Sunday, June 23, 2013

Five Clues and a Picture

Popping up briefly to share that this week I went underground "on assignment."  I'll connect with you next Sunday. Sorry this message terminates here. Hope you don't mind the gap! (Any guesses?)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Slammin' Sammy!

Hey guys!  Mark here, subbing for Wendelin because she’s, well… slammed.  (Example of the glamorous writing life: As I write this at 11:00 p.m. she’s sitting five feet away from me in the office, going over credit card bills with our younger son, who – along with his older brother – came home from college last night.  Bringing with them the cliché of all college clichés – TONS of dirty laundry.  Which wasn’t done by them last week at college because they, in turn, were slammed with finals.)  And she’s also catching up on all sorts of other tasks – both important and mundane – because she’s been slammed lately with ‘other stuff’.  Namely…

Two nights ago, Wendelin typed the final sentence in the final chapter of the final installment in the Sammy Keyes series, ‘The Kiss Goodbye’.  It's always a good feeling when you finish the first draft of a book.  Sure, there’s the whole re-write/edit/rinse/repeat process, but when you finally get to the end of the initial draft and it ‘works’, it’s a wonderful feeling.  Well, I think for her this is like that, times ten.  Or times eighteen, to be exact.  Made even sweeter (in my opinion) by the poetic way she’s been able to bring this whole saga full circle, yet not circuitous, clearly going forward to whatever life brings Sammy.  (Or more accurately, to whatever Sammy brings life.  Because here’s a little secret: Wendelin didn’t write Sammy as much as Sammy wrote Sammy.  Wendelin happened to be the one with the magic talent to listen closely and get it all down, quick, before it leaves to that place where dreams go when we wake too quickly and don’t take the time to recollect and capture…)

I can remember sitting in the Orange Julius in the mall in ‘Santa Martina’ way back when, talking about this idea she had for a character who was a kick-butt girl, yet real, and vulnerable.  Who lived with her grandmother due to being semi-abandoned by her mother (with no father anywhere in the picture… not even a name or a face… just an old catcher’s mitt).  Yet who, despite her meager existence (or because of it?), was interested enough in justice and fair play to stick her nose where it didn’t belong when she thought someone was getting a raw deal.  But not some sort of pre-canned ‘child genius junior detective’.  (She already had enough issues in her life – she didn’t go looking for trouble as much as it seemed to seek her out and demand attention.)

And speaking of those issues, to me the core of the books wasn’t the mystery at all.  It was the whole ‘fitting in’ thing.  You know, when you’re twelve or thirteen and suddenly you leave the K-thru-6th land of ‘children only’ and you’re thrown into this weird menagerie of half-grown semi adult creatures… of several sub-species.  The spoiled rich kids.  The jocks.  The popular ones.  The nerdy outcasts.  And all of those (all of us?) who don’t fit neatly into one of the above boxes, but are somewhere on the continuum between them, just trying to fit in.  Who just want a good friend or two who understands them and makes them feel like they’re not facing the universe alone.

And wouldn’t it be nice if one of those friends was a scrappy tomboy of a girl who was astute enough to figure out who set the fire… who built the meth lab… who was killing the starlets… And yet, who was young enough and impulsive enough that - when faced with a desperate thief – didn’t run and hide, didn’t call her grams or call 911, didn’t duck and cover, but instead… waved?

That’s a friend I want!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Techno Movie Starlet (Or, How I Got A Twitter Account)

I've been saying for years that I'll catch up with technology after I'm done writing (insert book title here). My sons kind of shake their head at me because unless it breaks I keep using it. I don't have to have the latest, fastest computer because I don't need high speed for my job. I process words. That's really about it. And I can only think things up so fast.

Plus, if the tool (computer or software) gets too sophisticated (or I'm not comfortable with it), I get distracted. I don't have time to figure this out! I have a book to finish! And another one to start! And then finish! The reality is that I need to get lost in my story, not lost in the nested wonders of a new digital toy.

So yeah. I have my excuses.

But really, when I finish Sammy Keyes and the Kiss Goodbye, I have plans to give up my old PC and use the MacAir I got for my birthday in January.

Really, I do.

I also have visions of getting a smart phone. I know there are things I could be doing on it. And with it. Things I'm told I should be doing. Like tweeting.

I've avoided tweeting so far because, good grief, how can you get lost in a story when you're a twittering tweeter?

Besides, who cares what I'm doing? Processing words is boring. So is where I'm eating dinner. Or am I supposed to tweet when I'm stowing away in a bus for research? How self conscious and ridiculous would that be? Hiding in a bus! Hope I don't get caught! #research

Well, all that said, guess what?

I have a twitter account.

And the way it happened is...well about as cool as any twitter account making story I've ever heard. (Especially since it's the only one I know of.)

I was in Los Angeles, having a meeting with Bailee Madison and a producer. (She's adorable, by the way, and I really like her mom, too. You can tell a lot about "young talent" by their mom. You just can.)

Anyway, we'd had this really good meeting and at the end of it Bailee's like, I want to tweet a picture of us, and I'm like, Okay, so she's like, Let's take a selfie, and I'm like, Cheese! (We were, like, in LA, okay?) Then she goes to send it out into the tweet-osphere and asks me what my twitter name is and I'm, like, I don't have a twitter account and she's like, CLUNK (jaw on the ground). "Well!" she says, "We have to fix that! Right now!" And since I don't have a smart phone (CLUNK) she gets busy on hers, grabbing pictures of me off the internet, typing in info and building me an account.

@Wendelin was taken, so I'm @WendelinVanD

(Makes me sound like I'm covered in tattoos, but whatever.)

So if you're on twitter, friend me, or add me, or wait, follow me, right? I've got all of 25 people to tweet to now, and half of them are merchants I didn't ask to be stalked by. GAP who? (But Bailee's one of my "followers", so follow her, too.) Who knows? Maybe someday I'll start tweeting with some regularity. Maybe after I finish this book.

Thanks for checking in. See you next week...and in the comments!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

It's A Small World After All

The universe is so big. And when I think about it I feel so small and inconsequential, which I actually don't mind. It supports the whole Don't Sweat The Small Stuff philosophy, because it's true--it's all small stuff.

And then something happens and I'm like, Wow. The world is so small. How can this be?

So I will share with you the Small World experience I had this week. Partly because it's mind boggling (How can this be?) and partly because it's so...awesome.

Because I know there's absolutely nobody new here (because, come on, why would there be? I hide out here with you guys. Just us upside down chickens, right?) I will work under the assumption that you know what I'm talking about when I refer back to a post from weeks ago about the Boston Marathon bombings and the Schneider award money that I divvied up among the victims.

This week I received a lot of lovely sympathy cards in the mail (which you all know refers to the event of last week's post). I have a cool little envelope blade that I use to open all my mail. It's not a "letter opener" per se. It's a razor blade on some bank's promotional item, only I can't tell you which bank because the logo's all worn off.

It's a nifty tool. Zip! Zip! Zip! I open all the mail, back side up, then flip the stack over and process. And as I went through the cards expecting one thing, what appeared in the third card was something I had to reread because it took me the whole note to realize that it had nothing whatsoever to do with my mother.

It was from somebody else's mother.

A mother who was also a bookseller.

One whose store I'd visited when I'd been on tour in 2001 for Sammy Keyes and the Hollywood Mummy.

Okay, that was twelve years ago, and even though I mailed a few Christmas cards in the interim,  I hope I'm forgiven for not connecting the last name on the check I made out for a victim who lived in Boston with the last name of a bookseller in Washington state. It was with complete disbelief that I read her note thanking me for the donation for her daughter and reminding me that I'd visited her store all those years ago.

It was one of those wonderful "moments" when the world feels like a neighborhood where the neighbors come together to help each other out.

Just when I'm sure the universe is too big for anything I do to matter I'm reminded how small the world is after all.