in the fate of our nation will be decided. Pish. No, I mean it is my Second Blogiversary! Happy Day to Me! In honor of these two years, I have been skimming through my archives, and I've decided to link to some of my favorite posts.

It's kind of like cleaning out a purse. Like, this purse. I bought this baby in Orvieto, Italy, in 1993, when I was writing for Berkeley Guides, my alma mater's short-lived attempt to start a budget travel guide series to compete with Let's Go. Well, I love this purse, but until a few months ago I had not used it in years, and when I decided to dust it off and put it back in the purse rotation, look how many fossilized lipsticks I found in it! Seven!

And since I've never taken the trouble to put archiving tags on my blog, all my old posts are kind of like old lipsticks in the bottom of a dusty purse. Forgotten!

-- Some favorite Sunday Scribblings:
Gentlemen Send Phantoms
Ethiag the Ghost Girl
Best Things to Steal
Bed (that is, the beds of fairy tale princesses)
The Chronicles of Avery Dry (Who Put Her Soul in the Collection Plate)
The Eleventh God

--Book Firsts (all the little steps in the year of waiting for my first book to be published!)
First cover mock-up
My first book review!!
'Fantasy & Escapism' and my first book signing
My book birthday!

-- My first use of my blog for mocking an acquaintance who I hoped would never read it.

-- Notes on my amazing fashion sense.

-- Thoughts on Writing:
How to Write a Novel
Oh the Books I Would Write!
Where'd ya catch that idea?
The Ugly Stage and More on That
Persnickity (on Perfectionism)

-- Farewell to sweet Shiloh, and, sadly my most Googled post.

Sending out love to all bloggers. Mwah!

Monday, February 04, 2008


We saw Persepolis last night at the Fox Tower -- it's fantastic, and I highly recommend it! If you haven't heard of it, it's an animated movie based on the two autobiographical graphic novels of Marjane Satrapi, who grew up in Iran during the Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War. That sounds like some heavy subject matter, and it is, but it's also wondrously funny and filled with humanity. The stark black and white animation is simple but beautiful. Marjane was a spunky kid who loved Bruce Lee and sneakers and punk -- imagine then the shift to the repressive regime of the Islamic Republic.

Some time in the past year I randomly caught an interview on NPR with another Iranian female author of a memoir, and just the few minutes I heard I was struck cold with horror at her experience of being a teenage political prisoner during this same era. I didn't write the title of that book down, but I still can't shake the horror. Marjane Satrapi was lucky to escape the horrors that other woman faced, as she was never imprisoned (she was sent to Europe in her teens, where though "safe" she was alientated and very alone), and Persepolis isn't overwhelming like that, but tempers the horror of the era with a beautiful celebration of individuality and integrity in the face of opression. And it's funny! In some of the scenes I laughed like a hyena! (Take that, you cad of an Austrian boyfriend!)

[Update: Thank you, Elizabeth. Yes, Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat does indeed sound like the book! I get shivers all over again just reading about it on Amazon. Teenage political prisoners, executed!!!!!]

It's a fairly dismal time at the theaters right now (Rambo, Hannah Montana), but this one is a must-see. You might also check out the books.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

bloggers are the greatest

Wow. I know a lot of people in the world still don't get this, and probably wouldn't believe it, but it's true: blogging makes life richer. Thank you to everyone for your incredible support -- I love this community, and the circle of women (and a few good men) who I've met this way. You are all amazing! Thank you to this wonderful writing mama for the flowers that arrived today during a snowstorm -- they are so beautiful, as you see here, with the bird watching over them. And thank you to this lovely writing mama, my Penguin sister, for the unexpected and delightful phone call! And to this book blogger extraordinaire for the link love! Thank you to everyone. I love knowing you're all out there, kindred spirits all over the world, raising your own babies, writing your own books, knitting, living, reading, traveling, and staying connected through this strange little space we have all found.

Snow is swirling here, but sadly not sticking. It's still nice to see it fall. I had thought about venturing out to see a screening of The Business of Being Born (click here to see the trailer), but we stayed home instead. This morning I wrote the first few pages of a new book. Whew! It's like letting air out of an overfilled tire! That opening's been slowly inflating in my head for months; I started getting really daydreamy about writing this new book back in the fall, when I was about three-quarters through Silksinger. I wanted that newness of a new project. I'd guess most writers love the taste of something new; that's why so many of us hop around from unfinished manuscript to unfinished manuscript, because new is fun! (Neil Gaiman wrote a pep talk for NaNoWriMo for getting past this point. I haven't read it yet, but it's here.) Anyway, I've learned that the best way to never finish a book is to start a new one! So, I didn't give myself the gratification. . . until today.

I won't say much about it now, but I got the idea for this book from a dream that I had about exactly a year ago when Jim and I were in New York for the SCBWI conference. I've gotten the idea for several books from dreams, but it's always just a seed, a strange little scene that could be interpreted many ways, that is haunting enough that I wake up and lay there trying to come up with context for it and build a story around it. Well, this new book went from vague dream-idea to concrete outline last summer beside the pool (though in the shade, of course) at Alexandra's parents' house in Los Angeles, where she and I spent several lazy days -- her studying for her board exams, me scribbling in a big, fat polka-dot notebook. In that notebook I went through the full brainstorming experience, starting with the little bit I knew that had initially intrigued me, and running through all kinds of ideas that could potentially flesh it out into a full-blown book-worthy idea. Brainstorming is a massively important part of writing for me; I go into it at greater length here at Not For Robots. This is the anything-can-happen stage, and it's exciting! And, it's not really scary, because it's just playing around with ideas. For me, the scary part comes once I start "writing."

The new story is sci-fi, YA, and it's creepy and romantic and hopefully high-energy and a little horrifying. This morning was fun, and I'm glad I got the opening down. I can't hurl myself headlong into it, though, because it's back to revising Hatchling, the third and longest story from Goblin Fruit. Whew!

Also, when I went to the hospital yesterday to give blood for a number of routine tests, I took a little detour to the yarn store. I've gotten bored with knitting because I have not yet learned how to do anything but knit and purl and that sort of leaves me making scarves forever until I take a class or someting, but I did just learn how to crochet, and I'm finding it's easier to teach oneself crochet stitches than knitting stitches. It could just be me, and it could be because crochet is so much easier to correct than knitting. Anyway, I wanted to crochet a big colorful blanket like the ripple or the granny that Alicia made last year at Posie. That was why I wanted to learn to begin with, and when I signed up for a class it was supposed to be knit or crochet, and I was going to go for crochet, but then it turned out to be only knit so that's what I did. But all these months later I've barely learned to do anything, and I'm back to crochet. Whew. Long explanation! I guess knitting must be "better" because the yarn store was like 90/10 knitting/crochet, but whatever. I want to make this blanket:
Here's a close-up of the motifs:
So I got a lot of yarn, not the same as in the picture, but similar colors:
I haven't figured out the motif yet, but I will (with some help), and then I only have to make like 275 of them. Should take me about three years! But that's okay.

Oh, and Jim and I went to my parents' house last night and watched four episodes of The Wire (aka BEST TV SHOW EVER) and almost got caught up. Wow. So good). And my mom had made cupcakes with pink frosting and sprinkles, served with Neopolitan ice cream, so it felt like a birthday party though it wasn't. Ooh, and she also got me my first belly cream, and not just any old belly cream, but L'Occitane. Ooh la la!