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!