Archive for July, 2012

Chasing the Book Interview Series: Katie McGarry

Congrats to Katie McGarry on her debut YA release Pushing the Limits–out today!  Instead of an interview with Katie–here’s a bounty-hunter themed interview with Katie’s characters, Echo and Noah.

First, the synopsis.  Let’s get to know Echo and Noah.

Pushing the Limits tells the story of two high school seniors, Echo and Noah. Echo has no memory of the night that transformed her from popular girl to loner freak with scars on her arms, and she desperately craves answers. Noah is a foster kid who is fighting to reunite his family. Since they see the same court ordered therapist, the lives of the “good” girl and the “bad” boy collide. The two work together towards their goals, but neither foresaw the shattering consequences of learning the truth regarding their families or of falling in love.

I’d like to know the answers to the secrets in Echo’s past, too.  Since I’m sure she won’t spill those, let’s get to the bounty hunting.   You’ve skipped bail, and a bounty hunter is looking for you.  What three things do you bring with you?

Noah: I love this interview. Why don’t we do more like this?
Echo rolls her eyes.
Echo: Seriously. You want to do more interviews about bounty hunters.  I don’t do illegal things, Noah.
Noah flashes her a wicked grin.
Noah: But you have.
Echo straightens and crosses her arms over her chest.
Echo: Fine. A cell phone, a change of clothes, and Isaiah’s phone
number.
Noah: See, that was fun. Wasn’t it, baby?
Echo shrugs as her lips turn up.
Noah: Isaiah’s phone number—that’s a good one. Isaiah’s my best friend and a good guy to have on hand if you get in a fight.  I’ll keep her answer of Isaiah’s phone number then add as much cash as I can find, and a picture of my parents.

Where does the bounty hunter find you?
Echo and Noah answer simultaneously: Colorado

Well, that was decisive.  Now you’re the bounty hunter.  When three things do you bring with you while tracking your skip?

Echo: I don’t know. Cash, I guess.
Noah nods his head.
Noah: Cash, a picture of the person, and a weapon if the person is  dangerous.

You’ve found your skip, right where you thought they would be.  Describe your location and approach.
Noah: I’d wait until they were asleep so I guess at a motel.
Echo eyes widen as she gets excited.
Echo: Oh, and we break in like a swat team?
Noah: We could do that or we could knock on the door and grab them before they turn away.
Echo laughs.
Echo: I like your way better.

I love the chemistry between these two.  Last question.  You’ve just caught a skip, and you’re surprised to find them
attractive.  What three things make them irresistible to you?

Echo: What type of question is that? We’re a couple.
Noah: I’ll answer.
Echo: You’ll what?
Noah: She’d be smart, headstrong, and one hell of an artist.
He runs his finger down Echo’s arms and she leans into him.
Noah: It’s more than three, but she’d have scars on her arms and
she’d have the most beautiful red, curly hair.
He winks at Echo.
Noah: I have a thing for redheads.
Echo: You can be incredibly sweet.
Noah: Shh, don’t tell anyone. You’ll ruin my rep.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Echo: Thanks for having us, Janci! This was fun!
Noah: Yeah, good luck with your release.

Good luck to you, too.  With banter like that, I’m sure this book will be a success.

Echo and Noah had better be careful.  Bounty hunter Rob Maxwell from Chasing the Skip is based out of Colorado as well.  Crossover, anyone?

You can find out more about Katie and Pushing the Limits at Katie’s website, twitter, or facebook.

Thanks to Katie, Echo, and Noah!

Hellbird

Why is the bird from hell also the state bird of my very-religious state?

(Do not tell me that story about how the seagulls ate all the locusts and saved the crops of the pioneers.  Please, not again.  They are rats with wings, and that’s all there is to it.)

 

 

Mantis

 

 

One of my favorite things about my house is its ecosystem.  We have snakes, we have hummingbirds, we have grasshoppers.  And we have praying mantises.  Here is one, eating a leg of an unfortunate grasshopper.  He was about four inches long from head to butt.


 

 

Orange

Pink

 

 

 

Lily B&W

Frost

Last winter we had fog–which almost never happens here, especially compared to the frequency of the fog in the Bay Area, where I grew up.  But in California, the fog doesn’t freeze to the trees.  I’ve been living in Utah eleven years, and have only seen this twice.  The first time, I was at work without a camera.  This time, I was luckier.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Wasps

We have wasp problems.  Every year they launch an assault on our house and our yard and we beat them back.  Pictured above is the nest we found hiding behind some weeds at the end of last year.  No wonder we couldn’t control them.  I know there are some nests lurking around this year that we haven’t found, since killing the thirty-odd nests that we did find didn’t get rid of the wasps.  Next year, I’m calling an exterminator.

 

 

 

 

The Mommy Writer: Months 2-6

This post is part of an ongoing series I’m doing about how I get writing done with a baby in the house.  See the first installment here.

Against my own predictions, the last four months have actually been easier than the first two in terms of getting work done.  As my daughter gets older, I spend a lot less time feeding her, which means I have more time with my hands free to do other things.  The most wonderful development happened somewhere between three and four months, when she became interested in objects, and developed enough coordination to play with toys.  Suddenly she wanted to do something with her time besides smile at us all day.  (Though we still get plenty of smiles.  All day long.  It’s distracting and adorable.)

I’ve found that the most important thing I need to do in order to get work done while Cori is awake is to give her frequent spurts of focused attention.  If I give her half my attention all day, she gets whinier and clingier as the day wears on, and then she refuses to nap or sleep.  If I give her all my attention for five minutes, and then ignore her for the next fifteen, she’s happy to babble and chew on toys and roll around on the floor without me.  As long as she feels like the center of the world some of the time, she’s happy to let me get other things done the rest of the time.  I don’t know if other children do that, but I’m grateful that mine does, because it lets me get writing (and shipping and accounting and cleaning and and and…) done while she’s awake.

We’ve set up our house to accommodate both our daughter and our work.  We have a play pen and an activity center set up next to Drew’s work table, where Cori can roll around and play with toys and practice standing and generally put everything in her mouth, and also be safe without our full and total attention.  We spend a lot of time talking to her and singing to her while working, which makes everyone happy.

These days, most of our work looks like this:

(You may notice my computer screen is not featuring any writing.  Shame on me.  The internet is more distracting than my baby.  By a lot.)

I can and do write while Cori is awake, but I’m working on a draft right now that’s taking a lot of brain power to form up.  This means that I tend to avoid it, since writing sessions are draining.  I get intimidated and don’t work.  So for a while I made an appointment with myself that I would write as soon as Cori took her first nap.  Between three and five months she had difficulty napping, so sometimes this meant I didn’t do it until five o’clock, but I’d sit down and write first thing after she fell asleep–no excuses.  This really had nothing to do with her–the failure to focus was mine, and I’d gone through similar things before Cori was born.  But nap time was a scheduled event, so I tied my writing to that to motivate myself.

More recently I’ve started getting up an hour earlier to write, because I find that if I write first thing, I’m not anticipating the work all day.  If I’ve already gotten it done, I feel like the day is a success when most of it is still ahead of me.  Also, since I’ve already jumped into the work, I’m more likely to do more of it in small snatches of time as the day goes on.  Again, this is more my personal issue than a parenting one.  I could be doing a lot more writing than I’m doing time-wise, but my brain rebels if I try to force through the hard work too fast.

This means that Drew takes care of Cori while he’s doing his internet work in the morning.  Then he feeds us all breakfast.  At ten o’clock I take over the childcare, having already written for the day.  This means I have all those little bits of time when she’s happily playing on the floor, or in the pen, or in the activity center to do all the other work that piles up, clean the house, etc.  Drew talks to the baby while he works, I run her around the house and feed her, and at six o’clock we both stop working and spend some more time together.  Work gets done, and everyone is happy.

Honestly, I think at this point it’s the co-parenting that makes all this possible.  Cori sleeps twelve hours at night–she usually gets up once during that time, Drew feeds her, and then she goes back to sleep and so does he.  Then he takes her for the first two hours of the day, and I take the next eight, two of which she naps.  Then we share childcare for the last two hours before she goes to sleep–he usually does most of the work in that time, though, including putting her to bed.  So I’ve got her six hours of the day, and Drew has her five, and during all of that we can switch back and forth as need be.  This means I only have to be the (almost) primary care-giver for six hours a day, and my daughter is still being taken care of at home, by her parents, full time.  It’s a pretty wonderful set up, and we all love it.  It also leaves plenty of time for us all to get work done.

I feel bad that most people probably can’t extrapolate this into their own situations, but that’s life.  It works differently for everyone.  As for us we’ll just keep adapting as circumstances change (the crawling is coming–any day now), and making sure that everyone’s needs are met.

teamTEENauthor Theme Post: What I Did

Today the members of teamTEENauthor are blogging on this topic: Bully.  To see other posts on the topic, check the links at the bottom of the page.

As I contemplated this post, spent a while thinking about what story I wanted to tell.  I have no shortage of stories about awful things I saw my schoolmates do to each other.  For several years, I had some painful things said to me on a daily basis.  But it became clear to me that those were not the stories that I wanted to tell.  Instead, I want to tell you about Jennifer.

In seventh grade, Jennifer and I were in several of the same classes.  We sat together; we ate lunch together.  Soon we started hanging out after school–we walked to the grocery store for sodas and candy bars.  I hung out at her house with her and her brother.  We watched movies.  We had sleepovers.

And then, probably three weeks before the end of the school year, I stopped talking to Jennifer.  We still traveled in the same social circles.  I still saw her plenty at school.  But I wouldn’t look at her.  I wouldn’t speak to her.  I acted as if she wasn’t even there.  Jennifer acted bewildered around me, like she couldn’t figure out what she’d done, but she never struck back at me.  Then the school year ended; I wrote the word “Rat” over the lower half of her picture in my year book.  I asked to sign her year book, and when she reluctantly handed it over, I wrote, “have a nice trip, see you next fall.”  I was guilty not only of petty spitefulness but also a painful lack of originality.  I ignored Jennifer into summer break.  And before the beginning of eighth grade, she moved away.  I never saw her again.

I couldn’t tell you exactly why I did it.  I could tell you about how seventh grade was a really lousy year for me.  I could tell you about how I felt powerless, and so I wielded ugly power in a place where I had control.  But it isn’t an excuse.  There is no excuse for what I did.  She called me her friend, and I hurt her.  I knew it was wrong at the time, and I did it anyway.  Plain and simple, it was a shitty thing to do.

Here’s the thing–I’m pretty sure Jennifer’s life was already difficult.  She lived with her mom and her stepdad and four or five older step-siblings.  I hung out at her house quite a bit, and I don’t remember meeting her parents, step or otherwise.  I remember my mom saying years later that she thought the kids there were raising themselves.  With only my thirteen-year-old perceptions to look back on, I’m not sure how good or bad the situation actually was.  But I do know this: I made Jennifer’s life worse, when, as her friend, I should have been making it better.

Was I a bully?  I never hit Jennifer.  I never threatened her.  I didn’t say the awful things to her that some of my classmates said to me.  But I remember talking about aggression in a child development class.  Some people believe that school-aged boys are more aggressive than girls, because boys are much more likely to hit each other.  But it isn’t true.  Girls are just as aggressive, but we wield emotions instead of weapons.  We tear each other to shreds with the power of our relationships.  A boy might say he’s going to hit you, but a girl will withdraw her friendship.  It might not be physical, but it’s just as aggressive and harder to see.  While I know that people can be classified as bullies based on a longterm pattern of persistent behavior, I think for many of us, bully is a shadow that passes over us.  It’s an ugly, dark shadow, and I wish I’d never passed under it.

The next year, eight grade, was my last year of middle school.  Friends drifted, other friends moved away.  I ended up with no friends for quite a while; I ate lunch alone.  I didn’t find another group of solid friends at school for two years.  For those years, a part of me believed I was doing penance for what I did to Jennifer.  To be honest, a part of me still does.

I think this is what I really wanted to say: Jennifer, I’m sorry.  If I could change it, I’d undo what I did.  But since I know that’s impossible, I hope for this one thing.

I hope I’m not a memory you dwell on.  I hope you have forgotten me.

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