24 May 2012

What Happens in Coverland...

Hello! I'm back!

After I met Kari Lynn Dell and Janet Reid in New York, we jetted away to a secret destination populated by romance cover models. Here they receive their extensive training, which includes such necessary courses as "Don't Wane--Wax!" and "Geometry for the Visually Inclined: Displaying Your Pectorals to Your Advantage." My favorite is "Winning By Losing: Accepting The Fact That Your Face Will Never Be On The Cover."

Janet is a super-powerful agent so the fellas fawn over her, which worked out pretty well for the rest of us. We told them Kari writes about cowboys, and suddenly all our drink servers appeared in hats and crisp jeans. I mentioned my hero is a sheriff, so several of the younger models invited me to inspect their guns. I guess they had them holstered in their rooms, because not a one of them was wearing a shirt.  It is pretty warm down there in Coverland. And quiet. Because the models have been asked to internalize their characters, there wasn't  a lot of chit-chat. Mostly they walked around looking steely and determined, or soulful and damaged. Occasionally, they would stop and gaze deeply into our eyes to divine whether we wanted a massage or another mai-tai. The ones that guessed wrong were usually going through their "black moment" training, which clouded their judgment. I didn't blame them. I have five guys at home who still haven't figured out that the way to their happiness is to give me what I want, and they've all known me a lot longer than two days.

All good things must come to an end though, so Kari, Janet, and I said our good-byes to Jax, Dex, Rex, Cal, Mal, and Blaze. They lined up along the runway and we pressed our cheeks to their smooth, rippled chests as they stared stoically at the horizon. We held their hands as we walked away, our fingertips straining to maintain the connection until the last possible moment. But we knew it couldn't last, so we boarded our aircraft and headed home.

As Kari and Janet finished their edits, I got to meet some of the fun people from FinePrint Literary Management. We noshed, they drank pretty pastel drinks, and I indulged in fancy sparkling water. We toasted to Kari's imminent success, because we know her name will be on all the bestseller lists. I met her friend Patty Blount, whose first novel, SEND, will be released this August. Every writer I've met so far has been encouraging and supportive, and Kari and Patty were no exception. It was a lovely, fantastical experience spending time with them, especially when I found out Coverland exists outside time. My entire visit only took six hours, so I was still able to catch the 9:51 train for New Jersey!

I was a little disoriented from traveling between the dimensions, but it was so glorious while I was there I forgot all about the searing pain of my sprained foot. On my way to New York, I stepped onto an uneven curb at my train station, lost my balance and rolled my foot. I fell to the ground, gasping in pain, and watched as my train chugged away. I pulled myself up rather than ruin my pants on the rain-dampened cement and hopped to my van. I cursed and cried for a minute before deciding I was not going to miss my only opportunity to meet Kari and, by extension, Janet.

I drove to  CVS, bought a five dollar first aid kit and boarded the next train with an instant cold pack and ibuprofen. I iced my poor foot the whole way, dragged myself to the restaurant, and hobbled back to Penn Station after getting Kari settled in her hotel. By the time I got off the train at home the pain was excruciating. Nothing is broken, but I pulled all the muscles, and there's a wicked bruise that's spread like an oil slick from my toes to my ankle.

Pretty, no?

I wanted to check in with you sooner, but my mother and I have been engaged in a Stubborn-Off as she follows me around, harassing me to sit down and ice my foot. Then she wanders away to do my jobs, coughing from over-exertion, until I yell at her to sit down. If this keeps up they're going to find us wrestled to the couch and locked in a death embrace like that fossilized velociraptor and protoceratops. It took me three days to finally sneak away long enough to flaunt my bruises.

And you know what? Coverland was worth the pain.

21 May 2012

Abundantly Awesome

It's late and I have to get to bed, but I feel like I've been disconnected for too long. I've been busy--you know I'm always busy--and this week had its ups and downs. I'm just going to focus on the ups.

I spent Saturday at a hotel, writing. I had sick children home from school for the better part of the week, which dramatically decreased my special alone-time with my laptop. In frustration, I told the Captain I was thinking about going away just so I could work, and he told me to book a room. I love the Captain. It was fantastic! I wrote more in ten hours than I do in a week at home. I may have to consider an off-site office. You know, after I sell and can justify the expense.

In another exciting chapter of  Megan's Fantastical Foray Into Fiction, I will be in New York this evening at a party for Kari Lynn Dell! I stumbled upon Kari's blog, Montana For Real, because I read a blurb on Janet Reid's blog. Janet is Kari's agent, and known to all the rest of us as the Query Shark. Janet kindly wades through hundreds of query letters and corrects them, so that people who scream "Fuckity fuck fuck, I hate query letters!" (who, me?) can learn proper technique. She sandwiches this public service between taking care of her many clients, because she's uber-powerful.

Long story short, Kari wrote that she would be in New York working on edits with Janet, and I volunteered to keep her company. I'm only across the Hudson, and I love meeting new people, especially writers. Heck, after I've commented a few times on a blog, I just consider that person my friend. Remarkably, Kari didn't find that stalkerish at all, and we made a date for lunch. But then Janet decided to throw a little party in her honor, and they were kind enough to invite me along.

I'm excited to meet Kari, who is an amazing writer. Go over to her blog and read her short stories. They're so rich in detail the term "short story" seems inadequate. Her characters are so fully realized, I felt like I'd met them years ago. On a personal-growth note, I didn't linger too long on style comparisons. I just thought, "Wow, Janet is lucky to have her."

And tonight, I get to meet them both! My world is abundantly full of awesome. Thanks for being part of it!

14 May 2012

Fun Times and Vomitous

When I was growing up, we would visit my mother's friends BJ and Bob. We lived near the shore and they lived in northwest New Jersey. My mother had known BJ since nursing school, and we became close with her blended brood of seven children. There was always something happening at BJ and Bob's house, a party or Sunday barbecue, and they had an open-door policy. If you were around, you were invited.

When the Captain and I were shopping for our first house, we settled on the town next to BJ and Bob's. BJ was our realtor, and when we moved in, Bob, a woodworker, made us a lovely armoire. We visited them during the holidays and for Sunday dinners, and their brand of festive chaos was an inspiration. I have always wanted my home to be like theirs--open, inviting, fun, filled with food and laughter. I think we hit the mark this weekend.

Thursday night we attended Three's middle-school production of "Little Shop of Horrors." Friday night we watched my nieces and nephew so my brother and sister-in-law could do the same. The next day we all got together again for Five's first Holy Communion, were joined by more family for the party afterward, and followed that up with a giant sleep-over so we could be together for Mother's Day! Both matriarchs are currently in residence, so we hosted breakfast for both sides of the family. As you may recall, my brother is married to the Captain's sister, which cuts down on holiday drive-time for them.

The cousins had lots of quality time together and the adults lolled about, eating, napping, and talking on the deck, soaking up the sun. Six and Seven (my adopted children) joined us at the end of the day for some intense Rummikub matches, and we forced ourselves to eat the remaining ice cream cake. It was a lovely day.

At four-thirty this morning I was reminded of how I earn those special days when Five came in and vomited. He laid on the bathroom floor with his head in my lap, and I rubbed his back until he felt well enough to climb in my bed. At that point, the Captain's alarm was ringing, so I never went back to sleep. Four had been complaining of a sore throat at bedtime and couldn't swallow this morning, so he stayed home from school as well. One was such a congested mess last night, I had already decided to let him sleep in, so three-fifths of the pack are now sprawled about on various couches, nibbling on saltines and ice pops.

I think we have fully achieved the BJ and Bob vibe, because there is always something happening here at Casa de Penii. As always, I hope your weekend was filled with more fun than vomit. Do tell!

10 May 2012

This PSA Brought to You By Two

Two and I are having trust issues.

A few months ago I picked him up from a friend's house and he smelled faintly of alcohol. I didn't initially trust my nose, though, because I haven't had a drink in twenty-four years, and I'm not often around people who are drinking. The next day I mentioned it in passing and he accidentally admitted that he and his friends had been playing beer pong. I gave him my speech about drinking, which touches on these key points:

When you drink at someone's house and the adult is not there, you place the adult at risk of losing said home, because it is illegal for minors to drink.

Teenage brains are still growing. Alcohol affects the teenage brain differently than the adult brain.  This is dangerous.

Alcohol compromises everyone's ability to make smart decisions. This is not safe, especially for teenage boys, whose bodies are already a seething cauldron of mind-jumbling  hormones.

Again, it is illegal for minors to drink, and the police are not forgiving. An arrest compromises your future.

Three weeks later, he called me from the woods. He was supposed to be at a friend's house.

"Don't get mad, but we need you to come get us. Seven is sick."

I have told the boys I will always get them no matter where they are, or what they've been doing, so I drove to the edge of the woods. Two was there with five friends, all in various stages of inebriation. I had brought paper towels and plastic bags, which Seven promptly put to good use. The friends had made plans to sleep at Seven's house, because his mother is a night-duty nurse and wasn't home. I quickly informed them that wouldn't be happening, and told them all to start figuring out how they were getting back to their houses. Because they had all been drinking, this freaked them out a bit.

I got home, brought Seven inside, and put him to bed with a garbage can beside him. The Captain volunteered to drive the other knuckleheads home. The next morning I texted Seven's mother and told her what had happened, and informed Two he wouldn't be sleeping over anyone's house ever again. He asked what he would have to do to get us to trust him, and I told him I would know when it happened.

Three weeks ago, Two wanted to go for a bike ride with his friend. We had two functioning bikes in the garage, one of which had spotty brakes that we fixed on the spot. He took off down our hill with his friend, and the brakes failed as he turned the corner. He ran into the back of the friend's bike and flipped over the handlebars onto the street. He showed up in the driveway ten minutes later with his shirt and arm shredded. If you are squeamish, look away. If you would like to warn your teenagers about being reckless, feel free to share these photos.

 Plus a  puncture wound for added flavor.

Even after a week of awesome burn cream from the doctor, he still looked like this:

He told me it was a good thing he was wearing his helmet, because he fell right on his head. Except...late the next day he asked how mad I'd be if he hadn't been wearing his helmet. I then gave him my speech on honesty, which touched on these key points:

If you tell me you were wearing a helmet, I assume your head was protected. If I knew it wasn't, I would have taken you to a hospital. You could have had a closed-brain injury, or a bleed, and I would have found your cold, lifeless body the next day. Lying to me places you in jeopardy.

Similarly, if you tell me you are going to be at point A, and you are, in fact, at point Q, then I don't know how to find you in case of an emergency. And don't tell me you have your phone, because you only answer it fifty-percent of the time. Lying to me places you in jeopardy.

If you were wondering what you had to do to gain my trust, the answer is: Not that.

Two is still recovering from his concussion.

Why are they so stupid?

03 May 2012


BAD PUPPET: the story of one young man's heartbreaking struggle to bring the joy of reading to life through art. Unable to forge the creation himself, he must overcome language barriers to gather the necessary materials and direct a disabled seamstress in a race against time.

The New York Times says:

"BAD PUPPET captures the universal struggle all artists face in bringing their creations to life. Not for the faint of heart, but necessary reading for anyone who has ever lost their muse while on deadline."

Sadly, BAD PUPPET is not fiction. It's the true tale of Five, a project, and procrastination. The usual suspects.

At the beginning of April, Five came home with instructions for his book report, which was due April 30. I had to read the sheet, sign it, and help Five choose his complementary project, because it's not enough work for the eight year-olds to just write a report. He chose to make a puppet of the main character. I signed the paper and promptly lost it. A week later we had to ask the teacher for another one, because he was the only kid in his class who hadn't already started reading for the report! This didn't alarm me, because April 30 was weeks away. His report wasn't even a blip on the outer ring of my priority radar.

Five read Henry and Mudge and Annie's Good Move in one sitting at the kitchen table. On April 14 he reminded me that the rough draft was due  April 18, and we hadn't even started it! On April 15, he sat at the kitchen table and wrote the rough draft. He handed it in to his teacher on the due date, and I put his final copy out of my mind because April 30 was still really far away.

In the meantime, I helped Four with his book report project which was due April 20. This month, he created a "Book in a Bag," by putting visual representations of the characters and important plot points in a container of some sort. We chose a computer bag, because the main character was trying to win the computer prize at the science fair. Clip, clip, clip, throw in some science stuff, done.

On April 24, I realized I was leaving at the end of the week to attend the New England Conference. There was no fucking way Five and I were going to get that project done before I left. I was still shopping at that point for an outfit to wear to my interview, which absolutely took preference over a puppet.

How hard can it be, anyway? I thought. It's a paper bag and some markers. Pish.

I mentally slotted Sunday as the day to type the final draft and create the puppet. Five and I made the necessary revisions to his draft, although there was one sticky situation. ("Dear Ms. Teacher: I believe present tense is correct in this paragraph.") We'll see how that turns out for us. After dinner, I made my paper bag prototypes, cutting out the shapes to see if they would fit Five's hand. 

And then...

"Mom, Thomas made Mudge out of a sock and an old washcloth for ears, which looked surprisingly realistic. Then he stuffed it, put it on a stick, and used that as his puppet. I want to do something like that. Something creative."

It was Sunday night. I considered my options. I could not run to the craft store to purchase felt, my preferred medium. I didn't have any rods to use as mounting sticks, no yarn for hair, no googly eyes. Nothing. What I did have was an old cotton t-shirt, some stuffing from another "Make Your Own Whatever" kit, and my sewing machine, which has been in my mother's possession for so long I've forgotten how to make the needle go in reverse.

I got to work.

When I was done sewing, I had a square-headed, long-legged, understuffed, armless cotton sack, which became half beanie-baby when we filled the legs with barley. I told Five we'd add the arms later. I gave him a marker and told him to draw eyes and a mouth. He started to cry.

"This is horrible! This is the worst puppet ever! It doesn't look anything like Henry. You just want to color everything in. I can't show this to my class. It's embarassing. You stink at crafts!"

At that point, Three walked through the kitchen, looked at the maimed beanie puppet and said, "Where are its arms?" I glared and asked if he was being helpful, to which he replied, "Uh... I like its mouth. It's very Joker-ish."

Five sobbed loudly. "It's an epic fail!"

The Captain called for him from the living room and tried all his best moves, reminding him he'd get a good grade just for trying. But Five just kept saying, "You have to see it, Dad. It's horrible. If you saw it, you'd understand."

He was right. It was spectacular in its deformity, unparalleled in its ugliness, epic in its failure.

We made a poster instead.

The next day, Five got off the bus and told me the morning had been terrible.

"One of the phonics words was 'puppet,' and it brought back all the bad memories of that square-headed puppet, Mom. I wish we weren't so bad at crafts. "

Me too, dude.