Saturday, July 22, 2017

Back from Chelan

Been a while, ol Blog. We've spent the last week with family at a house on Lake Chelan. I'll eventually post photos here... But since I'm currently writing ts on a first generation iPad, I don't have many options for technical dazzlement.

I'm at he point in my summer break when I realize: this is a LONG time to be away from work. The days had been flying by in a blur, but there was something so calming about spending days on the lake in a comfy and picturesque locale, away from the city lights and, more significantly, devoid of wi-fi. We all did lots of reading, family-bonding, and inner-tubing. And by the time the fulfilling six days were over, I thght to myself, "I still about twenty fur days of vacation left!" That alone is more time off than most careers allow. So, again, I keep coming back to feeling so incredibly fortunate. Counting my blessings is sometimes the best way for me to deal with stress... I don't have much stress connected to my own life, directly, but college is coming up for a certain older daughter, and there's a heap of red tape right now. So, I'd gladly trade inn some of my luck right now to make things easier for her.

The picture book-a-day project is still going well. I am currently one story behind, but I think I'll catch up tomorrow since Cheri and the girls are heading into town, leaving me with the dogs and my writing tablet. My last two stories are too dark and too lame to become anything (since I was in a bad mood due to the aforementioned red tape). However, out of the 22 projects  have developed, I think at least half of them have great potential. 

Speaking of which, I best get back to work. 


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Vacation Within a Vacation

Summers remind me of how lucky I am. (And perhaps how spoiled.) The fact that I have a career that let's me talk about writing all day long, and then allows me to take three months, it never stops blowing my mind. It's times like these when I cannot send enough gratitude out into the universe. But I'll try... Universe, thank you!

The 31 Stories in 31 Days is going surprisingky well. As of this morning, I am one story behind, but I am hoping to catch up on that today by completing two new rough drafts. I have the whole morning and afternoon to myself because everyone has left the house to do various activities, hiking and such. But not me. I am staying home with the dogs and my journal.

So, the "Vacation Within a Vacation" that the title refers to happened this past weekend. On Thursday, Cheri and I flew out of Seattle and landed in Los Angeles. That's right, we traveled back to our stomping grounds so that I could attend the summer conferences with the Society of Children's Book Authors and Illustrators. I believe this was my seventh time attending in the last ten years. And for the first time ever, I stayed at the hotel instead of commuting back and forth to Santa Clarita.

The whole weekend was fantastic, and it was made all the more pleasant by having Cheri with me so that we could go out to lunch or go swimming together. Fun was had by all.

I will hopefully be soending some time blogging about the cnference and the people I met, but in case I fail to do so, let me say to any blossoming writer of children's books that if you haven't become a part of SCBWI you really should. They shape writers in very good ways.

Speaking of writing, I better get back to work. Type to you soon!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Batting Five for Five

Am I using baseball terminology correctly? Five for five? Meaning that I haven't struck out yet. I am five full days into my writig challenge and I have successfully written five stories.

Not all of them are home runs, however.

The very first one, TOUCAN TANGO, is a stinker. I am not sending that anywhere. But I developed and executed the idea, and that is the main goal of this project, to get work done!

The second and third one turned out surprisingly well, and I will definitely be sending them to my agent at some point. In fact, I think they are so good, I am not saying anything about them. Keeping it secret, which means I think they might sell someday.

The fourth day's project was actually a revision of Kinderdragon, but since it was a complete overhaul I am counting it as writing a new story. There is much more characterization and conflict in this version. Trouble is, I don't know if it's any better. It might not have fixed the flaws that resulted in editors passing on the manuscript. However, I did give it my best.

Yesterday (Day Five), I was clueless for a long time. I kept kicking around ideas about a Pig at a Picnic, but that was probably because I have been to two barbeques in the last two days, so I feel like a Pig at a Picnic. However, a quick search on Amazon books shows that the idea has already been used, including the alternate title I came up with: Pignic. Fortunately, I had another inkling.

We were taking our friend from Canada back to the ferry terminal, and she mentioned how she likes Victoria, but also loved it when she lived in Nanaimo. And that reminded me of this awesome public pool that's in Nanaimo, Canada... Which made me think about how excted you are when you are a kid at the pool, and you want to run and jump into the water, but there's a life guard telling you to slow down and follow the POOL RULES... So that's what Story #5 is about. I worked on it from 6pm until 11pm, and I have no idea if my agent or anyone else in the world will like this story, but it was cracking me up!

Happy summer, happy writing, people!

Friday, June 30, 2017

31 Days, 31 Stories

Happy End of June, everybody... And happy Canada Day Eve to all of my friends up north.

I have decided what I want to focus on while vacationing in Washington state. As I mentioned before, I usually take on a full-length project, like Duck Town and Camp Omigosh. But this time I am going to do a whole bunch of short projects.

So, my lofty goal is to create a picture book manuscript for every day in July.

If you asked me a couple weeks ago if this was possible I would have said NO WAY... Picture Books aren't long... They shouldn't be more than 1500 words in most cases... And usually editors want them between 500 and 1000 words. However, they can be really tricky to write. Normally, I draft a picture book over the course of a week. But even that's not quite true because it often takes a long time just to come up with a decent idea. So, this "A Picture Book A Day" idea is a little bit kooky...

But so far I feel good about it... Probably in the same way Don Quixote feels good about jousting windmills.

I have gotten a head start... In the past two days I've written back to back picture books, and I'm two-thirds of the way through #3.

I'll keep you posted as the project continues... But I realize it might not be the most exciting blog topic... I'll try to just share the highlights.

I have been taking lits of photos, and if the wifi holds up, I should be able to post some of them.

Hey, is anybody out there planning to go to the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Los Angeles conference?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Word Count Wednesday - Summer Edition

Hey Creative Writers... Are you former students still out there? I hope the summer is going well for you, and that your muse has visited you once or twice.

It seems, so far at least, only a few of you are keeping up your blog. But I'm not here to guilt you if blogging isn't your thing. But I do want to tell those of you who have kept posting (especially Jodee) that I enjoy being able read your work now and then.

So, here's my progress report...

What Have Been Working On?

Picture books, picture books, and more picture books, Lots of false starts and half baked ideas, but three days ago  finally finished a fully developed draft of  MEAN SQUIRRELS, and then today I developed a brand new idea and wrote it from start to finsih in about eight hours.

Word Count: 2000 words

How Do  Feel About the Process?

I think I'm getting into the grove of summer break. I'm not writing my best work (not yet at least), but I am starting to have more fun, and the creative juices are flowing. Now that I am vacationing up in Washingtin state,  where I'll have more time to relax and write, I am going to embark on a new project.

I am going to attempt to write one PICTURE BOOK for every day of the month of July. I already got a head start by completing today's manuscript, I am also thinking about doing something on Youtube, since I attended VidCon with the girls. (But I am not crazy about seeing myself or hearing myself on screen, so I don't know if I will bother.)

What Am I Reading?

I started reading Ender's Game, but I forgot to take it on the trip!

I also need to get ready for fall by reading Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and Ralph Ellison's INVISIBLE MAN.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Dinner with Matt and Emma

The other day, my nephew came to visit us, all the way from China... and he brought his girlfriend, Emma! Emma was born and raised in China (though it should be said her English is excellent). Matt has been living overseas since he graduated college. They are both world travelers, at such a young age. Here's a photo of them back in China, hanging out with friends:

This was her very first visit to America, and to celebrate her arrival we took her to a bunch of American places to eat... You know, like Chipotle and In-N-Out Burger. Those sorts of fine dining experiences you can't find any place else.

To return the favor, Matt and Emma treated us to a taste of their culture... and since I have long ago lost the ability to pretend to like food that I think tastes bad. (Which is usually anything that's not meat, potatoes, or pizza-related items.) Therefore, I was quite worried about this upcoming meal.

I knew I was in trouble when they started wandering down the "International" aisle of the grocery store.

They started shopping for ingredients that have way too much flavor for my taste-buds. I'm lookin' at you, Soy Sauce.

And speaking of soy, I became very worried when they began grabbing stuff from the Tofu section. 

I hate Tofu. I hate it so much that I've never even tried it. Actually, that's not true. One time at Costco, Cheri gave me something that she claimed was a chicken nugget. I ate it and she asked me how it tasted. I said it tasted okay. Then she revealed that it wasn't meat, it was Tofu. So now all Tofu tastes like betrayal. 

Then, the cooking began... and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I liked the smells that were filling the house. 

(of course, anything is better than the odor that comes from the cage of our stinky bunny, Mr. Knightley.)

(Not on menu)

I asked if there were any secret ingredients involved and Matt gave me a karate chop. 

After I regained consciousness, we had a delicious meal. 

So, what do we have here? On the top left is Matt's Americanized version of Chinese fried chicken (A+). In the top center we have Pork (A+) and Green Peppers (didn't try it). In the top corner you can spot the Tofu and Tomatoes (didn't touch). And then, the final dish -- that red and yellow stuff -- is sweet scrambled eggs. That's right, sweet! I tried a bite, and it was too exotic for me, but everyone else seemed to love it. 

All in all, I was delightfully surprised by how much I love their cooking. Thanks, Emma and Matt!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Writing While at VidCon

Last Christmas, Cheri and I got the girls tickets to an Online Video Conference called VidCon.

We're here now. (Well, the girls and I are here -- Cheri is hanging out at home with the dogs.) It's the second day, and we are rather exhausted. My youngest daughter is definitely in her element. We're watching Jenna Marbles and Julien right now. My eldest has been having a good time too. She met the VlogBrothers and Josh Sunquist.

I have enjoyed it too... Although for much of it, I am about 30 years older than the target audience. So whenever the girls run off to meet a YouTube star, I've been trying to write.

I finally finished a full draft my picture book: Mean Squirrels. It's not that good.. But it is a finished draft, and that gives me a sense of closure, even if nothing else happens with it.

My daughters and I are thinkingbof making more video content, so be on the look out for more videos, Maybe next VidCon the girls with be the Next Big Thing.