Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's a quiet day for us chocolate and laundry in the morning, dinner at a friend's in the afternoon.

Me: What can I bring?

Friend: You don't really like cooking, do you?

Me: (slight hemming and hawing) Um, I don't mind cooking. I mean, sure, I like cooking. Well enough. I mean, I'd be happy to bring something. I mean...

Friend (taking pity...and possibly remembering the pie I brought last year, which I thought came out OK): Don't worry about it. Seriously.

I'm grateful for friends who understand me. For conversation and warmth and camraderie, which I'll remember long after the the turkey and trimmings are gone. For my sweetie especially. For my family. For everything on this roller coaster publishing journey, ups and downs alike. And for things too many to list but which I hold dear in my heart.

And I'm grateful to you, too, for stopping by and spending a little time. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tayshas! (Gesundheit!)

I recently got some great news from my editor: Ten Cents a Dance has been named to the 2009-2010 Texas Library Association’s Tayshas Reading List. Yippiee-cai-yay! This means that librarians will be recommending TCAD to high school students throughout the entire state of Texas. I am incredibly honored. Congratulations to everyone who made the list…and thanks a million, Lone Star State!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fat Cat Lips and Other Calamities

So we got home from Colorado Springs to find one of our cats, Seamus O'Leary, with a big fat lip. (Pictures at the end of the last post). Now, I'm a huge weenie when it comes to my own pets. Not to mention that when it comes to my animals, my imaginoscope goes all wonky. A scrape that on a client's pet looks like a scrape will, on one of my critters, transmogrify in my mind to something horrendously malignant. I once looked at a weird, irregular lump on the gums of our eldery German Shepherd and within seconds jumped to a diagnosis of mouth cancer. I bent closer to get a really good look, caught a whiff...and realized the lump was actually kitty poop from him raiding the litterbox. I've learned my lesson. So the next day, off Seamus went to work, where one of my colleagues could examine him with proper objectivity.

Tentative diagnosis: An abscessed lower tooth.

Treatment: Examine under anesthesia, and if confirmed, then yank that sucker out of there.

You can probably guess that if I don't do well examining my own animals, I'm sure not going to do surgery on them. Fortunately, the practice where I work has a top-notch surgical team. Amber, one of our superb certified veterinary technicians, did the work while I held Seamus's little paddy-paw. Once Seamus was under anesthesia, an ultrasonic cleaning (to remove the tartar) and dental X-rays revealed not just an abscessed incisor, but also two teeth with resorptive lesions. Resorptive lesions are roughly the cat version of cavities. We have no idea what causes them, but we know what they do: eat away at the tooth from the outside in. When the lesion gets deep enough, the cat is in a great deal of pain. Seamus's lesions weren't terribly deep--yet--but there's no way to stop a resorptive lesion once it starts, and filling them (like human cavities) doesn't cure them. When we see them, we usually extract the tooth (with the owner's permission, of course). Many owners tell us that afterward, their cats are running around like youngsters again. Anybody who's had bad tooth pain knows what I'm talking about!

We couldn't tell by looking which tooth was infected and causing the lip swelling; on the surface, everything looked hunky-dory. But a dental X-ray fingered the culprit: the root of a teeny little incisor. At this point, Seamus isn't feeling a thing. He's under anesthesia, breathing through the tube at the right of the photo. The gray tube that looks like the end of a ShopVac is the dental X-ray machine; the white gauze in his mouth is holding the X-ray film in place.

Here, Amber is cleaning Seamus's teeth. Removing the tartar revealed one of the two resorptive lesions. That green thing over him is a heating pad; he has another one underneath him. Without heating pads, little animals get very cold under anesthesia.

I didn't take photos of the extractions. I figure we're flirting with TMI already. Suffice to say all went smoothly.

Five minutes after the anesthesia is turned off, the breathing tube is out and he's already trying to lift his head (and get his tongue back in his mouth). Poor kitty!

Don't feel sorry for him too long, though. The next day, the swelling is already going down, he's bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and indulging in all his usual shenanigans:

Cuddling with his favorite dog, Inja, in front of
a heater vent...

...helping himself to my lunch...

...and skedaddling like the wind when he gets caught.

So let's see: Wordstock...a trip out of teeth...and...ah, yes. The new, as yet untitled book. And some lovely news about Ten Cents a Dance!

Next time...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Airports and Other Adventures

So Saturday evening I dashed home from Wordstock, kicked off the darling vintage-y heels, and packed a suitcase.

Now, I’m an airport fretter. I’m not scared of flying--I love to fly. But I’m the one who always wants to leave for the airport four hours ahead of time. In case of, you know, traffic jams. Or long lines. Or no spots in the economy lot. Or who knows. (You know you’re a champion fretter when you don’t feel you have to come up with specific scenarios. You just know something will happen, and if it’s an invasion of killer bees that shuts down the interstate, you can still turn to your partner and say, “I told you!!”)

But that Sunday, for some reason, I was zen. Dogs at kennel at 8 AM. Plane leaving at 9:57 AM. Plenty of time. Besides, we were already checked in for our flight, thanks to the wonders of teh internetz, as they say on LOLcats. What could possibly go wrong?

And at first, it all went so very, very well. We dropped the dogs off at Stay (is that not the best name ever for a boarding kennel? The folks who run it, Kim and James, are fabulous. Our dogs didn’t give a rip that we were leaving. They know the way to the play yard, and they were all, “Come on, Kim, let’s go play! Let’s play, Kim! Now, Kim! Kim! Kim!” Not one little whine, not a single mournful look. “Yeah, whatever, see ya. Whoo-hoo, Kim! Play!” Ingrates.)

Off to the airport. Lovely spot in the econo lot. Less than two minutes to wait for the shuttle. Disembarked at United and found, in the middle of an otherwise empty airport, the Line From Hell. But no problem, right? We’re already checked in. All we have to do is check our bags. YOU MUST CHECK IN 45 MINUTES PRIOR TO DEPARTURE, the sign warned. Yawn. Magic of teh internetz. We’re golden.

Got up to the counter. Self-help computer terminal won’t check me in. See a United representative for assistance, it says. It is, I kid you not, forty-four minutes to departure time.


Am directed to a second line. Get up to the counter for the second time. Am informed by a very nice, extremely harried United ticket agent that I have missed my flight.

Missed my flight? The flight doesn’t leave for thirty-six more minutes! But, no—wait for it—

“Your bag wasn’t checked forty-five minutes prior to departure time,” the agent tells me.

That was the unforeseen circumstance, the fret I should have been fretting. It’s not good enough that the actual live PERSON checks in 45 minutes prior. The BAGGAGE has to check in, too, and unlike the actual, live person, the magic of teh internetz DOES NOT COUNT.

The sign neglected to mention that part. Also the part about how you can no longer fly separately from your bags, as in, Can’t you just let us trot onto this flight and the bags can follow us later?



I fly a lot, and I’ve never run into this before. Maybe because I rarely check bags—I’m a carryon girl. But we weren’t the only ones, that morning. It seemed like half the line missed the same flight for the same reason. So if you were on the Portland to San Francisco at 9:57 AM on November 9, and your supposedly full flight had a bunch of empty seats and you were able to stretch out in luxury…you’re welcome.

The ticket agent (and she was really a lovely person, sweet as could be to us, although you know that part in The Fellowship of the Ring where Bilbo Baggins lunges to take the ring from Frodo, and his face turns, for one instant, wicked goblin-like with fangs? Whatever supernatural talent that is, this ticket agent has it. Some other passenger tried to skip the second line and sneak in directly behind us, and I swear the agent got ten feet tall and bared a mouthful of shiny danger. It was scary. I almost got back in line again) got us booked on another flight, WITH bags, to Colorado Springs, and all was rainbows and puppy breath, and we were happy, especially since we then had time to get coffee and lemon poppyseed scones.

Can I just say? Colorado Springs is DROP-DEAD GORGEOUS. Pike’s Peak, the Garden of the Gods. Sunshine. Three hundred days of sunshine a year, those people get. They get as many days of sunshine as we Portlanders get of overcast and rain. I can’t think about that too much, or I’ll get depressed.

And the wildlife... We saw at least a dozen mule deer grazing in people’s front yards. A most beautiful fox scampering across a pasture.

And coolest of all, this fellow:

The person we were with said that in 35 years in Colorado Springs, he’d never seen a bighorn sheep on the side of the road like this. We watched him for several minutes, until he jumped the guardrail on the far side of the highway and meandered, safe, to the creek below.

We visited for 4 days, then headed back home…only to find our own wildlife up to shenanigans while we were gone.

This is Seamus O’Leary.

This is Seamus O’Leary’s fat lip.

Stay tuned.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wordstock 2008...and Other Excuses

Oh noes! No posts for almost two weeks! The wonderful folks from September’s Kidlit Bloggers Conference are shaking their heads in dismay.

Wait! Wait! I have an excuse! A couple, in fact. First, Wordstock. Last weekend was Portland’s fourth annual book festival, and Saturday afternoon found me deep in the vintage—including these fabulous new shoes.

They’re not original vintage—I only have one pair of those, inherited from my mom, and those are in trĂ©s delicate condition. So these are reproduction, but are they not a 1940s dream? (Best of all, I managed to get onstage and off without breaking my neck in front of dozens of people. Score!)

Up right before me was the amazing Susan Fletcher (no relation, oddly enough, considering that we both live in Oregon and write YA historical fiction). Susan’s latest novel, Alphabet of Dreams, is the story of a teenaged girl, Mitra, who struggles to find sanctuary for herself and her younger brother 2,000 years ago in Persia (present-day Iran). It’s a beautiful book loaded with tons of historical detail…including three particular magi trying to solve an astronomical mystery. Susan presented a wonderful slide show of the trip she took to Iran researching the book. A tough act to follow, let me tell you.

After my reading from Ten Cents a Dance, Susan and I joined another YA author, Heather Vogel Frederick , for a panel discussion about writing historical fiction for young adults. Melissa Lion, an award-winning YA author herself, moderated. Melissa asked great questions: about how we did our research, if we’d altered historical events for the sake of our stories (none of us had, but none of us completely ruled it out, either), how we dealt with un-PC attitudes like racism and sexism in our old-timey characters, what other historical YA we’d recommend for readers. It was a lively discussion—Heather and Susan are both charming, smart, and funny—and, to my delight, our panel was very well-attended. Considering that Wordstock has multiple stages going every moment, that put the whipped cream on the hot chocolate for me.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see many other authors at this year’s Wordstock. After our panel discussion and book signing, I headed home to de-vintage and pack. For where, you ask? Ah, that’s the next blog post. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

All Is Possible

1. A ridge of high land dividing two areas that are drained by different river systems. Also called water parting.
2. The region draining into a river, river system, or other body of water.
3. A critical point that marks a division or a change of course; a turning point.

However any of us voted, there is no doubt that this is a watershed moment for America. For the rest of my life, I will never forget where I was when the election results were announced, shortly after 8 PM Pacific Time. (For the record: in my living room, having just pulled the made-with-my-own-hands chicken pot pies out of the oven.)

This excerpt from President-elect Obama’s speech moved me the most deeply. Perhaps because I live, and write, in awe of history--not just the grand events, but the lives of the ordinary folks who witness them. Perhaps because I’ve marveled so many times about the incredible changes seen by my own grandmother in the 89 years of her life: from a tiny, poverty-wracked Sicilian village at the turn of the last century, to the the splendors and opportunities of America at the cusp of a new millenium. Whatever the reason, I listened to this with tears:

“…This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. Shes a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing—Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

“She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldnt vote for two reasons—because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

“And tonight, I think about all that shes seen throughout her century in America—the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

“At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

“When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

“When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

“She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that We Shall Overcome. Yes we can.

“A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

"America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves --if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?”

In their speeches last night, both Obama and McCain emphasized what I most admire and love about this country. That we are a nation founded, not on accidents of genetics or geography, but on universal and enduring principles. That, in service to those ideals, our founders conceived a system of government able to encompass societal changes that they themselves probably could scarcely imagine. That for all our flaws and mistakes, we strive still to be that more perfect union...and when we disagree on how best to attain that goal, we do so peacefully, publicly, and without fear.

That as watershed moments like this attest: In America, all is truly possible.