Thursday, December 16, 2010


I just bought Richard Yates’s biography “A Tragic Honesty.” I’ve been meaning to read it for some time. This will motivate me to read my collection of his work. I love his writing so much. His voice is similar to mine. Whenever I forget what good writing is supposed to sound like, I can always refer to him.

Richard Russo is another writer I should be reading. He’s so smooth and effortless.

In the meantime, I’m plowing through all the YA series books I have piled up at home.

Dexter Issues: It’s season 5 of Dexter, which means the writers have to think way outside the box to come up with new material for their characters. All-in-all, season five is pretty good, but a few things feel familiar, like Dexter using someone else to help him kill. We saw that in season 3 with (Jimmie Smits). Also, (Angel’s wife) feels unbelievable now and inconsistent. She used to stand for something, but throws Deb under the bus. I’m not sure I believe that. And poor Angel caught in the middle. Their relationship may need to come to an end. I’m bored with it.

Peter Weller is great as a lowlife ex-cop who investigates Dexter. Deb and (guy)’s relationship can any anytime now. I’m on episode 10, three more to go. I have lots to catch up on!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

End of the Year

This has been a productive year for me. I learned about sending query letters out. I discovered I found a job. I’m dating again. I have little freetime (unfortunately) but have paid down my debts. I’m learning all about YA lit. It’s definitely been a year of change.

I hope things happen with my book in 2011. It’s the year of the rabbit and that’s good news for me. I was born in the year of the rabbit, so the roof might come off for me in ’11.

I can’t believe it’ll be ten years since 9/11. What a difference a decade makes. Wow. Google and Facebook are taking over the world. I think this is okay, considering neither company manufacturers bombs or advanced weapons systems (that we know of).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

New Rewrites

I received some feedback from the agency that enjoyed my book. I plan to revise the last two chapters. I have a good idea what I'll add and change. I start this week after a few days of brainstorming. I'm looking forward to what I come up with.

Doubles Results

Dorian and I took second in last week's doubles tournament. We played well, considering D's had a bum knee for several months. He won't be playing again any time soon. I think he may need surgery. Steve and Tyrone took the championship. Throughout the week, I played poorly and haven't had my typical killer edge on the court. I lost some games this week, and in the doubles tournament in San Ramon this weekend my play was subpar with two new partners. Oh well, better luck next time.

Yesterday, I attended a party Alice put together for her biking club. They don't bike much anymore, but still get together for dinner. They're a delightful group with two natural comedians, Sam and Kalvin. Very pleasant people.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Club One Doubles Tournament Tomorrow

Dorian and I aren't in great shape for tomorrow's tournament. Dorian really hasn't played in months and he's a little rusty. His knee has been an issue all season. This may be our last tournament together (how sad). He'll give me his all, but I'm not feeling too confident about our chances. I do believe we're in the easier division, however, avoiding Scott/Tyler and Steve/Tyrone. Ron and X are always tough in tournaments, and this was where we lost out last time. They're, but X makes lots of mistakes, especially when the ball is high. We usually have Tiger and Glenn's number on tournament day, but it's possible they'll crank it up. We'll see how things go.

Next weekend I'll be playing in the Toys for Tots tournament in San Ramon. Gerry Price, Angela Grisar, and Cliff Swain will be playing. Such be a great time. I'm playing with Ron Souza, a great player from the South Bay. We're playing with a bunch of other great players, so it should be lots of fun.

Movement on Julia Milan

An agency read the entire Julia Milan manuscript and is seriously considering representing it if I revise the ending. Finally, some encouraging news. The email gave no specifics, so I'm curious to see exactly what they'd like changed in the ending. I like the ending, but I know the last chapter could be better. More on this later...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

11th Month

As the 11th month of 2010 comes to an end, I find myself in good position to make 2011 the most amazing year yet. Alice and I spend Friday and Saturdays together. I really enjoy her company. She’s funny, thoughtful, and a real pleasure to be around. She accompanied me to Stockton last Saturday for an In-Shape Singles Shoot-Out in which I finished second (losing to 12-year-old Mario Rojas, Jose’s cousin). Saturday night we watched “A Single Man” on dvd. I loved it. Very good film, very personal and touching. Colin Firth was amazing. What a great face. I reminded me of Michael Caine. I’m heading to Alice’s tomorrow for dinner where we’ll have dinner and play Ten Days in Asia. She likes games. It’s hard not to think of Linda when I’m with her sometimes. Though I’ve dated and met several women since Linda, Alice reminds me of her, perhaps because we are doing similar things.

On the writing front, since I have several agents reading fulls and partials, I haven’t sent out a query in over two weeks. I’ll send a few in December though, just to keep things moving along. The waiting is nerve wracking and I’m only going to have to do it again when the novel is with publishers. I’m surprised it’s taken the entire year to find an agent.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Encouraging Email

An agent email me saying two editors read the first fifty pages and had nothing but praise for the opening. That’s encouraging. I emailed the full manuscript the next day. I hope they like the rest of it. After one agent loved the first three chapters and made me promise her not to sign until she was given a chance, then said the fourth chapter wasn’t what she thought it would be and sent her customary form rejection my way, I’m hesitant to get too excited about this, but at the same time I’m cautiously optimistic that at some point the book will get picked up. There are several edits I’d like to make and another full revision to give the story a seamless feel, but at this point the manuscript is strong. All I can do now is wait and see.

I’m playing in my first singles tournament of the season next week in Stockton and Alice will be joining me. She’s curious about racquetball and wants to see me play. That’s pretty cool. We’ll stay in Stockton Friday night. I’m looking forward to it. My body was really fatigued this week. I ended up losing my first club league singles match to a guy who I usually beat. He played very well and is very fast. I like him. I hate losing, but perhaps it’s good for me to swallow a few loses. It keeps me humble, and this is always a good thing.

I can’t believe the holiday season is already here.

Monday, November 15, 2010


As if life weren't busy enough, I'm now dating a wonderful woman whom I like a lot named Alice. She's my age and was born in China. She has a 14-year-old son and lives in the sunset district in San Francisco. We get along very well. She's thoughtful, smart, and athletic. She has a wonderful smile and has a great sense of humor. I'm very attracted to her. She likes movies and enjoys cooking. She's also traveled extensively. It will be interesting to see where things go with her. I've never dated someone who was born outside North America. She's lived in the U.S. for about 30 years, but she's still very much Chinese and there will undoubtedly be differences that come up. My trip to Beijing two years ago really impacted me. I'm quite drawn to China and its culture, and I think Alice likes that. I enjoy being with her. The only problem I have is it's difficult to do all the things I enjoy doing. I'll really have to manage my time well now. We've played badminton a few times at a badminton club in Emeryville and Burlingame. We bought new racquets together and will take lessons. What fun!

New Query

I have a new query that has been generating some feedback from agents:

I have an 83,000-word YA novel set in Oakland, California called JULIA MILAN AND THE CHAPEL OF THE CHIMES, about an overshadowed 14-year-old named Julia who agrees to help her dying grandmother solve the mystery of young Max Carter – her grandmother’s first love – who vanished without a trace 75 years ago. With help from an old diary, a peculiar new classmate from Perth, Australia, and an unusual mausoleum designed by the architect of Hearst Castle, Julia digs up a haunting piece of her grandmother’s past, exposing a dangerous secret that startles local historians. Finally, Julia feels as special as her precocious younger sister, but when Max’s story threatens the safety of Julia’s family, Julia wonders if being exceptional is worth all the trouble.

I like this paragraph a lot. I took out all the fantasy elements, dropped the urban fantasy label, and gave the book more of a "mystery" feel. We'll see if that does the trick. I've sent out 120 queries and plan to send another 80 more if I have to. I'm not stopping until I get an agent, damn it!

Halloween 2010

Halloween was another huge hit.

The cast and crew were fantastic, and the storyline was fun. I played Dr. Phineas Meganbottom, worldclass crazy and designer of the latest invention that will keep the empire from sinking into oblivion. The weather was fantastic, warm like a summer night, and the crowds were large. It was a another amazing Halloween. I'm hoping Lisa's sister gathers together all the footage we have from Halloween's past. I'd love to see the collection and perhaps create a DVD for friends and family to share.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

SCBWI Regional Conference & Halloween Prep

Yesterday, I attended the SCBWI Regional Conference from 8-5 at Mills College. I listened to some interesting, inspiring speakers, caught up with a few members I knew, and left wondering if I would ever find representation. I’ll send my stuff to the two agents who were in attendance, but I’m really beginning to wonder if anyone in the industry will see the potential for Julia Milan. I’ll play out my current strategy through the remaining agents and agencies that I haven’t mailed a query to, but based on what I’ve received from the agents I have contacted, my story isn’t striking a chord, nor is it interesting enough to invite a partial. This is really surprising to me. I may have to come up with another novel to write that’s entirely different, but the problem with that is I have no idea what sort of angle to go. I wrote the best book I could write with enough suspense and intrigue to keep the pages turning. Maybe I’ve out-thought my entry into the game. I just don’t know. All I can do is keep going.

Went out several times this week and it was so good for me. After last week’s debacle, I’ve learned not to say anything about myself until I actually meet someone face-to-face. Less is more and I keep forgetting that. Anyway, I still feel badly about my ridiculous lack of boundaries, but at least I’m learning from my mistakes and staying positive. I met someone today in San Francisco who was very charming and sweet. I really enjoyed our conversation. I hope to see her again.

Off to read a few more pages of “Freedom.” I’m really enjoying this book.

It’s a new week and I’m excited about the possibilities.

Oh, the Halloween effect this year is going to be killer! Richard has outdone himself again!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Redwood City

I went to Redwood City last night and had a very enjoyable evening. I needed that. I forget sometimes how overwhelming I can be, how in-my-own-head I can appear to outsiders, and last night it was just me being myself without any need to appear overtly special or interesting. It’s not the natural place I go because I feel so flat and boring when I’m there, but the payoff is an effortless, enjoyable evening in which someone is actually smiling at me instead of terrified or annoyed. What a month this has been. At least I’m learning from my colossal mistakes and poor decision making. Redwood City has a very charming downtown with two theatres and several hip places to hang out. I hope to go there again. There is a very interesting pub called “The Living Room” on Broadway that’s filled with old couches and lounge chairs. It looks very cool.

Tomorrow I’m attending an all-day SCBWI conference at Mills College from 7:45 to 5, then in the evening I’ll help Richard with Halloween tasks. It’s been non-stop since returning from Arizona. I need a day to just chill, relax, reflect and unwind.

It rained this morning so I took the bus to work. Annette, Richard & Lisa’s neighbor, was at the bus stop, so we had a wonderful 20-minute conversation about books. She insisted I read “The Book Thief,” saying it was one of the most original, amazing books she’s ever read. It’s on my list, along with “The Help” and about 20 other titles. There aren’t enough hours in the day.

I must devote at least two hours this weekend for some poker study. I miss not playing that game and feel my poker skills are eroding. This is not good. I love that game but don’t have much time to play. In a strange sort of way that game helps center me.

I can’t wait for next week’s yoga session. I’m doing yoga once a week for a month, and if I keep liking it I’ll bump it up to twice a week. My body is in super shape right now and if I can keep from getting any injuries through March, I’ll be very happy.

Okay, I’m off to send out more queries. I’m at 87 right now, and I shouldn’t rest until I have 150 sent out.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Got a super night’s sleep and feel a renewed sense of energy and drive. Yesterday’s email was indeed a blow, but things happen for a reason and somewhere in agentland there’s a far better fit for me. I reviewed my current query and synopsis and looked over the first chapter. It’s all there, waiting for someone to grab it up and sell it to a publisher. I’m incorporating hardcopy queries into the mix, mailing packets to about 20 agents who currently don’t accept emails. Chris said some really complimentary things about my book and told me not to question its merit and strengths. He’s a true believer and I love that about him.

I’m plowing through Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom,” and enjoying every sentence, every paragraph. He’s a dense, doughy writer with a “more-is-more” writing style. I’m always aware of his brilliance, which in the end works against the story, but for writers at his level it’s an easy indulgence to forgive. His attention to detail and observational skills are superb. I’m one-fifth of the way through the book and enjoying the journey immensely.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fired Up

What a week. The agent who loved the first three chapters of my book passed without comment. Such a drag. It was a week filled with rejection, but I've maintained an upbeat perspective. Sometimes I wonder why I'm in such a good mood when so many things fall short for me. Oh well. I spoke with Chris tonight. We had a great talk about everything. He loved Social Network, as did I. It's so well written and structured.

I joined Match for a month and have dates tomorrow and Sunday. It's time for me to go out more. I was thinking about Linda the other day. I still miss her sometimes.

The Giants won in a nailbiter. I'm so excited! I'd love to see them in the World Series.

The season finale of "Mad Men" was fantastic. The entire season was masterful and thoroughly original. It just may win another emmy for best drama. Jon Hamm deserves one, too. He was fabulous. The entire cast was fabulous. I so love this show. Good news! In Treatment is coming back for a third season. I'm SO HAPPY! Thank you, HBO, for answering my prayers!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Representation: A Numbers Game

The best chance of landing an agent is to query widely and get as many full and partial manuscripts into the hands of agents as possible. One of the great benefits of using is connecting with other writers who are also seeking an agent. A writer on the QT site known as “queryhater” just acquired representation with Brenda Bowen at Sanford J. Greenburger & Associates. He'd submitted 118 queries and received 38 requests for full manuscripts and 15 partial requests. He received an offer of representation last week. He waited a week to make his decision, and in the meantime sent an “Offer” email to the 20+ agents with his fulls and partials. He received another offer that day. Throughout the week, he received calls and emails from nearly every other agent, informing him that they’d read his manuscript that night or the next day. When all was said and done, he received eight offers of representation before making the decision to sign with Brenda Bowen. Eight offers!

This is how the query game is played. This was queryhater’s second novel. With his first novel, he sent out 187 queries and received 3 full requests and 4 partial requests. His request success rate was 3.7% and his first novel went in a drawer. He considered giving up, but instead wrote another novel. His request success rate with the second book was 45% (that’s amazing to me!). He never gave up. He queried widely. He now has an agent!

My current numbers are 78 total queries submitted with 6 full requests and 6 partial requests, for a request success rate of 15.4%. What queryhater’s numbers suggest to me is that I need to send at least 80 more queries out. I’m starting that process today.

I find queryhater’s story extremely inspiring. This is what it will take to gain representation.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pinball Bliss

Spent Sunday at the 4th Annual Pacific Pinball Expo in San Rafael with Richard, Trey, Miles and Sophie.

We arrived 30 minutes before the doors opened, then at 10 we entered the facility like kiddies on Christmas morning. 400 pinball machines for us to play! All my old favorites were there, Paragon, Pinbot, Pinball Pool, Twilight Zone, plus a few new games I really enjoyed, especially the basketball pinball machine that gives you a free game when you reach 50 points.

Paragon was just as unruly as I'd remembered. I love this machine, but boy does it love to drain balls. So painful. I came close to clearing the Paragon letters but no luck.

We ate lunch at Barney's, the perfect feast between pinball sessions, then returned for two more sessions (caught a lecture on the geometry of pinball at 3) before attending the raffle for the Gorgar machine. We didn't win, but had fun hoping. We left at 6:30 with lots of great memories. I can't wait for next year!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Up and Down Week

This was a challenging week for me. My confidence was all over the place, up one day and really down the next. I confronted what I perceived to be inappropriate negative behavior at work, then felt bad about it afterward. I tend to go to the extreme when I'm not happy. I understand how out-of-balance I can sometimes behave, especially when my confidence is low. It impacts me in ways that keep me from functioning like a normal, healthy person. I used some of the tools I'm adopted, so I didn't stay low too long. I kept myself busy over the weekend and also rested. I watched "Date Night" this afternoon and wondered why it wasn't better when the beginning was so strong. The second and third acts were ridiculously contrived and silly. Really weak. So many comedies are weak these days. It's as if Hollywood has forgotten how to make a big splashy good film. I like Tina Fey. She's funny. I need to watch all episodes of 30 Rock. Gwen worked on my website this weekend and it looks really good. I hope to put it up when my book is picked up. I sent 15 queries out yesterday and today. The last month has been nothing but rejection. I've lost a lot of confidence in my story and that's not good at all. All I need is just one agent who sees the potential in this project. The full manuscript is still with three agents, but after the two prior rejections of my full I'm beginning to have doubts. I saw a good piece on Drew Brees on 60 Minutes. I love his attitude. Yesterday I played racquetball in a squash court with Spike. It was fun, though it's hard to hit the ball hard. The court feels crowded, but she had a good time. I made her run! I'm nearly finished with "Before I Fall." I love the writing. Great read. I'm very impressed. It's up there with Hunger Games as a really strong YA book. I need to put a list together, a YA Shelf of Fame. So far, I'd include three books, "The Hunger Games," "Before I Fall," and "The Other Side of Blue." All three books are fabulous.

Monday, September 20, 2010

No Agent Yet

Hmmm. Nothing but rejection, I'm afraid. Didn't grab me. Not interested. Didn't love it. Not for me. I have three fulls out, one partial and about ten unanswered e-queries. I'm sending more this week. I'll look everything over and modify if I have to. Meanwhile, the days go by. At least I'm being productive. I get up early and put in a full day. I kept my apt. relatively clean this week and I hope to keep it that way.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Weekend with Cousin Ross

Ross traveled from Alberta to stay with me for a few days this past weekend. He had a great time together.

We saw "Machete," went out to Spettro's, visited the Farmer's market, saw Rodney's art show, went bicycling, ate at Lynn & Lou's, went to Napa for the afternoon and had sushi.

He's going through a difficult time right now, so the visit was necessary to help Ross stay centered and consider his options. He'll do fine. He's such a positive and upbeat person.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


I was putting together my top 10 Beach Boys songs of all time when I listened to Heros and Villains from Smile. I'd remembered the album had been completed a few years ago but never listened to it. I've been listening all week.

I watched the two-disc DVD last night. Very moving. I love everything about this piece, and totally understand Brian Wilson's inner demons. I have a few of those myself. I can see why everyone considers him a genius. This song in particular is so rich and layered. I haven't gotten tired of it at all, and I've listened to it probably 20 times or more. I love it. Good Vibrations will forever be my no. 1 Beach Boys song, but Heros and Villains is climbing the ranks. It may actually be no. 3, just behind Wouldn't it be Nice.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Club One Racquetball Finals Match

I knew it would be a battle and I wasn’t disappointed. My and Tyrone’s racquetball match Thursday night for the Club One championship (and bragging rights for the next several months!) was everything I thought it would be and then some. I started off strong with a 4-0 lead, putting everything away while T seemed tight and left the ball up. My lead increased to 11-6 until T stepped it up and starting making great shots and serving well. Before I knew it I was down 11-12. That’s when the crazy BS crept into the game. T made a low kill shot that skipped the floor. T walked to the back of the court as if conceding the point, but Robbie (our club pro and ref for the match) thought the shot was good and so did Sydney (the line judge). They didn’t hear the skip. Tyrone then insisted it was side out and wanted to serve because Robbie thought the ball was good. I was furious, but played on. Tyrone scored another point and shouted one of his victory yells. He then lost his serve and I scored a point, then Tyrone scored again and I was down 12-14. I told T he didn’t deserve the game if he was taking cheap points like the one he took when the ball skipped. The trash talking escalated (I won't repeat them here because I don't want my blog getting an R rating). T made a huge mistake by serving short twice and I quickly scored another point. At 13-14, I killed T’s serve in the front court and took serve again. I scored a point and tied the match at 14. I served a drive serve which T hit high. I hit the ball down the lefthand side and T left his shot high again. He gave me a perfect setup, which I drilled a down righthand side, a perfect passing shot that he wasn't able to retrieve, giving me the first game 15-14. I then gave the loudest victory yell I’ve ever screamed in racquetball. It was so satisfying winning that game.

I dove so many times my right elbow was swollen.

I started the next game strong as well, scoring 3 quick points, but then T got hot again and I was down 3-6. Then I was down 4-11. I rallied back and it was 7-11. Then 9-12 before T tore a muscle in his leg and couldn’t move. He was unable to finish and I won be default. It was an anticlimactic finish to one of the best and tightest finals matches I’ve played at Club One. I kept my perfect season intact (10-0!) and own bragging rights until our next singles league in 2011.

My right side is also as sore as my elbow, but it’s a good kind of sore. I sure love this game!

Tyrone had to be carried out of Club One. He's the greatest guy off the court, but inside the court he turns into a crazy monster. That's all right because I turn into one, too!

Richard watched the match and helped cheer me on. Afterward, we went to La Cheval and I ate everything in sight. We then drove to Walnut Creek to pick up his kids at Ann’s. I ate a large smore and half a chocolate bar. The ride back to Oakland was hilarious. The kids were telling crazy stories that were so funny.

I played racquetball again this morning with Dorian and felt surprisingly good. I’m really bummed though that Tyrone will be out of commission for the next several months. Meanwhile, I’ll be playing in as many singles events as I can in preparation for the California State Singles Tournament in the spring. I’d love to do well in the A division

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Match

I wanna win! Thursday night at 6, Tyrone and I play our Championship match for bragging rights at Club One. If I win, I'll have gone undefeated for the season. If T wins, he'll be the top racquetball player for the next few months. I want this title and will dig deep to get it. I must do this!

Across the Universe

Finally saw this Julie Taymor gem. Loved it. Absolutely loved it. Apparently, there were critics who didn't care for it. It gave me at idea. Officer Mike of Critic's Patrol. Critic's Patrol is an organization designed to expose incompetent criticism for what it is: incompetent. "You have been charged with critical incompetence; put your hands in the air and relinquish your critic's license." More on this later...

The hours zoom by. Zoom by!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Singles Finals, Ink Pop, Agent Queries

I'm in the finals and will face either Steve or Tyrone next Wednesday or Thursday night. T and Steve play tomorrow morning at 6. I can't wait to watch this match. It should be fantastic. I've been practicing certain shots every day. I really want the title this season. If I win, I'll have gone undefeated...sweet!

I posted Julia Milan on InkPop for the month to see what sort of feedback I might get. I read a few pages of someone's story and I thought there was a lot of good writing in it. Some spots made me laugh. I remember what my stories were like when I was 18. Wow.

My latest query has generated results...2 fulls and 2 partials from 14 queries submitted last week. I'll take those results any day.

Work is killing me. And I haven't played any poker in I don't know how long...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

I finished this book a few minutes ago. I loved the beginning, but the quirkiness started to annoy me. By the end, I was just ho-hum. I didn't love it the way I thought I would. But I can see why critics love this sort of book. It's certainly unique. I love how Rebecca Stead uses the $20,000 Pyramid in this story. So what if kids don't get the references, they aren't voting for the Newbery winner.

Kathryn Kim came to visit this weekend. We went to Zachery's for dinner tonight before I dropped her off at the Oakland Airport. It was fun talking about 6th grade with her. So many great stories.

This week I'll hit the queries hard again. It's back to the drawing board, with nos all around. Talk about annoying.

Speaking of, I'm watching the latest Woody Allen film, Whatever Works, on DVD. This film doesn't. Wow, when Woody Allen is off, he is way off. His obsessions are so ugly and tedious, and this from a devoted fan. The 20-something waif hooking up with Larry David? Are you kidding me? Doesn't Woody Allen get that it's beyond ridiculous that he's still writing about this? Doesn't he get how much of a parody he has become of himself? If this ever happens to me in old age, for the love of God, please pull my plug!

The sad thing is I'm only 45 minutes into the movie. And because I'm such a Woody fan, I'll have to watch the second half. Oy vey!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Perfect Season

I went 8-0 this season and am only two games away from reclaiming the Club Championship. I MUST DO THIS! I'm going for it next week with some major league workout routines and practicing my pinch shots every day at lunch. I'll most likely play Glenn in the semis, then meet the winner of Steve or Tyrone in the finals. I don't care who I meet. That trophy's mine this time!

SCBWI Days 2-4

Wow, that was a great, informative conference. Plus, I read a fantastic YA novel by Valerie Patterson, "The Other Side of Blue," a novel I couldn't put down. The keynote speakers were exceptional. My favorites were Jon Scieszka, Loren Long, E.B. Lewis and Rubin Pfeffer. My favorite presenter was Claudia Gabel. She is such a star. So funny and cool. I like her. My big takeaway? Only that I can do this. I want to be a keynoter one day. I've gotta get this book set up. I looked over chapter one today and made some really nice insignificant but technically satisfying edits that only I and a real nerdy editor would notice. But I guess that's the key to good writing, not noticing anything.

Saw "The Kids Are All Right" Monday afternoon. Really liked it. Great family drama.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


I'm here in my clean little room ten minutes from the Century Plaza in LA, taking in Day 1 of the SCBWI conference. It's a fun group of folks, especially when the women-to-men ratio is something like 7-to-1. Maybe even 8-to-1. I listened to five speakers, two of which were truly masterful presenters: Jon Scieszka and Loren Long. They were so good because they were funny, had smart things to say, and kept their presentation moving. M.T. Anderson was a little too stiff and wordy for my taste, though I did appreciate his performance of Delaware's state song. I attended two workshops, "How to Think Like a Publisher," by Stephanie Owens Lurie, which is very informative and well done, and "Think Like a Packager," by Claudia Gabel, who thus far wins the awards for cutest, qurkiest presenter. I like Claudia. I find it interesting that think tank creative types brainstorm franchises. For me, it works best when I'm the one doing the heavy creative lifting. Claudia's presentation was instructive and interesting. She gave us her email so I plan to send her a query and fan letter.

I met a few delightful writers. In the morning I sat next to Alison from Tennessee and Stephanie from Sacramento who now lives in L.A. I then had lunch with Jeanine from So. Cal. and Carla from Virginia. During the wine and cheese event, I met several writers at my table from Virginia and California. I've collected a few business cards and hope to keep up with them. I book 3 books at the book signing last night and would love to read them all before the conference ends, though I probably won't have the time.

More later...

Monday, July 26, 2010


I posted my top 10 Beatles songs on Facebook. Since then, Beatles songs have infected my mind. I can't stop the playlist in my head. Luckily, there are about 120 songs going on, so at least I'm not bored. I was shocked that my fifth favorite Beatle Song, Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite, would be the song that a few folks considered unworthy of top 10 status. No one blinked at Lovely Rita at No. 3. Still, my list speaks for itself. The upside is the Beatles have inspired me to be a better writer. And you know that can't be bad...

Monday, July 19, 2010

A busy weekend

I usually like to rest and give myself plenty of downtime over the weekend, but this past weekend was filled with activities. On Saturday, Byron and I played in a doubles shootout at the Big C. We won our five-team bracket 4-0 without giving up a single game, but lost in the semis to the team that eventually won the tournament. We lost in the tiebreaker 8-11. Byron and I played well. It was a lot of fun and Steve Cook and Larry Steiner hosted another great event. The BBQ at lunch was yummy.

On Sunday, Neil, Rossana and I took Arianne out to lunch for her graduation. We went to 4th Street in Berkeley, ate at Spenger's, then walked around the street in search of a nice necklace. We didn't find one, so Ari will be on the lookout for one before she leaves for UCLA.

In the afternoon, Richard, Lisa and I headed into SF to see Heather's latest short, a film called Omakase, about a young sushi apprentice who falls for the boss's niece. It was well done and beautifully shot. Heather's very talented. There's a sweet poignancy to her work.

By the time I arrived home last night, I was wiped out. I slept from 10-7. I feel good today. I didn't play racquetball this morning, but I'll be ready on Wednesday. I hope work isnt' too busy this week so I can catch up on all the reading I need to complete. I'd also like to send out another batch of queries.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Query Update

Just when it seemed no one would ever respond to my query, I got some action yesterday. I emailed a query to Jill C. at the Herman Agency and received an immediate request for the full manuscript. I also received a request for the first 50 pages from Anne B. at Pen & Ink. Finally, some interest. I’m glad something positive happened yesterday because two of my frontrunners weren’t interested in the book. At present the book’s with two agents and the first 50 pages are with one. I have around 13 queries out there, but I’m guessing at least half should be closed with no response. More queries will be sent out on Tuesday.

How Much Do I Hate to Lose?

Racquetball: I had my match with Steve this morning and the stakes were high. If I won, I’d be the number one seed going into the playoffs, a huge deal because I wouldn’t have to battle Steve or Tyrone in the semis. If Steve won, it would put him in the driver’s seat for the no. 1 slot if he also beat Tyrone. If Steve beat me, lost to Tyrone and won the rest of his games we’d have a three-way playoff for seed position. I just wanted to win and not deal with either Steve or Tyrone until the finals in August. Unfortunately, Steve decided to play topnotch racquetball this morning. There was one shot that I’m still puzzled how he got. He had an answer for every shot I hit this morning. It was frustrating. He dominated the first game, beating me 8-15. He was ahead the entire way. Before game 2 I thought about the adjustments I needed to make. I waited for him to make mistakes, but he played smart all morning long until the end of game 2 when we were tied 12-12. He started to lose focus and go for low-percentage shots. I took the last 3 points off his mistakes and looked forward to closing out the match in the tiebreaker. But it didn’t turn out that way. He served first and scored 8 straight points. Then before I knew it I was behind 0-10. He needed one more point to end the match. But as we all know, that last point is always the toughest. I hit a freaky spin shot that just barely hit the front wall and took control of the serve at 0-10. I scored a point, then lost my serve. Then got it back and scored 3 more points. Then 4 more points. At 9-10 Steve had one last chance for victory, but I hit a nice cross-court shot that he couldn’t reach. I then served a hard drive serve to his left that he left up and I buried in the corner. At 10-10, I served a down-the-line on the righthand side that hugged the sidewall and just cleared the short line. Steve made the adjustment to return the ball but it hit the ground twice. Game over. I was ecstatic! The last time I came back from an 0-10 lead in the tiebreaker was with Tiger about seven or eight years ago. Steve was disgusted when he left the court. I guess I would be, too. He should have won the match today (he was the better player), but somehow I managed to keep the undefeated season alive. I love it!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Query Update

Here's my latest query:

I have an 83,000-word YA urban fantasy set in Oakland, California called JULIA MILAN AND THE CHAPEL OF THE CHIMES, about a precocious 14-year-old who helps her grandmother learn the truth about a special boy who went missing when her grandmother was 14. With help from an old diary, an irksome ghost, and an unusual mausoleum designed by California’s first female architect, Julia Milan digs up a haunting piece of Oakland's past while uncovering a series of bizarre coincidences that suggests history may be repeating itself. Suddenly, the astonishing connection Julia and her grandmother share is even more powerful than Julia had imagined. The comps are Rick Riordan (clear writing) and Suzanne Collins (suspenseful storytelling).

I'm using the Noah Lukeman model of query writing. Three sentences in paragraph two, plus an additional comp line as suggested by Michael Neff. Let's see if that works. I received form rejections from a couple of front-runner agents and it's hard not to wonder why nothing is working. I've read a few queries that landed agents on, and all I can do is scratch my head. Oh well. My disappointment will pass. I have a very clear vision about this project and my journey with Chris toward a meeting in LA over at least one of our scripts. That is really the larger picture here and I'm too far along to let anything derail me.

I've been very disciplined this week, knocking off to-do list items and making great use of my time. Work hasn't been all that busy this week, so yesterday I was able to devote several hours to researching agents. I'm compiling a new list of agents to query and not spending so much time reading their blogs. It's frustrating finding an agent who seems like a good fit, only to get a form rejection a few weeks later. Really frustrating, but part of the game, I know.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

World Cup

I love Paul the Oracle Octopus, though I sure was rooting for the Dutch today.

I had a little neighborhood World Cup party and the crowd was split between orange and red. Though Spain won, it was still a lot of fun, considering only one goal was scored. What the pros can do with a soccer ball is simply amazing.

I should throw more parties because it motivates me to clean my apt. I was up at 6 dusting.

It's 11 p.m., how did that happen? I play a league match with Glenn tomorrow morning at 6. More later...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Ready To Reclaim the Club Championship

Starting this summer, I'll be a sponsored racquetball player for E-Froce. I'm really excited about it. I plan to play several tournaments this year, including the California State Singles Tournament and the CPRT stop in Las Vegas. Rod and I will also conduct some seminars and clinics at the Y and Club One as a way of promoting the sport and the best racquets on the market, the E-Force Command, which is without a doubt the best racquet available.

Yesterday morning I played my league match against Tyrone. The first game was close. I was leaving my shots up and couldn't put many of my balls away. He broke out to an early 0-3 lead, but I tied it up at 6. He then rattled off three winners, but I took a timeout and came back to within a point at 10-11. At 11-13, I took the serve and T took a timeout. I scored an ace and never looked back, winning the first game 15-13. In the second game I jumped to an early 4-0 lead, then 7-0, 10-0, until finally T scored. I had him at 14-2. The final score was 15-4. It was a sweet victory. I paced myself well and didn't get tired at all. My serves were clicking, but I still need to let that ball come down a little more. I was leaving shots up for T to kill.

Next week I play Glenn on Monday and Steve on Friday. If I beat Steve, I'll cruise to the number 1 spot in the playoffs, where I'll most likely play the winner of Byron and Glenn. T and Steve will be 2 and 3. I'm hoping T and I battle for the club championship. It's only fitting, seeing as we're the two most dedicated players at the club.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Another Day Like Today

10 pm all ready? The days go so quickly and yet I feel as though I barely got anything accomplished. I have ten new to-do list items on my Julia Milan action page, along with a laundry list of racquetball items to cover before Friday's match against Tyrone. Earlier this morning I thought Kathryn was visiting from Seattle, but she's not arriving until August. Good thing, because my apt. is one chaotic sty. Even the dog's giving me looks. If there's one thing I've learned about the book publishing business this year, it's the amount of romance fiction out there. Holy cow. Who's reading all those romances? Are they any good? I'm not sure what there are more of, published writers or used cars. It's overwhelming. I've heard nothing from the 7 queries I sent two weeks ago. I'm supposed to send out another batch, but I'm not getting the kind of leads I found last week with Elana Roth. I want more agents like her. Where are they? I wish the research went more quickly. I wish everything went more quickly, everything except my life.

Kimberley, B.C.

I was in Kimberley, B.C. over the Independence Day weekend, visiting relatives. Heather & Rick hosted a family get together that included Karen & Ed, Kathy & Jack, Kari & Ross, Leif, Mandy, Kevin, Crystal and their families, Gwen & Greg, Tristan and Nicole, Jackie and Connie. I had a great time checking up with everyone, playing Therapy, hearts, Dutch Blitz and badminton, and of course eating lots of food. The weather wasn't as sunny as I was anticipating, but it only rained a few minutes on Friday. Now that I'm back home, I'm preparing for the SCBWI conference in August.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Canada Bound

I leave for Kimberley, B.C. today. After work, I fly to Spokane, WA, then drive to Kimberley tomorrow morning. It's a reunion of sorts for my dad's side of the family. Heather's hosting and it should be lots of fun. Gwen and Greg leave today. Tristan and Nicole are joining them. Unfortunately, Gwen & Co.'s only staying until Saturday. That's too bad, because they're going to miss Rick's ribs Saturday night. I'm looking forward to playing games with Heather, Jackie and Connie. It should be a great time!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Star Alert: Elana Roth

So I've been reading agent blogs, lots of them. It's a great way to get a feel for someone. It's why I'm spending more time on mine (or trying to). Some folks keep more than one blog. How they do it is beyond me. I would have thought blogging would be a breeze for me, but it's not. I'm stunned at how boring I sound sometimes. Others couldn't do boring on their blandest day on earth. Oh, do I admire them.

The best agent blog entry I've read is by Elizabeth Evans. Her 6/19/09 entry on the Kimberley Cameron website is a blogging masterpiece imo. The Plunge. It's got it all, form, substance, funny lines, the whole package. I wonder how long it took her to write? She couldn't have come up with that off the top of her head, no way. "Resistance is futile," I can't wait to meet her at a conference one day and use that on her.

Finally, I've found an equally gifted agent blogger, Elana Roth. Talk about smart and interesting. Elana has good instincts and has no problem sharing her thoughts. I like what she says about storytelling. She's certainly one to watch.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

SCBWI Readings

Yesterday, I went to my first SCBWI event. Cynthia Omololu and Heidi Kling talked about their debut books DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS and SEA. It was worthwhile. I'm halfway through SECRETS and find the writing and story impressive. Great details so far. I asked the writers what marketing strategies have worked well for them. They said Twitter has become an essential marketing tool, their blogs have generated lots of attention, and bookmarks are simple and essential to the promotion of any book. I was one of only two men in attendence. The 24 other attendees were women. Wow. That's quite a ratio. I think I'm going to like SCBWI events. Cynthia used a PowerPoint slideshow to illustrate the points she was making during her opening remarks. That's a good idea. Both mentioned the supportive, encouraging nature of the YA community. I'm heard that several times now. I like it. I'm really looking forward to LA in August. I suspect that event will be more fun than I can imagine. I do like talking shop. After the reading, I went to Rossana's for her birthday and met a writer named Nathan. We talked about writing, films and teaching for at least an hour.

Week in Review

Yesterday, I played outdoor racquetball for the first time at Pleasanton with a few E-Force players and Angela Grisar. Kenny, Mark, Melissa, Elaine and I played from 10-1. Lots of fun. The ball does some crazy things coming off 12 inches of cement, and with no ceiling shots and no back wall, keeping a ball at chest level actually makes for a difficult return. A fun game. The red ball is tough for me to see, but by the end of the day I was getting used to it. Thanks, Kenny, for the invite. I'm really going to enjoy my E-Force sponsorship this year. I'm motivated to participate more in tournaments and conduct some clinics with Rod. Perhaps I can shoot for State Championships next spring in the A division.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mad Men Kinda Week

Got to show off my PowerPoint skills at work today with a revised presentation for an attorney. She had a 50-slide presentation on Sexual Harassment that she shows every two years. She wanted a new look for her slideshow, and thank goodness for that because what she had was clownish, clunky, and just plain bad. I deleted all the random graphics and replaced them with images from Mad Men. I love the irony of using Mad Men characters to educate supervisors on the do's and dont's of Sexual Harassment in the workplace. I haven't created a PowerPoint slideshow in a while, but this one put my right back in the game.

I emailed seven queries today using my newly revised query letter. Let's see if I get any takers. I can see why this query is so much stronger than the last one I used. I was 0-14 on the last one, so I certainly can't do any worse. At least I'm improving (hopefully).

Talked to Chris tonight for 90 minutes. The longterm goal is getting a script sold and made into a movie. Deja Bride, Grandudes, Botticelli Girl or RetroTherapy, one of these scripts must be sold soon. I want that to happen more than anything.

Annabelle, an Algonkian writer, was the first to finish Julia Milan. She really liked it a lot and her comments made me smile. The ending totally worked for her...yippie!

I'm going to be an E-Force Sponsored Racquetball player. How awesome is that! I love E-Force racquets and look forward to a longlasting relationship with them.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Designs

I just spent the last 30 minutes playing with my blog designs. How fun. What a busy week. Monday I played racquetball from 5-7, worked from 10-7, then played my first match of the summer league, taking care of Fabio 15-2, 15-5 (sweet) and playing Tyrone 3 games before coming home at 11. Tuesday I got up early and spent an hour on the computer, worked from 10-5:30, went to Ari's graduation, had dinner at the Boathouse with the Youngs and Rossana, arrived home close to midnight, then fell asleep. Wednesday I woke up at 7:30, spent an hour at the computer, worked from 10-7, played poker with Craig & Co. until midnight (came in fifth --ugh!), then went to bed around 1. This morning I woke up at 8, went to work from 10-7, then came home and relaxed. I can't sustain this routine indefinitely when there's so much to do!

I have a lot to read. I'd like to finish Sara's two manuscripts, post a few agent sites for the Algonkian guys, collect a few more agent names to query, and take care of the rest of my to-do list. I'd also like to finish the Nick Hornby and Richard Russo books. No time though. Ugh!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Reading Blogs

I'm amazed at all the reading blogs there are by readers who seem to do nothing but read (and blog!). I wonder how many writers use these readers/reviewers to get the word out about their own books. Some of these blogs have a strong followings. These blogs also list all the books out there, and wow are there a lot of books floating around, books I've never heard of by writers I've never heard of. I really do need to educate myself. So far in my YA reading, Suzzane Collins is the best writer I've come across. No one else has come close, though Rick Riordan is very clear and funny. I requested "Dirty Little Secrets" from the library. Catherine's neighbor Aaron mentioned it to me and it sounds very interesting (about a girl whose mother, a hoarder, is found dead and is too ashamed to call 911). I'm realizing I have so much to do before the conference in LA, so much to prepare for and think about. I'm excited about the future!

Sunday, June 6, 2010


I made the last of my edits to "Julia Milan and the Chapel of the Chimes" and it's ready for agents' eyes. I feel the manuscript is strong. I'd like to bring one last layer of research to the Snow scenes, but aside from that, this story is ready to read. My thanks to all my readers who helped me get this book in shape. I see a bright future for this series. It's late and I'm tired, but it feels good adding those necessary changes to the final chapter.

Writing for the Masses

I had dinner last night with a writer who wrote a book in diary form. She has an agent (Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Lit) who submitted the manuscript to 17 editors. I asked what the responses were. Not enough action, apparently, and too quiet. From the description of the book, it did sound a little internal. It may be a better strategy to write something big, bold and full of movement as a first novel. My strategy is to write something that resonates with kids and keeps them wanting more. Having "24" as my model makes sense to me. I'm going to miss that show. I submit this week to an agent named April. I hope she likes it.

I'm going to the SCBWI conferense in Los Angeles in late July/early August. The $190 rooms at the Hyatt were sold out, so I opted to go budget, staying at a very reasonable $80 room with great reviews on Trip Advisor 7 miles away. I'll have a car for the weekend. The writer I met last night had attended the conference last year and said it was a blast. I'll do my best to be social and meet lots of people. I'm looking forward to it.

I feel I have little time to do what I'd like, but in a way it does make me very productive. Still, I miss the time I had at home. I can't wait to recreate the stay-at-home lifestyle I so miss.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Endless Things to Do...and I'm distracted again

I'm editing the last chapter of Chapel, making it flow a little better, tightening the scenes, reworking what wasn't working that well to begin with, establishing that magic feeling readers get when they reach the closing line of a book that doesn't disappoint. I'm trying to do that with mine, and it's not quite there, not yet anyway. Today I'm blog-spired. I read a couple of great blog entries that showed me just how effective good blog writing can be. Wow, they were good, so good in fact that I contacted the writer and sung her praises. What I'd give to write that well.

Don't even get me started on 80s videos on You Tube. I wanted to include a line in chapter 8 or 9 about Audrey's 80s music video collection, and three hours later, I put the line in (after watching all the Toto, Human Leauge, Cyndi Lauper, Bangles, Eurythmics, and Men at Work I could stomach...three hours worth, apparently). What a sad situation I sometimes seem to be.

Finishing up a couple of good YA reads, 39 Clues and 20 Boy Summer...oh, yeah, I have a dog to walk and feed, poor Sandy...thank God she likes alone time.

Okay, today, here's what the goals are: 1) get those damn edits into ch. 14 now! 2) finish 39 clues and 20 Boy summer please! 3) Read and comment on Annabelle's opening 2 chapters 4) Send a query out, just to remind yourself how the process works (find appropriate agent, insert pitch, add detail that creates brief bond, review, make sincere prayer, press send).

Back to work...

Monday, May 31, 2010


A few weeks ago, I attened the Algonkian Writers Conference here in the Bay Area. Michael Neff was very helpful with my pitch, trimming it down and making it tighter. I enjoyed pitching my book in front of a couple of agents. I learned a few things that should be helpful when I go down to LA to pitch my book. One agent will look at my entire manuscript, so that's encouraging. I particularly enjoyed getting to know the other 15 participatants at the workshop. We still keep in touch online. I'm reading some of their stuff now. It's good.

I started work a few weeks ago at a law firm in Oakland. I'm really glad I found a job so close. I was running out of money pretty fast the last month or so. This new job is enjoyable. The people I work with are nice.

I'm now able to download some PokerXFactor videos onto my iPhone. I bought Quicktime this weekend in order to do it.

I read a very good memoir a few weeks ago: The Lost Night, by Rachel Howard. I brought up a desire I've had to write my own memoir, or perhaps an explanation as to how I approach the world and why certain things are so overwhelming for me. I get overwhelmed so easily. I really liked this book a lot. Rachel works out at Club One. I can't wait to run into her again; I have lots of questions to ask her.

I work from 10-7, so getting things done is difficult. I don't socialize much anymore. My weekends are filled with doing my own thing. I wish I had a couple hundred thousand dollars.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I've been mixing it up these past few days, playing poker, studying hands and strategies on pokerxfactor and SitnGo Strategies, and also revising my query and reading three books for my upcoming writing workshop in May.

I'm about a third into Cuckoo's Nest right now. I've never read it. McMurphy's dialogue is so electrifying. I'm really enjoying it. I hadn't read Gatsby in many years, but it sure holds up nicely. I can see why it's considered one of the best novels every written. I've always loved it and still do. Miss Lonelyhearts is certainly fun to read and funny in parts, but it doesn't hold my interest as well. It's just too much, too cynical and emotionally distanced.

I'm hoping to accomplish a lot this week. Lots of reading and prepping for my writing class in May. Preparation is the key to everything. The weather is finally consistently nice, though I heard there's another rain storm coming. I'm so done with the rain.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Arends Arrive during Spring Break

I was a tourist in my own neighborhood this past week. The Arends from Olympia spent their Spring Break in the Bay Area, and for five days we lived up to our own hype as travel/game/eating maniacs.

Who knew there was a limit to the number of Oreos an adult can eat within a 48-hour period. I reached my Oreo threshold Wednesday night when the thought of eating another one made my head spin.

Our Bay Area adventure began Sunday afternoon when the Arends traveled through blizzard conditions to reach Oakland.

It was a long drive and the natives were getting restless.

It was raining and Zachery's Pizza was closed, so we camped out at Erie St., ordered Yang Chow and played an afternoon and evening of games: Set, Ten Days in Asia, Guesstures, and Wits & Wagers. Emily is the Ten Days in Asia master, and my mission was very simple: beat Emily.

Easier said than done, considering how badly she destroyed me last August when she first introduced me to the game. I think I won one game out of ten, so to adequately prepare, I bought my own Ten Days board game and studied it like a college geography course. I dug deep and used all of my game-playing abilities.

We played two games on Sunday while watching Iron Chef, and that's when I discovered that Emily plays the game using a very imaginative set of rules. So we played two versions of Ten Days, the actual rules and Emily's rules. I beat her twice using the actual rules, but didn't win a game using Emily's rules. On the Guesstures front, the boys demonstrated their dominance of the game with a five-point victory over the girls. Thomas was our anchor, and he rocked. Amanda handily won the second game of Wits & Wagers, after which we called it a night. All of us practiced Set. Emily is a natural at the game.

Monday began with smoothies,

followed quickly by a trip to Arizmendi.

We then visited the Chapel of the Chimes where my book takes place.

Thomas found the place amazing.

And it is!

We had lunch in Piedmont,

then drove to Berkeley and walked around the UC Campus.

It turned out to be a very nice day. We were worried our baseball game would rain out, but the skies stayed clear and we watched the Mariners beat the As in the season opener, 5-3.

Tuesday was bridge day. We took the Bay Bridge into San Francisco, played arcade games at the Musee Mechanique,

ate In-n-Out burgers for lunch,

walked the Golden Gate Bridge,

drove back to Oakland via the Richmond Bridge, hung out at Starbuck's where I had my first double chocolate chip frapuccino (which was delicious),

then had dinner and played games at the Youngs.

Wednesday was our busy tourist day. We started our day at 7, took BART into San Francisco,

caught the F line to Pier 33 and boarded a boat for Alcatraz.

We toured the prison for three hours, then had lunch at Pier 39.

After lunch, we took a cable car to Powell Street,

walked to Grant St. and Chinatown,

then had dinner at House of Nanking.

I hadn't been to Nanking in years, but the food was just as fantastic as I'd remembered. We took BART back home

and crashed on the couch (at least I crashed),

sleeping through Fantastic Mr. Fox and playing a few more games of Kahuna with Emily.

The next day we headed back to Arizmendi before the Arends left the Bay Area for home. What a fantastic Spring Break!