Thursday, November 20, 2008

Terms of Endearment

I was chatting with a writer friend the other day and she needed a term of endearment for one of her characters to call another. You know, like "honey" or "baby" or "sweetheart." I knew these two characters and tried to think about what they would call each other and I realized just how much the terms of endearment can say about a couple!

This got me thinking. JP has several terms he uses with me (none of which I shall mention here :) and they're all names that have developed and changed over the course of our relationship. There are different names (endearing names) he calls me when I'm acting grouchy, when he's teasing, when we're on the phone and when I refuse to get up in the morning on a weekday (which are all variations on the same theme). These terms are somewhat born of our relationship, of the fact that we've spent five (FIVE!!) years together. To a certain extent, they're like a secret language between the two of us -- the quirks that make our relationship different from others.

And so coming up with terms of endearment for characters isn't as easy as saying "would he call her 'love' or 'baby' or 'snookums'?" You have to think about the course of their relationship, how they interact with each other on a daily basis. You have to understand where they come from.

For example, my mom and step-father call each other "mi amor" ("my love" in Spanish). They both grew up on banana plantations in Latin America -- it's their shared history (and what brought them together later in life) and so by using a Spanish endearment, they're paying tribute to that. That little detail can tell you a lot about their relationship.

Another example, I call one of my sisters "Yay." Her actual name is Jenny and there's this whole long convoluted story behind how I came up with that name (which is short for "yay-yay"). But still, I call her Yay or Yay-Yay -- it's a term I've used for decades. Go figure!

Trying to brainstorm with my friend, it was just so surprising to realize not only how hard it is to come up with a good term of endearment, but how much doing so can reflect on the characters' relationship and shared history. It really is a small detail that can tell you so much!

What do you think? Do you have a term of endearment that you use that shows something unique about your relationship?

Monday, November 17, 2008

How much longer?

Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?

There are some days when I wake up and March 10 feels like it's right around the corner. There are other days when it feels like forever away. Today is one of those when I'm kinda glad it feels like a hazy event off in the distance because I feel like there's so much I need to do between now and then. I'm not really sure *what* I need to do... just stuff.

But now, thanks to the fantabulous The Compulsive Reader, I shall know at all times how much longer the wait shall be! Behold:

If you ever wonder what I'm doing all day now that I'm writing full time, odds are likely I'm staring at this wonderful widget. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, The Compulsive Reader for making it!! You totally rock!!!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

inter-office politics

As with any job, my new job has its own set of inter-office politics. My boss (aka, my cat Sam) gets cranky if I don't let him strut around my desk and my co-worker (aka, my dog Jake) likes to antagonize the boss. This has caused quite a few fights but so far they seem to be working things out. Usually with my boss retreating to his cubicle (aka, a shoebox) and glaring at everyone.

The mail-clerk/runner (aka, JP's cat) tends to steer clear of office politics. I thinks she's just shy and likes to work on her own time. She'll sometimes have lunch with the rest of us, but she's not the type to stop by in the afternoon for a chat. That's probably because she and the boss really don't get along (there are rumors that there have been late-night cuddling sessions between the two over the years, but as of yet no proof).

The other day I was working diligently when I heard a shuffle behind me, like the sound of paper settling. I looked around -- my boss was in his shoebox, my co-worker was sleeping (as usual) but I figured it was the mail-clerk/runner skulking about somewhere. Once or twice in the afternoon I heard the noise, but waived it off as the humm-drum of any busy office.

As I was working late that night, I heard it again. I turned back and scanned the office -- everyone else had gone for the day (slackers). And I thought, really, how much could paper shift and settle during the day? Then I caught movement out of the corner of my eye, a leaf twitched in the wreath on the door. Usually, the wreath is outside on the front door, but with the Halloween decorations up, I'd relocated it to my office. It twitched again with another shuffle.

I walked over to the door and peered closer. I could see little tiny feet curled around the leaf and then, out of nowhere, a little green head! No one had told me we were hiring an intern! I ran outside to the porch where JP was reading and quickly explained that because of the boss's rather blatant species-ism, we would have to re-think the lizard intern. Unfortunately, it took a lot of prodding and convincing, but eventually the little guy was let go. Hopefully he's found better (and safer) employment elsewhere.

Apparently, no one bothered to tell me that someone, somewhere decided that we desperately needed an intern! And I guess figuring that lizards were a no-go, they decided to hire a mouse that wandered in looking for temp work. Unfortunately, I didn't learn this until too late and my boss rather violently terminated him. I was the one who had to clean out his desk.

Hopefully, the higher-ups have learned their lessons and will not be making any new hires. And as JP pointed out, I'm VERY glad I'm not in middle management. Things can get vicious!

Audio, fall, and procrastination

I recently found out that Listening Library will be doing an audiobook version of The Forest of Hands and Teeth! I'm so excited -- I think it will be fun and strange to hear Mary's voice. I know a lot of authors can see their characters in their heads and can even pinpoint which actors and actresses they'd choose to play their characters if the book were ever made into a movie. For me, I'm never able to see them, but I can hear them. Maybe not exactly what their voice sounds like, but I can definitely hear the rhythm of their words and the way they speak. I really can't wait to hear what they come up with for Mary!!

Over the past week I've watched the trees outside my office burst into color and now they're fading. It's been one of those amazingly perfect fall weeks. The kind that forces you outside to stroll around kicking fallen leaves. I was even motivated to finally take down the Halloween decorations and clean up some of the flower beds in front of the house.

And of course the burst in gardening motivation was in NO way related to the fact that I recently received my revision letter from my wonderful editor. I'm just trying to enjoy this last gasp of fall before the world becomes too chilly to take advantage of the outside world :) Besides, I always get my best thinking done while I'm occupied with something else. In fact, it might be time to take the dog for a walk...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Book Video!

Hey Y'all!

Exciting news! The Forest of Hands and Teeth was one of three books used for the Teen Book Video Awards! This is a really cool program run by Kirkus and sponsored by Random House Children's Books where they send books out to film students and ask them to create a book trailer. I was so so excited to hear that TFHT was one of the books! When I was up in NYC at the RHCB offices I got to see a few of the finalists and it was just amazing to see different visions for the book -- it was like getting to see what it would be like as a movie!

So, without further ado, the book trailer for The Forest of Hands and Teeth created by Jessica Pilkes (the sound is low so you might want to turn up the volume!)

If that link doesn't work, you can also view the trailer here and here. Thanks Jessica for a fantastic trailer! I love it!!

In other news, I've started to settle into a routine a little more. I've got the office mostly set up (except we're in dire need of more bookcases which I think will just be our lot in life -- can never have enough bookcases!) Here's a pic of where things stand now:

You can see one of my co-workers outside the window. Jake enjoys jumping up on the bench outside and checking in (and yes, just over the big monitor you can see his "jaunty" curly tail -- it's a very ridiculous tail!). In the corner is the blow up of the FHT cover that was at the dinner in NYC -- the folks at RHCB sent it to me! How cool is that!? I get so excited every time I glance at it! Also, it might be hard to see in this photo, but shambling along the windowsill is a glow in the dark zombie army (care of Saundra Mitchell).

And then there's the boss man. I was out running errands yesterday and came home to this. Clearly the look on his face is "And where have you been young lady? I believe the work day is not yet over!"

Hopefully when I sneak out early this afternoon to meet up with Sarah Prineas (yay!!) the boss will be too busy napping to notice...

And yes, having an iPhone makes it SO much easier to take and send pics so you will continue to get lots and lots of co-worker pics :)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Standing up against what you've always been told...

In The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Mary (the protagonist) is told her entire life that her village is the only place left in the world. She grows up in this village surrounded by a fence and beyond the fence is the endless Forest filled with Unconsecrated. There is nothing else beyond the Forest, they are told.

Except Mary wonders if there is something more. But the question is, how do you stand up against what you've always known? Especially when really all you have to go on is faith?

When I was on the pre-pub tour, I had the chance to talk to a lot of students who'd read TFHT (which was just an amazing experience all around). One of the girls I spoke with (a senior with what I thought was incredible insight) mentioned her surprise that Mary just didn't charge into the Forest to see what/if there was anything else out there. I asked her, "if you've been told something your whole life, how do you know you can stand against it?"

We talked about the first women who said "I have a right to vote" when everyone else told them they didn't. We talked about slaves saying "I have a right to be free" when everyone told them they were nothing more than property. We talked about the Milgram Experiment and the lengths people will go to in order to obey authority. All of these people who were told a "truth" their entire lives but decided to question that truth and stand up against it.

To a certain extent, it was really cool to see a young woman so willing to say "I'd question authority if I thought it was wrong" and who found it hard to understand someone who might not. On the one hand, maybe that makes it hard to understand just how difficult it has been in the past for people to speak out, but on the other hand, I wonder if all those people who did speak out were hoping for a day when such action would be considered common. After all, that's what they were fighting for: for us to not second guess things like a woman's right to vote and the equality of all people.

As I mentioned, yesterday I worked for Election Protection. I was partnered with another lawyer in town -- a black man in his mid-40's who grew up in South Carolina. Thankfully, in our area there were no voting issues so we essentially spent 5 hours driving around to the polls, checking in, and chatting. Naturally, we talked about the election. At one point, he told me about how when he was a kid his mother would take him to stores to try on clothes and how that was a big deal. I think I looked at him with a "huh?" look on my face because he told me about how his older sisters had never been able to try on clothes as kids, and certainly hadn't tried on shoes.

I asked him why not. He paused for a moment and told me it was because they couldn't try on clothes and not buy them. They couldn't leave the clothes in the dressing room because other people would refuse to wear them. It really was a moment that left me stunned.

Last night, just before Obama's speech, there was a shot of Jesse Jackson standing in the crowd crying. He was just standing there with tears flowing down his cheeks. I thought about his life, about what he has fought for his entire life, and what it must have been like to stand there in that moment. At the end of his speech, Obama talked about a woman who was 106 years old -- he talked about what she'd seen in her life and he wondered what his children would see in their lives.

It would never occur to me to even notice the color of someone's skin in the dressing room or to even wonder who'd tried on clothes before me. And yet, someone somewhere had been told "you're not allowed to try on clothes" because of the color of their skin and he or she did it anyway. Regardless of your politics and beliefs, we are where we are today because of people standing up against what they've always been told and fighting for equality and freedom. And hopefully we'll all be willing to continue to stand up for our beliefs and for our truths.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Election Day Tomorrow!

Hey Y'all!

This isn't a partisan post, just a friendly reminder that tomorrow is election day and you all should go out and vote (if you haven't already)!! I love the feeling of voting -- of knowing that I've made my voice heard about our government and the world around us. There are a lot of rumors and he-said-she-said arguments out there and I'm a big fan of trying to look past all of that in order to find the facts. There are lots of great sites out there to check in order to get unbiased information about candidates -- one that I like is

If you do run into issues voting, there are a lot of partisan and non-partisan groups available to you. First, you should be able to talk to the people manning the polling station. If that doesn't work, it's likely that both campaigns will have people staffed at polling places and you can go to one of them. You can also call Election Protection at 1-866-OUR-VOTE and you'll be automatically directed to a non-partisan attorney who will help you out. If they can't help over the phone, they'll usually dispatch someone to the area to help directly. So if you're unable to vote for some reason, have questions about your registration, if the voting machines aren't working, if the polling place is closed when it shouldn't be or if there are other issues -- please consider calling 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

And according to Bracken, just for voting and wearing your "I voted" sticker you can get:

1. Kripy Kreme -- A free Red, White and Blue star-shaped doughnut
2. Starbucks -- A free coffee
3. Books-A-Million -- A free coffee
4. Ben and Jerry's -- Free scoop of ice cream
5. California Tortilla -- Free taco (DE, MD, DC, PA, VA, WV)

Happy voting everyone!!