April 25, 2013

Passing time...

When I first faced the prospect of six months at home with my child, with whom I hadn't been at home since she was four months old, I was petrified. What the *&^% would we DO during all that suddenly free time?

I have to admit: sometimes the days do feel long, and I am not one for spending hours on the floor playing with cars or dress-up or even My Little Ponies.

But on a whole, we are definitely making progress on the whole "keeping ourselves happily occupied, out of trouble, and not driving each other crazy" thing. Here's how.

1. Lots more shared-reading-time. Zoe can read, sort of, by now. She can kick some Dr. Seuss arse, without too much trouble. But the prospect of reading words bigger than "Would you eat them in a house?" is still quite daunting to her. Luckily we discovered that Zoe will now sit still while I read to her from some of the best books ever created. This week we finished Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. While reading it, we had lots of chats about good kids and bad kids, good parents and bad parents, and the discussions were entertaining and engaging. Today we started Charlotte's Web, and I can already hear her little brain making the connection between a sweet little pig and the bacon in our freezer. So that'll be fun.  But all told, this is our new favorite quiet activity, and one we both look forward to daily.

2. Thank goodness, we've taken the training wheels off her bike. I wouldn't quite call her a master of the two-wheeler yet, as she still has wobbly starts and stops, but then...so do I.  And the thing is: she LOVES it. It's quieter, less bumpy, and she can go faster. Where I used to walk with her, now I have to run. And today we tried riding bikes together, and aside from the fact that my tires desperately need air, and that we got chased inside by a monster thunderstorm, it was really fun. I foresee a summer filled with long bike rides and runs, just the two of us, together. And on weekends, I know Charles will be happy to join in.

3. Yay for imaginations!! Zoe literally said yesterday that she's not sure why, but she feels like her imagination is growing bigger and bigger.  Translation: she loves making up games with her cars and her action figures and pretty much all her toys now. This has been the biggest lifesaver for me. I can Get Stuff Done while she has fun playing in her room, all by herself.

4. Music. Oh man, the child loves music. We could spend hours listening to music videos on YouTube, and regularly find new songs from some of our favorite singers.  Her current favorite remains Fun, and she's mentioned to me many times that she know she can't sing some of the words, since they're bad, so I'm fine with her listening to the album over...and over...and over...and every so often, I win the music debate and we have a Sinatra afternoon. 

5. While she's happily occupied, I've been keeping myself busier than ever, branching out my writing-life to include artist profiles and weirdly controversial columns about loud audiences.  When people tell me to "go home Yankee," I pretty much think I've done my job...and then I double-check the locks at night. 

So yeah, we're keeping busy and mostly having fun. I'm honestly curious to see what the next four months bring, as these past two have been much different from what I originally imagined. And so long as I keep getting up on time (before 6) and she keeps sleeping as late as I tell her to (at least 7), I even have a good, solid hour or so of writing time every single day. Things seem to be looking good for us right now!

April 18, 2013

Blog? Me? Oh hi!

Oh! Hey everyone! Good to see you! It seems I've been neglectful of my little space in the internet-world of late, only posting things like interviews and book reviews and forgetting that some people just like to sit down and have a chat every so often.

So here I am with a glass of wine and my comfy clothes on, just saying hi, catching up on the past month or so.

Welp, it's been a sad week, first and foremost. I may or may not have a post coming up later this week about it, elsewhere - if it doesn't go up I'll post it here. Suffice to say, as a runner and a person, Boston about broke my heart. I ran a half-marathon back in December (much lower profile, of course), and the thought that something could have happened there is terrifying and sad and makes me feel a little sick. 

And now a tragedy in Texas too? It's too much to contemplate right now.

So that's on my mind. Of course that's on my mind.

But I want this to be a happier post. A post of positives. A post to take a break from all that fear and sadness and, like I said, just chat.

Do you have some wine too? Yes? Great.

Ok, cool. Well, first and foremost, staying home with Zoe has been an adventure thus far. I'll be honest and admit here and now that I was frightened by the prospect of keeping her home with me for the six months before kindergarten begins, but I have to say: we've had a lot of fun so far. We're still chugging along with school, but it's more "school of life-y" than actual lessons, most of the time. Sometimes we do worksheets and all, but we do a lot of going places and seeing things and really just...talking. (God, the talking does get to be a bit much sometimes, and I do run out of words and patience by bedtime, but still...) 

I feel like I'm measuring my life in her milestones right now, which is a new and not terrible experience in and of itself. It's good to not be the center of my own word for a change. So, here's what we're looking at in terms of her milestones:

1. She can read basic books (think Dr. Seuss) with very little help from me. We have a list of books she reads to me. When we reach 20, I'll take her to her favorite place - Yum Yum Yogurt.

2. Don't tell her I told you this, Internets, because it's TOP SECRET to her, but today we took the training wheels off her bicycle! We're definitely still working on it, and she's more than a little unsteady on two wheels, but it was all her idea and she's so brave it blows my mind. Seriously, she took one tumble today that had her almost landing on her face, and she hopped right up. "I'm ok," she said, more to herself than to me, and she shook like a little puppy and climbed right back on again. The proverbial getting-back-on-the-horse, and she didn't even need prompting.

I think that's it for Miss Z for now. She and I are off next week to drive my mother-in-law up to my sister-in-law's in North Carolina. I'm looking forward to it - my sis-in-law's one of my besties - and I know we'll all have a nice time.

Alright. You wanna hear a little bit about me, and the other things I have going on?

Well, in the first place, I totally freaked out when I realized I HAD NO INCOME ANYMORE!!! Seriously, I've held some job or other since I was 16 years old, and suddenly the thought of not having my own cash made me want to puke. And it's not like Charles is stingy with cash, by any means. I just needed...my own. 

So that's when I started writing for The Charleston City Paper, and that's been an awesome and incredible experience thus far. Clearly I'm not doing it for the money, because nobody gets rich working for a small city paper, but I do love it. I get to go to the theater, art shows, and I get to blab about whatever strikes my fancy in occasional columns. It's a win-win, as far as I'm concerned.

And, well, this is TOP SECRET to me, but I'm working on a new book. It's something I love. I can't remember if I've talked about it here or not, but whatever. I'm having so much fun I'll talk about it here and now (and maybe again). 

This new book is straight-up sci-fi, set in a city under siege on a faraway planet. All the men have gone to war, and a group of mothers struggles to keep their families alive and fed and thriving in the most hostile of environments. There are aliens, old foes, a government that can't be trusted...it's been so much fun to write, I think I'll just keep going and going and going on it for a while. Because the end? Yeah, I have no idea when that'll be, nor what it'll be, so I'll just keep on exploring...for now. And we'll see what comes of it.

And I'll leave you with this - possibly the best photo EVER taken of me EVER IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND. I credit my husband and his amazing photography skills. Because really? It's super-cool.


So that's about that, and I hope you've enjoyed reading. I also hope you're having a lovely evening, and that someone today tells you that they love you. G'night!

April 15, 2013

Book Review: Teacher's Pest

Ok. Let the record show this: I have a collection going of the Tales from Lovecraft Middle School books. There are three now, and I own them all...in hardback...with lenticular covers showing innocent(ish) people morphing into scary monsters. They sit on a shelf in my book room (sounds more glam than it is), waiting. Always waiting.

Because my child? The almost-five-year-old who's just beginning to read? 

Yeah. She wants them. She wants them SO BAD. So I am saving them for her, to read as soon as she tells me she's ready. I know she, the child who recently told me the way to protect herself from zombies is to hide her brains, will absolutely adore them.

The latest installation, Teacher's Pest, doesn't actually hit bookstores until May 7, but let me tell you - it is, by FAR, the grossest of the three. Because in Teacher's Pest, there are BUGS taking over Lovecraft Middle School. Led by Student Council President Howerd Mergler, or rather a bug-monster wearing his skin like a Halloween costume, there's a revolution afoot, all in the name of serving the needs of our resident bad guy, Crawford Tillinghast. 

Teacher's Pest: Tales From
Lovecraft Middle School #3
Charles Gilman
Quirk Books
May 7, 2013
170 Pages

A bug revolution? Ew. Gross. There are lice, fleas, roaches, wasps, and all kinds of other creepy crawlies taking over the hallways and crawling through the classrooms. 

Of course, our beloved hero Robert Arthur knows where they're from, and he knows what they want. But two things happen to muck Robert's life up even further.

1. Pip and Squeak, the world's cutest two-headed rat, disappear! 

And then...

2. Robert's best friend, Glenn Torkells, has maybe been possessed thanks to an evil wasp boil-sting-thing.

(Yes. An evil wasp boil-sting-thing. I wasn't kidding when I said this book was gross.)

This is just a nightmare for any middle school boy, no doubt about it, and kids will enjoy reading about it.

As with all the Lovecraft books, author Charles Gilman gives us fun, adventure, and big, frightening monsters. His prose is basic enough for young readers, but has more than enough nuance to keep a grown-up (ugh, am I really a grown-up??) like me happily engaged.

In short, it's another awesome win by Gilman, and I'll be on the lookout for Book 4 as soon as it's ready. 

Yay for kids' books about monsters!

April 10, 2013

Author Interview: Jenny Milchman

Jenny Milchman was one of the first "real" writers I met, as I started down this windy literary road. She was one of the first people to tell me I, too, was a "real" writer, that to be a writer you need only write.

That was a stellar moment in my early career. I have since been grateful that I was (for once) brave enough to reach out to a stranger, because Jenny's been a solid cheerleader, friend, and compatriot.

Oh...and then I read her book. 


Cover of Snow released in January, and it's quite a ride. Set in snowy Upstate New York, we meet a wife facing one of the most tragic circumstances a wife can ever face...and her journey afterwards takes terrifying twists and turns in a frozen little town in the dead of winter.

I made the mistake one day of sitting down with Cover of Snow one afternoon when I had five free minutes...thirty minutes later, I was still reading and Zoe and I were late for an appointment.

Jenny and I will be talking together, along with Tina Whittle, at Blue Bicycle Books on Thursday (April 11) from 5-7 p.m. and I truly hope to see you there!! And in the meantime, she was kind enough to stop by the blog for a chat. Enjoy!

****

LR: First off, congratulations on the release of Cover of Snow! I know it’s been a long and incredible journey for you. For readers who are also writers, would you mind talking a little bit about that road, and the path that led you here, to the Cover of Snow book tour? 

JM: It took me over thirteen years to get published, and there was a great deal of let-down, heartache, and desolation along the way. Cover of Snow is my debut novel, but it was the eighth one I wrote. I was lucky enough to work with agents from the time I first started writing—although what I was writing were overlong, unpublishable manuscripts—but once an agent interests an editor in your work, the editor has to get the whole house behind your book, and I was stuck at that stage for eleven years. I had fifteen almost offers, and at a certain point I said to myself, “Well, published authors write a book a year, so that’s what I’m going to try to do.” During that time, the biggest thing missing for me wasn’t the validation of being published, or any money I might have made—it was the joy of having people read my work. Stephen King says that a story unread is like an unclosed circle, or words to that effect. That lack was very painful for me. So I knew that if I ever finally made it to the point of having readers…well, I wanted to go out and meet them. And get to say thank you. We’ll be on the road for seven months and 40,000 miles. 


LR: I’m reading it now, actually, and I made the mistake of sitting down with it at a point when I had about five minutes to read…thirty minutes later, I put the book down and realized we were about to be late somewhere. Whoops. I feel like every page has some tidbit of information that I’ll need to remember for later – how hard was it to leave these traces and trails throughout the whole thing? 


JM: Thank you for saying that—your words give me joy J The answer is, Hard. Really hard. I guess I’m not supposed to admit that—expose the wizard behind the curtain or whatever—but Cover of Snow is in its twenty-second draft. Most of those pieces didn’t fall into place until long after I finished the story. 


LR: You definitely like to put your characters in uncomfortable situations. You’re especially hard on Nora, your narrator – she’s a city girl living in a small town, she’s lost her husband in an incredibly tragic way, and now the questions about his past (and her future) keep piling up. What did you hope to find, running Nora through the rigors of this story? Did you reach any surprises along the way? 


JM: I think that what most interests me in fiction—both the kind I read and the kind I write—is when ordinary people get thrown into extraordinary situations. The question is always, What are they going to do now? How can they possibly survive? I feel badly for Nora, who lost so much. But I do hope that she came to a sense of triumph at the end. I know that I did. 


LR: I love how you treat the weather almost as if it’s another character. The menace of constant snowfall. Do you think Cover of Snow (ok, with a different title) could have taken place in a sunnier location? 


JM: Since we went out on tour, it has snowed almost everywhere. And that includes places like Oklahoma…and Mississippi. (Someone suggested I title my next book 75 Degrees & Sunny). But I have gotten some wonderful emails from readers who see the snow as a metaphor in the story. Nora was frozen and had to thaw out herself. I think the novel would’ve been completely different set in a different season. As for the location, I hope that the town is integral to the story, almost a character in of itself. Small towns have personalities. They wear different faces. Stephen King is the writer who was the biggest influence on me, and I would say that Wedeskyull is my Castle Rock. 


LR: How’s the book tour going? 


JM: It’s a piece of bliss every day. First, I get to be with my family. OK, that isn’t always 100% blissful, of course, but getting to see my kids’ developing minds as they’re shaped by this trip is a joy. For example—my husband is working from the road, so of course he has to use his cell phone a lot. Both kids have adopted this practice, only they use cakes of soap for their phones, and they sing each other’s pretend ring tones J Then there are the events themselves. Every single bookstore, library, book club, and school is unique—and so are the events they hold. It’s always a surprise to walk into a conversation with another author, or an intimate chat with readers—or on one great occasion, a champagne tasting! 


LR: Will you talk a little about Take Your Child To A Bookstore Day, a celebration you founded and have promoted throughout the country? 


JM: In 2010 I had two young children I was bringing to story hour at our local bookstore almost every week. My kids probably didn’t realize it was as much of a treat for me as for them. Which started me thinking—were other parents in on this secret? How many children knew the pleasure of spending time in a bookstore? 

I frequent the mystery listserv, DorothyL, and a more avid group of readers you couldn’t hope to find. When I floated the idea for Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, bloggers on the listserv spread the word. My husband designed a poster, a website, and bookmarks, and we designated the first Saturday in December as Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day. This would coincide with holiday gift giving, hopefully giving people the idea that books make great presents. Just two weeks later, 80 bookstores were celebrating. That summer, we loaded the kids in the car and drove cross-country, visiting bookstores and trying to get the word out. The third annual TYCBD was celebrated by more than 500 bookstores in all fifty states. 

LR: When you write, are you an outliner, or a seat-of-your-pantser? 


JM: Well, I don’t outline, but I do usually have a sense of certain highpoints. I think in terms of Robert McKee’s book, Story, which talks about the beginning, middle, end, and two turning points along the arc, where the story is sent catapulting into a whole other direction. 

LR: Can you think of a character in children’s literature who you loved particularly (or on whom you had a crush?) For me, I always go back to Calvin O’Keefe in A Wrinkle in Time. Who’s yours? 

JM: Oh, wow. Good one. No childhood character, I don’t think. But as an adult…it’s Jack Reacher. Apologies to my hubby. But he has a fair amount of Reacher inside him. 

LR: Favorites time!  Favorite book? 


JM: Cujo or Pet Semetary by Stephen King. Maybe Winifred by Doris Miles Disney. Or The Exorcist or Stepford Wives or “To Build a Fire” or “The Lottery”…Okay, stop me! 


LR: Favorite movie? 


JM: Witness. A Simple Plan. No, Misery or Stand By Me. Rob Reiner, please come out of retirement and offer to film the movie version of Cover of Snow! 

LR: Favorite band and/or album? 

JM: I can’t answer this one. My musical tastes range from folk rock to country, but they don’t tend to make as deep impressions on me as books or movies. I do really love Phil Ochs. He had such a sad story.


****

Thanks, Jenny, for dropping by, and I can't wait to hang with you again! And if you want more info about Jenny in the meantime, drop by her web site and say hi!

April 8, 2013

Author Interview: Tina Whittle

Ever meet someone, and with a few questions know you were destined to become friends? That's how I feel about fellow-author, Tina Whittle, to whom I was introduced a few weeks ago. We've chatted a bunch via email, and then she agreed to be interviewed, and when I got the answers back, I knew it was fate.

And then? Oh, and then I read her book. Blood, Ash & Bone released in March of this year, the third in her Tai Randolph mystery series, and let me tell you - it's awesome. Seriously, I couldn't put it down. Tai is a total bad-ass, and her boyfriend Trey is a trained killer with a helpless-puppy vibe that's irresistible. The story takes place in Savannah, a city I'm learning to love almost as much as Charleston, and the flavor of this sleepy southern town is palpable in the story. It's beautiful and alive, even though it's clear from the story Tina weaves Savannah has a much darker past.

I am not a huge mystery fan, by any means, but now I have to get all three Tai Randolph books and read them. Because I'm in love. No exaggeration.


Oh, and did I mention I get to hang out with Tina face-to-face this coming THURSDAY, APRIL 11, at Blue Bicycle Books here in Charleston? We're doing an author chat with my friend Jenny Milchman (more on her later this week!!!), and I hope to see you there!!

In the meantime, get to know Tina by reading our interview. I think you'll like her as much as I do!

****


LR: I love that we are opposites – you, a Southern girl, and me, a Yank. I saw, though, from the very first description of Blood, Ash and Bone (your newest Tai Randolph mystery), your book drips with history, which I also love. The Civil War, the Confederate Army, the past rising again. What makes you write the present with such an eye to the past?


TW: Like Faulkner said, “The past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past.” In the South, ghosts mix with flesh-and-blood folks, visions with dreams. Stories get passed down like heirlooms. We each carry our pasts with us in the narratives that we tell about ourselves and others, and as a writer, I enjoy exploring the ways that our personal stories intersect with our cultural stories, our individual lives with history.

LR: What got 
you started writing about Tai Randolph? How’d you discover what makes Tai so special to you? 



TW: That girl has stuck with me — through a dozen rewrites, multiple versions of her backstory, her language, her job, her sex life. No matter what I’ve thrown at her plot-wise, she shows up, sleeves rolled to her elbows, grinning. I like her voice — whip-smart, mouthy at times, often laced with cuss words, but true to how she sees the world and the people in it. And I found her voice by letting her talk — if I buy her a beer, or pour her a cup of coffee, she’ll tell me everything I need to know, even if I don’t quite understand at the time. So I learned to trust her, and she seems to trust me back. So far, we get along very well.

LR: Atlanta is Tai’s home. I know the Georgia Lowcountry is yours. Have you ever lived in Atlanta? Do you go there a lot still to help you write local color?

TW: I have never lived up there — we’ve always been kissing cousins, Atlanta and I. But I was up there a lot in the late eighties (my then-boyfriend/now-husband went to Georgia Tech) and I developed an appreciation for this city that always a little too big for its britches. I visit often (I have friends and family in the area, plus I do several promo events up there when a new book comes out). The last time I went up there to write, I stayed in Midtown, in a hotel with a balcony, so I could literally soak up the sounds and smells and lights on the city as I wrote. But even when I can’t get up there, I read the online version on the Journal-Constitution, Atlanta Magazine, and Creative Loafing. Most of the real local color never makes it into my books, however — my editor would never let me get away with Atlanta’s true weirdness. I can only include the tiniest taste. 

LR: I have a brother who nitpicks everything I write from a “does this happen in real life.” It’s great for me, because I get the feedback pre-publication. He’s a firefighter with experience working with SWAT teams, so when I saw your books include SWAT, I wondered: how do you research to make sure people like my brother don’t email you a litany of “you got this wrong” complaints?

TW: Research takes a village — my particular village is an annual conference called Writers’ Police Academy (here’s a link if anyone’s interested in learning more — http://www.writerspoliceacademy.com). It’s a weekend of hands-on interactive workshops held at an actual law enforcement training facility taught by working police officers, federal agents, private investigators, forensic examiners, CSI technicians, firefighters, and EMTs. I’ve been twice, and during my classes I’ve gotten to watch a K9 drug search, shoot up bad guys in a firearms training simulator, suit up in tactical gear and stage a SWAT raid, search a crime scene, analyze blood spatter, ride in an ambulance with full screaming siren, participate in an interrogation, and — in one memorable afternoon — get slapped in handcuffs, which the training officer said I did “like a pro.” I still don’t know what he meant because I was afraid to ask. 


Not only do I come away from this conference with tons of in-depth knowledge, I get to marinate for a while in the world of professional law enforcement — picking up their vocabulary, their experiences, their attitudes and understandings of a life I can never participate in because I’m on the civilian side of the thin blue line. Even more importantly, my respect grows for the women and men in these professions — the ones who show up for us on our worst days, who put their lives on the line for us over and over. The ones who run toward trouble instead of away from it. The heroes.


LR: You open Blood, Ash and Bone with a reluctant sparring match between Tai and her boyfriend Trey. I love their dynamic, from the very get-go. Both strong, powerful. She is teasing, taunting, and he wants only to protect her. How do you balance writing a strong, exciting woman, with a boyfriend who is clearly dominating in the sparring ring?

TW: He may dominate in the ring, but Tai dominates pretty much everywhere else. Because of Trey’s particular kind of brain damage (sustained in a car accident two years before the first book in the series) he prefers to hand off most emotional decisions and judgment calls to someone else. He’s still physically adept, but his emotions and thinking patterns are a little skewed. Tai knows how to talk rings around him, but he knows how to defend . . . and dig in his heels. It’s an intricate dance between these two, and not just on the sparring mat — each one has a particular armor, with its own particular chinks. Learning about each other makes their relationship stronger, but it also makes them better adversaries. Which — as Tai discovers in Blood, Ash, and Bone — can also be fun. As is the sharing of tender parts when the armor is finally removed.

LR: What brought you to mysteries in the first place? Why write all the murder and violence?

TW: I’ve always loved the puzzle aspect of mysteries, especially the so-called “play fair” ones, where the reader is provided with all the clues the detective has and could — theoretically — solve the crime before said detective. So there’s the mental challenge of the genre; as reading goes, it’s very active. 


But there’s also the subject matter. Most mysteries feature a murder — sometimes gruesome, sometimes comical, but always there’s a corpse lying about. Why read about this? Why write about it? 

Partially to make sense of it, I suppose. In our real lives, we are subjected to horrors on a daily basis, a lot of them senseless and brutal and not always met with justice at the end. Fiction provides a catharsis of sorts. Chaos is routed, order restored, evil doers punished and victims mourned. And then life goes on, as life always does. In my work, I focus less on the crime and more on the people it affects. The violence happens mostly off-screen because I’m more interested in the ripple effect these crimes exert on the lives of my characters. I’m more interested in the emotions of the survivors — grief, despair, anger, satisfaction — than the forensic details. I want to explore how people re-knit their lives in the aftermath, the before-and-after of a violent event. To me, there is something beautiful in that process. A hard-won grace. 


LR: Were you a compulsive reader as a kid? If so, was there a particular character on whom you had a literary crush back then? (Mine’s Calvin O’Keefe from A Wrinkle in Time.)

TW: I think “compulsive childhood reader” is on every writer’s résumé. I was so obsessed that my second grade teacher took my reading textbook away from me and hid it on the top shelf of the supply closet. When I was nine, I discovered Edgar Allan Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and didn’t look back (my first literary crush was Sherlock Holmes; still is, as a matter of fact, especially in his current incarnation by Benedict Cumberbatch). 

LR: Favorites time!! Favorite book? 

TW: I’m going to use the criteria of “book I’d take to a desert island if I could only have one” and that would be House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. You can read that book eleventy-zillion times and never figure it out. It’s a book about a movie that may or may not exist about a house that may or may not exist, but if it does exist, it is somehow bigger on the inside than on the outside. It’s terrifying (I had to hide the thing behind the sofa, literally, and I avoided closets for a loooong time after I finished it). It’s gorgeous. It’s heartbreaking. It’s profound. I can’t recommend it because it will mess you up. But should you wade in despite my dire pronouncements, just be warned— your brain will end up bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. 

LR: Favorite movie?

TW: The Princess Bride. I never get tired of that movie. I can quote it almost verbatim. I still cry everytime the grandfather says “As you wish” at the end. 

LR: Favorite band/album? 

TW: The self-titled second album by The Indigo Girls, the one with “Closer to Fine” on it. I come back to those lyrics over and over, finding something new again and again. I realize this makes me a cliché, but whatever. I am a proud, happy cliché.


****

To learn more about Tina, feel free to visit her web site, or drop her a line sometime. 

And thanks, Tina, for stopping by this morning. Can't wait to see you Thursday!!!

April 5, 2013

Homeschooling, working, and SCIENCE!

Holy cow! Zoe has been home with me for a month!! Over a month! It's hard to believe - I was honestly terrified at the thought of turning both our lives upside down. You know...stopping my own fledgling writing career for a few months, taking Zoe away from school and friends until kindergarten starts in August. It felt overwhelming.

A month in, I still get overwhelmed sometimes, but things are going well overall. And this week? Well, it's been a highlight. Zoe wanted to learn about liquids (still not sure where that came from, but whatever), and I expanded that into solids, liquids, and gasses, and then decided to do a week of science experiments!

Why not, right? I wasn't all that into science as a kid, but I always loved science lab. Some of my fondest high school memories are of AP Biology, and our fruit fly and fetal pig experiments.  I found some cool web sites with suggestions for kids, and we rolled with it.

So far, we've put vinegar and baking soda in a bottle to blow up a balloon. We've made a lava lamp with water, food coloring, oil, and Alka-Seltzer. We've made a tornado in a bottle. We also learned that cool things happen when you dip a Q-tip covered in dish soap into a shallow bowl of milk with drops of food coloring. 

It's been fun, especially for this girl, who never participated in a science fair at school.

Today we'll cap things off with some real fun: Mentos and Diet Coke in the backyard, and a baking soda/vinegar volcano inside. Seriously. These are things I've always wanted to do.

Zoe told me yesterday that science is her favorite thing ever, and that experiments are super-cool. If nothing else, since I don't do a great job of explaining the "why" behind many of these reactions, I hope I'm giving her base knowledge of how cool science can be. Since girls are traditionally falling behind in math and science, if I can make her love science before she even gets to kindergarten, I'll feel good about our time at home.

Anyway, this isn't a homeschooling blog, that's for sure. But if you want to do science-time at home with your kids, here are a couple cool resources. 

Science Kids web site: From here, we got many of our simple experiments. Want to bend water with static electricity? Make a homemade lava lamp? This is a great place for you.

The Steve Spangler Science channel on YouTube: I am madly in love with this. He's a Colorado-based science teacher who does COOL STUFF with science! We supplemented our own experiments by watching many of his. And since he explains the "why" behind the science, it's a great resource for kids AND adults.

Anyway, that's a wrap of Science Week...after our volcano and geyser, of course. 

April 1, 2013

Guest Post: Delilah S. Dawson

I love a good escape book.

Delilah S. Dawson writes amazing escape books. Set in a world full of blood-guzzling bunnies and all sorts of magic, they're their own brand of supernatural fantasies. I can't get enough of them.

To celebrate the release of her latest e-novella, The Peculiar Pets of Miss Pleasance (April 1, 2013, Pocket Star), Delilah dropped by to talk about writing, mom-ing, and the embarrassment of kids whose mom's write steamy love scenes.

Her story of how she started writing is eerily similar to my own, which made this post all the more striking for me. I hope you enjoy it even half as much as I did...in fact, I know you will.


Writing, Motherhood, and other Scary Things
By Delilah S. Dawson

Here's the big secret: if I hadn't had my second child, I don't know if I would be a writer today.

Sure, I'd always enjoyed writing and did poetry slams in high school and college, but I had always assumed that writers were like doctors and nuns, called to their destiny and possessing special gifts. But when my son was about nine months old, nursing constantly and barely sleeping, something changed. In between the sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and insanity, that part of my brain that told me what I could and couldn't do-- it just shriveled up and died. And that's when I wrote my first book.

I read a study positing that male DNA crosses the blood-brain barrier of the pregnant mother and makes subtle, lasting changes to her nervous system. And I have never been more grateful, because I'm happier now, as a writer and mother, than I've ever been in my life. I feel like anything is possible, and I adore being a writer. The writing itself is a gift: after a long day of caring for my family, writing is something I do for myself, an escape I cherish. Disappearing into a world of my imagination, honing the manuscript, and finally seeing my words in print is thrilling.

And I like to think it makes me a better mother, too. My children see me following my passion, growing more confident and constantly learning new things. While I'm writing, they're free to be kids, exploring their own imaginations. And my daughter is already writing her own stories. For her, writing books won't be this impossible thing that only the specially chosen bards can accomplish; it'll be something that happens in the other room, something real and tangible that brings her mother great joy-- and something that takes time and dedication. And one day, she'll get to be embarrassed that her mom writes fluffy vampire romance books with sex scenes. Score!

Just as my writing came from a dark place in my life, so do all my stories have a dark cast to them. My Blud series for Pocket takes place in a world where many of the people and most of the animals are blood drinkers, a place riddled with monsters and krakens and evil villains. You won't believe what tries to kill the heroine in my next e-novella, THE PECULIAR PETS OF MISS PLEASANCE. And in my YA, SERVANTS OF THE STORM, which is out in 2014 with Simon Pulse, I've turned the pleasant Southern town of Savannah into a demon-ravaged wasteland. Whether it's my teenage gothiness finding an outlet or my mother's recognition that the world is a dark place, I'm drawn to stories of horror, weirdness, and the supernatural. When I was a teen, we didn't have YA, so I read a lot of Stephen King, and I hope it shows in my writing.

I'll admit it: when I decided to become a mother, I was a little bit scared of losing myself. I've always been an artist, and I've always needed time to myself to create and recharge, and I've often battled with depression. I knew from the start that I wouldn't be on the PTA or leading a Girl Scout Troop, but I also knew that I would find a way to keep growing as a person as I took care of first one and then a second child. The cool thing is that becoming a mother is, in a way, the most creative thing you can do as a human being. You make people! From nothing! And for me, the second coolest thing was that becoming a mother helped me find the calling and career that I'd always hoped to discover.

So, in conclusion, I'm so crafty I make people, and you can, too!

Thanks so much for having me, Leah! 

Readers can always find me at my blog, www.delilahsdawson.com, or on Twitter. My next e-novella in the world of Sang is THE PECULIAR PETS OF MISS PLEASANCE, out April 1 with Pocket, and the next book in Sang is out April 30, WICKED AS SHE WANTS. Oh, and if you like artisan perfumes, check out the scents based on my characters at Villainess Soaps!