I Was First

Look. Everyone who is anyone has blue hair.

blue3blue 2blue1

And frankly, it annoys the crap outta me. Because I’ve had blue hair for like, four years. Since 2011.


In 2011 everyone who dyed their hair a funky color dyed it pink. I was going to SCBWI-LA where I would meet many fab people, including people who I had become Twitter friends with. I wanted to be easily recognizable.

After I got home, I could’ve let it grow out. But I just like the blue hair—it’s not all blue, just a wide swath of it. I am not trying nor have I ever tried to cover up my gray. It is still clearly visible.

Very. Clearly.

Anyway. I do not want people to think I am following a trend—sort of defeats the purpose of dying your hair a wild color, doesn’t it? So…

AMERICA! My hair was blue before the Kardashians even THOUGHT about dying their hair blue!



Thinking Up the Future

Wow. Posting every week? Look at me! Wonder how long I can keep this up. Anyway. The topic today, kids, is predicting the future.

crystal ball

No, not like that. I mean actually, scientifically, with reason and logic.

Last night, Big Bopper and I went to see 2001: A Space Odyssey on the big screen. Now, the last time I saw this movie I was ten years old. Yes, I saw it in its original release in 1968. And what I remembered was SCARY KILLER MONKEYS! FUTURISTIC SPACE TRAVEL! PSYCHOPATH COMPUTER! And also, my mother and aunt sitting with their mouths open in disbelief as the house lights came up after the show. (“Was that a fetus? Floating in space?”)

Some of the assumptions the director made about the future were spot-on—using credit cards instead of cash-money, flexible space suits, video phone calls—but most of the predictions of how Things Will Be in 2001 are laughable.

For instance, in 2001 all the superpowers will have moon bases where we can continue to carry on the Cold War. Also, furniture design remains frozen in time with Eames chairs. And to transfer information between computers, you need a punch card.


The point I’m making is this: The roots of the future are in the present, but if you’re a writer, you have to look beyond the obvious.

The USSR economy was unsustainable. It took decades to fall apart, but its ultimate demise was predictable, if you knew how to look at it. The integrated circuit, which would become the microchip of today, was invented in 1959. At the time, almost no one understood the implications. But now, microchips power everything from toilets to cars.

So if you’re writing science fiction or science fantasy, read science news. World politics. Business.

And let your mind wander.


Character Comforts

It’s funny, what comforts a person.

For instance, Big Bopper loves napping on the couch to the sounds of cartoons.

Bottled Lightning loves silence.

BoyWonder likes to sit around the dining room table with his family and talk, after a big meal.

Freckles McYoungest loves a stormy afternoon, curled up with a book.

I like wind…

An unremitting sea breeze on the beach.

warp-dogThe relentless gale that whips through a car speeding down the highway with all the windows down.

i always want to say "and my other brother daryl". anyone else do that?

i always want to say “and my other brother daryl”. anyone else do that?

An afternoon gust that cools the porch and blasts away the mosquitoes on a summer evening.

catfanA floor fan, pointed just right, that puffs up your t-shirt and makes tendrils of hair dance around your face.

I wonder if it’s because the first house I lived in, situated in a coastal town, had no air conditioning. But every room had windows designed to catch a cross-breeze.

Or, could be I’m just weird.

As writers, though, it’s interesting to think about what would comfort the characters we invent. For instance, there are times that I get a whiff of stale oil and hot engine parts, and maybe a little pee, which reminds me of the Paris Metro. Would that be a comforting smell to someone raised there? Maybe a character loves raking leaves because it reminds him of New England and maple syrup and red flannel shirts—and home?

I dunno. I ponder these things, when I write characters.

Hope I’m not weird.

Weird Science

Bottled Lightning recently graduated with her Masters in Statistics. With the requisite mariachi band recessional.

As I said at her celebratory dinner, I should’ve known way back when that she’d end up a statistician.

1. When she was 3 she had a “binky” collection which consisted of cicada skins. First, she had them in a jar. Then, she got a square piece of cardboard and glue-gunned the whole lot in equidistant rows. The affair ended in a horrible tragedy, when the dog we had at the time ate them.

2. We went on a long road trip when Bottled Lightning was 9 or so, during which she kept a running tab of roadkill we passed on the highway. Separated into species. Quantified. Then charted on the computer.


I know.

Why am I telling you these semi-horrifying tales? Well, to make a point.

Kids do things that make no sense—at the time. Let ’em do stuff that’s weird. Or messy. You never know how it’s gonna pay off.

Teach ‘Em, Then Trust ‘Em

Why are we making our children overly-sensitive and incompetent?

Ladies and gentlemen, exhibit A:


My rebuttal:

obama with water gun

Exhibit 2:


My rebuttal:

Guys. Life is a series of gambles, you buys your ticket and you takes your chances. Most of the time, things turn out okay. My own mother was the most protective one in the neighborhood. But she allowed me to hop on my bike and ride through the neighborhood to Gessner, a very busy road, to catch tadpoles in the bayou. (It was still a real bayou under that bridge, then. Not a concrete drainage ditch.) When I got my Friday allowance I biked to the 7-11, where nefarious teenagers dealt doobies in the parking lot. Inside, 25-cent comic books waited for me. (Fine. She was not aware of what the teens were doing, but I didn’t bother them, and they didn’t bother me.)

While my own kids were growing up, we were fortunate to live mere blocks from a small shopping area. And a well-traveled hiking/biking trail. When they hit the age of ten, away they went. With a friend or sibling, but parentless.I knew where they were. They knew when they were expected back. If they weren’t, they knew embarrassment would ensue.

Were there close calls? I know there were for me, and I bet there were for my kids, too. But sometimes you just gotta take a deep breath, calculate the risks, and trust the universe.

Or end up parenting those kids for the rest of your life.


Outlining VS Pantsing, Again

I once heard a talk by a lovely Kansas SCBWI member—whose name I wish I could remember—about Walter Dean Myer’s process. It involved lengthy and detailed outlines.

At that moment, I wondered if I’d ever be a good writer.

Trouble is, I didn’t want to give up the freedom of pantsing. The interesting discoveries you make when you just let ‘er rip.

I’m starting a new story and this time, I’m making the effort to get the bones in place, first. With the caveat that I’m still free to run wild and crazy when belching out my first draft.

Two memes for the price of one.

Two memes for the price of one.

I hope the extra time spent pre-loading the manuscript makes me write faster. And still gives me room for those Aha! moments.


Because that’s what makes it fun.

Not Writing Is Still Writing

There’s more to writing than–well, writing.

This weekend, our group of long-time writing friends is on retreat. (And no, I’m not mentioning it here on the blog to document that fact for the IRS. Though that’s a pretty good idea.)

Sure, I brought my laptop. But this is the first day I’ve fired it up–because I’ve spent the first 48 hours in our cozy cabin paradise, pondering.

I’ve spent time trying on character names, drawing maps, diagramming plot points. To dig down deep. Find the truth in my story.

Don’t get so set on word count goals and outlines that you forget to dream.

adorable puppies sleeping. you're welcome.

adorable puppies sleeping. you’re welcome.

I’m Baa-aack

Hello, race fans.

dog girl race

I’m finally back, for good. Mostly. Let me tell you why my presence on This Old Blog has been sporadic, at best.

I’ve been busy.


Thing is, there’s only so much time in the day. So you gotta prioritize. When commitments or health or responsibilities or circumstances leave you a small window of time to write, do you spend that time on Pinterest? Twitter?

Well, heck no. You spend that time on your writing. Because a spiffy Social Media Presence is not going to get you published, only a spiffy manuscript will.


Behold, the wild Pigator. With flying fetus.


Leela Alcorn.

I’ve been off the internet and only heard her story a couple of days ago. If you’ve been AWOL too, I’ll catch you up.

Leela was born a boy on the outside and a girl on the inside. To ultra-religious parents who sent her for faith-based counseling to change her mind. Punished her by taking her out of school and barring her from online support. Told her God didn’t make mistakes, which by their interpretation, meant she was immoral and crazy to feel the way she did.

I love it when people tell you how wrong your feelings are.

So Leela stepped in front of a semi. Her suicide note came up later, on her Tumblr.

Oh, it’s been taken down. As well as her mother’s note on Facebook mourning her “son’s accident”.

Read the note. It’s a little self-serving and demand-y, but it’s also bleeding with despair. And I do not see how her parents could refuse to bleed with her.

Parents have dreams for their children. I’ve always hoped all mine end up with fulfilling careers and an opposite-gendered spouse and chubby, curly-haired kids. Because that’s what I think will bring them joy. But if it doesn’t, what’s more important—my dream or their happiness?

I don’t think Leela’s parents had to compromise their beliefs by aiding Joshua’s transition to Leela. But they did have a responsibility to send her to unbiased counselors who could help Leela cope and make plans.

And love her.


Thanks for all your kind words, it is a pleasure serving you people.

And so to pick the recipient of the KidLit Scoop 100th Issue Giveaway, I counted the number of comments and generated a random number between one and twenty-nine. (One being the first comment, two the second…)



Jeanne Kasten!

Thanks again for playing along, I had a blast.


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